Monday, July 10, 2006

Iraq to ask UN to end U.S. immunity after rape case

Iraq will ask the United Nations to end immunity from local law for U.S. troops, the human rights minister said on Monday, as the military named five soldiers charged in a rape-murder case that has outraged Iraqis.

In an interview a week after Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki demanded a review of foreign troops' immunity, Wigdan Michael said work on it was now under way and a request could be ready by next month to go to the U.N. Security Council, under whose mandate U.S.-led forces are in control of Iraq.

"We're very serious about this," she said, blaming a lack of enforcement of U.S. military law in the past for encouraging soldiers to commit crimes against Iraqi civilians, such as the alleged rape and murder of a teenager and killing of her family. "We formed a committee last week to prepare reports and put it before the cabinet in three weeks. After that, Maliki will present it to the Security Council. We will ask them to lift the immunity," Michael said. "If we don't get that, then we'll ask for an effective role in the investigations that are going on. "The Iraqi government must have a role."

Analysts say it is improbable the United States would ever make its troops answerable to Iraq's chaotic judicial system. The day before handing formal sovereignty back to Iraqis in June 2004, the U.S. occupation authority issued a decree giving its troops immunity from Iraqi law. That remains in force and is confirmed in an annexe to Resolution 1546, the Security Council document that established the U.S.-led force's mandate in Iraq.

Many Iraqis have complained for the past three years about hundreds of civilians killed by U.S. troops and abuses such as those highlighted in the Abu Ghraib prison scandal of 2004. But a handful of new U.S. investigations into incidents including the killing of 24 people at Haditha and the quadruple murder and rape at Mahmudiya have caused an outcry that prompted the newly formed national unity government to speak out.

Some government supporters have also added their voices to calls for U.S.-led forces to start withdrawing from Iraq soon. Michael said a failure by U.S. commanders to hold soldiers to account had fostered a climate of impunity among troops: "One of the reasons for this is the U.N. resolution, which gives the multinational force soldiers immunity. Without punishment, you get violations. This happens when there is no punishment."

U.S. commanders insist troops are not immune from justice and must answer to U.S. military law. But officials concede that a flurry of cases reflect a crackdown aimed at restoring their credibility with Iraqis. Sixteen troops were charged with murder in Iraq in recent weeks, as many as in the previous three years.

Four soldiers were charged on Saturday with rape and murder in the Mahmudiya case, dating from March. A military official named them on Monday as Privates First Class Jesse Spielman and Bryan Howard, Sergeant James Barker and Specialist Paul Cortez. All are accused of conspiring with Steven Green, then a private in the 502nd Infantry Regiment, who was charged as a civilian with rape and murder in a U.S. court last week.

Civilian prosecutors say four soldiers went to the home after drinking, intending to rape 14-year-old Abeer al-Janabi and left a fifth manning their nearby checkpoint. They say Green shot Janabi's parents and 6-year-old sister, before he and one other raped the teenager and Green also then shot her dead. Sergeant Anthony Yribe was charged with dereliction of duty for failing to report what he knew of the case.


Further reading...

U.S. officials had said the girl was aged over 20. However, documents obtained by Reuters on Sunday showed she was 14.

Big Brother calls for backdoors

When I was a boy growing up in the 70s, I would often see or hear proclamations of America's greatness (I lived withing range of their broadcast towers) with various freedoms cited as evidence for that greatness. Though freedoms are nearly always under attack from those holding power, there seems to be attempts to formalize the the restriction of freedoms.

From CNET News:
The FBI has drafted sweeping legislation that would require Internet service providers to create wiretapping hubs for police surveillance and force makers of networking gear to build in backdoors for eavesdropping, CNET has learned.

FBI Agent Barry Smith distributed the proposal at a private meeting last Friday with industry representatives and indicated it would be introduced by Sen. Mike DeWine, an Ohio Republican, according to two sources familiar with the meeting.


Breaking the legislation down
The 27-page proposed CALEA amendments seen by CNET would:

• Require any manufacturer of "routing" and "addressing" hardware to offer upgrades or other "modifications" that are needed to support Internet wiretapping. Current law does require that of telephone switch manufacturers--but not makers of routers and network address translation hardware like Cisco Systems and 2Wire.

• Authorize the expansion of wiretapping requirements to "commercial" Internet services including instant messaging if the FCC deems it to be in the "public interest." That would likely sweep in services such as in-game chats offered by Microsoft's Xbox 360 gaming system as well.

• Force Internet service providers to sift through their customers' communications to identify, for instance, only VoIP calls. (The language requires companies to adhere to "processing or filtering methods or procedures applied by a law enforcement agency.") That means police could simply ask broadband providers like AT&T, Comcast or Verizon for wiretap info--instead of having to figure out what VoIP service was being used.

• Eliminate the current legal requirement saying the Justice Department must publish a public "notice of the actual number of communications interceptions" every year. That notice currently also must disclose the "maximum capacity" required to accommodate all of the legally authorized taps that government agencies will "conduct and use simultaneously."

According to the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America,
...No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States....

According to the Fourth Amendment to the Bill of Rights,
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
If history provides us with any usable pattern, it is that the proposed law would be used to aid in violating the Fourth Amendment to the Bill of Rights. This news ought to be as alarming to non-Americans as to Americans. What has been described as the "slow creep towards fascism" is a phenomenon that is occuring globally.

The Revolution Will Not Be Televised

Sunday bloody Sunday

Gunmen in the Iraqi capital Baghdad have killed at least 40 people at a fake police checkpoint, in an apparent sectarian attack against Sunni Muslims. Police say Shia militants stopped cars in the western Jihad district, separated Sunnis and shot them.

Later, at least 25 people died when two car bombs exploded near a Shia mosque in the capital, police said. There has been an upsurge in sectarian violence in Iraq in recent months, raising fears of a civil war. Sunni Arabs say government-backed Shia militias are behind many of the attacks. But officials have denied any involvement.

The BBC's Jonny Dymond in Baghdad says the style and scale of Sunday morning's incident was breathtaking. Witnesses said Shia militiamen entered Jihad and set up roadblocks. Drivers were reportedly pulled from their cars and their identity cards inspected. Any Sunni Muslims identified were then separated from the rest and killed.

"They also went into certain Sunni houses and killed everyone inside," said a witness quoted by AFP news agency. Another told the Associated Press news agency: "They came and started shooting. One of my relatives tried to help but was also shot while doing so. What crime have my people committed, I ask?"

Officials say they are getting reports of drive-by shootings in the area, and the number of deaths is expected to rise. Security forces have sealed off the area and imposed a curfew, in an effort to prevent revenge attacks. Officials said the shooting could be in retaliation for a car bomb that killed at least two people at a nearby Shia mosque on Saturday.

Radical Shia cleric Moqtada Sadr appealed for calm following the shootings. Mr Sadr calls on Sunnis and Shias to "put our hands together for the sake of Iraq's independence and stability", AP quoted him as saying.Mr Sadr's Mehdi Army militia was suspected of involvement in the attacks, but Mr Sadr's office denied any responsibility.

In more bloodshed hours after the shootings, Baghdad's northern Kasra district was rocked by the double car bomb attack.

Police said the vehicles exploded in a market place near the local Shia mosque, killing at least 25 people and wounding dozens of others.Our correspondent says it may have been revenge for Sunday morning's attack or it may have been planned beforehand.

But he says whatever the motive, the impact is the same: Iraq's capital is tearing itself apart.A wave of sectarian killings has engulfed many parts of Iraq - especially Baghdad - since the bombing in February of a revered Shia shrine in Samarra.

In other violence on Sunday, an Iraqi army intelligence officer was shot dead in Karbala, south of Baghdad.Several policemen and civilians were also killed in separate attacks around the country.


The Top 10 Power Brokers of the Religious Right

Who they are, what they want, and why these American ayatollahs must be stopped.

The United States is home to dozens of Religious Right groups. Many have small budgets and focus on state and local issues; the most powerful organizations conduct nationwide operations, command multi-million-dollar bank accounts and attract millions of followers. They have disproportionate clout in the halls of Congress, the White House and the courts, and they wield enormous influence within the political system.

What follows is a list of the nation’s Top Ten Religious Right groups, as determined by publicly available financial data and political prominence. Additional information describes the organizations’ leaders, funding and activities.


Saturday, July 08, 2006

Hegemonic Tyrant Courts Doom

Finding itself in Republican sights and with no Democratic power center to offer protection, National Public Radio is turning into an upscale version of Fox "News." Nevertheless, information still gets out if the listener is sufficiently attentive.

