Wednesday, July 25, 2007
Sunday, July 22, 2007
An unpalatable truth for Bush: most foreign insurgents in Iraq are Saudis
By Peter Symonds
17 July 2007
An article in Sunday’s Los Angeles Times detailing the national origins of foreign insurgents in Iraq has punctured a large hole in the Bush administration’s relentless propaganda against Iran. For months, the White House has been demonising Tehran for “meddling” in Iraq by establishing networks to arm, train and finance anti-US insurgents. Most foreign fighters, however, come, not from Iran, but Saudi Arabia, a close American ally, with which the Bush administration in particular has intimate ties.
According to military statistics provided to the Los Angeles Times, about 45 percent of the hundreds of foreign militants involved in attacks on US troops and Iraqi civilians and security forces are from Saudi Arabia. Another 15 percent are from Syria and Lebanon and 10 percent from North Africa. Nearly half the 135 foreigners currently held in US detention facilities in Iraq are Saudis.
A senior American military officer told the newspaper that Saudis are believed to have carried out more suicide bombings in Iraq than those of any other nationality. He estimated that half of all Saudi jihadists come to Iraq as suicide bombers, who in the past six months have been responsible for killing and maiming at least 4,000 Iraqis.
As the Los Angeles Times explained: “The situation has left the US military [and one could add, the Bush administration] in the awkward position of battling an enemy whose top source of foreign fighters is a key ally that at best has not been able to prevent its citizens from undertaking bloody attacks in Iraq and at worst shares complicity in sending extremists to commit attacks against US forces, Iraqi civilians and the Shiite-led government in Baghdad.”
Saudi Interior Ministry spokesman General Mansour Turki insisted that Saudi Arabia was doing everything possible to halt the flow of Saudi fighters, arms and money to Sunni insurgent groups in Iraq. Blaming the Iraqi government for not providing information, he said: “We have no idea who these people are... If we get good feedback from the Iraqi government about Saudis arrested in Iraq, probably we can help.”
The senior US officer, however, dismissed the response, saying: “Are the Saudis using all means possible? Of course not... It needs to be addressed by the government of Iraq head on. They have every right to stand up to a country like Saudi Arabia and say, ‘Hey, you are killing thousands of people by allowing your young jihadists to come here and associate themselves with an illegal worldwide network called Al Qaeda’.”
As for the Bush administration, it maintains a studied silence on the issue while continuing its campaign against “Iranian interference” in Iraq. While the US dismisses Tehran’s denials of involvement out of hand, Riyadh’s claims to be stopping Saudi support for Iraqi insurgents are tacitly accepted as good coin. The White House and the State Department refused to comment to the Los Angeles Times.
The figures are not new. On June 20, MSNBC.com posted an analysis of articles on Islamist websites celebrating the deaths of foreign fighters in Iraq over the past two years. Of more than 400 militants who had died in Iraq, 55 percent came from Saudi Arabia, 13 percent from Syria, 9 percent from North Africa and 3 percent from Europe. The US military confirmed to MSNBC.com that Saudi Arabia and Syria were the leading sources of insurgents.
Iraqi National Security Adviser Muwafaq al-Rubaie told the media last weekend that more than 160 Saudis had been tried in Iraqi courts and hundreds were awaiting trial. Al-Rubaie headed a high-level Iraqi delegation to Saudi Arabia last week to discuss the issue. He declared that both sides had agreed to condemn inflammatory fatwas or religious edicts inciting sectarian violence between Sunnis and Shiites in Iraq.
If US foreign policy were at all consistent, the White House and the Pentagon would be condemning Riyadh and demanding action to halt the flow of Saudi fighters. Stories would be appearing in the American media exposing autocratic Saudi rule, its repression of women and savage application of Sharia law. Grave fears would have been raised by the State Department over the announcement last year that Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States were launching a civilian nuclear program. The most strident US militarists would be demanding regime change and Bush would be declaring that “all options were on the table”—including the bombing of Riyadh.
That none of this is happening, or is likely to happen, again demonstrates that the US accusations against Tehran are simply pretexts used to justify possible military action against Iran. The threats against Iran are not motivated by concerns about the lives of US troops but the Bush administration’s ambitions to establish American dominance over the Middle East and its huge energy reserves. Far from publicly remonstrating with Riyadh, the White House has in recent months been seeking to line up Saudi Arabia and other “moderate” Arab states, including Egypt and Jordan, in an anti-Iranian alliance.
The US invasion of Iraq has profoundly destabilised the region, inflaming rivalries and sectarian tensions. Saudi Arabia, which reluctantly supported the US invasion of Iraq, regarded the Saddam Hussein regime as a bulwark against Iran, its traditional rival in the Persian Gulf. Riyadh is deeply hostile to the Shiite-dominated government in Baghdad, which it regards as little more than a proxy for Iran. Saudi King Abdullah and other top officials have pointedly snubbed Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki on several occasions to demonstrate their hostility.
Saudi rivalry with Iran intersects with the intense hostility of the Wahhabist religious establishment in Saudi Arabia against the Shiite sect and close traditional ties with Sunni tribal groups in Iraq. Last November, in the wake of the Democratic victory in mid-term US elections, King Abdullah reportedly told Vice President Dick Cheney that his regime would be compelled to intervene in Iraq on the side of Sunni insurgent groups against the Maliki government if US troops were pulled out.
In a prominent comment in the Washington Post on November 29, Saudi security adviser Nawaf Obaid warned of Saudi intervention, noting: “Over the past year, a chorus of voices has called for Saudi Arabia to protect the Sunni community in Iraq and thwart Iranian influence there. Senior Iraqi tribal and religious figures, along with the leaders of Egypt, Jordan and other Arab and Muslim countries, have petitioned the Saudi leadership to provide Iraqi Sunnis with weapons and financial support. Moreover, domestic pressure to intervene is intense. Major Saudi tribal confederations, which have extremely close historical and communal ties with their counterparts in Iraq, are demanding action. They are supported by a new generation of Saudi royals in strategic government positions who are eager to see the kingdom play a more muscular role in the region.”
