Pity the Nation…That Needs Heroes

Pity the nation…

Two mutilated bodies of Baloch political workers — Mehboob Wadela of the Baloch National Movement (BNM) and Rehman Arif of the Baloch Republican Party (BRP) — were found in Gwadar district on Wednesday. Mr Wadela went missing in April 2010 from Karachi while Mr Arif was abducted four months ago. On the one hand the number of disappeared Baloch keeps increasing with every passing day while on the other hand the bullet-riddled bodies of the ‘missing’ Baloch people keep appearing in every nook and corner of Balochistan. In its recent report on Balochistan, Amnesty International (AI) called on the government to “immediately provide accountability for the alarming number of killings and abductions in Balochistan attributed to government forces in recent months”. According to the information compiled by AI, “In the last four months, at least 90 Baloch activists, teachers, journalists and lawyers have disappeared or been murdered, many in ‘kill and dump’ operations…Their bullet-ridden bodies, most bearing torture marks, have been recovered across Balochistan.” This report should have raised alarm bells in the power corridors but as is usual in this province’s case, our ruling elite has chosen to stay quiet.

Balochistan may be the largest province of Pakistan but it is also the province that has suffered the most in the last six decades. The Baloch were alienated right from the beginning when Balochistan was forcefully annexed to Pakistan. The state could have made things better but it chose not to. The powerful military establishment, which is mostly dominated by Punjabis, created further trouble by conducting military operations in Balochistan on a number of occasions. During Musharraf’s regime, the woes of the Baloch increased manifold after he launched another military operation just to satisfy his ego when rockets were fired in protest at his arrival in Kohlu. He publicly vowed to take revenge and created a parallel government in the province by deploying the Frontier Corps (FC) there. Since then there has been no looking back. Nawab Akbar Bugti’s assassination by the military forces was ‘celebrated’ by General (retd) Musharraf. When the PPP government came to power in 2008 and Musharraf was later ousted as the president, the people of Balochistan thought that some relief might come their way but it was not to be. Despite the NFC Award and the Aghaz-e-Haqooq-e-Balochistan Package, the condition of the Baloch still remains the same. Thousands of Baloch are missing and their families are still waiting for justice. Previously, only the Baloch separatists were targeted by the military establishment but now even moderate Baloch nationalists are not being spared. Targeting the moderate Baloch nationalists is a dangerous trend and could lead to grave consequences for the federation because it will increase extreme views and separatist sentiment. The democratically elected government remains powerless while the powerful establishment calls the shots.

The Baloch have only been asking for their rights all these years. Our state has failed to address their grievances. By refusing to give in to their just demands and killing the Baloch people left, right and centre, the state has not done any favour to either the federation or Balochistan. We must not forget what happened back in 1971 when West Pakistan refused to address the grievances of East Pakistan. It is hoped that we will not make the same mistake again. It is time that the government talks to all Baloch leaders, those in exile and those in Pakistan. Unless and until a political solution is reached, the Baloch will not give up armed insurgency. The Baloch have suffered enough. It is time to bring back peace in the lives of the people of Balochistan.

Egyptian and Other Revolutions Take Steam Out of Zawahiri’s Sails

[Egyptian Islamic Jihad, Zawahiri's terror group have been at the center of all American "Islamist" terror groups since the beginning, before there was an "al-Qaeda" or the American Mujahedeen "base," "al Q eidat." The reality of an Egyptian revolution, taking place because of a bunch of kids and "moderate Muslims" may become too much for the old terrorist to bear.  If he were not an American puppet, the group we know as "al-Qaeda" would now be planning a massive awakening for the Egyptian masses.  But that would likely put the old murderer on the other side of America's "red line" separating old "Islamist" paradigm from new moderate revolutionaries.  The days ahead for the Egyptians may prove to be even more chaotic than the ones seen so far.

Everyday is an adventure in "Zombieland."]

Al-Qaida’s Embarrassment

Revolutions Mark Setback for Terror Group

By Yassin Musharbash

Pcitured here is Al-Qaida No. 2 Ayman al-Zawahiri. Another al-Qaida leader said: "It is true the revolution is not entirely what we had envisioned."


AFP/ SITE

Pcitured here is Al-Qaida No. 2 Ayman al-Zawahiri. Another al-Qaida leader said: “It is true the revolution is not entirely what we had envisioned.”

Ben Ali has fled, Mubarak has been overthrown and Gadhafi is faltering, but al-Qaida is frustrated, because jihadists have played no role whatsoever in the great revolution in the Arab world. The terrorist organization has repeatedly tried to use propaganda to take credit for the revolts, but no one is listening.

One of the side effects of the Arab revolt is that the jihad bubble has burst, at least for now. The popular uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya have impressively demonstrated how little jihadists have to say in Arab societies. Contrary to the propaganda they have been spreading for decades, their mobilization potential is virtually nonexistent.

