A suspected US drone attack on a stronghold of a Pakistani Taliban leader has killed at least 40 people and wounded dozens more in northwest Pakistan, Al Jazeera has learned.
The missile strike hit a funeral prayer on Tuesday in the South Waziristan tribal region, a stronghold of Baitullah Mehsud.
Al Jazeera’s Kamal Hyder, reporting from Islamabad, said most of those killed were believed to have been attending the funeral for the victims of another drone attack earlier in the day.
“No responsibility has so far been claimed by the Pakistani military or the Americans,” he said.
“Casualties according to witnesses were indeed very high, with some suggesting as [many] as 80 killed and several dozen wounded.
“Such attacks are likely to cause considerable anger in the area,” our correspondent said.
The US considers Pakistan’s tribal region, of which South Waziristan is a part, a hideout from where al-Qaeda and Taliban fighters attack US forces in Afghanistan.
Establishment media falls over itself to broadcast footage showing death of young Iranian protester, yet completely refused to show victims of Iraq and Afghanistan wars, not to forget Israel!
Paul Joseph Watson
Monday, June 22, 2009
Western establishment media organs are tripping over themselves to broadcast tragic footage showing the death of a young Iranian woman allegedly at the hands of pro-Ahmadinejad forces in an effort to rally international opinion against the government of Iran, a stark contrast to their complete and total refusal to broadcast footage of the hundreds of thousands of innocent women and children killed in Afghanistan and Iraq by U.S. and UK troops.
Neda Agha-Soltan has become a poster child for the CIA-sponsored color revolution in Iran after tragic and shocking scenes of her death were uploaded to You Tube the day after she was gunned down in Tehran on Saturday.
Soltan is being hailed as a “martyr” and “the face of the Iranian protests” by major western media outlets in emotional news reports such as the following CNN piece.
The hypocrisy is almost impossible to stomach. Hundreds of thousands of innocent women and children have been slaughtered in similar fashion by coalition forces during the bombardment and occupation of both Iraq and Afghanistan, and many of these deaths have been caught on camera. And yet the establishment media has blindly refused to broadcast any of it. Indeed, it could be claimed that the footage of Neda’s death has already been broadcast more times by the corporate media than the thousands of victims whose deaths were caught on film in Iraq and Afghanistan over the last eight years.
There’s no doubt that Neda’s vivid and shocking death is tragic to witness and a terrible loss for her family. However, the repercussions of the video circulating the globe via You Tube and its propaganda-driven exploitation by the west to demonize the Iranian government could have tragic consequences for many more innocent Iranians in the years to come.
The propensity for western governments to manufacture or exploit intensely emotional stories such as Neda’s death, and tragic events involving young women and children in general, in order to hoodwink populations into supporting phony wars of “liberation” has been proven time and time again.
One of the stunts used to sell the invasion of Iraq to the American people was the alleged capture and mistreatment of young female POW Jessica Lynch, who the Pentagon claimed went down in a blaze of glory in an attempt to throw off her captors and was subsequently “rescued” by U.S. forces. Lynch later revealed that the Pentagon concocted a Rambo fable around her image and that she actually never fired her weapon and was treated very well by Iraqi doctors who released her back to the U.S. military without incident.
The first invasion of Iraq was preceded by a similarly manufactured fable perfectly designed to tug at the heart strings and create a sense of outrage that won over a hesitant population into supporting a war.
Following the (US approved) Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1990, an American PR company called Hill & Knowlton was paid $10.7 million by a Kuwaiti front group to devise a campaign to win American support for the war. Stories soon began to emerge of brutal Iraqi soldiers removing babies from incubators in Kuwait hospitals. A firestorm of outrage spread across the western media and the population demanded that something be done, completely unaware of the fact that the whole story had been completely manufactured with the intention of creating that exact reaction.
Despite the fact that the Neda video shows nothing other than the sudden death of the woman after she was shot in the heart, the BBC, which the Iranian government has repeatedly accused of fomenting riots by means of bias and false reporting, quotes in a report today the woman’s fiance Caspian Makan, who states;
“Eyewitnesses and video footage of shooting clearly show that probably Basij paramilitaries in civilian clothing deliberately targeted her.”
