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Iraq Redux? Obama Seeks Funds for Pakistan Super-embassy

May 31st, 2009 - by admin

Saeed Shah and Warren P. Strobel / McClatchy Newspapers – 2009-05-31 23:29:34


ISLAMABAD (May. 28, 2009) — The U.S. is embarking on a $1 billion crash program to expand its diplomatic presence in Pakistan and neighboring Afghanistan, another sign that the Obama administration is making a costly, long-term commitment to war-torn South Asia, U.S. officials said Wednesday.

The White House has asked Congress for — and seems likely to receive — $736 million to build a new U.S. embassy in Islamabad, along with permanent housing for U.S. government civilians and new office space in the Pakistani capital.

The scale of the projects rivals the giant U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, which was completed last year after construction delays at a cost of $740 million.

Senior State Department officials said the expanded diplomatic presence is needed to replace overcrowded, dilapidated and unsafe facilities and to support a “surge” of civilian officials into Afghanistan and Pakistan ordered by President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Other major projects are planned for Kabul, Afghanistan; and for the Pakistani cities of Lahore and Peshawar. In Peshawar, the U.S. government is negotiating the purchase of a five-star hotel that would house a new U.S. consulate.

Funds for the projects are included in a 2009 supplemental spending bill that the House of Representatives and the Senate have passed in slightly different forms.

Obama has repeatedly stated that stabilizing Pakistan and Afghanistan, the countries from which al Qaida and the Taliban operate, is vital to U.S. national security. He’s ordered thousands of additional troops to Afghanistan and is proposing substantially increased aid to both countries.

In Pakistan, however, large parts of the population are hostile to the U.S. presence in the region — despite receiving billions of dollars in aid from Washington since 2001 — and anti-American groups and politicians are likely to seize on the expanded diplomatic presence in Islamabad as evidence of American “imperial designs.”

“This is a replay of Baghdad,” said Khurshid Ahmad, a member of Pakistan’s upper house of parliament for Jamaat-e-Islami, one of the country’s two main religious political parties. “This (Islamabad embassy) is more (space) than they should need. It’s for the micro and macro management of Pakistan, and using Pakistan for pushing the American agenda in Central Asia.”

In Baghdad and other dangerous locales, U.S. diplomats have sometimes found themselves cut off from the population in heavily fortified compounds surrounded by blast walls, concertina wire and armed guards.

“If you’re going to have people live in a car bomb-prone place, your are driven to not have a light footprint,” said Ronald Neumann, a former U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan and the president of the American Academy of Diplomacy. Neumann called the planned expansions “generally pretty justified.”

In Islamabad, according to State Department budget documents, the plan calls for the rapid construction of a $111 million new office annex to accommodate 330 workers; $197 million to build 156 permanent and 80 temporary housing units; and a $405 million replacement of the main embassy building. The existing embassy, in the capital’s leafy diplomatic enclave, was badly damaged in a 1979 assault by Pakistani students.

The U.S. government also plans to revamp its consular buildings in the eastern city of Lahore and in Peshawar, the regional capital of the militancy plagued North West Frontier Province. The consulate in the southern megacity of Karachi has just been relocated into a new purpose-built accommodation.

A senior State Department official confirmed that the U.S. plan for the consulate in Peshawar involves the purchase of the luxury Pearl Continental hotel. The official spoke on the condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to speak publicly.

The Pearl Contintental is the city’s only five-star hotel, set in its own expansive grounds, with a swimming pool. It’s owned by Pakistani tycoon Sadruddin Hashwani.

Peshawar is an important station for gathering intelligence on the tribal area that surrounds the city on three sides and is a base for al Qaida and the Taliban. The area also will be a focus for expanded U.S. aid programs, and the American mission in Peshawar has already expanded from three U.S. diplomats to several dozen.

In all, the administration requested $806 million for diplomatic construction and security in Pakistan.

“For the strong commitment the U.S. is making in the country of Pakistan, we need the necessary platform to fulfill our diplomatic mission,” said Jonathan Blyth of the State Department’s Overseas Buildings Operations bureau. “The embassy is in need of upgrading and expansion to meet our future mission requirements.”

A senior Pakistani official said the expansion has been under discussion for three years. “Pakistanis understand the need for having diplomatic missions expanding and the Americans always have had an enclave in Islamabad,” said the official, who requested anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to discuss the matter publicly. “Will some people exploit it? They will.”

In Kabul, the U.S. government is negotiating an $87 million purchase of a 30- to 40-acre parcel of land to expand the embassy. The Senate version of the appropriations bill omits all but $10 million of those funds.

(Shah is a McClatchy special correspondent. Jonathan S. Landay contributed to this article.)

McClatchy Newspapers 2009

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

National Ignition Facility “Opens” Amid Continuing Controversy

May 31st, 2009 - by admin

Suzanne Bohan / Contra Costa Times & Tri-Valley CAREs – 2009-05-31 23:26:44


World’s Largest Fusion Facility Today Celebrates Long, Difficult Road to Official Opening
Suzanne Bohan / Contra Costa Times

(May 29/2009) — The challenging pursuit of fusion is nothing new to Lawrence Livermore Laboratory scientists. In the lab’s early days in the 1950s, weapons designers successfully developed the fearsome hydrogen — or fusion — bomb, many times more powerful than the atomic bombs dropped on Japan in World War II. In 1952, the lab joined a program called Project Sherwood that attempted to control the force of fusion to create a virtually unlimited source of electrical energy.

Today, the lab enters the newest chapter in its fusion quest with the official opening of the multipurpose National Ignition Facility, 15 contentious years after the project’s approval. The massive, dark building on the eastern edge of Livermore – not far from hillsides dotted with grazing cows – covers the footprint of three football stadiums. With 192 lasers, it ranks as the world’s largest laser fusion facility.

The opening ceremony of the facility, called NIF, is expected to draw 3,500 and scheduled speakers include Secretary of Energy Steven Chu, Sen. Dianne Feinstein and scores of other dignitaries.

“The dedication of NIF marks a new era,” said Ed Moses, principal associate director of NIF. “Through NIF we have a path to fusion ignition, the same force that powers our sun and the stars. NIF will play a key role in ensuring our national security, opening new frontiers in basic science and possibly providing the pathway to fusion energy.”

“I think it’s wonderful,” said Richard Muller, a UC Berkeley physics professor and member of a NIF advisory panel. “What other reaction could there be?”

On the northwest corner of national weapon lab, however, longtime opponents of the project intend to gather throughout the day. They’ll have “an ‘evidence table’ with documents demonstrating that NIF is related to nuclear weapons design,” said Marylia Kelley, executive director of Tri-Valley CAREs, a watchdog group that monitors the lab, which is the birthplace of numerous types of nuclear weapons over the decades.

The lab insists no new weapons design work is under way. Instead, Moses said a critical NIF mission entails testing the reliability of the nation’s 5,000 nuclear warheads, to ensure they serve as a credible deterrent against attack.

Much of the public acclaim for NIF, however, focuses on its potential to provide the research for ultimately creating fusion power plants. For six decades, scientists have chased the dream of fusion power, as theoretically it could provide an inexhaustible source of energy using seawater as fuel, freeing countries from reliance on imported energy sources or environmentally-damaging fuel extraction methods. Now fusion’s potential for generating power without releasing greenhouse gases burnishes its appeal.

