Thursday, March 31, 2011

Kill teams in Afghanistan: the truth

These disgusting photos of murdered Afghans reveal the aggression and racism underpinning the occupation of my country
The disgusting and heartbreaking photos published last week in the German media, and more recently in Rolling Stone magazine, are finally bringing the grisly truth about the war in Afghanistan to a wider public. All the PR about this war being about democracy and human rights melts into thin air with the pictures of US soldiers posing with the dead and mutilated bodies of innocent Afghan civilians.

I must report that Afghans do not believe this to be a story of a few rogue soldiers. We believe that the brutal actions of these “kill teams” reveal the aggression and racism which is part and parcel of the entire military occupation. While these photos are new, the murder of innocents is not. Such crimes have sparked many protests in Afghanistan and have sharply raised anti-American sentiment among ordinary Afghans.

I am not surprised that the mainstream media in the US has been reluctant to publish these images of the soldiers who made sport out of murdering Afghans. General Petraeus, now in charge of the American-led occupation, is said to place great importance on the “information war” for public opinion – and there is a concerted effort to keep the reality of Afghanistan out of sight in the US.

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From the Turks to Assad: to us Syrians it is all brutal colonialism

In taking on the Assad family mafia and paying with blood to do so, Syrians have rediscovered their struggle for freedom 

Rana Kabbani, The Guardian, March 30, 2011

I was five when emergency law was imposed in my native Syria. I am now 53. During this intolerably long period, my country was turned step by chilling step by the ideologues and security service enforcers of the Ba’th party into the totalitarian state it is today. When Bashar al-Assad’s father, Hafez, came to power through yet another violent army squabble leading to his coup of 1970, an alarming cult of the leader was systematically formed around him, modelled on Ceausescu. The Romanian dictator was Assad’s political ally, strategic adviser in matters of popular repression, and close personal and family friend.

This cult was no easy thing to achieve in rowdy, opinionated and sardonic Syria, with its valiant history of fighting the xenophobic Turkish nationalism that came with the last years of the Ottoman empire and led to the hanging of so many Arab patriots in Marjeh Square. The brutal French colonialism sought to divide and rule the country, bombing Damascus twice and burning down a residential quarter that was home to many resistance fighters, including my paternal grandfather, Tawfik Kabbani. To this day the area is called Hariqa, or “fire”, in memory of the thousands of civilians wounded or killed.

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US Muslims face violence, discrimination

Durbin: ‘American Muslims are entitled to the same constitutional protections as other Americans’.

Middle East Online, March 30, 2011

‘Not just free exercise of religion but freedom of speech’

WASHINGTON – Muslims in the United States face ongoing discrimination and violence in actions that threaten basic freedoms in the nation, a US Senate hearing was told Tuesday.

The hearing was called to discuss protecting the civil rights of American Muslims, just weeks after another panel hotly debated the threat posed by homegrown Islamists.
Democratic Assistant Senate Majority Leader Dick Durbin, who called the hearing, said a “backlash” which began after the attacks of September 11, 2001, continues against “innocent Muslims, Arabs, south Asians and Sikhs.”

“American Muslims are entitled to the same constitutional protections as other Americans,” Durbin said, adding that this is an issue of “not just free exercise of religion but freedom of speech.”

Thomas Perez, the assistant attorney general for civil rights, told the Senate Judiciary subcommittee hearing: “We continue to see a steady stream of violence against Muslims… The good news is that with each wave of intolerance, our nation has responded by passing news laws.”

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Saudi Prof held after demands release of relatives: report

World Bulletin, March 30, 2011

Saudi authorities arrested a university professor a day after he called for the release of jailed relatives and other prisoners, a Saudi human rights group said on Wednesday.
Saudi Arabia, the world’s top oil exporter and a key U.S. ally, is an absolute monarchy that does not tolerate any form of public dissent.

“Dr. Mubbarak (bin Zuair) was supposed to break the good news to the demonstrators in front of the Ministry of Information who were protesting the extended illegal detention of their loved ones, that some of the detainees would be released,” the Human Rights First Society (HRFS) said in a statement.

“At 10.30 am on March 20, on his way to the Ministry of Information where the standoff was taking place, Dr Mubbarak was stopped and arrested by the secret police,” it added.
Interior Ministry spokesman Mansour al-Turki could not confirm the arrest of bin Zuair, a professor at Alimmam Mohammad Bin Saud University in Riyadh.

On March 19 bin Zuair met with the assistant secretary for security affairs at the ministry to ask for the release of his relatives and other prisoners.

His father, Professor Said bin Zuair, an Islamist and outspoken critic of the Saudi royal family, has been imprisoned without trial for around five years, the group’s president Ibrahim al-Mugaiteeb told Reuters.

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Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Chomsky on Mideast, India, Kashmir and indigenous people

Noam Chomsky speaks to Saswat Pattanayak 

By Noam Chomsky, ZNet, March 29, 2011
Source: Kindle India
SP- Prof Chomsky, where do you locate the contours of the current crisis in Egypt, Tunisia and rest of the Middle East? 

NC- The source of the crisis in the Arab world goes back very far and it’s similar to what we find in the formerly colonized world. Actually it was expressed rather clearly in the 1950’s by President Eisenhower and his staff. He was holding an internal discussion which has been declassified since. Eisenhower asked his staff why there is, what he called a “campaign of hatred” against us in the Arab world. Not among the governments, which are more or less docile, but among the people. And the National Security Council, which is the major planning body, produced a memorandum on this topic. It said that there is a perception in the Arab world that the United States supports harsh vicious dictators, blocks democracy and development; and we do this because we want to maintain control over their resources – in this case, energy. And went on to say that the perception is fairly accurate and furthermore that, that’s what we should be doing.

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Obama Muddling Thru Afghan War, But Not Clearly

By Ray McGovern (about the author)OpEdNews, March 28, 2011

“Let me be clear,” President Barack Obama is fond of saying. And his desire was on full display two years ago when he announced a “comprehensive, new strategy” for the war in Afghanistan — but only in the rhetoric.

Obama laced his speech of March 27, 2009, with nine uses of the words “clear” or “clearly,” but his protestations about clarity looked more like a smokescreen to obscure the image of him lurching naively into a Vietnam-style quagmire.