Their original goal — the overthrow of the secular regimes in the Arab world — has been achieved by others, including groups that are among the declared enemies of al-Qaida and its allies: secularists, students with a Western orientation, politically active women, people who support democracy and moderate Islamists. It isn’t al-Qaida that has proven to be a vanguard, but the secular, Internet-savvy youth of the Arab world. And no one on the squares and streets, from Tunis to Benghazi, has called for a Taliban-esque theocracy, al-Qaida’s vision for the Islamic world.

What an embarrassing revelation!

But because those who live in the universe of al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden and his associates refuse to accept this reality, an effort is already underway to reinterpret recent events in the Arab world. At first, it seemed as if the terrorist network hadn’t found any words to comment on the massive upheavals. But now al-Qaida’s spin on the events in the Middle East is gradually becoming clear.

Al-Qaida is serving up a mixture of currying favor and issuing dire warnings. On Thursday, the North African branch of the organization, Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), declared its support for the revolt in Libya. Of course, that revolt is being portrayed as “jihad,” while al-Qaida insists that it makes sense for the Libyans to be rising up against dictator Moammar Gadhafi because he is an “enemy of God.” Besides, as AQIM claims with some audacity, “we have consistently fought solely for your defense.”

The Divide Between Real and Wannabe Revolutionaries

Ayman al-Zawahiri, al-Qaida’s second-in-command and one of the Egyptian jihadists who has spent a lifetime fighting against the “godless” regime there, issued a statement on the situation in Egypt on Feb. 18. He too congratulated the revolutionaries, but the first thing he felt compelled to say about his native Egypt was that it is “secular and democratic,” and that this is what must change.

This is remarkable. While hundreds of thousands of Egyptians took to the streets precisely because the regime was only outwardly democratic, this is exactly the issue Zawahiri emphasizes as a reason for a revolt! The divide that is apparent here between the real and the wannabe revolutionaries is enormous and embarrassing, even for the occasional hardcore Islamist, especially when Zawahiri ups the ante and accuses Mubarak of having rigged elections. This isn’t exactly a coherent analysis.

Meanwhile, also on Thursday, the Libyan-born al-Qaida ideologue Attiyat Allah addressed the uprisings in North Africa and his native Libya. At least he was honest enough to admit that “it is true that this revolution is not entirely what we had envisioned.”

But he too had little more to offer than the warning not to ignore the Koran as a guideline for action. He suggested that the newly won freedoms in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya be used for missionary work and activism to help shape the future in a jihadist sense.

It is unlikely that this will transpire. It is far more likely that moderate Islamists will play this role, which, of course, would not mesh with al-Qaida’s goals, either.

But as humiliated as al-Qaida and its allies may be at the moment, this is not necessarily a permanent state of affairs. It is easier to fight democratic governments than despots, and chaos has always been a fertile breeding ground for jihadists. Jihadism hasn’t been defeated yet. Thanks to the revolts, it has only become recognizable for what it is: the ideology and bloody practice of a very small minority among Arabs and Muslims.

German News Reports Second Suspected Syrian Nuclear Facility Identified

Report: Second Suspected Syrian Nuclear Facility Identified

(RTTNews) - Western intelligence agencies have identified a second suspected nuclear site in Syria which, they believe, was set up to produce fuel for the country’s secret nuclear program, a German newspaper reported on Thursday.

Munich’s ‘Sueddeutsche Zeitung’ newspaper claimed in its report that photos taken from inside two buildings near Damascus, obtained by Western intelligence agencies, showed equipment characteristic for uranium conversion.

According to the report, experts have expressed doubts that facilities were used to make fuel for Syria’s suspected al-Kibar nuclear reactor, which was destroyed in an Israeli bombing in September 2007.

A later inspection by inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) had found traces of unnatural uranium at the site of the suspected reactor. Syria, however, maintains that the traces of uranium found were residue from missiles used to destroy the site by the Israelis.

The IAEA inspectors had collected samples from a suspected nuclear facility in June 2008 after the U.S. alleged that Syria had secretly built the nuclear reactor with North Korean help in the country’s remote eastern desert.

U.S. intelligence agencies claim the site resembled to Yongbyon reactor in North Korea and say that the facility could produce weapon-grade nuclear material if it was not destroyed in the Israeli air raid.

Syria rejected the U.S. allegations, saying that the building destroyed in the Israeli air strike was an unused military facility under construction. Damascus also insists that it is not pursuing a clandestine development program as alleged by Western countries.

The IAEA had said in an earlier report that the destroyed Syrian site had the characteristics of a nuclear reactor. The U.N. nuclear watchdog, however, did not rule out the possibility that the site was being used for non-nuclear purposes when it was destroyed in the bombing.

Although Syria had allowed IAEA inspectors to take samples from the site of the suspected nuclear reactor in 2008, it later blocked them from making follow-up visits to the site. The agency says that Syria is yet to answer some questions regarding the suspected nuclear facility.