The unedited video offers no evidence whatsoever for who killed Neda. For all we know it could have been the Al-Qaeda terrorists that the CIA has been funding to destabilize Iran. It has not even been established whether Neda was killed by a rooftop sniper or a passing motorcyclist, and yet the BBC is carrying matter-of-fact explanations of her death based on nothing more than conjecture without any clarification whatsoever.
This follows an embarrassing faux pas last week when the BBC was forced to issue a retraction of a photo they originally claimed represented a pro-Mousavi rally, when in fact the image was taken at a pro-Ahmadinejad demonstration.
The tragic death of Neda Agha-Soltan and its vivid capture on film is already being used as a propaganda tool by American, British and Israeli media outlets to harden western opinion against the Mullahs in Iran and grease the skids for a future invasion.
If we don’t heed the lessons of history and understand how sophisticated PR campaigns are routinely crafted around such events by western governments in collusion with their establishment media fronts, then the tragic death of Neda will be the catalyst for a million more tragedies in the years to come – the only difference being that you won’t see the deaths of those victims being broadcast on the BBC, Fox News or CNN.
[If this leads to an occupation of either embassy then Iran will likely be handing the US and Britain everything that they could not obtain through war. SEE: Iran Falling To US PSYOPS?]
TEHRAN: Iran accused global broadcasters the BBC and Voice of America on Monday of seeking to break up the Islamic republic with their coverage of the post-election unrest. “The heads of VOA and BBC Persian are officially the spiritual children of (Benjamin) Netanyahu and (Avigdor) Lieberman and their aim is to weaken the national solidarity, threaten territorial integrity and disintegrate Iran,” foreign ministry spokesman Hassan Ghashghavi told reporters. He was referring to the prime minister and foreign minister of arch-foe Israel.
“This is the agenda given to VOA and BBC Persian after their budgets were approved by the US Congress and the British parliament. Those who work there are all in the same line.” He said the BBC and US cable news network CNN had set up a “situation room and a psychological war room.”
Meanwhile, Iranian MPs on Monday urged a review of ties with Britain over election meddling as students planned a protest at the British embassy and warned of a repeat of the 1979 US embassy siege.
Centuries-old mistrust of British interest in Iran welled up once more as Iranian leaders alleged that London played a key role in fomenting the unrest that has swept the Islamic republic since the June 12 presidential election.
As the accusations mounted, Britain’s Foreign Office said it is withdrawing the families of embassy staff and warned its nationals against “all but essential travel to Iran.” Kazem Jalali, spokesman for parliament’s foreign relations commission, told state-run television: “We asked the foreign ministry to reduce relations with Britain in our session with the foreign minister and his deputies.” Members of four Iranian student unions will stage a protest demonstration outside the British embassy in Tehran on Tuesday, the Fars news agency reported.
It said the protest would target the “perverted government of Britain for its intervention in Iran’s internal affairs, its role in the unrest in Tehran and its support of the riots.” The report quoted Esmail Tahmouressi, a student leader, warning that Tuesday could be another “November 4”, the date when Islamist students captured the US embassy in Tehran after the 1979 revolution. The 444-day embassy siege led to Washington severing diplomatic ties with Tehran and relations remain cut to this day.
Asked whether Iran was considering expelling the British ambassador, foreign ministry spokesman Hassan Ghashghavi said: “I can not confirm this. Neither can I deny this.” Tehran has been rocked by deadly street protests since the election returned Mahmoud Ahmadijad to power in a landslide victory hotly contested by his defeated rivals. The BBC’s permanent correspondent in Tehran, Jon Leyne, was ordered expelled by the Iranian authorities which accused him of “supporting the rioters”.
PESHAWAR/WANA/MIRAMSHAH: Security forces were still facing tough resistance from the militants led by Baitullah Mehsud to secure the important Wana-Jandola road in South Waziristan Agency (SWA), where 15 people, four of them tribesmen, were killed in bombing by warplanes and gunship helicopters on Monday.
Also, situation remained tense in the adjoining North Waziristan Agency (NWA) after terrorist attacks on a military camp and a convoy of security forces by unknown people, causing injuries to three soldiers.
Sources said Pakistan Air Force (PAF) fighter planes and gunship helicopters of the Army continued blitzing suspected positions of the militants in various villages of SWA, including Makeen, Barwand, Torwam, Srarogha, Tiarza, etc.
