Thursday, 30 September 2010

Incompetent NATO Attacks - Continuing Carnage

It was the third alleged
violation of Pakistani territory by NATO helicopters in less than a week, but the first attack on the military.

It's a question we have asked on this site for years - how long are NATO going to get away with their murderous incompetence? Where are the people and organisations calling them to accountability? Karzai must now have a pre-printed card which he hands out condemning their latest inept massacre. Look at older posts on this site for years of evidence.

Pakistani Soldiers Latest Victims Of NATO Massacres

Kabul - The NATO military in Afghanistan admitted on Thursday that its aircraft crossed the border into Pakistan and killed 'several armed individuals'. By this they mean that they killed Pakistani soldiers who are supposed to be their allies. This is one in a series of grotesque NATO errors and massacres in the last week which have killed dozens of innocent Afghans and Pakistanis.
ISAF aircraft  illegally entered Pakistani airspace to target 'insurgents' in firing position along the border area, it said, adding, 'The aircraft received what the crews assessed as effective small arms fire from individuals just across the border in Pakistan.'
'Operating in self defense, the ISAF aircraft entered into Pakistani airspace killing several armed individuals,' it said. Pakistani officials working to investigate the incident said  'ISAF  have conveyed their condolences to the Pakistani military and the families of those who were killed or injured.'  Pakistani authorities confirmed that three of its soldiers were killed in the attack. The assault prompted Islamabad to close the supply route through its territory for NATO troops fighting in Afghanistan.
Tankers and trucks transporting oil and other crucial supplies were halted at the Torkham border crossing in the mountainous tribal district of Khyber, officials in Pakistan said. Meanwhile the west-facing NATO statements are saying this is 'self-defence'. The usual western mouthpieces in the media are continuing to report this as if it was fact.

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

5 Die In NATO Shelling on Pak-Afghan Border

PESHAWAR: Security officials said on Tuesday that five people were killed and two wounded by NATO cross-border fire from Afghanistan in the third such incident in days. They said members of the US-led ISAF in the eastern Afghan province of Khost shelled Matta Sanga town close to the border early on Monday. “Five people were killed and two injured in the shelling by NATO-led forces,” a security official told AFP. A Pakistani government official in the region said the casualties were “all civilians”. A military official also confirmed the incident. ISAF spokeswoman Major Sunset Belinsky confirmed “an engagement by ISAF helicopters against insurgent forces” on the border on Monday. “According to current reports the helicopters did not enter Pakistan’s airspace. ISAF forces attempted to contact the Pakistan military prior to the engagement, but were unable to make contact,” Belinsky said. Pakistan on Monday denounced cross-border airstrikes by NATO helicopters pursuing terrorists as a violation of its sovereignty after ISAF said it killed more than 30 'rebels' on Friday. afp

Afghan Children Killed In NATO Raid

A Nato raid in Afghanistan's eastern Ghazni province has killed four children and wounded three adults, an Afghan official has said.
Sher Khan Yousafzai, the chief of Andar district, told the local Pajhwok Afghan News that the Nato raid on Wednesday occurred after a joint patrol by Afghan and foreign forces came under attack.
Yousafzai said helicopter-borne Nato forces fired on the locals in an orchard near one of the district's towns, also named Andar.
Zabihullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesman, said the international troops had killed seven civilians.
In a statement, Nato said its joint patrol came under small-arms fire from insurgents.
"After gaining positive identification on the insurgent position, an air weapons team engaged," the statement said. "The combined force called for a medical evaluation for wounded insurgents and reported approximately four insurgents had been killed".
The statement said Nato is aware of the allegations that civilians had been killed and would provide updates.
Wednesday's incident comes days after Nato was accused of killing 13 civilians in Laghman province on Sunday.

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Killing Afghans For Sport - Jeremy Morlock Interview

Various takes here:

