Tomgram: Scahill, A Democratic Sell-out on Bush’s Mercenaries

April 30, 2007

Let’s be clear about what it is — when it comes to “withdrawal” from Iraq — that the President will veto this Wednesday. Section 1904(b) of the supplemental appropriations bill for the Pentagon, H.R. 1591, passed by the House and Senate, mandates that the Secretary of Defense “commence the redeployment of the Armed Forces from Iraq not later than October 1, 2007, with a goal of completing such redeployment within 180 days.” If you’ve been listening to network TV news shows or reading your local newspaper with less than an eagle eye, you might well be under the impression that — just as the phrasing above seems to indicate — a Democratic-controlled Congress has just passed a bill that mandates a full-scale American withdrawal from Iraq. (Reporters and commentators regularly speak of the Democrats’ insistence that “American troops be withdrawn from Iraq.”) But that’s only until you start reading the exceptions embedded in the bill.

Here are the main ones. According to H.R. 1591, the Secretary of Defense is allowed to keep U.S. forces in Iraq for the following purposes:

1. “Protecting American diplomatic facilities and American citizens, including members of the United States Armed Forces”: This doesn’t sound like much, but don’t be fooled. As a start, of course, there would have to be forces guarding the new American embassy in Baghdad (known to Iraqis as “George W’s Palace”). When completed, it will be the largest embassy in the known universe with untold thousands of employees; then there would need to be forces to protect the heavily fortified citadel of the Green Zone (aka “the International Zone”) which protects the embassy and other key U.S. facilities. Add to these troops to guard the network of gigantic, multibillion dollar U.S. bases in Iraq like Balad Air Base (with air traffic volume that rivals Chicago’s O’Hare) and whatever smaller outposts might be maintained. We’re talking about a sizable force here.

2. “Training and equipping members of the Iraqi Security Forces”: By later this year, U.S. advisors and trainers for the Iraqi military, part of a program the Pentagon is now ramping up, should reach the 10,000-20,000 range (many of whom — see above — would undoubtedly need “guarding”).

3. “Engaging in targeted special actions limited in duration and scope to killing or capturing members of al-Qaeda and other terrorist organizations with global reach”: This is a loophole of loopholes that could add up to almost anything as, in a pinch, all sorts of Sunni oppositional forces could be labeled “al-Qaeda.”

An Institute for Policy Studies analysis suggests that the “protection forces” and advisors alone could add up to 40,000-60,000 troops. None of this, of course, includes U.S. Navy or Air Force units stationed outside Iraq but engaged in actions in, or support for actions in, that country.

Another way of thinking about the Democratic withdrawal proposals (to be vetoed this week by the President) is that they represent a program to remove only U.S. “combat brigades,” adding up to perhaps half of all U.S. forces, with a giant al-Qaeda loophole for their return. None of this would deal with the heavily armed and fortified U.S. permanent bases in Iraq or the air war that would almost certainly escalate if only part of the American expeditionary forces were withdrawn (and the rest potentially left more vulnerable).

Click here to read more of this dispatch.


Ceasefire.ca Internet Campaign Calls for O’Connor and Hillier to be Fired

April 30, 2007

Media Release

For immediate Release

April 26, 2007

Ceasefire.ca Internet Campaign Calls for O’Connor and Hillier to be Fired

(Ottawa) The online advocacy web site, Ceasefire.ca, has launched a campaign using the latest Internet tools to give voice to Canadians who want Prime Minister Stephen Harper to fire Defence Minister Gordon O’Connor and Chief of Defence Staff General Rick Hillier over the reported torture of Afghan detainees.

Ceasefire.ca is distributing an eCard to its 15,000 supporters today linked to the web site where people can sign and send a letter to the Prime Minister. The campaign is also using Facebook and YouTube to extend its reach to potentially millions of Canadians.

“Canadians are shocked by the reports of torture and the cover-up, and they want the government to hear it,” said Steven Staples, Director of the Ottawa-based Rideau Institute and founder of Ceasefire.ca. “Keeping O’Connor and Hiller in their positions is an affront to Canadians’ respect for international law.”

The web site will add the voice of citizens to many others calling for O’Connor’s dismissal, including political leaders and editorialists. Even some senior Conservatives are quietly expressing concerns, according to reports.

A poll released today by the Strategic Counsel shows that twice as many Canadians want the troops brought home as soon as possible (46%), than those who want the troops to stay as long as it takes to rebuild the nation (24%).

The Ceasefire.ca web site is a project of the Rideau Institute, a public policy research and advocacy organization based in Ottawa.

