Sunday, August 31, 2008

Russia remains a Black Sea power

If the struggle in the Caucasus was ever over oil and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization's (NATO's) agenda towards Central Asia, the United States suffered a colossal setback this week. Kazakhstan, the Caspian energy powerhouse and a key Central Asian player, has decided to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Russia over the conflict with Georgia, and Russia's de facto control over two major Black Sea ports has been consolidated.

Report: Israel won't allow a nuclear Iran

According to Ma'ariv, Sneh offered the two candidates the "sane, cheap and the only option that does not necessitate bloodshed." To prevent Iran's nuclear aspirations, Sneh wrote, "real" sanctions applied by the US and Europe were necessary. A total embargo in spare parts for the oil industry and a total boycott of Iranian banks would promptly put an end to the regime, which is already pressured by a sloping economy and would be toppled by the Iranian people if they have outside assistance, he said.

The window of opportunity Sneh suggests is a year and a half to two years, until 2010.

The whole world has the travel bug. And it's ravaging the planet

CIA memos reveal doubts over 'key' Lockerbie witness

Mr Giaka eventually returned to Tripoli in 1990 after the CIA money dried up. But the agency kept in touch with him and finally persuaded him in 1991 to come to America. Nine years later, Majid Giaka arrived at the Lockerbie bombing trial in the Netherlands. He described how he had seen Megrahi and his co-accused, Khalifa Fhimah, at Luqa airport before the bombing with a large brown suitcase. But the CIA cables confirm that nearly two years before, Mr Giaka didn't remember anything.

At the Lockerbie trial, the four judges described some of his evidence as "at best grossly exaggerated and at worst simply untrue" and concluded he was "largely motivated by financial considerations".

Christians hide in forests as Hindu mobs ransack villages

Thousands of terrified Indian Christians are hiding in the forests of the volatile Indian state of Orissa after a wave of religious 'cleansing' forced them from their burnt-out homes with no immediate prospect of return.

A mob of Hindu fundamentalists rampaged through villages last week, killing those too slow to get out of their way, burning churches and an orphanage, and targeting the homes of Christians.

OSCE observers fault Georgians in conflict

Pakistani city of Peshawar could fall to Taliban as fear and attacks grow

"We want peace, but we can not have it because of this terrorist America which orders our government to attack its own people," he said. "The Taliban are Godly people, they are Islamic, and we are happy that they send suicide bombers for revenge.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

How the Republicans win

Barack Obama made it across the tightrope of the Democratic National Convention, gaining solid endorsements from Bill and Hillary Clinton and giving a rousing speech before some 80,000 supporters at Invesco Field in Denver. But now comes the time when the Republicans win elections.

What a mess to clean up

Georgian port is focal point of standoff with Russia

Weeks before Russia invaded Georgia earlier this month, excavators in this key Black Sea port began to lay the ground for a $200 million tax-free zone to triple the port's capacity and create, Georgian officials said, the Dubai of the Caucasus.

The RNC just gutted the DNC again

Friday, August 29, 2008

Up, in the sky: Black helicopters startle Portlanders

The sudden appearance of black helicopters carrying apparently armed men and buzzing around Portland generated dozens of calls to emergency dispatchers and the mayor's office from residents and visitors.

It's nothing to worry about, city and federal officials insisted Tuesday. And, by the way, you might see more of the same tonight.

The four MH-6 helicopters are part of a joint training exercise for U.S. Army and Navy special operations forces that had been planned for months, according to the U.S. Defense Department.

Galilee drying up, Syria-Israel claim shoreline

The next round of the fledgling talks between Israel and Syria are due to begin and, according to Walid al-Moualem, the foreign minister in Damascus, control of the Sea's shoreline is a bone of contention.

Only a two-page 'note' governs U.S. military in Afghanistan

Although President Bush pledged in a 2005 declaration signed with Afghan President Hamid Karzai to "develop appropriate arrangements and agreements" formally spelling out the terms of the U.S. troop presence and other bilateral ties, no such agreements were drawn up.

But after a U.S.-led airstrike last week that United Nations and Afghan officials have said killed up to 90 civilians — most of them children — Karzai has publicly called for a review of all foreign forces in Afghanistan and a formal "status of forces agreement," along the lines of an accord being negotiated between the United States and Iraq.

The prospect of codifying the ad hoc rules under which U.S. forces have operated in Afghanistan since late 2001 sends shudders through the Bush administration,

Defending Islam, hacker defaces thousands of Dutch websites

Catholic schools in India protest

Thousands of Catholic schools are shut across India in protest against continuing anti-Christian violence in the eastern state of Orissa. . . .

Over 3000 police have been deployed but attacks on churches continue. Hundreds of Christians have fled their homes.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

U.S. radar system deployed in Israel a first

The radar deployment will have historical significance: the first American base on Israeli territory.

Israel has always had reservations about such a possibility and preferred to "defend itself by itself" and retain maximum freedom of action. . . .

In the current circumstances, the radar deployment, planned to take place in the coming months, has two possible meanings.

One: a signal to Israel not to attack Iran. . . .

The second meaning is less likely, but should not be ignored: The United States is planning to attack Iran, or to back an Israeli strike, and it is preparing Israel's defenses against a possible Iranian response.

Why was Cheney's guy in Georgia before the war?

Maliki picks a date with destiny

Generations of Iraqi leaders have succumbed to the "Iraqi curse" - dying violent deaths while in office or soon after leaving it. Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's date with destiny could well be determined by his present fixation on another date — when United States troops should permanently leave his country.

This week, Maliki reiterated that he had agreed with the United States that all 145,000 American troops would withdraw from Iraq by the end of 2010. The negotiations are for a Status of Forces Agreement to govern relations between American troops and the Iraqis after the United Nations mandate expires this December.

Maliki said there would be no security agreement with the US without an unconditional timetable for withdrawal, . . .

Switzerland frees $60 million in Zardari’s assets

Mr. Zardari’s accounts were frozen in 1997 at the request of Pakistani authorities investigating allegations that Mr. Zardari had received kickbacks while he was a government official and his wife, Benazir Bhutto, was prime minister.

Peaceful protests in Kashmir alter equation for India

Political analysts and human rights activists say the Indian government has failed to adjust its strategy to deal with a separatist movement committed to nonviolence. Some Indian political leaders, even those who disagree with the push for Kashmir's independence, are beginning to wonder whether India's democracy is mature enough to handle such widespread but peaceful dissent.

China hails $3bln oil deal with Iraq

Becoming the first foreign firm to enter such an agreement since the end of Saddam Hussein's regime, state-owned China National Petroleum Corp. (CNPC) this week won the right to develop the Al-Ahdab oil field south of Baghdad. . . .

The agreement, reached during a visit to China by Iraqi Oil Minister Hussain al-Shahristani, revives a 1997 contract that granted China exploration rights to the Al-Ahdab oil field in the province of Wassit.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Front-runner in Pakistan has been ill, report says

Asif Ali Zardari, who is favored to win the presidency in elections here next week, filed medical records in a London courtroom that stated that he suffered from a range of mental illnesses, according to an account in The Financial Times on Tuesday.

Mr. Zardari, the widower of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto who served more than eight years in prison in Pakistan on corruption charges that were dismissed this year under an amnesty agreement, suffered from dementia, major depression disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder, the newspaper reported that the medical records said.

Will Iraq disintegrate if the United States withdraws its troops?

The United States and Iraq are close to agreeing a security accord under which the US would pull its combat troops out of Iraqi cities, towns and villages on 30 June 2009, and out of Iraq by 31 December 2011. This will only happen if a joint Iraqi-American ministerial committee agrees that security in Iraq has improved to the point where the half million strong Iraqi security forces can take over.

The big questions about Iraq

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Russia recognizes breakaway Georgian regions

Russia formally recognized the breakaway Georgian territories at the heart of its war with Georgia on Tuesday, drawing immediate condemnation from the West as the United States dispatched a military ship bearing aid to a port city still patrolled by Russian troops.

Afghan variable in Asian geopolitics

American strategy, camouflaged as a methodology for humanitarian, anti-terrorist intervention, is to control the main urban centres of the country - Kabul in order to lock the Pakistani North West; Kandahar as a door to Iranian and Pakistani Baluchistan, and Herat as base to act against Iran. . . .

Some observers feel that the US-British leadership would not be averse, depending upon the evolution of the conflict, to the secession of the tribal areas from Pakistan if such a new country could be used as a pad for NATO military facilities. An independent, “pro-Western” Baluchistan, stretching across the present territories of Pakistan and Iran is included in the plans for the Greater Middle East.

Russian threat to Nato supply route in Afghanistan

Russia played a trump card in its strategic poker game with the West yesterday by threatening to suspend an agreement allowing Nato to take supplies and equipment to Afghanistan through Russia and Central Asia.

The agreement was struck at a Nato summit in April to provide an alternative supply route to the road between the Afghan capital and the Pakistani border, . . .

Haniyeh: Arrival of blockade-busting boats spells end of Gaza siege

Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh on Saturday welcomed two boats that sailed from Cyprus to the Gaza Strip in efforts to break the Israeli-imposed blockade on the Palestinian territory, saying that the arrival of the boats signaled the end of the siege.

The 70-foot (21-meter) Free Gaza and 60-foot (18-meter) Liberty left the southern port of Larnaca about 10 a.m. Friday for the estimated 30-hour trip. The activists planned to deliver 200 hearing aids to a Palestinian charity for children and hand out 5,000 balloons.

The 46 activists from 14 countries belonging to the U.S.-based group Free Gaza include an 81-year-old Catholic nun and the sister-in-law of Mideast envoy and former British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

UN finds evidence 90 civilians dead in US-led strikes

A United Nations team has found "convincing evidence" that 90 civilians, including 60 children, were killed in US-led air strikes last week, the body's representative in Afghanistan said Tuesday.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Freedom is the only thing the Kashmiri wants

The Indian government's worst nightmare has come true. Having declared that the militant movement has been crushed, it is now faced with a non-violent mass protest, but not the kind it knows how to manage.

