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ACTION ALERT: Sign the Treaties on Landmines and Cluster Bombs

January 31st, 2009 - by admin

Ban Mines USA & Friends Committee on National Legislation – 2009-01-31 20:56:43

http://www.banminesusa.org/

US Campaign to Ban Landmines and Cluster Bombs
Friends Committee on National Legislation

• Email the Obama team: Call for a full policy review on landmines and cluster bombs.
Make Your Voice Heard!

(January 31, 2009) — On December 3rd, as half of the world’s governments signed the Convention on Cluster Munitions in Oslo, a spokeswoman for the Obama Transition Team said that the next president would “carefully review the new treaty”.

Urge the Obama Administration to conduct a thorough review of U.S. policy on both landmines and cluster munitions during its first six months. Ask that the policy review give equal weight to U.S. diplomatic interests and humanitarian concerns, as well as military interests.

Some talking points follow.
• The United States’ closest military allies negotiated the Convention on Cluster Munitions because these indiscriminate and unreliable weapons pose an unacceptable threat to civilian populations during and long after combat operations have ceased—in much the same way as landmines.

• Secretary Gates has recognized cluster munitions are weapons of grave humanitarian concern and issued a policy to begin destroying them in 2018; U.S. policy on landmines, as articulated in 2004, also encompasses a phased elimination of most mines from operational planning. The U.S. has not deployed antipersonnel landmines since 1992, and has not used cluster munitions since 2003.

• President Obama’s election stirred great enthusiasm and excitement around the world, and the Obama campaign made clear that it is committed to restoring our diplomatic alliances and reestablishing the United States as a moral leader and follower of international humanitarian law.

• Speaking at the treaty signing, the British Foreign Minister, representing the world’s third largest user of cluster munitions in the past decade, said all states should “tell those not here in Oslo that the world has changed, that we have changed it and that a new norm has been created.” He went on to say: “Our global community must continually keep challenging itself about the way it behaves. Political leaders must show they are prepared to listen and respond to the voices of victims, of civil society, and of ordinary people.”

• The use of weapons that disproportionately take the lives and limbs of civilians and children for months, years and even decades after the fighting stops, are wholly counterproductive in today’s conflicts, where winning over the local population is essential to mission success.

• Standing outside of these treaties—and thereby holding out the threat that U.S. forces might use these weapons—runs counter to efforts to reassert our nation’s moral leadership.
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Ask others to take this action, too!

•For more information on the Mine Ban Treaty and countries that have ratified it, contact:
• The International Campaign to Ban Landmines www.icbl.org
• US Campaign to Ban Landmines, c/o Friends Committee on National Legislation, 245 2nd Street NE, Washington, DC 20002. Tel: (202) 547-6000. Fax: (202) 547-6019. www.fcnl.org landmines@fcnl.org


Campaign Developments
• Postcard from Oslo
The world says ‘Yes We Can’ ban cluster bombs!
• Cluster Bomb Survivors Tour the Midwest
Urging citizens to urge their Senators to support the Cluster Bomb Ban.
• Pentagon Abandons New Anti-personnel Landmine.
Move ensures that U.S. will not violate Ottawa treaty with new ‘Spider’ system.
• Remembering 9/11 with Call for Demining, Ban on Clusters
Family members and US campaigners work to protect innocent civilians.
• Russia and Georgia Use Cluster Bombs in Georgia
Campaign sends letters to embassies calling for cessation and clearance.
• Senators Call on Secretary Gates to Scrap Cluster Bombs
Letter urges Pentagon to change policy, do more to protect civilians.
• Pentagon Releases ‘New’ Cluster Bomb Policy: 10 More Years of the Same
The Mine Ban Treaty and the U.S. Government: 10 Years and Waiting
Press release on the U.S. government’s record on antipersonnel landmines

Obama Lets CIA Keep Controversial Renditions Tool

January 31st, 2009 - by admin

Greg Miller / Chicago Tribune – 2009-01-31 20:50:40

http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/nationworld/chi-renditions_31jan31,0,2998929.story

Meet the New Criminals: Obama Keeps Rendition
Obama Lets CIA Keep Controversial Renditions Tool

Greg Miller / Chicago Tribune

WASHINGTON (February 1, 2009) — The CIA’s secret prisons are being shuttered. Harsh interrogation techniques are off-limits. And Guantanamo Bay will eventually go back to being a wind-swept naval base on the southeastern corner of Cuba.

But even while dismantling these discredited programs, President Barack Obama left an equally controversial counterterrorism tool intact.

Under executive orders issued by Obama last week, the CIA still has authority to carry out what are known as renditions, or the secret abductions and transfers of prisoners to countries that cooperate with the U.S.

Current and former U.S. intelligence officials said the rendition program is poised to play an expanded role because it is the main remaining mechanism—aside from Predator missile strikes—for taking suspected terrorists off the street.

The rendition program became a source of embarrassment for the CIA, and a target of international scorn, as details emerged in recent years of botched captures, mistaken identities and allegations that prisoners were turned over to countries where they were tortured.

The European Parliament condemned renditions as an “illegal instrument used by the United States.” Prisoners swept up in the program have sued the CIA as well as a subsidiary of Boeing Corp., which is accused of working with the agency on dozens of rendition flights.

But the Obama administration appears to have determined that the rendition program was one component of the Bush administration’s war on terrorism that it could not afford to discard.

