Archive for March, 2008

The Farce goes on

March 31, 2008

Uruknet, March 31, 2008

Comment by Khalid Amayreh

 

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As prospects of true peace in Palestine look as bleak as ever, mainly because of Israeli intransigence and American complicity with the Zionist state, peace-loving people in the Middle East and around the world are once again affronted by yet another disingenuous visit to the region by US Secretary of State.

Rice has made numerous visits to Ramallah and occupied Jerusalem ever since she became Secretary of State more than three years ago.

However, the overall situation pertaining to the Palestinian plight has more or less remained unchanged. In fact, one can safely contend that the Israeli occupation and apartheid are now much worse than they were three years ago.

Hence, it is highly unlikely that Rice’s current visit is going to make any difference.

It is really not difficult to pinpoint the causes and reasons for the failure of American “peace efforts” in this part of the world.

The US knows very well that Israel will not move even one centimeter toward peace without serious American pressure. But the US government lacks both the inclination and the willingness to do so. The Jewish-control of Congress and the virtual complete subservience of Bush administration to the powerful Jewish lobby, known as AIPAC, as well as to pro-Israeli neocons, make any breakthrough, even any genuine progress in peacemaking , extremely unlikely.

Continued . . . 

Classified Memo Reveals Iraqi Prisoners as “Starving”

March 31, 2008

A classified memo written by a top military official stationed in Western Iraq reveals that a prison in downtown Fallujah is so overcrowded and dirty that it does not even meet basic “minimal levels of hygiene for human beings.”

“The conditions in these jails are so bad that I think we need to do the right thing in terms of caring for the prisoners even with our own dollars, or release them,” says the memo, written late last month by Maj. Gen. John Kelly, commander of U.S forces in western Iraq.

The classified document, leaked to the website Wikileaks, a website where whistleblowers can “reveal unethical behavior in their governments and corporations,” was authenticated by the organization.

The memo contains other shocking revelations about conditions at the jail, including a massive shortage of food and water. The prison is said to be run by Iraqi officials. US Marines oversee operation of the facility.

Continued . . .

It’s Time to Promote Peace in Afghanistan

March 31, 2008
 
Global Research, March 30, 2008

In Canada the debate on Afghanistan has had a very narrow focus. The primary concern has been the role of the Canadian Forces in the counter-insurgency war. How many more Canadians will be killed? How long will our forces be in Kandahar province? What will the U.S. government think if Canada withdraws from the southern zone of conflict? If Canada pulls its forces out of Afghanistan, will there be chaos?

It is time for Canadians to consider what the Afghan people want. At the top of the list would certainly be an end to the death, destruction and despair, the other 3-D policy. A variety of surveys show at least 70% of Afghans do not want to see a return of the dreaded Taliban. Yet an even larger percentage supports a negotiated settlement with the Taliban to end the war. The U.S.-NATO policy, supported by recent Canadian governments, perpetuates the war.

Outside of Canada there is widespread understanding that the counter insurgency war is not working. This past year was the most destructive since the U.S. invasion, with at least 6200 Afghans killed, a 24% increase in roadside bombs, and a dramatic increase in suicide bombs. The United Nations, as well as U.S. and U.K. military leaders, report that the zone of operation of the insurgents is spreading. Attacks are now up to 550 per month.

Continued . . .

Freed top Pakistani judge wants job back

March 31, 2008

USA TODAY, March 31, 2008

By Matthew Pennington, Associated Press Writer

QUETTA, Pakistan — A week after his release from house arrest, Pakistan’s deposed chief justice is launching a drive to win back his old job, in what could be a further political blow to embattled President Pervez Musharraf.

Hundreds of black-suited lawyers planned a hero’s welcome in Quetta on Monday for Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry as he makes the first in a series of trips across Pakistan to crank up support for the reinstatement of judges purged by the U.S.-backed president.

“By staging a marvelous welcome we want to send a message to the dictator, that the chief justice is the most popular person in Pakistan, wholeheartedly supported by the masses,” said Ali Ahmed Kurd, a veteran lawyers’ leader and Chaudhry supporter. “The judiciary must be restored.”

Musharraf replaced senior judges with appointees loyal to him when he declared emergency rule in November. His actions stirred popular resentment of military rule and spurred a political sea change in Pakistan more than eight years after the president took power in a military coup.