This one is nourished by people's memory of years of repression in which tens of thousands have been killed, thousands have been 'disappeared', hundreds of thousands tortured, injured, raped and humiliated. . . .

At the heart of it all is a moral question. Does any government have the right to take away people's liberty with military force?

India needs azadi [freedom] from Kashmir just as much - if not more - than Kashmir needs azadi from India.

'Mr 10 Per Cent' puts jail behind him and bids to lead Pakistan

Less than a year ago Asif Ali Zardari appeared to be yesterday's man. Seemingly sidelined by his wife, Benazir Bhutto, and her party, facing a series of corruption charges and bearing the nickname "Mr 10 Per Cent", it appeared that his days of power and influence were over.

Now he is back, as never before. Having been catapulted to the forefront of Pakistan's political maelstrom by the assassination of his wife, Mr Zardari is poised to become his country's head of state.

Kashmir under indefinite curfew

Thousands of troops have been drafted in to patrol Srinigar's empty streets.

The strikers want a referendum which they hope will lead to self-determination for the region.

U.S. debates going after militants in Pakistan

The ongoing disarray among Pakistan's new civilian leadership, including its refusal to accept a U.S. military training mission for the Pakistani army, has led to intense frustration within the Pentagon and reignited a debate over whether the U.S. should act on its own against extremists operating in Pakistan's northwestern tribal regions.

VP choice Biden unpopular in Iraq for autonomy plan

Senator Joe Biden may be one of the only U.S. politicians that can get Iraq's feuding Sunni, Shi'ite and Kurdish politicians to agree. But not in a good way.

Across racial and religious boundaries, Iraqi politicians on Saturday bemoaned Democratic presidential contender Barack Obama's choice of running mate, known in Iraq as the author of a 2006 plan to divide the country into ethnic and sectarian enclaves.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Why Obama–Biden could mean more of the same

In many ways, Barack Obama’s approach to Iraq is strikingly similar to that of the Bush administration and John McCain.

. . . the real context of the upcoming Democratic convention is that “the surge” in Iraq is not working at all. Despite measurable successes in bringing the levels of violence down, the American-sponsored political system in Iraq is actually more dysfunctional than ever, and incapable of delivering the results that both Iraqis and Americans are looking for. Perhaps the best evidence is the fact that it is now Washington’s own darlings in Iraq and their pet projects that stand in the way of progress, as seen in the vice-presidential vetoes this year against the provincial powers law and the provincial elections law. There is in fact a cross-sectarian majority in the Iraqi parliament that wants to have early elections and power-sharing in Kirkuk, but Washington’s allies among the Kurds and the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (ISCI) keep blocking progress towards national reconciliation and a more sustainable political system. . . .

Biden’s website specifically devoted to his soft partition schemes,, was quietly shut down – at this site, Biden’s rhetoric had consistently focused on a tripartite Iraq to the very end.

A new rush to spy

There is apparently no limit to the Bush administration’s desire to invade Americans’ privacy in the name of national security. According to members of Congress, Attorney General Michael Mukasey is preparing to give the F.B.I. broad new authority to investigate Americans — without any clear basis for suspicion that they are committing a crime.

Opening the door to sweeping investigations of this kind would be an invitation to the government to spy on people based on their race, religion or political activities.

Pakistan is at last finding its voice. The US would be wise not to gag it

Given the bleak economic and security situation in Pakistan, it is easy to forget that 2008 has also been a year of positive events for the country. February's elections proved that it is possible to hold free and fair polls in Pakistan, that in such circumstances undemocratic leaders such as Musharraf and his allies will be trounced, and (yet again) that the notion of broad public support for the parties of the religious right is a myth.

Afghanistan: 76 civilians die in airstrike, ministry claims

US-led coalition forces killed 76 Afghan civilians in western Afghanistan yesterday, most of them children, the country's Interior Ministry said.

Russia's first Georgia move legitimate: U.S. envoy

Friday, August 22, 2008

Militants ready for Pakistan's war

Pakistan has two options. The country can give in to militancy or it can conduct military operations against it, influential advisor to the Interior Ministry, Rahman Malik, said on Thursday. And the government is not going to negotiate with militants, he added.

His remarks follow a suicide bomb attack outside the country's main defense industry complex at Wah, 30 kilometers northwest of the capital Islamabad, which killed as many as 100 people. The Pakistani Taliban immediately claimed responsibility, saying the attack was in response to the military's recent air bombardment of Bajaur Agency, which led to the displacement of 250,000 people.

Iraq takes aim at leaders of U.S.-tied Sunni groups

The Shiite-dominated government in Iraq is driving out many leaders of Sunni citizen patrols, the groups of former insurgents who joined the American payroll and have been a major pillar in the decline in violence around the nation.

In restive Diyala Province, United States and Iraqi military officials say there were orders to arrest hundreds of members of what is known as the Awakening movement as part of large security operations by the Iraqi military.

Syria seeks weapons deal with Russia amid 'Cold War' ripples

The ripples from a short and brutal war in the Caucasus spread out to encompass the Middle East yesterday, when the Syrian president rekindled a strategic alliance with Moscow that had been neglected since the Cold War.

The consequences of Russia's six-day war in Georgia have spiralled outwards every day since a French-brokered ceasefire was signed last week.

What Israel lost in the Georgia war

Most of the equipment used by the Georgian military comes from the U.S. and other suppliers. Still, Israeli companies had been sufficiently involved in supplying specialized equipment and advanced tactical training to the Georgian military that the connection — and Russia's perception of it — created a ripple of anxiety in Israeli government circles. . . .

Israel's strategic priority now is countering the threat it sees in Iran's nuclear program, and on that front, Russian cooperation is essential. If the Israelis are to achieve their objective of forcing Iran to end uranium enrichment through diplomatic coercion, they will need Russian support for escalating U.N. sanctions — a course of action for which Russia has thus far shown little enthusiasm. And if Israel were to opt for trying to destroy Tehran's nuclear facilities through a series of air strikes, then the presence of the sophisticated Russian S-300 missile system in Iran would considerably raise the risk to Israeli pilots. Unfortunately for Israel, however, there may be little it can do to shape Moscow's Iran policy for the simple reason that Israel is not a major factor in Russia's strategic outlook. Moscow's actions on Iran are less likely to be determined by Israel supplying a few drones to Georgia than they are to be shaped, for example, by the deployment over extreme Russian objections of U.S. interceptor missiles on Polish soil.

Iraq still demanding withdrawal date, right to try U.S. troops

Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari told reporters that a draft was complete and would be referred to the executive council on Friday.

If the council agrees to the draft, it will move to the Political Council for National Security before going to the Iraqi parliament, which must approve the agreement before the U.N. mandate expires.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

What really happened to 7 World Trade Center?

Today, Shyam Sunder, lead investigator at NIST, presented NIST's findings at a press briefing. A draft "Final Report on the Collapse of World Trade Center Building 7" was made available on the Internet later in the day.

NIST claims that the collapse was due to "some structural damage to the southwest perimeter" by falling debris, and to "ordinary building content fires" on floors 7 through 9, and 11 through 13. This caused "buckling of a critical interior column", followed by "progressive collapse".

It should be noted that engineers have routinely designed structures to withstand expansion of steel members due to fire or other sources of heat.

Architects & Engineers for 9/11 Truth, with 400 plus members, argue that NIST does not address why the collapse exhibits none of the characteristics of destruction by fire, such as slow onset with large visible deformations, and symmetrical collapse - which would cause the building to fall to the side most damaged by the fire.

NIST also does not address why the collapse does exhibit all the characteristics of a classic controlled demolition with explosives such as rapid onset of collapse, sounds of explosions at ground floor — a full second prior to collapse, symmetrical collapse — through the path of greatest resistance — at nearly free-fall speed — with the steel skeleton broken up for shipment, massive volume of expanding pyroclastic dust clouds, tons of molten metal found by Controlled Demolition, Inc., the chemical signature of thermate (a high tech incendiary) found in slag, solidified molten metal, and dust samples by Prof. Jones, and rapid oxidation and intergranular melting on structural steel samples examined by FEMA.

When I worked for the U.S. Department of Energy, it would have been highly unusual that a report such as NIST's were presented to the news media without it first being presented to outside peer review, and often with both supporting and dissenting views included in an appendix.

NIST refuses to release the photos and videos upon which they base their analysis.

On the brink of peace in the Middle East?

The positive developments include the Israeli-Hamas ceasefire, the relaxation of sanctions on Gaza, and the Israeli-Hezbollah prisoner exchange. The two key Palestinian factions, Fatah and Hamas, have made some efforts at reconciliation. Meanwhile, the government crisis has been resolved in Lebanon, and there has been an uptick in Syria-Lebanon relations. Indirect talks have also intensified between Israel and Syria. Even in Iraq, despite the tragic misadventures of invasion and occupation, the security and political situations show signs of improvement, and analysts in the region are beginning to look toward a post-U.S. occupation period.

Philippine autonomy deal scrapped

The Philippine government has pulled out of a controversial autonomy deal with Muslim separatist rebels in the south, following days of fighting.

A presidential spokeswoman described the move as a "painful step", but said leaders were still open to talks.

The government had agreed to expand an existing Muslim autonomous zone in a bid to end decades of violence.

But Christian communities opposed the deal and when the Supreme Court blocked it, the rebels launched attacks.

Georgia separatists rise up under Russian protection

Georgia faced the growing likelihood of dismemberment Thursday as Moscow-backed separatists hardened demands for independence and Russian troops retained an iron grip.

Draft is set to keep U.S. forces on Iraqi soil

Iraqi and American negotiators have agreed to a draft of a long-awaited security agreement to govern the presence of American troops in Iraq, . . .

The main sticking points, in fact, are also the most delicate: setting a timeline for American troops to leave and declaring whether American forces would be granted immunity from Iraqi prosecution.