As the name implies, fusion ignition is NIF’s mission. Ignition means that a fusion reaction – the fusing of two hydrogen atoms – generates enough energy to sustain fusion reactions in surrounding fuel. So far, fusion reactions have been fleeting – and driven by external sources.

The challenges sound straightforward, but are exceedingly complex: Heat the hydrogen fuel to millions of degrees, propagate the reaction, and confine the reacting material in a stable state. Plasma physics is a field devoted to this endeavor.

“There’s always been one problem with fusion, and that’s that Mother Nature has not been totally cooperative,” said Moses. “That’s why it’s taken a protracted effort to sort it out. That’s why we had to build the NIF to finally do it.”

The project cost $3.5 billion, Moses said. Kelley and others dispute that figure, however, saying that figure accounts for the building, not other costs. She puts the price at more than $5 billion. It’s also opening six years behind schedule, and quadruple its original projected cost. The facility now employs 1,000.

NIF follows two other “inertial confinement fusion programs” at the Livermore lab, starting with the Shiva project in 1977 and followed by the NOVA facility in 1984. The latter was marred by a calculation error that rendered it technically impossible to achieve ignition, and its scope was scaled back. NIF replaces NOVA, and it builds on the knowledge gained from previous projects.

But doubters say NIF takes too big a technical leap from its predecessor, and that lab officials pushed it through despite a lack of rigorous peer review and after stacking scientific assessment panels in its favor.

For example, a successful 1997 lawsuit by the Natural Resources Defense Council, Tri-Valley CAREs and another plaintiff against the Department of Energy, which funds the lab, banned the agency from relying upon or disseminating data from a National Academies of Science committee studying NIF’s likelihood of achieving ignition. A U.S. District Court issued the ruling on the grounds that the agency violated a federal law requiring balanced representation in committees that federal agencies rely upon for advice, and open access to the committees’ meetings and documents.

And a 2005 review by an independent scientific advisory group called JASON concluded that ignition at NIF in 2010 was “unlikely,” although the group added advice for providing “a reasonable road map for progress toward ignition after the initial attempts.” Quoting that report’s findings, former Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M., vented his frustrations with the NIF project during a 2006 Senate committee hearing with the Energy Department agency that runs the Livermore Lab.

“I stand by watching and waiting and hoping that it works,” Domenici said at the hearing. “It is one of the biggest gambles I’ve ever voted for.”

“JASON said it was unlikely, they didn’t say it was impossible,” responded Thomas D’Agostino, administrator of the National Nuclear Security Administration. “We think the first credible ignition experiment will be done in 2010,” he said Thursday.

But Stephen Bodner, head of the laser fusion program at the Naval Research Laboratory from 1975 to 1999, counts himself among the doubters. Bodner also worked at the Livermore Lab from 1964 to 1974 in its fusion programs. “Everything would have to work according to optimistic scaling laws, and that seems unlikely,” he said.

What galls Kelley, with Tri-Valley CAREs, is the new focus on fusion energy as a critical aim of NIF, when nuclear weapons work was the reason Congress approved the project.

“I’ve seen NIF marketed three different ways through three different administrations,” Kelley said. “But the laser itself hasn’t changed.”

“Suddenly with Obama and global warming, it’s somehow going to solve the energy crisis,” she said.

D’Agostino said that NIF won’t be designed to produce new nuclear weapons, that it’s a question of “semantics” in that debate. Kelley said the facility will be used to add upgrades to the existing weapons – a form of new weapons work, in her view. But D’Agostino said that’s a critical step for ensuring the reliability of the warheads.

The simulated nuclear warheads testing program that NIF will conduct provides a critical means of reducing the number of nuclear weapons, said Muller, with UC Berkeley. U.S. presidents face tremendous pressure to resume nuclear testing, he said. The nation hadn’t conducted an underground nuclear test since 1992.

“This is a way of reducing them in reality by assuring that the few nuclear weapons we have left will be reliable, and by eliminating the need for (underground) testing,” he said.

But Bodner, who says that the lasers have never met their original design specifications, wonders whether NIF can provide reliable simulated weapons testing.

“The bigger question is, if the lab cannot face up to NIF’s failure to meet necessary specifications, then how can they be entrusted to maintain our enduring nuclear weapons stockpile?” Bodner asked.

D’Agostino, though, said the enthusiasm over NIF’s opening among scientists is palpable. “It’s hard to contain the excitement among the scientists. They never thought they’d get to this day.”

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

National Ignition Facility Ceremony Masks Serious Technical, Scientific, Environmental and Nuclear Weapons Policy Questions
>Tri-Valley CAREs (Communities Against a Radioactive Environment)

What: NIF Truth Telling Exhibit with 7 ft. x 4 ft. NIF poster and “evidence table” with government and other documents on NIF’s weapons applications, plutonium use, technical problems and other key facts not being told at the official NIF ceremony.
When: 9 AM – 2 PM, Friday, May 29, 2009
Where: Lawrence Livermore National Lab, corner of Vasco Rd. & Patterson Pass Rd.

LLIVERMORE, California (May 28, 2009) — The National Ignition Facility mega-laser is $4 billion over its original budget, construction is 9 years behind schedule, its “firm” date for thermonuclear ignition is once again fading into a more distant horizon, its actual mission to advance nuclear weapons design is being downplayed, and the controversial decision to use weapons-grade plutonium in NIF is being ignored — as are the myriad still-unresolved technical problems that make NIF “ignition” dubious at best. Moreover, according its fiscal year 2010 budget request, the claim of NIF “completion” may be in the eye of the beholder.

NIF Watchdogs Detail Concerns
Marylia Kelley said today: “Tri-Valley CAREs has been tracking the National Ignition Facility since it was proposed in 1992. NIF was conceived and budgeted as a nuclear weapons design project, and it remains so today.

In 2005, the Dept. of Energy expanded NIF’s weapons mission with a decision to add plutonium and other fissile materials into NIF experiments. The decision ran counter to DOE’s pledge not to use plutonium in NIF. The DOE has also decided to produce both the fusion and plutonium targets in Livermore, reneging on a separate promise to the community that the deuterium-tritium (radioactive hydrogen) fuel would be loaded at a more remote location due to the emissions.

The history of NIF is a history of broken promises and deception. This remains true today regarding NIF’s purpose, radioactive wastes and emissions ” and its scientific readiness. Tri-Valley CAREs undertook a detailed analysis of NIF’s technical problems in 2001 ” many of them remain unresolved today.” (See www.trivalleycares.org and our evidence table on Friday.)

Dr. Stephen Bodner noted: “Construction projects are generally measured by three variables: time, cost, and ultimate performance. The NIF has failed on all three. The performance failure is easily documented from Livermore’s own publications. The question now is, do they get away with it?”

According to Christopher Paine: “This celebration is a travesty and a farce, and I’m sorry to see the Secretary of Energy lend his prestige to this colossal misallocation of DOE’s taxpayer [monies]. In reality, the NIF Project remains where it has always been — a speculative gamble when it comes to the achievement of its primary mission — fusion ignition”at least seven years behind schedule, obscenely expensive for what it can actually deliver for either energy research or weapons stockpile reliability, and vastly over-budget when numerous hidden and ‘off-loaded’ ignition program costs are considered. The whole project is an object lesson in how not to do either stockpile stewardship or big science.”

