Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Some Thoughts At The End of 2010

Some observations from the last 12 months:
1. The Democrats in America must be the most ineffective 'liberal' party of all time. With record breaking majorities in both the House and the Senate, the Democrats struggled to achieve major policy breakthroughs -- and failed to effectively communicate to the American public the(domestic) breakthroughs they had made. Guaranteed healthcare for everyone? Actually not a bad thing, and not evidence of Nazi Communist conspiracy. Subsequently, the "yes we can" party took a hammering in the US mid-terms and the door of opportunity was slammed shut (although one could be forgiven for thinking that the Democrats had been missing the door and repeatedly walking into the frame.)
2. The frequency with which Iraq and Afghanistan occupation advocates and army groupies say we 'need to start.......' is breathtaking. 'We need to start looking at the politics as well the security situations....' This would be lame enough 6 months into the invasions. 10 years into the Afghanistan occupation it is truly mind-numbing. 
3. Obama and his administration constitute a principle-free zone. 'What is the media profile?' is the first take they have on everything. This is why Obama is a Blair clone rather than a Bush one. Nobody of any intellect expected anything from Bush. Conversely, Blair and Obama came in on waves of optimism which broke on a craggy, polluted beach of venality, spinelessness and spin.
4. The wedge between the Islamic world and the west has become wider/bigger in 2010 due to bonehead securocracy continuing to dominate the agenda of the US and it's toady partners (UK, France, Canada, Australia?, Sweden et al.)
5. We are witnessing the first death throes of US political and economic dominance in the world.  Roll on it's demise in the shadow of Chinese and South American confidence and ascent. They will fail too. But at least there may be a hope of something better than the vulgar,dumb venality which the US now represents on the global stage. Sarah Palin, The Religious Right,Sex In The City, Friends, The Hurt Locker, Fox News, Zioconservatism.......... 
A Happy New Year to all readers of Wolves In The City and Afghanistan War. We will prevail. See you in 2011.

Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Secret Jails Exist In Afghanistan - Justice Minister

Secret prisons exist in Afghanistan, but people should cooperate to identify them, said Afghan Justice Minister on Tuesday. 
Earlier reports have claimed that there was a secret jail at Bagram US airbase, but Habibullah Ghaleb Minister of Justice dismissed the allegations. He said there is a custody centre beside Bagram prison where prisoners are kept for two weeks for preliminary investigation.
Following a decree by President Hamid Karzai about covert prisons in Afghanistan, serious steps were taken and efforts are still being made to spot such illegal places.
"The specifications published by the media match with the detention centre in Bagram airbase. And based on penal codes a suspect should be confined before investigations are over," Mr Ghaleb said.
"I don't want to say [secret jails] do not exist at all, but to the extent of our reach and whenever we discover anything, we immediately take action," he further said.
A report by Open Society Institute based in New York had earlier spoke of a secret jail at US Bagram Airbase, in the north of Kabul, where it said prisoners are severely tortured and kept in solitary confinement.
Presently around 17,000 people are imprisoned in government jails including Bagram prison. It is said that Bagram jail will soon be handed over to the Afghan government. 

Nato Denies US Commanders Want Push Into Pakistan

NATO's deputy chief of communications, U.S. Rear Adm. Gregory Smith, said there was no truth to the report published in The New York Times.
Citing unnamed American officials in Washington, the Times reported on its website late Monday that U.S. military commanders believe special operations forces could capture militants for interrogation, bringing in an intelligence windfall.
"There is absolutely no truth to reporting in The New York Times," Smith said.
He said NATO and U.S. forces, along with their Afghan partners, have developed a  working relationship with the Pakistan military to address shared security issues.
"This coordination recognizes the sovereignty of Afghanistan and Pakistan to pursue insurgents and terrorists operating in their respective border areas," he said.
In Washington, a senior defense official also said the story was "not true." Two other Pentagon officials said it's no surprise that there would be commanders on the ground who think having the U.S. go after insurgents itself would be useful, but that the idea has not risen through the chain of command to a point where it is a formal proposal and being given serious consideration.
All three officials spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue for Washington-Islamabad relations.

