Archive for July, 2008

US warned against missile strikes

July 29, 2008

The Peninsula, July 29, 2008
Source ::: AFP

Islamabad • Repeated US missile strikes in Pakistan could harm relations between the two countries, a top Pakistani military officer told a visiting US commander yesterday, a statement said.

The warning by General Tariq Majid, chairman of Pakistan’s joint chiefs of staff, to Lieutenant General Martin Dempsey, head of US Central Command, came hours after a suspected US missile strike in Pakistan’s tribal belt.

“Expressing concern over repeated cross-border missile attacks/firing by coalition and Afghan forces, General Tariq said that our sovereignty and territorial integrity must be respected,” a Pakistani military statement said.

“Any violation in this regard could be detrimental to bilateral relations,” it said.

Majid “also reemphasised that Pakistan armed forces are capable of handling any challenges to our security.”

Pakistani officials said a suspected missile strike by US-led coalition forces in Afghanistan early yesterday had killed three foreign militants and three boys in the South Waziristan tribal region.

The United States has stepped up missile attacks in Pakistan in recent months in response to a surge in violence in parts of Afghanistan bordering Pakistan. Fears have also grown in Pakistan of a possible US offensive in the tribal areas.

Rising violence in Afghanistan has meanwhile, prompted harsh words from Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who accused Pakistani intelligence of orchestrating an attack on the Indian embassy in Kabul earlier this month.

Pakistan’s Majid said the “baseless allegations against Pakistan could affect mutual trust and would definitely influence our efforts in the war against terror.”

Amnesty claims its website is being blocked

July 29, 2008

RINF.COM, July 28, 2008

JOURNALISTS working from the Olympics press centre in Beijing are unable to access, the Amnesty International website, the organisation claimed today.

A number of other websites are also reported to have been blocked, they claimed.

It comes as Amnesty International prepares to launch a new report evaluating the Chinese authorities’ human rights performance in the run-up to the Olympics.

It is embarrassing to the International Olympic Committee, who had highlighted the loosening of restrictions on foreign media in China as an example of an improvement in human rights brought about by the hosting of the Olympics.

Earlier this month Jaques Rogge, the IOC President, had claimed that “there will be no censorship on the internet.”

“The Olympics Countdown: Broken Promises” is due to be published online today at 21:00 GMT, Tuesday 29 July at 05:00am Hong Kong time.

It is the follow-up to “China: The Olympics Countdown: Crackdown on Activists Threatens Olympic Legacy” which was released in April this year, the new report claims to show that there has still been little progress towards fulfilling the Chinese authorities’ promise to improve human rights, but rather continued deterioration in key areas.

Report: Torture widespread in Palestinian jails

July 29, 2008

AP, July 28, 2008

Associated Press Writers

RAMALLAH, West Bank (AP) — One detainee told of being beaten with pipes and having a screwdriver rammed into his back. Another said interrogators tied his hands behind his back then lifted him into the air by his bound wrists.

Two human rights groups on Monday decried widespread torture of political opponents by bitter Palestinian rivals Hamas and Fatah, and Associated Press interviews with three victims and a doctor backed the reports of abuse.

The findings emerged as the two sides carried out fresh arrest sweeps in the West Bank and Gaza – highlighting deep tensions in the Palestinian territories after a flare-up in violence over the weekend.

In the West Bank on Monday, the security forces of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas rounded up more than 50 suspected Hamas supporters, including mosque preachers and intellectuals, in retaliation for a similar sweep of Fatah loyalists in Gaza, set off by a bombing that killed five Hamas members Friday.

Hamas violently seized power in Gaza in June 2007, leaving the Islamic militant group in charge of the coastal territory and Abbas’ forces controlling the West Bank.

The Palestinian human rights group Al Haq said Monday that arbitrary arrests of political opponents have been common since Hamas’ takeover of Gaza, with each side trying to defend its turf.

Continued . . .

The Military-Industrial Complex

July 29, 2008

It’s Much Later Than You Think

By Chalmers Johnson |, July 27, 2008

Most Americans have a rough idea what the term “military-industrial complex” means when they come across it in a newspaper or hear a politician mention it. President Dwight D. Eisenhower introduced the idea to the public in his farewell address of January 17, 1961. “Our military organization today bears little relation to that known by any of my predecessors in peacetime,” he said, “or indeed by the fighting men of World War II and Korea… We have been compelled to create a permanent armaments industry of vast proportions… We must not fail to comprehend its grave implications… We must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex.”