Luciana Messina stated: [The fiscal Year 2010 budget request] “sounds like the activity of developing the software for the laser and target diagnostic systems has only just begun. I am most concerned about this [following] statement taken in conjunction with the increase in funding to $72 Million: ‘This subprogram also supports the installation qualification of the cryogenic target system, the assembly and testing of the opposed port shroud remover, the first set of continuous phase plates, user optics, and the installation qualification of both the tritium handling system and personnel and environmental…’

“If by 2010, ‘complete fabrication of cryogenics and diagnostics equipment to support ignition experiments on the NIF’ (p. 219) is to be achieved, the installation qualification (testing) of the target system and the tritium handling system, including hardware and software, should have been completed by now.”

“My conclusion is: With one year remaining, there is only time left to resolve the issues generated by the formal reviews of the qualification (acceptance) testing. The budget increase would indicate a large number of review findings remain to be resolved and that a significant amount of software design and implementation (and its cost) will be hidden under software “maintenance”.

Major issues not previously addressed in years of software requirements and design will be characterized as minor software implementation flaws. Software and its costs are the largest component of safety-critical, real time systems on the NIF, the public has seen neither yet.”

Les Miklosy said about NIF control software: “[The 2010 budget request] mentions several components of the integrated computer control system (ICCS) that I worked on. [It] refers to the database that defines the configuration of the NIF system during an experiment. The database was not in good shape in 2003 when Luciana worked with it, and it appears to be incomplete today as well. The diagnostics component and the experimental campaign management software sound like two more elements that were not addressed until very late in this project.

“I suspect they did not specify these components early on and now they will spend millions more to integrate these three components into the existing ICCS… The purpose of NIF continually changes to justify it’s further funding despite not meeting any criteria for success.”

• Marylia Kelley, Tri-Valley CAREs, Livermore, (925) 443-7148
• Dr. Stephen Bodner, Naval Research Lab, rtd, email only, bodners@earthlink.net
• Christopher Paine, Natural Resources Defense Council, (202) 289-6868
• Luciana Messina, NIF whistleblower, formerly at LLNL, (650) 575-6390
• Les Miklosy, NIF whistleblower, formerly at LLNL, email only, lgm0@verizon.net

ACTION ALERT: June is Torture Awareness Mont

May 31st, 2009 - by admin

National Religious Campaign Against Torture – 2009-05-31 23:11:26


June is Torture Awareness Month. We hope you will commemorate this important occasion for survivors and victims of torture in your community. Here are some programs and events that you can hold or attend in honor of Torture Awareness Month:

• June 26th is United Nation’s International Day of Support for Survivors and Victims of Torture. We hope you will choose to speak about torture that night in your congregations. RHR-NA will send out sermon talking points early in June.

• At noon on June 11, the National Religious Campaign Against Torture will sponsor a major religious public event in front of the White House asking President Obama to create a Commission of Inquiry. The President’s decision to block the release of new photos of detainee abuse makes it imperative that the religious community speak out powerfully to the need for a full accounting of US-sponsored torture since 9/11.

We are hoping to get as many rabbis and committed human rights activists to this event as possible. RHR-NA will be represented at the event: please let us know if you plan to attend. It is critical to make visible – to the White House and the nation – the religious community’s support for a full accounting of American torture policy since 9/11. Complete details.

• Ending Torture Forever
One exciting new resource available for your community is NRCAT’s new video and study guide, “Ending U.S.-Sponsored Torture Forever.” This 18-minute long DVD features interviews with people of faith, religious leaders, a victim of torture, and a former US interrogator. We hope you will show it in your community during Torture Awareness Month or at any point during 2009. Click here to order the DVD from NRCAT.

• Torture Awareness Month resources are available from RHR-NA, including prayers, study material, and Stop Torture banners.

The fight to end U.S.-sponsored torture is not over. We hope you will continue to raise this critical issue in your community.

Kol tuv,
Rabbi Rachel Kahn-Troster
Director of Education and Outreach

NRCAT’s Torture Awareness Month Activities – June 2009

June 26th is United Nations International Day in Support of Victims of Torture. A few years ago, religious and human rights organizations in the United States declared the month of June to be Torture Awareness Month as a way to provide greater visibility to this issue and provide an opportunity for coordinated actions across the country.

Please make plans NOW to join NRCAT in marking Torture Awareness Month by taking AT LEAST ONE of these actions in June. And please use this quick survey to tell us about your plans.

1. Now Available! Organize an educational event for your congregation, using NRCAT’s new 18-minute DVD and discussion guide: “Ending U.S.-sponsored Torture Forever.” You can view the trailer here . To view the 18-minute video, click here . You can order a copy for your congregation here.

2. Plan to join us in Washington, DC on June 11 for a Religious Public Witness in front of the White House. Click here for more information.

3. Incorporate a prayer or sermon about torture in a worship service during June. You can access a variety of worship resources, including an interfaith prayer and sample sermons here.

4. Make your opposition to torture visible with NRCAT’s new banners and bumper stickers. Order today from NRCAT’s Online Store. If your congregation already has an anti-torture banner, please display it during June.

5. Organize a delegation to visit the local district office of your Member(s) of Congress to advocate for a Commission of Inquiry and legislation making elements of the President’s executive order permanent in law. Members of Congress will most likely be in their home districts during the July 4th recess (June 29 to July 3).

More Ideas and Resources for Action:

Worship Resources (June 1 -14)
• Encourage your congregation’s leaders to incorporate a sermon, homily, responsive reading, prayer or some other form of liturgy within a worship service. An interfaith prayer and other worship materials are available from NRCAT. Petitions/letter-writing resources could be available after the service.

Study Resources (June 1 – 14)
• Encourage your congregation to organize an educational event (internal to the congregation or as a public gathering) using the new NRCAT adult study resource Ending U.S.-Sponsored Torture Forever that includes an 18-minute DVD and discussion guide.

≤b>• Click here to see the trailer.

• Other videos are also available: Primetime Torture or Taxi to the Dark Side.

• Participate in NRCAT’s Religious Public Witness in front of the White House on June 11. Click here for more information. If you can’t come to DC, consider organizing a local religious witness on that date.

• Consider organizing a public event (e.g., a speaker or a screening of Taxi to the Dark Side) or public witness (e.g., a candlelight vigil or solemn procession with banners) to mark the United Nations International Day in Support of Victims of Torture on Friday, June 26.

• Encourage your congregation to organize a delegation(s) to visit the local office(s) of your member(s) of Congress and advocate for a Commission of Inquiry and specific legislation. Interfaith delegations that include clergy are particularly effective. Members of Congress will likely be in their home districts for the July 4th recess, beginning Monday, June 29. More information will be on this page.

Community Outreach – Banners, Stickers, etc.
• If your congregation has an anti-torture banner, encourage your congregation’s leaders to display it in June.

• Encourage your congregation to purchase a new banner with a message focused on “Investigate. Legislate.”

• Actively promote NRCAT’s new bumper stickers and NRCAT’s poster showing banners displayed by congregations in June 2008.

Media Outreach
• Seek media coverage for your efforts, especially a public event or public witness on June 26 or a visit to your local congressional office. A sample media advisory will be available on this page.

* Seek a visit to the editorial board of your local newspaper to urge them to editorialize on NRCAT’s Agenda for 2009. Click here for guidelines for such visits, based on our successful project in 2008.

Other June Events of Note

For the past 12 years, the Torture Abolition and Survivor Support Coalition (TASSC) has played a crucial role in organizing survivors and their friends to publicly oppose torture everywhere in the world. This year TASSC will again sponsor June Survivors Week, which commemorates the UN International Day in Support of Survivors and Victims of Torture, and issues a call to abolish torture once and for all.