Fighter planes also pounded suspected positions of the militants in the picturesque valley of Kaniguram. The valley is inhabited by the Burki tribesmen, who live amongst the Mehsuds. Tribal sources said warplanes targeted two houses of local tribesmen — Malik Mohammad Ameer Khan Khekanai and noted trader Malik Kabir Khan Burki Khekanai — in Salay Rogha village.
Villagers said 11 people were killed and five seriously injured. Both the houses were reportedly flattened in the bombing. There were no reports whether those killed were tribesmen or the militants. The injured were shifted to a local private hospital in the town.
The militants were reported to have immediately arrived there and besieged the targeted houses, triggering speculations that the buildings might have been in the use of the Taliban fighters.
According to sources, almost 80 per cent residents of Kaniguram town had fled to safer places in Tank and Dera Ismail Khan before situation became uncertain and troops in large number deployed for operation against Baitullah Mehsud.
Similarly, four villagers, including two women, were killed and 10 other seriously injured when the fighter planes dropped bombs on Shinkay village of Razmak town in NWA. The town is located near the border with Makeen town of SWA.
Other reports said fighter planes targeted two houses in Zyarsar village in Makeen area, but officials of the political administration in Razmak said those killed were local Torikhel tribesmen.
The tribal sources said tractors were called later after fighter planes went back to retrieve bodies of the slain tribesmen from rubble of the destroyed houses. The injured were later shifted to hospitals in Bannu and Peshawar.
Meanwhile, security forces were reportedly making all-out efforts for securing the Wana-Jandola, which the militants had blocked with heavy rocks and stones. The militants had also taken positions on hilltops on both sides of the road between Seplatoi and Jandola.
This strategic road has been blocked for all kind of traffic for the past two months, causing severe hardships to the Ahmadzai Wazir tribesmen living in Wana, Azam Warsak, Shakai and Angoor Adda areas of SWA.
The troops had secured a portion of the Wana-Jandola road between Serwakai and Seplatoi, but were facing tough resistance from the militants to move forward towards Jandola.The tribal sources said the road between Seplatoi and Jandola, which is also known a gateway to the SWA, is a difficult terrain and suitable for guerrilla fighting.
Six people, including three women, two men and a child, were critically injured when stray rockets fired by unknown people fell on their houses at Danday Darpakhel village, about five kilometres west of Miramshah, the headquarters of NWA.
Tribal sources said suspected militants had fired around 12 rockets towards the military camp in Miramshah, of which two fell on houses of local tribesmen, while the rest landed near the Army airport close to the highly-fortified British-era fort.
Later, unknown people ambushed a military convoy near Deegan. The convoy was on its way to Dattakhel when it came under attack in which three soldiers sustained injuries. Taking a serious note of the incident, Political Agent of NWA Muttahirzeb Khan later convened a meeting of the Waziristan Peace Committee and warned of strict action if attacks on security forces were not stopped immediately.
The political agent told the committee members, including Malik Qadir Khan, Malik Nasrullah Khan, former MNA and religious scholar, Maulana Deendar, that there was no justification for such terrorist attacks on security forces and government installations after signing peace accord with the government.
He warned the government would react after recent attacks and the tribesmen would suffer losses if any military operation was launched.The official urged the tribal elders to play their role in defusing the tension and ensure compliance with the peace accord.
BISHKEK: The United States and Kyrgyzstan signed a deal on the transit of non-military cargo to Afghanistan that will effectively keep open a US air base Bishkek had ordered closed, officials said.
“The US and Kyrgyzstan agreed on the opening of a centre for the transit of goods to Afghanistan at the Manas Airport,” a source in the Kyrgyz government told foreign news agency.
The source added that the base, which had previously been used for ferrying troops to Afghanistan and the refueling of military aircraft, would from now on only be used for the transit of non-lethal goods.
“The status of the airbase has changed. It will now transport non-military cargo to Afghanistan,” the official said.
PESHAWAR: A suspected US missile strike killed six militants in Pakistan’s South Waziristan tribal region Tuesday, officials said.
‘A missile attack by a suspected US drone took place in rugged mountainous terrain in Neej Narai in South Waziristan,’ said a Pakistani security official who did not want to be named.
He said the drone fired three missiles, adding that ‘six militants were killed and seven others wounded in the attack.’
Another security official confirmed the incident and casualties, saying that the missiles destroyed a compound, a bunker and two vehicles of the Taliban.
It was not immediately known whether there was any high value target present in the area at the time of attack.
