26.5.06

'Worst war crime' committed by US in Iraq

Telegraph | News | 'Worst war crime' committed by US in Iraq:

A US military investigation is expected to conclude that a unit of marines killed 24 civilians, among them women and children, in retaliation for the death of a comrade, reports published in America yesterday said.

If confirmed when the official findings are published next week the incident would be the worst war crime committed by US forces in Iraq.

Though on a smaller scale, it will inevitably spark comparisons with the massacre of up to 500 Vietnamese villagers at My Lai in 1968. Citing Congressional, military and Pentagon officials, the reports in US newspapers said investigators had unearthed a catalogue of abuses so serious it is likely an as yet unspecified number of marines will be charged with murder.

John Kline, the Republican Congressmen for Minnesota who is a retired marine colonel, was briefed on the findings. 'This was not an accident. This was direct fire by marines at civilians,' he told the New York Times. 'This was not an immediate response to an attack. This would be an atrocity.'

25.5.06

Karzai Visits Site of Battle Where Many Civilians Were Killed by Bush

Karzai Visits Site of Battle Where Many Civilians Died - New York Times:

The estimate of the civilian casualties Sunday continued to rise.

Abdul Qadar Noorzai, the head of the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission in Kandahar, who has been compiling numbers from families arriving at his office, said at least 33 civilians were killed when American planes bombarded Tolokan on Sunday. That would be double the number first reported.

According to the villagers' accounts, 24 members of one family who lived in a large mud-walled compound died and 8 were wounded in the first bombing attack, Mr. Noorzai said. In a second bombing, of a religious school, nine civilians were killed and three wounded, he said.

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The broader humanitarian crisis also seems to be worsening.

The United Nations World Food Program warned Thursday that 2.5 million Afghans would go hungry this winter if donors did not finance a program for the most vulnerable communities suffering from poor harvests and drought. A lack of funds has already forced the organization to cut some supplies, and it may have to close its winter program entirely, ending food assistance to 450,000 schoolchildren and their families, said Anthony Banbury, the regional director for Asia.

He warned at a news briefing that failure to keep the program could turn the people against the government and the international community, and push them into the arms of insurgents.

Iran offered 'to make peace with Israel'

Asia Times Online :: Middle East News, Iraq, Iran current affairs:

The two-page document contradicts the official line of the Bush administration that Iran is committed to the destruction of Israel and the sponsorship of terrorism in the region.

Parsi says the document is a summary of an even more detailed Iranian negotiating proposal that he learned about in 2003 from the US intermediary who carried it to the State Department on behalf of the Swiss Embassy in late April or early May that year. The intermediary has not yet agreed to be identified, Parsi said.

The negotiating proposal indicated clearly that Iran was prepared to give up its role as a supporter of armed groups in the region in return for a larger bargain with the United States. What the Iranians wanted in return, as suggested by the document itself as well as expert observers of Iranian policy, was an end to US hostility and recognition of Iran as a legitimate power in the region.

Before the 2003 proposal, Iran had criticized Arab governments that had supported the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. The negotiating document, however, offered 'acceptance of the Arab League Beirut Declaration', which it also referred to as the 'Saudi initiative, two-states approach'.

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The March 2002 Beirut Declaration represented the Arab League's first official acceptance of the land-for-peace principle as well as a comprehensive peace with Israel in return for Israel's withdrawal to the territory it had controlled before the 1967 war. Iran's proposed concession on the issue would have aligned its policy with that of Egypt and Saudi Arabia, among others with which the United States enjoyed intimate relations.

Another concession in the document was a "stop of any material support to Palestinian opposition groups (Hamas, Jihad, etc) from Iranian territory" along with "pressure on these organizations to stop violent actions against civilians within borders of 1967".

Even more surprising, given the extremely close relationship between Iran and the Lebanon-based Hezbollah Shi'ite organization, the proposal offered to take "action on Hezbollah to become a mere political organization within Lebanon".

The Iranian proposal also offered to accept much tighter controls by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in exchange for "full access to peaceful nuclear technology". It offered "full cooperation with IAEA based on Iranian adoption of all relevant instruments (93+2 and all further IAEA protocols)".

That was a reference to protocols that would require Iran to provide IAEA monitors with access to any facility they might request, whether it had been declared by Iran or not. That would have made it much more difficult for Iran to carry out any secret nuclear activities without being detected.