We are writing you to encourage you to send letters of support to survivors who will be gathered in front of the White House on June 27. Send your letters to campaign@nrcat.org, and a representative of NRCAT will share them with survivors on that day.

To learn more about TASSC, visit www.tassc.org.

Pakistan City Centre ‘Destroyed’

May 31st, 2009 - by admin

BBC World News – 2009-05-31 22:52:52


• VIDEO: Scenes of urban devastation in the center of the besieged city.

MINGORA, Pakistan (May 31, 2009) — The scale of the war damage to the main city in the Swat valley has become clear, as fears are expressed about the humanitarian situation in the region.

Taliban rebels were driven out of Mingora on Saturday by Pakistan government troops. The defence secretary says operations in the whole Swat valley region should end in the next few days, though military chiefs are more cautious.

A BBC correspondent who went to Mingora has reported widespread damage. Rifatullah Orakzai, reporting for the BBC’s Urdu Service, said that all the buildings and shops in the town square had been completely destroyed. However, local people have now been able to seek supplies in the town’s market after the lifting of a curfew.

Pakistan’s army said essential services were being restored to the city. The International Red Cross said it was “gravely concerned” by the humanitarian situation in Swat. Water and electricity were not available, there was no fuel for generators, most medical facilities had stopped operating and food was scarce, it said.

“The people of Swat need greater humanitarian protection and assistance immediately,” said Pascal Cuttat, head of the organisation’s delegation in Pakistan.

Fawad Hussein, of the United Nations office for the co-ordination of humanitarian affairs, said: “Since there is no electricity supply, the wells are not working. People are forced to use alternative water sources, which is causing water-borne diseases. There is no electricity in any of the health facilities.”

Some 2.5 million people have fled their homes since military operations began in Swat more than a month ago.

Army Operations

Earlier, the Pakistani Defence Minister, Syed Athar Ali, told a meeting of Asian nations in Singapore that only “5% to 10% of the job” of clearing the Taliban from the Swat valley remained. But an army spokesman said it was not possible to predict when the military operation would be completed.

Meanwhile, 40 militants were killed in an attack on a Pakistani army base near the Afghan border, officials said. Officials said four soldiers were also killed in an eight-hour gun battle at the camp in South Waziristan, a Taliban stronghold.

“Militants came in force and attacked a paramilitary camp and fighting lasted for eight hours,” an intelligence official in the region told Reuters news agency.

‘Elusive Enemy’

The army has said it will pursue “hardcore” rebels after recapturing Mingora, the main town in Swat. Mingora was home to 300,000 people before the fighting began.

“The main cities in the Swat valley stand clear today. The operation is being conducted in the countryside to the right and left of the valley and to the North… so the operation is ongoing and it will take a little more time,” army spokesman Maj Gen Athar Abbas told the BBC.

But while Maj Gen Abbas said the remaining militants were being hunted down, he could not confirm when the army’s operation in the area would be complete. “It’s difficult to give a timeline because this is an elusive enemy that has strongholds in the countryside,” he said.

The US is giving full backing to the Pakistani operations, which are linked to its own offensive against the Taliban in Afghanistan.


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

Torture and Truth

May 30th, 2009 - by admin

Jonathan Schell / The Nation – 2009-05-30 20:23:23


This article will appear in the June 15, 2009 edition of The Nation.

(May 27, 2009) — It has fallen to President Obama to deal with the policies and practices of torture inaugurated by the Bush administration. He started boldly, ordering an end to the abuses, announcing the closing in one year of the detention camp at Guantánamo and releasing the Bush-era Justice Department memos authorizing torture.

Subsequently, he seemed to grow cautious. He discouraged formation of an independent commission to investigate the torture and reversed a previous position in favor of releasing Pentagon photos of abuses and instead opposed release.

In his May 21 speech at the National Archives, he seemed to try to create a framework for understanding his policies, but they remained very much a work in progress. He surprisingly embraced a number of Bush policies, including military commissions for trying detainees, the use of the State Secrets privilege to protect information in court and the indefinite use of preventive detention — all to be revised in ways that were left vague or unspecified.

Yet among these reversals and improvisations, one very general preference has remained steady. Throughout, Obama has expressed a desire to concentrate on the “future” rather than the “past.” As he put it a while back, he is bent on “getting things right in the future, as opposed [to] looking at what we got wrong in the past.” Or as he said in the National Archives speech, “We need to focus on the future” while resisting those “with a strong desire to focus on the past.”

But can the United States really get things right in the future by turning away from the past? For one thing, the factual record is still incomplete. For another, the reasons for what went wrong aren’t as clear as they might at first seem. Why did the United States make the decision for torture? What changes does it portend for American life? It seems likely that getting things right will depend on having answers to these questions.

When the full history of the Bush administration is finally told, one event may prove iconic: the torture of the Al Qaeda operative Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, who recently died, allegedly by his own hand, in a prison in Libya, where he was sent by the United States. Libi was captured in Pakistan in late 2001.

At first, he was interrogated by the FBI, and he provided useful information on the inner workings of Al Qaeda. But more was wanted from him. The Bush administration, hellbent on justifying its forthcoming invasion of Iraq, was ransacking the intelligence bureaucracy to find or produce two things that, it turns out, did not exist: weapons of mass destruction programs in Iraq and cooperation between Al Qaeda and the regime of Saddam Hussein. Pressure to find evidence of both intensified in 2002.

At the same time, the practice of torture — authorized by the White House, the Justice Department and the Pentagon — was spreading throughout the intelligence and military establishments. Soon, prisoners were being tortured to provide evidence of the Al Qaeda-Saddam link.

As Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, former Secretary of State Colin Powell’s chief of staff, has stated, the “harsh interrogation in April and May of 2002…was not aimed at pre-empting another terrorist attack on the U.S. but discovering a smoking gun linking Iraq and Al Qaeda.”

And according to the recent Senate Armed Services Committee report on the treatment of detainees, a former Army psychiatrist, Maj. Charles Burney, has confirmed the charge. “A large part of the time,” he told Army investigators, “we were focused on trying to establish a link between Al Qaeda and Iraq and we were not successful…. The more frustrated people got in not being able to establish that link…there was more and more pressure to resort to measures that might produce more immediate results.”

The CIA took custody of Libi and began to expose him to abuse. Next, it “rendered” him to Egypt, where he was subjected to, among other torments, severe beatings and confinement in a tiny cage for more than eighty hours. He then produced the desired false statements linking Al Qaeda with the Iraqi government.

Just as minute specifications for torture were flowing down through the ranks of bureaucrats from the Justice Department, the Pentagon and the White House (where an array of abuses was once demonstrated to high officials, reportedly including cabinet members), so the results of the torture were flowing upward.

By this route, Libi and his testimony were destined for a history-making role. The centerpiece of Powell’s speech before the UN Security Council justifying the invasion of Iraq devoted a full nine paragraphs to a “senior terrorist operative” who “fortunately…is now detained.”

Libi, though unnamed, was the star of the performance. Powell unwound a long tale of terrorists and weapons of mass destruction (all subsequently disavowed by Libi as well as otherwise discredited). Al Qaeda, Powell said, had been pursuing weapons of mass destruction in Afghanistan but, finding the resources inadequate, had needed “to look outside of Afghanistan for help.”