Also, Damascus has since denied IAEA inspectors access to several buildings which it suspects to be associated with Syria’s secret nuclear program. Those buildings reportedly included the possible uranium conversion sites mentioned in the German newspaper report.

The IAEA refused to comment on the report but it had earlier made attempts to identify the source of fuel for the so-called al-Kibar nuclear reactor.

The latest developments come as the IAEA is preparing for a meeting of its governing board early next month to discuss several issues, including Syria’s continued refusal to allow its inspectors access to suspected nuclear facilities.

by RTT Staff Writer

For comments and feedback: contact editorial@rttnews.com

 

Kyrgyz Intelligence Agency Catch Another Member of Radical Islamist Group

Kyrgyz intelligence agency detain a member of Hizb ut-Tahrir

25/02-2011 09:09, Bishkek – 24.kg news agency

Kyrgyz intelligence agency reported about detainment of another active member of extremist organization Hizb ut-Tahrir.

According to Kyrgyzstan’s State National Security Committee (GKNB), during the operative investigation activities on reveal and suppression of the activities of outlawed religious extremist organizations Hizb ut-Tahrir, one of the active members of the organization was detained in one of the residential areas of Bishkek city.

“Large amount of extremist literature was found and confiscated during the house-check,” reported in the GKNB.

Criminal proceedings were instituted on the elements of crime under Article 299 (Inciting national, racial, religious or inter-regional hostility) of the Criminal Code of the Kyrgyz Republic. The detainee was also charged with “organized activity towards inciting national, racial, religious or inter-regional hatred” and “possession, transportation and shipment of extremist materials for distribution or their manufacturing and distribution, as well as the deliberate use of symbols or paraphernalia of extremist organizations.”

OSS-Declassified–Simple Sabotage Field Manual

[“Citizen-Sabateur” equals “terrorist-lite,” one step above the “Gladio” type of terrorist being implanted all over Europe and Asia after WWII.  The frank discussions within this field manual on the science of anarchy are chilling in their implications, especially after being honed in secret for sixty years or more.]

OSS-Declassified–Simple Sabotage Field Manual

(excerpt below)

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Gates on Libya: Not Making Sense

[Either Robert Gates is up to his usual spy doublespeak here, or CIA/military "mindfuck" agents are close to losing control of all their boiling cauldrons of treachery in the Middle East and Africa. (There really is no better way to describe the jobs of professional mind-twisters, or "mind-rapers" than this new word.)  In their wildest dreams they could not have imagined the ease with which the revolution has spread across Northern Africa.  In their worst nightmares, they should have foreseen what is about to happen in American-controlled countries like Iraq (and believe it or not, possibly even in Israel itself).

America's puppets may be about to have their strings cut.  Gates knows.  He has been a CIA insider since American foreign policy first went off track and began to employ mercenaries and "Islamist" militants to do our dirty work for us.  At some point, it becomes necessary for the American side to disengage from this dirty war, especially if Islamist allies are exposed.  If the Iraq provisional govt. of Iraq falls, then the files in govt. offices that stretch all the way back to Iraq's early days, will be laid bare.  If that really happens, then everyone will forget all about "Wikileaks."

America's intelligence war is about to blow-up in our faces.]

Gates on Libya: Not Making Sense

BY J.E. DYER
I had a hard time getting past the first sentence of this:

Defense secretary Robert Gates says the United States has not had discussions with its NATO partners about how to handle the unfolding crisis in Libya, and he believes that the United States could not quickly enforce a no-fly zone in the country to keep military jets from shooting on the citizens they’re meant to protect.

Regarding the second clause of the sentence, I would say there are valid and understandable considerations, even if I would have put the matter in different terms.  More on that in a moment.

The first part of the statement cannot be accounted for in any positive way.  Libya sits 300-some miles across the water from NATO member Italy, which is already scrambling to deal with a massive influx of refugees from North Africa.  The rapidly failing state keeps ejecting random military weapon systems – pilots defecting with Mirage F-1 fighters, at least one warship – while its insane dictator, along with bombing his own people, is threatening to destroy the Libyan oilfields, whose output makes the nation OPEC’s tenth largest producer.  Crude futures have been climbing for days.  Egypt has now moved troops to her border with Libya.

Moreover, the alarming fact is that we have even less of an idea what might happen in Libya if Qaddafi is killed – or otherwise relieved of his duties – than we have of what the future holds for neighboring Tunisia and Egypt.  This is the very definition of a NATO security issue.

And yet we haven’t talked to NATO about how to respond to this situation?  Seriously?  It’s not like we don’t have constant contact with our NATO allies through the NATO Council in Belgium and multiple allied commands. I’m not sure I see how we could avoid talking to NATO about Libya.  It would have been cost-free for Secretary Gates to say we had done so, even if he had no specific conclusions or plans to report.  It simply makes no sense to convey to a group of opinion writers the truly bizarre message that there has been no consultation.