  • Did Army Ignore Warnings?  The Washington Post's Craig Whitlock reports, "The subsequent investigation has raised accusations about whether the military ignored warnings that the out-of-control soldiers were committing atrocities. The father of one soldier said he repeatedly tried to alert the Army after his son told him about the first killing, only to be rebuffed. ... Military officials say privately that they worry the hearings will draw further attention to the case, with photos and other evidence prompting anger among the Afghan civilians whose support is critical to the fight against the Taliban."
  • Will Hurt Overall U.S. Effort in Afghanistan  Outside the Beltway's Doug Mataconis writes, "Stories like this, if true, can only undermine the war effort in Afghanistan. ... The major problem that stories like this create, of course, is that it’s a fabulous propaganda tool for the enemy. Like Abu Gharib, it lets them tell the public that, regardless of what we may say in public, the U.S. military is an oppressor that targets innocent civilians. Obviously, this makes an already difficult, if not impossible, mission even more difficult."
  • Where Did the Command Break Down?  Spencer Ackerman worries, "If the command environment in Kandahar doesn’t become the subject of this investigation, the injustice on display will compound. General McChrystal could not have been clearer about the imperative of population protection. Whatever one wants to say about how insufficiently that’s manifested, it could not be more opposite a commander’s intent from this horror. Where was the breakdown?" At Wired, Ackerman writes a guide to spotting a possible Army "whitewashing" of the investigation.
  • How the Killers Enforced Secrecy  The Washington Post's Craig Whitlock reports, "After word leaked that one soldier had spoken to military police, several platoon members retaliated, records show. They confronted the informant and beat him severely - punching, kicking and choking the soldier, then dragging him across the ground. As a last warning, the documents state, [alleged 'ringleader' Staff Sgt. Calvin R.] Gibbs menacingly waved finger bones he had collected from Afghan corpses."
  • Reveals the Folly of Counterinsurgency  National security blogger Eric Martin sighs, "One of the fundamental flaws at the root of COIN doctrine is the omnipresent tension between theory and practice with respect to the discipline that is expected of enormous armies.  It is an attempt to make tigers into Paper Kittens. ... This is just the most recent example of something that is, simply put, inextricable from war."
  • 'You Can't Clean War'  The Atlantic's Ta-Nehisi Coates writes, "I'm out of my depth on this--totally out my depth. But this was one of those stories where my guy reaction was, 'Why the fuck are we still there?' Not exactly nuanced analysis, I know. But we really should not be surprised. When you're at war for almost a decade, incidents like this are a certainty. You can't clean war."
  • This Is a Much Bigger Deal to Muslims Than Koran Burning Pastor  Professor and liberal blogger Juan Cole insists that people in Afghanistan care much more about this story than about Terry Jones, the Florida pastor who received "wall-to-wall" media coverage when he threatened to burn the Koran. "I think Afghans may be more upset about this than whatever happens in Gainesville, Fl." So why did the Koran burner get so much more media attention?

Blair Knew of Torture In 2002

Restraint Chair For Force-Feeding at Gitmo
Guantanamo Bay opened as a detention facility in 2002. A secret document has emerged in court, revealing Tony Blair's mounting concern in 2002 about claims of torture of terror suspects by US agents. The former prime minister was briefed by Foreign Office staff as suspects were being moved to Guantanamo Bay. The document concludes with a hand-written note, said by lawyers to have been written by the former PM.
His note, obtained by the BBC, expresses concern about torture claims and urges officials to establish that "it isn't happening".
The memo, sent by the Foreign Office to No 10, emerged amid what is becoming one of the most protracted legal fights in decades. Six former Guantanamo Bay detainees are suing the British government for alleged complicity in their ill-treatment. The key is to find out how they are being treated. Though I was initially sceptical about claims of torture, we must make it clear to the US that any such action would be totally unacceptable and v. quickly establish that it isn't happening”
The government denies the allegations - and says many documents relating to what officials knew about US activities cannot be disclosed because they would be damaging to national security. The case is already months behind schedule with complex secrecy arguments yet to be heard by the UK's top judges.
The document said to be annotated by Mr Blair is dated 18 January 2002 and was among a small number of heavily censored papers approved for disclosure.
Marked for Mr Blair's personal attention, the memo explains that an MI5 team had been sent to the US naval base in Cuba to establish how many of the men were British - and what the suspects knew about terror plots against the UK.
The author says that there is "intense" interest in how the men are being treated and that the International Committee of the Red Cross was about to visit the camp.
Underneath, appears the hand-written note which is consistent with other published examples of Mr Blair's style.
It reads: "The key is to find out how they are being treated. Though I was initially sceptical about claims of torture, we must make it clear to the US that any such action will [or would] be totally unacceptable and v. quickly establish that it isn't happening."
The papers include a Ministry of Defence note in which an officer warns superiors about how the US is treating detainees.
That memo, sent five days before the Blair note, says: "It would seem that this detainee issue is one that has the potential to reflect badly on the US/coalition... the US treatment of the prisoners could be judged to be [redacted]".
Continue reading the main story
Bisher al Rawi
Jamil el Banna
Richard Belmar
Omar Deghayes
Binyam Mohamed
Martin Mubanga

"It is clear that the US is pushed logistically but my understanding of the Geneva Convention is that this is no excuse."
Lawyers for the six claimants say they want the High Court to set a deadline for the release of material which explains when various parts of government knew the former suspects were being held, mistreated or moved to Guantanamo Bay.

Some 70 government lawyers and officials are sifting through thousands of pages of top secret material relating to what the UK knew about the US's treatment of detainees.
But government lawyers say they cannot comply with demands for faster disclosure of material because documents need to be security vetted.
Earlier in the year, Prime Minister David Cameron proposed the six men enter settlement talks as part of an inquiry on allegations of complicity in torture. But lawyers for the six say they need to learn what the government knew before they can consider negotiations. 

