Archive for November, 2010

Pakistan: Repeal Blasphemy Laws

November 28, 2010

Legal Discrimination  Emboldens Extremists

Human Rights Watch, November 23, 2010

A police official takes the thumb print of Aasia Bibi, a Pakistani Christian woman who has been sentenced to death for blasphemy, on an affidavit stating her innocence after she was visited by the Governor of the Punjab Province Salman Taseer (R) at the central jail in Sheikhupura, Punjab Province, on November 20, 2010.

© 2010 Reuters

The Punjab provincial government is either in denial about threats to minorities or is following a policy of willful discrimination. Provincial law enforcement authorities need to put aside their prejudices and protect religious minorities who are clearly in serious danger from both the Taliban and sectarian militant groups historically supported by the state.

Ali Dayan Hasan, senior South Asia researcher at Human Rights Watch.

(New York) – Pakistan’s government should immediately introduce legislation to repeal the country’s blasphemy law and other discriminatory legislation, Human Rights Watch said today. The government should also take legal action against Islamist militant groups responsible for threats and violence against minorities and other vulnerable groups, Human Rights Watch said.

While international and Pakistani human rights groups have long called for the repeal of the blasphemy law, it has come under renewed scrutiny in recent weeks as a consequence of a death sentence imposed on November 8, 2010, on Aasia Bibi, an illiterate farmhand from Sheikhupura district in Punjab province. She was charged under the blasphemy law after a June 2009 altercation with fellow farm workers who refused to drink water she had touched, contending it was unclean because she was a Christian. She is the first woman in Pakistan’s history to be sentenced to death for blasphemy, though others have been charged and given lesser sentences.

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Robert Fisk: Oceans of blood and profits for the mongers of war

November 28, 2010
Robert Fisk, The Independent, Nov 27, 2010

As casualties continue to mount in Afghanistan, so does the cost of war after nine years PA 

As casualties continue to mount in Afghanistan, so does the cost of war after nine years

Since there are now three conflicts in the greater Middle East; Afghanistan, Iraq, Israel/”Palestine” and maybe another Lebanese war in the offing, it might be a good idea to take a look at the cost of war. 

Not the human cost – 80 lives a day in Iraq, unknown numbers in Afghanistan, one a day in Israel/”Palestine” (for now) – but the financial one. I’m still obsessed by the Saudi claim for its money back after Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait in 1990. Hadn’t Saudi Arabia, King Fahd reminded Saddam, financed his eight-year war against Iran to the tune of $25,734,469,885.80? For the custodian of the two holy places, Mecca and Medina, to have shelled out $25bn for Saddam to slaughter his fellow Muslims was pretty generous – although asking for that extra 80 cents was surely a bit greedy.

But then again, talking of rapacity, the Arabs spent $84bn underwriting the Anglo-American operation against Saddam in 1990-91 – three times what Fahd gave to Saddam for the Iran war – and the Saudi share alone came to $27.5bn. In all, the Arabs sustained a loss of $620bn because of the 1990 Iraqi invasion of Kuwait – almost all of which was paid over to the United States and its allies. Washington was complaining in August 1991 that Saudi Arabia and Kuwait still owed $7.5bn. Western wars in the Middle East, it seemed, could be fought for profit as well as victory. Maybe Iraq could have brought us more treasure if it hadn’t ended in disaster. At least it would help to have paid for America’s constant infusion of cash to Israel’s disastrous wars.

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Video: Frost over the World – Ilan Pappe

November 28, 2010

Israeli historian Ilan Pappe speaks, November 27, 2010

The Israeli historian talks about the possibility of a one-state solution in the Middle East peace process. Plus, Mark Regev, Binyamin Netanyahu’s spokesman, talks about settlement building in the West Bank and the stalled Middle East peace negotiations. And actress Samantha Bond talks about playing Miss Moneypenny in the James Bond films and working alongside her husband in her new play, ‘An Ideal Husband’.

Paul C. Roberts: The Stench of American Hypocrisy, Part 2

November 27, 2010

By Paul Craig Roberts, Foreign Policy Journal, Nov 23, 2010

In a recent column, “The Stench of American Hypocrisy,” I noted that US public officials and media are on their high horse about the rule of law in Burma while the rule of law collapses unremarked in the US. Americans enjoy beating up other peoples for American sins. Indeed, hypocrisy has become the defining characteristic of the United States.