(30)

Contact: Steven Staples, Rideau Institute 613 565-9449 cel 613 290-2695

Steven Staples

Director

Rideau Institute

30 Metcalfe Street, Suite 500

Ottawa, Ontario K1P 5L4

CANADA

t. 613 565-9449 (direct)

c. 613 290-2695

e. sstaples@rideauinstitute.ca

w. http://www.rideauinstitute.ca

YouTube: http://youtube.com/profile?user=rideauinstitute

The Rideau Institute on International Affairs is

a policy research and advocacy group based

in Ottawa. It provides independent research,

analysis and commentary to decision makers,

opinion leaders and the public.

 

Take action:

http://www.ceasefire.ca/site/pp.aspx?c=afLJJWOuHkE&b=1068135


A child at Guantanamo

April 30, 2007

While the press this week focused on the torture of detainees, Amnesty International report on the plight of a Canadian child tortured and to be tried by a kangaroo court at Guantanamo was forgotten. See Mike Wallace’s blog at:

http://ceasefireinsider.wordpress.com/tag/mike-wallace/


America’s Iraq reconstruction program

April 30, 2007

This NYT article highlights some of the Bush regime’s reconstruction failures in Iraq.  It is good to see this deplorable situation finally get some mainstream press attention:

Rebuilt Iraq Projects Found Crumbling
New York Times – By James Glantz – Apr 29, 2007 – Full Story


The United States has previously admitted, sometimes under pressure from federal inspectors, that some of its reconstruction projects have been abandoned, delayed or poorly constructed. But this is the first time inspectors have found that projects officially declared a success — in some cases, as little as six months before the latest inspections — were no longer working properly….At the airport, crucially important for the functioning of the country, inspectors found that while $11.8 million had been spent on new electrical generators, $8.6 million worth were no longer functioning. More »


Toronto: OCAP ‘Gimme Shelter’- June 18th

April 30, 2007

Gimme Shelter!

Takeover and Sleep Out at Nathan Phillips Square

Monday June 18 – Tuesday June 19 2007

* Dinner on Monday Night at 6:00pm

* Breakfast Tuesday Morning at 9:00am

The “progressive” majority on City Council want us to buy Streets to Homes as the solution to the housing crisis and to the problems of poor communities in general. The City needs everyone to accept that people are finding housing; otherwise we might start to wonder why less new housing is being built than even what the City itself says we need. We might question why that same “progressive” majority banned people from sleeping in Nathan Phillips Square two years ago. We might start worrying about the 300 shelter beds due to shut down in the downtown east-end. We might get angry about the cuts to services providing people with food, shelter, health care and other necessities.

The facts on the ground are that Streets to Homes is about moving people out of the downtown into private market housing spread across the city where they will be cut off from social networks, services and most importantly where they will not be visible. The Streets to Homes program is about creating the illusion that homelessness is solved even before any new housing gets created. This illusion is then used as a pretext for shutting down essential services.

Streets to Homes and the shelter and service cuts that come with it must be fought!

This June as City Council meets and the City prepares for the summer festival season OCAP will host a Community camp-out and re-occupation of Nathan Phillips Square. In the morning City Council will hear loud and clear the truth about Streets to Homes and their program of social cleansing.

Please Get Involved!

We need:

– Endorsements and Organizations to participate

– Sleeping Bags, Mats, Tents and Other Camp-Out Gear

– Performers and film enthusiasts to help out with the overnight entertainment

For more information call OCAP at 416 925 6939

**

Ontario Coalition Against Poverty

10 Britain St. Toronto, ON M5A 1R6

416-925-6939 ocap@tao.ca www.ocap.ca

**


MidEast Dispatches: Tensions Run High After Sunni Killings

April 30, 2007

Tensions Run High After Sunni Killings

Emile_Lahoud_president_of_Lebanon_1363_t.jpgInter Press Service
Dahr Jamail

BEIRUT, Apr 27 (IPS) – The killings of two pro-government Sunni Muslims has raised tensions across Lebanon. Rival political leaders have called for calm amidst fear that the killings could spark civil strife.

 

The Lebanese police found the bodies Thursday of a pro-government supporter and a 12-year-old boy abducted earlier this week. The abduction was believed to be in retaliation for the killing earlier this year of a Shia Muslim opposition activist.

The bodies of 25-year-old Ziad Qabalan and 12-year-old Ziad Ghandour were found 40km south of Beirut in a field north of the port city of Sidon. Ghandour’s father and Qabalan are members of the Progressive Socialist party of pro-government Druze leader Walid Jumblatt.

The two had been kidnapped Monday, inflaming the already high sectarian tensions in this small country of four million people with 18 religions. Tensions have been running particularly high between Shia and Sunni Muslims.