Neej Narai is on the outskirts of Makeen village, 60 kilometres northeast of Wana, the main town in South Waziristan. It is a known stronghold of Pakistani Taliban chief Baitullah Mehsud.
GHAR-I-HIRA CAMP: Deep in the tunnel, a small wooden cabinet is the only piece of furniture, a syringe still in its plastic wrapper and a disposable razor scattered on the shelves. A pair of sky-blue pants lies on the rocky ground by the remnants of a threadbare sleeping mat.
‘This was their safest haven,’ said Waseem Shafique, a Pakistani army major whose men stumbled onto this hand-hewn cave and the militant camp around it this month. ‘Nothing can touch them in here, it is safe from shelling, they cannot be seen – everything.’
The hillside camp offers rare insight into conditions, tools and tactics being used by insurgents against government troops in Swat Valley for about the past two years.
It may also be a foreboding sign of the much tougher fight to come as the military moves into the grotto- and tunnel-ridden tribal region on the Afghan border, the scene of the next anti-Taliban operation and where battle-hardened militants have had much longer to dig in.
In another worrying sign, commanders and experts warn that some of the most formidable Taliban leaders and fighters who have escaped from Swat may be heading for the tribal zone of South Waziristan.
Less than three months after the Taliban advanced from Swat to Buner, the army now says it has the militants on the run, helped by tips from residents fed up with their brutality.
The military took a small media group on Saturday to view the Ghar-i-Hira camp, a facility spread over three tiers cut into a pine-forested hillside in the upper reaches of the Swat Valley.
A simple tunnel system formed the militants’ living quarters – a 120-foot-deep corridor chipped into the rock hillside, with two antechambers branching off in a rough T-shape.
Shreds of clothes lay scattered on the ground along with the scraps of sleeping mats. The battered cabinet leaned precariously, charred by a kerosene fire set in the tunnel by troops.
Outside, soldiers displayed items found in the tunnel and a smaller cave they said was an ammunition store: a machine gun and ammo belts, a pistol, mortar rounds, and an empty box of rocket-propelled grenades stamped ‘government explosive’ in English. The government was not identified, and soldiers said they could not identify the box as Pakistani or otherwise.
There were bags of gunpowder, two small pipe bombs, a half-dozen alarm clocks and television remote controls – the makings of improvised explosive devices that are often used to attack security forces convoys in Pakistan’s northwest. Also on hand was a book in Urdu the soldiers said was about the glory of jihad, or holy struggle.
In the kitchen area nearby, a pot of sweetened rice sat rotting – evidence of the soldiers’ account that the camp was discovered on June 11 as the militants were preparing breakfast. The militants spotted a patrol on a nearby ridge and dropped what they were doing to open fire.
In the 13-hour gunbattle that followed, seven soldiers and about 40 militants were killed and about the same number escaped along narrow paths through the pine forest, Shafique said.
Elsewhere in the camp was a makeshift mosque, a hole-ridden metal plate hanging from a tree used for target practice, and an area strewn with coils of barbed wire and wooden structures soldiers said were used for training.
Access to the region has been strictly controlled, and no independent confirmation of the military’s account of the battle was available.
Maj. Gen. Sajjad Ghani, the Swat offensive’s northern commander, said foreigners were among the roughly 100 fighters at the camp, and that some were killed.
Officials showed journalists a grainy photograph of several corpses, but their ethnicity was not discernible. Ghani said it was easy to spot foreigners by their different appearance from Pakistanis, and named Afghans, Chechens, Uzbeks and Tajiks as among those believed to be in the camp.
‘These are the hard-core, the trainers,’ Ghani said. ‘They are like guerrillas. They move around from place to place.’
After almost two months of fighting, the military says the Taliban has been cleared out of almost all the Swat Valley and surrounding regions. Nearly 1,600 militants and about 100 soldiers have been killed, military spokesman Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas said Monday.
Pressed at a media briefing whether any of the top militant leaders have been captured or killed, Abbas said the military has reports that some leaders may have been wounded, or killed and quickly buried. But there is no confirmation, he said.
Ghani said the military has cleared insurgents from 95 percent of the roughly 4,000 square miles of territory for which he is responsible, but he estimated that up to 3,000 militants may remain. The vast bulk of these, he said, are local men either paid or forced to join the Taliban and who will return to peaceful lives once the government’s authority is restored.