Hypocrisy in America is now so commonplace it is no longer noticed. Consider the pro-football star Michael Vick. In a recent game Vick scored 6 touchdowns, totally dominating the playing field. His performance brought new heights of adulation, causing National Public Radio to wonder if the sports public shouldn’t retain a tougher attitude toward a dog torturer who spent 1.5 years in prison for holding dog fights.

I certainly do not approve of mistreating animals. But where is the outrage over the US government’s torture of people? How can the government put a person in jail for torturing dogs but turn a blind eye to members of the government who tortured people?

Under both US and international law, torture of humans is a crime, but the federal judiciary turns a blind eye and even allows false confessions extracted by torture to be used in courts or military tribunals to send tortured people to more years in prison based on nothing but their coerced self-incrimination.

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Robert Fisk: The man who dares to take on Egypt’s brutal regime

November 27, 2010

Despite beatings and corruption, Ayman Nour still hopes for change. Ahead of new polls, our man meets him

Robert Fisk, The Independent, Nov 25, 2010

Ayman Nour will continue the fight for democracy despite being beaten in jail

Ayman Nour will continue the fight for democracy despite being beaten in jail

Ayman Nour touches his sideburns, just a shade grey beneath his black hair: not bad for a 45-year old, but not up to the standard of the absolutely uncompromisingly jet black hair of 82-year-old Egyptian President Hosni Moubarak, whose job – in theory at least – Dr Nour would like.

Mind you, being Mr Moubarak’s rival is not for amateurs. It’s cost Dr Nour more than four years in prison and here he is, on the eve of Egyptian parliamentary elections, sitting in Beirut – rather than Cairo – to express his disdain for the ‘moderate’, ‘pro-Western’ regime of America’s favourite Middle Eastern dictator (alongside King Abdullah of Jordan, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, Bouteflika of Algeria, Ben Ali of Tunis, King Hassan of Morocco and the rest). So long live President Hosni Moubarak.

But how long? Dr Nour’s Ghad party – Ghad means ‘tomorrow’, which may never come – is not taking part in this weekend’s parliamentary elections which will, he feels sure, be as rigged as every election in Egypt since the early years of President Anwar Sadat. “I believe that what you are about to witness at the weekend is part tragedy, part comedy, a black comedy,” he says. “You want to go to Cairo on Saturday, Robert? You might just go there for fun.”

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Obama’s Delusion: Palestine in 90 Days?

November 27, 2010
by Rannie Amiri, Global Research, Nov 26, 2010

“Appeasers believe that if you keep on throwing steaks to a tiger, the tiger will become a vegetarian.” – Heywood Broun

Never in the history of United States-Israeli relations has an American president forsaken his country’s dignity and disavowed the principles of international law to the degree of President Obama.

The appalling set of proposals being offered to the government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as incentives to jumpstart peace talks with the Palestinians—aborted as a result of renewed (illegal) Israeli settlement activity in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem—smack of appeasement and capitulation to Tel Aviv.

Under the proposed terms, if Israel agrees to a 90-day settlement freeze in the West Bank, the U.S. would agree to:

· No longer pressure Israel to ease, curtail or halt settlement construction or expansion after the 90-day moratorium

“What is important—and the prime minister insists on this—that it be clear beyond any shadow of a doubt that this is the last freeze, there won’t be an additional request, there won’t be any American demands for freezes or other restrictions,” said National Security Advisor Uzi Arad to Israel’s Channel 2 TV.

· Allow Israel to continue building housing units in East Jerusalem (and by definition, expel Palestinian residents from their homes to do so) during the three-month period

· Provide Israel with a fleet of 20 advanced F-35 stealth fighters

Note: This is in addition to F-35s already pledged as part of a $30 billion military assistance package to Israel (meant to temper AIPAC objection to the planned $60 billion in U.S. arms sales to Saudi Arabia ).

· Veto any attempt made by Palestinians to seek United Nations’ recognition of an independent state

To add to U.S. ignominy, Netanyahu demanded from its stalwart ally that all the above be put in writing before the cabinet would even consider it. Arad confirmed this was done.

President Obama is under the impression—or more aptly, delusion—that a comprehensive peace agreement can be reached during these 90 days, including delineating the borders of a Palestinian state.

Palestine in 90 days?

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Afghanistan: Digging in

November 27, 2010

by Sheldon Richman, The Future of Freedom FoundationNovember 26, 2010

President Obama once said withdrawal from Afghanistan would begin in July 2011 — maybe, conditions permitting. But then he backed off that date. Now NATO, echoing American officials, says security won’t be fully turned over to the Afghan government any earlier than the end of 2014 — again, maybe; the alliance has signed a long-term security agreement with the Afghan president. Allied troops thus will remain in Afghanistan — as occupiers always say — in a supporting role beyond 2014 and even 2015. Calling the December 31, 2014, an “aspirational goal,” Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell said, “It does not mean that all U.S. or coalition forces would necessarily be gone by that date.”