Pakistan has firmly rejected any suggestion of U.S. assistance and has in the past sternly protested when the U.S.-led alliance had crossed the border into Pakistani tribal areas.On Sept. 30, Pakistan closed a key border crossing for 10 days, stranding NATO resupply trucks in an apparent protest over a NATO helicopter incursion that killed two Pakistani soldiers on the border. During the closure, almost 150 stranded trucks were destroyed by attackers.
The U.S. has mainly relied on unmanned drones to pursue al-Qaida militants based in Pakistan. A decision to deploy special operations teams would signal frustration with Pakistan's efforts to root out militants who use its territory as a base to support the Taliban and other extremists.
In response to the newspaper report, Pakistan's ambassador to the U.S., Husain Haqqani, said:"Pakistani forces are capable of handling the militant threat within our borders and no foreign forces are allowed or required to operate inside our sovereign territory. We work with our allies, especially the U.S., and appreciate their material support but we will not accept foreign troops on our soil — a position that is well known."

The Limits of US Power

Thanks to the Republicans’ gains in the mid-term elections, the Democrats will find it harder to push legislation through Congress in 2011. That means that if Barack Obama wants to make a mark in the coming year, he will have to do so in the wider world. But America’s power to get its way in the world is waning. And however lofty Mr Obama’s declared aims may be—moving towards a non-nuclear world, creating a “new global architecture”—he is going to have his work cut out simply avoiding disaster in the familiar snake pits of Afghanistan and the Middle East.
In the case of Afghanistan, the summer of 2011 will almost certainly bring a collision between Mr Obama and the Republicans, and maybe between the president and his generals. So far, he has hedged his bets on the “right” war (in contrast to the “wrong” one George Bush launched in Iraq). In 2009 he sent more troops to Afghanistan, plus a new general, Stanley McChrystal, armed with an ambitious new counter-insurgency strategy. But he also said that in July 2011 America would at least start to bring troops home. “Open-ended war”, he said in August 2010, “serves neither our interests nor the Afghan people’s.”

The president’s hope was that the new general, plan and troops would bring enough success to enable him to enter the presidential-election season of 2012 with the war winding down. But what if the war is still floundering? Come July 2011, the pre-planned troop reduction will then begin to look like an admission of failure. To avoid giving this impression, Mr Obama can be expected to hedge again, keeping some troops in Afghanistan but scaling down America’s goals. One possibility is that he will adopt an idea that Vice-President Joe Biden has pushed: give up on full counter-insurgency operations and hope that air power and special forces can stop al-Qaeda re-establishing itself in Afghanistan.Anything could happen in this game of nuclear bluff
In 2010 Mr Obama sacked General McChrystal and replaced him with David Petraeus, the general who plucked a semi-victory from the jaws of defeat in Iraq. This general will not want to preside over a semi-defeat in Afghanistan—and happens to be well-connected to the Republicans. If Mr Obama starts to pull out of Afghanistan in the summer of 2011 with the job unfinished, he may run into a concerted campaign by the Republicans and his own commanders to portray him as a man who lacks the spine for the fight against terrorism.
Another deadline of Mr Obama’s own making will arrive in 2011. When he persuaded the Israelis and Palestinians to resume peace talks last September, he suggested they should reach agreement within a year. This was a hostage to fortune. If he fails, one of his broader projects in foreign policy—repairing American relations with the Muslim world—will suffer a blow. But that project will be shattered altogether if America finds itself drawn into a military confrontation with Iran over the country’s nuclear ambitions.

The Israelis have been crying wolf over Iran’s nuclear plans for years, and nothing has happened. But that does not mean that the threat of war can be ignored. Mr Obama has said he will do his utmost to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. Much of his foreign policy since taking office has been conducted with that objective in mind. He “reset” relations with Russia in part so that he could push new sanctions on Iran through the UN Security Council. By his own admission, one aim of the Nuclear Security Summit he organised in Washington in 2010 was to give America the moral high ground on nuclear proliferation, the better to mobilise support against Iran.