The decision underscores the fact that the battle with Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups is far from over and that even if the U.S. is shutting down the prisons, it is not done taking prisoners.

“Obviously you need to preserve some tools, you still have to go after the bad guys,” said an Obama administration official, speaking on condition of anonymity when discussing legal reasoning behind the decision. “The legal advisers working on this looked at rendition. It is controversial in some circles and kicked up a big storm in Europe. But if done within certain parameters, it is an acceptable practice.”

One provision in one of Obama’s orders appears to preserve the CIA’s ability to detain and interrogate terrorism suspects as long as they are not held long-term. The little-noticed provision states that the instructions to close the CIA’s secret prison sites “do not refer to facilities used only to hold people on a short-term, transitory basis.”

Obama’s decision to preserve the program did not draw major protests, even among human-rights groups. Leaders of such organizations said that reflects a sense, even among advocates, that the United States and other nations need certain tools to combat terrorism.

“Under limited circumstances, there is a legitimate place” for renditions, said Tom Malinowski, the Washington advocacy director for Human Rights Watch. “What I heard loud and clear from the president’s order was that they want to design a system that doesn’t result in people being sent to foreign dungeons to be tortured.”

In his executive order on lawful interrogations, Obama created a task force to re-examine renditions to make sure that they “do not result in the transfer of individuals to other nations to face torture” or otherwise circumvent human-rights laws and treaties.

gpmiller@tribune.com

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

Palestinian Men Bear Trauma of War

January 31st, 2009 - by admin

Zeina Awad / Al Jazeera – 2009-01-31 20:46:40

http://english.aljazeera.net/news/middleeast/2009/01/2009127174123702455.html

VIDEO: Gaza assaults fuel mental health crisis.
Israel’s war on Gaza took a heavy emotional toll on the people there. Doctors say at least half the population need professional help to come to terms with what happened. Palestinian men have been hit particularly hard. Many had struggled to find work in a territory under siege and now the horrors of war have made the search even far more traumatic.

GAZA CITY (January 29, 2009) — The war on Gaza has taken a heavy emotional and mental toll on the people of the Gaza Strip. Doctors say that at least half of the population need professional help to come to terms with the war.

Palestinian men have been hit especially hard. Many of them have spent the last two years struggling to find work under Israel’s blockade of the territory and the horrors of the war have made things harder and more traumatic.

Fouzan has four children, no job, and constant anxiety about the future. He lost everything when Israeli missiles struck his home, his sewing factory, and his garden. He says he has lost his will to live and he finds it hard to get out of bed. He describes his life as a “dark tunnel, with no light in sight”.

“I spent years working hard and saving money to buy my sewing machines, one by one, to build up my business. It was all gone, just like that, in a second,” he said. “I don’t know what I am going to do.”

Business Impossible
Fouzan’s problems go back to when he lost his clients abroad, as Israel tightened its siege on Gaza and made it impossible for him to export the clothes he was making. As his situation worsened, he was forced to sell equipment and furniture just to put food on the table. And when the war started, it took away all he had left.

“It was a very difficult situation. My children were scared and they wanted me to comfort them,” he said. “What was I supposed to do? I was scared, but I would control myself to make it seem like everything was okay.

“I don’t sleep, very rarely, maybe a couple of hours per night. I am constantly worried. Even if I wanted to get out, to take a break and go somewhere to forget a little, I can’t because the crossings are closed. I can’t even take a walk along the shore because there are warships in the sea the whole time and they may aim at me,” he said.

‘Only Relief’
The Gaza Community Mental Health Programme (GCMHP) is the only relief that Fouzan is able to get. He has been a patient there for over a year and sees his doctor twice a week.

The GCMHP, Gaza’s largest mental health clinic, employs nearly 30 psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers and nurses. Although its headquarters were hit during the war, doctors continue to work around the clock to treat the ever-increasing number of Palestinian patients living in the Gaza Strip.

Dr Eyad Sarraj, the director of the GCMHP, said: “Adults are the symbol of protection, providing and power for the children. Adults have already been lost as providers because of the economic siege. During this war, they were lost as protectors.

“Children were looking up to them to ask them, ‘Where is a safe place? How can you protect me?’ Some felt defeated as men, defeated in the struggle because they could not defend their children.”

Saraj says that at least half of the people living in Gaza need professional help to cope with the war. Many of them have a constant feeling of insecurity. Like Fouzan, they live with a sense of collective trauma, built up over years – and even generations.

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

Italians Occupy Site of Proposed US Military Base in VicenzaItalians Occupy Site of Proposed US Military Base in Vicenza

January 31st, 2009 - by admin

After Downing Street – 2009-01-31 20:44:10

http://www.afterdowningstreet.org/node/39457

Italians Occupy Site of Proposed US Military Base in Vicenza
Stephanie Wesbrook

VICENZA, Italy (February 1, 2009) — Opposition to what would be a major new hub for the US military in Europe is not new. Protest marches have filled Vicenza’s streets. The Italian Prime Minister has lost his job. But now construction has neared, and protesters have occupied the site to prevent it. See background here.

This morning around 10 a.m. the movement opposing the new US base in Vicenza, Italy, entered and occupied the site. The police were caught completely off guard and the activists were able to cut the fence and gates and occupy the area.

Once the police arrived, they were planning to forcibly remove the protesters. However, the protesters are occupying an area that was the airport Dal Molin, which is technically under control of the Italian civilian aviation authority, ENAC, who has said the protest is legitimate.