Monday, 27 September 2010

Blackwater Mercenaries in Mistrial

A US federal judge has declared a mistrial in the case of two former Blackwater contractors accused of murdering two unarmed Afghan civilians and wounding a third man in Kabul. WAVY-TV of Norfolk in Virginia where the trial is taking place reported Monday that the jury came up deadlocked after several days of deliberations. A new trial date was set for March 1.
Justin H. Cannon and Christopher Drotleff face life in prison for the shootings on May 5, 2009, when they were in the country to train the Afghan National Army. They were working for North Carolina-based Blackwater Worldwide, which changed its name to Xe (zee) Services.

Cannon, of Corpus Christi, Texas, and Drotleff, of Virginia Beach, face murder, assault and weapons charges.

Neither testified in the trial.

Three Australian Soldiers To Be Charged in Deaths of Children

 Sep 27 2010
AUSTRALIA'S top military prosecutor said three former Australian soldiers will be charged with manslaughter in relation to a raid on a compound in Afghanistan that left five children dead.
Brigadier Lyn McDade, the Director of Military Prosecutions, said today that the special forces soldiers face multiple charges including manslaughter, dangerous conduct and failing to comply with a lawful general order.
The charges relate to a February 2009 raid on a compound in southern Uruzgan province that was believed to harbour Taliban insurgents.
Six Afghans, including five children, were killed, and another two children and two adults were wounded.
The soldiers were not identified.
The civilians died after the Special Operations Task Group soldiers used gunfire and hand grenades during the operation, the defence department said at the time.
"During the conduct of this operation, the soldiers were fired upon by Taliban insurgents," the defence department said in a statement the day after the attack.
"The (soldiers) engaged the insurgents, returning fire in accordance with their rules of engagement."
The defence department has refused to comment on the attack since then.
It initially conducted its own investigation, before referring the matter to the military prosecutor, which operates independently of the department.
In her statement, Brig McDade said her investigations were completed only recently after "careful, deliberate and informed consideration". She declined to comment further.
The prosecutor described the men as "former" soldiers, but did not clarify when or why they left the military.
Australia has 1550 troops in Afghanistan.

Germany To Withdraw Aircraft

The Tornado jets are a joint 1970s design by Britain, Italy and Germany. The reconnaissance jets have advanced infrared sensors that pick up tiny heat differences on the ground, for example from humans and animals moving about in the night-time.

Woodward On Obama's Wars - Excerpts

Soundbite-type episodes here.

Sunday, 26 September 2010

US Army Censored Images of 'Kill For Sport' Victims

'Benjamin K. Grimes, a senior counsel for the defense, was "inadvertently" sent images last week that show, among other things, "three dead Afghans with three different soldiers posing, holding up the decedent’s head. (Each photo was one Afghan, one soldier.)”
Military officials quickly asked for the photos to be returned. "In an unusual move, prosecutors then demanded defense representatives at the base return the computer disk containing the photos," reports the Seattle Times.'
More details here. 

Intensive Drone Attacks Continue In Pakistan

Suspected US missiles targeted a vehicle today in northwestern Pakistan, killing four alleged militants, intelligence officials said. It was the 17th such attack this month — the most intense barrage since the airstrikes began in 2004. Shortly before the attack, the vehicle left Datta Khel, a town in the North Waziristan, the two intelligence officials said.
It is not clear exactly why the attacks have spiked, but most of this month's strikes have ostensibly 'targeted' forces led by Jalaluddin Haqqani, a commander who was once supported by Pakistan and the US during the war against the Soviets in Afghanistan.Haqqani has since turned against the US, and American military officials have said his network — now effectively led by his son, Sirajuddin — presents one of the greatest threats to foreign forces in Afghanistan. Another anti-US commander, Hafiz Gul Bahadur, and his forces also have a base  in North Waziristan.
Various Sources

Saturday, 25 September 2010

Why Does Israel Continue As It Does?

The army commanders are trained and educated to see Palestinians as enemies, and have adopted a narrow, mechanistic approach to dealing with them. Rather than bother with the “why” of Palestinian resistance, they focus only on the “how” of controlling the Palestinians and suppressing their resistance. As a professional group which specializes in the use of force for problem solving, it is not surprising that soldiers and officers tend to adopt a right-wing perspective on the occupation, many of them strongly empathise with the colonists, and many young Israelis whose beliefs are more leftist find ways to evade military service. When conscription rates have fallen to about 50%, young Israelis who go to the army do so out of choice (Harel, 2010). Full article here.