The whereabouts of a hard-core group of up to 500 are unknown.
‘Some of them might have been incapacitated or seriously injured; however, as of now there are no bodies to show,’ Ghani told The Associated Press. ‘The possibility is they are going to Waziristan and also to Afghanistan — they are the two relief zones that I see.’
The leaders may want to go into hiding in Waziristan to reorganize, he said. They may not get that chance.
South Waziristan, a 4,400-square-mile chunk of Pakistan along the Afghan border, has for a week been softened up with airstrikes and artillery fire as the military prepares its next major anti-Taliban operation.
The government says it is about to go after Pakistani Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud in his South Waziristan base. Authorities blame Mehsud for suicide bombings that have killed more than 100 people in the past two months and for masterminding last year’s assassination of opposition leader Benazir Bhutto as part of an insurgency to destabilize the government.
A hardscrabble, mountainous area where well-armed tribes hold sway and the government’s influence is minimal, South Waziristan is a possible hiding place of al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden and his deputy Ayman al-Zawahri.
Since militants began seeking it out as a safe haven after the 2001 U.S.-backed invasion of Afghanistan, the region is said to have become riddled with militant bolt-holes including tunnels and concrete bunkers. It is used as a base for militants operating in both Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Asad Munir, a former intelligence chief with responsibility for the tribal zone, said fighters there would welcome fellow militants from Swat who volunteer for a fresh battle in South Waziristan.
‘Foot soldiers, the remnants from the Taliban side in Swat, they would be coming to South Waziristan to reinforce Baitullah’s forces,’ he said. ‘Fighters would also be coming from the Afghan side.’
Ghani said there was only one way to deal with the most determined fighters.
‘The hard-core, there is only one thing. You have to kill them,’ he said. ‘They are like a mad dog, and what can you do with a mad dog? You must kill it.’ —AP
[Through relentless Predator assaults and American double-crosses, Maulvi Nazir was removed from the Army's arsenal (he has now become a target), now a paid assassin has finalized the American veto on Pakistani strategic plans by eliminating the other half of the cobbled-together Taliban opposition. If the generals really want Mehsud then they will have to do it themselves. SEE: Pakistan Army tightens noose around Bait Mehsud]
Qari Zainuddin, second from right, the leader of a Taliban faction, accompanied by his bodyguards in Dera Ismail Khan. [Which one of these bodyguards fired the shots?]
DERA ISMAIL KHAN: A gunman shot dead on Tuesday a militant commander who was a rival to Pakistani Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud, police said.
The militant commander, known as Qari Zainuddin, had recently given statements to the media opposing Mehsud. He was killed in the northwestern town of Dera Ismail Khan, police said.
‘I confirm that Qari Zainuddin has been shot dead,’ Salahuddin, superintendent of police in the city, told Reuters.
It was not clear who was behind the killing, he said.
Zainuddin was in his office when a man opened fire on him, local police official Salah-ud-din Khan told AFP. ‘Zainuddin was immediately shifted to hospital where he succumbed to his injuries,’ he said, adding that one of the tribal leader’s accomplices was also injured in the shooting.
Khan said Zainuddin was pronounced dead by doctors when his body reached the hospital in Dera Ismail Khan.
Another local police official Ghulam Rabbani also confirmed the incident, saying ‘Qari Zainuddin has been assassinated’.
Suspicion is likely to focus on Mehsud for Zainuddin’s murder.
The government has ordered the military to go on the offensive against Mehsud.
The military has launched air strikes on Mehsud’s bases in the South Waziristan region on the Afghan border.
The United States has offered a reward of $5 million on information leading to Mehsud’s location or arrest.
A Taliban faction leader who criticized the militant group’s Pakistani head has been shot dead, reportedly by one of his own guards.
Dr. Mahmood Khan Bitani told The Associated Press that he pronounced Qari Zainuddin dead on arrival Tuesday at a hospital in the northwest with gunshot wounds to the head and chest.
Baz Mohammad, an aide of the militant leader who also was wounded, says a guard barged into a room at Zainuddin’s compound after morning prayers and opened fire.
Zainuddin’s strong statements against Mehsud in recent days had led to speculation authorities were encouraging him to stand up to his rival, Mehsud.
ISLAMABAD – Afaction leader who criticized the militant group’s Pakistani head over attacks that killed civilians was fatally shot Tuesday, reportedly by one of his own guards.
