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US Homeowners Could Be Evicted By Chinese Police Under New Law

September 30th, 2008 - by admin

Sorcha Faal / What Does It Mean.com – 2008-09-30 23:02:20


(September 29, 2008) — Russian economists are expressing shock today over a new United States law that will allow, for the first time in that nation’s history, the police forces of a foreign Nation to have law enforcement powers over their citizens.

These powers are specifically being granted to China’s State Security Police who operate under the Ministry of State Security for the Peoples Republic of China by the United States as a precondition for the Chinese Government’s continued purchasing of US debt as the Americans continue their desperate actions to avert their total economic collapse.

China had previously ordered its banks to halt all lending to the United States, an action that would totally cripple the American banking system, and as we can read as reported by the Reuters News Service:

“Chinese regulators have told domestic banks to stop interbank lending to US financial institutions to prevent possible losses during the financial crisis, the South China Morning Post reported on Thursday.

The Hong Kong newspaper cited unidentified industry sources as saying the instruction from the China Banking Regulatory Commission (CBRC) applied to interbank lending of all currencies to US banks but not to banks from other countries.

“The decree appears to be Beijing’s first attempt to erect defences against the deepening US financial meltdown after the mainland’s major lenders reported billions of US dollars in exposure to the credit crisis,” the SCMP said.”

Not being understood by the American people is that China is the holder of over $1.4 Trillion of US debt backed by the mortgages on the homes and property of tens of millions these people which, in essence, makes the Chinese one of the largest holders of land in the United States, and which the Chinese government has stated they will protect ‘at all costs.’

In rapid response to China’s demands that they be granted immediate access to their American properties to protect their ‘investments,’ the United States is enacting a new law titled the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008, and which in Section 101, Paragraph 7:3 chillingly states:

“Designating financial institutions as financial agents of the Federal Government, and such institutions shall perform all such reasonable duties related to this Act as financial agents of the Federal Government as may be required.”

The United States Federal Reserve has further notified the China Development Bank, the second largest bank in Asia and the main holder of US mortgage debt instruments, that they will be designated by the US Secretary of the Treasury as one of the financial institutions protected by this extraordinary new law, and which, according to these reports, will empower Chinese policing authorities the right to act as law enforcement officers in the United States including granting them the right to evict American citizens from homes whose mortgage debt is held by China.

Unfortunately for these American people, their own public officials have totally abandoned them as the American Center for Responsive Politics has reported that the staggering amount of $2 billion has been paid by the perpetrators of this Global financial crisis to US Lawmakers of both political parties to sell out their fellow countrymen as virtual economic slaves to the all powerful International corporate cartels who now rule over them.

Even worse for these people is that the plan instituted and carried out over these past 40 years to erase their true history leaves virtually none of them today with the full and monstrous, century-old plan to destroy their Nation, which began with almost the exact same economic crisis they are experiencing today. [It] was called the Panic of 1907 and of which we can read:

“The Panic of 1907, also known as the 1907 Bankers’ Panic, was a financial crisis which occurred in the United States when the stock market fell close to 50% from its peak in the previous year.

At the time the economy was in recession and there were numerous runs on banks and trust companies. The panic’s primary cause was a retraction of loans by a number of banks in New York City, and the sentiment quickly spread across the nation leading to the closures of both state and local banks and businesses.”

So shocked were the American people by the Panic of 1907 that they allowed for the first time since their Nations founding, their lawmakers to begin the process of establishing a Central Banking System, and of which one of their founding fathers, and writer of the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson, warned all future generations of Americans:

“The central bank is an institution of the most deadly hostility existing against the Principles and form of our Constitution. I am an Enemy to all banks discounting bills or notes for anything but Coin. If the American People allow private banks to control the issuance of their currency— first by inflation and then by deflation — the banks and corporations that will grow up around them will deprive the People of all their Property until their Children will wake up homeless on the continent their Fathers conquered.”

Today, and sadly, the World is now witnessing these prophetic words of Thomas Jefferson coming true.

Even worse, these American people, whose ancestors laid the foundation for what was once the greatest and freest Nation on Earth, have now been reduced to what is now commonly referred to as “sheeple” — a term of disparagement, a portmanteau created by combining the words “sheep” and “people.” It is often used to denote persons who acquiesce to authority, and thus undermine their own human individuality.

The implication of sheeple is that as a collective, people believe whatever they are told, especially if told so by authority figures, without processing it to be sure that it is an accurate representation of the real world around them.”

It goes without saying, of course, that these Americans do not see themselves in this most truest of lights as they continue living their lives in near total ignorance of the greater catastrophes soon to befall them, all of which they have been, and are continued to be, warned about.

But, they continue to laugh off, and spurn, these warnings as they continue to believe the lies being fed them by their propaganda media organs they never seem to realize are nothing but the mouthpieces for the fascist corporate forces delivering them to the slaughterhouses they will come to know all too soon.

© September 29, 2008 EU and US all rights reserved.

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.

The Deployment of US Troops inside Canada

September 30th, 2008 - by admin

Michel Chossudovsky / Global Research – 2008-09-30 22:57:54


(March 13, 2008) — On February 14th, Canada and the US signed an agreement which allows for the deployment of US troops inside Canada.

There was no official announcement nor was there a formal decision at the governmental level. In fact, the agreement was barely mentioned by the Canadian media.

The agreement, which raises far-reaching issues of national sovereignty, was not between the two governments. It was signed by military commanding officers.

US Northern Command (NORTHCOM) released a statement confirming that the agreement had been signed between US NORTHCOM and Canada Command, namely between the military commands of each country. Canada Command was established in February 2006.

US Air Force Gen. Gene Renuart, commander of North American Aerospace Defense Command and US Northern Command, and Canadian Air Force Lt.-Gen. Marc Dumais, commander of Canada Command, have signed a Civil Assistance Plan that allows the military from one nation to support the armed forces of the other nation during a civil emergency.

“This document is a unique, bilateral military plan to align our respective national military plans to respond quickly to the other nation’s requests for military support of civil authorities,” Renuart said. “Unity of effort during bilateral support for civil support operations such as floods, forest fires, hurricanes, earthquakes and effects of a terrorist attack, in order to save lives, prevent human suffering and mitigate damage to property, is of the highest importance, and we need to be able to have forces that are flexible and adaptive to support rapid decision-making in a collaborative environment.”

“The signing of this plan is an important symbol of the already strong working relationship between Canada Command and US Northern Command,” Dumais said. “Our commands were created by our respective governments to respond to the defense and security challenges of the twenty-first century, and we both realize that these and other challenges are best met through cooperation between friends.”