While the Saudi monarchy publicly disowned Obaid, his comments reflect the sentiments of a significant segment of the ruling elite. The regime has largely turned a blind eye to the agitation of Saudi religious fanatics for a holy war against Shiites in Iraq. Last December, 38 Saudi religious scholars posted an edict to rally support for the Iraqi Sunni minority, claiming that the “crusaders” [the US] and the “Safavis” [Iran] were conspiring together to destroy Iraq and contain Sunni influence throughout the region. Despite Al Qaeda’s opposition to the Saudi regime, there is undoubtedly considerable sympathy in Saudi ruling circles for its murderous attacks on ordinary Iraqi Shiites.
The Saudi monarchy cannot afford to alienate the Bush administration by openly supporting Sunni insurgents in Iraq. Moreover, the more cautious elements are undoubtedly fearful that Saudi fighters returning from Iraq could strengthen the internal political opposition to the monarchy and further destabilise the country. After all, Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda were the creation of the 1980s “holy war” jointly backed by the CIA, Saudi and Pakistani intelligence against the Soviet-backed regime in Afghanistan.
At the same time, Saudi claims that it is not involved in Iraq are simply not credible. Its huge intelligence apparatus is almost certainly very active in Iraq and may well be providing support to Saudi jihadists in a proxy war against Shiite and Iranian influence. In comments to the Los Angeles Times, Iraqi Shiite legislator Sami Askari, one of Maliki’s advisers, accused Saudi officials of deliberately sowing chaos in Baghdad and funding groups causing unrest in the country’s Shiite south.
The danger that the sectarian war in Iraq will spark a broader regional confrontation underscores the reckless and incoherent character of US foreign policy. Having ousted Saddam Hussein and installed a puppet government dominated by Shiite parties with strong links to Iran, the Bush administration is attempting to marshal support from autocratic “Sunni” regimes like Saudi Arabia in its confrontation with Iran. Incapable of resolving these contradictions, the Bush administration simply maintains a stony silence on Saudi activities in Iraq.
Last week, the Saudi taboo reached absurd proportions when US military spokesman Brigadier General Kevin Bergner gave a press conference on the rising toll of destruction caused by suicide bombers. He pointed out that most suicide bombers were foreigners, as Sunni extremist groups were not able to recruit Iraqis to indiscriminately slaughter their fellow countrymen. Like President Bush, Bergner repeatedly invoked the role of Al Qaeda to justify the continued US occupation. To illustrate his argument, he provided details of a particular suicide bomber from a middle class family, recruited at a mosque, and sent into Iraq via Syria. Bergner omitted to state his nationality, claiming he had not received clearance. According to the military source of the Los Angeles Times, the man was a Saudi citizen, like many of the suicide bombers entering Iraq.See Also:
US forces kill Iraqi civilians every day
[17 July 2007]
Friday, July 20, 2007
Reid Unmoved by Calls For Iraq Compromise--Insists on Iraq withdrawl sched
Wednesday, July 18, 2007
Don't use the in-room fridge in Vegas anymore--they will charge you extra
read more | digg story
Sunday, July 15, 2007
Holier Than Whom, Exactly? Right wingers caught with pants down talk values
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Saturday, July 14, 2007
Friday, July 13, 2007
Bill Moyers Essay: The War Debate [Video]
Rep. Jim McDermott: A Black Mark, Not a Benchmark
Should a robber break into my house, and, with a dagger at my throat, make me seal deeds to convey my estate to him, would this give him any title? Just such a title by his sword has an unjust conqueror who forces me into submission. The injury and the crime is equal, whether committed by the wearer of a crown or some petty villain.
The title of the offender and the number of his followers make no difference in the offence, unless it be to aggravate it. The only difference is, great robbers punish little ones to keep them in their obedience; but the great ones are rewarded with laurels and triumphs, because they are too big for the weak hands of justice in this world, and have the power in their own possession which should punish offenders." John Locke - 1632-1704 - http://www.constitution.org/jl/2ndtreat.htm
Thursday, July 12, 2007
An Evening with John Pilger and Amy Goodman [Video]
read more | digg story
CNN vs. SiCKO
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Wednesday, July 11, 2007
'Arrowhead' Becomes Fountainhead of Anger--Iraqi Civilian Slaughter
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Do you wish you could share music/movies with friends and not get SUED?
Are you violating copyright law when you embed a YOU TUBE video on ur blog?
read more | digg story
Tuesday, July 10, 2007
As Congress reconvenes
Democrats unveil new plan to “shift mission” in Iraq
By Bill Van Auken
10 July 2007
With Congress reconvening after its July 4 recess, Democratic leaders unveiled a new strategy to reconfigure the US intervention in Iraq by withdrawing substantial numbers of American troops, while leaving tens of thousands behind to secure Washington’s strategic interests in the region.
The centerpiece of this latest legislative face-off between the Democratic-led Congress and the Bush White House is the debate on the Defense Department budget for fiscal year 2008, which provides a total of $648.8 billion for the US war machine, including another $142 billion for the interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Much as with the “emergency” war funding bill that Congress passed last May, providing $100 billion to continue and escalate the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Democratic leadership has no intention of utilizing Congressional power to cut off the money that pays for these operations, but rather will seek to attach amendments to the Pentagon appropriations bill that restrict US troop deployments and push for a timetable for a partial withdrawal.
In the last confrontation, the Democrats ended up bowing to White House intransigence and passed the war funding measure, no strings attached. Now, the Democratic leadership is returning to the same debate, under conditions in which a number of prominent Senate Republicans—Richard Lugar of Indiana, the ranking Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, as well as George Voinovich of Ohio and Pete Domenici of New Mexico—have distanced themselves from the White House and publicly called for a change in course in Iraq, including a drawdown of US combat forces.
Olympia Snowe, the Republican senator from Maine, indicated Monday that she was prepared to support legislation setting a timeline for the withdrawal of troops from Iraq. Waiting, she said, would “run the risk of losing another precious month with precious lives.”
Speaking at a Capitol Hill press conference Monday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (Democrat, Nevada) echoed the argument made by Lugar and other Republicans that a shift in US strategy in Iraq cannot wait until September. It is then that the top American military commander in the occupied country, Gen. David Petraeus, together with the US ambassador in Baghdad, Ryan Crocker, are scheduled to deliver a progress report on the so-called surge that has sent an additional 30,000 US troops into Iraq. For its part, the White House and supporters of its war strategy have attempted to play down the significance of the September report, insisting that pacification of Iraq will take considerably longer.
