U.S. ‘Totally’ at Risk of ‘Great Depression No. 2′

Cramer: ‘Dysfunctional’ Banking System Puts U.S. ‘Totally’

at Risk of ‘Great Depression No. 2′
CNBC host promotes taxpayer-funded federal bailout and Fed interest rate cut to stem financial problems.

By Jeff Poor

The fragility of the U.S. banking system puts the country in a more dire position than many people realize according to CNBC “Mad Money” host Jim Cramer.

Cramer, in his September 11 “Stop Trading” segment on CNBC’s “Street Signs” told host Erin Burnett the situation puts the United States in danger of “Great Depression, No. 2.”

Burnett questioned Cramer’s assertion that banks should be bailed out by the federal government, in turn passing the cost off to the taxpayer. “It’s obvious the bank system is falling apart,” Cramer said. “Let’s save it before it goes to zero.”

Here is the blow by blow:

BURNETT: But, what I’m writing down is some numbers here – more broadly for the state of, of, of bailouts. You had the Bear [Stearns] bailout and they guaranteed the first $30 billion. We don’t know what the costs will be. Fannie and Freddie – numbers are all over the map, no one knows – $50 billion to $500 billion.

CRAMER: We don’t want a Great Depression, what’s the matter with that? We don’t want a Great Depression.

BURNETT: But OK, then you look at a Washington Mutual, you have a few hundred billion dollars in assets here. You got all these deposits. You’ve got to go borrow the money …

CRAMER: That was run by morons.

BURNETT: But my point is – you’ve got to go borrow the money to fulfill your FDIC insurance to $100,000.

CRAMER: Well, no, you just transfer – you close it one day, like my bank was…. I was banking at Crossland. The next day it opens as another bank, what do I care? My $100,000 was insured.

BURNETT: But, you care because taxpayers are the ones who’s going to be the paying you back for the ones who borrowed it.

Cramer argued it was necessary because otherwise, the U.S. would go into a depression:

CRAMER: We don’t want a Great Depression. I mean, we just don’t want one.

BURNETT: But, are we really at risk of a Great Depression? Most people would argue that we’re not in a full-blown recession.

CRAMER: Totally, totally. John Stumpf [president] from Wells Fargo said it was the worst since the Great Depression.

BURNETT: In housing, but that’s not everywhere.

CRAMER: If I wanted clean hands, if I wanted to be Andrew Mellon, I would call for – I would just say, “Listen, let’s just let the Great Depression, Number Two, happen. But, that’s where we are. That’s, we’ve been like that for a while. So, let’s try to avoid it if we can.

Burnett argued the economy was still growing. After one quarter of negative gross domestic product (GDP) at the end of 2007, the economy has rebounded with two positive quarters. But Cramer said there was a difference between the economy and the banking system.

“Well, one is the difference between the economy and the banking system,” Cramer said. “The economy really picked up in 1936 to ’38 because of armament orders, and World War II turned around the U.S. economy entirely, but there was still, the banking system was still very frail throughout the ’30s.”

Cramer told Burnett he was disappointed in Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, who has studied the Great Depression. Cramer added there is a need for another interest rate cut at the upcoming Federal Reserve Board meeting on September 16.

“But you know, look – I hear you on the jobs, I hear you on the economy,” Cramer said. “I don’t really care. I’m talking about a dysfunctional banking system. We don’t want Citi (NYSE:C) to go out of business. We don’t want AIG (NYSE:AIG) to go out of business.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., September 11 mentioned the possibility of another rescue package – this one for beleaguered investment bank Lehman Brothers (NYSE:LEH), based on its impact on the credit markets.

Great Depression references have been used liberally by the media in 2008. Networks have made endless connections to the Great Depression – more than 7

Do I Have to Obey Orders From an Unconstitutional Government?

Do I Have to Obey Orders From an Unconstitutional Government?

George Washington’s Blog

I am a loyal citizen of the United States of America, and I believe deeply in the vision of the Founding Fathers, the rule of law as enshrined in the Constitution, and the liberty that our forefathers fought and died for.

I have therefore felt a duty to obey the laws of the U.S. my whole life.

However, it is likely that the U.S. no longer has a constitutional form of government.

As the Washington Post noted in March 2002, Bush hid from Congress the fact that Continuity of Government (COG) plans were implemented on 9/11 and were still in effect many months later, and stated:

It was unclear yesterday whether any federal documents — prepared either by the current White House or by Bush’s predecessors dating to Dwight D. Eisenhower — specify whether congressional leaders should be told if the plan is put into effect. At least one relatively general document, a 1988 executive order entitled “Assignment of Emergency Preparedness Responsibilities,” said the White House’s National Security Council “shall arrange for Executive branch liaison with, and assistance to, the Congress and the federal judiciary on national security-emergency preparedness matters.”

The executive order, signed by President Ronald Reagan, is a precursor to documents outlining the contingency plans in greater detail, which have not been made public. Regardless of whether Bush had an obligation to notify legislative leaders, the congressional leaders’ ignorance of the plan he set in motion could raise the question of how this shadow administration would establish its legitimacy with Congress in the event it needed to step in for a crippled White House.

At least some members of Congress suggested yesterday that the administration should have conferred about its plans, which were first reported in The Washington Post yesterday.

“There are two other branches of government that are central to the functioning of our democracy,” said Rep. William Delahunt (D-Mass.), a member of the House Judiciary Committee. “I would hope the speaker and the minority leader would at least pose the question, ‘What about us?’ “

So What?

Remember that, in the summer 2007, Congressman Peter DeFazio, on the Homeland Security Committee (and so with proper security access to be briefed on COG issues), inquired about continuity of government plans, and was refused access. Indeed, DeFazio told Congress that the entire Homeland Security Committee of the U.S. Congress has been denied access to the plans by the White House (video; or here is the transcript). The Homeland Security Committee has full clearance to view all information about COG plans. DeFazio concluded: “Maybe the people who think there’s a conspiracy out there are right”.

And University of California Berkeley Professor Emeritus Peter Dale Scott has warned:

“If members of the Homeland Security Committee cannot enforce their right to read secret plans of the Executive Branch, then the systems of checks and balances established by the U.S. Constitution would seem to be failing.

To put it another way, if the White House is successful in frustrating DeFazio, then Continuity of Government planning has arguably already superseded the Constitution as a higher authority.”

Indeed, White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe said that “because of the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the American public needs no explanation of [Continuity of Government] plans”.

What Does This All Mean?

Continuity of government documents probably require that Congress be notified of the details of implementation of COG plans. But since the executive is hiding such documents from Congress and the people, so we can’t be sure.

Regardless, the executive has failed to “establish its legitimacy with Congress” or the American people, because it is hiding the documents which created the COG emergency government and which give it emergency powers and specify its obligations.

In other words, even if the COG documents were harmless and say “we will coordinate with Congress and the courts and follow the Constitution”, the fact that the White House is hiding the documents, refusing to disclose what acts it has taken pursuant to extraordinary authority granted by the COG plans, and refusing even to say whether a COG government is still in effect renders the current government unconstitutional and illegal.

I consider myself a law-abiding citizen, and I cherish the Constitution, the rule of law, and the American form government established by the Founding Fathers.

But do I have any duty to obey the orders of a government that cannot even establish its basic legitimacy? A government which is itself violating the Constitution and the rule of law? A government that is trying to dismantle the vision that the Founding Fathers and everything that our forefathers fought and died for?

Do I have to obey illegal orders from an unconstitutional government?

This essay doesn’t even discuss spying on Americans, failure to comply with Congressional subpoenas, signing statements, torture, wars based on false intelligence, or the numerous other unconstitutional acts by this administration. It solely focuses on the unconstitutionality of the COG plans.

