Tomgram: Michael Schwartz, Why Bush Won’t Leave Iraq

November 30, 2007

Whoa, let’s hold those surging horses in check a moment. Violence has lessened in Iraq. That seems to be a fact of the last two months — and, for the Iraqis, a positive one, obviously. What to make of the “good news” from Iraq is another matter entirely, one made harder to assess by the chorus of self-congratulation from war supporters and Bush administration officials and allies, as well as by the heavy spin being put on events — and reported in the media, relatively uncritically.

An exception was Damien Cave of the New York Times, who had a revealing piece on a big story of recent weeks: The return of refugee Baghdadis — from among the two million or more Iraqis who had fled to Syria and other countries — to the capital. This has been heavily touted as evidence of surge “success” in restoring security in Baghdad, of a genuine turn-around in the war situation. In fact, according to Cave, the trickle of returnees, which had actually been lessening recently, has been heavily “massaged by politics. Returnees have essentially become a currency of progress.”

Those relatively modest returnee numbers turn out to include anyone who crossed the Syrian border heading east, including suspected insurgents and Iraqi employees of the New York Times on their way back from visits to relatives in exile in Syria. According to a UN survey of 110 families returning, “46 percent were leaving [Syria] because they could not afford to stay; 25 percent said they fell victim to a stricter Syrian visa policy; and only 14 percent said they were returning because they had heard about improved security.” And that’s but one warning sign on the nature of the story under the story.

A recent Pew Research Center poll of American reporters who have been working in Iraq finds that “[n]early 90 percent of U.S. journalists in Iraq say much of Baghdad is still too dangerous to visit” and many believe that “coverage has painted too rosy a picture of the conflict.” In an on-line chat, the reliable Thomas Ricks of the Washington Post (and author of the bestselling book Fiasco), just back from Baghdad himself, offered his own set of caveats about the situation. He suggested that, in addition to the surge of U.S. troops into the capital’s neighborhoods, some combination of other factors may help explain the lessening violence, including the fact that “some Sunni neighborhoods are walled off, and other Sunni areas have been ethnically cleansed. In addition, the Shiite death squads, in addition to killing a lot of innocents, also killed some of the car bomb guys, I am told.” Of the dozens of American officers he interviewed, none were declaring success. “[T]o a man, they were enormously frustrated by what they see as the foot-dragging of the Baghdad government.” And he points out that violence in Baghdad “is only back down to the 2005 level — which to my mind is kind of like moving from the eighth circle of hell to the fifth.” In 2005, or early 2006, of course, such levels were considered catastrophic.

Robert Parry of Consortium News points out that, while “good news” dominated front pages here, “the darker side” of “success” has “generally been shoved into brief stories deep inside the newspapers.” He adds that “the harsh repression surrounding the ‘surge’ has drawn far less U.S. press attention,” even as “Iraq steadily has been transformed into a more efficient police state than dictator Saddam Hussein could have ever imagined.”

Jim Lobe of Interpress Service interviewed surge “skeptics” who “argue that the strategy’s ‘ground-up’ approach to pacification — buying off local insurgent and tribal groups with money and other support — may have set the stage for a much bigger and more violent civil war or partition, particularly as U.S. forces begin drawing down from their current high of about 175,000 beginning as early as next month.”

Michael Schwartz, a Tomdispatch regular on Iraq these last years, takes up this changing post-surge landscape and what exactly it may mean for the Iraqis — and for us. Tom

Click here to read more of this dispatch.

DN!: Is CIA Fomenting Unrest to Challenge Chavez Referendum?//Fmr Black Panther Details Brutal Police Torture

November 30, 2007

* DN! is hiring *

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* Tens of Thousands Protest Chavez Proposals, Is CIA Fomenting Unrest to Challenge Referendum? *

In Venezuela, tens of thousands of protesters marched through Caracas Thursday to oppose constitutional changes proposed by President Chavez that come to a vote on Sunday. Citing a confidential memo, the Venezuelan government is claiming the CIA is fomenting unrest to challenge the referendum.


* Giuliani, Romney Clash Over Immigration at GOP Debate *

Immigration was the key issue at Wednesday night¹s Republican debate hosted by CNN and YouTube. Republican presidential hopefuls sparred over sanctuary cities, driver¹s licenses, border security and education. We play an excerpt of the debate.