At any rate, regarding the second clause of the sentence, it’s true that establishing a no-fly zone (NFZ) would not be as easy as it sounds.  For one thing, it’s not clear that Italy would agree to host the air forces that would be required.  Italy – Libya’s last colonial master and closest European partner – has been cagey about condemning Qaddafi.  Italy has a key undersea natural gas line with Libya, and hasn’t wanted to provoke any action against it.  We could waste time deploring Italy for this, but it’s a fact on the ground, and could be an obstacle to setting up a no-fly zone.

Gates is right that the speed with which events are moving militates against comprehensive planning.  By the time we got an NFZ set up, we might not need it anymore.  I have thought the same thing in the last couple of days, as I imagine most people with experience of military air operations have.

That said, however, it wouldn’t have taken as long to set up an NFZ as Gates’ words imply.  NATO Europe is stuffed full of fighter and strike-fighter aircraft, and absolutely crawling with command and control centers.  The level of military activity Qaddafi could mount is overkill against unarmed civilians, but would hardly put a dent in a NATO force, however hastily assembled.  The French carrier Charles de Gaulle, with its air wing, is back from its deployment to the Indian Ocean; the USSEnterprise (CVN-65), with its four squadrons of strike-fighters, is in the Horn of Africa area and could have been back in the Mediterranean, off the coast of Libya, by now.  One or two aircraft carriers could not sustain a 24-hour NFZ presence for more than a couple of days, but NATO could have scrambled its more numerous land-based air forces as well.  If Italy declined to allow the use of its airfields, France, Greece, and even Tunisia might well have been more cooperative.  NATO could arrange for in-air refueling.

The point is not that we should have established an NFZ, it’s that we could have.  The deficit here is not in what NATO forces could have been assigned or assembled to do.  That much is a simple, unarguable fact.  The deficit appears to be in what the US leadership has considered appropriate or even thinkable.  I would understand if Gates had said, “We’ve looked at a no-fly zone, but it was becoming clear that by the time we got one in place, the situation would probably have changed again.  Our goal is to stay ahead of the problem.”

But he didn’t.  What he said instead was that we hadn’t discussed handling Libya with our NATO allies at all.  Nothing about that makes sense.

J.E. Dyer blogs at The Green Room, Commentary’s “contentions” and as The Optimistic Conservative.  She writes a weekly column for Patheos.

On Bullshit–Harry G. Frankfurt

On Bullshit

Harry G. Frankfurt

 

This groundbreaking work explores the philosophical meanings of bullshit, why there is so much around and how it differs from other sorts of untruths.

Frankfurt argues that bullshitting is not the same thing as lying, but both are an abuse of the truth. In his words,

“It is impossible for someone to lie unless he thinks he knows the truth. Producing bullshit requires no such conviction. A person who lies is thereby responding to the truth, and he is to that extent respectful of it. When an honest man speaks, he says only what he believes to be true; and for the liar, it is correspondingly indispensable that he considers his statements to be false. For the bullshitter, however, all these bets are off: he is neither on the side of the true nor on the side of the false. His eye is not on the facts at all, as the eyes of the honest man and of the liar are, except insofar as they may be pertinent to his interest in getting away with what he says. He does not care whether the things he says describe reality correctly. He just picks them out, or makes them up, to suit his purpose.”

NATO calls emergency council meeting on Finishing-Off “Col. Brother”

[Since Libya is the jackpot in N. Africa and Col. Qaddafi is the "joker," NATO calls emergency meeting.  Ideas being leaked to the press so far involve making Libya into a "no fly zone," or launching selective air strikes, to tip the balance in the people's favor.  The US military has been wanting to remove "Col. Brother" for so long that they must have practiced both solutions many times in the past.]

NATO calls emergency council meeting on Libya

BUDAPEST Feb 25 (Reuters) – NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said he had called an emergency NATO council meeting for Friday afternoon to discuss the situation in Libya.”I have convened an emergency meeting in the NATO council this afternoon to consult on this fast-moving situation. So I will return to Brussels in a few hours,” he told Reuters during a visit to Budapest on Friday. 

“Before I do so, I will meet with EU defence ministers and discuss with them how we in a pragmatic way can help those in need and limit the consequences of these events.”

He said priority must be given to evacuation and possibly humanitarian assistance.

“It’s a bit premature to go into specifics but it’s well-known that NATO has assets that can be used in a situation like this and NATO can act as an enabler and coordinator if and when individual member states want to take action,” he said.

On Thursday, the United States said it was looking at all options, including enforcing a no-fly zone over Libya, and did not rule out military action in its response to the crisis.

British Defence Secretary Liam Fox said Britain had been discussing with the NATO leadership how better to coordinate efforts to get people from a number of different countries out of Libya over the next few days.

