Every enemy America faces is ALWAYS the new Hitler and every country the new Nazi Germany. It's simply tiresome...
As TPM stated:
It's almost an insult to what the world faced in the late 1930s. Germany, industrial powerhouse, with arguably the most powerful army in the world, at the forefront of technology, overawing and invading neighboring countries. Iran, minor economic power, second or third-rate military power, which may get a couple of small nuclear-weapons compared to the couple hundred high-end nuclear warheads in Israel's arsenal (plus, a robust second strike capacity, as Fareed notes) and the many thousands we have -- and our blue water navy, satellites, air force. Please. Time's running out for us? We're going to look back on this fifty years from now and see the non-podhoretz-loons as the Chamberlains of the day? I don't know what to say. Just watch .
And Podhoretz makes it very clear that he believes Bush will attack Iran before he leaves office.
Wednesday, October 31, 2007
Every enemy America faces is ALWAYS the new Hitler and every country the new Nazi Germany. It's simply tiresome...
I remember a time when the Republican party prided themselves as the party of personal responsibility. As they now offer partial immunity to Blackwater mercenaries, Patrick Leahy has identified a theme to this administration's activities:
It really is astonishing that the party of personal responsibility should seek to avoid anyone from "their side" ever facing any action as a consequence of what they have done, whether it be the shooting of 17 innocent Iraqis in a Baghdad street or the outing of an undercover CIA agent for her husband revealing the lies that the administration knowingly peddled to take the US to war.
Patrick Leahy, who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, called the immunity deal another example of "the amnesty administration". "In this administration, accountability goes by the boards," said Senator Leahy, who sits on two Senate panels that oversee the State Department and the Justice Department. "That seems to be a central tenet in the Bush administration – that no one from their team should be held accountable, if accountability can be avoided.
"That goes equally for misconduct and for incompetence," he added. "If you get caught, they will get you immunity. If you get convicted, they will commute your sentence."
Bush and the neo-cons appear to believe that they are above the law, and that they and their enablers certainly should never have to justify their actions before the law.
It was with this mindset that Bush attempted to hold on to Gonzales long after he was toast, proclaiming that he had done nothing wrong when there wasn't a sentient person on the planet who couldn't see that the Attorney General was being economical with the truth.
Then we had Cheney telling us that the vice president's office didn't have to comply with the National Archives because he is his own branch of government.
So the partial immunity offered to Blackwater employees is not remotely shocking. It's part of a long established practice whereby this administration continue to think that the law is for other people and that they - and their associates - are immune from it.
Click title for full article.
A new book by Anthony Seldon, Peter Snowdon and Daniel Collings, called "Blair Unbound" reveals how George Bush was so worried that the Blair government might fall during the final days leading up to the Iraq war that he offered Blair a way out, and it was a way out which Blair refused to take.
So, in order to avoid looking "pathetic" Blair ordered young Brits to war, despite the fact that the US never really needed the British for the invasion as anything other than a fig leaf to convince their own citizens that Bush was actually leading a coalition of nations rather than engaging in the blatant act of unilateralism which he was actually indulging himself in.
Nine days before the Commons backed military action, despite a rebellion by 139 Labour MPs, President Bush astonished Condoleezza Rice, who was his National Security Adviser, by suggesting that Britain need not join the invasion and could play a less controversial role during the aftermath.
According to the book, the US embassy in London was sending Washington worrying accounts of Mr Blair's position. "We were talking to backbenchers. What we heard was a fairly strident message that there was only so far that we could go, and the UN was extremely important. We heard some very ominous analyses of what could happen," said one official.
Ms Rice told the book's authors: "I remember standing in the Oval Office, and the President said, 'We can't have the British Government fall because of this decision over war.' I said: 'So what are you saying?' He said, 'I have to tell Tony that he doesn't have to do this.'"
Ms Rice's first thought was to call Sir David Manning, her opposite number in Downing Street, to prepare the ground but Mr Bush judged there was no time. "I'm going to call him right now," he said.
"What I want to say to you is that my last choice is to have your government go down," he told Mr Blair. "We don't want that to happen under any circumstances. I really mean that."
If it would help, he would let Mr Blair "drop out of the coalition" and the US would find some other way for Britain to participate. Ms Rice described the conversation as "very emotional" for the President.
Mr Blair replied: "I said I'm with you. I mean it." One confidant explained: "Having taken it so far, backing out seemed to him a rather pathetic thing to do."
Blair has never publicly regretted his decision, always insisting that it was the right thing to do. I suppose when one makes a decision that is so wrong - which will come to define your premiership - you have no option other than to decide that, somewhere down the line, history will exonerate you.
For Blair certainly knew that Iraq was the reason for his drastically reduced majority when he faced the British public for the third time.
As the election results came in, a deeply depressed Mr Blair –who was with his family and friends at Myrobella, his constituency home – was completely unnerved when Labour lost Putney to the Conservatives at 12.35am. “If we lost this we are going to lose the lot,” he said to Jonathan Powell, his chief of staff.
Later he went out into the garden in the “freezing cold” with his long-time aides Alastair Campbell and Sally Morgan. According to the book, “he started muttering things such as ‘It’s all my fault’ and ‘Iraq’”. “It was a pretty grim hour or so,” Ms Morgan said.
And certainly after that third election, Blair realised that his power over his party was almost fatally weakened.
And all of this happened because Blair, in his desire to strut across the world stage, turned down Bush's offer for the British to take a less aggressive stance in the Iraq war.
At the PLP (Parliamentary Labour Party) meeting the following Monday, for the first time MPs stood up and challenged his leadership, saying that MPs had lost their seats because of his continuation as leader. Former minister Peter Kilfoyle put it to him directly that ‘the sooner he stood down the better off the party would be as he had become a negative factor’. There was a deadly silence. The mood was sombre. Blair responded that he needed time and space and MPs owed it to him to be loyal until the handover.
“But the stories began about how long he could and should survive".
I know publicly Blair will never announce a moment's regret, but I wonder if, privately, he ever allows himself to wonder what might have been had he not tied himself so tenaciously to Bush's war of choice.
Click title for full article.
