Archive for February, 2010

The Rationale for Keeping U.S. Forces in Iraq

February 27, 2010
by Jeremy R. Hammond, Foreign Policy Journal, February 25, 2010

With the deadline for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq at the end of next year creeping nearer, the U.S. has to find some way to convince the Iraqi government to allow a continued military presence, which is the likely outcome despite the U.S.-Iraq status of forces agreement containing the deadline.

One means by which this will be accomplished, relabeling “combat forces” something else, perhaps remaining as “military advisers” or something to that effect, has already been discussed. Thomas E. Ricks outlines another rationale for maintaining a military occupation of Iraq in the New York Times, offering up a variation on a theme that has been familiar throughout the war that is likely to become a mainstay in the political discourse.

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Israel/Gaza: General Assembly Presses for War Justice

February 27, 2010

Most EU States Support Call for Israeli, Palestinian War Crimes Investigations; US and Canada Opposed

Human Rights Watch, February 26, 2010

“The UN resolution sends a strong message that Israel and Hamas need to conduct genuine investigations into the allegations of wartime abuses and punish those responsible.  Governments are refusing to exempt the Israeli-Palestinian conflict from demands for justice made for other conflicts around the world.”

Steve Crawshaw, UN advocacy director at Human Rights Watch

(New York) – Today’s United Nations General Assembly resolution calling for impartial Gaza war crimes investigations is an important step toward justice for all civilian victims of last year’s conflict, Human Rights Watch said.  A majority of UN members, including most European Union (EU) states, voted for the resolution, increasing pressure on Israel and Hamas to conduct credible investigations into the allegations of war crimes by their forces.

A November 2009 General Assembly resolution calling for credible domestic investigations by all parties to the conflict garnered support from only 5 EU member states.

“The UN resolution sends a strong message that Israel and Hamas need to conduct genuine investigations into the allegations of wartime abuses and punish those responsible,” said Steve Crawshaw, UN advocacy director at Human Rights Watch.  “Governments are refusing to exempt the Israeli-Palestinian conflict from demands for justice made for other conflicts around the world.”

By a vote of 98 to 7, with 31 abstentions, the General Assembly called on Israel and Hamas to conduct thorough and impartial investigations into the serious violations of international human rights and humanitarian law documented by the UN Fact-Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict (the Goldstone report).  Fifty-six countries did not vote.  The resolution requires Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to report back to the General Assembly within five months on the progress both parties have made.

The Goldstone report concluded that both Israel and Hamas had committed war crimes and possible crimes against humanity.

Sixteen EU members voted for the resolution, including permanent Security Council members France and the United Kingdom.

The countries voting against were Canada, Israel, Macedonia, Micronesia, Nauru, Panama, and the United States.

“Washington’s objection to this resolution reveals a blatant double standard when it comes to international justice,” Crawshaw said.  “Why should the victims of war crimes in Gaza not benefit from the same US demands for accountability as victims in Congo and Darfur?”

In its resolution on November 5, 2009, the General Assembly called on Israel and Hamas to conduct credible investigations within three months.  In late January 2010, Israel and Hamas delivered their reports on domestic investigations to the UN.  Based on those reports, Secretary-General Ban told the General Assembly on February 4 that, because the domestic processes were ongoing, “no determination can be made on the implementation of the resolution by the parties concerned.” He repeated his call on all parties “to carry out credible domestic investigations into the conduct of the Gaza conflict.”

Human Rights Watch has strongly criticized both Israel and Hamas for failing to conduct thorough and impartial investigations into the many alleged violations by their forces during the Gaza conflict.

To date, Israel has not prosecuted any soldier or commander for unlawful killings or other serious laws-of-war violations during the Gaza conflict.  Nor has it conducted credible investigations into military policies that may have contravened the laws of war or facilitated war crimes. These include the targeting of Hamas political institutions and Gaza police; the use of heavy artillery and white phosphorus munitions in populated areas; and the rules of engagement for aerial drone operators and ground forces.

Hamas has not disciplined or prosecuted anyone for ordering or carrying out thousands of deliberate or indiscriminate rocket attacks against Israeli population centers before, during, and after the fighting in December 2008 and January 2009.  Killings and other serious abuses by Hamas security forces against suspected collaborators and political rivals in Gaza have also gone unpunished.

“The United States, Canada, and other governments that voted against the Gaza resolution missed an opportunity to help break the cycle of violence and impunity that poses a major obstacle to the peaceful resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” Crawshaw said.