“The war is headed in a dangerous direction, and Americans are united in the belief that we cannot wait until the administration’s September report before we change course in Iraq,” said Reid. “Attacks on US forces are up, Iraqi political leaders are frozen in a dangerous stalemate and a change at every front is required if we are to succeed. We cannot ask our military to continue to fight without a strategy for success, and we certainly cannot ask them to fight before they are ready to do so.”
The last phrase was made in reference to legislation sponsored by Senator Jim Webb, the freshman Democratic senator from Virginia, who previously served as an assistant secretary of defense and secretary of the Navy in the Republican administration of Ronald Reagan.
Webb, who appeared with Reid at the news conference, has introduced a bill that sets minimum lengths of “dwell time”—periods troops are stationed at their home bases—between deployments to the war zones in Iraq and Afghanistan. For active-duty troops, the legislation would mandate one month at home for every month deployed, while for reservists it would mandate that three times the length of a deployment be spent off active duty.
Currently, Iraq deployments have been extended to at least 15 months, while troops receive at most 12 months at home between deployments.
The legislation, the first amendment to be promoted by the Democratic leadership, is being pitched as a “support the troops” measure aimed not so much at ending the war as saving the US military from being broken by the debacle in Iraq.
“This amendment will help us strengthen our military,” Reid told the press conference, adding, in apparent reference to the Virginia senator’s military and Republican background, “There’s no better person in the entire Congress to do this than Jim Webb.”
For his part, Webb insisted that the legislation was necessary, no matter what course the Iraq war may take, in order to protect the military. “The time has come for the Congress to place reasonable restrictions on how America’s finest men and women are being used.”
The impact of the back-to-back deployments—as well as that of mounting popular opposition to the war—has found its expression in a deepening military recruitment crisis. The Army acknowledged Monday that it missed its recruitment target for the second month in a row. Military officials revealed that the Army fell some 15 percent short of its June goal of 8,400 new recruits.
Webb went on to cast the extended deployment of over 150,000 American troops in Iraq as an impediment to the pursuit of US strategic interests elsewhere, declaring that Washington had become “so obsessed with the Iraq situation that it is not able to address other problems around the world.”
Reid said that in the coming weeks of debate on the defense spending bill, the Democratic leadership will also introduce an amendment sponsored by Senate Armed Services Chairman Carl Levin (Democrat-Michigan) that would require the beginning of a drawdown of US troops from Iraq within 120 days, with most of them to be removed from the country by April 2008.
While Reid urged Republican support for these measures, even those Republicans who have spoken out against the White House strategy signaled that they are not preparing to rally behind the Democratic proposals.
Senator Lugar, for example, described the Levin amendment’s timetable as “far too inflexible.” In an interview on CNN news Sunday, he added that “we really have to be thoughtful as to physically how our troops could get out of Iraq.”
Meanwhile, Domenici and other Republicans are reportedly preparing to back an amendment sponsored by Senators Ken Salazar (Democrat-Colorado) and Lamar Alexander (Republican-Tennessee), which calls for the implementation of the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group. Supporters of the measure claim it is aimed at creating the conditions to allow a substantial reduction of US forces in Iraq by next spring, while critics have charged that in reality it would impose no binding conditions on the White House.
The debate is unfolding amid signs of growing divisions and crisis within the Bush administration over the Iraq war. The New York Times reported Monday that administration officials have begun debating whether Bush should announce his intention to begin reducing the number of American soldiers in Iraq in order to staunch the hemorrhaging of support for his policy among Congressional Republicans.
ABC News quoted a “senior White House official” as saying that the administration is “in a panic mode” over the Republican defections.
There is mounting concern within the administration, the Times noted, that support will further erode as the administration presents its interim report on progress achieved by the surge which is to go to Congress by July 15. Officials acknowledge that the Iraqi regime has failed to make any progress on the so-called benchmarks imposed by Washington. Key among them are achieving a political compromise aimed at quelling sectarian violence and drafting a new oil law that would open the way for US-based energy conglomerates to take control of Iraq’s lucrative oil fields.
The surge has manifestly failed to quell the violence, with a series of bombings and attacks over the weekend claiming the lives of over 220 civilians. US casualties, meanwhile, remain at a record high, with at least 520 American troops having been killed since the Bush administration began its escalation last February.
The crisis atmosphere within the administration was highlighted by the sudden cancellation of a long-planned trip by US Defense Secretary Robert Gates to Central America. He stayed in Washington to participate in high-level talks on the Iraq war. Similarly, last week national security adviser Stephen Hadley was called back from a vacation to participate in these discussions.
In a press briefing Monday, White House spokesman Tony Snow dismissed the growing evidence of the administration’s crisis over the war, claiming that there was no ongoing debate over troop reductions and downplaying the report going to Congress next week as a “snapshot” of the situation in Iraq.
Bombarded with questions about the statements of Lugar and other leading Republicans that the US cannot wait until September to change course in Iraq, Snow absurdly claimed that there is no real contradiction between their position and that of the White House. “We continue to be committed to letting the surge work,” he said.
Echoing the anti-democratic position spelled out by Bush and Cheney, Snow insisted that the administration would not “withdraw to appease public opinion,” but would determine its policy based on “military necessity.”
Snow went so far as to suggest that the debate in Congress was tied to a “propaganda war” by al-Qaeda designed “to weaken American public opinion, to make it more difficult to wage the war.”
Significantly, General Petraeus, the senior US commander in Iraq, appeared to contradict the White House position, suggesting that a drawdown of troops would prove necessary because of growing tensions over the war.
In an interview with BBC news, Petraeus insisted that suppressing the Iraqi insurgency would prove “a long term endeavor” that could last for decades. At the same time, he added that, while a sustained US presence was necessary, “I think the question is at what level...and really, the question is how can we gradually reduce our forces so we reduce the strain on the army, on the nation and so forth.”
This is in essence the same line being advanced by the Democratic leadership in Congress.