And it doesn’t even get into guessing what the Founding Fathers might have thought about this bunch of tyrants.

Terror at home

Terror at home

Written by Eric Lam

June 2, 2006 was a hot and sticky night, and Zakaria and Nada Amara still had a lot of moving in to do when the police smashed open their glass front door.

The high school sweethearts had tried living on their own for a while, but it wasn’t working out. They had only made the decision to move into Nada’s mother’s basement the day before.

Nada, 20 at the time, was unpacking when the shouting started. Men in masks charged in, brandishing guns. There was glass everywhere in the front of the house, the remnants of the shattered door. A SWAT member wrenched her crying eight-month old daughter, Nour, from her arms and another officer forced her to the ground. For several agonizing minutes, she didn’t know where her daughter was. “I just remember being handcuffed and brought upstairs,” Nada said.

There, she saw her 14-year-old sister handcuffed. Her brother was too. But there was no sign of Zakaria, her husband. Since then, she’s only seen him from behind a sheet of glass or across a courtroom. He is now an alleged terrorist, locked away in solitary confinement for more than two years, accused of plotting to blow up Parliament and behead the prime minister.

Amara, a former Ryerson student, and 16 others were arrested in June 2006 by the RCMP and partners of the Integrated National Security Enforcement Team (INSET). They were charged with dozens of terrorism-related offenses under Section 83 of the criminal code.
Another Ryerson student, 18-year-old Ibrahim Aboud, was arrested two months later.

“This group took steps to acquire three tonnes of ammonium nitrate and other components necessary to create explosive devices,” RCMP Assistant Commissioner Mike McDonell said in a release the day after the arrests. “At all times, the focus of our investigation was the safety and protection of the public.”

One minute, Zakaria and Nada Amara were just another young couple from suburban Mississauga, trying to make ends meet. The next, the police stormed into their house and changed their lives forever.

One minute, Aboud was a recently-graduated high school student, preparing to start classes at Ryerson. The next, he was on bail under strict conditions. For two years, he could only leave his house alone to go to school, and at Ryerson, he suspected that people knew that he was facing terrorism charges.

In April, Aboud joined six other accused in having his charges staid. He’s free for now, but for the next year, he can still be re-prosecuted.
Amara, however, sits in solitary confinement in the Don Jail, awaiting his trial. He faces life in prison if convicted. His lawyer, David Kolinsky, will begin pre-trial motions this month. He is hopeful that jury selection will take place in fall 2009.

Now, the Eyeopener takes a closer look at the time leading up to the arrests, the ordeal these two students have faced, and the families anxiously waiting on the outside.

Nada Farooq didn’t know Zakaria Amara very well when he proposed to her, but something made her say yes anyway.

It was the fall of 2003, and Farooq and Amara were starting grade 12 at Meadowvale Secondary in Mississauga, Ont.

The 16-year-olds had first met in grade 10, in an ESL class, and Amara delighted her with his goofy jokes and good nature. Amara was shy around girls and kept his head down as he walked the halls of his high school.
When he saw Farooq in a hijab for the first time, he decided she should be his wife. His mind made up, Amara popped the question over MSN Messenger, a popular online chat program.

“I am inclined to marry you, what do you think?” he wrote.

“Uh, OK,'” Farooq typed back. She was stunned, but agreed. Muslims weren’t allowed to date, so if they wanted to get to know each other, the proper way to do it was to marry.

“There was an innocent aspect to him,” she said. “He barely knew how to do things, how to do anything wrong. That’s what made me fall in love with him.”

Their parents allowed the marriage but “weren’t exactly happy” at how fast the couple got engaged. They legally married in January 2005, and moved into a one-bedroom apartment.

To support his family, Zakaria became a watch salesman and later a gas station attendant while attending engineering classes at Ryerson part-time. Nada, who got pregnant soon after they moved out, went to school at U of T until she gave birth to their daughter, Nour. She took a break from university to care for her newborn.

The pair moved into a larger, two-bedroom apartment in Meadowvale and Zakaria switched to Humber College so he could quickly land a well-paying job. The university degrees would have to come later.
“Just trying to get over all these obstacles coming our way, we could never soar. It was always something,” Nada said.

At the same time, the couple was rediscovering their religion. Not particularly devout as children, the two adopted a passionate attitude towards their Muslim faith in high school.

Nada remembers watching her husband talking to teachers about Islam after class, and it stirred new feelings in her. “Wow, that’s actually my religion, maybe I should learn about it. That’s how I got into practicing my religion,” she said.

In blog posts uncovered by Globe and Mail reporters Omar El Akkad and Greg McArthur in 2006, the full extent of the Amaras’ devotion becomes apparent.

Nada requested a clause in a prenuptial agreement that forced Zakaria to go to war if jihad was declared. “[And] if he ever refuses a clear opportunity to leave for jihad, then I want the choice of divorce,” the Globe reported Nada as writing in one of 6,000 online posts.

According to the Globe, she used a picture of the Koran and a rifle as her online avatar, and wanted to name her child after a Chechnyan militant if it was a boy. The Amaras also talked about moving to a Muslim country prior to the arrest, because it would be easier to practice their faith there.

Despite the Globe’s assertions that the Amaras were radical anti-westerners, Nada says she loves Canada. “When we hear about the Olympics we cheer for Canada, but it’s hard when your own country thinks you’re the enemy,” she said. “I don’t care if half of Canada doesn’t like me. These are my people.”

Since the arrests, Nada has become a pariah within the Muslim community. People have left threats at her front door and cursed at her and her daughter when they walk on the street. It’s gotten so bad, her family is considering moving. But Islam is an important part of her life and she’s not about to let that go. “Even among Muslims, some don’t like people who extremely practice [their faith],” she said.

She’s not alone.

Saima Mohammad, 23, the sister-in-law of Fahim Ahmad, another of the accused, used to wear a veil like Nada. But she has since taken it off, tired of being harassed since she put it on in grade 7.

The other day while taking the subway to school, a man came up to her and said she was “dressed like a slut.”

When Aboud started classes at Ryerson the month after his arrest, he was certain his classmates and professors knew who he was. Luckily, they didn’t give him much hassle.

“I just want to have a normal life,” he told the Eyeopener at the time.
His bail conditions, however, caused him problems. He wasn’t allowed to leave his house alone, except to go to school. When Muhammad Ali Jabbar, president of the Ryerson Students’ Union, organized a party to break fast for Ramadan at his house, Aboud had to decline. Jabbar thought he’d been slighted. “I didn’t know who he was. He said ‘No,’ without any reason,” Jabbar said. “I thought, ‘How rude.'”

Later, he discovered the reason Aboud kept turning him down. “It brought tears to my eyes. A harmless first-year student was treated like this, where he couldn’t even go out to meet his friends,” he said.

The Amaras, Mohammad, and Jabbar all say they have been interviewed extensively by CSIS. They all call it racial profiling, and even argue that Fahim Ahmad lost a security guard job because of the civilian spy agency.

CSIS didn’t return the Eyeopener’s calls, however RCMP spokesman Sgt. Marc LaPorte said that CSIS and the Mounties have extensive national-security related investigations in the GTA, not always related to Muslims.

The RCMP has an an obligation to follow up on every lead when it comes to national security. “This isn’t like organized crime where if you have three targets you can focus your investigation on one target,” he said. “We take every piece of information seriously.”

Every morning, Zakaria Amara wakes up to the same four walls. He’s been living in a six-by-10-foot cell for the better part of two years, trapped with nothing but his thoughts and his religion. “Honestly, after two years this is reality. Outside is a fantasy,” he said. “You just never know if they’ll put something in your food. It’s jail.” As often happens, he’ll get his hopes up.

