PM’s Kashmir Visit: “Productive & Fruitful?”

November 5, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By Nilofar Suhrawardy, Muslim Media News Service (MMNS) India Correspondent

NEW DELHI/SRINAGAR: Ironically, just when it seemed that Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) was taking the right steps to win over Kashmiris in India-occupied Jammu and Kashmir (J&K), the week ended with quite a few questioning the government’s intentions. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh visited Kashmir last week (October 28-29), accompanied by UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi, Railway Minister Mamata Bannerjee, Health & Family Welfare Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad and New & Renewable Energy Minister Farooq Abdullah. Singh inaugurated the 12-km-long Anantnag-Qazigund rail link in south Kashmir. Besides, he reviewed the development efforts being taken by state government led by Chief Minister Omar Abdullah. Singh also held discussions with major political parties in the state.

Briefing media, after concluding his two-day visit, Singh described it as “productive and fruitful.” During their talks, he and Abdullah “took stock of the development efforts in various sectors and discussed ways and means of expediting the implementation of various central projects,” Singh said. In his discussions with other political leaders and various sections of civil society, Singh made an “appeal” for dialogue, which he hopes “will be reciprocated in the spirit in which it was made.” “We have to carry all stakeholders with us to achieve a permanent and peaceful reconciliation in Jammu & Kashmir so that we can concentrate on an ambitious development agenda that will lead to a full economic revival and reconstruction and create lot more jobs for the young people of Jammu and Kashmir,” he said.

Singh stated that he was returning to Delhi “fully satisfied” with his visit. “I believe that a new chapter is opening in the peace process in the state and we are turning a corner. We will extend full support to the efforts of the state government to fulfill the high expectations of the people of Jammu & Kashmir,” he said.
During his address, at the inauguration of the rail-link, Singh pointed out that his government has taken a number of steps for the state’s development. These include, Singh said, the “bold step of reviving the movement of goods and people across the Line of Control on the Srinagar – Muzaffarabad road and on the Poonch – Rawalakot road.” Accepting that a lot more needed to be done, he said: “We have to speed up the pace of development in the state. We have to reverse the brain drain that has denuded the state of many of its teachers, doctors, engineers and intellectuals. We have to create the conditions for them to return and to be the instruments of change and development. We want to strengthen the hands of the state government so that they can implement an ambitious development agenda.”

Singh outlined the central government’s to involve the state’s youth under the “Skill Development to Employment” program, directed towards training them as tourist escorts, developing Information Technology sector in J&K and setting up two central universities in the state- one in Jammu and one in Kashmir.

“The era of violence and terrorism is coming to an end. The public sentiment is for peace and for a peaceful resolution of all problems,” Singh pointed out. He laid stress that his government is “committed to having unconditional dialogue with whoever abjures violence.” On talks India has held with Pakistan, Singh said: “We had the most fruitful and productive discussions ever with the Government of Pakistan during the period 2004-07 when militancy and violence began to decline.” “For the first time in 60 years, people were able to travel by road across the LoC. Divided families were re-united at the border. Trade between the two sides of Kashmir began. In fact, our overall trade with Pakistan increased three times during 2004-07. The number of visas that we issued to Pakistanis doubled during the same period. An additional rail link was re-established. These are not small achievements given the history of our troubled relationship with Pakistan. Inside the valley, as militancy declined, trade, business and tourism began to pick up. We were moving in the right direction,” Singh said.

When there was a “feeling among the people that a durable and final peace was around the corner,” Singh said: “All the progress that we achieved has been repeatedly thwarted by acts of terrorism. The terrorists want permanent enmity to prevail between the two countries. The terrorists have misused the name of a peaceful and benevolent religion.” Before concluding his address, Singh appealed to the Pakistan government that the “hand of friendship that we have extended should be carried forward” in “interest of people of India and Pakistan.”

Undeniably, Singh’s Kashmir-visit suggests that his government is leaving no stone unturned for peace and development of the state. But the Kashmiris started questioning the same moves as the center decided a day later to stop pre-paid mobiles in J&K from November 1. An official release from the home ministry stated that the decision was taken because of “serious security concerns” which had risen as “proper verification” was not being done while providing pre-paid mobile connections (October 30).

Criticizing and questioning the sudden decision taken by the center, the Kashmiris asked as to why should they all suffer for “wrong doings” of a few militants. “Are all users of pre-paid mobile services being viewed as terrorists?” asked a Kashmiri student. Mehboob Beigh, a legislator of National Conference (NC), which heads the state government, said: “It is unwise to do this at a time when the PM has stressed on creating an atmosphere for peace.” Opposition leader, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) president Mehbooba Mufti described the situation as “unfortunate” and sought the PM’s personal intervention to restore the service. The move negates the statements made by PM in his Kashmir visit, she said. On the one hand, she said, the “union government was claiming that the situation has improved in the state and on the other residents of this state have been denied facilities like mobile services in the name of security threats.”

“What kind of a message is being conveyed to industrialists and prospective investors across the country? That Kashmir is a state where terrorism is as high as before the mobile services were launched in the state in 2003?” asked a businessman. In the opinion of some, it would not have much of an impact, as people are likely to lobby and convert the existing pre-paid connections into post-paid ones.

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Diaries Recounting Zubaydah’s Torture Should Be Given to Defense Attorneys, Judge Rules

October 22, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By Jason Leopold, Truthout

Guantanamo detainee Abu Zubaydah is expected to finally gain access to diaries he wrote during the years while he was being tortured by CIA interrogators. A federal court judge has ordered the government to turn over unredacted volumes of the diaries and other “specified” writings to defense attorneys representing Zubaydah.

Zubaydah was the first high-value detainee captured after 9/11. He was repeatedly waterboarded and subjected to brutal torture techniques by CIA interrogators at secret black-site prisons.

Although the order issued by US District Court Judge Richard Roberts on September 30 was filed under seal, Zubaydah’s attorney, Brent Mickum, said in a Truthout interview that while he could not discuss the substance of the ruling, it was his opinion that the order “should have been made public from the get-go” because “there’s nothing in [the order] that should be considered classified.”

In his motion, Mickum asked for original copies of the diaries to be released. It is not known whether Roberts’ order required the government to produce original versions of Zubaydah’s diaries. However, it is believed that Roberts’ order applies to three volumes of diaries Zubaydah wrote between 2002 and 2006, the time he spent in CIA custody and was tortured.

Those volumes, identified as seven, eight and nine, “were drafted while [Zubaydah] was in CIA custody,” according to court papers filed by Mickum last January. “Volumes 10 and 11 were completed in [Department of Defense] custody at Guantanamo, after September 2006; only these last two volumes, written after [Zubaydah] was transferred from CIA to DoD custody, were given to counsel in late 2008 by [Zubaydah] because they were in his possession.”

Mickum said he already has access to volumes one through six and 11 and 12. Though volumes one through six are unclassified, they have been designated by the government as “protected” and are not publicly available.

In a public summary describing his order, Roberts wrote that Mickum’s motion for “a preservation order and additional relief will be granted in part and denied in part, and [his] motion for an order requiring the [government] to return unredacted versions of [Zubaydah’s] diaries and other specified writings to him will be granted in part and denied in part.”

The diaries have been the subject of legal wrangling for years. Justice Department attorneys in both the Bush and Obama administrations have argued that releasing unredacted copies of the diaries would constitute a threat to national security because they contain names of government employees, including an FBI agent, and names of individuals who assisted in translating the diaries from Arabic to English, plus information about ongoing counterterrorism efforts.

Mickum has filed numerous motions in federal court accusing the government of improperly classifying the diaries – even after portions have already surfaced in public documents – and abusing the classification process related to other materials in Zubaydah’s case.

For example, last August Mickum filed court papers seeking additional copies of Zubaydah’s medical records and an in-person medical evaluation, both of which Mickum says he needs in order to “challenge the lawfulness” of Zubaydah’s detention. The court previously ordered the release of medical records related to the more than 200 seizures Zubaydah has suffered since being transferred to Guantanamo in 2006.

The Justice Department balked and filed its opposition in the matter under seal. Mickum objected to the government’s “ongoing abuse of the classification system” in a motion he filed in federal court in June. The court hasn’t ruled on that motion yet although it has been fully briefed on the matter.

Mickum said he has not been able to mount a meaningful defense because the government continuously denies his requests for documents related to Zubaydah’s time in CIA custody.

“The government is preventing us from working up the case,” Mickum said. “They are trying to keep things closely guarded.”

A Justice Department spokesman would not return calls for comment regarding Judge Roberts’ ruling.

Zubaydah has written 11 volumes of his diary in a “slender bound notebook” and has started work on volume 12, according to court papers in the case filed last January. He wrote the first six volumes before his March 2002 arrest in Pakistan.

The government’s case against Zubaydah is based heavily on entries contained in the first six volumes of his diaries, according to court papers. But the materials were designated by the government as “protected,” even though the diaries are unclassified and both the defense team and Zubaydah have access to volumes one through six.

In a July 14 motion opposing the government’s attempt to “protect” volumes one through six, Mickum said he is not permitted to inform Zubaydah “which passages the government relied upon” in the charges it prepared against him as outlined in the “factual return.”

“The Government has redacted every reference to the unclassified volumes of [Zubaydah’s] diary from the unclassified factual return,” Mickum’s motion states. “By removing every reference to the diary, the Government leaves very few of the relevant allegations against [Zubaydah] to be seen by the eyes of the public. Moreover, what is left is an incredibly misleading picture. For example, for several pages of the factual return, virtually the only words that are left unredacted are the names: Abu Hafs al-Masri, [al-Qaeda-in-Iraq leader] Abu Mas’ab al-Zarqawi, [self-professed 9/11 mastermind] and Khalid Sheik Mohammed, known al-Qaeda operative. What the public does not see if that the only reason these people are mentioned in [the government’s] factual return is that they are alleged to have been in the same city as [Zubaydah]. The Government does not even allege [Zubaydah] had direct, or even indirect, contact with them.

“What possible explanation can the Government offer to justify that the diaries are unclassified but the quotations from the diaries upon which the government relies in the factual return are classified? There is none. By doing so, the Government simply demonstrates its disregard for the fact that the authority to designate unclassified information as protected properly belongs to the court.

“It is understandable that the Government would want to avoid the public criticism that may follow from an honest discussion of who [Zubaydah] was and how the Government mistreated him, but this is not a legitimate basis for sealing information [in his] case. [This is about] the Government’s simple desire to keep information about [Zubaydah] and the case against him secret, primarily to cover up evidence contradicting its own public misstatements about [Zubaydah] as well as potential evidence of further as-yet-undisclosed government wrongdoing.”

Mickum said diaries Zubaydah kept while in CIA custody will go a long way toward establishing the brutal treatment Zubaydah was subjected to – far surpassing what the public has learned thus far from declassified \Justice Department legal memos documenting the brutal methods, such as sleep deprivation and beatings, used by CIA interrogators against Zubaydah.

He added that the diaries contain a “list of names, dates and activities” that will assist the defense in generating leads and prove that Zubaydah was not a senior member of al-Qaeda.

But by designating the material as “protected,” the government “severely hinders [the defense team’s] ability to prepare [Zubaydah’s] defense and vindicate his constitutional entitlement to habeas corpus at numerous levels.”

Mickum opined that the government would force him to have potential witnesses sign an agreement stating that they would be bound by a protective order if he were to discuss the diaries with them. Mickum said that was impractical as his investigations “are taking place all over the world” and it would also have a “chilling effect” on foreign witnesses. “Counsel are right now seeking the cooperation of witnesses in foreign countries who can corroborate the substance of [Zubaydah’s] defense, much of which is articulated in his diary,” Mickum’s July 14 court filing says. “The Government’s attempt to designate the diary as protected, if granted, would preclude counsel from conducting such crucial investigations.”

Zubaydah began keeping a diary in 1992, after he suffered a severe head injury while fighting communist insurgents in Afghanistan. The injury left “significantly impaired both his long- and short-term memory,” states Mickum’s January 14 court motion.

“He cannot remember his father’s name and dimly recalls that he looked like a movie star in the Arab world (whose name he cannot remember). He cannot remember the name of his business partner with whom he ran a news agency prior to his arrest. Long after his 1992 injury, once [Zubaydah] had recovered the ability to speak and write, he began to keep a diary. It is his memory. Without it, he is lost.”

Dan Coleman, a former FBI agent who analyzed the diaries, said he was convinced that Zubaydah was “certifiable” and was not a high-level official in al-Qaeda as top Bush administration officials had claimed. Rather, Coleman said, Zubaydah was more like heavyweight boxing champ Joe Louis, who worked as a greeter in Las Vegas at the end of his life.

According to author Ron Suskind, Zubaydah’s diaries were written in the voices of three people – Hani 1, Hani 2 and Hani 3, which, Suskind wrote in his book, “The One Percent Doctrine,” helps establish that Zubaydah was mentally ill.

Furthermore, Suskind wrote, “Zubaydah was a logistics man, a fixer, mostly for a niggling array of personal items, like the guy you call who handles the company health plan, or benefits, or the people in human resources. There was almost nothing ‘operational’ in his portfolio. That was handled by the management team. He wasn’t one of them.”

Suskind’s account closely matches what Jack Cloonan, a former FBI special agent assigned to the agency’s elite Bin Laden unit, told me in a recent interview. Cloonan said the CIA and the Bush administration were flat wrong in designating Zubaydah as a top official in al-Qaeda. Zubaydah “wasn’t privy to a lot of what I would consider to be a lot of really good operational details,” getting most of his information secondhand, Cloonan said.