* Former Black Panther Details Brutal Police Torture to Extract Confession in 1971 Murder Case

Two Nobel Peace Prize laureates are calling for all charges to be dropped against eight former Black Panthers arrested earlier this year for allegedly killing a San Francisco police officer over 35 years ago. Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Mairead Maguire said the charges against the San Francisco Eight should be dropped because the case is based in part on statements made under torture. Harold Taylor, one of the co-defendants, gives a detailed and powerful account of the abuse he endured while in police custody. We also speak with Ray Boudreaux, another of the San Francisco Eight as well as their attorney.


* Headlines for November 30, 2007 *

* Musharraf Gives Date for Lifting Emergency Rule

* Bush Warns of Pentagon Layoffs in War-Funding Row

* Iraqi Lawmakers Protest U.S. Treatment

* Philippine Officers Stage Failed Coup

* Thousands Rally Against Chavez-Backed Reforms

* Admin Ordered to Release Telecom Lobbying Docs

* Milwaukee Officers Sentenced Over Beating


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Greenhouse effect on Venus/Quebec & Kyoto/Global warming and world’s poor

November 29, 2007


The first data from the planetary probe Venus Express is helping scientists shape the story of how a young planet with everything needed to support life became instead a sulphurous, baking hell.



Quebec has distanced itself from the Harper government’s anti-Kyoto stance and will voice its dissent at an international climate-change summit next week, the government said.



Wealthy countries must provide at least $86 billion US to the world’s poor by 2015 to help them cope with the floods, droughts, disease and other negative effects from global warming, a new UN report says.




Pedophiles have significantly different brains than people without the condition, indicates new research, suggesting pedophilia may have physical causes.


Robert Parry: How to Get a Real Mideast Peace

November 29, 2007

If the key players were serious, there are strategies that might help bring about a meaningful peace deal between Israel and its Arab neighbors. But progress, after the Annapolis summit, would require different political dynamics in the Middle East — and in Washington.

To read the full story, go to

MidEast Dispatches: Detentions Escalate in Diwaniyah

November 29, 2007

Detentions Escalate in Diwaniyah

Inter Press Service

By Ali al-Fadhily*

DIWANIYAH, Iraq, Nov 27 (IPS) – Detentions have become commonplace in Iraq, but now more than ever before people are being detained after being accused of membership in “militias supported by Iran.”


“Hundreds of our men were detained and accused of being militiamen supported by Iran,” Mahmood Allawi, a 50-year-old lawyer from Diwaniyah, 160-kilomtres south of Baghdad, told IPS.

“We are Arab Shiite and Iran is as much an enemy to us as America! It is Iran that we fear most after our leaders were killed by the so-called ‘Iranian supported’ militias,” Allawi said.

There has been a spike in abductions being carried out by U.S. and Iraqi forces in Diwaniyah, capital of Iraq’s Al-Qadisiyah province and home to a population of roughly 400,000.

On Nov. 13, the International Committee of the Red Cross estimated that 60,000 people are currently detained in Iraq.

U.S. officials claim that the military has been actively fighting against members of the Mehdi Army militia of anti-occupation cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.

People here told a different story to IPS.

“If they mean the Mehdi Army then they know them well because they worked together for about two years now,” Abdul Kazem Hussein, a former Iraqi officer who fled to Baghdad from Diwaniyah recently told IPS.

Hussein claimed that the U.S. military had been using members of the Mehdi Army to carry out attacks on Sunnis in Baghdad, as well as areas south of Baghdad, like Diwaniyah.

“But they are detaining hundreds of people who have always been afraid of being drilled to death by Mehdi Army murderers,” Hussein explained, alluding to a practice used by Mehdi Army members of using electric drills to torture Sunni men they capture.

“They are detaining those who have not accepted the influence of Iran in the city,” Hussein said.

Bassam Al-Shareef, a spokesman for the Shiite party — Al-Fadhila — criticized the campaign and warned the Iraqi government of the consequences if the campaign against the Mehdi Army continues this way.

“We believe the government should take slower actions to contain the militias rather than lead such a harsh campaign,” Shareef told IPS in Baghdad.

The leaders of the Iraqi Army unit in charge of the crackdown — the Al-Baqir Brigade — said they are determined to conduct their offensive to the end.

“We will detain all suspects in Diwaniyah and chase those who fled to hide in the surrounding villages,” Colonel Othman of the brigade’s staff told journalists in Baghdad recently, “Our intelligence will lead us to all those who are wanted for questioning.”