Although Eisenhower’s reference to the military-industrial complex is, by now, well-known, his warning against its “unwarranted influence” has, I believe, largely been ignored. Since 1961, there has been too little serious study of, or discussion of, the origins of the military-industrial complex, how it has changed over time, how governmental secrecy has hidden it from oversight by members of Congress or attentive citizens, and how it degrades our Constitutional structure of checks and balances.

From its origins in the early 1940s, when President Franklin Delano Roosevelt was building up his “arsenal of democracy,” down to the present moment, public opinion has usually assumed that it involved more or less equitable relations — often termed a “partnership” — between the high command and civilian overlords of the United States military and privately-owned, for-profit manufacturing and service enterprises. Unfortunately, the truth of the matter is that, from the time they first emerged, these relations were never equitable.

In the formative years of the military-industrial complex, the public still deeply distrusted privately owned industrial firms because of the way they had contributed to the Great Depression. Thus, the leading role in the newly emerging relationship was played by the official governmental sector. A deeply popular, charismatic president, FDR sponsored these public-private relationships. They gained further legitimacy because their purpose was to rearm the country, as well as allied nations around the world, against the gathering forces of fascism. The private sector was eager to go along with this largely as a way to regain public trust and disguise its wartime profit-making.

In the late 1930s and early 1940s, Roosevelt’s use of public-private “partnerships” to build up the munitions industry, and thereby finally overcome the Great Depression, did not go entirely unchallenged. Although he was himself an implacable enemy of fascism, a few people thought that the president nonetheless was coming close to copying some of its key institutions. The leading Italian philosopher of fascism, the neo-Hegelian Giovanni Gentile, once argued that it should more appropriately be called “corporatism” because it was a merger of state and corporate power. (See Eugene Jarecki’s The American Way of War, p. 69.)

Some critics were alarmed early on by the growing symbiotic relationship between government and corporate officials because each simultaneously sheltered and empowered the other, while greatly confusing the separation of powers. Since the activities of a corporation are less amenable to public or congressional scrutiny than those of a public institution, public-private collaborative relationships afford the private sector an added measure of security from such scrutiny. These concerns were ultimately swamped by enthusiasm for the war effort and the postwar era of prosperity that the war produced.

Continued . . .

A new consensus on Iraq

July 29, 2008

Eric Ruder looks at the factors driving the seeming convergence of Barack Obama, the Bush administration and other players when it comes to Iraq–and what policy they are actually converging around.

Socialist Worker, July 25, 2008

IS THE end of the U.S. occupation of Iraq within sight?

In late July, newspaper headlines announced that the Bush administration and Iraqi officials had agreed on a “general time horizon for meeting aspirational goals” for the withdrawal of U.S. troops. The fuzzy phraseology allows the Bush administration to deny that it had agreed to a “timetable” for withdrawal–something it has repeatedly denounced as “irresponsible” when advocated by Democrats.

Meanwhile, Barack Obama, who has promised to withdraw U.S. combat troops from Iraq by late 2010 if he becomes president, captured the world’s attention with a whirlwind tour that took him to Baghdad for meetings with Iraqi politicians and U.S. military leaders.

Shortly before he arrived, an interview with Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki in Germany’s Der Spiegel made headlines because Maliki basically endorsed Obama’s 2010 timeline for the withdrawal of U.S. troops–and made the pointed remark that “he who wants to exit in a quicker way has a better assessment of the situation in Iraq.”

The sudden convergence of Obama, Maliki and the Bush administration on Iraq left Republican presidential candidate John McCain out in the cold. For months, he has attacked Obama for failing to understand what’s at stake in Iraq with his 16-month withdrawal proposal. But suddenly, McCain looks like the one who’s out of step–with the heads of state in both the U.S. and Iraq.

As news of Maliki’s praise of Obama sunk in, McCain stuck to his script. “The fact is, if we had done what Senator Obama wanted to do, we would have lost,” McCain said. “And we would have faced a wider war. And we would have had greater problems in Afghanistan and the entire region. And Iran would have increased their influence.”

That perfectly describes the situation that already exists–as a direct product of the U.S. war on Iraq.

At the same time, McCain might be trying to change direction. “If there is any fixed position in John McCain’s policy agenda, it’s that we must never, ever, set a timetable for leaving Iraq,” observed the Chicago Tribune’s Steve Chapman. “So it was a surprise to hear him say Monday [July 21], when asked if our troops might depart in the next two years, ‘Oh, I think they could be largely withdrawn, as I’ve said.'”