So far the police have backed off. Tonight there will be a public assembly followed by a dinner and concert. Monday, Feb 2, had been announced by the movement as the start of a week of initiatives to protest the demolition work that is being carried out in preparation for the construction of the base, but it looks like the activists got off to an early start!


Blitz in Vicenza: Site of the New US Base Occupied
(Rough translation. Original article in Italian)

VICENZA, Italy (January 31, 2009) — About two hundred activists of the “No Dal Molin” movement entered the area of the Vicenza airport where a few days ago the construction of the new US military base Camp Ederle 2 began.

The blitz was announced by the members of the movement themselves. The police are on the site – including the Questore of Vicenza – and are overseeing the peaceful occupation of the area.

To enter the area the protesters cut a piece of the fence. The Questore Sarlo is trying to start negotiations with the demonstrators. There are also members of the Disobbedienti who arrived from Padova and other cities of the Veneto region.

The situation for the moment is calm. The demonstrators displayed banners and posters against the US military, and with the spray paint wrote “Vicenza City of Peace” and “You demolish, we build peace”. The protesters have not reached the area from the inside of Dal Molin, protected by a fence, which is being developed by the company in charge of demolishing the existing structures.

Some of the coop workers of CMC of Ravenna that were working on the site were taken away as a precaution. A fact that the ‘No Dal Molin’ have already declared as a victory.

Twenty demonstrators were on the roofs, while outside began assembling a tent. “This – said the Committee – is the response by those opposed to the project to the announcement of the imminent start of construction. On October 5, through the popular consultation, the participants decided in a vote by a large majority that the land must be devoted to civilian uses, therefore seeking to implement the project means trampling democracy.”

For the protesters, the project to double the US base is “illegitimate and illegal, because the proponents have refused to accept that a detailed environmental impact assessment be made of the site, a useful tool in protecting the health and the area.” The occupation, the say, will continue indefinitely.

• There is a short video on La 7: http://tinyurl.com/c7nqq6
• You can also follow updates in Italian on the
• No Dal Molin and
Global Project sites:

• For background, see the dossier in English:


We Are All Vicentini!
David Swanson / After Downing Street

(December 15, 2007) —The US government has proposed to make Vicenza, Italy, the largest US military site in Europe, but the people of Vicenza, and all of Italy, have sworn it will never happen.

As with the story of the Downing Street Minutes — two years ago this week —, a major news story and huge controversy in Europe right now is unknown to Americans, despite the fact that it is all about the policies of the American government.

In February of [2008], 200,000 people descended on the Northeastern Italian town of Vicenza (population 100,000) to march in protest. Largely as a result, the Prime Minister of Italy was (temporarily) driven out of power. Meanwhile, just outside Vicenza, large tents now hold newly minted citizen activists keeping a 24-hour-per-day vigil and training hundreds of senior citizens, children, and families every day in how to nonviolently stop bulldozers. The bulldozers they are waiting for are American.

The conflict, should it come about, will be as surprising to American television viewers as were the attacks of 9-11, unless someone tells them ahead of time what is going on. This week a group of Italians is in Washington, D.C., attempting to do just that. A group of Italian Members of Parliament also visited Washington last month in opposition to the base.

To understand this story it is necessary to be aware of a few basic facts that Americans are not supposed to be aware of, including that our military maintains several hundred bases in other people’s countries, and that many of the residents of these countries resent the US military presence. (Of course, the alleged planner of the murderous 9-11 attacks said he was reacting to US bases on foreign soil, in that case in Saudi Arabia. The Bush Administration closed the offending bases.)

In addition, it is helpful to understand that Vicenza is a UNESCO World Heritage site, a beautiful treasure of a town showcasing the renaissance architecture of Andrea Palladio. Reflecting on this makes it easier to put into context the proposal for Vicenza from the US military and the reaction of the people who live there.

If you google “No Dal Molin” you’ll find 83,300 results. Dal Molin is the name of the proposed new military base. This compares with 9,290 for such an important news story as “John Edwards’ hair.” But the only US media link you’ll find is Democracy Now, which interviewed one of the Italian activists in Washington this week.

In Italy, the women leading the opposition to the base, women who were housewives and had never been activists until news of this proposal leaked, have appeared frequently in the media. Here’s a television news show video in Italian (click on “Puntate,” scroll down to “Vicenza,” and click). And here is an activist’s video in English.

Since this story broke last year, Vicenza has become a focus for peace activists in Europe, including Americans living abroad, and has been the site of numerous protests and acts of civil disobedience. There is another protest march planned for this coming Sunday. (Flyer).

I spent all day Thursday with US peace activists Stephanie Westbrook and Medea Benjamin accompanying a delegation of four Italians to meetings with Congress Members, Senators, and their staffers. The Italians were led by two women, Cinzia Bottene and Thea Valentina Garbellin.

They had arrived Tuesday and began their lobbying efforts on Wednesday. Stephanie and Thea appeared on Democracy Now that morning. And Code Pink launched a petition website where we are collecting Americans’ signatures in support of the people of Vicenza.

On Wednesday, the delegation spoke with various Congress Members, including Rep. Neil Abercrombie (D., Hawaii) and Rep. Walter Jones (R., N.C.). At these and many other meetings, the Italians dropped off materials, told their stories, and answered questions. The Congress Members and staffers made no commitments but promised to look into the matter.