On July 5, NPR’s "All Things Considered" interviewed two warmongers for their views on the North Korean missile test. One was Ashton Carter, a Clinton administration Assistant Secretary of Defense, now at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard. The other was Ambassador Christopher Hill, an Assistant Secretary of State in the Bush regime.

The Clinton DOD assistant secretary is coauthor of a recent article advocating a unilateral US military attack on North Korea. His first pitch on NPR was that the whole region, not just the US, is threatened by North Korea and that everyone should gang up on North Korea to make them behave. The NPR interviewer asked Carter to reconcile his multilateralism with his own recommendation for the US to unilaterally attack North Korea. Carter replied that North Korea’s missile was developed to attack us, so we had to protect ourselves.

When the NPR interviewer asked Carter why deterrence would fail with North Korea when deterrence succeeded in the case of the more powerful Soviet Union, Carter agreed that North Korea was not sufficiently insane to launch an attack on the US. So, if the US is not in danger of being attacked by North Korea, why does Carter want to attack North Korea?

The answer is, well, you see, if we permit North Korea to develop any weapon with which they might be able to stand up to us on some issue critical to North Korea, well, they might not do as we want them to do. Carter could not conceive of a world in which any country existed that might be able to behave differently than the US dictates.

Ambassador Hill agreed, but he came at it in a different way. Hill’s view is that it is China’s, Japan’s, and South Korea’s responsibility to make North Korea behave as the US wants it to behave. Both Hill and Carter agreed that no country, with the exception of Israel, has a right to any interests of its own unless it is an interest that coincides with US interests. No other interest is legitimate.

Listening to the pair of hegemonic maniacs, I realized that the US is the new Rome – there is no legitimate power but us. Any other power is a potential threat to our interests and must be eliminated before it gets any independent ideas. The US, however, is far more dangerous than Rome. Rome saw its world as the Mediterranean and, for a while, Northern Europe, but the US thinks the whole world is its oyster. The Bush regime is busy trying to marginalize Russia, and neocons are preparing war plans to attack China before that country can achieve military parity with the US.

Gentle reader, consider what it means when our government believes other countries have no right to their own interests unless they coincide with US interests. It means that we are the tyrant country. We cannot be the tyrant country without being perceived as the tyrant country. Consequently, the rest of the world unites against us.

How is the US, which has spent three years proving that it cannot successfully occupy Iraq, a small country of only 25 million people, going to control India, China, Russia, Europe, Africa and South America?

It’s not going to happen.

What it does mean is that the US government in its hubris and delusion is going to continue starting wars and attacking other countries until a coalition of greater forces smashes us. Even among our European allies we are already perceived as the greatest threat to world peace and stability.

Our power is not what it once was. We are weak in manufacturing and dependent on China for advanced technology products. We are dependent on China to finance our wars, our budget and trade deficits. How long will China accommodate us when China reads about Bush’s plans to prevent China from achieving military parity?

The Bush regime thinks that it can have every country under its thumb. Neocons are fond of proclaiming that it is a unipolar world in which the US is supreme. This is a fantasy, and it is rapidly becoming a nightmare.


It's OK

Friday, July 07, 2006

Rosa Brooks: That's the GOP's big gun?

ACCORDING TO the media, Republican strategists hope to make the fight against terrorism a "campaign cornerstone" in the run-up to the November elections.

Great idea! If these same strategists had been around in 1932 during the Depression, they'd probably have urged President Hoover to run for reelection on the strength of his economic policies.

Why would the Republicans want to make their record on fighting terrorism a campaign centerpiece? It's been almost five years since the 9/11 attacks, yet a recent bipartisan study found that 84% of the foreign policy experts surveyed disagreed with the president's often-repeated assertion that we're winning the war on terror. Iraq has become a magnet for the world's aspiring terrorists; in Afghanistan, the Taliban is resurgent and security is worsening; Osama bin Laden remains on the lam.

Unless I'm really missing something, the problem is not only that the GOP anti-terror strategy has been largely counterproductive. Much of the time, it also seems impressively unfettered by logic.

Of course, it could just be me. Maybe the strategy is actually devilishly sophisticated and not incoherent at all.

Here are a few examples. You be the judge.

First, naturally enough, we want to kill terrorists. I get that part. But although we are allowed to kill terrorists, terrorists are not allowed to kill themselves. When they kill themselves — as three terror suspects at Guantanamo did recently and more than 25 have attempted in the past — their suicides are part of an unacceptable campaign of "asymmetrical warfare" against us. Go figure! Gotta hope Bin Laden doesn't catch on — if he realizes that self-destruction is the best way to fight us, next thing you know, he'll kill himself too. And then where would we be?

Then there's this: We want to interrogate terror suspects. Who wouldn't? In fact, we want to use "enhanced" interrogation methods (translation: torture) against terror suspects, and when it's inconvenient for us to torture people ourselves, we regularly trundle them off to foreign states that don't mind getting their hands dirty. Yet we don't want to release any of the remaining detainees at Guantanamo because we're worried that their home governments might … torture them!

And another thing: We want to detect terrorist plots and prosecute terrorists for their crimes. That's why we want to undertake ever more sophisticated electronic surveillance and why we want to create military commissions to try suspected bad guys at Guantanamo. But for some reason, the Bush administration prefers to do all this illegally, which I really don't get.

When you're contemplating programs that pose major potential legal problems (to put it charitably), why not get congressional authorization and follow the law? It saves you a big headache down the road — the kind of headache you get when the Supreme Court slaps you down hard, as it did in the June 29 Hamdan vs. Rumsfeld decision, which held that the administration's military tribunals violated both U.S. and international law.

Previous presidents made a fine art of seeking legal loopholes to do things Congress and the American people probably wouldn't approve of. This president has made a fine art of seeking illegal ways to do things Congress and the American people probably would approve of. But then … maybe President Bush thinks that thumbing his nose at our system of checks and balances is a form of asymmetrical warfare against the terrorists. As he's fond of reminding us, terrorists hate us because "they hate our freedoms." And following this weird logic, if the administration throws our freedoms out the window, maybe they'll stop hating us!

Or not.

I know, I know. Some of you will be shaking your heads now, saying, "Hey, give the Republican anti-terror strategy a little credit here. After all, we haven't had another 9/11-style attack, have we?" True. But if you think the lack of another major terrorist attack means the GOP approach to fighting terror is working, remember the old joke:

A guy is throwing sawdust out the window. Another guy comes along and says, "Why are you throwing sawdust out your window?"

"To keep the elephants away," says the first guy.

"But there are no elephants around here!"

"See? It works!"

But I don't want to be unfair. There's no denying that the Republicans' anti-terror strategy is having a real effect — in one area, at least. In its annual survey of global public opinion, released in June, the Pew Research Center found that people in 13 of the 15 countries surveyed see the U.S. war in Iraq as a greater threat to world peace than Iranian nuclear ambitions. Overall, the study found, "America's global image has again slipped" and "support for the war on terrorism has declined even among close U.S. allies."

Was it something we said?


Imperial racism

Racism, the ideology that came into full flower as a justification for European conquest of most of the planet, is now headquartered in the United States – with an annex in Israel. Tel Aviv is a very active annex.

There could be no justification for George Bush’s aggressions, without the underlying assumptions of racial superiority. Bush has committed multiple crimes against peace – a capital Nuremburg offense for which a number of Nazis were hanged. He is a war criminal, many times over. However, he will never be prosecuted in the United States, because of the pervasive ideology of imperialism, which is racist at its very core: it dehumanizes the victims.

Race is, indeed, a construction – a very convenient one when you want to take someone else’s property, or kill them, or enslave them. It is this construct that animates the American debate about foreign policy – or even domestic policy when it comes to “aliens” of one kind or another.
But it is deadly. It swarms countries, and consumes cities. Fallujah was flattened, with its main hospital the first target. Three hundred thousand people are now refugees in their own country, because of US actions, and an unknown number are dead. That is a war crime – but is not seen as such by most of the US public, who are under the sway of the ideology of imperial racism. The death of an entire city does not matter to them, because there were no real people there. Racism does more than color the situation – it defines it. How do you kill a city and call it victory? Why is this celebrated as a benchmark of “progress”? Is the assumption that the white man’s triumph is, inherently, progress?

Of course it is. That’s what imperial racism is all about. There are “enemies” and “others” who are not “Western” – a euphemism for “non-white” – the construct they keep making up every time they want to steal something.