So far, however, neither tighter sanctions nor the sabotage operations America and Israel are reported to be conducting have stopped Iran enriching uranium. The longer its centrifuges spin, the greater the danger of an Israeli strike, one that could well draw in the Americans. For what it is worth, recent signals suggest that in 2011 Iran will still be a year or so away from being able to muster enough fissile material, and in public the Americans have leaned heavily on Israel to give sanctions a chance. Besides, if there is to be a strike on Iran, Mr Obama would prefer to have the bulk of American troops in Iraq and Afghanistan out of harm’s way. Still, anything could happen in this game of nuclear bluff.
Avoiding disaster in Afghanistan and Iran will not leave Mr Obama much time for the rest of his global agenda. Most of that is anyway likely to be remedial rather than innovative. Mr Obama is keen to repair alliances neglected by Mr Bush. There will be special attention to emerging powers, such as Turkey and Brazil, that have shown signs of drifting out of the American orbit, and to allies in Asia who complain that Mr Obama paid excessive deference to China in his first year and a half. A tougher Mr Obama may be on show in 2011. But the world cannot fail to notice that this president’s power is unusually fettered, at home as well as abroad.

From The Economist

Monday, 27 December 2010

Deterioration In Afghanistan - UN Map Evidence

Internal United Nations maps show a marked deterioration of the security situation in Afghanistan during this year's fighting season, countering the Obama administration's optimistic assessments of military progress.
Two confidential "residual risk accessibility" maps, one compiled by the U.N. at the annual fighting season's start in March 2010 and another at its tail end in October illustrate the point above. The maps, used by U.N. personnel to gauge the dangers of travel and running programs, divide the country's districts into 4 categories: very high risk, high risk, medium risk and low risk.
In the October map, just as in March's, nearly all of southern Afghanistan—the focus of the coalition's military offensives—remained painted the red of "very high risk," with no noted improvements. At the same time, the green belt of "low risk" districts in northern, central and western Afghanistan shriveled.
The U.N.'s October map upgraded to "high risk" 16 previously more secure districts in Badghis, Sar-e-Pul, Balkh, Parwan, Baghlan, Samangan, Faryab, Laghman and Takhar provinces; only two previously "high risk" districts, one in Kunduz and one in Herat province, received a safer rating.
A Pentagon report mandated by Congress drew similar conclusions when it was released last month. It said attacks were up 70% since 2009 and threefold since 2007. As a result of the violence, the Taliban still threaten the Afghan government, according to the report. The White House's National Security Council declined to comment.
The director of communications for the U.N. in Afghanistan, Kieran Dwyer, said he couldn't comment on classified maps. But, he said, "in the course of 2010, the security situation in many parts of the country has become unstable where it previously had not been so. There is violence happening in more parts of the country, and this is making the delivery of humanitarian services more difficult for the U.N. and other organizations. But we are continuing to deliver."
U.S.-led coalition forces operate in Afghanistan under a U.N. Security Council mandate, and the U.N. works hand-in-hand with the coalition on building up Afghan government institutions. The Taliban have repeatedly attacked U.N. buildings and personnel, labeling the U.N. an instrument of American imperialism.
A senior coalition official, asked if security in Afghanistan has deteriorated this year, said that coalition forces "have taken the offensive and are making deliberate and steady progress, though progress right now is still fragile and reversible."
He highlighted advances in Kandahar, Helmand and around Kabul, and said that a new program to raise local police forces "will reduce the insurgents' ability to intimidate the population" in areas where regular troop density isn't sufficient to maintain security.
The assessments of the U.N. accessibility maps, based on factors such as insurgent activity, political stability, coalition operations and community acceptance, contrast with President Barack Obama's recent statements that hail the coalition's progress in the war.
"Today we can be proud that there are fewer areas under Taliban control and more Afghans have a chance to build a more hopeful future," Mr. Obama told American troops during a visit last month. Most of the 30,000 U.S. surge troops deployed this year were sent to the Taliban heartland in the southern Kandahar and Helmand provinces, where they have been able to capture key insurgent strongholds. Though no longer under uncontested Taliban control, most of these areas remain a war zone, with frequent shootings and bombings.