In Baghdad, Hoshyar Zebari, Iraq’s foreign minister, said that the text of a draft had been agreed upon by negotiators on the technical and legal teams who had worked on it since March 11. But he cautioned that this fell short of a final agreement because it had yet to be approved by the political leadership in either country, including Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Nader predicts Obama to pick Clinton

“I don’t think he’s that dumb,” said Nader, commenting on widespread speculation that Obama’s choices are down to Sens. Joe Biden, Evan Bayh, or Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine.

The smart pick, according to Nader, is Hillary Rodham Clinton. . . .

“He just has to swallow hard and do what JFK did” in picking rival Lyndon Johnson in 1960, . . .

The toll of the war in Georgia's North

But a trip here by reporters, who were accompanying the first humanitarian aid convoy to reach outlying areas, also undermined some of the most incendiary allegations advanced by Georgian officials. Mereti, site of the alleged abductions, is the same village where government officials had recently said three local women were raped and murdered. At least eight residents said Tuesday that no such attacks had occurred.

Georgians living in several of the villages said the Russians occupying their land had treated them well, done nothing to encourage them to leave and offered the only protection available from the South Ossetian militias they feared most.

Deadlock and death in inauspicious start to Pakistan post-Musharraf

Post-Musharraf Pakistan got off to an inauspicious start yesterday, after a meeting of the coalition government resulted in deadlock over the key issue of the judiciary, and Taliban militants demonstrated that their violent campaign would continue with a suicide bombing that killed at least 27.

Pervez Musharraf resigned as Pakistan's president on Monday in order to avoid impeachment following a series of crises, starting with the sacking in March 2007 of the country's chief justice. . . .

Many believe that Asif Zardari, the leader of the Pakistan People's party, is wary of having Chaudhry standing in judgment over his administration.

Poland signs missile shield deal with U.S.

The United States and Poland on Wednesday signed a formal agreement to base U.S. ballistic missiles on Polish soil, a move that has angered Russia and stoked regional tensions over the territorial conflict in Georgia.

Big three block Iran attack

The United States is in a huge foreign policy muddle in the Middle East. It wants to dominate and control Iran, but it requires the support of the world community to accomplish its aims. Diplomacy and sanctions require only a low level of support. On the other hand, to launch a military attack or green-light one by Israel, the United States needs far more backing. . . .

Israeli officials acknowledge that it would be difficult to launch such an attack without approval from Russia, China, and India, something that the United States would have to lobby those nations to achieve. The chances at present are extremely slim that any of the three will acquiesce.

U.S. condemnation of Russia's military action to defend the breakaway region of South Ossetia, combined with the determination of the Bush administration to install missile systems in Poland and the Czech Republic, virtually guarantee that Russia will not do anything to help the United States foment more violence in its neighborhood.

Resurgent Taleban kill 10 French troops and assault US base

The Taleban have staged two of their most spectacular operations in Afghanistan, killing ten French troops in a battle just outside Kabul and launching a frontal assault on a big US base near the Pakistani border.

The attacks, which began on Monday and continued yesterday, are the latest in a series of dramatic raids by the militant group, including a prison break in Kandahar and the bombing of the Indian Embassy in Kabul, suggesting a tactical shift from multiple skirmishes to bold offensives.

Why Bush will pardon AIPAC for espionage

Both the Republican and Democratic parties desperately need this case to go away long before the next president is sworn in. From their standpoint, it would be unseemly to have U.S. officials subpoenaed and actually put on the witness stand to reveal how Middle East policy is really crafted in the height of an election season dominated by narratives of hope, change, and restoring integrity. . . .

If President George W. Bush waits to pardon Weissman and Rosen until shortly before leaving office, it would be too late for AIPAC's most precious asset: its reputation as an entity engaged in lawful activities. The administration also has an overriding self-preservation interest in seeing this case vanish: it is the singular judicial process for determining whether AIPAC goes too far in agitating for wars – whether in Iraq, Lebanon, or Iran. . . . Pardoning AIPAC would mean that Col. Lawrence Franklin, a member of Douglas Feith's infamous Pentagon policy shop and a crucial witness for the prosecution, walks free.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Journalist says U.S. target was Al-Jazeera

After more than six years as a prisoner of the United States, former TV cameraman Sami al-Hajj is back at work with Al-Jazeera, the largest broadcaster in the Arab world, a thorn in the side of most Arab governments - and, by most indications, a target of deep hostility from the Bush administration.

Al-Hajj, 39, was the longest-held journalist in U.S. custody at the time of his release in May, and the only one ever held at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Military authorities repeatedly accused him of being a terrorist in league with al Qaeda, then released him without charges.

Who started Cold War II?

The American people should be eternally grateful to Old Europe for having spiked the Bush-McCain plan to bring Georgia into NATO.

Had Georgia been in NATO when Mikheil Saakashvili invaded South Ossetia, we would be eyeball to eyeball with Russia, facing war in the Caucasus, where Moscow's superiority is as great as U.S. superiority in the Caribbean during the Cuban missile crisis.

If the Russia-Georgia war proves nothing else, it is the insanity of giving erratic hotheads in volatile nations the power to drag the United States into war.

How a comedian became the most influential voice in American politics

The latest sign of how far the show and its host have come from their edgy early days will come at the Democratic Convention in Denver, where he and his reporters are fully accredited.

When asked last year by the Pew Research Centre to name the journalist they most admired, Americans placed the fake news anchor Mr Stewart at number four on the list. He was tied with such luminaries as Tom Brokaw of NBC, Dan Rather, then of CBS, and Anderson Cooper of CNN.

Kurdish control of Kirkuk creates a powder keg in Iraq

Of all the political problems facing Iraq today, perhaps none is so intractable as the fate of Kirkuk, a city of 900,000 that Kurds, Arabs and Turkmens all claim as their own. The explosive quarrel over the city is one major barrier to creating stable political structures in the rest of Iraq. . . .

This month, legislation in the national Parliament to set the groundwork for crucial provincial elections collapsed in a bitter dispute over Kirkuk, as Arabs and Turkmens demanded that the Kurds be forced to cede some of their power here. But with the Kurds having already consolidated their authority in Kirkuk, there seemed little chance — short of a military intervention — of that happening.

Nukes unlikely to be affected by Musharraf leaving

Experts say a 10-member committee, and not just the president, makes decisions on how to use them and only a complete meltdown in governance — still a distant prospect in Pakistan — could put the atomic bomb in the hands of extremists.

"Pakistan's nuclear assets are not one man's property," said Maria Sultan, a defense analyst and director at the London-based South Asian Strategic Stability Institute.

Credit crunch may take out large US bank warns former IMF chief

“The US is not out of the woods. I think the financial crisis is at the halfway point, perhaps. I would even go further to say the worst is to come,” Prof Rogoff said at a conference in Singapore.

In an ominous warning, he added: “We’re not just going to see mid-sized banks go under in the next few months, we’re going to see a whopper, we’re going to see a big one — one of the big investment banks or big banks,” he said.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Kashmir demonstrators in UN march

Thousands have gathered in Srinagar city in Indian-administered Kashmir, demanding that the UN recognise their right to self-determination.

Separatist leaders plan to submit a memorandum to the UN office in the city outlining their demands.

More than 21 people died last week in the Muslim-majority Kashmir valley during police firing on protesters.

The unrest began two months ago when a small piece of land was awarded to a trust running a Hindu shrine.

This provoked Muslim anger. The government then rescinded its decision, triggering furious counter-protests from Hindus in Jammu.

The Afghan women jailed for being victims of rape

In Lashkar Gah, the majority of female prisoners are serving 20-year sentences for being forced to have sex. . . .

Earlier this year a report by Womankind, Taking Stock: Afghan Women and Girls Seven Years On, revealed that violent attacks against women, usually in a domestic setting, are at epidemic proportions – 87 per cent of women complain of such abuse, and half of it is sexual. More than 60 per cent of marriages are forced and, despite laws banning the practice, 57 per cent of brides are under 16. Many of these girls are offered as restitution for a crime or as debt settlement. Afghanistan is the only country in the world with a higher suicide rate among women than men.

Growing clamour to remove the Hague prosecutor who wants Sudanese president arrested

A coalition of human rights lawyers, academics and leading non-governmental organisations (NGOs) has begun openly to criticise the competence and conduct of the prosecutor of the international criminal court, the Argentinian Luis Moreno-Ocampo. Their concerns follow his announcement last month that it is to seek an arrest warrant for genocide against the Sudanese president, and the collapse of the five-year-old court's first trial.

Musharraf to resign as President of Pakistan

Bowing to pressure from Pakistan's newly-elected civilian government, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, once a top U.S. ally, said Monday that he will resign from office immediately, effectively ending nearly nine years of military rule in the country under his leadership.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Georgia: This time, the world is not buying it

For almost 8 years the US media has served as Ministry of Propaganda for a war criminal regime. Americans incapable of thinking for themselves, reading between the lines, or accessing foreign media on the Internet have been brainwashed. . . .

The gullibility and unconcern of the American people has had many victims. There are 1.25 million dead Iraqis. There are 4 million displaced Iraqis. . . .

Only this time, the rest of the world didn't buy it. The many years of lies – 9/11, Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, al Qaeda connections, yellowcake, anthrax attack, Iranian nukes, "the United States doesn't torture," the bombings of weddings, funerals, and children's soccer games, Abu Ghraib, renditions, Guantanamo, various fabricated "terrorist plots," the determined assault on civil liberties – have taken their toll on American credibility. No one outside America any longer believes the US media or the US government.

The rest of the world reported the facts – an assault on Russian civilians by American- and Israeli-trained and -equipped Georgian troops.

The Bush Regime, overcome by hubris, expected Russia to accept this act of American hegemony. But the Russians did not, and the Georgian military was sent fleeing for its life.

Head of World Congress of Russian Jewry accuses Georgia of genocide

Russian-speaking Israeli figures have expressed dismay at a statement made by the chairman of the World Congress of Russian Jewry, Russian Senator Boris Spiegel, calling for the establishment of a tribunal that would investigate Georgia's "war crimes" during the past week's round of fighting.