So “they went to Iraq,” where they received “chemical or biological weapons training.” Thus did Powell weave together the two main fabrications about Iraq — that it was pursuing weapons of mass destruction and was cooperating with Al Qaeda. And Iraq’s avowals to the contrary? “It is all a web of lies,” he said.

The moment is worth dwelling on. In the most dramatic and widely watched presentation of the case for war, the secretary of state, a man of high reputation at home and abroad, was conveying perjured testimony exacted by torture to the entire world in its appointed agora, the UN Security Council.

Without knowing it, the assembled representatives had been dragged into complicity with a hidden system of torture. The war, as we learned later from the photos of Abu Ghraib, produced torture. But before that happened, torture had produced the war.

The event shows in microcosm the relationship of torture and truth. Supposedly, the aim of torture is to produce information. But its likelier outcome is to produce misinformation — which may be what is desired. A recent Washington Post cartoon by Tom Toles sums up the point. A torturer stands over his victim, who is on his back on a waterboard. The torturer says, “There’s the problem of getting false information.” Dick Cheney, standing next to him, responds, “Problem??”

This purpose of the Bush-era torture is inscribed in its origins. In the Korean War, the Chinese invented torture techniques whose aim was to force American prisoners of war to make false confessions of participation in war crimes for use in propaganda. Since false confessions, not information, were the desired product, a heavy emphasis was placed on sensory deprivation and other techniques for producing mental breakdown.

Later, in the so-called Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape program, the US military tried to train soldiers to resist confessing by subjecting them to milder variations of the techniques. It was these that the Bush administration turned back to their original use — which, of course, had been (and again was) not obtaining information but producing propaganda.

In a passage that uncannily anticipated the Powell speech, Elaine Scarry wrote in her classic work The Body in Pain that torture “permits one person’s body to be translated into another person’s voice” and “allows real human pain to be converted into a regime’s fiction of power.” The victim’s world is “shattered” by torture. More than any other experience, extreme pain shuts a person up in a world of incommunicable agony.

Jacobo Timerman, who underwent torture at the hands of the Argentine generals in the late 1970s, has written that even as he was tortured he tried to think how to communicate the experience to others in words but was unable. The torturer, inversely, asserts and expands his world — his word — at the expense of the shattered world of the victim, as Powell did at the UN. For, as Scarry writes, “the torturer and the regime have doubled their voice since the prisoner is now speaking their words.”

But why is the gain only the “fiction of power”? It might seem that more than any other activity torture is an exercise in absolute power. The torturer can do anything he dreams up to the perfectly helpless prisoner. He can take his time deciding what torments to impose. He can slam the prisoner’s head against a wall, waterboard him, order him to pray to a God not his own, smear his face with feces, lock him up in a small box, keep him awake for a week, hang him from the wall and beat him to death — all things that have been done in American detention centers since 9/11.

But what is that power, and how far does it extend beyond the torture chamber? Scarry observes that the state, in denying the victim’s pain, “converts the vision of suffering into the wholly illusory but, to the torturers and the regime they represent, wholly convincing spectacle of power.”

And it is “precisely because the reality of that power is so highly contestable, the regime so unstable, that torture is being used.” Libi’s behavior is a case in point. He produced material to buttress an illusion. The illusion was deployed to open the way to a war. The war had a high cost precisely in the currency of the power of the United States. Power to produce fantasy is not power in the real world, and the Iraq War has been a disaster in that real world.

It’s no accident, then, that the United States approved torture at the highest levels of government exactly at the moment it began the most precipitous decline in global power in its history. Torture is one more sign of this weakness, which it feeds. It is a mere pantomime of the power notably missing elsewhere.

In the torture chamber, the sole superpower still feels super, almost omnipotent. It is not so in the villages of Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan’s Swat Valley, or in Pyongyang or Tehran. The cult of force can create an illusion of power in the “black site” prisons. Even the illusion is missing outside them.

The wound goes deeper. Even as the torturer shatters the world of his victim, he assaults the foundation of his own world, although he does not know it. Indeed, his blindness is a consequence of the torture, even a condition for it. The torturer and his victim are close to each other. There is physical contact. Yet in every other respect they are as distant as it is possible for one person to be from another.

In the moral and affective vacuum that has been generated, sympathy, empathy, pity, understanding — every form of fellow-feeling — have been reduced to absolute zero. That is why torture is always, in Scarry’s words, an “undoing of civilization,” and, probably more reliably than anything, it foretells the descent of a civilization into barbarism. The power of the state that tortures may be increasingly fictional, but the degradation of its civilization is real.

Those symptoms are brought on, of course, not just by the torture but by society’s reaction to it. The interrogator faces his choice when the order to torture comes down from on high. The people face their choice when reports of what he did are made public, as is happening. If the people choose denial, the pathology of torture tends to reproduce itself in the society at large. The result is a kind of cognitive dislocation, which can be more or less severe.

Fundamental human capacities begin to atrophy or are impaired. Certainly, abuse of human beings and abuse of words go hand in hand. The words that name the deed fog over, or are driven from the language. Refusal to face the fact of torture has cost us the very word “torture,” now widely referred to, as if in obedience to some general edict, as “enhanced interrogation techniques” or “harsh methods.” Torture’s writ thus runs in the editorial rooms of newspapers.

Other words drift free from their appropriate contexts and float into inappropriate ones. For example, in a statement responding to the recent release of memos from the Office of Legal Counsel authorizing forms of torture, Dennis Blair, the director of national intelligence, objected to “pain” that had been caused. But he did not mean what one would have thought — the pain of the victims. He meant the torturers’ pain upon finding themselves censured for their abuse.

Recalling the discomfort of operatives who had been called to account after the Vietnam War, he said that he could “remember well the pain of those of us who served our country even when the policies we were carrying out were unpopular or could be second-guessed.” Now, he complained, “We in the intelligence community should not be subjected to similar pain.”

In this response, the screams of the tortured had been shut out and only the whining of the torturers could be heard. (Blair’s statement prompted a pitch-perfect satire on the blog Balkinization by David Luban, who penned a mock inquiry into whether “‘second-guessing’ would violate the prohibition on torture found at Section 2340A of title 18 of the United States Code.” He found that it did.)

Or consider the frequently made charge that indictment of those who performed or ordered torture would amount to “criminalizing policy decisions.” In this accusation, those who really criminalized policy — that is, those who ordered crimes as a matter of policy — are given immunity by charging those who would prosecute the crimes with “criminalizing.” Torture, after all, was made criminal not by those who would apply the law but by those who drafted and passed the law, including Title 18 of the US Criminal Code. The application of that law no more “criminalizes” any deed than a prosecutor criminalizes bank robbery when he indicts a bank robber.

At an even deeper level, the bonds that connect the very tenses of human life — past, present and future — may start to come unglued. It is in this context that our new president’s determination to get things right in the future by ignoring what went wrong in the past is troubling. Here, the past per se is at risk of being demeaned by a sort of guilt by association with torture. The other two tenses, though seemingly preferred, do not escape unharmed.

The danger is most obvious in the legal system, where it is precisely the past — the precedent of law plus the factual record of the case — that determines the future to be taken. Someone brought into court for dealing drugs is not invited to say to the judge, “Let’s not look at the past; let’s concentrate on getting the future right.” But more than the legal system is at stake. For whatever else civilization may be, it is surely intercourse between past, present and future. Without the past to guide it, judgment about the future is reduced to clueless conjecture, and without informed judgment about the future, we wander lost in the present.

Better to look the torture in the face and having looked, to remember, and having remembered, to respond, and having responded, to call those responsible to account so that we never do this again.

