The Wider World - news summaries
"The lesson of history is that people do not learn the lesson of history." AJP Taylor:
"If those in charge of our society - politicians, corporate executives, and owners of press and television - can dominate our ideas, they will be secure in their power. They will not need soldiers patrolling the streets. We will control ourselves.": Howard Zinn, historian and author
"Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly and applying the wrong remedies." Groucho Marx
ARCHIVE September 05 - May 06 and earlier archives
Today's Papers, radio and other media
August 14 2006 ~ No word from Hezbollah that it will remove its troops from southern Lebanon as required for the ceasefire to hold.
August 14 2006 ~ " purposeless catastrophes" Guest Comment from Patrick McGreevy writing from Beirut - Informed Comment (should be read in full)
"....... Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni announced that Israel will negotiate for the release of the two prisoners captured on July 12, something Hezbollah was ready to do 33 days ago. Was the capture of these soldiers the equivalent of George Bush's weapons of mass destruction, a mere pretext for an operation to create a "new Middle East"? Both initiatives produced disasters for civilians, but did they achieve some hidden strategic objective too subtle for average people to grasp? Or are both of these wars of choice the purposeless catastrophes they appear to be? At least the battle of Lebanon has the possibility of passing away. The death watch continues. ..."
August 14 2006 ~ " It would be a demo for Iran" Seymour Hersh in the New Yorker claims that the Bush administration gave the "green light" to Israel's military strikes against Hizbollah - with plans drawn up months before two Israeli soldiers were seized. George Bush and Dick Cheney were convinced that it could both increase Israel's security and serve as a prelude to a American pre-emptive attack on Iran's nuclear installations. The White House also wanted Hezbollah stripped of the ability to retailiate against Israel in the wake of an American attack on Iran.
The Independent reports
".... .officials apparently started their inquiries with Vice-President Dick Cheney, knowing that if they secured his support, obtaining the backing of President Bush and Condoleezza Rice would be easier.
The report by Seymour Hersh quotes an unidentified US government consultant with close ties to the Israelis who says: "The Israelis told us it would be a cheap war with many benefits. Why oppose it? We'll be able to hunt down and bomb missiles, tunnels, and bunkers from the air. It would be a demo for Iran." ...."
August 14 2006 ~ "The only thing that the bombing has achieved so far is to unite the population against the Israelis" The New Yorker article above quotes Richard Armitage, who served as Deputy Secretary of State in Bushs first term
"If the most dominant military force in the region - the Israel Defense Forces - cant pacify a country like Lebanon, with a population of four million, you should think carefully about taking that template to Iran, with strategic depth and a population of seventy million. The only thing that the bombing has achieved so far is to unite the population against the Israelis."
August 14 2006 ~ Muslims must do more to tackle extremism in their communities Government ministers are, according to the Today Programme, "cross" that Muslim leaders have sent an open letter calling for a shift in British foreign policy to stop the radicalisation of young Muslims. (See BBC)
We remember that in early July the Government said "Moderate British Muslims are not doing enough to tackle the problem of extremism in their communities, which cannot be defeated by the Government alone" (sic) The Labour MP for Tooting, Sadiq Khan pointed out that the Task Force Preventing Extremism Together had not listened to the recommendations of the moderate Muslims that took part
".......Marched all these talented British Muslims up to the top of the hill of consultation and marched them down again .... ..if you don't do consultation, dialogue and engagement properly, the concern is they will think it has been a waste of time..."It is encouraging at least that William Hague, now Shadow Foreign Secretary, is saying that the vast majority of Muslims in the UK are moderates who need support from the wider community.
"Much of the answer to this lies within our own domestic policy," he said. "We all have to stand four-square with them in confronting this problem and creating a greater sense of cohesion in our own society and a greater shared identity in Britain."(Yet we hear with deep misgiving of a planned "English Crusade" in London on 10th September which, however peaceful and determinedly "English", could well be used by extremists to stir up more tension.)
August 14 2006 ~ Threat level In spite of the fact that the attacks were not imminent, the threat level went up to "critical" on Thursday 10th on the day when - apparently as a result of pressure from the US - it was decided to arrest suspects and John Reid had made his speech about the "need" to "modify" some of our "freedoms". (See below) John Reid says that police have been investigating around two dozen major terror plots and that at least four major terror plots had been foiled in the past year. Now, the threat level has been downgraded to "severe".
See article in the Telegraph
August 13 2006 ~The UN ceasefire is set to start at 0500 GMT tomorrow.
August 13 2006 ~ Iraq "A Shi'ite leader has called for neighborhood committees to provide security in their own districts and questioned the ability of Iraqi and U.S. forces to ease violence, which killed 48 more people on Sunday in Baghdad. .." Reuters reports
August 13 2006 ~ "an attack was not imminent... the suspects had not yet purchased any airline tickets.... some did not even have passports...." MSNBC reports that it was US officials that pressured the UK to arrest the suspects being watched. A spokesman from the White House is quoted in the article. He uses language that should raise more than mere hackles:
"...we worked together to protect our citizens from harm while ensuring that we gathered as much info as possible to bring the plotters to justice. There was no disagreement between U.S. and U.K. officials.."No sense here of the accused being assumed innocent until proved guilty. One does rather wonder what freedoms we still have. Alex Cox below also muses on freedoms; " We still have the freedom to shop, of course. And the freedom to go on a ludicrously-cheap piss-up weekend in Florida or the New Europe, as long as we don't mind sundry humiliations en route..."
August 13 2006 ~ "Almost everyone hates air travel. And so, Mr Tony's latest airport panic scare (coming the same day as British commanders in Afghanistan - in open rebellion against Blair's government - withdrew all their troops to Kabul) may backfire in a big way. If enough middle-aged, white businessmen like me choose not to fly, it will bankrupt several airlines and shut down a host of sock emporia and handbag shops. The Spanish purchase of Britain's airports will seem a very poor deal indeed. ...." Read Alex Cox on "Why I oppose Freedom"
August 13 2006 ~ The United Nations said Israeli and Lebanese leaders had agreed a ceasefire would take effect at 0500 GMT on Monday to end the month-old war, but fighting raged on Sunday as Israeli forces met fierce resistance from Hizbollah guerrillas.... Reuters
August 13 2006 ~ "replacement of truth by propaganda, disinformation, and the glorification of war, power, and the military .." Chalmers Johnson is a professor emeritus of the University of California, San Diego
"Four sorrows ... are certain to be visited on the United States. Their cumulative effect guarantees that the U.S. will cease to resemble the country outlined in the Constitution of 1787.
First, there will be a state of perpetual war, leading to more terrorism against Americans wherever they may be and a spreading reliance on nuclear weapons among smaller nations as they try to ward off the imperial juggernaut.
Second is a loss of democracy and Constitutional rights as the presidency eclipses Congress and is itself transformed from a co- equal 'executive branch' of government into a military junta.
Third is the replacement of truth by propaganda, disinformation, and the glorification of war, power, and the military legions.
Lastly, there is bankruptcy, as the United States pours its economic resources into ever more grandiose military projects and shortchanges the education, health, and safety of its citizens.": Chalmers Johnson, Sorrows of Empire
August 13 2006 ~ Matthew Parris ".....Watch out for the commentary that "after this week's discoveries, nothing will ever be quite the same again" - and prepare to spit. .." Times
"......how it must have felt to be a doubter in 1930s Germany, as clever, vigilant men joined up the dots and saw an international Jewish conspiracy. The chaps who, behind the apparent world, can discern the shadowy outline of witches, papists, communists or capitalist plotters will often appear cleverer and more prudent than the chaps who can't. .." read in full
August 12 2006 ~ Why now? Who benefits from the new security measures?
John Reid says that all the "main players" have been accounted for. (See FT) Scotland Yard Deputy Commissioner Paul Stephenson has announced that "we are confident that we have disrupted a plan by terrorists to cause untold death and destruction and commit mass murder".
The independent London journalist, Gwynne Dyer, comments:
"...Well done, lads - but if you have them all locked up, why are you closing the airports and bringing in all these draconian security measures now? A couple of months ago, when you first uncovered this plot but didn't know all the "main players", I could understand such drastic precautions, but why now?The same FT article reveals that Mr Blair and Mr Bush had also "spoken about the plot" in the days before the arrests. Mr Blair's holiday was not delayed. Mr Reid's speech was dead on cue. And our liberties are looking more and more vulnerable from those who tell us that the best way to keep our freedoms is to give them up.
Maybe it was those explosive "liquid chemicals" they were planning to smuggle aboard the planes. After all, it's only 160 years since nitroglycerine was invented. It's a mere 11 years since al-Qaeda associate Ramzi Yousef (See another FT article) plotted to blow up 12 airliners flying across the Pacific at the same time with nitro carried aboard in contact lens solution bottles. Who could have foreseen this? Quick! Bring in new security measures!...." Read in full at The Age
August 12 2006 ~ The UN Security Council Resolution 1701 was adopted unanimously by the Security Council today after more than a week of intense discussions. The resolution calls for a "full cessation of hostilities" and authorises 15,000 peacekeeping troops for the existing UN Interim Force in Lebanon. See BBC
August 12 2006 ~ Daniel Barenboim called for peace in the Middle East during a massive concert of his West-Eastern Divan Orchestra in Madrid on Thursday. The orchestra is made up of young musicians from countries such as Israel, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Egypt. The concert was dedicated to the victims of both sides of the current conflict. The statement referred to the "savage brutality" of the conflict between Hezbollah fighters and Israeli armed forces. Daniel Barenboim
"........ maintained he hadn't made a mistake when he insisted on a formal political statement. "I know people will say I'm just a naive musician and that I am making empty gestures that won't change anything in the Middle East," he said. "But what about those who believe that dropping bombs and firing rockets are the solution? I ask you - who is the more naive?"Edward Said (died 2003) considered the orchestra to be his greatest achievement - a moving statement when you consider Said's worldwide reputation
Various amendments were put to a vote but, eventually, the original text was approved.
In the last day of rehearsals, Barenboim summed up all the disagreements that had taken place. Then, raising his baton, he drew a definitive line under politics.
"Let's play!" he said...." BBC
August 10 2006 ~ Critical. Hmm. The threatened plot was not, apparently going to happen today. Comment from Spy org.uk which should be read in full.
"......If hold luggage is now jammed full of electronic equipment, like laptop computers, mobile phones etc, how can any bomb detonating mechnisms be detected via X-Ray etc ?(On the other hand, John Reid's irritated words about those who are under-impressed when there is no evidence given and no proper information released to the public did appear today .)
This makes a further mockery of the equally stupid "please switch on your electronic equipment" so called security check of hand luggage, which will now not be possible.
Is this Forest Gate all over again, with the media speculating about biological, chemical, nuclear and radiological ("dirty bomb") threats, simply because the Police were wearing protective suits and masks ?
The news reports claim that the authorities have had the plotters under surveillance for some time, but that the threatened plot was not, apparently going to happen today...."
August 10 2006 ~ "over stretched and under resourced" Huge coverage of Heathrow/bomb alert. Virtually none that the Defence Select Committee has reported today that UK troops in Iraq and Afghanistan are over stretched and under resourced. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/4777013.stm "Committee members visited Iraq in June and also say operations in Afghanistan are being done on a "shoe string". ..."
August 10 2006 ~ "Bigger, dafter, creepier" Gordon Brown's ID scheme rescue plan is described by John Lettuce at the Register
Extract "........Identity fraud, the Government keeps telling us, is a major concern (but apparently not major enough to warrant the Government measuring it properly ( http://www.theregister.co.uk/2005/05/25/id_bill_mk2_fraud_con/ )) and needs to be fought. Banks, credit card companies and major retailers however aren't automatically going to line up behind 'rock solid ID' at any cost, and nor will their customers. Yes, ID fraud is a cost to business and an inconvenience for the victims, but the costs are bearable, and the more security you have in a system, the more inconvenient it's likely to become. So there's a pretty strong argument that businesses think that they've got just about the right level of security now, and that they can keep losses within boundaries and absorb them as a cost of business. If an ID check at POS didn't take any time and was 100 per cent reliable and didn't require new hardware investment and cost virtually nothing, then maybe they'd see it as useful. Otherwise?
In addition to this, businesses aren't likely to want to trust the accuracy, reliability and security of Government systems. ..."
August 10 2006 ~ " Once dismantled, due process of the law will take centuries to rebuild" Meanwhile, in today's Guardian we read that "John Reid yesterday accused the government's anti-terror critics of putting national security at risk by their failure to recognise the serious nature of the threat facing Britain. "They just don't get it," he said..." and he warned that " ...traditional civil liberty arguments were not so much wrong as just made for another age."
"Sometimes we may have to modify some of our own freedoms in the short term in order to prevent their misuse and abuse by those who oppose our fundamental values and would destroy all of our freedoms in the modern world," he said.And news of a " major terrorist plot" is being reported carefully by the Guardian and elsewhere this very morning. Words like "Allegedly" and "police say" do not appear in articles accidentally.
Mr Reid said Britain was now facing "probably the most sustained period of severe threat since the end of the second world war" and that the country was facing a new breed of ruthless "unconstrained international terrorists".
That there is a threat to what Mr Reid calls "our fundamental values" is undeniable. Read again Lisa Jardine's Point of View
"...The process by which people who are alleged to have committed offences against the state are brought to court, so that the allegations against them can be properly examined, has been honed over centuries. Once dismantled, due process of the law will take centuries to rebuild.
If, in order to be able to detain those we suspect of intending harm, we reduce, for the time being, the long-established methods of accumulating evidence and establishing the burden of proof, how will we be able, at some future date, to reinstate them? How long will it take our children and our grandchildren to recognise the importance of what has been lost, to recover and reinstate the rights we freely gave away? "
August 10 2006 ~ pro-war Joe Lieberman loses crucial vote Mr Lieberman, "a senator for 17 years and Al Gore's running mate in 2000, narrowly lost the Connecticut Democratic primary election to Ned Lamont, a millionaire political near-novice who ran on a platform of opposition to the war in Iraq. The turnout of Connecticut Democrats was 50%, double the normal showing...." See Guardian
August 10 2006 ~ Eager, Erratic and Very Green A disturbing article about Iraq in the NYT " As Baghdad has slid further into chaos, the U.S. military has sent thousands of troops to bolster the raw Iraqi forces that police the capital.
".......Two years after the start of an all-out training effort by the United States and its allies, many of the early troubles remain: weak discipline, divided loyalties, failure to complete tasks, the tendency to fire wildly in every direction at the first sign of danger.
In Dawra, American commanders said they were concerned that their Iraqi counterparts had leaked the plan of the search operation, tipping off residents. In some of the roughly 5,000 buildings searched in the neighborhood, Iraqi officers failed to scour entire floors, then flashed Americans an O.K. sign as if they had. And one Iraqi accidentally shot another..."
August 7 2006 ~ "Most of us today, vigorously defend our political positions but have lost focus on creating and having a constructive dialogue" My friend, Yunes, Management Advisor to the Director General of the Islamic Cultural Centre and Central Mosque in London, recently welcomed a Jewish Delegation. His speech is moving. It should be read in full. In the light (or darkness) of what is happening, his words are a reminder that whatever the historical reasons for the present fear, misery and anger, and whatever the posturing of those addicted to power, it falls to ordinary people like ourselves to try to bring about forgiveness and reconciliation.
An extract from Yunes' speech
" .... Jews and Muslims for over a thousand years have contributed to Middle Eastern civilization ... Both peoples have been tied together by culture and history for centuries.
Most of us today, vigorously defend our political positions but have lost focus ....
.......Muslims and Jews alike should work together to have a constructive dialogue to break down the existing prejudices and discover the 'other'. Continuation of keeping ourselves ignorant of the 'other' will ultimately have overwhelming consequences religiously, socially and politically. If we fail to have a dialogue, we may lose our generations to hate and violence. ..." Read in full
August 6 2006 ~ Peak Oil Theory of the US-Israeli war on Lebanon Professor Cole says, "I've had a message from a European reader that leads me to consider a Peak Oil Theory of the US-Israeli war on Lebanon (and by proxy on Iran). I say, "consider" the "theory" because this is a thought experiment. I put it on the table to see if it can be knocked down, the way you would preliminary hypotheses in a science experiment...."
(An extract from what Prof Cole "puts on the table" follows - but I would urge warmwell readers to look in full both at Professor Cole's post and the letter to which he refers.)
".....JFR explained to the astonished audience that Iran was the most valuable country on the planet. They have one of the biggest holdings of gas and oil reserves in the world. second in gas, second in oil. On top of that they have direct access to the Persian Gulf, the Arabian Sea and the Caspian Sea what makes them a potential platform for the distribution of oil and gas to South Asia, Europe and East Asia. JRF called Iran 'the prize' . . .
The disaster in Lebanon actually was also part of JFR's presentation. He explained that the US government is 100% convinced, fanatically and completely convinced, that both, Hamas and Hizballah are creatures of Iran and that Iran uses them to undermine US goals in the region . . .
.....US petroleum corporations are denied significant opportunities for investment in the Iranian petroleum sector. Worse, Iran has made a big energy deal with China and is negotiating with India. As those two countries emerge as the superpowers of the 21st century, they will attempt to lock up Gulf petroleum and gas in proprietary contracts.
In a worst case scenario, Washington would like to retain the option of military action against Iran, so as to gain access to its resources and deny them to rivals. If Iran gets a nuclear weapon, however, that option will be foreclosed. ..." Read in full
August 6 2006 ~ Former Israeli Education Minister Shulamit Aloni spoke out in the demonstration by thousands of Israelis who marched from the Rabin Square to the Cinematheque plaza in Tel Aviv in protest of the fighting in Lebanon on Saturday. She said, "the government has allowed the destructive powers of the army to drag us into the killing. The Defense Forces cannot be tuned into the army of occupation and killing. We must call in international forces, negotiate and make peace." The demonstrators urged Israeli soldiers not to take part in the Lebanon operation, chanting: "Listen up, soldier - it's your duty to refuse." Other slogans recited by the participants were: "The occupation is a disaster, leave Lebanon now," and "Children in Beirut and Haifa want to go on living."
See also Informed Comment by Professor Juan Cole who adds,
".....Some readers question my repeated condemnation of Hizbullah for targeting civilian populations with its rockets. But the condemnation is much merited. What they are doing would be a war crime if they were a government. Since they aren't even a government, just a party-militia, I think the charge should be even more severe.
The Israeli public is beginning to turn on its political elite for its prosecution of the war and for its inability so far to stop the rockets. The Washington Post reveals that even in territories actually controlled by Israeli troops in Lebanon, the number of rocket launches is still 50% of what it would be were there no Israeli troops there. That admission is quite astonishing. So far the Israeli army can only cut the attacks from 200 to 100, even when it actually occupies the territory from which the attacks are coming! Some 38 percent of Israelis believe "no one" is winning this war. You can say that again."
August 6 2006 ~"The Israelis lack good intelligence. They have completely underestimated the size of the Hezbollah arsenal, the amount of weapons they've got stockpiled," Rosemary Hollis of the Chatham House foreign affairs institute said Saturday. (Yahoo News) "It's the classic situation of a guerrilla (war). You can't win except by the most appalling devastation, which is a pyrrhic victory anyway." Israel failed to identify how deep the militants bury themselves in southern Lebanon, and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert allowed himself to be convinced by the chief of staff -- who is from the air force -- that air power could achieve more that it can, the analyst believes.
August 6 2006 ~ Both sides spoke of fighting on " Israeli troops battled Hizbollah in south Lebanon and eight civilians died in two of many Israeli air strikes on Sunday as both sides spoke of fighting on, even if the U.N. Security Council votes to end the violence. .." Reuters
The UN resolution calls for
a "full cessation of hostilities," asks U.N. peacekeepers to monitor it and stipulates principles necessary for a permanent political settlement.
Reuters says "A vote has not been set yet but is expected on Monday or Tuesday. The resolution is the result of negotiations by the United States, an ally of Israel, and France, tipped as the possible leader of an anticipated international force for south Lebanon. The resolution is the first of two to deal with the violence that has killed more than 700 Lebanese and 78 Israelis. The second measure, expected in about two weeks, would cover plans for a permanent peace agreement and authorize the international force. Despite negative reactions from Lebanon and Hizbollah, most council members hope the resolution will at least subdue the fighting and allow access for relief workers."
August 6 2006 ~ UK Closure of Cottage Hospitals "...The decision to close many cottage hospitals across the country is driven by panic rather than patient need," said Karen Jennings, head of health at Unison.
"The relentless pressure on NHS Trusts to clear deficits is creating a perverse situation which goes against the government's own goal of providing more community-based services."Amicus, which represents 100,000 NHS workers, described the closures as the "ugly face of the government's reform agenda". "The effect of the reforms is felt by small communities across the country," a spokesperson said. ..." BBC
August 6 2006 ~ Iran's top nuclear negotiator, Ali Larijani, said on Sunday that any countries that impose sanctions on Iran's atomic work will get a painful riposte
"If they do, we will react in a way that would be painful for them," he told a news conference when asked about what would happen if the U.N. Security Council passed sanctions. "They should not think that they can hurt us and that we would stand still without reaction." Reuters
August 5 2006 ~ A Deal? " Lebanon suffered more Israeli airstrikes on Saturday, a day after jets killed at least 40 civilians and Hizbollah rockets hit deep inside Israel, as world powers edged slowly toward a deal to end hostilities. .....The main division on a draft U.N. Security Council resolution is between France and the United States. Paris wants existing U.N. peacekeepers and Lebanon's army to monitor a truce, while Washington wants the Israeli army to stay in southern Lebanon until an international force arrives. ." Reuters
".....Israeli jets (Saturday) hit a refugee camp in the coastal area south of Tyre which wounded one civilian, security sources said. Another air raid shook the northern entrance to Tyre. Israeli helicopters hovered overhead. On Friday, one Israeli airstrike killed 33 farm workers loading plums and peaches onto trucks and wounded another 20 near Qaa, in the Bekaa Valley close to the Syrian border....
....Hizbollah's response was not long in coming. Several rockets landed in or near the Israeli city of Hadera, some 80 km (50 miles) from the border -- the deepest rocket attack so far."
haaretz.com reports that "A senior Iranian official admitted for the first time Friday that Tehran did indeed supply long-range Zelzal-2 missiles to Hezbollah." The NYT says, "The Bush administration has carefully stopped short of accusing Iran of inciting the conflict between Israel and Hezbollah. .."
August 5 2006 ~ Families of soldiers killed in Iraq are to form political movement aimed at bringing down those they hold culpable for the deaths of their sons.
".....Spectre's steering committee is likely to comprise Mr Keys, Mrs Gentle and Mr Mackenzie, with Mike Aston, whose son Russell died alongside Thomas Keys, Peter Brierley, whose son Shaun died in Kuwait in 2003, Sue Smith, whose son Phillip Hewett died in a roadside bombing last year, and Beverley Clarke, who lost her son David to "friendly fire" in 2003. Mr Brierley, who put up £11,000 of his own money to fund last week's successful court action, says: "We can do a lot of damage to the ministers who supported the war. I don't particularly have an argument with the Labour party, or even most of the government. I blame the personal ambitions of one man: Tony Blair."...." Guardian
August 5 2006 ~ Israeli soldiers recount stories of a terrifying week facing the snipers and missiles of Hezbollah in southern Lebanon "It was hell. They are really well trained. They're not suckers, they know how to fight, said one, slumped on the pavement. You're scared the whole time over there. We didn't get any sleep the whole week." There was not a voice of dissent..." Times
August 5 2006 ~ UK debt "1.1 million adults in Great Britain are in some danger of becoming insolvent. The situation is here to stay and is set to grow.......Mark Sands, director of personal insolvency at KPMG, said: "Pressure could mount further as consumers face higher energy bills and rising interest rates and we predict a record number of personal insolvencies of 100,000 in 2006, and we think the figures mean someone is entering formal insolvency every minute of the working day."
The financial advisers Grant Thornton said the problem was "spiralling out of control". ...Vince Cable, Treasury spokesman for the Liberal Democrats, blamed the financial services industry for aggressive selling of credit and called on ministers to work with lenders to establish independent advice centres. .." Guardian
August 5 2006 ~ ".an Army unit numbed by months of extreme combat stress and left at one of the deadliest security checkpoints in Iraq without experienced leaders" The NYT reports on the case against U.S. soldiers accused of raping and killing a 14 year-old Iraqi girl
"You have to understand, the civilians here do not like us," the sergeant said. "They had a good life before we came here. It is 100-percent Sunni. They all work against us even when they act like our best friends."
August 4 2006 ~ Hasan Nasrallah issued a videotape on Thursday in which he threatened to send rockets on Tel Aviv if the Israelis bombed Beirut again. He told the Arab leaders that they are not going to be able to keep their positions in America's "New Middle East." They will be overthrown, he said, and their countries will be reduced to chaos and split up into small postage stamp countries. (He appeared to be reasoning on the basis of what the US has done to Iraq). Excerpts from the Daily Star article:
"Let my words be clear, any attack on Lebanon's capital, Beirut, will result in Hizbullah bombarding the Zionist entity's capital, Tel Aviv . . . We are ready to keep the whole thing restricted to a military fight with the Israeli Army, on the ground, fighters to fighters . . ."Nasrallah mocked the "stupid, massive and ignorant Israeli military machine"
Juan Cole comments:
".....Israeli television quoted a high Israeli military official saying in response that if Tel Aviv is hit, all of Lebanese infrastructure will be destroyed. AFP doesn't state the man's name, but he needs to read the Geneva Conventions..."He also says,
"...Nasrallah fancies himself a statesman and guerrilla fighter, but nothing could be more cowardly than to kill ordinary people on the street or in their cars. The indiscriminate character of his bombardments is demonstrated by his penchant for managing to kill so many Palestinian Israelis. Nasrallah is not the head of a state and has no recognized authority to wage war, and so is just a common serial murderer."It is falling to France, Egypt and Jordan to - as Cole says - "play the grownups" and try to get a cessation of military hostilities.
August 4 2006 ~Moscow takes Syria under its protection
".....According to our sources, Russia is deepening the port of Tartus ( Syria) where it has a naval materiel and technical supplies center. This may be regarded as evidence of Russia's determination to make Syria a bridgehead for boosting its influence with Middle East..." Global Research
August 4 2006 ~"What would you call a country where there is an armed insurgency that kills thousands each month?" Professor Juan Cole comments today, in his daily informed commentary on Iraq, "There was an outbreak of candor, deliberate and inadvertent, among UK and US officials on Thursday. In the UK, a dark memo from the outgoing British ambassador in Baghdad to Prime Minister Tony Blair was leaked..." However, he adds,
"....Patey's fear is misplaced. The real prospect is that the Sadrists will be the government of Iraq, not just an armed outsider.
The retired British Foreign Office diplomats generally feel that "Mr Blair has done more damage to British interests in the Middle East than Anthony Eden, who led the UK to disaster in Suez 50 years ago."
General John Abizaid, in a victory for plain talking, told the Senate on Thursday that Iraq was as bad as he had seen it and could easily slip into full-scale sectarian civil war. Abizaid was also the first general to admit that the country was in a guerrilla war. However, it is worth noting that by social science standards, Iraq has been in a civil war for years. What would you call a country where there is an armed insurgency that kills thousands each month?
Donald Rumsfeld in his testimony just dusted off Ayman al-Zawahiri's stock speech about a caliphate from Spain to the Philippines (which is ridiculous) and drew the opposite conclusion from that of Zawahiri-- the US must stay militarily in the Muslim world, otherwise the extremists win.
Uh, Donald, there were no Islamist extremists to speak of in Iraq before you invaded and occupied it. Leave, and maybe the Iraqis will find it easier to go back to a moderate secularism. Stay, and create a sea of beards.
The domino theory was false with regard to Communism. It is sure as hell false with regard to Bin Ladenism ...." Read in full
August 3 2006 ~ "I believe that the sectarian violence is probably as bad as I have seen it," General John Abizaid, the commander of US central command, told the Senate armed services committee. He said the top priority in the Iraq war was to secure the capital, where factional violence has surged in recent weeks despite efforts by the new Iraqi government to stop the fighting..." Guardian
August 3 2006 ~ "Each deeply suspicious..."
Hizbollah fired more rockets into Israel on Wednesday than on any previous day of the 22-day-old war, killing one Israeli and wounding 123 after helicopter-borne commandos launched Israel's deepest raid into Lebanon. Reuters
Israeli jets pounded Hizbollah's Beirut stronghold and troops battled the guerrillas in the south on Thursday while world powers struggled to come up with a plan to stop a war now in its fourth week. Reuters
August 3 2006 ~ "Civil war is the most likely outcome in Iraq a confidential memo to ministers obtained by the BBC from Britain's outgoing ambassador in Baghdad, William Patey, has warned
"...the position is not hopeless" - but Iraq would remain "messy and difficult" for the next five to 10 years.The Foreign Office said it did not comment on leaked documents. " BBC
August 3 2006 ~ Security: In Iraq, It's Difficult to Trust Anyone in Uniform NYT Iraqis have become suspicious and fearful of men dressed as those who are supposed to protect and serve.
