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Syria Accuses US of Destablizing Afghanistan, Somalia and Lebanon

October 31st, 2010 - by admin

Haaretz & The Associated Press – 2010-10-31 22:59:16


Syria Spurns US Bid to Mend Ties
America has sown chaos across the globe, says Assad in an apparent rejection of the Obama administration’s overtures.

(October 26, 2010) — Syria’s president has accused the United States of sowing chaos overseas, snubbing Washington’s efforts to improve ties with Damascus.

“Is Afghanistan stable? Is Somalia stable? Did they bring stability to Lebanon in 1983?” Assad asked, referring to US intervention in Lebanon’s 15-year civil war that ended in 1990.

In Washington, the State Department issued a strong rebuttal. Spokesman P.J. Crowley charged that Syria is destabilizing Lebanon by supplying arms to militants and issuing arrest warrants for Lebanese officials.

“These activities by Syria directly undermine Lebanon’s sovereignty and directly undermine Syria’s stated commitments to Lebanon’s sovereignty and independence,” Crowley said. We believe we’re playing a constructive role in the region, and we believe that Syria is not.

The tough retort appeared to run counter to US efforts to improve ties with Syria.

President Barack Obama has made repeated overtures to Damascus this year, nominating the first US ambassador to Syria since 2005 and sending top diplomats to meet with Assad. Obama is trying to lure Damascus away from its alliance with Iran and militant groups such as Hezbollah and the Palestinian Hamas.

But Syria has continued to strengthen ties with outspoken critics of Washington, such as Iran and Venezuela.

In Tuesday’s interview, Assad also warned that expected indictments in the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri could destroy Lebanon.

Assad said Lebanon is divided on a sectarian basis and that indictments in the case could rip the country apart.

“Any clash at any time between any group will sabotage Lebanon and destroy it,” he said.

A massive truck bombing in Beirut killed Hariri and 22 others on Feb. 14, 2005. A United Nations tribunal is investigating the case but has not indicted anyone.

Immediately after the killing, suspicion fell on neighboring Syria because Hariri had sought to weaken its domination of Lebanon. Syria has denied any role in the murder.

The killing galvanized opposition to Damascus and sparked huge street demonstrations that helped end Syria’s 29-year military presence in Lebanon. This paved the way for pro-Western parties to head the government in subsequent elections.

Many expect the tribunal to indict members of Hezbollah, the Syrian-backed Shiite militia that now shares power in a fragile unity government with a Western-backed coalition.

Hezbollah leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah has said he expects the tribunal to indict members of his group. He vows not to hand them over for prosecution.

Many fear that indictments of Hezbollah members could trigger violence between Shiite and Sunni Muslims. In 2008, sectarian clashes killed 81 people and nearly plunged Lebanon into another civil war.

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

Western Presence Fuels Yemen, Somalia Insecurity

October 31st, 2010 - by admin

Selah Hennessy / Voice of America – 2010-10-31 22:52:39


LONDON (October 21, 2010) — A new report says Western security measures in Yemen and Somalia are fueling militancy because local populations see it as a form of aggression. 
Yemen expert Ginny Hill co-authored the report that was published by the London-based research group Chatham House. 

“The US administration has been providing training and military equipment to the Yemeni armed forces for several years now,” said Hill. “And there has been an increase in that cooperation and that relation over the course of the last year. There have been a number of strikes where the US is alleged to have been involved. The key thing to note is that al-Qaida’s leadership remains intact despite the increase in resources and the increase in activity.”

Yemen became a focus of Western security concerns after a Yemen based group linked to al-Qaida claimed responsibility for a failed attempt to blow up a US-bound flight last December. 

Earlier this month, militants in Yemen’s capital attacked an armed British embassy car that was carrying a senior British diplomat. 

Hill says there is a danger that Western-backed security measures could contribute to tension inside Yemen.
”It is driving a wedge between the president and the tribes and in a country where there is an enormous amount of hostility towards American foreign policy in the region, it is contributing to perceptions that the government of Yemen does not legitimately represent its population,” Hill said.

She says rather than a military focus, the drive should be towards bringing economic and political stability to the country. 

Co-author Sally Healy, also from Chatham House, says the report wanted to highlight the acute differences between Somalia and Yemen. She says it is dangerous for security experts to lump them together. 

Western policies in both countries, she says, should look at the real issues in each country. 

”It should be imbedded in political settlements that make sense locally, and just giving security assistance to an ally or a friend in the region does not stabilize the situation if there are a lot of outstanding political problems yet to be resolved,” Healy said.

A new prime minister has recently been appointed in Somalia. Since the current government was formed in 2004, it has had two presidents and three prime ministers. Rebel groups control much of the south and center of the country. 

The report says Washington is arming, training, and funding local proxies in Yemen in order to combat terrorism. It says Washington channels its support for the transitional government in Somalia through the African peacekeeping force.

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

The Strange Case of the ‘Non-explosive’ Toner Bomb

October 30th, 2010 - by admin

Reuters & Infowars & JihadWatch & NBC NIghtly News – 2010-10-30 22:39:51


Explosives in US-bound Parcels from Yemen — Obama
Phil Stewart and Adrian Croft / Reuters

WASHINGTON/LONDON (October 29, 2010) — Security officials in Britain and Dubai intercepted two parcel bombs being sent from Yemen to the United States in a “credible terrorist threat,” US President Barack Obama said on Friday.