The hard-right Israelis are very good at this game. They are on totally racial mission, and have made their construct. Jewishness is a race, in Israel, with rights that only accrue to Jews. We are supposed to believe that Jews have a right to shape Palestine in such a way that they always have a majority. How does that conform with any democratic principle?

Now the hard-right regime in Jerusalem is making war against the entire Palestinian society, destroying its infrastructure – its bridges, roads and energy facilities – to make all 1.2 million inhabitants of Gaza pay some kind of price. However, it is a price that can not be paid. The extremist Israelis are racial imperialists who are not looking for anything other than the mass elimination of a people from the land. They have invested the firing of tens of thousands of rounds of artillery into one of the most crowded corners of the world to achieve this purpose: but their motives are well understood by everyone who is not a racial imperialist.

Everyone, that is, except the (white) Americans, who eat this crap up. The uniform reaction of the American corporate media to the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision that something resembling the rule of law must prevail at Guantanamo Bay and other U.S. installations, has been to frame the issue in domestic political terms. The Bush administration had been politically tarnished, was the conclusion: not that it had violated international law, and was in fact an outlaw among nations. The situation has been framed as one of domestic political peril for Republicans – maybe in November – but not how the U.S. gets along with the rest of the world.

In the same way, the Israeli “incursions” into Gaza and the West bank have been framed as defensive measures, even as the world’s forth-strongest military power relentlessly pounded a people who have virtually no military with thousands of rounds of artillery a day. As the entire world knows, Israel could not possibly have amassed such an amazing war machine, unless they had been subsidized by a superpower. And, of course, they were.

In the Arab world, and the larger Muslim world, the “incursions” are seen as alien invasions, and as a threat to their own societies. The Israeli Zionist project is never discussed in the U.S, and now it has become forbidden to speak of it. Meanwhile, a reign of terror exists in Gaza and the West Bank. The terrorists are the Israeli government and armed forces, but instead our own media keeps showing us pictures of a goofy-looking Israeli soldier, while a whole people are being strangled and bombed.

None of this could happen, if there were not racial imperialism, in which the Jews of Israel were considered “white” – and, therefore, had inherent rights. White Americans also think they have rights that not nobody else possesses. There is a connection between the extremist Zionist scheme and the umbilical cord of imperialism. Here is the result, that places the Zionist perspective and the “American” worldview in proper place.

Just as the Americans obliterated Fallujah, Zionists in Israel want to wipe out whole cities. Gaza City has to go. Up in flames. Member of the Knesset, Moshe Sharoni, taunted his Arab colleagues in the Israeli parliament. He said:

“We need to obliterate Gaza and call it the City of Murderers, the City of Terrorists."

This is the mentality of mass murderers.

But then, you can only murder real people. Imperialism kills non-people. That’s the nature of the beast. It can only act that way. Who is wagging this dog? Many of these people are from Brooklyn. American racism and imperialism are the same thing. It appears to have been efficiently exported.


This article is the cover story from the latest edition of Black Commentator. Please comply with our Posting policy if you wish to comment on this article.

New al-Qaeda in Iraq leader is already jailed.

Abu Hamza al-Muhajir, the purported successor of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi as leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq, is in an Egyptian prison and not Iraq, a lawyer has claimed.

Egyptian newspaper Al-Masri al-Yawm has quoted Mamduh Ismail as saying he met al-Muhajir, also known as Sharif Hazaa, or Abu Ayub al-Masri, in Tura prison in Cairo, where he has been held for seven years.

"Sharif Hazaa [al-Muhajir] is in Tura prison, and I met him two days ago while I was visiting some of my clients," Ismail, a lawyer known for defending Islamist groups, told the newspaper.

Al-Muhajir is on the "most wanted" list issued by the Iraqi government last week. The US military in Iraq has put a $5million price on his head. The US army media centre in Iraq said: "We cannot comment on the news that ... al-Masri is in an Egyptian prison and not in Iraq, we have to clarify that from the Egyptian government."

The US military had announced after the death of al-Zarqawi that al-Masri had been appointed the leader of al-Qaeda's organisation in Iraq. The military said al-Masri was born and brought up in Egypt. He then went to Afghanistan, where he trained in bomb-making before going to Iraq in 2002.


So if true, Abu Hamza al-Muhajir, the man that the US military claim to be the new evil nemesis that has replaced Zarqawi. Is in fact already in an Egyptian jail and has been there for the last seven years !

How convenient.

The Occupation of Iraqi Hearts and Minds

A Dig led by Nir Rosen

Three years into an occupation of Iraq replete with so-called milestones, turning points and individual events hailed as “sea changes” that would “break the back” of the insurgency, a different type of incident received an intense, if ephemeral, amount of attention. A local human rights worker and aspiring journalist in the western Iraqi town of Haditha filmed the aftermath of the massacre of 24 Iraqi civilians. The video made its way to an Iraqi working for Time magazine, and the story was finally publicized months later. The Haditha massacre was compared to the Vietnam War’s My Lai massacre, and like the well-publicized and embarrassing Abu Ghraib scandal two years earlier, the attention it received made it seem as if it were a horrible aberration perpetrated by a few bad apples who might have overreacted to the stress they endured as occupiers.

In reality both Abu Ghraib and Haditha were merely more extreme versions of the day-to-day workings of the American occupation in Iraq, and what makes them unique is not so much how bad they were, or how embarrassing, but the fact that they made their way to the media and were publicized despite attempts to cover them up. Focusing on Abu Ghraib and Haditha distracts us from the daily, little Abu Ghraibs and small-scale Hadithas that have made up the occupation. The occupation has been one vast extended crime against the Iraqi people, and most of it has occurred unnoticed by the American people and the media.

Continue reading this fascinating insight at the Source

Iraqi PM urges review of foreign troop immunity

Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki called for a review of the blanket immunity enjoyed by foreign troops following new allegations of violence against civilians by US soldiers.

"We have to review the immunity enjoyed by members of these forces or look for ways in which Iraqis can participate in the investigation," Maliki told reporters on his return from a tour of the Gulf.

"A lot of mistakes have been committed before Mahmudiyah that have caused grief and anger in the Iraqi people who cannot tolerate these brutal crimes for very long."

US prosecutors on Monday charged a former soldier with raping and killing an Iraqi woman and gunning down three members of her family, including a five-year-old girl, in March in the town of Mahmudiyah, south of Baghdad.


Thursday, July 06, 2006

Go to Venezuela, You Idiot!

I don't usually take the advice of rightwingers. But I did this time. After receiving inflamed email messages from dozens of angry rightists that I should get the hell out of the USA and go to Venezuela, I accepted their challenge and flew to Caracas.

Read the full article Here.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Worthy reading

Whilst doing my usual rounds over the last couple of weeks, I have come across a few lengthy articles that are worth taking a a second look at.

The First is from the aptly named Everyone is doomed and is a wonderfully emotive piece analyzing in depth the view and attitude of Josh Block (from American Israel Public Affairs Group) in regard to his bizarre defence of the collective punishment of Palestinians. A must read for those that have been following the events in Palestine like me, with the utmost concern.

The Second is an excellent piece by Betmo over at Life's Journey . Its an exquisitely detailed look at world politics in order to establish how we as a planet got to the point we are at today. A wonderful examination of the big players on the world stage . You could certainly add to the list covered in the article and no doubt we could expand the time frame back even further in order to finish the Jigsaw puzzle . A great starting point for those wishing to examine modern political society and the myriad of intricate elements contained.

The Third is yet another wonderful piece by Peter from So much trouble in the world highlighting the tragic events in Uganda. As he so accurately states , Uganda is a place that certainly deserves a moment or two of your attention and Peter certainly presents a compelling case for the plight of the Ugandan people. An essential read for anyone and everyone of conscience.

Iraqi .rape victim was a 15 year old child

Fifteen-year-old Abeer Qasim Hamza was afraid, her mother confided in a neighbor.

As pretty as she was young, the girl had attracted the unwelcome attention of U.S. soldiers manning a checkpoint that the girl had to pass through almost daily in their village in the south-central city of Mahmoudiya, her mother told the neighbor.

Abeer told her mother often in her last days that the soldiers had made advances toward her, a neighbor, Omar Janabi, said this weekend, recounting a conversation he said he had with the girl's mother, Fakhriyah, on March 10.

Fakhriyah feared the Americans might come for her daughter at night, at their home. She asked her neighbor if Abeer might sleep at his house, with the women there. Janabi said he agreed. Then, "I tried to reassure her, remove some of her fear," Janabi said. "I told her, the Americans would not do such a thing." Abeer did not live to take up the offer of shelter at Janabi's home.