August 2 2006 ~ "The United States and Britain are hoping that a United Nations Security Council resolution will force Iran and Syria to tread carefully before rearming Hezbollah, even though an existing resolution calling for the disarming of Lebanese militias has not been carried out. The Bush administration is also hoping that an international agreement will convince Hezbollah that it cannot continue to function as a military organization.
But the strategy depends on a weak Lebanese government being able to stand up to Hezbollah and on Israel pushing Hezbollah out of southern Lebanon. And it assumes that a settlement can be reached without Syrian assistance, something few diplomats, except those in the Bush administration, think is possible. The administration does not talk to Syria; it withdrew its ambassador last year after the assassination of a former Lebanese prime minister. United Nations investigators have linked Syria to the killing.
United States officials hope that their main Arab allies - Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia - can pressure Syria to distance itself from Iran and endorse the peace plan." NYT
August 2 2006 ~ Tony Blair is back in Britain. Deputy UN Secretary General Mark Malloch Brown has urged Mr Blair to take a back seat in Mid-East peace talks.
During his four day trip to the US Mr Blair has continued to avoid calling for an immediate ceasefire in Lebanon, insisting that he wants a proper plan for longlasting peace. The BBC has learned that Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett had urged Mr Blair to press the US to call for an immediate end to hostilities but that Downing Street rejected this. In Mr Blair's speech on Tuesday to the World Affairs Council he said that Syria and Iran were miscalculating if they continued to support terrorism and said they would "be confronted". :
"There is an arc of extremism now stretching across the Middle East and touching countries far outside that region."Reaction to Mr Blair's speech in the UK has been mixed, says the BBC.
"........Former Conservative Foreign Secretary Sir Malcolm Rifkind said it was "either naive or over-simplistic" of the prime minister to say conflicts such as those in Chechnya or Kashmir were part of a "world battle against terror".
"In Chechnya it's not a battle between freedom and terrorism, it's between Russian nationalism and Chechnya nationalism. In Kashmir, it's between India and Pakistan and to try and just draw all these threads in and simplify it in a rather foolish way indicates that the prime minister has become totally bereft of original thinking. The single greatest triumph of what he (Mr Blair) calls Islamic terrorism has been in Iraq, which is a direct consequence of his own policy and that of George Bush."
August 2 2006 ~ Hezbollah fired a barrage of more than 100 rockets at northern Israel today, killing an Israeli man at a kibbutz and wounding six. One missile reached as far south as the West Bank. The number of rockets hitting Israel had started to drop away in recent days, but today's total suggests that Hezbollah's military capacity remains far from crippled.
This morning Ehud Olmert, the Israeli Prime Minister, pledged that Israeli soldiers would carry on fighting in Lebanon until a strong international force was posted there to keep out Hezbollah and keep the peace.
"We are trying to push, more and more, the Hezbollah from where they were and to open up for the international force to take over, and the sooner the better," Mr Olmert told Reuters.
August 2 2006 ~ "....With France and the US vying to take the diplomatic lead, the UN chief summoned ambassadors from the five veto-bearing powers to breakfast at his residence to try to prevent a repeat of the splits over the 2003 Iraq war. . The big powers are considering dispatching a rapid reaction force to Lebanon, to be followed by a larger international force as part of a political settlement, diplomats said. ." Times
August 1 2006 ~ ".....Some Lebanese civilians took advantage of the bombing lull to move north out of southern Lebanon, and aid agencies drove convoys of food and medical supplies into the south. Lebanese rescue workers retrieved at least 49 bodies from destroyed buildings, Reuters said.
An Israeli Foreign Ministry official said Israel had agreed to the suspension and a 24-hour safe-passage period for civilians heading out of southern Lebanon as a way to "take the steam" out of Sunday's bombing in Qana.
But he also said the fight against Hezbollah would continue until there was a diplomatic solution that stopped the rocket fire against Israel and that deployed an international force on the border. "We couldn't ignore Qana," the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity, as is customary. "And if we want to continue to get the full cease-fire we want, with an international force, it was important to change the tone and the conversation."....." NewYork Times
August 1 2006 ~" Israeli troops fought fierce battles with Hizbollah guerrillas in southern Lebanon early on Tuesday, as the Jewish state gave the green light to widen a ground offensive and push deep into Lebanese territory. Hizbollah said it was battling Israeli incursions near the border areas of Aita al-Shaab and the village of Kfar Kila. An Israeli military source reported "on and off" clashes but did not give further details...
...Israel's inner security cabinet gave the go-ahead to widen the ground offensive against Hizbollah. "The security cabinet approved a widening of ground operations without any objections," a government official said early on Tuesday. The aim was to push Hizbollah back to the Litani River, some 20 km (13 miles) north of the border, a political source said. Israel Radio reported plans to call up more reserve soldiers to support the expanded ground operations. The radio said additional three divisions -- which could mean at least a further 15,000 reservists -- would be called up. " Reuters
August 1 2006 ~ Iraq "After months of struggling to forge a unified stance on the Iraq war, top congressional Democrats joined voices yesterday to call on President Bush to begin withdrawing U.S. troops by the end of the year and to "transition to a more limited mission" in the war-torn nation..." Washington Post
July 31 2006 ~ Sergeant Steven Roberts Times "An urgent request from army commanders for enhanced combat body armour to give extra protection to troops preparing to fight a war with Iraq in 2003 was delayed for two months by Geoff Hoon, then Defence Secretary.
A devastating report by a board of inquiry into the death of Sergeant Steven Roberts of the 2nd Royal Tank Regiment, who was not wearing one of the vital life-savers and died of a bullet wound in the chest on the fifth day of the war, said he would have survived had he been protected by the special body armour...."
July 31 2006 ~ no ceasefire"... Ehud Olmert has said there would be no ceasefire in the war until the threat from Hizbollah rocket attacks was removed and captured Israeli soldiers were freed. "The fighting continues. There is no ceasefire and there will not be any ceasefire in the coming days," Olmert told local officials, drawing sustained applause. Civilians fled battered villages in southern Lebanon after Israel agreed partially to halt air strikes for 48 hours, and aid convoys headed into the area to deliver supplies...." Reuters
July 31 2006 ~ "They have mounted a tiger, and can't be sure of getting off without being torn to pieces. War has its own rules. Unexpected things happen and dictate the next moves. And the next moves tend to be in one direction: escalation. ..." Informationclearinghouse Uri Avnery, an Israeli journalist, writer and peace activist.
".... one day before the outbreak of this war, our [Israeli] minister of national infrastructures, Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, took part in the inauguration ceremony of the big pipeline that will conduct oil from the huge Caspian Sea reserves to the Turkish port of Ceyhan, just next to the Syrian border. The Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline avoids Russia and passes through Azerbaijan and Georgia, two countries closely aligned with Israel, like Turkey itself.
There is a plan to bring a part of the oil from there along the Syrian and Lebanese coast to Ashkelon, where an existing pipeline will conduct it to Eilat, to be exported to the Far East.
Israel and Turkey are to secure the area for the United States.
Must the sliding into a war with Syria happen? Is there no alternative?
Of course there is. To stop now, at once." Read in full
July 31 2006 ~ Prime Minister Ehud Olmert clarified Monday morning that the decision to halt Israel's air strikes for 48 hours was the fruit of an Israeli initiative and not a "capitulation" to the United States' demands.
Sources at the Prime Minister's Office told Ynet on Monday morning that the Americans only asked for the creation of a humanitarian corridor through which refugees will be able to leave southern Lebanon and head north, but Israel decided to suspend its strikes in order to allow an investigation into the Qana village bombing, which killed 60 civilians, including 27 children. ..." Ynet
July 31 2006 ~ Robert Fisk in the Independent ".....This slaughter was an obscenity, an atrocity yes, if the Israeli air force truly bombs with the " pinpoint accuracy'' it claims, this was also a war crime. Israel claimed that missiles had been fired by Hizbollah gunmen from the south Lebanese town of Qana as if that justified this massacre. Israel's Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert, talked about "Muslim terror" threatening " western civilisation" as if the Hizbollah had killed all these poor people..."
July 31 2006 ~ "Condoleezza Rice returns to the U.S. capital today, her Middle East diplomatic mission in tatters after the Qana bombing and Washington's relationship with Jerusalem showing signs of strain for the first time since the fighting began....Rice did win agreement from Jerusalem to halt air strikes for 48 hours unless the Israelis learned that attacks were being prepared against them. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert agreed Israel would work with the United Nations to provide safe passage out of southern Lebanon for all those wishing to leave, the state department announced..." Toronto Star
July 31 2006 ~ Hezbollah firing metres away from apartment block Disturbing photos from the Herald Sun (Australia) include one of a group of men and youths preparing to fire an anti-aircraft gun metres from an apartment block with sheets hanging out on a balcony to dry.
Others show a militant with AK47 rifle guarding no-go zones after Israeli blitzes.
Another depicts the remnants of a Hezbollah Katyusha rocket in the middle of a residential block blown up in an Israeli air attack. The Melbourne man who smuggled the shots out of Beirut and did not wish to be named said he was less than 400m from the block when it was obliterated.
"Hezbollah came in to launch their rockets, then within minutes the area was blasted by Israeli jets," he said."Until the Hezbollah fighters arrived, it had not been touched by the Israelis. Then it was totally devastated. ..."
July 31 2006 ~ Hezbollah's leader, Hassan Nasrallah, has vowed to rain down more rockets on Israel Al Jazeera "....His comments came as Israel pressed ahead with its massive air and ground assault on Lebanon aimed at securing the release of two troops captured by Hezbollah in a July 12 cross-border raid.
The UN relief chief, Jan Egeland, had earlier appealed for a truce to allow casualties to be removed and food and medicine to be dispatched to war zones, saying one third of the casualties in the conflict were children.
There is something fundamentally wrong with a war where there are more dead children than armed men. That has to stop," he said, quoting Lebanese figures that put the death toll at 600. But the Israeli government spokesman, Avi Pazner, said, "There is no need for a 72-hour temporary ceasefire because Israel has opened a humanitarian corridor to and from Lebanon."..."
July 30 2006 ~ US: No immediate ceasefire, despite QanaUS Under Secretary for Political Affairs, Nicholas Burns emphasized that, in the event of an immediate ceasefire, "Hizbullah will keep firing on Israelis and Israel will stay in Lebanon."
He added that efforts to create a multinational force will continue, stating that several nations expressed willingness to participate in such a force, but refraining from naming them explicitly. Earlier, ynet reported that these states were France, Spain, Italy, Poland, Turkey, and India, who had been approached by the US. .."www.ynetnews.com
July 30 2006 ~ Pope Benedict XVI today appealed for an immediate cease-fire in the Middle East. "In the name of God, I appeal to all those responsible for this spiral of violence, so that they immediately put down their arms on all sides," he said.
July 30 2006 ~ Kofi Annan urges UN call for Lebanon ceasefire Annan said both sides bear responsibility for the violence and probably violations of international law. He said that no one disputed Israel's right to defend itself "but its manner of doing so it is causing death and suffering." France's U.N. Ambassador Jean-Marc de la Sabliere, expressing dismay at the attack on Qana, said "such an action cannot be justified" and renewed his government's plea for an immediate end to the fighting...." Reuters
July 30 2006 ~ "Hezbollah has launched rockets at northern Israel for years. "They come every few months," said Kobi Simchi, a bomb disposal technician at the Galilee district's bomb squad headquarters in Acre. There are several kinds of rockets falling on Israel, many of them more powerful than Katyushas..... ..." NYT ".....The United States....backs Israeli demands for the Lebanese army, bolstered by an international force, to deploy to the south of the country currently controlled by Hizbollah which has used the territory to rain rockets down on towns in northern Israel. "
July 30 2006 ~ QANA, Lebanon " An Israeli air strike killed 54 civilians, including 37 children, on Sunday, prompting Lebanon to tell U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice she was unwelcome in Beirut and fuelling world pressure for a ceasefire. .." Reuters
"....Prime Minister Ehud Olmert justified the action, saying Tel Aviv had warned residents to leave and put the blame on Hizbollah for launching rockets from the area.
"All the residents were warned and called to leave. There are hiding places for rockets inside the village, and the village itself constitutes a shelter for rocket launchers," Olmert said.
"No one gave an instruction to fire on civilians, and this doesn't mean that any of us gave an order to fire at civilians. We have no policy of killing innocent civilians. For 18 days hundreds and thousands of missiles have been fired, aimed at murdering innocent civilians in the north." Zeenews.com
July 30 2006 ~"...The prime minister, who held talks with President Bush at the White House on Friday, is now spending several days in California promoting his climate change plans and UK hi-tech business. " BBC
July 30 2006 ~ Something bad is going to happen Robert Fisk on Seymour Hersh : "The greying, bespectacled, obscenity-swearing Hersh is about all we have left to frighten the most powerful man in the world....robert-fisk.com So it's good to know he's still doing some fighting...
"I know some serious generals," he says. "I can't urge them to go public. They'd be attacked by Fox (TV), and the (New York) Times and The Washington Post would wring their hands. It's a mechanism. You don't get rewarded in the newsroom for being a malcontent...They don't know what it's like to be on social welfare. Their families weren't in Vietnam and their families are not in Iraq." The BBC, too, has "fallen off the way"
.....Hersh has also been casting his wizened eye on the Brits.
"Your country is very worried about what Bush is going to do - your people" - Hersh means the Foreign Office - "are really worried. There are no clearances ... no consultations."In Washington, "advocating humanity, peace, integrity is not a value in the power structure ... my government are incapable of leaving (Iraq). They don't know how to get out of Baghdad. We can't get out. In this war, the end is going to be very, very messy - because we don't know how to get out. We're going to get out body by body. I think that scares the hell out of me." It's all put neatly by one of Hersh's sources in the Pentagon: "The problem is that the Iranians realise that only by becoming a nuclear state can they defend themselves against the US. Something bad is going to happen."
July 30 2006 ~ "Aid" corridors are an illusion " An international medical charity has said that Israel's promised humanitarian aid corridors in south Lebanon are an illusion and that rockets have landed close to its teams two days in a row." english.aljazeera.net
"It's a kind of humanitarian alibi because in effect there is no real humanitarian access in the south," said Christopher Stokes of Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) "The international community is deluding itself, if it believes there is."
July 30 2006 ~ The truth of Blair's 'urgent diplomacy' Blair and his masters regard ceasefires as a weapon, a means to a political end.
Robert Fisk in the Independent
".... the compliant, gutless, shameful refusal of Bush, Rice and Lord Blair of Kut al-Amara to bring this bloodbath to an end sentenced many hundreds of innocent Lebanese to death. As I write this near the village of Blat, which has its own little list of civilian dead, it's quite clear that many more innocent Lebanese are being prepared for the slaughter - and will indeed die in the coming days. What was it Condoleezza Rice said? That "a hasty ceasefire would not be a good thing"? What was Blair's pathetic excuse at the G8 summit? That it was much better to have a ceasefire that would last than one which might break down? .."
July 29/30 2006 ~ "More than 1,000 tonnes of Red Cross emergency relief has reached Lebanon, where concern is growing about shortages of water and food in many villages. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) reported that the health, water and nutrition situation is "alarming" after recent visits to villages in the far south of Lebanon. Water is scarce, as tanker trucks are no longer supplying some of the villages. Moreover, water pumps are not working due to lack of electricity and fuel. Food supplies are running low and basic medicines are needed, in particular for the treatment of chronic diseases...." Donate to the International Red Cross (new window) - and hope that some aid does get there.
July 29/30 2006 ~ stark, staring bonkers "How mad for Britain to be the US poodle: the neocons will fade away" Matthem Parris in the Times is aghast at ".... some dangerous voices in the Parliamentary Conservative Party, and outside it among the set to whom senior Tories listen. One of these voices is Michael Gove, my fellow-columnist and the capable frontbencher who speaks on housing and has just had a notable success on housing information packs. Michael is a moral man, a subtle and persuasive writer, a spellbinding speaker and a powerful mind. He is also - on questions of foreign policy - stark, staring bonkers.
"....I have enough faith in Michael's intellect and honesty to be confident that, in 20 years time, he will look back on this phase in his ideological journey as a passing embarrassment. But Michael is free to alter his opinions. Mr Cameron, if he gets stuck on the record with any variant of them, will not be. This Conservative leader has no need yet to nail his colours to any mast. Let him give the good ship Neo-con a wide berth. In five years time her hulk will be with the fishes. And it will not be "anti-American" to say so."
July 29 2006 ~ " Israel on Saturday rejected a United Nations call for a 72-hour truce in the Lebanon conflict to enable humanitarian aid to get to trapped civilians. "We cannot accept a ceasefire with Hezbollah ... " www.dnaindia.com
The BBC reports:
"......One minister, Eli Yishai of the Shas party, said that after warnings had been given, "we must not enter villages where Hezbollah terrorists are hiding before we have turned them into sand boxes".
But there is a mismatch of information about these villages. Haim Ramon, the Justice Minister and Kadima party colleague of the Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, claimed that Bint Jbeil had been emptied of its civilians.
Some Israeli ministers favour targeting Lebanon's infrastructure "Only Hezbollah gunmen remain," he said, " [and it] should be pounded from the air and with artillery before ground troops enter."
Yet an Israeli military spokesman was simultaneously telling the BBC in a live interview that Hezbollah had deliberately kept the villagers inside Bint Jbeil in order to hinder Israeli operations. .."
July 29 2006 ~ Nebulous language While Mr Blair yesterday was saying of Hezbollah (see NYT)
"We're not going to defeat this ideology until we in the West go out with sufficient confidence in our own position and say, this is wrong. It's not just wrong in its methods, it's wrong in its ideas, it's wrong in its ideology, it's wrong in every single wretched reactionary thing about it."we also see, with Dahr Jamail what happens when the bombs fall
"......one of the larger hospitals in Beirut where I photographed civilian casualties. All of them were tragic cases but one really grabbed me-that of a little 8 year-old girl, lying in a large bed. She was on her side, with a huge gash down the right side of her face and her right arm wrapped in gauze. She was hiding in the basement of her home with 12 family members when they were bombed by an Israeli fighter jet.
Her father was in a room downstairs with both of his legs blown off. Her other family members were all seriously wounded. She lay there whimpering, with tears streaming down her face.
I think I won Ahmed's trust after that. I walked out the car, got in and sat down. He asked me where I wanted to go now.
Ahmed put his hand on my shoulder and said, "This is what I've been seeing for my entire life. Nothing but pain and suffering......" ">NYT
July 29 2006 ~ Ceasefire "sometime" NYT "........Facing pressure from Arab and European allies to end the violence, Mr. Bush and Mr. Blair, at a joint White House appearance, painted the broad outlines of a plan in which an international peacekeeping force would insert itself between the warring sides and help the weak Lebanese military take control of the southern region controlled by Hezbollah. ...The rising civilian death toll has placed added pressure on Mr. Bush from European and Arab allies who have called for an immediate cease-fire. But Mr. Bush has said that Israel cannot stop its attacks unless Hezbollah does first....The United Nations will begin talks about the makeup of the force on Monday, though the official said it was almost certain that United States troops would not be part of it. ....."
July 29 2006 ~ de Menezes "Brazilian's family shocked at 'hurtful' decision ....Sir Ian (Blair) is himself the focus of a separate IPCC inquiry following allegations about his behaviour after the shooting. ....." says Guardian
July 28 2006 ~ "more than half believe that the Blair Government's handling of the affair has been poor or very poor." Times "... According to a YouGov poll for The Daily Telegraph, more than three fifths of people think that Israel's response has been disproportionate, and more than half believe that the Blair Government's handling of the affair has been poor or very poor. Nearly two thirds think that Mr Blair is doing whatever the Americans tell him.
An ICM poll in The Guardian showed that 63 per cent think Mr Blair has tied Britain too closely to the US, including more than half of Labour supporters.
Public support has already been strained by the dispute over the American failure to notify Britain that bombs being sent to Israel were on aircraft being refuelled in Prestwick. The problem has been the lack of openness rather than the flights, which are likely to continue. ..."
July 28 2006 ~ "The UN warned Israel with at least 10 separate telephone calls during six hours that repeated aerial and artillery attacks had already landed at or dangerously close to their post in Khiam, south Lebanon, before the bombing that killed four of its observers there on Tuesday. Independent
While expressing their "sorrow" Ehud Olmert, Israel's Prime Minister, and Tzipi Livni, the Foreign Minister, sharply criticised Kofi Annan, the UN secretary general, for suggesting the attack on the Khiam post was "apparently deliberate."
But an internal report on the incident says there were more than 20 aerial and artillery attacks on the post on Tuesday, including four artillery rounds that directly hit the UN position an hour before the fatal guided bomb attack that killed the unarmed personnel taking refuge in a bomb shelter. The report says that, each time, the Israeli officer promised that the attacks would stop. ....... Dermot Ahern, Ireland's Foreign Minister, summoned Israel's ambassador to his office in protest and declared "Evidence we have would suggest this was either an incredible accident or else was in some way directly targeted."
July 28 2006 ~ UN Human Rights Committee has said that the US should immediately shut all secret detention facilities used in its campaign against terror groups and has called on the US to give the International Red Cross prompt access to those held in such jails. BBC
"....The UN report also covered the domestic human rights situation in the US. It urged the government to ensure the rights of poor people and blacks are respected in relief efforts. Both groups were "disadvantaged" in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, the UN committee noted."
July 28 2006 ~ de Menezes shooting Times "The two police firearms officers involved in the fatal shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes are to resume full operational duties, Scotland Yard said today...." See also ITN
July 28 2006 ~ Central London blackout Times : A second wave of power cuts could affect thousands of homes and businesses in Central London today, the energy supplier, EDF, has warned....
July 27 2006 ~ "Could the Prime Minister really not speak up....?" Sir Stephen Wall, one of Tony Blair's former foreign policy advisers, has said in the New Statesman "Could the Prime Minister really not speak up for the simple proposition that the slaughter of innocent people in Lebanon, and the destruction of their country and the ruin of half a million lives, were wrong and should stop immediately?"
".......No 10, which is both hothouse and bunker, is well stocked with TV sets. Prime ministers do not find much time to watch. They should. John Major led the rescue of the Iraqi Kurds in 1991, not because he followed a clever Foreign Office plan but because, sitting at home over Easter, he had time to look at the news. What he saw shocked him into action. He mobilised the EU and then challenged George Bush Sr to back his plan for safe havens for the Kurds. A reluctant Bush was, in the end, also moved by what he saw on his screen: the desperate spectacle of human misery.
I defy any person watching TV not to cry out loud for an immediate ceasefire in Lebanon. Yet our government and that of the US have weasel-worded their way through this tragedy. Why?..." New Statesman
July 27 2006 ~ Lessons Not Learned Sidney Blumenthal in the Guardian
"....In one of its most unintentionally ironic curiosities, the Bush White House has created an Office of Lessons Learned. But the thinking that made possible the catastrophe in Iraq is not a subject of this office. The delusional mindset went underground only to surface through the crack of the current crisis. There are no lessons learned about the blowback from Iraq; about Iraq's condemnation of Israel and its sympathy for Hizbullah; or about the US unwillingness to deal with the Palestinian Authority that made inevitable the rise of Hamas; or the counter-productive repudiation of direct contact with Syria and Iran.
Indeed, Rice is ushering in "a new Middle East", one in which the US is distrusted and even hated by traditional Arab allies, and its ability to restrain Israel while negotiating on behalf of its security is relinquished and diminished."
July 26 2006 ~Kofi Annan " is absolutely convinced that the Israelis did deliberately target his forces in southern Lebanon yesterday. He's described vividly how the general in charge of his main command post on the border reported that he was being shelled constantly all yesterday morning. Annan's office called the Israelis, the general called the Israelis. But still the shelling continued. By seven pm the post was all but demolished and four UN soldiers lay dead. It seems to have been a brutal signal to the outside world that this is what can happen to those who might wish to interpose themselves between the warring parties. " Snowmail
July 26 2006 ~ Lebanon continues to be blown to pieces ". Fiddling in Rome Snowmail
"The stumbling block - the word 'immediate. ' Foreign ministers from such diverse places as Saudi Arabia, Britain, America, France and Jordan, could not agree on attaching the word 'immediate' to the word 'ceasefire'. So they didn't call for one. Instead they have urged the international community to look for a ceasefire. All they could agree on was that humanitarian aid should be got to the region and they will all be putting their shoulder to the wheel when it comes to reconstruction. In the meantime Lebanon continues to be blown to pieces. In short your correspondent has attended an international failure. More: http://www.channel4.com/news/content/news-storypage.jsp?id=25952440
July 26 2006 ~ UK airport used to transport bombs to Israel The Times says "The British Government will make a formal complaint to the United States over its use of a British airport for transiting bombs to Israel.."
July 26 2006 ~ "...the UK government has a particular responsibility to uphold and ensure universal respect for international humanitarian law. We also call on the entire international community to press for an immediate ceasefire by all parties; to help secure the release of prisoners held unlawfully, whether by Israel, Hizbullah or by Palestinian militias; and to take even-handed steps to secure the implementation all UN security council resolutions concerning the Middle East, including the realisation of a viable Palestinian state alongside an Israel secure in its lawful borders."
Extract from letter from MPs in the Guardian
(signed) Richard Burden MP, Andy Love MP, Phyllis Starkey MP, Crispin Blunt MP, Colin Breed MP, Rob Marris MP, Nick Harvey MP, John Austin MP, Brian Iddon MP, Sadiq Khan MP, Sandra Osborne MP, David Drew MP, Greg Pope MP, Lynne Jones MP, John Hemming MP, Ann McKechin MP, Joan Ruddock MP, Stephen Williams MP, Harry Cohen MP, Roger Berry MP, Ian Gibson MP, David Lepper MP, Tom Levitt MP, Helen Goodman MP, Janet Dean MP, Alan Whitehead MP, Bob Russell MP, Diane Abbott MP, Brian Jenkins MP, Peter Bottomley MP, John Leech MP, Martin Caton MP, Paul Truswell MP, Derek Wyatt MP, John Grogan MP, Jim Dowd MP, Jeremy Corbyn MP, Phil Willis MP, Mike Hancock MP, Eric Illsley MP, Dr Hywel Francis MP, Clive Betts MP, Martin Salter MP, Jeff Ennis MP, Richard Younger-Ross MP, Dave Anderson MP, Tom Brake MP, Kerry McCarthy MP, Shahid Malik MP, Jim Dobbin MP, Nicholas Soames MP, Emily Thornberry MP, Kelvin Hopkins MP, Hywel Williams MP
July 24 2006 ~ Rice insists Hizbollah release the two Israeli soldiers and pulls back from the border before any ceasefire. Iraqi premier Nouri al-Maliki says the attacks by Israel on southern Lebanon as it seeks to destroy militant group Hizbullah "violates everything that the international community is based on".
Mr Blair said: "Of course we're fully aware of what is happening to the reputation of the West and our relations with the Arab world if this continues. My message is very, very simple. What is happening in Lebanon is of course a catastrophe - who could watch the pictures of innocent civilians being killed without wanting this to stop now. But it has to stop on both sides and it's not going to stop on both sides unless a plan is in place to make it stop..." Condoleezza Rice flew to Lebanon today. A Lebanese source said she had insisted Hizbollah release two Israeli soldiers and pull back from the border before any ceasefire. See Reuters etc
July 24 2006 ~ Extraordinary renditions See Reuters
"Washington, which acknowledges making secret transfers of terrorism suspects between countries, called "renditions", is not expected to hand over its agents to Italian courts. Prosecutors have not said to what extent they believe Italy was involved. Italian media reports suggest they suspect Sismi helped plan the abduction and even dispatched agents..."(Sismi is the Italian military intelligence agency. Berlusconi, Italy's prime minister at the time, has denied that he or the Sismi military intelligence agency knew about a plot to kidnap Muslim cleric Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr and fly him to Egypt, where Nasr says he was tortured. One of the Sismi suspects, Marco Mancini, says Sismi knew more than authorities have publicly admitted. )
July 23 2006 ~ 'a violation of humanitarian law.'. United Nations relief coordinator Jan Egeland on Sunday condemned the devastation caused by Israeli airstrikes in Beirut describing it as 'horrific' and terming it 'a violation of humanitarian law.'. 'The whole thing has to stop. ...
UN condemns Beirut devastation amid diplomacy, attacks
July 21 2006 ~ "humanitarian truce" called for - but Britain and the US prate about this being a "quick fix" that would "not deliver a sustainable peace in the Middle East" - (as if anyone has been suggesting that it would.)
In the southern Lebanese city of Tyre, a hospital flooded with casualties from Israeli bombardment has begun burying the dead in a mass grave today.