The plan recognizes the role of each nation’s lead federal agency for emergency preparedness, which in the United States is the Department of Homeland Security and in Canada is Public Safety Canada. The plan facilitates the military-to-military support of civil authorities once government authorities have agreed on an appropriate response.

US Northern Command was established on Oct. 1, 2002, to anticipate and conduct homeland defense and civil support operations within the assigned area of responsibility to defend, protect, and secure the United States and its interests.

Similarly, Canada Command was established on Feb. 1, 2006, to focus on domestic operations and to offer a single point of contact for all domestic and continental defense and security partners.

The two domestic commands established strong bilateral ties well before the signing of the Civil Assistance Plan. The two commanders and their staffs meet regularly, collaborate on contingency planning and participate in related annual exercises.

(NORTHCOM website: http://www.northcom.mil/News/2008/021408.html

The Decision to Allow the Deployment of US Troops inside Canada was taken in April 2002

While a formal agreement was reached in February 2008, the decision to allow the deployment of US troops in Canada was announced in April 2002 by (former) Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.

Territorial control over Canada is part of Washington’s geopolitical and military agenda as formulated in April 2002 by Donald Rumsfeld. “Binational integration” of military command structures was also contemplated alongside a major revamping in the areas of immigration, law enforcement and intelligence.

The matter has been known for more than five years. It has been deliberately obfuscated. There has been no public debate. It has not received news coverage nor has it been the object of discussion in the Canadian House of Commons or the US Congress.

In an article published in 2004 entitled Is the Annexation of Canada Part of Bush’s Military Agenda?, I provided a detailed analysis of the process of integration of military command structures. I also examined the broader issue of sovereignty. The Toronto Star accepted to publish an abridged version of my November 2004 text as an oped. The article explained that Ottawa had been:

“quietly negotiating [since April 2002] a far-reaching military cooperation agreement, which allows the US Military to cross the border and deploy troops anywhere in Canada, in our provinces, as well station American warships in Canadian territorial waters. This redesign of Canada’s defense system is being discussed behind closed doors, not in Canada, but at the Peterson Air Force base in Colorado, at the headquarters of US Northern Command (NORTHCOM).”

Despite repeated assurances by the Toronto Star OpEd Editor, the article never appeared in print. Below is a summary of my more detailed November 2004 text as well as links to the original articles:

“The creation of NORTHCOM announced in April 2002, constitutes a blatant violation of both Canadian and Mexican territorial sovereignty. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld announced unilaterally that US Northern Command would have jurisdiction over the entire North American region. Canada and Mexico were presented with a fait accompli.

US Northern Command’s jurisdiction as outlined by the US DoD includes, in addition to the continental US, all of Canada, Mexico, as well as portions of the Caribbean, contiguous waters in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans up to 500 miles off the Mexican, US and Canadian coastlines as well as the Canadian Arctic.

NorthCom’s stated mandate is to “provide a necessary focus for [continental] aerospace, land and sea defenses, and critical support for [the] nation’s civil authorities in times of national need.”

(Canada-US Relations – Defense Partnership – July 2003, Canadian American Strategic Review (CASR),


Rumsfeld is said to have boasted that “the NORTHCOM – with all of North America as its geographic command – ‘is part of the greatest transformation of the Unified Command Plan [UCP] since its inception in 1947.'” (Ibid)

Following Prime Minister Jean Chrétien’s refusal to join NORTHCOM, a high-level so-called “consultative” Binational Planning Group (BPG), operating out of the Peterson Air Force base, was set up in late 2002, with a mandate to “prepare contingency plans to respond to [land and sea] threats and attacks, and other major emergencies in Canada or the United States”.

The BPG’s mandate goes far beyond the jurisdiction of a consultative military body making “recommendations” to government. In practice, it is neither accountable to the US Congress nor to the Canadian House of Commons.

The BPG has a staff of fifty US and Canadian “military planners”, who have been working diligently for the last two years in laying the groundwork for the integration of Canada-US military command structures. The BPG works in close coordination with the Canada-US Military Cooperation Committee at the Pentagon, a so-called ” panel responsible for detailed joint military planning”.

Broadly speaking, its activities consist of two main building blocks: the Combined Defense Plan (CDP) and The Civil Assistance Plan (CAP).

The Militarisation of Civilian Institutions
As part of its Civil Assistance Plan (CAP), the BPG is involved in supporting the ongoing militarisation of civilian law enforcement and judicial functions in both the US and Canada. The BPG has established “military contingency plans” which would be activated “on both sides of the Canada-US border” in the case of a terror attack or “threat”. Under the BPG’s Civil Assistance Plan (CAP), these so-called “threat scenarios” would involve:

“coordinated response to national requests for military assistance [from civil authorities] in the event of a threat, attack, or civil emergency in the US or Canada.”

In December 2001, in response to the 9/11 attacks, the Canadian government reached an agreement with the Head of Homeland Security Tom Ridge, entitled the “Canada-US Smart Border Declaration.” Shrouded in secrecy, this agreement essentially hands over to the Homeland Security Department, confidential information on Canadian citizens and residents. It also provides US authorities with access to the tax records of Canadians.

What these developments suggest is that the process of “binational integration” is not only occurring in the military command structures but also in the areas of immigration, police and intelligence. The question is what will be left over within Canada’s jurisdiction as a sovereign nation, once this ongoing process of binational integration, including the sharing and/or merger of data banks, is completed?

Canada and NORTHCOM
Canada is slated to become a member of NORTHCOM at the end of the BPG’s two years mandate.

No doubt, the issue will be presented in Parliament as being “in the national interest”. It “will create jobs for Canadians” and “will make Canada more secure”.

Meanwhile, the important debate on Canada’s participation in the US Ballistic Missile Shield, when viewed out of the broader context, may serve to divert public attention away from the more fundamental issue of North American military integration which implies Canada’s acceptance not only of the Ballistic Missile Shield, but of the entire US war agenda, including significant hikes in defense spending which will be allocated to a North American defense program controlled by the Pentagon.

And ultimately what is at stake is that beneath the rhetoric, Canada will cease to function as a Nation:

Its borders will be controlled by US officials and confidential information on Canadians will be shared with Homeland Security.

US troops and Special Forces will be able to enter Canada as a result of a bi-national arrangement.

Canadian citizens can be arrested by US officials, acting on behalf of their Canadian counterparts and vice versa.

But there is something perhaps even more fundamental in defining and understanding where Canada and Canadians stand as a Nation.

The World is at the crossroads of the most serious crisis in modern history. The US has launched a military adventure which threatens the future of humanity. It has formulated the contours of an imperial project of World domination. Canada is contiguous to “the center of the empire”. Territorial control over Canada is part of the US geopolitical and military agenda.