The parcels were bound for “two places of Jewish worship in Chicago,” Obama said. The Anti-Defamation League, a prominent Jewish organization, earlier warned of a danger to US Jewish institutions from packages mailed from Britain, Yemen and Saudi Arabia.

Suspicion fell on al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, which had taken responsibility for a failed plot to blow up a US passenger jet on Christmas Day in 2009.

The group, thought to include Yemenis and Saudis, is affiliated with al Qaeda, whose militants killed about 3,000 people in the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States in 2001.

“Initial examinations of those packages has determined that they do apparently contain explosive material,” Obama said in a televised briefing, calling it “a credible terrorist threat against our country.”

The White House said earlier that “both of these packages originated from Yemen” and Obama was notified of the threat on Thursday night.

Speaking just days before the US congressional elections on Tuesday, Obama said a top aide had spoken to Yemen’s president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, and that Saleh had pledged full cooperation in the investigation.

One of the packages was found on a United Parcel Service cargo plane at East Midlands Airport, about 160 miles (260 km) north of London. The other was discovered at a FedEx Corp facility in Dubai.

UPS and FedEx, the world’s largest cargo airline, said they were halting shipments from Yemen.

A Trial Run?
One US official and some analysts speculated that the parcels may have been a test of cargo screening procedures and the reaction of security officials. “This may be a trial run,” the US official said.

Intelligence about the possible plot had come from an ally abroad, the official said, without elaborating. The Daily Telegraph newspaper reported the suspected plot was uncovered by Britain’s MI6 security service “after receiving information from a source in Yemen.”

In the United States, UPS planes were checked in New Jersey and Philadelphia. The Transportation Security Administration said they were searched “out of an abundance of caution.”

The US Department of Homeland Security said it was tightening aviation security measures as a result of the scare. The British government said it was “too soon to say” whether it would follow suit but it was “urgently considering” what steps to take about freight coming from Yemen.

British police said an item found on the UPS plane was sent for further testing. CNN said it was an ink toner cartridge converted into a bomb.

Before Obama spoke, an FBI source had told Reuters that initial tests in Britain revealed no explosives.

An official source in the United Arab Emirates said “an explosive device was found in the package that originated in Yemen” and the parcel was similar to the one found in Britain.

Obama’s homeland security adviser, John Brennan, said it was not clear how the devices were supposed to be activated. “We were on to this,” Brennan said. “Clearly they are looking to identify vulnerabilities in our system.”

The man accused of the failed Christmas Day bombing, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, has told US investigators he got the device and training from al Qaeda militants in Yemen.

Since then, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and one of its leading figures, American-born Muslim cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, have become priority US targets. The United States has stepped up military aid to Yemen, which has been trying to quell the resurgent branch of al Qaeda.

Reporting by Ellen Wulfhorst, Michelle Nichols, Christine Kearney, Lynn Adler and Mark Egan in New York, Jeff Mason and Jeremy Pelofsky in Washington and Mohammed Abbas in London; Writing by John O’Callaghan; editing by Christopher Wilson.

Copyright © 2010 Yahoo! Inc. All rights reserved.

Corporate Media On High Alert Over “Manipulated” Toner Cartridge On UK Plane
Kurt Nimmo
/ Infowars.com

(October 29, 2010) — Officialdom and authorities jacked up the scary rhetoric this morning in response to a “manipulated” toner cartridge found on a plane in the United Kingdom that tested negative for the presence of explosive material.

“Airports in some of the United States were on high alert Friday after investigators found a suspicious package on a plane in the United Kingdom the night before, a law enforcement source with detailed knowledge of the investigation said,” reports CNN.

The FBI has added to the pre-election hysteria about scary men donning turbans by stating that they were inspecting “possible suspicious packages on three jets that flew in from Europe” to Philadelphia and New Jersey’s Newark airport, according to Bloomberg. “Out of an abundance of caution the planes were moved to a remote location where they are being met by law enforcement officials and swept,” the TSA said in a statement.

A UPS truck in Brooklyn was also stopped and checked. “Because these incidents are still being investigated, we don’t have any further details,” a UPS statement said.

The suspicious package that is not explosive or apparently threatening but has touched off a corporate media news blitz follows a barrage of absurd government propaganda about impending terror attacks.

In early October, US officialdom told “Americans to be vigilant” over the prospect of an unsubstantiated terror attack. The exaggerated travel warning was based on information described as intelligence that allegedly pointed to al-Qaeda cave dwellers planning attacks throughout Europe. No specific locations or countries were identified as targets. In early October, authorities warned there would be a Mumbai-style attack in Europe.

Prior to the latest scaremongering, Noman Benotman, a Libyan described as a former trainer at an Afghanistan terrorist camp originally established by the CIA, ISI and Saudi intelligence, said a Mumbai-style attack in Britain, France or Germany is still possible. “I have information that I consider to be reliable, according to which Al-Qaeda in North Waziristan is training how to carry out multiple parallel hostage taking in order to enforce the release of a prisoner,” Benotman told the German magazine Speigel.

On Thursday, the arrest of a naturalized US citizen born in Pakistan, Farooque Ahmed, prompted the NYPD to issue a warning to law enforcement reportedly highlighting the desire of violent extremists riled up by the FBI to target the subway system in New York City, according to Fox. “New York City remains a major target for terrorist groups,” states the NYPD SHIELD Terrorism Assessment.