Continued . . .

Brzezinski: Surge In Afghanistan Risky, Some McCain Backers Want World War IV

July 28, 2008

Seth Colter Walls | Huffington Post, July 25, 2008

All of a sudden, everyone seems to be in favor of sending more troops to Afghanistan. As Barack Obama encourages Europeans to dispatch more NATO forces and John McCain says that U.S. troops could be sent in greater numbers, the idea that a bigger military footprint is needed has become something of a consensus in the political mainstream.

But Dr. Zbigniew Brzezinski is not on board — though it’s not the first time President Jimmy Carter’s national security adviser has cast a skeptic’s eye on the usefulness of dispatching great numbers of troops to the country. In an famous 1998 interview with France’s Le Nouvel Observateur, Brzezinski admitted his own role in funding Afghanistan’s Mujahadeen in 1979, thereby “increasing the probability” that the Soviets would invade a tough, demoralizing, mountainous theater for combat.

And it’s with a similar perspective that Brzezinski now doubts the that the answer to what ails Afghanistan is more troops. “I think we’re literally running the risk of unintentionally doing what the Russians did. And that, if it happens, would be a tragedy,” Brzezinski told the Huffington Post on Friday. “When we first went into Afghanistan to overthrow the Taliban, we were actually welcomed by an overwhelming majority of Afghans. They did not see us as invaders, as they saw the Soviets.”

However, Brzezinski noted that just as the Soviets were able to delude themselves that they had a loyal army of communist-sympathizers who would transform the country, the U.S.-led forces may now be making similar mistakes. He said that the conduct of military operations “with little regard for civilian casualties” may accelerate the negative trend in local public opinion regarding the West’s role. “It’s just beginning, but it’s significant,” Brzezinski said.

Continued . . .

Israel steps up anti-Iran lobby in US

July 28, 2008

Press TV, Sun, 27 July 2008

Senior Israeli officials are slated to hold strategic talks with the United States on tactics likely to resolve Iran’s nuclear standoff.

According to the Israeli public radio, during his three-day visit, Defense Minister Ehud Barak is expected to hold talks with US officials on Iran’s nuclear program and enhancing the capabilities of Israeli armed forces.

Barak is to meet with Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, senior military officials, members of Congress, and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

Former Israeli defense minister Shaul Mofaz, believed to be campaigning to succeed Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, is also scheduled to visit the US on Wednesday.

His spokesperson told AFP that Mofaz would hold meetings with Cheney and Rice, adding that, “The main subject under discussion will be the threat posed by the Iranian nuclear program to the entire region.”

While Israel and the US claim to be committed to a diplomatic solution to Iran’s nuclear standoff with the West, they have repeatedly threatened to launch a military strike against Iran should the country continue uranium enrichment.

Earlier in July, in response to growing threats from Israel and the US, Iran test-fired nine long and medium-range ballistic missiles to demonstrate the country’s defensive military capabilities.

Tehran insists that its nuclear program is aimed at generating electricity for a growing population and is in line with the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

Islamophobia in the British media

July 28, 2008

By Barry Mason | WSWS, July 28, 2008

A recent Channel 4 Television “Dispatches” documentary, “Muslims under Siege,” showed how the demonisation of Muslims and the propagation of Islamophobia have become widespread in British media and politics.

Presented by journalist Peter Oborne, the programme was based on research for a pamphlet, also entitled, “Muslims under Siege”[1] written by Oborne and James Jones, a television journalist.

The “Dispatches” programme commissioned a survey of newspaper reportage by the Cardiff School of Journalism. It involved nearly 1,000 articles written since the year 2000, noting the content and context of articles pertaining to Muslims and Islam.

The findings showed that 69 percent of the articles presented Muslims as a source of problems not just in terms of terrorism but also on cultural issues, and that 26 percent of the articles portrayed Islam as dangerous, backward or irrational.

Professor Justin Lewis said the survey of the articles showed a “series of ideas repeated over time… that links Muslims with terrorism… with extremism… with incompatibility with British values. Those ideas are repeated over and over again and inevitably they are going to play a part in shaping public consciousness.”

A significant finding was that the emphasis of the articles switched this year from terrorism (27 percent) to religious and cultural issues (32 percent). Professor Lewis explained that the focus on Muslims having different cultural values is “in some ways more damaging, it portrays all British Muslims with this notion of being extreme and incompatible with British values.”