Instead, attackers came to the girl's house the next day, apparently separating Abeer from her mother, father and 7-year-old sister. Janabi and others knowledgeable about the incident said they believed the attackers raped Abeer in another room. Medical officials who handled the bodies said the girl had been raped, but they did not elaborate.

Before leaving, the attackers fatally shot the four family members — two of Abeer's brothers had been away at school — and attempted to set Abeer's body on fire, according to Janabi, another neighbor who spoke on condition of anonymity, the mayor of Mahmoudiya and a hospital administrator with knowledge of the death certificates and of the case overall.

The U.S. military said last week that authorities were investigating allegations of a rape and killings in Mahmoudiya by soldiers of the 502nd Infantry Regiment, part of the 4th Infantry Division. The mayor of Mahmoudiya, Mouyad Fadhil Saif, said Sunday that the case was being investigated by the U.S. military as an alleged atrocity.

Janabi was one of the first people to arrive at the house after the attack, he said Saturday, speaking at the home of local tribal leaders. He said he found Abeer sprawled dead in a corner, her hair and a pillow next to her consumed by fire, and her dress pushed up to her neck.

"I was sure from the first glance that she had been raped," he said. Despite the reassurances he had given the girl's mother earlier, Janabi said, "I wasn't surprised what had happened, when I found that the suspicion of the mother was correct." The U.S. military has not identified the victims. U.S. military officials contacted this weekend said they did not know the names of the people involved or most other details of the case.

The military official pointed to one discrepancy in the accounts. Preliminary information in the military investigation put the age of the alleged rape victim at 20, rather than 15, as reported by her neighbors, officials and hospital records and officials in Mahmoudiya.

U.S. soldiers at the scene initially ascribed the killings to Sunni Arab insurgents active in the area, the U.S. military and local residents said. That puzzled villagers, who knew the family was Sunni, Janabi said.

Three months after the incident, two soldiers of the 502nd came forward to say that soldiers of the unit were responsible, a U.S. military official said last week. The U.S. military began an investigation the next day, the official said.


Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Post for peace

A most admirable effort on this 4th of July has been made by Glenda from the land of Oz to try and encourage all free thinking bloggers everywhere to put aside a few moments in an effort to Post for peace.

Of course It is very unlikely that any desire for peace can or will be fulfilled by such an effort. But holding such commitment and passion for what you believe certainly does present considerably more effect and influence than many would be willing to admit. For a simple idea such as this, can and will spread like a positive virus and infect others into also making a stand.

I have watched this idea develop from the sidelines on a few of the blogs that I read and can not help but be impressed at the speed at which fellow bloggers have shown their willingness to help spread this positive virus that we could call hope.

Looking at the list of blogs joining in , the response seems to be most praiseworthy and I highly recommend popping over to Glenda's place to get access to the full list of all those taking part.

Do something positive today. If you have a blog then why not join them in this effort and if you don't own a blog, then you could spend some time popping into the sites (listed at Glenda's) and adding you're support to the many readers who have woken up today and decided to stand up for something they believe in.

BTW, Happy 4th of July to all the Americans out there. To the rest of the planet, have a lovely and insignificant early in July type of day.

True Lies (3 min video)

Rosa Brooks: Did Bush commit war crimes?

THE SUPREME Court on Thursday dealt the Bush administration a stinging rebuke, declaring in Hamdan vs. Rumsfeld that military commissions for trying terrorist suspects violate both U.S. military law and the Geneva Convention.

But the real blockbuster in the Hamdan decision is the court's holding that Common Article 3 of the Geneva Convention applies to the conflict with Al Qaeda — a holding that makes high-ranking Bush administration officials potentially subject to prosecution under the federal War Crimes Act.

The provisions of the Geneva Convention were intended to protect noncombatants — including prisoners — in times of armed conflict. But as the administration has repeatedly noted, most of these protections apply only to conflicts between states. Because Al Qaeda is not a state, the administration argued that the Geneva Convention didn't apply to the war on terror. These assertions gave the administration's arguments about the legal framework for fighting terrorism a through-the-looking-glass quality. On the one hand, the administration argued that the struggle against terrorism was a war, subject only to the law of war, not U.S. criminal or constitutional law. On the other hand, the administration said the Geneva Convention didn't apply to the war with Al Qaeda, which put the war on terror in an anything-goes legal limbo.

This novel theory served as the administration's legal cover for a wide range of questionable tactics, ranging from the Guantanamo military tribunals to administration efforts to hold even U.S. citizens indefinitely without counsel, charge or trial.

Perhaps most troubling, it allowed the administration to claim that detained terrorism suspects could be subjected to interrogation techniques that constitute torture or cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment under international law, such as "waterboarding," placing prisoners in painful physical positions, sexual humiliation and extreme sleep deprivation.

Under Bush administration logic, these tactics were not illegal under U.S. law because U.S. law was trumped by the law of war, and they weren't illegal under the law of war either, because Geneva Convention prohibitions on torture and cruel treatment were not applicable to the conflict with Al Qaeda.

In 2005, Congress angered the administration by passing Sen. John McCain's amendment explicitly prohibiting the use of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment of detainees. But Congress did not attach criminal penalties to violations of the amendment, and the administration has repeatedly indicated its intent to ignore it.

The Hamdan decision may change a few minds within the administration. Although the decision's practical effect on the military tribunals is unclear — the administration may be able to gain explicit congressional authorization for the tribunals, or it may be able to modify them to comply with the laws of war — the court's declaration that Common Article 3 applies to the war on terror is of enormous significance. Ultimately, it could pave the way for war crimes prosecutions of those responsible for abusing detainees.

Common Article 3 forbids "cruel treatment and torture [and] outrages upon personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment." The provision's language is sweeping enough to prohibit many of the interrogation techniques approved by the Bush administration. That's why the administration had argued that Common Article 3 did not apply to the war on terror, even though legal experts have long concluded that it was intended to provide minimum rights guarantees for all conflicts not otherwise covered by the Geneva Convention.

But here's where the rubber really hits the road. Under federal criminal law, anyone who "commits a war crime … shall be fined … or imprisoned for life or any term of years, or both, and if death results to the victim, shall also be subject to the penalty of death." And a war crime is defined as "any conduct … which constitutes a violation of Common Article 3 of the international conventions signed at Geneva." In other words, with the Hamdan decision, U.S. officials found to be responsible for subjecting war on terror detainees to torture, cruel treatment or other "outrages upon personal dignity" could face prison or even the death penalty.

Don't expect that to happen anytime soon, of course. For prosecutions to occur, some federal prosecutor would have to issue an indictment. And in the Justice Department of Atty. Gen. Alberto Gonzales — who famously called the Geneva Convention "quaint" — a genuine investigation into administration violations of the War Crimes Act just ain't gonna happen.

But as Yale law professor Jack Balkin concludes, it's starting to look as if the Geneva Convention "is not so quaint after all."


Israel : The government is losing its reason

By Haaretz Editorial

Bombing bridges that can be circumvented both by car and on foot; seizing an airport that has been in ruins for years; destroying a power station, plunging large parts of the Gaza Strip into darkness; distributing flyers suggesting that people be concerned about their fate; a menacing flight over Bashar Assad's palace; and arresting elected Hamas officials: The government wishes to convince us that all these actions are intended only to release the soldier Gilad Shalit.

But the greater the government's creativity in inventing tactics, the more it seems to reflect a loss of direction rather than an overall conception based on reason and common sense. On the face of it, Israel wishes to exert increasing pressure both on Hamas' political leadership and on the Palestinian public, in order to induce it to pressure its leadership to release the soldier. At the same time, the government claims that Syria - or at least Khaled Meshal, who is living in Syria - holds the key. If so, what is the point of pressuring the local Palestinian leadership, which did not know of the planned attack and which, when it found out, demanded that the kidnappers take good care of their victim and return him?

The tactic of pressuring civilians has been tried before, and more than once. The Lebanese, for example, are very familiar with the Israeli tactic of destroying power stations and infrastructure. Entire villages in south Lebanon have been terrorized, with the inhabitants fleeing in their thousands for Beirut. But what also happens under such extreme stress is that local divisions evaporate and a strong, united leadership is forged.

In the end, Israel was forced both to negotiate with Hezbollah and to withdraw from Lebanon. Now, the government appears to be airing out its Lebanon catalogue of tactics and implementing it, as though nothing has been learned since then. One may assume that the results will be similar this time around as well.