Earlier in the week, the dead Osama bin Laden supposedly threatened French citizens with kidnappings and death for the horrible crime of banning full-face Islamic veils for women and the country’s presence in Afghanistan. “The equation is very clear and simple: as you kill, you will be killed; as you take others hostages, you will be taken hostages; as you waste our security we will… waste your security,” said the dead nemesis in a two minute recording.

The latest carnival of absurd events present more evidence the government is conditioning us to accept back-to-back non-terror events as an excuse to compromise our civil liberties, accept intrusive technology such as dangerous naked body scanners, and get acclimated to troops on the streets.

Harmless toner cartridges with white powder (?) and wires were reportedly headed to Chicago synagogues. “FBI spokesman Ross Rice added that while there are no identifiable or specific threats to the Chicago area, all churches, synagogues and mosques in the area are being warned to be vigilant for unsolicited or unexpected packages, especially those originating from overseas locations,” CBS News in Chicago reports.

“Authorities say the UPS plane was headed to Chicago from Yemen, and had on-board an ink toner cartridge that looked like it had been converted into a bomb. The plane was stopped in the UK Thursday night, CNN reported.”

Obama Says Packages from Yemen Contained Explosive Materials

An update on this story. “Suspicious packages ‘contain explosive material,’ Obama says,” from CNN, October 29:

Suspicious packages found in at least two locations abroad that were bound for the United States “apparently contain explosive material,” President Barack Obama said Friday, calling the discovery “a credible threat against our country.”

The packages led to increased searches of cargo planes and trucks in several US cities, said law enforcement sources with detailed knowledge of the investigation. US officials believe that al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, commonly referred to as AQAP, is behind the incident.

Obama confirmed that the packages originated in Yemen — the stronghold of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. “We also know that al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula continues to plan attacks against our homeland, our citizens, and our friends and allies,” he said during a press briefing on the incident.

One suspicious package, found in the United Kingdom, contained a “manipulated” toner cartridge and had white powder on it as well as wires and a circuit board, a law enforcement source said. A similar package was discovered in Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates, the source said.

Both packages were bound for the United States, “specifically two places of Jewish worship in Chicago,” Obama said. “Initial examination of those packages has determined they do apparently contain explosive material,” he said.

Authorities were looking for about 13 other packages shipped from Yemen, a law enforcement source said. Some of them had been found and an investigation of those had not indicated they are a threat, the source said.

There is no specific intelligence indicating the other packages are a threat or that they are in the United States, the source said, but authorities want to check them as a precaution.

A Yemeni diplomat in Washington said his government has opened a full-scale investigation into the incident but it was too early to speculate or reach any conclusions….

The New Face of Terrorism — or a Toner Cartridge?
News Blog & NBC Nightly News

On his October 29 newsblog, Brian Willians wrote:
One comment on the story that has occupied our day, and forced us to do no fewer than five special reports on the television network:

While we are expected to pass along stern Government warnings — delivered by officials with stern expressions, from the President on down, and including terms like “credible terrorist threat”– it’s a bit tough to get past the fact that these appear to be copy machine toner cartriges with white powder on them. One of them has what appears to be the back of an AM pocket radio circuit board attached with three screws and some would-be fasteners.

While it caused an international air cargo scare today, and while there is certainly a lot more we don’t know, this story looks strange on the face of it. Our own Richard Engel, who knows Yemen and the region well, late today called this “an attempt to discombobulate.” All day, Richard has been saying this reminds him of some fake IEDs he’s seen planted by the side of the road in Iraq just to test the US military response…in order to launch an attack the next time.

The good news? We’re getting a whole lot better at finding and following the red flags. We’ll pass along everything we know about this incident on our broadcast tonight.

Richard Engel, Chief Foreign Correspondent, speaking on the October 29 broadcast of Nightly News:
This kind of attack had a very low probability of success. It’s too inept. It doesn’t make sense. You’re sending a device. You’re sending something suspicious. Addressing it to a synagogue. You know you’re going to get caught. You know red flags are going to go up all over the world.

You’re sending something that’s been tampered with — from Yemen, to a synagogue. So the question is: is the intention to cause harm to that synagogue or is it to cause a big diversion?

A lot of attention has been focused on this today. That ties the United States up. It costs money. This attack — or this diversion — maybe cost them a couple of hundred dollars to do. Look how much attention has been focused on this today. And then by sitting back and watching it happen, you can learn a lot.

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

Navy Tries Fueling Ships and Jets with Algae-based Biofuel

October 30th, 2010 - by admin

Jason Dearen / Associated Press – 2010-10-30 15:04:44


Navy Taps Solazyme for Bioengineered Algae Fuel

South San Francisco (October 29, 2010) — The forest green algae bubbling in a stainless steel fermenting tank in a suburban warehouse may look like primordial pond scum, but it is a promising new source of domestically produced fuels being tested on the nation’s jets and warships.

In a laboratory just a few steps away from the warehouse, white-coated scientists for a company called Solazyme are changing the genetic makeup of algae to construct a new generation of fuels.

These “bioengineered” algae are placed into tanks, where they get fat on sugar beets, switch grass or a host of other plants. The sun’s energy, which is stored in the plants, is transformed by the hungry algae into oil, which can be refined into jet fuel, bio-diesel, cooking oil or even cosmetics.

While it may sound far-fetched, the US Navy in September ordered more than 150,000 gallons of ship and jet fuel from Solazyme, and the company received a $21.8 million grant from the US Department of Energy last year to build a new refinery in Riverside, Penn., to help push production to commercial levels.