Spiegel, a prominent Jewish oligarch boasting close ties with the Kremlin, accused Georgia of genocide and ethnic cleansing.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Six days that broke one country—and reshaped the world order

The American "train and equip" mission for the Georgian military is six years old. It has been destroyed in as many days. And with it, Georgia's Nato ambitions.

US officials admit worry over a 'difficult' al-Maliki

U.S. officials privately admit being concerned that Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al- Maliki has become "overconfident" about his government’s ability to manage without US combat troops, according to an Iraq analyst who just returned from a trip to Iraq arranged by US commander General David Petraeus.

Russia: Poland risks attack because of US missiles

A top Russian general said Friday that Poland's agreement to accept a U.S. missile interceptor base exposes the ex-communist nation to attack, possibly by nuclear weapons, the Interfax news agency reported.

The statement by Gen. Anatoly Nogovitsyn is the strongest threat that Russia has issued against the plans to put missile defense elements in former Soviet satellite nations.

Poland and the United States on Thursday signed a deal for Poland to accept a missile interceptor base as part of a system the United States says is aimed at blocking attacks by rogue nations. Moscow, however, feels it is aimed at Russia's missile force.

The train wreck of the Zionist New World Order

Russia says that independent investigators are welcome to document the war crimes that Bush, Israel and Georgia just inflicted upon South Ossetia.

Friday, August 15, 2008

US court rules Saudis not liable for Sept 11 attacks

Upholding a 2006 decision by a lower court, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan ruled inadmissible a lawsuit in which families of victims of the 9/11 attacks charged that Saudi Arabia, four Saudi princes, a Saudi charity and bank had given material support to Al-Qaeda.

Military donations favor Obama over McCain

U.S. soldiers have donated more presidential campaign money to Democrat Barack Obama than to Republican John McCain, a reversal of previous campaigns in which military donations tended to favor GOP White House hopefuls, a nonpartisan group reported Thursday.

Troops serving abroad have given nearly six times as much money to Obama's presidential campaign as they have to McCain's, the Center for Responsive Politics said.

The results also are striking because they favored Obama, who never has served in the military.

Russia tells West to 'forget' Georgian rule in enclaves

Russia positioned itself yesterday as the unequivocal victor in its brief war with Georgia, with its Foreign Minister stating that the world could "forget about" Georgian control of two separatist enclaves. . . .

Speaking after President George Bush insisted on the respect of Georgian territorial integrity, Sergei Lavrov, Russia's Foreign Minister, rejected any such talk. President Dmitry Medvedev drove home the message by meeting in the Kremlin with the two separatist leaders of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

US set for dramatic change as white America becomes minority by 2042

Musharraf will step down, say aides

Pakistan’s beleaguered president Pervez Musharraf is to step down after nine years in office, government officials and a member of his circle have told the Financial Times.

A senior officer in Mr Musharraf’s camp on Thursday conceded that he had decided to step down to avoid a parliamentary impeachment that was likely to begin on Monday.

A senior Pakistani government official said that a deal had been brokered between president Musharraf and members of the newly elected coalition government, with the army playing a key role in the agreement.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

FBI to get freer rein to look for terrorism suspects

Attorney General Michael Mukasey confirmed plans Wednesday to loosen post-Watergate restrictions on the FBI's national security and criminal investigations, saying the changes were necessary to improve the bureau's ability to detect terrorists. . . .

Michael German, a former veteran FBI agent who is now policy counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union, said if Mukasey moves ahead with the new rules as he describes them, he'll be weakening restrictions originally put in place after the Watergate scandal to rein in the FBI's domestic Counter Intelligence Program, or COINTELPRO. At the time, the FBI spied on American political leaders and organizations deemed to be subversive throughout the late 1950s and into the 1960s.

Frail Turkish democracy manages to survive crisis—barely

The fragile Turkish democracy has survived, but barely, yet another constitutional crisis. In the ever contentious ideological tug of war between the secularist Kemalists and the mildly religious ruling Justice and Development Party, or the AK, the government was given a reprieve by the all-powerful Constitutional Court. . . .

Unlike the Taliban of Afghanistan, the ayatollahs of Iran, or the religious politicians of Pakistan, Mr. Erdogan is a pragmatic man who understands his country’s secular traditions and has vowed to uphold them. But he will have to work hard to work with and win over skeptic secular elements in the parliament. This will be one way to keep the army from meddling in politics.

Turkey has an unprecedented opportunity to show the world that an Islamic party can govern according to democratic principles. With one foot in Asia and one in Europe and a solid Muslim past, Turkey, more than any other Muslim country, can prove that.

US claims of Pakistan hand in Kabul bombing not credible

What Russia and America are really doing in Georgia and who set the trap?

Russia has been goading and provoking the Georgian government for several years into making the big mistake. The parastates of Abkhazia and, above all, South Ossetia, have been under the control of a toxic coalition of criminals and both former and serving FSB officers. Russian soldiers have been acting as their protectors under the guise of a peacekeeping mission, preventing Georgia's attempts to seek a negotiated reintegration of the two areas. The Georgian crisis has benefited the standing of hardliners in Moscow, still aggrieved at Vladimir Putin's decision to place the moderate, business-friendly Dmitry Medvedev in the Kremlin.

But under the influence of an energetic neo-con lobby in Washington, and with considerable support from Israeli weapons manufacturers and military trainers, Saakashvili and the hawks around him came to believe the farcical proposition that Georgia's armed forces could take on the military might of their northern neighbour in a conventional fight and win.

India-Pakistan relations in free fall

Eleven months ago, the Indian army announced it had plans to open the 72-kilometer long Siachen glacier to regular civilian expeditions. On September 13, 2007, an Indian army spokesman claimed the move to make Kashmir's treacherous Siachen glacier a tourist attraction drew inspiration from Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's call in 2005 to turn the glacier into a "peace mountain".

Things were looking up in India-Pakistan relations. Kashmir seemed edging closer to a resolution than at any time before. But it all seems light years away now.

Within the past few weeks, things have begun unraveling. A local controversy over the donation of government land in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) to a Hindu shrine snowballed into protests in the predominantly Muslim state. The government, which was taken aback by the fury of the protests, retracted its decision. In turn, that led to a Hindu backlash and more violence followed, leading to tensions between Muslims and Hindus, forcing the authorities to introduce a curfew.

Lebanon-Syria to demarcate border

Lebanon and Syria have agreed to resume work on formally demarcating their common border as part of efforts to repair years of strained relations.

However, Syria said the work on borders would not cover one of the most contentious areas, the Israeli-occupied Shebaa Farms, until Israel withdrew.

Lebanon's President Michel Suleiman is currently in Damascus for talks with his counterpart Bashar al-Assad.

They also confirmed the setting up of diplomatic ties for the first time.

Georgia war a neocon election ploy?

Before you dismiss that possibility, consider the role of one Randy Scheunemann, for four years a paid lobbyist for the Georgian government who ended his official lobbying connection only in March, months after he became Republican presidential candidate John McCain’s senior foreign policy adviser.

Previously, Scheunemann was best known as one of the neoconservatives who engineered the war in Iraq when he was a director of the Project for a New American Century. It was Scheunemann who, after working on the McCain 2000 presidential campaign, headed the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq, which championed the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

There are telltale signs that he played a similar role in the recent Georgia flare-up. How else to explain the folly of his close friend and former employer, Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, in ordering an invasion of the breakaway region of South Ossetia, an invasion that clearly was expected to produce a Russian counterreaction?

Iraq minister: US combat troops to pull out in three years under new deal

American soldiers will withdraw from cities across Iraq next summer and all US combat troops will leave the country within three years, provided the violence remains low, under the terms of a draft agreement with the Iraqi Government.

In one of the most detailed insights yet into the content of the deal, Hoshyar Zebari, the Iraqi Foreign Minister, has also told The Times that the US military would be barred from unilaterally mounting attacks inside Iraq from next year.

In addition, the power of arrest for US soldiers would be curbed by the need to hand over any detainee to a new, US-Iraqi committee.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Top brass defends Russia's right to preemptive strike

"We are not planning to attack anyone. But our partners should clearly understand... that the armed forces will be used if necessary to protect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Russian Federation and its allies, including on a preventative basis, including with the use of nuclear weapons," RIA Novosti quoted [Chief of General Staff Yuri] Baluyevsky as saying Saturday at a scientific conference in Moscow.

U.S. puts brakes on Israeli plan for attack on Iran nuclear facilities

The Americans viewed the request, which was transmitted (and rejected) at the highest level, as a sign that Israel is in the advanced stages of preparations to attack Iran. They therefore warned Israel against attacking, saying such a strike would undermine American interests. They also demanded that Israel give them prior notice if it nevertheless decided to strike Iran. As compensation for the requests it rejected, Washington offered to improve Israel's defenses against surface-to-surface missiles.

Israel responded by saying it reserves the right to take whatever action it deems necessary if diplomatic efforts to halt Iran's nuclearization fail.

Neocons now love international law

Apparently, context is everything. So, the United States attacking Grenada or Nicaragua or Panama or Iraq or Serbia is justified even if the reasons sometimes don’t hold water or don’t hold up before the United Nations, The Hague or other institutions of international law.

However, when Russia attacks Georgia in a border dispute over Georgia’s determination to throttle secession movements in two semi-autonomous regions, everyone must agree that Georgia’s sovereignty is sacrosanct and Russia must be condemned.

U.S. newspapers, such as the New York Times, see nothing risible about publishing a statement from President George W. Bush declaring that “Georgia is a sovereign nation and its territorial integrity must be respected.”

No one points out that Bush should have zero standing enunciating such a principle. Iraq also was a sovereign nation, but Bush invaded it under false pretenses, demolished its army, overthrew its government and then conducted a lengthy military occupation resulting in hundreds of thousands of deaths.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Contractors reap 85 bln dlrs from Iraq war: US report

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) report said the administration of US President George W. Bush awarded 85-billion-dollars in contracts between 2003 and 2007, or over 21 billion dollars annually.