As the coalition focused on the south, the insurgents fanned out during the year to the north and the west. In recent months, the Taliban seized control in areas of dozens of districts in those previously secure parts of the country, taking advantage of the sparse international troop presence there.
Many non-government organizations operating in Afghanistan dispute that any progress has been made by the coalition this year. According to preliminary statistics compiled by the Afghanistan NGO Safety Office, which provides advice and coordination to NGOs working in the country, the number of insurgent-initiated attacks rose 66% in 2010 from the previous year.
"The country as a whole is dramatically worse off than a year ago, both in terms of the insurgency's geographical spread and its rate of attacks," said Nic Lee, director of the Afghanistan NGO Safety Office. "Vast amounts of the country remain insecure for the unarmed civilians. 
So much for Obama's rose-tinted 'review'. He reads out the Pentagon briefings as if they were factual.

Sunday, 26 December 2010

Anti US Protest In Shindland

(Ahlul Bayt News Agency) - On Saturday, the Afghan protesters chanted slogans in condemnation of the US-led foreign military presence in the country and demanded the swift release of an Afghan citizen detained earlier in the western province of Heart, IRIB reported.
The town's governor has confirmed the arrest of the unnamed civilian, saying that negotiations are underway to free the incarcerated citizen.
US forces have yet to comment on the latest episode in the region.
Thousands of civilians have lost their lives in attacks by US-led NATO forces occupying Afghanistan since 2001 in purported efforts to bring security to the war-ravaged nation.
The western military alliance often claims that their operations target militants, but most of their victims on the ground turn out to be civilians.
In face of the growing civilian casualties, the Afghan government has recently renewed calls for further measures to avoid civilian deaths during US-led military operations.
Civilian casualties have been a frequent source of tensions between Kabul and the US-led foreign forces. The United Nations says the death toll of Afghan civilians this year is 20 percent higher than in 2009, with over 2,400 civilians killed in the country from January to September.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in a newly released report that civilians continue to bear the brunt of intensified armed conflicts in Afghanistan. He pointed out that Afghan civilian casualties, including deaths and injuries, have increased by 20 percent in the first 10 months of 2010 compared to the same period last year.

Friday, 24 December 2010

Daily NATO Cock-Up Killings

Two Afghan security guards in Kabul are the latest victims. No word on the number of 'compound dweller' innocent victims so far for Friday.
More NATO Successes Chalked Up

Thursday, 23 December 2010

Frankie Boyle On Afghanistan

Frankie's in trouble again. On Tramadol Nights last night on Channel 4, referring to the war in Afghanistan, Boyle said: "Basically, we are murdering a load of shepherds. What gets me is our callousness as a society when we read out our dead on the news first, because our lives are more important. Other people's aren't worth as much."

He then adopted a newsreader's tone, saying: "A bomb went off in Kandahar today, killing two British servicemen, three UN relief workers and a whole bunch of Pakis."
The comic said later: "The Ministry of Defence? At least in the old days we were honest, it was the Ministry of War. 'Hello Ministry of War, department of nigger bombing, how can I help?'"
Not PC but there's more truth and authenticity in those remarks than in the whole of Obama's recent summary of 'progress' in Afghanistan in his review speech(see earlier posts).

'Inadvertent Deaths' By NATO In Afghanistan - Daily Bulletin

"While we take extraordinary care in conducting operations to avoid civilian casualties, unfortunately in this instance it appears innocent men were mistakenly targeted. We send our sincere condolences to their families and friends," said U.S. Air Force Col. James Dawkins, spokesman for NATO's International Security Assistance Force.
The victims of this helicopter attack were a policeman (good training for him) and the brother of a local politician. The NATO spin men must have bust a brain vessel as to how they could describe them as militants (or even 'compound dwellers')

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Obama Spoke To Cameron For A Full Half Hour!!

Karzai and Dave Ask Aides Who The Other Is
A Downing Street spokesman said: "The Prime Minister spoke to President Obama by phone for half an hour this evening.
"The discussion focused on Afghanistan. The Prime Minister began by reiterating his condolences on the death of (US envoy) Richard Holbrooke.
"The Prime Minister then welcomed the United States' whitewash review on Afghanistan and Pakistan. More Here.

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

A Christmas Carol For Peace

From Rudyard Kipling:

God rest you, merry gentlemen, and keep you in your mirth!

Was ever kingdom turned so soon to ashes, blood, and earth?

'Twixt the summer and the snow-seeding-time and frost

Arms and victual, hope and counsel, name and country lost!