Musharraf could lose his already weakening hold on the presidency if the old judiciary returns because the Supreme Court could reconsider the legality of his contested re-election as head of state last year. Opposition parties swept Feb. 18 parliamentary elections and now lead a civilian administration.

Islam is world’s largest religion: Vatican

March 30, 2008

Globe and Mail

Associated Press

VATICAN CITY — Islam has surpassed Roman Catholicism as the world’s largest religion, the Vatican newspaper said Sunday.

“For the first time in history, we are no longer at the top: Muslims have overtaken us,” Monsignor Vittorio Formenti said in an interview with the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano.

Monsignor Formenti compiles the Vatican’s yearbook.

He said that Catholics accounted for 17.4 per cent of the world population — a stable percentage — while Muslims were at 19.2 per cent.

“It is true that while Muslim families, as is well known, continue to make a lot of children, Christian ones on the contrary tend to have fewer and fewer,” the monsignor said.

Monsignor Formenti said that the data refer to 2006.

The figures on Muslims had been put together by Muslim countries and then provided to the United Nations, he said, adding that the Vatican could only vouch for its own data.

When considering all Christians and not just Catholics, Christians make up 33 per cent of the world population, Monsignor Formenti said.

Spokesmen for the Vatican and the United Nations did not immediately return phone calls seeking comment Sunday.

Russian intelligence sees U.S. military buildup on Iran border

March 30, 2008

RIA Novosti, Russia, March 27, 2008

 

     

MOSCOW, March 27 (RIA Novosti) – Russian military intelligence services are reporting a flurry of activity by U.S. Armed Forces near Iran’s borders, a high-ranking security source said Tuesday.

“The latest military intelligence data point to heightened U.S. military preparations for both an air and ground operation against Iran,” the official said, adding that the Pentagon has probably not yet made a final decision as to when an attack will be launched.

He said the Pentagon is looking for a way to deliver a strike against Iran “that would enable the Americans to bring the country to its knees at minimal cost.”

He also said the U.S. Naval presence in the Persian Gulf has for the first time in the past four years reached the level that existed shortly before the invasion of Iraq in March 2003.

Col.-Gen. Leonid Ivashov, vice president of the Academy of Geopolitical Sciences, said last week that the Pentagon is planning to deliver a massive air strike on Iran’s military infrastructure in the near future.

A new U.S. carrier battle group has been dispatched to the Gulf.

The USS John C. Stennis, with a crew of 3,200 and around 80 fixed-wing aircraft, including F/A-18 Hornet and Superhornet fighter-bombers, eight support ships and four nuclear submarines are heading for the Gulf, where a similar group led by the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower has been deployed since December 2006.

The U.S. is also sending Patriot anti-missile systems to the region.

Caricaturing Danish Muslims

March 30, 2008

In These Times, March 28, 2008

By Jacob Wheeler

Asmaa Abdol-Hamid lost her bid for parliament last year after the right-wing Danish People’s Party targeted her for refusing to remove her hijab or shake hands with men.
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In early 2006, violence across the Islamic world rocked the quaint Scandinavian country of Denmark after one of its major newspapers, Jyllands-Posten, published inflammatory cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad months earlier. The images enraged many Muslims, some of whom burned Danish flags and embassies to protest the caricatures of their prophet, which Islam forbids from being depicted at all.

One of the 12 caricatures of Muhammad depicted a man with a bomb under his turban—a move presumably designed to provoke debate about Islam’s relationship with the West.

Few understand this clash of cultures as well as Asmaa Abdol-Hamid, a Danish immigrant born in the United Arab Emirates to Palestinian parents. The 26-year-old social worker from Odense (the city where writer Hans Christian Anderson was born) ran for parliament last year with the leftist Red-Green Alliance party, but came up short after the right-wing Danish People’s Party launched a smear campaign against her. The reason? Abdol-Hamid wears a hijab and she chooses not to shake hands with men—even in parliament.

Denmark is home to 5.4 million people, nearly 200,000 of whom are first- or second-generation Muslim immigrants. Though Denmark prides itself as a tolerant and open nation—with a welfare state, socialized medicine and once welcoming immigration policies—many of the country’s religious minorities see things differently.

In These Times spoke with Asmaa Abdol-Hamid just days after the infamous caricatures were reprinted in more than a dozen Danish newspapers, following reports of renewed death threats against the illustrator of the bomb-in-the-turban cartoon, Kurt Vestergaard.