Many of the articles in tabloid newspapers were either outright lies or gross distortions. A Sun newspaper report of October 7, 2006 stated that a “Muslim hate mob” had attacked a house in an exclusive suburb of Windsor that was being refurbished to be used by British soldiers returning from Afghanistan. Whilst the house had been vandalised, no evidence could be produced to show it had been carried out by Muslims. Oborne spoke to the senior policeman who had investigated the case. He explained the attack had taken place overnight and there was no evidence to show who had done it.

Continued . . .

U.S. concedes Iraq victims were law-abiding, not insurgents

July 28, 2008

By Leila Fadel | McClatchy Newspapers, July 27, 2008

BAGHDAD — The U.S. military said Sunday that the three people killed last month after U.S. soldiers shot at their car in one of the most secured areas of Iraq were civilians, not criminals as the military initially reported.

The correction came more than a month after a bank manager at a branch inside the airport, Hafeth Aboud Mahdi, and two female bank employees were shot at by U.S. soldiers as they sped to work on a road within the secured airport compound. The road is used only by people with high-level security clearance badges. The car veered off the road, hit a concrete blast wall and burst into flames.

The original statement said that Mahdi and the two women were “criminals” and that an American convoy on the side of the secured road came under small-arms fire from the vehicle. Soldiers said they shot back. A weapon was found in the debris and two U.S. military vehicles were struck by bullets from the attack, the statement on June 25 said.

“When we are attacked, we will defend ourselves and will use deadly force if necessary,” Maj. Joey Sullinger, a spokesman for 4th Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, said in a statement at the time. “Such attacks endanger not only U.S. soldiers but also innocent civilians, including women and children, traveling the roadways of Baghdad.”

On Sunday the story changed and the tone was apologetic. A military statement said that neither the civilians who were killed nor the soldiers were at fault for the deaths. An investigation found that “the driver and passengers were law-abiding citizens of Iraq.”

Soldiers had pulled off the road because one of the vehicles in the convoy was having maintenance problems. As they worked on the vehicle they saw Mahdi’s car and thought it was moving too quickly toward them, the statement said. Believing they might be in danger, the soldiers warned the car. When the driver ignored the signals they shot at the vehicle, the statement said.

The alleged attack and the weapon that was said to have been recovered from the burned vehicle were misunderstandings, the statement said.

“This was an extremely unfortunate and tragic incident,” said Col. Allen Batschelet, chief of staff, MND-B and 4th Infantry Division, in a statement. “Our deepest regrets of sympathy and condolences go out to the family. We are taking several corrective measures to amend and eliminate the possibility of such situations happening in the future.”

Mahdi’s son, Mohammed Hafeth, said the statement was insufficient.

He said the image of his father’s burning vehicle haunts him. He’d waited in his father’s office that morning surprised that he wasn’t there yet. They’d left at nearly the same time that morning.

Hafeth drives bank employees to work. That morning his father offered to take one of Hafeth’s passengers and picked up another female bank employee who lived nearby their central Baghdad home.

As he sat in the office a colleague walked in and told Hafeth his father’s car was broken down on the airport road. Hafeth reached for his car keys.

“I’ll drive,” he recalled his colleague saying.

As they approached his father’s car he saw the flames. He jumped from the car and started to run toward the burning vehicle, but U.S. soldiers blocked his way.

“Go,” he recalled them ordering. But he said he couldn’t move. He dropped to the ground and wept as his father burned inside the vehicle.

“Why did they kill him like this?” Mohammed Hafeth said Sunday in a phone interview. “We demand that they send those soldiers to an Iraqi and American court.”

Mahdi was the father of six, including Hafeth. Hafeth said he now shoulders the financial responsibility for his family on his approximately $100-a-month salary.

“I was shocked that my father was killed by the Americans,” he said. “Supposedly we move in a secured area … we used to wave at them and they waved at us.”

Hafeth said he didn’t accept the compensation offered by the U.S. military. They offered $10,000, he said, and that wasn’t enough for his father’s car let alone his father’s life.

“My father was a peaceful man,” he said. “He never did anything wrong. Everybody knew his good reputation and everybody liked him.”

McClatchy Special Correspondent Laith Hammoudi contributed to this report.
McClatchy Newspapers 2008

Time To Exit The Empire Game

July 28, 2008

By Patrick J. Buchanan | WorldNetDaily, July 25, 2008

As any military historian will testify, among the most difficult of maneuvers is the strategic retreat. Napoleon’s retreat from Moscow, Lee’s retreat to Appomattox and MacArthur’s retreat from the Yalu come to mind. The British Empire abandoned India in 1947 – and a Muslim-Hindu bloodbath ensued.