In the question and answer period at the Capitol Hill press conference given by Reid and Webb, the Senate majority leader was asked about the warning made by the foreign minister in the US-backed Iraqi regime, Hoshyar Zebari, that a rapid withdrawal of US troops could unleash a wider civil war, regional wars and “the collapse of the state.”
“No one is calling for a precipitous withdrawal from Iraq,” Reid replied, “No one.”
The Senate Democratic leader went on to point out that all of the legislation backed by his party calls for American troops to remain in the country indefinitely to “conduct counterterrorism operations, protect our assets and train Iraqi forces.”
He continued by stressing that if the Democratic “antiwar” program is enacted, “We will still have tens of thousands of American troops in Iraq.” Finally, Reid concluded, “The mission needs to change.”
One could not ask for a clearer summation of the Democratic Party’s real position. Having collaborated with the Bush administration in foisting this war on to the American people, it was the undeserving beneficiary of the mass antiwar sentiment that was expressed at the polls in the 2006 midterm elections.
Now in the leadership of both the House and the Senate, the Democrats are not seeking to end the criminal war and colonial-style occupation in Iraq. Rather, their aim is to salvage the strategic interests that were being pursued by US imperialism in launching the war—to begin with by reorganizing the occupation on a more sustainable basis.
Sunday, July 08, 2007
Australian defence minister admits oil a key factor behind Iraq occupation
By Patrick O’Connor
6 July 2007
Australia’s Minister for Defence Brendan Nelson yesterday acknowledged that maintaining control over Iraq’s vast oil reserves was a critical factor behind the ongoing US-led occupation. His comments came just before Prime Minister John Howard delivered a major foreign policy address, similarly stressing the need to ensure “energy security” amid growing “great power competition” in the Middle East.
Howard and Nelson’s statements lift the lid on the sordid economic and strategic interests behind the US-led invasion and occupation of Iraq, and Australia’s support for it. In a rare moment of candour, the junior member of the “coalition of the willing” has shattered the lies advanced by Washington and its allies. The pretexts used to justify the initial attack in 2003—including weapons of mass destruction and Al Qaeda connections to Baghdad—have long been exposed as outright fabrications. It is now equally clear that the ongoing occupation has nothing to do with establishing democracy or security in Iraq, or in protecting ordinary people from the threat of terrorism.
In his interview on ABC radio yesterday morning, Nelson was directly asked whether oil was a reason why Australian troops were still deployed in Iraq. “Energy security is extremely important to all nations throughout the world, and of course, in protecting and securing Australia’s interests,” he replied. “The Middle East itself, not only Iraq, but the entire region is an important supplier of energy, oil in particular, to the rest of the world. Australians and all of us need to think what would happen if there were a premature withdrawal from Iraq.”
The defence minister’s statement provides unambiguous confirmation of the criminal character of the Iraq war. One of the most fundamental precepts of international law is that wars of aggression—that is, those launched by a government in order to accrue economic or strategic advantage for its own nation state—are unlawful. This was firmly established in the post-World War II Nuremberg trials of the Nazi leadership, which codified the basis on which architects of “wars of choice” could be prosecuted on war crimes charges. There is no doubt that senior members of the Australian government, alongside their counterparts in Washington and London, deserve to be placed on trial for their actions.
Prime Minister Howard’s speech, while somewhat more circumspect and far less widely reported, provided an important insight into the government’s strategic calculations.
“While terrorist networks will remain a major threat, nation states will remain the most important international actors; and the global balance of power will remain the most important determinant of Australia’s security,” he told the Australian Strategic Policy Institute. “Power relativities, as always, will go on changing with the continuing emergence of China and India as major powers reshaping our regional landscape, and tilting the global centre of gravity away from the Atlantic towards Asia....
“Globalisation could spur a resurgence of protectionism and increasing rivalry over globally traded resources, particularly oil... Many of the key strategic trends I have mentioned—including terrorism and extremism, challenging demographics, WMD aspirations, energy demand and great-power competition—converge in the Middle East. Our major ally and our most important economic partners have crucial interests there.”
Howard’s remarks point to the real reasons why Washington attacked Iraq. US imperialism, once the unchallenged global force, now faces mounting pressure from powers in Europe and Asia, particularly China. The Bush administration’s drive to war in 2003—which was backed by the entire US political and media establishment—marked an attempt by the American ruling elite to overcome its relative economic decline by utilising military force to seize control of the Middle East’s resources and use them to dictate terms to its rivals.
The quagmire in Iraq, however, has only intensified the deep-going crisis confronting the US and its allies, including Australia. Howard’s references to “power relativities”, “crucial interests”, and “great power competition”—terms reminiscent of those that characterised international diplomacy in the 1930s—point to the escalating global tensions. His primary concern is that unless the US-led occupiers successfully oversee the establishment of a sustainable US client regime, other countries will benefit from Iraq’s lucrative oil resources at Washington’s expense, thereby undermining the entire strategic orientation of the Australian ruling elite.
Shortly after the broadcast of Nelson’s radio interview, senior government ministers attempted to place the cat firmly back in the bag.
“We’re fighting for something much more important here than oil, this is about democracy,” Treasurer Peter Costello declared. Howard, directly contradicting his earlier address to the policy think tank, added: “We are not there because of oil and we didn’t go there because of oil. A lot of oil comes from the Middle East—we all know that—but the reason we remain there is that we want to give the people of Iraq a possibility of embracing democracy.”
The furious backtracking was driven by a concern that Nelson’s open avowal on public radio of Canberra and Washington’s oil interests in Iraq threatened to definitively expose the already threadbare pretexts for the occupation. The vast majority of the Australian population opposed the war from the outset, and hostility has only increased as the scale of the death and destruction inflicted by the occupying forces has become more widely known. Facing an election later this year amid plummeting opinion polls, the government does not wish to go on record backing a war for oil in the Middle East.
Letters to the editor and talkback radio calls today registered popular outrage at Nelson and Howard’s statements.