CBO researchers found that the funds paid out to government contractors, including security, transportation and engineering contractors and administration specialists among others, accounted for almost 20 percent of the total funding for Washington's operations in Iraq during this period.

Tel Aviv to Tbilisi: Israel's role in the Russia-Georgia war

Since 2000, Israel has sold hundreds of millions of dollars in arms and combat training to Georgia. . . .

Training also involved officers from Israel's Shin Bet secret service -- which has for decades carried out extrajudicial executions and torture of Palestinians in the occupied territories -- the Israeli police, and the country's major arms companies Elbit and Rafael.

The Tel Aviv-Tbilisi military axis appears to have been cemented at the highest levels, and according to YNet, "The fact that Georgia's defense minister, Davit Kezerashvili, is a former Israeli who is fluent in Hebrew contributed to this cooperation."

Israel battles Spanish arrest warrants

Israel is battling hard to overturn a Spanish court's decision to issue arrest warrants against six current and former politicians and senior military officials, a source in the Attorney-General's Office told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday.

Late last month, Audiencia Nacional, the National Court of Spain (the highest Spanish judicial council), issued arrest warrants against the six - Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, Doron Almog, Moshe Ya'alon, Dan Halutz, Giora Eiland and Mike Herzog - accepting a petition from the Palestinian Center for Human Rights that suggested they were guilty of war crimes in the Gaza Strip during the summer of 2002.

Monday, August 11, 2008

08.08.08 and the Texas Solution

. . . the geopolitical situation in the post-Soviet south Caucasus has been seismically changed, and there is no going back to the ‘western’ year zero of 1991.

The seventeen year hiatus of independence enjoyed by Georgia since the collapse of the USSR might seem longer than the 1918-21 period of sovereignty, but the results are starting to look strikingly similar: A resurgent Big Power provokes a Smaller Power to do something stupid, such as defend itself against aggression by appearing to become the initial aggressor, and then brings the hammer down.

In some circles, we call this the ‘Texas Solution,’ only today the Alamo is called South Ossetia, and President Polk is Prime Minister Putin.

Russia is back, and Georgia is effectively gone.

Up to 2,000 killed as Russia-Georgia fighting enters fourth day

The 25 most vicious Iraq war profiteers

1. Halliburton: The first name that comes to everyone’s mind here is Halliburton. According to MSN Money, Halliburton’s KBR, Inc. division bilked government agencies to the tune of $17.2 billion in Iraq war-related revenue from 2003-2006 alone. This is estimated to comprise a whopping one-fifth of KBR’s total revenue for the 2006 fiscal year. The massive payoff is said to have financed the construction and maintenance of military bases, oil field repairs, and various infrastructure rebuilding projects across the war-torn nation. This is just the latest in a long string of military/KBR wartime partnerships, thanks in no small part to Dick Cheney’s former role with the parent company. . . .

Ex-CIA analyst ignores Islam in muddled Mideast strategy

Whoever wins the U.S. presidential election this November will require a rethink on the Middle East. Kenneth M. Pollack, a former National Security Council staffer and CIA analyst, claims to provide one in "A Path Out of the Desert: A Grand Strategy for America in the Middle East."

His analysis? America does have legitimate interests in the region, notably in its oil. Yet many Mideast countries are in"a pre-revolutionary situation," nuclearization of the region is a possibility, and the future looks grim.

His strategy? To encourage and enable the kind of gradual political, social and economic reform that grows from within, as opposed to the variety imposed from without.

Rice: Israel can decide for itself on Iran

"We don't say yes or no to Israeli military operations. Israel is a sovereign country," she said in response to a question from The Politico Web site as to whether she was concerned that America would be blamed in the case of an IDF attack on the Islamic Republic.

Her statements come amid speculation that Washington has warned Jerusalem not to attack Iran and media reports that the US told Israel it doesn't have the green light to use Iraqi airspace for any such attack.

Pakistani Taliban repel government offensive

Taliban fighters forced Pakistani soldiers to retreat from a militants’ stronghold near the border with Afghanistan over the weekend, after a three-day battle sent civilians fleeing from government airstrikes.

The pullback from Bajaur, an area of Pakistan’s tribal region where the Taliban and Al Qaeda have forged particularly close ties, came after the military began an offensive there late last week.

Afghan president urges military action in Pakistan

President Hamid Karzai said Sunday that airstrikes carried out in Afghan villages by U.S. and NATO troops are only killing civilians and that the international community should instead go after terror centers in Pakistan.

Iraq demands 'clear timeline' for US withdrawal

Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari told reporters that American and Iraqi negotiators were "very close" to reaching a long-term security agreement that will set the rules for U.S. troops in Iraq after the U.N. mandate expires at the end of the year.

Zebari said the Iraqis were insisting that the agreement include a "very clear timeline" for the withdrawal of U.S.-led forces, but he refused to talk about specific dates.

Jewish Georgian minister: Thanks to Israeli training, we're fending off Russia

Jewish Georgian Minister Temur Yakobshvili on Sunday praised the Israel Defense Forces for its role in training Georgian troops and said Israel should be proud of its military might, in an interview with Army Radio.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

China's forgotten people

Unfortunately for Uighurs, they live in a world where their belief in Islam, despite their strongly pro-Western attitudes and the traditionally moderate practice of their faith, unfairly brands them as a group that is prone to violence and fundamentalism. Moreover, the Chinese government has exploited the demonization of Islam and the “global war on terror” in order to justify its heavy-handed repression of millions of Uighurs. China’s propaganda apparatus has become increasingly sophisticated at projecting an image on the world stage of a major, well-organized Uighur terrorist threat, which helps to crowd out discussion of the decades-long history of human rights abuses visited upon the Uighurs.

The more than ten million Uighurs of East Turkestan face human rights abuses nearly identical to those faced by Tibetans . . .

Guilt by association for US Muslims

Russia brushes aside ceasefire calls after Georgia withdraws

Russian forces were moving to take total control of South Ossetia last night as Georgia withdrew troops amid intense diplomatic efforts for a ceasefire to end the three-day conflict in which 2,000 people have reportedly been killed and up to 22,000 displaced.

Russian jets targeted major oil pipeline — Georgia

Russian fighter jets targeted the the major Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC) oil pipeline which carries oil to the West from Asia but missed, Georgia's Economic Development Minister Ekaterina Sharashidze said on Saturday.

Georgia withdraws as Russia builds firepower

Russian forces took control of the Georgian breakaway region of South Ossetia on Sunday as Tbilisi withdrew its troops in the face of a build-up of Moscow's dominant firepower.

After Russia won control of South Ossetia, officials in Tbilisi raised fears of a new front opening in western Georgia, saying Moscow was preparing to attack another pro-Russian restive Georgian province, Abkhazia.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Identifying the anthrax killer

The F.B.I. seems convinced that it has finally solved the long-festering case of who mailed the anthrax letters that killed five people in 2001. . . .

But there is no direct evidence of his guilt. No witness who saw him pouring powdered anthrax into envelopes. No anthrax spores in his house or cars. No confession to a colleague or in a suicide note. No physical evidence tying him to the site in Princeton, N.J., from which the letters are believed to have been mailed.

Iraq resumes oil exploration after 20-year break

Oil Minister Hussein Hussein al-Shahristani was to attend a ceremony to mark the event at the Al-Garraf field near Nasiriyah, 350 kilometres (220 miles) south of Baghdad, Jihad said.

He said the ministry would deploy three exploration teams trained abroad in the latest techniques.

OPEC member Iraq hopes the squads will uncover deposits that will enable it to double its proven oil reserves, currently standing at 115 billion barrels of crude.

. . . in August 1990, the United Nations imposed a strict oil embargo on Iraq, forcing it to cease exploration and cut back drastically on exports.

The greatest show the world has ever seen

It was all that was promised here in the fabulous chameleon of the stadium known as the Bird's Nest. It then spread like the magic fire of some great forest across the vast and, for so long, hidden land.

This, it was hard if not impossible to dispute, was the greatest show the world had ever seen and it brought joy that became delirium in 1.3 billion people.

The launch of the 29th Olympics was so stunningly choreographed, so meticulous planned – full dress rehearsals were under way more than a year ago – and went so far back into China's ancient history you suspected that Confucius himself might have been pleased.

The father of Chinese philosophy did, after all, like a party, once declaring: "Friends have come from afar and how happy we are."

Air strikes deep inside Georgia as Moscow claims 1,500 people have died in heavy fighting over separatist region

Georgia says Russia at war

Diplomats scrambled on Friday night to avert a wider crisis after the Russian military clashed with Georgian government forces in South Ossetia in the worst fighting in the breakaway enclave for nearly 20 years.

At the UN in New York, Russia and Georgia traded accusations of ethnic cleansing during the Security Council’s second emergency session on the crisis within 24 hours.

How Tenet betrayed the CIA on WMD in Iraq

According to Suskind's new book, The Way of the World, Iraqi Director of Intelligence Tahir Jalil Habbush al-Tikriti had been passing on sensitive intelligence to the UK's MI6 intelligence service for more than a year before the U.S invasion. In early 2003, Suskind writes, Habbush told MI6 official Michael Shipster in Jordan that Saddam had ended his nuclear program in 1991 and his biological weapons program in 1996. Habbush explained to the British official that Saddam tried to maintain the impression that he did have such weapons in order to impress Iran.

Pakistan army to ask Pervez Musharraf to resign

Pakistan's all-powerful army chief will ask President Pervez Musharraf to resign from office within a week, a senior government official claimed today.

Afghan troops and civilians surround RIR base after child death

Friday, August 8, 2008

Tape: Top CIA official confesses order to forge Iraq-9/11 letter

A forged letter linking Saddam Hussein to the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks was ordered on White House stationery and probably came from the office of Vice President Dick Cheney, according to a new transcript of a conversation with the Central Intelligence Agency's former Deputy Chief of Clandestine Operations Robert Richer.

The transcript was posted Friday by author Ron Suskind of an interview conducted in June. It comes on the heels of denials by both the White House . . .