We are constantly being asked to believe that our governments have information that we don't and that, if we knew what they knew, we would willingly forgo certain rights in order to defeat this "threat to our very existence". Certain commenters here constantly imply that we ought to give the government the benefit of the doubt regarding torture and other activities and assume that they are acting legally unless we can deliver absolute proof that they are not.
Central to this belief is the certainty that the government are (a) honourable and (b) have much more information at their fingertips than we could ever hope to possess which is why that we must give them some leeway.
And then I read this:
UK's first Muslim minister, Shahid Malik on Monday said he was detained at an American airport and his luggage analysed for traces of explosive materials. Malik, UK's international development minister, whose parents come from Pakistan, said he was returning to Heathrow on Sunday after a series of meetings on tackling terror, when he was stopped at Dulles Airport in Washington.They can't even identify the British Minister for International Development returning from a series of meetings with themselves concerning ways to tackle terrorism.
Expressing his disappointment, Malik said he was searched and detained by the department of homeland security - the same department whose representatives he had been meeting on his visit to the country. Malik said: "After a few minutes a couple of other people were also taken to one side. We were all Muslims - the other two were black Muslims, both with Muslim names."
And the British are their greatest ally in the war on a noun.
If they can't even identify the people who are on their side, what faith does that give you about their insistence that the people held in Guantanamo Bay are the "worst of the worst"?
Click title for full article.
Tuesday, October 30, 2007
The State Department may claim that they had no knowledge of this offer and even hint that they disapprove of such a thing, but one has to wonder whether any Blackwater employee who made a statement - believing himself to have immunity - could now be prosecuted for a statement he made under such circumstances.
The State Department investigators from the agency’s investigative arm, the Bureau of Diplomatic Security, offered the immunity grants even though they did not have the authority to do so, the officials said. Prosecutors at the Justice Department, who do have such authority, had no advance knowledge of the arrangement, they added.
Most of the guards who took part in the Sept. 16 shooting were offered what officials described as limited-use immunity, which means that they were promised that they would not be prosecuted for anything they said in their interviews with the authorities as long as their statements were true. The immunity offers were first reported Monday by The Associated Press.
The officials who spoke of the immunity deals have been briefed on the matter, but agreed to talk about the arrangement only on the condition of anonymity because they had not been authorized to discuss a continuing criminal investigation.
The precise legal status of the immunity offer is unclear. Those who have been offered immunity would seem likely to assert that their statements are legally protected, even as some government officials say that immunity was never officially sanctioned by the Justice Department.
Spokesmen for the State and Justice Departments would not comment on the matter. A State Department official said, “If there’s any truth to this story, then the decision was made without consultation with senior officials in Washington.”
It was hard enough already to know how to prosecute Blackwater employees:
Blackwater employees and other civilian contractors cannot be tried in military courts, and it is unclear what American criminal laws might cover criminal acts committed in a war zone. Americans are immune from Iraqi law under a directive signed by the United States occupation authority in 2003 that has not been repealed by the Iraqi Parliament.This offer of immunity, whether sanctioned by the State Department or not, has just made prosecution even more unlikely.
Click title for full article.
I spoke yesterday about my outrage over the comments of King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia concerning the shortcomings of the British government and worldwide terrorism. Robert Fisk has today turned his attention to this supreme act of gall.
In what world do these people live? True, there'll be no public executions outside Buckingham Palace when His Royal Highness rides in stately formation down The Mall. We gave up capital punishment about half a century ago. There won't even be a backhander – or will there? – which is the Saudi way of doing business. But for King Abdullah to tell the world, as he did in a BBC interview yesterday, that Britain is not doing enough to counter "terrorism", and that most countries are not taking it as seriously as his country is, is really pushing it. Weren't most of the 11 September 2001 hijackers from – er – Saudi Arabia? Is this the land that is really going to teach us lessons?
The sheer implausibility of the claim that Saudi intelligence could have prevented the London bombings if only the British Government had taken it seriously, seems to have passed the Saudi monarch by. "We have sent information to Great Britain before the terrorist attacks in Britain but unfortunately no action was taken. And it may have been able to maybe avert the tragedy," he told the BBC. This claim is frankly incredible.
The sad, awful truth is that we fete these people, we fawn on them, we supply them with fighter jets, whisky and whores. No, of course, there will be no visas for this reporter because Saudi Arabia is no democracy. Yet how many times have we been encouraged to think otherwise about a state that will not even allow its women to drive? Kim Howells, the Foreign Office minister, was telling us again yesterday that we should work more closely with the Saudis, because we "share values" with them. And what values precisely would they be, I might ask?
Saudi Arabia is a state which bankrolled – a definite no-no this for discussion today – Saddam's legions as they invaded Iran in 1980 (with our Western encouragement, let it be added). And which said nothing – a total and natural silence – when Saddam swamped the Iranians with gas. The Iraqi war communiqué made no bones about it. "The waves of insects are attacking the eastern gates of the Arab nation. But we have the pesticides to wipe them out."
Did the Saudi royal family protest? Was there any sympathy for those upon whom the pesticides would be used? No. The then Keeper of the Two Holy Places was perfectly happy to allow gas to be used because he was paying for it – components were supplied, of course, by the US – while the Iranians died in hell. And we Brits are supposed to be not keeping up with our Saudi friends when they are "cracking down on terrorism".
Like the Saudis were so brilliant in cracking down on terror in 1979 when hundreds of gunmen poured into the Great Mosque at Mecca, an event so mishandled by a certain commander of the Saudi National Guard called Prince Abdullah that they had to call in toughs from a French intervention force. And it was a former National Guard officer who led the siege.
Saudi Arabia's role in the 9/11 attacks has still not been fully explored. Senior members of the royal family expressed the shock and horror expected of them, but no attempt was made to examine the nature of Wahhabism, the state religion, and its inherent contempt for all representation of human activity or death. It was Saudi Muslim legal iconoclasm which led directly to the destruction of the Buddhas of Bamiyan by the Taliban, Saudi Arabia's friends. And only weeks after Kamal Salibi, a Lebanese history professor, suggested in the late 1990s that once-Jewish villages in what is now Saudi Arabia might have been locations in the Bible, the Saudis sent bulldozers to destroy the ancient buildings there.