Even before Obama backed off the 2011 timetable and before the NATO summit, Gen. David Petraeus had told Bob Woodward, “You have to recognize that I don’t think you win this war. I think you keep fighting. You have to stay after it. This is the kind of fight we’re in for the rest of our lives and probably our kids’ lives.” And Defense Secretary Robert Gates went even further, telling Woodward: “We’re not leaving Afghanistan prematurely. In fact, we’re not ever leaving at all.”

Thus no one seems to take target dates or even aspirational goals very seriously. The U.S. national-security apparatus is planted in Afghanistan and appears in no hurry to leave.

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Israel police under fire for abusing east Jerusalem children

November 26, 2010

The Raw Story, Nov 25, 2010

 Israel police under fire for abusing east Jerusalem children

JERUSALEM — Israeli police were accused of “flagrant violations” of the law Thursday over their harsh and at times violent treatment of Palestinian children suspected of stone-throwing in east Jerusalem.

The allegations were detailed in a letter sent to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu by a group of 60 Israeli professionals, among them experts in medicine, psychology, education, social work and law — all of whom work with children.

But Israel police flatly denied the allegations, with a spokesman telling AFP they “operate within the bounds of the law.”

The letter expresses concern about the growing number of testimonies submitted by Palestinian minors who have been arrested by police in occupied and annexed east Jerusalem, notably in the flashpoint neighborhood of Silwan.

“We are writing … to express our deep concerns about the physical and emotional welfare and proper development of children and young people in east Jerusalem in the light of police behavior during the investigation and arrest of minors in this area,” it said.

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The Incredible Shrinking Withdrawal Date From Afghanistan

November 26, 2010
By Tom Engelhardt, ZNet, Nov 25, 2010
Source: TomDispatch

Going, going, gone!  You can almost hear the announcer’s voice throbbing with excitement, only we’re not talking about home runs here, but about the disappearing date on which, for the United States and its military, the Afghan War will officially end.

Practically speaking, the answer to when it will be over is: just this side of never.  If you take the word of our Afghan War commander, the secretary of defense, and top officials of the Obama administration and NATO, we’re not leaving any time soon. As with any clever time traveler, every date that’s set always contains a verbal escape hatch into the future.

In my 1950s childhood, there was a cheesy (if thrilling) sci-fi flick, The Incredible Shrinking Man, about a fellow who passed through a radioactive cloud in the Pacific Ocean and soon noticed that his suits were too big for him.  Next thing you knew, he was living in a doll house, holding off his pet cat, and fighting an ordinary spider transformed into a monster.  Finally, he disappeared entirely leaving behind only a sonorous voice to tell us that he had entered a universe where “the unbelievably small and the unbelievably vast eventually meet, like the closing of a gigantic circle.”

In recent weeks, without a radioactive cloud in sight, the date for serious drawdowns of American troops in Afghanistan has followed a similar path toward the vanishing point and is now threatening to disappear “over the horizon” (a place where, we are regularly told, American troops will lurk once they have finally handed their duties over to the Afghan forces they are training).

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PAKISTAN: Women have little to celebrate on the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women

November 25, 2010

Rebecca Buckwalter-Poza, AHRC, Nov 25, 2010

Today, in recognition of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, it is incumbent upon the international community and the government of Pakistan to examine with greater concern the status and future of Pakistani women. This day may in some nations commemorate significant accomplishments for women’s rights and gender parity, but, in Pakistan, today must serve primarily as a reminder of how much Pakistan has yet to do to protect its women from gender-based violence and to ensure their safety.

In particular, this day should inspire consideration of the circumstances faced by women in Pakistan with regard to overwhelming barriers to legal access and assaults perpetrated by representatives of the state. For example, in a recent case a woman who received a stay order from court over a dispute on ownership of her house was picked up by policemen and their informers and taken to a private detention centre where she was gang raped for more than 50 days. The rape victim’s cases against the accused policemen and their henchmen were withdrawn due to the controversy of the geographical jurisdiction of the police. The medical report of the rape was not issued even after one month following the medical examination. The victim and her family are in hiding because of continuous police threats to withdraw the case. The deputy inspector generals of the two districts of Karachi metropolitan city refused to entertain the complaints of the victim on the grounds of jurisdiction.

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