What are the biggest challenges that minorities face in Denmark today?

The biggest challenge for Danish Muslims is to be viewed as equal citizens. What I experienced following the cartoon crisis and the worldwide reactions to them is that young Muslims in Denmark are afraid something awful will happen to them. They are just waiting for their turn, and that’s truly scary.

But Muslims in Denmark are Danish citizens. They will live here for the rest of their lives and raise their children here. We have to teach people that they are equal.

Too many people believe that you can’t be a Dane and a Muslim at the same time, especially the Danish People’s Party. But today, many Danes are connected to Islam. Their religion isn’t a barrier to them being good citizens in the Danish community. So we have to view Denmark today in a different light.

Continued . . . 

‘The Hidden Iraq’ – A Jaw-Dropping Video

March 30, 2008
 Break For News,

Posted: March 26, 2008

 Post subject: ‘The Hidden Iraq’ – A Jaw-Dropping Video

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Quote:

It is impossible not to be moved by this no-holds-barred
film of the harsh actuality in Iraq, five years after invasion.

Kathy and I strongly recommend you view the film and circulate this url:

‘The Hidden Iraq’ – A Jaw-Dropping Video
http://breakfornews.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=4159

This UK Channel 4 film was transmitted on 18th March, 2008.

Quote:
Jon Snow’s Hidden Iraq

BreakForNews Playlist automatically screens all 6 video sgements
*Contains distressing scenes not usually shown on mainstream TV*

BFN Playlist URL: http://www.youtube.com/view_play_list?p=3C0C343002372301
Thanks to YouTube member Tagemandbagem for the video upload

The Smart Way Out of a Foolish War

March 30, 2008

The Washinton Post, March 30, 2008

By Zbigniew Brzezinski

Both Democratic presidential candidates agree that the United States should end its combat mission in Iraq within 12 to 16 months of their possible inauguration. The Republican candidate has spoken of continuing the war, even for a hundred years, until “victory.” The core issue of this campaign is thus a basic disagreement over the merits of the war and the benefits and costs of continuing it.

The case for U.S. disengagement from combat is compelling in its own right. But it must be matched by a comprehensive political and diplomatic effort to mitigate the destabilizing regional consequences of a war that the outgoing Bush administration started deliberately, justified demagogically and waged badly. (I write, of course, as a Democrat; while I prefer Sen. Barack Obama, I speak here for myself.)

The contrast between the Democratic argument for ending the war and the Republican argument for continuing is sharp and dramatic. The case for terminating the war is based on its prohibitive and tangible costs, while the case for “staying the course” draws heavily on shadowy fears of the unknown and relies on worst-case scenarios. President Bush‘s and Sen. John McCain’s forecasts of regional catastrophe are quite reminiscent of the predictions of “falling dominoes” that were used to justify continued U.S. involvement in Vietnam. Neither has provided any real evidence that ending the war would mean disaster, but their fear-mongering makes prolonging it easier.

Continued . . .

U.S.-Led Coalition Forces Bomb Shiite Militia in Basra

March 30, 2008

BASRA, Iraq – US-led coalition warplanes dropped bombs on Shiite militia positions in Basra overnight, directly entering the fray for the first time since the Iraqi army launched a crackdown in the southern city, a British military spokesman said on Friday.0328 08

Two bombing missions were carried out against specific targets, Major Tom Holloway told AFP.

“It was on identified rocket teams in the city and there was a concentration of militia troops which was bombed,” he said, adding that the bombings were the first by the coalition forces since Iraqi military operations started in Basra on Tuesday.

Holloway said at Basra airport, where the British contingent of around 4,100 troops are based, that coalition forces have also been providing air support, surveillance and are refuelling Iraqi helicopters and transport planes.

“Coalition forces are providing capability in those niche areas that the Iraqi armed forces don’t have,” Holloway said.

“Particularly, we are providing them air power over the top of the city. The Iraqi air force does exist but doesn’t yet have fast jets. We are also providing surveillance and that is being fed back into the Iraqi’s operational command centre in Basra.

“And also they have been providing air support in terms of dropping munitions on identified militia targets in the city.”

Coalition forces rather than the Iraqi army are directing the air support, the British spokesman added. “The Iraqi air support is being directed by our call signs.”

© 2008 Agence France Presse