Joe Biden, World Tour 2009

Resetting Brzezinskis Grand Chessboard

Joe Biden travels to Georgia to affirm US support

US Vice President Joe Biden arrives in Georgia today, almost a year after a war with Russia that turned the small nation on the far frontier of Europe into the epicenter of the simmering conflict between Moscow and the West.

Biden will hold two days of talks with President Mikhail Saakashvili and opposition leaders to demonstrate US support for Georgia, a loyal ally concerned about Washington’s efforts to court the Kremlin.

The Russia-Georgia war capped years of increasing tensions between the West and Russia, a country key to US and European efforts to halt the spread of nuclear weapons, battle terrorism and secure Europe’s energy supplies.

Biden’s trip comes just a few weeks after President Barack Obama’s summit in Moscow and amid increasing concern among some of Russia’s East European neighbors that warming relations between the US and Russia might leave them out in the cold.

He will arrive from Ukraine, another former Soviet nation looking to strengthen ties to the US and Europe.

Saakashvili and Biden will attend ceremonies tonight, including a banquet where both will exchange toasts, a ritual of hospitality that Georgians have turned into an art form.

On Thursday, Biden will hold formal discussions with Saakashvili, whose government was shaken this spring by mass street demonstrations demanding his resignation. The vice president will also meet with leading members of the opposition.

Political foes blame Saakashvili for the August war’s disastrous results and accuse him of riding roughshod over democratic rights.

Saakashvili has said he tried to defend Georgia from Russian aggression, and he announced a series of political reforms Monday meant to address his critics’ complaints that his administration was restricting rights.

After Georgia used military force to try to seize a breakaway region from Moscow-backed separatists in August, Russia sent tanks and warplanes deep into Georgian territory, crushing the country’s army.

The conflict ended hopes in the West that Russia, after recovering from the economic and social turmoil of the post-Soviet era, would become a docile, democratic member of the club of European nations.

Instead, Russia has tried to reclaim its historic role as an assertive regional power with global ambitions.

Shortly after the Georgian war, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev declared that Moscow has a “zone of privileged interests” among former Soviet and Eastern European satellites.

The US and Europe have rejected sphere-of-influence geopolitics, which give great powers sway over their smaller neighbors. And they show no signs of backing down.

Neither do they seem willing to risk a confrontation with Russia on the issue.

The US has pledged to support NATO membership for Ukraine and Georgia. But Germany and other European member states are skeptical.

DNA samples do not fit suspected Jakarta bombers

DNA samples do not fit suspected Jakarta bombers

Tajikistan News.Net
Wednesday 22nd July, 2009

DNA samples taken from the families of suspects in the Jakarta suicide bombings do not match bodies taken from the blast site.

Indonesian police have confirmed the mismatch on remains found at the scenes of last Friday’s deadly blasts.

The man who was suspected of bombing the Marriott hotel, Nur Hasbi, and a florist named Ibrahim, missing from the Ritz-Carlton hotel, are no longer being regarded as the chief suspects.

Nur Hasbi was described by police as a graduate of Abu Bakar Bashir’s Islamic boarding school and had been named as the suicide bomber.

The negative DNA results will ensure the identities of the suicide bombers remain a mystery until two severed heads found at the bomb sites are identified.

Photos of the reconstructed faces of the two suspected suicide bombers are now being shown to witnesses.

No one to defend Musharraf in SC

No one to defend Musharraf in SC

By Ansar Abbasi

MURREE: It would have to be a diehard loyalist legal eagle of Gen (retd) Pervez Musharraf to swoop in to his legal defence before the Supreme Court’s 14-member bench, as the government clearly has no plans, or intention, to protect the man who had ruled the country for over eight years with absolute authority and impunity.

An official source closely associated with Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani told The News on Tuesday the attorney-general had been asked not to defend Musharraf before the 14-member bench of the apex court, which is currently hearing an all important case that would focus on major distortions made in the system by Musharraf on and subsequent to Nov 3, 2007.

Musharraf is currently in London and as things are proceeding in Islamabad, the former dictator is left with two options: either to settle for an exiled life in the UK or to show courage of facing independent courts in Pakistan. Musharraf has recently purchased a flat in an expensive locality in London — Edgeware road.

The Prime Minister Secretariat source said although the government may like to retain some of the bits of Musharraf’s unconstitutional actions of Nov 3, 2007, it does not want to defend Musharraf himself before the 14-member Supreme Court bench.

The source though insisted the president and the prime minister are in unison to secure appointments of all the judges, those who took oath under the PCO on Nov 3, 2007 or those who were appointed on the recommendations of de facto chief justice Abdul Hameed Dogar.

Interestingly, the PPP is divided on the issue as the likes of Raza Rabbani and Safdar Abbasi seek complete cleansing of the system from the distortions created by Musharraf.

While the government would defend the PCO judges and also those appointed on Dogar’s recommendation, a law ministry source said the Nov 3 decision of the seven-member bench headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry and the principles as laid down by the Supreme Court in the Al-Jihad case would serve as the cornerstone to decide the future complexion of the superior judiciary.

The seven-member bench of the de jure Supreme Court had barred Musharraf on Nov 3, 2007, from taking any action contrary to the independence of the judiciary.