Let down by the foot and the head
Shovel and smooth it all!
So do we bury a Nation dead 
And who shall be next to fall, good sirs,
With your good help to fall?

Nato Ends Year As They Began - 5 Civilians Killed

KABUL, Afghanistan – NATO said Tuesday it was investigating the deaths of five civilians who were killed when coalition forces returned fire against insurgents shooting from a compound in the Sangin district of Helmand.
The dead civilians were found after the exchange of fire, a NATOannouncement said. It did not say when the battle took place. NATO said the insurgents were using a civilian home to attack coalition forces.
According to NATO, the insurgents attacked its troops with assault rifles and a machine gun from the compound, and the soldiers returned fire and used mortars.
"This is a tragedy. We are aware that insurgents purposefully stage attacks against friendly forces using innocent civilians' homes," said U.S. Army Lt. Col. Patrick Hynes, director of the Combined Joint Operations Center.
The weasel words remain the same (no timings for the alleged attack, no details other than the civilian casualties, blame the Taliban for a Nato mortar attack on a village ('precision weapons', anyone?)

Monday, 20 December 2010

The Zombie War In Afghanistan

Stephen M. Walt is the Robert and Rene Belfer Professsor of International Relations at Harvard Kennedy School. He serves on the editorial boards of Foreign Policy, Security Studies, International Relations, and Journal of Cold War Studies.
Perhaps you noticed the following two headlines from last week's New York Times (print edition; the online headline is different):
Those two stories tell you a lot about the situation in Central Asia, especially when read in the context of the latest strategy review. Surprise, surprise: that review reaffirmed virtually all of the Obama administration's justifications for continuing the war, and offered just enough upbeat assessments to support a continued effort. At the same time, it provides just enough prophylactic pessimism to appear "realistic."
But what's missing in all this role-playing was a clear and convincing statement of costs and benefits. For all the talk of defeating al Qaeda (which isn't in Afghanistan any more), or preventing "safe havens," the administration scrupulously avoided the question of whether the money spent, lives lost, and presidential time consumed is worth it in terms of advancing core American interests. While parsing the evidence that it is making progress, the administration carefully avoids the question of whether the resources devoted to achieving something that might be defined as "success" are worth spending. Similarly, it avoids asking whether the costs of disengagement would be all that significant; it simply assumes that getting out would lead to catastrophe. So it just repeats the usual affirmations that "we must...." and "we will...." while avoiding the far more important issue of whether we should. Our German allies appear to have asked themselves that question, and come up with a different answer.
And the news that the United States intends to expand the war even further into Pakistan is especially worrisome. On the one hand, it suggests that the administration has figured out that it cannot ever win in Afghanistan so long as the Taliban have a safe haven across the border (and the tacit or active support of some key elements in the Pakistani military). But as Anatol Lievennotes in The Nation, unleashing additional violence in Pakistan could have long-term destabilizing consequences that would be far more significant than whatever ultimately happens in Afghanistan.
And it is hard not to see echoes of Nixon's decision to invade Cambodia in 1970, in a failed attempt to eradicate Viet Cong bases there. The two situations are hardly identical, but both illustrate the tendency for wars to expand in both the scope and extent of violence, especially when they aren't going well. You send more troops, but that doesn't turn things around. So you send a few more, and you widen the war to new areas. But that doesn't work either, so you decide you have to alter the rules of engagement, use more missiles, bombs, or drones, or whatever. Maybe that will work, but it's looking more and more like the strategic equivalent of the Hail Mary pass. And so we have the bizarre situation where the president who won the Nobel Peace Prize in his first year in office has now escalated the war twice, expanded the use of drones, and now intends to widen the war in Pakistan even more.
Let's not forget that the invasion of Cambodia in 1970 also helped destabilize that country, and helped usher in the brutal rule of the Khmer Rouge. I'm not predicting a similar outcome here, but that example is a cruel reminder that military force is a crude instrument whose ultimate effects are difficult to anticipate in advance.
Decades from now, historians will look back and wonder how the United States allowed itself to get bogged down in a long and costly war to determine the political fate of landlocked country whose entire gross national product is about a quarter the size of the New York city budget. And when they reflect on the fact that the United States did this even after a major financial collapse and in the face of persistent budget deficits and macroeconomic imbalances, they will shake their heads in amazement.