The Good Soldier (Copyright Ford Maddox Ford)

L.Cpl Joe Pool
Cpl. Joe Glenton
Visitors to this site will know that we have little more sympathy with the various occupying militaries than with their political puppeteers. A poignant moment for us was the recent death in Afghanistan of Lance Corporal Joe Pool who came from just down the road from here. He was a good man by all accounts. A father and a Celtic fan like myself. It crossed my mind that we may have stood together crammed into Flynn's or the Springfield Tavern or Baird's or The Sary or The Old Barns before a game. It also crossed my mind that he could have been one of the unwelcome visitors kicking in the door of some unsuspecting Afghan family in the middle of the night. I know that many of the soldiers in the occupying armies are economic recruits from the ranks of the unemployed. But it's no excuse. My idea of the good soldier is Bradley Manning, now a prisoner of conscience in the light of the Wikileaks coup. Or Joe Glenton a conscientious objector to the continuing carnage in Afghanistan who speaks at anti-war rallies and is still a fugitive. Both Joes should have stayed at home in the first place. Bill Hicks used to say that all soldiers are thugs. I used to think this was a bit harsh. I change my mind by the day.

Friday, 24 September 2010

Gaza Fisherman Killed By Israel

From Here

'Israeli officials say the boat had strayed beyond the limit to which Palestinians are allowed to fish under the Israeli blockade.'
Nothing to explain there, then, eh?

Thursday, 23 September 2010

Drones of Freedom - The Carnage Goes On

At Least 28 Killed In Latest Series Of US Drone Strikes Against Pakistan 

Pakistan’s remote tribal agencies of North and South Waziristan are in a state of virtual panic tonight as US drones continue to loom in the air and three attacks against separate towns across the region killed at least 28 people and wounded an unknown number of others.
Officials have so far failed to identify any of the targets of the attacks, but reports from the ground suggest that one of the US drones attacked a funeral procession that was carried out for people killed in a previous attack.
Reports suggested that the targets hit were related to one of the militant factions which has an existing ceasefire with the Pakistani government, and it does not appear that any of the victims of the attacks were “high value” targets.
The Obama Administration has dramatically escalated the number of attacks in recent weeks, and has launched an average of about an attack every day so far this month. None of those prior attacks killed any confirmed militants, but a number of children were confirmed killed in several recent strikes.

by Jason Ditz

Pity The Nation - By Issam Karam

Pity The Nation That Rejoices In Its Defeats!

A great question is being posed around the globe: who directs the fates of its inhabitants? And are the fates directed with wise responsibility? Initially, the question seems misplaced and foolish. The intelligence services, the universities and the thinkers cooperate… this being supposed… in order to ensure a better fate for mankind. But when human beings turn to deal with the problems they face, it is surprising to see how much the ambitions of men are governed by improvisation. Who would believe that the war in Iraq was improvised? And who would believe that the war in Afghanistan was the result of caprice and a crisis of nerves? America was shocked by the events of September 11. The explosion in New York and Washington, in the heart of America, terrorized the United States. The wounded giant swore to have his revenge before even knowing who had done him harm. “Al-Qaeda”, they said at the time! And what about Iraq when it was clear that it was not implicated in September 11, that it did not possess weapons of mass destruction and that it had no relationship with Al-Qaeda? ElBaradei was a frank witness. And no one knows to what extent his frankness may play in his favor in the battle for the Egyptian presidency.
* * *
America went to Baghdad. America, Britain and the others… And the Western forces toppled Saddam Hussein, drowning the land of the two rivers in blood and being drowned itself in the Iraqi mud. And from 2003 to 2010 America has achieved nothing in Iraq. It no longer has either friends or allies. The Shiites never thought they would be rid of America. But it is now the Shiites who govern Iraq. Those who are jockeying for power after the “elections” are all Shiites. Maliki is a Shiite and Allawi is a Shiite with a large Sunnite following.
* * *
And then America won in Afghanistan by making the same error they made in Iraq. In both places they went in without making any advance planning. However, the Soviets had preceded them in invading… in error. And in the American mindset and before America, in the mindset of the Soviets… it was a matter of days. And Kabul fell while Al-Qaeda was vanquished and the Talban capitulated. And the hours became days and the days months and the months years. Defeat became confrontation. And the American-British-Israeli military logic was, is, the same. Whoever does not overcome by force is overcome by a greater force. And the sages did their utmost to advise George Bush, who mocked the advice of sages… As he did when he jumped in a parachute onto the deck of an aircraft carrier and announced: “Mission accomplished!”
* * *
What mission? People remain silent for a certain, but eventually call for the book of accounts to ascertain that America’s war in Iraq has been a flop. The wars in the two countries have cost it a trillion dollars, and in the end we see America folding its flag and pulling out its troops, as Gorbachev did in 1989. The Soviet army left Afghanistan, crossing the “bridge of friendship”, As Napoleon’s forces fell back, beaten, across the Berezina.
* * *
It is only today that they recall the counsel of the sages, namely that a war that is not terminated in nine years suggests that something was wrong with the war in the beginning. Today we repeatedly hear that the Taliban are not terrorists, but only radical believers who have their counterparts in America… and all the countries of the globe.
I am not defending the Taliban. But I permit myself to recall to America that it was mistaken in going to Iraq and to Afghanistan without a plan.
The loss has been made worse because Iran has profited from the error of America, which has set up a “Shiite” state on its frontiers. And Turkey has benefited from the same mistake. Nevertheless, by exiting the hegemony of the great suzerain and seeking other horizons without however breaking its relationship with Washington. And China has benefited from the two American defeats to proclaim itself the world’s second largest economy, ahead of Japan and Europe. Thus Shanghai has inherited the place of New York in the twentieth century and of London in the nineteenth.
It is difficult for reason to accept a war fought on the basis of improvisation. For the most difficult decision a leader can make is to take his people to war. What if the results of the conflict are not guaranteed?
War is not an adventure. Although wars in the twentieth century were… all adventures. Germany sought wars in the twentieth century, William II in 1914-18 and Hitler in 1939-45. It is as if Germany had been encouraged by its victory in the war of 1870 to think that for it, victory would always be assured.