Why TV news in the US is utter rubbish

For years it has been a joke that news in the United States is terrible: obsessed with trivia and celebrity; fronted by Botox bimbos; forever interviewing citizens about some artefact of small-town life when a major news story is breaking elsewhere.

Well, the truth is that it's far, far worse than that. . . .

Two comedy programmes, the Daily Show and the Colbert Report, fill a peculiar niche of serious analysis with gags and are possibly the main news source for people under 30. They both viciously lampoon the news media, which pretends not to notice and runs clips from them on their own shows.

There is hope however. The non-news cycle is increasingly being broken by the internet. Thanks to cheap digital technology and fast net connections, online video is a simple prospect and means it is possible to get your fix of moving images with real news thrown in.

How the frozen conflict turned into a flash fire

The South Ossetians and Georgians have been sniping at each other for several weeks and patience on both sides has finally snapped. South Ossetia and Georgia's other breakaway region, Abkhazia, have enjoyed de facto independence since the early 1990s but Tbilisi has never recognised the loss of its territory. The dispute between Georgia and the two regions was called "the frozen conflict" because the issues remain unresolved, but there was no fighting. The heat began to rise this year when the west recognised Kosovo, against Russia's advice. The South Ossetians and Abkhazians argued that if Kosovo could be independent, then so could they.

John Pilger: The lies of Hiroshima live on, props in the war crimes of the 20th century

The atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was a criminal act on an epic scale. It was premeditated mass murder that unleashed a weapon of intrinsic criminality. . . .

The most enduring lie is that the atomic bomb was dropped to end the war in the Pacific and save lives. "Even without the atomic bombing attacks," concluded the United States Strategic Bombing Survey of 1946, "air supremacy over Japan could have exerted sufficient pressure to bring about unconditional surrender and obviate the need for invasion. Based on a detailed investigation of all the facts, and supported by the testimony of the surviving Japanese leaders involved, it is the Survey's opinion that ... Japan would have surrendered even if the atomic bombs had not been dropped, even if Russia had not entered the war and even if no invasion had been planned or contemplated."

The National Archives in Washington contain US government documents that chart Japanese peace overtures as early as 1943. None was pursued. A cable sent on May 5, 1945 by the German ambassador in Tokyo and intercepted by the US dispels any doubt that the Japanese were desperate to sue for peace, including "capitulation even if the terms were hard". Instead, the US secretary of war, Henry Stimson, told President Truman he was "fearful" that the US air force would have Japan so "bombed out" that the new weapon would not be able "to show its strength". . . .

Since 1945, the United States is believed to have been on the brink of using nuclear weapons at least three times. In waging their bogus "war on terror", the present governments in Washington and London have declared they are prepared to make "pre-emptive" nuclear strikes against non-nuclear states. With each stroke toward the midnight of a nuclear Armageddon, the lies of justification grow more outrageous. Iran is the current "threat".

Iraq's nationalist surge

Barack Obama was lucky in the timing of his visit to Iraq. He arrived just after the Iraqi prime minister Nouri al-Maliki had rejected a new Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) institutionalizing the US occupation. The Iraqi government is vague about when it wants the final withdrawal of US combat troops, but its spokesman Ali al-Dabagh said that they should be gone by 2010. This is within the same time frame as Obama’s promise to withdraw one combat brigade a month over 16 months. Suddenly John McCain’s claim that US troops should stay on until some undefined victory sounded impractical and out of date.

The Iraqi government seemed almost surprised by its own decisiveness. It is by no means as confident as it pretends that it can survive without US backing, but it unexpectedly found itself riding a nationalist wave. The US occupation has always been unpopular among Iraqi Arabs since 2003. A poll by ABC News, the BBC and other television networks in February 2008 showed that 61 per cent of Iraqis say that the presence of US forces makes security worse in Iraq and 27 per cent say they improve it. The only large pocket of support for the US occupation is among the Kurds who are about a fifth of the population.

Gates pushing plan to double Afghan army

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates will endorse a $20 billion plan to substantially increase the size of Afghanistan’s army and will also restructure the military command of American and NATO forces in response to the growing Taliban threat, senior Pentagon and military officials said Thursday.

Anthrax case against bio-weapons expert 'staggering for lack of evidence'

Paul Kemp, Mr Ivins's lawyer, described the case as "an orchestrated dance of carefully worded statements, heaps of innuendo and a staggering lack of real evidence - all contorted to create the illusion of guilt by Dr Ivins".

Prosecutors could not place Mr Ivins in Princeton, New Jersey, where the letters were posted and there was no match between Ivins's handwriting and that found in the anthrax laden letters.

'We'll neutralize S-300 if sold to Iran'

If Russia goes through with the sale of its most advanced anti-aircraft missile system to Iran, Israel will use an electronic warfare device now under development to neutralize it and as a result present Russia as vulnerable to air infiltrations, a top defense official has told The Jerusalem Post.
Russian S-300 missiles.

The Russian system, called the S-300, is one of the most advanced multi-target anti-aircraft-missile systems in the world today and has a reported ability to track up to 100 targets simultaneously while engaging up to 12 at the same time.

Study cautions against strike on Iran's nuclear facilities

A military strike against Iran's nuclear facilities would probably only delay the country's progress toward nuclear-weapons capability, according to a study that concludes that such an attack could backfire by strengthening Tehran's resolve to acquire the bomb.

The analysis by the Washington-based Institute for Science and International Security found that Iran's uranium facilities are too widely dispersed and protected -- and, in some cases, concealed too well — to be effectively destroyed by warpla

Thursday, August 7, 2008

NEW BOOK: '9/11 Unveiled' by Enver Masud

FREE eBook until Sunday, August 10, 9:00 p.m. EST, USA

A challenge to those who dismiss alternative explanations of 9/11 as "conspiracy theories"

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9/11 UNVEILED complements the video at

Iraqis fail to agree on provincial election law

Iraqi lawmakers adjourned for the summer on Wednesday without passing a crucial election law that many here hoped would solidify the recent, still fragile gains in security. The failure seemed likely to mean the postponement of provincial elections, originally set for October, until next year — polling seen as vital to reconciling the deep-seated tensions among Iraq’s political and sectarian groups.

The decision to go on vacation rather than settle the issue underscored how little progress had been made on the most important recent political question to confront Iraqi leaders, . . .

Former Bin Laden driver acquitted of aiding attacks

A military jury on Wednesday found a former driver for Osama bin Laden guilty of supporting terrorism but not of conspiring in terrorist attacks, handing the Bush administration a partial victory in the first U.S. war crimes trial in a half a century.

The verdict, reached after about eight hours of deliberations over three days, only intensified the debate over whether Salim Ahmed Hamdan's conviction was preordained in an unfair system — or whether military trials are appropriate for people accused of committing heinous acts against the United States.

Impeachment threat for Musharraf

Pakistan's ruling coalition parties say they have agreed "in principle" to start impeachment proceedings against President Pervez Musharraf.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

FBI can listen on cell phones even when they're off

This morning, at a seminar on network security by Top Layer, we learned that the FBI has the capability to listen in over cell phones — even when they are off.

In this age of widespread eavesdropping, the FBI may not require a warrant.

Even when off, a the cell phone's battery keeps certain processes running. The only way to ensure that no one listens in is to remove the battery.

Of course, most of us are not a target of the FBI, and some could care less if the FBI listens in.

Possibility of mistrial arises at Guantánamo

The possibility of a mistrial emerged Tuesday in the United States's first war crimes trial at Guantánamo, after prosecutors said the judge gave flawed instructions to a jury of military officers in the case against Osama bin Laden's driver.

White House denies author's accusations of document forgery

The Bush administration joined former top CIA officials in denouncing a new book's assertion that White House officials ordered the forgery of Iraqi documents to suggest a link between Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and the lead hijacker in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Anger in Pakistan as 'missing' scientist resurfaces in US court on terror charges

A US-trained neuroscientist's appearance in a New York court charged with the attempted murder of American soldiers and FBI agents has sparked angry protests in her homeland of Pakistan.

Aafia Siddiqui, 36, is under suspicion of having links to the al-Qa'ida terror network of Osama bin Laden, and is the first woman ever sought by the US in connection with the group, which was behind the September 2001 attacks on the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon.

According to US officials, Ms Siddiqui, who reportedly studied at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Boston, was arrested in Afghanistan on 17 July in possession of recipes for explosives and chemical weapons, as well as details of landmarks in the United States, including in New York.

France slams 'unacceptable' Rwanda genocide claims

A 500-page report released Tuesday by Kigali alleged that France was aware of preparations for the genocide, and that French forces in Rwanda contributed to planning the massacres and actively took part in the killing.

It names 13 senior politicians and 20 military officials as responsible and raises the prospect of Rwandan legal action against them.

Paris Hilton issues tart rebuttal to McCain ad

Hilton initially shied away from the debate over the ad and its effectiveness. But she responded Tuesday with a spoof on the comedy Web site Funny or Die.

"Hey America, I'm Paris Hilton and I'm a celebrity, too. Only I'm not from the olden days and I'm not promising change like that other guy. I'm just hot," Hilton said, speaking as she reclined in a pool chair in a revealing bathing suit and a pair of pumps. "But then that wrinkly, white-haired guy used me in his campaign ad, which I guess means I'm running for president. So thanks for the endorsement white-haired dude."

"I want America to know that I'm, like, totally ready to lead," she said.

She then discusses energy policy, and suggests a hybrid of McCain's offshore oil drilling plan and Obama's incentives for new energy technology.

"Energy crisis solved! I'll see you at the debates," she said.

US frustrated by Taliban resilience

The Taliban are demonstrating a resilience and ferocity that are sowing alarm here, in Washington and in other NATO capitals, and engendering a fresh round of soul-searching over how a relatively ragtag insurgency has managed to keep the world's most powerful armies at bay.

Six years after being driven from power, the Taliban have once again penetrated Afghanistan to the point that security officials talk of a noose tightening around the capital, Kabul, leaving the Afghan people more despairing than at any time since 2001.

