Archive for January, 2011

Hunger and despair in Sri Lanka

January 30, 2011
Life improved for Pakyarani’s family when the war ended, but then the floods came and washed away their hopes.
Al Jazeera,  29 Jan 2011
Pakyarani and her four children have returned to their flood-damaged home in a remote village, but with their crops destroyed they have no way of affording food or repaying their debts

Recent flooding in eastern Sri Lanka destroyed thousands of homes, devastated the rice crop and drowned thousands of livestock. A million people, 40 per cent of them children, are at risk of serious hunger as a result. Some of the worst-affected areas were only just recovering from decades of conflict and the tsunami when the floods hit, and the people who live there are facing their third humanitarian emergency in less than 10 years.

Among those at risk of the impending food crisis is Pakyarani, a 32-year-old farmer’s wife and mother of four. She lives with her family in a remote village in Batticaloa, one of the districts most affected by the floods. She tells her story:

“I live with my husband, Ravicandran, and my four children: Ravikumar is 13, Nivedika is eight, Rujanika is six and Mohana is two.

We own a paddy field and that is the main source of income for our family. My husband also works as a brick-maker and sometimes as a daily labourer. For many years our village was caught up in the war and we often had to run from shelling and hide in the ditch for safety. Once, during the shelling, my husband fell and broke his leg. We were not able to get proper treatment and he has not been able to work properly since.

After the war ended, things got better for us. We were able to start growing crops and we bought two cows. Although some people in our village moved into brick houses, we didn’t. We stayed in our two-roomed clay hut until earlier this month, when the floods came.

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Why the Fuss? The Call to Arms against UN Rapporteur Richard Falk for Alluding to Gaps in the 9/11 Official Story

January 29, 2011

By Elizabeth Woodworth, World Policy Journal, January 28, 2011

A former Princeton international law professor has been condemned by the UN Secretary General and the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations for alluding to “an apparent cover-up” of the events of September 11th, 2001.

On January 11, 2011, UN Special Envoy to Palestine Richard Falk posted on his personal blog an article entitled “Interrogating the Arizona Killings from a Safe Distance.”[1]

Dr. Falk made a tangential point in his blog-post that governments too often abuse their authority by treating “awkward knowledge as a matter of state secrets”.

Richard Falk

To illustrate the point, he referred to gaps and contradictions in the official account of the 9/11 attacks, which have been documented in the scholarly works of Dr. David Ray Griffin, a professor emeritus of philosophy of religion and theology.

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Dead-Enders on the Potomac

January 29, 2011

From the Editors

merip.org, January 29, 2011

Every US administration has its mouthpiece in Washington’s think tank world, its courtier that will slavishly praise its every utterance. For the blessedly bygone Bush administration, that echo chamber was the American Enterprise Institute and the neo-conservative broadsheets in its orbit. For the Obama administration, it is the National Security Network, an operation founded in 2006 to bring “strategic focus to the progressive national security community.”

With one US-backed Arab despot dislodged and dodging Interpol, and another facing an intifada of historic proportions, many eyes looked to Washington, hopeful that President Barack Obama might reprise his ballyhooed Cairo speech of June 2009, showing the restive Arab masses that he felt and, perhaps, really understood their pain. Instead, Arab populations have heard a variation on Washington’s long-standing theme: “The Obama administration seeks to encourage political reforms without destabilizing the region.” That sentence, taken from the National Security Network’s January 27 press release, says it all: Democracy is great in theory, but if it will cause any disruption to business as usual, Washington prefers dictatorship.

And so it was no surprise, though a deep and indelible blot upon Obama and his “progressive” entourage, when the president took a White House lectern on the evening of January 28 — Egypt’s “Friday of Rage” — and announced his continued backing for the indefensible regime of President Husni Mubarak. In so doing, he ensured that the Arab fury of the winter of 2011 would be directed increasingly toward the United States as well as its regional vassals.

January 28 in Egypt was a rollercoaster of a day. The mass demonstrations following up on the January 25 Police Day uprising turned out to be larger and more vehement than even optimistic observers expected. Police stations and ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) headquarters burned to the ground in the middle-class Cairo neighborhoods of al-Azbakiyya and Sayyida Zaynab, as well as in poorer quarters, in Alexandria, Suez, Port Said, Damietta and Damanhour as well as in Upper Egypt and the Sinai. The NDP’s home base in Cairo’s main Tahrir Square itself went up in flames. Alexandria, Egypt’s second city, was overrun by protesters who had overwhelmed the riot police. Tanks rolled in to the cities; a curfew was declared; but the crowds ignored it and the army (for the most part) did not shoot at them.

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Protesters back on Egypt streets

January 29, 2011
Crowds mass in major cities calling for President Mubarak to step down, as death toll from protests crosses 50.
Al Jazeera,  29 Jan 2011
Protesters in Egypt are calling for “regime change, not cabinet change”, our correspondent said [GALLO/GETTY]

Protesters are returning to the streets of Egypt, following violent overnight demonstrations across the country staged in defiance of a curfew.