Israel also kidnapped people from Lebanon to serve as bargaining chips in dealings with the kidnappers of Israeli soldiers. Now, it is trying out this tactic on Hamas politicians. As the prime minister said in a closed meeting: "They want prisoners released? We'll release these detainees in exchange for Shalit." By "these detainees," he was referring to elected Hamas officials.

The prime minister is a graduate of a movement whose leaders were once exiled, only to return with their heads held high and in a stronger position than when they were deported. But he believes that with the Palestinians, things work differently.

As one who knows that all the Hamas activists deported by Yitzhak Rabin returned to leadership and command positions in the organization, Olmert should know that arresting leaders only strengthens them and their supporters. But this is not merely faulty reasoning; arresting people to use as bargaining chips is the act of a gang, not of a state.

The government was caught up too quickly in a whirlwind of prestige mixed with fatigue. It must return to its senses at once, be satisfied with the threats it has made, free the detained Hamas politicians and open negotiations. The issue is a soldier who must be brought home, not changing the face of the Middle East.


Thursday, June 29, 2006

Bush Props Up Another Saddam

One Year After the Andijon Massacre

By Ted Rall

When George W. Bush crawled into bed with Islam Karimov in the wake of 9/11, the U.S. government knew exactly what kind of man he was. A few years earlier, after a half-dozen bombs destroyed government buildings in downtown Tashkent, the president and former Soviet boss of Uzbekistan appeared on state television, promising to "eliminate the scoundrels" behind the assassination attempt.

I write in my upcoming book Silk Road to Ruin : Is Central Asia the New Middle East?: "Within weeks Uzbekistan was in the throes of a brutal purge of its already beleaguered religious Muslims. That month a presidential decree authorized the punitive arrest of a suspect's father if his extremist sons could not be found. 'If my child chose such a path,' Karimov said, 'I myself would rip off his head.' Head-ripping was a recurring theme of Karimov's rhetoric. He added a promise to 'tear off the heads of two hundred people in order to protect Uzbekistan's freedom and stability.'

It is unknown whether Karimov personally supervises such reprisals; however, published reports claim that exactly that number of bodies of 'Muslim extremists'--often the victims are identified as radicals simply because they wear long beards--were strung up from Tashkent lampposts in May. Exceptionally violent and corrupt even by Central Asian standards, the government of Uzbekistan is proof that a ruler can remain in power despite the near-universal contempt of his subjects."

Karimov's police state is pervasive and brutal. Torture is endemic; the battered bodies of political prisoners are returned to their families showing clear proof that they have been boiled to death. Only one candidate, Abdulhasiz Dzhalalov, was allowed to run against the autocratic Karimov in the most recent presidential "election." Dzhalalov announced that he had voted for Karimov.

After 9/11, however, the U.S. ignored numerous reports of Uzbek atrocities--some authored by its own State Department--and began paying Karimov millions of dollars in exchange for hosting a permanent American military base on Uzbek soil. "The expanded relationship," writes The New York Times, "was both praised as realpolitik strategy and criticized as a shortsighted gesture of support for a dictator with a chilling human rights record."

Bush's pact with the devil came due on May 13, 2005, when thousands of protesters gathered in Bobur Square in the southern city of Andijon to complain about corruption, the shattered Uzbek economy and to demand the release of political prisoners. "We hoped the local government would come to hear our grievances," a man named Dolim told The Guardian. "People said even Karimov himself would come. We went because of unemployment, low salaries not paid, pensions not received."

Indeed, Karimov did go to Andijon--to personally supervise the massacre of the demonstrators.

Uzbek security forces firing automatic weapons killed an estimated one thousand people over the course of 90 minutes. "The dead were lying in front of me piled three-thick," said a survivor. "At one point, I passed out. When I regained consciousness, it was raining--on the ground, I could see water running with blood." He survived by hiding under corpses. "Dead people everywhere, and some alive, just moving. I felt sick, because of all the things splattered on my clothes. I went into the college and saw the armored personnel carriers moving over the bodies. They wanted to kill anyone who was wounded. Soldiers walked down the sidewalk, firing single shots at anyone moving."

The Bush Administration resisted international pressure to close its airbase at Karshi-Khanabad (K-2). "The Pentagon wants to avoid upsetting the Uzbekistan government," The Washington Post quoted White House officials two months after the Andijon massacre. Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman urged the Uzbeks to investigate themselves: "The United States has repeatedly urged Uzbekistan to undertake a full and transparent inquiry into the Andijon incident."

Even this pro forma criticism proved too much for the testy tyrant, prompting him to evict the U.S. from K-2 earlier this year. But Andijon refuses to go away. On June 22 The New York Times released a detailed analysis of videotapes taken before and during the bloody crackdown. The images "show no sign that [Uzbek authorities] tried nonlethal methods or a gradual escalation of force to break up the crowd, like giving clear warnings or signals to disperse, using water cannons or tear gas, or having snipers eliminate [men who were armed]."

Despite the United States' loss of an airbase and a new mutual defense treaty between Tashkent and Moscow, however, the Bush Administration continues to ply the butcher of Andijon with cash and military aid.

From Silk Road to Ruin: "RAND Corporation pundit Olga Oliker summarized the Bush Administration's position: 'Cutting all ties between the two nations would be a mistake,' Oliker wrote, because 'the country remains a way station for illegal and dangerous trafficking in drugs, weapons and fighters. This has made the Uzbek government a valuable partner in combating those problems.' True, the weapons and the insurgents who carry them drew much of their strength from Karimov's campaign of anti-Muslim repression. But let's not forget the United States' primary policy motivation: Uzbekistan has some of the world's largest reserves of natural gas."

"Internal developments in Uzbekistan are really worrisome," says Royal Institute of International Affairs analyst Yury Federov. "The ruling regime keeps itself in power through repression, and many people in Uzbekistan believe that repression in the final end cannot save the current regime from the crash, which may lead, in turn, to a general destabilization of the situation in the country and in the neighboring region."

It's 1981 all over again. And again, we're arming and funding Saddam.


Supreme Court: Gitmo war crimes trials are illegal

The Supreme Court ruled Thursday that President Bush overstepped his authority in ordering military war crimes trials for Guantanamo Bay detainees.

The ruling, a strong rebuke to the administration and its aggressive anti-terror policies, was written by Justice John Paul Stevens, who said the proposed trials were illegal under U.S. law and international Geneva conventions.

The case focused on Salim Ahmed Hamdan, a Yemeni who worked as a bodyguard and driver for Osama bin Laden. Hamdan, 36, has spent four years in the U.S. prison in Cuba. He faces a single count of conspiring against U.S. citizens from 1996 to November 2001.

The ruling raises major questions about the legal status of about 450 men still being held at Guantanamo and exactly how, when and where the administration might pursue the charges against them.

It also seems likely to further fuel international criticism of the administration, including by many U.S. allies, for its handling of the terror war detainees at Guantanamo in Cuba, Abu Ghraib in Iraq and elsewhere.


Seizure of Hamas MPs raises international alarm

Israel's seizure of Hamas MPs and cabinet ministers raises "particular concerns", the G8 group of industrialised countries said today, echoing appeals for calm from many other parts of the world.

"We call on Israel to exercise utmost restraint in the current crisis," the G8 foreign ministers said in a joint statement. "The detention of elected members of the Palestinian government and legislature raises particular concerns."

Speaking after the group's ministerial meeting in Moscow, US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice said diplomatic efforts were continuing to secure the release of the Israeli soldier captured on Sunday.

"There is a full-scale diplomatic effort," she told a news conference. "Responsible Palestinians are also engaged in efforts to get this soldier released - and that is a very important point to make - as well as some regional actors that are engaged."

She was apparently referring to Egypt, which is said to have been in contact with the Palestinian hostage-takers through a delegation sent to Gaza on Sunday. "With restraint, perhaps we can get back to a place where there can be hope for a peaceful resolution," Ms Rice added.

"We confirmed our support for the Quartet ... and called on the parties to take all the necessary steps to calm the situation," Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov said after the meeting, referring to the group of Middle East peace mediators - Russia, the US, the United Nations, and the European Union.

China also said it was "deeply concerned" about the latest Israeli-Palestinian crisis. "We urge Israel to exercise restraint and halt military action, and call on Palestine to release the hostage as early as possible," Jiang Yu, a Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman, told journalists.

In Rome, Pope Benedict said he was "apprehensively following" the latest developments. Addressing a crowd in St Peter's Square, he said: "I pray every person kidnapped be quickly returned to their loved ones ... I call on Israeli and Palestinian leaders so that, with the generous contribution of the international community, they responsibly seek the negotiated settlement of the conflict which alone can assure the peace sought by their people."