US officials: Iranian response to nuclear offer not acceptable

In the short, English-language document, Iran says it will provide a "clear response" to the offer but only after it receives a "clear response" to questions it has about the incentives, the officials said.

New Iraq operation gets surprise support

A massive military operation in Diyala province has underscored the military and political gains by the Sahwa militia, despite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's earlier attempts to thwart them. Maliki has now apparently come around to involving the Sahwa rather than opposing them.

The Sahwa are the "Awakening Forces" created and paid by the U.S. military to co-opt militants and fight al-Qaeda, but they have become a force of their own parallel to the military and the police.

They are a mostly Sunni militia of about 90,000, comprising mostly former anti-occupation resistance fighters and even al-Qaeda members. Each member is paid $300 monthly.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Book says White House ordered forgery

A new book by the author Ron Suskind claims that the White House ordered the CIA to forge a back-dated, handwritten letter from the head of Iraqi intelligence to Saddam Hussein.

Suskind writes in “The Way of the World,” to be published Tuesday, that the alleged forgery — adamantly denied by the White House — was designed to portray a false link between Hussein’s regime and al Qaeda as a justification for the Iraq war.

The author also claims that the Bush administration had information from a top Iraqi intelligence official “that there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq – intelligence they received in plenty of time to stop an invasion.”

McCain after 9/11: wrong about everything

This recently posted video of John McCain on the Letterman Show 18 October 2001, roughly a month after 9/11, suggests McCain knew about the Bush plan to take on Iraq. In addition to his cracks about killing Bin Laden by Halloween and intimidating "these people into going back to selling camels," he also floats the line that the anthrax used in the U.S. mail attacks "may have come from Iraq" and says the Bush administration was determined to hold the countries from which the terrorists came responsible. In retrospect, it's clear that McCain, our experience candidate, got pretty much everything wrong and was selling Bush's disastrous foreign policy, as he still is today.

Pakistani lady doctor abducted by FBI

On 24th July the Asian Human Rights Commission issued an Urgent Appeal in the case of the disappearance of a lady doctor who remains missing with her three children five years after her arrest.

The American Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), initially admitted that they had arrested Dr. Afia and then later denied it. Now, due to the coverage of the UA both in Pakistan and internationally, the FBI has now announced that “Dr. Afia Siddiqui is alive, she is in Afghanistan but she is injured”. No further details have been provided and the AHRC is especially concerned about the three children who were also abducted along with her. . . .

It is also reported that after filing a habeas corpus writ petition in the Islamabad High Court, Dr. Afia’s friends and relatives were threatened by several state agencies of Pakistan to withdraw the case or face the same situation. . . .

Initial agreement reached on withdrawal of US troops from Iraq

Iraqi and US teams negotiating a controversial security pact have reached an initial agreement that states that US troops will withdraw from Iraq between 2010 and 2011, the pro- government Iraqi Al-Sabah newspaper reported Monday. . . .

The US and Iraq have been negotiating the security pact, also called the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA), . . .

However, after months of disputes and criticism, the United States and Iraq are working on a short-term 'memorandum of understanding' instead.

Dhyan Chand and India's hockey team, 1936 Olympics, Berlin

To provoke war, Cheney considered proposal to dress up Navy Seals as Iranians and shoot at them

Eywitness accounts of the Pentagon on 9/11 contradict official story

The Citizen Investigation Team has dug up remarkable eyewitness testimony — on video — that contradicts the official account. Watch their video — buy the DVD.

"The Jason Ingersoll photo collection is a literal treasure trove of information and they reveal the sequence of events that led to the staging of light pole 1 on route 27 headed southbound while giving an incredible look into the details as they unfolded.

"One of these images is possible evidence that the pole" used to support the official story, "was planted after the fact."

Monday, August 4, 2008

The bizarre trial of bin Laden's bodyguard

Microsoft sees end of Windows era

Microsoft has kicked off a research project to create software that will take over when it retires Windows.

Called Midori, the cut-down operating system is radically different to Microsoft's older programs.

It is centred on the internet and does away with the dependencies that tie Windows to a single PC.

It is seen as Microsoft's answer to rivals' use of "virtualisation" . . .

'Tell us who the terrorists are if you want the doctor'

Seriously ill Palestinian patients are being pressured to collaborate with Israeli intelligence by informing on militant and other activities in return for being allowed out of Gaza for medical treatment a report says today.

Israel's domestic intelligence agency, Shin Bet, is playing an increasingly important role in determining whether patients should be allowed to keep hospital appointments in Israel or the West Bank, Physicians for Human Rights Israel [PHR] will claim.

Grenade attack kills 16 policemen on Chinese border

Attackers have killed 16 policemen and injured 16 more in a suspected terrorist raid in north-west China's restive region of Xinjiang this morning, the state media have reported.

Two assailants used a dump truck to target a paramilitary police border post near Kashgar, running down and then knifing a team of policemen on their morning drills before exploding grenades, the state news agency Xinhua said.

The area is already under tight security in the run-up to the Olympics, which begin in just four days.

FBI was told to blame Anthrax scare on Al Qaeda by White House officials

In the immediate aftermath of the 2001 anthrax attacks, White House officials repeatedly pressed FBI Director Robert Mueller to prove it was a second-wave assault by Al Qaeda, but investigators ruled that out, the Daily News has learned.

After the Oct. 5, 2001, death from anthrax exposure of Sun photo editor Robert Stevens, Mueller was "beaten up" during President Bush's morning intelligence briefings for not producing proof the killer spores were the handiwork of terrorist mastermind Osama Bin Laden, according to a former aide.

"They really wanted to blame somebody in the Middle East," the retired senior FBI official told The News.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

'SS Liberty' sails to challenge Israel

Forty-one years after the American surveillance ship USS Liberty was napalmed, torpedoed and strafed by Israeli naval and air forces during the Six-Day War, another "Liberty" will be setting out from a Cyprus port in August to try to break through the Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip.

Candidate who wants Olmert's job once 'sought deaths of 70 Palestinians a day'

A leading candidate to be Israel's next premier called for a death toll of 70 Palestinians a day when he was head of the military during the second intifada, according to a best-selling book by two Israeli journalists.

'Bomb bomb Iran'? Not likely

Analysts speculate about the danger of a U.S. or Israeli military attack on Iran before the Bush administration departs office next January. But if you read the tea leaves carefully, the evidence is actually pointing in the opposite direction.

One sign that the diplomatic track is dominant for now is that the administration plans to announce late this month that it will open an interest section in Tehran, a senior official disclosed Thursday. . . .

The administration's wariness of military options is also clear from recent efforts to dissuade Israel from attacking Iranian nuclear facilities. Mike McConnell, the director of national intelligence, traveled to Israel in early June; he was followed in late June by Adm. Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Both officials explained to their Israeli counterparts why the United States believes an attack isn't necessary now, because the Iranians can't yet build a nuclear weapon, and why an attack would damage U.S. national interests.

McConnell and Mullen also informed the Israelis that the United States would oppose overflights of Iraqi airspace to attack Iran, an administration official said.

Despite sanctions, German firm closes 100m euro deal with Iran

A German company has closed a 100 million euro deal with Iran to supply three gas plants with high-tech equipment after Germany ruled that the agreement does not violate sanctions against the Islamic Republic.

Steiner Gastec Prematechnik, the German firm, is to supply the factories with equipment to turn gas into sulphur-free liquid fuel. This would enable the factories to transport the gas more efficiently to customers across the world.

Who's really running Iraq?

The ability of America to make unilateral decisions in Iraq is diminishing by the month, but the White House was still horrified to hear the Iraqi prime minister Nouri al-Maliki appearing to endorse Barack Obama’s plan for the withdrawal of American combat troops over 16 months. This cut the ground from under the feet of John McCain who has repeatedly declared that ‘victory’ is at last within America’s grasp because of the great achievements of ‘the Surge’, the American reinforcements sent to Iraq in 2007 to regain control of Baghdad.

The success of ‘the Surge’ is becoming almost received wisdom in the US. This is strange since, if the US strategy did win such an important victory, why do America generals need more soldiers, currently 147,000 of them, in Iraq than they did before ‘the Surge’ started?

The ongoing persecution of Sami al-Arian

Efforts to free Sami al-Arian have now reached the U.S. Supreme Court. On July 30 an appeal was lodged with the Court by his attorneys, led by Professor Jonathan Turley.

There are few prospects in the justice system so grimly awful as when the feds decide never to let go. Rebuffed in their persecutions of some target by juries, or by contrary judges, they shift ground, betray solemn agreements, dream up new stratagems to exhaust their victims, drive them into bankruptcy, despair and even suicide. They have all the money and all the time in the world.

. . . after a visit to the local federal prosecutors in Tampa by Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez, the feds double-crossed him on the plea agreement and he was thrown back into prison.

US/UK intelligence readies Turkestan Islamic Party terror gambit for Beijing Olympics

Webster G. Tarpley writes: "Reliable Australian intelligence sources have issued a warning that US-UK intelligence is attempting to mount a false flag terror operation against China, quite possibly featuring a gaggle of patsies calling themselves the “Turkestan Islamic Party,” at the upcoming Beijing Olympics, where the eyes of the world will be concentrated next week. The goal of the operation will be to duplicate or surpass the bloodbaths at the Mexico City 1968 and/or Munich 1972 summer games. Commandant Seyfullah of the Turkestan Islamic Party (TIP) claims in a video tirade displayed by a US company’s website to represent the Turkish Moslems of Sinkiang province or Chinese Turkestan, where the Anglo-Americans have long sponsored an abortive separatist movement. Patsy leader Seyfullah and his Turkestan Islamic Party have been indirectly mentioned twice over the past two years by Ayman Zawahiri, the veteran British agent who functions as the real leader of “al Qaeda,” in effect sheep-dipping the little known TIP in the vast pool of “al Qaeda” notoriety. If the planned operation actually takes place, the current Chinese leadership will in the hopes of the plotters -- lose face and forfeit the mandate of heaven, the prerequisites for continued rule. This could then be the prelude to the installation of a new Chinese government far less committed to the Shanghai Cooperation Organization and to cooperation with Russia. It might be a first step towards splitting the SCO and turning Beijing against Moscow, which is the current goal of Anglo-American grand strategy. . . .