Reuters reports that
"...the hospital needed to clear space in its morgue after receiving 106 bodies, including 22 not identified. Relatives had taken away 12 of the bodies, they said. Some bodies had come from other hospitals.
It quotes Kamel Abdallah, 35, whose pregnant wife, five children and father were killed in an air strike on the border village of Marwaheen.
"The circumstances don't allow me to take them back now, so I'll leave them here," he said, as he watched the bodies of his family being placed in the temporary grave..."
July 21 2006 ~ Tony Blair today dismissed increasing demands from the Archbishop of Canterbury and senior Labour MPs to back a UN call for an immediate ceasefire in the Israel-Lebanon conflict. Guardian "......spokesman also denied a report in The Guardian that a rift has developed between Tony Blair, who has been supportive of Israeli military action, and officials and junior ministers in the Foreign Office who want the UK to back the UN ceasefire call. "
July 21 2006 ~ Israel pounded Lebanon from the air on Friday in its bloody 10-day-old assault against Hizbollah, but the guerrilla group insisted it would only free two Israeli soldiers it is holding as part of a prisoner swap. ".Israel warned residents to leave southern Lebanon on Friday as it considered expanding a ground offensive against Hizbollah guerrillas despite mounting casualties and a looming humanitarian crisis. .." Reuters
"U.S. helicopters plucked frightened Americans from Beirut on Friday and Turkey agreed to become a transit point in the coming days to share the burden with Cyprus which has been flooded with foreign evacuees. ..." Reuters
July 21 2006 ~ Iraq - one of the bloodiest weeks this year. US military officials admitted that the average daily number of attacks in the Baghdad area is up 40%. Prof Juan Cole says,
"...... Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani issued his strongest plea yet for Iraqis to cease their faith-based reprisal killings, which have been taking the lives of 100 persons a day. Unfortunately, the time when Sistani could control these sectarian passions has passed. The word is that the Mahdi Army of Muqtada al-Sadr is "boiling," in large part over the Israel assault on the Shiites of Lebanon. ...." MoreReuters reports "Police officers and neighbors said six members of one family were killed when U.S. helicopters rocketed their house. .."
July 21 2006 ~ John Prescott "....The committee for standards and privileges found "shortcomings" requiring "urgent attention" within Mr Prescott's department concerning the recording of ministerial gifts - a pronouncement that prompted the deputy prime minister to launch an "urgent" internal review of his own department. But the committee ruled out further sanctions after it noted that the deputy prime minister eventually "acted correctly" in registering his three-day stay with Philip Anschutz - albeit some eleven months late and only after a complaint was lodged by Tory MP Hugo Swire..." Guardian
July 20 2006 ~ Good News for civil liberty - (via Tim and ChickenYoghurt) we learn that The Independent's parliamentary sketchwriter, Simon Carr, has got a website. As Justin says,
"He's worth keeping an eye on, as a commentator on the decommissioning of Britain's civil liberties, if nothing else. A man who can get under Charles Clarke's skin, to the point that Two Lunches felt compelled to sit down and write a 34-point rebuttal, should be on everybody's blogroll."
July 19 2006 ~"...Margaret Beckett, lost her cool during an interview yesterday morning on BBC Radio 4'sToday programme and denied any connection between the latest Middle East flare-up and the Iraqi quagmire. However, Tony Blair was overheard on Monday telling President Bush, in what he thought was a private conversation, that it is "all part of the same thing". In fact, the Prime Minister has always linked Iraq to the broader Middle East conflict...." Independent Are the events in Lebanon linked to the Iraq conflict?
July 19 2006 ~The situation is both alarming and catastrophic "Tens if not hundreds of thousands of Lebanese have already been displaced. UNICEF's representative in Lebanon told Agence France-Press that "The situation is both alarming and catastrophic. There are about 500,000 people displaced already." (ABC Online) ">
July 19 2006 ~ Israeli war planes have struck an army barracks east of Beirut in an overnight raid in which 11 troops, including four officers, were killed and 40 injured. That wasn't a Hizbullah barracks. That was the regular Lebanese army. As Juan Cole says today, it was the one " the Israelis say they would trust to patrol the Lebanese border with Israel, and which they wish would take on Hizbullah. So why are they bombing the Lebanese Army?"
Xinhua reports that the Prime Minister of Lebanon, Fouad Siniora, (who came to power as part of an anti-Syrian political movement supported by the Bush administration)
"vehemently condemned Israel's continued aggression against the battered country, saying the international community must have been aware that Israel was committing massacres against Lebanese civilians, including children, women and elders. He said that Israel was acting to destroy "everything that allows Lebanon to stay alive". He added that the Israeli troops continued its bombing attacks on Tuesday, targeting Lebanon's gas stations, civilian residences, roads, army barracks and posts, food processing mills and vehicles carrying foodstuff."Reuters reports " Israel struck Lebanon from the air and made limited attacks across the border on Wednesday as thousands awaited evacuation and the death toll mounted in a conflict that has entered its second week with no end in sight. ..." and we read in the Telegraph that "the second wave of British evacuees from">anon have arrived in Cyprus after a 12 hour journey from Beirut." They were taken by the Royal Navy. ">
July 19 2006 ~ President Bush told Siniora in April tht the United States " strongly supports a free and independent and sovereign Lebanon"
">Professor Cole notes that this is the first sentence of a news item today:
"George W. Bush on Tuesday warned Syria to stay out of Lebanon as he signalled to Israel that it would have more time to carry out its military campaign . . .He said Israel had been asked to ensure that the government of Fouad Siniora survived, but the White House declined to comment on repeated Israeli strikes against Lebanese army units."Juan Cole comments
"What you have to admire most about W. is how he stands by his friends."
July 19 2006 ~ Gaza "At least nine Palestinians have been killed in fresh Israeli operations in Gaza and the West Bank. Under heavy gunfire Israeli tanks entered Mughazi refugee camp in the central Gaza Strip before dawn. ..." BBC
July 19 2006 ~ "...Lashing out in anger was never the way to win the Middle East, and critical friends of Israel wonder if now could be a turning point at which Israel recognises that years of harsh, trigger-happy responses have got it no closer to lasting peace and security. If either Blair or Bush had credibility in the Arab world, they would be better placed to be that critical friend." An article today in the Herald Yo, Blair, who calls the shots in this double act? by Douglas Fraser is well worth reading.
"......The Prime Minister - Mr Yo Blair, as he should now be styled - was a little more coherent, his words and his body language displaying the subservient role he plays in this relationship...."
July 18 2006 ~ Bush Blair chat while Lebonon burns - NYT comments and so does the Independent - at some length.
July 18 2006 ~ "Israel refuses to rule out invasion" "Israeli warplanes pounded Lebanon on Tuesday, killing at least 11 people, as diplomatic efforts brought no signs of an early end to the week-old assault launched in retaliation against Hezbollah attacks. .." Reuters Professor Cole comments:
".....The Guardian complains that the world leaders again did nothing on Monday to stop the massive Israeli assault on Lebanon.
I should explain to The Guardian about spheres of influence. Great Powers have them, and other Great Powers respect them if they do not want a war. That is why the US did nothing about the Soviets in Hungary 1956 or in Czechoslovakia in 1968. Soviet sphere of influence.
The Levant is now a joint US-Israeli sphere of Influence. Egypt and Jordan both have peace treaties with Israel and are non-NATO allies of the US. So they won't do more than politely disagree that Israel's wholesale destruction of Lebanon's infrastructure is useful. Turkey is part of the joint US-Israeli sphere of influence, with close military ties to both countries. Iraq is now working the American training wheels, in Bush's parlance, and although it has not formally joined the full US-Israeli sphere of influence, it has no military to speak of and basically its legs are broken. The Gulf monarchies have more or less acquiesced in the situation as well.
Syria and Iran are the only two significant dissenters. Syria is weak and isolated, having been expelled from Lebanon and having lost its Soviet patron a decade and a half ago. Iran is distant from the scene and does not have a history of direct military intervention in other countries anyway.
The European Powers all ceded the Levant to the US-Israeli sphere of influence a long time ago. They will not get out ahead of the US. They mostly deeply dislike the Apartheid policies of Israel in the Occupied Territories, but they also deeply dislike and fear Hamas and Hizbullah, having their own large Muslim populations that they don't want radicalized.
So, basically, the Palestinians and the Lebanese are screwed. The Lebanese might not have been in such a vulnerable situation if they had not kicked out the Syrians, though the Syrians were there in 1982 the last time Israel invaded.
That is why there is terrorism in the Middle East. The Israeli occupation of the Occupied Territories has been barbaric and intolerable. It produced Hamas. The Israeli occupation of South Lebanon was barbaric and intolerable. It produced Hizbullah.
But terrorism is a weapon of the weak and should not be over-estimated as a deterrent for Great Powers. Mostly they see it as a cost of doing business, and even where the Powers suffer from it, it has the advantage of rallying home populations behind militaristic policies.
At some point the Europeans may find a way to step in. The elements of an eventual resolution of the current Israeli war on Lebanon are becoming clear in international diplomacy. Italian PM Romano Prodi of Italy is already thinking about how to round up 10,000 UN peacekeepers to insert in the Lebanese south as a buffer between the Israeli army and Hizbullah. Russia agrees and is willing to participate.
Chirac and Blair are also on board with this plan, which will go to the UNSC from the G8 summit.
My advice: don't send the blue helmets unless you authorize them to shoot back when attacked.
On the other hand, the Irish Times report above says that Israeli officials reject a UN deployment and insist instead that the Lebanese army must be stationed along the border. It is probably the Olmert government's hope that this posting will set the Lebanese army against Hizbullah, producing intra-Lebanese fighting that serves Israeli interests. Israel, however, does not always get its way. We'll see. Peacekeeping is a ways off. The Israelis will fight their war first."
July 17 2006 ~ "What both men didn't realise was that a microphone was still switched on..." Snowmail this evening reports "......the crisis in the Middle East has dominated the G8 summit in St Petersburg. In a private conversation with Tony Blair, George Bush spoke candidly about the situation and what he believes needs to be done. You can watch and listen to what was said here now: http://www.channel4.com/more4/news/news-opinion-feature.jsp?id=326
"Viewers are warned - the American president used some undiplomatic language."You can see more of this on both Channel 4 and More4 News tonight.
July 17 2006 ~ No criminal charges " No police officers will be prosecuted over the shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes at Stockwell Tube station. But the Metropolitan Police will face charges under health and safety laws which require the Met to ensure its operations do not put the public at risk...." Streatham Guardian The paper quotes Ken Livingstone: "... it makes absolutely no sense to apply such legislation in the case of such an extreme situation. I doubt that al-Qaeda will be considering the implications for health and safety legislation when they are planning their terrorist activities."
The De Menezes family will consider private prosecution of officers. See also Guardian
July 17 2006 ~ " Henry Porter is the most important columnist writing today" is the opinion of Alistair Duff in today's Independent
"......it is clear from what recently happened to Messrs Carr and Porter, whose columns in defence of civil liberty were denounced junta-style by senior members of the Government, that political columns, at their best, can make a very serious impact indeed. Porter, who also started getting personal e-mails from the Prime Minister, explains the secret: "If you bang on about a subject, if you do it properly [he spent countless hours acquainting himself with recent legislation before going public about the Government's assaults on freedom], if you are relentless as well as polite, then you can be influential." I believe that Porter is the most important columnist writing today."The other political columnists examined in Alistair Duff's extremely interesting Independent article are, "Keith Aitken (Scottish Daily Express), Simon Carr (The Independent), Peter Hitchens (The Mail on Sunday), Simon Jenkins (The Guardian and The Sunday Times), Boris Johnson (The Daily Telegraph), Dominic Lawson (The Independent), Deborah Orr (The Independent), Matthew Parris (The Times), Henry Porter (The Observer), William Rees-Mogg (The Times and The Mail on Sunday), and Polly Toynbee (The Guardian). A good mixture."
( See also some of the other Warmwell pages citing Henry Porter)
July 17 2006 ~ Iraq Reuters' FACTBOX-Developments in Iraq on July 16 contains news of the now daily horrors in many parts of the country, including Basra.
July 17 2006 ~ Israel may be planning a ground incursion into southern Lebanon, according to The Guardian.
Professor Cole, typically even-handed, comments on both sides with exasperation.
".....Israel struck at large numbers of targets on Sunday, and early Monday morning, that had nothing to do with Hezbollah. The far north of Lebanon is Sunni, as is the port of Tripoli, where the Israelis killed a Catholic Lebanese soldier. They also hit factories in north Beirut, not a Shiite area. They bombed a village near Zahle, a notorious center of Greek Orthodox, killing 3 civilians. The Israelis are either not very good shots, since they have murdered 140 civilians since Wednesday and only managed to kill about 17 Lebanese military personnel. Or they just don't give a damn...
.... Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert conveyed to Lebanon through Italian PM Romano Prodi his conditions for ceasing hostilities against Lebanon. As also reported on CNN they are:
It is worth noting that if this is what Israel wants, two of the three could have been gotten without reducing the entire country of Lebanon to rubble. They could have traded 3 Hizbullah members in their custody for the 2 Israeli soldiers. And, if they hadn't gone wild bombing everything in sight it is unlikely Hizbullah would have shelled them on this scale in the first place.
- The return of two captured Israeli soldiers held by Hizbullah
- A withdrawal of Hizbullah to the Litani River, 30 mi. or so north of the Israeli border deeper into Lebanon.
- Cessation of rocket attacks on Israel
As for the demand that Hizbullah withdraw (presumably this means its paramilitary fighters) to the Litani, that talking point will inspire the profoundest fear in the Lebanese that Israel is essentially attempting to move its border north and make the Litany the new border, thus staking a clear claim on the waters of the river, which Israelis have coveted since 1948. It is a non-starter politically, though whether it can be attained with violence is yet to be seen." but he is also scathing about the "megalomania" of Hasan Nasrallah, the leader of Hizbullah (Hezbollah)
".........He said people were always putting down the Arabs and saying they could not accomplish anything, but, he said, look at the Israeli warship in flames. That was an Arab accomplishment.
Uh, wouldn't an Arab accomplishment be more like, oh, inventing something or building up something nice? Destroying things and killing people is not an accomplishment.
I watched in horror as this maniacal speech unfolded in which Nasrallah actually threatened the Israelis with releasing chemical gas from local factories on civilians in Haifa. Despite fighting them for all those years, he clearly does not understand the Israelis' psyche or the trauma of the Holocaust. ..."
July 16 2006 ~ Israel steeply escalated its military campaign against Hizbollah in Lebanon yesterday with a series of air strikes that left more than 35 civilians dead, including a single strike on a convoy of families fleeing the fighting in a village near Tyre in the south of the country that killed more than 20 people, most of them children... See Observer
July 16 2006 ~ Britain opposed a cease -fire? Professor Cole reports that Lebanon has charged that the US blocked a UN Security Council resolution calling for a cease-fire. " If so, it is contemptible," he says. He cites http://www.zeenews.com/znnew/articles.asp?aid=309305&sid=WOR where we read that Britain opposed a cease -fire too
"Qatar, the only Arab nation on the Council, received widespread support during closed Council consultations last night for a press statement calling for an immediate cease-fire, restraint in the use of force, and the protection of civilians caught in the conflict, Council diplomats said.
But Argentina's UN ambassador Cesar Mayoral said the United States objected to any statement and Britain opposed calling for a cease-fire.
The US and Britain want to wait for the outcome of this weekend's Group of Eight meeting in Russia, an Arab League foreign ministers meeting, and a mission sent to the Middle East by Secretary-General Kofi Annan, he and other diplomats said..."
July 16 2006 ~ Blair and Bush blame Iran and Syria ITN reports that Tony Blair and US President George W Bush have blamed Iran and Syria for the latest flare-up in the Middle East.
July 14 2006 ~ Emergency UN session as Israel steps up offensive in Lebanon Times
"Chirac: Israel wants to ''destroy Lebanon' Israel stepped up its crippling military offensive in Lebanon today, hitting Beirut's airport and its Hezbollah-controlled southern suburbs as the UN Security Council began an emergency meeting to discuss the conflict and avert all-out war in the Middle East. More than 60 people, almost all civilians, have been killed in Lebanon....Overnight and today, the Israelis hit key infrastructure targets including fuel depots and also cut off the main Beirut-Damascus highway, forcing thousands of fleeing tourists to take mountain side roads into the Syrian capital.
....A team of senior UN negotiators was heading to the region tonight and Russia and the European Union were also sending peace envoys. Among Israel's fiercest critics was President Chirac, who said in his traditional Bastille Day television interview that he thought it wanted to destroy Lebanon. He said the Israeli actions were "totally disproportionate" to the Hezbollah provocation.
But President Bush, ....told the Lebanese Prime Minister.... that while he would pressure Israel to limit civilian casualties and contain the damage, he would not demand a ceasefire. ..."
July 13 2006 ~ "Very, very dangerous.." We have become so used to violent ghastliness in the Middle East that it is easy to forget just how extremely dangerous is the situation now in Gaza and now in the Lebanon. Professor Cole's view is, as usual, balanced and deeply worried
".......All hell broke loose on Wednesday in the Mideast, with a Hizbullah attack on the Israeli army and Israeli reprisals, and the Israeli dropping of a 500 pound bomb on Gaza. I roundly condemn Hizbullah's criminal and stupid attack on Israel and escalation of a crisis that is already harming ordinary Palestinians on a massive scale. Likewise, the Beirut airport is not in south Lebanon and for the Israelis to bomb it and neighborhoods in south Beirut is a disproportionate use of force. The Israelis are actually talking about causing "pain to the Lebanese." That is despicable...."The Independent begins its report "Israel widened its offensive against Hezbollah guerrillas today, targeting the country's only international airport and forcing its closure..." Robert Fisk's article begins
" It's about Syria. That was the frightening message delivered by Damascus yesterday when it allowed its Hizbollah allies to cross the UN Blue Line in southern Lebanon, kill three Israeli soldiers, capture two others and demand the release of Lebanese prisoners in Israeli jails.... Within hours, a country that had begun to believe in peace - without a single Syrian soldier left on its soil - found itself once more at war..."
July 13 2006 ~ Honours scandal reaches Number 10 with the arrest of Lord Levy Guardian "The cash for peerages scandal paralysing Labour moved perilously close to Tony Blair's door when the Metropolitan police yesterday arrested Lord Levy, Mr Blair's personal party fundraiser, Middle East envoy and personal confidant. The news No 10 has been privately dreading for months came after the police spent all day interviewing Lord Levy at a north London police station before releasing him on bail without charge. It is understood that at least three senior Downing Street officials have also been interviewed by the police, but not under caution. Since Mr Blair has himself said the buck stops with him over party fundraising, Downing Street seems to accept that it is inevitable detectives will now interview the prime minister too...."
Jack Dromey's angry comments about how he has been "kept in the dark" and that the Labour party was now being run from Number Ten were quoted this morning on the Today Programme
July 12 2006 ~ "Rethink 'war on terror' strategy Richard Dearlove is quoted in the Guardian. He "singled out CIA rendition flights and the indefinite detention of prisoners in Guantanamo for rebuke. Speaking at the Aspen Ideas Festival in Colorado before an audience of global politicians, experts and commentators last week, Sir Richard also said the west was "doomed" unless it "reclaimed the moral high ground".......questioned about which policies he was referring to when he said they "would have been illegal under British common law". Sir Richard replied: the "whole Guantanamo operation" and CIA "rendition", where suspected terror suspects are knowingly transferred to third countries where torture was practised..."
(It will be remembered that in the Panorama programme, Iraq - Tony & the Truth well-placed sources told the BBC that Sir Richard Dearlove was minuted as saying that "the facts and the intelligence" were being "fixed round the policy" by the Bush Administration.)
July 12 2006 ~ Halliburton The U.S. Army will discontinue its multi-billion dollar contract with oil services giant Halliburton Co. to provide logistical support to U.S. troops worldwide, The Washington Post reported on Wednesday. Halliburton, formerly run by Vice President Dick Cheney, has drawn scrutiny for its work in Iraq from auditors, congressional Democrats and the Justice Department, which is investigating potential overcharges for fuel, dining and laundry services.
.... .. the Pentagon plans to split the Iraq work among three companies to be chosen this fall and Halliburton would be eligible to make a bid. ...." (Reuters)
July 12 2006 ~ Mumbai gets back to work "Millions of people packed trains and buses to get to work in India's biggest city on Wednesday, as the country's financial hub shook off seven bombs on its vital commuter rail network that killed at least 183 people. " Reuters
July 12 2006 ~ GAZA (Reuters) - Israel targeted Hamas's top commanders in a Gaza air strike on Wednesday that killed six Palestinians and reduced to rubble a three-storey building where the militants were believed to be meeting.
July 10 2006 ~ Iraq - At least 80 Dead in Civil War Bloodbath Government Forced to Depend on Local Gunmen . Professor Cole reads the daily newspapers in Arabic and is surely the best source for news and informed comment
"Eyewitnesses in the Iraqi capital said that elements of the Mahdi Army, loyal to young Shiite nationalist cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, killed at least 61, among them women and children, on the basis of their religious identity. [Official Iraqi and US sources said these numbers were exaggerated, and most American wire services gave the number of dead as 42.] They set up a checkpoint at the entrance to the Jihad quarter of Baghdad for this purpose. Eyewitnesses said that gunmen wearing civilian clothing set up checkpoint barriers in the streets beginning early Sunday morning and began stopping passers-by. They investigated their identities, and killed anyone whom they found to be Sunni Arab. The eyewitnesses also said that some gunmen entered a number of homes and shot down the inhabitants. Some then set the houses on fire...
Al-Hayat says that local Baghdad television (a largely Sunni outlet) carried pleas from a Sunni eyewitness to the attack for the government and the American forces to intervene to rescue them, but that the pleas went unanswered...."
"....President Jalal Talabani uttered plattitudes about the dangers of sectarian violence devolving into "killings on the basis of identity". His aide, Muwaffaq al-Samarra'i, according to Al-Hayat, said, "Iraq has truly entered into a sectarian civil war; the matter is no longer merely one of sectarian hatred." Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki said that the situation was under control...."
July 10 2006 ~ IRAQ: Insecurity, under-funding threaten children's health in Basra "...Children are dying in the dozens in southern Iraq because of lack of basic medical care and medicines. Reuters reports, '"There's a lack of everything. Children are dying because of bleeding because there are no blood bags available," said Fernandez. "Antibiotics, Pentostam [an antimony compound used in the treatment of parasite infection], special milk for dehydrated children, and almost all medical material for emergency conditions aren't available." ' . Lack of security, corruption and the flight of middle class professionals have all contributed to the crisis...."
July 10 2006 ~ More British soldiers to Afghanistan ITN "Defence Secretary Des Browne is expected to confirm that more British troops are being sent to Afghanistan." See also BBC
July 10 2006 ~ ID Cards Guardian "Opponents of identity cards yesterday stepped up their campaign for the multi-billion pound scheme to be scrapped, after it emerged that the government is planning a scaled-down version of the project so that it can meet a 2008 deadline..." (But even if the cards themselves are delayed, it has always been the accompanying national database that represents such a serious threat to our privacy. The list of more than fifty categories of information intended to be required for the register demonstrate the present government's obsession with central control. Quite apart from the civil liberties question, the government's lamentable record of IT competence make the whole enterprise dangerous.)
"...More than 100 senior academics, independent experts and industry specialists contributed to the LSE's Identity Project, which concluded that the government's proposals would be "too costly, technically risky and complex"...... Simon Davies, the project's co-mentor, said: "Everything we warned could happen, has happened. If government wants to rescue this scheme from certain oblivion it must take action swiftly to restore the fragments of remaining trust."
July 9 2006 ~ "Suspicion of foreigners, fears over terrorism, suspects held without charge..." Required listening for all - particularly for John Denham perhaps - is this morning's Point of View on Radio 4 in which Lisa Jardine presented a comparison of our own paranoid times with that of Elizabeth 1. She concludes
".... If, in order to be able to detain those we suspect of intending harm, we reduce, for the time being, the long-established methods of accumulating evidence and establishing the burden of proof, how will we be able, at some future date, to reinstate them? How long will it take our children and our grandchildren to recognise the importance of what has been lost, to recover and reinstate the rights we freely gave away? "It really is worth listening to in full (or reading here) The programme was preceded by Sunday Worship - not a programme I would normally listen to - but the address by the revd Philip Auden, Chaplain to the Port of Bristol, was an impressive example of someone speaking from the heart- just uncomplicated goodness. From St Stephen's Church, Bristol, the music by the Exultate Singers too, was as good as anything I have heard in months.
July 9 2006 ~ ID Cards Sunday Times - ID cards doomed, say officials
"TONY BLAIR'S flagship identity cards scheme is set to fail and may not be introduced for a generation, according to leaked Whitehall e-mails from the senior officials responsible for the multi-billion-pound project. The problems are so serious that ministers have been forced to draw up plans for a scaled-down "face-saving" version to meet their pledge of phasing in the cards from 2008. However, civil servants say there is no evidence that even this compromise is "remotely feasible" and accuse ministers of "ignoring reality" by pressing ahead...."See also Leading article
July 9 2006 ~ Iraq Professor Juan Cole writes in his website that the National Unity Government of Iraq is on the verge of collapse. The posting should be read in full. Particularly noteworthy is
"....The Los Angeles Times has a real scoop today, having gotten hold of 400 documents regarding the investigation of the Interior Ministry and the Iraqi police. They demonstrate extensive corruption and violations. Solomon Moore writes,
' Brutality and corruption are rampant in Iraq's police force, with abuses ranging from the widespread rape of female prisoners and the release of terrorism suspects in exchange for bribes to assassinations of police officers and participation in insurgent bombings, according to confidential Iraqi government documents detailing more than 400 police corruption investigations. '..."
July 9 2006 ~ GAZA Kofi Annan has demanded that Israel take urgent action to prevent a humanitarian disaster in the Gaza Strip. See Bahrain News Agency
".... Annan expressed his deep concern on the dangerous situation in Palestine affirming the importance of taking speedy actions to put an end to the Palestinian suffering. In a statement issued last night, he called upon all related sides to maintain self-control and to respect international law. Six UN agencies issued a joint statement expressing their concern regarding the developments in Palestine which claimed the lives of innocent civilians and the suffering of thousands. The statement also indicated that Gaza was suffering a humanitarian crisis which could lead to dangerous repercussions if the necessary steps are not taken immediately. "There have been more Israeli air strikes overnight on targets in Gaza. A key bridge was bombed despite calls by the United Nations to stop destroying the territory's fragile infrastructure See Euronews
July 9 2006 ~ "George W. Bush is not above the Geneva Conventions" "... 15,000 prisoners detained by the US in Iraq ... held with no access to counsel, no formal charges, or any basic legal process" We also read in Professor Cole's post that
"A pro-Bush Iranian-American film-maker, Cyrus Kar, is suing Donald Rumsfeld and the Department of Defense over being held in detention in Iraq without charges for nearly 2 months, and sometimes abused......
Bush and his officials and lawyers argue that he has "inherent powers" to just arrest people on suspicion and hold them indefinitely, with only an occasional military "review" of the case. The 15,000 prisoners detained by the US in Iraq are likewise being held with no access to counsel, no formal charges, or any basic legal process, with some having been tortured, and some having been held in this way for a year.
July 9 2006 ~ Craig Murray served an injunction Murder in Samarkand The supporting documents in Craig Murray's book are, in view of the behaviour of the Powers that Be (who are deeply offended by being examined by one they'd thought properly housetrained), now being mirrored across the UK internet blogosphere. (See Blairwatch ) In spite of their having been obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, the documents Mr Murray had wanted to publish have been blocked and legal action is threatenend over breach of "copyright of the Crown". The documents are published at http://dahrjamailiraq.com - and will soon be appearing on many other sites. Strangely, they keep disappearing from Mr Murray's own website.
July 9 2006 ~ officials of the Environment Agency"..... prefer to see valuable medicines buried in landfill rather than put to use in Africa. This is only the latest example of the growing confusion about what constitutes "waste" under EC law, made worse in Britain by the uniquely zealous way in which the agency enforces the rules..." Christopher Booker's Notebook. in the Sunday Telegraph. Always unmissable
July 8 2006 ~ Israel Update Israel says its troops have left their positions in the northern tip of the Gaza Strip and returned to the Israeli side of the border. BBC
July 8 2006 ~ the NatWest Three "Four of Britain's most eminent law professors have strongly criticised the extradition arrangements.... The professors say that extradition arrangements with America are biased against UK citizens and that some of British justice's traditional guarantees are being undermined by political expediency...." Telegraph (British citizens can be extradited to the US without evidence being produced that there was a case to answer, even though there is no equivalent arrangement for the extradition of American nationals to the UK.)
