Saturday, December 31, 2005

War without end

This was the year the "war on terror" - an obnoxious expression which we all parroted after 11 September 2001 - appeared to be almost as endless as George Bush once claimed it would be. And unsuccessful. For, after all the bombing of Afghanistan, the overthrow of the Taliban, the invasion of Iraq and its appallingly tragic aftermath, can anyone claim today that they feel safer than they did a year ago?

We have gone on smashing away at the human rights we trumpeted at the Russians - and the Arabs - during the Cold War. We have perhaps fatally weakened all those provisions that were written into our treaties and conventions in the aftermath of the Second World War to make the world a safer place. And we claim we are winning.

Where, for example, is the terror? In the streets of Baghdad, to be sure. And perhaps again in our glorious West if we go on wih this folly. But terror is also in the prisons and torture chambers of the Middle East. It is in the very jails to which we have been merrily sending out trussed-up prisoners these past three years. For Jack Straw to claim that men are not being sent on their way to torture is surely one of the most extraordinary - perhaps absurd is closer to the mark - statements to have been made in the "war on terror". If they are not going to be tortured - like the luckless Canadian shipped off to Damascus from New York - then what is the purpose of sending them anywhere?

And how are we supposed to "win" this war by ignoring all the injustices we are inflicting on that part of the world from which the hijackers of September 11 originally came? How many times have Messrs Bush and Blair talked about "democracy"? How few times have they talked about "justice", the righting of historic wrongs, the ending of torture? Our principal victims of the "war on terror", of course, have been in Iraq (where we have done quite a bit of torturing ourselves).

But, strange to say, we are silent about the horrors the people of Iraq are now enduring. We do not even know - are not allowed to know - how many of them have died. We know that 1,100 Iraqis died by violence in Baghdad in July alone. That's terror.

But how many died in the other cities of Iraq, in Mosul and Kirkuk and Irbil, and in Amara and Fallujah and Ramadi and Najaf and Kerbala and Basra? Three thousand in July? Or four thousand? And if those projections are accurate, we are talking about 36,000 or 48,000 over the year - which makes that projected post-April 2003 figure of 100,000 dead, which Blair ridiculed, rather conservative, doesn't it?

It's not so long ago, I recall, that Bush explained to us that all the Arabs would one day wish to have the freedoms of Iraq. I cannot think of an Arab today who would wish to contemplate such ill fortune, not least because of the increasingly sectarian nature of the authorities, elected though they are.

The year did allow Ariel Sharon to achieve his aim of turning his colonial war into part of the "war on terror". It also allowed al-Qa'ida's violence to embrace more Arab countries. Jordan was added to Egypt. Woe betide those of us who are now locked into the huge military machine that embraces the Middle East. Why, Iraqis sometimes ask me, are American forces - aerial or land - in Uzbekistan? And Kazakhstan and Afghanistan, in Turkey and Jordan (and Iraq) and in Kuwait and Qatar and Bahrain and Oman and Yemen and Egypt and Algeria (there is a US special forces unit based near Tamanrasset, co-operating with the same Algerian army that was involved in the massacre of civilians the 1990s)?

In fact, just look at the map and you can see the Americans in Greenland and Iceland and Britain and Germany and ex-Yugoslavia and Greece - where we join up with Turkey. How did this iron curtain from the ice cap to the borders of Sudan emerge? What is its purpose? These are the key questions that should engage anyone trying to understand the "war on terror".

And what of the bombers? Where are they coming from, these armies of suiciders? Still we are obsessed with Osama bin Laden. Is he alive? Yes. But does he matter? Quite possibly not. For he has created al-Qa'ida. The monster has been born. To squander our millions searching for people like Bin Laden is about as useless as arresting nuclear scientists after the invention of the atom bomb. It is with us.

Alas, as long as we are not attending to the real problems of the Middle East, of its record of suffering and injustice, it - al-Qa'ida - will still be with us. My year began with a massive explosion in Beirut, just 400 metres from me, as a bomb killed the ex-prime minister Rafiq Hariri. It continued on 7 July when a bomb blew up two trains back from me on the Piccadilly line. Oh, the dangerous world we live in now. I suppose we all have to make our personal choices these days. Mine is that I am not going to allow 11 September 2001 to change my world. Bush may believe that 19 Arab murderers changed his world. But I'm not going to let them change mine.

Source Robert Fisk Independent

Friday, December 30, 2005

NEW : Documents leak prove UK knowingly received information obtained under torture

It's not the al-Jazeera Memo, but these are some more documents that the UK Government are trying to suppress with the threat of prosecution under the Official Secrets Act. They detail our use of intelligence extracted by torture, and legal advice the Foreign Office received on the subject.

Craig Murray was the United Kingdom's Ambassador to Uzbekistan, until removed from his post on October 14, 2004. While in this office he publicly criticised the human rights situation in Uzbekistan, against the wishes of the British government, an action that he alleges was the reason for his removal. He also privately criticised the UK government for committing torture by proxy, that is, sending terrorist suspects to Uzbekistan for their security services to extract intelligence of dubious value; in the phrase he is best known for, he accused his government of "selling our souls for dross".

He is now a prominent critic of Western policy in the region and the following information was compiled from his web site and other sources...

Constituent: "This question is for Mr Straw; Have you ever read any documents where the intelligence has been procured through torturous means?"

Jack Straw: "Not to the best of my knowledge... let me make this clear... the British government does not support torture in any circumstances. Full stop. We do not support the obtaining of intelligence by torture, or its use." - Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, election hustings, Blackburn, April 2005

I was summoned to the UK for a meeting on 8 March 2003. Michael Wood gave his legal opinion that it was not illegal to obtain and to use intelligence acquired by torture... On behalf of the intelligence services, Matthew Kydd said that they found some of the material very useful indeed with a direct bearing on the war on terror. Linda Duffield said that she had been asked to assure me that my qualms of conscience were respected and understood. - Ambassador Craig Murray, memo to the Foreign Office, July 2004

With Tony Blair and Jack Straw cornered on extraordinary rendition, the UK government is particularly anxious to suppress all evidence of our complicity in obtaining intelligence extracted by foreign torturers.

The British Foreign Office is now seeking to block publication of Craig Murray's forthcoming book, which documents his time as Ambassador to Uzbekistan. The Foreign Office has demanded that Craig Murray remove all references to two especially damning British government documents, indicating that our government was knowingly receiving information extracted by the Uzbeks through torture, and return every copy that he has in his possession.

Craig Murray is refusing to do this. Instead, the documents are today being published simultaneously on blogs all around the world.

The first document contains the text of several telegrams that Craig Murray sent back to London from 2002 to 2004, warning that the information being passed on by the Uzbek security services was torture-tainted, and challenging MI6 claims that the information was nonetheless "useful".

The second document is the text of a legal opinion from the Foreign Office's Michael Wood, arguing that the use by intelligence services of information extracted through torture does not constitute a violation of the UN Convention Against Torture.

In March 2003 I was summoned back to London from Tashkent specifically for a meeting at which I was told to stop protesting. I was told specifically that it was perfectly legal for us to obtain and to use intelligence from the Uzbek torture chambers.After this meeting Sir Michael Wood, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office's legal adviser, wrote to confirm this position. This minute from Michael Wood is perhaps the most important document that has become public about extraordinary rendition. It is irrefutable evidence of the government's use of torture material, and that I was attempting to stop it. It is no wonder that the government is trying to suppress this.

If you wish to read the documents then you will find them Here


Please note
(1) NONE of the documents are held on this site , the link takes you to another web site that i am not responsible for.
(2)I have no idea if these are genuine documents or not i am just repeating the claims being made by Mr Murray .
(3)Mr Murray himself has released these documents into the public domain they have not been stolen or acquired in any suspect way
(4) The above link in no way should be seen as me encouraging you to look at the documents , the link is merely there , clicking on it is your own choice

Whoopsmas : A christmas song (Animation)

Another clasic from Mark Fiore

Watch it here

If you liked that one then why not try out his previous cartoon
Agent W

Thursday, December 29, 2005

CIA lived like kings during kidnapping spree through Italy

MILAN, Italy -- When the CIA decides to "render" a terrorism suspect living abroad for interrogation in Egypt or another friendly Middle East nation, it spares no expense.

Italian prosecutors wrote in court papers that the CIA spent "enormous amounts of money" during the six weeks it took the agency to figure out how to grab a 39-year-old Muslim preacher called Abu Omar off the streets of Milan, throw him into a van and drive him to the airport.