Killing Afghans For Sport - Short Clip

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Fake Veterans - Pretending To Have Fought Them Over There

'Foreign Correspondent’s Mark Corcoran has returned from the United States with an explosive investigation of the boom in imposters. It reaches from the quietest, unsuspecting corners of America all the way to the highest corridors of power. Very senior and powerful political figures have been caught red-handed fudging even fabricating war service.' From here.
I wonder if some of the fake veterans are suffering from fake PTSD. Obama would have us believe that the troops remaining in Iraq are 'non-combat' which, in other words, could be interpreted as 'fake troops'. Some Americans are in danger of finding themselves in favour of the fake war but against the fake troops. Is Obama himself a real Commander In Chief of these troops? It's all getting a bit tricky. Could the fake veterans be said to have pretended to fight them over there so that the US politicos can pretend that they don't have to fight them over here. Or would you rather be a fish?
Regular readers will welcome the return above of GI Obama.

Monday, 20 September 2010

Savages In US Uniforms

'But what is the most disturbing aspect of the case, apart perhaps from the fact that the US Army failed to act when it was first alerted about the killings, is that there still lurks a culture of contempt for foreigners in the US armed forces. If soldiers, even just a few, think they can treat Afghans as animals to be hunted and killed, there is something seriously wrong in US military training which is not just about tactics and equipment; there is supposed to be a moral compass as well.'
From Here

So, Farewell Then, Tony Blair

Sunday, 19 September 2010

Sadistic Stryker Death Squad - More Details Emerge

All were reported to deny wrongdoing and military investigators will hold a pre-trial hearing at their home base in Washington later this year. American commanders fear details of the incidents could cause widespread anger in Afghanistan, where civilian deaths have fostered deep resentment against coalition forces. Five soldiers are accused of forming a "kill team" and murdering three people in Kandahar province between January and May this year.
Seven others are charged with attempting to impede the investigation and beating up a private who blew the whistle on their activities, as well as smoking hashish.
The relatives of one accused have also said the military failed to prevent the latter killings.
The father of one soldier said he had tried to contact the Army after his son had talked of his comrades' actions and warned they were looking for another victim, but his fears had been rebuffed.
The alleged killers were all from a platoon of the 5th Stryker Combat Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, which saw heavy fighting in the southern province of Kandahar until its tour ended in July.
Court papers say the gang first began to discuss killing when Staff Sgt Calvin Gibbs, arrived in the platoon and boasted it had been easy to get away with "stuff" on a previous tour in Iraq, the Washington Post reported.
The first alleged murder was on Jan 15 while the platoon guarded a meeting of tribal elders in the village of La Mohammed Kalay according to case documents.
An Afghan named Gul Mudin began walking toward the soldiers and as he approached a soldier threw a grenade to simulate an attack and several soldiers opened fire killing him. Further murders followed in February and May.
Staff Sgt Gibbs, Cpl Jeremy Morlock, Pfc Andrew Holmes, Spc Michael Wagnon and Spc Adam Winfield are accused of the killings.
The 3,800-strong Stryker brigade, named after the eight-wheeled armoured vehicles it uses, suffered heavy casualties from large roadside bombs when stationed in Kandahar province. In a year-long tour, 35 soldiers were killed in combat, six others died from other causes and 239 were wounded.