Amara has lost faith in the system, comparing his experience in court to going 12 rounds against Mike Tyson with his arms tied behind his back.
Still, he refuses to give up.

“My belief in God and my confidence in the case [keep me going],” he said. “The truth will come out, whether today, tomorrow, a year, or 10 years from now.”

Aboud has kept a low profile these last two years. When he started classes at Ryerson, he felt comfortable here.

“I’m feeling safe at Ryerson and I don’t feel anything was wrong [because] people have been talking to me,” he said two years ago. On the advice of his lawyer, he declined to be interviewed for this story.
Each morning, Nada wakes up before dawn to pray. Then, she sleeps in. Nour, turning 3 in September, is an energetic toddler, and the rest of Nada’s day revolves around her daughter.

She’s still living in her mother’s basement, looking for work and starting university classes. She’s found it difficult to get a job because people are uncomfortable with her veil.

Each day at about 4 p.m., Zakaria calls from prison. They chat about what they are doing that day, about the case, sometimes even about what they might do if he gets let out. Then, he gets 20 minutes with his daughter.

“She’ll kiss the phone if she wants to kiss daddy, or when she plays hide and seek she’ll hide the phone,” Nada said. When the little girl gets a new toy, she will wave it in front of the receiver. “She thinks he can see her through the phone. In the background, I’m explaining to him what it is, telling him to go along with it.”

When Nour asks her why her father can’t hug her like the other kids, she doesn’t know how to answer.

“She thinks he lives in a separate house,” she said. “When we go visit him, she doesn’t really get it.”

When Nour plays with the children of Fahim Ahmad, the girls will hold toy phones to their ears and pretend their fathers are on the line.

Nour means “light,” in Arabic. So when Amara says he hasn’t felt the light on his face in a long time, he means more than just fresh air.
Amara has asked his family to stop visiting him because it hurts too much to see them but be separated by thick glass. “When they do come it’s the most painful part of the whole experience,” he said.

But Nour still thinks about her father every day, and before she goes to bed each night, Nada watches as she always prays for the same thing. “She says, ‘Daddy, please come home.’ She never forgets.”

Albanian witness in U.S. arms probe dies suddenly

Albanian witness in U.S. arms probe dies suddenly

By Benet Koleka Fri Sep 12, 7:00 PM ET

TIRANA (Reuters) – Albania‘s government said on Friday it was looking into the sudden death of an arms industry figure who was helping prosecutors investigate a weapons sale to the United States and an explosion that killed 26 people.

Television pictures showed businessman Kosta Trebicka, his head covered in blood, sprawled on his back on a dirt road in a remote area of eastern Albania, where he had been hunting. His off-road car was nearby, and appeared to be damaged.

“We have identified the corpse of citizen Kosta Trebicka,” Interior Minister Bujar Nishani told a late evening news conference. “We shall make public the conclusions of experts as soon as they reach them,” he added.

Nishani was responding to opposition leaders who said the death looked suspicious.

Trebicka was involved in repackaging ageing Chinese ammunition that was being sold from Albania to AEY Inc, a U.S. firm contracted by the Pentagon to supply the Afghan army.

He turned whistleblower after the Albanian defense ministry removed him from the contract and appointed another company in his place.

It was at this second company’s plant in Gerdec, near Tirana, that 26 people were killed in an explosion of artillery shells in March. An Albanian official involved in the sale of ammunition to AEY Inc. and two businessmen are in jail pending trial for multiple murder over the blast.

“We must know as soon as possible whether Kosta Trebicka died accidentally or was killed by criminals that have started hunting the people that know a lot about the Gerdec blast,” the main opposition Socialist Party leader Edi Rama said.

AEY Inc. has been suspended from federal work in the United States after the U.S. Army found out that ammunition it was sourcing from Albania and supplying to Afghanistan consisted of Chinese gun cartridges that were more than 40 years old.

Officers of the company have been charged by a federal grand jury with trying to defraud the U.S. government in a $298 million contract to supply the Afghan army.

Trebicka was to be the key witness in Albania’s investigation into the affair.

Former Albanian defense minister Fatmir Mediu has had his parliamentary immunity quashed to allow prosecutors to determine whether “his actions brought illegitimate profit to the private companies involved in the process of dismantling ammunition.”

FDIC Insurance Fund – It Doesn’t Actually Exist

FDIC Insurance Fund – It Doesn’t Actually Exist

Vernon Hill

When FDIC head Shelia Bair says her agency might have to bolster the FDIC’s insurance fund with Treasury borrowings to pay for the new spate of bank failures, a lot of us, this 40-year banking veteran included, assumed there’s an actual FDIC fund in need of bolstering.

We were wrong. As a former FDIC chairman, Bill Isaac, points out here, the FDIC Insurance Fund is an accounting fiction. It takes in premiums from banks, then turns those premiums over to the Treasury, which adds the money to the government’s general coffers for “spending . . . on missiles, school lunches, water projects, and the like.”

The insurance premiums aren’t really premiums at all, therefore. They’re a tax by another name.

Actually, it’s worse than that. The FDIC, persisting in the myth that its fund really is an insurance pool, now proposes to raise the “premiums” it charges banks to make up for the “fund’s” coming shortfall. The financially weakest banks will be hit with the biggest tax hikes.

Which makes absolutely no sense. You don’t need me to tell you the banking industry is on the ropes. The last thing it needs (or the economy needs, for that matter) is an expense hike that will inhibit banks’ ability to rebuild capital, extend new loans, or both. If the FDIC wants to raise its bank tax once the industry has recovered, I suppose that’s fine. But to raise taxes on the industry now is perhaps the dumbest thing the agency can possibly do. At the margin, the FDIC will be helping bring about more of the failures it says it wants to prevent.

But this is the government we’re talking about, so logic goes out the window. First, the FDIC insists its mythical bank insurance fund exists, when it really doesn’t. Then the agency does what it can to run the imaginary fund’s finances straight into the ground. Your tax dollars (sorry, “premiums”) at work.

‘Jim Crawford’ Republicans

‘Jim Crawford’ Republicans

Jonathan Alter

It was a mainstay of Jim Crow segregation: for 100 years after the Civil War, Southern white Democrats kept eligible blacks from voting with poll taxes, literacy tests and property requirements. Starting in the 1960s, the U.S. Supreme Court declared these assaults on the heart of American democracy unconstitutional.

Now, with the help of a 2008 Supreme Court decision, Crawford vs. Marion County (Indiana) Election Board, white Republicans in some areas will keep eligible blacks from voting by requiring driver’s licenses. Not only is this new-fangled discrimination constitutional, it’s spreading.

GOP proponents of the move say they are merely trying to reduce voter fraud. But while occasional efforts to stuff ballot boxes through phony absentee voting still surface, the incidence of individual vote fraud—voting when you aren’t eligible—is virtually non-existent, as “The Truth About Vote Fraud,” a study by the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University, clearly shows. In other words, the problem Republicans claim they want to combat with increased ID requirements doesn’t exist. Meanwhile, those ID hurdles facing individuals do nothing to stop the organized insiders who still try to game the system.

The motive here is political, not racial. Republicans aren’t bigots like the Jim Crow segregationists. But they know that increased turnout in poor, black neighborhoods is good for Democrats. In that sense, the effort to suppress voting still amounts to the practical equivalent of racism.

In Crawford, the court upheld an Indiana law essentially requiring a passport or driver’s license in order to vote. But more than two thirds of Indiana adults have no passports and nearly 15 percent have no driver’s licenses. These eligible voters, disproportionately African-American, will need to take a bus or catch a ride from a friend down to the motor vehicles bureau to make sure they obtain a nondriver photo ID. Otherwise, they cannot vote in Indiana this year.