The media, however, did its best to play down the story’s significance. Today’s editorial in the Murdoch-owned Australian, titled “Politics, Oil, and War: stable energy supplies are critical to world order”, openly defended the government’s admission of its oil interests. “Mr Howard has at least offered an honest appraisal of why it is so important that the West shows resolve in its attempts to bring stability to the region,” it declared.
Pointing to the contradictory statements from Howard, Labor leader Kevin Rudd said the government “simply makes it up as it goes along on Iraq”. In fact, as Rudd well understands, while the public rationale has repeatedly shifted as each lie has been exposed, the real agenda behind the war has remained unchanged. Labor has fully subscribed to this agenda from the outset and, like Howard, remains committed to the US occupation, notwithstanding the party’s minor tactical differences relating to the number of Australian combat troops involved.
Likewise, Rudd agrees with the Howard government’s military interventions closer to home, in the South Pacific. In another significant foreign policy speech yesterday, Rudd addressed the Lowy Institute for International Policy and proposed an intensified push into Australia’s immediate region. Amid obligatory rhetoric about humanitarian concerns, Rudd made clear that the central aim was to ensure that Australian imperialism maintained its dominant role throughout the South Pacific against the growing incursions of rival powers.
On ABC television’s “Lateline”, Tony Jones asked Rudd the evening before his address: “Are you also motivated at all by a fear that regional competitors, other powers, are moving into the Pacific, increasingly influential and could in fact supplant Australia’s interests in some of these places?”
Rudd replied: “Well, to answer your blunt question equally bluntly—yes... If we fail to act effectively, then I think we’re going to see a long-term drift in Australia’s strategic standing right across this region as well. So the ‘arc of instability’ becomes a vehicle through which what was once an area in which we were the principal power, we become supplanted over time by other powers from beyond the region.”
Taken together, yesterday’s statements of Nelson, Howard and Rudd highlight the real interests behind the US invasion of Iraq and Australia’s support for it, along with the equally predatory interests driving their operations in the South Pacific.
Wednesday, July 04, 2007
Sceptical After Second Shrine Attack
Inter Press Service
By Ali al-Fadhily*
BAGHDAD, Jun 20 (IPS) - The second bombing of the Shiite shrine of al-Askari in Samarra, Iraq, last week brought reprisal attacks, but it also brought solidarity against the occupiers.
The golden shrine, located in downtown Samarra which is 125 km north of Baghdad, was first bombed on Feb. 22, 2006. The attack, which nearly totally destroyed the main dome, sparked massive violence. Over 1,300 people were killed in revenge attacks in the few tumultuous days that followed the bombing, and hundreds of thousands were displaced.
The belief among Shia Muslims is that the saviour Mahdi will come back to life from within the shrine, where two of their holy imams are buried. The Iraqi cities of Najaf, Kerbala and Baghdad also have Shia shrines with golden domes where Imams, descendents of the prophet, are buried.
The Jun. 13 bombing that targetted the shrine's minarets were despite heavy Iraqi security presence and the U.S. military continuing to impose a curfew on the city of Samarra.
The bombing last year was widely believed by Shiite to have been carried out by Sunni extremist groups, like al-Qaeda, who maintain a goal of stoking sectarian strife in Iraq.
However, the repercussions of the second bombing of the shrine have thus far been limited to a few attacks on Sunni mosques in Basra and Baghdad.
"We now realise the plot more than we did before," Mustafa Hussain from the predominately Shia area of Sadr City in Baghdad told IPS, "I am not sure who is doing this and I do not have the habit of speculating, but now I, and most Iraqis, are sure it is just a conspiracy to divide Iraqis into Shiite and Sunnis. All this was planned and paid for by people outside our country and community."
After the bombing, the Iraqi government immediately imposed curfew across Baghdad and several other Iraqi cities, in addition to dispatching large numbers of Iraqi troops to Samarra.
Nevertheless, many Iraqis believe the bombing was not carried out by al-Qaeda.
"They are dreaming of evicting the people of Samarra in order to deepen the wound in the Iraqi flesh," 35-year-old Yassir al-Samarrai'i, a local television reporter from Samarra told IPS in Baghdad, "Their problem is that Iraqis are still reluctant to engage in full scale civil war despite all the dirty business the occupiers have conducted to ignite it by these shrine explosions."
The Mehdi Army militia of Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr guarded the area of Khadamiyah in Baghdad, which is the site of another shrine. In several instances, Shia militiamen confronted U.S. military personnel in the area, but there was little fighting.
That the Samarra shrine was bombed yet again displayed the Iraqi government's impotence in defending important locations. The Iraqi police responsible for shrine security were detained for questioning in order to ascertain why the bombing occurred.
"I am a Shiite, but I know for sure that Sunnis have the same respect we have for holy shrines and they would never do anything to humiliate their sacred status," 29-year-old Ruqaya Salih told IPS in Baghdad, "Americans must know that there are Iraqis who realise that they are planning to divide the community."
Al-Sadr, who has a bloc of 30 members of parliament, instructed them to withdraw from the government in order to protest the bombing last week. The MP's pulled out and announced they would remain out of the government until it takes "realistic steps" to rebuild the shrine.
Very little reconstruction had been carried out since last years bombing of the shrine, a fact that has angered both the Shia and Sunni communities.
In stark contrast to the bombing of the shrine last year, IPS found many instances of solidarity between the two sects.
"They attacked ten mosques in Basra including the one that has the grave of Talha Bin Obaidillah, Mohammad's companion," Sheik Abdul-Wahab Hassan in Baghdad told IPS, "Sunnis will not fall for such acts, knowing the fact that their Shiite brothers would not commit such crimes except those Shiite who collaborate with the occupying forces and Iran."
Many residents from Samarra who IPS spoke with in Baghdad blamed the occupation forces for allowing the bombing to happen.
"We keep blaming the occupying forces and their Iraqi allies in the government for all that because it is their responsibility to provide peace and order," a member of municipal council of Samarra, speaking on condition of anonymity, told IPS, "This cannot go on for long and we can feel Iraqis are becoming more inclined to violence against U.S. forces each time things go wrong against sacred places in the country."
