Saturday, March 10, 2007

You Would Think That He is Always Posing for a Toothpaste Commercial.
That is Because His Handler (Ahmad Yousef) is an Advertising Man.
Yousef Says, "Keep Grinning, Habila."

The Little King Brought the Instructions from Washington to the Stooge "Brother Abu Mazen."
Jordan's King Abdullah (R) welcomes Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on his arrival at the Royal Palace in Amman March 10, 2007.

Demonstrators burn home-made American Flags during a protest against the visit of U.S. President George W. Bush to Uruguay in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Friday, March 9, 2007. (AP photo)

Demonstrators protest against US President George W. Bush's visit to Uruguay. Bush will hold trade talks with his Uruguayan counterpart Tebare Vazquez as mass protests continued to dog his five-nation tour of Latin America.(AFP)

Iran Attack: Neocons Find New Curveball

By Kurt Nimmo

"If anything can be said about the neocons and the Israelis, it is that they are tenacious, they are completely dedicated to the “creative destruction” plan in the Middle East, and short of arrest, conviction, and imprisonment they will not rest. It can be said that the deception game launched in the lead-up to the invasion of Iraq by these dedicated traitors was at best sloppy, as it was easy to pick apart the “facts” spoon-fed to the corporate media by the neocon lie factory known as the Office of Special Plans. Of course, at the end of the day, the fact this effort was at best slipshod was of little concern because the neocons understand well the intellectual lassitude, the habitual indifference of the average American, unable or unwilling to give a whit about the future of the country or, for that matter, the future that will be suffered by his own family.

Once again, the corporate media is feeding us a main course of half-truth and fabrication as the neocons and Israelis prepare to invade Iran, the next target on their total destruction roster. “A high-ranking Iranian general who may have defected is in Northern Europe, where he is being questioned about Iran’s role in the 1983 bombing of the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut and other terrorist acts,” the neocon New York Sun tells us. “Ali Reza Asghari, 63, whose grim face was displayed on Israeli TV last night, was spilling valuable secrets to an American intelligence team as a prelude to defecting to the United States,” the CIA’s favorite newspaper, the Washington Post, reports. “Asghari was Iran’s deputy minister of defense and former top official of the notorious Revolutionary Guards. Experts said his secrets, should they fall into American or Israeli hands, could have devastating consequences for the Iranian regime.”......

“In a scene straight out of a John le Carré spy novel, Asghari disappeared Feb. 7 from an Istanbul hotel where he was staying on a private trip —possibly with his family—and has vanished without a trace.” According to the Australian, taking its reportage leads in Jerusalem, Asghari “defected and sought asylum in the US,” taking along his family, although this is not confirmed.

Naturally, for suspicious types as your humble blogger, well-steeped in history and possessing a honed skill of reading between corporate media lines, the obvious conclusion here is that Asghari was abducted while on vacation with his family in Turkey—likely by the Mossad, CIA, a combination of both, or by way of freelance contracted by the aforementioned. “It is likely Asghari has been abducted by Western intelligence services,” said Iran’s top police officer, General Esmaeil Ahmadi Moghaddam.......

However, this does not explain the initial report, carried in the Washington Post and Israel’s Yedioth Ahranot (as announced in the Hebrew headline at the left), more or less bragging about the abduction of Asghari......

Selling the Iranian nuclear program scare tactic is a long term project, as even the most hysterical Israeli shill—usually billed as an “expert,” as Walid Phares above, same as I am expert on quantum physics—tells us the Iranians are a few years away from patching together a nuke, thus admitting Israel can breath a sigh of relief as it will not be nuked anytime soon, that is if you buy the poorly spun Brothers Grimm fairy tale of Iran’s feverish scramble to build nukes (in addition, we are expected to believe the leadership of Iran consists of Jim Jones knock-offs, happily courting suicide).

In order to spike the punch, we are now told a general—at first reported abducted by the Mossad, subsequently revised to be a harmless defection, complete with family and “vital documents” detailing Iranian mischief—will spill the beans “on Iran’s links to groups in Iraq. These include the Mehdi Army of the radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and the Badr organization,” according to the Belfast Telegraph, a quite remarkable turn of events, as “US and Iranian officials are to sit down at the same negotiating table today at an international conference in Baghdad to attempt to curb sectarian violence in Iraq. The conference will also include delegates from Syria, Saudi Arabia and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council.”

Finally, as if to satisfy the Israelis, who reportedly encouraged this “defection”—sort of like the defection of diplomats earlier this year at the Iranian Consulate in Iraq—the good general will apparently tell-all on Hezbollah, the perennial Israeli enemy, never mind Hezbollah did not exist prior to Israel invading Lebanon and killing, imprisoning, and torturing thousands of people. Danny Yatom, the former head of Mossad and a member of the Knesset, “described the missing general as very important and said that he would be able to shed light on one of the murkiest chapters in recent Middle East history. From the early 1980s Iran funded, trained and armed members of the Hezbollah movement in Lebanon, which began as a small Shia Muslim militia but is today the most powerful paramilitary force in the Levant,” the Times Online reports, or rather reads from the official history. Again, no mention of the fact there would be no Hezbollah, or for that matter Hamas, if not for the predacious behavior of the small, albeit armed to the teeth—thanks to clueless Americans—Israeli state........

But never mind. Asghari’s information, arriving in the nick of time, as the neocons face off against the Iranians at a conference in Baghdad, will provide a momentary boost for the all-murder, all-the-time agenda of the neocons. It is but another ingredient added to the toxic brew sold to the clueless out here in Bushzarro world, a distillation of hatred, lies, and murderousness that will ultimately end up in World War Four, as the neocons fondly call it. "

Journalists hit by Israeli stun grenades, tear-gassed

Report, Committee to Protect Journalists, 10 March 2007

"New York, March 8, 2007 - The Committee to Protect Journalists is concerned that two journalists were bruised by Israeli stun grenades at an Israeli military checkpoint between Jerusalem and the West Bank city of Ramallah today.

Rami al-Faqih, a correspondent for the local Al-Quds Educational Television, and Iyad Hamad, a cameraman for The Associated Press, were each hit this morning as Israeli border police fired at journalists covering a peaceful protest marking International Women's Day at the Qalandia checkpoint, the journalists told CPJ.

"We are troubled by these reports that Israeli border police deliberately fired at journalists," said CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon. "We call on Israeli authorities to thoroughly investigate this incident immediately and to instruct its forces to allow journalists to do their job unhindered."

Al-Faqih, who said he was holding a microphone with the station's logo, told CPJ he was hit in the foot and fell to the ground. Iyad Hamad, a cameraman for AP, was similarly injured when he was hit in the legs by a stun grenade, AP photojournalist Nasser Shiyoukhi told CPJ.

The journalists alleged that Israeli border police fired deliberately at them, and noted that none of the protestors were hit by the grenades, which they said emits plastic shrapnel. Video footage, they said, showed that the journalists weren't among the demonstrators.