"...The Extradition Act 2003 was rushed through by David Blunkett, then Home Secretary, following the September 11 attacks. It was meant to help clamp down on international terrorists, but it has been used to bring Britons accused of white-collar crimes to trial in the US.
Keith Patchett, the emeritus professor of law at the University of Wales, said that issues in the NatWest Three case "raise basic questions about the preparedness of the [UK] Government, demonstrated in other matters too, to compromise vital legal protections honed over generations"..."
July 8 2006 ~Afghanistan ".....former defence minister Doug Henderson called for British troops to be confined to barracks until the purpose of the mission was clarified. He told GMTV: "I think until a political strategy has been worked out and agreed ... then in some senses there should be a withdrawal of British troops to barracks". He claimed troops did not know what they were doing or for how long...." Guardian
July 8 2006 ~ Gaza More under-reported horror. The NYT reports,
"... The death toll is difficult to pin down, with news agencies' tallies differing. Dr. Jumaa al-Saqqa, a surgeon and spokesman for Al Shifa Hospital, Gaza's largest, said 26 Palestinians died in Gaza on Thursday and more than 80 were wounded. Two of the dead were children, Dr. Saqqa said. He estimated that 20 percent of the wounded were young men under the age of 17..."
July 8 2006 ~ Haditha The BBC tells us that
"... The report has been completed and reviewed by Lt-Gen Peter Chiarelli, the second-ranking US commander in Iraq. Twenty-four civilians died in the incident in November. The US military initially said they were killed in a bomb blast and exchange of fire. But reports subsequently emerged that US soldiers killed them. ....Gen Chiarelli has found that senior officers failed to investigate inconsistencies in the initial reports, which suggested the civilians were victims of a roadside bombing. ......"The New York Times reports in detail
July 8 2006 ~ No agreement on small arms "A U.N. meeting meant to expand a five-year-old crackdown on the illicit global trade in small arms ended in chaos on Friday as delegates ran out of time without reaching agreement on a plan for future action. .." Reuters
July 8 2006 ~ North Korea " threatened on Friday to take "stronger physical actions" after Japan imposed punitive measures in response to its barrage of missile tests and pushed for international sanctions at the United Nations. .." Reuters
July 8 2006 ~ Berlusconi and David Mills The estranged husband of Tessa Jowell was yesterday ordered to stand trial in Milan accused of fraud, tax evasion and money-laundering. He faces up to 12 years in an Italian prison if convicted. He is accused of helping Silvio Berlusconi to avoid as much as 60 million (£41.5 million) in tax between 1994 and 1999. The Telegraph says that he "... is also facing another possible trial for allegedly accepting $600,000 in order to gloss over details of Mr Berlusconi's media holdings when he testified in two court cases."
As for Mr Blair's friend Berlusconi, he himself is to stand trial over alleged fraud at his media firm. See BBC report.
July 8 2006 ~ John Prescott "faced calls to quit last night from his own back benches as it emerged that he had been due to meet the Millennium Dome's billionaire American owner in London this week. The Deputy Prime Minister had planned to defy his critics by pressing ahead with face-to-face talks with Philip Anschutz, but the tycoon pulled out after a furore erupted over their relationship..." Telegraph
The Ministerial Code says that ministers must not "accept gifts, hospitality or service from anyone which would, or might appear to, place him or her under an obligation".
July 8 2006 ~ Iraq "Virtually every Iraqi institution of higher education is at risk. Universities, colleges, and research institutions operate under severe political duress and without adequate resources, transparent funding mechanisms, or the civil and legal protections to nurture and promote a vibrant intellectual climate and civil society.." Professor Juan Cole MESA & AAUP Condemn Violence Against Iraqi Academics
July 7 2006 ~ 52 innocent people died on July 7 2005 in the London bombings. A two minute silence is no bad idea - even if our own feelings about the bombings, their causes and the aftermath may be somewhat different from the view given out by Downing Street
" A public inquiry into the July 2005 London bombings would divert resources.... recent press claims about intelligence about the four bombers was "wrong". A public inquiry would merely tell us "what we already know"..." (BBCThe government remains resolute in its insistence that the country's foreign policy had no connection with the motivation of the bombers. (See opendemocracy.net )
The latest video to emerge, we hear the voice of Shehzad Tanweer : "What you have witnessed now is only the beginning of a strain of attacks that will continue and become stronger until you pull your forces out of Afghanistan and Iraq, and until you stop your financial and military support to America and Israel."
It is heartbreaking that the follies of the West can lead so inexorably to revengeful murders from those who think "Al Qaeda" has an answer to them.
The indiscriminate killings embraced people from all ethnic backgrounds and classes. As the British Chief Rabbi Sir Jonathan Sacks said at the time:
"It is not the weapon of the weak against the strong but the rage of the angry against the defenseless and innocent. It is an evil means to an evil end."And the killings of July 7 led to the horrible misunderstanding of Islam itself and of Muslims in Britain who follow a religion that categorically forbids terrorism. I tried to express some of this last year in the warmwell blog - but, as that blog explains, it is all so much better said by Simon Jenkins.
July 4 2006 ~ " issues before the Cabinet are not put to the vote" Tony Blair appeared before the Commons Liaison committee today. Guardian (One BBC headline is 'I'm no dictator', says PM Blair ) His answers included:
- Iraq Iraqi deaths due to a "criminal minority" (See BBC)
- Cabinet Sleaze "There will not be a sleaze investigation every time an allegation of wrongdoing is made against a minister." (See also Epolitix.com and comment from Chicken Yoghurt)
- July 7 Bombings " A public inquiry into the July 2005 London bombings would divert resources.... recent press claims about intelligence about the four bombers was "wrong". A public inquiry would merely tell us "what we already know"..." (BBC )
- Torture " A promise from a country that it would not torture a deportee should be a good enough guarantee for British courts to send them back.." Telegraph
- Forest Gate raid "I suspect most Muslims would recognise Forest Gate had to happen because of the information the police had." ( BBC)
- British Muslims "Moderate British Muslims are not doing enough to tackle the problem of extremism in their communities, which cannot be defeated by the Government alone...." ( Times and listen again to the Labour MP for Tooting, Sadiq Khan, on the Today Programme this morning about the Task Force Preventing Extremism Together ".......Marched all these talented British Muslims up to the top of the hill of consultation and marched them down again .... ..if you don't do consultation, dialogue and engagement properly, the concern is they will think it has been a waste of time...")
- Afghanistan John Reid had not misled him about the mission facing British troops in Afghanistan and there had "never been any doubt" it was going to be "a lot more dangerous" when troops moved down into the south of Afghanistan. The purpose of the mission was " to assist the Afghan government in the process of reconstruction, support proper government and "give a livelihood to local people that does not involve producing heroin". (BBC) He promised that British troops in Afghanistan would get any additional forces they needed, but said he had not yet been asked to sent more troops. (Times)
- Iran It was "fair enough" for Iran to develop civil nuclear power but not a weapons programme. As for the international proposal, which offers economic and political incentives in return for Iran suspending uranium enrichment " I would like a response as soon as possible because I don't really see what more there is to talk about." (See NCR Iran org)
July 4 2006 ~ "It's like encouraging children to dig up roads when they could be designing bridges" Interesting report today about the criticism, long overdue, about the Oxford Cambridge and RSA Examinations (OCR) mark schemes. As the headmaster in the BBC report says, "There's no room for individuality. It's like encouraging children to dig up roads when they could be designing bridges." and that the OCR exam board's assessment scheme, which the school used, was "too mechanistic". and he is reducing the maximum number of GCSEs a pupil at the independent school can sit from 11 to nine, to free up more time for "critical thinking". See Telegraph
July 3 2006 ~"on the wrong side of history" "We built this big monster with Iraq, and there was nothing there. This is son of Iraq"
Seymour Hersh, in a long article in the New Yorker, writes about the Pentagon's attitude to Iran , "senior commanders have increasingly challenged the President's plans" but the problem is, as a former senior intelligence official says, "It's a very narrow line between being responsive and effective and being outspoken and ineffective."
"....A senior military official told me, " .....Donald Rumsfeld and his senior aides "really think they can do this on the cheap, and they underestimate the capability of the adversary," he said. ...(The article needs to be read in full.)
....an American bombing "would be seen not only as an attack on Shiites but as an attack on all Muslims.
...."...Iran's message to the oil-producing Gulf states, the retired diplomat said, has been that it will respond, and "you are on the wrong side of history." .....
"Plans are more and more being directed and run by civilians from the Office of the Secretary of Defense....."...... Rumsfeld's testy relationship with the generals. They see him as high-handed and unwilling to accept responsibility for what has gone wrong in Iraq. ...
.... Cheney... appeals to the strategic-bombing lobby in the Air Force - who think that carpet bombing is the solution to all problems." ...
Mohamed ElBaradei, the director general of the I.A.E.A. .... "When you push a country into a corner, you are always giving the driver's seat to the hard-liners. . . . If Iran were to move out of the nonproliferation regime altogether, if Iran were to develop a nuclear weapon program, we clearly will have a much, much more serious problem."
July 3 2006 ~ Gaza "If the purpose of Israel's military campaign so far is to secure a major shift in Palestinian public opinion, it does not appear to have worked. Flanked by his parents and many of his own and his brothers' children, Mr Mughari says that even if there is an Israeli ground incursion: "We'll take it even if it gets worse." There are few overt signs of preparations by militants, but Mr Mughari adds: "If [the Israelis] come here they will not get roses...." Independent
July 3 2006 ~ "Thank God for lawyers" Simon Jenkins in the Sunday Times
".... In both Britain and America this past week, judges have begun to curb injustices invoked in the name of counter-terrorism by the Blair and Bush administrations
.....Given the failure of elected assemblies to check this drift to authoritarianism, judges are having to feel their way to a more balanced counter-terrorist regime. They and the public are not stupid. They will accept that the current bout of violent Islamicism appears to require longer periods of interrogation and swifter deportation, with perhaps less fastidiousness over the destination. But natural justice must be granted to the thousands now incarcerated in the West in the backwash of 9/11 and 7/7. Institutions other than government must supply it if the sea in which this pernicious form of fanaticism swims is to be drained.Simon Jenkins also writes that in Afghanistan no objective declared by the Ministry of Defence in London last year " is remotely plausible on the ground."
....Somehow the British Army must be extricated from Iraq and Afghanistan. Somehow British liberties must be rescued from their detention without trial in Downing Street. Somehow Britain's respect for its now substantial Muslim population must be re-established, as it can be without loss of vigilance against violence.
Bombs have never threatened the British constitution and way of life. They are too strong for that. The only threat at present comes from members of Her Majesty's government."
".....The new defence secretary, Des Browne, speaks of "challenges" and "making progress" and "countering terrorism", but he sounds like a character from Oh! What a Lovely War as he carries out the reckless decision of his predecessor, John Reid, to put troops in harm's way....."
(Thank God for Simon Jenkins. Today we hear that the Home Affairs Select Committee is backing police claims that the 28-day limit to hold terror suspects without charge is inadequate. ... but in its own condemnation of Government plans, the Committee says the deadline should be placed under more independent scrutiny (See ITN )
July 3 2006 ~ Parris on Blair An odd article about Matthew Parris in the Independent nevertheless contains an interesting quotation:
".... I feel I saw through him right from the start. I knew he was basically delusional, a confidence-trickster. Most people fell for the magic at first, so I've liked going against the grain. I now, of course, find writing about Blair more boring because everyone thinks the same way about him."
July 1-2 2006 ~ Alex Thomson in Saturday's Snowmail
"......there's the small matter of a football match between England and Portugal. But should such events ever appear at or near the top of news programmes? Frankly, I don't think so and I write as someone who likes footie..."and tonoght (Sunday) he says " ...my thanks to all of you who responded to my thinking out loud about whether you should ever lead a news programme with football - or any other sport for that matter? Given the unanimous nature of your replies - you will all be pleased to note that not one response felt we should have led last night with the England - Portugal game. In the end, as you might have seen, we led on Gaza."
July 1-2 2006 ~ "...a quarter of the British soldiers killed in action in Iraq have died because they must patrol in Snatch Land Rovers, which give no protection against mines and roadside bombs. This tragedy has since drawn wider attention in the press and was raised last week in both Houses of Parliament.
Christopher Booker "..... When I first raised it, however, I set it in the wider context of our disastrous defence policy, by which our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan are starved of proper resources ....."Booker's Notebook, as ever pinpointing the absurd and the frighteningly surreal.
and in the UK... "In such a looking-glass world, it hardly seems surprising that a 69-year-old pensioner should be jailed for failing to pay her council tax, as a protest against the police who had let her respectable Derby street degenerate into a "crack alley" - her point being that they are not doing the job we pay them for. How much better employed they are interrogating a 68-year-old man over the crime of selling a pound of onions..."
July 1-2 2006 ~ "Whistleblowers who leak confidential Government information could
" face far tougher penalties under plans being considered by the Home Office. Ministers and senior civil servants have told members of the Intelligence and Security Committee that they want to increase the severity of gagging orders already in existence under the Official Secrets Act on Government spies who leak confidential information. Home Office officials want to remove the common law defence of "duress of circumstance" which has been used in the past by some members of the intelligence and security agencies to leak information to the press....If the defence was abolished, it would no longer be possible to argue that the seriousness of the information being disclosed justified the actions of the whistleblowers. The "duress of circumstance" defence was used by Katherine Gunn..." Sunday Telegraph(The very name "whistleblower" shows how vital such people are in drawing attention to the various fouls played against our civil liberties. No wonder a government which prefers to throw out the inconvenient rule book wants to eliminate them.)
July 1-2 2006 ~Gaza " An Israeli helicopter fired a missile into the empty office of Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh on Sunday in an apparent signal the Hamas leader could be targeted unless militants released an abducted soldier. .."
"....Haniyeh was not in the office at the time of the strike, witnesses said. He arrived quickly to survey the damage. "This is the policy of the jungle and arrogance," Haniyeh told Reuters. "Nothing will affect our spirit and nothing will affect our steadfastness." One Hamas member was killed in a second attack on an office used by forces loyal to the Islamic militant group, whose charter calls for Israel's destruction. A third strike hit a Hamas school, but there were no casualties..." Reuters
Reuters also reports that
Palestinian health officials say an Israeli air strike which knocked out Gaza's main power plant has put the lives of hundreds of patients in imminent danger. ...... the United Nations and the International Committee for the Red Cross say the strike has cut vital electric power for hospitals as well as families. Air strikes have also knocked out water supplies, they said..."A desperate situation.
July 1-2 2006 ~AfghanistanTwo British soldiers have been killed in fighting in Afghanistan following an attack at a regional headquarters. The Ministry of Defence has announced the soldiers, from the 3rd Para Battlegroup, were killed in action in the town of Sangin when their base came under small arms and rocket-propelled grenade attack.
BBC ".....Shadow foreign secretary William Hague told the BBC the United Nations needed to help co-ordinate efforts on the ground in Afghanistan. He said: "We are concerned about the deployment and about its capabilities and objectives. "There are questions about is there enough helicopter lift capability for our troops. "There is a strong case for a powerful United Nations mandated co-ordinator of the reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan. "Unless we can show people in Afghanistan that there is an alternative future to growing opium and being with the Taleban, unless we can prove that, then we're not going to succeed."
July 1-2 2006 ~ Iraq The New York Times reports that "a powerful suicide car bomb ripped through a bustling street market in a Shiite slum here (Baghdad) on Saturday, killing at least 62 people and wounding nearly 120 in the deadliest insurgent assault since the new Shiite-led government was installed in May..
.....A Sadr official, Abdul Zahira al-Suweidi, said in a telephone interview that the American occupiers were ultimately to blame for the explosion rather than militant Sunnis. "Yesterday, we asked the government for a timetable for the withdrawal of the occupation forces," he said. "As long as they stay, terrorist activities will increase." ......"
June 30 2006 ~ Gaza Snowmail this evening: ".... 64 Hamas now under arrest including cabinet ministers and senior civil servants, all kidnapped by the Israelis while the Palestinians in turn are claiming to have kidnapped another Israeli soldier on the West Bank. Meanwhile, Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh has condemned Israel's offensive in the Gaza Strip and has vowed not to be pressurised into making concessions Water, fuel and sanitation are dangerously low. ..." This is all deeply disturbing.
June 30 2006 ~ Gagging the press The New York Times says, "In a largely party-line vote, lawmakers called on the media to cooperate in keeping classified programs secret.....The House vote followed denunciations by President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney of the disclosure, a request for prosecution of the sources of the article and Times employees and calls to revoke their press credentials. The Republican-written resolution did not identify any publication by name. But many of the resolution's backers said The Times had acted irresponsibly.
Representative David Dreier, Republican of California, said The Times had led other news outlets in deciding to publish classified material. He dismissed arguments that the disclosure served a public interest, saying the public would rather be safe from terrorists than "all-knowing" about antiterror efforts...."
June 30 2006 ~ Guantánamo After the US Supreme Court's ruling yesterday that military tribunals, set up to try Guantanamo inmates, violate the Geneva Convention, NYT says today that privately,
" some administration officials involved in detention policy - along with many critics of that policy - were skeptical that Guantánamo could or would go about its business as before. "It appears to be about as broad a holding as you could imagine," said one administration lawyer, who insisted on anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the ruling. "It's very broad, it's very significant, and it's a slam."(Reading, with nausea, about the reality of life inside Guantanamo, one is ashamed that our protests have not yet had any effect.)
For the moment, the effect of the court's ruling on the detention and interrogation operations at Guantanamo is likely to be as political as it is practical...
......Over the last six weeks, the military custodians at Guantanamo have been rocked by desperate protests - the suicides of three detainees who hanged themselves from the steel-mesh walls of their small cells, the intentional drug overdoses of at least two other prisoners, and a riot against guards in a showcase camp for the most compliant detainees. Those events, in turn, set off new waves of criticism of the camp from foreign governments, legal associations and human rights groups. ...."
June 30 2006 ~ Iran should respond by July 5 to a proposal meant to resolve the standoff over its nuclear program, says the New York Times
June 30 2006 ~ YouGov Reuters reports that Tony Blair is less popular than his main rival for the first time in 12 years. "....Blair also suffered more bad news on the electoral front, with results from by-elections for two vacant parliamentary seats yielding a poor showing for his Labour Party."
June 30 2006 ~ By-elections The Telegraph says, ".... Labour was relegated to fourth in Bromley and Chislehurst, behind the UK Independence Party. Independent candidates won Blaenau Gwent's seats in both the Commons and on the Welsh Assembly, leaving Labour without a majority on the latter...."
June 30 2006 ~ Gaza " Israeli warplanes pounded Gaza on Friday, setting ablaze the Interior Ministry offices of the Hamas-led Palestinian government in a widening military effort to secure the release of a captured soldier..." Reuters
June 30 2006 ~ secret plan to privatise an entire tier of the NHS in England " was revealed prematurely yesterday when the Department of Health asked multinational firms to manage services worth up to £64bn. The department's commercial directorate placed an advertisement in the EU official journal inviting companies to begin "a competitive dialogue" about how they could take over the purchasing of healthcare for millions of NHS patients...Frank Dobson, the former health secretary, said: "If this is not privatisation of the health service, I don't know what is. It is about putting multinational companies in the driving seat of the NHS."....." Guardian
June 29 2006 ~Guantanamo The US Supreme Court has ruled that military tribunals, set up to try Guantanamo inmates, violate the Geneva Convention..."An Amnesty International spokesman also commented on the ruling, saying: "Today's Supreme Court ruling blocking the military commissions set up by President George W Bush is a victory for the rule of law and human rights." He added: "The US administration should ensure that those held in Guantanamo should be either released or brought before civilian courts on the US mainland." ITN
June 29 2006 ~ "Scotland Yard has declined to comment." on the case of Steven Jago, 36, a management accountant, who yesterday became the latest person to be charged under the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act. On 18 June, Mr Jago carried a placard in Whitehall bearing the George Orwell quote: "In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act." In his possession, he had several copies of an article in the American magazine Vanity Fair headlined "Blair's Big Brother Legacy", which were confiscated by the police.
Henry Porter, Vanity Fair's London editor, wrote to Sir Ian Blair, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, expressing concern that the freedom of the press would be severely curtailed if such articles were used in evidence under the Act.
"The police told Mr Jago this was 'politically motivated' material, and suggested it was evidence of his desire to break the law. I therefore seek your assurance that possession of Vanity Fair within a designated area is not regarded as 'politically motivated' and evidence of conscious law-breaking."See the Independent today with Mr Porter's article Blair laid bare: the article that may get you arrested .
"Tony Blair's Government has quietly and systematically taken power from Parliament and the British people. The author charts a nine-year assault on civil liberties that reveals the danger of trading freedom for security - and must have Churchill spinning in his grave.."Henry Porter's criticism over the past months have generated a huge response from the public - and also the Prime Minister. The Independent published their email exchange in which Tony Blair rejects the criticism - and said he plans to go even further
June 29 2006 ~ The European Commission wants to take complete charge of law and order The Commission wants to speed up the creation of a single "judicial area" by scrapping the national vetoes on law and order issues and transferring decision-making powers to Brussels. Proposals also cover the training of judges, give police the right to pursue criminals across international borders, and routinely give information about criminals to foreign police forces.
The plans also include giving a court in Luxembourg the right to decide on individual asylum and immigration cases, enabling illegal immigrants to bypass national courts and appeal straight to the EU's supreme court instead. The commission said that the powers were needed to combat terrorism and organised crime. ..."See Times
June 29 2006 ~July bombings given as justification José Manuel Barroso cited the London July bombings last summer as a justification for the European Commission to centralise the running of law and order in Europe
"I hope we will honour the victims, and look frankly at what can be done at the European level to give more coherence to the fight against terrorism and organised crime."When we read that Franco Frattini, the justice commissioner, thinks scrapping national vetoes would "help to unblock his plan for a pan-European crime for inciting racial hatred" we remember that Uzbechistan's Karimov, is apparently on the same wavelength, having just signed into law a bill introducing greater penalties for people convicted of inciting ethnic or religious hatred.
(Time seriously to worry now? And is Britain being so relaxed about this sleepwalking into supranationalism simply because it can trot out the old argument that it could, if it wanted, make use of its own cosy opt-out or magic bean?)
June 29 2006 ~ "the disclosure of this is disgraceful" President Bush and the right are furious at New York Times. Newt Gingrich said: ".... My sense is that they hate George W. Bush so much that they would be prepared to cripple America in order to go after the President." Today's London Times says
"..... the anger is palpably stronger. The newspaper's offence was to publish an article revealing that the US Administration had kept tabs on suspected terrorists by tapping into bank records which track global transactions.
"What we did was fully authorised under the law," said President Bush. "And the disclosure of this is disgraceful. We're at war with a bunch of people who want to hurt the United States of America, and for people to leak that programme, and for a newspaper to publish it, does great harm." .......Republicans in the House of Representatives prepared to table a motion yesterday condemning the newspaper. ......The editorial likened today's atmosphere to the McCarthy era ..." Times
June 29 2006 ~ Gilad Shalit The Times reports that "until he was captured by Palestinian militants last Sunday there was little to distinguish Gilad Shalit from the thousands of other teenagers doing military service in the Israeli army...."
Richard Beeston , Diplomatic Editor of The Times, says that even as Israeli tanks rumble into Gaza, yesterday's deal between the Palestinian factions has improved the prospects of peace
".....The document envisages the creation of a Palestinian state in territories occupied by Israel during the 1967 Six-Day war, i.e. the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem. Hamas insists that does not mean it recognises Israel. Nevertheless, by extension that is exactly what the agreement implies. ....... It could unlock many doors, including the first step towards recognition of the Hamas government by the West and the freeing up of funds for the Palestinian Administration. ..
if Israel attacks and targets Hamas leaders then the movement may be forced underground and any hopes of Hamas emerging as a responsible civilian government will be lost. ." Times (needs to be read in full)
June 28 2006 ~ Freedom of Information threatened. See Guardian
"....Lord Falconer had told the Commons' constitutional affairs committee that the government was considering changing the rules ...
....But MPs in a report published today said moves to restrict the Act or introduce fees were unnecessary. "We recommend that problems with 'frivolous' requests should be dealt with through the existing provisions in the Act," the MPs concluded. "We do not consider that this is an appropriate reason for reviewing the fees regulations."...
....freedom of information requests have so far revealed a wide variety of information.
This included the details of who receives the billions of pounds of European Union farm subsidies down to the disclosure that Cherie Blair earned £210,000 for legal work over the collapse of the bank BCCI. Historic files released included those held on Yorkshire Ripper which had been kept under wraps for nearly 25 years and a disclosure that Lord Falconer was secretly advising the National Coal Board on how to break the miners' strike in the 1980s.
The MPs will also attack unnecessary secrecy in the Department for Constitutional Affairs...." Guardian
June 28 2006 ~ Government's anti-terrorist legislation Control Orders judged "incompatible" with Article 5 of the European Convention on Human rights. Mr Justice Sullivan, at the High Court in London, has quashed control orders made against one British citizen and five Iraqis . He said the orders were "incompatible" with Article 5 of the European Convention on Human rights. which prevents indefinite detention of suspected terrorists without trial. ITN reports
".... The latest decision means the Government has now suffered a High Court "double whammy" in its attempts to legislate to fight terror. In April the same judge also found the 2005 Prevention of Terrorism Act - under which control orders are made - "incompatible" with the European Convention on Human Rights because "controlees" had not received a fair hearing. Both cases are now expected to come before the Court of Appeal. .."
June 28 2006 ~ Israel in Gaza Israel fired artillery shells into the northern Gaza Strip today. As Snowmail says,
"You would think that if any state were to send an armed force with tanks and start bombing civilian areas in a neighbouring land - including a power station and a good number of bridges and much else - the UN Security Council might be in session by now. But this is just not anywhere, this is the region of the Middle East and somehow the international community finds what is going on around the Gaza Strip tonight bearable. At the end of a lot of destruction there's every possibility there will be a 'prisoners-for-corporal' exchange. Tonight we are in Gaza reporting the latest and questioning why more is not being done to resolve it." More
June 28 2006 ~ "extraordinary renditions" More than a dozen European governments yesterday came under severe pressure to own up to their secret services' role in handing over suspected terrorists to US intelligence after Franco Frattini, the EU justice commissioner, admitted for the first time that European territory had been used for "extraordinary renditions"
".......parliamentarians voted overwhelmingly to approve a report by Liberal Swiss senator Dick Marty that "named and shamed" 14 European states, including Britain, Germany and Sweden, and watched a video containing direct testimony on secret detention and torture from two survivors...
...Lady Ludford, a Liberal Democrat MEP, said Mr Marty had
"uncovered evidence going way beyond speculation of a pattern of human rights abuses through kidnappings, unlawful imprisonment, disappearances, maltreatment and torture. ...European governments can no longer get away with scoffing at the allegations or fobbing us off ... The UK government must accept that, with their denials of complicity in extraordinary rendition wearing ever thinner, the case is pressing for a formal inquiry into whether MI5 tipoffs led to British citizens being incarcerated in Guantanamo and whether CIA planes have rendered people to torture through British airports."... ." Guardian
June 28 2006 ~ GAZA - Israeli tanks backed by helicopter gunships and artillery drove into the Gaza Strip on Wednesday after aircraft attacked bridges and a power station, stepping up pressure on Palestinians to release a kidnapped soldier. (Reuters)
June 28 2006 ~ Tony Blair" has decided he must forge an understanding with the chancellor before the Labour party conference in September to prevent the event being overwhelmed by speculation about his departure date as prime minister. The autumn conference is seen by No 10 as the next hurdle to be negotiated in the path towards a seemly handover of power." Guardian
June 27 2006 ~ Afghanistan Tony Blair has told the House of Commons that several thousand British troops are on 48 hours notice to move, if required, into Afghanistan. ITN Mr Blair said "We cannot of course rule out some of our troops being used in offensive frontline operations." He said "40 Commando Royal Marines remain at a high state of readiness for contingency operations." Breaking news is that the Ministry of Defence has confirmed that two British soldiers have been killed in Afghanistan. An MoD spokesman said the pair died after an attack in the Sangin area of the Helmand province in the south of the country.
June 26 2006 ~ Iran' Washington offered to join the European Union's direct talks with Iran if Tehran agrees to halt its uranium enrichment work. The demand was made in a package that has the backing of six world powers - but Iran's supreme leader says he sees "no use" in talking to the US about Iran's nuclear activities. BBC and Reuters
June 27 2006 ~ Somebody get him a blog... Charles Clarke appears shocked that Mr Blair's decision to get rid of him was for political expediency and says Mr Blair has lost his sense of purpose and direction.. ( Downing Street's waspish retort) Listen again to the item on the Today Programme See BBC and Telegraph etc. Chicken Yoghurt's comment concludes
"... In his attempt at securing redress Clarke brings no insight, no solutions and merely comes across as wishing to parade a grievance stoked by 54 days of second hand tales and newspaper headlines. Somebody get him a blog."