To get an idea of how many African-Americans nationwide lack driver’s licenses, recall Hurricane Katrina in 2005, when thousands were stranded without transportation. “Crawford Republicans” could make the old “Jim Crow Democrats” look like pikers when it comes to voter suppression.

Consider Wisconsin, a swing state. Republicans officials there are suing to enforce a “no match, no vote” provision in state regulations, where voters must not only show a photo ID, but establish that it matches the name and number in the Department of Motor Vehicles or Social Security Administration database. (Democrats are resisting the suit.) These lists are riddled with errors in every state, as the Brennan Center has proven in its report, “Restoring the Right to Vote.”

How error prone? Florida wrongly purged tens of thousands of law-abiding, mostly Democratic, voters from the rolls in 2000, claiming they were felons. (This, among other things, cost Al Gore the presidency). Even after the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) and worldwide attention, the Florida software is still flawed. It requires only an 80 percent match to the name of a convicted felon. “So if there’s a murderous John Peterson, the software disenfranchises everyone named John Peters,” Andrew Hacker writes in a recent New York Review of Books.

Voters caught in these snafus can have their rights restored but not if they fail to straighten things out before Election Day. Otherwise they are granted “provisional ballots” that are sometimes counted and sometimes not. Even obtaining a provisional ballot can require an appearance in front of a judge in some states. Faced with the hassle, most voters just give up.

The ability of actual felons to get their right to vote back varies by state. It’s especially hard for felons to vote in Virginia; a bit easier in Pennsylvania and Michigan. (Other countries are far more generous to ex-convicts, figuring that having paid their debt to society they should be allowed to vote again.)

All of this would seem to favor John McCain over Barack Obama this year, but some voting-rights trends are pointing in the opposite direction.

In Ohio, where the governor and secretary of state changed in 2006 from Republican to Democrat, a new law allows voters to register to vote and fill out an absentee ballot at the same time between Sept. 30 and Oct. 6. This will mean a week of furious campaigning and early voting in a key state.

Advantage Obama. With 470,000 students enrolled in Ohio’s public colleges and universities (and nine out of 10 are Ohio residents), expect a bumper crop of young voters.

The combination of voter suppression and early voting make turnout predictions perilous. And without knowing turnout, most polling is deeply flawed.

So about the only thing we know for sure this year is that with the Crawford decision we are seeing a return to the days when one political party saw a huge advantage in preventing as many poor people as possible from voting. That’s understandable politically, but also un-American.

Berlin Protests Comments by US Ambassador to Sweden

Berlin Protests Comments by US Ambassador to Sweden

The German Foreign Ministry presented an official protest to the US embassy in Berlin, expressing annoyance at comments by the US ambassador to Sweden that criticized a joint German-Russian Baltic Sea gas pipeline.

According to the Friday, Sept. 12, issue of the German daily Handelsblatt, a senior German Foreign Ministry official presented an official protest to the US embassy in Berlin about an op-ed piece written by US ambassador to Sweden, Michael M. Wood, that was published in a Stockholm newspaper.

Citing the example of Russian-energy consumer Ukraine, the article suggested that the pipeline posed a security threat to the region in that it would allow Moscow to use energy as a means to gain political leverage.

The German Foreign Ministry declined to comment on the Handelsblatt report.

Environmental concerns cloud project

In Sweden, the project has also been criticized by some lawmakers over environmental concerns, including potential hazards posed by chemical weapons dumped in the sea after World War II.

Earlier Thursday, German Defense Minister Franz Josef Jung said the pipeline did not pose a threat, telling reporters that the 1,200-kilometer (750-mile) pipeline instead had to be studied from an environmental and economic perspective, Finnish news agency STT reported.

The pipeline envisaged by the Nord Stream AG consortium is planned to run from Vyborg in Russia to Greifswald, Germany. The consortium has ruled out a land-based route.

The United States Demonic Assault On The World Cannot Stand

The United States Demonic Assault

On The World Cannot Stand

The indominable human spirit always prevents demonic forces from killing and torturing the people, indefinitely ; today is no different.

A *fundamental flaw in the present leadership of the United States of America brings about unnecessary death and destruction around the world; the use of the fbi and the cia (and their friends in the Pentagon and the private sector) as global outlaws insures that the US government cannot repair the inestimable damage now apparent in the crime spree under way at home and abroad by these two corrupt and homicidal groups. Truly intelligent people around the world are amazed that the people of this country (USA) do nothing to hold their leaders responsible for their crimes against Humanity. Such a populace response also suggests that the USA has lost all credibility as a world leader and in fact is now viewed as a world murderous and torturous tyrant which must be stopped at all costs.

The basic flaw of the government here may be the inability of the USA’s terrorists (both in the public and the private sector, under the direction of the fbi,cia, etc.) to comprehend the long term effects on the global blood bath on the human psyche, especially as the USA continues its war waging rampage. Further, few in the USA government evince the slightest awareness of the ‘indominable human spirit’ of USA’s adversaries which must prevent evil from reigning supreme on earth. In this respect the USA has at long last openly forsaken its once public fa�ade of “In God We Trust”, for no deity can exist in the minds and hearts of the devil’s advocates. Thus, the killing and torturing goes on and on, all sponsored by the USA in the name of world peace.

The fraud that is now the United States of America is permanently recorded , as are all the names of its civilian and military supporters, as the most satanic ever known on the face of the earth, and the USA goals of maintaining military and economic power over all other nations and peoples (under the doctrine associated with the NOW) are measured by the death and suffering of those targeted for termination. The USA is reduced to the function of a little demon which must now be stopped by the eternal spirits which have always come to the aid of Humanity during times of global crises and which are alive and well in growing numbers all around and in us.
Geral sosbee

The U.S. fear of losing power which it doesn’t have

The U.S. fear of losing power

which it doesn’t have

Abid Ullah Jan

Many analysts believe that the United State has failed in Iraq. In fact, it has not.

Analysts, who measure the American success by the yard stick of Bush and Blair’s rhetoric for democracy and liberation, and the noble causes for invasion promoted by the “mainstream” media, are right in their conclusion. But the problem is that achieving those noble causes was never the objective of war on Iraq and Afghanistan.

If we keep medium and long-term consequences aside, the Bush administration has been fully successful in what it wanted to achieve in Iraq. The country is occupied. Oil resources are under full control. The military threat that Iraq could pose has been fully neutralized. The country is divided. Iraqis are pitted against each other. The civil war is on and the co-opted media still limits its description to “fear of a looming civil war.”

The objective of occupation is evident from the suggestions of the U.S. administration’s favorite advisors. Daniel Pipes writes in his October 24 column in the New York Sun:

“I suggest pulling coalition forces out of the inhabited areas of Iraq and redeploying them to the desert. This way, the troops remain indefinitely in Iraq, but remote from the urban carnage. It permits the American-led troops to carry out essential tasks (protecting borders, keeping the oil and gas flowing, ensuring that no Saddam-like monster takes power) while ending their non-essential work (maintaining street-level order, guarding their own barracks).”

Being in the position of power and authority is no guarantee from mental sickness. The sickness of this proposal is clearly reflected in the Bush-Blair policies in Iraq. Pipes recounts benefits of this “change the course” proposal, ignoring that the U.S. policy is already revolving around the same sick principles, such as:

· Giving Iraqis the impression that they are responsible for their country despite controlling their borders and resources and deploying troops outside their urban centers “indefinitely.” This is not “letting the Iraqis run Iraq” as Pipes is sickeningly suggesting to his sick bosses. This is letting them legitimizing and sustaining the U.S. illegal invasion and occupation.