After his first “clearly” and just before the first “let me be clear,” Obama posed two rhetorical questions to which he promised a clear answer:

“What is our purpose in Afghanistan? … Why do our men and women still fight and die there? The [American people] deserve a straightforward answer.” 

But we didn’t get one. As a substitute for explanation, we got alliteration — “a clear and focused goal: to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat al Qaeda in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and to prevent their return to either country.”

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Afghanistan: More children killed in US-NATO air attacks

By Patrick O’Connor,, March 29, 2011

Source:  WSWS

A NATO helicopter strike in the southern Afghanistan province of Helmand last Friday killed seven civilians, including three children. The atrocity is the latest in a series of recent US-led bombing operations that have inflicted mass civilian casualties.

Nine children collecting firewood were killed on March 1 in an airstrike in northeastern Kunar province. This prompted desperate apologies from President Barack Obama and General David Petraeus, aimed at placating enormous anger among ordinary Afghans. On March 14 another two children, 10- and 15-year-old brothers, were killed in Kunar. One government official said the boys were carrying shovels on their shoulders that may have been mistaken for weapons. On March 23, a NATO airstrike in eastern Khost province reportedly killed three civilians, including one child. These incidents followed last month’s war crime in the Ghaziabad district of Kunar province, where helicopter strikes killed 65 civilians, including 22 women, and 40 children under the age of 13, according to an Afghan government investigation.
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Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Egypt is still Mubarakstan

Hosni Mubarak was only the visible tip of an iceberg of corruption – the state he created in his image remains

Amira Nowair, The Guardian, March 29, 2011

Hosni Mubarak
Hosni Mubarak left power in Egypt following the popular uprising. Photograph: Charles Dharapak/AP

More than two months after the start of the popular uprising that overthrew President Hosni Mubarak, Egyptians are increasingly fearful that although he is gone, his regime is still alive and kicking.

Egyptians now realise that Mubarakstan, the virtual edifice created by Mubarak and his coterie to ensure the continued dominance of a closed circle of politicians and businessmen, hasn’t collapsed along with the fall of its head and protector.

It is also distressingly evident that Mubarak was nothing more than the visible tip of an iceberg of corruption, for Mubarakstan is in fact a full-fledged state – a colonial power in every sense of the word, a state with its own colonial discourse, its propaganda machine and its brutal militia. It even has its own capital in the city of Sharm el-Sheikh, where the ruling elite eat their imported dinners and lounge on sumptuous sandy beaches.

In Sharm el-Sheikh a parallel universe has been created, a lavish and elaborate underwater tank where the noises of the people can’t filter through. That’s why it has become the emblem of the rift between the decision-makers, whose decisions were taken only in support of their own interests, and the population they governed, whose angry shouts remained totally muted.

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The making of a war crime

Rory Fanning reports on the latest revelations of war crimes carried out by U.S. troops in Afghanistan–and why those at the top are escaping prosecution.
Socialist Worker, March 28, 2011

A U.S. soldier posing with an Afghan civilian murdered by members of his unit
A U.S. soldier posing with an Afghan civilian murdered by members of his unit

PHOTOS OF soldiers from the 5th Stryker Brigade, 2nd Army infantry division, posing with the dead and mutilated bodies of three Afghan civilians have shocked the world.
Released in the March 21 issue of the German magazine Der Spiegel, only three of the photos have so far been made public, despite the magazine’s claim to have more than 4,000 images and videos taken by the “kill team,” as the group called itself, in its possession.

In the pictures, soldiers pose gleefully with dead Afghan civilians who have been stripped naked and bound by the wrists, and who display signs of torture.

But while the U.S. military is attempting to claim the atrocities were carried out by a few “bad apples,” the responsibility for these crimes rests not only with the soldiers themselves, but with the architects of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq–all the way up to the president.

The U.S. military has reportedly had the images in question since May 2010. Officials at the Lewis McChord Criminal Investigation Division reportedly attempted to keep the photos under a tight lid, and Der Speigel has not said how it obtained the images.
Twelve soldiers from the “kill team” platoon were charged in connection with the murder of the unarmed civilians, and five face murder charges. All together, the soldiers were charged with 76 crimes.

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Siddiqui: Our dance with Arab dictators

By Haroon Siddiqui Editorial Page,, March 27, 2011
When we allow ourselves to be pushed into thinking about a people and a region as a monolith, sans diversity and differences, we view them only in stark stereotypes. We allow racist notions to become respectable.

Thus “the Arab street,” a contemptuous phrase the media dare not use for public opinion elsewhere. There is no “Canadian street.” No “American street.” No “British street.” No “French street.” But Arab public opinion, emanating in the street — emotional and irrational — is to be dismissed.

Similarly, we are told that all Arabs/Muslims are hard-wired to mistreat women. Like blacks being prone to violence and Catholics to abusing boys.

And in the middle of this glorious Arab spring, we are instructed to keep our enthusiasm in check and ponder instead that democracy may not be part of the Arab DNA.
These crude formulations do serve a purpose. They keep the focus of Arab troubles exclusively on Arabs, as though we have had no part in the mess.

For decades, Arabs have been denied democracy mostly by client regimes of the United States and Europe that financed and trained the dictators’ security set-ups. The mandate of these dreaded outfits has been to keep “the street” quiet, lest it resonate with what we did not want to hear.

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Chris Hedges: The Collapse of Globalization

by Chris Hedges,, March 28, 2011

The uprisings in the Middle East, the unrest that is tearing apart nations such as the Ivory Coast, the bubbling discontent in Greece, Ireland and Britain and the labor disputes in states such as Wisconsin and Ohio presage the collapse of globalization. They presage a world where vital resources, including food and water, jobs and security, are becoming scarcer and harder to obtain. They presage growing misery for hundreds of millions of people who find themselves trapped in failed states, suffering escalating violence and crippling poverty. They presage increasingly draconian controls and force—take a look at what is being done to Pfc. Bradley Manning—used to protect the corporate elite who are orchestrating our demise.
Demonstrators carry an effigy of Ronald McDonald. (AP / Jacques Brinon)

We must embrace, and embrace rapidly, a radical new ethic of simplicity and rigorous protection of our ecosystem—especially the climate—or we will all be holding on to life by our fingertips. We must rebuild radical socialist movements that demand that the resources of the state and the nation provide for the welfare of all citizens and the heavy hand of state power be employed to prohibit the plunder by the corporate power elite. We must view the corporate capitalists who have seized control of our money, our food, our energy, our education, our press, our health care system and our governance as mortal enemies to be vanquished.