June 27 2006 ~ Council Tax pensioner in prison "...Josephine Rooney, ....recently handed a Home Office award for her community work - told Derby Magistrates' Court she had to take "drastic action"......... "I have always believed we live in a free and democratic country and yet I see current policies set by our local authority that are in conflict with these principles."..." ITN
June 27 2006 ~ Iraq " The number of displaced people in Iraq has swelled by 150,000 since the bombing of a Shiite shrine in February pushed the country to the brink of civil war, a United Nations agency said on Tuesday. ..." Reuters
June 26 2006 ~ Iraq "....Al-Maliki's much-anticipated reconciliation plan, offered up 12 days after a surprise visit from U.S. President George W. Bush, said compensation should be paid to "those who were killed by Iraqi and American forces" and said time spent in prison by detainees who were later released without charge would be considered as part of their mandatory military service. Al-Maliki also said he wanted a general pardon for thousands of prisoners who are determined not to have committed "crimes and clear terrorist actions." ..." Independent
June 26 2006 ~ Not History "...Action Aid.... is calling for the millions of people who supported the Make Poverty History campaign to use the first anniversary to increase pressure on the Government over the failed pledges." Independent
June 26 2006 ~ US Bank data searches The Washington Post: " President Bush said today that a secret program to search global bank records for terrorism-related transactions was "fully authorized" under U.S. law, and he denounced the public disclosure of the program as "disgraceful."..."
"Belgium's government said on Monday it was investigating the legality of counter-terrorism searches by U.S. officials of thousands of private records held by Brussels-based international bank cooperative SWIFT. ..." Reuters
"....This could be another case of citizens' privacy being invaded. We are already familiar with the illegal role of the CIA in so-called rendition flights," said Jan Marinus Wiersma, vice-president of the parliament's Socialist group. "It appears that President (George W.) Bush has crossed the red line, abusing his executive powers as president," said Jean-Marie Cavada, a Liberal member of the parliament who is chairman of the civil liberties committee...."
June 24 2006 ~ "Iraq is a full-scale military balls-up" says Geoffrey Wheatcroft in the Guardian " Our best move now is to cut and run. If the US is going to wait until the time is right before withdrawing, we could be in for another hundred years war .... officer cadets of the British army have always been taught the first rule of battle: never reinforce defeat. If there's a full-scale military balls-up, recognise the truth and don't dig yourself into a deeper hole. Admit defeat and call it a day? You bet."
June 24 2006 ~ David Cameron "In an interview for BBC's Friday Night with Jonathan Ross, he said the war had been "very unpopular" and some bad decisions had been made since it began. But Mr Cameron said "those of us who supported" the military action should "see it through". ..." BBC
June 23 2006 ~ Haditha "The U.S. military charged 12 servicemen this week with murdering Iraqis, signaling to some a stepped-up Pentagon effort to investigate claims after an alleged cover-up of a civilian massacre at Haditha.
....say the charges could signal heightened sensitivity in the Defense Department to claims of abuse and mistreatment of Iraqi civilians and detainees by U.S. troops. "It's what should be done all the time," said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. "If that's what's happening now, that's for the better." Stork said the Pentagon had become "appropriately very sensitive to the lapses" in its reaction to the killings of more than 20 civilians at Haditha in November." Reuters
June 23 2006 ~Iraqi authorities have imposed a sudden curfew in Baghdad Telegraph
".....The Iraqi capital is normally under curfew from 8.30pm to 6am, but the government has extended the hours from 2pm to 6am. The move comes after the Iraqi prime minister's office declared a state of emergency in the city. The additional curfew is part of an ongoing security operation in Baghdad that includes a Friday ban on cars, buses and trucks from 11am to 3pm. On June 16, a suicide bomber with explosives in his shoes killed 11 people in a Shia mosque as worshippers were preparing to offer prayers...."
June 23 2006 ~ An "embarrassing email" leaked by former FEMA head Michael Brown to CNN quotes President Bush as saying at a Cabinet meeting held shortly after Katrina that he was
"pleased that Brown was taking most of the heat for the federal government's roundly criticized response to the hurricane. "I'd rather they beat up on him than me or Chertoff," President Bush allegedly said at the meeting, referring to the head of the Department of Homeland Security, Michael Chertoff. The sender also thanked Brown for "diverting hostile fire away from the leader." http://www.rawstory.com (Thanks to Bloggerheads for this)
June 23 2006 ~ Iran is to stop importing petrol from September and instead start rationing the fuel.... While Iran is the world's fourth largest oil producer, it currently can only produce 57% of the country's daily petrol consumption. ... Petrol imports are an expensive problem for the Iranian government because it heavily subsidies its domestic petrol prices. A litre of regular petrol in Iran currently costs just 800 rials (9 cents; 5p). .." BBC
June 21 2006 ~ EU to call for the closure of Guantanamo BBC ".....Austria, which holds the EU's rotating presidency, said last week that the suicides of three Arab detainees at Guantanamo underlined the need to close the prison camp. On Monday a spokesman for the President of the European Commission, Jose Manuel Barroso, said it was important to ensure that "in combating terrorism we do not ourselves damage our democratic and legal systems. Nobody should be in a legal vacuum," he said. .."
June 21 2006 ~ "The House of Lords demands tough new measures designed to defeat vote rigging " The House of Lordsyesterday defied the Commons by insisting that, to combat election fraud, everybody should sign their name and give their date of birth before they are given a vote. For the second time in a fortnight, ministers failed to persuade peers to drop demands for tough new measures designed to defeat vote rigging. " Times
June 21 2006 ~ Blair Force One - second-hand jets, a modified Boeing 737 for long-haul flights and a smaller aircraft for European jaunts, will be leased at a cost to the taxpayer of £12 million a year.
"......Mr Blair has travelled more than any other Prime Minister. Figures released in April showed that he has used the Queen's Flight alone on 677 occasions since 1997, including on some family holidays. Chris Grayling, the Shadow Transport Secretary, said: "It sends totally the wrong message for ministers to be spending millions of pounds of taxpayers' money on two new, official planes at a time when jobs are being cut in the NHS. "This reinforces the impression of a Government that is . . . too concerned with the trappings of office rather than getting on with the job." Times
June 21 2006 ~Iraq is a quagmire The Australian News.com "Australian troops should be pulled out of Iraq and redeployed to counter trouble in the south-east Asian/Pacific region, Opposition Leader Kim Beazley said. "Iraq is a quagmire, as I said we shouldn't have been there in the first place, wrong war, wrong place...."
June 21 2006 ~"....raising hopes that hundreds of British troops may be home by Christmas"The Times reports that the " phased pull-out of forces from Iraq began in earnest yesterday, raising hopes that hundreds of British troops may be home by Christmas under a new timetable for handover to Iraqi control.."
June 20 2006 ~ Labour's poll rating has again slumped to 32 points, the second time in three months and its lowest point for 20 years Guardian
"......One Defense Department official said investigators had evidence that the soldiers had released the detainees deliberately before they were shot, apparently to have a pretext for killing them as they fled."And the news today is that the Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi has announced plans to withdraw his country's troops from Iraq. The Telegraph reports that "British forces in southern Iraq are to quit one of the four provinces they control and pass responsibility to the Iraqis, it has been announced in Baghdad "
June 20 2006 ~ " too many commitments and not enough men, resources or money to fulfil them all." John Keegan 's Commentary says
"News that the British Army in Iraq is giving up garrisoning Muthanna Province, the desert area south of Basra, raises again the question of whether Tony Blair is overstretching our Forces.....Although the Government consistently denies that the Armed Forces are overstretched, a denial loyally supported by the high command, senior officers speaking off the record regularly admit that the forces have too many commitments and not enough men, resources or money to fulfil them all.
The main commitment is in Iraq but the recent decision to deploy a peacekeeping brigade to Afghanistan has heightened the problem.
The Government has also failed to disengage the forces from commitment in former Yugoslavia and maintains contingents in many other and widespread areas of the world, including the Falklands, Gibraltar and Northern Ireland. The attitude of New Labour to the use of military force is paradoxical. ."
June 20 2006 ~ Iran "President Bush heads to Europe on Tuesday to keep pressure on Iran over its nuclear program even as North Korea threatens to divert his attention by preparing for a long-range missile launch. .." Reuters President Bush said on Monday that Iran faces the prospect of U.N. Security Council action and progressively stronger sanctions if it rejects an offer aimed at containing its nuclear program.
June 20 2006 ~Legal Services Bill
".......Lord Phillips said: "There is going to be a completely new body for all complaints and there is a danger that this turns into a very complex bureaucracy that is expensive and slow."
The Lord Chief Justice also questioned the Lord Chancellor's unrestricted powers to appoint members of the Legal Services Board, the new regulator for all legal service providers. The board must be truly independent, he said. As a "constitutional safeguard", it would be a good idea to require the "concurrence" of the Lord Chief Justice for appointments to the new board.
The Master of the Rolls, Sir Anthony Clarke, agreed. "There has been widespread concern that the present proposals are not perceived to be as independent as they should be," he added, suggesting that Lord Falconer's promise to observe the public appointments code of practice should be written into the Bill.
Sir Anthony also feared that new arrangements for "alternative business structures" could allow criminals to invest in law firms for their own crooked ends. "I think that is a very serious worry," he said."Telegraph
June 20 2006 ~ Any Questions Mrs Vera Baird accused Judge Griffith Williams, the Recorder of Cardiff, of getting the law wrong. "......Judging by Mrs Baird's strained reference to "our helpful discussions at the weekend" in her letter to Lord Falconer, the Lord Chancellor telephoned her soon after her comments were broadcast on Any Questions and gave her the choice of supporting Government policy or leaving office." Telegraph
June 19 2006 ~ Iran Noam Chomsky in the Guardian says that "A negotiated solution to the Iranian nuclear crisis is within reach" "The US must take three basic steps to defuse this confrontation. .."
".....The first is to call off the very credible US and Israeli threats that virtually urge Iran to develop nuclear weapons as a deterrent.The article also provides a salutary history lesson for those who prefer the Fox News interpretation of world news.
A second step would be to join the rest of the world in accepting a verifiable Fissban treaty, as well as ElBaradei's proposal, or something similar.
A third step would be to live up to article six of the NPT (non-proliferation treaty), which obligates the nuclear states to take "good-faith" efforts to eliminate nuclear weapons, a binding legal obligation, as the world court determined. None of the nuclear states has lived up to that obligation, but the United States is far in the lead in violating it..."
June 19 2006 ~ How dare they compare Iraq to the Battle of the Bulge? Juan Cole is angry with White House spokesman,Tony Snow (Battle of Bilge) who said:
"The president understands people's impatience -- not impatience but how a war can wear on a nation. He understands that. If somebody had taken a poll in the Battle of the Bulge, I dare say people would have said, wow, my goodness, what are we doing here?"Professor Cole:
"So Tony Snow thinks a poll would have shown that the US public was shaking in its booties at the Battle of the Bulge? He thinks the New York liberal press was calling for an abandonment of the war? What a steaming crock! So his premise is just not true. But neither is his analogy on the mark. We are not at the Battle of the Bulge in Iraq. We are at the beginning of 1983 and we are the Soviets in Afghanistan.....there is some danger of Bush's imperial over-stretch imperiling our republic. Our budget deficits, enormous indebtedness, the sinking dollar, and other effects of imperial overstretch and Republican Party irresponsibility could lead to a crisis of epochal proportions. Everything Snow said was wrong, and most of it was insulting-- whether to my late uncle, to the greatest generation in general, or just to our intelligence. ."As for the violence in Iraq itself, Juan Cole, Professor of History at the University of Michigan, gives a daily overview which one hopes is read in the White House or by the detractors of Senator Murtha( see The Nation).
" the House never got to vote on Murtha's resolution. Instead, Congressional Republicans rewrote it to read: "It is the sense of the House of Representatives that the deployment of United States forces in Iraq be terminated immediately." It was a sham vote, pure and simple, that reached its climax when Republican Jean Schmidt called Murtha a "coward" on the House floor..."Yesterday, another 25 were killed by civil war violence.
Cole says, "One of the problems with the continued large US military presence in Iraq is that it is strangling the Iraq military. For instance, no Air Force allowed. Likewise, not much of an armored division. How can Maliki hope to rule a country like Iraq without those things?"
June 19 2006 ~ Judges defend themselves against Reid ".........Lord Phillips of Worth Matravers said: "It is inevitable that some who are released will reoffend." He added: "There is a danger that such media coverage will lead to an approach of playing safe that will leave indefinitely imprisoned men and some women who have served their penal terms and who do not, in reality, pose a risk because of the difficulty of being satisfied that this is the case." Independent
"Nick Clegg, the Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman, said: "It is no wonder that judges are breaking their time-honoured silence in face of the relentless and ill-informed abuse that they have received from government ministers. "It can only be hoped that ministers realise they are playing with the very fabric of our criminal justice system by seeking to score cheap points against the judiciary."
June 19 2006 ~ Sir Ian Blair "We need to resolve this and we cannot have this as a permanent Sword of Damocles hanging over the commissioner. You can't just leave as it is now. It needs to be resolved, frankly, within the next few weeks ," says David Davis BBC "Mr Davis had also written an article in The Sunday Telegraph saying public confidence in Sir Ian Blair is "bleeding away" after damaging leaks from the IPCC report into the shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes in July 2005"
The Independent says, "The Forest Gate anti-terror raid was triggered by a man with an IQ of just 69 who was described as an "utter incompetent" when he was jailed for a terror offence, it was claimed yesterday. Scotland Yard has insisted that a single reliable source was behind the raid ..."
June 19 2006 ~ "Surely, if he wanted to change British policies, and support secretiveness in Brussels, he should have got up and said so. Perhaps he should have told the House of Commons first. Wrong to fire Jack Straw; wrong to appoint Margaret Beckett; wrong to oppose openness in Europe; wrong not to defend his own wretched policy, but to leave that shameful task to a subordinate minister. How much longer can Tony Blair blunder on?" William Rees Mogg in the Times on the mysteries of Jack Straw's sacking, the appointment of Mrs Beckett and the embarrassment in Brussels last friday
" ............. The same argument was used against reporting the affairs of Parliament 200 years ago....
..Mr Straw's demotion had nothing to do with the interests of Britain, or any trivia of that kind. He was a highly competent foreign secretary, and he was replaced by an unproven and inexperienced one. That is the second mystery. Why Margaret Beckett? Her next step as a minister had been expected to be oblivion in the House of Lords. ...... Environment was proving a bit too much for her. Defra is a pretty dreadful department, second only to the Home Office as the destroyer of ministerial reputations...."
June 18 2006 ~ Public Trust The edifice is crumbling. Simon Jenkins last week summed it all up
"....Hyper-caution is now an epidemic, raging and choking its way into every corner of British public administration. A report of a cyanide vest has 250 policemen swarming across east London and declaring an air exclusion zone. A doctor will not prescribe treatment without a myriad of tests. A youth worker will not take an adventure tour without a stack of signed forms and indemnities. A civil servant no longer makes a decision without a lawyer, an accountant or a consultant in tow.If you missed it, do go to the Times website to read it.
Nobody trusts professional competence, be it personal or institutional. When the National Health Service last month pleaded to be left alone for just one minute, Patricia Hewitt, the embattled health secretary, blew another £1.2m on yet another NHS upheaval plan from McKinsey, Tony Blair's personal comfort blanket. ..."
June 18 2006 ~ The destroying of Britain's Armed Forces "...no one ever asks any longer that fundamental question: what are our armed forces for?"
"......our armed services, which until recently we still prided ourselves on being the most professional in the world, are being asked to perform dangerous tasks, knowing that they no longer have much practical support from a Government bent on exploiting them politically, for purposes they find it increasingly hard to understand. When the final charge sheet is drawn up against the way Mr Blair governed this country, one of the most damning charges will be the way in which he destroyed its armed forces. Yet the remarkable thing will be how almost nobody at the time noticed it was happening."Booker's column is here reproduced as it was written
June 18 2006 ~ "They particularly object to being called fascist, totalitarian, hijackers of democracy and destroyers of the rule of law, not to mention wanting a police state, a holocaust, a gulag and apartheid. Clearly, as was said of the antipope John, the more serious charges have been suppressed. .........
.... this is not a totalitarian government but it is a "creeping authoritarian" one. Nor is the press peddling "a pernicious and dangerous poison" in protesting. It is doing its job." Re-reading Simon Jenkins from April 2006 one is grateful for anyone who can, with such humanity and humour, nevertheless see the dark future into which we are sleepwalking.
June 17 2006 ~ EU FT Europe's summiteers duck the big issues by Andrew Bounds, Tobias Buck and George Parker
"....Margaret Beckett.... fought and lost a battle to stop cameras filming EU ministers when they are making European laws. Ms Beckett's position was particularly awkward since the UK had itself promoted more transparency in the EU's council of ministers during its presidency of the union last year.
Under a deal agreed yesterday, EU ministerial meetings will be open to the public during lawmaking sessions, unless there is a specific vote to exclude the cameras. Ms Beckett believes such openness will lead to ministers posing for domestic audiences and driving real deal-making into the corridors."
"Supreme Court yesterday substantially diminished Americans' right to privacy in their own homes. The rule that police officers must "knock and announce" themselves before entering a private home is a venerable one, and a well-established part of Fourth Amendment law. But President Bush's two recent Supreme Court appointments have now provided the votes for a 5-4 decision eviscerating this rule.(Since Forest Gate - any idea that the pillion rider still cares a hoot about privacy rights is laughable, alas. )
This decision should offend anyone, liberal or conservative, who worries about the privacy rights of ordinary Americans. ...For those who worry that Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito will take the court in a radically conservative direction, it is sobering how easily the majority tossed aside a principle that traces back to 13th-century Britain, and a legal doctrine that dates to 1914, to let the government invade people's homes. ...."
June 17 2006 ~ Haditha (see below) The NYT ".... investigators have found evidence that the men in the taxi were not fleeing the bombing scene, as the marines have told military officials. Investigators have also concluded that most of the victims in three houses died from well-aimed rifle shots, not shrapnel or random fire, according to military officials familiar with the initial findings.
The houses where the killings took place show no evidence of the violent room-clearing assault described by the marines and their lawyers, the officials said.
The bodies have not yet been exhumed for autopsies, and defense lawyers can be expected to challenge the narrow use of photographic evidence on these points. But according to two people briefed on the investigation, one member of the Marine squad at Haditha, himself closely tied to some of the deaths, is now cooperating with investigators. ...."
June 16 2006 ~ It's the troops that are doing the fighting Reuters " In a vote charged with election-year politics, the U.S. House of Representatives on Friday passed a symbolic resolution that wrapped the Iraq conflict into the war on terrorism and rejected a deadline for U.S. troop withdrawal. The House voted 256-153 for the resolution that sparked two days of emotional debate as Republicans sought to depict Democrats as weak on terrorism while Democrats decried President George W. Bush's policies that they said led to chaos in Iraq and detracted from the fight against al Qaeda. ..........Rep. John Murtha, a pro-defense Pennsylvania Democrat who rocked the U.S. Congress last year when he turned against the war, spoke on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives before lawmakers were to vote on a resolution rejecting a deadline for withdrawing U.S. forces from Iraq.
"It's easy to stay in an air conditioned office and say I'm going to stay the course," the Vietnam war veteran said in an emotional speech. "It's why I get so upset when they stand here sanctimoniously and say we're fighting this thing. It's the troops that are doing the fighting." (More) See also warmwell for November 18th 2005
June 16 2006 ~ Children in Gaza On 9 June Israeli warships fired on a family picnic on a Gaza beach, killing seven people, including three children and three generations. (The Israeli army suggested that the explosion was caused by a Palestinian rocket...) .
" Gaza , now sealed like an open prison and terrorised by the sonic boom of Israeli fighter aircraft, has a population of which almost half is under 15. Dr Khalid Dahlan, a psychiatrist who heads a children's community health project, told me, "The statistic I personally find unbearable is that 99.4 per cent of the children we studied suffer trauma . . . 99.2 per cent had their homes bombarded; 97.5 per cent were exposed to tear gas; 96.6 per cent witnessed shooting; a third saw family members or neighbours injured or killed."..." From the article by John Pilger.In the face of such things, indifference can no longer be an option.
June 16 2006 ~ Chomsky's latest book, (see this fascinating interview in the New Statesman ) "... defines his country as a failure. There are three main criteria for failed states, he says:
- unwillingness or inability to protect its citizens from violence,
- insistence that they are not answerable to international law or to any external consensus,
- and failure to implement true democracy.
The Bush administration, he believes, "has got no interest, or very little interest" in protecting American citizens from terrorism - containers coming into US ports, for example, are not inspected properly - "but the most serious threats are literal threats to survival, the threats of nuclear war and of environmental destruction". And Bush is not protecting Americans against those either...." See interview
June 16 2006 ~ Sir Ian Blair has still not been questioned on the shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes. It appears that Sir Ian is "too busy to be interviewed".
According to the ITN
".. The family of Mr de Menezes are now unlikely to hear any outcome of the investigation until the autumn because two "senior officers" are too busy to be interviewed until late July or even August, they said...
Members of Mr de Menezes' family said they would be attending this morning's private hearing to express their frustration at the delays in the CPS's announcement. A spokesman said: "The family has already been let down by the police, now it is being let down by the CPS and IPCC. It is an outrage that neither agency have finished their investigations and the CPS have not indicated to the family the timescale. This adds further insult to injury to the family as they approach the one-year anniversary of Jean's murder."
An IPCC spokeswoman confirmed that Stockwell 2 would be delayed. "It is taking longer than we thought and we now looking at late summer," she said. "
June 16 2006 ~ Aegis and the "trophy" video "If true this would suggest that a cover-up has taken place of matters concerning serious criminal wrong doing, including murder "
Last November, the Sunday Telegraph reported
"A "trophy" video appearing to show security guards in Baghdad randomly shooting Iraqi civilians has sparked two investigations after it was posted on the internet, the Sunday Telegraph can reveal. The video has sparked concern that private security companies, which are not subject to any form of regulation either in Britain or in Iraq, could be responsible for the deaths of hundreds of innocent Iraqis...."Aegis, described by the Independent , as " perhaps the biggest UK success story in Iraq, having won the $430m Pentagon contract to oversee all private security operations" has been cleared by a U.S. military investigation into the trophy video. The Irish Echo is not happy.
"....In recent days, Reiss has been informed in an email letter by the PFC that it was contacted by an individual "who wishes to provide vital information to the trophy video investigation" being carried out by the Pentagon. "This man has informed us that he is a former Aegis employee, Mr. Rod Stoner. He has informed us that he was present in the vehicle when the shooting occurred and that he was responsible for posting it on the website. He has also informed us that Aegis showed no interest in interviewing him during their internal investigation which apparently ended earlier this year. Most disturbing of all is his allegation that Aegis have refused his repeated requests to be put in contact with those within the Pentagon responsible for the investigation into the video. Mr. Stoner has also informed us that it is his understanding that none of those present in the vehicle have been contacted by the Pentagon, or indeed by any official investigating the video. If true this would suggest that a cover-up has taken place of matters concerning serious criminal wrong doing, including murder," the letter to Reiss added...."
June 15 2006 ~ Up to 14 billion bullets are made globally every year, enough to shoot every person on the planet twice, aid agency Oxfam said on Thursday in a report urging tougher controls on small arms. Reuters
June 15 2006 ~ Bush Reaffirms His Confidence in Rove washingtonpost.com " President Bush yesterday reaffirmed his trust in White House strategist Karl Rove, and GOP allies said the longtime presidential adviser has no reason to apologize for his role in the disclosure of a CIA officer's identity three years ago."
June 15 2006 ~ US " If that interpretation stands, it could apply to millions of noncitizens, including tourists removable for visa violations" The NYT reports that a federal judge in Brooklyn ruled yesterday that the government has wide latitude under immigration law to detain noncitizens on the basis of religion, race or national origin.
".... "The executive is free to single out 'nationals of a particular country' and focus enforcement efforts on them," the judge wrote. "This is, of course, an extraordinarily rough and overbroad sort of distinction of which, if applied to citizens, our courts would be highly suspicious."
Yet, he continued, the Supreme Court has repeatedly held that Congress and the executive branch, in exercising their broad power over naturalization and immigration, can make rules that would be unacceptable if applied to American citizens.
In the judge's view, the government has the right to detain people indefinitely as long as their eventual removal is "reasonably foreseeable." If that interpretation stands, it could apply to millions of noncitizens, including tourists removable for visa violations, said Gerald L. Neuman, a law professor at Columbia who is an expert in human rights law and was not involved in the case. ..."
June 15 2006 ~ Iraq The NYT headline is After Iraq Visit, an Upbeat Bush Urges Patience "...Seeking political momentum President Bush pointedly warned Democrats that an early withdrawal would set back counterterrorism efforts..... "The challenges that remain are serious," Mr. Bush said, referring to Iraq, "and they will require more sacrifice and patience."
June 15 2006 ~ 24 Russian fighter jets Reuters: "Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said on Wednesday his government planned to buy 24 Russian-made Sukhoi fighter jets as part of increased military spending to beef up his armed forces. ...Chavez, who says the United States wants to topple him, has ordered officers and civilian reservists to train for a resistance war against U.S. troops who he says plan to seize Venezuela's vast oil reserves. "
June 14 2006 ~ Guantanamo ".....This idea of suicide is a lie. My son wouldn't commit suicide," said Ali Abdullah Ahmed, father of a Yemeni detainee found dead on Saturday.
The US insists they killed themselves and is awaiting final medical reports. The defence department has suspended all military trials for suspects at the US detention camp in Cuba. No reason was given for the move announced in a Pentagon statement.
The apparent triple suicide has drawn renewed criticism of Guantanamo and calls for it to be shut down. ... US official's claim that the three had committed suicide as a public relations stunt or an act of "asymmetric warfare" drew international condemnation.
The US military identified the Yemeni who died as Ali Abdullah Ahmed, but the al-Jazeera TV channel, which broadcast the interview, said that was the father's name, and that the son was known as Salah Ali. He was found dead along with two Saudis, hanged with clothes and bedsheets in their cells. ......... "I reiterate that neither my son nor any other Muslim would ever commit suicide," said Ali Abdullah. "My son was among those who memorised the Koran and was committed to his religion." He told al-Jazeera: "He was assassinated by American soldiers and I call on the Yemeni and American governments for an international investigation." BBC
June 14 2006 ~ John Reid and Labour's 'get tough' prison lobby The BBC reports on what Lord Falconer and David Cameron have been saying
" Asked if the home secretary was right to openly criticise the judge, Lord Falconer replied: "It is a matter for the attorney general to decide. He is making it clear it is not a political decision to decide to refer to the court of appeal."The Guardian reports,
Earlier, in a fierce Commons clash with Tony Blair, Tory leader David Cameron said: "In the last 40 days the new home secretary has been hard at work. "He has potentially undermined his department's own deportation proceedings, he's shelved his own anti-crime campaign at the last minute, he's misled the public over the employment of illegal immigrants in his own department and now he has criticised judges for their implementation of new Labour law."
............ "If we attack the judges, we attack an incredibly important part of the system when it is not their fault." Lord Falconer.."
"Tony Blair boasted that more than 1,000 offenders have been locked away in the last 12 months without a fixed release date under the new breed of "public protection sentences". The rapid growth in popularity amongst supposedly "soft" judges of this new "indefinite" sentence for dangerous and violent offenders, introduced by David Blunkett when he was home secretary, has taken the criminal justice system by surprise. The chief inspector of prisons, Anne Owers, has said prisons are already facing problems in dealing with serious offenders who will remain behind bars until the parole board decides they are no longer a risk to the public - until they die if necessary.....As Mr Blair and David Cameron yesterday traded claims over who was toughest in their treatment of life-sentenced prisoners, Home Office ministers were quietly confirming that the introduction of a more liberal regime for 60,000 offenders is being postponed. The delay in the introduction of the new sentence of "custody plus" for short-term prisoners was confirmed yesterday by the prisons minister,"
June 13 2006 ~ "The Lords must be able to scrutinise legislation effectively "but not to a point where they delay it so much that they are effectively seeking to veto". ...Jack Straw is quoted by the BBC
( I think this is of deep concern. The House of Lords is still - as yet - one of the last outposts of civilised debate, genuine knowledge and where checks and balances still have some power. Lord McNally, Liberal Democrat leader in the Lords, says
"I'm still not clear what sin we are guilty of which needs to be put right."One wonders if we also nearing the point where defence lawyers must be able to scrutinise a case effectively but not to the point where they are effectively interfering with the case for the prosecution. When we have a situation in which people, even in Britain, are held without charge and shot by the police without warning or substantial reason - and their lawyers refused information on the grounds of "national security" - we do seem some way down the slippery slope already. )
June 13 2006 ~ Forest Gate raid ~ Reuters says, " A British man shot by police seeking a possible chemical bomb in a London home, and later released without charge, said on Tuesday the officer gave no warning before pulling the trigger.