The Supreme Court had also noted no judge of the Supreme Court or high courts, including chief justices, should take oath under the PCO or take any other extra-constitutional step. It had clearly stated any further appointment of the chief justice and judges of the apex court and chief justices of high courts or judges of provinces under the new development “shall be” unlawful and without jurisdiction.

Musharraf, however, turned a blind eye to this order of the Supreme Court and so did the then-chief justice Dogar, who was immediately appointed as the chief justice of Pakistan in clear violation of the Constitution as well as the decision of the Supreme Court. More than 60 judges of the superior judiciary, however, refused to show their allegiance to the dictator whereas others like Dogar, who were in minority, took oath under the PCO.

Within a few days of his appointment, the de facto chief justice constituted an 11-member bench and validated the abrogation of the Constitution by Musharraf, overturned the order of the de jure Supreme Court and had ruled that all those judges of the superior judiciary who had not taken oath under Musharraf’s PCO had ceased to be judges. However, the nation neither accepted Musharraf’s unconstitutional action nor did it accept Dogar and joined the countrywide judicial movement that finally ended up in the restoration of all the deposed judges in March this year.

Countrywide protests rage as no let-up in loadshedding

[Is "Load-sharing" a diversionary tactic in the battle between a government committed to America's war and its people who only want to live as human beings?]

Countrywide protests rage as no let-up in loadshedding

One killed in Faisalabad; train bogies, Pepco offices, police vehicles, public, private properties damaged in various cities

By our correspondents

LAHORE: Protest demonstrations against unscheduled and long power outages across the country turned violent on Tuesday, claiming at least one life in Faisalabad.

In almost all major cities of the country, protesters took out rallies, blocked roads, torched Pepco offices, damaged public and private vehicles and set fire to properties to vent their anger on the government as well as Pepco authorities.

Major demonstrations were held in Lahore, Karachi, Peshawar, Rawalpindi, Faisalabad, Jhang and other main cities. A partial strike was observed in Lahore on Tuesday in response to a call, given by the Aunjuman-e-Tajiran. The protesters blocked roads and raised slogans against the government and Pepco officials. Shah Alam Market and The Mall business centres witnessed clashes between trader groups. Protestors burnt tyres at The Mall, Dharampura, Shahdara and Defence Road in Walton area.

Rawalpindi: Transporters and traders of twin cities observed complete strike against the increase in fuel prices through a presidential order as well as frequent loadshedding. Faisalabad: Police said one Muhammad Sharif, son of Abdul Ghani, was sitting on a canal bank when a stone, thrown by protesters, hit him accidentally. He was rushed to District Headquarters Hospital, but he could not survive.

The residents of Samanabad in Faisalabad stopped the Pakistan Train, coming from Karachi, on Tuesday and damaged its bogies to protest power outages. Jhang: An angry mob, in a fit of anger, Tuesday burnt tyres and damaged public and private properties worth millions of rupees as a protest against unscheduled load-shedding in the city.

Hundreds of protesters carrying batons and iron rods gathered at Ayub Chowk. They blocked roads for hours, reached the district council secretariat and damaged the official vehicles. The mob stopped a train and burnt three bogies. Later, they attacked the jeep of DSP (City Circle) and a police wagon, and burnt both the vehicles. Some policemen were also injured in the attacks. A group of protestors entered Faisalabad Electricity Supply Company offices after breaking its locks and burnt all records.

OKARA: In Hujra Shah Muqeem, people observed strike against Pepco and took out a rally. Some protestors entered the office of the SDO South and damaged furniture, record and building. They set the record and building on fire. Some policemen were taken hostage by the protestors for quite some time.

PESHAWAR: Protests against loadshedding continued as angry consumers blocked Grand Trunk Road near Nishtarabad, Shabistan Cinema and Kohat Road on Ring Road Chowk here Tuesday. The protesters burnt old tyres to block the roads and vehicular traffic for more than an hour at the three places.

Holbrooke rules out US army action in Pakistan, Again

[If American Special Forces are not planning to come to Pakistan, then why does Obama have to keep sending Holbrooke to convince them otherwise?]

Holbrooke rules out US army action in Pakistan

ISLAMABAD: US special envoy for Pakistan and Afghanistan Richard Holbrooke Wednesday ruled out interference by US forces in Pakistan, saying there is no US army present in Pakistan nor does his country want any US military action here.

He said this while talking to a delegation of the welfare organizations and veterans hailing from Malakand and Swat, who called on him in Islamabad. On the occasion, US ambassador in Pakistan Anne W Patterson was also present.

Holbrooke said the government and people of Pakistan are to play more vital and real role in the rehabilitation of the affectees and US role is limited to the extent of giving assistance, which would be performed to the core.

The delegation apprised the US special envoy of their grievances in connection with problems involved in the rehabilitation of Malakand affectees.

Pakistan’c Latest “Plan B”

[Pakistan's Latest "Plan B" qari zain

He hasn't been forgotten yet.]

New Taliban group with new chief formed in SWA

WANA: Three groups of Taliban in South Waziristan Agency have chosen Ikhlas Khan alias Waziristan Baba as the new Ameer of Abdullah Mehsud group on Wednesday.

Three groups namely Turkistan Bathni, Haji Tehsil Khan Wazir and Ikhals Khan Mehsud formed a new group with name of Abullah Mehsud.

New Ameer Ikhlas Khan alias Waziristan Baba is 42 years old, he joined Abdullah Mehsud three years ago.