Israeli National Police Spokesman Micky Rosenfeld told CPJ that border police used minimum force -- only three stun grenades -- to disperse protestors when they forcefully tried to enter an area that was "out of bounds." Rosenfeld said that after the Israeli border police asked demonstrators to disperse from the closed area, "the press should have left the area quietly and dispersed with the ladies who were present at the scene" to maintain their safety and prevent injury.

Rosenfeld added that no official reports were filed with the border police by the media organizations regarding the journalists' injuries.

Israeli soldiers and border police have previously used stun grenades against journalists. Most recently, on February 26, Israeli soldiers fired several stun grenades at a group of around 12 photographers and cameramen, including Nasser Ishtayeh and Emilio Morenatti of the AP and Jaffar Ishtayeh of Agence France-Presse, to prevent them from covering its search and seizure operation in the West Bank city of Nablus, the journalists told CPJ.

On February 16, Israeli soldiers fired teargas at several cameramen and photojournalists covering clashes between the soldiers and Palestinian stone-throwers near the West Bank city of Hebron, according to AP's Shiyoukhi and journalists at the scene. When the journalists got within 30 meters of the Palestinian youths, Israeli soldiers fired teargas canisters at their feet. Shiyoukhi told CPJ he was overcome by the gas and his colleagues brought him to a hospital in Hebron. Shiyoukhi alleged that the Israeli soldiers fired deliberately at the journalists since they were a clear distance from the Palestinian stone-throwers."

Report: Palestinian child prisoners in 2006

Report, DCI/PS, 10 March 2007

"In 2006, Israel continued its policy of arresting and imprisoning Palestinian children. Some 700 Palestinian children (under 18) were arrested by Israeli soldiers over the course of the year. Of these, around 25 children were held on administrative detention orders, imprisonment without charge or trial. The overwhelming majority of those arrested in 2006 were boys; there were eight girl child prisoners who served sentences at different points during the year. Of these, four had been arrested in 2006.

At any given point during the year, there were between 340 and 420 Palestinian children held in Israeli prisons and detention centers in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT), with around 380 held at the end of the year. Of these, around 300 were being held in central prisons, either pending trial or after having been sentenced. The remaining 80 were being held in interrogation and detention centers. The number of children arrested in 2006 brings the total number of Palestinian children arrested by Israel since the beginning of the second Intifada in September 2000 to approximately 5,200.

Palestinian child political prisoners routinely face violations of their human rights during the arrest through imprisonment process. They are exposed to physical and psychological abuse, often amounting to torture. They are denied prompt access to an attorney and often denied contact with their families and the outside world. Many are held without charge or trial. They face substandard, often inhumane, conditions of detention, both in the facilities where they are initially held and interrogated and in those where they await trial and serve their sentence.

Moreover, they are frequently denied access to proper medical care. In many cases, the arrest, interrogation and imprisonment experience has psycho-social effects that extend far beyond the period of detention.

To download the Palestinian Child Political Prisoners 2006 Report (PDF) click here.

By Amjad Rasmi, Arab News.

An activist returns to the novel

The Sydney Morning Herald

"MANY HAD WRITTEN off the chances that Arundhati Roy would return to the world of fiction. Her astounding first novel, The God of Small Things, won the Booker in 1997. Ten years and 6 million copies later there was still no repeat of the lyrical, whirling debut. Instead Roy turned to lobbing literary Molotov cocktails at Enron, George Bush's war on terror and the World Trade Organisation in the form of incendiary polemics. No one could accuse her of having writers' block: she churned out six books, collections of her essays with titles such as Power Politics and An Ordinary Person's Guide to Empire.

Dispensing with story-writing, she pursued a career in social activism, appearing at anti-war rallies and using her celebrity to raise the profiles of unfashionable causes - Kashmiris on death row, the rights of tribal communities in India, hardscrabble suicides in the country's farming belt.......

Roy says India today, like pre-revolutionary France, is poised "on the edge of violence". As she sees it, the country of her birth is not coming together but coming apart - convulsed by "corporate globalisation" at an unprecedented, unacceptable velocity. "The inequalities become untenable."......

Roy's dire predictions about India have left her isolated when mainstream opinion seems convinced that the country, with its nuclear bombs and slick Bollywood movies, is the next superpower-in-waiting. Roy says some parts of the country, such as the western state of Gujarat - the scene of a bloody pogrom against Muslims five years ago - are off limits to her because of her campaigning.

A few years ago she was briefly imprisoned for contempt of court while protesting against the country's controversial Narmada Dam project. The God of Small Things produced obscenity charges and a court case that ran for a decade, only to be dismissed last month.

She first shot to prominence in 1994 with a scathing film review entitled The Great Indian Rape Trick, about the movie Bandit Queen, in which she questioned the right to "restage the rape of a living woman without her permission".......

Unlike other Indian-born writers who have relocated to the US and Europe, Roy is determined to remain a thorn in the side of the establishment in India. "Here you see what's happening. People are driven out of villages, driven out of the cities, there's a kind of insanity in the air and all of it held down by our mesmeric, pelvic-thrusting Bollywood movies. The Indian middle class has just embarked on this orgy of consumerism."

But she admits that the kinds of non-violent protests she has taken part in for a decade have failed in India, a republic founded on the Gandhi-ite principles of peaceful resistance. "I am not such an uninhibited fan of Gandhi. After all, Gandhi was a superstar. When he went on a hunger strike he was a superstar on a hunger strike. But I don't believe in superstar politics. If people in a slum are on a hunger strike, no one gives a shit."

Roy says activists have been "exhausted" by their attempts to influence the courts and the press and now says she does not "condemn people taking up arms" in the face of state repression.

"It would be immoral for me to preach violence unless I were prepared to resort to it myself. But equally, it is immoral for me to advocate feelgood marches and hunger strikes when I'm not bearing the brunt of unspeakable violence. I certainly do not volunteer to tell Iraqis or Kashmiris or Palestinians that if they went on a mass hunger strike they would get rid of the military occupation. Civil disobedience doesn't seem to be paying dividends."

Instead of the Indian state caving in to the moral righteousness of the numerous causes Roy supports, she says it merely moved to co-opt its adversaries. The power of argument, even in the world's biggest democracy, has been shrunk by the argument of power.

Roy says she was aghast to learn that a fellow Indian environmental campaigner accepted a million-dollar award from the transnational metals firm Alcan, which has been accused of grabbing tribal land in eastern India. The tentacles of big business have learned to embrace non-government organisations. The result, she claims, is that the charitable trusts of Tata, India's largest private company, fund "half the activists in the country".

She feels frustrated by the state's ability to brush aside non-violent resistance movements. "This has sapped the energy from people's movements. The very Gandhian Narmada movement [the grassroots group which campaigned against big dams in India] knocked on the door of every democratic institution for years and has been humiliated. It has not managed to stop a single dam from going ahead. In fact the dam industry has a new spring in its step."