“Most of the planet is producing some kind of plant matter, even in the oceans,” said Jonathan Wolfson, the CEO and co-founder of Solazyme. “(Our) unique microbial conversion technology process allows algae to produce oil in standard industrial fermentation facilities quickly, efficiently and at commercial scale.”

The US military hopes to run 50 percent of its fleet on a mixture of renewable fuels and nuclear power by 2020. As part of this drive, the Department of Defense has been investing in companies like Solazyme to help jump-start the young industry.

The military as a whole uses more than 90 percent of the energy consumed by the federal government, officials said. The federal government uses about 2 percent of the energy consumed by the United States.

The US Navy has already tested Solazyme’s algae fuels on part of its fleet, with promising results, and plans to have its entire non-nuclear fleet tested by the end of 2012.

Focusing on making fuels for the military was an easy choice for Solazyme – the biofuels market for passenger cars has taken a backseat to electric vehicles as the focus of the future consumer market.

However, billions of dollars of military aircraft and ships will not be replaced anytime soon, so finding a cleaner, domestically produced source of fuel compatible with the current generation of equipment is the best way to decrease reliance on foreign sources of oil.

“These alternative fuels provide some strategic advantages,” said Tom Hicks, deputy assistant secretary of the Navy for energy.

“We purchase fuels today from some parts of the world that are not very friendly to the US Having sources to replace those unfriendly fuel barrels with domestically grown fuel barrels is (important),” he said.

Fuels made from algae oil burn cleaner than fossil fuels and require no drilling to acquire, which means fewer greenhouse gas emissions from the beginning to the end of the fuel’s life cycle. Wolfson said Solazyme’s diesel fuels can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by more than 85 percent versus petroleum diesel, when you take into account the drilling, shipping and refining required in traditional fuel.

Currently, only about 1 percent of the fuels used by the Navy would be considered renewable by most standards. Sixteen percent of the Navy’s energy and fuel needs are achieved through nuclear power, with the rest from traditional sources.

For the Navy to achieve its 50 percent goals alone, production of algae and other renewable fuels will have to increase exponentially. Hicks said the Navy will need 8 million barrels of renewable fuels in 2020 to achieve its goals.

© 2010 Hearst Communications Inc.

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

No Terror Arrests in 100,000 Police Counter-terror Searches, Figures Show

October 30th, 2010 - by admin

Alan Travis / The Guardian – 2010-10-30 01:40:40


LONDON (28 October 28, 2010) — More than 100,000 people were stopped and searched by police under counter-terrorism powers last year but none of them were arrested for terrorism-related offences, according to Home Office figures published today.

The statistics show that 504 people out of the 101,248 searches were arrested for any offence — an arrest rate of 0.5%, compared with an average 10% arrest rate for street searches under normal police powers.

The figures prompted the former Conservative home affairs spokesman David Davis to call for the controversial policy to be scrapped.

“This astonishing fact of no terrorism-related arrests, let alone prosecutions or convictions, in over 100,000 stop and searches, demonstrates what a massively counter-productive policy this is,” said Davis.

“A policy which fuels resentment and antagonism amongst minority communities without achieving a single terrorist conviction serves only to help our enemies and increase the terrorism threat.”

The annual Home Office bulletin on the use of terror powers also discloses for the first time that more than 85,000 people were questioned by police at airports and other border points in the last years under counter-terrorist legislation. More than 2,600 of them were held for more than an hour.

As Home Office ministers consider proposals to cut the current 28-day limit on detention without charge of terror suspects, the official figures reveal that nobody has been held longer than 14 days for the last two years before being charged or released.

The annual bulletin on the police use of counter-terrorism powers shows that, since the 9/11 attacks, 1,834 people have been arrested in Britain in connection with terrorism-related incidents.

A total of 1,000 of those suspects have been released without charge, 422 charged with terrorism-related offences, 228 with other crimes, and the remaining 184 dealt with by other action such as being transferred to the immigration authorities.

So far, 237 of those charged with terrorism-related offences have been convicted. There are 14 outstanding trials yet to be completed.

The Home Office figures show that 102 convicted terrorists were serving prison sentences – 84 of them Muslims – as of 31 March this year, with a further 25 released into the community after finishing their sentences in the last year.

The bulletin shows that the use of section 44 counter-terrorism stop and searches, which allowed the police to randomly search anyone without grounds for suspicion in a designated area, declined sharply in advance of a ruling earlier this year by the European court of human rights that it was unlawful.

There were 101,248 searches under these powers in 2009/10, a 60% reduction on the previous year. The vast majority were carried out by the Metropolitan police in London or by the British Transport police. The use of section 44 powers peaked at more than a quarter of a million searches in 2008/09 in the aftermath of the Haymarket bomb attack in London in 2007.

The figures show that 506 people were arrested as a result of the 101,248 searches and none of these arrests had anything to do with terrorism. Home Office statisticians say this arrest rate of 0.5% of searches under counter-terrorism powers compares with an average 10% arrest rate for searches under normal police powers.

The home secretary, Theresa May, is considering the future of section 44 under the review of counter-terrorism legislation which is due to report in the next few weeks. Since the Strasbourg ruling a residual power under section 44 has remained in force to allow the police to conduct random searches of vehicles.

The police use of section 44 to stop and search on the street has further declined since March, when the official figures were collected. An ethnic breakdown of the 101,248 searches shows that 59% of those stopped were white and 27% were black or Asian.