“The amazing thing,” Cinzia said, “is that nobody in the United States, not even Senators and Congress Members, knows anything about it. But we found a great deal of interest.”

On Thursday we met with Rep. Carol Shea-Porter (D., N.H.)and a staff person. They, too, knew nothing about it, but were very interested. The same goes for aides to Sen. Edward Kennedy (D., Mass.) and Sen. Jack Reid (D., R.I.).

Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D., Ohio) had a little bit different reaction. He said he opposed the base and would write a letter to all of his colleagues asking them to join him. He said he favored closing foreign bases but not opening new ones. Cinzia thanked the Congressman and invited him to come and speak in Vicenza.

Another meeting we had on Thursday was with three Senate staffers, who each worked for the Armed Services Committee or for a member thereof. They had all been to Vicenza. In fact, they flew to the new base location to examine it in 2004, two years before anyone in Italy had even learned about the proposal.

In our meeting, they articulated the US government’s position, and Thea and Cinzia articulated that of the people of Vicenza. At times, the two world views clashed. One of the staffers, who said he had been to Vicenza many times and had many Italian friends there, but who did not speak a word of Italian, suggested that the base might be necessary to allow the US to airlift aid to starving Africans. This did not sit well with the Vicentines, who are motivated as much by their opposition to global militarism, arrogance, and lies, as they are by the potential impact on their city’s water and traffic.

The Senate staffers tried to be helpful, and explained as others had before them, that what they needed to know about were potential impacts on water, traffic, power, pollution, and the environment. They also were very interested in learning about alternative locations for the base and accounts of the Italian government having offered other locations. But the danger brought to the people of Vicenza by making it a major military target was not a concern that had made it onto their radar screen. The damage to historic and artistic treasures was deemed “intangible.” And the affront to the dignity of the people of Vicenza was unfortunate but insignificant.

The Italians explained that they have never protested the existing US base in Vicenza, which has been there for 50 years. In fact, there are a number of US military installations in and around Vicenza and throughout Italy, including facilities holding 90 atomic bombs, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council, and this video news report in English from Italian television.

“The people of Vicenza and the Americans have always been friends,” Cinzia said. “But when you invite a friend to your house and give them a room, it changes when they demand to have the whole house.”

As in much of the world, Vicenza is already overrun by American soldiers who drink too much, commit too many crimes, return from Iraq in mental anguish, and – since 9-11 – remain ever more isolated from the Italians. It’s the Vicentines’ city, but they are second-class citizens. If an Italian is waiting in line in a hospital emergency room, and a US soldier comes in, the soldier can go straight to the front. And the economic argument so cynically used all over the United States to keep our economy based on war does not work in Vicenza: Italian tax payers are paying a large portion of the cost of their own occupation.

American taxpayers, on the other hand, are completely oblivious to the fact that they are paying hundreds of millions of dollars for the construction of a base that has enraged the nation of Italy and serves no purpose that the people of the United States have ever debated or had any say in. While the State Department and the Pentagon make our decisions for us, the Congress does have to approve the money. They’ve already approved half of the money for this base, and the rest is expected to be voted on by October.

The people of Vicenza have also had no say in this. They handed in 10,000 signatures and requested a referendum, but were denied. The Italian government has said it will permit the base, but it has not actually issued the construction permits.

Leaders of the opposition movement met with the Minister of Defense who said that Italy was capable of saying No to the United States. But the US ambassador gave Italy a deadline of January 19th to accept the base, and the Prime Minister announced his acceptance of it on a trip abroad on January 16th. While no permits have been issued, fiberoptic cables have been laid on the site, which activists have dug up and ripped out.

The activists leading this resistance struggle say they want to be friends with Americans. They have even proposed that the hundreds of millions of dollars for the base be spent instead on aiding the people of New Orleans, and that the cities of Vicenza and New Orleans establish a relationship as “twin cities.”

But Cinzia Bottene made her case very clearly in the meeting with the staffers. “The citizens,” she said, “will never, I repeat, never accept a base at Dal Molin.”

The Italians plan to deliver a petition showing American support for their peaceful efforts to Senator Carl Levin and Congressman Ike Skelton, chairs of the Armed Services Committees in both houses. You can add your name to it here.

The Commander Guy, George W. Bush, plans to visit Rome on June 9th. He might actually be greeted by some cheers if he cancels the plans for Dal Molin. Otherwise, he can expect a grand unwelcoming party.

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

US Spends Millions of Taxpayer Dollars to Protect Terrorist

January 30th, 2009 - by admin

Jean Guy Allard / Granma – 2009-01-30 21:43:01

http://www.granma.cu/INGLES/2009/enero/juev29/5jurado-i.html

HAVANA (January 29, 2009) — The New Jersey grand jury that has been in session for three years, whose mandate is to examine evidence of international terrorist Luis Posada Carriles’ participation in the terror campaign unleashed in Havana in 1997, has now cost US taxpayers “millions of dollars,” without having reached any conclusion.

That was confirmed by investigative journalist Ann Louise Bardach in an analysis of Cuban-US relations published by The Washington Post.

Bardach is a US specialist who revealed in an article published on the website slate.com last October, how a lawyer of Posada’s accomplices confided to her that the investigation had been halted in order not to damage the ticket of McCain, the Diaz-Balart brothers and (Ileana) Ros-Lehtinen.