Roy says she had given ideological opponents a handy hate figure. "In India I'm portrayed more as a hysterical, lying, anti-national harridan....."

War With Iran is Not a Done Deal

By Tony Karon

"So, is the U.S. going to attack Iran? I’ve been in South Africa for much of the past month, and the question kept recurring among observers of the international scene. Nobody knows the answer, of course, for the simple reason that it’s unlikely that a decision has been taken. To be sure, as Michael Klare points out, President Bush’s rhetoric suggests that he’s already decided to bomb Iran. And the Administration, served as ever by a willfully naive media corps stoking misconceptions, is certainly preparing the public for a confrontation. And there’s no question that the folks who brought you the Iraq war would very much like to see a second front opened in Iran. At the same time, however, there are a number of powerful countervailing forces in play that will restrain President Bush’s more hawkish instincts — it’s clear, already, that the bomb-Iran crowd faces considerable hostility in the U.S. Congress, among the key U.S. Sunni-Arab allies in the region (on whose behalf Washington claims to be challenging Iran) and, very importantly, among the uniformed leadership of the U.S. military. And the leadership in Iran, aware of the danger, appears to be moving to calm tensions on a wide array of fronts (moves that allow the pragmatists in Washington to craft a narrative — for domestic consumption — arguing that pressure on Iran has strengthened the U.S. hand to negotiate with Iran, and that negotiations can now proceed)......."

Chavez: Bush a political 'cadaver'

"Hugo Chavez, Venezuela's president, has called George Bush, the US president, a "political cadaver" and blasted US policies as "imperialist" as he led 20,000 supporters in an anti-American rally.

Chavez shouted "Gringo go home!" on Friday night to raucous applause in a crowded football stadium in the Argentine capital, Buenos Aires.

Alluding to Bush's waning years in office, Chavez said: "The US president today is a true political cadaver and now he does not even smell of sulphur anymore. "What the little gentleman from the North now exudes is the smell of political death and in a very short time he will be converted into cosmic dust and disappear from the stage."

Chavez added that he did not come to "sabotage" Bush's visit, saying the timing was a coincidence, even as Bush landed in neighbouring Uruguay for a 36-hour visit.

He said: "This act was organised to say 'No!' to the presence of the imperial boss in these heroic lands of our America, in the heroic lands of South America."

'Against the poor'

"North America for the North Americans, South America for the South Americans. This is our America!" he said, standing under a large sign reading "Bush and Imperialism, Out!" and "Yes to Latin American unity!"......

Chavez said Bush's five-nation tour would fail to improve America's image and dismissed his pledges of US aid as a cynical attempt to "confuse" Latin Americans.

On Argentine state television, the Venezuelan leader on Friday, said: "It seems he's just now discovered that poverty exists in the region".

At the stadium rally, about 20,000 people, including men and women with children in tow, applauded Chavez. Claudio Hernandez, a Chilean, said: "We are here to show our support of Chavez and our repudiation of Bush and imperialism. We are against Bush because of his oil wars and his other policies."

Anti-American and anti-Bush sentiments run high in the countries on Bush's tour, particularly over the war in Iraq and US trade negotiations......

In Argentina, many still blame Washington for tolerating the country's brutal military regimes of 1976-1983, when thousands of dissidents were tortured and killed.

The organisers of Chavez's rally included Mercedes Merono of the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo, a group still searching for sons and daughters who vanished after being arrested under military rule. Merono said: "This counter-rally is extremely important. Bush seeks to take advantage of Latin America while Chavez supports the region's independence."....."

Public outcry forces Hamas to rescind ban on 'sexual' folk tale book

"The Hamas-run Palestinian Education Ministry on Saturday rescinded a controversial decision to pull an anthology of Palestinian folk tales from school libraries and destroy copies, reportedly over mild sexual innuendo, following a widespread public outcry.

Education Minister Nasser Shaer, of Hamas, told The Associated Press in a telephone interview that he had not been informed of this week's decision to ban the book, Speak Bird, Speak Again. Some 1,500 copies of the book were destroyed - the most direct attempt by the militant Muslim group to impose their beliefs on Palestinian society.

I have decided to correct the illegal measures that were taken regarding disposing the book, Shaer said.

A group of prominent intellectuals planned to protest the book ban in Ramallah on Saturday. They said they intended to proceed with the march, even after Shaer's announcement.

The 400-page anthology of folk tales narrated by Palestinian women was first published in English in 1989 by the University of California at Berkeley. It was put together by Sharif Kanaana, a novelist and anthropology professor at the West Bank's Bir Zeit University, and by Ibrahim Muhawi, a teacher of Arabic literature and the theory of translation.

At the time of the first publication in Arabic, in 2001, the Palestinian Culture Ministry requested 3,000 copies and had them distributed in schools, Kanaana said last week. Kanaana said that two of the 45 tales contained what some might consider vague sexual innuendo, referring to body parts in colloquial Arabic."

وزير التربية الفلسطيني يتراجع عن حظر كتاب قول يا طير

تراجع وزير التربية والتعليم الفلسطيني في الحكومة المكلفة ناصر الدين الشاعر عن قرار سابق له بسحب كتاب تراثي من مكتبات المدارس وسط احتجاجات من مثقفين وأكاديميين فلسطينيين على هذا القرار.

وأعلن الشاعر أنه قرر إلغاء قرار سابق لإحدى اللجان بوزارته بإتلاف الكتاب التراثي "قول يا طير" والذي تضمن ما قالت الوزارة إنها عبارات جنسية وتخدش الحياء العام.

وقال الوزير أمام عشرات المتظاهرين -أمام مقر وزارة التربية والتعليم في رام الله- إنه قرر العدول عن كافة الإجراءات التي قال إنها غير قانونية واتخذت بدون علمه، مشيرا بذلك إلى سحب الكتاب وإتلاف نسخه في مكتبات المدارس التابعة لوزارته.

وكان الشاعر قال قبل المظاهرة التي نظمت في المدينة من قبل عدد من المثقفين إنه قرر إعادة الكتاب للتداول في المدارس، ولكن فقط بين المدرسين وأوضح أن "هذا الموضوع سيعرض على الجهات المختصة لعمل ما تراه مناسبا بما يضمن استمرار المعلمين في استخدامه".

ورفع المتظاهرون -الذين بعثوا بالأمس رسالة احتجاج إلى الرئيس الفلسطيني محمود عباس والمجلس التشريعي- لافتات للمطالبة بمحاسبة وزير التربية والتعليم، وشعارات تندد بقرار وزارته.

وأعد الكتاب -الذي يتضمن أمثالا شعبية حكتها نساء فلسطينيات باللغة العامية- الروائي وأستاذ الأنثروبولوجيا بجامعة بيرزيت الدكتور شريف كناعنة وإبراهيم مهوي وهو مدرس للأدب العربي ونظرية الترجمة.