The Liberals as well as the opposition Conservative party have endorsed embraced the US war agenda. By endorsing a Canada-US “integration” in the spheres of defense, homeland security, police and intelligence, Canada not only becomes a full fledged member of George W. Bush’s “Coalition of the Willing”, it will directly participate, through integrated military command structures, in the US war agenda in Central Asia and the Middle East, including the massacre of civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan, the torture of POWs, the establishment of concentration camps, etc.

Under an integrated North American Command, a North American national security doctrine would be formulated. Canada would be obliged to embrace Washington’s pre-emptive military doctrine, including the use of nuclear warheads as a means of self defense, which was ratified by the US Senate in December 2003. (See Michel Chossudovsky, The US Nuclear Option and the “War on Terrorism” http://globalresearch.ca/articles/CHO405A.html May 2004)

Moreover, bi-national integration in the areas of Homeland security, immigration, policing of the US-Canada border, not to mention the anti-terrorist legislation, would imply pari passu acceptance of the US sponsored police State, its racist policies, its “ethnic profiling” directed against Muslims, the arbitrary arrest of anti-war activists.

Related Articles
• Is the Annexation of Canada Part of Bush’s Military Agenda?
– by Prof. Michel Chossudovsky – 2007-07-18 (first published in November 2004)

• Canada and America: Missile Defense and the Vows of Military Integration
– by Michel Chossudovsky – 2005-02-23 (accepted for publication as an OpEd by the Toronto Star)

• Continental Integration of Military Command Structures: A Threat to Canada’s Sovereignty
– by Michel Chossudovsky – 2006-05-12

• Canada’s Sovereignty in Jeopardy: the Militarization of North America
by Michel Chossudovsky – 2007-08-17

Finally, the Story of the Whistleblower Who Tried to Prevent the Iraq War

September 30th, 2008 - by admin

Norman Solomon / ZSpace – 2008-09-30 22:53:44


(September 29, 2008) — Of course Katharine Gun was free to have a conscience, as long as it didn’t interfere with her work at a British intelligence agency. To the authorities, practically speaking, a conscience was apt to be less tangible than a pixel on a computer screen. But suddenly — one routine morning, while she was scrolling through e-mail at her desk — conscience struck. It changed Katharine Gun’s life, and it changed history.

Despite the nationality of this young Englishwoman, her story is profoundly American — all the more so because it has remained largely hidden from the public in the United States. When Katharine Gun chose, at great personal risk, to reveal an illicit spying operation at the United Nations in which the US government was the senior partner, she brought out of the transatlantic shadows a special relationship that could not stand the light of day.

By then, in early 2003, the president of the United States — with dogged assists from the British prime minister following close behind — had long since become transparently determined to launch an invasion of Iraq. Gun’s moral concerns were not unusual; she shared, with countless other Brits and Americans, strong opposition to the impending launch of war.

Yet, thanks to a simple and intricate twist of fate, she abruptly found herself in a rare position to throw a roadblock in the way of the political march to war from Washington and London. Far more extraordinary, though, was her decision to put herself in serious jeopardy on behalf of revealing salient truths to the world.

We might envy such an opportunity, and admire such courage on behalf of principle. But there are good, or at least understandable, reasons why so few whistleblowers emerge from institutions that need conformity and silence to lay flagstones on the path to war.

Those reasons have to do with matters of personal safety, financial security, legal jeopardy, social cohesion and default positions of obedience. They help to explain why and how people go along to get along with the warfare state even when it flagrantly rests on foundations of falsehoods.

The e-mailed memorandum from the US National Security Agency that jarred Katharine Gun that fateful morning was dated less than two months before the invasion of Iraq that was to result in thousands of deaths among the occupying troops and hundreds of thousands more among Iraqi people.

We’re told that this is a cynical era, but there was nothing cynical about Katharine Gun’s response to the memo that appeared without warning on her desktop. Reasons to shrug it off were plentiful, in keeping with bottomless rationales for prudent inaction. The basis for moral engagement and commensurate action was singular.

The import of the NSA memo was such that it shook the government of Tony Blair and caused uproars on several continents. But for the media in the United States, it was a minor story. For the New York Times, it was no story at all.

At last, a new book tells this story. “The Spy Who Tried to Stop a War” packs a powerful wallop. To understand in personal, political and historic terms — what Katharine Gun did, how the British and American governments responded, and what the US news media did and did not report — is to gain a clear-eyed picture of a military-industrial-media complex that plunged ahead with the invasion of Iraq shortly after her brave action of conscience. That complex continues to promote what Martin Luther King Jr. called “the madness of militarism.”

In a time when political players and widely esteemed journalists are pleased to posture with affects of great sophistication, Katharine Gun’s response was disarmingly simple. She activated her conscience when clear evidence came into her hands that war — not diplomacy seeking to prevent it — headed the priorities list of top leaders at both 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue and 10 Downing Street.

“At the time,” she has recalled, “all I could think about was that I knew they were trying really hard to legitimize an invasion, and they were willing to use this new intelligence to twist arms, perhaps blackmail delegates, so they could tell the world they had achieved a consensus for war.”

She and her colleagues at the Government Communications Headquarters were, as she later put it, “being asked to participate in an illegal process with the ultimate aim of achieving an invasion in violation of international law.”

The authors of “The Spy Who Tried to Stop a War,” Marcia and Thomas Mitchell, describe the scenario this way: “Twisting the arms of the recalcitrant [U.N. Security Council] representatives in order to win approval for a new resolution could supply the universally acceptable rationale.” After Katharine Gun discovered what was afoot, “she attempted to stop a war by destroying its potential trigger mechanism, the required second resolution that would make war legal.”

Instead of mere accusation, the NSA memo provided substantiation. That fact explains why US intelligence agencies firmly stonewalled in response to media inquiries — and it may also help to explain why the US news media gave the story notably short shrift. To a significant degree, the scoop did not reverberate inside the American media echo chamber because it was too sharply telling to blend into the dominant orchestrated themes.

While supplying the ostensible first draft of history, US media filtered out vital information that could refute the claims of Washington’s exalted war planners. “Journalists, too many of them — some quite explicitly — have said that they see their mission as helping the war effort,” an American media critic warned during the lead-up to the invasion of Iraq. “And if you define your mission that way, you’ll end up suppressing news that might be important, accurate, but maybe isn’t helpful to the war effort.”

Jeff Cohen (a friend and colleague of mine) spoke those words before the story uncorked by Katharine Gun’s leak splashed across British front pages and then scarcely dribbled into American media. He uttered them on the MSNBC television program hosted by Phil Donahue, where he worked as a producer and occasional on-air analyst.

Donahue’s prime-time show was cancelled by NBC management three weeks before the invasion — as it happened, on almost the same day that the revelation of the NSA memo became such a big media story in the United Kingdom and such a carefully bypassed one in the United States.