In return for these concessions, which contradicted Iran's public rhetoric about Israel and anti-Israeli forces, the secret Iranian proposal sought US agreement to a list of Iranian aims. The list included a "halt in US hostile behavior and rectification of status of Iran in the US", as well as the "abolishment of all sanctions".

Also among Iran's aims was "recognition of Iran's legitimate security interests in the region with according defense capacity". According to a number of Iran specialists, the aim of security and an official acknowledgment of Iran's status as a regional power were central to the Iranian interest in a broad agreement with the United States.

Ken Lay--Guilty. George Bush--Guilty.

Ken Lay--Guilty. George Bush--Guilty.:

The man who paid many of the biggest bills for George Bush's political ascent, Enron founder Kenneth Lay, has been found guilty of conspiracy and fraud almost five years after his dirty dealings created the greatest corporate scandal in what will be remembers as an era of corporate crime.

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Lay, who President Bush affectionately referred to as "Kenny-boy" when the two forged an alliance in the 1990s to advance Bush's political ambitions and Lay's business prospects, contributed $122,500 to Bush's gubernatorial campaigns in Texas. Lay would later explain to a PBS "Frontline" interviewer that, though he had worked closely with former Texas Governor Ann Richards, the Democrat incumbent who Bush challenged in 1994, he backed the Republican because "I was very close to George W."


Needless to say, once Bush became governor, Lay got his phone calls returned. A report issued by Public Citizen in February, 2001, months before the Enron scandal broke, identified Lay as "a long-time Bush family friend and an architect of Bush's policies on electricity deregulation, taxes and tort reform while Bush was Texas governor."

No wonder Lay had Enron give $50,000 to pay for Bush's second inaugural party in Austin in 1999 -- a showcase event that was organized by Karl Rove and others to help the Texas governor step onto the national political stage.

After Bush gave Enron exactly what it wanted in 1999, by signing legislation that deregulated the state's electrical markets, Lay knew he had found his candidate for president

When Bush opened his campaign, Lay opened the cash spiggots.

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Did all that giving pay off? You bet!

Lay was appointed as one of five members of the elite "Energy Department Transition Team," which set the stage for the Vice President Dick Cheney's energy task force and administration policies designed to benefit corporations such as Enron. A report on "Bush Administration Contacts with Enron," compiled at the request of Congressman Henry Waxman, D-California, by the minority staff of the Special Investigations Division of the House Committee on Government Reform, U.S. House of Representatives, found evidence of at least 112 contacts between Enron and White House or other Administration officials during the month prior to the corporation's very-public collapse in late 2001. At least 40 of those contacts involved top White House officials, including Vice President Dick Cheney, presidential advisor Karl Rove, White House economic advisor Lawrence Lindsey, White House personnel director Clay Johnson III, and White House energy task force director Andrew D. Lundquist.

As Waxman explained in a 2001 interview, "The fact of the matter is that Enron and Ken Lay, who was the Chief Executive Officer of Enron, had an extraordinary amount of influence and access to the Bush Administration. Lay was called a close friend by both the President and the Vice President. When the Vice President chaired an Energy Task Force, Ken Lay had an opportunity to meet privately with the Vice President and to have a great deal of influence in their recommendations."

Bush and his aides have worked hard since the Enron scandal broke to suggest that Lay was just another generous Texan. But the attempts to deny linkages to the now-convicted corporate criminal never cut water with Lone Star-state watchdog Craig McDonald, the director of Texans for Public Justice.

"President Bush's explanation of his relationship with Enron is at best a half truth," McDonald said after Bush first tried to distance himself from Lay and other Enron executives. "He was in bed with Enron before he ever held a political office."

As governor and president, Bush maintained that intimate relationship.

Now that his strange bedmate have been convicted of fraud, isn't it time for the president to end the fraud of claiming that he was ever anything less than a political partner of Lay and the Enron team?

A European Politician Visits Guantanamo: "Almost a Kind of Mental Torture"

A European Politician Visits Guantanamo: "Almost a Kind of Mental Torture" - International - SPIEGEL ONLINE - News:

Elmar Brok, a German member of the European Parliament from the conservative Christian Democratic Union party visited the United States prison camp at Guantanamo, Cuba earlier this week. In an interview with SPIEGEL ONLINE, he says conditions have improved but the general problem has not been solved: people are being locked away indefinitely and without trial.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Mister Brok, you've just visited the US detention camp in Guantanamo with three other members of the European Parliament and two members of the United States Congress. People whom the US administration views as possible terrorists have been held in Guantanamo for years. What's your impression?