The 57-nation Organisation of the Islamic Conference condemned Israel's "criminal" seizure of Palestinian ministers and said diplomacy was needed to release the Israeli soldier.

"These Israeli measures do not only constitute a flagrant violation of international law and signed agreements but are also a brutal crime and aggression against democracy and the representatives of the Palestinian people," the Saudi-based organisation said.


B'Tselem: Both side condemnable

As B'Tselem points out, both the abduction and execution of Eliahu Asheri and the Israeli attacks on civilian infrastructure are condemnable:
B'Tselem severely condemns the abduction and execution of Eliahu Asheri, 18, a resident of the Itamar settlement, whose body was found last night in Ramallah.

Abduction and execution violates law and morality. The willful killing of civilians is a war crime under international humanitarian law, and is unjustified whatever the circumstances. International humanitarian law requires that the parties taking part in the hostilities distinguish between combatants and civilians, and refrain from attacking civilians.

Certain Palestinian organizations justify attacks on settlers because the settlements are part of Israel military control of the area. This argument is baseless. The vast majority of settlers do not serve any military role, and the illegality of the settlements does not deny the residents their status as civilians. As civilians, the settlers are not a legitimate target of attack, much less of abduction and execution.

B'Tselem calls on Palestinian organizations to refrain from attacking civilians, including settlers.
B'Tselem today sent an urgent request to Israeli Defense Minister Amir Peretz to instruct Israeli forces to refrain from bombing or deliberately damaging in any way facilities that supply indispensable services to the civilian population in the Gaza Strip.

B'Tselem added that Israel has the right to all legal measures to free the abducted soldier, Corporal Gilad Shalit. However, Israel must refrain from using measures which contravene International Humanitarian Law, which categorically prohibits all sides to a conflict from attacking "objects indispensable to the survival of the civilian population".

Israel 's military operation in the Gaza Strip today included Air Force bombing of Palestinian civilian infrastructure. Among the facilities hit was the central electricity relay station south of Gaza City , which caused a widespread blackout. Damage to electricity facilities is liable to severely impair the provision of indispensable services, such as water supply and health care.

John stewart on the Miami seven (video)

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Attacking civilian infrastructure is a war crime

Under international law, the targeting of civilian infrastructure like power stations and bridges is a war crime. From the BBC:

Israel's Prime Minister has warned of "extreme action" to free a soldier captured by Palestinian militants.

Soon afterwards, witnesses reported an air strike on a militant training camp in Gaza, after planes bombed a power station and three bridges overnight.

Tanks also moved into the southern Gaza Strip, in the first big incursion since the Israeli withdrawal last year.

There are no reports of clashes but the incursion brought condemnation from the main Palestinian factions.

Note : The points below have been added to Djebs original post by _H_


Israel's Prime Minister had warned of "extreme action" to free a soldier captured by Palestinian militants. Soon afterwards, witnesses reported an air strike on a militant training camp in Gaza.

The incursion began when Israeli Planes bombed the three bridges linking the north and south of the strip, and then hitting Gaza's main electricity transformer.The immediate effects of the power cut were noted 600 miles away in rafuh by Doss Abu-Harb who stated.

We have no electricity, so now I can't watch what is happening on television. I am listening to the radio which is on batteries, I don't know how long they will last. The situation last night was so terrible. I heard alot of shelling. I hear more shelling and guns this morning. I think Israel is planning a huge attack, so everybody will stay inside. I have my small nephews in our home. If I am frightened in front of them I think they will die of fear.....We are living, but we feel as if we are dead.

The Israeli ground forces soon took up positions on farmland outside the disused airport inside the Gaza border. Meanwhile Gaza residents like Lama Hourani were already concerned for the long term effects of this action

It is frightening, it is ugly. On all levels, it is not good. They bombed the main power station which gives power to 40-50% of Gaza.... All water needs to be pumped, so if we don't have power, we don't have water....

Source for quotes

Cpl Shalit was captured when Palestinian militants tunnelled under the Gaza border and attacked an Israeli army position at Kerem Shalom, killing two soldiers.

Hamas political leaders have denied they know of Cpl Shalit's whereabouts and have urged his captors not to mistreat him. Hamas spokesman Ghazi Hamad said the incursion was unjustified and the crisis could be solved through "contacts with Arab and international parties".

Mahmoud Abbas, leader of rival Palestinian faction Fatah and president of the Palestinian Authority, condemned the Israeli incursion as "collective punishment".

Is he correct ? well according to the Geneva convention it seems that he is .....

"It is prohibited to attack, destroy, remove or render useless objects indispensable to the survival of the civilian population "

The Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949,

Syrian 'Air defenses' opened fire on intruder Israeli jets

Air defenses fired on Israeli warplanes that entered Syrian airspace early Wednesday and forced them to flee, state TV said as Mideast tensions escalated over the kidnapping of an Israeli soldier by Palestinian militants.

State-run Syrian television said two Israeli planes flew near Syria's Mediterranean coast early Wednesday, and "national air defenses opened fire in the direction of the planes, and they dispersed.''

The announcement did not mention a claim by Israeli military officials that the fighter jets buzzed the summer residence of President Bashar Assad in the coastal city of Latakia.

The officials said on condition of anonymity that Assad was targeted because of the "direct link'' between Syria and Hamas, the Palestinian militant group holding Cpl. Gilad Shalit, 19, in the Gaza Strip. Syria hosts Khaled Meshaal, Hamas' exiled supreme leader.

"The overflight by two Israeli planes near the Syrian shores is an aggressive act and a provocation,'' the television news said, quoting an Information Ministry official it did not identify.


Hamas reverses

First the election promises to recognise Israel. Then a series of recent reports that it again does. Now it seems that Hamas is holding off with the hardliners making a clear statment impossible. Or is it perhaps the Israeli assault on Gaza? In either event, Hamas came out clarifying its lack of clarification. From the BBC:
Rival Palestinian political factions Fatah and Hamas have reached agreement on a common political strategy to try to end a damaging power struggle.

However, Hamas negotiators have denied earlier reports that the deal meant the militants would implicitly recognise Israel - a major policy shift.

The full text of the accord has not yet been released. A Hamas minister said it did not have "one word" on the issue.
To agree to the prisoner's proposal, however, is to agree to the 1967 border and international law on the matter. To agree to a border and to international law is to recognise the State of Israel. Will it be possible for the extreme right in Hamas to recognise this?

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Iraqi insurgents set conditions for peace

Armed groups fighting US-led forces in Iraq have demanded a timetable for the withdrawal of foreign troops as a condition for laying down their arms, a Kurdish lawmaker said Tuesday.

At least seven armed groups have been holding indirect dialogue with President Jalal Talabani, and the government Sunday unveiled a reconciliation plan aimed at bringing rebels into the political process in a bid to end the daily cycle of violence in Iraq.

"According to sources close to the presidency, dialogues between the intermediaries of these groups and President Jalal Talabani are continuing," said lawmaker Mahmud Othman.

"The armed groups have put a condition that there must be a timetable for withdrawal of foreign forces and also their resistance to foreign forces must be legitimately recognised."

The United States confirmed Monday that it was considering a plan to sharply reduce its 130,000 strong force in Iraq by the end of 2007, but said it was just one option among many and was not "engraved in stone."

A Shiite lawmaker with Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's Dawa party told The New York Times that Sunni-led insurgents have approached the government with offers to start negotiations on the basis of the reconciliation plan.

"The Sunni mediators told me there's a kind of positive approach by these armed groups in response to this initiative," Hassan al-Suneid said.

"I think the initiative will open up a new atmosphere for these dialogues and upgrade them."


War's Iraqi Death Toll Tops 50,000

Higher than the U.S. estimate, the tally likely is undercounted. Proportionately, it is as if 570,000 Americans were slain in three years.

At least 50,000 Iraqis have died violently since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion, according to statistics from the Baghdad morgue, the Iraqi Health Ministry and other agencies — a toll 20,000 higher than previously acknowledged by the Bush administration.

Many more Iraqis are believed to have been killed but not counted because of serious lapses in recording deaths in the chaotic first year after the invasion, when there was no functioning Iraqi government, and continued spotty reporting nationwide since.

The toll, which is mostly of civilians but probably also includes some security forces and insurgents, is daunting: Proportionately, it is equivalent to 570,000 Americans being killed nationwide in the last three years. In the same period, at least 2,520 U.S. troops have been killed in Iraq.