France’s departure from Indochina was ignominious, and her abandonment of hundreds of thousands of faithful Algerians to the FALN disgraceful. Few American can forget the humiliation of Saigon ’75, or the boat people, or the Cambodian holocaust.

Strategic retreats that turn into routs are often the result of what Lord Salisbury called “the commonest error in politics … sticking to the carcass of dead policies.”

From 1989 to 1991, with the collapse of the Soviet Empire and breakup of the USSR, America had an opportunity to lay down its global burden and become again what Jeane Kirkpatrick called “a normal country in a normal time.”

We let the opportunity pass by, opting instead to use our wealth and power to convert the world to democratic capitalism. And we have reaped the reward of all the other empires that went before: a sinking currency, relative decline, universal enmity, a series of what Rudyard Kipling called “the savage wars of peace.”

Yet, opportunity has come anew for America to shed its imperial burden and become again the republic of our fathers.

The chairman of Chiang Kai-shek’s Kuomintang Party has just been hosted for six days by Beijing. Commercial flights have begun between Taipei and the mainland. Is not the time ripe for America to declare our job done, that the relationship between China and Taiwan is no longer a vital interest of the United States?

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s government wants a status of forces agreement with a timetable for full withdrawal of U.S. troops. Is it not time to say yes, to declare that full withdrawal is our goal as well, that the United States seeks no permanent bases in Iraq?

On July 4, Reuters, in a story headlined “Poland rejects U.S. missile offer,” reported from Warsaw: “Poland spurned as insufficient on Friday a U.S. offer to boost its air defenses in return for basing anti-missile interceptors on its soil. …

“‘We have not reached a satisfactory result on the issue of increasing the level of Polish security,’ Prime Minister Donald Tusk told a news conference after studying the latest U.S. proposal.”

Tusk is demanding that America “provide billions of dollars worth of U.S. investment to upgrade Polish air defenses in return for hosting 10 two-stage missile interceptors,” said Reuters.

Reflect if you will on what is going on here.

By bringing Poland into NATO, we agreed to defend her against the world’s largest nation, Russia, with thousands of nuclear weapons. Now, the Polish regime is refusing us permission to site 10 anti-missile missiles on Polish soil, unless we pay Poland billions for the privilege.

Has Uncle Sam gone senile?

No. Tusk has Sam figured out. The old boy is so desperate to continue in his Cold War role as world’s Defender of Democracy he will even pay the Europeans – to defend Europe.

Why not tell Tusk that if he wants an air defense system, he can buy it; that we Americans are no longer willing to pay Poland for the privilege of defending Poland; that the anti-missile missile deal is off. And use cancellation of the missile shield to repair relations with a far larger and more important power, Vladimir Putin’s Russia.

Consider, too, the opening South Korea is giving us to end our 60-year commitment to defend her against the North. For weeks, Seoul hosted anti-American protests against a trade deal that allows U.S. beef into South Korea. Koreans say they fear mad-cow disease.

Yet, when a new deal was cut to limit imports to U.S. beef from cattle less than 30 months old, that too was rejected by the protesters. Behind the demonstrations lies a sentiment of anti-Americanism.

In 2002, a Pew Research Center survey of 42 nations found 44 percent of South Koreans, second highest number of any country, holding an unfavorable view of the United States. A Korean survey put the figure at 53 percent, with 80 percent of youth holding a negative view. By 39 percent to 35 percent, South Koreans saw the United States as a greater threat than North Korea.

Can someone explain why we keep 30,000 troops on the DMZ of a nation whose people do not even like us?

The raison d’etre for NATO was the Red Army on the Elbe. It disappeared two decades ago. The Chinese army left North Korea 50 years ago. Yet NATO endures and the U.S. Army stands on the DMZ. Why?

Because, if all U.S. troops were brought home from Europe and Korea, 10,000 rice bowls would be broken. They are the rice bowls of politicians, diplomats, generals, journalists and think tanks who would all have to find another line of work.

And that is why the Empire will endure until disaster befalls it, as it did all the others.

Pat Buchanan was twice a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination and the Reform Party’s candidate in 2000. He is also a founder and editor of The American Conservative. Now a political analyst for MSNBC and a syndicated columnist, he served three presidents in the White House, was a founding panelist of three national TV shows, and is the author of seven books.

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