Saturday, October 21, 2006

Twenty-eight Palestinians killed this week in OPT

The destroyed house of Hamdi Al Ashi after it was hit by an Israeli warplane in Rafah refugee camp, southern Gaza Strip, 14 October 2006. (MaanImages/Hatem Omar)

Electronic Intifada

"Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) Escalate Attacks on Palestinian Civilians and Property in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT)

28 Palestinians, 17 of whom, including two children and a woman, are civilians, were killed by IOF.

Each of the two children was killed together with the father of each.

Six of the victims were extra-judicially executed by IOF in three separate attacks.

Forty-five Palestinians, including 14 children and four women, were wounded.

IOF have continued to launch air strikes on houses and civilian facilities in the Gaza Strip; five houses were destroyed and a number of others were severely damaged.

IOF conducted 30 incursions into Palestinian communities in the West Bank, and six others into the Gaza Strip.

IOF arrested 48 Palestinian civilians, including seven children, in the West Bank, and eight others in the Gaza Strip.

IOF have continued to impose a total siege on the OPT; IOF arrested three Palestinian civilian at checkpoints in the West Bank

IOF have continued to construct the Annexation Wall in the West Bank; Palestinian farmers have been denied access to their agricultural lands to cultivate olives."

Read Full Report


By Ed Stein, Rocky Mountain News
(Click on Cartoon to Enlarge)

A Consensus Develops: Leave the Course

By Jim Lobe

""Plan B" – that is, anything but "staying the course" – has been on the lips of virtually every foreign policy analyst who considers him or herself worthy of the name this past week when, it seemed, the entire capital appeared to decide that whatever the U.S. has been doing in Iraq for the past three months, six months, or three years is failing, and failing spectacularly.

Even a few of the war's most enthusiastic neoconservative supporters have come to admit that it may in fact have been a serious strategic mistake, although they seem determined still to stave off the growing consensus – even among Republican circles – in favor of some kind of timetable for withdrawal.

"That the Iraq war is, if not a failure, failing, requires little demonstration," conceded Eliot Cohen, a member of the Pentagon's Defense Policy Board (DPB), in a column entitled "Plan B" published in the Wall Street Journal Friday.

Cohen, whose 2002 book, Supreme Command, about how the West's greatest civilian wartime leaders constantly ignored or overruled their military commanders received widespread publicity when Bush took it on vacation with him several months before the Iraq invasion, argued that the loss in "American prestige" resulting from the Iraq adventure is such that it "will not be restored without a considerable and successful use of American military power down the road."

The gloom – not to say growing desperation – regarding the situation in Iraq is, of course, compounded not only by the relentless daily media reports cataloguing yet more violence in Iraq, and the Maliki government's failure or inability to do anything about it, but also by the sense that the man at the top here, George W. Bush, either doesn't understand how bad the situation has become or is so stubborn and lacking in self-confidence that he wouldn't admit it if he did.

Hence the sudden rise in talk not just about a coup d'etat in Baghdad that could somehow produce a new political leadership capable of pacifying the country – either through appeasement or ruthless repression (either of the Sunni insurgency or of the Shi'ite militias) – but about effective "regime change" at home, as well.

Indeed, none other than Harlan Ullman, a defense expert who coined the idea of "shock and awe" in military strategy, noted in his column in the Washington Times last week that Bush's stubbornness represented a real obstacle to sensible policies not just in Iraq, but in East Asia, where North Korea's recent nuclear test has been seen as yet another major Bush failure, and elsewhere."

Exclusive: Feds Probe a Top Democrat's Relationship with AIPAC


The Department of Justice is investigating whether Rep. Jane Harman and the pro-Israel group worked together to get her reappointed as the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee

"Did a Democratic member of Congress improperly enlist the support of a major pro-Israel lobbying group to try to win a top committee assignment? That's the question at the heart of an ongoing investigation by the FBI and Justice Department prosecutors, who are examining whether Rep. Jane Harman of California and the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) may have violated the law in a scheme to get Harman reappointed as the top Democrat on the House intelligence committee, according to knowledgeable sources in and out of the U.S. government.

The sources tell TIME that the investigation by Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which has simmered out of sight since about the middle of last year, is examining whether Harman and AIPAC arranged for wealthy supporters to lobby House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi on Harman's behalf.

The case is a spin-off of a probe that has already led to charges under the Espionage Act against two AIPAC lobbyists, whose case is still pending, and to a 12-and-a-half-year prison sentence for former Defense Intelligence Agency official Lawrence A. Franklin. Franklin pleaded guilty a year ago to three felony counts involving improper disclosure and handling of classified information about the Middle East and terrorism to the two lobbyists, who in turn are accused of passing it on to a journalist and a foreign government, widely believed to be Israel.

The sources say the probe also involves whether, in exchange for the help from AIPAC, Harman agreed to help try to persuade the Administration to go lighter on the AIPAC officials caught up in the ongoing investigation. If that happened, it might be construed as an illegal quid pro quo, depending on the context of the situation.

In this same investigation, the Justice Department has previously suggested that AIPAC had questionable motives in trying to help a valued government contact remain in a sensitive national security post. The Justice Department alleges in its indictment of Franklin that he asked one of the two AIPAC lobbyists to "put in a good word" for him in seeking assignment to the National Security Council. The document says the AIPAC official noted that such a job would put Franklin "by the elbow of the President" and said he would "do what I can."

A congressional source tells TIME that the lobbbying for Harman has included a phone call several months ago from entertainment industry billionaire and major Democratic party contributor Haim Saban."





What is very interesting is that in the Democratic Party primary, Harman was challenged by a progressive Jew: Marcy Winograd. Winograd opposes the war and the occupation of Iraq, while Harman is supported by (in addition to AIPAC) the "defense" industry.

Winograd is so opposed to aggressive Israeli policies that she and a group of Jewish women picketed the Israeli consulate in Los Angeles to protest Israel's invasion of Lebanon. With AIPAC and the merchants of death (arms industry) opposing her, Winograd was unable to defeat the well-entrenched Harman.

US Public Wants "New Approach" on Foreign Policy

By Jim Lobe

"WASHINGTON - More than 70 percent of the U.S. public, including nearly half of self-identified Republicans, say they prefer candidates for Congress in the Nov. 7 mid-term elections who will pursue a "new approach" to U.S. foreign policy, according to a new survey released here Friday by the Programme on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA).

The survey, which echoes many of the key findings of two other recent major polls of U.S. foreign policy attitudes, found that voters are increasingly disillusioned with critical aspects of policy preferences of the administration of President George W. Bush, particularly his reliance on military power, penchant for unilateral action, and disdain for international opinion.

A second poll released last week by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs found that around two-thirds of the public believes that the Iraq war has not reduced the threat of terrorism, will not lead to the spread of democracy in the Middle East, and has worsened U.S. relations with the Islamic world. Some three out of four respondents said they worry about the U.S. playing the role of "world policeman" more than it should.

Asked to choose between two principles for U.S. foreign policy -- that Washington should use its power "to make the world be the way that best serves U.S. interests and values" or that Washington "should coordinate its power together with other countries according to shared ideas of what is best for the world as a whole" -- 79 percent, including 75 percent of Republicans, chose the second option."

655,000 Iraqis Killed.

The Next War

By Daniel Ellsberg

"A hidden crisis is under way. Many government insiders are aware of serious plans for war with Iran, but Congress and the public remain largely in the dark. The current situation is very like that of 1964, the year preceding our overt, open-ended escalation of the Vietnam War, and 2002, the year leading up to the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

In both cases, if one or more conscientious insiders had closed the information gap with unauthorized disclosures to the public, a disastrous war might have been averted entirely.