Soon a leaked NBC memo confirmed suspicions that the network had pulled the plug on Donahue’s show in order to obstruct views and information that would go against the rush to war. The network memo said that the Donahue program would present a “difficult public face for NBC in a time of war.” And: “He seems to delight in presenting guests who are antiwar, anti-Bush and skeptical of the administration’s motives.” Cancellation of the show averted the danger that it could become “a home for the liberal antiwar agenda at the same time that our competitors are waving the flag at every opportunity.”

Overall, to the editors of American mass media, the actions and revelations of Katharine Gun merited little or no reporting — especially when they mattered most. My search of the comprehensive LexisNexis database found that for nearly three months after her name was first reported in the British media, US news stories mentioning her scarcely existed.

When the prosecution of Katharine Gun finally concluded its journey through the British court system, the authors note, a surge of American news reports on the closing case “had people wondering why they hadn’t heard about the NSA spy operation at the beginning.” This book includes an account of journalistic evasion that is a grim counterpoint to the story of conscience and courage that just might inspire us to activate more of our own.

This article was adapted from Norman Solomon’s foreword to the new book by Marcia and Thomas Mitchell, “The Spy Who Tried to Stop a War: Katharine Gun and the Secret Plot to Sanction the Iraq Invasion.”

From: Z Net – The Spirit Of Resistance Lives

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.

We Have the Money: If Only We Didn’t Waste It on the Defense Budget

September 30th, 2008 - by admin

Chalmers Johnson / TomDispatch.com – 2008-09-30 22:47:45


(September 29, 2008) — There has been much moaning, air-sucking, and outrage about the $700 billion that the US government is thinking of throwing away on rich New York bankers who have been ripping us off for the past few years and then letting greed drive their businesses into a variety of ditches. In fact, we dole out similar amounts of money every year in the form of payoffs to the armed services, the military-industrial complex, and powerful senators and representatives allied with the Pentagon.

On Wednesday, September 24th, right in the middle of the fight over billions of taxpayer dollars slated to bail out Wall Street, the House of Representatives passed a $612 billion defense authorization bill for 2009 without a murmur of public protest or any meaningful press comment at all. (The New York Times gave the matter only three short paragraphs buried in a story about another appropriations measure.)

The defense bill includes $68.6 billion to pursue the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, which is only a down-payment on the full yearly cost of these wars. (The rest will be raised through future supplementary bills.) It also included a 3.9% pay raise for military personnel, and $5 billion in pork-barrel projects not even requested by the administration or the secretary of defense.

It also fully funds the Pentagon’s request for a radar site in the Czech Republic, a hare-brained scheme sure to infuriate the Russians just as much as a Russian missile base in Cuba once infuriated us.

The whole bill passed by a vote of 392-39 and will fly through the Senate, where a similar bill has already been approved. And no one will even think to mention it in the same breath with the discussion of bailout funds for dying investment banks and the like.

This is pure waste. Our annual spending on “national security” — meaning the defense budget plus all military expenditures hidden in the budgets for the departments of Energy, State, Treasury, Veterans Affairs, the CIA, and numerous other places in the executive branch — already exceeds a trillion dollars, an amount larger than that of all other national defense budgets combined.

Not only was there no significant media coverage of this latest appropriation, there have been no signs of even the slightest urge to inquire into the relationship between our bloated military, our staggering weapons expenditures, our extravagantly expensive failed wars abroad, and the financial catastrophe on Wall Street.

The only Congressional “commentary” on the size of our military outlay was the usual pompous drivel about how a failure to vote for the defense authorization bill would betray our troops. The aged Senator John Warner (R-Va), former chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, implored his Republican colleagues to vote for the bill “out of respect for military personnel.” He seems to be unaware that these troops are actually volunteers, not draftees, and that they joined the armed forces as a matter of career choice, rather than because the nation demanded such a sacrifice from them.

We would better respect our armed forces by bringing the futile and misbegotten wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to an end. A relative degree of peace and order has returned to Iraq not because of President Bush’s belated reinforcement of our expeditionary army there (the so-called surge), but thanks to shifting internal dynamics within Iraq and in the Middle East region generally.

Such shifts include a growing awareness among Iraq’s Sunni population of the need to restore law and order, a growing confidence among Iraqi Shiites of their nearly unassailable position of political influence in the country, and a growing awareness among Sunni nations that the ill-informed war of aggression the Bush administration waged against Iraq has vastly increased the influence of Shiism and Iran in the region.

The continued presence of American troops and their heavily reinforced bases in Iraq threaten this return to relative stability. The refusal of the Shia government of Iraq to agree to an American Status of Forces Agreement — much desired by the Bush administration — that would exempt off-duty American troops from Iraqi law is actually a good sign for the future of Iraq.

In Afghanistan, our historically deaf generals and civilian strategists do not seem to understand that our defeat by the Afghan insurgents is inevitable. Since the time of Alexander the Great, no foreign intruder has ever prevailed over Afghan guerrillas defending their home turf. The first Anglo-Afghan War (1838-1842) marked a particularly humiliating defeat of British imperialism at the very height of English military power in the Victorian era.

The Soviet-Afghan War (1979-1989) resulted in a Russian defeat so demoralizing that it contributed significantly to the disintegration of the former Soviet Union in 1991. We are now on track to repeat virtually all the errors committed by previous invaders of Afghanistan over the centuries.

In the past year, perhaps most disastrously, we have carried our Afghan war into Pakistan, a relatively wealthy and sophisticated nuclear power that has long cooperated with us militarily. Our recent bungling brutality along the Afghan-Pakistan border threatens to radicalize the Pashtuns in both countries and advance the interests of radical Islam throughout the region. The United States is now identified in each country mainly with Hellfire missiles, unmanned drones, special operations raids, and repeated incidents of the killing of innocent bystanders.

The brutal bombing of the Marriott Hotel in Pakistan’s capital, Islamabad, on September 20, 2008, was a powerful indicator of the spreading strength of virulent anti-American sentiment in the area. The hotel was a well-known watering hole for American Marines, Special Forces troops, and CIA agents. Our military activities in Pakistan have been as misguided as the Nixon-Kissinger invasion of Cambodia in 1970. The end result will almost surely be the same.

We should begin our disengagement from Afghanistan at once. We dislike the Taliban’s fundamentalist religious values, but the Afghan public, with its desperate desire for a return of law and order and the curbing of corruption, knows that the Taliban is the only political force in the country that has ever brought the opium trade under control. The Pakistanis and their effective army can defend their country from Taliban domination so long as we abandon the activities that are causing both Afghans and Pakistanis to see the Taliban as a lesser evil.