Expressing his views after assuming the chieftaincy, Ikhlas Khan alias Waziristan Baba said Bitullah Mehsud is involved in the assassination of Benazir Bhutto; now, nobody will be allowed to do wrongs on the people.

The offices of new group have been set up in SWA areas including Gomal, Umar Adda, Jandola, Pang, and Sheikh Autar and more offices will be opened in other areas.

Ikhlas Khan said they will avenge the killings of innocent people, adding, ‘Those who are playing gory games with our brothers and sisters, are not people’s well-wishers.’

Holbrooke Issuing Orders, or Practicing Damage Control?

Holbrooke calls on Kayani, Gilani

ISLAMABAD: US special envoy for Pakistan and Afghanistan Richard Holbrooke held Wednesday separate meetings with Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani and Chief of the Army Staff General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani and discussed the rehabilitation process for Malakand IDPs.

Holbrooke called on Kayani at GHQ and mulled over the Swat operation results and steps taken for the rehabilitation of the affectees. They also gave thought to cooperation in war against terrorism.

According to sources, General Kayani told the US envoy that the IDPs’ repatriation proved well ahead of expectations.

The Army Chief said special attention was paid to keeping the collective damage to the minimum.

Later on, Richard Holbrooke called on the Prime Minister. On this occasion, US ambassador in Pakistan Anne W Patterson, Defence Minister Ahmed Mukhtar, Sate Minister Hina Rabbani Khar and MNA Sughra Imam were also present in the meeting.

Holbrooke held his meeting with Pakistan Army Chief as elaborate and very positive.

The People of Pakistan–vs–The Previous Dictator (Zardari, Take Heed)

Musharraf summoned in judges case

The Dictator breaks into a cold sweat.

ISLAMABAD: The 14-member larger bench of the Supreme Court of Pakistan on Wednesday summoned former President Pervez Musharraf to defend charges leveled against him for imposing emergency on November 3, 2007.

The larger bench issued a notice to Pervez Musharraf to appear in person or through counsel on July 29.

The PCO judges case hearing was adjourned till July 29.

A 14-member larger bench headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammed Chaudhry heard the case relating the promulgation of emergency on November 3 and the appointment of judges of higher judiciary.

Giving his remarks, the CJ said justice will not meet its demands, if the court gives verdict without giving explanation chance to Musharraf; thereupon, Sindh High Court Bar counsel Hamid Khan retorted former Gen Yahya Khan appeared before court in Aasma Gilani case.

The CJ said the case is highly important.

CJ Chaudhry queried Hamid Khan Advocate regarding the repercussions of the verdict of this case, adding, ‘We will have to muse seriously why July 5, 77 happened, what effects judicial rulings had on national life.’

‘The case may have effects on our judges ranks, we will have to spot repercussions of the case ruling outside the courtroom.’

Justice Khalilur Rehman Ramday said in his remarks that the judges who took oath on PCO on November 3, 2007, ran foul of the order of 7 SC judges.

Spokesman for US/India Wants to Open Another Backdoor Into Pakistan Through Tajikistan

[SEE: U.S.-built bridge is windfall — for illegal Afghan drug trade ; Farkhor/ Ayne Air Force Base :]

Zardari for expediting electricity import project from Tajikistan

ISLAMABAD ( 2009-07-21 21:43:59 ) :President Asif Ali Zardari on Tuesday called for stepping up efforts to finalize import of hydroelectric power from Tajikistan to help overcome acute power shortage in the country.
Finalization of power import agreement and preferential trade agreement will reinforce Pak-Tajik ties, the President said.
The President said this in a meeting with Tajik Minister for Energy and Industry Gul Sherali who called on him at the Aiwan-e-Sadr on Tuesday.
The Tajik Minister informed the President that Tajikistan had about 3000MW of exportable surplus power which can be exported to Pakistan and Afghanistan.
An agreement formalizing laying of transmission line from Tajikistan to Pakistan for electricity trade was inked in August last year during the inter-government council meeting in Islamabad.
The President inquired about the status of the project and directed that bottlenecks, if any, should be removed for its early implementation.
Briefing the media about the meeting spokesperson to the President former Senator Farhatullah Babar said that the Tajik Minister was on a visit to Pakistan on the eve of the President’s forthcoming visit to Tajikistan.

The Government has conceeded; There is no Power shortage

The Government has conceeded; There is no Power shortage

Jun, 2009
Naveed Butt

By providing uninterrupted electricity to the people during the cricket match, the government has conceded the fact that the current electricity crisis is fake

Through load-shedding, the government wants to overwhelm people with problems so that America achieves her interests without any resistance

If uninterrupted supply of electricity can be assured countrywide to enable people to watch a cricket match then why can’t this be done to save the economy of the country and the people from the scourging heat.  By terminating load-shedding during the match, the government has proven without doubt that the electricity crisis is fake. America and her agent Pakistani rulers are using load-shedding as a psychological and economic weapon against the people of Pakistan so that the people, instead of resisting American war of Terror, remain embroiled in their personal problems.

Whenever government wants to defocus people from the real political issues by involving them in merrymaking or she intends to start a media campaign for American interests, the fake electricity crisis suddenly evaporates.  Hence during the media campaigns regarding lashing of a girl in Swat and the kidnapping of the students of Cadet College Razmak, load-shedding abruptly ended. Likewise in order to build public opinion for the military operation in Swat, a week-long uninterrupted supply of electricity was guaranteed by the government. But as soon as the operation started the government reinitiated load-shedding so that the people could not hear and see the horrifying stories of millions of homeless Muslims and the killings of civilians in the warzone.