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Monday, March 28, 2011

Every tyrant makes the same mistake in the Arab uprisings

Patrick Cockburn, The Independent,  27 March 2011

The despots who have ruled the Arab world for half a century are not giving up without a fight. In the southern Syrian city of Dara, security forces last week machine-gunned pro-democracy protesters in a mosque, killing 44 of them, and then faked evidence to pretend they were a gang of kidnappers. In the Yemeni capital, Sanaa, a few days earlier, snipers firing from high buildings shot dead or wounded 300 people at a rally demanding the President step down.In Syria and Yemen, state-sponsored violence has proved counter-effective. Protesters were enraged rather than intimidated. A remarkable aspect of the Arab uprisings is that ruler after ruler is making the same mistakes that brought down Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali in Tunisia and Hosni Mubarak in Egypt. Local tyrants, from Muammar Gaddafi in Libya to Ali Abdullah Saleh in Yemen, behave as if they had joined a collective political suicide pact whereby they alternate mindless violence and inadequate concessions in just the right quantities to discredit themselves and undermine their regimes.  
Recipes for staying in power that have served them so well since the early 1970s suddenly don’t work any more. This affects almost all the Arab states, monarchies as well republics, since they have functioned in approximately the same way.

The typical Arab state was based, with some local variations, on a single model: a kleptomaniac elite, often originating in the army and united by sect, tribe or extended family, monopolises power at the top. The government is a corrupt and bloated patronage machine used to reward cronies and followers. The most animate part of the state is the Mukhabarat, as the security services are generally known, which crushes all forms of dissent.

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Bradley Manning Treatment Reveals Continued Government Complicity in Torture

by Prof. Marjorie Cohn
Global Research, March 25, 2011
Army Pfc. Bradley Manning, who is facing court-martial for leaking military reports and diplomatic cables to WikiLeaks, is being held in solitary confinement in Quantico brig in Virginia. Each night, he is forced to strip naked and sleep in a gown made of coarse material. He has been made to stand naked in the morning as other inmates walked by and looked. As journalist Lance Tapley documents in his chapter on torture in the supermax prisons in The United States and Torture, solitary confinement can lead to hallucinations and suicide; it is considered to be torture. Manning’s forced nudity amounts to humiliating and degrading treatment, in violation of U.S. and international law.

Nevertheless, President Barack Obama defended Manning’s treatment, saying, “I’ve actually asked the Pentagon whether or not the procedures . . . are appropriate. They assured me they are.” Obama’s deference is reminiscent of President George W. Bush, who asked “the most senior legal officers in the U.S. government” to review the interrogation techniques. “They assured me they did not constitute torture,” Bush said.
The order for Manning’s nudity apparently followed what he described as a sarcastic comment he made to guards after their repeated harassment of him regarding how he was to salute them. Manning said that if he were intent on strangling himself, he could use his underwear or flip-flops.
“In my 40 years of hospital psychiatric practice, I’ve never heard of something like this,” said Dr. Steven Sharfstein, a former president of the American Psychiatric Association. “In some very unusual circumstances, when people are intensely suicidal, you might put them in a hospital gown. … But it’s very, very unusual to be in that kind of suicide watch for this long a period of time.”
Sharfstein also was concerned that military officials appeared to defy the recommendations of mental health professionals. “He’s been examined by psychiatrists who said he’s not suicidal. … They are making medical judgments in the face of medical evaluations to the contrary,” Sharfstein noted.

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Syria unleashes force on protesters demanding freedom as unrest spreads

Reports of many killed as marchers take to streets, plus confrontations in Jordan, Yemen and Bahrain 

Katherine Marsh in Damascus, Tom Finn in Sana’a and Martin Chulov in Beirut

The Guardian, March 26, 2011

Syria protests
Protesters shout anti-government slogans after Friday prayers at Omayyad mosque, in Damascus, Syria. Photograph: Muzaffar Salman/AP

Demonstrations in the Syrian capital, Damascus, and elsewhere were met with force as security forces struggled to contain unrest that had begun in the southern city of Deraa a week ago.

Thousands once again joined funeral processions in Deraa on Friday, chanting: “Deraa people are hungry, we want freedom.”

Hundreds took to the streets in the cities of Homs, Hama, Tel and Latakia and in towns surrounding Deraa, with smaller protests in the major cities of Damascus and Aleppo, which are more firmly under the watch of security forces. Troops reportedly opened fire in some cases.

There were reports that at least 23 people had been killed, some of them in Damascus, hitherto unaffected; the reports could not be independently verified. Amnesty International put the death toll around Deraa in the past week at 55 at least.

Protests in the capital are rare and not tolerated by the Ba’athist regime. A witness told the Guardian that efforts at protests in Damascus were broken up by plain-clothed agents using batons.

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100 hurt in Jordan protests

By Musa Hattar,, March 25, 2011 

AMMAN (AFP) — More than 100 people were injured Friday as pro-reform protesters and government supporters clashed in Amman, prompting police to use water cannons to disperse them.

Anti-riot police also broke up a protest camp for students and arrested several of them, a security official told AFP.

“There are more than 100 people injured, including policemen. Two of the injured are in critical condition,” a medical source at the scene said.

An AFP journalist at the scene said police used water cannons to break up clashes between the students protesting to demand reforms and government supporters.

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Chinese dissident jailed for 10 years

Democracy activist Liu Xianbin has already served 10 years in prison for subversion

Associated Press, The Guardian, March 25, 2011

Chinese police keep watch on Tiananmen Square
Chinese police monitor Tiananmen Square. Authorities want to stamp out unrest inspired by uprisings in the Arab world. Photograph: Goh Chai Hin/AFP/Getty Images

A Chinese democracy activist has been sentenced to 10 years in prison for advocating government change in online articles.

The trial came amid a crackdown on activism in China that may reflect government anxiety about unrest inspired by uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa. Dozens of well-known Chinese lawyers and activists have vanished, been interrogated, held under house arrest or criminally detained for subversion.

Activist Liu Xianbin, who has previously spent a decade in prison, was found guilty of inciting subversion of state power by the Suining intermediate people’s court in Sichuan province after a trial that lasted a few hours, his wife, Chen Mingxian, said.