Each of the assurances above had been false, a conscious lie. That they were lies, though, had only been revealed to the public seven years later with the publication of the Pentagon Papers, several thousand pages of top-secret documents on U.S. decision-making in Vietnam that I had released to the press. The very first installment, published by the New York Times on June 13, 1971, had proven the official account of the Tonkin Gulf episode to be a deliberate deception.

Assuming Hersh’s so-far anonymous sources mean what they say—that this is, as one puts it, “a juggernaut that has to be stopped”—I believe it is time for one or more of them to go beyond fragmentary leaks unaccompanied by documents. That means doing what no other active official or consultant has ever done in a timely way: what neither Richard Clarke nor I nor anyone else thought of doing until we were no longer officials, no longer had access to current documents, after bombs had fallen and thousands had died, years into a war. It means going outside executive channels, as officials with contemporary access, to expose the president’s lies and oppose his war policy publicly before the war, with unequivocal evidence from inside.

Simply resigning in silence does not meet moral or political responsibilities of officials rightly “appalled” by the thrust of secret policy. I hope that one or more such persons will make the sober decision—accepting sacrifice of clearance and career, and risk of prison—to disclose comprehensive files that convey, irrefutably, official, secret estimates of costs and prospects and dangers of the military plans being considered. What needs disclosure is the full internal controversy, the secret critiques as well as the arguments and claims of advocates of war and nuclear “options”—the Pentagon Papers of the Middle East. But unlike in 1971, the ongoing secret debate should be made available before our war in the region expands to include Iran, before the sixty-one-year moratorium on nuclear war is ended violently, to give our democracy a chance to foreclose either of those catastrophes.

The personal risks of doing this are very great. Yet they are not as great as the risks of bodies and lives we are asking daily of over 130,000 young Americans—with many yet to join them—in an unjust war. Our country has urgent need for comparable courage, moral and civil courage, from its public servants. They owe us the truth before the next war begins."

Iraq: The Real Story

Sean Smith, the Guardian's award-winning war photographer, spent nearly six weeks with the 101st Division of the US army in Iraq. Watch his haunting observational film that explodes the myth around the claims that the Iraqis are preparing to take control of their own country.

Click Here to Watch Video

Amara Fighting Threatens Stability of South

Explanation of What is Behind Shi'a-Shi'a Fighting

By Juan Cole

"Fighting broke out Thursday and Friday in the southern city of Amara (pop. 330,000) between the Mahdi Army and the local police (which are infiltrated by the Badr Corps, another Shiite militia). The fighting killed 9 and wounded 90. The Mahdi Army fighters occupied three buildings important to the police, including the major crimes office, the police directorate

Aljazeera is reporting that relative calm has returned to the city on Saturday morning, in part through the mediation of the central government. The governor of Maysan province told the Arabic satellite channel that British forces tried three times to intervene, but he said that each time he told them that local authorities would handle it.

Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki had sent a security team down to look into the violence and to stop it.

Amara is the capital of Maysan province (pop. 770,000). Maysan province in general and Amara in particular support the nationalist Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. Maysan and its capital are among the places to which the Marsh Arabs were displaced when their swamps dried up, and they are often desperately poor and very tribal, and they seem to have joined the Sadr Movement en masse during the past 3 years.

When the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) of Abdul Aziz al-Hakim controlled the Interior Ministry in 2005 and until May, 2006, it used the ministry's national oversight of local police forces to infiltrate members of SCIRI's paramilitary, the Badr Corps, into the Amara police force. There is a bubbling low-level feud between the Sadrists in Maysan and the SCIRI police.

So recently the Mahdi Army assassinated Qasim al-Tamimi, a police official who was also a member of the Badr Corps. The Badr Corps was formed in Iran and trained by the Revolutionary Guards, and is viewed by many in the Iraqi-nationalist Mahdi Army as the tool of a foreign power.

Then the police arrested or abducted (when militia are in police, how could you tell?) 5 men, including the brother of a Mahdi Army leader in Amara. Then protests escalated into fighting, and the Mahdi Army took over several police stations and killed or wounded dozens of police/ Badr Corps militiamen.

The Western press is mostly reporting this story backwards, as a pro-Iranian Sadr Movement taking over Amara. In fact, the Sadr Movement already dominated Amara politically, but the (Iranian-trained) Badr Corps had this unnatural niche in the police. It was Badr that had "taken over" the security forces in a largely Sadrist city. The Mahdi Army was attempting to align local politics with local power.

Muqtada al-Sadr, the young spiritual leader of the Sadr Movement and the Mahdi Army, demanded that his men stop fighting and said that he washed his hands of anyone who disobeyed his orders, according to Aljazeera.

Ahmad al-Sharifi, a Sadrist leader, told al-Zaman that the fighting in Amara is one of the consequences of the law on provincial confederacies passed last week by the Iraqi parliament, to which the Sadr Movement was opposed.

Al-Zaman's contacts in the Iraqi intelligence establishment warned that the clashes in Amara could spread to the cities of Basra and Nasiriyah. He said that the Mahdi Army and the Badr Corps in those two cities had announced their mutual dislike of one another, and that they had begun recruiting further militiamen to replenish their ranks.

These sources said that the transportation and communications lines between Baghdad and the south had been cut, leaving the capital isolated from the south. The main highway leading south out Baghdad had been blocked.

They said that Basra is witnessing an unprecedented wave of weapons smuggling across the border from Iran.

The week the war unravelled: Bush to 'refocus' Iraq strategy

By Rupert Cornwell in Washington
The Independent

"In a new admission of the mounting crisis in Iraq, President George Bush is to have emergency consultations with his top generals today to see if any change of strategy is needed to cope with the escalating violence in a country seemingly spinning out of control.

Two days after he acknowledged possible similarities between today's Iraq and the Vietnam of a generation ago, Mr Bush said he would be discussing the worsening situation with General John Abizaid, overall US commander for the Middle East, and General George Casey, in command of the 145,000 American troops in Iraq.

Mr Bush's words cap an especially disastrous week in the three- and-a-half year war, when the entire Allied strategy has, at times, appeared to be unravelling, amid relentless bloodshed in Iraq and growing political criticism at home, including from top members of his own Republican Party.

It began amid consternation in London and Washington over the remarks of General Sir Richard Dannatt, chief of the general staff, that the presence of foreign troops might be "exacerbating" the situation in Iraq ­ words taken as a call from Britain's top-ranking soldier for a swift pull-out of coalition forces. Caught off balance, Tony Blair first insisted that there would be no withdrawal "until the job was done," claiming that was the view of General Dannatt as well. On Wednesday, only 24 hours later, the Prime Minister was stressing the desire of Britain and the US to leave Iraq as soon as possible ­ citing the opinion of General Casey that Iraqi security forces might be ready to take over in 12 to 18 months.

The same debate raged in Washington. Almost every day brings news of sectarian massacres and military casualties as US troops try in vain to halt the sectarian violence between Sunnis and Shia and cope with the anti-American insurgency. Seventy-four US soldiers have been killed so far in October, putting the month on course to be the bloodiest since January 2005. The death toll among allied forces this week overtook the number lost in the September 11 attacks.

At the same time, Washington is visibly losing patience with Nouri al-Maliki, Iraq's Prime Minister, who has been deemed ineffectual and unwilling to take on the Shia militias who now control large areas of the south."

The genteel revolt that is remaking US policy on Iraq

Republican veterans push for end to interventionist approach

Julian Borger in Washington
Saturday October 21, 2006
The Guardian

"A "polite rebellion" is under way among previously loyal allies of President Bush aimed at persuading him to change course in Iraq and quietly abandon the foreign policy doctrine he had hoped would be the centrepiece of his legacy.
Many senior Republicans believe the "Bush Doctrine" has hit a wall in Iraq and lies in ruins. The rebels, including many foreign policy veterans close to the president's father, see it as an obstacle to stabilising Iraq and extricating US forces. But they have decided that earlier, head-on challenges have only deepened the president's resolve, and a less confrontational approach was needed that avoided blame for past mistakes if there was to be any hope of a fundamental rethink.