The truth is that the electricity crisis is a lethal weapon in America’s arsenal in her ongoing War of Terror which she uses with the help of our rulers whenever and however she pleases.  By using this psychological and economic weapon, America wants to frustrate people to such an extent that they simply forget about their 4 million Muslim brothers and sisters and the miseries they are going through.  In order to keep people politically ignorant the previous government used to ban Satellite Channels and cable whilst the current “intelligent” democratic government switches off electricity.  Hence no electricity – no media!! Moreover through 8 to 10 hours of no electricity per day, America wants to force people to their knees by destroying the economy of the country so that people do not pose any resistance to American objectives for this region.

On the Day of Judgement the blood of all the patients who died in the hospitals just because of non-availability of electricity and all those who could not bear the scourging heat and died of heart attack, will be on the hands of these oppressive agent rulers.  Do they not fear Allah that what will be their plight if He accepted even a single curse from all those millions of labourers and workers who have been deprived of the luxury of few hours of peaceful sleep in the night?  Indeed these rulers are the scum of the earth who will soon taste the consequence of their crimes in this world and the Hereafter.  We call upon the Ummah not to keep silent against this injustice and munkar and mobilize against these oppressive rulers, out on the streets and demand their rights.  Furthermore the people should work to establish the Khilafah Rashidah to rid themselves from these rulers and their exploitation on a permanent basis.

European Court rules boycott of Israel illegal

European Court makes support for Palestine ‘punishable’ – a challenge to supporters of human rights

European Court rules boycott of Israel illegal
Boycott is ‘discriminatory and punishable’ – EU Court judges
‘interference with…freedom of expression needed to protect the rights of Israeli producers.’ – Jerusalem Post
‘First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, then you win’ – Gandhi
The European Court of Human Rights has moved to criminalise support for Palestinian human rights.  The EU has consistently rewarded an Israel sinking ever deeper into crime, with open ethnic cleansers as Foreign Minister and Prime Minister.  Now the judiciary joins the executive in aligning with Israel and criminalising those who support the call from Palestine for BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) against the bloody violence of the Israeli state.  Hardly suprising when the British Government is involved in an equally bloody military occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan.  Birds of a blood-stained feather flock together.

This ruling is a response to the growing support for BDS following Israel’s most recent massacres in Gaza in January.  It criminalises the entire Scottish, Irish and South African trade union movements.

It might soon become illegal to stand up to the violence of Israel with the non-violent weapon of boycott.  The courts, then, will leave supporters of Palestine with no choice but to challenge these laws in every way possible, including civil disobedience and non-violent direct action.   This ruling is designed to protect those carrying out the ethnic cleansing of Palestine: according to the Jerusalem Post (see below), the European court of Human Rights ‘ruled that interference with…freedom of expression was needed to protect the rights of Israeli producers.’  Producing goods on ethnically cleansed land while working to destroy Palestinian producers.

The growing BDS movement will not be deterred by this latest ruling. After all, the British Government defied the ICJ (International Court of Justice) 2004 ruling that Israel’s apartheid Wall is illegal and must come down.  The people of Gaza are being crushed by an open alliance of Israel, the US, the EU and the Arab regimes.  They have no allies but a slowly awakening world civil society.  They have paid many times over in mountains of corpses for their refusal to accept Israeli/Western plans for them to disappear.  Compared to their heroism and suffering, the cost of standing up for human rights against the European Court of Human Rights remains very modest.  Here in Scotland, we do not face Israeli death squads, the murder of our children, bulldozed homes, burning farms, prison walls, the kidnapping of our finest sons and daughters into dungeons, routine torture, expulsion or daily humiliation by a murderous soldiery.

Five Scottish PSC members will appear in court on Friday August 7 charged with ‘racially aggravated’ crime for disrupting a musical performance by official ‘Cultural Ambassadors’ of Israel when they  came to Scotland last year.  The charges are no more absurd than the defence of ‘Israeli producers’ by the European Court of Human Rights while Gaza lives with Israeli-induced hunger and misery.  The five are privileged to stand alongside so many others fighting for justice, and with the people of Palestine whose resistance to Zionist crime has inspired the world, but has long been criminalised by Israel’s Western allies.

We invite you to come to the Court on Chambers St, Edinburgh at 9.15 on Friday 7 August to show your

  • solidarity with Palestine
  • support for the boycott of Israel
  • opposition to ‘interference with freedom of expression to protect Israeli producers’

Recent Articles on Scottish PSC website

Israel’s case for piracy – sunk by two Irish broadsides! Ken Loach – A principled and courageous supporter of justice & international law 1948 to 2009: Israeli Army sees no need to distinguish between ‘guilty’and ‘innocent’ Israeli Pirates of the Mediterranean

Children tortured before parents, raped, all covered up by Bush/Cheney and our media

Children tortured before parents, raped, all covered up by Bush/Cheney and our media



July 20, 2009 – Docudharma

Simulposted at Daily Kos

Perhaps the worst incident at Abu Ghraib involved a girl aged 12 or 13 who screamed for help to her brother in an upper cell while stripped naked and beaten. Iraqi journalist Suhaib Badr-Addin al-Baz, who heard the girl’s screams, also witnessed an ill 15-year-old who was forced to run up and down with two heavy cans of water and beaten whenever he stopped. When he finally collapsed, guards stripped and poured cold water on him. Finally, a hooded man was brought in. When unhooded, the boy realized that the man was his father, who doubtless was being intimidated into confessing something upon sight of his brutalized son.