Mickum denies that Zubaydah was privy to any operational details of al-Qaeda.

“My client was never, ever, even a member of al-Qaeda, much less a high-level operative,” Mickum told Truthout. “The camp he was alleged to have assisted was closed in 2000 by the Taliban. Leaders of the camp known as Khalden closed it rather than allowing it to fall under the control of Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda because they disagreed with al-Qaeda’s missions and attacks on innocent civilians.” Cloonan agreed, for the most part, with Mickum’s characterization of Zubaydah.

“We thought [Zubaydah] would be best described as a logistical officer who managed a series of safe houses and was a great travel agent,” Cloonan said. “But to cast him and describe him as the al-Qaeda emir or leader for the subcontinent or worse … I think was a mistake…. Based on his age and ethnicity, [he] would [n]ever be brought into the inner circle of al-Qaeda.”

There was also the question of Zubaydah’s personality. “My partner had a chance to look at a lot of Abu Zubaydah’s diaries, poems and other things that he has written and he said that after reading this you just come away with the feeling that this is a guy who can’t be trusted or be given huge amounts of responsibility,” Cloonan said. “He just seemed mentally unstable…. “I’m not at all suggesting that Abu Zubaydah wasn’t valuable. Anytime you get one of these guys and get their cooperation, I think [it] is a win. You can get information that’s really valuable from people who are further down the food chain. It’s how you get the information and whether you’re getting real cooperation or simply compliance because somebody’s either waterboarding you or gets you on sleep deprivation.

“We know, and the science tells us, that people cannot recall details accurately, they can’t look at pictures, they will make things up if deprived of the bare essentials of life over the course of time. I don’t understand how you could sleep deprive somebody for 11 days and expect this person to provide you with accurate information.

“Even if they wanted to they’re probably so debilitated at this point they need to be rehabilitated before they ever give you anything.”

Zubaydah’s 2002 torture sessions were videotaped. But CIA officials destroyed the tapes and a special prosecutor was appointed to investigate whether federal laws were broken when the tapes were purged.

As I previously reported, CIA interrogators provided top agency officials in Langley with daily “torture” updates of Zubaydah. The extensive back-and-forth between CIA field operatives and agency officials in Langley likely included updates provided to senior Bush administration officials.

In justifying his torture, the Bush administration had maintained that Zubaydah was the No. 3 official in al-Qaeda and had information about pending terrorist attacks against the US. But documents, news reports, books and former FBI interrogators familiar with Zubaydah said he was a low-level figure in the terrorist organization and was mentally ill.

CIA interrogators waterboarded Zubaydah 83 times in one month, according to recently released documents, and placed him inside a coffin-like box for hours at a time. The Bush administration claimed it obtained actionable intelligence by torturing Zubaydah – an assertion contradicted by a CIA inspector general’s report on the agency’s torture and detention program.

CIA documents from a Combatant Status Review Tribunal in March 2007 revealed that Zubaydah’s torturers eventually apologized to him and said they concluded he was not a top al-Qaeda lieutenant as the Bush administration and intelligence officials had claimed.

“They told me sorry we discover that you are not number three [in al-Qaeda], not a partner, even not a fighter,” Zubaydah said during his tribunal hearing.

Mickum said volumes seven, eight and nine of Zubaydah’s diaries would shed further light on his brutal treatment while “in CIA custody and recount his torture and damaging exculpatory admission made by [Zubaydah’s] torturers and other CIA officials.”

The diaries “are critically important to show what [Zubaydah] was doing during this time frame and contain exculpatory evidence.”

Public court filings also state that Zubaydah “created other relevant writings and drawings, none of which have been returned to him.” Although Mickum said he could not describe the drawings because they remain classified, but it appears likely that they may depict Zubaydah’s torture.

“You’ll just have to use your imagination as to what they might be,” Mickum said. Zubaydah’s “really good.”

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Israeli’s Bid to Buy Al-Jazeera from Qatar

October 15, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

PressTV

al-jazeera An Israeli media tycoon has offered to buy the pan-Arab Al-Jazeera satellite television network from the government of Qatar.

Haim Saban, has submitted an offer to the Qatari government in a bid to purchase half of the Doha -based Al-Jazeera satellite network.

The Egyptian newspaper al-Mesryoon reported Wednesday that the Israeli billionaire is currently engaged in negotiations with Qatar’s emir, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, over the partial purchase of the media outlet. The talks are said to be conducted through an Egyptian mediator.

The account comes amid reports that the largest and most controversial Arab news channel in the Middle East is grappling with a terrible financial crisis at present. Saban had previously made an offer to purchase al-Jazeera in 2004, but it was turned down.

The Israeli-American magnate has supposedly made an offer of $5 billion for the popular Arabic-language news channel, in an attempt to get a hold of it and to broadcast a pro-Israeli message so as to influence the Arab opinion in favor of Tel Aviv’s hawkish regime.

Al-Jazeera spawned a media revolution in the Arab world after it was founded in 1996. The network is reliant on state financial largesse, estimated at over $70 million a year, but does not broadcast shows critical of the Qatari government. Al-Jazeera, however, does air programs leveling criticism at all other Arab governments.

Seban made his fortune by buying the rights to market the Japanese kids show, “The Power Rangers,” in America. He is a prominent supporter of Israel and the right-wing Netanyahu government. In addition, the Egyptian-born Jewish businessman is well known for his under-the-table dealings.

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Iraqi Mujahideen

September 24, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Iraqi Resistance Responds to President Obama

Press Release, The Political Committee / Baghdad / The Republic of Iraq, Official English Transcript

Editor’s note:  We are printing this March 2009 announcement because it is absolutely newsworthy and even essential to consider in order to understand Iraq, and absolutely not as an endorsement of the insurgency in Iraq.  Also due to the length of the statement only part of it is here, for the rest please see our website.

Statement in Response to President Obama’s Remarks made on the 27th or February 2009 regarding the proclaimed ending to the occupation of The Republic of Iraq.

Good Evening, 

In Respect to the remarks of President Barak Hussain Obama, The president of the United States of America. The Political Committee of a number of factions in the Iraqi Resistance, mainly the factions present in our front, respond with our point of view on the contents of his speech.

Over the last four months, as the battle of our people continues to free Iraq of all foreign occupation. We have been studying the movements on the ground as well as analyzing the intelligence in order to assess the next strategy that the US administration will take under the leadership of the new presidency. 

We had formulated our own plan of action based on the above mentioned, but have chosen to give the new president enough time to gather his thoughts and have a suitable amount of reports & briefings that would give him also a good picture of the daily developments on the ground. 

President Obama, After listening to your speech on the 27th of February 2009, in which you declared your general and public understanding of the ongoing war against our people, and gave your military and the honorable people of the United States brief points on your intentions in our country, we felt the spirit of the speech that your predecessor President JFK gave on the 20th of January 1961, on his inaugural address. In this speech, he offered a turbulent world, a way out of tensions and paid with his own blood for challenging the interests of those in your consecutive governments who hold the true keys to power. Those who would do anything to preserve their interests, wealth, & power to create wars & conflict.  

We mention this with great honesty in hope to spread awareness and remembrance that a new Caesar may be betrayed, by his own, if he chooses to follow a different path. We do believe, on the other hand, that the spirit of the speech was well chosen. 

We have listened well to your economic plans for your country released before this speech as well, and as ambitious as it may seem, we believe that if intentions are genuine within your congress, a considerable number of  what you seek will eventually be fulfilled, but in case of failure, the republicans will be looking for a scapegoat to relate all their failures to. In this case it would be your administration. This will guarantee them a fast comeback. 

You have inherited a nation at war, a failed economy, and a desperate people who are bearing the full brunt of an economic crisis that was not of their making. As well as thousands of young men dead and handicapped. 

We have inherited a foreign occupation, endless counts of innocent dead, injured, and handicapped, millions of refugees, in essence, Mr. President, the complete and planned disintegration of our nation and people. 

We believe that the funds wasted in this war would have been more useful if it were spent on research to develop alternative energy, which no doubt would have reduced energy conflicts, cures for cancer, agricultural solutions to prevent worldwide poverty, advancements to develop Africa, where people still die of starvation and intentional neglect. Endless causes, all in need of immediate attention.

By the will of God almighty, the resilience of our men, and the patience of our humble people, we have so far managed to halt and render useless all imperialist agendas set for Iraq and the region in whole. Simply by choosing to resist occupation, a right guaranteed by God first and then by international conventions to all men. A right your country’s policies continue to disrespect and dishonor, in clear example to state sponsored Terrorism. 

You have spoken to our people in part of your speech, and we thank you for these words, you have displayed a far better understanding our nation, than your predecessor, who preferred to dive deep into the oceans of illiteracy and ignorance. Despite the fact that you did not mention the Iraqi resistance in your speech, and chose to label us as terrorists along with those who arrived with your troops, we will set that aside for now, and mention a few facts for the record.

1-     The people of Iraq whom you addressed, in all their sects colors and religions, refuse your occupation, and those who accept it, are those who benefit from it.

2-     The Iraqis you addressed, as we truly hope, are not the ones who bathe in the riches of treason, behind your walls of the green zone, nor are they the likes of Ahmed Al Chalabi, whom your previous government conspired with and his likes from the dark alleys of 5 star hotels in the US and Europe prior to your occupation.

3-     The Iraqi people you talked to, are those who never invited your occupation, and were trying their best to survive on what was possible, under the criminal sanctions that went on for 13 years only to be crowned with a foreign occupation, unmatched in criminal acts, in today’s modern world.

President Obama, The suffering, that our people had to go through is beyond comprehension. And the endless crimes of your troops as well as that of neighboring countries, cannot simply be undone or dismissed, nor can they be brushed under the carpet. Your troops still occupy the land and kill the innocent, that is why we can only address you as the president of an occupying nation.  

The Iraqi People are disappointed in your plan. They expect your troops to leave our country in full and not in part. Our people, seek a complete end of occupation and not the fulfillment of a strategic treaty that was rushed against the will of our people, in the last few days of your predecessor. 

Our people, as well as the majority of people around the world, and in your country, want to see the last president be presented to an international war crime tribunal for all the crimes he has committed in the name of your country, only to benefit those who brought him to power in the first place.

We have never invited your occupation, nor have we asked your country to steal our country’s resources to benefit your corporations and to those neighboring states which historically fall under your influence. We have never asked you for your precious blood or ours, to us, all blood is precious even that of the your soldiers sent by your government to die not knowing what they were truly fighting for. This has to be addressed to the man who started this war, and is hiding now in Texas, while you try to undo his damage. 

We the Iraqi People and their resistance demand the following:

1-     The fulfillment of all the conditions presented to your government through the mediators you sent in 2006.

2-     The hand over of all the traitors & Collaborators in the green zone to the Iraqi people where they will be dealt with as any nation would do with in cases of high treason. 

3-     The full & just compensation for our people for the losses they have suffered.

4-     The halting of all compensations paid to those who fall under your umbrella in the region from the resources of our people.

5-     The return of all land stolen from our country.

6-     The departure of all foreign corporations mainly in the sectors of energy, communication, & infrastructure rebuilding, specifically those linked to Neocon interests. Our people are more than qualified to rebuild and operate our institutions.

7-     The hand over of all mercenaries accused of killing innocent civilians mainly security contractors in Black Water and their CEO to be tried for murder.

8-     All foreign advisors are to leave Iraq with your troops.

9-     The dismantling of all militias equipped by your country and Iran together to shift the nature of battle towards the sectarian nature in order to allow your troops to concentrate on the major resistance activities in the central region of Iraq.

10-  The halting of all support to the sectarian government elected in the orchestrated elections in the green zone.

11-  The reduction of the influence of your Persian allies in Iraq which your previous government worked with in close conjunction and who continue to fund Al Qaeda on behalf of  your intelligence agency’s behalf.

12-  The return to the old constitution of a unified Iraq. And the Upholding of new elections Within 6 months of the resistance taking power of the nation, this will be supervised, by must be conducted in the presence of a number of credible international monitors. Not the ones sponsored by the CIA.

13-  Cities and provinces are to be handed over one by one starting with the four main cities and airports of  Baghdad, Basra, then Mosul and Kirkuk in the same order. The rest will fall immediately in our hands. The borders will have other arrangements. 

The list goes on, but the intention is to give you an idea of what we pledged our people to achieve. In return for our people’s demands, we will cease to attack all occupation forces withdrawing to the south and beyond the border post of Safwan.  

Without these straightforward moves on your part, we regret to inform you that the resistance of the people of Iraq will continue until that last boot of US/British/Persian occupation is thrown across the borders of our country. 

If you choose change as you claim, then you must have reached the conclusion that to continue dealing with the same people your predecessor appointed to fulfill his dirty work, will fail to deliver positive results for both our people. It is not the thieves of the green zone who brought the defeat of your military. 

You must search further for the honest Iraqis and from the ranks of our people and not those of your collaborators to achieve a  just solution. You can also recognize the right for the Iraqi people to resist and publicly ask for our advice and representation. The Iraqi people intend to be masters of their own house as they always have, and by following the plan you have declared, you have not yet fully understood Iraq well.