Sunday, 19 December 2010

Drones - Carnage By Remote Control

Change These Pakistanis Can Believe In.   
It may take years, but some researcher will travel to Pakistan's tribal areas and produce a definitive study on what it's been like to live amidst an aerial bombardment from American pilotless aircraft. When that account inevitably comes out, it's likely to find that 2010 — and especially the final quarter of 2010 — marked a turning point in how civilians coped with a drone war that turned relentless.  Even as the Obama administration's assessment of its war strategy nodded to the primacy of the CIA's drone campaign, Predators underscored the point. Over the past two days, four Predators or Reapers fired their missiles at suspected militants in North Waziristan, with three of the strikes coming early today. They represent a geographic expansion of the drone war. Today's strikes come in Khyber, an area abutting Afghanistan's Nangahar province, that's been notably drone-free. It has become an area for militants fleeing military action in South Waziristan to take succor. They also bring the drone-strike tally for this year up to 113, more than twice last year's 53 strikes. But those figures don't begin to tell the whole story. According to a tally kept by the Long War Journal, 58 of those strikes have come since September: There has been a drone attack every 1.8 days since Labor Day. LWJ's Bill Roggio says the pace of attacks between September and November (there was a brief December respite, now erased) is "unprecedented since the U.S. began the air campaign in Pakistan in 2004." (By contrast, in 2008, there were just 34 strikes.)Both Roggio and the New America Foundation have found that the overwhelming majority of this year's strikes have clustered in North Waziristan: at least 99, by Roggio's count.That torrid pace of attacks should make it beyond debate that the drones are the long pole in the U.S.'s counterterrorism tent, even if the drone program is technically a secret. The Pakistanis haven't sent their Army into North Waziristan to harass al-Qaeda's haven in the mountainous, Connecticut-sized region, waving off U.S. pressure to invade.
Without a ground force to rely on, the CIA argues, the only option for fulfilling the administration's goal of crushing al-Qaeda is a missile strapped to a surveillance aircraft. During the presidential campaign, Obama said he would pursue al-Qaeda in Pakistan unilaterally if he deemed the Pakistanis intransigent. No one expected he meant he'd do so from the skies. Of course, the Pakistanis have been the silent partner in the strikes, allowing the drones to fly from their territory, so it's not as if these are unilateral attacks.But no one knows whether a backlash is just around the corner. While most Pakistanis remain ignorant of the strikes, those in the tribal areas live literally in their shadow, and register enormous discontent, approving of retaliatory attacks on U.S. forces.
Reportedly, the CIA's top officer in Islamabad has fled Pakistan after a man from North Waziristan whose son and brother were killed in a strike filed a lawsuit against the agency.
There's no official or universally accepted figure of how many civilians have died as a result of the strikes, but New America pegs it at around 25 percent of all fatalities. Long War Journal's registry is more generous, claiming that 1,671 militants and 108 civilians have died in the strikes since 2006.
Then there's the question of whether the strikes are legal. Obama administration claims that the September 2001 congressional Authorization to Use Military Force in retaliation for 9/11 provides all the legal protection necessary for the strikes. Some lawyers and law professors, by contrast, think that the drones' remote pilots could eventually get hauled before a war-crimes tribunal.
A United Nations report urged Obama to rein in the drones, restricting them to attacks on the seniormost militants. He did the opposite.
Don't expect him to heed that warning in 2011 either. After reading the administration's war-progress report, The New York Times' David Sanger noted that background discussions with administration officials made it clear that next year "the pace will be picked up." The technology certainly enables it: The Predator is giving way to the Reaper drone, which carries a bigger payload; while weapons manufacturers are lightening the weights of air-launched precision missiles.
Independent accounts of what it's like to live under the shadows of the drones are still all-too-rare, especially in English. Given the amount of investment the Obama administration has in the drones, it's unlikely that the administration would listen.
However targeted the strikes may be, the hundreds of thousands of civilians in North Waziristan and the rest of the tribal areas live with the anxiety of the missiles overhead. How long can the U.S. avoid a reckoning?
Update, 10:43 a.m.: CIA spokesman George Little e-mails reporters about the station chief's departure: "Our station chiefs routinely encounter major risk as they work to keep America safe, and they've been targeted by terrorists in the past. They are courageous in the face of danger, and their security is obviously a top priority for the CIA, especially when there's an imminent threat." So there was a threat to the guy besides the lawsuit?
And Salon's eagle-eyed Justin Elliott reminds me that CIVIC (Campaign of Innocent Victims in Conflict) recently compiled an extensive report into civilians in Pakistani tribal areas caught between the drones, the Pakistani army and extremist groups. A sample: Civilian victims expressed anger at warring parties for their losses.