From confidences received from Miami FBI investigators, the reporter informed the public that the head of this federal office destroyed Luis Posada’s dossier in 2003, when the justice system in Panama, where he was found guilty of terrorism, was demanding his extradition.

According to Posada’s attorney, his dossier has been handled “at the very highest level” since his illegal entry into US territory aboard the shrimping boat Santrina, property of terrorist and arms trafficker Santiago Alvarez Fernández Magriñá, in March of 2005.

Posada entered the United States using a Guatemalan passport with his photo and the name of Manuel Enrique Castillo López, which he had supposedly obtained from the man the Miami mafia press designated his “benefactor.”

The criminal case against Posada was rejected on May 8, 2007 by Federal District Judge Kathleen Cardone, who freed him after deeming that an interpreter made an incorrect interpretation in English of the killer’s statements in Spanish, during an interview with an immigration official. It later emerged that Posada can speak English and that the use of the interpreter was a sharp move by his mafia lawyers.

The slowness of the New Jersey grand jury and the procedures invoked by the Texas Federal District Attorney’s Office in the case have been interpreted by many observers as delaying maneuvers designed to provide a false justification for the government not to extradite the former CIA agent to Venezuela, which has been demanding it since 2005.

In El Paso, Posada’s dossier was the responsibility of district attorney Michael Mullaney, closely advised by the federal district attorneys John F. De Pue, John W. Van Lonkhuyzen and Paul Ahern, special envoys from the anti-terrorist section of the Department of Justice.

Over the course of the last two years, the interminable grand jury investigation in Newark, New Jersey, had the participation of two former directors of the Cuban-American National Foundation (CANF), Abel Hernández, a resident of Cliffside Park, and Oscar Rojas, who was the accountant of Arnaldo Monzón, a deceased millionaire from Fort Lee. A further three Cuban Americans linked to the CANF have been summoned to appear in court in relation to the case, described by journalist Peter J. Sampson of the local newspaper The Record, as “a murky world of terrorists and alleged killers.”

The reporter specified: “Despite portraying Posada as an admitted mastermind of terror plots and attacks, the government hasn’t formally declared him a terrorist or charged him with a crime. Such a move could prove embarrassing, observers say, because of Posada’s long CIA association.”

In 1997, the attacks ordered by Posada on hotels, restaurants, and a night club in Havana caused the death of Italian tourist Fabio di Celmo, and injured 11 other people, as well as provoking significant material damage.

It is unknown what instructions new US Attorney General Eric Holder might give when he inherits what has been described as the “hot potato.”

Holder, a 57 year-old African-American lawyer, is known for his battles against legal corruption.

The new attorney general will also have the delicate task of reviewing the dossier of the five Cuban anti-terrorists accused of “espionage” and sentenced to scandalous prison terms, merely for having infiltrated Cuban-American terrorist networks protected by the FBI in Miami.

For 10 years, the Five, currently incarcerated in five different US prisons, have been denied regular family visits (and in two cases any visits from their wives) and are exposed to serious risks in detention centers known for their high levels of violence.

This maltreatment, preceded by 17 months of detention in punishment cells in subhuman conditions, has been formally condemned by a panel of UN jurists that has unsuccessfully called for their release.

© Copyright. 1996-2009. All rights reserved. GRANMA INTERNATIONAL/ONLINE EDITION. Cuba.

Fidel Castro’s Reflections on Obama, Gaza and Gitmo

January 30th, 2009 - by admin

Al Jazeera & Granma & CubaDebate – 2009-01-30 21:36:41

http://english.aljazeera.net/news/americas/2009/01/2009130211620456769.html

Castro Attacks Obama over Gaza
Al Jazeera

The intelligent and noble face of the first black president of the United States since its founding as an independent republic two and one-third centuries ago had transformed itself, with the inspiration of Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King, becoming a living symbol of the American dream.
— Fidel Castro Ruiz

HAVANA (January 31, 2009) — Fidel Castro, the former Cuban president, has attacked Barack Obama, the US president, accusing him of supporting “Israeli genocide” against the Palestinians. Castro, who had recently praised Obama as “honest” and “noble,”,said in a column posted on a government website that Obama was continuing the policies of George Bush, his predecessor, by supporting Israel.

The former Cuban leader, who was succeeded by his brother Raul as president in February, accused the US of having enabled Israel to become an “important nuclear power.” He also accused the US of giving Israel military aid with which it “threatens extreme violence against the population of all the Muslim countries”.

Castro highlighted statements made by the Obama administration that reiterated its strong support for Israel, which recently carried out a 22-day assault on Gaza in which more than 1,300 Palestinians were killed.

Obama has repeatedly reiterated his strong support for Israel’s right to defend itself against rocket attacks by Palestinian fighters.

Guantanamo Claim
Fidel Castro also criticised Obama for suggesting Cuba would have to make concessions before it considers returning the territory of the US naval base at Guantanamo Bay. “Maintaining a military base in Cuba against the will of the people violates the most elemental principles of international law,” Castro said. “Not respecting Cuba’s will is an arrogant act and an abuse of immense power against a little country,” he added.

Cuba indefinitely leased Guantanamo to the US in 1903 after the US occupied the country during the 1898 Spanish-American War. Castro has claimed that the base at the south-eastern tip of Cuba was taken over illegally.

Obama said during his election campaign he was willing to consider holding talks with nations with poor relations with the US, such as Cuba and Iran.