In the name of Islam, Saudi organisations have destroyed hundreds of historic structures in Mecca and Medina and UN officials have condemned the destruction of Ottoman buildings in Bosnia by a Saudi aid agency, which decided they were "idolatrous". Were the twin towers in New York another piece of architecture which Wahhabis wanted to destroy?
Nine years ago a Saudi student at Harvard produced a remarkable thesis which argued that US forces had suffered casualties in bombing attacks in Saudi Arabia because American intelligence did not understand Wahhabism and had underestimated the extent of hostility to the US presence in the kingdom. Nawaf Obaid even quoted a Saudi National Guard officer as saying "the more visible the Americans became, the darker I saw the future of the country". The problem is that Wahhabi puritanism meant that Saudi Arabia would always throw up men who believe they had been chosen to "cleanse" their society from corruption, yet Abdul Wahhab also preached that royal rulers should not be overthrown. Thus the Saudis were unable to confront the duality, that protection-and-threat that Wahhabism represented for them.
Prince Bandar, formerly Saudi Arabia's ambassador to Washington, once characterised his country's religion as part of a "timeless culture" while a former British ambassador advised Westerners in Saudi Arabia to "adapt" and "to act with the grain of Saudi traditions and culture".
Amnesty International has appealed for hundreds of men – and occasionally women – to be spared the Saudi executioner's blade. They have all been beheaded, often after torture and grossly unfair trials. Women are shot.
The ritual of chopping off heads was graphically described by an Irish witness to a triple execution in Jeddah in 1997. "Standing to the left of the first prisoner, and a little behind him, the executioner focused on his quarry ... I watched as the sword was being drawn back with the right hand. A one-handed back swing of a golf club came to mind ... the down-swing begins ... the blade met the neck and cut through it like ... a heavy cleaver cutting through a melon ... a crisp moist smack. The head fell and rolled a little. The torso slumped neatly. I see now why they tied wrists to feet ... the brain had no time to tell the heart to stop, and the final beat bumped a gush of blood out of the headless torso on to the plinth."
And you can bet they won't be talking about this at Buckingham Palace today.
Click title for source.
Israel's decision to cut power to the Gaza Strip is illegal says the UN's top official in Gaza and the isolation of Hamas has only strengthened extremism and driven non- affiliated residents who can flee to do so.
The UNRWA chief, who will meet Douglas Alexander, Secretary of State for International Development and other ministers in London today, said: "I can understand why from the Israeli point of view people may think we need a stronger reaction to the Qassams [and] nothing has worked so far. But I don't see how you can want to punish people, all of them in Gaza, which means most of them who are not behind these activities, in the way you are doing now."Collective punishment is illegal under international law, and yet that is blatantly what the Israelis are about to engage in. They are about to punish the ordinary citizens of Gaza for actions that they had nothing to do with.
In an interview, Ms Koning-Abu Zayd said: "Most people, even in some of the refugee camps, live in high-rise apartments in Gaza and if you don't have electricity, you don't have water, you probably don't have food and if you're older or sick in any way you probably can't climb up and down all those stairs." A cut in fuel would have a "very serious" effect on civilian movement.
Where is the international outcry over this blatant violation of international law? Why is the country responsible for the longest illegal occupation in modern history allowed to carry out such actions with impunity?
Nor is there any indication that this illegal act will result in an uprising against Hamas, which is supposed to be the point of this act of barbarity. Indeed, there is every indication that acts like this will only make things worse.
The truth is that Europe especially appears to take it's lead on this crisis from the Americans and that, under Bush's leadership, the Israelis have been actively encouraged to violate international law in the knowledge that the US will use her veto to ensure that no criticism of the Israelis is ever allowed to reach the floor of the UN.
Ms Koning-Abu Zayd cast doubt on the idea that the Israeli squeeze on Gaza, including phased cuts in power – starting with 15 minutes per hour in towns such as Beit Hanoun, from which rockets have been frequently launched – would trigger an effective revolt against militants.
"I don't think it's working myself," she said, adding she did not think surveys showing a fall in support for Hamas were "very significant". She said: "The ones that do support them support them even more strongly and because things are getting worse the ones that were talking about compromise and moderation and working together are discredited so you know many people become more extreme."
What chance do any of us have of ever combating extremism amongst the Palestinians? The normal way that one goes about this is to encourage former terrorist groups to give up the bullet and to legitimise themselves by entering the political process.
The Israeli cabinet minister Benjamin Ben Eliezer suggested yesterday that the cuts were the only alternative to moving "four divisions" into Gaza. But Ms Koning-Abu Zayd said: "When we first heard these things I kept saying they won't do this because it's against international law."
Ms Koning-Abu Zayd, the longest serving UN official in Gaza, also made some of the strongest criticisms yet by a UN official of the Israeli and international community's boycott of Hamas since March 2006, which she said had strengthened hardline extremists in the faction.
She hoped that the planned Annapolis conference would renew a peace process and said UNRWA had a "very simple message" that refugees should be on the agenda. But it was a "big negative" that Hamas would not be taking part, and that "at some moment" they would have to be brought into the process.
Since Hamas won the elections two months earlier, "We were saying ... you had to deal with whoever is elected democratically, fairly, justly and that if you didn't, and history seemed to us to prove this, you drive people into becoming more extreme."
Hamas did so and successfully and fairly won the election. Since then it is, disgracefully, the US, the EU and the Israelis who have sought to undermine the democratic process and bring down the government which the Palestinians chose as their democratic representatives.
And in order to further reduce support for Hamas we now find Israel planning a blatant violation of international law, and the world - once again - silent as they do so.
This is disgraceful. Simply bloody disgraceful. And it is a further example of why US moral authority has shrunk under Bush's leadership.
Click title for full article.
Monday, October 29, 2007
"Torture is terrible. America is defined by it's values" - which don't include torture...
And yet McCain might still find himself supporting Mukasey, a man who says that waterboarding might not be torture...
Yeah, that's occupying the high moral ground, sport.
Hat tip to Crooks and Liars.