First to arrive in Milan was the surveillance team, and the hotels they chose were among the best Europe has to offer. Especially popular was the gilt-and-crystal Principe di Savoia, with acres of burnished wood paneling and plush carpets, where a single room costs $588 a night, a club sandwich goes for $28.75 and a Diet Coke adds another $9.35.

According to hotel records obtained by the Milan police investigating Abu Omar's disappearance, two CIA operatives managed to ring up more than $9,000 in room charges alone. The CIA's bill at the Principe for seven operatives came to $39,995, not counting meals, parking and other hotel services.

Another group of seven operatives spent $40,098 on room charges at the Westin Palace, a five-star hotel across the Piazza della Repubblica from the Principe, where a club sandwich is only $20.

A former CIA officer who has worked undercover abroad said those prices were "way over" the CIA's allowed rates for foreign travel. "But you can get away with it if you claim you needed the hotel `to maintain your cover,'" he said. "They would have had to pose as highflying businessmen."

Judging from the photographs on the passports they displayed when checking into their hotels and the international driver's licenses they used to rent cars, not many of the Milan operatives could have passed as "highflying businessmen."

In all, records show, the CIA paid 10 Milan hotels at least $158,000 in room charges.

Although the Milan police obtained the hotel bills of 22 alleged CIA operatives, they say at least 59 cell phones were used in the weeks leading up to the abduction. Even allowing for the possibility that some operatives used more than one phone, prosecutors believe that a significant number of operatives remain unidentified.

A senior U.S. official said the agency's deployment in Milan was "about usual for that kind of operation." But in December 2001, when the CIA arrived in Stockholm to transport two suspected Islamic militants to Cairo, it sent eight rendition experts to do the job, according to a Swedish TV documentary.

When a rendition team showed up in Macedonia in January 2004 to collect a Kuwait-born German citizen, Khalid el-Masri, and fly him to Afghanistan, there were only 11 operatives on the plane, according to a Spanish police report.

At the beginning of February 2003, with the abduction still three weeks away, 10 of the operatives, who presumably had been spending their days charting Abu Omar's movements in Milan, left the city to spend the weekend in a hotel overlooking the harbor at La Spezia, on Italy's Mediterranean coast.

Some male and female operatives shared the same hotel rooms, records show. Before heading back to Milan, five members of the group detoured to Florence, where they checked into the renowned Grand Hotel Baglioni.

Once Abu Omar was safely behind bars in Cairo, some of the operatives who had helped put him there split up into twos and threes and headed for luxury resort hotels in the Italian Alps, Tuscany and Venice.

Asked if there had been some operational or other official reason for the ultra-expensive hotels and side trips, the senior U.S. official shrugged. "They work hard," he said.

One expense the CIA did spare the U.S. taxpayers was the dozen traffic tickets generated when the agency's rented cars were photographed by police cameras driving illegally in the city's bus and taxi lanes. Because the cars had been rented using false names and addresses, the $500 in fines was paid by the car rental agencies.

Source : Here

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Fear destroys what bin Laden could not

If, back in 2001, anyone had told me that four years after bin Laden's attack our president would admit that he broke U.S. law against domestic spying and ignored the Constitution -- and then expect the American people to congratulate him for it -- I would have presumed the girders of our very Republic had crumbled.

Had anyone said our president would invade a country and kill 30,000 of its people claiming a threat that never, in fact, existed, then admit he would have invaded even if he had known there was no threat -- and expect America to be pleased by this -- I would have thought our nation's sensibilities and honor had been eviscerated.

If I had been informed that our nation's leaders would embrace torture as a legitimate tool of warfare, hold prisoners for years without charges and operate secret prisons overseas -- and call such procedures necessary for the nation's security -- I would have laughed at the folly of protecting human rights by destroying them.

If someone had predicted the president's staff would out a CIA agent as revenge against a critic, defy a law against domestic propaganda by bankrolling supposedly independent journalists and commentators, and ridicule a 37-year Marie Corps veteran for questioning U.S. military policy -- and that the populace would be more interested in whether Angelina is about to make Brad a daddy -- I would have called the prediction an absurd fantasy.

That's no America I know, I would have argued. We're too strong, and we've been through too much, to be led down such a twisted path.
What is there to say now?

All of these things have happened. And yet a large portion of this country appears more concerned that saying ''Happy Holidays'' could be a disguised attack on Christianity.

I evidently have a lot poorer insight regarding America's character than I once believed, because I would have expected such actions to provoke -- speaking metaphorically now -- mobs with pitchforks and torches at the White House gate. I would have expected proud defiance of anyone who would suggest that a mere terrorist threat could send this country into spasms of despair and fright so profound that we'd follow a leader who considers the law a nuisance and perfidy a privilege.

Never would I have expected this nation -- which emerged stronger from a civil war and a civil rights movement, won two world wars, endured the Depression, recovered from a disastrous campaign in Southeast Asia and still managed to lead the world in the principles of liberty -- would cower behind anyone just for promising to ``protect us.''

President Bush recently confirmed that he has authorized wiretaps against U.S. citizens on at least 30 occasions and said he'll continue doing it. His justification? He, as president -- or is that king? -- has a right to disregard any law, constitutional tenet or congressional mandate to protect the American people.

Is that America's highest goal -- preventing another terrorist attack? Are there no principles of law and liberty more important than this? Who would have remembered Patrick Henry had he written, ``What's wrong with giving up a little liberty if it protects me from death?''
Bush would have us excuse his administration's excesses in deference to the ''war on terror'' -- a war, it should be pointed out, that can never end. Terrorism is a tactic, an eventuality, not an opposition army or rogue nation. If we caught every person guilty of a terrorist act, we still wouldn't know where tomorrow's first-time terrorist will strike. Fighting terrorism is a bit like fighting infection -- even when it's beaten, you must continue the fight or it will strike again.

Are we agreeing, then, to give the king unfettered privilege to defy the law forever? It's time for every member of Congress to weigh in: Do they believe the president is above the law, or bound by it?

Bush stokes our fears, implying that the only alternative to doing things his extralegal way is to sit by fitfully waiting for terrorists to harm us. We are neither weak nor helpless. A proud, confident republic can hunt down its enemies without trampling legitimate human and constitutional rights.

Ultimately, our best defense against attack -- any attack, of any sort -- is holding fast and fearlessly to the ideals upon which this nation was built.

Bush clearly doesn't understand or respect that. Do we?

By Robert Steinback Miami Herald

IRAQ : Kurds have plan to invade South as talk of 'civil war' persist

KIRKUK, Iraq — Kurdish leaders have inserted more than 10,000 of their militia members into Iraqi army divisions in northern Iraq to lay the groundwork to swarm south, seize the oil-rich city of Kirkuk and possibly half of Mosul, Iraq's third-largest city, and secure the borders of an independent Kurdistan.

Five days of interviews with Kurdish leaders and troops in the region suggest that U.S. plans to bring unity to Iraq before withdrawing American troops by training and equipping a national army aren't gaining traction. Instead, some troops that are formally under U.S. and Iraqi national command are preparing to protect territory and ethnic and religious interests in the event of Iraq's fragmentation, which many of them think is inevitable.

The soldiers said that while they wore Iraqi army uniforms they still considered themselves members of the Peshmerga — the Kurdish militia — and were awaiting orders from Kurdish leaders to break ranks. Many said they wouldn't hesitate to kill their Iraqi army comrades, especially Arabs, if a fight for an independent Kurdistan erupted.

"It doesn't matter if we have to fight the Arabs in our own battalion," said Gabriel Mohammed, a Kurdish soldier in the Iraqi army who was escorting a Knight Ridder reporter through Kirkuk. "Kirkuk will be ours."

Continue reading at the source Here

Russia to honor Iran arms deal despite US objection

Russia will fully comply with a deal with Iran to supply it with the Tor-M1 air defense systems despite US objections, a senior Defense Ministry official said.

"The Russian side, despite objections from the United States, will honor its contract with Iran for the supply of the upgraded version of the Tor system," the official was quoted by the Itar-Tass news agency as saying.

The official said delivery of the 30 Tor-M1 systems will begin in January and be completed by the end of next year. The deal is believed to be worth 1.4 billion US dollars and is the biggest ever arms deal between Russia and Iran.