The counter-terrorism review is also looking at whether the 28-day limit for detaining terror suspects without charge should be retained, with Liberal Democrats pressing to reduce it to 14 days. The figures show that since the limit was raised from 14 to 28 days in 2006, 11 people have been detained for longer than 14 days. In the last two years nobody has been held without charge for longer than 14 days.

Alan Travis is the home affairs editor for London’s The Guardian

guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010

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US Spending In Afghanistan Often Unaccounted For

October 30th, 2010 - by admin

Rachel Martin / National Public Radio – 2010-10-30 01:38:41


(October 29, 2010) — The US has spent billions of dollars on reconstruction projects in Afghanistan, much of it on private contractors who do everything from train Afghan security forces to build schools.

These projects are crucial to the US counterinsurgency strategy in Afghanistan.

Now more than eight years into the war, the government office in charge of tracking these projects has issued its first major report. The conclusion is that billions of dollars have been spent, but no one knows for sure what that money has bought.

Better Tracking System
Between 2007 and 2009, the US government paid $18 billion to roughly 7,000 contractors doing reconstruction in Afghanistan.

Patrick Peterson, who wrote the report for the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, says the big problem is that the agencies doling out those funds — mainly the Pentagon and the State Department — don’t have a clear way to track this kind of spending.

“There are contractors who provide food and meal service for our troops – that’s not easily distinguishable from a contract say to build a road in Afghanistan, conduct a police training or conduct an anti-drug operation in Afghanistan,” Peterson says. “That’s the challenge.”

Anthony Cordesman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies says this is no obscure accounting challenge. The US contracting problems in Afghanistan have huge consequences for the US military strategy.

“Has it seriously jeopardized our ability to win the war? The answer is yes,” he says.

Not being able to track reconstruction dollars means not knowing if projects designed to win over the Afghan people are working.

Counterproductive Reconstruction Efforts
At the same time, lax US contracting rules have, in some ways, actually fueled parts of the insurgency, Cordesman says. “You don’t know whether the money is being used by power brokers or corrupt officials or people who are using it to build up local power or, for that matter, simply to pay off the Taliban and other insurgents,” he says.

The reports issued this week by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction are the first to give a comprehensive look at how all contracting dollars are being spent. The big question is why it’s taken so long. “This might have been excusable going into Afghanistan in 2002,” Cordesman says. “We had no real experience in doing anything like this. More than eight years later, there’s absolutely no conceivable excuse.”

Congress didn’t pass legislation creating the Afghanistan Inspector General’s office until 2008. Now that the office is up and running, it’s produced a report that says the reconstruction records are so bad that it’s almost impossible to review them.

A Broken Office Overseeing The Spending?
Special Inspector General Arnold Fields says it’s his job to conduct audits and investigate the funds made available for reconstruction in Afghanistan. But, he says, “If I cannot identify those funds for reconstruction in Afghanistan then I’m unable to carry out the full measure of the legislation.”

Earlier this year the Afghanistan reconstruction office was itself audited and got a failing grade on management and standards. A group of senators, led by Missouri Democrat Claire McCaskill, the chair of the subcommittee on contracting oversight, has called on the White House to fire the special inspector general.

McCaskill says if the White House doesn’t act soon, she’ll call a special hearing on the matter when Congress re-convenes next month. She and others say you can’t expect to fix the contracting system in Afghanistan if the office meant to do the fixing is broken, too.

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308 Bullets Fired at Gaza Activists

October 30th, 2010 - by admin

Reuters & PressTV – 2010-10-30 01:35:40


308 Bullets Fired at Gaza Activists
Reuters & PressTV

(October 25, 2010) — Israel’s army chief says Israeli forces fired more than 300 live bullets during the takeover of the Turkish-flagged aid ship, Mavi Marmara, back in May.

In his second round of testimony before an Israeli inquiry panel on Sunday, the Israeli army’s Chief of Staff, Gabi Ashkenazi, said Israeli navy commandos fired 308 live bullets aboard the Gaza-bound aid vessel during the deadly takeover of the Gaza Freedom Flotilla on May 31, Reuters reported.

The six-ship civilian aid convoy was in international waters, heading for the blockaded Gaza Strip when it was stormed by Israeli forces who killed nine Turkish nationals onboard.

Testifying before the six-member investigation commission headed by former Supreme Court judge Yaacov Tirkel, Ashkenazi said the killing of nine activists on the Mavi Marmara had been unavoidable.

Israeli marine commandos were equipped with anti-riot gear, but quickly switched to live fire to confront the pro-Palestinian activists because “if they had not done this, there would have been more casualties,” Ashkenazi insisted.

Turkish forensic findings had earlier revealed that the nine dead activists were shot a total of 30 times, and gunshot wounds were found among 24 other passengers, who had sustained injuries in the incident.

Ashkenazi said passengers grabbed three Glock handguns and an Uzi machine pistol from Israeli forces and opened fire on the invading commandos.

But Mavi Marmara activists — who maintain the commandos’ use of deadly force was unprovoked — have said any guns taken from the troops were disposed of, rather than used.

In a report in September, the UN Human Rights Council stated that several passengers may have been executed.

The report referred to one of the nine victims, who suffered a fatal brain injury from a “beanbag” round — a heavy pad fired from a shotgun, which is meant to knock down, but not kill the person targeted.

Ankara suspended its relations with Tel Aviv following the May 31 onslaught, a strain intensified by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s support for what he called an “act of self-defense” by Israeli commandos.