Demonstrators gathered in Tahrir Square in the Egyptian capital, Cairo, on Saturday morning, shouting “Go away, go away!”, the Reuters news agency said.

Similar crowds were gathering in the cities of Alexandria and Suez, Al Jazeera’s correspondents reported.

In Alexandria, our correspondent Rawya Rageh reported that dozens of marchers were calling on Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak to step down.

“They are calling for regime change, not cabinet change,” Rageh said.

In Suez, Al Jazeera’s Jamal ElShayyal reported that protesters were gathering, and that the military was not confronting them.

ElShayyal quoted a military officer as saying that troops would “not fire a single bullet on Egyptians”, regardless of where the orders to do so come from.

The latest protests reflected popular discontent with Mubarak’s midnight address, where he announced that he was dismissing his government but remaining in power.

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The several hundred protesters in Tahrir Square demonstrated in full view of the army, which had been deployed in the city to quell the popular unrest sweeping the Middle East’s most populous Muslim country since January 25.

They also repeatedly shouted that their intentions were peaceful.

Reuters reported that the police “fired shots” on the protesters in Cairo. An independent confirmation of that report is awaited.

The road leading from Tahrir Square to the parliament and cabinet buildings has been blocked by the military, the Associated Press news agency reported.

Al Jazeera’s Jane Dutton, reporting from Cairo, said the normally bustling city looked more like a warzone early on Saturday morning.

Tanks have been patrolling the streets of the capital since early in the morning.

Rising death toll

Cities across Egypt witnessed unprecedented protests on Friday, with tens of thousands of protesters taking to the streets after noon prayers calling for an end to Mubarak’s 30-year rule.

The number of people killed in protests is reported to be in the scores, with at least 23 deaths confirmed in Alexandria, and at least 15 confirmed in Suez, with a further 15 deaths in Cairo.

Al Jazeera’s Rageh in Alexandria said that the bodies of 23 protesters had been received at the local morgue, some of them brutally disfigured.

ElShayyal, our correspondent in Suez confirmed 15 bodies were received at the morgue in Suez, while Dan Nolan, our correspondent in Cairo, confirmed that 15 bodies were present at a morgue in Cairo.

More than 1,000 were also wounded in Friday’s violent protests, which occurred in Cairo and Suez, in addition to Alexandria.

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Imran Khan in Davos Criticizes War in Afghanistan

January 28, 2011

By Amy Kellogg, FoxNews.com, January 27, 2011

Former cricket star turned Pakistani politician Imran Khan. 

AFP 

Former cricket star turned Pakistani politician Imran Khan.

DAVOS, Switzerland — Former cricket star turned Pakistani politician Imran Khan has been working the corridors of the World Economic Forum in Davos, with a message about the war in Afghanistan, which has spilled over into Pakistan.

“This war on terror is a disaster for the people of the U.S. It’s a bigger disaster for the people of Pakistan. It is causing more radicalization, more polarization in the society. The war is perceived by the vast majority as a war against Islam and because it is perceived as a war against Islam there is no shortage of people willing to die for it.”

Khan is the leader of the Tehreek-e-Insaf party in Pakistan, which is trying to make inroads on the political scene, and eventually take power. Pessimistic about the prospects for the war in Afghanistan to succeed, he says the situation in his own country has become worse in the past few years. He points to the recent assassination of provincial Governor Salman Taseer, who was shot by a bodyguard opposed to his relatively liberal views. Taseer had called for leniency in the case of a Christian mother sentenced to death under the blasphemy ban. He was outspoken against the blasphemy law. In the wake of his assassination, people have come out and staged protests in support of his confessed killer.

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WikiLeaks Cables Detail Egyptian Repression, Torture

January 28, 2011

Obama Administration Fully Aware, Reluctant to Press Mubarak

by Jason Ditz, Antiwar.com,  January 28, 2011

With the eyes of the world already on Egypt, WikiLeaks released a massive collection of cables related to Egypt today, detailing broad-based repression of political dissident and indeed even those officials conceivably could see as undermining their rule.

Egyptian officials moved against journalists, novelists, bloggers, even amateur poets, for criticism of the government and detailing the levels of police brutality around the world.

But the Obama Administration didn’t need those outlets detailing the level of brutality in the Mubarak regime, cables show that they were fully aware of it from the start. NGOs described torture as “endemic” and said hundreds of cases of torture against petty criminals, political dissidents, even random bystanders, were occurring daily in Cairo alone.

The Obama Administration continues to insist they have been pushing for “reforms” but the cables reveal that it isn’t the case, and that even broaching the subject of police brutality was considered a touchy issue for many, and led to harsh rebukes by Egypt that the US would be supporting “Communists.” The official US response was to increase funding for the police in hopes that more money and better training would lead them to torture less. Even then, officials confirmed Egypt “has not begun serious work on trying to transform the police and security service.”