Max Hastings is a right wing commentator and former editor of The Daily Telegraph famous here in the UK for being the first journalist to enter Port Stanley during the Falklands war. I point this out merely to assure that this is no left wing, knee jerk, anti-American talking here.
He has an article in today's Guardian newspaper about Bush's recent sanctions against Iran which he feels will have almost no effect on Tehran, nor does he think that Europeans seriously believe sanctions will deter Iran, but France and others are going along with this because they hope that by doing so, they can prevent an American military intervention.
These sanctions are directed more at foreign businesses that deal with Iran than US commerce, which is already barred. It is hard to believe that Washington expects them to have much practical impact. As long as China and Russia keep trading, those imposed on Iran will, even by the historic standards of international sanctions, leak like Tony Blair's Downing Street.Nor does he accept the argument that sanctions might bring about the regime change that Bush is said to crave:
The Iranians have oil, which the world wants to buy. The EU is eager to build a gas pipeline there, to diminish its dependence on Russian energy. Beijing and Moscow show no interest in helping Bush face down the Iranians. The principal causes of Tehran's economic turmoil are not sanctions, but the incompetence of the government and its refusal to allow foreign companies to develop its oil resources, for which the domestic skills are lacking.
There are two strands in the west's sanctions activity. The first is the elaborate minuet being performed by the Europeans. Led by France's Nicolas Sarkozy, their chief objective is to rebuild relationships with Washington by being seen to support US objectives. It is unlikely that anyone in the chancelleries of Europe supposes that sanctions will cause the Iranians to stop building their bomb. But they might deflect the Americans from military action.
Unfortunately, this seems fanciful. It is easier to accept the view of the Texas academics who concluded in a recent study of sanctions that they make military showdowns more likely. Christopher Sprecher, of Texas A&M University, says: "The country being sanctioned views the sanctions as weak, and therefore becomes almost provocative." A genuine global diplomatic coalition against Iran's nuclear and foreign policies would be far more likely to impress Tehran, Sprecher and a colleague argue, than sanctions perceived as an overwhelmingly American play.He then spells out what the Bush presidency has done for American influence worldwide and - even Max Hastings of all people - concludes that it has been an unmitigated disaster.
The seven years of the Bush presidency have witnessed a haemorrhage of American moral authority of a kind quite unknown in the 20th century. Even in the darkest days of the cold war, and indeed in the Cuban missile crisis, most people around the world retained a faith in the fundamental benign nature of American purposes. This has been lost in Iraq. All manner of folk, outside Europe and America anyway, admire Iranian defiance of US hegemony.He then tells us that sources he has in Washington have assured him that Bush is determined not to leave office without attacking Iran.
And, of course, far from weakening Ahmadinejad's grip on power, the US sanctions are far more likely to strengthen his position.
As for Bush, one of his confidants assured me two years ago that he would never leave the White House with the Iranian issue "unresolved". That still appears to be his position. Such is his strange brand of serenity that he is unmoved by slumping opinion polls and foreign policy disasters. He believes that Iraq could still be redeemable, if the Iranian "terrorists" are checked. His military advisers tell him that air strikes would not destroy Iran's nuclear project, but could delay it by five years.
Six months hence, when it has become plain that sanctions have failed to move Tehran and his own departure from office is imminent, there must be a real prospect that he will launch Stealth bombers. Among the consequences of such action would be a steep rise in oil prices, and a dramatic and perhaps historic increase in tension between the Muslim world and the west. There would also be an agonising dilemma for Gordon Brown. Most of the British people would want the prime minister to distance this country from any such US initiative. Whether he would summon the nerve to do so is debatable.
Ahmadinejad and the Revolutionary Guard need US enemies to justify their idiocies at home and mischief-making in Iraq. At every turn the Bush administration obliges them, by seeming to welcome confrontation. The rival governments in Tehran and Washington deserve each other. It is another matter as to whether their peoples, and the world, do so. But relations between Iran and the US are likely to get much worse before either nation changes leadership and gives peace a chance.Iran have offered talks with the US and seen them rebuffed by a neo-con administration which seems to welcome conflict over negotiations and appear to want to flex their muscles at all times, even when the flexing of their muscles - as in the case of North Korea - only results in them having to make humiliating U-turns.
The Iranian regime have made every effort to have diplomatic relations with the US, including an offer to recognise Israel, and an offer to end support for Lebanese and Palestinian terror groups and make it's nuclear programme more transparent.
All were rejected out of hand.
Indeed, despite offering to recognise Israel, the Iranians have had to listen endlessly to Bush and other neo-con loons claiming that Ahmadinejad is seeking "to wipe Israel off the map", which is a simply astonishing U-turn from a nation who had only recently offered recognition.
It is hard to believe that Bush is not actively seeking confrontation with Iran as I can think of no other offer that the Iranians can seriously make.
And when even conservatives like Max Hastings are beginning to state publicly that Bush and Ahmadinejad deserve each other, it really is some indication of the contempt in which Bush is held, even by former editors of The Daily Telegraph.
Whilst visiting a friend today who reads that dreadful rag, The Daily Mail, I came across a further indication of how British right wing columnists are starting to openly express their contempt for President Bush. In an article entitled, "Let's stop sucking up to Bush the warmonger", Peter McKay states:
Justified wars we absolutely have to fight are hard on military families, but the bleakest prospect of all is risking life and limb when the conflict in question seems increasingly pointless.
Both Iraq and Afghanistan now fall into this category. The only thing keeping us there is embarrassment and the lack of a face-saving excuse for getting out...
It's plain the game is up in Iraq and Afghanistan.Now the Bush Administration's aim is to establish in American minds a military continuum between 9/11, the invasion of Iraq and a new conflict with Iran.
Thus locking the post-2008 presidency into phase two of George W. Bush's fatuous "war on terror", hoping they'll get it right sooner or later.
Fighting wars is good politics in America. Bush, who was handed the 2000 election by the Supreme Court after losing it on the popular vote, won a convincing second-term victory in 2004 because he had taken America to war in Iraq by pretending Saddam Hussein was responsible for 9/11.
There is another big plus for Americans in Iraq - controlling the future flow of Iraqi oil.
It is estimated to be worth more than ten times what America has spent on the war.