The Tor-M1 system is capable of identifying up to 48 targets and tracing and firing at two targets simultaneously at a height of up to 6,100 meters. US officials have called the deal a source of concern and said the United States strongly opposed the missile sale.

Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov earlier confirmed and defended the deal saying Russia did not violate any international obligations in signing the deal because Iran is subject to any international sanction.

"That was an absolutely legal deal, like it or not," he said.

Source Here

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Saudi Arabia: Court Orders Eye to Be Gouged Out

King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia should take urgent steps to ensure that a court sentence to gouge out a migrant worker's eye is not carried out, Human Rights Watch said today.

The Greater Shari`a Court of Dammam sentenced Puthan Veettil `Abd ul-Latif Noushad, an Indian citizen, to be punished by having his right eye gouged out in retribution for his role in a brawl in April 2003 in which a Saudi citizen was injured. A court of appeal in Riyadh has reportedly merely asked whether the Saudi man would accept monetary compensation instead.

"This literal eye-for-an-eye sentence is torture masquerading as justice," said Joe Stork, deputy director of Human Rights Watch's Middle East division. "King Abdullah must prevent the imposition of corporal punishment in violation of the country's obligations under international law."

Saudi Arabia acceded to the Convention against Torture in 1997. However, Noushad’s case is the third known instance over the past year in which a Saudi court has issued a sentence of eye-gouging, Human Rights Watch said. Saudi law allows for maiming, including the severing of limbs and severe flogging, as judicial punishments.

The injured Saudi man, Nayif al-`Utaibi, has so far insisted that the sentence be carried out, refusing to pardon Noushad or accept monetary compensation. Noushad's Saudi employer, Abu Muhammad al-`Umri, has reportedly offered to pay over $25,000 in compensation. He told Human Rights Watch that he had no faith that the appeals court would overturn the verdict, and that only a pardon could save Noushad's eye unless the plaintiff decides to accept compensation.

Noushad worked at a shop near a gas station outside Dammam. One witness to the altercation between the two men told Human Rights Watch that on the morning of April 1, 2003, Noushad told `Utaibi that he would not be able to obtain a refund once he used the jumper cable he had just purchased. When `Utaibi demanded a refund after using the cable, Noushad advised him to speak to the shop owner, who was not there at the time. The witness said `Utaibi replied heatedly that he could not wait that long and lunged at Noushad. In the course of the ensuing struggle, Noushad struck `Utaibi on the head with the cable, hitting his eye. Bystanders called the police, who arrested Noushad on `Utaibi's testimony, and called an ambulance for `Utaibi.

During the trial, Noushad claimed that he was acting in self-defense and did not intend to injure `Utaibi, according to acquaintances of Noushad who are familiar with the proceedings. The witness, also a worker from India, told Human Rights Watch that the court refused to admit his testimony backing up Noushad's account.

The judge reportedly said that non-Saudis were barred from testifying in cases involving Saudis. Noushad’s Saudi employer confirmed that the judge did not fully take into account the circumstances of the brawl. Noushad did not have a lawyer during trial, but his Saudi sponsor retained legal representation for the appeals phase.

"The court's verdict virtually allows Saudi citizens to assault migrant workers with impunity," Stork said.

News of the verdict has caused a political uproar in India. On December 6, the day after the verdict was made public, the chief minister of Kerala state, Oommen Chandy, promised to raise the case with Saudi authorities. The Indian embassy in Riyadh has announced it will appeal to King Abdullah for clemency.

On September 16, 2004, the Saudi newspaper Okaz reported that a court in Tabuk ordered the right eye of Muhammad `Ayid Sulaiman al-Fadili al-Balawi to be gouged out, but gave him the option of paying compensation within one year. In 2001, Balawi had intervened when he saw youths pelting his brother with stones. In response, he also threw stones, hitting one youth in the eye and causing him to lose vision in one eye. Balawi helped carry the youth to the hospital. Two months before the sentence was to be carried out, he had managed to collect only 550,000 Saudi riyals (US$147,000) of the 1.4 million riyals (US$373,000) demanded by the victim. Human Rights Watch was unable to verify whether the sentence had been carried out.

Another Saudi newspaper, ArabNews, reported on December 6 that a court had recently sentenced an Egyptian man in Saudi Arabia to having his eye gouged out after he allegedly threw acid in the face of another man, who subsequently lost his eyesight.

Saudi Arabia and Iran are the only known countries that consider eye-gouging a legitimate judicial punishment. The United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture, Manfred Nowak, has stated that "any form of corporal punishment is contrary to the prohibition of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment."

Source Here

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Merry Christmas

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Italy probes US marine for murder in Iraq

ROME (Reuters) - Italian magistrates have placed a U.S. marine under official investigation for murder over the killing of an Italian agent in Iraq earlier this year, judicial sources said on Thursday.

Intelligence officer Nicola Calipari was shot dead at an improvised U.S. checkpoint on a road near Baghdad in March as he was accompanying an Italian hostage to safety.

Italy and the United States held a joint inquiry into the incident, but they failed to agree joint conclusions and instead issued conflicting reports. While the U.S. military exonerated its troops of any blame, Rome said nervous, inexperienced American soldiers and a badly executed road block were at the root of the shooting.

In the meantime, Italy's independent judiciary have pushed ahead with their own probe and have carried out forensic tests on the car Calipari was traveling in when he came under fire.

Source Reuters

Agent 'W' in 'Get Smarter' ( Must Watch Animation )

Another classic animation from Mark fiore . This time he looks at the claims of internal spying in the U.S.

You can watch it here Here

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Americans ' tortured me ' Saddam claims

Saddam Hussein has been beaten and tortured by the Americans, he has alleged at his trial in Baghdad. "I have been beaten on every place of my body, and the signs are all over my body," he told the court.

A White House spokesman dismissed the accusation, calling it "preposterous", AFP news agency reported. Saddam Hussein is on trial over the killing of 148 people in the Iraqi Shia village of Dujail in 1982. He denies responsibility for the deaths.

Several times during his outburst, the sound feed to the television coverage being seen across Iraq was muted, the BBC's Quil Lawrence reports from Baghdad.

This has been seen as an attempt to keep Saddam Hussein from upstaging the testimony of the witnesses who claimed today that they were tortured at the hands of the former regime, he says.

The prosecution gave little credence to the former president's claim he had been tortured, saying he was being held in an air-conditioned room when some of Baghdad had no power.

Chief prosecutor Jaafar Mousawi said the claims would be investigated and that he would ask for Saddam Hussein to be transferred to Iraqi custody if there was any truth to them.

Iraq's former leader had appeared to accept the court proceedings in the morning after boycotting an earlier sitting, calling the court "unjust". But late in the afternoon, he delivered a lengthy, rambling statement in which he claimed he and his co-defendants had been abused by their American jailers.

Watch a video of events in the court today including Saddam making this claim Here . (Video from the BBC , windows media player required)

Source : BBC

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Is President Bush a liar ? (Must Watch Video)

The 'New York Times’ eavesdropping story .

Was President Bush 'lying' then or is he 'lying' now ?

Either way it seems he is a liar.

Watch the five minute video Here (Windows media file )

Or Flash Presentation

My source : ICH

America kidnapped me

By Khaled El-Masri, KHALED EL-MASRI, a German citizen born in Lebanon, was a car salesman before he was detained in December 2003.

( LA Times ) THE U.S. POLICY of "extraordinary rendition" has a human face, and it is mine.

I am still recovering from an experience that was completely beyond the pale, outside the bounds of any legal framework and unacceptable in any civilized society. Because I believe in the American system of justice, I sued George Tenet, the former CIA director, last week. What happened to me should never be allowed to happen again.

I was born in Kuwait and raised in Lebanon. In 1985, when Lebanon was being torn apart by civil war, I fled to Germany in search of a better life. There I became a citizen and started my own family. I have five children.

On Dec. 31, 2003, I took a bus from Germany to Macedonia. When we arrived, my nightmare began. Macedonian agents confiscated my passport and detained me for 23 days. I was not allowed to contact anyone, including my wife.

At the end of that time, I was forced to record a video saying I had been treated well. Then I was handcuffed, blindfolded and taken to a building where I was severely beaten. My clothes were sliced from my body with a knife or scissors, and my underwear was forcibly removed. I was thrown to the floor, my hands pulled behind me, a boot placed on my back. I was humiliated.