(*Ali, our correspondent in Baghdad, works in close collaboration with Dahr Jamail, our U.S.-based specialist writer on Iraq who travels extensively in the region)
*** Think Dahr's work is vital? We need your help. It's easy! http://dahrjamailiraq.com
Global survey finds growing opposition to US foreign policy
By Alex Lantier
4 July 2007
The Pew Institute’s 2007 Global Attitudes poll reveals a world in which the mass of the population is highly distrustful of all global leaders and opposed to the current direction of events, particularly of US foreign policy. The institute polled over 45,000 people in 47 countries in North and Latin America, Western and Eastern Europe, the Middle East, Asia, and sub-Saharan Africa and released data on roughly 100 questions, withholding the rest for “future release.” Significantly, no data was collected in countries occupied or threatened by the US (Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, Syria, North Korea).
Co-chaired by former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and former Senator John Danforth, the Global Attitudes project is a thoroughly establishment body. It has functioned since 2001—when its list of directors included former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, US Council on Foreign Relations chair Leslie Gelb, AFL-CIO President John Sweeney, and Capetown Bishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu—issuing reports on topics of interest to the US foreign policy establishment.
The Pew poll is not set up to sensitively record the opinions of its interviewees. Many of its questions are impossibly sweeping (e.g., “Do you have a very favorable, somewhat favorable, somewhat unfavorable, or very unfavorable opinion of Russia?”), as its directors do not take into consideration the class divisions within each country. Nor does the poll record the backgrounds and opinions of its interviewees, which often seem rather moderate. Even though US President George W. Bush’s approval ratings have never been above 40 percent in 2007 and have typically been near or under 30 percent, 45 percent of US respondents to the Pew poll express high or moderate confidence in Bush.
This makes the poll’s bleak results for attitudes to US foreign policy all the more striking.
The poll began by asking respondents to select the top two global threats from a list of five: the spread of nuclear weapons, religious and ethnic hatred, AIDS and other diseases, pollution and environmental problems, and the gap between rich and poor. Responses varied widely by country and the five options often received comparable numbers of votes—though one suspects that if “war” had been included on the list, especially in the Middle East, it might have won a clear majority.
Sometimes, however, some choices predominated. Respondents in Africa and the poorer South Asian countries overwhelmingly named disease and social inequality. In China, which is seeing an explosive development of industrial capitalism, pollution and social inequality were by far the top concerns. Respondents in Japan—the location of the US atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and of the 1997 Kyoto environmental treaty torpedoed by the Bush administration—chose nuclear weapons and pollution.
Globally, compared to the results of a 2002 poll, concern grew most about issues highly threatening to the US capitalist elite—environmental concerns and the growth of social inequality.
The poll then asked respondents who should take responsibility for dealing with these problems. In no country was the US the majority choice. Pluralities named the US in the US and Japan, and small pluralities named the US in Peru, Venezuela, Spain, the Ivory Coast and Mali. The United Nations was a popular choice, though respondents often chose “all countries acting together” instead. The European Union was perhaps surprisingly unpopular, even in Western Europe.
The poll continued by asking for opinions of various countries and world leaders. Significantly, the US was viewed unfavorably by majorities or pluralities in several Latin American countries (Argentina, Bolivia, and Brazil), most Western European countries (France, Germany, Spain, Sweden), all Muslim Middle Eastern countries except for the oil sheikhdom of Kuwait, and in several Asian countries (China, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Pakistan). In some countries (e.g., Japan and South Korea), majorities viewed the US favorably even though US military bases in those countries are highly controversial. However, Americans uniformly rated more favorably than America—particularly in Western Europe, where solid majorities in all countries except Spain viewed Americans favorably.
Bush is widely hated, with only Israel and a few sub-Saharan African countries giving him a more than 50 percent approval rating. In Latin America and Europe his approval rating is always below 30 percent and occasionally in the single digits. In the Middle East, besides Israel and Lebanon, his approval rating is never more than 15 percent and usually in the single digits.
These findings were confirmed by a recent Harris Research poll carried out in Europe for the Financial Times. It found that a plurality (32 percent) of respondents in Germany, France, Great Britain, Italy and Spain viewed the US as the single greatest threat to global peace. In Spain, 46 percent named the US the greatest single threat. This mirrors the opinions of younger Americans, 35 percent of whom name the US as the top threat to global stability.
US journalists reviewing the poll often tried to put the best gloss on the Pew poll findings by noting that the leaders of China, Russia, Iran and Venezuela are also globally unpopular. This is, however, a rather cold comfort. A country by country comparison shows that Russian president and former KGB agent Vladimir Putin is more popular than Bush in 25 of 47 countries, including nearly all of Western Europe and the Middle East, and most Eastern European and Asian countries.
More detailed questions on US foreign policy revealed massive global distrust. In all the European countries, all Middle Eastern countries except Israel, all Asian countries except India, and all the Latin American countries except Peru and Venezuela, majorities of respondents said the US took the interests of their home country into account very little or not at all. If they are to be believed, more positive responses in Venezuela (an oil-rich country where the Bush administration has repeatedly tried to mount coups) and sub-Saharan Africa (whose societies are bled white by the US-dominated International Monetary Fund’s debt policies) indicate illusions with a very fragile base in reality.
In almost all countries of Asia and the Middle East, in most Eastern European countries, in Canada, and in all Western European countries, majorities saw US policies as “increasing the gap between rich and poor countries.”
Bush administration claims that it altruistically spreads democracy are globally discredited. In 43 of 47 countries majorities said that the US “promotes democracy mostly where is serves its interests.” This included 63 percent of US respondents. Nigeria was the only country where a plurality (of only 2 percent) said that the US promotes democracy “wherever it can.”
While US television programs are still globally fairly popular, “US ideas and customs” are not. Solid majorities in every Latin American, European and Middle Eastern country (except Israel) describe their effect on local societies as negative. African countries divide evenly over the issue. In Asia, Japan is the only country where a plurality views their effect as positive.
The US occupation of Afghanistan is also globally discredited. It was only supported by a bare 50 percent of respondents in the US and Ghana, 59 percent in Israel, and a 3 percent plurality in Great Britain The heritage of anti-imperialist struggle is very strong: all Latin American and Muslim Middle Eastern countries show large majorities calling for withdrawal. In sub-Saharan Africa, typically less critical of US foreign policy, aside from Ghana majorities and a few solid pluralities oppose US rule in Afghanistan. Results in Asia are similar.