"It's a polite rebellion by moderate and military-minded Republicans," said Steven Clemons, a Washington analyst. "Any walk-away from the Bush line is going to be covered with a lot of cosmetics to make it look like it's not really a big change."

The focus of the new approach is the Iraq Study Group (ISG), a bipartisan commission co-chaired by the first President Bush's secretary of state, James Baker, which will present its recommendations after the November elections.

Those elections are another reason for urgency. If the Democrats capture the House of Representatives, as expected, they will be in a position to cut funding for the war if they are not listened to. Even if they fall short of an absolute majority in the Senate, there are now Republican senators signalling that they could side with the opposition if there is not a decisive rethink on Iraq. David Mack, a diplomat in the first Bush administration who helped rally Arab support for the Gulf War, said: "We are really at a point where any talk of victory is an illusion."

Those involved with the Baker commission hope that its recommendations, coming from friends and camouflaged as tactical tweaks, could offer President Bush a face-saving way out of the current bloody impasse. But they concede there is no guarantee of a decisive change.

There is no consensus on the way out of Iraq among the president's critics while resistance to change is entrenched and led by Vice-President Dick Cheney."I know what the president thinks. I know what I think. And we're not looking for an exit strategy. We're looking for victory," Mr Cheney told Time magazine."

PA refugees ministry demands halt to targeting Palestinians in Iraq

"Gaza - The PA ministry of refugees' affairs has condemned the murder of four Palestinian refugees and the injury of 20 others Thursday night in the Baladayat residential compound in Baghdad at the hands of Iraqi militias.

Hussam Ahmed, director of the ministry's follow up and coordination department, said in a press release on Friday that the Palestinian refugees in Iraq are the victims of daily massacres at the hands of "suspicious armed groups that target the Palestinian presence there".

The ministry received certified information that the compound came under mortar attack, he said, adding that ambulance cars did not arrive to the scene despite Palestinian appeals.

More than 70 Palestinian refugees have so far been killed in Iraq ever since the American occupation of that Arab country.

Ahmed appealed to the Arab League, OIC, UN and all freedom-loving people in the world to intervene and halt the attacks on the Palestinians in Iraq. He also asked the Iraqi government to assume its role in protecting the Palestinians living in its lands on temporary basis."

More than 250,000 Palestinians pray in the Aqsa Mosque despite unprecedented IOF security measures

"Occupied Jerusalem - More than 250,000 Palestinian citizens on Friday converged on the Aqsa Mosque in the occupied city of Jerusalem to attend the Friday congregation despite the extraordinary security measures taken by the IOA to prevent them from doing so.

Hundreds of IOF troops and policemen were intensively deployed in and around the city, installing tens of barriers to ban Palestinians less than 45 years old from entering the Mosque.

Thousands of Palestinian citizens, mostly from the nearby Bethlehem and Al-Khalil cities among other West Bank cities, were reportedly denied entry to the Mosque and forced to return back, prompting them to perform their Friday prayers on roads and streets of the city.

IOA security measures were viewed as "unprecedented" as Israeli choppers were hovering over the heads in addition to spy aerostats and hundreds of spy cameras that were installed all over the Mosque to monitor every movement in and around the Mosque.

Khatib (preacher) of the Aqsa Mosque Sheikh Yousef Abu Sunaina condemned the IOA practices and the banning of pious Palestinians from offering their prayers in the Aqsa.

In his Khutba (sermon), Abu Sunaina urged the Palestinian people to frequent the Aqsa Mosque in big numbers, adding that such practice is the safety valve to protect the Mosque and preserve its purity against repeated Israeli attempts to desecrate it.

He further unveiled a number of attempts by Jewish groups to storm the Mosque and defile it last week, adding that such behavior "portrays the non-stop and serious Jewish attempts to harm the Aqsa Mosque".

Under the UN charter, freedom of religion is sanctioned; yet, the Hebrew state undermined that charter and suppressed Palestinian people's freedom of worship in the Aqsa Mosque and many other holy places in occupied Palestine."

Friday, October 20, 2006

With the Dome of the Rock Mosque seen in the background thousands of Palestinian Muslim worshippers (estimated at 200,000) pray during the last Friday prayers of the holy month of Ramadan in the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem's Old City, Friday, Oct. 20, 2006. (AP Photo)


وزارة شؤون اللاجئين تطالب بوقف استهداف الفلسطينيين في العراق

غزة – المركز الفلسطيني للإعلام

نددت وزارة شؤون اللاجئين الفلسطينيين، الجمعة (20/10) بمقتل أربعة لاجئين فلسطينيين، وإصابة 20 آخرين في مجمع البلديات بالعاصمة العراقية بغداد، ليل الخميس (19/10)، بعد تعرض المجمع لقصف بقذائف الهاون، من قبل مجموعات مسلحة، ليرتفع بذلك عدد القتلى الفلسطينيين في العراق إلى 70 قتيلا منذ بدء الاحتلال.

وأكد حسام أحمد، مدير عام التنسيق والمتابعة بوزارة شؤون اللاجئين، في بيان صحفي أصدرته الدائرة الإعلامية بالوزارة، وقوع الحادث ومقتل الفلسطينيين الأربعة، مشيراً إلى أنّ اللاجئين الفلسطينيين في العراق يتعرضون يومياً لمجازر حقيقة من قبل مجموعات مسلحة مشبوهة، تستهدف الوجود الفلسطيني هناك.

وقال أحمد "إنّ الوزارة تلقت معلومات مؤكدة من داخل العراق مفادها أنّ مجمع البلديات في مدينة بغداد في العراق تعرض لقصف مدفعي بالهاون وسقط جراء ذلك عدد من القتلى والجرحى، ولم تصل سيارات الإسعاف رغم المناشدات الطويلة التي أطلقها الفلسطينيون من مجمع البلديات ولكن دون جدوى".

يُشار إلى أنّ أكثر من 70 لاجئاً فلسطينياً قُتلوا حتى الآن في العراق منذ الاحتلال الأمريكي. واستنكر المسؤول الفلسطيني بشدة هذا العمل، وقال إنه يصب في مصلحة العدوان على الأمة العربية والشعبين الفلسطيني والعراقي علي وجه الخصوص، مناشداً مؤتمر العلماء السنة والشيعة، المنعقد في مكة المكرمة بإصدار قرار يؤكد حرمة الدم الفلسطيني، ويدعو إلي وقف الاعتداء علي أبناء الشعب الفلسطيني في العراق.

وناشد حسام أحمد، الأمناء العامين لجامعة الدول العربية ولمنظمة المؤتمر الإسلامي، وللأمم المتحدة وجميع أحرار العالم؛ التدخل لوقف العدوان على الشعب الفلسطيني في العراق، مطالباً الحكومة العراقية أن تقوم بدورها في توفير الحماية للفلسطينيين في العراق، ووضع حد لهذه الاعتداءات التي تستهدف الوجود الفلسطيني في العراق.

يُذكر أنّ الوزارة كانت قد أرسلت مناشدات إلى أطراف عدة، منها الحكومة العراقية وجامعة الدول العربية للتدخل لوضع حد لاستمرار الاعتداءات علي الشعب الفلسطيني بالعراق.

وطالبت وزارة شؤون اللاجئين، رئيس الوزراء العراقي نوري المالكي بإصدار تعليماته السريعة للجهات المختصة في العراق لتوفير الحماية للاجئين الفلسطينيين المقيمين في العراق الذين يتعرضون للقتل والملاحقة والتهديد. وأعربت الوزارة عن ألمها وحزنها لما يواجهه فلسطينيو العراق من تهديدات بضرورة مغادرة مناطق سكناهم والا تعرضوا للقتل.