One US Corporation’s Role in Egypt’s Brutal Crackdown

January 28, 2011

Timothy Karr, The Huffington Post, Jan 28, 2011

The open Internet’s role in popular uprising is now undisputed. Look no further than Egypt, where the Mubarak regime today reportedly shut down Internet and cell phone communications — a troubling predictor of the fierce crackdown that has followed.

What’s even more troubling is news that one American company is aiding Egypt’s harsh response through sales of technology that makes this repression possible.

The power of open networks is clear. The Internet’s favorite offspring — Twitter, Facebook and YouTube — are now heralded on CNN, BBC and Fox News as flag-bearers for a new era of citizen journalism and activism. (More and more these same news organizations have abandoned their own, more traditional means of newsgathering to troll social media for breaking information.)

But the open Internet’s power cuts both ways: The tools that connect, organize and empower protesters can also be used to hunt them down.

Telecom Egypt, the nation’s dominant phone and Internet service provider, is a state-run enterprise, which made it easy on Friday morning for authorities to pull the plug and plunge much of the nation into digital darkness.

Moreover, Egypt also has the ability to spy on Internet and cell phone users, by opening their communication packets and reading their contents. Iran used similar methods during the 2009 unrest to track, imprison and in some cases, “disappear” truckloads of cyber-dissidents.

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Egypt, Tunisia, and the fight against US imperialism

January 28, 2011

Bill Van Auken, wsws.org, Jan 28, 2011

Two weeks after US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton warned Arab leaders that their region’s “foundations are sinking into the sand”, the growing revolutionary upsurge of the masses has revealed that the pillars of Washington’s own policy in the Middle East are rotten and crumbling.

The mass uprising that toppled the 23-year rule of Tunisian dictator Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali has now been followed by tens of thousands of young demonstrators in Egypt taking to the streets, defying security forces, and in increasing numbers giving their lives, to demand the downfall of Hosni Mubarak and his nearly three-decade-old regime. Thousands more demonstrated Thursday in the Yemeni capital of Sanaa, calling for the ouster of Ali Abdullah Saleh, who has ruled the country for more than 30 years.

In every case, masses of youth and workers have risen up against regimes that are synonymous with social inequality, corruption, political repression and torture and which have been firmly aligned with and largely financed by US imperialism. They have been driven to act by the same conditions of unemployment, rising prices and government abuse that led the young Tunisian Mohamed Bouazizi to set himself ablaze in protest, inspiring the demonstrations that swept his homeland.

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Cow Most Sacred: Why Military Spending Remains Untouchable

January 27, 2011

By Andrew J. Bacevich, TomDispatch.com, Jan 27, 2011

In defense circles, “cutting” the Pentagon budget has once again become a topic of conversation.  Americans should not confuse that talk with reality.  Any cuts exacted will at most reduce the rate of growth.  The essential facts remain: U.S. military outlays today equal that of every other nation on the planet combined, a situation without precedent in modern history.

The Pentagon presently spends more in constant dollars than it did at any time during the Cold War — this despite the absence of anything remotely approximating what national security experts like to call a “peer competitor.”  Evil Empire?  It exists only in the fevered imaginations of those who quiver at the prospect of China adding a rust-bucket Russian aircraft carrier to its fleet or who take seriously the ravings of radical Islamists promising from deep inside their caves to unite the Umma in a new caliphate.

What are Americans getting for their money?  Sadly, not much.  Despite extraordinary expenditures (not to mention exertions and sacrifices by U.S. forces), the return on investment is, to be generous, unimpressive.  The chief lesson to emerge from the battlefields of the post-9/11 era is this: the Pentagon possesses next to no ability to translate “military supremacy” into meaningful victory.

Washington knows how to start wars and how to prolong them, but is clueless when it comes to ending them.  Iraq, the latest addition to the roster of America’s forgotten wars, stands as exhibit A.  Each bomb that blows up in Baghdad or some other Iraqi city, splattering blood all over the streets, testifies to the manifest absurdity of judging “the surge” as the epic feat of arms celebrated by the Petraeus lobby.

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Afghanistan: War Without End In A World Without Conscience

January 27, 2011
By Rick Rozoff, opednews.com, Jan 26, 2011

 
The largest foreign military force ever deployed in Afghanistan is now well into the tenth year of the longest and what has become the deadliest war of the 21st century.

Some 154,000 occupation troops, almost two-thirds American and the rest from fifty other nations, are waging an armed conflict that has become more lethal with each succeeding year.

At the beginning of this month Agence France-Presse calculated that over 10,000 people had been killed in Afghanistan in 2010. Based on official Afghan government figures and those from the icasualties website, record-level fatalities were documented in every category:

The U.S., its North Atlantic Treaty Organization allies and assorted NATO partnership nations lost 711 soldiers, a substantial increase from the preceding year when the death toll was 521. The remaining 9,370 killed were Afghans. According to AFP they were:

810 government troops, 1,292 police, 2,043 civilians and 5,225 people referred to as “militants.” It is uncertain how many dead in the last category properly belong in the one preceding it. The United Nations, for example, said 2,412 civilians were killed and 3,803 wounded in the first ten months of last year, a 20 percent increase over 2009.

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