Iraqi officials involved in compiling the statistics say violent deaths in some regions have been grossly undercounted, notably in the troubled province of Al Anbar in the west. Health workers there are unable to compile the data because of violence, security crackdowns, electrical shortages and failing telephone networks.

The Health Ministry acknowledged the undercount. In addition, the ministry said its figures exclude the three northern provinces of the semi-autonomous region of Kurdistan because Kurdish officials do not provide death toll figures to the government in Baghdad.

In the three years since Saddam Hussein's regime was toppled, the Bush administration has rarely offered civilian death tolls. Last year, President Bush said he believed that "30,000, more or less, have died as a result of the initial incursion and the ongoing violence against Iraqis."

Nongovernmental organizations have made estimates by tallying media accounts; The Times attempted to reach a comprehensive figure by obtaining statistics from the Baghdad morgue and the Health Ministry and checking those numbers against a sampling of local health departments for possible undercounts.

The Health Ministry gathers numbers from hospitals in the capital and the outlying provinces. If a victim of violence dies at a hospital or arrives dead, medical officials issue a death certificate. Relatives claim the body directly from the hospital and arrange for a speedy burial in keeping with Muslim beliefs.

If the morgue receives a body — usually those deemed suspicious deaths — officials there issue the death certificate. Health Ministry officials said that because death certificates are issued and counted separately, the two data sets are not overlapping.

The Baghdad morgue received 30,204 bodies from 2003 through mid-2006, while the Health Ministry said it had documented 18,933 deaths from "military clashes" and "terrorist attacks" from April 5, 2004, to June 1, 2006. Together, the toll reaches 49,137.

However, samples obtained from local health departments in other provinces show an undercount that brings the total well beyond 50,000. The figure also does not include deaths outside Baghdad in the first year of the invasion.

Three years of fighting have taken their toll on the country. Gauging how many people died in the first year after the invasion, which included the initial invasion and aerial bombardment of Baghdad, and weeks of near-anarchy afterward, has proved difficult.

According to a 2003 Times survey of Baghdad hospitals, at least 1,700 civilians died in the capital just in the five weeks after the war began. An analysis by Iraqi Body Count, a nongovernmental group that tracks civilian deaths by tallying media reports, estimated that 5,630 to 10,000 Iraqi civilians were killed nationwide from March 19 through April 2003.

Health Ministry figures for May in each of the last three years show war-related deaths more than tripling nationwide, from 334 in May 2004 to 1,154 last month. And as the violence has continued to escalate, it also has become increasingly centralized. At least 2,532 people were killed nationwide last month. Of those, 2,155 — 85% — died in Baghdad.

Source Here

Well I think we are getting closer to a more realistic estimate of the number of Iraqi civilian deaths, although (as the article acknowledges) the number could yet turn out to be much higher. It is clearly difficult for mere numbers to portray the level of grief and suffering created by these deaths or to help us to realise that each one of those civilians had a family whom continue to suffer. The article attempts to use an equivalent example to help us to understand "Proportionately, it is equivalent to 570,000 Americans being killed. "

However an equally graphic understanding could be found by looking again at the tragedy of 9/11 and noting that it would take a minimum of 16 such terrorist attacks against the United States to begin to compare(in scale) with the horrors that have been brought to the innocent people of Iraq.

More on Hamas recognising Israel

From AP via Yahoo:
The rival Hamas and Fatah movements agreed on a plan implicitly recognizing Israel, a top Palestinian official said Tuesday after weeks of acrimonious negotiations aiming to lift crippling international aid sanctions.

Moderate President Mahmoud Abbas of Fatah has been trying to coax his Hamas rivals into endorsing the document, which calls for a Palestinian state alongside Israel, in effect recognizing the Jewish state. He has endorsed the plan as a way to end sanctions against the Hamas-led Palestinian government and pave the way to reopening peace talks with Israel.

"We have an agreement over the document," said Ibrahim Abu Najah, coordinator of the "national dialogue" over the proposal.

The plan also calls on militants to limit attacks to areas captured by Israel in the 1967 Mideast War and calls for formation of a coalition Palestinian government.


Salah Zeidan, another negotiator, said preparations were being made for a formal signing ceremony.

"All political groups are prepared for a mutual cease-fire with Israel," he said.

The document was formulated by senior Palestinian prisoners held by Israel.

However, the deal was overshadowed by a crisis over the kidnapping of an Israeli soldier and opposition to the deal voiced by Islamic Jihad, a small militant group that has carried out numerous attacks against Israel.

Did Iran help in locating Zarqawi?

In fact, a credible Moroccan newspaper, La Gazette du Maroc, is affirming that Zarqawi was caught thanks to Iran and was the first gift to the US.

Sounds like a conspiracy theory? Maybe not.

Citing Iranian sources and Iraqi sources close to ex PM Alawi, the paper states that Jordanian intelligence may have gotten help from Iran in pinpointing Zarqawi's location.

A few weeks ago the Iranian FM met with King Abdullah in Amman to allegedly negotiate the deal. Then a few days later the Iranian FM was in Bagdad meeting with Iraki PM AL Maliki and allegedly US Ambassador Khalilzad.

Coincidence or not the US position softened around that time when for the first time Secretary of State Rice announced a possible ouverture to Iran. People close to Reza Pahlavi, the Shah's son, also believe that Zarqawi was indeed handed by Iran as part of a package.

Source Here

Very speculative but is it accurate. Well quite possibly when you consider how Iran would have felt when Zarqawi declared war on the Shiites. Finding their brothers on the receiving end of Zarqawis brand of terror would be motive enough to pass forward such information.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Tall story of terror a chilling warning

The alarming news flashed across television screens in the United States on Friday: Government agents had thwarted an al Qaeda plot, using home-grown American terrorists, to blow up the Sears Tower in Chicago in a ghastly repeat of September 11.

When the dust had settled barely 24 hours later, a rather more modest version of events had emerged. The seven young black men arrested in Miami and Atlanta had never been in touch with al Qaeda, and had no explosives.

Their "plan" to destroy the tallest building in the US was little more than wishful thinking, expressed by one of them to an FBI informant posing as a member of Osama bin Laden's group.Even the FBI admitted as much. Deputy director John Pistole described the plan on Friday as "aspirational rather than operational" and admitted that none of the five US citizens and two Haitian immigrants arrested had ever featured on a terrorist watch list.

In essence, the entire case rests on conversations between Narseal Batiste, the apparent ringleader, with the informant, who posed as a member of al Qaeda but in fact belonged to the South Florida Terrorist Task Force.At a meeting "on or about December 16", according to the indictment made public as the men made their first court appearance in Miami, Batiste asked his contact to supply equipment including uniforms, machineguns, explosives, cars and US$50,000 in cash for an "Islamic Army" that would carry out a mission "just as good or greater than 9/11".

In fact, the conspiracy seems to have extended little further than those words. By last month, it had all but fizzled out amid internal squabbling.Even their religious leanings are in dispute. Neighbours say they were part of a group, Seas of David, that mixes Christian and Islamic elements.

That did not deter the US Attorney-General, Alberto Gonzales, from summoning a press conference in which he denounced an attempt to "wage war against America". But the threat, even he admitted, was not immediate - and those who posed it were in fact merely a few semi-unemployed men, most of them petty criminals, from Liberty City, a poor, black Miami district.If the case has any significance in the "war on terror", it is not as a present danger, but as a harbinger of possible future risks.

Despite countless scare stories in the media, colour-coded alerts from the Department of Homeland Security and grim official warnings of al Qaeda sleeper cells waiting to do their worst, the US has not suffered a single terrorist attack since September 11, 2001.

Nor have the authorities unearthed much of a threat. The Justice Department claims 401 people have been charged with "terrorism-related offences" since the 2001 attacks, and 212 have been convicted. In fact only a tiny number were real terrorists. The tendency - duly followed last week by Gonzales - has been to hype. The precedent was famously set by his predecessor, John Ashcroft, who called a press conference during a visit to Moscow in 2002 to announce the arrest of Jose Padilla, the "dirty bomber" said to be preparing to attack Washington with a radioactive device.

Padilla languished incommunicado in a Navy brig without charge for over three years. He has been transferred to a civilian prison, and faces trial in Miami this year on different, much vaguer, terrorist charges.

An alleged sleeper cell was unearthed in Detroit, but those convictions were quashed in 2004 when it emerged that prosecutors had manipulated evidence.

In December 2005, the trial of Sami al-Arian, accused of links with Islamic Jihad terrorists, ended in embarrassment when the Florida university professor was acquitted.