"We both had eye contact, he shot me straight away," Mohammed Abdul Kahar, 23, told a news conference. "I just saw an orange spark and a big bang. I flew into the wall, slipped down. There was blood coming down my chest. I knew I was shot."...... The high-profile operation has also increased pressure on London police chief Ian Blair, already under fire over the fatal shooting on a London train last July of a Brazilian wrongly suspected of being a suicide bomber. British Prime Minister Tony Blair backed the police chief on Monday, saying he was doing a "fine job" and had his full confidence ..."
June 13 2006 ~ Karl Rove "not to be indicted" The Guardian says
"President Bush's political brain escapes indictment, but mysteries and legal entanglements remain....two possibilities. ...
First, Patrick Fitzgerald's letter informing Rove that he will not be prosecuted concludes his responsibility as a witness. ....And Fitzgerald can concentrate solely on I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney's former chief of staff, indicted for perjury and obstruction of justice, and scheduled for trial in January 2007. (Libby, for his part, has declared his intention to call Rove as a witness in his trial.)
Second, Rove's escape from potential indictment may be the result of his extraordinary cooperation. "We've always said he [Rove] did everything he could to cooperate," Rove's lawyer, Robert Luskin, told the Washington Post this morning. But the extent of Rove's cooperation about others remains unknown. Fitzgerald's filings in the Libby case document Cheney's initiation and direction of the attacks on and obsession with Wilson, and the "concerted action" by "multiple people in the White House" - abusing classified information - to "discredit, punish or seek revenge against" Wilson. If Fitzgerald's investigation has completely ended he should announce it soon and release the grand jury. Given his professionalism, if his probe is done he will not tarry in holding a grand jury. That would be the normal procedure. But if he makes no such statement, the inevitable conclusion would be that his investigation continues. In that case, it would be reasonable to assume that Rove has been a useful informant. .."
June 12 2006 ~ More of the UK sold off over our heads The vast majority of British ports - including Southampton, Immingham and Port Talbot - are poised to fall into foreign hands with an agreed bid from a consortium led by Goldman Sachs, the American bankers, close to completion. As the Guardian says, ".... The move is bound to trigger further political soul-searching about the UK's vital infrastructure being controlled from abroad, particularly after last week's agreement to sell the airports group BAA to the Spanish and P&O's takeover by Dubai Ports World (DPW). .."
June 12 2006 ~ Sir Ian Blair The official report into the police killing of de Menezes will criticise Sir Ian Blair for his attempt to stop an independent inquiry. The Guardian says of the report that
"It will also say that the commissioner's actions in the aftermath of the shooting at Stockwell tube station led to public confidence in his force being damaged.....When asked if anyone who had read the report thought Sir Ian would survive, the source said: "There is no one saying that. They would be misguided to do so.....
Damian Hockney, a member of the Metropolitan Police Authority, called for the commissioner to resign: "I just don't think his position is sustainable. What the Met needs is courageous and inspired leadership and I don't think he is now the man to provide it. The force is slipping and sliding all over the place.".....
....Some officers are alleged to have falsified information in a log book on the evening of July 22. They altered a surveillance log which detailed their movements. The report says they would have seized the logbooks had they not been blocked by Sir Ian...... " ...."
June 12 2006 ~ Margaret Beckett tries to block moves for greater openness at the EU The Foreign Secretary, says the Telegraph
" is braced for an embarrassing row today as she tries to block moves for greater openness in EU decision-making. Some EU ambassadors and members of the European Parliament have expressed shock at Mrs Beckett's drive to keep television cameras out of the ministerial debates that decide large swathes of EU law, with one senior MEP accusing Britain of "betrayal". When Britain held the rotating presidency of the EU in the second half of last year, Tony Blair endorsed calls for greater transparency in meetings of the Council of Ministers, most of whose debates are currently held behind closed doors..."See also Financial Times
June 12 2006 ~ Guantanamo "The suicides of three Arab detainees at Guantanamo ignited new calls on Sunday for the United States to shut down the prison camp but a U.S. diplomat called their hangings a "good PR move" to gain attention. ...Prisoner advocates blamed the Bush administration for the deaths and said the men were held under conditions that "for all intents and purposes had already taken their lives." Several countries urged Washington to shut the camp down. ......." Reuters
June 12 2006 ~ Southern Iraq "whether the British troops are there or not is irrelevant" says Professor Cole's Informed Comment
" Al-Zaman reports that the Iraqi police in Amara, a major city in southern Iraq, are saying that 5 Iraqis, among them one woman, were killed and 15 were wounded in clashes between Mahdi Army militiamen who follow Muqtada al-Sadr and British forces. A British soldier was severely wounded, and a tank fell into a canal. .....The outbreak of violence raises questions about the earlier plan to withdraw all British troops from the province on 22 June, announced by Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki. (I think everyone understands that the Sadr Movement has taken over Maysan, so whether the British troops are there or not is irrelevant, since they cannot dislodge the Sadrists or their Mahdi Army paramilitary; and they are probably just a provocation.)..."
June 12 2006 ~ permanent US bases in Iraq Prof Cole, citing the Telegraph, also tells us that the US is going to keep a garrison of 50,000 troops - one tenth of its total number of serving American troops there - in Iraq for years to come, if it can. The Telegraph says, at the end of its article,
"Military analysts have noted that significant American spending is already being committed to permanent bases in Iraq. They say Iraq's military may soon be able to fight by itself, but it cannot feed or supply itself and it has no air force to speak of.
The Camp David meeting will be attended by Dick Cheney, the vice-president, Donald Rumsfeld, the defence secretary, Condoleezza Rice, the secretary of state, John Negroponte, the director of national intelligence, Gen Michael Hayden, the CIA director and Gen Peter Pace, America's top soldier."
June 11 2006 ~ Forest Gate raid Scotland Yard told MI5 there was doubt about the tip off 7 but the police were still ordered to make the raid The Observer article today by Jamie Doward, Mark Townsend and Antony Barnett
".......a Whitehall official. "The intelligence was doubtful. On the Thursday night [hours before the raid] there were contradictions about how strong the intelligence was. There came a point when officials in the Cabinet Office were made aware that the police believed they were being placed in difficulty because of the quality of this intelligence."
..... News of the World today publishes details of a leaked copy of the Independent Police Complaints Commission report into the tragic shooting of the innocent Brazilian Jean Charles de Menezes at Stockwell station, south London, last July in the wake of the London tube and bus bombings. The newspaper claims the report reveals how senior officers knew de Menezes was not a suicide bomber just hours after he was killed. But they failed to tell the Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Ian Blair until the following day...."
....... Last night Gareth Peirce, the lawyer acting for the family of the two brothers seized in Forest Gate, said they would be launching legal action for damages against Sir Ian. ... She said the officers failed to give a warning during the raid and did not identify themselves as police. 'The family thought they were armed robbers wearing helmets with their visors pulled down,' Peirce said. 'Nobody identified themselves as police as they stormed in wearing terrifying black hoods and started bashing them over the head. They only realised they were officers when they saw the word police on their backs. ..."
June 11 2006 ~ Guantanamo Three Arabs have hanged themselves with clothes and bedsheets, the first prisoners actually to die at Guantanamo base since the United States began holding terrorism suspects there in 2002, according to U.S. officials . Reuters doesn't have many details but says,
"......Prison camp commander Navy Rear Adm. Harry Harris said the suicides were acts of "asymmetrical warfare" and linked to a "mystical" belief at the camp that it would take the deaths of three detainees for the rest to go free.
The U.S. military said the bodies were being treated "with the utmost respect." The three detainees had taken part previously in extended hunger strikes and been force-fed. They all left suicide notes but no details were made public..
Facing indefinite detention, with none of the rights afforded formal prisoners of war or criminal suspects in the U.S. justice system, dozens of the detainees have undertaken hunger strikes and attempted suicide ....
William Goodman of the Center for Constitutional Rights, which defends some Guantanamo prisoners, said the deaths "are the latest result of the policies of this administration which seek to deny justice, fairness and due process to these men." ."
June 9 2006 ~ Forest Gate apology The Independent reports,
" Scotland Yard appealed to Muslims in east London to remain calm as it braced itself for a backlash today against the Forest Gate terror raids. An apology was issued for the upheaval caused by last week's raid, which involved 250 officers, many of them wearing chemical protection suits, and resulted in a suspect being shot in the shoulder. The Metropolitan Police insists it had no choice but to raid the property after receiving intelligence that a device containing cyanide was being built there. Computers and telephones have been removed from the family house and detectives are continuing to question two brothers under anti-terror powers. However, senior officers admit they have almost given up hope of finding chemicals on the site..."Hundreds of people are expected to attend a demonstration outside Scotland Yard on Sunday organised by a coalition of Muslim groups. Detectives have been given until tomorrow to question the brothers arrested in the raid. The two men strongly protest their innocence. (see below)
June 8 2006 ~ The Big News. How things change. Five years ago the news of the death of Snowball might, as Napoleon and Squealer confidently expected, have caused us momentarily to forget the unholy, futile and filthy mess Iraq has been pushed into and give a small cheer. As it is, we - like Benjamin and just as culpable - prefer to keep quiet and go on thinking.
President George W. Bush says that American forces have "delivered justice".
Meanwhile. Dick Cheney has been accused of trying to influence the domestic surveillance inquiry and of lobbying other Judiciary Committee members to dissuade them from holding a hearing. . BBC,
Iran has begun a fresh phase of uranium enrichment just as world powers presented it with incentives to stop Theaustralian.news.com)
The Iraq Ministers for the Interior and Defence have finally been appointed. (FT)
And Tony Blair has said he backs the police and security services 101 per cent after the raid on an east London house that led to a man being shot -Channel 4 News on Wednesday
June 8 2006 ~ John Bolton furious. The deputy secretary-general of the United Nations, Mark Malloch Brown, was accused last night by Washington's ambassador to the UN, John Bolton, of making "a very, very grave mistake" Mr Malloch Brown referred to " Bush administration hypocrites who were feeding a right-wing anti-UN frenzy in middle America.....Much of the public discourse that reaches the US heartland has been largely abandoned to its loudest detractors, such as Rush Limbaugh and Fox News ..."
The Guardian says,
"Tensions between the UN and George Bush's White House have been simmering since the war in Iraq, but they also encompass deep splits over the international criminal court and the new human rights council, whose formation the US was one of only four states to oppose. ..... The deputy secretary-general, a Briton who was previously head of the UN development programme, called his speech "a sincere and constructive critique of US policy toward the UN by a friend and admirer". But he may have felt liberated to speak his mind: his term of office ends in December, at the same time as Mr Annan's, and he is understood not to be planning to stay at the UN..."The Guardian also repeats the rumour that Tony Blair is "angling" to become Kofi Annan's successor.
The BBC reports that Jack Straw has predicted that Tony Blair will leave Downing Street "well before" the next general election. The Telegraph reports the same thing
According to people working and living in the area, around 15 police cars pulled up to the area and uniformed men began pulling civilians off the streets and from cars, throwing bags over their heads and herding them into the cars. Anyone who tried to object was either beaten or pulled into a car. The total number of people taken away is estimated to be around 50.
This has been happening all over Iraq- mysterious men from the Ministry of Interior rounding up civilians and taking them away. It just hasn't happened with this many people at once. The disturbing thing is that the Iraqi Ministry of Interior has denied that it had anything to do with this latest mass detention (which is the new trend with them - why get tangled up with human rights organizations about mass detentions, torture and assassinations- just deny it happened!). That isn't a good sign- it means these people will probably be discovered dead in a matter of days. We pray they'll be returned alive"
June 8 2006 ~ "The report said 14 European countries helped the C.I.A. transfer terrorism suspects, and two harbored detention centers" NYT on the CIA detainee web.
the Telegraph"Britain is named as one of 14 European nations that allegedly helped the Central Intelligence Agency abduct and secretly transport terrorist suspects to countries where they faced torture....The outside world will never know the full extent of the "global spider's web" spun by America to catch terror suspects then cause them to vanish, or nearly vanish, from the face of the Earth. ..."
The Times' careful headline, however, is Little light is shed on rendition saga and although it says, "Yesterday's report by the Council of Europe on the US seizure of terrorist suspects abroad swelled the clamour for Tony Blair and other leaders to say whether they helped", it adds, "As advocacy, it lacks the hard evidence to clinch its case. Its author's best hope may be to raise the temperature; in that, at least, he has succeeded" The pdf file of the report can be reached here. The Times quotes Andrew Tyrie, Conservative chairman of the parliamentary group on extraordinary rendition
"huge amount of circumstantial evidence ( of a British role).....We are a democracy. The truth is going to come out. For the Prime Minister just to say, 'Oh, I'm not going to say any more,' isn't going to wash."
June 8 2006 ~ "I began to realise I was on the wrong side of the checkpoint.." John Pilger's new book, Freedom Next Time (Bantam Press, 2006; http://www.johnpilger.com/) has just been published. Containing chapters on Diego Garcia, Palestine, India, South Africa and Afghanistan
Extract: "... Israel's dissidents are among the bravest I have met. .... Shopkeepers refuse to serve them; lifelong friends cross the road rather than speak to them. Without warning, they are shouted at and spat upon... At the time of writing, 635 Israeli soldiers have refused to serve in occupied Palestine...... Their organisation is 'Courage to Refuse'.
I spent an afternoon with one of them, former Sergeant Ishai Rosen-Zvi, an orthodox Jew. We met in a Tel Aviv park, away from unfriendly eyes. I asked him what had made him a 'refusenik'.61
'It took me longer than I wish to think. When I arrived in Gaza with my unit, I could see what we were doing was horrible, but I did my job; I felt uneasy and embarrassed, but I did my job. On leave, at home, I never talked about it; I became a kind of Jekyll and Hyde character. Then I began to realise I was on the wrong side of the checkpoint, the roadblock we had to man day after day. The real story of the occupation is there at the roadblocks. .... 'Imagine it. You are standing there and it's five in the morning, and you see their eyes - some of the people could be my grandfather - and you glimpse the humiliation and the hatred. You want to take them aside and say, "Look, I'm a good guy; I've got nothing against you." But of course that has no point. For them, you are the occupation And nobody gives you their liberty for nothing.'I said, 'The government insists the roadblocks are there to stop the suicide bombers coming.'
'The roadblocks were there thirty-five years before suicide bombing began. They are there to control, always control.' ... 'You have all the power; they have no power. You can, at any moment, take their ID, and then they have nothing, because without ID, they can be arrested at any time. So they take no risks; they don't debate; they may even be deferential, but that's not how they are in their hearts.'
June 8 2006 ~ Google may reverse its decision to launch a censored version of its search engine in China. Guardian
June 5 2006 ~ "Intelligence behind terror raid questioned as proof remains elusive" is the headline to this Guardian story by Richard Norton-Taylor and Vikram Dodd
"Counter-terrorism officials conceded yesterday that lethal chemical devices they feared had been stored at an east London house raided on Friday may never have existed. Confidence among officials appeared to be waning as searches at the address continued to yield no evidence of a plot for an attack with cyanide or other chemicals. ....
Mr Kahar's solicitor, Kate Roxburgh, said the 23-year-old Royal Mail worker had been shot in the upper right hand side of his chest, with the bullet exiting through his shoulder on an upwards trajectory. She said his brother had been standing behind Mr Kahar at the time. Both solicitors said there had been no struggle before the shot was fired without warning, but Ms Roxburgh said Mr Kahar had grabbed the gun after he was shot fearing it would be fired again, leaving him with a burn to his hand from the hot barrel."
June 5 2006 ~ Haditha " Many of the victims were killed "execution-style," shot in the head or in the back. One US government official said that the US marines had "suffered a total breakdown in morality and leadership, with tragic results" David Cromwell's ZMag article Silence In The Service Of Power which comments on several accounts of the massacre and takes a critical look at the news media, can be read here.
June 5 2006 ~ Iraq "the civil war grinds on- 80 dead or announced dead on Sunday." Informed Comment
"......If we count up all the deaths mentioned by Reuters, including that of a GI in Anbar, they come to 62. Figure in the 5 extra bodies in Baghdad that al-Zaman reports, and the 6 policemen killed by a bomb in Mosul, reported by the same source, and raise the Basra Sunni mosque death toll to 20 as al-Zaman reports it, and I count 80 dead or announced dead on Sunday. Even to a US media as jaded by now about this violence as our own, that should stand out as an exceptional day. But it won't. The totals of deaths are being reported in the 20s as far as I can see. Even just the Reuters accounts would take you to 62..
..... Criminal gangs and guerrillas both use pipeline sabotage as an aid to petroleum smuggling, which finances more guerrilla actions and more criminality . . . What the drug trade was to insurgencies in Viet Nam and Afghanistan, petroleum is to the Iraq War. Only, the CIA appears to have encouraged and benefitted from the former, whereas the latter both hurts the US economy and enables disorder in a country the US is trying to control.
The Iraqi government says that 180,000 Iraqis have been displaced by faith-based ethnic cleansing since mid-February. That would be a civil war all on its own. ....."
June 5 2006 ~ Iran Professor Cole says, "The US media presented only a snippet from the speech of Supreme Jurisprudent Ali Khamenei of Iran on Sunday, in which he threatened to damage oil supplies to the West if the US militarily attacked Iran. He did say that, but
he also announced that Iran had no intention of striking first, had not attacked and would not attack another country, and that it has no nuclear weapons program and does not want a nuclear bomb. I didn't hear any of those statements reported on television. ........( Read the part of Khamenei's speech relating to international relations and the nuclear issue. )
....... I should think it is obvious that I loathe Khamenei and his regime, but I suppose I have to say so yet again in today's wretched intellectual environment. I find Khamenei's claims that Iran does not abuse human rights to be particularly offensive. Still, I do think that if the public is going to hear part of Khamenei's speech, it should hear some of the other parts, too."
June 5 2006 ~ Oil now over 73 dollars See oil page
June 4 2006 ~ Operation Volga "My cllient is not a terrorist" The Telegraph reports that Koyair's solicitor has dismissed the police allegations that he was shot by his 20 year old brother and has accused the police of attempting a cover up.
"My client denies that he struggled and caused his brother to be shot. "He knows nothing about cyanide or suicide belts or jackets or explosives or bombs or firearms."Police have told the men's lawyers almost nothing of the charges against their clients. The "up to 300 police officers " who descended on Forest Gate at 4 am on Friday were apparently acting on a tip off that "there was a device using a dangerous chemical other than ricin which had probably been constructed in Britain." John Humphrys did point out in Saturday's Today Programme, the number of times words such as "could have" and "probably" were used in connection with the Lansdown Road raid. Nothing of any note seems to have been found. And we still await what is likely to be a damning report on the mistaken shooting last July of Mr Menezes.
June 4 2006 ~ desperate sorrow at the madness of what is happening in Iraq A very readable article by Sophie McNeill at www.informationclearinghouse.info quotes John Pilger
"....there have been journalists - and others - who have actually gone with the insurgents; who have reported about them. One of them, for instance, is a young woman named Jo Wilding, a British human rights worker. She was in Fallujah all through that first attack in 2004. Jo Wilding's dispatches were some of the most extraordinary I've read, but they were never published anywhere."(Warmwell pages on Jo Wilding)
Pilger said the mainstream press needs to get over its hang up of "our man in Baghdad" and prioritize whatever information can be obtained by whoever is brave enough or has the best contacts. "There are sources of information for what is happening inside Iraq. Most of them are on the web. I think those who give a damn in the mainstream really have to look at those sources and surrender their prejudice about them and say we need that reporter's work because he or she has told us something we can't possibly get ourselves. And I think that's the only way we will really serve the public."
June 4 2006 ~ "an absolutely superb job" is what Patricia Hewitt says she thinks John Prescott is doing according to today's ITN report that Jack Straw could become Deputy Prime Minister with the backing of Downing Street.
June 4 2006 ~ Prof Klaus was prime minister from 1993 to 1997, and in 2003 he succeeded Vaclav Havel as president.
"....Looking out on that crowded hall, I wondered what other European head of state would hold twice-monthly public seminars, at which anyone is free to join in serious discussion of political issues. As I told the audience, it represented a genuine spirit of democracy that could not be more alien to the statist "European project", or to most of that political class which is only too happy to keep it in being..."
June 2 2006 ~ Iraq Massacres The Iraqi Prime Minister, Nuri al-Maliki, has condemned the Haditha massacre and demanded that compensation be paid to the families. He said that the deaths of 24 Iraqis, including women and children, in the western town of Haditha on November 19 last year, apparently at the hands of US marines, was a "terrible crime". At Haditha, it appears that Marines were taking revenge on civilians for the killing that morning of one of their own men.
The BBC has new video evidence which seems also to implicate US troops in the killing of 11 Iraqi civilians at Ishaqi on March 15 this year. The pictures have been "cross-checked with other images taken at the time of events and is believed to be genuine, the BBC's Ian Pannell in Baghdad says." And Professor Juan Cole says
".....The BBC report, and interviews with local police, along with the video, supplied by a Sunni religious group that opposes the US presence in Iraq, suggests the following narrative: The US military got a tip that an al-Qaeda (i.e. probably Salafi Jihadi) operative was in this house in Ishaqi. They went there, and appear to have shot up the inhabitants, thinking that they would be killing members of an al-Qaeda cell. The bullet wounds do not appear to be short-range ones. In fact, they killed a grandmother and 8 children, with 2 others. I presume that the GIs left the scene long enough for an Iraqi to come in and videotape.He says that these killings, bad as they are, are not as bad as Haditha, "since the long-range bullet wounds may indicate that they went in, guns blazing, before they realized who they were killing. What is scarey at Ishaqi, if the story is borne out, is the cover-up. "
It is alleged that the US troops then came back and collapsed the building. They reported that the building collapsed in the course of their assault on an al-Qaeda safehouse, killing 4 civilians. But the collapse appears to be after the fact and part of a cover-up..."
June 2 2006 ~ Professor Cole says,
"Scandal begets scandal. The Western mass media are now more predisposed to credit such evidence, which means they will likely receive more and more such evidence."The radical guerrilla group "Brigades of Husayn," says it will kill all Iraqi "collaborators" with Coalition troops in the country - and cites the Haditha massacre as justification. Aljazeera says of al-Maliki that
"his patience was wearing thin with excuses that US troops kill civilians "by mistake", and that he wanted an investigation into Haditha and other similar cases."As for the "Ethics training" we are now hearing about, we are certainly not the only ones to see the tragic irony in expecting the sort of young men who are recruited into the US military to behave more humanely than their leaders. "Our troops have been trained on core values throughout their training," Bush said. It would be some comfort to be able to believe in the "core values" of the leaders of the Western World - but unfortunately, rottenness is what comes to mind. Professor Juan Cole reports drily that " Continued high unemployment is one cause of discontent in Iraq. The high rate of civilian death, some of it at the hands of the US military, is also making Iraqis upset."
June 2 2006 ~ Scotland Yard's most senior officers must stop "acting as a bunch of free agents" if they want to keep their jobs. The Guardian
"....Sir Ian and his supporters are hoping to establish his grip before the release of two potentially damaging reports from the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) about the shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes and its aftermath......the commissioner recently redeployed two senior colleagues who have been privately criticised by Sir Ian loyalists for not being "team players".......
Jenny Jones, a member of the MPA, said: "It is time the people at the top started working as a team and not acting as a bunch of free agents." Mr Paddick was questioned after the leaking of comments by Sir Ian at an internal management board meeting about the operation to remove placards from the anti-war demonstration by Brian Haw outside Parliament. Sir Ian told the MPA that the operation cost £7,000 but issued a clarification amending the figure to £27,000 after his comments were leaked.
.... The De Menezes inquiry continues to menace the commissionership of Sir Ian. Yesterday it emerged that assistant commissioner Andy Hayman, the head of anti-terrorism, has been served with a "regulation nine" notice warning him that he is under investigation over the Met's handling of the aftermath of the Stockwell shooting. The IPCC is also expected to interview Sir Ian under criminal caution after serving him with a regulation nine notice."
31 May 2006 ~ alleged massacre of Iraqi civilians " The White House has promised full public disclosure of the results of a military probe into an alleged massacre of Iraqi civilians after renewed accusations that the Marine Corps tried to cover up what could be the worst atrocity committed..." Times
31 May 2006 ~Iran "... does not pose an immediate nuclear threat and the world must act cautiously to avoid repeating mistakes made with Iraq and North Korea, the head of the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency said on Tuesday. " Reuters
31 May 2006 ~ Police mergers Cleveland Police Authority is launching the first legal challenge against the Government's plans for police force mergers. It is to seek a judicial review at the High Court.
"Dave McLuckie, chairman of the authority, said he had tried to meet the Home Secretary, John Reid, to discuss the plans but this had proved impossible. "We wanted to actually find resolution to this that didn't include court action. That hasn't been the case," he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme." Telegraph
30 May 2006 ~Bush 'planted fake news stories on American TV' A story in the Independent says that a report by the non-profit group Centre for Media and Democracy, found that over a 10-month period at least 77 television stations were making use of
" faux news broadcasts, known as Video News Releases (VNRs). "They have got very good at mimicking what a real, independently produced television report would look like," ....
. ...... Among items provided by the Bush administration to news stations was one in which an Iraqi-American in Kansas City was seen saying "Thank you Bush. Thank you USA" in response to the 2003 fall of Baghdad. The footage was actually produced by the State Department, one of 20 federal agencies that have produced and distributed such items. .."
30 May 2006 ~ Iran is ready to resume negotiations over its nuclear programme with three European Union states but not the US, its foreign minister has said. Manouchehr Mottaki told reporters Iran was ready for talks with France, the UK and Germany "without preconditions". BBC
30 May 2006 ~ EU Court of Justice says no to the 34 items of information on travellers. The European Court of Justice ruled today that there is no adequate legal basis for the US demand that European airlines give U.S. authorities 34 items of information on passengers flying to the United States, including name, address, all forms of payment and contact telephone numbers. The United States said the transfer of data was essential to fight terrorism following the September 11 attacks on New York and Washington by suicide plane hijackers. See Reuters
29 May 2006 ~ Iraq The ministers of defence and interior have still not been appointed. Professor Juan Cole reports, among much else, that Baghdad is broken Water runs only an hour a day, power is on for 4 hours, and sewage runs in the streets
"...parliament decided its members all need armored cars. The press seems to be taking an attitude of ridicule toward this measure, but I see it as a good sign. The parliament should spend $5 million on enabling its members to come to work without fear of being shot dead by guerrillas.
Or maybe they missed this Reuters item today:
'BAGHDAD - A Shi'ite woman member of parliament, Gufran al- Saidi, was wounded in a shooting incident near Baghdad's Green Zone, police sources said. They had no further details. Saidi is a supporter of radical cleric Moqtada al-Sadr. ''
Apparently the reporters have forgotten that parliamentarians and candidates for parliament really have been killed by the guerrillas...... So much money has been wasted in Iraq, both American and Iraqi, since the fall of the Baath. The defense minister appointed by Iyad Allawi (who was in turn more or less appointed by the Americans) is thought to have embezzled very big bucks, for which there is nothing to show. Armored cars that really exist and help the Iraqi government function? That would be a bargain..."
29 May 2006 ~ Afghan protest over US accident Reuters " It was not immediately clear who fired first but the violence soon degenerated into a gun-fight between protesters and police....One man standing next to a Reuters cameraman was shot and killed, the cameraman said. The United States has 23,000 troops in Afghanistan. "
29 May 2006 ~ Pope Benedict XVI, once a Hitler Youth member, is going to visit the former Nazi concentration camps of Auschwitz and Birkenau as he ends his tour of Poland. It has never been more important to stand up for our hard won freedoms. If we do not, they will continue to be quietly eradicated.
"Germany's Berliner Zeitung says Pope Benedict XVI's historic visit to Auschwitz on Sunday took on a particular dimension because of his background. "About six decades after whole families were sent naked into the gas chambers almost continuously in the name of a modern, secular, social Germany, a former member of the Hitler Youth returns to the most horrible of these cursed places as the Pope," it observes. This sequence of events is "difficult to grasp for a small human brain," the paper says.
Under the headline "European engine trouble", Austria's Die Presse says the leaders governing France, Britain, Poland and Italy are too weak at home to show European leadership...." (BBC)
29 May 2006 ~ Amnesty International is celebrating its 45 year anniversary with a campaign called Irrepressible.info to push for the release of those jailed for speaking out on the internet.