Chinese law says inciting subversion carries a penalty of up to five years in prison, but a court can impose a longer sentence if the offence is deemed particularly grave.

Chen said she and Liu’s elder brother were allowed to attend the trial. She said her husband was calm and composed and looked relatively well, but that the judge frequently interrupted Liu and their lawyer’s attempts to present a defence.

“The 10-year sentence to me, because we’ve already been through 10 years … is a repeat of the painful process, one in which I can only watch and wait anxiously,” said Chen, who is a schoolteacher. The couple have a 13-year-old daughter.

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Friday, March 25, 2011

Those who challenged dictator Qaddafi

By Nasir Khan,  March 24, 2011

As the Libyan crisis continues, we witness a vast array of views within the ranks of anti-imperialist activists and radical writers. Richard Falk’s present article is one such example (Qaddafi, Moral Interventionism, Libya, and the Arab Revolutionary Moment). In this article he has raised many questions about the military intervention by the Western powers and the role of the Libyan opposition who have challenged Qaddafi’s long dictatorial regime.

Although he rightly says that Qaddafi had forfeited the legitimacy of his rule because of his long rule, maintained by an oppressive closed system, his views on the opposition that rose to challenge the despot need some critical assessment. I am commenting on only one or two points.

Does the anti-Qaddafi opposition that eventually rose against the dictator has no political identity or no political aspirations? For the last 41 years, the vast majority of Libyans had seen only the oppressive political order of Qaddafi; they had no chance to evolve an independent political identity. He did not allow any such activity;  or freedom to meet or express any critical views  against his rule. He had a vast authoritarian system in place throughout Libya where no opposite viewpoint was tolerated. Despite such an oppressive system, it is quite possible that ordinary men and women were dissatisfied with his rule and his policies. Not hard to imagine that they must had their hopes and aspirations for freedom, democracy and the end of his tyranny. This is despite the fact that he has some loyal followers who have been mesmerised by their ‘great leader’.

We should keep in mind that the pro-democracy movement that challenged Qaddafi cannot be regarded to have arisen due to some sort of conspiracy either. There were discontented elements within the military, bureaucracy and civil society. Libya was and is part of the common ossified Arab political order in the Middle East and North Africa. But the uprising that started in Tunisia gave inspiration to the Arab masses everywhere including Libya. That also means that Libyan pro-democracy movement has a general political context.

The popular uprising against Qaddafi was not confined to any one place even though Qaddafi had his major base of support in Tripoli. The people who stood against the heavily armed forces of Qaddafi are mostly ordinary people who had little or no training in the use of weapons. Their weapons have been small arms and rifles that are hardly a match to what the Qaddafi’s loyal forces have. When Qaddafi and his son Saif (the ‘PhD’ man!) threatened to take Benghazi by military force without any mercy to the rebels they meant what they said. By a clever propaganda trick the regime announced the first ceasefire and used the interval to bring the army and heavy weapons to crush Benghazi. The bloodbath in Benghazi was averted when the French intervened and destroyed Libyan tanks and heavy armour.

331 US officials may leave Pakistan under secret deal over Davis

Indian Express,  Mar 24,  2011,

A total of 331 US officials in Pakistan, most of them suspected of engaging in espionage under diplomatic cover, have been “identified to leave the country” under a secret deal between the two sides for release of American national Raymond Davis, a media report said on Thursday.

Pakistani authorities have agreed not to declare these US officials “persona non grata” if they voluntarily leave the country within a stipulated time, ‘The Express Tribune’ quoted unnamed sources as saying.

Islamabad was almost ready to summarily expel these persons who have various levels of diplomatic immunity as most of them were issued Pakistani visas without getting prior no-objection certificates in line with standard operating procedures, the daily reported.
Davis, a 36-year-old former Special Forces soldier, was arrested in Lahore in January after he shot and killed two armed men. He was recently pardoned and freed by a court under a “blood money” deal whereby over USD two million were paid to the families of the dead men.

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The essential evil of war

by C├ęsar Chelala,, March 23, 201
Every evening, at the end of the PBS News Hour, one of the most respected news programs in the U.S., one can see the images of the U.S. soldiers killed the previous day. They usually are young men, generally between 20 and 25 years of age. Even the most hardened person cannot but feel a pang of anguish looking at these young people whose lives were cut short by an irrational war. And one can imagine how many vibrant lives were lost and will be lost until the war in Afghanistan ends.

Awful as these losses are, another reality should be considered –the photos of these same soldiers degrading Afghan prisoners. Through these photos we can see that these soldiers’ lives have been compromised by war but, equally terrifying, that war has changed them, has made them lose that essential humanity that makes us respect other people at their most basic level. And thus we suddenly have a vision of the essential evilness of war.

These thoughts are brought to mind after looking at three photographs recently released by the German newspaper Der Spiegel, part of 4,000 photos and videos taken by the soldiers. The photos are among a number seized by U.S. Army investigators investigating the deaths of three unarmed Afghan civilians during 2010.

Twelve soldiers from the Bravo company unit of the Fifth Stryker Combat Brigade in Kandahar province are accused of serious crimes against Afghan civilians. Those accused include Special Sergeant Jeremy Morlock, 22, and three other men who were allegedly following orders from Staff Sergeant Calvin Gibbs, 25.  These soldiers are accused of killing Afghan civilians for sport and collecting their body parts –including a human skull- as trophies.

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Syria: Brutal attempt to end protests leaves 15 dead

Witnesses said the initial attack lasted about three hours and heavy gunfire echoed through the streets all day 

By Anna McCaffrey in Damascus, The Independent, March 24, 2011

Protesters in the southern Syrian city of Daraa yesterday. Several Facebook and human rights groups are calling for more demonstrations in Damascus and other cities tomorrow AP  Protesters in the southern Syrian city of Daraa yesterday. Several Facebook and human rights groups are calling for more demonstrations in Damascus and other cities tomorrow
  According to local and international human rights organisations and witnesses, at least six people were killed in an early morning attack on the al-Omari mosque after hundreds gathered outside the building to stop police from storming it. One video posted on Facebook, which could not be verified, showed what activists said was a street near the mosque with the sound of shooting coming from nearby. “My brother, does anyone kill his people?” one voice asks. “You are our brothers.”