Jonathan Schell is the Harold Willens Peace Fellow at The Nation Institute and teaches a course on the nuclear dilemma at Yale. He is the author of The Seventh Decade: The New Shape of Nuclear Danger.

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Taguba Saw “Video of Male Soldier Sodomizing Female Detainee”

May 30th, 2009 - by admin

Jason Leopold / t r u t h o u t – 2009-05-30 20:18:58


(May 29, 2009) — In 2007, shortly after he was forced into retirement, Army Maj. Gen. Antonio M. Taguba made a startling admission. During the course of his investigation into the abuse of prisoners at Abu Ghraib, Taguba said he saw “a video of a male American soldier in uniform sodomizing a female detainee.”

Taguba told New Yorker reporter Seymour Hersh that he saw other graphic photos and videos as well, including one depicting the “sexual humiliation of a father with his son, who were both detainees.” That video, as well as photographs Taguba saw of US soldiers raping and torturing Iraqi prisoners, remains in the possession of the Army’s Criminal Investigation Division (CID).

Taguba said he did not discuss details of the photographs and videos in his voluminous report on abuses at Abu Ghraib because of the Army’s ongoing criminal probe and the photographs’ “extremely sensitive nature.”

Taguba’s report on the widespread abuse of prisoners did say that he found credible a report that a soldier had sodomized “a detainee with a chemical light and perhaps a broom stick.”

The rape video, or photographs like it, “was not made public in any of the subsequent court proceedings, nor has there been any public government mention of it,” Hersh wrote. “Such images would have added an even more inflammatory element to the outcry over Abu Ghraib.”

Now, a report in Britain’s Daily Telegraph this week stating that the photographs and video Taguba first described to Hersh two years ago were the ones the Obama administration has decided against releasing to the American Civil Liberties Union in a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit has done just that.

But the photographs described by the Telegraph are not those at the center of the five-year-old lawsuit between the Bush administration and the ACLU that Obama had agreed earlier this year to release.

Two weeks ago, after Obama decided against releasing the photographs, the Telegraph published a report along with several pictures depicting Iraqi prisoners being abused, implying that they were the ones Obama was withholding. That report was also incorrect, as the photographs the Telegraph published two weeks ago had first surfaced in 2006.

The photographs Obama has decided to withhold, as first reported by Truthout, are several dozen taken in 2003 and 2004 in which US Army soldiers in Afghanistan took dozens of pictures of their colleagues pointing assault rifles and pistols at the heads and backs of hooded and bound detainees.

Another photograph, found on a government computer, showed two male soldiers and one female soldier pointing a broom to one detainee “as if I was sticking the end of a broom stick into [his] rectum,” according to the female soldier’s account to an Army criminal investigator.

The documents that describe many of the photographs that had been set for release this month were housed on the ACLU’s web site. The ACLU obtained files describing the pictures in 2005 as part of the organization’s Freedom of information Act lawsuit against the Bush administration seeking documents related to the treatment of “war on terror” prisoners in US custody.

Amrit Singh, an ACLU staff attorney, confirmed that the photographs described in documents posted on the group’s web site were those that President Obama has decided to withhold, fearing the disclosure would stoke anti-American sentiment and endanger US troops.

White House press secretary Robert Gibbs and Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman suggested Thursday that the rape photographs don’t exist. That’s not true. They are just not part of the photographs Obama was set to release this month.

The appeals court panel ordered the 21 photographs taken in Afghanistan and Iraq depicting detainee abuse to be released. About 23 other pictures taken at undisclosed locations in Iraq and Afghanistan were also subject to release. There was speculation that, beyond these photographs, as many as 2,000 others may also be released.

The Army’s Criminal Investigation Division retains control over the most graphic images and videos depicting prisoner abuse and torture. The photographs and videos are classified, according to several high-ranking Pentagon officials.

The ACLU first filed its FOIA lawsuit seeking to obtain images in December 2003. Last September, the US Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit ordered the prisoner-abuse photos released. The Bush administration challenged the ruling, and in March the court denied that appeal petition.

The appeals court also shot down the Bush administration’s attempt to radically expand FOIA exemptions for withholding the photos, stating that the Bush administration had attempted to use the FOIA exemptions as “an all-purpose damper on global controversy.”

The appeals panel added that releasing the photographs “is likely to further the purposes of the Geneva Conventions by deterring future abuse of prisoners.”

In April, the Obama administration had agreed to release the photos because the Justice Department said it did not believe it could convince the Supreme Court to review the case. In court papers this week, the Obama administration indicated that it now intends to appeal the case to the Supreme Court.

Jason Leopold is editor in chief of The Public Record, www.pubrecord.org.

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UN Calls US Human Rights Record “Deplorable”

May 30th, 2009 - by admin

Mark Benjamin / Salon.com – 2009-05-30 20:15:43


UNITED NATIONS, NEW YORK (May. 29, 2009) — The United Nations has released a new report on accountability for human rights abuses by the United States, focusing mostly on transgressions during the Bush administration’s so-called war on terror. In a word, accountability in the US has been “deplorable.”

The May 26, 2009, report by Australian law professor Philip Alston, the U.N. special rapporteur on extrajudicial executions, does praise the United States for establishing compensation payments for civilians accidentally killed by U.S. forces in the heat of battle.

But Alston quickly adds the following: “However, there have been chronic and deplorable accountability failures with respect to policies, practice and conduct that resulted in alleged unlawful killings — including possible war crimes — in the United States’ international operations.”

A summary from the report follows below. But the body of the document doesn’t pull any punches either.

Here is what Alston says about at least five detainee deaths at Guantánamo: “The Department of Defense provided little public information about any of the five detainee deaths.”

He calls wrongheaded the failure of the United States to track civilian casualties in Iraq or Afghanistan, and he thinks that with a few rare exceptions, the military has done a pitiful job holding soldiers — or even more so, their superior officers — accountable for unlawful killing in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“Numerous other cases have either been inadequately investigated or senior officers have used administrative (non-judicial) proceedings instead of criminal prosecutions,” he wrote. “It appears that no U.S. officer above the rank of major has ever been prosecuted for the wrongful actions of the personnel under his or her command.”

He notes “credible reports” of at least five deaths caused by torture at the hands of the CIA. Except for one case of a CIA contractor, however, “No investigation has ever been released and alleged CIA involvement has never been publicly confirmed or denied.”

Alston doesn’t think the Justice Department has done a bang-up job either. “U.S. prosecutors have failed to use the laws on the books to investigate and prosecute (contractors) and civilian agents for wrongful deaths, including, in some cases, deaths credibly alleged to have resulted from torture and abuse.”

Without naming President Obama, Alston clearly thinks the president’s plan to simply move on won’t work. “A refusal to look back inevitably means moving forward in blindness,” he wrote. Instead, he advocates a “national ‘commission of inquiry’ tasked with carrying out an independent, systematic and sustained investigation of policies and practices that lead to deaths and other abuses.”

So far, Obama has thrown cold water on the idea.

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Sri Lanka Toll ‘May Never Be Known’

May 30th, 2009 - by admin

Al Jazeera – 2009-05-30 20:01:48


COLOMBO (May 31, 2009) — The world may never know the extent of civilian deaths during the final days of the Sri Lankan military’s assault on the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), a senior UN official has said.