In Brussels, senior officials said the European Union was weighing a range of options to evacuate 5,000-6,000 EU citizens still in Libya, many of them oil company employees, and said one possibility was a military humanitarian intervention force. (Reporting by Gergely Szakacs; editing by Andrew Roche)

Slamming the Door Shut On “Workers’ Rights”

Shock Doctrine, U.S.A.

By PAUL KRUGMAN

Here’s a thought: maybe Madison, Wis., isn’t Cairo after all. Maybe it’s Baghdad — specifically, Baghdad in 2003, when the Bush administration put Iraq under the rule of officials chosen for loyalty and political reliability rather than experience and competence.

Fred R. Conrad/The New York Times

Paul Krugman

As many readers may recall, the results were spectacular — in a bad way. Instead of focusing on the urgent problems of a shattered economy and society, which would soon descend into a murderous civil war, those Bush appointees were obsessed with imposing a conservative ideological vision. Indeed, with looters still prowling the streets of Baghdad, L. Paul Bremer, the American viceroy, told a Washington Post reporter that one of his top priorities was to “corporatize and privatize state-owned enterprises” — Mr. Bremer’s words, not the reporter’s — and to “wean people from the idea the state supports everything.”

The story of the privatization-obsessed Coalition Provisional Authority was the centerpiece of Naomi Klein’s best-selling book “The Shock Doctrine,” which argued that it was part of a broader pattern. From Chile in the 1970s onward, she suggested, right-wing ideologues have exploited crises to push through an agenda that has nothing to do with resolving those crises, and everything to do with imposing their vision of a harsher, more unequal, less democratic society.

Which brings us to Wisconsin 2011, where the shock doctrine is on full display.

In recent weeks, Madison has been the scene of large demonstrations against the governor’s budget bill, which would deny collective-bargaining rights to public-sector workers. Gov. Scott Walker claims that he needs to pass his bill to deal with the state’s fiscal problems. But his attack on unions has nothing to do with the budget. In fact, those unions have already indicated their willingness to make substantial financial concessions — an offer the governor has rejected.

What’s happening in Wisconsin is, instead, a power grab — an attempt to exploit the fiscal crisis to destroy the last major counterweight to the political power of corporations and the wealthy. And the power grab goes beyond union-busting. The bill in question is 144 pages long, and there are some extraordinary things hidden deep inside.

For example, the bill includes language that would allow officials appointed by the governor to make sweeping cuts in health coverage for low-income families without having to go through the normal legislative process.

And then there’s this: “Notwithstanding ss. 13.48 (14) (am) and 16.705 (1), the department may sell any state-owned heating, cooling, and power plant or may contract with a private entity for the operation of any such plant, with or without solicitation of bids, for any amount that the department determines to be in the best interest of the state. Notwithstanding ss. 196.49 and 196.80, no approval or certification of the public service commission is necessary for a public utility to purchase, or contract for the operation of, such a plant, and any such purchase is considered to be in the public interest and to comply with the criteria for certification of a project under s. 196.49 (3) (b).”

What’s that about? The state of Wisconsin owns a number of plants supplying heating, cooling, and electricity to state-run facilities (like the University of Wisconsin). The language in the budget bill would, in effect, let the governor privatize any or all of these facilities at whim. Not only that, he could sell them, without taking bids, to anyone he chooses. And note that any such sale would, by definition, be “considered to be in the public interest.”

If this sounds to you like a perfect setup for cronyism and profiteering — remember those missing billions in Iraq? — you’re not alone. Indeed, there are enough suspicious minds out there that Koch Industries, owned by the billionaire brothers who are playing such a large role in Mr. Walker’s anti-union push, felt compelled to issue a denial that it’s interested in purchasing any of those power plants. Are you reassured?

The good news from Wisconsin is that the upsurge of public outrage — aided by the maneuvering of Democrats in the State Senate, who absented themselves to deny Republicans a quorum — has slowed the bum’s rush. If Mr. Walker’s plan was to push his bill through before anyone had a chance to realize his true goals, that plan has been foiled. And events in Wisconsin may have given pause to other Republican governors, who seem to be backing off similar moves.

But don’t expect either Mr. Walker or the rest of his party to change those goals. Union-busting and privatization remain G.O.P. priorities, and the party will continue its efforts to smuggle those priorities through in the name of balanced budgets.

The Fuse for Synthetic Revolution Is Lit In Iraq–Whether Obama Likes It or Not

Authorities Obliged to Protect Peaceful Protests

Promises by Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki to allow protests are meaningless when we see vicious attacks like the one on February 21. Iraqi authorities should hold police who allowed this attack to happen accountable.

Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch

(New York) – Iraqi police allowed dozens of assailants to beat and stab peaceful protesters in Baghdad on February 21, 2011, Human Rights Watch said today. Security forces have an obligation to protect the right to assemble peacefully and to use only the minimum necessary force to protect lives if violence erupts, Human Rights Watch said.