From the Windbags of Hamas

Masri: World should move before the ticking bomb explodes in the region

"GAZA, (PIC)-- Palestinian lawmaker and Hamas’ prominent political leader Mushir Al-Masri has affirmed that the persistent IOA aggressions on the Aqsa Mosque could inflict adverse repercussions on the world’s stability and would explode the ticking bomb in the face of the Israeli occupation government.

Masri’s warnings came during an enthusiastic speech he delivered before the Palestinian masses who participated in pro-Aqsa demonstrations organized by the Movement in Gaza city on Friday......."

Friday, March 9, 2007

Israeli soldiers use two Palestinian minors as human shields

Report, B'Tselem, 9 March 2007

"Testimonies taken by B'Tselem reveal that during the army's operation in Nablus in late February, soldiers used two Palestinian children, a fifteen-year-old boy and a eleven-year-old girl, and a twenty-four-year old man as human shields. The use of human shields constitutes a flagrant breach of international humanitarian law and is explicitly and clearly prohibited by Israeli military orders. B'Tselem wrote to the Judge Advocate General and demanded that he immediately order a Military Police investigation into the matter......

According to the testimonies, on the first day of the operation, around five o'clock in the morning, soldiers came to the house of the 'Amirah family, in the Old City, and removed all the occupants from the house and took them to a nearby house, where other Palestinians were also being held. Then the soldiers ordered one of the family, 15-year-old 'Amid to accompany them in their search of three other houses. According to 'Amid's testimony, the soldiers pushed him with the barrels of their rifles and forced him to enter rooms of the house in front of them, open cabinets and empty out the contents, and open windows. In one instance, according to the testimony, a soldier shot several shots into the room......

The picture that emerges from the testimonies, and particularly the description of the firing into the rooms in the testimonies of 'Amid and Samach 'Amirah, indicate that the soldiers feared the houses they searched hid armed militants or that explosives had been planted in them. In other words, the mission the two minors and the adult were forced to conduct undoubtedly included an element of danger and it seems clear that the soldiers were aware of this......"

Global Realignment and the Decline of the Superpower

By Mike Whitney

"The United States has been defeated in Iraq. That doesn’t mean that there’ll be a troop withdrawal anytime soon, but it does mean that there’s no chance of achieving the mission’s political objectives. Iraq will not be a democracy, reconstruction will be minimal, and the security situation will continue to deteriorate into the foreseeable future.

The real goals of the invasion are equally unachievable. While the US has established a number of military bases at the heart of the world’s energy-center; oil output has dwindled to 1.6 million barrels per day, nearly half of post-war production. More importantly, the administration has no clear strategy for protecting pipelines, oil tankers and major facilities. Oil production will be spotty for years to come even if security improves. This will have grave effects on oil futures; triggering erratic spikes in prices and roiling the world energy markets. If the contagion spreads to the other Gulf States, as many political analysts now expect, many of the world’s oil-dependent countries will go through an agonizing cycle of recession/depression.

America’s failure in Iraq is not merely a defeat for the Bush administration. It is also a defeat for the “unipolar-model” of world order. Iraq proves that that the superpower model cannot provide the stability, security or guarantee of human rights that are essential for garnering the support of the 6 billion people who now occupy the planet. The mushrooming of armed groups in Iraq, Afghanistan and, now, Somalia foreshadows a broader and more violent confrontation between the over-stretched American legions and their increasingly adaptable and lethal enemies. Resistance to the imperial order is on the rise everywhere......

These new coalitions are an indication of the massive geopolitical changes that are already underway. The world is realigning in reaction to Washington’s aggression. We can expect to see these groups continue to strengthen as the administration pursues its resource war through force of arms. That means that the “old order”--the United Nations, NATO and the transatlantic Alliance--will come under greater and greater strain until relations are eventually cut off......

An America defeat in Afghanistan could be the straw that breaks NATO’s back. The administrations’ global schema depends heavily on support from Europe; persuading the predominantly white, western nations to join the battle and secure pipeline corridors and landlocked energy supplies throughout Central Asia. Failure in Afghanistan would send tremors through Europe’s political landscape and give rise to a generation of anti-American politicians who will seek to dissolve relations between the two traditional allies. But a breakup seems inevitable. After all, Europe has no imperial aspirations and its economies are thriving. They don’t need to invade and occupy countries to get access to vital resources. They can simply buy them on the open market......"

Saddam judge flees Iraq

"The Iraqi judge who sentenced Saddam Hussein to death has fled Iraq and sought asylum in the UK.

Al Jazeera's correspondent in London quoted British official sources as saying on Friday that Raouf Abdel-Rahman, a member of Iraq's Kurdish minority, has requested political asylum in Britain with his family.

Rahman headed the Supreme Iraq Criminal Tribunal that heard Saddam's genocide trial and found the former Iraqi president guilty, leading to his execution.

Saddam was accused of killing more than a hundred Shia in the village of Dujail following a failed assassination attempt on him.

Besides sending Saddam to the gallows, Rahman had also sentenced two other top Saddam aides to death in the same trial.

The two were Saddam's half brother and former intelligence chief, Barzan Ibrahim al-Tikriti, and Awad Hamed al-Bandar, former head of Iraq's Revolutionary Court.

They were found guilty along with Saddam of involvement in the Dujail killings in 1982."

Priests to Purify Site After Bush Visit

"GUATEMALA CITY (AP) - Mayan priests will purify a sacred archaeological site to eliminate "bad spirits" after President Bush visits next week, an official with close ties to the group said Thursday.

"That a person like (Bush), with the persecution of our migrant brothers in the United States, with the wars he has provoked, is going to walk in our sacred lands, is an offense for the Mayan people and their culture," Juan Tiney, the director of a Mayan nongovernmental organization with close ties to Mayan religious and political leaders, said Thursday.

Bush's seven-day tour of Latin America includes a stopover beginning late Sunday in Guatemala. On Monday morning he is scheduled to visit the archaeological site Iximche on the high western plateau in a region of the Central American country populated mostly by Mayans.

Tiney said the "spirit guides of the Mayan community" decided it would be necessary to cleanse the sacred site of "bad spirits" after Bush's visit so that their ancestors could rest in peace. He also said the rites _ which entail chanting and burning incense, herbs and candles _ would prepare the site for the third summit of Latin American Indians March 26-30......."

Arabic speakers monitor Net chats

"The State Department has hired two native Arabic speakers to monitor Arabic political discussion forums on the Internet and to overtly participate in them in an effort to correct misperceptions about U.S. policy in the Middle East.
The small "digital outreach team," which also includes a supervising Foreign Service officer, was created in December by Karen Hughes, undersecretary of state for public diplomacy, as part of her campaign to prevent mistakes and speculation about the United States from being accepted as truth, officials said.
"We want to make sure that U.S. views are present in the Arabic cyberspace," said Jeremy Curtin, acting coordinator of the Bureau of International Information Programs at the State Department.
"The two people who were hired just before Christmas monitor Arabic sites on current affairs in the Middle East and other issues we are interested in," he said. "They identify themselves as U.S. government employees."
Mrs. Hughes, a close friend and former adviser to President Bush, was appointed in 2005 to help improve perceptions of the United States overseas, particularly in the Arab and Muslim world, which suffered because of the Iraq war and other U.S. policies......"