The biggest successes have had little to do with US law enforcement. Richard Reid, who tried to blow up an American Airlines plane with a shoe bomb in December 2001, was stopped by alert flight attendants, while Ahmed Omar Abu Ali, the Virginia student serving a 30-year sentence for threatening to kill President Bush, was caught by police in Saudi Arabia.

Source Here

Also worth reading : FBI Exploits Mentally Ill in “Homegrown” Terrorism Effort

GOP blowhard calls for arrest of reporting what treasury said it would do

Blowhard Rep. Peter King (R-NY) called for the arrest NYT reporters and editors for reporting what the Treasury Department publicly said it was going to do after 9/11.

Fellow party memeber Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA) was a bit more level-headed when he called Representative Blowhard's words "premature" and went on to paraphrase Jefferson's words on the matter: "Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter."

Sunday, June 25, 2006

An end to Palestinian shelling of Israeli towns?

From Al Ayyam Newspaper via JMCC:
A meeting between President Abbas and Palestinian PM Ismail Hanieh ended late last night at the Presidential Headquarters in the city of Gaza. The spokesperson for the Presidency Nabil Abu Rdeineh described the meeting as extremely positive and that the course of the meeting is moving in sound directions. He was referring to the meeting held on Friday which was held away from the media... Abu Rdeineh affirmed that a Palestinian consensus has been reached on the military escalation and the firing of Palestinian rockets on the Israeli towns to embarrass Israel and not give it any justification to continue the military escalation in the Palestinian lands.

...On the issue of resistance, Zeidan [Politburo member of the DFLP] affirmed that it has been agreed to focus Palestinian resistance within the 1967 borders along with affirmation that they won't give up resistance in any plot inside the land of Palestine.

Perhaps they are finally following the advice of the late Eqbal Ahmed?

Dismembering the body politic in Iraq

By Ahmed Janabi

The US and British leaders may be getting domestic flak for their perceived mistakes in Iraq, but some observers in the Arab world see them as being quite successful - in carrying out a well-calculated plan to divide the country.

The debate dates back to July 13, 2003, when the Iraqi Governing Council was formed under Paul Bremer, the US administrator. Sectarianism and ethnic extremism were strengthened in that council and various laws have since encouraged an aggressive sectarianism leading to a fierce militia war.

Anis Mansour, an Egyptian editor and author, believes the US is following the historical British policy of divide and rule. He says: "What we are seeing now is just the beginning of a scheme to split the country up into regions.

"It is not true that the US has failed. It did what it wanted to do and this will last for a long time. "It will stay the same whether a Democratic or a Republican president is to follow [George] Bush."

US and other foreign soldiers continue to be killed in Iraq, while Iranian-backed militias take revenge on Iraqi officers who participated in the Iran-Iraq war. Drive-by shootings are a daily occurrence, and mainly Sunni fighters are maintaining the battle against US-led forces as well as the Iraqi army and security forces backed and trained by the US.

The new government of Nuri al-Maliki is unlikely to succeed in curbing the violence.

More than three years since the US-led invasion, the foreign forces and the new Iraqi forces are both incapable of maintaining law and order. Meanwhile, ordinary Iraqis are losing their sense of co-existence, in itself a dangerous characteristic of post-war Iraq.

According to the Iraqi minister of expatriates and displaced people, sectarian violence has caused 14,000 Iraqi families to move. Sunni families who lived in Shia majority areas have gone to Sunni majority neighbourhoods and vice versa. The ongoing creation of ethnic and sectarian cantons worries Iraqi nationalists who fear a break up of their country.

The US is seen as the main instigator of sectarian sentiments, creating the right environment for the division of Iraq into sectarian and ethnic states unable to function without US protection.

Hasan Nasr Allah, the leader of Hezbollah in Lebanon, says: "The US has driven the situation in Iraq to a state where they offer themselves to Shia as a guarantee [of protection] against Sunni, and offer themselves to Sunni as a guarantee against Shia.

"They present themselves to Arabs as a guarantee against Kurds, and present themselves to Kurds as a guarantee against Arabs."Their plot is doing just fine. Look at the situation in Iraq nowadays: What could possibly happen that is more appropriate for separatists to say that they have to split from Iraq to protect their community?"

Certain Iraqi politicians are also signalling that they favour a split. Masoud Barzani, the Kurdish leader who became president of Iraqi Kurdistan last year, cancelled his visit to China last May after Beijing refused to treat him as a head of state.Barzani's move was seen as a renewed attempt to confirm the will of Kurdish politicians to secede from Iraq and form their long-desired independent Kurdish state.

Maintaining the integrity of Iraq was the main issue that delayed approval of the new Iraqi constitution last year.Iraqi nationalists were alarmed by an article in the constitution that allowed any governorate, alone or with other governorates, to form a ''region".

The constitution gives regions the right to form local security forces and freedom in managing the natural resources. Kurds were the first to use that right when they announced their Kurdistan region and elected their government and president earlier this year.

Some Iraqi politicians say such entities will not be large enough to survive without foreign support.

Haroun Muhammad, a London-based Iraqi political activist, says: "In addition to the seeds of separation in the new Iraqi constitution, separatists are getting foreign support, like Kuwait which has been backing both Kurdish and Shia leaders to separate from Iraq.

"It cannot be a coincidence that Ammar al-Hakim, the son of the senior Shia leader Abd al-Aziz al-Hakim, makes periodic visits to Kuwait." The senior al-Hakim had demanded on several occasions that Iraqi Shia be given a federal state in southern Iraq, his last call being made on August 11, 2005, in Najaf as he was delivering a speech to a Shia gathering.

Muhammad says: "The reason for that is that Kuwait fears another future invasion from big Iraq. It is to their benefit to break it up into smaller parts unable to move troops south." Saddam Hussein was not the first Iraqi leader to claim Kuwait, but he was the only one who sent troops across the border.

Abd al-Karim Qasim, the then Iraqi president, claimed Kuwait as a historical part of Iraq and moved troops to the Iraqi-Kuwaiti border, but British and Arab diplomatic efforts ended that crisis peacefully.

Barzani and the al-Hakim clan share the view that separate federal states for Shia and Kurds would protect them from the "suppression of the central government".Iraqi and Shia political parties believe if Iraq were a federated state, Shia and Kurds would have avoided much of the suppression they suffered at the hands of Baghdad's central government in the past.

Khalid al-Atiya, a Shia member of parliament and leading member of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (Sciri), said in a recent interview that his sect's leaders would not give up its demands to establish a Shia federal state in central and southern Iraq.

"Shia insist on federalism because history has learned the lesson. They have suffered enough from dictatorship and central government."The central government will always be a reason to enrage sectarian violence. Federalism is the only way to secure Shia's rights," al-Atiya said.

Dhafir al-Ani, a Sunni member of parliament and spokesman for the Iraqi Accordance Front, told "I regret to say that it is unlikely we will be able to prevent the partition of Iraq. I think it is going to be the way they want."

Karzai slips off the party line

More of the Afghan president going off message by pointing out that terrorism is set up by conditions which, if addressed vastly reduce the likelihood of terrorism. From Common Dreams:

Experts agreed with Afghan President Hamid Karzai, saying Friday the major military offensive against the Taliban will not fix Afghanistan's larger crises — a lack of reconstruction and jobs, a booming drug trade, and a weak government.

"You won't win unless you can convince people that progress is being made," said Marvin Weinbaum, a former State Department analyst now a scholar at the Washington-based Middle East Institute.

"One of the things we recognize is that we have failed to improve on the development side, especially in the south. In the areas with the greatest need, we have not gotten the reconstruction that was necessary."

Saturday, June 24, 2006

The War Tapes

Iran too fragile for women's rights

The things you can do in the name of national security... But is any nation immune? From Doug Ireland's Direland:

Leading Iranian women's rights activists Noushin Ahmadi Khorasani and Parvin Ardalan have been charged with acting "against national security" by calling for an Tehran_womenfemale_police "illegal" gathering to promote equal rights and publishing related statements, according to Iranian news reports," says Radio Liberty today. The charges stem from a June 12 women's rights gathering in Tehran that was forcefully dispersed by police forces, including baton-wielding female officers (photo left, female police with batons beat women demonstrators at the June 12 demonstration.) Noushin Ahmadi Khorasani and Parvin Ardalan were the 2004 winners of the Latifeh Yarshater Award, given by the Persian Heritage Foundation, for a book they co-authored about a leading Iranian political figure.