In the early hours of February 21 dozens of men, some wielding knives and clubs, attacked about 50 protesters who had set up two tents in Baghdad’s Tahrir Square. The assailants stabbed and beat at least 20 of the protesters who were intending to camp in the square until February 25, when groups have called for national protests similar to the “Day of Anger” in Egypt. The attack came directly after the police had withdrawn from the square, and witnesses suggested the assailants were in discussion with the police before they attacked.

“Promises by Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki to allow protests are meaningless when we see vicious attacks like the one on February 21,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “Iraqi authorities should hold police who allowed this attack to happen accountable.”

Scores of demonstrations have taken place across the country since early February, mainly focused on the chronic lack of basic services and perceived widespread corruption. Since February 16, security forces have killed at least five protesters and injured more than 100 at demonstrations throughout Iraq. Armed men have also targeted opposition groups and media. In Sulaimaniya, assailants set fire to multiple buildings of the opposition Goran (“change”) party and the headquarters of a newly established TV and radio station that broadcast video of the protests.

Protests in Baghdad

Shortly after 1 a.m. on February 21 police vehicles on duty at Tahrir Square, in the center of Baghdad, suddenly vacated the area, a dozen witnesses told Human Rights Watch. Immediately afterward, four military Humvees parked on a distant side of the square, while several black SUVs pulled up and parked on an adjoining street. A standing curfew bans all civilian vehicular traffic on Baghdad’s roads between midnight and 5 a.m., and vehicles in the Tahrir Square area encounter numerous military checkpoints and patrols.

After the vehicles arrived, streetlights surrounding the square went out, and the people in the Humvees turned on floodlights attached to their vehicles. One protest organizer told Human Right Watch that dozens of men wearing civilian shirts, but all with similar dark-colored military-style pants, quickly approached the sleeping protesters, many brandishing knives, batons, and stun-guns, and fanned out around the tents. One asked the organizer if he had a permit for the demonstration, and began to interrogate him.

Another witness said a surprised policeman from a nearby checkpoint approached the square with his gun drawn, but when one of the armed men whispered something in his ear, the policeman quickly nodded and withdrew. “At that point, one of them gave a signal, and they all started beating us and running into the tents,” said the witness, who asked not to be named for safety reasons. “I heard people screaming in pain, so I yelled out for everyone to run.”

A protester bearing stab wounds, now in hiding, told Human Rights Watch: “I woke up with the pain of the knife sticking in me and everyone yelling. The man who stabbed me told me that I wasn’t supposed to be in the square, and that I had to leave, or he would stab me again. He then hit me in the head. I got up as best as I could, and other protesters helped me run away.”

Another protester with large bruises on his back and a long laceration on the side of his left leg told Human Rights Watch, “They were punching and stabbing us as we were trying to run from them.”

Other witnesses gave consistent accounts of the attack. They said they believed the violence was meant to frighten and disperse the protesters rather than to kill them, although they were all shocked at the brutality of the attack. Various protesters who had encountered police at checkpoints while fleeing into the alleys of the adjoining Betuine neighborhood said the police told them they “were not allowed to intervene.” One protester said a policeman told him they were powerless because the assailants were “from the Office of the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces.”

Human Rights Watch observed lacerations or bruises on seven protesters. Witnesses’ testimony was also consistent with video viewed by Human Rights Watch, shot at the scene in the hours before the attack, and then of wounded protesters the next morning.

At earlier protests in Tahrir Square, Human Rights Watch observed Iraqi security forces intimidating peaceful protesters by filming them and threatening to arrest them, and in one instance saying, “Now, we know who you are.” On February 11 and 13 security forces filmed the faces of participants who were chanting peacefully and told them they would be arrested. On February 23 Human Rights Watch also saw security forces preventing Iraqi journalists from filming or taking photos of the protests.

Protests in Kurdistan

Since February 17, clashes with security forces have killed three demonstrators in Sulaimaniya. Thousands of demonstrators have continued their protest against alleged corruption and the political dominance of the two ruling parties, the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK).

A 25-year-old resident of Sulaimaniya told Human Rights Watch that he visited the protest area in that city out of curiosity on February 17. Without warning, he said, KDP guards began firing into the crowd from the building’s roof. “I heard gunshots and started to run when a bullet hit the back of my right shoulder,” he said, adding that he spent three days in the hospital.

A protester who took part in the February 17 demonstration in Sulaimaniya told Human Rights Watch: “We threw some stones at the KDP office, but then they actually opened fire against us. I have never seen such scenes here since the end of the violent war between the KDP and PUK” in the 1990s.

Also on February 17 assailants ransacked or torched offices of the opposition Goran party in the Kurdistan Regional Government-administered cities of Erbil, Dohuk, and Soran. On the same day, Hawlati, an independent bi-weekly newspaper, evacuated its offices after receiving threats from uniformed security forces stationed at a nearby KDP office. On February 19 armed men stormed the headquarters of Nalia Television in Sulaimaniya, shooting up broadcasting equipment, wounding a guard, and burning the building down, according to staff of the station. Nalia Television had begun its first broadcast two days earlier with footage of the protests.