And remember: the war spending has gone largely to U.S. companies who are donors to Bush's Republican Party.
One would have to be British to understand the full significance of a Daily Mail commentator saying that Bush didn't win his first election and is lining the pockets, through the Iraq war, of the people who bankrolled his campaign.Even the British "believers" are deserting Bush in their droves. And they are now stating that both Iraq and Afghanistan are lost. With Conservative support worldwide now deserting him, Bush really is only left with that loyal band of 30%'s who are prepared to say that they alone can appreciate the subtlety of the Emperor's new clothes.
Click title for Hastings' article.
Displaying a lack of irony that borders on breathtaking, Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah - the leader of the country which supplied 15 of the 19 hijackers who carried out the 9-11 attacks on New York - has criticised Britain's attitude to tackling terrorism.
Not only do Whitehall strenuously deny that Saudi Arabia offered such intelligence but I have written on this blog before about Saudi Arabia's outrageous threat to withhold intelligence regarding terrorism from Britain unless the UK government halted an investigation into the fact that Prince Bandar appeared to have been illegally paid billions of dollars in the Al-Yamamah deal.
Speaking through an interpreter, the Saudi monarch said he believed most countries were not taking the issue seriously, "including, unfortunately, Great Britain".
"We have sent information to Great Britain before the terrorist attacks in Britain but unfortunately no action was taken. And it may have been able to maybe avert the tragedy."
The Saudi leadership maintains that it passed the UK information that might have averted the London bombings of 2005 if it had been acted on.
BBC security correspondent Frank Gardner says Whitehall officials have strenuously denied this, and a subsequent investigation by Parliament's Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC) found no evidence of any intelligence passed on by the Saudis that could have prevented the 7 July 2005 bombings.
The king's visit has provoked controversy over Britain's relationship with Saudi Arabia.
A demonstration is planned outside the Saudi embassy in London later in the week in protest at the country's human rights record.
And then Jack Straw, in a final attempt to convince us that this was, indeed, about "national security", dropped the bombshell:So we really don't need any lectures in how to deal with terrorism from a man whose country supplied so many of the attackers on 9-11 and, indeed, from the leader of a country which threatened to withhold vital intelligence unless we halted investigations into corruption charges against Prince Bandar.
Yesterday Mr Straw clashed with David Howarth, the Lib Dem MP for Cambridge, during heated exchanges in the Commons. Mr Howarth told MPs: "The government called off the inquiry for reasons of national security but it now turns out that the threat to national security was the threat of withdrawal of cooperation from the very same quarter that was subject to investigation for corruption. Isn't it simply shameful and dishonourable to give way to that sort of pressure?"
Mr Straw replied: "The world is not perfect ... the government faces a choice of seeing cooperation on national security being withdrawn, and it rightly made the judgement. We face some very serious terrorist threats. We vitally need cooperation as we have received, from among others, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
There are even allegations that two of the 9-11 hijackers had a support network in the United States that included agents of the Saudi government, so it really is stupefying to have to listen to lectures on the need to take terrorism seriously from such a tainted source.
What's he planning to lecture us on next? Women's rights?
Did you know that Saudi Arabia treats its women one barely noticeable notch above that of the brutal Taliban? Saudi women cannot vote. They are not allowed to drive. They cannot be admitted to a hospital or examined by a doctor or travel abroad or leave the house without the express permission and/or company of an immediate male family member, and of course they must, at all times, be covered from head to toe in black sackcloth and if they dare venture outside or break the fashion code in any way they could very well be arrested and jailed indefinitely and beaten and even killed, no questions asked.
And, at a time when the Americans are chastising Iran for interfering in the Iraq war, why are we ignoring the fact that the majority of suicide bombers in Iraq are actually from Saudi Arabia?
Political prisoners in Saudi Arabia are regularly tortured. Journalists are regularly arrested and persecuted and beaten for being too outspoken against the deeply repressed and closed kingdom. Human rights groups have been appalled by the oppressive and dictatorial Saudi society for years, perhaps no more so than following 9/11, when scrutiny was at an all-time high due to the obvious Saudi kingdom's connections to al Qaeda and terrorism.
We are sick to death of listening to George Bush feign concern for the freedom of Iraqi's and Iranians whilst blithely ignoring the worst excesses of the oppressive regime of Saudi Arabia.
Human rights only appear to matter to the US when they coincide with it's geopolitical concerns. The silence and complicity of the Bush regime towards Saudi Arabia bears out that fact.
But to have to listen to King Abdullah - of all bloody people - lecturing us on the need to take terrorism seriously is like being scolded by Liberace for being too camp. Abdullah's comments are simply jaw dropping in their audacity.
Click title for full article.
Sunday, October 28, 2007
I wonder if this startling piece of research will have any impact on Giuliani's campaign.
Remember this is a Republican candidate who loves to remind us that: "I reduced homicides by 67 per cent; I reduced overall crime by 57 per cent."
Well, recent research appears to suggest that Giuliani, although thinking he is telling the truth, is actually greatly overstating his own achievement and that there is a greater link between banning lead in petrol and a reduction in the crime rate than any law and order action taken by any politician.
Two studies by leading criminologists, Professor Richard Rosenfeld of the University of Missouri-St Louis and Professor Steven F Messner of the University of Albany, have concluded that Giuliani's zero tolerance policy was actually only responsible for a tenth of the reduction in crime rates that Giuliani is claiming.
Published in the peer-reviewed journal, Environmental Research, the study reports a "very strong association" over more than 50 years between the exposure of young children to the toxic metal and crime rates 20 years later when they are young adults.
And it says the association holds true for a wide variety of countries with differing social conditions, law and order policies.
Rates of violent and other crimes began falling sharply in the US in the early 1990s, and have continued to do so, followed by similar tends elsewhere.
Yet evidence is growing that the banning of lead should take much more of the credit for reducing crime rates. The toxic metal has long been known to damage brains and to lead to criminal and aggressive behaviour.
Research at Pittsburgh University found that adolescents arrested for crime in the city had lead levels four times higher than their law-abiding contemporaries, and a study of 3,000 possible causes of criminality in 1,000 young people by Fordham University, New York, found that high lead levels were the best predictor of delinquent and violent behaviour.