Saturday, 18 September 2010

Blair On Global Politics

'The actual underlying problem is a feeling—in a world in which power is shifting east—that maybe the relationship doesn’t matter any more. My answer is that it matters even more. If America is going to be dealing with China, India, Brazil, Indonesia, these emerging—or emerged—powers that are going to change the way we look at politics, it’s even more important that the Europeans and the Americans stick together.'
Britain and America against the world eh, Tone? That should be a good platform for a few years of high-profile and profitable speaking engagements in Florida or New York. By the way you forgot to include Israel in the bunker. Not like you to forget them.

Full Interview with Newsweek here.

Friday, 17 September 2010

Care For Some Enduring Freedom?

So where is the big political fanfare emanating from Kabul, Washington and London, as happened previously when we were told Afghanistan was taking its 'first tentative steps towards democracy.'  Very simple. First, the election will be riddled with fraud and corruption. Secondly, the Taliban will show once again it can strike with comparative impunity. And, thirdly, those international bodies, such as the United Nations, tasked with helping Afghans realise what free and fair elections actually mean have bottled it and bolted. It's the same as this time last year for the presidential vote.
The significant difference on this occasion, however, is that everyone is keeping their political heads beneath the parapet in the certain knowledge that once again the West /NATO etc. will fail to deliver for the Afghan people and no-one wants to be blamed. Every day in the news from Afghanistan, in the comments from NATO/ISAF commanders and the evasive doublespeak of US political leaders on troop drawdown and withdrawal, you can feel (and smell) the tide is changing.
And all the time the Taliban are gaining at every turn. Indeed, the evidence on the ground already shows that, far from being on the back foot, they are advancing and holding territory in provinces such as Wardak and infiltrating the north of the country in places like Kunduz and Badakshan, turning what until now have been comparatively subdued regions into resurgent battlefronts. 
Today, it’s not so much a sense of mission creep as a creeping sense that the mission is toileted. Take tomorrow’s election for example. In the aftermath of last year’s presidential vote, as many as 1.2 million votes were said to be illegal. In its wake, the UN and others swore they would do better next time. Yet, according to Johann Kriegler, one of only two foreigners on Afghanistan’s Electoral Complaints Commission, over the next few days we can expect pretty much the same, if not more, widespread ballot rigging and intimidation than before.
And where do we find the UN precisely at this moment ?  Throughout the past week or so, the UN has evacuated what it deems as non-essential staff for fear they might be in harm’s way from Taliban violence during the elections. In all, that’s about one-third of its entire international workforce in Afghanistan. Or, to use UN speak, a “reduction in its footprint”. “We are going to be particularly careful as the Taliban have announced they will attack anyone involved in this election and we are very much involved,” says Staffan de Mistura, the head of the UN mission in Afghanistan. Really? Well, perhaps you’re not quite involved enough, I would say. Why is it every time we put the Afghan people through the rigours of the democratic process, instead of standing its ground, the UN sticks to its pathetic last in, first out approach that has characterised so many of its international missions? To be fair, though, the UN is not alone in bending to Taliban intimidation: many other international election monitoring groups have also given up on full “observation” missions, rendering tomorrow’s ballot next to useless. This is bad news at a time when, more than ever, ordinary Afghans need reassurance.
Around Kabul’s more “fashionable” neighbourhoods, you can see the 'narchitecture' - extravagant new houses built on the enormous profits of the illegal drug trade are testimony to the financial and political power of warlords who run private militias and “security companies”. It is these bitter rivals, not just the Taliban, that ordinary Afghans believe will plunge them back to the worst days of the 1990s. Thanks, Isaf. Thanks, Nato.Words you will hear on no Afghan lips.

Thursday, 16 September 2010

Freedom Doesn't Get Much More Enduring Than This

Here at Afghanistan War we are open to an argument. However, it seems like an insult to the intelligence of the world whereby NATO claims that the carnage they are perpetrating daily in Afghanistan is about 'freedom' is now beyond the pale. See previous posts for the evidence. Of course this is only a small part of the picture.The hearts and minds and 'enduring freedom' programme continues in Southern Afghanistan. It doesn't get much more enduring than to be killed in the process of your own liberation. Whether by bullet in this instance today, or in one of the many night raids or the ever increasing drone attacks.

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Takhar Massacre - Government Rejects NATO 'Top Insurgent' Claim

From Afghanistan News

Scene of the 'Precision Strike'
The Afghan government rejected on Monday Nato assertions that an air strike on a convoy in Takhar province killed a "top insurgent," saying that the victims included a candidate in next weekend's parliament elections and his civilian aides.
 On Sunday the Western military alliance released a statement claiming that the September 2 blitz killed Mohammad Amin, purportedly a member of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan and the militants' deputy "shadow governor" of Takhar.