In a February 17 press statement, the president of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), Massoud Barzani, condemned the protesters’ behavior, but not that of the security forces who shot at them. At a news conference the following day, Fazil Mirani, head of the KDP politburo, blamed security forces for not protecting his party’s offices from the protesters’ rock-throwing. “Disrespecting our offices comes with a heavy price, and we will do whatever we can to cut the hands of those who are aggressive toward us.” he said.

“The reaction of the Kurdistan Regional Government’s officials to the protester violence is deplorable,” Stork said. “Instead of threatening protesters, officials need to rein in their security forces to prevent further violence.”

Upcoming Protest

Numerous internet groups have urged Iraqis to take to the streets on February 25, one month after a similar “Day of Anger” in Egypt that ultimately led to the ousting of Hosni Mubarak from the presidency.

On June 25, 2010, in response to thousands of Iraqis who took to the streets to protest a chronic lack of government services, the interior ministry issued regulations with onerous provisions that effectively impeded Iraqis from organizing lawful protests. The regulations required organizers to get “written approval of both the minister of interior and the provincial governor” before submitting an application to the relevant police department, not less than 72 hours before a planned event.

Iraq’s constitution guarantees “freedom of assembly and peaceful demonstration.”As a state party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Iraq is obligated to protect the rights to life and security of the person, and the rights to freedom of expression, association, and peaceful assembly. Iraq should also abide by the UN Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms, which state that lethal force may only be used when strictly unavoidable to protect life, and must be exercised with restraint and proportionality. The principles also require governments to “ensure that arbitrary or abusive use of force and firearms by law enforcement officials is punished as a criminal offense under their law.”

Human rights law on the right to life, including Article 6 of the ICCPR, requires an effective and transparent investigation when deaths may have been caused by state officials, leading to the identification and prosecution of the perpetrators of any crimes that took place.

A Tale of Three Nations: Freedom, Religion and the Rights of Women

A Tale of Three Nations: Freedom, Religion and the Rights of Women

William John Cox

Media With Conscience – February 24, 2011

As the youth-led Freedom Movement of 2011 spreads rapidly across the Middle East and around the world, one can only wonder what would be happening in Iraq today if the U.S. had not invaded eight years ago. What does the movement portend for the rights of women in other nations, such as Tunisia and in the United States?

The rights of women continue to deteriorate in Iraq under the U.S. installed Shiite government; their status is now threatened by Islamists in Tunisia, the most secular of Arab nations; and their personal liberties are under a full-scale assault in the United States by Christian fundamentalist politicians.

Iraq

Under the Ba’athist government led by Saddam Hussein, Iraqi women enjoyed greater freedomthan women in most other Arab nations and they played an active role in the political, economic and educational development of the nation.

The 1970 Constitution formally guaranteed equal rights to women and ensured their right to obtain an education, own property, vote and be elected to political offices. Iraq acceded to the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women in 1986.

At a cost of more than one trillion dollars, “Operation Iraqi Freedom” has slaughtered more than 100,000 Iraqis, including thousands of children, and taken away the existing rights of women.

President Bush often bragged that “Iraq is free of rape rooms;” however, his illegal invasion of Iraq not only exposed its women to rape by U.S. soldiers and mercenaries, but rape is “increasingly used as a weapon by warring tribal factions.”

The new Iraqi constitution adopted after the invasion requires that women hold 25% of the seats in the parliament; however, it also provides that no law can contradict the “established rulings of Islam.” Thus, the personal rights of women are subject to the interpretation of religious leaders, and they are being officially curtailed by the Shiite-controlled government.

Iraqi women must now submit to any male authority, including boys as young as 12 years old, and they are being attacked and murdered “for working, dressing inappropriately or attending university.” There are more than three million widows in Iraq today, and sex trafficking has become widespread, as there is no little or no opportunity for other employment.

Opposition to the corrupt and failed Iraqi government has led to recent freedom demonstrations by thousands of protesters in the cities of Sulaimaniya, Falluja, and Nassiriya Province, and Baghdad. These demonstrations are being suppressed by the Iraqi security forces using U.S. supplied weapons and intimidation tactics, including raids on the office of the Iraqi organization that monitors press freedom.

The U.S. mainstream media and the Obama Administration have been largely silent about the Iraqi demonstrations; however, fair-minded Americans, liberal and conservative alike, should conclude that, absent the invasion, the young people of Iraq would be in the forefront of the Freedom Movement of 2011.

Given other choices, thousands of human lives would not have been wasted; billions of dollars would have been better spent in the improvement, rather than the destruction of those lives; and the United States would enjoy greater respect for the freedoms it purports to support and defend.