Witnesses said the initial attack, which began just after midnight, lasted about three hours. Heavy gunfire echoed through the streets all day. Three more people were said to have been shot in the city centre after dusk, and another six bodies were found in the street. Residents told news agencies that those killed included a prominent doctor who had gone to the mosque to help victims, and a woman who had peered out of her window to see what was happening.

Syrian police launched a brutal crackdown on demonstrations in the restive city of Daraa yesterday, killing at least 15 people in a day-long operation that showed the regime’s determination to quash the unprecedented numbers of protests in the south of the country.

Billionaires Flourish, Inequalities Deepen as Economies “Recover”

The bailouts of banks, speculators and manufacturers served their real purposes: the multi-millionaires became billionaires and the later became multi-billionaires. 

James Petras, Information Clearing House, March 25, 2011

According to the annual report of the business magazine Forbes there are 1,210 individuals – and in many cases family clans – with a net value of $1 billion dollars (or more). There total net worth is $4 trillion, 500 billion dollars, greater than the combined worth of 4 billion people in the world. The current concentration of wealth exceeds any previous period in history; from King Midas, the Maharajahs, and the Robber Barons to the recent Silicon Valley – Wall Street moguls of the present decade.

An analysis of the source of wealth of the super-rich, the distribution in the world economy and the methods of accumulation highlights several important differences with major political consequences. We will proceed to identify these specific features of the super-rich, starting with the United States and follow with an analysis of the rest of the world.

The Super-Rich in the US: Greatest Living Parasites

The US has the most billionaires in the world (413), better than one third of the total, the greatest proportion among the “big countries in the world. A closer look also reveals that among the top 200 billionaires (those with $5.2 billion and more) there are 57 from the US (29%). Over one third made their fortune through speculative activity, predators on the productive economy and exploiters of the property and stock market. This is the highest percentage of any major country in Europe or Asia (with the exception of England). The enormous concentration of wealth in the hands of this tiny parasitical ruling class is one reason why the US has the worst inequalities of any advanced economy and among the worst in the entire world . . .

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Thursday, March 24, 2011

Amnesty protests at ‘torture’ of female protesters by Egyptian military

Chris Stanton, The National,  Mar 24, 2011

CAIRO // Egyptian military personnel tortured a group of female detainees with forced “virginity tests” and other forms of humiliation at a prison in the capital this month, Amnesty International said yesterday.

The international human rights group’s report of torture against 17 female protesters arrested on March 9 came after Monday’s calls for an investigation from a coalition of Egyptian human rights groups.

The new report follows a number of other allegations — some documented on YouTube videos with alleged victims displaying ugly bruises and lacerations — that military forces have beaten and abused protesters arrested in recent weeks.

“The Egyptian authorities must halt the shocking and degrading treatment of women protesters,” Amnesty International said yesterday. “Women fully participated in bringing change in Egypt and should not be punished for their activism.”

The report quotes a female detainee by name who said she was arrested by the military while participating in a sit-in in Tahrir Square, transferred to a prison, and forced to take off all her clothing and undergo a virginity test by a man in a white coat along with 16 other detainees. According to the report, which was reportedly corroborated by other unnamed victims who spoke to Amnesty International, the military personnel “tried to further humiliate the women by allowing men to watch and photograph what was happening”.

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Be Consistent—Invade Saudi Arabia

By Robert Scheer,, March 23, 2011

AP / Jerome Delay
Fallout: During a Tuesday trip organized by Libyan authorities, a supporter of Moammar Gadhafi salutes amid the wreckage of what was described as a maintenance warehouse hit by two missiles Monday evening. The site was at a naval base near Tripoli.

It’s the black gold that drives nations mad and inevitably raises the question of whether America and the former European colonial powers give a damn about human rights as the basis for military intervention. If Libya didn’t have more oil than any other nation in Africa, would the West be unleashing high-tech military mayhem to contain what is essentially a tribal-based civil war? Once again an American president summons the passions of a human rights crusade against a reprehensible ruler whose crimes, while considerable, are not significantly different from those of dictators the U.S. routinely protects.

It is difficult to escape the conclusion that Moammar Gadhafi must now go not because his human rights record is egregious but rather because his erratic hold on power seems spent. After all, from the London School of Economics to Harvard, influential foreign policy experts were all too happy until quite recently to accept Libyan payoffs in exchange for a more benign view of Gadhafi’s prospects for change under the gentle guidance of what Harvard’s Joseph Nye celebrated as “soft power.”

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The world is silent as Israel kills 9 Gazans in day of strikes

A Palestinian man cries at the Al-Shifa hospital in Gaza City near the covered body of relative killed in an Israeli military strike on a home east of Gaza City. The Al-Hilu family was playing football when the shell hit, medics said
[AFP/Mohammed Abed]

uruknet, March 22, 2011

GAZA CITY (Ma’an) – Israeli warplanes killed four Palestinians in an air strike on Az-Zaitoun neighborhood south of Gaza City on Tuesday evening, medics said.
The attack came hours after Israeli artillery fire hit a home east of Gaza City killing a child, a teenager and three adults.

Emergency services spokesman Adham Abu Salmiya said the four victims of the latest strike were members of the Al-Quds Brigades. They were all in their 20s, he said.
Abu Salmiya identified those killed as Adham Al-Hazareen, Sa’dy Hals, Muhammad Atyeh Al-Harazeen and Muhammad Abed.

An Israeli military spokeswoman said Israeli fighter jets identified “a group of terrorists” in northern Gaza who she said were preparing to launch a projectile into Israel. The warplanes dropped missiles on the group “and confirmed a hit,” she added.
The army official said the men targeted were from the same group that launched a grad rocket into Israel on February 23, but could not say how they had been identified.

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An Open Letter to War Loving (Democratic/Republican) Frauds by Cindy Sheehan

 Cindy Sheehan's Soapbox, March 21, 2011

Dear War Loving (Democratic or Republican) Fraud,

I know many of you don't really care, but in exactly 15 days, it will be seven years since my oldest son (whom I never "abandoned" and raised with his father and three siblings until he went into the Army when he was 21), Casey was killed in this Empire's insane War OF Terror. Was Casey the first, or the last? No--but he was my first and the shock knocked me out of my quiet complacency--which was just as wrong as the Empire's unending wars.