The 11th President of the United States
Fidel Castro Ruz / “Reflections of Fidel,” Granma

HAVANA (January 22, 2009) — This past Tuesday, January 20, 2009, Barack Obama took over the leadership of the empire as president No. 11 of the United Sates since the triumph of the Cuban Revolution in January 1959.

Nobody could doubt the sincerity of his words when he affirms that he will turn the country into a model of liberty, respect for human rights in the world and the independence of other peoples. Of course, without this offending barely anyone, except the misanthropes out there in the world. He now has said comfortably that imprisonment and torture on the illegally-occupied Guantánamo base will cease immediately, which is beginning to sow doubts among those who worship terror as a necessary instrument of their country’s foreign policy.

The intelligent and noble face of the first black president of the United States since its founding as an independent republic two and one-third centuries ago had transformed itself, with the inspiration of Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King, becoming a living symbol of the American dream.

However, despite all the tests that he has withstood, Obama has not passed the central one. What will he do when the immense power in his hands proves absolutely useless for overcoming the system’s insoluble antagonistic contradictions?

I have shortened my “Reflections,” just as I resolved to do this year, in order not to interfere or get in the way of the comrades of the Party and state as they make constant decisions about objective difficulties stemming from the world economic crisis. I am fine, but I insist, none of them should feel constrained by any of my Reflections, the seriousness of my condition or my death.

I am reviewing the speeches and materials I have elaborated over more than half a century.

I have had the rare privilege of observing events over such a long period of time. I receive information and meditate calmly on the events. I don’t expect to have that privilege in four years, when Obama’s first presidential term will have concluded.

Translated by Granma International


Deciphering the Thinking of the
New President of the United States

Fidel Castro Ruz / Reflections of Fidel, CubaDebate

HAVANA (January 29, 2009) — It isn’t too difficult. After his inauguration, Barack Obama stated that the return of the territory occupied by the Guantánamo Naval Base to its legitimate owner had to be carefully considered, in the first place, in terms of whether it would affect the defense capacity of the United States in the most minimal way.

He immediately added that, in relation to the return to Cuba of the occupied territory, he would have to consider under which concessions the Cuban side would accede to that solution, which is equivalent to demanding a change in its political system, a price against which Cuba has fought for half a century.

Maintaining a military base in Cuba against the will of our people is in violation of the most elemental principles of international law. It is a faculty of the president of the United States to abide by that standard without any conditions. Not to respect it constitutes an act of arrogance and an abuse of his immense power against a little country.

If one wishes to better understand the abusive nature of the power of the empire, statements published on its official Internet website by the U.S. government on January 22, after Barack Obama’s inauguration, should be taken into account. Biden and Obama are resolutely decided on supporting the relations between the United States and Israel and believe that their incontrovertible commitment in the Middle East must be to the security of Israel, the principal U.S. ally in the region.

The United States will never distance itself from Israel, and its president and vice president “believe strongly in Israel’s right to protect its citizens,” assures the statement of principles which, on those points, takes up the policy followed by Obama’s predecessor, George W. Bush.

It is the mode of sharing in the genocide of Palestinians into which our friend Obama has fallen. He is offering similar sweeteners to Russia, China, Europe, Latin America and the rest of the world, after the United States converted Israel into an important nuclear power that annually absorbs a significant part of the exports of the empire’s prosperous military industry, with which it is threatening, with extreme violence, the population of all countries of Muslim faith.

There are many similar examples; one does not need to be a fortune-teller. For more information, read the statements of the new Pentagon chief, an expert in military affairs.

Taken from Cubadebate
Translated by Granma International

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

Is the Pentagon Recession-Proof?

January 30th, 2009 - by admin

Janes & The Washington Post – 2009-01-30 21:32:47

http://www.janes.com/news/defence/business/jdw/jdw090130_2_n.shtml

Gates Warns Ethics Rules
Could Hurt Pentagon Recruiting

Caitlin Harrington / Janes

( January 30, 2009) — US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates questioned on 27 January [about] the growing push in Washington for ethics rules that limit the ability of government personnel to rotate between government and industry.

“All of us need to look at this to see if we’re not cutting off our nose to spite our face,” he told lawmakers at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing to lay out his top priorities for the new administration.

Gates said the problem with ethics reforms aimed at closing the revolving door between government and industry is that it can prevent the most qualified people – those with years of management and budget experience in the private sector – from taking high-level government jobs in which that type of experience is highly desirable.

Such experience is particularly important when seeking to recruit senior acquisition officials, Gates said.

“These people manage billions of dollars and you need people with real-world experience to be able to make those decisions and those recommendations … getting people at that level and more senior levels, who have the credentials to be able to do the job, is very tough.”

[Longer version available to subscribers.]


Military Contractors Expect to Beat Layoff Trend
Wall Street Journal

(January 30, 2009) — Even as companies across the U.S. are laying off thousands of workers, defense companies expect to maintain much of the momentum they built up during the Bush administration’s sharp increase in weapons spending.

While defense-industry growth is cresting after the previous president’s military-budget expansion, some executives believe the industry might be able to extend its strong run into the Obama administration.

In part, executives are betting that the new president will be reluctant to slash weapons programs that are propping up employment in such hard-hit areas as manufacturing.
recruit senior acquisition officials, Gates said.