Empathy is what keeps men from becoming MONSTERS.

MinistryOfTruth :: Children tortured before parents, raped, all covered up by Bush/Cheney and our media
They did it brazenly in front of other prisoners. Nothing but a sheet separated the sound of screaming and the torment of children.This is how you create your own insurgency.  (read here)

Jewish settlers set ablaze olive trees in West Bank

Jewish settlers set ablaze olive trees in West Bank



July 20, 2009

NABLUS, West Bank — Jewish settlers set ablaze hundreds of olive trees near Nablus in the occupied West Bank on Monday after a wildcat settlement was removed, Israeli and Palestinian sources said.

Ali Eid of the municipal council of the Palestinian village of Burin told AFP that around 350 olive trees were burnt down.

Around 20 angry settlers blocked traffic on a road near the Israeli army checkpoint in Hawara, just outside Nablus, and stoned Palestinian cars, said an AFP photographer whose camera they also tried to seize.

An Israeli border guard spokesman said the unrest broke out after a settlers’ caravan was removed, triggering incidents during which one settler was arrested but no injuries were reported.

According to an Israeli human rights group, Yesh Din, the settlers were reacting to the evacuation with a policy which they have termed the “price tag” phenomenon.

“Jewish settlers set fire to olive groves in the West Bank village of Burin and engaged in violence on Howara Road,” it said.

“When a settlement, outpost or structure is under threat of evacuation by the Israeli military, settlers implement an emergency violence response including setting fire to crops, attacking villages and people and damaging property in order to draw military energy away from the scheduled evacuation.

“As well, the goal of this practice is to create a price for each evacuation, causing Israeli authorities to think twice about carrying them out,” it said.

Israel has pledged to dismantle outposts set up after March 2003, considering them to be unauthorised.

The international community considers all established settlements and the more than 100 so-called outposts illegal, while the Palestinians say the settlements are the main obstacle to US-backed Middle East peace talks.



Layla Anwar, An Arab Woman Blues

Around the world it is estimated that 1 billion people are going hungry.

One quarter of those, around 265 million, are in Sub-Saharan Africa, with the horn of Africa being the worst affected.

Al Jazerra’s Mohammed Adow reports from the Turkana district of Kenya where life is a daily struggle.

Nothing to comment.

The starving of Gaza

The starving of Gaza

Eric Ruder

Ahmed Hussein's chicken farm in the Jabalya refugee camp was demolished by an Israeli air strike (Elliott Woods | Sipa)

Ahmed Hussein’s chicken farm in the Jabalya refugee camp was demolished by an Israeli air strike (Elliott | Woods)

ISRAEL’S WAR on Gaza took a terrible toll in human casualties. Bodies are still being exhumed from the rubble, and Israel’s refusal to open Gaza’s border crossings to allow in humanitarian supplies has made treating the injured a tortuously slow endeavor.

But one less-noticed effect of the Israel’s brutal assault on the civilian and economic infrastructure of Gaza–combined with the suffocating effects of the 18-month siege that came before–is the further destruction of Gaza’s long-term ability to provide food for its population.

The United Nations Children’s Fund said that economic losses as a result of the war total $1.9 billion, which is significantly larger than Gaza’s annual economic output. “According to the World Food Program, the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization and Palestinian officials, between 35 percent and 60 percent of the agriculture industry has been wrecked by the three-week Israeli attack,” reported Britain’s Guardian newspaper.

This could make a huge portion of Gaza’s population entirely dependent on food aid from the outside. “When we have given a food ration in Gaza, it was never a full ration, but to complement the diet,” said Christine van Nieuwenhuyse, the World Food Program’s country director. “Now it is going to be almost impossible for Gaza to produce the food it needs for the next six to eight months, assuming that the agriculture can be rehabilitated.”

The effects are hitting home for Samir Sawafiri, a poultry farmer. Surveying the carcasses of some 65,000 chickens strewn across his farm in Zeitoun, while several dozen live chickens–the only ones that survived the war–scrounged for food, Sawafiri told a reporter. “They are all that is left, and I have nowhere to put them.”

The poultry farms around Zeitoun, which is on the eastern edge of Gaza City, once provided the bulk of Gaza’s fresh eggs. But almost nothing remains standing now.

“I evacuated on January 9,” said Sawafiri. “Three days later, on January 12, tanks came with bulldozers and leveled the fields. They wanted to spoil the economy–that’s the only answer. There’s no justification for what they did.”

Rebuilding the farms will require investment running into the tens of millions of dollars, according to Fuad El-Jamassi, director of Gaza’s Environmental and Health Ministry. Further complicating the rebuilding process is the fact that Israel does not allow live animals to cross into Gaza. So the only hope of restocking Gaza’s poultry farms depends on whether Israel will restrict the import of fertilized eggs, which can then be taken to a hatchery.