In a highly significant move, the Pew poll did not release any results concerning, or indicate if any questions were asked, about the US occupation of Iraq. Such a decision amounts to self-censorship by the Pew Institute.
The poll also indicated serious concern over global warming and growing awareness of the US role in causing it. Majorities of at least 65 percent and usually more described global warming as very or somewhat serious in all 37 countries where the question was asked (the question was not asked in sub-Saharan Africa). Moreover, in all but two countries (Israel and South Korea), pluralities named the US as the world’s most polluting country.
Tuesday, July 03, 2007
Bush commutes prison sentence of convicted perjurer and Iraq war conspirator I. Lewis Libby
By Barry Grey
3 July 2007
President Bush’s commutation of the 30-month prison sentence of I. Lewis Libby, the former chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney, is a monument to the lawlessness of the Bush administration and the utter corruption of the American ruling elite.
It is one more expression of the government’s brazen contempt for both the law and the American people. A recent poll showed that 72 percent of the population opposes a pardon for Libby.
Bush issued his order of presidential clemency within hours of a ruling by the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit rejecting Libby’s appeal of a decision last month by the trial judge in his perjury and obstruction of justice case. Judge Reggie B. Walton had ruled that Libby could not remain free while he appealed his jury conviction. Monday’s appeals court ruling meant that Libby was to begin serving his sentence within weeks.
In a cynical and perfunctory statement, Bush outlined the objections to the judge’s sentence leveled by right-wing supporters of the administration and fascistic bloggers and talk radio hosts who have been conducting a “free Libby” campaign to demand that Bush pardon Cheney’s former top aide.
The character of the forces whipped up in the campaign for Libby was indicated in an extraordinary statement by Judge Walton at last month’s hearing on Libby’s bail request. Walton said he wanted to put on the record the fact that he had received threatening letters.
Since his sentencing of Libby, Walton announced, he had received “angry, harassing, mean-spirited” letters and phone calls “wishing bad things on me and my family.” He added that he had decided to keep copies for investigators in the event that he became the victim of foul play.
In his clemency statement Bush declared, “I respect the jury’s verdict,” even as he unilaterally countermanded the penalty it required. “But I have concluded,” he continued, “that the prison sentence given to Mr. Libby is excessive. Therefore, I am commuting the portion of Mr. Libby’s sentence that required him to spend thirty months in prison.”
In reality, Bush acted to keep his co-conspirator in the invasion of Iraq and other criminal actions out of jail as a quid pro quo for Libby’s silence. Bush’s intervention confirms the widely held belief that he and Cheney had struck a deal with Libby prior to his trial to squelch any prison sentence that might result from his indictment by Special Counsel Patrick J. Fitzgerald.
Fitzgerald, the US attorney for northern Illinois, was named special counsel in December of 2003 to investigate the disclosure the previous July of the CIA identity of Valerie Plame Wilson, the wife of former ambassador Joseph Wilson.
In July of 2003, Joseph Wilson published a column in the New York Times exposing Bush administration lies during the run-up to the March, 2003 invasion about alleged Iraqi nuclear weapons programs. Eight days later, syndicated columnist Robert Novak, citing high administration sources, disclosed Valerie Plame Wilson’s CIA status. The leak was part of a “dirty tricks” operation aimed at smearing Wilson and intimidating critics of the Iraq war.
Libby was convicted last March of lying to Federal Bureau of Investigation agents and the grand jury convened by Fitzgerald about discussions he had with reporters and Bush administration officials concerning Plame Wilson’s CIA identity. Libby did acknowledge to investigators that among those with whom he discussed Plame Wilson’s identity were chief White House political adviser Karl Rove and Cheney.
Numerous witnesses in the trial, including prominent media figures, flatly contradicted statements Libby had made about discussions he supposedly held with them. The sentence handed down by the judge corresponded to federal sentencing guidelines.
In its ruling Monday, a three-judge panel of the DC Circuit appeals court said Libby had “not shown that the appeal raises a substantial question” under federal law that would merit letting him remain free. Judge Walton, in turning down Libby’s request to remain at large, said last month that “the evidence of guilt was overwhelming” and arguments by Libby’s lawyers for his release were “not close.”
Bush brushed aside the court decisions and the will of the jury for two primary reasons: first, to placate his far-right and fascistic political base—an increasingly small minority of a US population overwhelmingly opposed to the war and Bush himself—and, more immediately, to prevent more revelations from emerging about the illegal actions of the White House and the office of the vice president.
Libby, as Cheney’s chief of staff, played a major role in fabricating and disseminating phony intelligence about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction and supposed ties between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda in order to drag the American people into an unprovoked war of aggression. He was a party to the police state measures implemented under the cover of the “war on terror,” including the gutting of due process rights, kidnappings and torture, the assertion of unchecked presidential powers, and illegal domestic spying operations.
Any war crime trial of those who conspired to invade, occupy and devastate Iraq would include Libby among the defendants.
But Bush was full of compassion for Libby in his clemency statement, declaring: “My decision to commute his prison sentence leaves in place a harsh punishment for Mr. Libby. The reputation he gained through his years of public service and professional work in the legal community is forever damaged. His wife and young children have also suffered immensely. He will remain on probation. The significant fines imposed by the judge will remain in effect. The consequences of his felony conviction on his former life as a lawyer, public servant, and private citizen will be long-lasting.”
As Bush well knows, wealthy administration supporters will more than compensate Libby for the $250,000 fine he must pay. There can be little doubt that the convicted felon will be feted and well cared for, to the tune of millions of dollars.
The “law and order” president has no such compassion for the hundreds of thousands of people, overwhelmingly poor and working class, who are herded into America’s vast prison system to serve punitively long prison terms, in many cases for non-violent offenses. According to a recent report, the US prison population today stands at two million—the largest of any advanced industrialized country.