Rejecting a newspaper report claiming that 20,000 civilians had died in the final days of the conflict, John Holmes, the UN humanitarian chief, on Friday said the death toll was “unclear.”. “I fear we may [never know], because I don’t know that the government would be prepared to co-operate with any inquiry,” Holmes said.

Reacting to the report in the UK-based Times, he said: “It may be right, it may be wrong, it may be far too high, it may even be too low. But we honestly don’t know. We’ve always said an investigation would be a good idea.”

“That figure [20,000] has no status as far as we’re concerned,” Holmes said.

‘Unverified Estimates’
Holmes said that the Times figure was based on an unverified and unofficial UN estimate of about 7,000 civilians dying during the end of April, and another 1,000 dying daily after that. He said that the initial figure of 7,000 deaths as the military closed in on the LTTE in the country’s northeast was not released by the UN as it was considered too unreliable.

Those were “estimates based on the best evidence that we had, but that wasn’t very good evidence because we weren’t really present in the [battle zone] in any systematic way,” Holmes said. “That’s why we didn’t publish them.”

Maja Darawala, the director of the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative, told Al Jazeera: “I realise that people feel from the past behaviour of the Sri Lankan government that they would be reluctant to have this issue examined by an independent panel. “But I think that for their own credibility and the future of peace in that island they must do it. These conjectures will become more and more damaging unless there is a simple way of checking it out. And there are simple ways. The evidence is there.”

During the final months of the war, civilian deaths were thought to have risen sharply. While government troops were accused of shelling civilians trapped in the conflict zone, the separatist Tamil Tiger fighters were suspected of using civilians as human shields., Both Colombo and the LTTE rejected the accusations.

UN Denial
The government banned journalists and international organisations from the conflict zone as they stepped up operations against the LTTE, meaning that any allegations of atrocities could not be verified. The UN Human Rights Council decided this week not to investigate the civilian deaths in the war.

Holmes also refuted an assertion in a Times editorial that the UN “had no right to collude in suppressing the appalling evidence” of a massacre undertaken by the government. “I resent this allegation that we’ve been colluding with the government in some way or not taking sufficient notice,” he said. “We have been the ones drawing attention to this problem when the media weren’t very interested several months ago.”

The UN estimates that between 80,000 and 100,000 people were killed since the LTTE took up arms in the early 1980s, seeking a separate homeland for ethnic Tamils in the north and east of the island country. The Tamil Tigers accused the Sinhala-dominated government in Colombo of neglecting the Tamil minority.

Al Jazeera and agencies

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An Early Call for Obama’s Resignation

May 30th, 2009 - by admin

Ted Rall / TedRall.com – 2009-05-30 10:32:14


An Early Call for Obama’s Resignation
With Democrats Like Him, Who Needs Dictators?

Ted Rall / TedRall.com

(May 28, 2009) — We expected broken promises. But the gap between the soaring expectations that accompanied Barack Obama’s inauguration and his wretched performance is the broadest such chasm in recent historical memory. This guy makes Bill Clinton look like a paragon of integrity and follow-through.

From healthcare to torture to the economy to war, Obama has reneged on pledges real and implied. So timid and so owned is he that he trembles in fear of offending, of all things, the government of Turkey. Obama has officially reneged on his campaign promise to acknowledge the Armenian genocide. When a president doesn’t have the ‘nads to annoy the Turks, why does he bother to show up for work in the morning?

Obama is useless. Worse than that, he’s dangerous. Which is why, if he has any patriotism left after the thousands of meetings he has sat through with corporate contributors, blood-sucking lobbyists and corrupt politicians, he ought to step down now–before he drags us further into the abyss.

I refer here to Obama’s plan for “preventive detentions.” If a cop or other government official thinks you might want to commit a crime someday, you could be held in “prolonged detention.” Reports in U.S. state-controlled media imply that Obama’s shocking new policy would only apply to Islamic terrorists (or, in this case, wannabe Islamic terrorists, and also kinda-sorta-maybe-thinking-about-terrorism dudes). As if that made it OK.

In practice, Obama wants to let government goons snatch you, me and anyone else they deem annoying off the street.

Preventive detention is the classic defining characteristic of a military dictatorship. Because dictatorial regimes rely on fear rather than consensus, their priority is self-preservation rather than improving their people’s lives. They worry obsessively over the one thing they can’t control, what Orwell called “thoughtcrime”–contempt for rulers that might someday translate to direct action.

Locking up people who haven’t done anything wrong is worse than un-American and a violent attack on the most basic principles of Western jurisprudence. It is contrary to the most essential notion of human decency. That anyone has ever been subjected to “preventive detention” is an outrage. That the President of the United States, a man who won an election because he promised to elevate our moral and political discourse, would even entertain such a revolting idea offends the idea of civilization itself.

Obama is cute. He is charming. But there is something rotten inside him. Unlike the Republicans who backed Bush, I won’t follow a terrible leader just because I voted for him. Obama has revealed himself. He is a monster, and he should remove himself from power.

“Prolonged detention,” reported The New York Times, would be inflicted upon “terrorism suspects who cannot be tried.”

“Cannot be tried.” Interesting choice of words.

Any “terrorism suspect” (can you be a suspect if you haven’t been charged with a crime?) can be tried. Anyone can be tried for anything. At this writing, a Somali child is sitting in a prison in New York, charged with piracy in the Indian Ocean, where the U.S. has no jurisdiction. Anyone can be tried. Why is it, exactly, that some prisoners “cannot be tried”?

The Old Grey Lady explains why Obama wants this “entirely new chapter in American law” in a boring little sentence buried a couple past the jump and a couple of hundred words down page A16: “Yet another question is what to do with the most problematic group of Guantánamo detainees: those who pose a national security threat but cannot be prosecuted, either for lack of evidence or because evidence is tainted.”

In democracies with functioning legal systems, it is assumed that people against whom there is a “lack of evidence” are innocent. They walk free. In countries where the rule of law prevails, in places blessedly free of fearful leaders whose only concern is staying in power, “tainted evidence” is no evidence at all. If you can’t prove that a defendant committed a crime–an actual crime, not a thoughtcrime–in a fair trial, you release him and apologize to the judge and jury for wasting their time.

It is amazing and incredible, after eight years of Bush’s lawless behavior, to have to still have to explain these things. For that reason alone, Obama should resign.

© 2009 Ted Rall

Ted Rall is the author of the new book “Silk Road to Ruin: Is Central Asia the New Middle East?,” an in-depth prose and graphic novel analysis of America’s next big foreign policy challenge.

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Climate Change Kills 315,00 a Year; Obama’s Climate Plan Undermined by Conservative Demmocrats

May 30th, 2009 - by admin

egan Rowling / Reuters & Kristen Sheeran & Mindy Lubber / Great Falls Tribune – 2009-05-30 10:30:16


Climate Change Causes 315,000 Deaths a Year
Megan Rowling / Reuters

LONDON (May 29, 2009) — Climate change kills about 315,000 people a year through hunger, sickness and weather disasters, and the annual death toll is expected to rise to half a million by 2030, a report said on Friday.

The study, commissioned by the Geneva-based Global Humanitarian Forum (GHF), estimates that climate change seriously affects 325 million people every year, a number that will more than double in 20 years to 10 percent of the world’s population (now about 6.7 billion).

Economic losses due to global warming amount to over $125 billion annually — more than the flow of aid from rich to poor nations — and are expected to rise to $340 billion each year by 2030, according to the report.