"Chat rooms monitored. Blogs deleted. Websites blocked. Search engines restricted. People imprisoned for simply posting and sharing information. The Internet is a new frontier in the struggle for human rights. Governments - with the help of some of the biggest IT companies in the world - are cracking down on freedom of expression. Amnesty International, with the support of The Observer, is launching a campaign to show that online or offline the human voice and human rights are impossible to repress. .."Sign the pledge that opposes repressive use of the net. When we signed this new pledge this morning, the total already stood at 7782
28 May 2006 ~ "blowing the whistle on a long-standing culture of sleaze" The Scotsman "....alleged that councillors were bribed to pass planning applications from a construction firm. His fellow councillors also stand accused of accepting hospitality from the building firm without declaring it in their register of interests, as they are required to do. The affair is all the more damaging for Labour as it centres on the Motherwell and Wishaw constituency of First Minister Jack McConnell....."
28 May 2006 ~ Iraq, Iran On Friday, Iraqi foreign minister Hoshyar Zebari defended Iran's right to have a civilian nuclear energy program. Prof Cole comments: "That can't be what Washington was going for in backing the new Iraqi government."
28 May 2006 ~ John Prescott "... Baroness Kennedy said Mr Prescott's affair had undermined his position within the party and made it "timely" for him to leave his post. "I think there is a feeling of serious disappointment that somehow all these events are going to undermine anything that John says," she told BBC1's Sunday AM. "Every time he stands up to speak, people are going to be ribaldly making references to the photos we all know and we saw in the papers. "There is an undermining of any kind of status that he might have within the party and I think people feel that a move on might be timely." ...." Telegraph
28 May 2006 ~ "Present-day government warns us to be very, very afraid, successively of Aids, Saddam Hussein, BSE, terrorists, Sars, bird flu and now global warming. Rulers were once elected to free us from fear, not to increase it. Now they cry wolf every day and use it to demand more power and money into the bargain..." Simon Jenkins in the Sunday Times
28 May 2006 ~ "Rove has always been a focus of the case," says a lawyer who has worked on the case. "Surely you don't think Patrick Fitzgerald is going to be satisfied with just Scooter Libby. There are bigger fish out there and he holds the frying pan."
Political scientist George Harleigh, a Republican insider who worked in the Nixon and Reagan administrations, says the White House has been trying to head off a Rove indictment since the investigation of the leaking of Plame's name began
"They keep throwing up roadblocks to the investigation but even an administration as out-of-touch as this one can see the handwriting on the wall," Harleigh says. "If Fitzgerald can find a way to bring Rove down he will do it."..." Capitol Hill Blue.com
26 May 2006 ~ Lord Goldsmith's change of mind over legality of Iraq war ~ Guardian "... the government still refuses to publish the text of these documents, the Morgan email and the treasury solicitor's minute of his conversation with Lord Goldsmith. Mr Thomas has stepped back from a confrontation with Downing Street over a raft of freedom of information requests which were submitted to him by MPs, the media and the public a year ago as the controversy escalated. Whitehall has instead published an agreed narrative of events based on the files." (See Goldsmith pages. It is particularly interesting to see the entry for a year ago, on May 26 2005. )
26 May 2006 ~ Enron verdict International Herald Tribune report listens to the jurors:
"....she wanted to believe the defendants but in the end could not square their version of events with the evidence and the testimony of other Enron executives. "Early during the trial, I had an admiration for both men - just what they had accomplished in their careers," she said. "And it was sad to see that in the end it wasn't accomplished in a respectful manner, having to hurt so many people to get there."
26 May 2006 ~ "Blair says the world must forget the past and help Iraq"... Reuters comes quite close to giving this the treatment it deserves:
".. both Blair and U.S. President George W. Bush's poll numbers have tumbled domestically as the death toll among coalition soldiers and Iraqis has soared.There are now about 132,000 U.S. troops and 8,000 British troops in Iraq.
The weapons of mass destruction used to justify the March 2003 invasion of Iraq have never been found and the war has been widely criticized in the international community.
With tens of billions of dollars spent in Iraq and the reconstruction promised to Iraqis faltering, both nations are hoping other countries will put past differences over the invasion behind them and start sharing the load in Iraq."
21 May 2006 ~ Iraq Professor Juan Cole, who actually understands what is going on, writes
"Maliki ... spoke of setting an objective timetable for transferring security duties from US and Coalition forces to Iraqi troops. He did not, however, say how he would accomplish this miracle, except by sheer proclamation.Margaret Beckett has said there would be no "cutting and running" for British troops. It seems to us that Basra, as everywhere else except the Green Zone, is in meltdown. UK troops are in the thick of it and defending themselves can result in the shooting of children. The Coalition's disastrous meddling will inevitably come to cutting and running sooner or later.
MP Nur al-Din al-Hayali of the Sunni religious Iraqi Accord Front said at a press conference, "the Front has reservations about the program of the government . . ...We have reservatons about the laws related to fighting terror, which do not distinguish between the Resistance, which plays a heroic role for the sake of liberating Iraq, and acts of violence that all reject." He added, "It was obligatory to specify the techniques to be used to dissolve the militias altogether, and to transform them into state institutions and to keep them from infiltrating the security apparatuses."
The ironies here are manifold. .... Iraq has had to wait over 5 months after the December 15 elections for a government finally to be formed. The US intervened with local Iraqi parties to overturn the democratic vote of the United Iraqi Alliance for Ibrahim Jaafari...... Nuri al-Maliki has finally been elected prime minister, but has not presented ministers for any of the key three cabinet posts having to do with national security. ..... He has given us a minister of Tourism but not a Minister of Defense or a Minister of the Interior.... it probably doesn't matter that much. The Sunni Arab guerrilla movement will only redouble its efforts to overthrow this new government. And, there is no evidence that the troops and security forces of the new government can effectively curb the guerrillas, even if they had new leadership. ....... When Basra security fell apart recently, Vice President Adil Abdul Mahdi was asked to send envoys to consult with major forces. He ignored powerful tribal chieftains but consulted with the Badr Corps commanders!....." (much better to read this in full)
24 May 2006 ~ Brian Haw "....At 2.35am on Tuesday, a basic right of British democracy was trampled underfoot. Or, to be more precise, it was surrounded, pulled off the street and pushed aside. Brian Haw's five-year protests against war in Parliament Square was raided by police officers. Mr Blair's enforcers arrived in the dark - as do the enforcers of all authoritarian governments - to attend to an irritant that MPs and ministers complain distracts them from their work and is an "eyesore".
With all legal propriety, those officers ensured the Prime Minister's will at home by sweeping away the most visible and vocal reproach to a war that each day leaves soldiers and civilians killed and maimed and ever escalating heartbreak and fear..." The Western Morning News was one of the few to report on the raid ith its headline, THE DOUBLE STANDARD OF BLAIR'S 'DEMOCRACY' . Read in full
21 May 2006 ~ Iran That phrase again.
Reuters "Britain, Germany and France, the so-called EU3, are trying to put together a generous package that could offer a nuclear reactor and security guarantees to Tehran. But their gambit seems doomed with both Iran and Washington unimpressed by the terms. Washington is loathe to exempt EU firms from U.S. sanctions if they get involved with Iran's nuclear work and even more wary about any form of security pledge to a country that has threatened to "wipe Israel off the map"..." See below ."
20 May 2006 ~Who will rid me of this turbulent House of Lords? On Monday, Tony Blair will "move to curb the powers of the House of Lords to wreck his government's legislation programme after a series of bitter clashes between the Commons and the unelected house over terrorism laws, ID cards and hunting. He will announce he is bringing back former cabinet minister Jack Cunningham (now Lord Cunningham of Felling) to head an all-party parliamentary committee to review the house's powers...." The Guardian adds drily " Lord Cunningham has supported the government on ID cards and its restrictions on human rights to fight terrorism, but is a rare attender at the House, except to vote for the government."
20 May 2006 ~ "Another Fraud on Iran" says Juan Cole: No Legislation on Dress of Religious Minorities
"Maurice Motamed, the representative of the Iranian Jewish community in Iran's parliament, has strongly denied the rumors started by Canada's National Post that the Iranian legislature has passed a law requiring members of religious communities to wear identifying badges.
The report was also denied on Montreal radio by Meir Javedanfar, Middle East Analyst and the Director for the Middle East Economic and Political Analysis Company.
The National Post is owned by Conrad Black and is not a repository of expertise about Iran. it is typical of black psychological operations campaigns that they begin with a plant in an obscure newspaper that is then picked up by the mainstream press. ...There is nothing in this legislation that prescribes a dress code or badges for Iranian religious minorities, and Maurice Motamed was present during its drafting and says nothing like that was even discussed.
The whole thing is a steaming crock..... ."
20 May 2006 ~ "So this is how we got mired in the Iraq morass.. Gullible and frankly lazy and very possibly highly biased reporters on the staffs of the newspapers in Washington DC and New York." Professor Cole again
"This affair is similar to the attribution to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of the statement that "Israel must be wiped off the map." No such idiom exists in Persian, and Ahmadinejad actually just quoted an old speech of Khomeini in which he said "The occupation regime over Jerusalem must vanish from the page of time." Of course Ahamdinejad does wish Israel would disappear, but he is not commander of the armed forces and could not attack it even if he wanted to, which he denies.
I had a very disturbing short email correspondence with a reporter of a major national newspaper who used the inaccurate "wiped off the face of the map" quote. When challenged, he said it was "carried by the news wires and is well known" or words to that effect. I pointed out that the "quote" was attributed to a specific speech and that the statement was inaccurately translated. When challenged further he alleged that his trusted translator in Tehran affirmed that Ahmadinejad had said the phrase. When that was challenged, he reported that the translator said that anyway he had said something like it. When I pointed out that the translator was either lying or lazy, the reporter took offense that I had insulted a trusted colleague! I conclude that this reporter is attached to the phrase. He complained about being challenged by "bloggers" and said he was tempted to stop reading "blogs."
So this is how we got mired in the Iraq morass. Gullible and frankly lazy and very possibly highly biased reporters on the staffs of the newspapers in Washington DC and New York. And they criticize bloggers.
On how Iran is not actually any sort of military threat to Israel, see the op-ed at the Star Ledger by Thomas Lippman and myself. Lippman is a veteran Washington Post correspondent who covered the Iraq War...."
20 May 2006 ~ "Iraq is disintegrating as ethnic cleansing takes hold" writes Patrick Cockburn in the Independent. On the spot in North East Iraq, he reports,
"Across central Iraq, there is an exodus of people fleeing for their lives as sectarian assassins and death squads hunt them down. At ground level, Iraq is disintegrating as ethnic cleansing takes hold on a massive scale. The state of Iraq now resembles Bosnia at the height of the fighting in the 1990s when each community fled to places where its members were a majority and were able to defend themselves........same pattern of intimidation, flight and death is being repeated in mixed provinces all over Iraq. By now Iraqis do not have to be reminded of the consequences of ignoring threats..."
20 May 2006 ~ Italy and now Japan Reuters "Japan may begin withdrawing its noncombat troops from southern Iraq as early as next month....with a national unity government due to be inaugurated later on Saturday, chances have grown that some of the tasks undertaken by foreign troops in Iraq may shift to the national government as early as June"
20 May 2006 ~Guantánamo Bay and secret prisons abroad See both Washington Post and New York Times An important United Nations panel roundly criticized the United States on Friday for its treatment of terrorism suspects, and called for shutting down the detention camp at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. ..........The panel, which monitors compliance with the Convention Against Torture, the main international treaty that bans such conduct, also concluded that the Central Intelligence Agency's widely reported practice of holding detainees in secret prisons abroad constitutes a clear violation of the convention. The United States "should investigate and disclose the existence of any such facilities and the authority under which they have been established," the committee said in its 11-page preliminary report. It also called on the Bush administration to "publicly condemn any policy of secret detention." The recommendations of the committee are not legally binding. But they are likely to be more influential than previous international reviews, in part because the Bush administration clearly took the process seriously, sending a delegation of more than two dozen officials to Geneva earlier this month to present its legal case.
16 May 2006 ~ Iran Reuters "Any demand for a suspension or pause (of uranium enrichment) is an illogical and unacceptable demand and undoubtedly will be rejected," Manouchehr Mottaki told the ambassadors of Britain, France and Germany in Tehran. The United States agreed to let the three European powers draw up a set of incentives and penalties to rein in Iran's nuclear ambitions, which the West says is aimed at producing atomic bombs. Iran insists its goals are civilian. The European Union foreign ministers are reviewing the proposals that will be presented to Iran. ..."
16 May 2006 ~ "Washington banned all U.S. arms sales to Venezuela on Monday, citing the major oil supplier's lack of help in the fight against terrorism" Reuters
16 May 2006 ~ petitioners will march to Donald Rumsfeld's house AfterDowningStreet.org's petition against attacking Iran has over 42 thousand signatures. After its delivery, on May 18, Ray McGovern (see below) will lead a march to Donald Rumsfeld's house.
"We write to you from all over the United States and all over the world to urge you to obey both international and U.S. law, which forbid aggressive attacks on other nations. We oppose your proposal to attack Iran. Iran does not possess nuclear weapons, just as Iraq did not possess nuclear weapons. If Iran had such weapons, that would not justify the use of force, any more than any other nation would be justified in launching a war against the world's greatest possessor of nuclear arms, the United States. The most effective way to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons would be to closely monitor its nuclear energy program, and to improve diplomatic relations -- two tasks made much more difficult by threatening to bomb Iranian territory. We urge you to lead the way to peace, not war, and to begin by making clear that you will not commit the highest international crime by aggressively attacking Iran."
15 May 2006 ~ Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill The Bill is to be pushed through its final stages on May 15 and 16. Commenting on amendments, the Liberal Democrat Shadow Leader of the House, David Heath, said, "... we still have serious concerns about the Bill." Chicken Yoghurt's comments are readable as ever.
".....Government amendments (PDF, not for the faint-hearted) to the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill were smuggled out on May 4 under cover of the local elections and cabinet reshuffle madness. While the amendments were taken at face value by some and greeted as a climbdown by the Government and a victory for the protesters, others do not see any significant changes or safeguards in place..."See alsp International Campaign Against Mass Surveillance (ICAMS)
15 May 2006 ~ Chávez in London Reuters "Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said on Sunday that if the United States attacked Iran in its dispute with Tehran over nuclear technology, the price of oil could soar to triple figures....."We salute you Mr President," Livingstone told Chavez. "Londoners stand with you, not with the oil companies and the oligarchs." Chavez is in London for two days to meet various figures from the British left. He will not meet Prime Minister Tony Blair, who he criticised for his close alliance with Washington. The ex-soldier was greeted by jubilant supporters as he took the platform in a stuccoed ballroom. Hundreds more gathered outside in a futile bid to hear him speak...."
15 May 2006 ~ Diebold Election Systems touch-screen voting machines NYT "With primary election dates fast approaching in many states, officials in Pennsylvania and California issued urgent directives in recent days about a potential security risk in their Diebold Election Systems touch-screen voting machines, while other states with similar equipment hurried to assess the seriousness of the problem. "It's the most severe security flaw ever discovered in a voting system," said Michael I. Shamos, a professor of computer science at Carnegie Mellon University who is an examiner of electronic voting systems for Pennsylvania, where the primary is to take place on Tuesday.......Aviel Rubin, a professor of computer science at Johns Hopkins University, did the first in-depth analysis of the security flaws in the source code for Diebold touch-screen machines in 2003. After studying the latest problem, he said: "I almost had a heart attack. The implications of this are pretty astounding." ."
14 May 2006 ~ Karl Rove has been indicted on charges of perjury and lying to investigators. It was still unknown on Saturday whether Fitzgerald has charged Rove with a more serious obstruction of justice charge. This is the news on many alternative news sources this morning. See Truthout.org and warmwell's Valerie Plame page. In early June 2003, Vice President Dick Cheney met with President Bush and told him that CIA officer Valerie Plame Wilson was the wife of Iraq war critic Joseph Wilson. Other White House officials who also attended the meeting with Cheney and President Bush included former White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card, then-National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, her former deputy Stephen Hadley, and Deputy White House Chief of Staff Karl Rove.
14 May 2006 ~ Cheney According to Reuters, Mr Fitzgerald has told a court he plans to use as evidence a newspaper article by Joe Wilson with notes that he says were hand-written by Vice President Dick Cheney referring to Valerie Plame shortly before she was exposed as a CIA operative..." The notes ask if it is ordinary for former ambassadors to travel for the government to check out reports. "Or did his wife send him on a junket?" asks one notation.
14 May 2006 ~ Tony Blair wants the government to have the power to override court rulings and has attacked the Human Rights Law The Observer says
"the Prime Minister wants the government to have the power to override court rulings. The move comes only days after Blair criticised a senior judge for preventing the deportation of nine Afghan refugees who hijacked a plane to Britain......Anthony Lester, the human rights lawyer and Liberal Democrat peer, was particularly scathing about Blair's response to the Afghan ruling: 'The Human Rights Act was one of the first constitutional reforms of this government, but the Prime Minister persists in undermining public confidence in the rule of law and the protection of human rights by the senior judiciary,' he said....."Read Simon Jenkins on Labour, "rights", and the Human Rights Act
14 May 2006 ~ Chavez offers oil to Europe's poor The Observer reports
"Chavez said in Vienna yesterday that the 'final hours of the North American empire have arrived ... Now we have to say to the empire: "We're not afraid of you. You're a paper tiger."'
Referring to his supply of heating to poor American families last winter, Chavez told a meeting of political supporters: 'I'd like to do the same here in Europe.'
He was addressing an 'alternative summit' held alongside a three-day meeting of leaders from the European Union, Latin America and the Caribbean in the Austrian capital. 'I want to humbly offer support to the poorest people who do not have resources for central heating in winter and make sure that support arrives,' he said.. ... Chavez appealed to the audience to unite and promote social change. For example, he said, more business should be steered toward smaller companies to the benefit of labourers in poorer regions, and that doing so would cut out intermediaries. 'We have to unite all possible movements, otherwise the world is not going to change,' he said. "
14 May 2006 ~ The politicians, the mainstream media, and the advertisers profit from avoiding intelligent debate. Juan Cole recommends an interesting blog http://matt.howardtechnologies.net/ (extract)
".... We may think we are a smart country, because of the conveniences we have created for ourselves. But I fear that while there are many smart people in america, they are 10% having the rest of us for lunch. Seriously. I am not arguing for a utopia, but I would at least like a country that could have intelligent conversation about the national good. The politicians, the mainstream media, and the advertisers profit from avoiding intelligent debate. The arms traders profit from war, no matter if that trader is a government or a company. ..."
13 May 2006 ~ As John Pilger in today's Guardian says, "Chávez is a threat because he offers the alternative of a decent society Venezuela's president is using oil revenues to liberate the poor - no wonder his enemies want to overthrow him..."
Ken Livingstone was very clear on this on the Today Programme, batting away some really extraordinary questions from James Naughtie. For whose benefit was the influential Naughtie attempting to smear Hugo Chávez? It seemed far more than mere "balance". Pilger, after three weeks of filming in the hillside barrios of Caracas writes,
"...the poorest have welcomed my colleagues and me with a warmth characteristic of ordinary Venezuelans but also with the unmistakable confidence of a people who know that change is possible and who, in their everyday lives, are reclaiming noble concepts long emptied of their meaning in the west: "reform", "popular democracy", "equity", "social justice" and, yes, "freedom".....
When I said to Chávez that the US historically had had its way in Latin America, he replied: "Yes, and my assassination would come as no surprise. But the empire is in trouble, and the people of Venezuela will resist an attack. We ask only for the support of all true democrats."
12 May 2006 ~ "undisclosed locations." "No matter how legitimate the grounds for detention, there exists no right to conceal a person's whereabouts or to deny that he or she is being detained." Jakob Kellenberger, president of the International Committee of the Red Cross quoted in the Guardian "deplored the Bush administration's refusal to allow its delegates to visit detainees in secret detention."
"The ICRC is designated by the Geneva Conventions on warfare as the organization to visit prisoners of war. It is the only independent body the United States allows to visit terror suspects detained in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, but it has long been demanding access to detainees in "undisclosed locations.'' .."
12 May 2006 ~ No memorial for the hundreds killed in Uzbekistan. The place where hundreds of protesters were gunned down in Uzbekistan a year ago now has a billboard with the smiling face of President Karimov on it. The Washington Post quotes Kenneth Roth, executive director of U.S.-based Human Rights Watch
"The Uzbek government has done nothing to hold the perpetrators of this atrocity accountable, and the international community has failed to compel the Uzbek authorities do so. The victims deserve no less than full justice"WaPo adds "....An unknown number of people are missing and the government has made no efforts to help families track them down,.....questions will remain as long as there's no international inquiry." The BBC notes that the outlook is bleak "....President Karimov's government has launched a Soviet-style witch hunt for enemies of the people, with mass arrests and intimidation of anyone contradicting the government's account of Andijan."
( Karimov visited the US in March 2002, where he was warmly greeted by President Bush and Rumsfeld. Photos)
12 May 2006 ~ Iraq The American diplomat Ann Wright said many of her peers in the government thought the war was "the craziest thing" but no one wanted to speak against the administration's decision to start it. See the Associated Press story.
12 May 2006 ~ Iran UN Security Council holds off from sanctions BBC "UN nuclear chief Mohamed ElBaradei has welcomed the move by the UN Security Council to hold off imposing sanctions on Iran over its nuclear programme. "The only solution to the Iran situation is a comprehensive package through dialogue, through negotiation," Mr ElBaradei said. .." Reuters says "The United States will not hold direct contacts with Iran and insists that sanctions must be part of a new carrots-and-sticks offer being drawn up by major powers to curb Iran's nuclear activities."
12 May 2006 ~ US intelligence services are under fire after it emerged they were secretly collecting phone call records of tens of millions of people. The New York Times says,
".... a tempest on Capitol Hill over an article in USA Today reporting that AT&T, Verizon and BellSouth had turned over tens of millions of customer phone records to the N.S.A. since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. ......Some members of Congress also reacted angrily to the news that the ethics office at the Justice Department had been refused the security clearances necessary to conduct a planned investigation of department lawyers who approved N.S.A.'s eavesdropping. . ... "See also ITN
12 May 2006 ~ John Reid has said said the evidence published yesterday in the first official accounts by the police and security services of the events of 7/7 showed that while there was no "direct verifiable" al-Qaida link, the circumstantial evidence was considerable. The Guardian lists this "circumstantial evidence"
Comment in the Independent "... the general hand-wringing that emerges from the two reports that have now seen the light of day - the one by the parliamentary Intelligence and Security Committee, the other an official government "narrative" - amounts to a far from satisfactory verdict on the gravest peace-time attack on mainland Britain."
11 May 2006 ~ Michael Meacher in the Guardian: "We need to change our policies as well as our leader "
".....The single biggest problem is the lack of accountability of power. It underlies every issue where the party and the public disapproves of government policy but cannot change it. There is little point in lobbying parliament or taking to the streets in protest at war in Iraq or Iran, or the replacement of Trident or a new round of nuclear power stations, or the marketisation of public services, if the government (for which often read the prime minister) has already made up its (his) mind, and can't be held to account. The checks and balances have all but disappeared...."
11 May 2006 ~ The government is not beyond the reach of the judges The High Court has given Diego Garcians, more than 30 years ago after being forcibly expelled from their own homeland, the right to go - not home because their islands are today the site of a U.S. Navy base - but to Peros Banhos and the Salomon islands, more than 100 miles from Diego Garcia.
".... Tony Blair's attempt to use a centuries-old power of the Queen called an Order in Council to bypass Parliament and quash an earlier court ruling in the natives' favor was "irrational," Justice Peter Cresswell and Lord Justice Anthony Hooper ruled at the High Court today. "The suggestion that a minister can, through an Order in Council, exile a whole population from a British Overseas Territory and claim he is doing so for the `peace, order and good government' of the Territory is repugnant,'' the judges wrote. .." Bloomberg
11 May 2006 ~ Brian Haw After the Home Office won its appeal on 8 May, the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 (SOCPA) does now apply to Brian Haw. As his website puts it, "Although Brian is still in Parliament Square, the police now have his protest in their control along with everyone elses." On Sunday 14 May at 12 noon there will be a demonstration about this and to celebrate Mr Haw's courageous five year stand. Please see www.parliament-square.org.uk
11 May 2006 ~ Reaping the whirlwind? - Mr Bush and Mr Blair both at a nadir "Seven out of 10 Americans think the US is "on the wrong track". .... more than four out of five of those surveyed say the Republican-controlled Congress has "not asked enough questions" on Iraq. ....Bush's one comfort, in America's new age of disillusion, is that few other leading politicians fare much better. Of those who might replace him, Hillary Clinton is regarded favourably by 34 per cent, but unfavourably by 35 per cent, with a third having no opinion..." See today's Independent. Meanwhile in the UK...
11 May 2006 ~ "....."shop stewards" representing Labour backbenchers challenged Mr Blair's authority at their weekly private meeting with him in his Commons office. They told him to "rein in" the Home Secretary, John Reid....
Morale among Labour backbenchers slumped after the speculation about Mr Blair's future overshadowed Prime Minister's Questions. "It was pretty alarming to see how badly he got hit today," one said. A cabinet minister admitted: "He looked deflated. He had a bad day." ....." Independent
11 May 2006 ~ Calls for July 7 public inquiry continue The Guardian says,
"..... failure of two official reports to identify intelligence blunders or a clear link with British foreign policy... the Muslim taskforce set up by the Home Office.... believed it would expose a deep well of resentment at government policy in Iraq and the Middle East.
..The cross-party parliamentary intelligence and security committee (ISC),..... will point to the confusion and secrecy..and is expected to demand greater transparency over the whole question of terrorist alerts and the current nature of the threat. ......
The Home Office narrative.... will confirm that the police have not uncovered any evidence of direct links to al-Qaida or a fifth man ......."
11 May 2006 ~ Iraq almost 1100 persons were killed in Baghdad alone in April
Professor Cole reports include that "....almost 1100 persons were killed in Baghdad alone in April, victims of faith-based ethnic cleansing. Reuters reviews the significance of the anti-British Shiite mob violence in Basra on Saturday. Ibon Villelabeitia of Reuters reminds us of the role of Gertrude Bell in creating Iraq and its problems.
11 May 2006 ~ Iran - an anti-war press conference The Friends Committee on National Legislation has sponsored an anti-war press conference with regard to Iran, based in part on a petition signed by the foremost Iran specialists in the United States...."
Read Simon Jenkins on the Iran situation yesterday:
".....For a British foreign secretary Iraq is easy. It has been Tony Blair's personal, colossal, hubristic, career-wrecking mistake, and the Foreign Office need only sit by and brush his tears with tissues. Iran is different. Iran is hard, as the new foreign secretary, Margaret Beckett, clearly found in New York on Monday...."
11 May 2006 ~ Publisher 'was offered peerage to pull Spycatcher' says the Telegraph " Detectives have been urged to investigate allegations that a publisher of the controversial biography Spycatcher was offered a peerage not to print the book..."
11 May 2006 ~ Suing the US over Guantanamo The Independent reports that the four British men from Manchester, who have spent the past two years fighting their case have won the right to sue their captors for physical and mental abuse as well as affronts to their Muslim faith. The US government's argument that Guantanamo, in south-eastern Cuba, is beyond the jurisdiction of the US civilian courts has been rejected by a federal judge in Washington. District Judge Ricardo Urbina said the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act applies to all territories and possessions of the United States.
The BBC reports that the US has rejected UK government calls for closing Guantanamo
10 May 2006 ~ Toast A very public two-minute exchange this week between Ray McGovern and Donald Rumsfeld shows Mr Rumsfeld trying and failing to prove an Al-Qaeda link with Saddam and denying that he ever said the administration "knew" where WMD were in Iraq. That electrifying exchange last week is here in transcript. Mr McGovern, like an elderly protester at the last Labour Party conference, was manhandled - but was able to make his points very publicly indeed.
The whole 4 minute exchange on can be heard from this page of Truthdig.com. Rumsfeld's discomforture - he was totally unprepared for a hostile question when screening had apparently failed - is strangely unsettling. The www.defenselink.mil/transcripts from 2003 proves Mr Rumsfeld is lying. His own words are the only weapon used against him. It took 30 seconds on Google to find the relevant transcript from 2003.
"MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Finally, weapons of mass destruction. Key goal of the military campaign is finding those weapons of mass destruction. None have been found yet. There was a raid on the Answar Al-Islam Camp up in the north last night. A lot of people expected to find ricin there. None was found. How big of a problem is that? And is it curious to you that given how much control U.S. and coalition forces now have in the country, they haven't found any weapons of mass destruction?Following Stephen Colbert's courageous lambasting of Mr Bush, this widely publicised exchange may well prove to be a real tipping point.
SEC. RUMSFELD: Not at all. If you think -- let me take that, both pieces -- the area in the south and the west and the north that coalition forces control is substantial. It happens not to be the area where weapons of mass destruction were dispersed. We know where they are. They're in the area around Tikrit and Baghdad and east, west, south and north somewhat.." http://www.defenselink.mil/transcripts/2003/t03302003_t0330sdabcsteph.html
9 May 2006 ~ Plame case. "....one former government official said he testified that Rove talked with White House colleagues about the political importance of defending the prewar intelligence and countering Plame's husband, former ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV. It was Wilson who accused Bush of twisting intelligence about Iraq's efforts to obtain nuclear material from Africa. The official refused to be named out of fear of angering Fitzgerald and the White House..."