Nor did Bush evince any trace of compassion when, as governor of Texas, he presided over the execution of more than 130 people—the highest number for any elected official in US history.See Also:
The secret government of Dick Cheney: US vice president claims to be outside the law
[23 June 2007]
Monday, July 02, 2007
US military massacre in Baghdad’s Sadr City
By Patrick Martin
2 July 2007
In one of the largest raids into the largely Shiite Sadr City district of eastern Baghdad, US forces killed some 26 people and detained another 17, according to an announcement by a military spokesman Saturday. The early-morning raid produced an explosion of violence, with US tanks and helicopters opening fire in the densely populated working-class neighborhood and destroying both vehicles and entire buildings.
While US military officials portrayed the incident as a pitched battle between US troops and armed militants using roadside bombs, rocket-propelled grenades and automatic weapons, residents who spoke to Western reporters afterwards said there was no organized response by the Mahdi Army militia, loyal to Shiite leader Moqtada al-Sadr.
Despite the claims of fierce and close-quarter combat, there were no US casualties reported, a fact that suggests the one-sided character of the engagement.
There were conflicting reports on the toll of dead and wounded. A representative of al-Sadr who spoke to the media in Najaf said that four members of one family, including women, were killed by a US bomb, and another 16 young men died. “There were no clashes between the Mahdi army and occupation forces,” he said. “We are condemning this attack, which targeted the innocent people in their homes, and we are calling on the government to open an investigation with the occupation forces to find out what happened.”
An eyewitness who spoke with the Washington Post confirmed aspects of the account given by the al-Sadr spokesman, including the killing of four family members in their house. He described “random shooting” in the neighborhood but no direct attacks on US troops. “What’s the goal of this savage act?” he asked. “What are they trying to do—make the people hate Americans more or simply kill the Iraqis?”
Other eyewitnesses told the Associated Press (AP) that US troops had opened fire without warning, shooting into buildings whose residents were mostly asleep. Basheer Ahmed, a Sadr City resident, said, “At about 4 a.m., a big American convoy with tanks came and began to open fire on houses, bombing them. What did we do? We didn’t even retaliate. There was no resistance.”
An Iraqi policeman wounded in the raid, Montadhar Kareem, spoke to AP from his bed at Al Sadr General Hospital, where he was being treated. “The bombing became more intense, and I was injured by shrapnel in both my legs and in my left shoulder,” he said.
Another resident was interviewed while watching a funeral procession for several of the victims. She said, “We are being hit while we are peacefully sleeping in our houses. Is that fair?”
Eleven-year-old Laith Jassim spoke to the Los Angeles Times after he was wounded in the shoulder by shrapnel. “When I was injured, my brothers were not able to send me to the hospital because the Americans were shooting,” he said, asking, “Do I look like a Mahdi army member to you?”
US spokesman Lt. Col. Christopher Garver repeated the claim, invariably made after every military massacre, that US troops only kill armed combatants. “Everyone who got shot was shooting at U.S. troops at the time,” he said. “Every structure and vehicle that the troops on the ground engaged were being used for hostile intent.” he said.
Such blanket assurances insult the intelligence of the public, since both the officer and the reporters who took down his statement are well aware that it is impossible for soldiers, opening fire in pitch darkness in a crowded urban area, to know precisely who and what they are hitting, let alone give assurances that “every” target is a military one.
Meanwhile, there was an unconfirmed report of an even more gruesome US massacre in Diyala province, the focus of the military offensive entitled Arrowhead Ripper, begun June 15. The Iraqi Islamic Party, the Sunni component of the US-imposed coalition government, published a statement Sunday claiming that more than 350 people have been killed in Baquba, the provincial capital, in what they termed a “collective punishment” of the population, treating all residents of the city as insurgents.
The statement declared, “Neighborhoods in western Baquba have witnessed, since last week, fierce attacks by occupation forces within Operation Arrowhead Ripper ... The forces shelled these neighborhoods with helicopters, destroying more than 150 houses and killing more than 350 citizens, their bodies still under wreckage, in addition to arresting scores of citizens.”
Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, a Shiite elected to his position with the backing of the al-Sadr movement, issued a statement condemning the attack on the eastern Baghdad. “The Iraqi government totally rejects US military operations...conducted without prior approval from the Iraqi military command,” he declared. “Anyone who breaches the military command orders will face investigation.”
Maliki’s government appears even more impotent than the US-backed stooge regime of President Hamid Karzai in Afghanistan. While Karzai is openly derided as the “mayor of Kabul,” because his political realm is limited to the Afghan capital city, Maliki cannot control even that much. After he blocked one proposed US invasion of Sadr City last fall, Maliki was compelled to endorse future incursions as part of the ongoing US military “surge” that has mobilized an additional 30,000 combat troops. His protests over the latest US atrocity in his own capital will be brushed aside.
It appears that the raid into Sadr City was aimed at promoting the US campaign against alleged Iranian involvement in the guerilla resistance to the US occupation of Iraq. The military spokesman, Lt. Col. Garver, said that the 17 men detained were suspected of “close ties to Iranian terror networks.”
Lt. Gen. David Petraeus, the top US commander in Iraq, told reporters Saturday that he would shortly “lay out for the press” the extent of Iranian support of “secret cells” of Mahdi Army militiamen. “There’s actually been operational...direction provided to these militia organizations by the Iranian Quds Force,” he claimed. He made this statement during a visit to a southern Baghdad neighborhood where a powerful armor-piercing roadside bomb killed one US soldier in a convoy of Humvees. Three others were wounded.
The raid on Sadr City comes at the conclusion of another bloody month, in which more than 1,200 Iraqi civilians died, according to government figures, which are considered low estimates. Some 101 US troops were killed in June, bringing the three-month total to 331, the highest such quarterly toll since the war began. During the same period, 22 British soldiers were killed, more than in any similar period except the actual invasion in March 2003. For the six months January through June, 574 US soldiers, Marines and airmen have died in Iraq, a staggering 62 percent increase over the same period in 2006.
In another development Saturday, two American soldiers were charged with premeditated murder in the killing of three Iraqis near the town of Iskandariyah, south of Baghdad. The killings were separate incidents but had a common methodology: in all three cases, according to the charges, the soldiers planted weapons with their victims and claimed they were insurgents, then lied about the killings to investigators.See Also:
Iraqi court hands down 22 death sentences in four weeks
[28 June 2007]