There are those who will claim, that a quick  withdrawal from Iraq will cause civil war, and that is a possibility, but we would also like to clarify that the forces of the puppet government which has been equipped to defeat the resistance will not stand ground, nor will they block our efforts to liberate our cities one by one if we had to, and all the efforts of your collaborators to move to the north and south of the country and create their own federal states have been studied well for their weaknesses and will be crushed within a short period. This is a more realistic scenario. True there will be still the Persian occupation which will offer it’s militias support, but we know that the US cannot leave the oil rich south to be occupied by Iran, and they would rather see it fall in our hands instead. As it would be giving too much to a close yet not so trust worthy ally, and would deprive your military necessary funds that would support long-term military presence necessary in Iraq and throughout the region. Funds that  some in your government think they can still rely on. Funds that your economy can no longer bear in the midst of the turmoil in the globalized economy of your nation, to control the world.  

The Iraqi resistance understands well that the US could not continue to sell oil at a high price of 120 USD/Barrel to cover the costs of it’s war, as this strengthens old adversaries. And it would be only a matter of time before this tactic backfires on the US foreign policy. But it also understands that the US cannot fund foreign occupation any more without depending on local resources and revenues to cover the expenses. This is the true cause of the change of “Strategy” as you named it President Obama.

With oil prices falling to their true realistic market values, & the winter ending in the consuming economies, the oil prices should fall to 30 USD plus mark, which is also effecting the local economies of your allies in the region, as anything below 55 USD per barrel, is already becoming a burden on these economies, which in turn can no longer assist to their full potential in funding and supporting the costs of US aggression in the Region. 

The Declining of oil revenues, which we truly thank you for mentioning in your speech, will make it more difficult to fund your military’s operations in Iraq, and that is why the numbers of your troops is to be reduced. To match the income predicted from the oil projects sponsored by your corporations in the south and the oil theft operations run by your agent, Hamid Jaffar in the north of Iraq in collaboration with NGO oil of Norway, is what your strategists think is possible. 

Yes President Obama, we do agree with you, that the US needs a smarter, more sustainable & comprehensive approach, but rest assured, that what your predecessor has failed to achieve with all the military might at his disposal, we will make sure that you will fail to achieve the same goals through the soft hand of the Democratic party. 

In fact, it is more logical and practical to follow the alternative energy programs that you have set wisely, to ensure the non reliance of your economy on oil as well as the utilization of  advancements and added fruits of R&D to employ the unemployed, and support a new and young market for the shift in energy dependence, and in turn end the monopolization of energy, practiced by the corporations that control it and control world political and social stability, than to merely dream of  expecting the Iraqi People to hand you over their resources. 

We on the other hand intend to nationalize and use our resources to build an alternative energy base our selves and offer our people a life of prosperity, & stability, as well as supporting the energy transition of other nations that are oil dependant, a task we truly believe is noble and worthwhile. 

The Iraqi Resistance will not accept any short term or long term energy contracts with the US until we ensure that the rights of our people are properly addressed. And within the parameters of relations based on mutual respect first and mutual interests second. 

President Obama, It is time that people in Washington understand that there are no shared interest between an occupying tyrant and an oppressed victim of occupation. 

Your government would have stayed forever in Iraq if the traitors who conspired with your consecutive administrations had their way in starving the Iraqi people into submission and force them to welcome your occupying troops with flowers as Chalabi promised you. But after three wars and over a decade of sanctions, there were enough honest men to defeat the world’s most powerful army & play a major role in destroying the most imperialistic Globalized economy ever developed by expansionary capitalism. 

These are the type of people you are speaking to Mr. Obama. And if you were not presented with this reality throughout the briefings that occurred, and understood the true scale of the economic disaster with all the social and geopolitical  implications of your military defeat in Iraq, then please allow us to mention a few of the major achievements that the Iraqi Resistance have promised it’s people and the free people of the world and has delivered:

1-     We promised to pin down your troops in Iraq and drain your economy until you admit defeat and withdraw your troops. And this we fulfilled.

2-     We promised to halt the US plan for Middle East in full, and prevent the loss of other innocent lives in other neighboring countries, and that we fulfilled.  

3-     We embraced the war and continue the fight on behalf of all the oppressed world, which not only stood still and watched the massacre of our people and the illegal occupation of our nation, but many of it’s leaders participated and continue in harming our people inside and outside Iraq and assist in the theft of our resources. This, apart from the support of honest people all around the world,

4-     including citizens of your country, who marched day and night to support the cause of Iraq’s right to resist, marches that defied the weather, and weathered criminal defiance and ignorance of world politicians. Marches that we will ever be indebt to, and in gratitude & in appreciation for. May God bless those people wherever they are.  And this we fulfilled and continue to do so.

5-     We have understood the nature of international balances of power and most importantly predicted the primitive mind of the occupation and played a major role in forcing the US to increase oil prices in clear desperation for cash. And use that to allow other powers to recover. And the numbers never lied, this we also fulfilled.

6-     The Iraqi People wrote a new chapter in Urban warfare, and invented the art of remote combat, and in turn gave the world lessons and set a new standard in how to defeat the world’s most powerful army. In this, the most dangerous achievement that threatens US global influence is that all the oppressed people who suffer from negative US influence, can use this experience to free themselves as well. This also has been delivered. 

7-     The Resistance has already drafted its 2, 5 and 10 year plan to engage Iraq in rebuilding programs that will set a new standard for development in the Region and restore Iraq to it’s rightfully earned place in world politics and positive human development. This while maintaining Iraq’s isolation from harmful neighboring countries at the same time, these plans was prepared and drafted in the early months of 2007 and are ready to implement once we see the end of your occupation.  

8-     The resistance created a new battle field and utilized every tool available to break free of the corporate media and tell, inform, and educate the world of the true nature of the struggle, and present every curious man and woman daily reports and videos of your military’s defeat and in every language possible. People from all over the world, chose out of their own free will and time, people of different religions and backgrounds chose to be soldiers  of the cyber wars and translated all what we had to tell, asking nothing in return but the truth. The true casualties of your war are yet to be declared. (We refer to the green card soldiers) 

9-     The resistance has sparked not only the collapse of the US economy, but also caused the domino effect and the destruction of your fine tuned and delicate Globalized economy, and forced the return to national economic protection, and the rights of local and regional economies to grow and ensure a decent life and practice their right to develop as well.  All your efforts to restore the globalized economy  will deliver nothing of value, and puppet governments that maintain your oversight of world resources will eventually fall, one after the other, as their faults will be more evident to their average citizens, and that is why you are now receiving daily reports, from the CIA about the world economy. 

ALL THE ABOVE, AND YOU STILL CHOOSE TO IGNORE THE RESISTANCE OF THE IRAQI PEOPLE AND THE RESISTANCE OF THE GLOBAL ALLIANCE OF THE FREE, WHICH WE INTENT TO PROPOSE TO THE WORLD AS THE NEXT STAGE OF FREEING THE PLANET FROM YOUR DOMINENCE WHEN THE TIME IS RIGHT. 

ALL THIS SAID, AND THE GLOBAL MEDIA WHICH YOU STILL MAINTAIN CONTROL OVER STILL LABELS FREE PEOPLE AS TERRORISTS AND EQUALS THE RESISTANCE OF OCCUPATION WITH CRIMINAL ACTS OF STRIKING CIVILIANS IN BUILDING AND TERRORISING THE LIVES OF THE INNOCENT. 

TRULY IRONIC !! Nevertheless represents the true state of shock you policy makers have reached. But all can be reversed if you truly believe in Change Mr. President. 

The resistance along with the votes of the peace loving people in your country and choice of the world

Who brought you to power, are more than capable to pull you down and defeat your new strategy, if you choose to lie to them and follow the plans of your predecessor.  

You must understand that the time when your foreign policy bullied and bribed people into submission is over and for a considerable time. And your politicians and strategists have to understand that to be accepted as a superpower you must first learn to speak to the world with modesty and respect that others in this planet, also have the right to provide for their families a decent life, the right to food and water, the right to education and knowledge, the right to industry and employment, and free from your corporate despotism. 

We in the Iraqi resistance, renew our pledge to our people and to our brothers and sisters in the global family, to continue the fight and struggle to free Iraq and give our allies the chance to follow suite. 

While you were preparing your new strategy in leaving the streets and highways of Iraq to your collaborators, and hiding your troops behind the walls of the castles and green zones you have prepared for your minimized long term presence, we have been preparing to address your new tactics and will deal with them in the proper manner.

Remember, that hiding behind and holding castles is no longer sustainable in modern warfare!  

Your finest fighting force as you name it, is up against the most witty, resilient & innovative self-propelled resistance honorable humanity has ever presented. Rest assured that we are not impressed with your plan and will follow your movements on the ground and cross examine them to your declared intentions and daily economic reports. There is no such thing as friendly occupation, and we advise you to revise your plans to vacate Iraq at a time suitable for our people and not suitable for your agents in the green zone. 

And if you need to talk to honest Iraqis, then you know very well, where to find them. John F Kennedy also said “Let us never negotiate out of fear, but never fear to negotiate” 

You choose to negotiate with all the parties that worked for your predecessor and have caused all this harm, yet you choose to ignore the only true party that can offer you a decent outcome.

Good Luck President Obama! 

Disengaging America from the Israel Lobby

September 10, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By Karin Friedemann, Muslim Media News Service (MMNS)

No taxation by a foreign government without representation” is a basic American principle. Yet, the taxation currently endured by US taxpayers because of the Israel Lobby far exceeds the level of taxation by the British that led to the American Revolution. Pro-Israel organisations do everything possible to prevent Americans from openly discussing the fact that they are being taxed without consent.

Through subversion Israel advocates have orchestrated passage of the Patriot Act, Homeland Security abuses, and other erosions of civil liberties. Pro-Israel organisations file lawsuits to keep the question of Israel investments off local ballots. Jewish communal organisations bribe elected public officials with free trips to Israel to gain their support — even against the will of the majority of their constituents!

Financing Israel at the expense of basic American values victimises every citizen to benefit a very small sub-group of the population and also creates worldwide anti-US hostility, which puts all Americans at risk of terrorist retaliation. Obeying the Israel lobby goes against all logical American self-interest. Obeying Zionist pressure to invade several countries at once means watching America commit suicide, economically and politically, for the sake of Israel. Zionist activists are a real and present danger to the USA. They should be stripped of their US citizenship and sent to Guantanamo for interrogation.

America’s free press, justice system, and democracy are dependent upon the separation of American from Israeli interests. To survive, America must disentangle itself from the Zionist web of control. The common Zionist argument that Jews should get to keep what they stole just because they’ve been sitting on other people’s property for so many years is not a valid legal argument. International law as defined by the post-WW2 Nuremburg Tribunals does not confer upon occupiers any entitlement to “security.” Zionism is nothing less than a criminal ideology that completely rejects the fundamental American principle of sacred property rights.

America stands for equal rights, which applies to property and residency rights and other legal norms such as use of public transportation and voting. The US has acknowledged the injustice involved in colonising America at the expense of the native population. Even though economic disparities still remain, Native Americans have US citizenship and are allowed to rent, buy and sell property just like other citizens. This is not true for millions of Palestinian refugees who are denied any passports while they live under Israeli curfews and martial law. It is even against Israeli law for sympathetic Jews voluntarily to reconvey stolen property that they currently hold without legitimate title to the original, rightful owners. In general, Jews cannot even sell homes to Arabs. Yet Germany returned homes stolen from the Jews in World War II to their descendants.

Many Americans are aware that the subsidisation of the Israeli military at the expense of the US taxpayer puts all Americans at risk of retaliation. Yet the criminal acts begin right under our noses here in America by bankers and real estate agents. With the deep enmeshment of Israeli agents in the United States political spectrum, the Israel Lobby acts as a mafia facilitating the looting of billions of dollars via US military acquisitions from Jewish-owned defense corporations like General Dynamics and via capital transfers including ongoing complex beneficiary-obscuring transactions. In addition to ongoing US foreign aid for weapons purchase, the USA buys billions of dollars of weapons, declares the weaponry to be obsolete and then consigns it to Israel at practically no charge. Using full-scale militarised equipment supplied and paid for by the United States, the Israeli government uses US tax money to pay the IDF to force the non-Jewish Palestinian rightful owners to vacate their own property so that subsidised real-estate magnates can bulldoze the place to build suburban-style condos for foreigners outfitted with supplies from Home Depot and JCPenney.

As the Israeli government orchestrates increasing demand for Palestinian property, ordinary American Jews wishing to escape their credit card debts buy up stolen Palestinian property by means of mortgages that roll in existing indebtedness at subsidised interest rates. American Jewish purchasers can then resell the stolen properties at a profit and return debt-free to the USA with cash in their pockets. This outrageous criminal conspiracy takes place in broad-daylight generally under the aegis of taxpayer subsidised Zionist “charities” that encourage “Aliyah” (Jewish ascension to Israel).

Are American law enforcement officials investigating this racist organised crime network operating in full daylight? The Jews who move into this stolen property are participating in an international crime. The FBI should be attending all the Pro-Israel training workshops that take place on US soil and that promote both the subversion of all our basic national beliefs and also the looting of the US economy. The United States has no choice but to start investigating, arresting, charging, prosecuting, convicting and incarcerating American citizens participating in the Zionist settlement process.

Karin Friedemann is a Boston-based writer on Middle East affairs and US politics. She is Director of the Division on Muslim Civil Rights and Liberties for the National Association of Muslim American Women. Joachim Martillo contributed to this article.