Turkey demands compensation and a formal apology from Israel. It has also dismissed the Tirkel panel as being too limited in scope.

‘ICC Must Prosecute Flotilla Attackers’

(October 10, 2010) — On May 31, Israeli navy commandos stormed the Gaza Freedom Flotilla as it was heading for the blockaded Gaza Strip in international waters, killing nine Turkish activists onboard the six-vessel civilian humanitarian assistance Flotilla and injuring at least 50 others.

The families of the victims have petitioned the Hague-based world criminal court to examine possible war crimes carried out during the bloody takeover of the aid convoy, the Guardian reported on Friday.

Lawyers representing the activists wrote to the International Criminal Court (ICC), saying that they have definitive evidence of Israeli crimes, as well as professional opinions composed by internationally acclaimed legal experts.

“The attack on the Flotilla occurred in international waters, which directly violated many parts of international law as well as international public and criminal law,” said Ramazan Ariturk of the Elmadag Law Office, which is representing the Turkish victims and the human rights group IHH.

“The crimes committed by the Israel Defense Forces must be prosecuted and the International Criminal Court is the sole authority which is able to do that,” he added.

The Turkish lawyers believe that it falls within the jurisdiction of the ICC to punish those responsible for the Flotilla attack, even though Israel does not recognize the court’s authority.

They argue that the fact that Turkey was involved in the incident and that the attacked aid ship Mavi Marmara sailed under a Comoro Islands flag give the ICC the jurisdiction to examine the incident, since those states are signatories of the Rome Statute, which established the court.

A report by a fact-finding committee commissioned by the UN Commission on Human Rights (UNCHR) to probe the events surrounding the Flotilla attack charged Israel last month with violating international law and the human rights of the activists on board the convoy.

The UNCHR adopted the conclusions arrived at by the committee with 30 nations voting in favor and 15 states abstaining — and despite opposition from the United States, which became the only state to vote against the UN report.

The Human Rights Commission concluded that Israel’s siege on Gaza is illegal because of the humanitarian crisis it causes for the impoverished population living in the enclave. It also condemned the Israeli attack on the Flotilla as “brutal and disproportionate.”

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ACTION ALERT: Tell Caterpillar & Washington: No More Militarize Bulldozers for Israel

October 30th, 2010 - by admin

Jewish Voice for Peace – 2010-10-30 01:33:25


ACTION ALERT: Caterpillar Has Stopped Selling Bulldozers to Israel… for Now
Sydney Levy / Jewish Voice for Peace

(October 29, 2010) — I have remarkable news. The Israeli press is reporting that Caterpillar is withholding the delivery of tens of D9 bulldozers — valued at $50 million — to the Israeli military. (1)

These are weaponized bulldozers that are used to illegally destroy homes and orchards of Palestinian families. And they are the very same bulldozers as the one that killed a 23-year-old American peace activist named Rachel Corrie seven years ago when she tried to protect the home of the Nasrallah family in Gaza.

That’s why the next part of the story is even more amazing. The news reports say that the deliveries have been suspended now because Rachel’s parents, Cindy and Craig Corrie, are bringing a civil suit against the government of Israel in a court in Tel Aviv. (2)

The deliveries are to stop during the length of the trial. We take this as an indirect admission by the company that these bulldozers are being used to violate human rights and to violate the law. The Corrie story is sadly just one of thousands of stories of loss and pain.

A suspension of the sale of bulldozers is what we have been asking Caterpillar for over seven years now. This is a great win, but this is no time to let off the pressure.

Caterpillar and the US government have neither confirmed nor denied the news. And news reports describe the company’s move as a temporary decision only. To urge the US government to make this policy permanent, please sign the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation’s petition to President Obama to continue this new policy.

We need to hold both our government and corporations profiting from the occupation accountable. TIAA-CREF, one of the largest financial services in the United States, invests heavily in Caterpillar (over $250 million as of their last financial report).

Please ask TIAA-CREF to divest from Caterpillar and other companies that profit from the Israeli occupation. If TIAA-CREF divests from Caterpillar, it will have a rippling impact everywhere.

Since 2003, Jewish Voice for Peace has been filing annual shareholder resolutions to pressure Caterpillar with a growing coalition of interfaith partners. We’ve organized protests. We’ve taken over a CAT dealership. We’ve worked in support of Presbyterian and Methodist divestment initiatives from the company, and with your help, we are asking TIAA-CREF to divest from Caterpillar as well.

Caterpillar has never budged… until now.

Caterpillar’s irresponsible behavior comes with a heavy price tag. In the last ten years, at least 11,795 homes have been demolished. (3) These statistics, gruesome as they are, cannot do justice to the pain of so many families, to their razed livelihoods and their shattered dreams.

The picture above does not come from an earthquake scene. It depicts the man-made destruction and the hopelessness that the Caterpillar bulldozers bring at the hand of the soldiers who wield them. Let’s make sure that this is the last picture of this kind we get to see.

Thank you and shabbat shalom,
Sydney Levy / Jewish Voice for Peace

Dear President Obama,

On October 25, Israel’s Channel 2 news program reported that Caterpillar is delaying the delivery of tens of D9 bulldozers — valued at $50 million — to the Israeli military. Neither Caterpillar nor the US government has denied the report.