يذكر أن على السيستاني المرجع الديني الأعلى للشيعة في العراق كان قد أصدر في وقت سابق فتوى شرعية تمنع التعرض للاجئين الفلسطينيين المقيمين في العراق، وتطالب بحماية أرواحهم وممتلكاتهم، وذلك بناء على رسالة من وزارة شؤون اللاجئين الفلسطينية.

The Second Palestinian Intifada

History of a Struggle for Survival

A Book Review By

"All too often, historians and scholars write about war from a comfortable distance. Readers do not feel the pain of families driven from their homes by invading armies. We do not hear children scream in terror when their siblings and parents are murdered in front of them. Human suffering is just another episode in a war-torn world.

In The Second Palestinian Intifada, Ramzy Baroud defies such polite conventions by taking readers on a journey into the heart of the Palestinian peoples' struggle to survive war, massacres, assassinations, poverty, and exile.

A prominent writer, scholar, historian, and editor, (Searching Jenin: Eyewitness Accounts of the Israeli Invasion), Mr. Baroud grew up in a poverty-stricken refugee camp. He lived among Palestinians who grew old holding the rusted keys to homes confiscated by the Israeli government. His own grandfather kept hope alive by listening to the radio, believing that one day he would hear the call to return to his beloved olive orchards and the only way of life he and his ancestors had ever known. Instead, the author's grandfather died hearing the sounds of an army determined to destroy the will of the Palestinian people.

Ramzy Baroud does not romanticize violence. He simply states, without rancor and with a quiet passion, what it is like to live, not year after year, but decade after decade, watching children go hungry and suffer brain damage from malnutrition, watching the Israeli army harass, insult, disappear, and murder friends and family; watching, perhaps most tragically, young men and women blow themselves to pieces in crowded Israeli cafes. Baroud wants readers to understand the reasons behind these attacks, but he argues that suicide bombers mimic the indiscriminate brutality of the occupation.

The Second Palestinian Intifida chronicles the crimes that former Prime Minister Arial Sharon and many other Israeli politicians have committed against the Palestinian people. But these details are less important, really, than the questions the author poses time and again in this book: Why does the United States continue to fund the expropriation of Palestinian land? Why have a succession of U.S. administrations supported Israel's illegal occupation of Gaza and the West Bank? How could it be that the lives of Palestinian children are so much less important than their counterparts in Israel?

This is not a book for those who want surface, sanitized, accounts of the Palestinian Diaspora. Ramzy Baroud is committed to truth telling, and his new book will undoubtedly disturb, shock, and outrage his readers. One can only hope that those who claim to love and support the state of Israel will not only read, but study, this important book. Not to make anyone feel ashamed, but so that even Israel's most ardent supporters will understand that no nation can brutalize, indeed terrorize, an innocent people forever."

The Proof
"There, you see it! Space has always been ours!"
(Art: Pancho / Le Monde)

Occupation of Iraq: One Crime Too Many

By Mike Whitney

"Iraqi blogger Riverbend summarizes the mood in Iraq saying:

“There are women who have not shed their black mourning robes since 2003 because each time the end of the proper mourning period comes around, some other relative dies and the countdown begins again”. Iraq is in a permanent state of bereavement. The suffering we have caused is immeasurable.

Compare Bush’s indifference to the Iraqi death-toll to his “pro-life” rhetoric at home. Consider how he cancelled his Crawford vacation to speed back to Washington to sign legislation to save the life of Terri Schiavo even though Schiavo was showing no mental-activity and 19 courts had already ruled in her husband’s favor to allow her to die peacefully. Later, an autopsy confirmed that her brain had calcified and shrunk to half its normal size. Still, Schiavo’s political value was of greater importance to Bush than the 650,000 men, women and children he has slaughtered in Iraq. There’s simply no way to measure this degree of cynicism.

Bush’s crimes and the crimes of the United States are far greater than Saddam’s. Saddam had no intention of dismantling the government, the army, the civic institutions; of looting the museums and killing the teachers and intellectuals, of ethnic cleansing the Christians and the Sunnis, and inciting violence between the sects. Saddam had no plan to increase malnutrition, to reduce the flow of clean water, to cut off the electricity, to remove the social-safety net, to increase the poverty and unemployment, or to set Iraqi against Iraqi in a vicious struggle for survival. Saddam did not abide by the neoconservative theory of “creative destruction”, which deliberately plunged an entire nation into chaos destroying the fabric of Iraqi society and leaving the people to flock to militias for safety. Saddam was a brutal, cold-blooded dictator, but compared to the calculated viciousness of Bush, he looks like a pillar of virtue."

Iran Sparked Islamic Divide, Iran Only Can Defuse It


By Nicola Nasser
(Nicola Nasser is a veteran Arab journalist in Kuwait, Jordan, UAE and Palestine. He is based in Ramallah, West Bank of the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories)

"Tehran for the first time and at the highest level has this week went public on the so far taboo Sunni-Shi'i divide, accused the American Great Satan of exploiting and fuelling the historic Islamic sectarian tragedy, which is true, but offered no way out of the divide except a verbal call for unity, which has to be tested against the Iranian policies on the ground in Iraq, where the Iranian call can make or break.

The sophisticated scholarship and leadership of Khamenei could not be credited in good faith with inexperience or innocence to justify his missing the real “bare truth” in Iraq. He portrayed the conflict in Iraq as only “interference” by the “occupiers” in the affairs of what he presented as the “national” government, ignoring on purpose the “bare truth” that it is the government which the occupiers installed and legitimatized without any sovereignty even inside its captivity in Baghdad’s Green Zone.

Tehran also for the first time went public this week on the “superior situation” Iran has gained under the U.S. occupation of Iraq, a fact which makes it impossible to absolve it from being responsible also for the state of affairs of its unfortunate western Muslim Arab neighbor. “Iran is now enjoying a superior situation in Iraq … Today, many of the European, American and regional analysts and heads of states admit that the Islamic Republic of Iran is having a powerful position in Iraq," said special assistant to Iranian Foreign Minister for Strategic Planning, Mostafa Moslehzadeh.

In a bad faith reading the “superiority” Iran enjoys in Iraq now is tantamount to sharing the Iraqi pie with the Great Satan; in a good faith interpretation it reflects a conflict with the Great Satan over the Iraqi pie, or most likely it is maneuvering either to make Iraq a battle ground in case of a U.S. attack on its territory or to use its position there as a bargaining chip to negotiate with Washington, a possibility that almost came true earlier this year.

The flare up of the sectarian conflict in Iraq, which has so far claimed the worst bloodletting, sectarian cleansing and unleashing of an historic genie of a long-dormant Sunni-Shiite divide is precisely the fear that Saddam tried to fend off, backed by the overwhelming majority of Arab regimes and people, and generously financed by his immediate Arab neighbors who feared the regional repercussions and were ready to deplete their budgets and fight until the last Iraqi to confine the Islamic revolution within Iran’s borders.

The sectarian divide and a rapprochement between a U.S.-installed “Shiite-Kurdish” regime and Iran were evidently foreseen by Washington and taken into account as positive factors in neutralizing Iran and the Iran-influenced Shiites and Kurds of Iraq, a calculation that the current state of affairs in Iraq vindicates as a proven anticipation.

The prerogatives of Islamic unity and averting a Shiite-Sunni divide from playing into the hands of U.S. occupiers in Iraq and far beyond in the region requires that Iran accommodates the proven historical experience that exclusion of Arabs and Pan-Arabism deprives Islam of its vital component, acknowledges that sectarization of Islamic politics adversely affect Islamic unity, rejects in principle the exploitation of foreign powers’ interference to settle intra-Muslim scores, and translating these prerogatives into concrete policies. Of course Iranian commitment to such prerogatives requires Arab reciprocity, which in turn necessitates the highest level of dialogue and political engagement."