11-38

UFO’s (explained, for kids)

September 10, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

IBN TUFAIL

The secret wartime scientific accomplishments were the background for sightings of peculiar objects in the skies, beginning in June 1947, in the Southwestern desert area which had so many secret military installations. The objects could be some new super-secret aircraft developed by the U.S. military. Or could they have been developed by some other technologically advanced beings, perhaps from beyond the Earth or the solar system? After all, we now knew that the technology to permit space travel was possible. And these elusive objects traveled far faster and maneuvered far more adroitly than even a jet airplane.

There were many skeptics, however, who considered the objects pie in the sky–or more exactly “flying saucers” (1947), since excited observers had described the objects as saucer-shaped. The name flying saucers caught on, making serious research difficult. As a 1953 book Flying Saucers Have Landed complained, “ever since the cliché ‘flying saucer’ was coined, the greatest and most exciting mystery of our age has been automatically reduced to the level of a music hall joke.”

The believers preferred the solemn government designation unidentified flying object (UFO), first used in 1950. But that was a little weighty for everyday use, so in 1953 the acronym UFO was coined to replace it. It has dignified the pursuit of the elusive objects ever since. Those who study them have been known at least since 1959 as ufologists, and their field of study has been ufology.

Since 1947, the US government, private research institutions, and individual scientists have collected data about the phenomenon. Although UFOs are not a phenomenon unique to the US, American organizations and private individuals have taken the lead in collecting, analyzing, and publishing sighting reports.

The most publicized collection agency was the US Air Force through its Projects Sign (1948), Grudge (1948–1951), and Blue Book (1951–1969). The FBI, the CIA, and other US agencies also looked into it. Congressional hearings were held on the subject in 1966 and 1968. The goal of the US government was to determine whether the UFO phenomenon was a threat to national security. Unable to find the threat, the government stopped collecting reports from the public in 1969.

Nearly all research efforts have determined that a small but significant number of sightings remain “unidentified” after scientific investigation. This is especially true with reports made by the most articulate witnesses and containing the most data. Although the primary objective of private UFO researchers was to collect and analyze reports, they also sought to convince the public and the scientific community of the legitimacy of the subject. Their task was made all the more difficult by ridicule, caused in part by the perceived unlikelihood of the phenomenon’s extraterrestrial origin, and in part by publicity hungry charlatans and self-promoters (“contactees”) who, beginning in the 1950s, made fictitious claims about meeting “space brothers” and traveling to distant planets, or hinted darkly about secret government conspiracies with aliens.

In addition to the problem of ridicule, serious researchers found it difficult, although not impossible, to gather “hard” evidence of the unconventional nature of the phenomenon. They amassed photos, films, videotapes, radar tracings, and great numbers of multiple witness reports of objects on or near the ground. They reported studies of UFO effects on electrical and mechanical devices, animals, and humans. They studied soil samples purportedly altered by landed UFOs. In spite of all this, they were unable to present artifacts of a UFO—the hard evidence that most scientists demanded.

Since the late 1940s, the UFO phenomenon has entered U.S. popular culture, and it has become a staple of motion pictures, television shows, advertising copy, and media images. As early as 1950 it proved to be one of the most recognized phenomena in Gallup Poll history, and it has continued to play an important role in popular culture.

In the early 1960s, people began to claim that they were abducted into UFOs. Although UFO researchers at first considered these reports to be an “exotic”—and probably psychological—sidelight of the main sighting phenomenon, abduction accounts grew steadily in number. Evidence for abductions was mainly derived from human memory, usually retrieved through hypnosis. But the people who reported being abducted were not “contactees” or self-promoters and appeared to be genuinely concerned about what had happened to them. In the 1980s, the numbers of people who came forward with abduction accounts had begun to rise dramatically, and a 1998 Roper Poll of 5,995 adults suggested that as many as a million Americans believed they had been abducted. By the end of the twentieth century, the abduction phenomenon had come to dominate UFO research.

In spite of extensive efforts in the second half of the twentieth century, attitudes toward the legitimacy of the UFO phenomenon and the research into it changed little. At the beginning of the twenty-first century, researchers had failed to convince the scientific community of the phenomenon’s legitimacy, they had not developed a standardized methodology to retrieve alleged abduction accounts, and no UFO organization had gained the academic backing to professionalize both UFO and abduction research. Yet after half a century of study, UFO proponents had advanced knowledge of the subject greatly, and some even claimed that a solution to the mystery of UFO origins and motivations seemed possible.

In the twenty-first century, the UFO phenomenon persisted, apparently unaffected by societal events. It continued to maintain a ubiquitous presence in popular culture, researchers continued to study it, and, although scientists and academics still scorned it, ordinary people continued to report both sightings and abduction accounts.

11-39

China House Hunting to Rev up Economy

August 27, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By Simon Rabinovitch

BEIJING, Aug 18 (Reuters) – The Chinese government is attempting to pass the baton of growth from state-funded infrastructure investment to the private housing sector, a risky but necessary move to sustain the economic recovery.

Construction cranes sprouting in big cities, busy furniture shops and soaring property sales all show that the transition is going smoothly so far, though officials are wary that house prices may rise too high, too quickly.

China’s biggest listed property developer, Vanke <000002.SZ>, lifted its housing starts target for this year by 45 percent, while its rival Poly Real Estate <600048.SS> said sales in January-July rose 143 percent from a year earlier.

On the ground, construction firms, big and small, are trying to meet the demand, last years’ downturn now a distant memory.

“It’s been a long time since we’ve had a day off. Several months, I think, though I can’t remember exactly,” said Zhang Minghui, owner of a small building company in Beijing.

“From late last year to early this year, we basically had nothing to do. Everybody was careful with their money because of the crisis and so projects got delayed.”
Zhang cut his staff to three in November but is now back up to a crew of 14.

The economic importance of the property sector in China is hard to overstate. Investment in residential housing accounted for about 10 percent of gross domestic product before a property boom turned to bust in 2008, roughly the same as the contribution from the country’s vaunted export factories.

The government’s first steps last year to revive the stalling Chinese economy were to offer tax cuts to encourage home purchases, followed by rules to ease access to mortgages.

These are bearing fruit.

With housing investment up an annual 11.6 percent in the first seven months, Chinese growth momentum is broadening out and the central government has been able to slow the pace of its stimulus spending on infrastructure.

But Beijing must strike a fine balance in its bid to kick-start the housing market.

On the one hand, it wants rising prices to persuade house hunters to stop putting off purchases and to get developers to invest in new projects. On the other hand, it is wary of prices rising too quickly, luring speculators into the market and turning it into an asset bubble, not an economic driver.

“Because it is closely linked to so many industries, volatility in the real estate market will inevitably lead to macroeconomic volatility,” the government-run China Economic Times warned on Monday.

The housing market rebound in Beijing, Shenzhen, Guangzhou and other big cities means that prices are already back to their 2007 peak, the report noted.

While prices are high, a surge in sales has depleted housing inventories and developers need to break ground to catch up, Ken Peng, an economist at Citigroup in Beijing, said.

That the Chinese property sector is at a turning point, just getting back on its feet, is seen in the differing fortunes of shops at the Shilihe hardware market in east Beijing.

Those selling goods for early stages of construction, such as tiles, say business is strong. Vendors of lights, among the final purchases for a new home, say it is only now perking up.

“We have done some sales to attract shoppers. But we have actually started scaling these back,” said Chen Yu, a saleswoman at Jushang Lights.

The government can take heart in how most of the real estate money has been spent to date.

Investment in property construction was up a fifth in western China — the part of the country with the biggest need for new housing — in June compared with a year earlier. Wealthier coastal areas in the east, which are already heavily built up, saw a 4.4 percent rise.

But officials are wary of another boom in housing prices paving the way for yet another bust. A handful of Chinese cities have made mortgage lending terms on second homes stiffer to try to keep speculators at bay.

Several real estate agents said the market seemed to have cooled over the past few weeks.

Shanghai Xinyi, a real estate agency in China’s financial centre, said transactions in August fell by half from July.

A salesman surnamed Luo at a Shenzhen branch of Centaline China confirmed that business has slowed down from its brisk pace in the first half.

“It was not rare for house sellers to cancel their original contracts and lift their asking price, even if it meant paying a penalty,” he said by phone. “But the momentum has weakened in August. We could feel the effect of the government’s tightening-up of loans for second homes.”

However, Dong Tao, an economist with Credit Suisse in Hong Kong, offered another explanation of the drop in transactions.

Soaring demand gobbled up whatever homes were on the market and so developers simply must build more, he said in a research note. But it takes time to buy land and obtain approvals.

“After many sites have passed the paperwork phase, we expect housing construction to rise significantly over the summer time.”

(Additional reporting by Ben Blanchard; Graphics by Catherine Trevethan; Editing by Tomasz Janowski)

11-36

Canada Drops Plans to Ban Veiled Voting

August 6, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

CBC News

Canada_flag The federal government has no plans to move forward with proposed legislation to force veiled women to show their faces when voting, the minister of state for democratic reform said Thursday.

“We have other priorities as far as increasing voter participation and with the expanded voting opportunities legislation,” Steven Fletcher said in an interview.
“And that is our focus. That obviously will affect a lot more people.”

Dmitri Soudas, a spokesperson for Prime Minister Stephen Harper, confirmed the government still supports the idea of forcing voters to reveal their faces, but said the bill doesn’t have opposition support.

“The bottom line is even if we were to proceed with legislation, it would be voted down immediately,” Soudas said.

The government introduced the bill in October 2007, a month after an Elections Canada ruling allowed Muslim women to vote with their faces covered by burkas or niqabs during three Quebec by elections.

That decision infuriated the government, and Harper accused Elections Canada of subverting the will of Parliament, which several months earlier had unanimously adopted legislation beefing up voter identification requirements.

“I profoundly disagree with the decision,” Harper said at the time. “The role of Elections Canada is not to make its own laws, it’s to put into place the laws that Parliament has passed.”

The government’s proposed amendment to the Canada Elections Act would have made a limited exception for any voter whose face is swathed in bandages due to surgery or some other medical reason. It also would have given some flexibility to Elections Canada officials to administer the law in a manner respectful of religious beliefs.

Opposition parties initially supported the proposed legislation, but later backed off when the issue was more closely examined.

Chief electoral officer Marc Mayrand noted that the beefed-up ID requirements passed by Parliament in 2007 did not, in fact, authorize the agency to compel visual identification of voters.

Moreover, it was pointed out that thousands of Canadians have no photo ID. Requiring them to show their faces would be meaningless without photo identification against which to verify their identities.

The Elections Act gives voters three ways to prove their identification in order to cast a ballot: provide a government photo ID; provide two pieces of approved ID, at least one of which must state their address (but neither of which must contain a photo); or have another voter registered in the same district vouch for them.

The federal government’s decision comes days after French President Nicolas Sarkozy said full-body gowns that are worn by the most conservative Muslim women have no place in France.

Sarkozy said wearing the burka or the niqab isn’t about religion, but the subjugation of women.

“In our country, we cannot accept that women be prisoners behind a screen, cut off from all social life, deprived of all identity,” Sarkozy said to extended applause in a speech Monday.

With files from The Canadian Press, The Associated Press

11-33

The Terminal

August 6, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By Sumayyah Meehan, Muslim Media News Service (MMNS) Middle East Correspondent

terminal Academy-Award winning actor Tom Hanks wowed audiences back in 2004 with his movie ‘The Terminal’. In the film he portrays Viktor Navorski, an eastern European immigrant coming to America so that he can fulfill a wish of his late father. But things take a turn for the worse as his homeland breaks out into a civil war and is no longer recognized by any government while he is en route. Not only is he stateless by the time he lands at New York’s JFK Airport, but he is also stuck in a political limbo which forces him to make the airport his new found home as he waits for the US government to either grant him entry or send him to another country to seek refuge as a political refugee. The film has innumerable funny moments as Hanks struggles to communicate his needs for money, food and clothing in his native language and broken English. It also has many heart rending ones as the audience is gripped by the plight of a stranger in a strange land.

For many Southeast Asian immigrants that descend upon the Middle East each year to work as laborers in some of the richest countries in the entire world, living in an airport terminal is often a reality that they have no choice but to accept as they embark upon a new phase in their lives to serve others as chauffeurs, office boys, janitors and housemaids.  In almost every Gulf State, there exists a sponsorship system, which states that no foreign immigrant can live independently within the country. All immigrants must have a citizen sponsor to vouch for them and co-sign on their residency documents. Herein is the problem . Out of the sponsorship laws has grown a new breed of criminals known as ‘visa traders’. They lure unsuspecting immigrants from agencies in their own homelands to the Gulf with the promise of a better life. The visa traders sell thousands of visas per years and it is a booming business.

Immigrants pay the traders thousands of dollars for their sponsorship that translates into a work visa. The moment the transaction begins and the cash changes hands, the immigrant is at the mercy of the sponsor. Many sponsors have developed the habit of leaving the new immigrants at the airport for days on end. They are either too busy or heartless to care. For this reason, many airports in the Gulf have developed special waiting areas specifically to cope with the influx of immigrants waiting to be picked up by their sponsors. The areas are well away from paying passengers view but are filled with human cargo simply left to wait. Men and women are mixed together often sprawled within close proximity as they try to sleep on the cold hard floors. Most immigrants only arrive with the clothes on their backs and not even a blanket to shield them from the central air conditioning that is pumped throughout the terminal around the clock. They have nowhere to shower and can only utilize the airport bathroom. As for nourishment, they are at the mercy of whatever the airport can provide.

maids It is common to see women crying and begging airport officials to simply go back home. Many of the immigrants do not know Arabic and yet the airport requires that they fill out processing paperwork in Arabic. While others make futile attempts to call the recruiting agencies that hired them or their individual sponsors. In most cases, the sponsors eventually do show up either several hours or several days after they were supposed to pick up their charges. The sponsors are not reprimanded by airport officials and suffer no ill consequences. Once again, the immigrants pay the price as they are not compensated for the wasted time and are usually forced straight to work without even a chance to rest after the long ordeal.