Can the Arabs Produce One Like Him in This Generation?
I Have My Doubts.

Celebrate: They Are Meeting Again Sunday....
Only 233 Summit Meetings With Brother Abu Mazen (who is authorized by Hamas to "negotiate") Remain Until The West Bank is Fully Negotiated Away...

Noam Chomsky Connects the Dots

War, Neoliberalism and Empire in the 21st Century


"Sameer Dossani: Let's talk about the recently passed Iraqi oil law. It's well known that the law was drafted in the U.S. and then consulted on by very few Iraqis all loyal to Prime Minister Noori al-Maliki, then finally pushed through the Iraqi parliament. This law paves the way for regionalization and privatization of Iraqi oil. What's the U.S. economic agenda in Iraq and will it be able to carry that agenda out, given the disastrous nature of the occupation so far?


SD: The difficulties surround the occupation Iraq has deflected the U.S.'s attention away from other parts of the world, including Latin America. Recently, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and others such as Rafael Correa of Ecuador, Evo Morales of Bolivia, have been talking about regional trade agreements such as ALBA and, in the case of Venezuela, aid packages that are supposedly designed to actually benefit local populations as opposed to transnational companies. Critics claim that these policies are a) unsustainable, because they depend on revenues from Venezuela's oil wealth, and b) self serving for the government of Hugo Chavez. What is your response to these criticisms?.....

SD: In Latin America, Venezuela is only one part of the general discontent that is driving governments away from the IMF. But in other parts of the world, notably Africa, the IMF and its neoliberal diktaats are as strong as ever, and the predictable result is that extreme poverty is still on the rise. Other countries -- for example India -- are not under this pressure but still are wildly pursuing neoliberal economic policies. What hope do you see for citizens and movements in these places? Are there lessons to be learned from the case of Latin America? How can we in the U.S. be supportive of struggles for economic justice in these places?......"

By Mike Lane.

Bush's Reception in Brazil

A protestor wearing a T-shirt with the image of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, fixes billboards that read "Get out Bush" at the entrance of a state-owned oil company Petrobras facility visited by US President George W. Bush in Guarulhos, east of Sao Paulo, Friday, March 9, 2007. (AP Photo)

The Saudi Minister of Palestinian Finance, Celebrate!

دول الخليج تربط مساعداتها بتولي فياض وزارة المالية الفلسطينية

"وذكر أن حركة فتح ستسمي وزيرين مستقلين أحدهما هو زياد أبو عمرو للخارجية، بينما ستسمي حماس ثلاثة مستقلين من ضمنهم وزير الداخلية.
واكدت مصادر فلسطينية لـ القدس العربي ان دول الخليج طالبت الرئيس عباس بتعيين فياض للمالية، وانها لن تحول اي اموال للسلطة الا من خلال فياض. ونسبت مصادر فلسطينية موثوقة الي الرئيس عباس قوله ان دول الخليج بما في ذلك السعودية ودولة الامارات طلبت منه تعيين فياض وزيرا للمالية. واما بالنسبة لوزارة الداخلية قالت مصادر فلسطينية ان اللواء جمال أبو زايد هو المرشح الأقوي لتولي الحقيبة بعد ان تم تفضيله علي اللواء المتقاعد خضر معروف.


Reliable Palestinian sources have told Al-Quds Al-Arabi that the Gulf states, including Saudi Arabia and the UAE, told Abbas to install Salam Fayad as the "finance minister," and that any financial support from these countries to the PA will go only through Fayad.

Fayad so happens to be Washington's as well as the World Bank's favorite and a personal friend of Bush. Just connect the dots to see where this "unity government" is going and don't forget to congratulate Habila about such a wise "choice."

Bush arrives to Brazilian protest

"Police have clashed with thousands of Brazilians protesting at a visit by the US president and his push for an ethanol energy alliance with the Latin American country.

Riot police used tear gas and batons to disperse more than 6,000 protesters holding a largely peaceful march through Sao Paulo's financial heart just before George Bush arrived.

In Porto Alegre, more than 500 people chanted "Get out, imperialist!" as they marched to a Citigroup bank and burned an effigy of the US president.

Brazil has mounted its biggest ever security operation in Sao Paulo with about 4,000 officers on hand during Bush's visit......

Brazil is the world's biggest exporter and consumer of ethanol as an alternative fuel.

It has been enthusiastic about proposals to join forces with the US and create a world wide market for ethanol.

But not everyone is optimistic.

Mariana Schwarz, a 25-year-old publicist said: "We know that Bush and the United States are known for exploiting weaker countries into deals that will only benefit themselves without worrying about the environment."

Suzanne Pereira dos Santos, an activist with Brazil's Landless Workers Movement said: "Bush and the United States go to war to control oil reserves, and now Bush and his pals are trying to control the production of ethanol in Brazil. And that has to be stopped,"

Graffiti reading "Get Out, Bush! Assassin!" appeared on walls near the locations that Bush will drive past as he begins a Latin American tour that also includes stops in Uruguay, Colombia, Guatemala and Mexico......

Despite concerns over unity in Latin America, if Bush's plan is to counter the Chavez charm offensive in the region, Washington may have its work cut out.

Lula Da Silva, Brazil's president, has made it clear that his priority is unity between Latin American states, which includes, rather than isolates, Venezuela."

The Other War

Afghanistan – worse than Iraq
By Justin Raimondo

"......The real war, the Democrats argue, is not in Iraq – which never had anything to do with Osama bin Laden, al Qaeda, or 9/11 – but in Afghanistan. This is their big critique of the Iraq war: not that it's wrong, immoral, a murderous disaster that surely indicts us in the eyes of the whole world – only that it is diverting resources away from another military occupation that shows no signs of winding down.

Yet the war in Afghanistan is being played exactly as the occupation of Iraq is being played – as if we are trying to establish a semi-permanent presence. In both countries we have held elections, and used our military to prop up a government that has very little actual power. In Afghanistan, as well as Iraq, our nation-building efforts are doomed to fail.

As Michael Scheuer points out, the Afghans have been badly underestimated by the US-NATO coalition, and they are even now in the process of repeating history and driving out the invaders, just as they drove out the Soviets, the Brits, and the legions of Alexander the Great.

The Taliban and their allies are returning to Afghanistan, having received additional training and an influx of aid from around the Muslim world: Scheuer estimates their numbers are at least equal to the coalition forces. And these aren't just new recruits, although there are more than enough of those, but seasoned veterans of the Afghan wars who are eager to get on with the fight......"