Heck of a job, Maliki!

By Sami Moubayed
Asia Times

"The Iraqi police have been infiltrated by militiamen, who are using official equipment and funds to kill other Iraqis in the Iraqi Army, controlled by the Sunnis. Death squads roam the streets, killing over 100 Iraqis per day. Under Maliki, the death toll has risen to over 3,000 Iraqis killed per month. On the anniversary of his 150th day in power, 50 people were killed in Mosul, Kirkuk and Baquba, and another 100 were wounded, while 33 unidentified bodies - all shot in the head, were found in Baghdad. Earlier in the week, 60 beheaded bodies were found.

Under Maliki, according to a report in the London-based daily Al-Hayat, Iraqi men are carving tattoos on their bodies, with their home address and telephone number. This is so that if they are killed, mutilated or beheaded, police would be able to identify their bodies and send them back to their families for burial.

Although unconfirmed, some claim that the abundance of suicide bombers in Iraq under Maliki is a result of a trick carried out by the militias and the Ministry of Interior on ordinary Iraqi citizens. They offer young men well-paying, non-military jobs, which are quickly snapped up due to the terrible economic conditions, with no questions asked. While on duty, they are sent in a car to a certain location and told to call a certain person when they get there. The employee does not realize that his mobile phone is connected to a hidden car bomb. When he makes the call, his car explodes.

It proves that to get things done, the prime minister needs the consent of Muqtada, the militia leader who helped bring him to power in May. Muqtada, after all, shares identical views with Maliki over the partitioning of Iraq, which both oppose, as well as on Iranian-Iraqi relations. Although Maliki has pledged to clamp down on the militias, he has done nothing to control, or even curb, the powers of the Mehdi Army that is run by Muqtada.

Instead of objecting to the prime minister's alliance with the rebel Muqtada, the United States is in fact encouraging Maliki to solidify his ties to him. As long as he has the backing of the cleric, the Americans believe, Maliki will remain legitimate in the eyes of ordinary Shi'ites. On Wednesday, White House spokesman Tony Snow said that that the US hoped Muqtada would cooperate with the Maliki government and play a constructive role in Iraq. This was shocking for Iraqi observers, because of Muqtada's anti-American history.

Khalaf states that "the army is more acceptable to the Iraqi street than the police force because of the accusations from some parliamentary and governmental groups who say that the police are supporting the militias and are involved with the death squads". The officers in the army are often attacked by militiamen wearing police uniforms and driving cars from the Ministry of the Interior. Missiles are fired at Iraqi soldiers from districts supposedly under control of the ministry.

With all of this going on in Iraq, it is not surprising that there is a lot of talk about a coup being planned to oust Maliki. Rumor has it that the newly created Iraqi Army, along with former officers in Saddam Hussein's forces, will stage a coup to topple Maliki and replace him with a strong prime minister who is able to clamp down on the militias."

A coup in the air


By Robert Dreyfuss
Asia Times

"The clock is ticking for Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, the hapless, feckless leader of the Shi'ite fundamentalist party al-Dawa. From Washington, London, Baghdad and other capitals come rumors that Maliki's government will soon be overthrown by a nationalist general or colonel or that he will resign in favor of an emergency "government of national salvation".

A coup d'etat in Iraq would put a period - or rather an exclamation point - at the end of the Bush administration's bungled experiment with democracy there. And it would open an entirely new phase in that country's post-2003 national nightmare. Would it result in the creation of a Saddam Hussein-like strongman to rule Iraq with a heavy hand? Or would it force the warring parties (Sunni insurgents, Iranian-backed Shi'ite militias and Kurdish warlords) to intensify the bloody civil war that is tearing Iraq apart? No one knows.

Still, whatever form it might take, a coup stands an excellent chance of making a horrible situation worse. Rather than toy with yet another misstep, the capstone in a seemingly endless series of errors in Iraq, the Bush administration - including the increasingly powerful "realist" anti-neo-conservative policy types now emerging in Washington - would do far better to start planning for a quick exit.

Even though a military coup might seem to some desperate policymakers a tempting option, it's one of those quicksand ideas. In a paper just written for the Middle East Institute, the sagacious Wayne White - who headed the State Department's intelligence effort on Iraq until last year - specifically warns that it's time for the US to "back off" in Iraq.

Whatever fantasies officials in Washington or Iraq may harbor, however, a coup in Baghdad would by no means be a silver bullet to end Iraq's anarchy. Quite the opposite, it might just add to the bloody unraveling of the country. The problem is, as one experienced Middle East hand told me, "In order to mount a coup, you have to have a state. And there is no state in Iraq." "

Hospitals now a battleground in the bloody civil war

By Patrick Cockburn in Iraq
The Independent

"Iraqi hospitals are dangerous places. Policemen and soldiers carry their wounded comrades into operating theatres and demand immediate treatment, forcing doctors at gunpoint to abandon operations on civilians before they are completed. The hospital system is not a haven from the war. The Health Ministry is controlled by the supporters of the nationalist cleric Muqtada al-Sadr who did well in the elections in December.

Intelligence officers claim hospitals are now being used by al-Sadr's Mehdi Army militia as its headquarters and hospital basements are used as prisons.

Sunni Arabs are nervous of even going to the central Baghdad morgue to look for their dead because they fear they may be targeted by Shia gunmen. One Sunni who took his brother to the morgue was asked: "Do you know who killed him?" When he answered: "Yes" he was immediately shot dead. Many people with bullet wounds fear entering a hospital on the grounds that they will be accused of being an insurgent.

Once I saw several badly wounded police commandos carried into Yarmouk hospital in west Baghdad. Even those bleeding badly refused to be parted from their machine-guns and would not allow doctors to take off their black face masks.

The Iraqi health system is breaking down. Thirty years ago, it was one of the best in the Middle East. But ever since 1980, the country's oil revenues have all been devoted to buying military equipment. Almost no new hospitals were built. From the start of UN economic sanctions against Iraq in 1990, medical care plummeted further.

Old medical equipment broke down and was not replaced. Once, when travelling north of Baghdad, I was besieged by local farmers who thought I was a foreign doctor and demanded I look at their children. Many of them were carrying dusty old X-rays taken years earlier. The local medical centre had closed. At another old hospital on the outskirts of Baghdad, the hospital forecourt was packed with vehicles - ambulances and trucks - that no longer moved. Many were without wheels or tyres. The doctors were desperate to obtain an oxygen tank but they had no vehicle to pick it up from another part of the capital.

Doctors faced another threat. They were prime targets for kidnappers because they were known to have some money. They had to operate more or less openly even if the doors of their clinics were heavily barred. They were also targets for assassination. Many clinics were closed as doctors fled abroad. By this summer, 220 doctors had been killed and more than 1,000 had fled Iraq.

It is not just the decline in the medical system that has hit Iraqi health. It is the rise in general impoverishment. The Ministry of Labour says that the level of poverty is up by 35 per cent since 2003 and 5.6 million Iraqis live below the poverty line: "At least 40 per cent of this number is living in absolutely desperate conditions."

Three years ago, half the country's population had access to drinkable water. The figure now has dropped to 32 per cent."

There is never going to be a Nato victory in Afghanistan

The military option is going nowhere. The way forward is to emulate Pakistan by withdrawing troops and making deals

Jonathan Steele
Friday October 20, 2006
The Guardian

"General Sir Richard Dannatt's brave call for an early British withdrawal from Iraq contained one logical flaw. It did not apply to Afghanistan, he said, because foreign troops were invited by the Kabul government. This gave them a different status from coalition forces in Iraq, "which is why I have much more optimism that we can get it right in Afghanistan". It was an odd remark since US and British forces have a standing invitation from the Baghdad government. There is a clear parallel with Afghanistan, just as there is in his core arguments: Britain's presence in Iraq is exacerbating the security problems, and "we are in a Muslim country and Muslims' views of foreigners in their country are quite clear".