Many residents in the Gulf have long petitioned for an end to the sponsorship system. Nowhere have the voices been raised as loud as in the State of Kuwait, with even citizens publicly declaring shame that their own country would be a willing collaborator in the exploitation of others. This past month the Kuwaiti government has given hope to thousands by pushing for the annihilation of the sponsor system to curb visa trading and improve Kuwait’s standing on human rights in the global arena. The Kuwaiti government also promises to develop a new set of laws to deal with visa traders fiercely and decisively.  Other Gulf nations are expected to rethink their sponsorship systems as well so as to be seen as champions of human rights by the rest of the world and not exploiters bowing to the almighty dollar.

11-33

The Dark Years Are Here

August 6, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By Egon von Greyerz – Matterhorn Asset Management, www.mamag.org.

In this newsletter we will outline what is likely to be the devastating effect of the credit bubbles, government money printing and of the disastrous actions that governments are taking. Starting in the next 6 months and culminating in 2011-12 the world will experience a series of tumultuous events which will be life changing for most people in the world.  But 2011-12 will not be the beginning of an upturn in the world economy but instead the start of a long period of economic, political and social upheaval that could last for a couple of decades.

We will discuss the three areas that we for some time have argued will determine the fate of the world for the foreseeable future, namely the coming unemployment explosion, the next and much more serious phase in the credit markets and finally the likely hyperinflationary or just inflationary effect this will have on the world economy and investments.

Let us first go back in history and analyze what creates an empire and the prosperity that comes with it.

The British Empire started in the 17th century and reached its peak in the 19th century during Queen Victoria’s reign. By the end of the 19th century The British Empire included nearly 20% of the land surface of the world and 25% of the world’s population. So Britain which is less than 0.5% of the world’s land surface area controlled an empire which was more than 50 times greater. So by using slave labour and by stealing the resources of 20% of the world, it is no wonder that Britain was the wealthiest nation for several centuries. But like all empires, Britain carried the seeds of its own destruction. All empires – e.g. Mongolian, Roman, Ottoman or British etc. – eventually overstretch their resources both militarily and financially. This combined with decadence and illusions of grandeur eventually leads to the collapse of an empire.

The US empire was slightly different from the point of view that it never conquered the world although the US was itself a colony conquered from its original inhabitants. But the US has intervened in many areas (e.g. Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq etc.). Also, there are US military bases in 120 countries. Initially the US was an economic superpower based on an entrepreneurial spirit and a very strong production machine backed by fierce military power. But after the Vietnam war the US had overstretched its resources and by 1971 Richard Nixon abolished the gold standard in order to be able to start money printing in earnest. The money printing phase is normally the last stage of an empire before it collapses and this is where the US is now. The US dollar became the reserve currency of the world when the US was strong economically. But as the US economy started to weaken in the 1960-70’s the US government found a much better method for maintaining a strong economy. It started to print paper that it sold to other nations or exchanged for goods and services. For almost 50 years this has been the most clever way ever devised of maintaining the living standards of an economically deteriorating nation without even having to spend any resources on building an empire. It is a Ponzi scheme which has worked for several decades but slowly the world is now waking up to the fact that they are holding worthless paper printed by the US Government. (We realise this is a much simplified version of empire building and destruction but it is nevertheless an accurate analysis).

The US is haemorrhaging financially and economically. It has lent or committed almost $13 trillion in the last 18 months to prop up the financial system.  The estimated government deficit in the current year is almost $2 trillion or 50% of the budget. All the money committed so far has only achieved two things: Firstly it has created some short term hope which together with totally illusionary sightings of green shoots have generated a small stock market correction (which we forecast in our January Newsletter) and some belief that the crisis is ending. Secondly, all the funds printed so far to save the system have gone to Wall Street but has done nothing whatsoever for the real economy. Every single sector of the real economy is deteriorating whether it is production, unemployment, corporate profits, real estate, credit defaults, construction, federal deficits, local government and state deficits etc.

And what is the government doing about it. They are doing the only thing they know which is to print more money.

This is total lunacy! How can any intelligent person believe that printed pieces of paper can solve an economic catastrophe?

If that were the case we could all go home and write out pieces of paper or use Monopoly money to spend in the shops or repay our debts.

How can the US government, the UK government and most other governments not understand that the only way to run an economy is to cut your coat according to your cloth. This is why the emperor had no clothes because the country had run out of gold thread to make the cloth. Until now the US as well as other countries have been able to buy the cloth because the world has been foolish enough to accept worthless pieces of paper as payment. But this is coming to an end very soon and many countries will be without both coats and cloth.

What governments are doing with people’s money is to totally destroy its value. Purchasing power in the US and many other countries has declined more than 95% in the last 100 years. While it might buy votes short term it will only generate massive misery long term. And this is what many countries are starting to experience now. But sadly it will get a lot worse. We are still only in the first phase of this tragic saga. The second phase is likely to start in the next 6 months.

The real unemployment in the US is 20% or 30 million. These are the real unadjusted figures calculated on the same basis as the official figures before the method of the calculation was changed in the 1990’s. Reported government figures, especially in the US, are continually manipulated in order to suit the political aims of the government. Therefore, one should not give any credence to the published figures. Most governments mislead the people most of the time.

With 20% unemployment in the US we are already approaching the levels in the 1930’s when peak total unemployment reached 25%. The 20% current level is the non-farm unemployed and is still a lot lower than the non-farm peak figure in the 1930’s which was 35% unemployed.

Since we are still in the early stages of this crisis, it is our firm opinion that non-farm unemployment levels will reach 35% at least in the US in the next few years.
But even the current figure of 30 million unemployed is a catastrophe. Adding dependants to every unemployed person there are currently 100 million people affected by unemployment in the US. In the next three months 3 million unemployed will fall out of the social security safety-net. These are the people who were laid off in the second half of 2008. Including their families this means that around 10 million people will become destitute between now and September with no social security and no savings. If we then add the 4 million that were made redundant in the first half of 2009 that will result in an additional 13 million people including families will become destitute around Christmas. This is a disaster of unimaginable consequences that will affect the whole fabric of American society.

The consequences will be social, political, financial and the effects on the US economy will be of a magnitude which is substantially greater than during the Depression of the 1930’s. We must remember that none of the problems in the financial system have been resolved but only put on a very temporary hold. The rise in unemployment combined with the reduction in consumption will lead to the next and much more severe banking crisis.

Unemployment in Europe is also rising fast and shows no signs of abatement. Many countries are reaching 10% with for example Spain at 19% and Latvia at 16%. But as we have said for quite some time, of the larger European nations, the country with the biggest problems is the UK. Unemployment in the UK is currently “only” 2.5 million or 7% but it is estimated to reach over 3 million by the end of 2009. The combination of government deficits, a banking system which is extremely fragile and too big for the country, very high personal credit that will not be repaid and a housing bubble which still has a long way to fall makes the UK very vulnerable to a major financial shock.

During the next 6-9 months unemployment will severely affect most parts of the world including China, Asia and Africa. Never before has there been a global unemployment crisis affecting the world simultaneously. This will not only mean a massive decline in consumption and world trade leading to a recession or depression worldwide but also poverty, famine and social unrest.

The masters of the financial circus are the bankers. Not only did they reap the benefits from manufacturing toxic financial products to the extent of receiving bonuses and stocks in the $trillions during the last 15-20 years. But they are also the only beneficiaries of the trillions of dollars that have been printed by governments to rescue the financial system. Why are the bankers benefiting from the rescue of their own banks? Because they are the ones controlling the government, advising the government and making major contributions to the politicians.

Bonuses are back–Yes, many banks are paying higher bonuses in 2009 than 2008. Goldman Sachs is on course to pay bonuses of $20 billion or $700,00 per employee and Morgan Stanley a 30% increase from average per employee of $262,000 last year to $340,000 this year. JP Morgan’s bonus pool for the first quarter of 2009 is up 175% to $3.3 billion and the new chief executive of RBS, the nationalized UK bank is getting an incentive package worth £10 million! Similar bonuses are being paid by many other banks. Barclays Capital for example is on a massive spending spree recruiting executives with golden hellos and guaranteed bonuses of millions per employee.

Central banks and governments worldwide have spent trillions of dollars temporarily propping up a totally bankrupt financial system and now a few months later the bankers are back earning absurd money within a banking system which hasn’t been mended and is still bankrupt. This is scandalous.

Toxic Structures are back–But not only that, they are also back to creating new securitisation programmes in order to reduce capital requirements and increase leverage. Goldman Sachs, and Barclays Capital are doing this already and many other banks will follow. It is exactly these types of programmes that created the financial crisis in the first place and now the bankers are back at it again. This is totally disgraceful and irresponsible behaviour by bankers who have learnt nothing from their disastrous freewheeling actions except how to milk the system to the maximum again.

As we have pointed out before, none of the problems in the banking system have been resolved. The system still has a leverage of 25-50 times, it is still full of toxic debt and derivatives, loan books are deteriorating daily, it still has worthless paper assets valued at fantasy prices and most banks are run by the same bankers who created the problems in the first place. For a typical bank, a 4% drop in asset value wipes out the equity. This is what we call a recipe for disaster.

In the meantime governments are making feeble attempts at preventing a future crisis by planning new regulations. But these regulations will only deal with known  and historic problems. The bankers will again run rings around the authorities in creating new structures to circumvent the new rules.

The next phase of this tragic saga will soon start.

Compared to the of the 1930’s we are already in a worse position today than at the same stage of the Great Depression. Industrial production is worse in many countries. World trade is worse and the stock market fall is greater than at the same stage in the corresponding period of the Depression and both government and private debt is a lot worse.

So what is likely to happen next?

* Unemployment will increase government deficits

First unemployment will rise substantially as outlined above and the effects of the unemployed masses will have major repercussions on the economy. This will lead to government deficits growing substantially. Tax revenue is already falling at alarming rates in the US and UK and most other countries but it will get a lot worse. Government expenditure will rise rapidly due to the mass unemployment. Taxes will rise but this will be like getting water out of a stone – there won’t be much revenue to tax. And if Vat or sales taxes are increased this will kill consumption even more. In addition governments will have to implement more programmes to help the poor, hungry and homeless. This will lead to more money printing.

* Next phase of bank problems

Secondly the next phase of problems in the financial system will start by the autumn of 2009 at the latest. Since this will come as a total shock to everyone the effect will be much worse than in 2008. So far US banks have taken losses of $1.1 trillion. Conservative estimates put total losses at $2.2 trillion but realistic estimates are around $4 trillion and this excludes any problems in the $600 trillion to $1 quadrillion derivatives market a big part of which is worthless. In the next round of capital raising for banks there will only be one investor – the government. Thus there will be more money printing.

* Government paper will collapse – first in the US and UK

With the escalation of money printing markets will be flooded with government paper which nobody wants, leaving governments to buy its own junk. The two countries with the worst problems are the UK and the US and their precarious situation will emerge first. Within the next few months rating agencies are likely to downgrade both countries’ debt. This will lead to the value of the treasury bonds and gilts collapsing and interest rates quickly moving up into the teens. The higher rates will make the financing costs of the debt to up exponentially leading to more money printing and higher interest rates. This is the “perfect” vicious circle that will end in a hyperinflationary depression.

* Hyperinflation is a currency driven event

For many years we have been saying that this crisis will by hyperinflationary. The issuing of unlimited government paper will lead to the rest of the world selling their holdings of US/UK treasuries as well as selling the dollar and the pound. Most so called financial experts have been predicting a deflationary recession/depression since they don’t see the demand pull that they think is the cause of hyperinflation. We have been one of the very few (together with the very wise Jim Sinclair) to understand that hyperinflation is a currency driven event. The issuing of unlimited government paper outlined above will lead to the US dollar as well as the pound collapsing. It is the collapse of the currency which leads to hyperinflation. Without fail in history every hyperinflationary event has been caused by a collapsing currency not by demand pull.

Many other nations will also experience hyperinflation such as the Baltic States, certain Eastern European and Asian Countries. Many more countries will have high inflation.

In the next few months we will see the start of the Dark Years. For the first time in the history of the world there will be a synchronised downturn affecting all nations (although some a lot worse than others).This is the culmination of the world and especially the Western world, living above its means for decades in a mania of credit bubbles, asset bubbles, real estate bubbles as well as excesses leading to decadence and a society with very weak moral and ethical values. (Of course no society recognises this as it is happening but only afterwards). Governments have fuelled this process by printing unlimited amounts of paper thus destroying the money and purchasing power of most nations.

The Dark Years will be extremely severe for most countries both financially and socially. In many countries in the Western world there will be a severe depression and it will be the end of the welfare state. Most private and state pension schemes are also  likely to collapse.  It will be a worldwide depression but some countries may only have a deep recession. There will be famine, homelessness and misery resulting in social as well as political unrest.  Different type of government leaders and regimes are likely to result from this.