A predator becomes more dangerous when wounded

Washington's escalation of threats against Iran is driven by a determination to secure control of the region's energy resources

Noam Chomsky
Friday March 9, 2007
The Guardian

"In the energy-rich Middle East, only two countries have failed to subordinate themselves to Washington's basic demands: Iran and Syria. Accordingly both are enemies, Iran by far the more important. As was the norm during the cold war, resort to violence is regularly justified as a reaction to the malign influence of the main enemy, often on the flimsiest of pretexts. Unsurprisingly, as Bush sends more troops to Iraq, tales surface of Iranian interference in the internal affairs of Iraq - a country otherwise free from any foreign interference - on the tacit assumption that Washington rules the world......

For the US, the primary issue in the Middle East has been, and remains, effective control of its unparalleled energy resources. Access is a secondary matter. Once the oil is on the seas it goes anywhere. Control is understood to be an instrument of global dominance. Iranian influence in the "crescent" challenges US control. By an accident of geography, the world's major oil resources are in largely Shia areas of the Middle East: southern Iraq, adjacent regions of Saudi Arabia and Iran, with some of the major reserves of natural gas as well. Washington's worst nightmare would be a loose Shia alliance controlling most of the world's oil and independent of the US.

Such a bloc, if it emerges, might even join the Asian Energy Security Grid based in China. Iran could be a lynchpin. If the Bush planners bring that about, they will have seriously undermined the US position of power in the world......

Last July, Israel invaded Lebanon, the fifth invasion since 1978. As before, US support was a critical factor, the pretexts quickly collapse on inspection, and the consequences for the people of Lebanon are severe. Among the reasons for the US-Israel invasion is that Hizbullah's rockets could be a deterrent to a US-Israeli attack on Iran. Despite the sabre-rattling it is, I suspect, unlikely that the Bush administration will attack Iran. Public opinion in the US and around the world is overwhelmingly opposed. It appears that the US military and intelligence community is also opposed. Iran cannot defend itself against US attack, but it can respond in other ways, among them by inciting even more havoc in Iraq. Some issue warnings that are far more grave, among them the British military historian Corelli Barnett, who writes that "an attack on Iran would effectively launch world war three".

Then again, a predator becomes even more dangerous, and less predictable, when wounded. In desperation to salvage something, the administration might risk even greater disasters. The Bush administration has created an unimaginable catastrophe in Iraq. It has been unable to establish a reliable client state within, and cannot withdraw without facing the possible loss of control of the Middle East's energy resources......."

Thursday, March 8, 2007

IOF Hiding Behind Palestinian Children

B'Tselem: IDF used Palestinian girl as human shield in Nablus

By Reuters

"Israel Defense Forces soldiers used an 11-year-old Palestinian girl as a "human shield" during an operation against militants in the West Bank town of Nablus last week, an Israeli human rights group said on Thursday.

The IDF said it was checking the information from the B'Tselem group, which monitors Israeli actions in the occupied territory. Israeli law bans the military from using human shields.

B'Tselem said the girl, Jihan Daadush, told its interviewers that IDF soldiers had entered her family home and questioned her and her relatives about the whereabouts of gunmen who had fired at them during the raid.

The soldiers, she said, threatened to arrest her unless she led them to a nearby house.

"[A soldier] ordered me to go towards the house," B'Tselem quoted the girl as saying. "Three soldiers walked behind me. When we reached the house, there were a lot of soldiers. The soldiers ordered me to go inside the house and I went inside."

B'Tselem said Jihan told them the soldiers shone flashlights and asked about the rooms of the house. There was no mention in the report of whether troops found militants inside. The girl said two soldiers then returned her home.

"[One of the soldiers] told me, 'Thank you, but don't tell anyone,'" the girl said, according to B'Tselem. "I was afraid they would kill me or put me in jail. I am still afraid the soldiers will invade the city again and take me away."

B'tselem also said the army had used a 15-year-old Palestinian boy and a Palestinian man for a similar purpose during the five-day raid of Nablus, a militant stronghold.

The IDF ended the operation on March 1. During the incursion, troops shot dead a Palestinian civilian who had observed the raid from his rooftop. Soldiers also detained 11 suspected militants."

The Mecca Charity Show

An Excellent Article
By Roni Ben Efrat, Challenge, 8 March 2007

"......As for the bloody strife between Hamas and Fatah, here the Saudis mounted the best show in town. The Mecca Summit based its format on Camp David and Shepherdstown; each were billed as a last ditch effort, with terrific momentum leading up to them. They failed, however, whereas in Mecca no hint of possible failure was allowed. The final terms were established in advance. Even Syria blessed the outcome, hoping that the Saudis would put in a good word for it with the West.

The agreement itself, which is the basis for a Palestinian unity government, is extremely misleading. At the head of the unity government will be the present PM, Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas, but his deputy will be from Fatah. Hamas will have 9 ministers and Fatah 6, but there will also be 5 independents and 4 from other parties. The Finance Minister will be the universally respected Salam Fayyad. The Interior Minister, who has yet to be agreed on, will be from Hamas's list of independent candidates. Hamas retained its position of not recognizing Israel, but it accepted the earlier agreements signed by the PLO. It refused to say it would adhere to them, as Fatah wanted, but on the other hand it gave up a clause it had always included before: that it would only recognize those agreements "which serve the Palestinian people." Both sides promised not to slide again into conflict. Both felt the harsh criticism coming from the Palestinian street.

On the surface - but only there - it looked as if Hamas had come out ahead:

1. From the moment of its election in January 2006, Hamas wanted a national unity government with Fatah, but the latter refused, thinking it could undermine the Hamas regime by getting the West to withhold funds. Now Fatah has given up this ambition.

2. The formulas of the Mecca agreement contain no essential concessions by Hamas. (Israel can claim that the Quartet's demands have not been met.)

3. Because the accord was signed at Mecca, Hamas receives pan-Arab legitimacy for its position. The Saudis will pressure the West to recognize the new government. Moreover, the latter can now receive a billion dollars in funds from the Arab league.
All this, as said, is appearance. In Mecca both sides swept differences under the rug. The real test of their unity will come when their government is pressed to accept the conditions set by the Quartet and Israel. It must do so to unfreeze the West's donations. Hamas cannot govern without this money, the lack of which triggered the clashes. To get it, however, Hamas will have to go along with the line that seeks accommodation.

Here, once again, Hamas reveals a characteristic lack of consistency. We saw this first a year ago, when it chose to take part in elections that were based on an infrastructure provided by the Oslo Accords. It accepted the Oslo framework without the content. Now it deepens its entrapment by entering a unity government, hoping to gain Western funds without accepting Western conditions. Saudi Arabia has won a brief span of glory, but what about the Palestinian people?