- – – – – – – – – – – – – – – -

THE MOST pressing challenge for many of Gaza’s farmers is planting crops in the next week or two, or they will miss the growing season. But their fields have been destroyed by Israel’s repeated bombardments, and are strewn with debris, unexploded ordnance and hazardous chemical dust.

Aid organizations such as Oxfam and Save the Children have been waiting for Israel’s permission to deliver humanitarian supplies massed at the border. But for more than two weeks, Israel has refused to allow them through Gaza’s border crossings. “We’ve had every reason under the sun given to us for not going in…Security, not the right day, that is was closed for holiday, that the right people were not available, that we would hear tomorrow,” says Mike Baily of Oxfam.

Oxfam is seeking to deliver basic items such as food and medicine, but it also plans to do what it can to help Gaza’s farmers prepare their fields for the critical planting deadline. “If we don’t plant crops now, we won’t harvest in three or four month’s time, and the one and a half million people of Gaza will be completely dependent on food aid,” says Baily.

Evonne Frederickson, an aid worker with Sweden’s Palestinian Solidarity Association, tells the same story. Her efforts to get mental health experts and doctors into Gaza have been repeatedly stymied. But she says that Israeli policy toward aid agencies has been capricious for a long time. “Sometimes you get in, sometimes you don’t, so they’re playing with those who are working with the aid to Gaza,” she says.

On February 5, Israel announced it would allow 100 trucks a day through Gaza’s border crossings with humanitarian relief supplies. But that’s still less than the 130 trucks a day that crossed on average during the second half of 2008, and far less than the 600 trucks a day estimated to be needed to sustain Gaza’s population and provide the critical goods necessary for rebuilding its shattered economy.

Another pressing threat to Gaza’s agricultural viability is the raw sewage and toxic chemicals that threaten to contaminate the fields and leech into Gaza’s groundwater system.

“This is a top priority,” said Jens Toyberg-Frandzen, a special representative of the UN Development Program. “The rubble is mixed with poisonous harmful materials, and may include unexploded ordnances. It needs to be urgently removed to protect the lives of Palestinians in Gaza and to facilitate immediate access to basic humanitarian and social services.”

El-Jamassi worries about the need for experts familiar with the chemicals used by Israel to assess the situation. “There were many chemicals used here by the Israelis–there has been chemical dust in the air,” he said. “We need experts to come tell us what to do, if this is safe. There are no experts here.”

Contamination of Gaza’s water supply from failed sewage systems also poses a significant risk. According to Rachel Bergstein, who reports regularly on environmental issues in the Middle East:

Gaza’s ecological conditions are already conducive to groundwater pollution. The sandy desert soil tends to absorb water–or pollutants like sewage–easily. Also, the groundwater is fairly close to the surface, so access wells are fairly shallow and easily contaminated…

Due to both a lack of investment and an inability to access materials and equipment for repairs, Gaza’s sewage treatment infrastructure was in a pretty bad state of disrepair before the war began at the end of December. Israel’s military actions caused even more damage to many of the pipes. As a result, top water engineers in Gaza report that the entire system is on the verge of collapse, posing a severe threat to Gaza’s groundwater resources.

Leading Feminist Organization Supports War in Afghanistan

Leading Feminist Organization Supports War in Afghanistan

By Sonali Kolhatkar and Mariam Rawi
July 8, 2009

Years ago, following the initial military success of the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan and the temporary fall of the Taliban, the people of Afghanistan were promised that the occupying armies would rebuild the country and improve life for the Afghan people.

Today, eight years after the U.S. entered Kabul, there are still piles of garbage in the streets. There is no running water. There is only intermittent electricity in the cities, and none in the countryside. Afghans live under the constant threat of military violence.

The U.S. invasion has been a failure, and increasing the U.S. troop presence will not undo the destruction the war has brought to the daily lives of Afghans.

As humanitarians and as feminists, it is the welfare of the civilian population in Afghanistan that concerns us most deeply. That is why it was so discouraging to learn that the Feminist Majority Foundation has lent its good name — and the good name of feminism in general — to advocate for further troop escalation and war.

On its foundation Web site, the first stated objective of the Feminist Majority Foundation’s “Campaign for Afghan Women and Girls” is to “expand peacekeeping forces.”

First of all, coalition troops are combat forces and are there to fight a war, not to preserve peace. Not even the Pentagon uses that language to describe U.S. forces there. More importantly, the tired claim that one of the chief objectives of the military occupation of Afghanistan is to liberate Afghan women is not only absurd, it is offensive.

Waging war does not lead to the liberation of women anywhere. Women always disproportionately suffer the effects of war, and to think that women’s rights can be won with bullets and bloodshed is a position dangerous in its naïveté. The Feminist Majority should know this instinctively.

Here are the facts: After the invasion, Americans received reports that newly liberated women had cast off their burquas and gone back to work. Those reports were mythmaking and propaganda. Aside from a small number of women in Kabul, life for Afghan women since the fall of the Taliban has remained the same or become much worse.

Under the Taliban, women were confined to their homes. They were not allowed to work or attend school. They were poor and without rights. They had no access to clean water or medical care, and they were forced into marriages, often as children.

Today, women in the vast majority of Afghanistan live in precisely the same conditions, with one notable difference: they are surrounded by war. The conflict outside their doorsteps endangers their lives and those of their families. It does not bring them rights in the household or in public, and it confines them even further to the prison of their own homes. Military escalation is just going to bring more tragedy to the women of Afghanistan.