One of America’s greatest authorities on the defense budget, Winslow Wheeler, worked for 31 years for Republican members of the Senate and for the General Accounting Office on military expenditures. His conclusion, when it comes to the fiscal sanity of our military spending, is devastating:

“America’s defense budget is now larger in inflation-adjusted dollars than at any point since the end of World War II, and yet our Army has fewer combat brigades than at any point in that period; our Navy has fewer combat ships; and the Air Force has fewer combat aircraft. Our major equipment inventories for these major forces are older on average than any point since 1946 — or in some cases, in our entire history.”

This in itself is a national disgrace. Spending hundreds of billions of dollars on present and future wars that have nothing to do with our national security is simply obscene. And yet Congress has been corrupted by the military-industrial complex into believing that, by voting for more defense spending, they are supplying “jobs” for the economy.

In fact, they are only diverting scarce resources from the desperately needed rebuilding of the American infrastructure and other crucial spending necessities into utterly wasteful munitions. If we cannot cut back our longstanding, ever increasing military spending in a major way, then the bankruptcy of the United States is inevitable. As the current Wall Street meltdown has demonstrated, that is no longer an abstract possibility but a growing likelihood. We do not have much time left.

Copyright 2008 Chalmers Johnson

Chalmers Johnson is the author of three linked books on the crises of American imperialism and militarism. They are Blowback (2000), The Sorrows of Empire (2004), and Nemesis: The Last Days of the American Republic (2006). All are available in paperback from Metropolitan Books.

Posted in accordance with Title 17, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.

New Highway Will Plow through Contaminated Army Site

September 30th, 2008 - by admin

Citizens for Safe Water Around Badger – 2008-09-30 01:17:40

BADGER, WISCONSIN (September 28, 2008) — Citizens for Safe Water Around Badger (CSWAB) is challenging a plan to allow road construction through a highly contaminated area at Badger Army Ammunition Plant. The Army is seeking permission from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR) to leave elevated levels of soil contaminants in an area that will be “highly disturbed” by earthmoving activities for realignment of U.S. Highway 78.

Any residual contamination in and around the project area, Army officials said, will ultimately be the responsibility of the Wisconsin Department of Transportation.

Road construction planned for 2009 will plow through a now-dry settling pond located along the southern boundary of Badger. During active production years, a series of four ponds received sanitary and industrial wastewater and runoff from the nitroglycerine, rocket paste, and propellant storage (magazine) areas. As a result, soils are contaminated with high levels of arsenic, mercury, explosives, and other military toxins.

The Army said that the road alignment will go through the final pond, also known as Settling Pond #4. The pond is about 6 acres in size and historically emptied into Lake Wisconsin at Gruber’s Grove Bay after crossing a small parcel of land owned by Wisconsin Power & Light.

In its August 18 letter to the WDNR, the Army asks for approval of a plan to only clean up localized “hot spots” of lead where concentrations exceed 250 parts per millions (ppm). The Army has already started stabilizing and removing these limited areas.

WDNR officials said, however, that the 250 ppm threshold only applies if lead is the only contaminant and the Army has identified more than 20 soil contaminants at the site.

The Army’s plans specifically challenge soil cleanup goals previously approved by both the WDNR and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Proposed changes include increasing the safe threshold for the carcinogenic explosive 2,4-DNT in soils from 2.5 to 120 ppm.

Similar concessions are sought for diphenylamine (from 3.5 to 1,500 ppm), tin (from 10 to 47,000 ppm), diethyl phthalate (from 20 to 49,000 ppm), and other contaminants.

Sediment contamination in the adjacent Gruber’s Grove Bay is also a concern because the WDNR wants part of the bay dredged to create a wetland area. Despite previous cleanup efforts by the Army, recent testing by the WDNR found that mercury concentrations in sediments exceed the approved cleanup goal. The majority of samples (6 out 8) failed to meet the cleanup goal of 0.36 ppm.

The highest concentration found was 9.0 ppm, making it one of the worst mercury-contaminated sites in the state. CSWAB has contacted the Federal Highway Administration, the Wisconsin Department of Transportation, Wisconsin Power & Light, and local government to help push for thorough site cleanup before road and utility work begins. A decision from the WDNR is currently pending.

Laura Olah, Executive Director Citizens for Safe Water Around Badger, E12629 Weigand’s Bay South Merrimac, WI 53561 (608)643-3124
Email: info@cswab.org Website: www.cswab.org

• For more information contact: Laura Olah, CSWAB (608)643-3124

60 Minutes: Stoking the Fires for War

September 30th, 2008 - by admin

Phillip Weiss / Phillip Weiss.org – 2008-09-30 01:13:34


Report: ’60 Minutes’ Cut Ahmadinejad’s Statement, ‘Solution Is Democracy’ in Israel/Palestine

( September 7, 2008) — The interview that Mike Wallace did of Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad two years ago was aired on C-Span recently, and a diligent blogger has reported on what “60 Minutes” cut out of the interview when it aired. When Wallace confronted Ahmadinejad with the “wipe Israel off the map” threats, Ahmadinejad said that “the solution is democracy” in Israel and Palestine, a suggestion that he favors a one-state solution.

I agree with blogger Tom Murphy that “60”‘s edits misrepresent Ahmadinejad’s thrust, making him out to be far more confrontational than he is, especially after Wallace promised Ahmadinejad that he would listen to his complete answers to questions. And yes, that this amounts to “suppression of basic facts concerning Israel and the Palestinians.”

Here’s Murphy’s data:

The text in italic was edited out of the 60 Minutes broadcast:

MR. WALLACE: You are very good at filibustering. You still have not answered the question. You still have not answered the question. Israel must be wiped off the map. Why?

PRESIDENT AHMADINEJAD: Well, don’t be hasty, sir. I’m going to get to that.

MR. WALLACE: I’m not hasty.

PRESIDENT AHMADINEJAD: I think that the Israeli government is a fabricated government and I have talked about the solution. The solution is democracy. We have said allow Palestinian people to participate in a free and fair referendum to express their views. What we are saying only serves the cause of durable peace. We want durable peace in that part of the world. A durable peace will only come about with once the views of the people are met.

So we said that allow the people of Palestine to participate in a referendum to choose their desired government, and of course, for the war to come an end as well. Why are they refusing to allow this to go ahead? Even the Palestinian administration and government which has been elected by the people is being attacked on a daily basis, and its high-ranking officials are assassinated and arrested. Yesterday, the speaker of the Palestinian parliament was arrested, elected by the people, mind you. So how long can this go on?

We believe that this problem has to be dealt with fundamentally. I believe that the American government is blindly supporting this government of occupation. It should lift its support, allow the people to participate in free and fair elections. Whatever happens let it be. We will accept and go along. The result will be as you said earlier, sir.