I strongly urge you to continue this suspension of US military aid. No deliveries of Caterpillar equipment to the Israeli military should take place at least until your Administration investigates Israel’s killing of US citizen Rachel Corrie with a Caterpillar bulldozer, investigates Israel’s possible violations of US laws with Caterpillar equipment, takes appropriate steps to correct any Israeli violations of these laws, and puts in place verifiable mechanisms to ensure that Israel follows all relevant US laws in the future.

Israel utilizes these bulldozers — in violation of the Arms Export Control Act and Foreign Assistance Act — to commit human rights abuses of Palestinians, including the injuring and killing of civilians; the destruction of homes, infrastructure, and agriculture; and the building of illegal settlements and Israel’s illegal wall in the West Bank.

I oppose my taxes, in the form of military aid to Israel, being used for these purposes.

(1) Report: Caterpillar to delay supply of D9 bulldozers to IDF. Jerusalem Post, Oct 25, 2010, as well as Israel’s Channel 2 TV, October 25, 2010 (evening broadcast in Hebrew).

(2) For updates on the trial, visit the Rachel Corrie Foundation for Peace and Justice.

(3) The statistics are from the Israeli Committee Against Home Demolitions and run up only until July 28, 2010, a day after the Bedouin village of al-Araqib in the northern Negev desert was razed to the ground. The village would be rebuilt and demolished five additional times (see Open Letter to JNF: Equal Rights, Sustainable Development for Negev, Not Dispossession of Bedouin! and El Araqib Village Demolished for Sixth Time.)

“Britain Should Never Have Fought this Shaming War”

October 29th, 2010 - by admin

Stephen Glover / The Daily Mail – 2010-10-29 01:21:18


Murder, Rape and the Final Proof that Britain Should Never Have Fought this Shaming War

LONDON (October 25, 2010) — The Iraq war was fought in the name of civilized values and common decency. The British and Americans presented themselves as the good guys, bringing democracy and the rule of law and humanity to a dysfunctional country ruled by a lunatic genocidal tyrant.

Saddam Hussein’s many crimes against humanity, including his brutal persecution of the Shia population and his murder of tens of thousands of Kurds in northern Iraq, were repeatedly emphasized by the US and British governments before the invasion, though perhaps sometimes exaggerated.

If this neat contrast between good and evil has already worn pretty thin in the seven-and-a-half years since the invasion of Iraq, it has now finally been blown apart by a massive leak of nearly 400,000 official American military “field reports” by WikiLeaks.

Of course, no one can dispute that Saddam was a very bad man who murdered very many people. But the documents show that the “liberation” of Iraq brought torture, rape, summary executions and war crimes on a scale which even critics of the war and occupation had hitherto not imagined.

We all know that terrible things happen in the confusion of war. Until the age of the internet, they may have been set down on pieces of paper that were sometimes later filed away — or not.

Now the full horror of events is amassed in an indestructible electronic archive which, at the touch of a key, can be leaked to the world’s media by an obscure dissident US military analyst. War may never be the same again.

Let me make clear that I am not an uncritical admirer of WikiLeaks, or its somewhat bizarre-looking founder, Julian Assange. When a few months ago the organization leaked disturbing details of NATO’s behavior in Afghanistan, it failed to blank out information about Afghans who had co-operated with NATO troops, thus potentially making them vulnerable to reprisals by the Taliban.

WikiLeaks claims to have deleted all the names from these Iraqi reports that could otherwise result in reprisals and it is very difficult to accept the Pentagon’s argument that American and Iraqi troops will be put at risk.

No one has challenged the authenticity of these documents and, in view of the terrible acts of brutality they reveal, it is surely a good thing that they should have been put in the public domain.

What they show is nothing less than mayhem and ¬murder. They also reveal a reluctance by American forces to hold their Iraqi allies to account. US authorities systematically failed to investigate hundreds of reports of abuse, torture, rape and murder by Iraqi police and soldiers.

Beatings and assaults on prisoners were repeatedly ignored. As recently as last December, American forces disregarded a video that had been passed to them which apparently showed Iraqi army officers executing a prisoner.

So much for Western “civilised” values. American troops are themselves implicated in many disquieting incidents. In February 2007, a US Apache helicopter killed two Iraqis, suspected of firing mortars, as they tried to surrender. Other Apaches strafed and killed at least 14 unarmed civilians in eastern Iraq in July 2007.

An estimated 681 civilians, including 30 children, were killed at checkpoints by Iraqi and US troops, whereas only 120 insurgents were shot in such incidents.

One can understand that fear rather than calculated savagery may have sometimes led jittery troops to fire at suspicious-looking civilians, but the large number of innocent deaths is nonetheless appalling.

These are not the allegations of anti-war journalists, which can be easily dismissed and swept aside by the authorities as biased or ill-informed.

They are the painstaking records of US forces on the spot, who obviously had no interest in exaggerating their own or Iraqi abuses. These are the cold, shocking, shaming facts.

No doubt because the reports concern the parts of Iraq controlled by American forces, the only significant references to British abuses are two reports from June 2008 describing two Iraqis being punched and kicked by unidentified British soldiers. Whether through the good fortune that their activities were not recorded by US reports, or because their behaviour was generally better, British troops appear in a less shameful light than Iraqi and American forces.

But I am afraid that does not exculpate the British Government from the part it played throughout these years. It was, after all, an Anglo-American operation. The torture, killing and general chaos that emerge in these reports followed from the joint invasion that took place in March 2003.

They confirm what even Tony Blair acknowledges in his recently published memoirs — that there was virtually no plan for running Iraq after Saddam Hussein had been toppled.