Swedish Smears Against Assange - Jon Pilger

I don't regard the Guardian article as revelatory but as more of what we know, plus scuttlebut. There are serious omissions. The impression is given that Julian Assange refused to attend a meeting with the Swedish director of prosecutions on 14 October. This is false. Assange offered to attend on the 15th and 16th. When these days weren't suitable, he offered a complete week instead.

What happened in Sweden was a public smear, and trial by Swedish tabloid media. The chief prosecutor, Eva Fine, understood this. After making her own inquiries, she cancelled the arrest warrant. "Julian Assange is not suspected of rape," she said. It was only the intervention of a leading political figure, Claes Borgstrom, that reactivated the case.

After the "crime", one of the women wrote on Twitter that she was with "the world's coolest smartest people". And when asked whether Assange should leave her flat, she replied, "No, it's not a problem. He's very welcome to stay here." Referring to their night together, she said that she "felt dumped" when he left her bed to work on his computer.

This may help to explain why Assange is not charged with any crime, and why the director of prosecutions has appeared so reluctant to provide the defence with documents. The first official document arrived on 18 November, three months after the alleged offences.

Whether or not the smear is a "CIA conspiracy", it is clear that Assange's name has been blackened. Also, the women's details have been hauled across the internet. And his very serious enemies in Washington have been hugely encouraged to pursue their vicious campaign against him. Meanwhile, we have the spectacle of the US Attorney General trying to concoct a specious law to prosecute Assange for revealing the lies and obsessions of rapacious great power, which, under the First Amendment in the land of Thomas Jefferson, is not a crime. He deserves all our support.

Saturday, 18 December 2010

Bradley Manning - Immolation 2010

Tonight Bradley Manning is being tortured and destroyed in a prison cell because he has been accused of trying to tell the truth about war that all so-called enlightened people know: it is brutalizing, senseless, futile and cruel. He is also being tortured in the hope that he can be used as an instrument to stop Julian Assange from telling the truth about war and the corruptions of power that all so-called enlightened people claim to know. 

Meanwhile, the man who last year received the world's most noted accolade the enlightened pursuit of peace is now expanding a senseless, brutal and futile war in one foreign land into another, where he has already killed hundreds of innocent people with cowardly bombs fired at defenseless villages from robot drones controlled by armchair warriors thousands of miles away. Another 54 people died from these assassinations just last night; it is claimed they were "militants," but no names were given, no evidence at all to back up these assertions -- and no real reason at all given as to why these assassinations and escalations must continue, on and on, for years, decades, perhaps generations, we are told. 

Empire Burlesque.

Missile Shield Plans Show Rift Between US, Europe and Russia


The leaders of the United States and Poland have met in Washington in a bid to disperse the new clouds which have settled over relations between those nations involved in planning a protective missile shield in Europe.