Both points apply to Afghanistan, where a combination of rising nationalism, impatience with Kabul's selection of corrupt governors, anger at the coalition's military tactics, and disappointment with its failure to improve basic services, is creating a tide of resistance. Afghan history shows that foreign interventionists, especially non-Muslims, only have a small window of time to show they are doing good. It runs out fast, particularly in the Pashtun south, the traditional heartland of opposition.

The Taliban are resurgent. British forces are taking casualties in clashes that Brigadier Ed Butler, the outgoing commander of UK forces, calls more ferocious than anything in Iraq. A retired US general, Barry McCaffrey, reported this spring that, unlike Iraq's insurgents, the Taliban operate in battalion-sized units of 400 men, equipped with "excellent weapons and field equipment" and new technology for roadside bombs.

The conflict's intensification reinforces the case, argued by a minority in the west after 9/11, that military attack would not solve the Taliban - or al-Qaida - problem. In Washington and London the desire to eliminate al-Qaida was wrongly combined with seeking regime change in Kabul - a goal the security council never authorised. A propaganda campaign demonised the Taliban so as to justify their removal as a victory, even though Osama bin Laden might not be found."

We've lost battle for Baghdad, US admits

Suzanne Goldenberg in Washington
Friday October 20, 2006
The Guardian

"A day after George Bush conceded for the first time that America may have reached the equivalent of a Tet offensive in Iraq, the Pentagon yesterday admitted defeat in its strategy of securing Baghdad.

The admission from President Bush that the US may have arrived at a turning point in this war - the Tet offensive led to a massive loss of confidence in the American presence in Vietnam - comes during one of the deadliest months for US forces since the invasion.

Yesterday the number of US troops killed since October 1 rose to 73, deepening the sense that America is trapped in an unwinnable situation and further damaging Republican chances in midterm elections that are less than three weeks away.

In Baghdad a surge in sectarian killings has forced the Pentagon to review its entire security plan for the capital, Major General William Caldwell, a US military spokesman, said yesterday.

"The violence is, indeed, disheartening," he told reporters. The US has poured 12,000 additional US and Iraqi troops into Baghdad since August only to see a 22% increase in attacks since the beginning of Ramadan.

"Operation Together Forward has made a difference in the focus areas but has not met our overall expectations in sustaining a reduction in the level of violence," Gen Caldwell said.

The bleak assessment arrives as official thinking appears to be shifting on the war, with reports that a study group led by a Bush family loyalist and former secretary of state, James Baker, could be drawing up an exit plan for US forces in Iraq.

Such a strategy would once have been unthinkable for Mr Bush, who famously vowed to keep US forces in Iraq even if he was supported only by his wife, Laura, and dog, Barney.

But the president now appears willing to acknowledge that the public is losing confidence in his administration's involvement in Iraq.

On Wednesday Mr Bush admitted for the first time the existence of a parallel between Iraq and Vietnam.

Such comparisons had been fiercely resisted by the White House, which has insisted that the US would succeed in bringing stability to Iraq and democracy to the Middle East.

But Mr Bush appeared to agree that the rise in sectarian killings in Iraq could prove as demoralising to his administration's mission in Iraq as the Tet offensive of 1968-69. Although that offensive resulted in a military defeat for the North Vietnamese forces, it turned American public opinion against the war and the then American president, Lyndon Johnson.

"There is certainly a stepped-up level of violence, and we are heading towards an election," Mr Bush said during an interview with ABC television.

He said he understood the insurgents were trying to drive American forces out of Iraq. "My feeling is that they all along have been trying to inflict enough damage so that we leave," he said.

While Mr Bush now readily acknowledges the potentially demoralising effects of the violence, there was no sign yesterday that the White House had reached the same conclusion as critics who have called for an early withdrawal of US forces from Iraq."


By Martin Rowson, The Guardian.
(Click on Cartoon to Enlarge)

قاسم: عباس أهدر كرامة الشعب الفلسطيني وحفر قبراً جماعياً لهم

سلفيت – المركز الفلسطيني للإعلام

شدد أكاديمي فلسطيني معروف على ضرورة أن ينال الشعب الفلسطيني حريته، وأن لا تسلب ديمقراطيته، مؤكداً على أن "الحرية والديمقراطية تأتي قبل الخبز، وإلا أصبحنا عبيداً".
وقال البروفسور عبد الستار قاسم أستاذ العلوم السياسية في جامعة النجاح الوطنية، في مقال له: "إن من يقول إن الخبز أهم من الديمقراطية يأتي بتصريح خطير جداً، لما ينطوي عليه من استعباد للذات، وفصل الإنسان عن نفسه، ونكران قدراته الذاتية وانسحاق شخصيته، إنه قول يعود إلى القرون الوسطى، عندما كانت لقمة الخبز وسيلة الأسياد الأولى في سوق العبيد كقطيع من الماشية الدهماء، التي لا تعرف سوى طعم البرسيم".

وتوجه قاسم، بالقول لرئيس السلطة الفلسطينية محمود عباس: "كلامك بأن الخبز قبل الديمقراطية هذا، يحفر قبراً جماعياً ليهلك فيه جمهور الفلسطينيين، فيصبحون أثراً بعد عين.. أنت تدعو إلى العبودية، إلى استعباد الشعب الفلسطيني، وتدعو إلى نزع الإنسان عن نفسه، وتمزيق وهدر كرامته، مقابل رغيف الخبز، أنت لا تعتبر الفلسطيني أكثر قيمة من رغيف الخبز، بل أنت تعتبره أقل من الرغيف لأن الرغيف، حسب فلسفتك، هو سر العيش، أنت ترى في الفلسطيني كائنا يبحث عن عيش لا عن حياة، ألا ترى أن الإنسان عبد لمن يطعمه، وأن العبد مجرد بهيمي لا حقوق له أكثر من نعمة يقدمها له سيده صاحب الفرن؟".

وأشار الأكاديمي الفلسطيني، الذي ترشح في السابق لمنصب رئاسة السلطة الفلسطينية، إلى أن "لقمة الخبز الآتية من الغرب لها ثمن، وثمنها الحقوق والكرامة والاستقلال؛ وأنت تعلم سيادة الرئيس أن لقمة الخبز التي يعتصرها عرق الجبين، هي التي تعني الكبرياء والكرامة والتحرير.. الأذلاء يا حضرة الرئيس لا يقوون على التحرير، ولن تكون لهم دولة وعاصمتها القدس الشريف".

وأضاف أنه "لا بديل عن الحرية، لأن الأحرار يصنعون الخبز، ومدّ اليد للآخرين هي صناعة العبيد.. لا تكن عبدا يا رئيس فلسطين، ولا تجر الناس إلى العبودية، العبيد لا ذمة لهم ولا ضمير، وهم يسرقون طعام وأرزاق إخوانهم في العبودية، أما الأحرار فلا ينامون وإخوانهم جوعى، الأحرار يزرعون ويصنعون ويأكلون نصف طعام، لكن الأهم أنهم يعرفون كيف يقتسمون الرغيف، الأحرار يبحثون عن الكرامة، ويصرون على الحقوق، ويطورون قدراتهم وطاقاتهم لكي تبقى رؤوسهم مرفوعة، أما العبيد فترتعش أجسادهم كلما ظنوا أن حرية تتسلل إلى أوصالهم".