Eventually my blindfold was removed, and I saw men dressed in black, wearing black ski masks. I did not know their nationality. I was put in a diaper, a belt with chains to my wrists and ankles, earmuffs, eye pads, a blindfold and a hood. I was thrown into a plane, and my legs and arms were spread-eagled and secured to the floor. I felt two injections and became nearly unconscious. I felt the plane take off, land and take off. I learned later that I had been taken to Afghanistan.

There, I was beaten again and left in a small, dirty, cold concrete cell. I was extremely thirsty, but there was only a bottle of putrid water in the cell. I was refused fresh water.

That first night I was taken to an interrogation room where I saw men dressed in the same black clothing and ski masks as before. They stripped and photographed me, and took blood and urine samples. I was returned to the cell, where I would remain in solitary confinement for more than four months.

The following night my interrogations began. They asked me if I knew why I had been detained. I said I did not. They told me that I was now in a country with no laws, and did I understand what that meant?

They asked me many times whether I knew the men who were responsible for the Sept. 11 attacks, if I had traveled to Afghanistan to train in camps and if I associated with certain people in my town of Ulm, Germany. I told the truth: that I had no connection to any terrorists, had never been in Afghanistan and had never been involved in any extremism. I asked repeatedly to meet with a representative of the German government, or a lawyer, or to be brought before a court. Always, my requests were ignored.

In desperation, I began a hunger strike. After 27 days without food, I was taken to meet with two Americans — the prison director and another man, referred to as "the Boss." I pleaded with them to release me or bring me before a court, but the prison director replied that he could not release me without permission from Washington. He also said that he believed I should not be detained in the prison.

After 37 days without food, I was dragged to the interrogation room, where a feeding tube was forced through my nose into my stomach. I became extremely ill, suffering the worst pain of my life.

After three months, I was taken to meet an American who said he had traveled from Washington, D.C., and who promised I would soon be released. I was also visited by a German-speaking man who explained that I would be allowed to return home but warned that I was never to mention what had happened because the Americans were determined to keep the affair a secret.

On May 28, 2004, almost five months after I was first kidnapped, I was blindfolded, handcuffed and chained to an airplane seat. I was told we would land in a country other than Germany, because the Americans did not want to leave traces of their involvement, but that I would eventually get to Germany.

After we landed I was driven into the mountains, still blindfolded. My captors removed my handcuffs and blindfold and told me to walk down a dark, deserted path and not to look back. I was afraid I would be shot in the back.

I turned a bend and encountered three men who asked why I was illegally in Albania. They took me to the airport, where I bought a ticket home (my wallet had been returned to me). Only after the plane took off did I believe I was actually going home. I had long hair, a beard and had lost 60 pounds. My wife and children had gone to Lebanon, believing I had abandoned them. Thankfully, now we are together again in Germany.

I still do not know why this happened to me. I have been told that the American secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, confirmed in a meeting with the German chancellor that my case was a "mistake" — and that American officials later denied that she said this. I was not present at this meeting. No one from the American government has ever contacted me or offered me any explanation or apology for the pain they caused me.

Secretary Rice has stated publicly, during a discussion of my case, that "any policy will sometimes result in errors." But that is exactly why extraordinary rendition is so dangerous. As my interrogators made clear when they told me I was being held in a country with no laws, the very purpose of extraordinary rendition is to deny a person the protection of the law.

I begged my captors many times to bring me before a court, where I could explain to a judge that a mistake had been made. Every time, they refused. In this way, a "mistake" that could have been quickly corrected led to several months of cruel treatment and meaningless suffering, for me and my entire family.

My captors would not bring me to court, so last week I brought them to court. Helped by the American Civil Liberties Union, I sued the U.S. government because I believe what happened to me was illegal and should not be done to others. And I believe the American people, when they hear my story, will agree.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

UK : Did Intelligence agencies have prior knowledge of 'London Underground' attack !

( The Times ) Spymasters warned Tony Blair before the July 7 suicide bombings that Al-Qaeda was planning a “high priority” attack specifically aimed at the London Tube.

A leaked four-page report by the Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC), which oversees all spying, is the first definitive evidence that the intelligence services expected terrorists to strike at the Underground.

The disclosure will fuel critics’ suspicions that Blair decided to rule out a public inquiry into the bombings last week because it could expose intelligence failings at the highest level.

The document, marked Top Secret and signed off by the heads of MI5, MI6 and GCHQ, the government eavesdropping centre, was based partly on the interrogation of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Al-Qaeda’s then operations chief.

It stated: “The UK and its interests remain high in Al-Qaeda’s priorities . . . Plans have been considered to attack Heathrow, the London Underground and other targets.”

Ministers and senior security officials have insisted that there was no warning of an imminent attack ahead of the July 7 bombings, in which 56 people died.
While technically true, the leaked document dated April, 2003, will be seized on by critics to show that ministers failed to disclose that they knew Al-Qaeda was targeting the Tube.

A statement in September 2003 by the prime minister and Sir John Stevens, the then Metropolitan police commissioner, that a suicide attack was “inevitable”, did not name the Tube as a specific target.

The performance of MI5 has already been criticised because it lost track of Mohammad Sidique Khan, leader of the suicide gang, whom it placed under temporary surveillance 18 months before the bombings.

Officers judged that Khan was not an immediate threat to national security and decided to stop monitoring him.

Blair ruled out a public inquiry on the grounds that it would detract from the investigation into the July 7 bombs and the failed July 21 attacks.

The report dated April 2, 2003 is entitled International Terrorism: The Current Threat from Islamic Extremists. Mohammed, who organised the 9/11 attacks, had been arrested in Pakistan the previous month.

In a key passage it states: “The UK and its interests remain high in Al-Qaeda’s priorities. Interrogation of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and other detainees confirms this. “It shows that plans have been considered to attack Heathrow, the London Underground and other targets.”
The report adds that terrorist suspects with links to east Africa are under surveillance.

“We do not yet know the full nature of their activity, but they do not appear to be planning attacks here (some were questioned by the police).”

JIC documents are circulated to a small group of senior ministers. These include the home secretary, the foreign secretary and defence secretary as well as top civil servants in Whitehall.

The Tories demanded the government publish the whole JIC document and disclose what other intelligence there had been about threats to the Tube. Patrick Mercer, the party’s homeland security spokesman, said: “This leak underlines our demand for an independent inquiry.”

Cheney makes surprise visit to Iraq ( Utilizing the 'Last Throws' of his credibility ?)

US Vice-President Dick Cheney has made an unannounced visit to Iraq - his first since the 2003 US-led invasion. Mr Cheney praised Iraq's "tremendous" elections last week and was described by President Jalal Talabani as a "hero for liberating Iraq".

The visit was kept so secret that it is thought even the Talabani as a "hero for liberating Iraq".

Iraqi prime minister was not told beforehand. As one of the main advocates of the Iraq war, Mr Cheney has come under constant criticism by opponents. The trip - Mr Cheney's first since 1991 when he was defence minister in George Bush senior's administration - came on the same day that President George W Bush was to give a prime-time address on Iraq.

The vice-president flew around the Baghdad area in a pack of eight fast-moving Blackhawk helicopters with guns mounted on the sides, the Associated Press news agency reports.

It has been a difficult few months for the vice-president, culminating in the five criminal charges filed against his chief of staff Lewis Libby over the investigation into the leak of the name of CIA agent Valerie Plame.

Add to that Mr Cheney's recent humiliating failure to stop the Senate passing new guidelines for the treatment of detainees - and the vice-president no longer looks all-powerful.

Even the Democrats see him as a weakness worth exploiting, with Senate minority leader Harry Reid saying the vice-president was involved in the "manipulation of intelligence to sell the war in Iraq" and that America could do better.

This is Mr Cheney's first visit to Iraq since the war began ....

Saturday, December 17, 2005

The Iraq war by Numbers

There has been ....