How long will the Dark Years last?  There is a book called The Fourth Turning written by Neil Howe. He has identified a pattern that repeats itself every 80 years. The pattern has been extremely accurate in the Anglophile world. We have recently entered the Fourth Turning which is the final 20 years of the cycle. According to Howe we are in the early stages of a 20 year period of economic and institutional upheaval. This is a period of Crisis when the fabric of society will change dramatically. Previous Fourth Turnings have been the American Revolution, Great Depression and World War II. According to Howe the Crisis will be substantially worse before it is over and it will last for another circa 20 years.

All of this is not good news and we hope that we and Howe are wrong regarding the severity and length of this crisis. But we fear that we are both right. We must stress again that never previously has the the whole world entered a downturn simultaneously in such a fragile state both financially and economically which is why the Dark Years are likely to be so devastating and long lasting.

The correction up in stockmarkets has probably finished but there is a possibility that it will continue for another couple of months.

Matterhorn Asset Management AG based in Zurich Switzerland specialises in wealth management and wealth preservation with particular emphasis on gold and silver bullion stored safely outside the banking system.

What is important is that it is a correction (we predicted it already back in January) and it will soon lead to a strong resumption of the downtrend.  In the Dow Jones, a break of the trend line at 6400 would lead to a projected decline of at least 90% from the top. Almost all major world markets point to similar declines. This sounds incredible but bearing in mind that the Dow Jones fell 90% in the 1930’s and bearing in mind our discussion in the Dark Years paragraph above, this kind of target is not impossible.

Some commodity stocks as well as gold and silver mining shares will be major beneficiaries from the Crisis.

Dow Jones H & S 13.7.09

Bonds

We forecast at the beginning of the year that US long rates would go up and they have almost doubled since. But this is only the beginning since we expect US and UK long rates to reach at least the mid teens in the next 2-3 years. Interest rates in all countries will go up substantially in the next few years.

Currencies

The dollar and the pound will have very substantial falls in the autumn of 2009. At some later stage the Euro will also weaken as a result of certain countries breaking away from the Euro area.

Gold

The currency which will be the major beneficiary from the Crisis is Gold. We have invested in gold since 2002 when we saw the Crisis coming. Gold has trebled since then. But this is just the beginning. The next major move will take place in the coming 4-5 months and it will be major. Gold for wealth preservation purposes should be held directly by the investor and stored outside the banking system in his name. Holding gold in ETF form, futures or owning part of gold bars that you don’t have personal access to is not wealth preservation.

There is no means of avoiding a final collapse of a boom brought about by credit expansion. The alternative is only whether the crisis should come sooner as a result of a voluntary abandonment of further credit expansion, or later as a final and total catastrophe of the currency system involved.

Ludwig von Mises

Still: Secret Bush-Era Prisons

August 6, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By John C. Trang, New America Media (NAM)

NAM Editor’s Note: Muslims make up 70 percent of inmates in two prisons the George W. Bush regime clandestinely established in the Midwest between 2006 and 2008.

razorwire

Despite President Barack Obama’s declaration that the United States is not and never will be at war with Islam, government practices suggest otherwise.

In June, the ACLU filed complaints against the U.S. Bureau of Prisons (BOP) for illegally establishing secret prisons called Communications Management Units, or CMUs. The ACLU also alleged unconstitutional restrictions on Muslim inmates’ right to religious freedom. As a law student investigating the CMUs, the existence of these secret prisons trouble me.

The first CMU was clandestinely established in late 2006 at the federal prison facility in Terre Haute, Ind. In 2008, another CMU was established in Marion, Ill. According to the government, CMUs were created to “house inmates who, due to their current offense of conviction, offense conduct or other verified information, require increased monitoring of communication between inmates and persons in the community in order to protect the safety, security, and orderly operations of Bureau facilities and protect the public.”

Sounds mundane, right? But the fact is CMUs are a palpable and disconcerting product of xenophobia and the war on terrorism. Concocted during the Bush administration, CMUs are alarmingly reminiscent of McCarthy-era practices and the Japanese American internment camps.

Although the number of inmates placed at the CMUs has not exceeded 40, around 70 percent are Muslim. The likelihood of finding another prison in the United States with similar proportions of Muslim inmates is zero. There is only one other facility under U.S. jurisdiction with similar demographics: Guantanamo Bay.

With such a high proportion of Muslim inmates, civil rights groups expressed concern about constitutional violations of equal protection. BOP officials deny CMU placement is based on religious identity. According to one government document, criteria for CMU placement includes continued misuse/abuse of approved communication privileges; history of judicial threats; and being convicted of, or associated with, involvement in terrorism. This odd mix of criteria that warrants CMU placement is applicable to hundreds of the incarcerated. Therefore, how and why specific inmates are chosen for CMU placement remains unclear.

Unlike other prisons in the United States, information about CMUs remains scarce. Few publicly available government documents mention “Communications Management Unit.” The secrecy is increased by restrictions on inmates’ communications. All communications to and from inmates are examined. If a message is not approved, it is never transmitted. In fact, in some respects CMU inmates – all of who are categorized as low to medium risk–have more restrictive conditions than inmates categorized with higher security risk levels.

While the government describes CMUs in innocuous terms, many groups have alternate theories as to the actual purpose and nature of CMUs. Some believe CMUs were created solely to house terrorists since some, though not all, inmates have terrorism related convictions. However, even the terrorism related convictions are suspect.

Take for example ACLU’s client and CMU inmate Sabri Benkahla. Benkahla, born in Virginia and a graduate of George Mason University, was studying Islamic law and jurisprudence in Saudi Arabia when he was abducted at Saudi secret police, flown back to America and charged with supplying services to the Taliban and using a firearm in connection with a crime of violence. He was found not guilty. Not satisfied with the acquittal, the U.S. government forced Benkahla to testify before a federal grand jury where he was accused and eventually convicted of perjury. Nonetheless, the presiding judge asserted Benkahla was “not a terrorist” and noted the chances of Benkahla committing another crime were “infinitesimal.”

While some view CMUs as facilities for terrorists, a majority of news articles assert the common thread uniting inmates is their strong community support and their politically unpopular views. That is, CMUs are political prisons.

I am not convinced CMUs are traditional political prisons – the sort used to silent inmates. There is growing evidence CMUs were created to extract information from inmates for the war on terrorism. Since privacy rights are reduced for the incarcerated, increasing attention to prisoners as a source of information was a logical step for proponents of sustaining a war on terrorism. And by stretching what constitutes a terrorism related charge, the government could consolidate prisoners believed to possess desired knowledge and ignore even basic civil liberties afforded other incarcerated people by invoking “war on terrorism.” To be sure, similar to the tenuous links to terrorism, the extent of any inmate’s knowledge about terrorism is questionable at best.

Ultimately, due to the secretive nature of CMUs, the real explanation continues to be a mystery. What is not a mystery is that the war on terrorism continues to be wrongfully conflated with Islam. This likely explains the disproportionate level of Muslim inmates. Although there are non-Muslim inmates at CMUs, at least one Muslim inmate claims that security guards have called non-Muslim inmates “racial balancers.” Whether or not non-Muslim inmates are mere decoys is unclear. But such a claim should heighten our concern that the government is targeting inmates based on a racial perception of who is a terrorist.

Any selective targeting of Muslims inside and outside the prison system in the name of war and national security would be dangerously similar to the selective targeting of Japanese Americans during World War II. After decades of struggle, the government officially apologized to the Japanese American community and admitted that xenophobia and wartime hysteria contributed to discriminatory policies that should never be repeated.

Granted there are differences between Japanese American internees and CMU inmates. CMU inmates have been convicted of at least one federal crime, albeit often minor crimes such as incorrectly filing taxes. However, the prison system should not strip inmates of all their constitutional rights, or segregate them in highly restrictive prisons based on religious identity.

Almost eight years after the September 11 attacks, the Obama administration has set a new tenor on the war on terrorism. But the continuing operation of CMUs that began under Bush is reminiscent of anti-Japanese policies and McCarthy era witch hunts. National security is a real concern but it can never justify the practices reportedly involved at CMUs. To do so would be a betrayal of the nation’s commitment to core civil liberties and freedoms.

John C. Trang is currently a law student at UCLA School of Law in the Epstein Public Interest Law and Policy Program with a Critical Race Studies Specialization.

11- 33

Journalist Shane Bauer Detained in Iran

August 6, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By Aaron Glantz, NAM

shane bauer

New America Media correspondent Shane Bauer is among three Americans detained over the weekend along the Iranian-Iraq border, along with his girlfriend Sarah Shourd and Josh Fattal.

Bauer, 27, who grew up in Onamia, Minn, had filed more than two dozen stories for NAM from Syria and was in Northern Iraq to cover the Kurdish elections, said NAM Executive Editor Sandy Close.

“We were awaiting his coverage when we learned that he and his girlfriend, and another friend, had been arrested by Iranian authorities,” she said.

A freelance journalist and fluent Arabic speaker, Bauer has contributed to numerous other publications including the Nation, the San Francisco Chronicle, and the Los Angeles Times.

“Shane’s dispatches have been enlightening,” Close said. “His fluency in Arabic and his writing and photography skills enabled him to provide a valuable lens into what ordinary people are thinking and saying in the Arab world. We consider Shane to be a gifted young correspondent who typifies the long tradition of journalism by the student-traveler learning the craft by doing.”

At Iran’s Mission to the United Nation’s in New York, spokesperson Mohammed Sahraei refused to elaborate on official state media reports which had referred to Bauer and his fellow travelers as “infiltrators.”

Iranian state television reported on Sunday that the head of the Iranian Parliament’s foreign policy committee Alaedddin Boroujerdi said, “This case is currently on its natural course.”

Their detention has quickly become international news.

On Monday, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton appealed to Iran for information, saying U.S. the interests in Iran are asking officials from the Iranian Foreign Ministry for details but have not yet gotten official confirmation of the trio’s arrest. She asked that Iran determine the facts of the case and to “return them as quickly as possible.”

“As of a few hours ago, we did not yet have official confirmation that the Iranian government or an instrument of the Iranian government were holding the three missing Americans,” Clinton told reporters at the State Department. “We asked our Swiss partners … to please pursue our inquiries to determine the status of the three missing Americans.”

“Obviously, we are concerned,” Clinton said. “We want this matter brought to a resolution as soon as possible and we call on the Iranian government to help us determine the whereabouts of the three missing Americans and return them as quickly as possible.”

In New York, the Committee to Protect Journalists said it appeared that the Americans were “targeted for being reporters” and that they were walking along the border because they were backpacking along the mountains that mark the border between Iran and Iraq, “for purely recreational purposes.”

“It’s possible that they walking back and forth the border numerous times without ever knowing it,” said CPJ’s Mohmmed Abdel Dayem. “We hope that it is a routine thing. We assume the best.”

11-33

Threatening Iran

July 23, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By Paul Craig Roberts, Countercurrents.org

When Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, Japan did not spend years preparing her public case and demonstrating her deployment of forces for the attack. Japan did not make a world issue out of her view that the US was denying Japan her role in the Pacific by hindering Japan’s access to raw materials and energy.

Similarly, when Hitler attacked Russia, he did not preface his invasion with endless threats and a public case that blamed the war on England.

These events happened before the PSYOPS (Psychological Operations) era. Today, America and Israel’s wars of aggression are preceded by years of propaganda and international meetings, so that by the time the attack comes it is an expected event, not a monstrous surprise attack with its connotation of naked aggression.

The US, which has been threatening Iran with attack for years, has passed the job to Israel. During the third week of July, the American vice president and secretary of state gave Israel the go-ahead. Israel has made great public disclosure of its warships passing through the Suez Canal on their way to Iran. “Muslim” Egypt is complicit, offering no objection to Israel’s naval forces on their way to a war crime under the Nuremberg standard that the US imposed on the world.

By the time the attack occurs, it will be old hat, an expected event, and, moreover, an event justified by years of propaganda asserting Iran’s perfidy.

Israel intends to dominate the Middle East. Israel’s goal is to incorporate all of Palestine and southern Lebanon into “Greater Israel.” The US intends to dominate the entire world, deciding who rules which countries and controlling resource flows.

The US and Israel are likely to succeed, because they have effective PSYOPS. For the most part, the world media follows the US media, which follows the US and Israeli governments’ lines. Indeed, the American media is part of the PSYOPS of both countries.

According to Thierry Meyssan in the Swiss newspaper Zeit-Fragen, the CIA used SMS or text messaging and Twitter to spread disinformation about the Iranian election, including the false report that the Guardian Council had informed Mousavi that he had won the election. When the real results were announced, Ahmadinejad’s reelection appeared to be fraudulent.

Iran’s fate awaits it. A reasonable hypothesis to be entertained and examined is whether Iran’s Rafsanjani and Mousavi are in league with Washington to gain power in Iran. Both have lost out in the competition for government power in Iran. Yet, both are egotistical and ambitious. The Iranian Revolution of 1979 probably means nothing to them except an opportunity for personal power. The way the West has always controlled the Middle East is by purchasing the politicians who are out of power and backing them in overthrowing the independent government. We see this today in Sudan as well.

In the case of Iran, there is an additional factor that might align Rafsanjani with Washington. President Ahmadienijad attacked former President Rafsanjani, one of Iran’s most wealthy persons, as corrupt. If Rafsanjani feels threatened by this attack, he has little choice but to try to overthrow the existing government. This makes him the perfect person for Washington.

Perhaps there is a better explanation why Rafsanjani and Mousavi, two highly placed members of the Iranian elite, chose to persist in allegations of election fraud that have played into Washington’s hands by calling into question the legitimacy of the Iranian government. It cannot be that the office of president is worth such costs as the Iranian presidency is not endowed with decisive powers.

