Archive for February, 2008

Karzai only controls 1/3 of Afghanistan

February 28, 2008
Yahho! News, Feb. 28, 2008

By PAMELA HESS, Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON – More than six years after the U.S. invaded to establish a stable central regime in Afghanistan, the Kabul government under President Hamid Karzai controls just 30 percent of the country, the top U.S. intelligence official said Wednesday.

National Intelligence Director Michael McConnell told the Senate Armed Services Committee that the resurgent Taliban controls 10 percent to 11 percent of the country and Karzai’s government controls 30 percent to 31 percent. The majority of Afghanistan’s population and territory remains under local tribal control, he said.

Underscoring the problems facing the Kabul government, a roadside bomb in Paktika province killed two Polish soldiers who are part of the NATO force in the country and opium worth $400 million was seized in the southern part of Afghanistan. That brought the number of foreign troops killed in Afghanistan to 21 this year, according to an Associated Press tally.

In 2007, insurgency-related violence killed more than 6,500 people, including 222 foreign troops. Last year was the deadliest yet since the U.S.-led invasion in 2001.

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Former SAS man condemns British role in torture tactics

February 28, 2008

Richard Norton-Taylor | The Guardian, Tuesday February 26 2008

Hundreds of Iraqis and Afghans captured by British and American special forces were rendered to prisons where they faced torture, a former SAS soldier said yesterday. Ben Griffin said individuals detained by SAS troops in a joint UK-US special forces taskforce had ended up in interrogation centres in Iraq, including the notorious Abu Ghraib prison, and in Afghanistan, as well as Guantánamo Bay.

Griffin, 29, left the British army last year after three months in Baghdad, saying he disagreed with the “illegal” tactics of US troops. While ministers had stated their wish that the Guantánamo Bay camp should be closed, they had been silent over prisons in Iraq and Afghanistan, he said. He added: “These secretive prisons are part of a global network in which individuals face torture and are held indefinitely without charge. All of this is in direct contravention of the Geneva conventions, international law and the UN convention against torture.”

Referring to the government’s admission last week that two US rendition flights containing terror suspects had landed at the British territory of Diego Garcia, Griffin said the use of British territory and airspace “pales into insignificance in light of the fact that it has been British soldiers detaining the victims of extraordinary rendition in the first place”.

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The truth about rendition

February 27, 2008

New Statesman, Feb 25, 2008

Sean Carey

An apology by David Miliband over the use of UK territory in US rendition flights leaves questions about claims of a secret prison facility on Diego Garcia

At any one time, there are three or four British policemen on the island of Diego Garcia. Ostensibly they are there to maintain law and order in this tropical, palm-fringed part of the British Indian Ocean Territory.

In reality, they confine themselves to confiscating pornographic DVDs and drugs from the island’s population of 3,500 which is made up of 1,000 US military personnel and 2,500 civilian workers – all but three of whom come from the Philippines and Sri Lanka.

What the members of the Royal Overseas Police certainly haven’t been doing is collecting evidence about the use of the island’s military base for the CIA’s practice of extraordinary rendition.

Last week David Miliband was obliged to make a humiliating apology to MPs after it emerged that – contrary to previous government statements from Tony Blair, Jack Straw, Kim Howells and Lord Malloch-Brown – two CIA flights carrying rendition suspects did, in fact, land at Diego Garcia in 2002.

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The World’s Most Wanted

February 27, 2008

Antiwar, Feb. 27, 2008

by Noam Chomsky

On Feb. 13, Imad Moughniyeh, a senior commander of Hezbollah, was assassinated in Damascus. “The world is a better place without this man in it,” State Department spokesperson Sean McCormack said: “one way or the other he was brought to justice.” Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell added that Moughniyeh has been “responsible for more deaths of Americans and Israelis than any other terrorist with the exception of Osama bin Laden.”

Joy was unconstrained in Israel too, as “one of the U.S. and Israel’s most wanted men” was brought to justice, the London Financial Times reported. Under the heading, “A militant wanted the world over,” an accompanying story reported that he was “superseded on the most-wanted list by Osama bin Laden” after 9/11 and so ranked only second among “the most wanted militants in the world.”

The terminology is accurate enough, according to the rules of Anglo-American discourse, which defines “the world” as the political class in Washington and London (and whoever happens to agree with them on specific matters). It is common, for example, to read that “the world” fully supported George Bush when he ordered the bombing of Afghanistan. That may be true of “the world,” but hardly of the world, as revealed in an international Gallup Poll after the bombing was announced. Global support was slight. In Latin America, which has some experience with U.S. behavior, support ranged from 2 percent in Mexico to 16 percent in Panama, and that support was conditional upon the culprits being identified (they still weren’t eight months later, the FBI reported), and civilian targets being spared (they were attacked at once). There was an overwhelming preference in the world for diplomatic/judicial measures, rejected out of hand by “the world.”

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US Quietly Breaks UN Treaty

February 27, 2008

The Huffington Post, Feb 26, 2008

by Leslie Griffith

On Friday, at a United Nations meeting in Geneva, the United States broke a series of legal promises. Keeping those promises would have proved extremely embarrassing to the United States government by pointing out that human rights abuses are being committed here at home, and at U.S. military installations abroad.

In 1994 the United States senate ratified the U.N. Convention on Elimination of all forms of racial discrimination promising to provide reports every two years on racial discrimination in the United States. The reports were to include anywhere in the world where the U.S. military is in charge. In other words, the United States military no matter where it was on the globe, agreed to report discrimination. That now includes Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib.