$204.4 billion spent , thats the cost to the US of the war so far. The UK's bill up until March 2005 was £3.1 billion

2,339 Allied troops killed

98 UK troops killed

30,000 Estimated Iraqi civilian deaths

0 Number of WMDs found

8 per cent of Iraqi children suffering acute malnutrition

$35,819m World Bank estimated cost of reconstruction

53,470 Iraqi insurgents killed

67 per cent Iraqis who feel less secure because of occupation

$343 Average monthly salary for an Iraqi soldier. Average monthly salary for an American soldier in Iraq: $4,160.75

66 journalists killed in Iraq. Journalists killed during Vietnam war: 63

5 foreign civilians kidnapped per month

47 per cent Iraqis who never have enough electricity

20 casualties per month from unexploded mines

20 per cent Inflation rate 2005

25-40 per cent Estimated unemployment rate, Nov 2005

251 Foreigners kidnapped

70 per cent of Iraqi's whose sewage system rarely works

183,000 British and American troops are still in action in Iraq. There are 162,000 US troops and 8,000 British with 13,000 from other nations

90 Daily attacks by insurgents in Nov '05. In Jun '03: 8

82 per centIraqis who are "strongly opposed" to presence of coalition troops

15,955 US troops wounded in action

Of course many of these numbers are disputed but usually due to the estimates being too low , I dont vouch for any of these numbers. I am just printing them exactly as they appear in the source The Independent

Senate Rejects Extension of Patriot Act

WASHINGTON - The Senate on Friday rejected attempts to reauthorize several provisions of the USA Patriot Act as infringing too much on Americans' privacy and liberty, dealing a huge defeat to the Bush administration and Republican leaders.

In a crucial vote early Friday, the bill's Senate supporters were not able to get the 60 votes needed to overcome a threatened filibuster by Sens. Russ Feingold, D-Wis., and Larry Craig, R-Idaho, and their allies. The final vote was 52-47.

President Bush, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and Republicans congressional leaders had lobbied fiercely to make most of the expiring Patriot Act provisions permanent, and add new safeguards and expiration dates to the two most controversial parts: roving wiretaps and secret warrants for books, records and other items from businesses, hospitals and organizations such as libraries.

Feingold, Craig and other critics said that wasn't enough, and have called for the law to be extended in its present form so they can continue to try and add more civil liberties safeguards. But Bush, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist and House Speaker Dennis Hastert have said they won't accept a short-term extension of the law.

If a compromise is not reached, the 16 Patriot Act provisions expire on Dec. 31.

Iraq insurgents say election truce won't last

FALLUJA, Iraq, Dec 16 (Reuters) - Iraqi secular insurgents and Islamist militants said on Friday they would soon resume attacks on U.S. troops and their Iraqi allies, saying they had only observed an election truce to let fellow Sunni Arabs vote.

Both Saddam Hussein loyalists and religious militants said the insurgency would rage until U.S. troops leave Iraq.

"As long as the occupation exists along with those agents who brought it, we will continue our armed struggle," said Abu Muyasir, 52, a former member of Saddam's Baath party who is a local guerrilla leader in Falluja, west of Baghdad.

He said rebels would also remove politicians such as Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari, Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Chalabi and Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, a leader in the ruling Shi'ite bloc.

"This does not mean stopping our holy war activities. We promise the coming days will be tough on the Americans and their supporters in the Iraqi army," said a local 48-year-old leader in Muhammad's Army, an Iraqi group whose members once served in Saddam's intelligence services.

Source Reuters.

Domestic spying OK'd by president

WASHINGTON - President Bush signed a secret order in 2002 authorizing the National Security Agency to eavesdrop on U.S. citizens and foreign nationals in the United States, despite previous legal prohibitions against such domestic spying, sources with knowledge of the program said Thursday night.

The supersecretive NSA, which in the past has generally been forbidden from domestic spying except in narrow circumstances involving foreign nationals, has monitored the e-mails, telephone calls and other communications of hundreds, and perhaps thousands, of people under the program, the New York Times first disclosed Thursday night.

The aim of the program was to rapidly monitor the phone calls and other communications of people in the United States believed to have contact with suspected associates of al-Qaida and other terrorist groups overseas, according to two former senior administration officials.

Authorities, including former NSA director Gen. Michael Hayden, were worried that vital information could be lost in the time it took to secure a warrant from a special surveillance court, sources said.

But the program's ramifications also prompted concerns from some quarters, including from Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., and from the presiding judge of the surveillance court, which oversees lawful domestic spying, according to the New York Times.

The newspaper said it held off on publishing its story about the NSA program for a year after administration officials said its disclosure would harm national security.

The White House made no comment Thursday night. A senior official reached by telephone said the issue was too sensitive to talk about. None of several press officers contacted responded to telephone or e-mail messages.

Congressional sources familiar with limited aspects of the program would not discuss any classified details but made clear there were serious questions regarding the legality of the NSA actions.

Source : Here.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Watch Kidnap and Torture American Style ( Video )

Kidnap and Torture American Style follows the stories of terror suspects. Some of them are British residents, who have been snatched from streets and airports throughout the world before being flown to the Middle-East and Africa. In countries such as Syria and Egypt, they undergo agonising ordeals before being incarcerated, without ever facing an open trial.

Testimonies from those suspects allege that Britain has a key role in these shady operations from supplying intelligence information on which interrogations are based, to ordering their arrest and detention.

This is a must watch video (real player required)

Click here to watch

My source for this video

Did Ayatollah Sistani plays major role in Iraqi elections

BAGHDAD — There is an Arabic phrase that aptly describes Grand Ayatollah Ali Al Sistani's role in this week's elections: "Absent yet present." Sistani, who wields vast influence among Iraq's majority Shiites, has not publicly endorsed any candidates.

But there's little doubt of his choices — and why.

The Iranian-born cleric has issued a binding fatwa, or edict, instructing followers to vote in Thursday's parliamentary elections. He did not endorse any particular candidates, but his cryptic warning against "splitting the vote and risking its waste" suggested his support for major Shiite religious parties grouped in the United Iraqi Alliance. The Sunday fatwa urged Shiites to vote for those "who can be trusted with their principles and safeguard their high interests." By avoiding an explicit endorsement of the Shiite coalition, Sistani can give the appearance of staying above the political fray, sticking to his role as the spiritual mentor of Iraq's Shiites.

But the wording appears to be a subtle message to followers to vote for the alliance, made up of mostly loyal Shiite parties. "Typically, Sistani is being very, very clever," said Vali Nasr, an expert on Shiites who lectures on national security affairs at the US Naval Postgraduate School in Monterrey, California.

"Once he tells them to go out and vote, they know who to vote for and it's not the Kurds, the Sunnis or the secularists." A frail man in his mid-70s, Sistani has been a major influence on Iraq's political scene since the 2003 overthrow of Saddam Hussein's regime. That leverage has been at the heart of an ongoing and somewhat divisive debate on the role of the clergy in a post-Saddam Iraq where religious groups, both Sunni and Shiite, are shaping the nation's political future.

Sistani'a associates maintain that he sees himself as a father figure working for the interests of all Iraqis. But many, including secular Shiites, believe he is promoting Shiite interests with the aim of enshrining the community's place as Iraq's dominant political force.

The debate over the clergy's role was fuelled by Sistani's endorsement of the Shiite alliance in general elections held in January, a decision that helped the alliance emerge as the largest single bloc in the now-outgoing parliament.

That decision enraged the alliance's rivals, like former prime minister and secular Shiite Iyad Allawi, who has repeatedly warned that the clergy's involvement in politics could be the prelude to an Islamic state in Iraq.

Source : Here .

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Iraq : Voting starts and so do the bombs

Iraqis are electing their first full-term government since the US-led invasion in 2003 amid tight security.

A loud blast rocked the capital, Baghdad, shortly after the polls opened at 0700 local time.

Police said the blast was caused by a mortar landing near the heavily-fortified Green Zone, home to the Iraqi government and a number of Western embassies, the Associated Press reported.

In Mosul, a bomb killed a hospital guard and wounded two other people when it went off between a polling station and a hospital, Dr. Bahaaldin al-Bakri said. A mortar also landed near a polling station without causing any injuries, according to the U.S. military.

Reports of smaller explosions are also coming in from around the country

Backdroppin (must watch animation )

Another Classic Animation from Mark Fiore . This week we go back to the story of Iraq and the US debate about withdrawing the troops .

Watch it Here..

Putin defines Russia as defender of Islamic World

Russia is the most reliable partner of the Islamic world and most faithful defender of its interests, Russian President Vladimir Putin said in Chechnya’s capital Grozny. Putin unexpectedly visited the war-ravaged republic to speak in the local parliament that opened for its first sitting on Monday.

“Russia has always been the most faithful, reliable and consistent defender of the interests of the Islamic world. Russia has always been the best and most reliable partner and ally. By destroying Russia, these people (terrorists) destroy one of the main pillars of the Islamic world in the struggle for rights (of Islamic states) in the international arena, the struggle for their legitimate rights,” Putin was quoted by Itar —Tass as saying, drawing applause from Chechen parliamentarians.