The attack on Qari Zainuddin appeared to be a sign that divisions within the Taliban have broken into the open as they come under military assault. The army is clearing out militants from the Swat Valley and has been pounding strongholds of Pakistani Taliban leader in the tribal region bordering Afghanistan in apparent preparation for a major offensive.
Elswhere in the area, three suspected U.S. missiles hit a reported Taliban training center Tuesday, killing at least three people, according to two intelligence officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to speak to media.
They said the attack was believed to have been carried out by unmanned drones in the village of Najmarai, in the Makeen area of South Waziristan. Dozens of such targeted strikes have been carried out in the tribal regions over the last year.
Zainuddin was gunned down in the nearby town of Dera Ismail Khan.
He had emerged as Mehsud’s chief rival.
Dr. Mahmood Khan Bitani told The Associated Press that he pronounced Zainuddin dead on arrival at a local hospital with gunshot wounds to the head and chest.
Baz Mohammad, an aide of the militant leader who also was wounded, said a guard barged into a room at Zainuddin’s compound after morning prayers and opened fire. He accused Mehsud of being behind the attack.
“It was definitely Baitullah’s man who infiltrated our ranks, and he has done his job,” Mohammad told AP, vowing to avenge the death.
A spokesman for Mehsud could not immediately be reached for comment on the accusation.
Bahawal Khan, the area police official, confirmed the slaying, as did Sher Mohammad, an uncle of Zainuddin. Aides said the guard had gotten closer to Zainuddin about four months ago. He fled after the attack in a waiting car, they said.
Mahmood Shah, a former top security official, said the slaying sends a strong message to the government that they need to launch a strong, comprehensive operation to eliminate Mehsud, described as the center of gravity for much of the terrorist activity in Pakistan. Instead, Shah said, they have relied on “local efforts” by Mehsud’s opponents like Zainuddin.
“Baitullah Mehsud has overcome all tribal dynamics. He has resources, funding and a fighting force to strike anywhere in Pakistan,” Shah said, calling him a front man for . “You simply can’t eliminate him through local efforts; instead, you need a major force.”
Zainuddin was estimated to have about 3,000 armed followers in Dera Ismail Khan and nearby Tank. Earlier this month, he denounced Mehsud for recent attacks that have killed civilians — apparently launched in retaliation for the army offensive in the northwestern Swat Valley.
“Whatever Baitullah Mehsud and his associates are doing in the name of Islam is not a jihad, and in fact it is rioting and terrorism,” Zainuddin told AP after a mosque suicide bombing attack, blamed on Mehsud, killed 33 people. “Islam stands for peace, not for terrorism.”
Zainuddin’s motive for criticizing Mehsud was not clear, but there was speculation that he was trying to portray himself as a more moderate alternative to the Taliban leader, although there appeared to be little or no differences between the two over fighting U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan.
Militants used mortars, rockets and an anti-aircraft gun to attack military positions in the northwest on Monday and were pummeled in response by airstrikes that killed at least 25 people, officials said.
It was the latest violence to break out in the tribal region on the Afghan border ahead of the expected offensive against Mehsud.
Army spokesman Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas on Monday offered the most detailed information yet about the military’s goals for the operation in South Waziristan, which is also a potential hiding place of al-Qaida and Afghan Taliban leaders.
“Our effort is to break his network, the classes and training schools for suicide bombers running there,” Abbas said of Mehsud. “To dismantle that … and particularly the foreigners, who are in big numbers with him.”
The government announced last week that the military would go after Mehsud in his stronghold in the remote mountainous region, where heavily armed tribesmen hold sway. The military also has been encouraging tribal leaders and other Taliban factions to rebel against Mehsud.
The operation comes on the heels of the military’s offensive against the Taliban in Swat, which is now winding down.
Washington supports anti-militant operations, seeing them as a measure of nuclear-armed Pakistan‘s resolve in taking on a growing insurgency. The battle in the tribal region could also help the war in Afghanistan because the area has been used by militants to launch cross-border attacks on coalition troops there.
Daily bombing runs and artillery barrages have been softening up militant targets for about a week, and Abbas said the “pre-positioning” of ground troops in South Waziristan has been completed, though the campaign proper has not started.
Qari Hussain, a close aide of Mehsud, telephoned The Associated Press on Monday to say the military strikes had not weakened the Taliban in South Waziristan and had hit civilians and destroyed their homes. The military has been trying to avoid civilian casualties that could erode public support for the operation.