Certainly, there's no question as to the horror of the bloody scenes we witnessed between Fatah and Hamas. They occurred in utter opposition to the popular will. The Palestinian street rejoiced sincerely over the Mecca Agreement.

The problem, however, is: unity for the sake of what? The Oslo Accords did not establish the basis for a true Palestinian state, rather the mold for a state dependent on handouts: a donations state, which would serve Western and Israeli interests. From the beginning, the donations were intended to finance a political entity composed of corruptible, docile elitists like those in other Arab regimes. The Palestinian Authority, under Fatah leadership, wasted a whole decade without establishing an infrastructure and without creating real jobs. It purchased quiet by handing out cash in paper bags to the workers of a bloated public sector.

The election of Hamas did not bring a change of direction. Even if we acknowledge that the movement is not corrupt, it offered no alternative to the donations state. On the contrary, the notion of charity rather than work is a principle of the Hamas movement. Now this notion has become the basis of the entire unity government. Unless the latter can thaw Western coffers, the streets will again erupt.

Thanks to Mecca, then, the situation of the Palestinian people has become even more entangled: its leaders in both Hamas and Fatah have bound it more strongly to the regional interests of the US, Saudi Arabia and Iran. The particular Palestinian problems will have to wait for a different balance of forces.

The war between Fatah and Hamas created a superfluous conflict, whose settlement puts the ball in Hamas's court. The demands will now be on Hamas, not Israel, especially the demand to release abducted Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit and to stop the Qassam rockets. Furthermore, Israel and the US can now apply all their weight in getting Hamas to meet the Quartet's conditions: to disband terrorist organizations, to abide by former agreements, and to recognize Israel.

These things happen at a time when many of the senior leaders in Israel are mired in scandals of sex or corruption. The tie between money and politics is deepening social gaps. The immorality of Occupation has spread to all walks of life. The last shadow of a political agenda (the Convergence Plan) disappeared in the summer's Lebanon war.

We should not wonder that Israel, having bound its fate to America, would display political shortsightedness and a lack of social sensitivity. What is worrisome, rather, is that the Palestinian people, having suffered so long, hitches its interests to the wagon of the Saudi kingdom, instead of cultivating, from within itself, an alternative voice that will reflect its needs. Between the corrupt Arab regimes and the path of Islam, a third way must be found, secular and realistic, that will rebuild the society on a new class basis. National unity, yes, but not for the sake of a donations state, rather for the sake of a state that can achieve Palestinian rights! Only a self-reliant state, based on a viable economy, will pull the rug from beneath the feet of the bully next door. "

Bush Trip to Counter Chavez is Destined to Fail

Negroponte as Tour Director


"Bush's trip to Latin America is a calculated effort to counter Hugo Chavez's growing influence in the region and to separate the "bad left" from the "good left", namely Uruguay and to some extent Brazil. He hopes to add them to the dwindling bloc of pro-US nations, including Colombia, Guatemala and Mexico which he is visiting.

From the beginning the trip is provoking wide spread opposition. He will be greeted by demonstrators in Montevideo, Uruguay who are opposed to the special trade agreements being negotiated with the government of Tabare Vasquez. Even members of his ruling party, the Broad Front, are active in organizing the demonstration.

Across the border in Argentina, which Bush will not visit, massive demonstrations are being organized to coincide with his stay in Uruguay. And to add insult to injury, Hugo Chavez, is flying in to take part. While President Nestor Kirchner will not be participating, lower level government officials are. This comes on the heels of a series of commercial and economic accords that Kirchner just signed with Chavez on a trip to Caracas, including the founding of the Bank of the South, which is seen as an alternative to US dominated institutions like the Inter-American Development Bank......

All three countries are raising the banner of socialism. In Venezuela Hugo Chavez is intent on leading the country to a "new socialism for the twenty-first century." In Bolivia Evo Morales governing party is called Movement Towards Socialism, a "party of a new type" comprised largely of social movements. And in Ecuador, Rafael Correa in his inaugural address in January called for an opening to the "new socialism for the twenty-first century" and declared that Ecuador has to end "the perverse system that has destroyed our democracy, our economy and our society."

When Bush returns and finds out that his trip has done little to alter the growing leftist trend of Latin America, the iron fist of the new Deputy Secretary of State, John Negroponte, will take control of US policy. Negroponte as ambassador to Honduras helped run the contra war in Nicaragua in the 1980's, which murdered thousands of innocent civilians in Honduras as well as Nicaragua, and he is known to believe that more aggressive measures have to be taken against Chavez and the gathering storm in Latin America. He comes to his new post after serving as Director of National Intelligence, and prior to that ambassador in Bagdhad. Given that Condoleezza Rice has little expertise in Latin America, Negroponte will set policy for the region, overriding the few remaining moderates in the State Department's office of Hemispheric Affairs.

With Negroponte we can expect a marked increase in US covert operations, aimed not only at Chavez in Venezuela, but also at the other governments and the popular movements in the region that are leading the charge against the historic US domination of Latin America and are bent on constructing more equitable societies."

Two Windbags for the Price of One

This is How Palestinians Observed Women's Day
Palestinians hold Palestinian flags during a demonstration on International Women's Day at the Qalandiya checkpoint near the West Bank city of Ramallah March 8, 2007. REUTERS

German Bishops See Racist Israel First Hand

By Genevieve Cora Fraser

"After visiting the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial Museum in Jerusalem recently, a group of German bishops crossed over into Occupied Palestine and compared Israeli treatment of Palestinians to Nazis treatment of the Jews during the Holocaust.

Bishop Gregor Hanke of Eichstaett reported, “This morning we saw pictures of the bestial Warsaw Ghetto at Yad Vashem, and in the evening we were in the ghetto of Ramallah. It gives one the creeps,” he said.

Cardinal Joachim Meisner, who served as bishop of Berlin when it was divided by the Communist-built Berlin Wall, commented when crossing a checkpoint into eastern Jerusalem, “This is something that is done to animals, not people.” He later explained to reporters, “I never thought I would see something like this again in my life.”

Walter Mixa, the bishop of Augsburg spoke of Palestinians facing "ghettoization with almost racist characteristics.” When asked to clarify his comment he replied, “I wanted to say that building the wall between Israel and the Palestinian autonomous areas, as well as the many Israeli settlements, amounts to a degree of provocation from the point of view of the Palestinian population.”

As might be expected, the bishop’s statements have been condemned as anti-Semitic, just as President Jimmy Carter has been accused of anti-Semitism for daring to tell the truth about Israeli-American policies in his best seller, “Palestine - Peace Not Apartheid.”

Israel’s killing, maiming, imprisonment, torture and abuse of Palestinian men, women, children and elders is supported by Congress with US tax dollars. "

The Washington Dodgers

By William S. Lind

"......Then, the lead story in today's Washington Post begins with this paragraph:

"Senior House Democrats, seeking to placate members of their party from Republican-leaning districts, are pushing a plan that would place restrictions on President Bush's ability to wage the war in Iraq but would allow him to waive them if he publicly justifies his position."