Poland's President Bronislaw Komorowski held talks on Wednesday with US President Barack Obama in the wake of new WikiLeaks revelations which showed Polish anger at Washington's abandoning of its original shield plans and its increasing cosiness with Russia.
Ahead of the talks, Prime Minister Donald Tusk announced that US treatment of Poland in negotiations over the shield had stripped his country of "all illusions" it had of its NATO ally.
Obama scrapped his predecessor's plans to base radar and interceptor missiles in Eastern European NATO member states back in 2009 as part of his campaign to "reset" relations with Moscow. Russia's objection to the deployment of missiles on its borders led to Obama modifying the plans last year, opting to deploy medium- and short-range missile interceptors in Poland instead.
At a NATO-Russia summit in Lisbon on Nov. 20, the two former Cold War foes agreed to cooperate on missile defense, a factor seen as crucial to improving relations. In response to NATO's approach, Russia agreed to cooperate with the alliance in Afghanistan.
The two sides are scheduled to begin discussions next week on how to link NATO's and Russia's separate systems to provide a joint shield aimed at protecting Europe against incoming missiles from rogue nations. A final viability study is expected in July 2011.
WikiLeaks reveals NATO plans to expand shield to Baltics
However, further revelations could ratchet up the simmering tensions at these negotiations. In addition to revealing Poland's fear of Russia and the widely held belief among NATO member states in the Baltics and Central Europe that Russia, their former ally, is their greatest security threat, the latest WikiLeaks cables also exposed NATO plans to extend the missile defense plan to include former Soviet states Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.
The documents also revealed that nine divisions of NATO troops would be involved in the protective deployment in the Baltics, including soldiers from the US, Britain, Germany and Poland.
The cables claim the expansion was prompted by fierce lobbying by the Baltic States and pressure from Poland for NATO to renew its commitment to its security. Germany was also named as being a major force in pushing through the expansion which has been accepted and integrated into NATO plans, according to media reports.
Signed by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the cables also detailed plans by NATO to keep the expansion secret as not to heighten tensions between the alliance and Russia.
Russia considers own security as missile deal sours
The revelations pertaining to the extended missile shield have bewildered and angered Russia just weeks after its breakthrough summit with NATO. Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said the latest leaks showed the "cynicism" of US foreign policy, while Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said any "additional threats" on its borders would be counteracted by Russian military deployments.
"The latest WikiLeaks revelations that NATO had drawn up a secret contingency plan for the defense of Poland and the Baltic States from potential Russian military aggression certainly raised some eyebrows in Moscow," Jan Gaspers, an expert on European Security and Defense Policy at the University of Cambridge's Center of International Studies, told Deutsche Welle.
"Selling the planned NATO missile defense shield as being exclusively directed against Middle Eastern rogue states and specifically Iran will now become even more difficult."
While both Medvedev and Putin claimed that the leaks were of "no consequence" and would not damage US-Russia relations, NATO's amendment of its missile shield ambitions has certainly put Moscow on alert.
"At the latest NATO summit in Lisbon, Russia was invited to take part in NATO's missile defense scheme," said Gaspers. However, he added that the hostile atmosphere at the OSCE Astana Summit at the beginning of this month had once again underlined how difficult cooperation between NATO and Russia on missile defense and transatlantic security more generally is likely to be.
"Russia agreed with the shield but added conditions by introducing a joint NATO-Russia threat assessment, which many NATO members are not keen on doing at all," Jana Kobzova, a Russia and Eastern Europe expert at the European Council for Foreign Relations, told Deutsche Welle.
Moscow hardens stance; Europe pushes for shield completion
Putin told CNN television that Russia would "ensure its own security" by deploying "new strike forces" and nuclear weapons on its borders with Eastern Europe should the shield go ahead without them. Reports in the US media suggest that Russia moved tactical nuclear warheads to within miles of its border with NATO states as recently as late spring in an apparent response to US-NATO missile defense installations in these neighboring countries.
"What was launched in Lisbon was a long process of negotiations between NATO and Russia," Kozova said. "Medvedev's and Putin's statements are aimed at increasing the stakes in these negotiations."

In Kozova's opinion the statements are also face-saving measures aimed at a domestic audience in the aftermath of the agreement in Lisbon. "The Russian public still perceives NATO as a Cold War adversary, and even though Russia agreed to closer cooperation with NATO, this does not mean that Russian politicians will change their rhetoric."
Experts believe that, even if Russia is left out and reacts belligerently, the missile shield will still go ahead with European powerhouses like Germany pushing the US and NATO to commit to securing the continent from external threats.
"However, this commitment will most likely be attached to further concessions on part of certain NATO member states in the sphere of nuclear disarmament," Gaspers said.
"Indeed, under the current coalition government, the struggle for a world free from nuclear weapons has become a core tenet of German foreign policy. Accordingly, a lot of Germany's NATO diplomacy in the months to come will continue to focus on this topic."
From German, Polish and Russian newsfeeds and sources.