Those who are trying to defend these false (extremist) ideals, those who are used as cannon fodder, who plant a mine for ten dollars or shoot with automatic weapons either do not know or have forgotten this,” the president said.

“Those who organize such activity certainly do this deliberately, understanding what goals they want to achieve,” Putin went on to say.
The leaders of the main Islamic states understand this, he added.

For this reason their representatives were present at the general voting in the referendum on the Constitution of the Chechen Republic, they were at the presidential elections; both the Organization of Islamic Conference and the League of Arab States, our colleagues and friends were present at the elections to the parliament.”

Putin said that “member countries of the Organization of Islamic Conference have unanimously passed a decision that Russia will begin working as an observer on a permanent basis”.

And we shall continue our activity within the framework of this organization. Quite recently a delegation of Russia’s Muslims has been to Mecca to discuss the problems of Muslim world development with their brothers. I repeat: Russia will pursue this policy,” the president added.

Source : Here

Police Seize Forged Ballots Headed to Iraq From Iran

New York Times BAGHDAD, Iraq, Dec. 13 - Less than two days before nationwide elections, the Iraqi border police seized a tanker on Tuesday that had just crossed from Iran filled with thousands of forged ballots, an official at the Interior Ministry said.

The tanker was seized in the evening by agents with the American-trained border protection force at the Iraqi town of Badra, after crossing at Munthirya on the Iraqi border, the official said. According to the Iraqi official, the border police found several thousand partly completed ballots inside.

The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly, said the Iranian truck driver told the police under interrogation that at least three other trucks filled with ballots had crossed from Iran at different spots along the border.

The official, who did not attend the interrogation, said he did not know where the driver was headed, or what he intended to do with the ballots.

The seizure of the truck comes at a delicate time in Iran's relations with both Iraq and the United States. The American government has said Iranian agents are deeply involved in trying to influence events in Iraq, by funneling money to Shiite political parties and by arming and training many of the illegal militias that are bedeviling the country.

Agents of the Iranian government are believed to be supporting the two main Shiite political parties here - the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq and the Dawa Party -with money and other assistance. Both parties support a strong role for Islam in the Iraqi state; however, compared with the Iranian government itself, which is a strict theocracy, the Iraqi version is relatively moderate.

The truth ? , Well The claim is being denied

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Source The head of Iraq's border guards denied police reports on Wednesday that a tanker truck stuffed with thousands of forged ballot papers had been seized crossing into Iraq from Iran before Thursday's elections.

"This is all a lie," said Lieutenant General Ahmed al- Khafaji, the chief of the U.S.-trained force which has responsibility for all Iraqi borders."I heard this yesterday and I checked all the border crossings right away. The borders are all closed anyway," he told Reuters. Iraq's frontiers are closed for the period of the election.

"I contacted all the border crossing points and there was no report of any such incident."

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

History of the CIA ( Video )

If you have the time this is a must watch video history of the CIA . ( or a noteworthy prologue to the CIA's renditions programme )

Many interesting points are looked at in this firm including the myth that the CIA does not torture people . Warning there are violent Images and scenes in the film .


There will be no public inquiry into the 7 July London bombings which killed 52 people, the Home Office has said. Ministers will instead publish a definitive account of what happened in a written narrative.

The account will include material gathered from intelligence and security agencies and the police. But some Muslim groups and victims' relatives have expressed anger, saying a wider public inquiry is essential for understanding what happened.

The attacks by four suicide bombers on three Tube trains and a bus on 7 July killed 52 people and injured hundreds. After the bombings there were calls for a public inquiry and, in September, Home Secretary Charles Clarke said one had not been ruled out.

But ministers have decided it would divert attention and resources away from pressing security and community issues, and take too long.

The government has acknowledged, however, that the public requires a complete picture about the events, and details about the four men who carried out the attacks. "A narrative of events will not satisfy anybody. This is not something we will go away on" Saba Mozakka, whose mother Behnaz died in the Piccadilly Line bomb attack

The remit of the inquests into their deaths does not extend that far and the information will not emerge at a criminal trial - because there will not be one as the bombers also died in the attacks. Instead, a senior civil servant will compile a narrative, drawing together intelligence and police material. Leading Muslims who have been lobbying for an inquiry say such a straight narrative would not be enough.

"There has to be a fully comprehensive public inquiry that will provide us the information we need as to what actually happened on the day, how it happened and why it happened so that we will be better prepared to prevent such tragedy happening again," Sir Iqbal Sacranie, of the Muslim Council of Britain, told the BBC.

Opposition MPs want to know if key intelligence questions on the bombings will be fully answered. They want to find out why there was no intelligence of the planned attack, whether officers should have followed up an earlier sighting of the alleged ringleader, and why the UK threat level was reduced.

Source : Here .

Of course nobody will notice that it is the British Muslims who are pushing hard for an open and public inquiry into the attack and few will question the motive behind the decision not to have an open inquiry.

Is it any wonder that many people think they have something to hide .

CIA abduction claims 'credible' whilst assurances from Straw are 'worthless'

Allegations that the CIA abducted and illegally transported terror suspects across European borders are credible, an investigator has said. Swiss senator Dick Marty has submitted a report on the claims, made in the media, to a meeting of the human rights committee of the Council of Europe.

Mr Marty criticised the US for refusing to confirm or deny the allegations.

Mr Marty's findings were released in an official statement by a committee of the 46-member Council of Europe, the continent's human rights watchdog.

"The elements we have gathered so far tend to reinforce the credibility of the allegations concerning the transport and temporary detention of detainees - outside all judicial procedure - in European countries," He went on: "Legal proceedings in progress in certain countries seemed to indicate that individuals had been abducted and transferred to other countries without respect for any legal standards."

The European Union has so far declined to investigate, although it has said any member state with secret prisons on its territory could have its EU voting rights suspended. Poland and Romania have been named by the media as possible locations of CIA secret prisons, but have denied the allegations.

In his statement, Mr Marty said it was "still too early to assert that there had been any involvement or complicity of member states in illegal actions". But, he warned, if the allegations proved correct any European states involved "would stand accused of having seriously breached their human rights obligations to the Council of Europe".

Meanwhile in the UK the foreign secretary Jack Straw is coming under fire ....

Jack Straw's statement that there are no records of the CIA flying terror suspects through the UK to face torture may be "worthless", a group of MPs say. The MPs are not reassured by the foreign secretary and say they have legal advice suggesting the government must actively investigate the claims. But Mr Straw later told MPs there was no need at all for a judge-led inquiry.

( something to hide Mr Straw ?)

Conservative MP Andrew Tyrie and Liberal Democrat foreign affairs spokesman Sir Menzies Campbell have set up the all party parliamentary group on extraordinary rendition. Mr Tyrie said Mr Straw's comments should "reassure nobody". He said it was "hardly surprising" there were no records because the Home Office had said "records of transit application are not kept once the transit has been completed".

It is fun watching the ever increasing hole being dug on the issue of 'renditions' (another nice word for the Orwell fanclub ). It is just a matter of sitting back and waiting to see whom from each country gets to fall into the hole . It sure is a big enough hole so dont rush guys , there is plenty of room for all of you but please do try to take a few senior US officials with you if you dont mind

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

The latest on the Buncefield oil depot fire ( Video )

Well we are over 40 hours on from the explosion and it is dificult to spot any difference in the images . judge for yourself with this video . BBC

Note the video will link you to the server of the BBC , I am not responsible for this link in any way ...

Monday, December 12, 2005

Bush says 30,000 Iraqis killed since war began

PHILADELPHIA, Dec 12 (Reuters) - U.S. President George W. Bush said on Monday about 30,000 Iraqis have been killed since the Iraq war began and predicted this week's election will not be perfect but will be part of a Middle East turning point.

"No nation in history has made the transition to a free society without facing challenges, setbacks and false starts," Bush said in a speech and question-and-answer session at the World Affairs Council, striking a more realistic tone than he has sometimes in the past.

The speech was Bush's third in a series leading up to the election as he tries to bolster support for his Iraq strategy in hopes of bringing home some U.S. troops next year if Iraqi military forces are ready to fight the insurgency.

He needs a relatively smooth showing during Thursday's election in Iraq to hold up as a sign of progress and try to counter daily news of suicide bombings and U.S. troop deaths -- more than 2,100 since the start of the war -- that have soured Americans on the war.