The question of whether the offensive is targeting the Mehdi Army or the Arab Shiites in Diwaniyah was best answered by local politician Hassan Al-Mayali who recently fled to Baghdad.

“This offensive is targeting all those who do not follow Iranian Cleric [Grand Ayatollah] Ali Al-Sistani,” Mayali told IPS, “Americans, Iranians and the so-called Iraqi government felt the danger of those Shiites who rejected the influence of what they call the peaceful clerics and they are pressing hard to make them accept their leadership. Any Iraqi who does not keep his mouth shut will be detained or assassinated so that the separation plan and the ever lasting occupation will succeed.”

Many Iraqis interviewed felt sure that after the bombing of the Golden Shrines in Samarra in February 2006, the armed wing of the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council (SIIC) — the Badr Organization — worked with the Mehdi Army to kill thousands of Sunnis.

Millions were also displaced from their homes in cities of southern Iraq — including Baghdad.

“Muqtada sold us to Iran,” a former member of the Mehdi Army, speaking on condition of anonymity, told IPS in Diwaniyah.

“We are Arabs and the wave of killings conducted by us was committed for money paid by the Badr Organization and Iran. Now the Badr Organization is getting the American Army to help detain and kill us because we did not follow the orders given to us to kill our Sunni brothers,” the former Mehdi Army member said.

“We are still obeying the orders given by our leader Muqtada Al Sadr to maintain peace, but that will not be forever,” a member of the movement, speaking on condition of anonymity, in Sadr City in eastern Baghdad told IPS, “They [SIIC] are trying our patience and there will be a strong reaction if they do not stop their organized campaign against us.”

On Nov. 25, Abdul Aziz al-Hakim — the powerful Shia cleric who leads the SIIC — defended Iran against U.S. accusations that the country is involved in anti-U.S. attacks in Iraq.

“These are only accusations raised by the multinational forces and I think these accusations need more proof,” al-Hakim, the head of the largest Shiite party in Iraq, told reporters.

Al-Hakim has established ties with Iran and is one of its staunchest supporters in Iraq, but he also has been a major partner in U.S. efforts during the occupation.

(*Ali, our correspondent in Baghdad, works in close collaboration with Dahr Jamail, our U.S.-based specialist writer on Iraq who travels extensively in the region)

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Tomgram: Collins and Frantz, Pakistan’s Nuclear Wal-Mart in Its Infancy

November 28, 2007

There they go again. While Somalia burns at one end of “the arc of instability” (as Bush administration officials liked to call a swath of territory from North Africa to the Chinese border in the good old days before they thoroughly destabilized it), at the other end, the Taliban is now considered a “permanent presence” in more than 50% of Afghanistan and nuclear-armed Pakistan is in increasing chaos. As if that weren’t enough, Bush administration supporters and officials are already starting to plan for, or call for, more of the same when it comes to solving Washington’s problems — that is, militarizing them further. Various possible military interventions in Pakistan are now clearly going on the table. They range from sending American military trainers into Pakistan’s tribal areas to train a supposedly pro-government militia force to the mad suggestion that U.S. Special Forces extract Pakistani “nuclear materials and warheads” from that country and somehow ship them to New Mexico in the US of A.

That gem of a proposal, which appeared in a recent New York Times op-ed, is the bizarre stepchild of an American Enterprise Institute/Brookings Institution collaboration from the tag-team of Frederick Kagan and Michael O’Hanlon. As journalist Jim Lobe comments, “I have no doubt that their musings are indeed an indication of what is speeding to the top of the administration’s national-security agenda.”

The urge to militarize anti-nuclear-proliferation efforts has been at the heart of the Bush administration’s post-9/11 planning. The potential for “loose nukes” in Pakistan and the possibility of that country being a “ticking nuclear time bomb” for the proliferation of such weaponry is indeed unnerving. But journalists Catherine Collins and Douglas Frantz, who spent four years tracking the most sensational proliferation story in history — the troubling journey of the “father” of the Pakistani nuclear bomb, A. Q. Khan — for their just published book, The Nuclear Jihadist, provide a timely reminder of exactly how hopeless a military response to nuclear proliferation really is.