But deputy presidential spokesman Siamak Herawi said that an Afghan government probe has ascertained that 10 civilians were killed and seven were wounded in the air strike, including candidate Abdul Wahid Khorasani.

Mr Herawi said that Afghan investigators could not confirm whether "the person that they have named Mohammad Amin" was even in the convoy at the time of the attack.

"If such person was in the convoy he was not armed, so no-one has the authority to kill a large number of innocent civilians because of only one suspect," he declared.

Tony Blair's Liberty Medal

By David Swanson
When U.S. media pundits claim that every other nation on earth honestly believed the absurd lies George W. Bush told about Iraqi weapons and ties to terrorism, the grain of truth is that one leader of one foreign nation went along with the lies: British Prime Minister Tony Blair. Bush gave Blair a medal of freedom as a reward. I picture millions of Iraqi refugees without proper food or medicine in Jordan and Syria strong in spirit and grateful for their fate thanks to Blair's assistance in freeing them from their homes.
On August 31st, President Obama spoke from the Oval Office, assuring us that the War on Iraq had been launched to disarm a nation. Disarming a nation is a criminal basis for a war, a fact that I wish would quit getting lost in the madness of what we actually debate in this country. But Obama's claim to have opposed this war that he funded as a senator and continued as a president rests on the idea, not just that he was lucky enough not to yet be in the Senate when it started, but that he didn't at that time yet pretend to believe the lies. Now he finds it important to put up that pretense when nobody else believes it anymore, in order to urge us to "turn the page" on the crime of the century.
Obama's embrace of the Iraq war lies, which included the "surge" lies so valuable now in Afghanistan, coincided with Tony Blair's book tour. When Blair was performing his poodle tricks in 2002 and 2003 he was questioned and mocked at home and in Parliament, but given endless standing ovations in Congress. Nothing has changed. In Ireland on his book tour -- the current equivalent of a triumphal march after a return from foreign slaughter -- Blair faced protests and an attempted citizen's arrest. In London the planned protests were so large that Blair canceled his event, stuck his tail between his legs, and whimpered away. In Philadelphia, on the other hand, Blair has just been presented with a Liberty Medal at the Constitution Center by none other than Bill Clinton, as reward for Blair's . . . wait for it . . . "steadfast commitment to conflict resolution." Only in America.
I haven't read Bliar's book (Bliar is the proper spelling) and I don't think I could be paid enough to do so. But I want to recommend a different book instead. Someone else who was part of the British government during the lead up to the War on Iraq has also just published a book. It doesn't have any cute stories in it about sitting in the wrong chair in the Queen's palace, but it does tell the truth about Blair's deadly lies, for which he should have been -- and nearly was -- impeached, and for which he should be prosecuted.
The book is "Failing Intelligence: The True Story of How We Were Fooled into Going to War in Iraq," by Brian Jones, the former head of the UK Defense Intelligence Staff's nuclear, biological, and chemical section. Jones was in charge of the type of claims that Blair used in his famously sexed up dodgy dossier to sell his nation on war. But Jones and his staff were cut out of the process. They were told that evidence existed that they could not see and would have to take on faith, evidence Jones still hasn't seen but which was "withdrawn" as inaccurate by the government after the war began.
Jones did not accept the mysterious evidence of "weapons of mass destruction" on faith. He formally registered his concerns with his superiors at the time. But he did not resign in protest or go public, either. Jones seems, from his book, to be a very cautious bureaucrat whose view of the world does not differ radically from the worldview of Bush or Blair. But he has come gradually, through a series of inquiries into the war lies, to understand that the lies were intentional and to speak out against them. Jones notes that the discussion at 10 Downing Street on July 23, 2002, recorded in the Downing Street Minutes, did not include any consideration of the security of Britain and seemed based on the premise that continued good relations with the United States was of greater importance than the risk of a terrorist attack.
Jones would never have sworn that Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction. He even finds the question lacking, pointing out how swiftly a nation can create and use biological or chemical weapons whether or not it currently has them, as long as it has the know-how, which Iraq did. But, contrary to what you might hear in the U.S. media, Jones -- the man in charge of this area in Britain -- did not have any evidence that Iraq did have biological, chemical, or nuclear weapons. In fact, Jones knew Iraq to be far from possessing nuclear weapons. And he said so, albeit privately and through approved professional channels.
"Now listen, Brian," he records his boss lecturing him, "I don't know what it is but you really seem to have a problem with authority, don't you? Decisions have been made, a position has been established and it is our responsibility as good civil servants to accept that and support the line as best we can."
Jones refused to go along, and he says that he tried to go public with his concerns following his retirement but before the invasion of Baghdad. Jones retired two months before the war began. "I thought it was important that the public should understand these differences [between various types of weapons conflated through the term "WMD"] and I drafted an article that explained them," Jones writes. "I was surprised that my request to Whitehall for clearance for me to submit it for publication was promptly approved. Unfortunately, no one wanted to publish it."
A version of that article, dated July 2003, is here:
You can see why nobody wanted to publish it. It does not blow the whistle on the war liars, explain how the experts were cut out of the process, or denounce the war. It presents itself as academic quibbling over the use of terminology. Jones' account of his gradual movement in the months and years following the invasion reads, at first, more as a profile in pusillanimity than courage. He literally has a weak heart and is concerned about his health during the stress of testifying to the Hutton, Butler, Chilcot and other inquiries. Asked at the Hutton Inquiry how he would have felt had his staff gone to the press with their concerns, Jones replied:
"I would have thought they were acting well beyond the bounds of what they should have been doing. I would have been very disappointed and very annoyed."
Never mind that over a million Iraqis might have been kept very much ALIVE. That concern never enters Jones' book. And yet, as he methodically recounts, he came to speak out in public inquiries and in the press about the corrupt process through which Bliar dragged Britain into a U.S. war of aggression. Jones lays the blame for his nation's role solidly on Bliar.
Now, it occurs to me that Washington, D.C., is crawling with respectable bureaucrats like Jones, none of whom have published a book like his. And it occurs to me that they are less likely to do so because of the climate in which they live. In Britain, there have been constant investigations since the war was launched. They have been limited and can in most cases accurately be characterized as white washes. They have not involved criminal prosecution. But they have been there. And those who have spoken up a bit have been lauded and encouraged to speak up a little more.
This climate, I think, has encouraged the leaking of all the official British documents through which we in the United States have learned about our own government's war plans. The activism of the Stop the War Coalition has been relentless, but -- unlike in the United States -- it has penetrated major media outlets. Producers and editors have urged Jones and others to make their information known and to publish books. We haven't seen a proposal in Washington to investigate the war lies since 2005 when the Democrats were lying about what they'd do if we gave them a majority in Congress. On the contrary, it is now popular in Washington to claim you supported the 2007 "surge" and knew Iraq would turn out to be a "good war" all along.
Jones' prescription for reform at the close of his book is a single intelligence agency with a single head answerable to the Parliament. As his book reveals in detail, just as in the United States, the tangled web of rival agencies in the UK is a liability. I agree with Jones' proposed reform, although I hardly think spying -- even when limited to spying, and excluding assassination and other tricks of the CIA -- has earned the moniker 'intelligence.' I'd be inclined to go with 'stupidity' for a while.
"Would you please share that piece of stupidity with the committee?"
"Is there a consensus on this point within the stupidity community?"
"I have the utmost respect for the views of our stupidity agents."
Et cetera.
More substantively, of course, we will only be able to "turn the page" to a page that looks sufficiently different when there are deterrents to the sort of abuses engaged in by Bush and Blair. Blair WAS, in fact, a single head of government answerable to Parliament, and Parliament failed to impeach him.
Now, if we could just begin enforcing the law and stop handing out medals.