MR. WALLACE: Look, I mean no disrespect. Let’s make a deal. I will listen to your complete answers if you’ll stay for all of my questions. My concern is that we might run out of time.

PRESIDENT AHMADINEJAD: Well, you’re free to ask me any questions you please, and I am hoping that I’m free to be able to say whatever is on my mind. You are free to put any question you want to me, and of course, please give me the right to respond fully to your questions to say what is on my mind.

Do you perhaps want me to say what you want me to say? Am I to understand –


PRESIDENT AHMADINEJAD: So if that is the case, then I ask you to please be patient.

MR. WALLACE: I said I’ll be very patient.

PRESIDENT AHMADINEJAD: Maybe these are words that you don’t like to hear, Mr. Wallace.

MR. WALLACE: Why? What words do I not like to hear?

PRESIDENT AHMADINEJAD: Because I think that you’re getting angry.

MR. WALLACE: No, I couldn’t be happier for the privilege of sitting down with the president of Iran.

Pete Goes (Anti)Ballistic

September 29th, 2008 - by admin

Paul Newman / The Nation – 2008-09-29 23:04:22


The Nation Editor’s Note: Paul Newman, one of the greatest actors of his generation and an ardent advocate for peace and progressive causes, died Friday at 83. A great friend and supporter of The Nation, Newman also was an occasional contributor to the magazine. In this piece, written in August 2000, he cast the nuclear arms race in characteristically sardonic and deeply personal terms. We will miss him.

[Paul Newman refers all letters relative to this article to Toys “R” Us.]

(August 10, 2000) — My grandson, Pete, is simultaneously perusing the New York Times and playing chess with our next-door neighbor, who chortles and takes Pete’s rook.

Pete is four and a half and is about to overtake Leonardo da Vinci, both in art and science. The neighbor is 43, an ex-intelligence officer and a spokesperson for the Pentagon’s Ballistic Missile Defense Organization. He outweighs Pete by 191 pounds but, as noted, is no match for the kid upstairs, if you get my meaning.

The big guy captures Pete’s rook. “You are weak on defense, kiddo,” he chortles.

Pete slithers his queen across the board. “Checkmate,” says the kid. “You are weak on defense, here and at work.” He points to the headline:

Key Missile Parts Are Left Untested as Booster Fails

“His team just flunked yet another of many missile tests, Gramps. A leaky defense umbrella, if ever I saw one.”

“We only flunked the first, most proven, reliable stage of the test, kiddo,” says the big guy. “The most sophisticated, complicated, experimental, unsuccessful, least likely elements of the test never got a chance to fail, so how do you know they wouldn’t succeed? As Defense Secretary Cohen said, ‘The test was a disappointment, but it was one of those failures that was at least expected.'”

“Congressman Curt Weldon was on the Lehrer NewsHour,” I venture. “He bulged his eyes and pumped his face full of blood and shouted at me through the television, ‘How much is New York City worth?!! Is it $60 billion or $100 billion?!!!'”

“That question is a mindless and clever smokescreen,” says Pete. “The real question is, Are they playing a joke on New York by suggesting that $60 billion will buy protection for the city? If I were a cynical little boy, I’d say those billions will buy job protection for incumbent congressmen and zip for the guy in a taxi.”

“You really know how to hurt a fella, don’t you, kid?” says the big guy.

“You guys rigged the only successful missile test. You put a beacon in the decoy. Why don’t you put a beacon in Congressman Weldon’s nose? Maybe you could rig the next election for him as well.”

“Maybe what I could do,” the big guy speculates, “is to have my guys set up the target again at Vandenberg, the interceptor at Kwajalein, start the countdown again– ten, nine, eight, y’know, get to ONE and then–I shut down the power! That way nothing fails, fizzles or flops. Everything will be A-OK.”

“Power on or power off,” says the kid, “I’ll bet you set off the beacons in the noses of Boeing, Raytheon, TRW and Lockheed Martin that start up the giant vacuum cleaners that suck money out of the Treasury.”

The big guy is not listening. He is ecstatic.

“We can bypass all testing, all budgets, the whole system. If things get nuts we just push the ON button!”

The kid heads upstairs.

“Why don’t you call Toys “R” Us?” he says. “See what they have in their arsenal.”

The big guy’s eyes go glassy with the possibilities.

ACTION ALERT: Why the Bailout Vote May Fail Help Make Sure it Does!

September 29th, 2008 - by admin

David Swanson / OpEd News.com & Michael Moore – 2008-09-29 23:02:14


(September 29, 2008) — Today’s vote on the Paulson Plunder Act of 2008 may fail. It should. You should help block it by phoning your representative right now at (202) 224-3121 and promising to vote for them in November only if they vote NO on this grand larceny today. We do have a chance at winning on this and blocking this bill. Here’s why.

First, the corporatists have put a bunch of true believers in office. They thought it’d be really clever to convince people that government is evil and should shrink and that the highest good is cutting taxes. They’ve carved out a huge loophole for the biggest increaser in spending, taxes, and debt: the military. But Congress Members are notorious for not being able to think straight in the presence of tanks and waving flags. Today’s vote is not on eliminating a useful public program, and not on putting our grandchildren into debt in order to kill some foreigners either.

Today’s vote is on whether we should put our grandchildren into debt in order to give a pile of money to the same crowd that is always demanding that people be held responsible for their mistakes, and some of the money could even go to multinational or foreign billionaires. That last point picks up opposition from the true believers in xenophobia, who — when combined with the true believers in cutting taxes except for wars — make up a good chunk of the Congress.

Second, there are remnants of true belief in a principle or two in the shriveled souls of some of the Democrats too. There are those in Congress who still cling to the belief that somehow they are there to do good for people. For almost two years, Democrats have voted for blood and plutocracy because their party leaders have told them it was for the greater good. But there are some claims that even a Democrat won’t believe. In fact, some of them are actually angry about being lied to so many times by Bush and Cheney and their own party.

They’re sick of being rushed into fraudulent unconstitutional actions by imaginary emergencies, bullying, and bluffs They’re even beginning to be vaguely aware of the danger that lies in transferring the powers of Article I of the Constitution to the White House. Congress has given up the power to make laws, the power to make war, the power of impeachment and oversight, as well as the power of the purse.

This bill hands the purse to the White House, giving up all pretense that Congress serves any purpose beyond that served by court jesters. There are members of Congress whose heads a glimmer of that realization has begun to penetrate.

Third,Click the title to read the rest: hird, it’s too late for party leadership to do significant damage to a Congress member’s reelection chances as retribution for a No vote, but it is not too late for each member to significantly damage their own chances with a Yes vote. They know that, and we know that, and if we keep telling them over and over they may act on it.