In the past few years, some cosmetic changes were made regarding Afghan women. The establishment of a Ministry of Women’s Affairs was one celebrated example. In fact, this ministry is so useless many think that it should be dissolved.

The quota for 25 percent women in the Afghan parliament was another such show. Although there are 67 women in the Afghan parliament, most of them are pro-warlord and are themselves enemies of women’s rights. When the famed marriage rape law was passed in the parliament, none of them seriously raised their voice against it. Malalai Joya, an outspoken feminist in the parliament at the time, has said that she has been abused and threatened by these pro-warlord women in the parliament.

The U.S. military may have removed the Taliban, but it installed warlords who are as anti-woman and as criminal as the Taliban. Misogynistic, patriarchal views are now embodied by the Afghan cabinet, they are expressed in the courts, and they are embodied by President Hamid Karzai.

Paper gains for women’s rights mean nothing when, according to the chief justice of the Afghan Supreme Court, the only two rights women are guaranteed by the constitution are the right to obey their husbands and the right to pray, but not in a mosque.

These are the convictions of the government the U.S. has helped to create. The American presence in Afghanistan will do nothing to diminish them.

Sadly, as horrifying as the status of women in Afghanistan may sound to those of us who live in the West, the biggest problems faced by Afghan women are not related to patriarchy. Their biggest problem is war.

More than 2,000 civilians were killed in Afghanistan in 2008. And disastrous air strikes like the one in Farah province in May that killed an estimated 120 people — many of them women and children — are pushing the death toll ever higher. Afghans who survive these attacks often flee to cities, where overcrowded refugee camps strain to accommodate them. Living in tents without food, water and often blankets, the mortality rate soars.

For those who do not flee, life is not better. One in three Afghans suffers from severe poverty. With a 1 in 55 chance of mothers surviving delivery, Afghanistan has been, and still, is the second most dangerous place for women to give birth. Afghan infants still face a 25 percent risk of dying before their fifth birthdays. These are the consequences of war.

In addition, in the eight years since the U.S. invasion, opium production has exploded by 4,400 percent, making Afghanistan the world capital of opium. The violence of the drug mafia now poses greater danger to Afghanistan and its women than the rule of the Taliban.

Some of the biggest drug-traffickers are part of the U.S. puppet regime. To make matters worse, corruption in the Afghan government has never been so prevalent — even under the Taliban. Now, even Western sources say that only pennies of every dollar spent on aid reach the people who need it.

If coalition forces are really concerned about women, these are the problems that must be addressed. The military establishment claims that it must win the military victory first, and then the U.S. will take care of humanitarian needs. But they have it backward.

Improve living conditions and security will improve. Focus on security at the expense of humanitarian goals, and coalition forces will accomplish neither. The first step toward improving people’s lives is a negotiated settlement to end the war.

In our conversations arguing this point, we are told that the U.S. cannot leave Afghanistan because of what will happen to women if they go. Let us be clear: Women are being gang raped, brutalized and killed in Afghanistan. Forced marriages continue, and more women than ever are being forced into prostitution — often to meet the demand of foreign troops.

The U.S. presence in Afghanistan is doing nothing to protect Afghan women. The level of self-immolation among women was never as high as it is now. When there is no justice for women, they find no other way out but suicide.

Feminists and other humanitarians should learn from history. This isn’t the first time the welfare of women has been trotted out as a pretext for imperialist military aggression.

Columbia Professor Lila Abu-Lughod, a woman of Palestinian descent, writes: “We need to be suspicious when neat cultural icons are plastered over messier historical and political narratives; so we need to be wary when Lord Cromer in British-ruled Egypt, French ladies in Algeria, and Laura Bush, all with military troops behind them, claim to be saving or liberating Muslim women.”

Feminists around the world must refuse to allow the good name of feminism to be manipulated to provide political cover for yet another war of aggression.

The Feminist Majority Foundation would do well to heed the demand of dissident Member of Parliament Malalai Joya, representing Farah province, who was kicked out of the parliament last year for courageously speaking out. Addressing a press conference in the wake of the U.S. bombing of her province she was clear: “We ask for an end to the occupation of Afghanistan and a stop to such tragic war crimes.”

That should be the first action item for the Feminist Majority Foundation’s Campaign for Afghan Women and Girls.

Sonali Kolhatkar is co-cirector of the Afghan Women’s Mission, a U.S. nonprofit that funds health, educational and training projects for Afghan women. She is also the host and producer of Uprising Radio.

Mariam Rawi is a member of the Revolutionary Association of Women of Afghanistan writing under a pseudonym.

US Considering “Crippling Action” Against Recalcitrant Iran

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton

Hillary Clinton reiterated warnings of “crippling action” against Iran

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says the US is prepared to bolster the defence of its Gulf allies if Iran develops a nuclear weapons programme.

Mrs Clinton said if the US extended a “defence umbrella” over the region, it was unlikely that Iran would be any stronger or safer having a weapon.

She said the US was still offering engagement to Iran but warned that the “nuclear clock was ticking”.

She spoke in Thailand where she is attending a regional summit.

Expulsion option

Foreign ministers from the Association of South East Asian Nations (Asean), as well as EU and US envoys, are meeting on Wednesday in Thailand.