Associated Press writer Zarar Khan in Islamabad and Ishtiaq Mahsud in Dera Ismail Khan contributed to this report.
Editor’s note: An interesting article that describes important aspects marking the decline of Israeli society, some of which were inevitable, but which happily seems to suggest that the end of the line for Zionist experiment may not be that far off and vanish “not with a bang but a whimper”. — Jeff Blankfort]
A few days ago, A.’s great-great-great grandson was born. A. is 98 years old, a well-known figure in Jerusalem’s Mea Shearim neighborhood, and he has around 450 descendants – no one counts for fear of the evil eye. A simple calculation shows that about 20 years separate each generation of his extended family, and each nuclear family has over 10 children on average.
What does this say about Israeli society and its future in the very near term? Even today, 23 percent of first-grade pupils are ultra-Orthodox and 22 percent are Arab. In another 12 years, when they reach voting age, they will together comprise the majority, and the face of the nation will change.
These figures complement the data about the growth in draft-dodging and about the education system, which is incapable of training its graduates for a life of work and productivity. Draft-dodging, which was once a mark of Cain on the brow of any healthy secular man, has in recent years become almost the bon ton. The new heroes of TV show “A Star is Born” are not embarrassed to say that they did not serve in the army.
Some young people explain their evasion of service by their loss of confidence in the leadership, the cases of corruption and the state’s abandonment of its soldiers. But there is also an accumulated weariness with the state of war, which has already lasted 60 years, and many young people, along with their parents, are no longer willing to sacrifice their lives on the altar of the settlers’ expansionist dreams.
In any case, the decline in motivation to serve in combat units and the steady rise in draft-dodging raise the question of whether the Israel Defense Forces is really still “the people’s army.” After all, 25 percent of those eligible for the draft never serve at all (11 percent receive exemptions for yeshiva studies, 7 percent for health reasons, 4 percent reside abroad and 3 percent have a criminal record). Of those drafted, 17.5 percent do not complete a full three years of service. The sharpest rise in the number of draft-dodgers is among the ultra-Orthodox. In 1974, they comprised only 2.4 percent of those eligible for the draft. Today, the figure is 11 percent.
Against this background, it is shocking to learn that yesterday the Knesset decided to extend the so-called Tal Law for another five years due to the government’s need to keep Shas in the coalition. This is a cynical, immoral law that absolves a significant portion of Jewish Israelis from the need to either do army service or work for a living. The fact is that 80 percent of ultra-Orthodox men do not work; instead, they live on government grants and stipends and the earnings of their wives. After all, why should they risk their lives? Why should they leave their comfortable incubators as long as the secular donkey is there to bear the burden for them?
The secular donkey does not merely bear the military and economic burden; it also continues to expand the scope of government support for ultra-Orthodox education, including even the most extremist strains. About two months ago, the Knesset, by a large majority, approved the so-called Nahari Law, which compels the municipalities to grant equal funding to ultra-Orthodox schools that are not part of the official education system. These are extremist institutions, which do not even recognize the education systems run by Shas and United Torah Judaism and are unwilling even to hear about the Education Ministry’s “core curriculum.” They do not teach mathematics, English, nature, science, civics, geography or history. In other words, they deliberately fail to train their graduates for a life of work and productivity. So these graduates have no choice but to cling to the coattails of ultra-Orthodox activists.
And where will the new funding for these extremist schools come from? From cuts in the state education system, which is already poor and discriminated against.
To this dangerous trend should be added the targeted assassination of the Wisconsin plan that Industry Minister Eli Yishai carried out this week. This welfare-to-work program succeeded in returning thousands of people to the ranks of the employed, but was curtailed because, in Yishai’s value system, work is at the bottom of the list.
All this leads to a situation in which only 56 percent of the country’s potential workers actually work – the lowest rate of any Western country. And if this rate declines any further, Israel will sooner or later reach a situation in which the taxes of the few who still work will not suffice to support the many who do not.
If these dangerous processes continue and even intensify, Israeli society will move from A.D. Gordon’s system of labor to the charitable support system of the pre-state Jewish community, and from “the people’s army” to a French-style foreign legion. That will bring us to the complete reversal of the Zionist revolution – and perhaps even to the end of the Zionist state.