Fourth, while Congress has largely accepted that the single most important question is who becomes president next, that question is not more important to any Congress member than his or her own reelection, and there is no clear way in which a Yes vote benefits one presidential candidate over another, since they both plan to vote Yes. This should leave members of the House free to vote No.

Fifth, while many Congress members are openly in the pay of the companies that stand to benefit from this biggest ever reverse bank heist, they have not been bribed to support this specific plan, and they can oppose it without necessarily giving up much of their dirty campaign income.

Sixth, the American people are sick to death of everything that has happened in Washington in the past decade. There is a huge source of political good will waiting to be tapped by those who stand up and say No to corporate socialism, no to fascism, no to George W. Bush and Hank Paulson.

• Call Washington now and make sure your Congress member is aware of this: (202) 224-3121.

The Rich are Staging a Coup This Morning
A message from Michael Moore

Date: Sep 29, 2008 10:36 AM

Let me cut to the chase. The biggest robbery in the history of this country is taking place as you read this. Though no guns are being used, 300 million hostages are being taken. Make no mistake about it: After stealing a half trillion dollars to line the pockets of their war-profiteering backers for the past five years, after lining the pockets of their fellow oilmen to the tune of over a hundred billion dollars in just the last two years, Bush and his cronies — who must soon vacate the White House — are looting the U.S. Treasury of every dollar they can grab. They are swiping as much of the silverware as they can on their way out the door.

No matter what they say, no matter how many scare words they use, they are up to their old tricks of creating fear and confusion in order to make and keep themselves and the upper one percent filthy rich. Just read the first four paragraphs of the lead story in last Monday’s New York Times and you can see what the real deal is:

“Even as policy makers worked on details of a $700 billion bailout of the financial industry, Wall Street began looking for ways to profit from it.

“Financial firms were lobbying to have all manner of troubled investments covered, not just those related to mortgages.

“At the same time, investment firms were jockeying to oversee all the assets that Treasury plans to take off the books of financial institutions, a role that could earn them hundreds of millions of dollars a year in fees.

“Nobody wants to be left out of Treasury’s proposal to buy up bad assets of financial institutions.”

Unbelievable. Wall Street and its backers created this mess and now they are going to clean up like bandits. Even Rudy Giuliani is lobbying for his firm to be hired (and paid) to “consult” in the bailout.

The problem is, nobody truly knows what this “collapse” is all about. Even Treasury Secretary Paulson admitted he doesn’t know the exact amount that is needed (he just picked the $700 billion number out of his head!). The head of the congressional budget office said he can’t figure it out nor can he explain it to anyone.

And yet, they are screeching about how the end is near! Panic! Recession! The Great Depression! Y2K! Bird flu! Killer bees! We must pass the bailout bill today!! The sky is falling! The sky is falling!

Falling for whom? NOTHING in this “bailout” package will lower the price of the gas you have to put in your car to get to work. NOTHING in this bill will protect you from losing your home. NOTHING in this bill will give you health insurance.
Health insurance? Mike, why are you bringing this up? What’s this got to do with the Wall Street collapse?

It has everything to do with it. This so-called “collapse” was triggered by the massive defaulting and foreclosures going on with people’s home mortgages. Do you know why so many Americans are losing their homes? To hear the Republicans describe it, it’s because too many working class idiots were given mortgages that they really couldn’t afford. Here’s the truth: The number one cause of people declaring bankruptcy is because of medical bills. Let me state this simply: If we had had universal health coverage, this mortgage “crisis” may never have happened.

This bailout’s mission is to protect the obscene amount of wealth that has been accumulated in the last eight years. It’s to protect the top shareholders who own and control corporate America. It’s to make sure their yachts and mansions and “way of life” go uninterrupted while the rest of America suffers and struggles to pay the bills.

Let the rich suffer for once. Let them pay for the bailout. We are spending 400 million dollars a day on the war in Iraq. Let them end the war immediately and save us all another half-trillion dollars!

I have to stop writing this and you have to stop reading it. They are staging a financial coup this morning in our country. They are hoping Congress will act fast before they stop to think, before we have a chance to stop them ourselves. So stop reading this and do something — NOW! Here’s what you can do immediately:

• 1. Call or e-mail Senator Obama. Tell him he does not need to be sitting there trying to help prop up Bush and Cheney and the mess they’ve made. Tell him we know he has the smarts to slow this thing down and figure out what’s the best route to take. Tell him the rich have to pay for whatever help is offered. Use the leverage we have now to insist on a moratorium on home foreclosures, to insist on a move to universal health coverage, and tell him that we the people need to be in charge of the economic decisions that affect our lives, not the barons of Wall Street.

• 2. Take to the streets. Participate in one of the hundreds of quickly-called demonstrations that are taking place all over the country (especially those near Wall Street and DC).

• 3. Call your Representative in Congress and your Senators. (click here to find their phone numbers). Tell them what you told Senator Obama.

When you screw up in life, there is hell to pay. Each and every one of you reading this knows that basic lesson and has paid the consequences of your actions at some point. In this great democracy, we cannot let there be one set of rules for the vast majority of hard-working citizens, and another set of rules for the elite, who, when they screw up, are handed one more gift on a silver platter. No more! Not again!

Yours,_Michael Moore_MMFlint@aol.com_MichaelMoore.com

P.S. Having read further the details of this bailout bill, you need to know you are being lied to. They talk about how they will prevent golden parachutes. It says NOTHING about what these executives and fat cats will make in SALARY. According to Rep. Brad Sherman of California, these top managers will continue to receive million-dollar-a-month paychecks under this new bill.

There is no direct ownership given to the American people for the money being handed over. Foreign banks and investors will be allowed to receive billion-dollar handouts. A large chunk of this $700 billion is going to be given directly to Chinese and Middle Eastern banks. There is NO guarantee of ever seeing that money again.

P.P.S. From talking to people I know in DC, they say the reason so many Dems are behind this is because Wall Street this weekend put a gun to their heads and said either turn over the $700 billion or the first thing we’ll start blowing up are the pension funds and 401(k)s of your middle class constituents. The Dems are scared they may make good on their threat. But this is not the time to back down or act like the typical Democrat we have witnessed for the last eight years.

The Dems handed a stolen election over to Bush. The Dems gave Bush the votes he needed to invade a sovereign country. Once they took over Congress in 2007, they refused to pull the plug on the war. And now they have been cowered into being accomplices in the crime of the century. You have to call them now and say “NO!” If we let them do this, just imagine how hard it will be to get anything good done when President Obama is in the White House.