So it appears that, twenty years after phasing out lead in petrol, this kind of reduction in crime is commonplace across the world wherever this is done.
The metal was first added to petrol in the 1920s to boost engine power and its use grew rapidly: levels in blood rose in parallel. It was phased out first in the US, starting in 1974, to be followed by other countries.
Britain – one of the last to get rid of the toxic metal – is one of the latest to enjoy a decline in crime.
Giuliani, the man famous for being New York's Mayor on the worst day in it's history, now finds his crime fighting record - of which he is so proud - might have had very little to do with him after all.
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There's an article by Scott Horton over at Harper's magazine which deserves to be read widely.
It details the worrying level of interference the Bush administration are having into the military commissions at Guantanamo Bay and how this interference is for purely political gain and has left many prosecutors, defense counsels, military judges and staffers feeling that, "the military commissions, which could have been used to showcase American values, have instead become a sort of laughing stock for the world, an embarrassment for the uniformed services."
Politically motivated officials at the Pentagon have pushed for convictions of high-profile detainees ahead of the 2008 elections, the former lead prosecutor for terrorism trials at Guantanamo Bay said last night, adding that the pressure played a part in his decision to resign earlier this month.So these same Republicans, who use national security as a main reason for people to elect them, are choosing the kind of prisoners being put before military commissions on the basis of political gain. Rather than proceeding with cases which have a strong evidential basis they would prefer to proceed with cases which will be "sexy". In other words, with cases that might frighten the American public into re-electing the Republican Party in 2008.
Senior defense officials discussed in a September 2006 meeting the “strategic political value” of putting some prominent detainees on trial, said Air Force Col. Morris Davis. He said that he felt pressure to pursue cases that were deemed “sexy” over those that prosecutors believed were the most solid or were ready to go.
This is the antithesis of a party which genuinely cares about national security and justice for the people they have in their custody.
The amount of political interference into this military system of justice is best illustrated with the blatant intervention of Dick Cheney into the case of David Hicks, the Australian who was the first Guantanamo Bay detainee to be convicted under the U.S. Military Commissions Act of 2006.
While Col. Davis cites political appointees in the Pentagon, a number of his colleagues focus their criticisms on the Department of Justice. They say that political appointees at Justice have been responsible for most of the egregious decisions which have embarrassed the military in the past. “The problem is pretty simple. These people have no interest whatsoever in justice. It’s politics 24/7. It will serve them through a couple of press cycles, but in the end it will embarrass the military and the United States bigtime.”
“One of our staffers was present when Vice President Cheney interfered directly to get Hicks’s plea bargain deal. He did it, apparently, as part of a deal cut with [Australian Prime Minister] Howard. I kept thinking: this is the sort of thing that used to go on behind the Iron Curtain, not in America. And then it struck me how much this entire process had disintegrated into a political charade. It’s demoralizing for all of us.”For what were the conditions of this plea bargain which Cheney struck?
A stipulation of the plea bargain ensured that the 5 years that Hicks remained at Guantanamo Bay would not be subtracted from any sentence handed down by the military tribunal. Further conditions are that Hicks should not speak to the media for one year, Hicks is to not take legal action against the United States and that Hicks is to withdraw allegations that the US military abused him.This is, indeed, the politicisation of the process of justice. By asking a prisoner to withdraw allegations that he has been abused as part of a plea bargain puts Cheney in the same ballpark as someone like Mugabe. Allegations of abuse should be vigorously investigated, their denial should never be made part of any plea bargain.
But that Cheney proceeded in this manner shows how the prosecutors, defense counsels, military judges and staffers who worry that American justice is being besmirched by such actions are right to have such apprehensions.
After WWII the United States insisted that the Nazis were not simply hung and that justice must be seen to be done. To this end they constituted the Nuremberg trials. This won the US the admiration of the world.
And yet here is Cheney, coming to the kind of shitty plea bargain that would not have looked out of place in Pretoria at the height of Apartheid.
This is not America as I understand it.
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General Wesley Clark: Bin Laden is not an existential threat and is not a reason for Americans to give up their freedom.
Hat tip to Balloon Juice
Saturday, October 27, 2007
He told the audience, which included New York governor Eliot Spitzer and mayor Michael Bloomberg, that Iran was the biggest exporter of the ideology, and that the Islamic republic was prepared to "back and finance terror" to support it.
“Out there in the Middle East, we’ve seen... the ideology driving this extremism and terror is not exhausted. On the contrary it believes it can and will exhaust us first," he said.
“Analogies with the past are never properly accurate, and analogies especially with the rising fascism can be easily misleading but, in pure chronology, I sometimes wonder if we’re not in the 1920s or 1930s again.
“This ideology now has a state, Iran, that is prepared to back and finance terror in the pursuit of destabilising countries whose people wish to live in peace.”
So there we have it, Ahmadinejad is the new Hitler according to Blair. There are many who used to claim that Blair was Bush's poodle, but that rather missed the point about Blair and his weird religious certainty, which was similar to Bush's but not driven by it.
Bush, rather than forcing Blair to adopt his appalling neo-con stances towards Iraq, was actually pushing against an open door. Tony is a believer.
The analogy between Iran and Nazi Germany is simply ludicrous on it's face. Hitler invaded and occupied other European country's. What the Hell has Ahmadinejad done that is even remotely along those lines?
But Tony makes the analogy whilst covering himself by stating that, "analogies with the past are never properly accurate". This one is not only not "properly accurate", it's stark raving bonkers.
This speech only reminds us how lucky we are that he is no longer the British Prime Minister.
Watch the video here.
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Hmm, lets see...
Asked whether the United States was on course for armed conflict with Iran over its suspect nuclear program and alleged interference in Iraq, Fratto replied: "I think we're very, very hopeful that it won't."
"We are absolutely committed to a diplomatic process. We would never take options off the table, but the diplomatic process is what we want to move forward with," he said, calling it "unwise" to rule out the use of force."I don't think there are any parallels to draw at all."