When I began protesting, Bush was president and my protest and the energy that grew around it was used by you Democrats to regain political power in the federal government. Four years later and a change of Executive, this nation is still mired in Arab countries waging a war against Arabs of all, or no, faith. Now brought to us by the Blue Team.

Three days after the current evil Emperor was installed by the oligarchy, he ordered a drone bombing in Northern Pakistan (a country that we are supposedly not at war with) that killed 36 civilians and since then, he has been absolutely mad about drone bombings, increasing Bush's total over 300 percent in far fewer years. Even though I never supported Obama who funded wars as a Senator and who is NOT a peace president, I said at the time: "Three days in and already a war criminal." I was thoroughly attacked by Democrats who once affiliated as "peace" activists for not giving Obama "time." 

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Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Chris Hedges: The Body Baggers Of Iraq

By Chris Hedges,, March 21, 2011
AP / Cpl. Daniel J. Redding
An ambulance loaded with injured troops. The less fortunate—those who die—end up in the care of fellow servicemen and -women who have to carry out gruesome work while struggling to hold on to their own sanity.

Jess Goodell enlisted in the Marines immediately after she graduated from high school in 2001. She volunteered three years later to serve in the Marine Corps’ first officially declared Mortuary Affairs unit, at Camp Al Taqaddum in Iraq. Her job, for eight months, was to collect and catalog the bodies and personal effects of dead Marines. She put the remains of young Marines in body bags and placed the bags in metal boxes. Before being shipped to Dover Air Force Base, the boxes were stored, often for days, in a refrigerated unit known as a “reefer.” The work she did was called “processing.”

“We went through everything,” she said when I reached her by phone in Buffalo, N.Y., where she is about to become a student in a Ph.D. program in counseling at the University of Buffalo. “We would get everything that the body had on it when the Marine died. Everyone had a copy of The Rules of Engagement in their left breast pocket. You found notes that people had written to each other. You found lists. Lists were common, the things they wanted to do when they got home or food they wanted to eat. The most difficult was pictures. Everyone had a picture of their wife or their kids or their family. And then you had the younger kids who might be 18 years old and they had prom pictures or pictures next to what I imagine were their first cars. Everyone had a spoon in their flak jacket. There were pens and trash and wrappers and MRE food. All of it would get sent back [to the Marines’ homes].

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The ‘Kill Team’ Images: US Army Apologizes for Horrific Photos from Afghanistan

By Matthias Gebauer and Hasnain Kazim, Spiegel Online, Mar. 21, 2011

The images are repulsive. A group of rogue US Army soldiers in Afghanistan killed innocent civilians and then posed with their bodies. On Monday, SPIEGEL published some of the photos — and the US military responded promptly with an apology. Still, NATO fears that reactions in Afghanistan could be violent.
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The United States and NATO are concerned that reactions could be intense to the publication of images documenting killings committed by US soldiers in Afghanistan. The images appeared in the most recent edition of SPIEGEL, which hit the newsstands on Monday.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has already telephoned with her Afghan counterpart to discuss the situation. National Security Advisor Tom Donilon has likewise made contact with officials in Kabul. The case threatens to strain already fragile US-Afghan relations at a time when the two countries are negotiating over the establishment of permanent US military bases in Afghanistan.

In a statement released by Colonel Thomas Collins, the US Army, which is currently preparing a court martial to try a total of 12 suspects in connection with the killings, apologized for the suffering the photos have caused. The actions depicted in the photos, the statement read, are “repugnant to us as human beings and contrary to the standards and values of the United States.”

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Syria: Government Crackdown Leads to Protester Deaths

Authorities Should Halt Use of Excessive Force on Protesters
Human Rights Watch, March 21, 2011
The Syrian government has shown no qualms about shooting dead its own citizens for speaking out. Syrians have shown incredible courage in daring to protest publicly against one of the most repressive governments in the region, and they shouldn’t have to pay with their lives.
Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch

(Cairo) – Syria should cease use of live fire and other excessive force against protesters, as it did on March 18 and 20, 2011, in the southern town of Daraa, leaving at least five people dead, Human Rights Watch said today.

Sunday, March 20 marked the third day of protests in Daraa, where government forces yet again fired on protesters and used teargas to break up a public gathering, killing one person and injuring dozens of others, according to media reports. Today’s fatality brings the total number of protesters killed in Daraa to at least five.

“The Syrian government has shown no qualms about shooting dead its own citizens for speaking out,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “Syrians have shown incredible courage in daring to protest publicly against one of the most repressive governments in the region, and they shouldn’t have to pay with their lives.”

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War’s Corruption of Christianity

By Gary G. Kohls, Consortium News, March 22, 2011

Editor’s Note: At a time when many on the American Christian Right espouse the supposed “originalist” thinking of the Founders, it’s ironic that many show little interest in the “originalist” thinking of Jesus as recounted in the gospels.
Rather than embrace the pacifist message of “the Prince of Peace,” many of these Christians have a quick-draw reaction to launching wars, a corruption of their religion that Gary G. Kohls traces back to Rome’s embrace of Christianity:

There is no question that the Christian church of the first three centuries regarded itself as a nonviolent community. It makes perfect sense. Jesus clearly taught and modeled the nonviolent love of friend and enemy, and his earliest followers tried to do so.

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And by and large they succeeded, despite terrible persecutions from Rome, under whose brutal domination being a Christian was a capital crime for most of the first three centuries.

The first Christians tried to be faithful to Jesus’s commandments to “put away the sword,” ”do not repay evil for evil,” “do unto others that which you would have them do unto you,” “do good to those who persecute you,” “pray for those who despitefully use you,” “love your neighbor as yourself,” “turn the other cheek,” “love your enemies” and “love as I have loved you.”
Jesus’s earliest followers regarded the human body as the holy temple of God here on earth, and, knowing that violence to a holy place was considered an act of desecration (and therefore forbidden), they refused to kill or maim other children of God, and therefore they also refused, out of conscience, to become killing soldiers for Rome.

Martyrdom, in the first three centuries, was regarded as the ultimate act of social responsibility. And the church flourished!