· Seeing problems in Iraq as Iraqi problems. The sickness of warlords become more evident when Pipes argue that violence in Iraq is “verging on civil war.” It is “a humanitarian tragedy but not a strategic one, an Iraqi problem, not a coalition one.” This is what the United States is doing already. It does not consider the bloodletting in Iraq as the result of its war of aggression and war crimes. The coalition should realize it has no more responsibility for keeping the peace between Iraqis than it does among Liberians or Somalis.

· Giving up on the unattainable goal of a democratic, free, and prosperous Iraq. This is what was not on the U.S. wish list from day one of this war. Iraq as a beacon to the region and a model of democracy were the invention of warlords in the garb of “liberal,” “neutral” reporters such as Thomas L. Friedman of the New York Times, who left no stone unturned in justifying the war and making a case of sending more and more troops.

So, it is not the U.S. administration that has failed. It is those who presented the war as a noble project and sold it to public as such have failed.

The question is, where does the U.S. go from here? Will it fail? Will it withdraw from Iraq? Should the Western governments go into sobering reassessments and launch contingency plans for the consequences of a possible American failure in Iraq?

The simple answer to these questions is that the United States is going nowhere. Despite the much publicized time tables for withdrawal, the U.S. will never leave Iraq. It will never admit defeat until it is removed from its imperial pedestal. So, will the Iraq war leave the United States in a position in which former Soviet Union found itself after its war in Afghanistan? The answer is no. Iraq is not capable of doing so, but the United States is. It can undermine itself. That will happen as a result of the next wars on the U.S. agenda.

America’s inability to learn from history is unlikely to be remedied by the humiliation of failure in Iraq, which is not considered as a failure in the myopic circles which are busy planning next wars. But if one simple lesson is too hard for Washington to grasp, perhaps the rest of the world can hold the following idea in mind and use it to restrain the United States from any future efforts to impose its ignorance on others.

In a contest between foreign power and native resistance, foreign power — however much material and military strength it can wield — will always lose regardless of staying in the Urban center or outside in the deserts and mountains. Even in an era when a sense of racial superiority and colonial entitlement led Western nations to have few qualms about subjugating others, eventually native power based on native knowledge and determined resistance would reassert itself. Nowadays the reclamation of power asserts itself much more quickly but it always rises out of the same awareness: this is our land, not yours; it is our life and we must live our way of life.

The tragedy is that American leadership, both democrat and republican, does not seem to be in a position to understand and recognize that vis-à-vis the world suffering under its de facto colonization, the United States does not now possess the power that it fears losing. This denial of the reality will keep pushing it into more wars regardless of who is in power in Washington. That will ensure the actual failure of the United States and total destruction in the rest of the world it is trying to conquer completely.

Abid Ullah Jan’s latest book “The Ultimate Tragedy: Colonialists rushing to Globar war to save the crumbling empire,” co-authored with Rory Winter, will be released in December 2006.

Fear of losing drove US raid

Fear of losing drove US raid

Abid Ullah Jan

The US fears are multiple and these are multiplying. Being armed to the teeth is no guarantee of power. Nuclear weapons cannot save any nation from the natural consequences of the crimes and misdeeds of its leaders.

War after war, occupation after occupation and genocide after genocide will never help the US achieve anything because its reasons for the war are based in lies and deceptions and its aims and objectives are not worthwhile. Look at the objectives: weakening Iraq, neutralizing Pakistan’s nuclear power, re-mapping the Middle East and South Asia.

What has all this to do with uplifting the humanity from the miseries and suffering? What has all this do with deliverance of humanity from poverty, starvation, sickness, AIDS, famine and the promotion of human rights and defence of liberty, freedom and justice? Nothing. Instead more wars push more innocent people to suffer.

Wars launched on the basis of lies and deceptions have no moral or legal ground to stand on and no good can be expected of them. There is no point where a victory could be declared because  the myth of al-Qaeda for example is not Hitler that you come and defeat. There are no victories in such wars. After Afghanistan and Iraq, of course, the US has the ability to turn Pakistan into a new Iraq, but the end result will remains the same as we witness in Iraq and Afghanistan after YEARS of war,  deaths and destruction.

It is easy to lie through the teeth, launch a war of aggression and declare every form of resistance as terrorism. But is is extremely difficult to win such kinds of wars. Call locals – the victims of brutal occupation – what you may (“terrorists,” “militants,” “insurgents,” “al-Qaeda,” “Taliban,” Baathist). In the end, they will be the winners. This is a valuable lesson of history from pre-historic times to the recent past of colonialism and Soviet adventurism that the warlords are ignoring at their peril.

Ahmadinejad: Palestinian Resistance Source of Pride

Ahmadinejad: Palestinian Resistance Source of Pride

Readers Number : 126

13/09/2008 Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad reassured Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh that Iran would stand by the Palestinians “to the ultimate victory.” In a phone conversation between the two, Iran’s leader expressed his hope for a victory celebration “after the disappearance of Zionists from Palestine and from the world.”
Ahmadinejad added that “those who follow the ways of God and adopt the path of resistance will win.”
Iran’s official news website reported that the Iranian president called Haniyeh on the occasion of the holy month of Ramadan and expressed his support for the Palestinian people.
“Today, the resistance in Palestine is a source of pride for all Muslims and freedom lovers in the world,” Ahmadinejad said. “The Palestinian nation is fighting against the most despicable entity on the face of this earth…the resistance, which is burning in the faith of the Palestinian nation, is shaking up the Zionist enemy.”

Meanwhile, Haniyeh expressed the Palestinian people’s commitment to continue on the path of resistance, that is, the armed struggle against Israel. He thanked Iran for its support and said that the resistance will continue despite the difficulties.
“The Palestinian nation will never recognize Israel, and the banner of resistance will never be put down,” he said, while slamming the Gaza Strip siege.

Syria, Russia Strengthen Naval Cooperation

Syria, Russia Strengthen Naval Cooperation

Readers Number : 98

13/09/2008 Russia announced Friday it was renovating a Syrian port for use by the Russian fleet in what signals an effort for a better foothold in the Mediterranean amid the rift with the United States over Georgia.

Friday’s announcement was the first tangible sign of any new cooperation. The Itar-Tass news agency said that a vessel from Russia’s Black Sea fleet had begun restoring facilities at Syria’s Mediterranean port of Tartus for use by the Russian military.
The two countries’ naval chiefs also met in Moscow on Friday and discussed further strengthening mutual trust and mutual understanding between the two states’ fleets, a Russian naval official, Igor Dygalo, told Itar-Tass.

The Tartus renovations could signal an intention to have a long-term Russian naval presence there. In late August, Russia’s ambassador to Damascus, Igor Belyev, said that Russian ships already patrol the area, but a new development is that the Russian presence in the Mediterranean will become permanent.

The Russian navy’s closest access to the Mediterranean is through the Black Sea, where they have strong naval presence. But that area has seen an increase in NATO naval activity after the Georgia conflict, prompting Russian complaints that NATO has exceeded ship numbers permitted there under international agreements.

The move comes amid heightened tensions between the U.S. and Russia after last month’s brief war in Georgia. The rift has raised concerns Moscow might start reaching out to U.S. rivals around the world to beef up military alliances. Russian bombers this month arrived in Venezuela for training exercises and the two countries are to hold joint exercises in the Caribbean in November.

It is much more advantageous to have such a facility than to return ships patrolling the Mediterranean to their home bases, former Black Sea Fleet commander Adm. Eduard Baltin said, according to the Russian Interfax-AVN service.