Bush recently stated that a nuclear Iran would lead to "World War Three" and a "nuclear holocaust" just as before the war with Iraq he predicted that the final warning of Iraq's intentions might come in the form of a mushroom cloud.
Indeed, Dick Cheney recently warned Iran that it would face "serious consequences" if it fails to stop enriching uranium. The phrase "serious consequences" was, of course, the wording used in UN res 1441 which the United States claimed gave it the right to attack Iraq - despite the fact that the resolution did not contain the more usual wording authorising the use of military force, "all necessary means".
So Bush is once again foreseeing a possible nuclear holocaust unless the Iranians are prevented from obtaining a weapon which they insist that they do not want and Cheney is using the very wording that the US used to justify it's illegal invasion of Iraq.
And Fratto states that there aren't "any parallels to draw at all"....
Of course there aren't Tony. Where do people get these notions?
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Giuliani has said that Iranians need to understand that "America will not allow them to become a nuclear power" and criticised Democrats for opposing President George W. Bush's tough stance on Iran.
Nor does he concede that Democrats might have genuine concerns and differences over Bush's inflammatory policies towards another Middle Eastern country, he simply sees it that, "no matter what the president says they would criticise it."
There have been some who have argued that the US is not planning to attack Iran and yet it is noticeable that it is Iran - and any future action against it - that is dominating the positioning of the rivals for the Republican Presidential nomination rather than any stance towards the Iraq war.
Giuliani said he hoped sanctions would work "but the military option is not off the table and the Iranians should understand that, that America will not allow them to become a nuclear power."
"Their regime is too irresponsible. The world would be in too much danger," he said.
Giuliani fears that he might be perceived as being too "liberal" for the Republican base which has led him to make a series of increasingly bizarre claims in order to placate them, the most recent of which was his astonishing assertion that an act of torture isn't defined by the act itself but, rather, by who is doing that act.
And, even amongst the Democrats, it is the subject of Iran which is causing fault lines which define the candidates much better than the Iraq war.
So, again it is Iran that even the Democrats are fighting about.
Former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards again skewered Clinton for having voted for a Senate resolution that recommended the State Department declare Iran's Revolutionary Guard a terrorist organization, a vote that preceded Bush's move by several weeks.
"When Senator Clinton voted to declare Iran's Revolutionary Guard a terrorist organization, she only aided and abetted George Bush and Dick Cheney's march to war," Edwards said.
Another Democratic candidate, Illinois Sen. Barack Obama, has made similar charges against Clinton. Clinton says her vote was aimed at encouraging diplomacy in dealing with Iran, not war, and in a memo sent to reporters, the New York senator's campaign took aim at Obama.
"Stagnant in the polls and struggling to revive his once-buoyant campaign, Sen. Obama has abandoned the politics of hope and embarked on a journey in search of a campaign issue to use against Sen. Clinton," the memo said.
Giuliani is seeking to make the Democrats appear weak by hardening his stance towards Iran to make it more in keeping with the hardliners of the Bush administration.
However, as I've talked about before, the majority of Americans are vehemently opposed to any US military action against Iran:
This desire for diplomacy is particularly apparent in public attitudes on the spread of nuclear weapons. As far as the vast majority of Americans are concerned, military force is "off the table" in dealing with Iran's nuclear program and its possible meddling in Iraq. There's also been a sharp drop in public confidence in military force as a tool for dealing with other countries developing weapons of mass destruction—even though controlling the spread of nuclear weapons is the public's top policy priority and one of its major fears.So, despite the American public having tired of Bush's militarism, Giuliani has obviously decided that he has to promise more of the same in order to convince the Republican base that he is actually one of them. To this end, he continues to bang the war against Iran drum.
At least when the Democrats argue about Iran it is merely to accuse each other of aiding and abetting Bush and Cheney's "march to war". They certainly don't sound like Giuliani who appears to be positively salivating at the thought of an attack on the Iranians.
This may excite the Republican base but I have a feeling that the American people are much nearer to the Democrats position on this than they are to Giuliani's.
Here are the lengths Hillary is going to to explain why she voted for the Lieberman amendment.
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Why so many Americans appear not to understand what it is that they are actually supporting.
And while we're on this subject, it's always fascinating to hear the other side of the argument from a lifelong supporter for a state of Palestine and a man who isn't afraid to describe Israel's actions as those of "terrorist thugs":
Friday, October 26, 2007
The President has been low in the polls for so long now that he is only supported by the 30% Bush-following dead-enders, the people for whom he can do no wrong. One of them forwarded a question which he would like Republican candidates to answer.
This is what his support has dwindled to. People who regard that as a serious concern for a possible future President. How can anyone take these people seriously?
Two top Senate Democrats said their votes hinge on whether he will say on the record that an interrogation technique that simulates drowning is torture.
"It's fair to say my vote would depend on him answering that question," Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., told reporters Thursday.
"This to me is the seminal issue," said Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin of Illinois, another member of Leahy's panel. Asked if his vote depends on whether Mukasey equates waterboarding with torture, Durbin answered: "It does."
Leahy has refused to set a date for a vote on Mukasey's nomination until he clarifies his answer to that question.
Here's hoping that the Democrats grow a spine and refuse confirmation until Mukasey complies.
Or perhaps Mukasey can rely on the Giuliani definition of torture and simply claim it can't be torture because it's us doing it.
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So Giuliani is attending a town meeting and is asked questions about torture:
“I wanted to ask you two questions,’’ she said. “One, do you think waterboarding is torture? And two, do you think the president can order something like waterboarding even though it’s against U.S. and international law?’’He then goes on and gives an answer that is surely the best impression of a crazy person one is likely to witness in the entire campaign:
He then goes on to attack the "liberal media" for falsely describing this delightful practice.
Mr. Giuliani responded: “O.K. First of all, I don’t believe the attorney general designate in any way was unclear on torture. I think Democrats said that; I don’t think he was.’’
Ms. Gustitus said: “He said he didn’t know if waterboarding is torture.”Mr. Giuliani said: “Well, I’m not sure it is either. I’m not sure it is either. It depends on how it’s done. It depends on the circumstances. It depends on who does it."