Former Guantanamo Prosecutor Refuses to Testify without Immunity

September 28th, 2008 - by admin

Carol Rosenberg / Hartford Courant & McClatchy Newspapers – 2008-09-28 22:25:02


Guantanamo Bay Navy Base, Cuba (September 26, 2008) — A renegade war court prosecutor refused to testify without a grant of immunity Thursday on why he abruptly resigned from a terror trial in the latest controversy at the Guantanamo military commissions.

Army Lt. Col. Darrel Vandeveld said in a sworn affidavit that he quit rather than prosecute the case of a young Afghan captive, in part because he believed evidence helpful to the accused might never be disclosed.

Mohammed Jawad, captured as a teenager, is accused of throwing a grenade that wounded two US soldiers and their interrogator in a bazaar in Kabul, Afghanistan, in December 2002.

Jawad’s military judge, Army Col. Stephen Henley, sought Vandeveld’s testimony — live, via link from Washington

His successor, prosecutor Air Force Lt. Col. Doug Stevenson, replied that Vandeveld sought a grant of immunity against criminal prosecution to testify.

Defense lawyers were preparing the request, which could take weeks to process.

Meanwhile, Henley took testimony from US forces and interrogators about confessions Jawad allegedly gave — in both an Afghan jail and later a US outpost.

“He was proud of what he’d done and he didn’t like having Americans in Afghanistan,” a military investigator identified only as “Mr. E” told the court, quoting a US contract translator who questioned an Afghan who encountered Jawad in the bazaar soon after the attack.

At military commissions, hearsay evidence is allowed.

Jawad sat impatiently at the defense table listening to a translation of the testimony.

At one point, he leaped to his feet to denounce a Marine interrogator — identified only as “Gunnery Sergeant M” — as a liar for saying he was well treated in US custody.

Court guards sat nearby while Jawad’s military defense attorneys coaxed him back into his seat.

Jawad’s lawyers say he may have been duped, on drugs and was no terrorist, who had no ties to either al-Qaida or the Taliban at the time of his capture.

In his sworn affidavit, the recently resigned case prosecutor said he had come to agree with the defense.

But, he wrote, war-on-terror record keeping and bureaucracy, especially in the intelligence areas, meant records that could help the Jawad case might not surface before his proposed January trial.

Vandeveld, a veteran civilian prosecutor in Pennsylvania, then proposed a plea agreement to help rehabilitate Jawad and return him home.

Pentagon supervisors rejected the idea.

So Vandeveld quit, offering to finish his reserve tour in Afghanistan or Iraq — the fourth high-profile resignation from the four-year-old war court’s prosecutors corps.

“That this even got this far is just indicative of a deeply, deeply flawed system without a moral or ethical compass,” said Air Force Reserve Maj. David Frakt, Jawad’s defense counsel, in his continuing quest to have the charges dismissed and his young client sent home.

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.

Revealed: Secret Taleban peace bid

September 28th, 2008 - by admin

Jason Burke / The Observer – 2008-09-28 22:23:44


KABUL (September 29, 2008) — The Taleban have been engaged in secret talks about ending the conflict in Afghanistan in a wide-ranging ‘peace process’ sponsored by Saudi Arabia and supported by Britain, The Observer can reveal.

The unprecedented negotiations involve a senior former member of the hardline Islamist movement traveling between Kabul, the bases of the Taleban senior leadership in Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and European capitals. Britain has provided logistic and diplomatic support for the talks — despite official statements that negotiations can be held only with Taleban who are ready to renounce, or have renounced, violence.

Sources in Afghanistan confirmed the controversial talks, though they said that in recent weeks they had ‘lost momentum’. According to Afghan government officials in Kabul, the intensity of the fighting this summer has been one factor. Another is the inconsistency of the Taleban’s demands.

‘They keep changing what they are asking for. One day it is one thing, the next another,’ one Afghan government adviser with knowledge of the negotiations said. One aim of the initiative is to drive a wedge between Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaeda and the Taleban.

Last week the French Prime Minister, François Fillon, referred indirectly to the talks during a parliamentary debate on Afghanistan. ‘We must explore ways of separating the international extremists from those who are acting more for nationalist or tribal motives. Efforts in this direction are being led by countries such as Saudi Arabia,’ he said.

This summer’s fighting season in Afghanistan has been the most violent since the invasion of 2001. The deterioration of the situation has provoked a major review of strategy among the 40-nation international coalition pitted against an increasingly confident and effective insurgency.

Although there have been low-level contacts with individual Taleban commanders at district level before, the Saudi initiative is the first attempt to talk to the Taleban leadership council based in or around the south-west Pakistan city of Quetta, known as the ‘Quetta Shura’.

The talks started in the summer and have been brokered by Saudi Arabia at the invitation of the Afghan government. The go-between has spent weeks ferrying lists of demands and counter-demands between the Afghan capital, Riyadh and Quetta. He has also visited London to speak to Foreign Office and MI6 personnel. A delegation from Saudi intelligence has also visited Kabul.

The Taleban are understood to have submitted a list of 11 conditions for ending hostilities, which include demands to be allowed to run key ministries and a programmed withdrawal of western troops.

In Kabul, President Hamid Karzai’s national security adviser, Zalmay Rasul, has been in charge of the negotiations. It is understood that Karzai has yet to make a formal response to the demands, leading to frustration among some western officials.

The Observer has also learnt of a separate exchange of letters in the summer between Karzai and the Taleban ally Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. The dialogue proved fruitless.

Late last year Karzai said he would welcome the chance to speak directly to Hekmatyar and to Mullah Mohammed Omar, the Taleban’s leader and one of the most wanted men in the world, promising that if the Taleban demanded a ‘department in this or in that ministry or … a position as deputy minister’ in exchange for ending violence, he would give them the posts.

Previously Taleban spokesmen have said that only the departure of foreign troops, the institution of a fiercely rigorous interpretation of sharia law and a share of government would be acceptable to them as the basis for any deal.

A Foreign Office spokesman said Saturday that he had no knowledge of the ‘Saudi initiative’, as it is known in diplomatic circles, but that the British government ‘actively supported the Afghan government’s reconciliation process’, which was ‘part and parcel of the counter-insurgency campaign’.

In another development, The Observer has learnt that the British government is considering increasing the length of tours served by troops in Afghanistan. The Ministry of Defense confirmed last week that tours for senior soldiers in key command positions are set to be extended from six months to a year.

‘We are looking at increasing tour lengths for a small number of headquarters posts … with the aim of creating greater continuity in key positions,’ an MoD spokesman said.

Although the MoD denied any plans to extend other service personnel’s combat tours in Afghanistan, the idea of troops deployed to the area serving nine months was raised recently by the army’s director of infantry, Brigadier Richard Dennis, in a speech to senior commanders.

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.

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