“These people manage billions of dollars and you need people with real-world experience to be able to make those decisions and those recommendations … getting people at that level and more senior levels, who have the credentials to be able to do the job, is very tough.”

[Longer version available to subscribers.]

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

Fears over Sri Lanka War Children & Witness ‘Trained Child Soldiers’

January 30th, 2009 - by admin

BBC News – 2009-01-30 21:22:19

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/7861812.stm

Fears over Sri Lanka War Children
BBC News

(January 30, 2009) — A growing number of children have been killed or injured in Sri Lankan fighting over the last 10 days, the UN children’s agency (Unicef) says. It has called on the government and Tamil Tiger rebels to give “absolute priority” to the safety of children and the wider civilian population.

The Tamil Tigers say 250,000 civilians in the conflict zone want to stay in rebel-held areas for protection. However the government has appealed to the Tigers to allow them to leave. It has offered safe passage to the civilians, but President Mahinda Rajapaksa has ruled out a ceasefire as his forces continue to attack dwindling rebel territory.

Rebel political chief B. Nadesan told the BBC that Tamils “do not wish to end up in the hands of their killers. “They believe their security lies in the area under the control of our organisation – and regard the area under our control as their safe haven,” he said. Health officials and human rights groups say hundreds of civilians have died.

‘Caught in Crossfire’
Unicef said the safety of children – some just months old – and the wider civilian population was of paramount importance.

“We have clear evidence that children are being caught in the crossfire, and that children are being injured and killed,” Unicef Regional Director for South Asia, Daniel Toole, said. “It is crucial that safe areas, schools and medical facilities are protected and considered zones of peace, in all circumstances.

“Children are bearing the brunt of a conflict which is not theirs. We are gravely concerned for the tens of thousands of children who are trapped in a fast shrinking area of intense conflict.” But Sri Lanka’s defence secretary, Gotabaya Rajapakse, said the numbers were exaggerated and aid agencies were panicking.

Meanwhile, the UK has announced it is doubling its emergency humanitarian aid to try to protect civilians.

‘Rights Breaches’
President Rajapaksa said that the rebels were refusing to let the civilians leave. “I urge the [Tamil Tigers], within the next 48 hours to allow free movement of civilians to ensure their safety and security. For all those civilians, I assure a safe passage to a secure environment,” he said in a statement on Thursday.

The European Union on Friday called for a halt to the conflict. EU Humanitarian Aid Commissioner Louis Michel said: “This is an escalating humanitarian catastrophe. We are extremely worried about the terrible situation facing people trapped in the fighting.” But the Sri Lankan government has said it will continue “to liberate areas which have not been liberated so far”.

Our correspondent says that displaced civilians who do manage to leave the war zone are held in government-managed camps to which there is no media access. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, has also said she is extremely concerned about the well-being of people caught up in the fighting.

She said the situation could be worse than generally realised because of the restrictions on access to the war zone. Ms Pillay said there appeared to be “very grave breaches of human rights by both sides in the conflict and it is imperative that we find out more about what exactly has been going on”.

On Friday, the Reporters without Borders group also appealed to President Rajapaksa to allow local and foreign journalists to report freely. The Red Cross says the humanitarian situation in the north-east “remains precarious for thousands”.

“Stocks have been depleted and sustainable ways of producing food locally have become almost nonexistent,” it said.

The UK has said it is doubling its emergency humanitarian aid with another £2.5m to support Red Cross operations and help maintain relief convoys.

Heavy Fighting
On Thursday, aid agencies said they had evacuated hundreds of wounded civilians, including 50 critically ill children, to a hospital in the town of Vavuniya.

The military says it is involved in a final push against the retreating rebels. It has captured the key towns of Kilinochchi, Mullaitivu and the strategically important Elephant Pass in recent weeks.

The BBC’s Ethirajan Anbarasan is at Elephant Pass with the army. He says he can hear artillery fire 15km (nine miles) to the south and has been told there is heavy fighting there.

© BBC MMIX


Witness ‘Trained Child Soldiers’
BBC News

(January 30, 2009) — The International Criminal Court in The Hague has heard from a man who says he trained children to use Kalashnikovs for DR Congo warlord Thomas Lubanga.

The unnamed former militia fighter was giving evidence at Mr Lubanga’s trial for war crimes allegedly committed during the five-year civil conflict. He said Mr Lubanga had told child recruits in his camp: “Do not be afraid. The war will not be difficult.”

Mr Lubanga denies using hundreds of child soldiers during the war. His trial opened on Monday after a seven-month delay, as judges and prosecutors disputed confidential evidence. He is the first person to be tried at the ICC.

‘Fighting and dying’
Taking the stand on Friday, the unnamed former fighter said he had joined Mr Lubanga’s militia, the Union of Congolese Patriots, in 2002 after militia commanders threatened to burn his village if the young people did not join its ranks. He said that children had been among the group that went with them to a training camp.

The militia made him an instructor since he had already served in the DR Congolese army, in which he had served seven months as a child soldier in 1997, at the age of 13. He taught children to shoot and the basics of combat, he said.

Underage children were often assigned to officers as armed “bodyguards or escorts”, he said. “Children were deployed in companies, battalions, brigades and platoons. They were like soldiers.”

Eventually, the witness added, he saw children fighting and dying in several battles. “If the commander gave the order, everyone had to fire, even the children,” he testified.