9 May 2006 ~ Blair on Straw Guardian
"Tony Blair made a point of dismissing claims that Mr Straw had been demoted to leader of the house in Friday's reshuffle because his stance on Iran was more dovish than Mr Blair's. "Any notion that it is linked to any decision about invading Iran - which incidentally we are not going to do - any notion that it is related to such a decision is utterly absurd." No one had "even contemplated" a nuclear strike on Iran. That would be "completely absurd", too. Mr Straw had said it would be "inconceivable" to take military action against Iran. Mr Blair has never been that firm. Mr Blair said: "He was a superb foreign secretary ... in the end I'm afraid as prime minister you do reshuffle your cabinet from time to time."...Foreign policy "will not change one iota" under the new foreign secretary, Margaret Beckett, Mr Blair said. .."
9 May 2006 ~ Iran The language of the various news reports often seems to indicate their stance.
The Independent says "President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has reached out to George Bush, suggesting "new solutions" to improve Tehran's fraught relations with the US and the West
"... the letter contained no change in Tehran's insistence that its enrichment programme is sacrosanct. But the move is another sign of how the two longtime adversaries may be engaged in a delicate dance towards some kind of contact, after a generation of estrangement. .."But the BBC headline is " US dismisses Iran leader's letter" and says that the letter" will not calm the nuclear row, US officials say", while Reuters says Iran letter faults US, makes no nuclear proposals and the Telegraph's is Iran's letter to Bush 'a ploy to avert pressure'
Reuters also reports that , "French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy said a U.S.-hosted meeting on Monday of ministers from Russia, Britain, China and Germany did not reach agreement. "We are still considering our work," he told reporters after the late night meeting ended. .."
9 May 2006 ~ Informed Comment from Prof Cole on the reaction of the veteran CIA Middle East analyst Ray Close to rumours that Donald Rumsfeld may send "Special Operations forces" into Iran on " intelligence missions". He links to the Aljazeera report and adds the clarification: in popular parlance we speak of CIA "agents." But in the intelligence world, an "agent" is actually a local person recruited by an intelligence field officer. Close writes:
' I do not believe that in today's atmosphere there is any justification whatsoever for infiltrating covert paramilitary agents (especially American service personnel) into Iran. I am confident that there are enough very intelligent, well-placed, and highly motivated Iranians in key positions within the government and in the intellectual community in Iran who would be excellent candidates for recruitment as clandestine sources. People of that kind can be recruited not as agents of the Great Satan, but as patriotic Iranians who love their country and are willing to risk everything for (dare I use the word?) FREEDOM. .....we should emphatically NOT listen to the large fat-cat (and primarily self-interested) Iranian exile community in Beverly Hills, London and Paris, who would be no more reliable than Ahmed Chalabi and his crew were in the case of Iraq........ Nor should we accept at face value the intelligence on Iran that we get from the Israelis. Mossad has a long history of influencing us through the intelligence liaison system by providing "sexed up" intelligence ...." (needs to be read in full)
9 May 2006 ~ Brian Haw loses appeal but has promised to continue his round-the-clock vigil outside Parliament despite losing a crucial legal battle over his five-year peace demonstration. Independent
".... Last July, Mr Haw won a High Court challenge to the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act, which forces protesters planning demonstrations around the Palace of Westminster to gain police approval. But the Court of Appeal has overturned that judgment, which will force Mr Haw to seek permission for his protest to continue and open the way for him to be evicted from his banner-filled site in Parliament Square..."
8 May 2006 ~ " too little, too late" for President Bush too? Fascinating how the administrations in both the US and the UK are facing possible melt down at the same time, in spite of ditching embarrassments. The Washington Post today says,
".....An overwhelming 73 percent of independents disapprove of Bush's performance, and two-thirds of those "strongly disapprove." The new poll of 1,003 adults was conducted April 27-30 (after Bush had picked a new chief of staff, budget director and press secretary) and was released at a conference sponsored by the Cook Political Report. It contains plenty of other bad news for Bush and the Republican Party, and suggests that the growing unpopularity of the Iraq war may be turning this year's midterm congressional elections from local to national issues...."As for former vice president Al Gore, defeated by Bush oin 2000, he has sent an e-mail to Democratic donors recently to "commemorate" the final 1,000 days of the Bush administration.
"I am here to tell you that we simply cannot afford to wait 1,000 days to put the brakes on the Bush agenda .......the level of cynicism and crass political calculation . . . is truly breathtaking."
8 May 2006 ~ the issue of Iran is of a different order of seriousness to anything Cook was grappling with five years ago Guardian
".... Robin Cook revealed in his diaries, the neoconservatives never dropped their hostility to him and eventually got their wish.David Clark The Neocons Strike Again
The treatment of Straw seems uncannily reminiscent, but the issue of Iran is of a different order of seriousness to anything Cook was grappling with five years ago. There is a pressing need for Blair to tell Bush what Attlee had the guts to tell Truman in the Korean war: that a decision to breach the nuclear threshold would encourage proliferation and make America an outcast from the community of civilised nations. He may think it clever strategy to put pressure on Tehran by keeping all options open, but the Iranians are not the only ones who need deterring.
Once again, Blair seems willing to put the wishes of the US government before those of the British people. That should be reason enough for wanting him out of office as soon as possible."
8 May 2006 ~ Roy Hattersley in the Guardian
".... Because of the damage that it will do to the Labour party, I still regret the bloodletting that lies ahead. But Blair has made it inevitable. There was a time when the prime minister believed in something. His vision of the good society was one which I did not share. But I accepted that he wanted more than power alone. Now he believes in nothing except hanging on, in the hope of regaining some of his lost reputation. Not even the present Labour party will tolerate that for long."
8 May 2006 ~ "The last days of limpet Blair are already upon us ..... Regardless of what the prime mininster does now, he can't stop the party's centre of gravity moving away from him ...." Jackie Ashley in the Guardian
7 May 2006 ~ Local Democracy "......."this council sees no reason to obey a code" which flies in the face of the "fundamental right of free speech". They concluded "we shall continue to represent the wishes of the community we have been elected to represent". I am told by Geoff O'Connell, one of the councillors, that this invitation to go jump in a lake was approved unanimously. What a shame that the creation of this catastrophic policy was not the reason that Mr Prescott was stripped, last week, of the powers he so sorely abused." Booker's Notebook
7 May 2006 ~ " shady climb-down on the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill,..." - the always excellent Henry Porter in the Observer "You see, we can see off these threats to our liberties....
"...on election day, traditionally the best time to bury awkward news, the cabinet office website announced a substantive withdrawal so that the bill, which promised a vast extension of ministers' arbitrary powers, is now limited to the reduction of business regulation, which is what the government had been pretending all along....
....We must not mistake this climb-down for any constitutional sensitivity on the part of the government or the sinister civil servants who drafted the bill. Had it not been for the opposition, the measures that drastically reduced parliamentary scrutiny would have become law, just as they did in the virtually unnoticed Civil Contingencies Act and the Inquiries Act.
The message is that opposition can work, and we must remember that as Dr Reid, an ex-communist, takes over at the Home Office,.......Opposition works and we need more of it - more coherent and more determined - precisely because in the shady climb-down on the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill, we saw what they had tried to pull off. Tony Blair may have altered the placement in his cabinet, but the nature of the government hasn't changed. ...."
7 May 2006 ~ Lord Goldsmith risks row with White House by denouncing Guantanamo as 'unacceptable'. Observer
7 May 2006 ~ Comments from the Observer's Ministers' anger derails Blair bid to relaunch government suggest that blind "loyalty" can't be relied on any more to further one's political career.
"Loyalist quits in fury at health cuts - Jane Kennedy, a long-standing loyalist who was thought to have been sacked from the government in Friday's dramatic reshuffle, disclosed that she left the Department of Health on grounds of conscience 'I had been asked to do a job and bring political judgment to the job. When you try to apply that judgment and you are told you shouldn't be expressing your opinions you realise the government needs to get somebody else.'..."
Straw 'There is genuine perplexity in his case
Geoff Hoon's friends called his demotion "a poor return for loyalty during the Iraq war" (Words fail us)
7 May 2006 ~ Basra "Unidentified guerrillas shot down a British Lynx helicopter in Basra on Saturday, killing 5 UK servicemen. The helicopter fell on a house. An large, angry crowd of Shiites gathered to jeer, throwing stones and Molotov cocktails at British troops who arrived at the scene to recover the bodies. The British soldiers then opened fire on the Shiites, killing at least 5, including 2 children..." Juan Cole Professor Cole says
"Borzou Daragahi of the LA Times, now the American reporter in Iraq with the best finger on the pulse of the Shiites, presciently reported Saturday on the growing anti-American and anti-Coalition sentiments in the Shiite south. ' "There is an anger," said Jaffar Mohammed Asadi . . . "You can hear it in the slogans at Friday prayers: 'Death to America,' " he said. "They're burning American flags. They're saying, 'The Americans won't leave except by the funerals of their sons.' "
7 May 2006 ~ CIA Serious gaps in the United States' knowledge of Iran are among the most critical problems facing a new director of the Central Intelligence Agency. New York Times reports but the story now seems to have changed.
7 May 2006 ~ Reuters reports that a "documentary about the Iraq war and a film about the lasting impact on soldiers' lives of a conflict more than 20 years ago won the top awards at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York on Saturday. "
7 May 2006 ~ "Mr. Straw's exit may be designed to give the prime minister more leeway in the Iran crisis." The New York Times on what the Telegraph has called " The Nightmare on Downing Street , saying that Mr Blair ".... seems more beleaguered this time, with the local ballot showing the extent of the damage caused by a series of government stumbles, crises and scandals. Labor lost 319 of the 1,768 council seats it was defending in voting for 176 local authorities, according to final results."
7 May 2006 ~ On the eve of Chavez's visit to Britain, foreign affairs editor of the Observer, Peter Beaumont, "asks if the Castro-loving, Bush-hating, head of state is a revolutionary democrat or a dictator in the making? ....Later this month he arrives in London where he will be entertained by Mayor Ken Livingstone, a long-time Chavez supporter who has accused the US of trying to undermine democracy in Venezuela. Chavez has constructed alliances with everyone the White House hates most ..." (It's an article that feels the necessity to end with the much quoted Rumsfeld remark, 'He's a person who was elected legally - just as Adolf Hitler was elected legally' )
6 May 2006 ~ "One man shouted into his phone Margaret Beckett is the new Foreign Secretary! Are you absolutely sure?" The Times today.
Jokey articles about Mrs Beckett's bouffant hairdo, vertiginous heels and gas guzzling limos are all very well - but will Mrs Beckett, with the same bland insouciance ("I am always happy") that she has shown over the mass destruction of animals and farmers' livelihoods, now help to force UK collusion in a fabricated war on Iran? It seems that, even with hindsight, it is easy to peddle unsubstantiated claims about nuclear bombs being produced by Iran (when their enrichment of uranium is, at 4%, 76% short of what is needed for nuclear weapon production) As easy to make claims about WMD as it was to imply that FMD began on Bobby Waugh's pig farm. (It had been present in the country for weeks if not months.)
One wonders for how long people can go on swallowing swill before becoming sickened by it.
6 May 2006 ~ Farewell to the can carriers This is how the Telegraph puts it:
"....Lord Bach, the agriculture minister in charge of the bungled farm payments scheme, was among six ministers outside the Cabinet who lost their jobs yesterday..... Elliot Morley, the long-serving environment minister, was also axed from the department, because he was seen as failing to rise to the green challenge presented by David Cameron, the Conservative leader.It adds,
Alun Michael, the industry minister, who has had an up and down career in government, returned to the back benches. ..."
"....Margaret Beckett, the Cabinet minister in charge of the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, acknowledged a "human crisis" caused by the delays. But her junior minister carried the can and she escaped unscathed, promoted to be Foreign Secretary."
6 May 2006 ~ Oh dear, the perils of foreign affairs wrote Armando Iannucci in the Observer a month ago in a parody of what Jack Straw might have been saying about Iran,
"......For there to be a war with Iran, it would have to have the support of the government and at the moment it only has the support of Tony Blair. So, we're some way off. Where is the support of Alun Michael or Margaret Beckett? Their views would also have to be taken into consideration. (To be fair to Margaret, I haven't asked her what her views are and she may well be in favour, so perhaps that's a bad example.) ..."All rather prescient.
6 May 2006 ~ Cabinet (nearly) all-change Prime Minister Tony Blair
Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott (Stays - loses minister duties) Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown (Stays)
Foreign Secretary - In Margaret Beckett - Out Jack Straw
Environment Secretary - In David Miliband - Out Margaret Beckett
Transport n Scotland - In Douglas Alexander - Out Alistair Darling
Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt (Stays)
N.Ireland & Wales Secretary Peter Hain (Stays)
Defence Secretary - In Des Browne - Out John Reid
Trade Secretary - In Alastair Darling - Out Alan Johnson
Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell (Stays)
Chief Whip - In Jacqui Smith - Out Hilary Armstrong
Home Secretary - In John Reid - Out Charles Clarke
Chief Secretary to the Treasury - In Stephen Timms - Out Des Browne
Leader of the House of Commons - In Jack Straw - Out Geoff Hoon
Party Chair - In Hazel Blears - Out Ian McCartney
Leader of the House of Lords - Out Baroness Amos - In Lord Falconer
Constitutional Secretary Lord Falconer (Stays)
International Development Secretary Hilary Benn (Stays)
Works & Pension Secretary John Hutton (Stays)
Education Secretary - in Alan Johnson - out Ruth Kelly
Local Government - in Ruth Kelly - out David Miliband
Social Exclusion Minister (new post) - In Hilary Armstrong Not official members but who also attend cabinet meetings:
Attorney General Lord Goldsmith (Stays)
Minister of Europe - Out Douglas Alexander - In Geoff Hoon
Lords Chief Whip - Lord Grocott (stays)
6 May 2006 ~ debilitated by scandal and setbacks The New York Times says "..... The question of Mr. Blair's departure is becoming acute for Mr. Brown in particular. The longer he waits for the job he has craved for years, the greater the risk that he will inherit a party so debilitated by scandal and setbacks that he will find himself the bitter heir to what Mr. Dobson called a "husk." ....Mr. Clarke was replaced by John Reid, the defense secretary, who has just overseen the deployment of 3,500 British troops in Afghanistan. Mr. Reid is often called Mr. Blair's Rottweiler because of his tenacity as a trouble-shooter. ... The turnout was estimated at about 36 percent of the 23 million eligible to vote, down about three percentage points from on the 2004 local vote.."
6 May 2006 ~ Afghanistan Prof Juan Cole has the latest with the news that Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, the radical Islamist guerrilla fighter, has pledged his allegiance to Usamah Bin Laden.
Back in the 1980s, Hekmatyar was a "freedom fighter" supported strongly by the Reagan administration. His radical Islamists received on the order of a billion dollars from the CIA to fight the Soviets, via Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence. In his youth, Hekmatyar is said to have thrown acid in the faces of unveiled girls.......When the Taliban took over, Hekmatyar went underground to fight them, and could easily have been part of the "Northern Alliance" of warlords. But he went his own way, and opposed the US invasion of 2001-2002. He's been an underground guerrilla fighter, leading his Hizb-i Islami (Islamic Party) ever since. He pledged to kill US troops, just as Reagan once helped him kill Soviet troops. But now, he's joined forces with al-Qaeda, as it and the Taliban are regrouping in southern Afghanistan.......Cole adds, ".... you remember those advertisements during the Olympics about the Bush administration having "liberated" 50 million people. The Afghans are so liberated that millions are going hungry."
6 May 2006 ~ Iraq The deputy chief of autopsies in Baghdad says that 35 to 50 corpses come into the morgue every day, most of them Shiites www.karbalanews.net/ (in arabic, but the photo reminds us that the corpses are mainly young.)
5 May 2006 ~ Deck chair arrangements Charles Clarke has been sacked from the Cabinet but John Prescott will remain as Deputy Prime Minister . Margaret Beckett (sic) takes over from Jack Straw at the Foreign Office. John Reid replaces Charles Clarke at the Home Office. Labour had lost 256 seats yesterday. See Reuters
(And as Chicken Yoghurt says,
"A radical reshuffle? It's the Bay City Rollers dressed up to look like the Arctic Monkeys....it all comes back to Reid. The gleaming, spitting spider at the centre of the web. This government's tell-tale heart. John has the upper hand now. A shield to Blair, a rival to Brown. Straw, Blunkett, Clarke - how we hoped against hope that we were weathering the storm. Only now, as it grows dark, do we realise that they were just passing squalls. With a terrifying ferocity, it has finally started to rain. " )
4 May 2006 ~ Guardian article by David Clark, a former Labour government adviser Success is not the transition to death by electric drill. " The Iraqi occupation has made a bad situation worse, with real political power passing to violent militias on the streets .........
".... the director of the Baghdad morgue has had to flee Iraq under threat of death for revealing that thousands of Iraqis are being killed by death squads, many of them linked to the interior ministry. Some of the victims have apparently been tortured to death with electric drills.....
The final line of defence is to question the priorities of those who continue to raise Iraq, and dismiss the issue as a bore. Most of us would gladly move on from Iraq, be we should not do so on the self-interested terms demanded by those who led us to this disaster. Not while the people of Iraq continue to suffer the consequences. Not while those responsible remain in power. Not while there is the remotest chance that it might happen again."
4 May 2006 ~ It's nothing personal Chicken Yoghurt says, "Vote Lib Dem; vote Green; vote Tory, even; vote for a promising independent candidate. Spoil your ballot if you have to. But please don't vote Labour. Update: You want reasons? We have reasons." ( a comprehensive catalogue of links)
Meanwhile, the Backingblair blog says gently
Tony Blair can't be waited out, or smoked out... he needs to be thrown out.4,360 seats on 176 local councils are being contested. Polling stations opened at 7 a.m. (0600 GMT) and close at 10 p.m. (2100 GMT).
It's nothing personal; it's just that this action needs to be taken to prevent someone else thinking they can take the same actions, make the same bluffs, and get away with it at the end of the day.
Bush, Cheney, Blair, Howard; they're all at it... using the terror boogey-man to justify illegal invasions, detention without trial, torture and the slow but steady decay of civil liberties. (Karimov does exactly the same thing, only with more bullets on the home-front.)
Aznar didn't get away with it, but he was a small fish (and the same could be said of Howard, I suppose).
The downfall of Blair, on the other hand, would be somewhat harder to spin or ignore.
The greatest act we as a nation could undertake in these uncertain times is to assure the world that we won't stand for the use of fear as the primary tool of governance...."
".... Shami Chakrabarti, the director of the human rights group Liberty, said: "The current Home Office crisis is a lack of administration, not legislation. Knee-jerk legislative responses to public safety concerns are cheap and fake compared to the serious and unglamorous business of effective administration.Simon Hoggart today writes in the Guardian,
Juliet Lyon, director of the Prison Reform Trust, said: "Knee-jerk reaction is no way to shape neglected policy and practice. The Home Secretary needs to keep his commitment to thorough-going consultation before introducing yet more statutory measures, or amending primary legislation, which may turn out to be less important than ensuring that we have a fair, effective and humane penal system."
"........Crispin Blunt, the resourceful backbench Tory, asked with heavy sarcasm whether it wasn't time to rewrite the ministerial code, "to reflect the new doctrine, that the bigger the shambles, the more essential that it is that the responsible minister remains in office"....
Like a polar explorer whose sledge is pursued by wolves, he (Clarke) had a slab of meat to throw and keep the howling pack a few feet away for 10 more minutes. The law would be changed so that foreign convicts would be deported as soon as they got out of prison, "save for those raising asylum or human rights issues". But as Michael Howard pointed out, the Human Rights Act will often make that impossible. ...."
4 May 2006 ~ IraqAt least 61 have been killed in the past hours. Juan Cole today on the civil war violence.
"....Another wave of violence washed over Iraq on Wednesday. A suicide bomber killed 18 potential police recruits in Fallujah and left 20 others injured, mostly critically.
The black psy-ops folks not so long ago were touting Fallujah, 2/3s of the buildings in which were damaged in the US military assault of November, 2004, as subsequently the "safest city in Iraq." But I guess, not so much.
Then some 39 (-Al-Zaman) bodies showed up in the streets of Baghdad, victims of the Sunni-Shiite civil war in the capital. Al-Hayat reports that the morning corpse patrol has become a regular part of Iraqi police work.
Guerrillas set up a checkpoint in the Dura district, stopped a mini-bus with college students on it, pulled 4 of them off and shot them dead. Presumably they were from the wrong branch of Islam or wrong ethnicity...."
"Reuters points out, correctly, that high politics inside the Green Zone (the 4 sq mile heavily fortified and guarded compound in downtown Baghdad) is irrelevant to the guerrilla war going on in the 7 or 8 center-north provinces of the country.
Baghdad is often getting only one hour of electricity a day! It is hot in Iraq, now. People's groceries are spoiling. It will be years and billions more invested before sufficient electricity can be generated, assuming the guerrillas don't just blow up the new plants........
4 May 2006 ~ British detainees at Guantanamo Bay will find out if they can force the Government to push for their release in a High Court ruling later. ITN
2 May 2006 ~ "Why has Washington manufactured this crisis?" asks Tariq Ali in the Guardian
....It is worth recalling that the Iranian nuclear programme began under the Shah with technology offered by the Americans. Khomeini put the project on hold, considering it un-Islamic....There is no evidence that Iran is much closer to nuclear weapons now than was Iraq in September 2002, when Blair and Cheney assured the world that Baghdad represented a "genuine nuclear threat"....
..Perhaps it is simply high-octane rocket-rattling, the aim being to frighten Tehran into submission. Bullying is unlikely to succeed. Will the west then embark on a new war? If so, the battlefield might stretch from the Tigris to the Oxus and without any guarantee of success. ."
2 May 2006 ~ Robin Cook's wise words on Iran Published on Wednesday, June 4, 2003 by the International Herald Tribune Britain Must Not Let Iran Become The Next Iraq
"This time," he wrote, " we must make clear to the White House that we are not going to subordinate Britain's interests to a U.S. policy of confrontation. Iran must not become the next Iraq."But Robin Cook has gone. The media and our European leaders seem as naive and compliant as Scott Ritter fears, see below.
May 2 2006 ~Task Force Shield " .......kept so little documentation on how they spent the $147 million in Iraqi and American funds allocated to finance it that the program is now being investigated for fraud, the auditors said.
The program was one of a number studied by the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, a congressionally appointed watchdog assessing the reconstruction efforts, which reports to Congress quarterly. The inspector general also highlighted failures in the effort to build and refurbish hospitals and health centers across rural Iraq. Because of poor government oversight and the underperformance of a private contractor and its subcontractors, a $186 million project to construct 150 primary health care centers had managed to complete just six of the centers at the time the audit was prepared, according to the report to Congress and a newly released audit on that project.
Longtime critics of the nearly $32 billion effort to reconstruct Iraq's oil pipelines, electric power plants, sewage treatment facilities, hospitals, and schools say the latest quarterly report provides more evidence that poor planning and inadequate oversight caused the rebuilding effort to stumble...
....with the US government planning to transfer nearly all infrastructure projects to Iraqis by the end of 2006, the report and the detailed audits that accompanied it paint a disturbing picture of continuing problems. In at least two cases, the inspector general's office said US government agencies refused to release documents needed to conduct the audits. " Boston.com
2 May 2006 ~ Iran is ten years away from any possible nuclear capability "The current 'crisis' regarding Iran's nuclear ambitions is nothing more than a facilitator for war." Scott Ritter's article in today's Guardian is essential reading. We are being led down the garden path to another filthy and futile war.
"......the reality is that once the United States introduces a Chapter VII resolution, even in draft form, war with Iran is all but assured. Russia and China, both permanent members of the security council with veto powers, have made clear their collective objection to any Chapter VII action against Iran. However, by endorsing the transfer of the Iranian issue from the International Atomic Energy Agency to the security council, as well as the original security council "warning" against Iran, both Russia and China have played into the hands of US policy-makers, who have and will continue to use these actions as a clear endorsement of their position that Iran and its nuclear programme represents a threat to international security. .."
2 May 2006 ~ ABC News "......US. Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns, speaking ahead of six-nation talks on Iran's nuclear activities, said he believed European governments will put forward "some form of Chapter 7 resolution" at the United Nations. A resolution under the U.N. Charter's Chapter 7 makes any demands mandatory and allows for the use of sanctions and possibly force if they are not obeyed. ..."
1 May 2006 ~ Stephen Colbert at the White House Correspondents Dinner on Saturday night
"It's like Hamlet forcing King Claudius to watch the play that accuses him of murder. Or it's like a man asked to be Court Jester who shows up and tells the king exactly what's wrong with him, and gets out of the building before they can behead him." (Chris Durang at Huffington Post )But the mainstream media chose to ignore it. The transcript is now on the internet, as is (for how long?) a video extract Do watch it.
1 May 2006 ~ " media balance..... the lies of liars who love lying are propagated by people who can no longer find the truth" The funny and deeply serious article by Al Kennedy in today's Guardian may make you want to cheer aloud (particularly, perhaps, if you listened to A New Axis of Power yesterday on Radio 4 in which, once again, and without outraged comment, Venezuela's Hugo Chavez was likened to Hitler):
"......Media balance.....sets extensive coverage of extensive coverage of Condoleezza Rice's vacuous bleatings against non-specific mumbles about protest. It means demonstrations against the occupation of Iraq aren't covered by the BBC, leading to more demonstrations outside BBC premises, which aren't covered.....This would be irritating even if our public servants weren't loan-grubbing, lobby-fondling, expensively coiffured sociopaths, and their corruption and stupidity were not so manifest that small children could summarise it in crayon for any newsdesk near you. Sadly, our press faces Whitehall and White House regimes that believe accepting, or even acknowledging, reality is a perilous admission of weakness. So the lies of liars who love lying are propagated by people who can no longer find the truth...."
1 May 2006 ~ Guantanamo torture and Donald Rumsfeld "The question at this point is not whether Rumsfeld should resign," Joanne Mariner, of Human Rights Watch, told Progressive magazine. "It's whether he should be indicted." Guardian
1 May 2006 ~ Forced to vote? "Peter Hain has backed calls for voters to be forced to go to the ballot box in elections. Mr Hain supported a call from a government think tank to move to Australian-style compulsory voting," says the Belfast Telegraph
1 May 2006 ~ Charles Clarke and John Prescott Mr Clarke knew murderers and rapists were among foreign prisoners released without deportation three weeks before he told Mr Blair according to BBC
John Prescott is under added pressure to resign as more allegations about his private life have emerged. ITN
The Independent combines both storiesand quotes Piers Morgan, the journalist:
"We have the Deputy Prime Minister demeaning his office in the most flagrant manner, Charles Clarke presiding over the worst Home Office blunder I can recall, and Patricia Hewitt saying the NHS has had its best year ever. The New Labour machine seems to think that as long as they can all hang on over the bank holiday weekend, the problem will go away.They should all resign."And see also Clarke and Prescott: Should they stay or should they go? and yesterday's Sunday Times on Mr Prescott's "boorish behaviour."
Reshuffling the pack on May 6 2006 See above
Blog ~ Warmwell's Blog last updated September 13....".......The history of Katrina and the drowning of New Orleans is already being rewritten. The UK foot and mouth disaster, while it resulted in unnecessary and distressing slaughter, did not cause the loss of human life - except the suicides (and the number 60 has been quoted) of those who were in despair - but there are similarities..... This is not a frivolous analogy. ...." Read in full
Sept 3 Another attempt to silence John Humphrys?
" 20 August 2005 ~ "....Are we also, (in small letters somewhere at the bottom), soon to find ourselves on a blacklist? Dammit. I shall quote the quintessentially English John Betjeman ..."
A recent entry looks back in anger at 2001 and, with some trepidation, forward into the future.
Recent Blog titles and cartoon
How to beat slippery Sir Humphrey, by the man who knows him best by Caroline Davies in the Telegraph. about Antony Jay's new book
"They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety "Benjamin Franklin " Things fall apart ..." Yeats Valerie Plame Affair - latest "A government is not exonerated from conduct which leads directly to a person being tortured merely by closing its eyes to that prospect." Professor James CrawfordThe West's attempt or rather that of a Labour prime minister and a Republican president to impose its values on distant states through armed force has been an aberration doomed to failure. As Francis Fukuyama points out in his latest book, it has betrayed the neoconservative cause as much as the liberal one. It is so obviously cruel, costly and counter-productive as to be almost beyond debate. ................................................
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