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Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Libya Rebels: Over 8,000 Killed in Revolt

Claim Is Highest Toll Yet for Civil War
by Jason Ditz,, March 20, 2011
Speaking to al-Jazeera on Sunday, Libyan rebel spokesman Abdel Hafiz Ghoga reported that upward of 8,000 Libyans had been killed in the civil war between the burgeoning protest-rebel movement and the Gadhafi regime.

The claim is the highest toll yet reported for the conflict, but is entirely possible given that doctors estimated 2,000 killed in Benghazi alone during the initial violence. It is unclear, however, how reliable the current information the rebels have on the western tolls is, as those cities were lost in fighting over the past weeks.

The deaths from the internal fighting appear to have ground to a virtual halt since Saturday, when Western nations attacked Libya. In the day and a half since then, reports from the ground suggest that at least 64 people have been killed in the campaign, as large numbers of missiles have been fired into Libyan territory.

It is unclear at this point what percentage of the casualties in either toll represents civilians and how many are combatants. With the campaign transitioning into air strikes, the toll, particularly among civilians, seems bound to grow going forward.

Revolutions and Unrest in Arab Countries: Hezbollah Chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah Speech

Any accusation that the US manufactured and launched these revolutions is unjust speech toward these peoples, especially that we are talking about regimes which are allied with the USA, serve the American project and pose no threat to Israel.
Speech March 19, 2011 -Information Clearing House,

(Ahlul Bayt News Agency) – Hezbollah Secretary General Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah delivers a televised speech on revolutions and unrest in multiple Arab countries:

-Our gathering today is to voice our support for our Arab people and their revolutions and sacrifices, especially in Tunisia, Egypt, Bahrain, Libya and Yemen.

-The value of this solidarity is moral, political, and ethical, and its effects are also moral. The origin of what is going on – which could decide the fate of an uprising here, a confrontation there, or a resistance there – the origin is the steadfastness of peoples, linked to their faith and high spirituality.

-You remember that during the July [2006] war, every word and statement in any state and anywhere in the world had its impact on the resistance, the people and the displaced.

-The same is the case with the Arab revolts. We tell them that we support them, that we stand by your side and we are ready to help you toward your interest and ours, with your and our capabilities.

-We have to stress that these revolutions are the will of the people themselves. Any accusation that the US manufactured and launched these revolutions is unjust speech toward these peoples, especially that we are talking about regimes which are allied with the USA, serve the American project and pose no threat to Israel.

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UN investigator: Israel engaged in ethnic cleansing with settlement expansion

U.S. academic Richard Falk spoke to UN Human Rights Council as it prepared resolution condemning settlement building in East Jerusalem and West Bank.

Haaretz, March 21, 2011

Source: Reuters

Israel’s expansion of settlements in East Jerusalem and eviction of Palestinians from their homes there is a form of ethnic cleansing, a United Nations investigator said on Monday.
United States academic Richard Falk was speaking to the UN Human Rights Council as it prepared to pass resolutions condemning settlement building in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

The “continued pattern of settlement expansion in East Jerusalem combined with the forcible eviction of long-residing Palestinians are creating an intolerable situation” in the part of the city previously controlled by Jordan, he said.
This situation “can only be described in its cumulative impact as a form of ethnic cleansing,” Falk declared.

Israel declines to deal with Falk or even allow him into the country, accusing him of being biased.

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Monday, March 21, 2011

Anti-war Activists Arrested Near White House as they Mark 8th Anniversary of Start of Iraq War, March 19, 2011

Associated Press

More than 100 anti-war protesters, including the man who leaked the Pentagon Papers, were arrested outside the White House on Saturday in demonstrations marking the eighth anniversary of the U.S.-led war in Iraq.

A unidentified protester lifts his legs as he is arrested by U.S. Park Police near the White House while protesting against war on the 8th anniversary of the Iraq invasion in Washington, on Saturday, March 19, 2011. (AP Photo)

The protesters, some shouting anti-war slogans and singing “We Shall Not Be Moved,” were arrested after ignoring orders to move away from the gates of the White House. The demonstrators cheered loudly as Daniel Ellsberg, the former military analyst who in 1971 leaked the Pentagon’s secret history of the Vietnam War that was later published in major newspapers, was arrested and led away by police.

In New York City, about 80 protesters gathered near the U.S. military recruiting center in Times Square, chanting “No to war” and carrying banners that read, “I am not paying for war” and “Butter not guns.”

Similar protests marking the start of the Iraq war were also planned Saturday in Chicago, San Francisco and other cities.

The demonstration in Washington on Saturday merged varied causes, including protesters demanding a U.S. military withdrawal from Iraq and Afghanistan as well as those supporting Bradley Manning, the jailed Army private suspected of giving classified documents to the website WikiLeaks.

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How Drone Warfare Creates Terrorists

MQ-9 Reaper in flight. Staff Sgt. Brian Ferguson/US Air Force photo
No matter how much anyone talks about “surgical” strikes and precision bombing, air power and civilian deaths are inextricably bound together.

By Tom Engelhardt, Mother Jones, March 17, 2011

This story first appeared on the TomDispatch website.

When men first made war in the air, the imagery that accompanied them was of knights jousting in the sky. Just check out movies like Wings, which won the first Oscar for Best Picture in 1927 (or any Peanuts cartoon in which Snoopy takes on the Red Baron in a literal “dogfight”). As late as 1986, five years after two American F-14s shot down two Soviet jets flown by Libyan pilots over the Mediterranean’s Gulf of Sidra, it was still possible to make the movie Top Gun. In it, Tom Cruise played “Maverick,” a US Naval aviator triumphantly involved in a similar incident. (He shoots down three MiGs.)

Admittedly, by then American air-power films had long been in decline. In Vietnam, the US had used its air superiority to devastating effect, bombing the north and blasting the south, but go to American Vietnam films and, while that US patrol walks endlessly into a South Vietnamese village with mayhem to come, the air is largely devoid of planes.

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Yemen clerics urge army to ignore orders

Human rights minister announces his resignation in protest at gunning down of more than 50 anti-regime protesters.
Middle East Online, March 20, 2011

By Hammoud Mounassar – SANAA

A bloodbath on Friday
Muslim clerics urged Yemeni soldiers to disobey orders and a third minister resigned after the gunning down of more than 50 protesters calling for an end to President’s Ali Abdullah Saleh’s rule.

Leading clerics said Saleh was responsible for the slaughter following Muslim prayers in Sanaa on Friday, the worst day of bloodshed in more a month of violent unrest.