The first witness at the trial retracted his testimony after first saying he had been recruited by Mr Lubanga’s fighters on his way home from school. The prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, asked for an investigation into whether the witness, who was also unidentified, feared for his personal safety after the trial.

© BBC MMIX

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

Iraq, Afghan Auditors Discuss Rebuilding from Wars

January 29th, 2009 - by admin

Pauline Jelinek / Associated Press – 2009-01-29 22:45:10

http://enews.earthlink.net/article/top?guid=20090129/49829760_3ca6_1552620090130-836574739

WASHINGTON (January 30, 2009) — The often chaotic and wasteful $125 billion Iraq rebuilding effort will face new trouble and uncertainty this year despite the decline in violence there, a new audit report says.

A separate report on Afghanistan said there is no coherent strategy for that country’s $32 billion reconstruction campaign.

In Iraq, the nation’s shifting power base and finances will force fundamental changes in the now nearly six-year-old rebuilding effort, as will questions about security when the US draws combat forces out of Iraqi cities this summer, said the report being released Friday by the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction Stuart Bowen.

A new agreement governing American presence in Iraq means US contractors will no longer have immunity from Iraqi laws. And some could decide to quit the country when the government finishes writing new rules on contractor licensing, taxes, registration of their firearms and so on, the report said.

Also, the big drop in global oil prices over the past six months has forced Iraqis to trim their budget and could have “severe consequences for Iraq reconstruction, fundamentally altering government of Iraq plans to fund large-scale capital improvement projects” themselves, the report said.

The reconstruction effort in Iraq totals $125 billion, including US funding of $51 billion; Iraqi funding of about $58 billion and international funding of $17 billion, not all of which has been spent.

For Afghanistan, the United States has appropriated but not fully spent $32 billion for humanitarian aid and reconstruction while other nations have contributed an additional $25.3 billion, said a separate report released late Thursday by the office of Arnold Fields, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction.

Congress recently approved creation of the new SIGAR audit office, which mirrors the one set up to oversee Iraq reconstruction spending – an office that has routinely found glaring examples of fraud and waste in a wide range of projects to provide police stations, schools, improve basic services such as electricity and water and programs to teach Iraq skills needed for better governance.

Fields has been just getting his work under way in recent months. “I fear there are major weaknesses in strategy,” he said in only his second quarterly report.

Although he said his agency has not yet done an in-depth review, he found in recent trips to Afghanistan that “a broad consensus … that reconstruction efforts are fragmented and that existing strategies lack coherence.” He said government officials there want a greater say in the building plan.

Retired Marine Maj. Gen. Fields said he has finished setting up a permanent office in Kabul and has 30 employees at three Afghan locations.

On the Net:
° Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction:
http://www.sigir.mil
° Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction:
http://www.sigar.mil

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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

US Army Suicides Hit Record High

January 29th, 2009 - by admin

BBC News – 2009-01-29 22:43:48

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/7859797.stm

US Army Suicides Hit Record High
BBC News

(January 30, 2009) —The rate of suicides among soldiers in the US army has risen to a record level for the second year in a row. The army said there were 128 confirmed suicides in 2008, with a further 15 deaths still under investigation.

Military officials said they did not know why the number has kept increasing but that the stress of conflicts overseas had had a significant impact.

The army has said it is committed to addressing the issue and has introduced training to raise awareness. “This is a challenge of the highest order for us,” said US Army Secretary Pete Geren. “Why do the numbers keep going up? We cannot tell you. But we can tell you that across the army, we’re committed to doing everything we can to address the problem.”

Conflict Stress
About 35% of the suicides were of soldiers who had never been deployed, while 30% were soldiers who were on active service – three quarters of them on their first tour of duty. Another 35% took place after deployment, mostly more than a year after the soldier had returned home.

The rise means that the military suicide rate is proportionally higher than the rate among American civilians for the first time.

General Peter Chiarelli, vice chief of the army, said he had “no doubt” that the stress of the ongoing conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan was a factor in the rising suicide rates. He said that long tours of duty and the high pressure of being in combat zones was putting a strain on service personnel and their families.

The US military said it has introduced training to make soldiers more aware of suicidal behaviour in themselves and others, and to reduce the stigma of seeking help. It has also launched a long-term research programme into the issue, in conjunction with the National Institute of Mental Health.

© BBC MMIX


Russia Amy Suicides Cause Alarm
BBC News

(May 29, 2008) — Almost an entire battalion of Russian soldiers committed suicide last year, the country’s chief military prosecutor has said.

A total of 341 military personnel killed themselves in 2007, a reduction of 15% on the previous year. But Sergei Fridinsky said the numbers were worrying and called for a national strategy to prepare men for service.

Bullying, often extremely violent, is rife in the army and is the most common reason for suicide. “Almost a battalion of military servicemen – 341 people – were irrevocably lost in the past year as a result of suicide,” Mr Fridinsky said.

The BBC’s Russia analyst, Steven Eke, says dedovshchina – literally, rule of the elders, a culturally specific, often very violent, form of bullying, is cited as the most frequent trigger for young soldiers taking their own lives.

Conditions of military service – compulsory for one year for Russian men – are so harsh that many parents and young men offer bribes to avoid getting conscripted. Yet Mr Fridinsky said that about half of the suicides were among professional, contract-based soldiers, who would not face this kind of bullying. He suggested that Russia use the experience of the US in Iraq and Afghanistan to help their troops deal with the psychological trauma of combat.

© BBC MMIX

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

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