Assad made a visit to Moscow last month, and before the trip told the Russian business daily Kommersant that Syria was ready to cooperate with Russia in any way, including discussing deploying missile defense systems on Syrian territory.

War Crimes Conference in Andover, Live Stream On The Net Today

War Crimes Conference in Andover, MA to Live Stream

On The Net

In a message dated 9/12/2008 1:44:25 P.M. Eastern Daylight Time, phollings@ipt.org writes:

Just think: while this is going on we’ll also be having the Peace Intention Experiment!

Peter

War Crimes Conference in Andover, MA to Live Stream On The Net

WAR CRIMES CONFERENCE FROM ANDOVER ON STREAMING VIDEO SEPT. 13-14

Visit the Conference Web Site

Conference To Shape Plans For Obtaining Prosecutions

Of High-Level U.S. War Criminals

A conference on plans to bring high-level American war criminals to justice will be streamed live from Andover, Mass., September 13-14.

The conference has attracted eminent national and international legal authorities who will speak about the legal grounds for seeking prosecution of top administration officials, including George Bush, who appear to be guilty of war crimes.

The URL address to view the conference live or to view it afterwards from the archives is:

http://www.ustream.tv/channel/warcrimesconference

“All viewers need to do to follow the proceedings is to visit the Web address and they can watch everything,” said the conference’s convener, Lawrence Velvel, a prominent legal educator.

Viewing hours will be from 9 a.m. to 5:15 p.m. Eastern Standard Time(EST) on Saturday, September 13, and from 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. (EST) on Sunday, September 14.

In the tradition of Justice Robert H. Jackson, America’s Chief Prosecutor at the Nuremburg War Crimes Trials after World War II, the Conference’s purpose is “to promote efforts to hold culpable officials accountable in courts of law,” said Velvel.

“Otherwise, the future could be threatened by additional examples of Executive lawlessness by leaders who need fear no personal consequences” for their actions, leading to “the possibility of more Viet Nams, and more Iraqs,” he added.

Attendees will hear from prominent authorities on international law, criminal prosecutions, and constitutional law who are determined to give meaning to Justice Jackson’s words: “The common sense of mankind demands that law shall not stop with the punishment of petty crimes by little people. It must also reach men who possess themselves of great power and make deliberate and concerted use of it to set in motion evils which leave no home in the world untouched.”

Topics to be discussed, include:

# What international and domestic crimes were committed, which facts show crimes under which laws, and what punishments are possible.

# Which high level Executive officials — and Federal judges and legislators as well, if any — are chargeable with crimes.

# Which international tribunals, foreign tribunals and domestic tribunals (if any) can be used and how to begin cases and/or obtain prosecutions before them.

# The possibility of establishing a Chief Prosecutor’s Office such as the one at Nuremburg.

# An examination of cases already brought and their outcomes.

# Creating an umbrella Coordinating Committee with representatives from the increasing number of organizations involved in war crimes cases.

# Creating a Center to keep track of and organize compilations of relevant briefs, articles, books, opinions, and facts, etc., on war crimes and prosecutions of war criminals.

Those scheduled to address the Conference include, among others:

# Famed former Los Angeles prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi, author of the best-selling “The Prosecution of George W. Bush For Murder”(Vanguard).

# Phillippe Sands, Professor of Law and Director of the Centre of International Courts and Tribunals at University College , London . He is the author of “Torture Team: Rumsfeld’s Memo and the Betrayal of American Values” (Penguin/Palgrave Macmillan), among other works.

# Jordan Paust, Professor of Law at the University of Houston and author of “Beyond The Law.”

# Ann Wright, a former U.S. Army colonel and U.S. Foreign Service official who holds a State Department Award for Heroism and who taught the Geneva Conventions and the Law of Land Warfare at the Special Warfare Center at Ft. Bragg, N.C. She is the coauthor of “Dissent: Voices of Conscience.”

# Peter Weiss, Vice President of the Center For Constitutional Rights, which was recently involved with war crimes complaints filed in Germany and France against former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and others.

# Benjamin Davis, Associate Professor at the University of Toledo College of Law and former American Legal Counsel for the Secretariat of the International Court of Arbitration.

# David Lindorff, journalist and co-author with Barbara Olshansky of “The Case for Impeachment: Legal Arguments for Removing President George W. Bush from Office”( St. Martin ’s Press).

# Colleen Costello of Human Rights USA .

# Christopher Pyle, a professor at Mt. Holyoke and author of several book on international matters.

# Lawrence Velvel, a leader in the field of law school education reform, who has written numerous internet articles on issues relevant to the conference.

Legal authorities, media representatives, and the general public are invited to attend the conference. Attendees will receive a special hotel rate of $99 per night.

Andover is nearly equidistant from both Boston ’s Logan Airport , served by all major airlines, and the Manchester, N.H., Airport, served by Southwest Airlines and USAir. (Further Information on the conference and conference site: Jeff Demers, demers@mslaw.edu.)

SHERWOOD ROSS ASSOCIATES, Suite 403 , 102 S.W. 6th Ave. , Miami , FL 33130

sherwoodr1@yahoo.com (305)-205-8281

It is for all these reasons that I have called a conference to be held in Andover, MA on September 13 and 14, 2008. The conference is entitled Planning For The Prosecution Of High Level American War Criminals. The Conference is not intended to be only a discussion of violations of law that have occurred. Although discussions of ideas and facts showing violations of law will take place, library stacks and the internet are, as said, already bulging with materials showing violations (although in the last analysis decisions on violations will be made by judges if leaders are brought to justice). The Conference, rather, is intended to also be a planning conference, one at which plans will be laid, and necessary organizational structures will be set up, to pursue the guilty as long as necessary and to the ends of the earth in order to bring them before the bar of justice. The underlying law and facts will be discussed in the context of laying plans to pursue the guilty in courtrooms so that in future there may be no more Viet Nams, no more Iraqs. – Dean Lawrence R. Velvel

Russia says no to war, sanctions on Iran

Russia says no to war, sanctions on Iran
Fri, 12 Sep 2008 13:43:05 GMT

Russia’s President, Dmitry Medvedev

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev says he will not accept military action or new sanctions against Iran over its nuclear activities.

“We should not take any unilateral steps. It is not acceptable to opt for a military scenario,” President Medvedev said Friday at the Valdai Club, which sees journalists and academics specializing on Russia.

His remarks come as speculation runs high that Israel and the US are drawing up plans to launch a military strike against Iran in a bid to hamper the country’s nuclear program.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy suggested last week that should Iran continue with its uranium enrichment program, it could be attacked by Israel.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy says a strike on Iran would not be questioned

“We could find one morning that Israel has struck (Iran),” said the French president, adding that no one would question the legitimacy of such an act of aggression.

US President George W. Bush and upper echelons in Tel Aviv have repeatedly threatened Iran with war under the pretext that Tehran, a signatory to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), seeks nuclear weaponry.

Under US pressure, the UN Security Council has so far imposed three rounds of sanctions against Iran, demanding the country to halt its enrichment program.

This is while the UN nuclear watchdog has confirmed that Iran enriches uranium-235 to a level of 3.7 percent – a rate consistent with the construction of a nuclear power plant. Nuclear arms production requires an enrichment level of above 90 percent.

The Russian president says Moscow only supports negotiations over Tehran’s nuclear program, Reuters reported.

President Medvedev added that the talks between Iran and the West, led by European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana, ‘have been quite positive’.

“We should not adopt any additional sanctions now,” he warned.

Medvedev’s remarks followed a Wednesday US Treasury Department announcement that Washington has imposed new unilateral financial sanctions against Iran.