Lebanese media reported that the two were kidnapped by members of the Shia Shamas clan who had vowed to avenge the killing of a member in clashes at the Beirut university campus in January. The clan, however, condemned the kidnapping in a statement Wednesday, and distanced itself from the abduction.

Emile_Lahoud_president_of_Lebanon_1363_p.jpgLebanese President Emile Lahoud said the killing was carried out after “conspirators and outside powers” failed to drive his country into internal confrontation.

“The recent killing is the same as what happened in 1975,” Lahoud told IPS at the presidential palace in Beirut. “They want civil war here, but we won’t allow it.”

The 1975 incident the President referred to occurred Apr. 13 of that year when unidentified gunmen fired on a church in the Christian east Beirut suburb Ain el- Rummaneh, killing four people, including two Maronite Phalangists. The Phalange is a large Christian militia.

Hours later, Phalangists killed 27 Palestinian civilians in a bus in the same suburb.

That was the trigger for the infamous 15-year Lebanese civil war, which left an estimated 100,000 dead, as many seriously injured, and nearly a million displaced from their homes.

When asked who “they” were who want a Lebanese civil war, Lahoud told IPS, “It’s always foreign interventions trying to create strife in Lebanon, and it’s always the Lebanese who suffer. But I’m proud that the leaders of all groups here are united in urging calm and condemning the killing.”

Lahoud’s office issued a statement urging Lebanese people to be alert to conspiracies, and to stop anyone trying to play dirty. Past experience has shown that all confrontations followed provoking incidents, the statement said.

Lahoud requested that firm security measures be taken to prevent “any repercussions of this deplorable incident.” As a result, all universities in Beirut were closed Friday, and the Lebanese army deployed in mixed neighbourhoods. Extra security checkpoints were set up throughout the city.

Prime Minister Fouad Siniora who described the incident as a terrorist act, also appealed for calm. The powerful Shia group Hezbollah led by Hassan Nasrallah also condemned the killings.

Many Lebanese people sounded united in wanting the situation to be defused in order to avoid any escalation.

“With Nasrallah and Jumblatt calling for calm, this has defused the tension a good deal,” Hamzah Tahan, a taxi driver in Beirut told IPS. “But before they called for calm, we were all afraid.”

Tahan said he believed these were revenge killings, but “carried out by simple thieves.”

Many blame the current U.S.-backed government of Siniora and his allies like Saad Harriri and Walid Jumblatt for creating a difficult situation.

“Outside forces helped create the current political tensions which may have led to these killings,” 32-year-old English language teacher Raed el-Amine told IPS. “The pro-government groups are more responsible for this because they’ve focused more on disunity by playing the sectarian game.”

Sporadic violence between the mainly Sunni, Druze and Christian ruling coalition and the mainly Shia and Christian opposition has killed at least eight people since the opposition launched a peaceful street campaign last year to topple the government. Each incident has raised the tensions higher, as did the events that had led to Lebanon’s civil war.


_______________________________________________
*** Think Dahr’s work is vital? We need your help. It’s easy! http://dahrjamailiraq.com/donate/ ***(c)2007 Dahr Jamail.
All images, photos, photography and text are protected by United States and international copyright law. If you would like to reprint Dahr’s Dispatches on the web, you need to include this copyright notice and a prominent link to the http://DahrJamailIraq.com website. Website by photographer Jeff Pflueger’s Photography Media http://jeffpflueger.com . Any other use of images, photography, photos and text including, but not limited to, reproduction, use on another website, copying and printing requires the permission of Dahr Jamail. Of course, feel free to forward Dahr’s dispatches via email.

More writing, commentary, photography, pictures and images at http://dahrjamailiraq.com.


MidEast Dispatches: One Unexploded Bomb Per Person

April 30, 2007

One Unexploded Bomb Per Person

Naurits_De_Nuer_displays_the_M260_fuze_from_the_MK_83_bomb_that_he_deactivated_1361_t.jpgInter Press Service
Dahr Jamail

SRIFA, Southern Lebanon, Apr 27 (IPS) – Close to a million unexploded bombs are estimated to litter southern Lebanon, according to UN forces engaged in the hazardous task of removing them.

 

We recommend that you read the story online. For captions and more photos, click on any image.

The United Nations Interim Force In Lebanon (UNIFIL) was created by the Security Council in 1978 to confirm an Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon and restore international peace and security. After the war last year it has a new job on its hands.

Naurits_De_Nuer_displays_the_M260_fuze_from_the_MK_83_bomb_that_he_deactivated_1361_p.jpgFollowing the July-August war between Israel and the Hezbollah in Lebanon, UNIFIL enhanced its force and took on new tasks such as monitoring the cessation of hostilities and removing untold numbers of unexploded missiles, mines and cluster bombs.