Without Rafsanjani and Mousavi, the US media could not have orchestrated the Iranian elections as “stolen,” a n orchestration that the US government used to further isolate and discredit the Iranian government, making it easier for Iran to be attacked. Normally, well placed members of an elite do not help foreign enemies set their country up for attack.

An Israeli attack on Iran is likely to produce retaliation, which Washington will use to enter the conflict. Have the personal ambitions of Rafsanjani and Mousavi, and the naive youthful upper class Iranian protesters, set Iran up for destruction?

Consult a map and you will see that Iran is surrounded by a dozen countries that host US military bases. Why does anyone in Iran doubt that Iran is on her way to becoming another Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, in the end to be ruled by oil companies and an American puppet?

The Russians and Chinese are off balance because of successful American interventions in their spheres of influence, uncertain of the threat and the response. Russia could have prevented the coming attack on Iran, but, pressured by Washington, Russia has not delivered the missile systems that Iran purchased. China suffers from her own hubris as a rising economic power, and is about to lose her energy investments in Iran to US/Israeli aggression. China is funding America’s wars of aggression with loans, and Russia is even helping the US to set up a puppet state in Afghanistan, thus opening up former Soviet central Asia t o US hegemony.

The world is so impotent that even the bankrupt US can launch a new war of aggression and have it accepted as a glorious act of liberation in behalf of women’s rights, peace, and democracy.

Paul Craig Roberts was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury in the Reagan administration. He is coauthor of The Tyranny of Good Intentions.He can be reached at: PaulCraigRoberts@yahoo.com

11-31

US-AFGHANISTAN: Group Seeks Probe of Mass Graves

July 23, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By William Fisher

2009-07-22T115607Z_01_SZH08_RTRMDNP_3_AFGHANISTAN

A U.S. soldier secures the area around a school, which will host a local election committee on the upcoming presidential election, in the village of Dadu-Khel in Logar Province in Afghanistan 7/22/09.  

REUTERS/Shamil Zhumatov

NEW YORK, Jul 17 (IPS) – A prominent human rights group is calling on the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate why the administration of former President George W. Bush blocked three different probes into war crimes in Afghanistan where as many as 2,000 surrendered Taliban fighters were reportedly suffocated in container trucks and then buried in a mass grave by Afghan forces operating jointly with U.S. forces.

The Boston-based Physicians for Human Rights (PHR), which discovered the mass gravesite in 2002, has issued the call for the criminal probe. The organisation says U.S. government documents it has obtained show that the bodies were reportedly buried in mass graves in the Dasht-e-Leili desert near Sheberghan, Afghanistan.

It charges that Afghan warlord General Abdul Rashid Dostum, who it says was on the payroll of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), was responsible for the 2001 massacre at a prison run by the general’s forces near the town of Shibarghan.

“Physicians for Human Rights went to investigate inhumane conditions at a prison in northern Afghanistan, but what we found was much worse,” stated Susannah Sirkin, PHR’s deputy director.

“Our researchers documented an apparent mass grave site with reportedly thousands of bodies of captured prisoners who were suffocated to death in trucks. That was 2002; seven years later, we still seek answers about what exactly happened and who was involved,” she said.

PHR says senior Bush administration officials impeded investigations by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and the State and Defence departments, and apparently never conducted a full inquiry. The New York Times made the disclosure earlier this month in a story by Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter James Risen.

Subsequently, President Barack Obama told CNN’s Anderson Cooper that he has directed his national security team to look into the alleged massacre. Obama said the government needs to find out whether actions by the U.S. contributed to possible war crimes.

“The Bush administration’s disregard for the rule of law and the Geneva Conventions led to torture of prisoners in Guantánamo and many other secret places,” noted Nathaniel Raymond, PHR’s lead researcher on Dasht-e-Leili.

“Contrary to the legal opinions of the previous Department of Justice, the principles of the Geneva Conventions are non-negotiable, as is their enforcement. President Obama must open a full and transparent criminal probe and prosecute any U.S. officials found to have broken the law,” he said.

“The State Department’s statement to the New York Times that suspected war crimes should be thoroughly investigated indicates a move towards full accountability,” added Raymond. “We stand ready to aid the U.S. government in investigating this massacre. It is time for the cover-up to end.”

PHR reiterated its call to the government of Afghanistan, which has jurisdiction over the alleged mass grave site, to secure the area with the assistance of ISAF (International Security Assistance Force-Afghanistan), protect witnesses to the initial incident and the ensuing tampering, and ensure a full investigation of remaining evidence at the site, including the tracing of the substantial amount of soil that appears to have been removed in 2006.

“Gravesites have been tampered with, evidence has been destroyed, and witnesses have been tortured and killed,” PHR said. “The Dasht-e-Leili mass gravesite must finally be secured, all surviving witnesses must be protected, and the government of Afghanistan, in coordination with the U.N. and NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organisation), must at last allow a full investigation to go forward.”

PHR charged that U.S. officials have been reluctant to pursue an investigation – sought by officials from the FBI, the State Department, the Red Cross and human rights groups – because the warlord, Gen. Abdul Rashid Dostum, was on the payroll of the CIA and his militia worked closely with U.S. Special Forces in 2001.

The group said the United States also worried about undermining the U.S.-supported government of President Hamid Karzai, in which General Dostum had served as a defence official.

“At the White House, nobody said no to an investigation, but nobody ever said yes, either,” said Pierre Prosper, the former U.S. ambassador for war crimes issues. “The first reaction of everybody there was, ‘Oh, this is a sensitive issue; this is a touchy issue politically’.”

PHR’s Raymond, who is head of the organisation’s Campaign Against Torture, told IPS that President Obama’s statement was welcome.

But, he added, “The president’s rhetoric must be matched by urgent action. He needs to pressure President Karzai to secure the mass graves site, protect witnesses and make sure that U.S.-led military forces and the United Nations in Afghanistan protect all evidence of the crimes.”

The New York Times reported that the U.S. has put pressure on Afghan officials not to reappoint General Dostum reappointment as military chief of staff to the Afghan president.

General Dostum has previously claimed that any deaths of the Taliban prisoners were unintentional. He has said that only 200 prisoners died and blamed combat wounds and disease for most of the fatalities.

The first calls for an investigation came from PHR and the International Committee of the Red Cross. A military commander in the United States-led coalition rejected a request by a Red Cross official for an inquiry in late 2001, according to the official, who, in keeping with his organisation’s policy, would speak only on condition of anonymity and declined to identify the commander.

Subsequently, PHR asked the Defence Department to investigate the alleged massacre, but no action was taken. PHR says the prisoner deaths came up in a conversation with Paul D. Wolfowitz, the deputy secretary of defence at the time, in early 2003.

“Somebody mentioned Dostum and the story about the containers and the possibility that this was a war crime. And Wolfowitz said we are not going to be going after him for that,” according to the group.

11-31

The Pullout

July 2, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By Sumayyah Meehan MMNS Middle East Correspondent

2009-06-30T122617Z_01_BAG405_RTRMDNP_3_IRAQ-USA-TROOPS

Iraqi soldiers march during a parade in Baghdad, June 30, 2009. U.S. combat troops left the last of Iraq’s cities on Tuesday, restoring to the country a proud sense of sovereignty that many applauded even though some fear it may leave them more vulnerable to attacks.

REUTERS/Saad Shalash

In a burst of fireworks that illuminated the Baghdad sky, jubilant Iraqis celebrated the pullout of US forces from their country this past Tuesday. It has been six long and bloody years with over 100,000 civilian lives having been lost since the Bush-era “shock and awe” invasion of Iraq changed the country and, by extension the World, irrevocably.  U.S. Forces handed over the reins of power to Iraqi security personnel. However, it will take at least two more years for the American armed forces to complete the withdrawal in 2011.

The long awaited pullout, which many political commentators believe helped President Obama win the Presidency, is a component of a security deal that was reached last year by Washington and Iraq. In a press interview, U.S. General General Ray Odierno said about Iraqi security forces, “I do believe they are ready. They’ve been working towards this for a long time.”

In a symbolic gesture, Iraqi security personnel retook the former Ministry of Defense building even though there are still more than 130,000 U.S. soldiers serving in Iraq. The remaining soldiers will continue to train and advise the 750,000 strong Iraqi army in a primarily ‘back-seat driver’ role. The Iraqi security forces remain on high alert as the government expects insurgents to do their best to spoil the transfer of power. Iraqi security personnel are visible on the city streets in a show of force against anyone attempting to disrupt the current calm. Security checkpoints remain in place and motorcycles have been banned from the streets, as they are often the mode of transport for suicide bombers.

The Americans may be leaving, but Iraq will never be the same. The country bears the scars of an unwelcome war and occupation. Lives have been lost, innocent civilians maimed and the course of history has been changed forever although it remains to be seen if it will be for the worse or better. Likewise, hearts and minds have also been changed. Many Iraqis are exercising more freedoms than under the reign of the late Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, which are in line with their American counterparts. The influence of the U.S. in Iraq can be seen as near as the local marketplace where western-inspired clothes are quickly scooped off the racks by customers eager to dress like the characters from their favorite American movies or sitcoms.

The stakes are high as Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has promised his people that the Iraqi security personnel can effectively protect the country. If Maliki can keep that promise, the future looks very bright for Iraq. No less than 31 companies are vying for coveted oil-development contracts, which will make Iraq a force to be reckoned with in the global oil market.  The plan is to develop six massive oil fields and two gas fields located in the Iraqi deserts. The Iraqi government wants to double production from 2.4 million barrels per day to a whopping 4 million barrels per day, which will give the Iraqi government an estimated 1.7 trillion dollars in revenue that can be used to rebuild the country’s beleaguered infrastructure. It has been almost 40 years since any oil company has been willing to do business with Iraq. And it could take another 40 years if the Iraqi government cannot maintain a high level of peace and stability to appease investors.

11-28

Neda

June 27, 2009 by · 2 Comments 

By Sumayyah Meehan MMNS

_32921_Neda
A screen grab captured from the popular social-networking site YouTube shows the final moments of Neda Agha-Soltan, as she lies dying from a bullet shot through her heart by Iranian government forces. 

She stepped out of the car for just a moment to catch her breath.  And in the blink of an eye she was shot dead by government forces in the middle of an Iranian street.  The lone bullet hit Neda Agha-Soltan right in the chest. The 26-year-old university student began bleeding from her nose and mouth as her eyes rolled back into her head and her body became still. The woman whom friends have described as a loving friend and engaging companion was buried the next day.  Her family was not even allowed to hold a memorial service or hang a black banner on the front  door  because the government feared it would only further incense protestors and cause more havoc on the Iranian streets.

Neda’s death was captured on a cell phone video camera and uploaded to the Internet before her body was even removed from the street. Millions of Internet users have viewed the footage of Neda’s final moments online and her death has served as a catalyst for the continuation of protests against perceived voting irregularities, which resulted in the reelection of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

For thousands of Iranians, Neda has become the symbol of the fight against the oppressive Iranian regime. She was an innocent victim who was targeted simply because she attended a public protest against the government.  There have been many innocent victims of the Iranian government’s crackdown on so-called unlawful protests. Both men and women alike have been beaten by merciless government forces, with many losing their lives in the battle.

Neda’s death has, specifically, reached out to the hearts and minds of Iranian women who have been emboldened to let their voices be heard. Some women walk down the streets adorned with the Islamic headscarf while holding placards skyward. Others throw stones and chant anti-government slogans. While others yet have used themselves as human shields to protect the injured from further atrocities or helped the wounded get off the streets and away from government forces.

The current protests in Iran have been likened to the 1979 Iranian Revolution, however there has been a drastic change that runs along gender lines. The revolution that took place 30 years ago was comprised almost exclusively of male protestors whereas today female protestors are clearly outnumbering the men on the Iranian streets. It has taken years for Iranian women to find their voices. Their coming of age can be seen in screen grabs from cable news program and in video footage uploaded to the Internet.

No matter what the outcome of the current protests turns out to be or how many innocents are beaten and battered. There is one thread of truth that runs through it all and makes Neda’s assassination anything but in vain. And that truth is that the Iranian women are the new pioneers for change in their country. With every step that they take or stone that they hurl, Iranian women are fighting the good fight for change, democracy and freedom in their country.

11-27

Unrest in Iran Inspires Pro-Democracy Activists in the Arab World

June 27, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

New America Media, Commentary, NAM Correspondent

NAM Editor’s Note: Arab regimes haven’t publicly criticized or even mentioned what is happening in neighboring Iran, triggering much speculation among Arab bloggers as to why that is. The author of this piece wished to remain anonymous due to safety concerns.

2009-06-22T144637Z_01_WAS302_RTRMDNP_3_IRAN-PAHLAVI
Former Iranian Crown Prince Reza Pahlavi pauses while he speaks about Iran at the National Press Club in Washington June 22, 2009.    REUTERS/Larry Downing 

DAMASCUS — Images of bloody protesters and crowds numbering in the hundreds of thousands in the streets of Tehran have been broadcast into living rooms across the Arab world for five consecutive days, enchanting and inspiring pro-democracy activists in a region where pushes for democratic reforms tend to be met with an iron fist.

Meanwhile, Arab regimes have largely remained silent over the contested election. Leaders of Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Jordan—the major Sunni powers in the region—haven’t mentioned the elections or allegations of fraud. In normal circumstances, this would be strange — these countries are the regional archenemies of President Ahmedinejad’s Iran.