The US envoy to the UN urged members of the Security Council on Thursday to approve the sanctions. Russia’s envoy, however, responded that Moscow could decide for itself how to be vigilant about Iranian financial transactions.

A container ship belonging to the Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines

In its latest anti-Iran measure, the Bush administration targeted Iran’s main national carrier, Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines (IRISL), accusing it of aiding the country’s nuclear program.

Iran called the US move counterproductive and similar ‘to other baseless US allegations’ against Tehran.

Suffering from electricity shortage, Iran has been forced to adopt a rationing program by scheduling power outages – of up to two hours a day – across both urban and rural areas in the country.

In the past decade, Russia has helped Tehran in the construction of a 20,000-megawatt nuclear power plant in the southern Iranian city of Bushehr.

The construction of the plant has been delayed, according to Russia’s envoy to Tehran, Alexander Sadovnikov, due to the ‘sanctions imposed by Western powers’.

A source close to the Russian military said Sunday that Moscow is considering providing Iran with more nuclear assistance amid its escalating tensions with Washington over the August crisis in the Caucasus – which Russia says was orchestrated by the US.

Israel and the Dark Arts

How They Ensare Palestinian Collaborators

Israel and the Dark Arts

By JONATHAN COOK

Israel’s enduring use of Palestinian collaborators to entrench the occupation and destroy Palestinian resistance was once the great unmentionable of the Middle East conflict.

When the subject was dealt with by the international and local media, it was solely in the context of the failings of the Palestinian legal system, which allowed the summary execution of collaborators by lynch mobs and kangaroo courts.

That is beginning to change with a trickle of reports indicating the extent of Israel’s use of collaborators and the unwholesome techniques it uses to recruit them. “Co-operation”, it has become clearer, is the very backbone of Israel’s success in maintaining its occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Collaboration comes in various guises, including land dealers, who buy Palestinian-owned land to sell it to settlers or the Israeli government; armed agents who assist Israeli soldiers in raids; and infiltrators into the national organisations and their armed wings who foil resistance operations.

But the foundation of the collaboration system is the low-level informant, who passes on the titbits of information about neighbours and community leaders on which Israel’s system of control depends.

Recent reports in the Israeli media, for example, suggest that the 2005 withdrawal from Gaza, far from reducing the opportunities for collaboration, may actually have increased them. The current siege of the Strip — in which Israel effectively governs all movement in and out of Gaza — has provided an ideal point of leverage for encouraging collusion.

Masterminding this strategy is the Israeli secret police, the Shin Bet, which has recently turned its attention to sick Gazans and their relatives who need to leave the Strip. With hospitals and medicines in short supply, some patients have little hope of recovery without treatment abroad or in Israel.

According to the Israeli branch of Physicians for Human Rights, the Shin Bet is exploiting the distress of these families to pressure them to agree to collaborate in return for an exit permit.

Last month, the group released details of 32 cases in which sick Gazans admitted they were denied permits after refusing to become informants.

One is Shaban Abu Obeid, 38, whose pacemaker was installed at an Israeli hospital and needs intermittent maintenance by Israeli doctors. Another, Bassam Waheidi, 28, has gone blind in one eye after he refused to co-operate and was denied a permit.

But these cases are only the tip of an enormous iceberg. Those Palestinians who refuse to collaborate have every interest in making their problems public. By contrast, those who agree to turn informant have no such interest.

As with other occupation regimes, Israel has long relied on the most traditional way of recruiting collaborators: torture. While a decision by the Israeli Supreme Court in 1999 banned torture, the evidence suggests the Shin Bet simply ignored the ruling.

Two Israeli human rights groups, B’Tselem and Hamoked, found last year that seven “special” interrogation methods amounting to torture are still being regularly employed, including beatings, painful binding, back bending, body stretching and prolonged sleep deprivation.

Detention provides other opportunities for recruitment. In the past 17 years alone, 150,000 Palestinians have been prosecuted by the military regime. According to the Israeli group Yesh Din, 95 per cent of these trials end in plea bargains, offering yet another chance to persuade a detainee to turn informant in return for a reduced sentence.

Cell-sharing in Israel’s prison system, as Salah Abdel Jawwad, a Ramallah-based political scientist, has observed, is also the perfect environment in which the Shin Bet can collect data not only about the detainee but also about the wider society from which he or she is drawn.

With hundreds of thousands of Palestinians having passed through its prisons since 1967, Israel has been able “to control the population from an early stage”, Mr Abdel Jawwad said, “particularly because it is able to identify those who are the potential future leaders of the society.”

An example of the use of pressure during detention emerged last week when a gag order was lifted on the case of Hamed Keshta, 33, from Gaza. A translator for news agencies and the European Union, he was arrested in July when he tried to use a permit to cross the border into Israel for a meeting with his EU employers.

Mr Keshta said he was taken into detention and offered the chance to turn collaborator. When he refused, interrogations by the Shin Bet “began in earnest”, the Haaretz newspaper reported. He was held for a month, accused of serious charges including “security violations” and conspiring to commit “a crime against state security”.

“I assume that it is the standard interrogation that thousands of other Palestinians undergo,” he noted after his release. “They did not hit me, but I was placed in restraints and forced to sit on a chair”, he said referring to the infamous “shabah” stress position that becomes unbearably painful after a short period. Keshta also had medication withheld.

For decades, the occupation has imposed a system of absolute control on the lives of Palestinians that requires them to apply for permits either from the military regime ruling over them, known misleadingly as the Civil Administration, or from the Shin Bet.

Most Palestinians need a permit to carry out such essential daily tasks as building or altering a home; passing through a checkpoint to visit a relative or reach a hospital; passing through a gate in Israel’s separation wall to farm their land; driving a taxi; receiving import or export licences; leaving the occupied territories, including for business; visiting a relative in prison; winning residence for a loved one; and so on.

There are few Palestinians who have not needed such a “favour” from the military authorities at some point, either for themselves or someone they know. And it is at this point that pressure can be exerted. In her book Sharon and My Mother-in-Law, Suad Amiry describes this process eloquently. In return for help or a permit, a small favour is given by the occupation regime. Once taken, the recipient’s integrity is compromised and slowly greater demands are made.

It is this gentle ensnaring of large sections of the Palestinian population — together with open threats of physical violence to smaller sections of the population — that ensure collaboration with the occupation is endemic. This, as Israel well understands, creates an environment that frustrates successful resistance, which requires organisation, co-operation and intelligence-sharing between armed factions. As soon as the circle widens beyond a few individuals, one of them is likely to be an informant.

The result can be seen in the dismal failure of most armed acts of resistance, as well as the ease with which Israel picks off Palestinian leaders it “targets” for execution.

Mr Abdel Jawwad calls this approach “psychological warfare” against Palestinians, who are made to believe that their society is “weak, sickly and composed of untrustworthy characters”.

In short, it encourages social fragmentation in which Palestinians come to believe that it is better to stab their neighbour in the back before they get stabbed themselves.

Jonathan Cook is a writer and journalist based in Nazareth, Israel. His latest books are “Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East” (Pluto Press) and “Disappearing Palestine: Israel’s Experiments in Human Despair” (Zed Books). His website is www.jkcook.net.

This article originally appeared in The National (www.thenational.ae), published in Abu Dhabi.

Pakistan order to kill US invaders

Pakistan order to kill US invaders

Bruce Loudon, South Asia correspondent | September 13, 2008

KEY corps commanders of Pakistan’s 600,000-strong army issued orders last night to retaliate against “invading” US forces that enter the country to attack militant targets.