Acclaimed Indian artist awarded Qatari citizenship

February 27, 2010

Middle East Online, First Published 2010-02-25

Hindu extremists offered a 11.5-million-dollar reward for his death

M.F. Husain ‘honoured by Qatar nationality’ as he lives in exile after Hindu death threats.

NEW DELHI – Acclaimed Indian artist M.F. Husain, who went into voluntary exile after getting death threats from Hindu extremist, was granted Qatari citizenship this week, a report said Thursday.

The 94-year-old Muslim painter was bestowed nationality by the emirate’s royal family without applying for it, The Hindu newspaper reported.

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Malaysia – Caning the messenger?

February 27, 2010
By Teymoor Nabili, The Asia Blog, Feb 27. 2010

Photo from EPA

The managing editor of a leading Malaysian newspaper has received a threatenig letter from the government over an an editorial his newspaper published criticing the decision to cane three women for adultery.

The government of Malaysia has sent a threatening legal letter to The Star newspaper, after its managing editor, P Gunasegaram, spoke out against the decision to cane three women for adultery.

In an editorial titled “Persuasion, not compulsion”, Gunasegaram questioned whether the sentence imposed on the women was approriate to their offence, and expressed concern about the situation in Malaysia if the interpretation of shariah law in the country approaches the situation in other nations.

We don’t want public flogging, we don’t want arms chopped off, we don’t want people to be stoned to death, and we don’t want people to be burned at the stake.

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Palestinians Excluded From Bulk of West Bank

February 27, 2010

By Mel Frykberg, Inter Press Service

IDNA, Occupied West Bank, Feb 27, 2010 (IPS) – Israel’s illegal occupation and continued expropriation of Palestinian land in the West Bank has left 2.5 million Palestinians living there with effectively less than 40 percent of the territory.

Muhammad Al Bedan, 55, a vegetable farmer with 14 children, struggles to support his family on just over 600 US dollars a month.

“We can only afford to eat chicken twice a month and red meat is out of the question. I can’t afford to buy my children new clothing. They rely on hand-me-downs. Three of my children have had to leave school without completing their education so that they can help to support the family,” Al Bedan told IPS.

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Pentagon chief condemns European “pacifism”

February 26, 2010

By Bill Van Auken,,  Feb 26, 2010

Amid growing fears in Washington that European powers may withdraw their troops from Afghanistan, just as the US escalates the war there, Defense Secretary Robert Gates delivered a speech blasting Europe for insufficient militarization and warning of a deepening crisis in the NATO alliance.

Gates gave the speech February 23 at Washington’s National Defense University, a training center for mid-level and senior US officers. His audience was a forum on the reworking of the “strategic concept”—essentially the mission statement—of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

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Mossad ‘regularly’ faked Australian passports

February 26, 2010

Middle East Online, First Published 2010-02-26

Alleged Australian passport Photo released by Dubai police

Ex-Mossad agent: Israel uses ‘false flag’ in most operations to avoid suspicion in Arab states.

SYDNEY – Israel’s Mossad has regularly faked Australian passports for its spies, an ex-agent said on Thursday, as anger grew over the use of foreign travel documents for an alleged assassination.

Former Mossad case officer Victor Ostrovsky told ABC public radio that the spy agency had used Australian passports for previous operations before last month’s assassination of a top Hamas commander in Dubai that has been blamed on Israel.

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Prosecuting Bush for War Crimes

February 26, 2010

Charlotte Dennett and Vincent Bugliosi Want Bush in the Dock

By Russell Mokhiber,,  Feb 25, 2010

In 2008, Charlotte Dennett ran for Attorney General in Vermont.

Dennett’s key campaign pledge – if elected, she would appoint Vincent Bugliosi as a special prosecutor to seek a murder indictment against George W. Bush for the deaths of U.S. soldiers in Iraq.

Bugliosi was the author of The Prosecution of George W. Bush for Murder (Perseus Books, 2008)

He also had an enviable track record as an assistant district attorney in Los Angeles – 105 out of 106 successful felony jury convictions and 21 murder convictions without a loss.

Bugliosi is best known for his 1974 classic Helter Skelter – which documents his successful prosecution of Charles Manson and several other members of the Manson family for the 1969 murders of Hollywood actress Sharon Tate and six others.

Manson was not present at the murder scene.

When Dennett announced her candidacy for Attorney General of Vermont in September 2008, Bugliosi was at her side.

Now, Dennett has written a book – The People v. Bush: One Lawyer’s Campaign to Bring the President to Justice and the National Grassroots Movement She Encounters Along the Way (Chelsea Green, 2010).