That's not pushing a plan, it is pushing on a rope, and the House Democratic leadership knows it. You can almost hear their giggles as they offer the antiwar voters who gave them their majority one of Washington's oldest dodges, "requirements" the Executive Branch can waive if it wants to.

The kabuki script currently goes like this. Congressional Democrats huff and puff about ending the war; the White House and Congressional Republicans accuse them of "not supporting the troops;" and the Democrats pretend to be stopped cold, plaintively mewing that "Well, we all agree we have to support the troops, don't we?"

"Supporting the troops" is just another dodge. The only way to support the troops when a war is lost is to end the war and bring them home. Nor is it a challenge to design legislative language that both ends the war and supports the troops. All the Democratic majorities in Congress have to do is condition the funding for the Iraq war with the words, "No funds may be obligated or expended except for the withdrawal of all American forces from Iraq, and for such force protection actions as may be necessary during that withdrawal." If Bush vetoes the bill, he vetoes continued funding for the war. If he signs the bill, ignores the legislative language and keeps fighting the war in the same old way, he sets himself up for impeachment.

What's not to like?

For the Democrats, what's not to like is anything that might actually end the war before the 2008 elections. The Republicans have 21 Senate seats up in 2008, and if the Iraq war is still going on, they can count on losing most of them, along with the Presidency and maybe 100 more seats in the House. 2008 could be the new 1932, leaving the Republican Party a permanent minority for twenty years. From the standpoint of the Democratic Party's leadership, a few thousand more dead American troops is a small price to pay for so glowing a political victory......

The likely result of all this Washington dodging is that events on the ground in Iraq and elsewhere will outrun the political process. That in turn means a systemic crisis, the abandonment of both parties by their bases and a possible left-right grass roots alliance against the corrupt and incompetent center. In that possibility may lie the nation's best hope."

A catalogue of errors in Afghanistan

By Michael Scheuer
Asia Times

"Afghanistan is again being lost to the West, even as a coalition force of more than 5,000 troops launches a major spring offensive in the south of the country. The insurgency may drag on for many months or several years, but the tide has turned. Like Alexander's Greeks, the British and the Soviets before the US-led coalition, inferior Afghan insurgents have forced far superior Western military forces on to a path that leads toward evacuation. What has caused this scenario to occur repeatedly throughout history?

In the most general sense, the defeat of Western forces in Afghanistan occurs repeatedly because the West has not developed an appreciation for the Afghans' toughness, patience, resourcefulness and pride in their history. Although foreign forces in Afghanistan are always more modern and better armed and trained, they are continuously ground down by the same kinds of small-scale but unrelenting hit-and-run attacks and ambushes, as well as by the country's impenetrable topography that allows the Afghans to retreat, hide, and attack another day.

The new twist to this pattern faced by the Soviets and now by the US-led coalition is the safe haven the Afghans have found in Pakistan. This is the basic answer to why history has found so many defeated foreign armies littering what Rudyard Kipling called Afghanistan's plains.

The latest episode in this historical tradition has several distinguishing characteristics. First, Western forces - while better armed and technologically superior - are far too few in number. Today's Western force totals about 40,000 troops. After subtracting support troops and North Atlantic Treaty Organization contingents that are restricted to non-combat, reconstruction roles - building schools, digging wells, repairing irrigation systems - the actual combat force that can be fielded on any given day is far smaller, and yet has the task of controlling a country the size of Texas that is home to some of the highest mountains on Earth.

Second, the West underestimated the strength of the Taliban and its acceptability to the Afghan people. When invading in 2001, the West's main targets were al-Qaeda's Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri and Taliban leader Mullah Omar and their senior lieutenants, and because the operation specifically targeted a group of top leaders, the Afghanistan-Pakistan border was not sealed, and so not only did the pursued troika escape, so did most of their foot soldiers......

The future for the West in Afghanistan is bleak, and it is made more discouraging by the fact that much of the West's defeat will be self-inflicted because it did not adequately study the lessons of history......"

The brotherhood is gathering outside the pharaoh's palace

The Mubarak regime is heading for a succession crisis. By trying to strangle Egypt's Islamists, it has strengthened them

Timothy Garton Ash in Aswan
Thursday March 8, 2007
The Guardian

"In front of the towering golden sandstone entrance to the temple of Edfu stands an imposing granite statue of a falcon, some 12ft tall, representing Horus, a premier league Egyptian god. Sculpted into his chest is a small figure of one of the Greek rulers of Egypt at the time when the temple was built. To buttress his political legitimacy, the alien neo-pharaoh had not merely wrapped himself in the flag but carved himself into the stone of a powerful god. The rulers of Egypt have been playing this game for thousands of years - and they are at it again today......

Later, there was Allah, of course, and his messenger Muhammad. For the 19th-century Albanian-born Muhammad Ali Pasha, the new divinity was European-style modernity. For Napoleon and Lord Cromer there were the western gods of progress and civilisation, carried by the bayonet and the Gatling gun. For Nasser, the architect of post-colonial Egypt, there was pan-Arabism but also socialism, with added Islam.

Now they're changing gods again at the pharaoh's palace. Twenty-six years into the reign of President Mubarak, amendments are proposed to the constitution.......

Politics, seen from this perspective of 5,000 years of Egyptian history, is something very different from what you find in US civics textbooks. It's not about the installation of this or that logically and legally constructed political system, based on this or that ideology. It's about rulers borrowing, bending and merging gods, ideologies and legal systems, adapting to internal and external forces, mixing coercion and patronage, sharing some of the spoils where necessary, but always with the goal of maximising your own power and wealth, and hanging on to it for as long as possible - for yourself, and your children, and your children's children. Those who take the legitimating religion or ideology too seriously - be it Osirisism or socialism - are missing the point. The gods come and go; what endures over the millenia is men's lust for power and wealth, and their vain quest for immortality......

For many of those who live 10 to one room in the poorer quarters of Cairo, the great myth remains that of the Muslim Brotherhood, with its brilliantly simple slogan "Islam is the solution". So long as it is banned, the Brotherhood does not need to demonstrate how exactly Islam is the solution. It can hardly be expected to produce detailed, specific policies, let alone to deliver on them. In fact, the Mubarak regime is performing the Brotherhood a great service by continuing to persecute it. Trying to strangle Islamism, it feeds its growth.....

Whatever happens in the transition from Hosni Mubarak over the next decade - whether we get President Mubarak II, or a candidate supported by the military, or someone else - I would bet on one thing: the Islamic component in the legitimating god-mix of Egyptian politics is likely to grow stronger, not weaker. If you find that worrying, I can suggest only one faint consolation: in time, it will pass. The process may take decades, but one day Islamism, too, will join the 5,000-year line of the gods that failed."

Steve Bell on Iraq and the CIA leak trial.
The Guardian