Bush predicted insurgent violence will not end with the election and said much work remains to make Iraq's fledging democracy inclusive to all.

"This week elections won't be perfect, and a successful vote is not the end of the process. Iraqis still have more difficult work ahead," he said, adding, "These enemies aren't going to give up because of a successful election."

Still, he said, with Iraqis turning out three times in crucial votes, "the year 2005 will be recorded as a turning point in the history of Iraq, the history of the Middle East, and the history of freedom."

Asked about the Iraqi death toll, Bush said about 30,000 Iraqis have been killed since the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in March 2003.

It was the first time Bush has publicly offered such an estimate. His aides quickly pointed out the president was not offering an official estimate.

"There is not an official U.S. government estimate," White House spokesman Scott McClellan said. He said the 30,000 figure was based on "public estimates cited by media reports."

Ohio Democratic Rep. Dennis Kucinich demanded the Bush administration release all information it has on the number of Iraqi civilian deaths.

"It is far past time for this sort of admission from this White House," he said.

Source : Reuters

MI6 and CIA 'sent student to Morocco to be tortured'

An Ethiopian student who lived in London claims that he was brutally tortured with the involvement of British and US intelligence agencies.

Binyam Mohammed, 27, says he spent nearly three years in the CIA's network of 'black sites'. In Morocco he claims he underwent the strappado torture of being hung for hours from his wrists, and scalpel cuts to his chest and penis and that a CIA officer was a regular interrogator.

After his capture in Pakistan, Mohammed says British officials warned him that he would be sent to a country where torture was used. Moroccans also asked him detailed questions about his seven years in London, which his lawyers believe came from British sources.

Western agencies believed that he was part of a plot to buy uranium in Asia, bring it to the US and build a 'dirty bomb' in league with Jose Padilla, a US citizen. Mohammed signed a confession but told his lawyer, Clive Stafford Smith, he had never met Padilla, or anyone in al-Qaeda. Padilla spent almost four years in American custody, accused of the plot. Last month, after allegations of the torture used against Mohammed emerged, the claims against Padilla were dropped. He now faces a civil charge of supporting al-Qaeda financially.

A senior US intelligence official told The Observer that the CIA is now in 'deep crisis' following last week's international political storm over the agency's practice of 'extraordinary rendition' - transporting suspects to countries where they face torture. 'The smarter people in the Directorate of Operations [the CIA's clandestine operational arm] know that one day, if they do this stuff, they are going to face indictment,' he said. 'They are simply refusing to participate in these operations, and if they don't have big mortgage or tuition fees to pay they're thinking about trying to resign altogether.'

Read more at the Source : Observer

Iraqi electoral commission reports firs cases of "iIregularities"

BAGHDAD, Iraq - With just four days to go until parliamentary elections, the Iraqi electoral commission said yesterday that it had found irregularities in voter registration in the volatile northern oil city of Kirkuk.

The discovery was the first instance of an election irregularity announced by the commission as the country prepares for the vote.

The commission said experts conducting an audit of voter lists found that there had been an unexpected surge in voter registration in the area. When the experts scrutinized the voter registration forms, the commission said in a written statement, they found that many had been filled out incorrectly. Some had missing signatures and others had more than one signature. In some cases, the same name appeared on several forms.

Source :Here

Australia Riots : PM urges tolerance after race violence

SYDNEY, Dec 12 (Reuters) - Australian Prime Minister John Howard called for ethnic and religious tolerance on Monday after racial violence, spurred on police say by white supremacists, erupted in parts of Sydney.

Racial tension sparked violence on Cronulla Beach on Sunday when around 5,000 people, some yelling racist chants, attacked youths of Middle Eastern background, saying they were defending their beach after lifesavers were attacked there last week.

Violence then spread to a second beach, Maroubra, where scores of men armed with baseball bats smashed about 100 cars. At Botany Bay, riot police confronted hundreds of youths and police said a man was stabbed in the back in a southern Sydney suburb in what media reports said appeared to be racial violence.

"Mob violence is always sickening and always to be unconditionally condemned," Howard told a news conference on Monday, by when violence had subsided. "Attacking people on the basis of race and ethnicity is totally unacceptable and should be repudiated by all Australians, irrespective of background and politics," he said.

New South Wales (NSW) police said a group of Neo-Nazis and white supremacists stirred on the drunken crowd at Cronulla.

"There appears to be an element of white supremacists and they really have no place in mainstream Australian society. Those sort of characters are best placed in Berlin 1930s, not in Cronulla 2005," NSW Police Minister Carl Scully told reporters.

As the crowd moved along the beach and foreshore on Sunday, one man on the back of a truck shouted: "No more Lebs (Lebanese)" -- a chant picked up by the group around him. Others carried Australian flags and dressed in Australian sports shirts. Drunken youths chased and attacked Australians of Middle East appearance, sending some cowering into shops and hotels for safety, as riot police and dog squads tried to stop the violence.

NSW state premier Morris Iemma said the violence reflected the "ugly face of racism in Australia". But Howard stressed the Cronulla violence was a law and order problem and did not reflect a deeper problem with Australia's multi-cultural society. "I do not accept that there is underlying racism in this country," he said.

"This nation of ours has been able to absorb millions of people from different parts of the world over a period of some 40 years and we have done so with remarkable success," he said. "It is important that we reaffirm our respect for freedom of religion in this country, but it is also important that we place greater emphasis on integration of people into the broader community and the avoidance of tribalism."

Sydney's Islamic community blamed the violence at Cronulla Beach on "racist and irresponsible" sections of the media which turned a common youth issue into an issue of ethnicity.

Australia's small Muslim community has expressed feelings of alienation since the Iraq war, reporting racist verbal abuse and occasional assaults. Australia is a staunch U.S. ally and was one of the first nations to commit troops to Iraq and Afghanistan. Local Muslims have also expressed concern about recent new anti-terror laws, which they fear could target them, and warnings of home-grown terrorism by intelligence authorities.

The Howard government has used security as a major issue in its last two election victories, but the prime minister dismissed any suggestion his government's warnings about home-grown terrorists had fuelled the rampage. "It is impossible to know how individuals react but everything this government's said about home-grown terrorism has been totally justified," said Howard. "It is a potential threat. To suggest that one should remain a complete failure of leadership."

Source : Reuters

Sunday, December 11, 2005

BREAKING : Huge explosions rock UK oil depot

Three large explosions have taken place at an oil depot near Hemel Hempstead in Hertfordshire. Police say there are casualties. They are at the scene, said a spokesman.

The first blast happened at 0603 GMT, at the Buncefield oil depot, close to the junction 8 of the M1 motorway 10 miles from Luton Airport. Residents up to 30 miles from the scene reported hearing a "loud boom". One eye witness told BBC News: "There are lots of houses damaged."

Witnesses said another two explosions followed the first at 0626 GMT and 0627 GMT. The M1 near the scene has been closed in both directions.

Eye witness Sam Matton, who lives half-a-mile from the depot told BBC News: "The sky is sort of orange. The flames have got to be 60ft up in the air.

"I was in bed, I was actually having a bad dream and I thought the world had ended. The loft hatch in my house has actually fallen out, my neighbour's window has actually broken from the impact. There was a first major explosion and about three explosions after that. "

Dave Franklin told BBC News: "We woke up at 0555 GMT. There was a massive loud bang which broke windows above us and to the right. The whole sky just turned orange and black. "Several other neighbours said they did see a plane go into the depot."

Duncan Milligan, of Hemel Hempstead, said he was awoken by the explosion as his house "shook .There was a loud boom and the house shook violently. I am about three miles from where the explosion took place but I can see flames high in the sky and smoke billowing everywhere. There is clearly a building on fire near the motorway and police and emergency services are everywhere."

Source : Here . Eye witness account Here (video) LIVE VIDEO FEED (windows media) Note this link may change also please note that none of these links are mine they will all connect you to the BBC source

It is early to be looking at what caused the explosions . but the mention by witnesses of them watching a 'plane' fly into the complex is a little concerning. Things are very sketchy and subject to change from my words above so please click the Live feed above for the constantly updating story

Last-minute climate deals reached ( Video )

Ministers at the climate change conference in Montreal have made a series of breakthroughs in plans to combat global warming. On the conference's last day, Kyoto Protocol signatories agreed to extend the treaty on emissions reductions beyond its 2012 deadline.