The move has plunged relations between Islamabad and Washington into deep crisis over how to deal with al-Qa’ida and the Taliban

What amounts to a dramatic order to “kill the invaders”, as one senior officer put it last night, was disclosed after the commanders – who control the army’s deployments at divisional level – met at their headquarters in the garrison city of Rawalpindi under the chairmanship of army chief and former ISI spy agency boss Ashfaq Kayani.

Leading English-language newspaper The News warned in an editorial that the US determination to attack targets inside Pakistan was likely to be “the best recruiting sergeant that the extremists ever had”, with even “moderates” outraged by it.

The “retaliate and kill” order came amid reports of unprecedentedly fierce fighting in the Bajaur Agency of Pakistan’s tribal areas, an al-Qa’ida stronghold frequently mentioned as the most likely lair of Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri.

At the same time, a series of brutal killings by the militants were reported.

The beheaded bodies of two of nearly 40 police recruits abducted a week ago were found near the town of Hangu. Their discovery follows warnings that the recruits would be put to death, one by one, unless Pakistan stopped its big offensive in Bajaur.

The bodies of three local Bajaur men who had been shot in the neck were also found yesterday. Notes were attached declaring the men to have been spies.

In a day of what appears to have been unrelenting combat in Bajaur, helicopter gunships, heavy artillery and tanks were used to strike al-Qa’ida targets.

Officials said at least 100 militants had been killed, bringing the number who have died in the six weeks since the offensive was launched to well over 700. The figure is regarded as remarkable, given that NATO forces in Afghanistan seldom achieve a “kill” rate of more than about 30 in any single operation. Many of those killed are reported to have been “foreign fighters” – mostly Arabs and Central Asians, who have been flooding into Pakistan’s tribal areas to join al-Qa’ida and the Taliban.

Ground troops are said to have moved into key areas formerly controlled by the militants, despite a promised ceasefire marking the holy month of Ramadan.

“We launched strikes against militant hideouts in Bajaur and destroyed several compounds they were using,” an official was quoted as saying.

The order to retaliate against incursions by “foreign troops”, directed specifically at the 120,000 Pakistani soldiers deployed along the border with Afghanistan, follows US President George W. Bush’s authorisation of US attacks in Pakistan.

Washington’s determination to launch such attacks has caused outrage across Pakistan, with Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani last night strongly backing a warning by General Kayani that Pakistan would not allow its territorial integrity to be violated.

The “kill” order against invading forces, and the sharp deterioration in relations with the US, has far-reaching implications for the war on terror.

Anger at all levels in Pakistani society was summed up last night in The News, not normally sympathetic to the militants.

“There is an escalating sense of furious impotence among the ordinary people of Pakistan,” the newspaper said.

“Many – perhaps most – of them are strongly opposed to the spread of Talibanisation and extremist influence across the country: people who might be described as ‘moderates’.

“Many of them have no sympathy for the mullahs and their burning of girls’ schools and their medieval mindset.

“But if you bomb a moderate sensibility often enough, it has a tendency to lose its sense of objectivity and to feel driven in the direction of extremism.

“If America bombs moderate sensibilities often enough, you may find that its actions are the best recruiting sergeant that the extremists ever had.”

Pakistan could end cooperation in war on terror

Pakistan could end cooperation in war on terror

By PAUL ALEXANDER, Associated Press Writer 49 minutes ago

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan – The furor intensified Friday over Washington’s decision to pursue Islamic militant targets inside Pakistan, with opposition lawmakers threatening the country could pull out of the war on terror if the U.S. refuses to respect its borders.

About 100 protesters burned American flags after the latest missile attack left at least 12 people dead in the North Waziristan region of the troubled northwest. Residents said they heard the sound of propeller-driven U.S. Predator drones circling overhead before the explosions.

President Bush secretly approved more aggressive cross-border operations in July, current and former American officials have told The Associated Press.

Since Aug. 13, there have been at least seven reported missile strikes as well as a raid by helicopter-borne U.S. commandos that Pakistani officials claim killed 15 civilians in tribally governed territory where the government has little control. The frontier region is considered a likely hiding place for Osama bin Laden and his deputy, Ayman al-Zawahri.

Pakistan’s government and military have issued stiff protests to Washington over the recent rash of cross-border strikes, although the criticism appeared to be mostly rhetoric aimed at soothing domestic anger, given that Pakistan has few options for stronger action.

Domestic media have criticized the government for not reacting more strongly, even suggesting the public criticism is just lip service and that a secret deal has been reached with Pakistan’s leadership allowing cross-border incursions.

Pakistan army chief Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani has denied that and vowed to protect the country’s sovereignty “at all cost.”

Leaders, including new President Asif Ali Zardari, have reiterated their commitment to fighting violent Islamic extremism and have aired no threats to withdraw their cooperation.

However, they are sensitive to public opinion in Pakistan, which is hostile to U.S. policy in the region.

Agitation on the issue by former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who heads the main opposition party and has a large popular following, could make it hard for Islamabad to maintain the close alliance with Washington forged by Zardari’s predecessor, Pervez Musharraf.

“We need at this time to make it clear to foreign countries that Pakistan will not tolerate such actions,” said Ahsan Iqbal, a lawmaker in Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League-N party. “If it continues, then Pakistan can consider pulling out completely from this war on terror.”

Iqbal and another party leader called for an urgent parliament session to debate how Pakistan can respond.

“The parliament must be convened on a one-point agenda, because the nation is under a threat of war,” said lawmaker Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan. “Irrespective of where the threat is, every inch of this country is sovereign. Every inch of this country is sacred.”

Defense Minister Chaudhry Ahmad Mukhtar said Pakistan’s armed forces were “ready to meet any such eventuality if this is repeated” and evoked Pakistan’s war against India in 1965.

Despite the strong language, parliament has few options beyond issuing a condemnation of cross-border raids and reiterating the country’s sovereignty.

Realistically, there’s not much Pakistan can do to stop the U.S. from mounting cross-border attacks, short of shooting down helicopters carrying allied forces. And breaking off relations would mean an end to billions of dollars in U.S. aid at a time when Pakistan’s economy badly needs foreign assistance.

Most analysts doubt Pakistan is ready to reverse Musharraf’s decision in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks to stand with Washington. Even Musharraf raised the specter of pulling out of the war on terror, complaining repeatedly that Pakistan’s sacrifices in fighting the militants were not properly recognized.

Officials say more than 1,000 troops and police have died since 2001, far more than the losses for international forces in Afghanistan. Pakistan has also suffered a wave of suicide bombings that began last year and has killed and maimed thousands more.

Pakistani commentators have been near-unanimous in predicting that unilateral U.S. strikes and civilian casualties will wreck the moderate government’s effort to persuade its citizens that fighting violent Islamic extremism is in their own national interest.

“America is daily deepening the well of resentment against itself that no amount of aid or pious diplomatic platitudes will ever fill,” The News daily said in an editorial Friday.

Some analysts suggest the Bush administration is turning up the heat in Pakistan, hoping for last-minute victories in the face of a growing Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan.

But such cross-border operations are a “risky maneuver” and the U.S. has to be careful not to dismiss the help it is getting from Pakistan, said Robert Hathaway, director of the Asia program at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington.

“Too many of these operations will make the Pakistani army less willing to work with us,” which could negatively affect future U.S. leadership,” he said.

“Because the situation in Iraq has by most accounts improved, there’s a capacity for the administration to shift gears and devote more military and intelligence resources to Pakistan and Afghanistan issues,” said Daniel Markey, senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.

“What I don’t know and what will be important is whether this is a shift that will be lasting,” he said.

Zardari and Afghan President Hamid Karzai, at a joint news conference Tuesday, emphasized the need to eliminate civilian casualties, which fuel anti-government sentiment.