The treaty is the “supreme law of the land” under the U.S. Constitution, article 6, clause 2. Every nation that signed the treaty was charged with giving a national report on such basic areas of discrimination as health care, education, and prison terms. According to the Meiklejohn Civil Liberties Institute and the National Lawyers Guild, the United States on Friday presented a report to the United Nations Committee, never mentioning Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, or the behavior of U.S. corporations working under U.S. military contracts.

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Afghanistan: The Brutal and Unnecessary War the Media Aren’t Telling You About

February 27, 2008

By Joshua Holland, AlterNet. Posted February 26, 2008.

It’s easy to forget that the road to Guantánamo began in places like Kandahar and Jalalabad.

They say journalists provide the first draft of history. With the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan, that draft led to an almost universal consensus, at least among Americans, that the attack was a justifiable act of self-defense. The Afghanistan action is commonly viewed as a “clean” conflict as well — a war prosecuted with minimal loss of life, and one that didn’t bring the kind of international opprobrium onto the United States that the invasion of Iraq would lead to a year later.

Those views are also held by many Americans who are critical of the excesses of the Bush administration’s “War on Terror.” But there’s a disconnect there. Everything that followed — secret detentions, torture, the invasion of Iraq, the assault on domestic dissent — flowed inevitably from the failure to challenge Bush’s claim that an act of terror required a military response. The United States has a rich history of abandoning its purported liberal values during times of war, and it was our acceptance of Bush’s war narrative that led to the abuses that have shattered America’s moral standing before the world.

In his book, The Guantánamo Files, historian and journalist Andy Worthington offers a much-needed corrective to the draft of the Afghanistan conflict that most Americans saw on their nightly newscasts. Worthington is the first to detail the histories of all 774 prisoners who have passed through the Bush administration’s “legal black hole” at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. But his history starts in Afghanistan, and makes it abundantly clear that the road to Guantánamo — not to mention Abu Ghraib — began in places like Kandahar.

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Cabinet minutes in run-up to Iraq war ‘must be made public’

February 27, 2008

The Times, UK, February 27, 2008

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Soldiers from 7th Battalion, The Royal Regiment of Scotland at Basra Airport

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The intimate discussions about Iraq around the Cabinet table in the weeks leading up to the invasion in March 2003 must be made public, the Information Commissioner told the Government yesterday. It would be the first disclosure of Cabinet minutes recent enough for some members still to be serving in the Cabinet.

In a ruling that the Government is expected to fight to the High Court, the commissioner, Richard Thomas, decided that the Cabinet meetings should not be exempt under his interpretation of the Freedom of Information Act because of the “gravity and controversial nature” of the ministerial discussions.

If the Government loses appeals in the Information Tribunal and High Court it can impose a ministerial veto on the release of the minutes. There is no power to oppose such a veto.

Mr Thomas said that the Cabinet meetings took place between March 7 and March 17, 2003. The Cabinet Office confirmed that there had been two Cabinet meetings in this period and both are believed to have been attended by Lord Goldsmith, QC, then the Attorney-General.

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Reflections of Fidel Castro

February 26, 2008

What I wrote on Tuesday 19 [Feb. 2008]
Granma Internacional, Feb. 22, 2008

THAT Tuesday, there was no fresh international news. My modest message to the people of Monday, February 18 had no problem being widely circulated. I began to receive news from 11:00 a.m. The previous night I slept like never before. My conscience was at rest and I had promised myself a vacation. The days of tension, with the proximity of February 24, left me exhausted.

Today I shall not say anything about people in Cuba and the world who are close and who expressed their emotions in thousands of different ways. I also received a large number of comments collected from people on the street via confirmed methods who, almost without exception, and spontaneously, voiced their most profound sentiments of solidarity. One day I shall approach that subject.

At this point I am dedicating myself to the adversaries. I enjoyed watching the embarrassing position of all the candidates for the United States presidency. One by one they were obliged to announce their immediate demands of Cuba in order not to risk losing a single voter. Not that I am a Pulitzer Prize winner interrogating them on CNN on the most delicate political and even personal matters from Las Vegas, where the logic of chance of the roulette rules and where one has to make ones humble presence if aspiring to be president.

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One year in prison for Egyptian blogger

February 26, 2008

Amnesty International, Feb. 22, 2008

Call for Karim Amer’s immediate and unconditional release

UK demonstration demanding the release of Karim Amer

One year ago, Egyptian blogger Karim Amer was sentenced to four years’ imprisonment for the “crime” of publishing on the internet material critical of Islam and President Mubarak.

The then 23-year-old former al-Azhar University student was sentenced on 22 February 2007 and the Court of Appeal confirmed the sentence on 12 March of the same year. Amnesty International described the sentence as yet another slap in the face of freedom of expression in Egypt.

Amnesty International considers Karim Amer to be a prisoner of conscience, imprisoned on account of the peaceful expression of his views. The organisation condemned the four-year sentence he received and calls for his immediate and unconditional release.

Karim Amer, who is serving his prison sentence in Borg Al-Arab Prison, Alexandria, wrote in his letters to one of his legal counsels that he was beaten on 24 October 2007.

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Indian police reveal Kashmiri custody death toll

February 26, 2008

James Orr and agencies, Wednesday February 20 2008

A Kashmiri boy walks in a graveyard in Srinagar, India

A Kashmiri boy walks in a graveyard in Srinagar, India. Photograph: Mukhtar Khan/AP

More than 330 people have died while in police custody in Indian-controlled Kashmir over the past 18 years, official figures revealed today.

A police investigation found a further 111 people had disappeared from cells with no further information on what had happened to them.

Human rights groups believe government forces could be behind far more disappearances, claiming up to 10,000 people have gone missing since 1989.

India has an estimated 700,000 soldiers stationed in the disputed Himalayan region in an effort to combat groups fighting for independence.

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