"The direct terror attack may also be supplemented by large scale provocations, chaos and confusion operations, and mass demonstrations by Falun Gong fanatics, by Tibetans loyal to the feudal latifundist and US-UK intelligence asset who calls himself the Dalai Lama, and/or by democracy and human rights activists assembled by Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and various NGOs in the orbit of US-UK and NATO intelligence. But the vigilance of the Chinese regime may be enough to defeat these plans."

Scientists question FBI probe on anthrax

Colleagues and friends of the vaccine specialist remained convinced that Ivins was innocent: They contended that he had neither the motive nor the means to create the fine, lethal powder that was sent by mail to news outlets and congressional offices in the late summer and fall of 2001. Mindful of previous FBI mistakes in fingering others in the case, many are deeply skeptical that the bureau has gotten it right this time.

Defiant Iran spurns deal over uranium plant

Iran's President has issued a defiant warning to his country's "enemies" as Tehran ignored a deadline from world powers hoping to curb Iranian nuclear ambitions.

Iran's refusal to give a clear answer by yesterday to the offer of technological and political incentives in return for suspending uranium enrichment rekindled tensions with the West and led to fresh warnings from Israel that military strikes remain an option.

But Tehran yesterday accused the West of double standards in the wake of the US's nuclear deal with India.

US 'held suspects on British territory in 2006'

Terrorist suspects were held by the United States on the British territory of Diego Garcia as recently as 2006, according to senior intelligence sources. The claims, which undermine Foreign Office denials that the archipelago in the Indian Ocean has been used as a so-called 'black site' to facilitate extraordinary rendition, threaten to cause a diplomatic incident.

Anthrax case renews questions on U.S. bioterror effort

The revelation that FBI investigators believe that the anthrax attacks were carried out by Ivins, an army biodefense scientist who committed suicide last week after he learned that he was about to be indicted for murder, has already re-ignited a debate: Has the unprecedented boom in biodefense research made the country less secure by multiplying the places and people with access to dangerous germs?

Tensions run high in Iraq over Kurdish claims to oil-rich-city of Kirkuk

Iraqi lawmakers are to meet Sunday in a special session of parliament aimed at resolving a power-sharing disagreement in Kirkuk, which has blocked legislation approving U.S.-backed provincial elections.

The dispute is emerging as one of the biggest threats to the Shiite-led government's efforts to heal the country's sectarian rifts and prevent a new cycle of violence.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

A triumph for Turkey — and its allies

On the eve of the crucial court decision that voted not to close down Turkey's ruling party, officials from Israel and Syria were in Ankara for a fourth round of peace talks under Turkish mediation. Perhaps they (and the Americans) knew a thing or two: Turkey's political stability is no longer just a national issue, it is vital for the international community. From the Israel-Syria engagement to Iran, Iraq and the United States, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is a needed man.

Alleged 9/11 architect says bin Laden's driver was 'not a soldier'

Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the alleged Sept. 11 architect, wrote that Salim Ahmed Hamdan was a low-level support staffer who never joined al-Qaeda and did not share bin Laden's ideology. Hamdan is on trial in the first U.S. military commission since World War II.

IAEA approves inspections plan required for India-U.S. nuclear deal

The accord would permit the sale of atomic materials and technology for civilian use to India, even though the country has not signed the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

Robert Fisk: New actor on the same old stage

Westerners believe that Obama appeals to the Arabs because of his middle name or because he's black. Untrue. They like him — or liked him — because he grew up poor. Like them, he understood — or rather, they thought he understood — what oppression was about. But they quickly found out where they stood in the food chain. Forty-five minutes in Ramallah vs 24 hours in Israel was the Obama equation. Yes, I know the old saw. Every US presidential candidate has to make the pilgrimage to the Wailing Wall, to Yad Vashem, to some Israeli town or village that has taken casualties (albeit minuscule in comparison to those visited upon the Palestinians), to talk about Israel's security, etc. That doesn't mean, we are always told, that Israel is going to have it easy once the US president is elected. Wrong. Israel is going to have it easy. Because no sooner is he elected than he will be enmeshed in the Middle East tragedy and be forced to take sides — Israel's, of course — and then it will be time for the next election, so the president's hands will be tied again and he'll be talking about Israel's security (rather than Palestinian security) and we'll be back on the same old itinerary.

Karadzic protected by US until he broke 'deal': Belgrade report

Bosnian Serb wartime leader Radovan Karadzic was protected by the United States until a CIA phone bug caught him breaking the terms of his 'deal', Serb newspaper Blic reported Saturday, quoting a US intelligence source.

Partly echoing what Karadzic himself told the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in his opening written submission, the paper claims Karadzic was secretly granted immunity in return for keeping a low profile. . . .

In a submission to the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), Karadzic said the US peace negotiator in Bosnia, Richard Holbrooke, had promised he would avoid trial if he withdrew from public life.

Afghanistan: Not a good war

But Afghanistan is the "good war," aimed at "those who attacked us," in the words of columnist Frank Rich. It is "the war of necessity," asserts the New York Times, to roll back the "power of al-Qaeda and the Taliban."

Barack Obama is making the distinction between the "bad war" in Iraq and the "good war" in Afghanistan a centerpiece of his run for the presidency. He proposes ending the war in Iraq and redeploying U.S. military forces in order "to finish the job in Afghanistan."

Virtually no one in the United States or the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) calls for negotiating with the Taliban. Even the New York Times editorializes that those who want to talk "have deluded themselves."

But the Taliban government did not attack the United States. Our old ally, Osama bin Laden, did. Al-Qaeda and the Taliban are not the same organization (if one can really call al-Qaeda an "organization"), and no one seems to be listening to the Afghans.

Pakistan denies ISI behind Indian embassy attack

Friday, August 1, 2008

Blackwater's not going anywhere

It seems that executives from Blackwater Worldwide, the Bush Administration's favorite hired guns in Iraq and Afghanistan, are threatening to pack up their M4 assault rifles, CS gas and Little Bird helicopters and go back to the Great Dismal Swamp of North Carolina whence they came. Or at least that's how it is being portrayed in the media. . . .

Anyone who thinks Blackwater is in serious trouble is dead wrong. Even if--and this is a big if--the company pulled out of Iraq tomorrow, here is the cold, hard fact: business has never been better for Blackwater, and its future looks bright. . . .

On top of this, Blackwater affiliate Greystone Ltd., registered offshore in Barbados, is an old-fashioned mercenary operation offering "personnel from the best militaries throughout the world" for hire by governments and private organizations. It also boasts of a "multi-national peacekeeping program," with forces "specializing in crowd control and less than lethal techniques and military personnel for the less stable areas of operation." Greystone's name has been conspicuously absent in this current news cycle.

U.S. 0fficials: Pakistani agents helped plan Kabul bombing

U.S. intelligence officials have concluded that elements of Pakistan's military intelligence service provided logistical support to militants who staged last month's deadly car bombing at the Indian Embassy in Afghanistan's capital, U.S. officials familiar with the evidence said yesterday.

The finding, based partly on communication intercepts, has dramatically heightened U.S. concerns about long-standing ties between Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence agency, or ISI, and Taliban-allied groups that are battling U.S. forces in Afghanistan, . . .

Travelers' laptops may be detained at border

Federal agents may take a traveler's laptop or other electronic device to an off-site location for an unspecified period of time without any suspicion of wrongdoing, as part of border search policies the Department of Homeland Security recently disclosed.

Also, officials may share copies of the laptop's contents with other agencies and private entities for language translation, data decryption or other reasons, according to the policies, dated July 16 and issued by two DHS agencies, U.S. Customs and Border Protection and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

"The policies . . . are truly alarming," said Sen. Russell Feingold (D-Wis.), . . .

Afghanistan spiralling back to days of Taliban, say charities

Violence in Afghanistan has reached record highs, with unprecedented numbers of civilian casualties and terror attacks spreading into areas once thought safe, a coalition of charities warns. In a damning indictment of the international community's effort to stabilise Afghanistan, more than 100 aid agencies claimed security is worse now than at any time in the past seven years. . . .

The group represents 64 international aid groups with projects inside the warring country, including Oxfam, Mercy Corps and Save the Children, as well as 36 Afghan charities.

There are almost 53,000 Nato-led troops across Afghanistan, . . .

UN agency debates plan for Indian nuclear inspections

The United Nations atomic agency started a meeting that's likely to endorse a plan for inspections of India's nuclear plants, a crucial step toward implementation of a U.S.-India accord giving the southern Asian nation access to technology needed to meet its growing energy demands.

The plan, which would open up 14 civilian nuclear reactors to international inspection, . . .

The inspections agreement is the first hurdle for a U.S.- Indian nuclear cooperation treaty. The treaty must secure the backing of the Nuclear Suppliers Group, a multinational anti- proliferation organization established in 1974 after the Indian government tested its first atomic bomb. The U.S. Congress then needs to ratify the accord.

Watchdog: Bush turning intelligence agencies on Americans

The update to Executive Order 12333, first issued by former President Ronald Reagan, introduces a more prominent role for the Attorney General in approving intelligence gathering methods, calls for collaboration with local law enforcement agencies, eases limits on how information can be shared and urges cooperation between the IC and private companies.

"This Intelligence Community that was built to deal with foreign threats is now being slowly and incrementally turned inward," says Mike German, policy counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union, . . .

Sadr to back Maliki if U.S. pact denied

Sadr, who is believed to be in Iran furthering his clerical studies, said he would support the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki if it did not sign onto an agreement set to replace the expiring U.N. mandate for Iraq, Press TV reported. . . .

Meanwhile, Deputy Chairman of the Supreme Islamic Iraq Council Abdul Aziz al-Hakim said, following a meeting with Syrian President Bashar Assad, that the overwhelming majority of the Iraqi people are opposed to a continued U.S. presence.