You just can’t launch a war against an underground global business, one that, until recently, the Bush administration showed a remarkable lack of interest in pursuing in more peaceful ways in Pakistan, including by questioning Khan himself. Any military “solution” to the Pakistani bomb crisis will undoubtedly prove as hopeless there as elsewhere. In the end, A.Q. Khan’s proliferation spree may be the most devastating horror story of the nuclear age. It’s also riveting, as Collins and Frantz show us, using private letters that Khan exchanged with a Canadian-Pakistani friend and collaborator. Tom

The Proliferation Game

How the World Helped Pakistan Build Its Bomb
By Catherine Collins and Douglas Frantz

Globalization, what a concept. You can get a burger prepared your way practically anywhere in the world. The Nike Swoosh appears at elite athletic venues across the United States and on the skinny frames of t-shirted children playing in the streets of Calcutta. For those interested in buying an American automobile — a word of warning — it is not so unusual to find more “American content” in a Japanese car than one built by Detroit’s Big Three.

So don’t kid yourself about the Pakistani bomb. From burgers to bombs, globalization has had an impact. Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal — as many as 120 weapons — is no more Pakistani than your television set is Japanese. Or is that American? It was a concept developed in one country and, for the most part, built in another. Its creation was an example of globalization before the term was even coined.

Click here to read more of this dispatch.

Release: Groups shut out of public hearings on new security certificate law

November 28, 2007

Groups outraged at being shut out of public hearings on new security certificate legislation

Conservatives accused of forcing Bill C-3 through Parliament despite broad public opposition

Ottawa, 27 November 2007 – Groups who have been on the forefront of the campaign against security certificates are demanding an opportunity to be heard in public hearings on the proposed new legislation, Bill C-3. The request was made in a strongly-worded letter (see below or sent today to the Parliamentary Committee charged with reviewing C-3. The letter accused the Conservative government of attempting to force the unpopular bill through Parliament without public debate.

Community organizations and human rights groups are normally allowed to comment on proposed legislation before it is adopted. However, groups who applied to the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security were informed on Friday that the application process had closed. It closed on Thursday, less than two days after the bill was referred.

“We were more than disappointed to learn that we are being denied the opportunity to appear before the standing committee,” said Adil Charkaoui, whose constitutional challenge led to the Supreme Court ruling in February.

“It is shocking that no Muslim community association, none of the groups who work directly with the detainees – Justice for Mohamed Harkat Committee (Ottawa), the Coalition Justice for Adil Charkaoui (Montreal) and the Campaign against Secret Trials in Canada (Toronto) – no family members, and none of the detainees’ lawyers are being given a chance to respond,” said Mary Foster of the Coalition Justice for Adil Charkaoui. “They have the most intimate knowledge of these cases, they are the most immediately affected.

They are in a position to speak about the serious social consequences to targeted communities. They brought the issue to the attention of the public.

But now they are being shut out and silenced.”

International organizations such as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and CAIR-CAN, all of whom have actively engaged on the issue for years, are also absent from the witness list.

“This is a matter of an undemocratic law being forced through Parliament in an undemocratic manner,” stated Marie-Ève Lamy, of the Coalition Justice for Adil Charkaoui. “The addition of this special advocate changes nothing. If they succeed in forcing through C-3, we will be in essentially the same position as before the Supreme Court decision: secrecy, no fair trial, indefinite detention, house arrest and deportation to torture on the basis of suspicion … It’s outrageous.”

“The Conservatives have created a false emergency which is serving to silence opposition. Where is the emergency? They are simply fear-mongering, trying to scare the public and opposition parties into accepting a new security certificate without debate,” said Lamy. “Let’s recall that the government has had since last February, when the Supreme Court decided to leave this illegal law in place for another year. Why did the Conservatives leave it until the last minute? Why are they pretending that they can’t ask the Court for an extension, as has been done in the past? This is a kind of bullying that cannot be tolerated in a democracy.”

“Bill C-3 raises issues of profound importance for Canadian society. It directly affects the fundamental rights of tens of thousands of people living in Canada who don’t have citizenship, and has far-reaching consequences for all of us,” said Foster. “Yet it is being railroaded through Parliament at a pace that allows for no serious opposition. Why? Are the Conservatives afraid of an open and democratic discussion on this issue?”

Community organizations in Montreal and elsewhere are responding by organizing a popular day of action against the new security certificate on Friday, 7 December. Visits will be organized to the riding offices of MPs who voted for the new law at second reading, to deliver a strong message that C-3 is not wanted by their constituents.


Coalition Justice for Adil Charkaoui; Campaign to Stop Secret Trials in Canada