Sunday, 12 September 2010

NATO - Civilian Casualties 'Possible'

I like the word 'possible' in this NATO statement as if such a thing were unthinkable:-

KABUL (Reuters) – NATO-led forces acknowledged on Sunday there could have been civilian casualties in an air strike this month that wounded an Afghan election candidate and was strongly condemned by Afghanistan's president. Civilian casualties caused by foreign forces hunting militants have long been a major cause of tension between Afghan President HamidKarzai and his Western allies.

On September 2, Karzai condemned an air strike in northern Takhar province which he said killed 10 campaign workers for a candidate in Afghanistan's September 18 parliamentary election.
He said the election candidate was also wounded in the strike, which happened the same day U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates landed in Kabul for unannounced talks. The pair appeared to disagree over the incident at a news conference.
At the time, Gates and the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) said the target had been a senior member of the al Qaeda-linked Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU).
On Sunday, ISAF said that an assessment team of officials from ISAF and Afghanistan's interior and defense ministries had concluded the IMU leader was in the vehicle hit in the strike "but could not rule out thepossibility of civilian casualties"."We are very confident that the targeted individual was in the vehicle struck by the air weapons team and was killed," Italian Army Brigadier General Luigi Scollo said in a statement released by ISAF.
"The question remains why an election official or candidate was traveling with a known terrorist," he said.
ISAF said the air strike had hit one vehicle traveling in a six car convoy and that an IMU senior member it identified as Muhammad Amin had been killed. A Taliban commander and other armed passengers had been in the vehicle, it said.
"Initial media reports indicated the vehicle struck was part of an election party," the ISAF statement said. "However, after reviewing the air weapons system video, the team saw no evidence of political campaign material on the outside of the vehicle."
It described the air strike as "selective, surgical and legitimate". (our comment - 'yeah, sure').