Can either Britain or America really have gone to war on such weak pretexts in modern times? Tony Blair tried to justify Britain’s involvement on the false grounds that Saddam possessed weapons of mass destruction that could be unleashed within 45 minutes.

President George W. Bush implied, equally falsely, that Saddam had been connected to the attack on the World Trade Centre in September 2001 and that Al-Qaeda had a strong presence in Iraq. It didn’t.

To what extent these two leaders knowingly misled us is, in a sense, a barren debate. It will never be proved beyond any doubt. All we really need to know is that both of them were tragically wrong, and that both of them were determined to invade Iraq come what may, pulling out the UN weapons inspectors before their job was complete.

What followed, after a relatively easy military victory, was confusion and the killing fields revealed in these documents released by WikiLeaks. They suggest that the number of civilian deaths was greater than has been assumed. A respected group called Iraq Body Count has increased its estimate of the number of civilians killed after the invasion by 15,000 to 122,000. That is an awful lot of innocent people.

That number may be revised again and, of course, more Iraqis may die. The Americans and British have left behind a country as disunited as ever, which cannot even boast a properly functioning government.

Yet even if the allies had installed a working democracy, it would hardly be possible to justify the deaths of 122,000 innocent people. Nothing can ever excuse the brutality and wanton disregard for human life minutely set down in these reports.

Nick Clegg, who to his credit has always opposed the Iraq war, struck a very different note yesterday to the Ministry of Defence, which condemned the leaks. The Deputy Prime Minister seemed to suggest that some sort of inquiry might be justifiable.

But what would an inquiry tell us that we do not already know? I revere the British troops who served our country, and sometimes died, in this futile war. They did their duty.

I fear, though, that these leaks confirm what most of us already recognise. This war was not merely futile. It was wrong and Britain should never have fought it.

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

Top General: Troops ‘Overwhelmed; Cannot Defeat Taliban’

October 29th, 2010 - by admin

Tom Hyland / The Age – 2010-10-29 01:00:30


Troops ‘Overwhelmed and Cannot Defeat Taliban’

SYDNEY (October 17, 2010) — The Taliban have “overwhelmed” foreign troops and cannot be defeated by military means, one of Australia’s top combat soldiers has warned.

Brigadier Mark Smethurst says securing Afghanistan could take decades, but success is uncertain without a fundamental change in strategy.

His critical assessment comes in a report that contrasts sharply with federal government claims of progress in Afghanistan.

While the key role of Australian troops is mentoring local forces, he says the Afghan army cannot operate independently, despite seven years of training, and the police are even worse.

The Afghan government is ineffective and has failed to deal with corruption, human rights abuses and a non-existent justice system. Aid distribution, he says, has been “wasteful, ineffective and insufficient.”

Brigadier Mark Smethurst implicitly criticizes the Howard government’s approach, and poses questions about the present government’s agenda.

While successive governments have stated we are in Afghanistan to deny al-Qaeda terrorists a base, the brigadier says the key reason is to maintain the US alliance.

In a paper that makes uneasy reading for MPs before this week’s parliamentary debate on Afghanistan, he implies that if we haven’t achieved our primary aim by 2012 — training Afghan troops — we should pull out.

“Compared with other counterinsurgency campaigns, the chance of a solution in the short term appears remote,” he says. “Even with the strongest possible action and co-operation at the national level, it is difficult to see solutions emerging in less than 10 years unless proactive action is taken now.”

Brigadier Smethurst is a highly regarded special forces officer, with service in East Timor, Iraq and Afghanistan in a 28-year career. At present deputy commander of Special Operations Command, he is tipped for a key coalition post in Afghanistan.

While his paper was written last year, he told The Sunday Age the basic tenets held true.

Called Creating Conditions for the Defeat of the Afghan Taliban: A Strategic Assessment, it was recently published online by the Australian Defence College.

He describes the Taliban as a “very capable adversary” who are winning the propaganda war and whose tactics had “overwhelmed the coalition.”

The insurgents “cannot be crushed by a conventional military campaign,” he says. As public support for the nine-year-old war in the West wanes, foreign efforts have made limited progress.

He calls for a co-ordinated military and political strategy aimed at providing security, building Afghan forces and creating a functioning Afghan government. Yet all three aims face massive obstacles, he writes.

The number of troops in Oruzgan, where Australians are based, is less than half the number recommended.

If Australia fails to reach its 2012 target, “any further commitment should be questioned, as Australia could be drawn into a greater security dilemma as the Taliban and al-Qaeda networks expand their control further into Pakistan and the region.”

While Australian and Dutch troops in Oruzgan had made substantial achievements, creating “ink spots” of security, “there is little real security beyond the areas of operations.” The lack of security means Australian aid workers and police trainers have had limited impact and “struggle to maintain a presence.”

Greater progress could have been made if Australia had adopted a “whole of government” approach when the Howard government sent reconstruction troops to Oruzgan in 2006.

The nature of Australia’s commitment also raises “many questions” about the agenda of Labor governments, with the defence white paper issued by the Rudd government last year declaring conflict in the Middle East was not the ADF’s principal task.

He warns the coalition must not be seen to fail in Afghanistan, because of the boost it would give to the Taliban in nuclear-armed Pakistan. A solution lies between the extremes of defeating the Taliban and reconciling with them.

He says walking away from Afghanistan risks allowing the country to flourish as a breeding ground and haven for Islamic extremism.

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