Some say the reason behind their silence lies in their fear of bolstering pro-democracy movements in their own countries. “The unrest in Iran frightens dictators in the region because it makes it harder for them to justify their own absolute authority,” says Syrian blogger Yasir Sadiq. “If they see tyrannies come down around them, they’ll be afraid.”

Whether or not the Iranian elections were “stolen,” Iran is a long way ahead of most Arab countries when it comes to democracy — the country has a functioning electoral system. Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and the Gulf states don’t hold elections, and in Egypt and Syria, “elections” are so tightly controlled that the results are always known in advance.

The state controlled media in authoritarian Arab countries have mostly downplayed the events in Iran. Government controlled newspapers like Al-Thawra in Syria, Iran’s strongest regional ally, have kept Iran off the front pages and run headlines like, “The West needs to stop intervening in Iranian elections,” using age-old claims of conspiracies to deflect attention from actual popular desire for democratic reform.

“Governments all over the Arab world accuse pro-democracy movements of serving the west, or of being tools of the CIA or Mosad (Israeli intelligence),” says Syrian freelance journalist Khaled Al-Khetyari. “They are just trying to manipulate people by using this language because the people in power don’t want their populations to analyze what is actually happening in Iran.”

The Obama administration has been relatively silent on the unrest in Iran. On Wednesday, Hillary Clinton said it was up to Iranians to “resolve this internal protest.”

Al-Khatyari says the U.S. administration’s measured distance is a strategy the U.S. should stick to. “The last American administration latched onto any internal opposition to regimes it didn’t like. This always hurts local movements because it connects them to a country that most people here see as harmful to the region and it justifies repression by our governments.”

Syrian blogger Yasir Sadiq says he is encouraged by the Iranian opposition’s seven-point manifesto being circulated on the internet, which calls for the “Dissolution of all organizations — both secret and public — designed for the oppression of the Iranian people.”

“It’s inspiring to see people in the Middle East call for the end of secret services,” Sadiq says. “Organizations like this have oppressed people in the Arab world so much.”

Sadiq is reticent to believe that what he calls Iran’s pro-democracy “intifada” could be exported to Arab countries any time soon. “It’s difficult to hope for this kind of movement in the Arab world. We have a long way to go, but we hope that eventually, something like that will happen here.”

For now, he says, Arab activists will attempt to learn what they can from their counterparts in Iran. For days, Sadiq has been pegged to Twitter, the social networking tool that has allowed Iranians to organize demonstrations while the Iranian government institutes a near blackout of internet services.

“Arab bloggers’ main interest in what is happening in Iran is in figuring out how Twitter can be used to organize and bring our voices forward in our own countries,” he says.

The government in Syria may eventually try to ban it, like they have with other networking sites like Facebook, but Sadiq says he is not deterred. “The more they ban, the more ways we will find to get around their restrictions.”

11-27

ACLU Condemns Charity Closings

June 27, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By Duke Helfand

The federal government’s crackdown on suspected terrorism financing since the 9/11 attacks has violated the rights of US Muslim charities and deterred Muslims from charitable giving, the ACLU said last Tuesday.

An expansion of laws and policies since 2001 has given the US Treasury in particular virtually unchecked authority to designate charities as terrorist organizations and freeze assets without adequate safeguards to protect against mistakes or abuse, the study concluded.

It said that such sweeping powers, combined with the FBI interviewing Muslim donors and putting mosques under surveillance, has created a climate of fear among Muslims. Donors have been reluctant to fulfill their religious obligation to give zakat, or charity, one of the “five pillars” of Islam, for fear of being arrested, deported, denied citizenship or prosecuted retroactively for donations made in good faith.

“Giving charity is a central part of being Muslim, so it weighs heavily on them that they cannot practice a key tenet of their faith,” said ACLU researcher Jennifer Turner, who based her findings on interviews with 120 Muslim community leaders, donors and former government officials.

In a statement, the Treasury Department, which is responsible for oversight of charitable activity, said it attempts to help the charitable community protect against terrorist abuses.

“We’re hopeful this ongoing communication will ensure all charitable groups, regardless of religious affiliation, have the ability to provide assistance where it’s needed most, without empowering terrorist organizations,” the agency said.

In his speech in Cairo this month, President Obama addressed the oversight of Muslim charities, saying the “rules on charitable giving have made it harder for Muslims to fulfill their religious obligation. That’s why I’m committed to working with American Muslims to ensure that they can fulfill zakat.”

Civil libertarians and Muslim advocates say the new administration has yet to actually address the problems. The ACLU said federal policies have led to closures of nine Muslim charities in Texas, Michigan, Illinois, Massachusetts, Oregon and other states.

The leaders of one former charity, Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development, were convicted in November of funneling more than $12 million to the Palestinian militant group Hamas. The US designated Hamas a terrorist organization, making contributions to it illegal. Two founding members of Holy Land, once the nation’s largest Muslim charity, were each sentenced last month to 65 years in prison.

Still, Muslim advocates and the ACLU said the government has seized the assets of other charities without charging them with a crime, driving charitable giving underground and undermined diplomatic efforts in Muslim countries, they said.

“This is an issue that not only goes to religious giving, but we see this as critical to our continued integration and participation in American public life,” said Farhana Khera, executive director of Muslim Advocates, a legal advocacy and education organization based in San Francisco.

“To be engaged in public life, we need to feel comfortable supporting our community institutions,” she said.

11-27

Sarkozy Says Burqas Are Unwelcome in France

June 27, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By Susanna Ferreira and David Gauthier-Villars in Paris

President Nicolas Sarkozy took sides in a growing debate on the burqa, a head-to-toe garment that is worn by some Muslim women and that conceals their faces, saying it isn’t a religious symbol but “a sign of enslavement and debasement” of women.

“The burqa is not welcome on French territory,” Mr. Sarkozy said. “In our country, we cannot accept that women be prisoners behind a screen, cut off from all social life, deprived of all identity.”

Mr. Sarkozy, who was addressing a joint session of the French Parliament at Versailles — the first French president to address the legislature in more than a century — also pledged further government investment to help the country out of its recession.

Almost halfway through his five-year term, Mr. Sarkozy is struggling to deliver on his electoral pledge to downsize the French state. Instead, his government is spending to try to boost the economy, which is expected to shrink 3% this year.

He told lawmakers he would sharply reduce the state’s “bad budget deficit,” but he also unveiled a government bond issue to finance industrial, education and cultural projects.

Mr. Sarkozy’s speech, delivered at the château of Versailles, signaled his growing domination of French government. He used a change he introduced last year in France’s constitution that allows the president to address lawmakers directly.

Opposition lawmakers called the address a “narcissistic exercise” and said it only served Mr. Sarkozy’s taste for pomp. They said the speech highlighted how Mr. Sarkozy has relegated Prime Minister François Fillon to a subordinate role.

Mr. Sarkozy said he endorsed holding a parliamentary inquiry to study the small, but apparently growing, phenomenon of women wearing the burqa on French streets. The move could be the first step toward an outright ban on the coverings.

This month, a group of 76 lawmakers called for France to ban the garment, which is often associated with the Salafi strain of Islam and is worn by only a small percentage of Muslim women. The lawmakers appealed for a parliamentary commission to study the issue.

Some Muslim lobby groups, however, have urged the French government to refrain from holding a public debate on the issue, saying it would stigmatize France’s Muslim community, Europe’s largest.

France has strict rules separating state and religion, including a 2004 law banning veils, crosses, and other religious symbols and dress from public schools and government buildings.

The French debate was spearheaded by André Gerin, a French lawmaker and mayor of Vénissieux, near Lyon. The veils are “a test for our civilization,” Mr. Gerin said in a telephone interview, adding that his goal is to “liberate these women.”

Mr. Sarkozy said that he won’t raise taxes and that it is time to make spending cuts. He proposed slashing the number of local-government representatives, and said he will decide by mid-2010 whether to raise the minimum retirement age, which stands at 60 years for most workers.

So far, Mr. Sarkozy has maintained his popularity despite the economic slump. Still, he has been forced to shelve some of his plans to slim down France’s state in order to promote a livelier, more prosperous economy.

The budget deficit is likely to shoot up to €140 billion ($194 billion) this year — 7.5% of gross domestic product compared with 3.4% in 2008. Tax revenues are falling because of the recession, and Mr. Sarkozy has spent public funds to prop up banks and struggling auto companies.

11-27

Pakistan Preps Attack

June 18, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Pakistan prepares offensive on Taliban stronghold

By Rohan Sullivan, AP

2009-06-13T204536Z_01_AAL110_RTRMDNP_3_PAKISTAN-VIOLENCE

A policeman stands atop Punjab University, keeping guard over a crowd of thousands attending funeral prayers for Muslim cleric Sarfraz Naeemi in Lahore June 13, 2009. Naeemi was attacked by a suicide bomber in his mosque complex after leading Friday prayers a day earlier. Pakistani warplanes struck a stronghold of Pakistani Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud on Saturday in retaliation for the killing of the anti-Taliban cleric, the military said.   

REUTERS/Adrees Latif

ISLAMABAD – Pakistan’s army launched airstrikes and ferried in tanks and artillery as it confirmed Tuesday that it was preparing a major offensive against insurgents in al-Qaida and the Taliban’s safest haven along the Afghan border.

The highly anticipated military operation in South Waziristan is seen as a potential turning point in the yearslong and sometimes half-hearted fight against militancy in Pakistan. It could also help curb Taliban attacks on Western forces in neighboring Afghanistan.
But the offensive in the lawless tribal region will also be the toughest yet for Pakistan’s military, testing both its fighting capability and the government’s will to see it through, analysts said.
Pakistani army spokesman Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas said the military had received executive orders from the government to begin operations against Pakistani Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud, whose base is in South Waziristan.

“The necessary measures and steps which are part of a preliminary phase of the operation, the preparatory phase of the operation, that has commenced,” Abbas told a news conference.

But Information Minister Qamar Zaman Kaira stressed that the operation “has not been officially started.”

They declined to give more details, citing operational secrecy.

Convoys of military trucks carrying tanks and artillery were seen Tuesday in the towns of Dera Ismail Khan and Tank, near South Waziristan. Intelligence officials said they were part of the buildup for the operation against Mehsud.

In recent days, the military has shelled and launched airstrikes in both South Waziristan and neighboring Bannu, although so far there has not been large-scale fighting with the militants.

On Tuesday, the army shelled suspected militant hideouts in three villages in South Waziristan in response to attacks on two military checkpoints, and helicopter gunships targeted Mehsud hide-outs in the region, intelligence officials told The Associated Press.

One official called the attacks “surgical strikes” ahead of the main operation.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to disclose information to the media.

The military buildup comes as the army says it is entering the final stages of a major operation against the Taliban in the northwestern Swat Valley, which has triggered a wave of retaliatory attacks by militants across Pakistan that have been blamed on Mehsud.

More than 100 people have died since late May in suicide bombings on targets including police and security buildings, mosques and a hotel catering to foreigners. The attacks have fueled anti-Taliban sentiment in Pakistan that in turn has emboldened the politically weak government of President Asif Ali Zardari.

A military assault in South Waziristan would likely trigger an escalation in the attacks — something the government is bracing for.

“The risk of lives is there — we have to give sacrifices, we have to pay this price and the nation is ready to give this price to get rid of this menace,” Kaira said.

The slow start to the offensive may indicate the government is talking it up before launching it to allow civilians time to flee. The Swat offensive displaced more than 2 million people.

Thousands of residents have already fled Waziristan, local officials and refugees say, and are most are staying with extended family. Aid agencies have warned that the humanitarian crisis in Pakistan’s northwest could worsen if fighting spreads in the tribal belt.

The armed forces may also need more time to mobilize for a full-scale battle in Waziristan, a hard-scrabble, mountainous area where well-armed tribes hold sway and the government’s influence is minimal.

Many Taliban and al-Qaida militants fled to the region after the U.S.-led invasion that ousted the Taliban regime in Afghanistan after the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States. It remains a base for cross-border attacks on Western and Afghan forces and a training center for militants operating in both Afghanistan and Pakistan. South Waziristan is also a possible hiding place of al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden and his deputy Ayman al-Zawahri.

Militants have had years to dig in and store arms and ammunition in bolt-holes that include concrete bunkers and tunnel networks, said Asad Munir, a retired brigadier and former intelligence chief for the tribal region.

Battle-hardened fighters from Afghanistan, Swat and elsewhere will rally to join the fight, he predicted.

“This is going to be their final battlefield because the prominent leaders of al-Qaida, the Afghan Taliban, the local Taliban and our own terrorist jihadi organizations, they are all here,” Munir said. “They will defend this place, which has acted as a sanctuary for them.”

U.S. missiles fired from unmanned drones have repeatedly struck South Waziristan, most recently on Sunday, and militants would become far more vulnerable to airborne attacks if they are forced out of their strongholds by Pakistan’s offensive. The military has launched repeated operations in the past, only to later back off as the government has pursued failed peace deals instead.

Abbas said Tuesday there were unconfirmed reports that al-Qaida-linked Uzbek militant leader Tahir Yuldash was injured in a Pakistani air force strike Sunday in South Waziristan. He gave no further details.

Yuldash leads the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan and has survived numerous Pakistan military operations to trap him in the tribal regions.

___
Associated Press writers Ishtiaq Masud in Dera Ismail Khan, and Munir Ahmad and Zarar Khan in Islamabad contributed to this report.

11-26

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