Brok: The most striking thing is that a new prison is being built for $34 million and no one is thinking about closing anything down. By the way, the new prison meets the US's highest medical and hygienic standards -- but it doesn't have a single window. Not a single window! And when you consider that detainees have no prospect of being released or even of a proper trial, what you have, of course, is mental pressure -- almost a kind of mental torture.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: How did the US officials respond to your objections?

Brok: The US officials didn't understand our criticism. One reason is that normal US prisons don't aim to reintegrate detainees into society, but to punish them. Now this approach is being applied at Guantanamo. The reply to the question concerning the missing windows was this: It's no different in other modern prisons. US officials also explained to us that 20 percent of the detainees are already undergoing medical treatment because of the psychological situation.

22.5.06

Wired News: Whistle-Blower's Evidence, Uncut

Wired News: Whistle-Blower's Evidence, Uncut:

In a public statement Klein issued last month, he described the NSA's visit to an AT&T office. In an older, less-public statement recently acquired by Wired News, Klein goes into additional details of his discovery of an alleged surveillance operation in an AT&T building in San Francisco.

Klein supports his claim by attaching excerpts of three internal company documents: a Dec. 10, 2002, manual titled 'Study Group 3, LGX/Splitter Wiring, San Francisco,' a Jan. 13, 2003, document titled 'SIMS, Splitter Cut-In and Test Procedure' and a second 'Cut-In and Test Procedure' dated Jan. 24, 2003.

Here we present Klein's statement in its entirety, with inline links to all of the document excerpts where he cited them. You can also download the complete file here (pdf). The full AT&T documents are filed under seal in federal court in San Francisco.

Venezuela Considers Selling Oil in Euros

Venezuela Considers Selling Oil in Euros:

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez declared on Tuesday that Venezuela would consider putting the sale of its oil in Euros. His comments come after Iran had announced that it too is contemplating switching to the European currency.

“That was an interesting proposal made by the president of Iran,” Chavez told Channel 4 News in London. “We are also free to choose between the dollar and the euro. I think that the European Union has made a great contribution with the Euro.”

“In a way, what the President of Iran is saying… is recognizing the power of Europe, that they have succeed in the integration and have a single currency that competes with the dollar, and Venezuela can consider that, too, we are free to do that,” Chavez added.

According to the BBC, Iran announced earlier this month that they supported the creation of an “oil exchange that traded solely in Euros”. Experts have warned that such a conversion to the European currency could trigger central banks to convert their dollar reserves to euros, thus potentially worsening the already declining US currency.

Although the International Herald Tribune reported yesterday that the US dollar has rebounded this week from its recent lows against the Euro, it still stands at about $1.28 per Euro. The value of the Euro has grown substantially against the dollar since the two currencies were equal, just before the beginning of the US invasion of Iraq.

21.5.06

Bush Black-Shirts Threaten to Go After Reporters

Attorney General Threatens to Go After Reporters:

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said Sunday he believes journalists can be prosecuted for publishing classified information, citing an obligation to national security.

The nation's top law enforcer also said the government will not hesitate to track telephone calls made by reporters as part of a criminal leak investigation, but officials would not do so routinely and randomly.

Bush occupation of Iraq leads to Ethnic Cleansing

Independent Online Edition > Middle East:

The state of Iraq now resembles Bosnia at the height of the fighting in the 1990s when each community fled to places where its members were a majority and were able to defend themselves. 'Be gone by evening prayers or we will kill you,' warned one of four men who called at the house of Leila Mohammed, a pregnant mother of three children in the city of Baquba, in Diyala province north-east of Baghdad. He offered chocolate to one of her children to try to find out the names of the men in the family.

Mrs Mohammed is a Kurd and a Shia in Baquba, which has a majority of Sunni Arabs. Her husband, Ahmed, who traded fruit in the local market, said: ' They threatened the Kurds and the Shia and told them to get out. Later I went back to try to get our furniture but there was too much shooting and I was trapped in our house. I came away with nothing.' He and his wife now live with nine other relatives in a three-room hovel in Khanaqin.

The same pattern of intimidation, flight and death is being repeated in mixed provinces all over Iraq. By now Iraqis do not have to be reminded of the consequences of ignoring threats.

In Baquba, with a population of 350,000, gunmen last week ordered people off a bus, separated the men from the women and shot dead 11 of them. Not far away police found the mutilated body of a kidnapped six-year-old boy for whom a ransom had already been paid.