“Sometimes they describe it accurately. Sometimes they exaggerate it. So I’d have to see what they really are doing, not the way some of these liberal newspapers have exaggerated it.”So, a practice that is condemned by the rest of the world - and every US administration before this one - is now okay depending "the circumstances" and "who does it".
Of course, Giuliani is actually describing the official position of the Bush administration: "It's not torture if we do it".
What the fuck has happened to the Republican Party? They now have candidates openly supporting torture and being applauded for doing so....
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At the same time Defence minister Ehud Barak has given the go ahead to begin phased cuts in power to the strip in response to rocket attacks.
A 21-year-old cancer patient in urgent need of specialist treatment was stopped from entering Israel from Gaza despite securing prior permission from the Israeli military to cross the border.
The incident, the latest in a series which the Israeli group Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) claims is part of a tough new policy by the domestic intelligence agency Shin Bet towards seriously ill patients from Gaza seeking treatment in Israel, came as Israel separately stepped up its response to the firing of Qassam rockets by Gaza militants.
The patient turned back from Erez on Monday, Mahmud Kamal Abu Taha, was sent back to hospital in Khan Yunis after waiting two-and-a-half hours in an ambulance at the Erez crossing while he was receiving oxygen and on an intravenous drip. Shin Bet agents also arrested his father at the crossing even though he had also been told he had permission to accompany his son to a hospital in Tel Aviv.
In testimony to the Israeli human rights group B'Tselem, the patient's brother Hani, 34, explained that his brother had lost about a quarter of his body weight, prompting fears for his life after 75 centimetres of his small intestine had been removed when doctors had found a cancerous growth.
He added that, unable to eat, his brother had been fed with four to six doses a day of vitamin solution but that the dosage had been reduced to one because the hospital was suffering a shortage of the solution. He said that specialists decided to transfer him to Tel Hashomer hospital in Israel. He added: "Mahmud is melting away in front of our eyes like a candle."
His deputy Matan Vilnai said Israel was no longer obliged to supply more power than the "minimum needed to avert a crisis". The move is likely to begin with cuts of around 15 minutes after a rocket is fired, with the northern Gaza town of Beit Hanoun, a frequent site for rocket launches, the most affected initially.Both of these actions are acts of collective punishment:
Collective punishment is a violation of the laws of war and is a breach of the Geneva Conventions.
Collective punishment is the punishment of a group of people as a result of the behaviour of one or more other individuals or groups. The punished group may often have no direct association with the other individuals or groups, or direct control over their actions. In times of war and armed conflict, collective punishment has resulted in atrocities, and is a violation of the laws of war and the Geneva Conventions. Historically, occupying powers have used collective punishment to retaliate against and deter attacks on their forces by resistance movements (e.g. by destroying whole villages where attacks have taken place).
I wonder if that other Occupying Power will consider such actions against the Kurdish population of Iraq for the actions of the PKK? Of course they won't. But neither will they issue any condemnation as Israel deprives an entire area of power and turns cancer patients away from check points because of actions that the residents of Gaza and the cancer patients had nothing to do with.
When one finds oneself unable to condemn such an obvious wrong, then you really have lost all of your moral authority.
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The fact that the rest of the world don't share George Bush's almost maniacal desire for confrontation with Iran was highlighted yesterday when Bush was forced to impose unilateral sanctions against the Iranians because the Chinese and the Russians refused to support tough sanctions against Iran through the Security Council.
It was only last week that Bush was talking about his desire to "isolate" Iran in the hope of bringing about "regime change", and now, ironically, it is Bush who finds himself without international support.
The Bush regime have never produced a scintilla of evidence to support their claims that Iran are seeking to develop a nuclear weapon and I am very pleased that the international community have decided to deny Bush's more extreme claims any legitimacy in the absence of actual proof.
Indeed, Putin went further than he has ever gone before in describing the absurdity of Bush taking this action at a time when he claims to be seeking a diplomatic solution.
And Rice who, among this administration of "madmen running around with razor blades in their hands", is seen as the pragmatist; stepped forward to repeat the oft told lie:
The Russian president, Vladimir Putin, underscored the divisions in the international community yesterday, when he criticised the sanctions move, saying it would make a negotiated settlement harder to achieve. "Why worsen the situation by threatening sanctions and bring it to a dead end?" he said. "It's not the best way to resolve the situation by running around like a madman with a razor blade in his hand."
"Unfortunately the Iranian government continues to spurn our offer of open negotiations."There is, of course, no such offer on the table. What "the madmen" are offering are negotiations once the Iranians stop enriching uranium. Which sort of defeats the whole point of having negotiations in the first place. The Iranians are doing nothing illegal. But Bush is insisting that they give up their legal activity before he will even agree to negotiations to discuss it. It's repeat of the very successful technique he employed towards North Korea which resulted in them developing and testing a nuclear weapon. At which point Bush reversed everything he had previously said about the regime and came to a deal.
So Bush continues to push for conflict with Iran, upping the ante both militarily and economically, although it is interesting to note that the international community are distancing themselves from what Putin refers to as the "madman".
President George Bush has said repeatedly that a military strike is an option. As part of a multi-billion-dollar request for more military spending earlier this week, the Pentagon asked for $88m to develop the Massive Ordnance Penetrator, a huge bunker-busting bomb, for its Stealth bombers.
The Bush administration said the bomb was needed "in response to an urgent operational need for theatre commanders".
Democratic members of Congress questioned whether the weapon was intended for use against Iran, whose nuclear facilities are largely hidden underground.
Jim Moran, a Democratic member of the House of Representatives' defence spending committee, said: "My assumption is that it is Iran, because you wouldn't use them in Iraq, and I don't know where you would use them in Afghanistan, it doesn't have any weapons facilities underground that we know of."
The US is now targeting the Revolutionary Guard Corps and calling the al-Quds unit of the guards a terrorist organisation. The US has never before in its history taken such measures against the armed forces of an independent government.
Either Bush has more vision than any previous occupant of his office, or we are dealing with what Putin refers to as "a madman".
I've never heard of an American President being referred to in this way by an ally, and it's interesting to note that Putin will not be isolated for this remark; indeed, I imagine the rest of the international community will wish that they were as powerful as Putin and could join him in speaking with such candour.
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