And a broader group of countries including the US agreed to non-binding talks on long-term measures. The US had refused to accept any deal leading to commitments to cuts.

Earlier, former President Bill Clinton said the US approach was "flat wrong". After Mr Clinton's remarks - which were warmly received - the official US team appeared to shift its position.

Last week delegates finalised a rule book for Kyoto, formally making it fully operational after years of negotiation and ratification. The 1997 treaty commits industrialised countries to cut their combined carbon emissions to 5% below 1990 levels by 2008-12.

The US appears to have been stung by negative coverage in the US media after it walked out in protest at Canadian attempts to get it to accept mandatory targets, as well as by Mr Clinton's strong comments , our correspondent says.

The US has still not budged on its opposition to the Kyoto treaty, and faced heavy criticism for its stance.

Jennifer Morgan, climate-change expert for environmental group WWF, said US negotiator Harlan Watson's decision to leave the talks overnight showed "just how willing the US administration is to walk away from a healthy planet and its responsibilities".

See the groundbreaking deal and celebrations
Here ( windows media file )

Source and Video from the BBC

Iraqi Shiites, Sunnis Issue Declaration for US Pullout

As the presence of foreign troops in Iraq is under debate, the largest Shiite and Sunni groups issued a declaration on Friday demanding a deadline announcement for the US pullout.

The declaration condemns terrorism, violence, kidnapping and murders; It also provides a legal aspect to insurgency, and vows not to normalize relations with Israel.

It was signed by radical Shiite leader Moqtada al-Sadr, the Prime Minister, Ibrahim Jaafari, the Deputy Prime Minister, Ahmed Celebi, the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) and supporters of the Sunni Iraqi Common Front, among others. The Front, in control of the Duleimi tribe, is very popular with the Sunnis ahead of the December 15 elections. It is expected to win a large portion of Sunni votes owing to the inclusion of the former president of the Iraqi Turkmen Front, Faruq Abdurrahman, as a member of the Sunni front. The Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution of Iraq, the largest Shiite group, has also signed the declaration, which attaches special importance to the document as well.

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UK 'covered up' Israeli nuke deal

The UK government has been accused of covering up the sale of 20 tonnes of heavy water to Israel for its nuclear programme in the early 1950s. The BBC's Newsnight says fresh evidence shows the UK knew the ingredient it sold to Norway would be subsequently sold on to Israel for nuclear weapons.

Government officials insist they knew nothing of Israel's nuclear ambitions or Norway's intentions. The Foreign Office has declined to comment, amid calls for an inquiry.

Liberal Democrat foreign affairs spokesman Sir Menzies Campbell is asking Foreign Secretary Jack Straw for clarification. He said: "The trouble with this cover-up is that this is not a cover-up, it simply flies in the face of the known facts, now that we have access to previously classified documents."

Labour MP Jeremy Corbyn wants the Commons' foreign affairs select committee to investigate. He said: "Right back to the late 1950s we were a party to the transfer of nuclear technology to Israel. We were party to the development of a nuclear facility in Israel that could and has been used for the manufacture of nuclear weapons. Norway was always a smokescreen."

In August, Newsnight uncovered papers which revealed details of the deal.

But Foreign Office minister Kim Howells insisted Britain had simply negotiated the sale of surplus heavy water to Norway. He said the UK knew nothing of Norway's intentions or Israel's desire to start a nuclear weapons programme.

But Newsnight says it has new evidence that casts doubt on these claims. It says the UK Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA) had written to Foreign Office official Donald Cape, who approved the sale.

In the letter, the energy authority said too much heavy water had been bought from a Norwegian firm and another company from the country wanted to buy it back and sell it on to Israel.

Newsnight also has a copy of the company's contract with Israel, which stated it would provide heavy water from the UKAE.

Mr Cape denied the sale back to Norway was a "sham". But Newsnight says confidential letters he wrote suggest the Foreign Office knew Israel had been trying to buy uranium from South Africa. One letter quotes CIA reports from 1957 and 1958 that say Israel will try and establish a nuclear programme when it has the means.

Other secret government documents apparently say: "It has been, and remains our opinion, that Israel wanted an independent supply of plutonium so as to be in a position to make a nuclear weapon if she wished."

Mr Cape told Newsnight: "We had no idea at that stage, nobody suspected - not only in Britain but in the US - that the Israelis hoped to manufacture nuclear weapons."

Source : BBC

Iraq elections: A quick runthrough the main parties and their policies

Iraqis will choose from among 231 political parties, coalitions and individual candidates at parliamentary elections on 15 December.

The following is a rundown of those parties expected to be the strongest contenders:


The United Iraqi Alliance was formed with the blessing of Iraq's most influential Shia cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al- Sistani, to run in the first post-Saddam Hussein elections in January this year. It won overwhelmingly, securing almost half the vote, and remains Iraq's most powerful political group.

However, some parties have broken away since January and the Alliance goes into December's election slightly weaker than it was.

The list consists of 18 conservative Shia Islamist groups, although it is dominated by just three: current Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari's Dawa party, the pro-Iranian Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, led by Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim, and the Iraqi nationalist Sadr movement, loyal to populist Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr.

Al-Sistani has not explicitly backed the Alliance this time, but he has urged followers to vote for religious candidates and not to support weaker lists, an implicit endorsement of the Alliance.

Politically, the list stresses security, sovereignty and reconstruction, and has promised to crack down on the insurgency and corruption.

It was criticised for failing to tackle both issues during its past 10 months in office. The Alliance has also pledged to end government subsidies on basic goods and to provide families victimised by Saddam's rule with extra benefits.


The Kurdish coalition consists of eight groups but is dominated by the two main parties in the Kurdish north -the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, headed by Iraq's current president, Jalal Talabani, and the Kurdish Democratic Party, headed by Masoud Barzani, the president of the semi-autonomous Kurdish zone.

The list won 75 seats in January's election, making it the second most powerful political bloc. It has been allied to the United Iraqi Alliance in government for the past 10 months, although the relationship is testy.

The Kurdish list's top priority is finding a solution for Kirkuk, a multi-ethnic city that sits atop vast oil reserves and which is claimed by Kurds, Turkish-speaking ethnic Turkmen and Arabs. They also vow to expand the Kurdish region's borders to include towns with historic Kurdish links.


The Iraqi National List pulls together 15 groups and is headed by Iraq's first post-war prime minister, Iyad Allawi, a secular Shia and former Baathist.

The list is secular in nature and pan-sectarian. It includes the Communist party, veteran Arab Sunni politician Adnan al-Pachachi, who was once foreign minister before Saddam came to power, major tribal figures and liberal Shia clerics.

The list won 40 seats in the 275-member parliament in January's vote and will look to increase its share as its secular message attracts more voters. The list vows to fight the insurgency and establish a strong central government.

They plan to revise the de-Baathification laws, brought in to rid all members of Saddam's Baath Party from office, and return more former officers in the Iraqi army, which was disbanded after the war, to the new security forces.


The Iraqi Accordance Front is an alliance of three mainly Islamist Arab Sunni groups that boycotted elections in January.

The Front consists of Iraq's largest Sunni political movement, the Iraqi Islamic Party, which is running with a group called the Iraqi National Dialogue and an umbrella Sunni movement called the General Conference of the People of Iraq.

The Front pledges to push for the withdrawal of foreign forces, and promises security through dialogue and by bringing back former Iraqi army officers. Its leaders also want to change articles in the constitution especially wording on the devolution of power to Iraq's regions.


The Iraqi National Congress party is headed by deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Chalabi, the man who encouraged the United States to go to war in Iraq but has since fallen out with Washington.

It groups 10 political parties and independents, including Sharif Ali, a relative of Iraq's last king. Chalabi split from the United Iraqi Alliance to form his group. The list stresses the need for Iraq to regain full sovereignty and to fight the insurgency by improving intelligence.

Chalabi has promised every Iraqi family a cash sum from Iraq's oil money and a piece of land for every family that does not own a home.


List is headed by controversial Sunni politician Saleh al-Mutlak and includes Sunni Arab nationalists opposed to the government. Mutlak, a wealthy businessman, is a secular Sunni with links to Baathists close to the anti-US fighting. He promises to revise de-Baathification rules and return army officers to duty.


What an interesting bunch , so where is the improvement from Saddam ? the big winners from this election will be Iran , and the big losers will be the US and Israel , somehow i doubt that was the original plan