“Climate change is the greatest emerging humanitarian challenge of our time, causing suffering to hundreds of millions of people worldwide,” Kofi Annan, former U.N. secretary-general and GHF president, said in a statement.

“The first hit and worst affected are the world’s poorest groups, and yet they have done least to cause the problem.”

The report says developing countries bear more than nine-tenths of the human and economic burden of climate change, while the 50 poorest countries contribute less than 1 percent of the carbon emissions that are heating up the planet.

Annan urged governments due to meet at U.N. talks in Copenhagen in December to agree on an effective, fair and binding global pact to succeed the Kyoto Protocol, the world’s main mechanism for tackling global warming.

“Copenhagen needs to be the most ambitious international agreement ever negotiated,” he wrote in an introduction to the report. “The alternative is mass starvation, mass migration and mass sickness.”

The study warns that the true human impact of global warming is likely to be far more severe than it predicts, because it uses conservative U.N. scenarios. New scientific evidence points to greater and more rapid climate change.

The report calls for a particular focus on the 500 million people it identifies as extremely vulnerable because they live in poor countries most prone to droughts, floods, storms, sea-level rise and creeping deserts.

Africa is the region most at risk from climate change, home to 15 of the 20 most vulnerable countries, the report says. Other areas also facing the highest level of threat include South Asia and small island developing states.

To avoid the worst outcomes, the report says efforts to adapt to the effects of climate change must be scaled up 100 times in developing countries. International funds pledged for this purpose amount to only $400 million, compared with an average estimated cost of $32 billion annually, it notes.

“Funding from rich countries to help the poor and vulnerable adapt to climate change is not even 1 percent of what is needed,” said Barbara Stocking, chief executive of Oxfam in Britain and a GHF board member.

“This glaring injustice must be addressed at Copenhagen in December.” (Reporting by Megan Rowling, editing by Tim Pearce)

(c) Copyright Thomson Reuters 2009. Click For Restrictions.

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Do the Right Thing on Proposed Climate and Energy BillKristen Sheeran & Mindy Lubber / Great Falls Tribune

(May 29, 2009) — Nothing should have quieted critics of the proposed climate and energy bill in Congress more than the recent news that Ford Motor Co. is spending half a billion dollars to convert a Michigan factory that made SUVs to one that will produce electric cars far into the future.

The announcement demonstrates how moving to a new, low-carbon society will be good for business, create more jobs, spur the kind of innovation that made American industry great, and — if we do it right — put this country back in world leadership for clean technology and commerce.

Congress is now at a critical juncture in its consideration of landmark legislation proposed by Reps. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., and Edward Markey, D-Mass. The bill would accelerate our nation’s essential shift to greater energy efficiency and new renewable energy sources, and start phasing out our dependence on foreign oil and dirty coal.

Congress has wavered at this juncture before. It has succumbed to the false arguments that this transition would cost too much and burden business. Our present economic morass and the growing consequences of global warming should convince us that decisions made for short-term profit eventually are ruinous.

Instead, we need foresight and a willingness to prepare for the future.

American business has the ingenuity and drive to lead the way. Many members of Business for Innovative Climate and Energy Policy, a coalition of national and global companies including Nike, Starbucks, Symantec, eBay, Sun Microsystems and Levi Strauss, already have recognized the opportunities at hand.

Their pollution-reducing initiatives confirm what economic research has long demonstrated — smart policy can prevent climate change and improve economic performance. RealClimateEconomics.org demonstrates the weight of economic analyses that support this conclusion.

These companies now deal with a hodgepodge of state and international laws. Innovative companies that embrace clean technologies need a level playing field to compete. And they need to imbed their strategies in a broad national agenda to remake our economy for a livable 21st century.

We need to put our labor force to work by accelerating that makeover. We need to stop sending $2 billion a day to foreign oil producers, and we need to slow the assault on our climate by embracing energy efficiency and proven alternatives to fossil fuels.

We can send the right signal by putting a price on carbon dioxide emissions — polluting shouldn’t be free. With the right regulations and incentives we can reward industries that embrace a cleaner environment. We can stop subsidizing dirtier fuels and start promoting new technologies and energy savings.

The Waxman/Markey bill has many of these goals in its sights. It promotes clean energy and energy efficiency with a combination of incentives and gradual but mandatory targets. In the transition, it would create millions of good-paying jobs. It finances research and will put the dream of “clean coal” to the test. It will strengthen fuel standards and bring on the age of electric cars, revamp our aging power grid, and ramp down our greenhouse gas emissions by 15 to 20 percent in the next decade.

The bill should not be watered down with giveaways. Already, special interests are pushing for free “allowances” for carbon emissions, a risky course that in Europe resulted in unearned windfalls and few pollution reductions.

The Obama administration is right to push for carbon emission permits to be auctioned; the proceeds can finance programs to cut energy waste and reduce costs for consumers.

Legislators also must be careful not to set off a trade war by trying to shield American industries from international competitors that do not yet count global pollution costs. American leadership will set the stage for other countries to adopt climate solutions. The world has been waiting for the us — the world’s largest carbon producer — to act.

Other countries are already out ahead of us on the curve. Germany makes nearly half the world’s solar panels, and its second largest export is wind turbines. Automakers here and elsewhere are looking to Korea and China for the next generation of hybrid batteries. If we fail to act now, we risk falling further behind in the new green age.

We can no longer listen to those who grasp the buggy whip to flail against change. In 1995 opponents of bills aimed at eliminating ozone-depleting substances cried that industries would collapse under the weight of $135 billion in costs. The actual costs were barely one percent of what critics feared, the health benefits were enormous, and chemical companies made millions producing less dangerous chemicals. And, we halted the depletion of our ozone layer.

The climate and energy act before Congress can have a similar outcome, one that is good for the environment, the economy, households, and businesses. Congress should not lose its focus on this historic opportunity to do the right thing.

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Democrats Undermining Obama’s Energy Bill

Remember when Dick Cheney let oil and coal lobbyists craft our nation’s energy policy behind closed doors? Barack Obama may have thrown them out of the WHite House, but they;ve relocated to Capitol Hill, with the help of some powerful conservative Democrats in Congress.

In weeks of often secret negotiations over this year’s energy bill, these Democrats managed to not just weaken the legislation, but even to slip in language that would prevent the Obama administration from cleaning up coal plants and oil refineries.

Last wee, the House Energy and Commerice Committee, let by progressive Demmocrats Henry Waxman and Edward Markey, passe d a huge energy bniill aimed at creating clean energy jobs. But, unfortunately, t=a few conservatives on the committee e=were determined to weaken the bill — and weworkming behind closed doors, they did some real damage. And, what’s worse, they didn;t just work with Reb=publicans to weaknen the bill, they’are also trying to tie Obama’s hands so he can’t take actio on this own. The latest version of the legislation would take away the Environmental Protection Agen cy;s existing authority to curb glob al warminig polllutiion from powe plants, oil refineries and other industrial sources.

Why does this matter? Because the Obama administration is already taking its own steps toward s building a clean energy economy. The White House recently announced a bold plan to make cars use less gas — and the EPA is considering whether to propose new rules that would clean up coal plants and oil refineries.

These steps could move us toward cleaner, cheaper sources of energy and create millions of clean energy jobs — but not if Congress pulls the rug out from under President Obama before he can act.

We can’t let a few conservative Democrats get away with undermining Obama;’s clean energy jobs plan. So we;re fighting back with a massive campaign to fix the bill and expose members of Congress who are underminig Obama— but we need to have the resources to pull it off.

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