Thursday, October 19, 2006

They must go, and soon

By Haifa Zangana
Al-Ahram Weekly

"Johnson knew it was the right advice to follow, but he chose to stay the course. It took the US another 10 years to withdraw its soldiers from Vietnam. Three million Vietnamese were killed, 15 million were displaced, over one million persons had to flee the country, infrastructure was destroyed and 58,000 Americans killed, and far more injured.

The same is happening in occupied Iraq now.

The latest study by the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health published in The Lancet, estimates that a total of 654,965 Iraqi people -- nearly one in 40 -- have died violently since the American-led invasion of the country in March 2003. Maliki's government, though, was keen to discredit the report and its conclusions. While Iraqi morgues, hospitals and streets bear witness to the daily carnage, Ali Al Dabagh, spokesperson for the government, stood, shamelessly, in the fortified Green Zone to argue "methodology". He did not argue responsibility or the morality of the killings.

The pre-planned descent into hell is so rapid that no fatwa can stop it.

The reason is not difficult to extrapolate. The last few months witnessed a surging escalation in targeting journalists who work for organisations considered relatively independent. The attacks are seen by Iraqis as means to intimidate journalists and prevent independent reporting of the scale of the carnage unfolding in Iraq.

Parliament spent some time arguing how to punish Al-Sharqiya television and Azzaman newspapers for reports considered unacceptable by the "democratic" government. Ruling groups objected to the suggestion that their voting for "federalism" under occupation amounts to fragmenting the country and encouraging sectarian and ethnic civil war.

Politically, Maliki's government is totally isolated from the people and unable to provide what any government should: security, basic services, and dignity to people in their daily lives. With no real power, it is consumed from inside, like an old wooden ship eaten by termites, by sectarian, ethnic division, but above all by corruption, militias and death squads.

No wonder that support for the popular national resistance is increasing with most Iraqis celebrating the success of attacks on occupation forces.

In the last year, the so-called "Sunni triangle" has expanded to defy any geometrical definition. Occupation forces and their camps have been under attack in the north, centre and south of the country daily.

The neocns have failed in Iraq. A poll conducted for CNN suggests support among Americans for the war in Iraq is declining to an all-time low. Just 34 per cent say they support the war, while 64 per cent oppose it. On the other hand, polls in Iraq, like the one conducted this month by a University of Maryland team, show the hardening of Iraqis across all provinces against occupation. Seventy-eight per cent across Iraq's 18 provinces now find the presence of US troops the main cause of the bloodletting with over 60 per cent openly telling pollsters that they support attacks on occupation forces.

Like in Vietnam, Algeria and South Africa, the only option for occupation forces is to negotiate their exit with the Iraqi people and the resistance. Indications are that that is what is happening. Yet the US stalled the Vietnamese for years before leaving. Let us hope they learn from experience and take their cue soon."

(Hamed Najeeb, Alittihad, 10/19/06)

Govt. Death Squads Ravaging Baghdad

An Important Article
by Ali Al-Fadhily and Dahr Jamail

"BAGHDAD - Death squads from the Ministry of Interior posing as Iraqi police are killing more people than ever in the capital, emerging evidence shows.

The death toll is high - in all 1,536 bodies were brought to the Baghdad morgue in September. The health ministry announced last month that it will build two new morgues in Baghdad to take their capacity to 250 bodies a day.

Many fear a government hand in more killings to come. The U.S. military has revealed that the 8th Iraqi Police Unit was responsible for the Oct. 1 kidnapping of 26 Sunni food factory workers in the Amil quarter in southwest Baghdad. The bodies of ten of them were later found in Abu Chir neighbourhood in the capital.

But sections of the ministry appear responsible for the abductions and killing. Ministry of Interior vehicles were used for the kidnapping in this case, and most men conducting the raid wore Iraqi police uniforms, except for a few who wore black death squad 'uniforms', witnesses told IPS.

"It is for sure that they did it," one of the victim's neighbours told IPS on condition of anonymity. "The tortured bodies were found the second day. They came in their official police cars; it is not the first time that they did something like this. They do it all over Baghdad, and we hope they will get proper punishment this time."

Men of the police unit meanwhile do not face imminent punishment. "They are going to be rehabilitated and brought back to service," director-general of the Iraqi police Adnan Thabit told IPS.

The Iraqi Islamic Party, the largest Sunni party, blamed militias with ties to the government and the U.S. military.

"The Iraqi Islamic Party asks how could 26 people, women among them, have been transported from Amil to Abu Chir through all those Iraqi and U.S. army checkpoints and patrols," it said in a statement.

General Yassin al-Dulaimi, deputy minister for the interior, has said on Iraqi television several times that death squads are composed mainly of Iraqi police and army units. His comments reflect differing allegiance and agendas even within the Shia bloc.

General Dulaimi has been trying for long to expose the organised criminal gangs that have been controlling the ministry since its formation - a formation that was overseen by U.S. authorities.

Dulaimi says he does not believe that the Shia Badr organisation, a large, well-armed and funded militia, has complete control over his ministry. But most residents of Baghdad believe that Badr has complete control over the Baghdad Order Maintenance police force, and use this force to carry out sectarian murders. This force is one of several official security teams in Baghdad.

The force is led by Mehdi al-Gharrawi, who also led similar security units during the U.S.- led attack on Fallujah in November 2004.

"All criminals who survived the Fallujah crisis after committing genocide and other war crimes were granted higher ranks," Major Amir Jassim from the ministry of defence told IPS. "I and many of my colleagues were not rewarded because we disobeyed orders to set fire to people's houses (in Fallujah) after others looted them."

Jassim said the looting and burning of homes in Fallujah during the November siege was ordered from the ministries of interior and defence.

"Now they want to do the same things they did in Fallujah in all Sunni areas so that they ignite a civil war in Iraq," said Jassim, referring to the Shia-dominated ministries. "A civil war is the only guarantee for them to stay in power, looting such incredible amounts of money."

Another official with the ministry of defence, Muntather al-Samarraii, told IPS that both Iran and "collaborators" within the Ministry of Interior are to blame for the widespread sectarian killings..

"I have lists of thousands of corruption cases from within my ministry, and other files to expose to the world," he said, "But the world is not listening. When it does, I am afraid it is going to be too late."

A police officer in Samarraii's office, speaking on condition of anonymity, told IPS that he believed that murderers would not be punished for their crimes.

"They will reward them, believe me, and give them higher ranks," he said. "This is a country that will never stand back on its feet as long as these killers are in power. And the Americans are supporting them by allowing their convoys to move during curfew hours."

While there is little evidence of direct U.S. involvement, questions have arisen over what the U.S. forces have done - or not done - to encourage such killings.

A UN human rights report released September last year held interior ministry forces responsible for an organised campaign of detentions, torture and killings. It reported that special police commando units accused of carrying out the killings were recruited from Shia Badr and Mehdi militias, and trained by U.S. forces.
Retired Col. James Steele, who served as advisor on Iraqi security forces to then U.S. Ambassador John Negroponte supervised the training of these forces.

Steele was commander of the U.S. military advisor group in El Salvador 1984-86, while Negroponte was U.S. ambassador to nearby Honduras 1981-85. Negroponte was accused of widespread human rights violations by the Honduras Commission on Human Rights in 1994. The Commission reported the torture and disappearance of at least 184 political workers.

The violations Negroponte oversaw in Honduras were carried out by operatives trained by the CIA, according to a CIA working group set up in 1996 to look into the U.S. role in Honduras.

The CIA records document that his "special intelligence units," better known as "death squads," comprised CIA-trained Honduran armed units which kidnapped, tortured and killed thousands of people suspected of supporting leftist guerrillas."