Mrs Clinton reiterated President Barack Obama’s policy that talks were still an option between Iran and the US, but that “crippling action” could also be considered.

The flags of nations attending the Asean conference

Asean leaders are meeting for their regional conference in Thailand

Speaking in an interview for Thai television, she said: “If the US extends a defence umbrella over the region, if we do even more to support the military capacity of those in the Gulf, it’s unlikely that Iran will be any stronger or safer because they won’t be able to intimidate and dominate as they apparently believe they can once they have a nuclear weapon.”

Western powers fear that Iran is developing nuclear weapons, but it says its nuclear development is only about enriching uranium to the level needed for power.

Iran has not responded to Mr Obama’s offer of engagement.

Mrs Clinton also spoke about concerns over the transfer of nuclear technology from North Korea to Burma.

Asean has a policy of non-interference in members’ affairs, but Burma has provoked widespread censure.

Mrs Clinton condemned Burma’s treatment of jailed pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, saying Asean could consider expelling Burma from the regional grouping.

“It would be an appropriate policy change to consider,” she said when asked about the possibility on Thai television, AFP reported.

Lebanon Refuses to Amend Rules of Engagement as Israel Brings In Reinforcements to Kfarshouba

Lebanon Refuses to Amend Rules of Engagement as Israel Brings In Reinforcements to Kfarshouba

Israel reinforcements took up positions around the border town of Kfarshouba to face a possible action by local residents who threatened to remove a recently set up Israeli position if UNIFIL failed to address their demand immediately.
Residents had given a weeklong ultimatum to UNIFIL last week threatening to take action to remove the unmanned post on the outskirts of Kfarshouba if UNIFIL failed to meet the deadline.

Around 70 Lebanese, led by MP Qassem Hashem, cut through barbed wire on Friday and marched on the post in the Kfarshouba hills which Israel set up last week.

The protesters put a Lebanese flag and another of Hizbullah just outside the post before being asked by U.N. peacekeepers in the area to evacuate the grounds.

Last Tuesday the Lebanese army asked the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) to remove the position.

Pan-Arab daily al-Hayat said the U.N. has pledged to hold contacts with Israel in order to stop its violations in Kfarshouba and remove the new post, a two-meter high earth mound.

Meanwhile, the Lebanese army and UNIFIL troops were put on alert “in case of any emergency,” while UNIFIL helicopters hovered above the Blue Line, local media said Tuesday.

UNIFIL commander Maj. Gen. Claudio Gratziano met Lebanese army commander Gen. Jean Qahwaji at the Defense Ministry in Yarze on Monday to discuss ways to curtail any possible repercussions from Israeli violations of Lebanese territory around Baathaeel Pond on the outskirts of Kfarshshouba.
Premier-designate Saad Hariri on Monday rejected Israeli calls for the amendment of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1701 which ended a 34-day war between Israel and Hizbullah, and called for full commitment to its provisions without exception.

“Israel’s calls for the amendment of Resolution 1701 are a new attempt to escape (its obligations) and to hide the real violations of this resolution,” Hariri told visiting U.N. Special Coordinator for Lebanon Michael Williams.

He cautioned the international community against the “dangers of slipping toward any form of manipulation of Resolution 1701.”

Hariri called for safeguarding “UNIFIL’s role and responsibility to protect the Lebanese border against any Israeli aggression.”

“We stress that UNIFIL is a friendly force that is undertaking the essential tasks of guaranteeing Lebanon’s sovereignty and the implementation of 1701,” he said.

Williams, in turn, said he discussed with Hariri the implementation of Resolution 1701 and “agreed on the need for all sides to adhere to this resolution.”

UNIFIL spokesperson Yasmina Bouziane said the issue of changing the rules of engagement depends on the outcome of the Security Council meeting due to convene in August to discuss renewal of UNIFIL’s mandate.

Bouziane told al-Jadeed TV that U.N. peacekeepers together with Lebanese troops were carrying out routine patrols, adding that investigation into a house raid in Khirbet Selm was still ongoing.

Army Arrests Terrorist Network that Planned Attacks on UNIFIL

Army Arrests Terrorist Network that Planned Attacks on UNIFIL

The Lebanese army said Tuesday that it arrested a 10-member extremist network that was planning to carry out attacks against U.N. troops and smuggle wanted terrorists out of the southern Palestinian refugee camp of Ain el-Hilweh.
“Our investigation has shown that this network was planning to smuggle wanted terrorists out of Ain el-Hilweh … smuggle Fatah al-Islam fighters into Ain el-Hilweh, to carry out attacks from Lebanon on targets abroad and create terrorist cells to monitor UNIFIL and the army in order to carry out terrorist attacks on them,” an army communiqué said.

The suspects all hailed from unidentified Arab states and most were not Lebanese, the communiqué said.

Some of the suspects were employed in private companies in Lebanon and used their jobs as covers for their covert operations, the army added.

“This is an issue that the Lebanese army and Lebanese authorities are addressing,” UNIFIL spokeswoman Yasmina Bouziane told Agence France Presse. “It is a matter that is in the hands of the Lebanese authorities.”

Last month, high-level military sources said that the army had uncovered 25 cells spying for the Israeli Mossad and arrested since early 2009 six extremist groups belonging to al-Qaida.

The sources said the networks were planning attacks to target stability, including in areas where U.N. peacekeepers are deployed.(Naharnet-AFP)