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The Iraq Withdrawal: Obama vs. the Pentagon

February 26, 2010

by Raed Jarrar,, Feb 25, 2010

This Monday, Army Gen. Ray Odierno, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, asked officials in DC to approve contingency plans to delay the withdrawal of US combat forces. The next day, the New York times published an op-ed asking president Obama to delay the US withdrawal and keep some tens of thousands of troops in Iraq indefinitely. Both the Pentagon and NY times article argue that prolonging the occupation is for Iraq’s own good. According to these latest attempts to prolong the occupation, if the US were to leave Iraqis alone the sky would fall, a genocidal civil war will erupt, and Iran will takeover their nation and rip it apart.

Excuses to prolong the military intervention in Iraq have been changing since 1990. Whether is was liberating Kuwait, protecting the region from Iraq, protecting the world from Iraq’s WMDs, punishing Iraq for its role in the 9/11 attacks, finding Saddam Hussien and his sons, fighting the Baathists and Al-Qaeda, or the other dozens of stories the U.S. government never ran out of reasons to justify a continuous intervention in Iraq. Under President Bush, the withdrawal plan was linked to conditions on the ground, and had no fixed deadlines. Bush only promise what that “as Iraqis stand up, we will stand down”. But Iraqis never managed to stand up, and the US never had to stand down.

Obama came with a completely different doctrine that thankfully makes prolonging the occupation harder than just making up a new lame excuse. He has promised on the campaign trail to withdraw all combat troops by August 31st of this year bringing the total number of US troops down to less than 50,000. Obama has also announced repeatedly that he will abide by the binding bi-lateral agreement between the two governments that requires all the US troops and contractors to leave Iraq by the end of 2011 without leaving any military bases behind. Both these promises are time-based, and not linked to the conditions on the ground. In addition, President Obama announced last week his intention to call an end to Operation Iraqi Freedom by August 31st, and to start the new non-combat mission as of September 1st this. The new mission, renamed “Operation New Dawn”, should end by December 31st 2011 with the last US soldier and contractor out of Iraq.

Conditions on the ground in Iraq are horrible. After seven years under the US occupation, Iraqis are still without water, electricity, education, or health care. Iran’s intervention and control of the Iraqi government stays at unprecedented levels. Iraq’s armed forces are still infiltrated by the militias and controlled by political parties. But so far, the Obama administration has not attempted to use any of these facts as a reason to change the combat forces withdrawal plan, or to ask the Iraqi government to renegotiate the bi-lateral security agreement. This week’s calls to prolong the occupation are surprising because they expose a conflict between the Pentagon on the one hand and the White House and Congress on the other hand. In fact, the executive and legislative branches in both the US and Iraq seem to be in agreement about implementing the time-based withdrawal, but the Pentagon is disagreeing with them all.

Obama should not forget that he is the Commander-in-Chief, and should stand up to the Pentagon. Iraq is broken, but the US military occupation is not a part of the solution. We cannot fix what the military occupation has damaged by prolonging it, neither can we help Iraqis build a democratic system by occupying them. We cannot protect Iraqis from other interventions by continuing our own. The first step in helping Iraqis work for a better future is sticking to the time-based withdrawal plan that Obama has promised and the two governments have agreed upon. President Obama should send a clear message to the Iraqi people to confirm that he is going to fulfill his promises and abide by the binding security agreement with Iraq, and this message must also be clear to the American people in this pivotal elections year.

Raed Jarrar is an Iraqi-born political analyst, and a Senior Fellow with Peace Action based in Washington, DC.

Civilians pay price of Marjah assault

February 26, 2010

Morning Star Online, Thursday 25 February 2010

by Tom Mellen
WAR OF TERROR: An Afghan man recuperates  from his injuries at an Italian charitable hospital in Lashkar Gah,  Helmand province, on Wednesday

The human cost of Nato’s massive assault on the Afghan town of Marjah began to emerge on Thursday as Red Cross officials reported that at least 40,000 people trapped by the fighting have little or no access to medical care.

The head of the International Committee of the Red Cross in Helmand province Bernard Metraux said that taxi drivers have been ferrying scores of injured to a makeshift hospital in Lashkar Gah, 20 miles north-east of Marjah.

Mr Metraux said that the “taxi-ambulance transport strategy” took several rounds of painstaking negotiations with Nato commanders and guerillas, who have helped navigate the wounded through minefields to get them to medical care.

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