'Dramatic change of direction' coming for Iraq


"• Coup in Baghdad: While given little credence in Washington, this scenario is being widely talked about in Iraq and in neighboring countries, both on the streets and among senior political and military officials.
According to the scenario, the new U.S.-trained army, along with elements of Saddam Hussein's Ba'athist-led army, would stage a coup to oust the al-Maliki government and replace it with one led by a more effective figure -- by most accounts Mr. Allawi.
One Iraqi Sunni living in Dubai, who is in close contact with Sunni generals in exile in both the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, said those generals have been discussing such a "Plan B" with secular Shi'ites and U.S. officials for months.
These officers reportedly are convinced that Miss Rice has been discussing such ideas during a series of visits to Saudi Arabia over the past eight months.
Mr. Allawi, a secular Shi'ite who led the government before the 2005 legislative elections, is known as a strong man with backing from both secular Shi'ites and Sunnis tired of the sectarian killings. The politician also is liked by U.S. intelligence agencies, which were disappointed that his party was unable to win more seats in the parliamentary elections.
"The army scenario is not a bad scenario for the United States," said Robert Killebrew, a retired Army infantry colonel and national security analyst who predicted civil war in Iraq more than a year ago. "U.S. policy issues in the Middle East and Iraq do not require a democratic Iraq, it only requires a stable and friendly Iraq," he said.
Under this scenario, the Dubai-based Sunni source said, the army would gradually bring back elements of Saddam's former army, removing a major grievance that is driving the insurgency.
"The insurgency will come under control as most of them are concerned with keeping Iraq as one country. This is the most important for them and for the surrounding Arab countries," said the former officer.
According to most coup talk, the United States would publicly condemn the move but support the new government after a decent interval.
"My preference would be that there would be a certain amount of sanctimonious hand-wringing and saying that we don't agree with the overthrow of a democratically elected government," said Mr. Killebrew. "But we will continue to support the Iraqis in their fight against the insurgency, which would be de facto support." "




Bush: This is their Tet

By Juan Cole

"In his interview with George Stephanopoulos on Wednesday evening, George W. Bush accepted that there might be a parallel between the spike in killings of US troops in Iraq and the Tet offensive in Vietnam. Many commentators are saying that he finally admitted that Iraq is a quagmire like Vietnam, but this is a complete misreading of what Bush is saying.

Bush's position is that things are going just great in Iraq, and that a few trouble-makers have managed to hijack the US media with a small number of limited bombings and other sabotage, and have made it look like the US isn't making progress. Bush believes that the media and Americans are falling for a get-up job. So he is is trying to say to the American public that just as the Tet offensive was a military defeat for the Viet Cong but a propaganda defeat for Washington, so the October offensive of the Sunni Arab guerrillas is so much smoke and mirrors, a mere propaganda stunt with no substantive importance for Iraq.

But in fact, the current guerrilla war against US troops and the new Iraqi government isn't at all like the Tet offensive. It is deadly serious. Because the US military is not defeating the guerrillas militarily any more. They have succeeded in provoking an unconventional, hot civil war, which was their "poison pill" strategy for getting the US out. The US has alienated the Sunni Arab population decisively. In summer of 2003, only 14 percent of them supported violent attacks on US troops. In a recent poll, 70 percent supported such attacks. And, the guerrilla movement is well-heeled, well-trained, and adaptive. Anderson Cooper 360 on CNN for Wednesday presented videotape showing well-trained snipers shooting down US troops in Baghdad. The guerrilla war is real, not just a political show put on to weaken the will of the fickle American public.

What is delicious is that the general American public does not hold the view of the Vietnam War popular among far-right politicians like Bush, and so no one but the true believers will catch his drift here. In fact, most Americans will assume that Bush has admitted that we are in an unwinnable quagmire in Iraq, just as in Vietnam. And the Iraq=Vietnam identification is likely to stick. Of all his misstatements and malapropisms over the years, any one of which would have robbed most people of credibility or made them a laughing-stock, it is ironic that this miscalculation, uttered coolly and with no stutter, may have been his biggest gaffe of all."

Israelis lead the world in supporting torture - BBC poll

One-third support 'some torture'
The back and legs of an Iraqi who was allegedly tortured by the Iraqi police
The use of torture is controversial, but widespread
Nearly a third of people worldwide back the use of torture in prisons in some circumstances, a BBC survey suggests.

Although 59% were opposed to torture, 29% thought it acceptable to use some degree of torture to combat terrorism.

While most polled in the US are against torture, opposition there is less robust than in Europe and elsewhere.

More than 27,000 people in 25 countries were asked if torture would be acceptable if it could provide information to save innocent lives.

Some 36% of those questioned in the US agreed that this use of torture was acceptable, while 58% were unwilling to compromise on human rights.


The percentage favouring torture in certain cases makes it one of the highest of all the countries polled.

The majority of those questioned in the BBC World Service poll - 19 of the 25 countries surveyed - agree that clear rules against torture in prisons should be maintained because it is immoral and its use would weaken human rights standards.

"The dominant view around the world is that terrorism does not warrant bending the rules against torture," said Steven Kull, director of the Program on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA), whose organisation helped conduct the survey.

Saving lives?

All of the countries surveyed have signed up to the Geneva Conventions which prohibit the use of torture and cruel and degrading behaviour.

We are judged by how we treat our enemies rather than how we treat our friends
Jay Kandy, London

But countries that face political violence are more likely to accept the idea that some degree of torture is permissible because of the extreme threat posed by terrorists.

Israel has the largest percentage of those polled endorsing the use of a degree of torture on prisoners, with 43% saying they agreed that some degree of torture should be allowed.

However, a larger percentage - 48% - think it should remain prohibited.

The question
Most countries have agreed to rules prohibiting torturing prisoners. Which position is closer to yours?
Terrorists pose such an extreme threat that governments should now be allowed to use some degree of torture if it may gain information that saves innocent lives
Clear rules against torture should be maintained because any use of torture is immoral and will weaken international human rights

Other countries that polled higher levels of acceptance of the use of torture include Iraq (42%), the Philippines (40%), Indonesia (40%), Russia (37%) and China (37%).

The Israeli figure conceals a stark difference in attitude within the country, split along religious lines.

A majority of Jewish respondents in Israel, 53%, favour allowing governments to use some degree of torture to obtain information from those in custody, while 39% want clear rules against it.

But Muslims in Israel, who represent 16% of the total number polled, are overwhelmingly against any use of torture.

Meanwhile opposition to the practise is highest in Italy, where 81% of those questioned think torture is never justified.

Australia, France, Canada, the UK and Germany also registered high levels of opposition to any use of torture.

The survey was carried out for the BBC World Service by polling firm Globescan and the Program on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA).

Views on torturing prisoners

Country Against all torture * Some degree permissible * Neither/Don't Know
Australia 75% 22% 3%
Brazil 61% 32% 8%
Canada 74% 22% 4%
Chile 62% 22% 16%
China 49% 37% 13%
Egypt 65% 25% 9%
France 75% 19% 6%
Germany 71% 21% 7%
Gt Britain 72% 24% 4%
India 23% 32% 45%
Indonesia 51% 40% 8%
Iraq 55% 42% 1%
Israel 48% 43% 9%
Italy 81% 14% 6%
Kenya 53% 38% 9%
Mexico 50% 24% 27%
Nigeria 49% 39% 12%
Philippines 56% 40% 5%
Poland 62% 27% 12%
Russia 43% 37% 19%
S Korea 66% 31% 3%
Spain 65% 16% 19%
Turkey 62% 24% 14%
Ukraine 54% 29% 18%
US 58% 36% 7%
Average 59% 29% 12%
*27,000 respondents in 25 countries were asked which position was closer to their own views:
  • Clear rules against torture should be maintained because any use of torture is immoral and will weaken international human rights standards against torture.
  • Terrorists pose such an extreme threat that governments should now be allowed to use some degree of torture if it may gain information that saves innocent lives.
Source: BBC/Globescan/PIPA