“We call on the army and security forces to not carry out any order from anyone to kill and repress” demonstrators, a group of influential clerics in the deeply religious country said in a joint statement.

They also called for Saleh’s elite Republican Guard troops to be withdrawn from the capital, where anti-regime protesters have continued a sit-in near Sanaa University despite a state of emergency called after Friday’s violence.

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Bahrain and Yemen declare war on their protesters

With 42 killed in Sanaa, regimes show they will keep power at any cost 

By Patrick Cockburn, The Independent, March 20, 2011

More protests hit both Yemen (above) and Bahrain yesterday 
afp/getty images  More protests hit both Yemen (above) and Bahrain yesterday

Abrutal counter-revolution is sweeping through the Arabian Peninsula as Bahrain and Yemen both declare war on reform movements and ferociously try to suppress them with armed force.

In Yemen police and snipers on rooftops opened fire on Friday on a mass demonstration outside the main university, killing at least 42 people. The government has since declared martial law and set up checkpoints throughout the capital, Sanaa.

In Bahrain repression began a few days earlier, when King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa called for military support from other Gulf monarchs and 1,000 troops from Saudi Arabia crossed into the island kingdom. “This was the green light for our army to kill people,” says Ali Salman, the leader of al-Wefaq, the main opposition party.

As decisively as in Yemen the Bahraini al-Khalifa royal family has rejected reform and showed that it intends to hold power by armed force. Serried ranks of riot police advancing behind a cloud of tear gas and backed by armoured vehicles and helicopters cleared protesters from Pearl Square, which has been the gathering point for protesters. The 300ft-high monument commemorating the pearl fishers of the Gulf, a rallying point for protesters, has been torn down by the army. “It was a bad memory,” said the Bahraini Foreign Minister, Khalid bin Ahmed al-Khalifa.

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Andy Newman, Socialist Unity, March  19, 2011
hobsbawm_cover2.JPGGregory Elliott’s new book on the political thought of Eric Hobsbawm is a welcome work of serious scholarship about an important and influential thinker.

Elliott seeks to provide a comprehensive overview of Hobsbawm’s politics, and does very successfully develop an intellectual biography showing the evolution of the subject’s thought, particularly as evidenced by the changing viewpoints through Hobsbawm’s history of modernity, from The Age of Revolution in 1962, through the The Age of Capital in 1975, The Age of Empire in 1987, and The Age of Extremes in 1994.

Given the length of Hobsbawm’s political and intellectual career, and the breadth of his achievement, it would have been a Herculean task to do justice to every aspect of Hobsbawm’s work. However, I do feel that Elliott’s decision to omit a critical discussion of Hobsbawm’s account of nations and nationalism was a mistake.

Hobsbawms, work “Nations and Nationalism Since 1780” alongside the book he edited “The Invention of Tradition” are not only seminal texts in the understanding of the theory of nationalism, to be read alongside Gellner and Anderson, but their approach is both informed by and informs Hobsbawm’s commitment to the politics of the Popular Front. Georgi Dimitrov’s report to the Seventh Congress of the Comintern in 1935 on the ideological battle against fascism clearly sounds out some of themes about how national identity is a contested political terrain that Hobsbawm later develops. This was the forge in which Hobsbawm’s world view was wrought.

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Saturday, March 19, 2011

46 Pro-Democracy Protesters Killed in Violent Yemen Crackdown

Saleh Declares 'State of Emergency' as Minister Resigns

by Jason Ditz,, March 18, 2011

Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh has announced a “state of emergency” Friday, following a brutal crackdown against protesters in the capital city of Sanaa left at least 46 people dead and hundreds of others wounded.

The protesters have been demanding Saleh resign for weeks, and today’s crackdowns were the most violent yet, with government snipers reportedly firing into the crowd from rooftops. Tens of thousands of protesters were reported in Sanaa alone, with other major protests reported nationwide.

Today’s crackdown also led to the first high profile government resignation, with Tourism Minister Nabil Hasan al-Faqih announcing that he has resigned from the cabinet to protest the “events the country is going through.”

President Saleh, however, appears to be remaining completely unmoved by the mass protests, insisting that despite accounts from journalists on the scene none of the shootings were from government forces and insisting he would “investigate” the incidents.

‘Blood money was paid by S. Arabia’

By Anwar Iqbal,, March 18, 2011 

Diplomatic sources said that the Saudis joined the efforts to resolve the dispute late last month after it became obvious that Davis`s continued incarceration could do an irreparable damage to US-Pakistan relations. – File Photo  

WASHINGTON: Saudi Arabia is believed to have arranged the blood money that allowed CIA contractor Raymond Davis to go home after nearly two months in a Lahore jail, diplomatic sources told Dawn. 

They said that the Saudis joined the efforts to resolve the dispute late last month after it became obvious that Davis`s continued incarceration could do an irreparable damage to US-Pakistan relations.

The Saudis agreed to pay the money, “at least for now”, to get Davis released, the sources said, but did not clarify if and how would the Saudis be reimbursed.

“This is something that needs to be discussed between the United States and the Kingdom,” one source said. “Mr Davis`s surprise departure from Pakistan came after it became obvious that the Americans were getting impatient,” he added.

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Friday, March 18, 2011

At Least 41 Killed as US Drones Attack Tribal Jirga in North Waziristan

Attack Killed Members of Pro-Govt Militia, Random Civilians 

by Jason Ditz,,  March 17, 2011

The latest US drone strike against North Waziristan Agency, Pakistan is amongst the deadliest in recent memory, with at least 41 people killed and other, unconfirmed sources speculating the toll may be upwards of 80.

Making matters worse, this strike isn’t coming with the usual pretense of everyone slain being a “suspected militant.” Rather, the attack struck a tribal jirga (official meeting) for the Madda Khel tribe, in the town of Datta Khel.

The casualties from the attack included six tribal elders who were overseeing the jirga, which was apparently to discuss the ownership of mineral rights, a number of children who were brought by their families to the gathering, and several members of a pro-government militia the tribe helped organize.

The US has been striking houses and vehicles in Datta Khel and elsewhere in North Waziristan for years, and such a large gathering must have seemed an appealing target. The fact that the gathering had nothing to do with militants, however, points again to just how little information they have about their targets before launching missiles at them.