Most of these lie in southern Lebanon, which took the brunt of bombings from Israeli warplanes.

Lebanon has a population of four million, close to half of it in capital Beirut. Given the population distribution, there could be almost as many unexploded bombs as there are people in southern Lebanon.

“Between 10-40 percent of the cluster bombs do not explode on impact,” a lieutenant who gave his name as Verbeke, with the Belgian contingent of UNIFIL, told IPS at the site of a 500kg unexploded bomb in Srifa, a little town near the border. “Sometimes they get stuck in trees or bushes, and there are Lebanese people being injured or killed by them nearly every single day.”

Israeli warplanes roared overhead as he spoke, in clear violation of the ceasefire agreement brokered between Lebanon and Israel.

Verbeke pointed to one of his Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) teams in action. The fuse of the 500kg bomb was removed and detonated, leaving the weapon harmless. It was then loaded onto a UN truck, and carried to a detonation site, to be exploded there out of harm’s way.

Lebanese living nearby are grateful for such efforts.

“The UN is doing great work here,” Wissam Mousawi, a construction worker who lives near the site of this unexploded bomb told IPS. “They are really fantastic.”

Israel_dropped_this_MK_83_bomb_near_Srifa_Lebanon_1356_p.jpgBut this was just one small success. According to the Belgians as many as 800,000 unexploded ordnance (UXO), and possibly more, still remain. Meanwhile, scores of Lebanese civilians have died from contacting cluster bombs. More than 200 have been wounded, most of them severely.

“We are clearing approximately 50 square metres of land per day,” the chief of the Beligian engineers detachment who gave his name as Lt. Col. Watteeuw told IPS back at their base. “The UN Mine Action Coordination Centre manages 60 de-mining teams working throughout the south. Many are UNIFIL teams, but most are private contracting companies.”

When asked if they had received any information to assist in locating the munitions from Israel, Watteeuw said, “That’s a good question, but you would have to go 20km south of here (into Israel) to obtain that information.”

He estimates it would take “probably more than three to five years” to clear southern Lebanon of what he estimates to be 900 air and artillery strike areas. But that would still only be the flat areas, and not include hills and other areas where munitions have yet to be found.
UN_Belgium_Explosive_Ordnance_Disposal_EOD_team_clearing_a_field_of_cluster_bomb_submunitions_1359_p.jpgWatteeuw said his teams are finding hundreds of thousands of unexploded cluster bombs, along with smaller numbers of grenades, artillery rounds, anti-personnel mines, anti-tank mines and bombs of all varieties.

Thus far, civilian contractor teams have cleared approximately 110,000 UXO, and UNIFIL teams like the Belgian teams the colonel oversees, approximately 25,000.

“In Belgium we’ve cleared 100 tonnes of UXO on average every year since World War I,” he added. “So this could take a long time.”

Teams from China, France, Italy, Finland, Ireland, Turkey and Spain are also engaged in clearing unexploded bombs.

Much of the population in the south relies on tobacco, vegetable and fruit farms to make their living. With UXO littering countless fields, many are unable to work.

Local people in affected areas continue to be anxious about further Israeli aggression against them, even as they re thankful to the UN.

Two_seventeen_year_old_students_in_Arzoun_Lebanon_1358_p.jpg“I think it’s a good thing for UNIFIL to help us get our land back,” Mohammed Kundoulay, a 17-year-old secondary school student in the area told IPS. “We need this help now after the Israelis conducted terrorism against us.”

Kundoulay hid with his family in their home during the first 10 days of the war before fleeing to Beirut.

Anther student, Jaffar Assaf, told IPS that the UN de-mining teams were doing a great job, but was angry at what he called double standards.

“We hope the UN maintain their criteria in helping us now and help to defend us from Israel,” he said. “In reality, the UN should be in Israel to defend us from them, since they were the ones who invaded Lebanon, not vice versa.”

UNIFIL maintains a presence in southern Lebanon, and not in Israel, although the forces carry out helicopter patrols over the tense border area.


_______________________________________________
*** Think Dahr’s work is vital? We need your help. It’s easy! http://dahrjamailiraq.com/donate/ ***(c)2007 Dahr Jamail.
All images, photos, photography and text are protected by United States and international copyright law. If you would like to reprint Dahr’s Dispatches on the web, you need to include this copyright notice and a prominent link to the http://DahrJamailIraq.com website. Website by photographer Jeff Pflueger’s Photography Media http://jeffpflueger.com. Any other use of images, photography, photos and text including, but not limited to, reproduction, use on another website, copying and printing requires the permission of Dahr Jamail. Of course, feel free to forward Dahr’s dispatches via email.

More writing, commentary, photography, pictures and images at http://dahrjamailiraq.com