Tunisia

The site of ancient Cartage and the breadbasket of the Roman Empire, Tunisiaobtained its independence from the “protection” of France in 1957. Habib Bourguiba, the leader of the independence movement and the Destourian Socialist Party, was elected president, and for the next 30 years he presided over a largely secular government.

Bourguiba was succeeded in 1987 by Zine Ben Ali, the minister of national security, who had been trained as a military officer in France and the United States. Receiving financial support from the United States, President Zine established a repressive police state and used police action again militant Islamic groups.

Relying upon a broad anti-terrorism law passed in 2003, President Zine supported the U.S. war on terrorism by making hundreds of arbitrary arrests and engaging in official torture. Zine increasingly controlled news, information, and the Internet, and he targeted journalists with harassment, violence and constant surveillance.

Originally founded upon socialist principles, modern Tunisia developed a large middle class and encouraged the liberation of women. One-third of its university professors are women, as are 58% of its university students, more than one-fourth of its judges, and 23% of its members of parliament.

Even since its independence, Tunisia has promulgated the most progressive policies on women found in Arab nations. The Code of Personal Status adopted in 1956 abolished polygamy, prohibited husbands from unilaterally obtaining divorces, gave their wives greater custody rights and allowed them to vote. Tunisian women can legally obtain government-subsidized abortions without their husband’s permission.

The liberal nationalists who established the government believed that the improvement of women’s rights was an integral part of creating a modern country free from “anachronistic traditions and backward mentalities.”

Tunisia signed the U.N. Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women in 1980 and ratified it in 1985.

Educated women with a mature appreciation of their civil rights were at the vanguard of those marching for freedom in Tunisia; however, they are also the ones with the most to lose, if religious fundamentalists come to power and those freedoms are erased. Concerned protestors carried signs that read, “Politics ruins religion and religion ruins politics.”

Security forces have already been deployed to protect legally-sanctioned brothels from a mob of religious zealots, and there is concern about the rights of women who wear western dress, including bikinis on beaches. The unsettled conditions have caused many women to be afraid to walk outside alone at night.

The leadership of Ennahdha, a political movement allied with the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, has stated it is opposed to the imposition of Islamic law in Tunisia. However, women have witnessed the loss of progressive women’s rights in three other Islamic nations, including Iran after the fall of the Shah, Afghanistan with the rise of the Taliban, and Iraq following the U.S. invasion.

To a certain extent, Tunisian women were protected from Islamic extremists by the repressive Zine government; however, for now, they can only wait and see how the Jasmine Revolution evolves.

United States

Ronald Reagan once said that “America is a shining city upon a hill whose beacon light guides freedom-loving people everywhere;” however, the reality is that the United States has come to be controlled by a military-industrial oligarchy to which both major political parties are subservient.

Instead of a beacon of liberty, the United States supports the suppression of freedom in other countries and increasingly denies the constitutional rights of its own citizens, particularly women.

The United States Constitution was established by the “We the People;” however, neither it nor the subsequent Bill of Rights embraced slaves or women within its protection.

The Civil War resulted in the 13th and 14th Amendments that abolished slavery and prohibited the states from abridging the rights of their “citizens,” and the 15th Amendment that guaranteed the right to vote to former slaves.

Efforts to guarantee the right of women suffrage was blocked by Southern conservatives in the U.S. Senate, forcing women activists to secure the amendment of every single state constitutionAfter almost 800 separate political campaigns, women received the universal right to vote in 1920 with passage of the 19th Amendment.

Today, 90 years later, the U.S. Congress only seats 17 women senators (17%) and 72 women representatives (16.6%). These percentages are far less than the number of women legislators in either Iraq or Tunisia.

In 1980, former President Jimmy Carter signed the U.N. Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women; however the treaty has never been brought before the full Senate for a vote Indeed, the U.S. is one of only seven countries which has not ratified the treaty. (The other nations are Iran, Sudan, Somalia, Palau, Nauru and Tonga.) Although President Obama proclaimed the treaty to be a priority in May 2009, he has made no visible effort to secure its ratification by the Senate.

After gaining the right to vote, many women activists continued to believe the U.S. Constitution needed to be amended to ensure freedom from legal sex discrimination against women and to ensure the equal application of the Constitution to all citizens.

Commencing in the early 1940s, both Democrats and Republicans added support for an Equal Rights Amendment to their platforms; however, it was not until 1972 that pressure from organized labor and other mainstream groups caused Congress to pass ERA legislation.

As proposed to the states for ratification, the 27th Amendment simply says, “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.”

The usual seven-year deadline for ratification was not included in the words of the ERA itself, but in its proposing clause. Congress subsequently extended the deadline to 1982, but thus far only 35 of the required 38 states have ratified it.

The ERA continues to be reintroduced in each Congressional session, and a coalition of women’s organizations are now working on a “3-state strategy,” in which, because of the ambiguity in the deadline language, ratification by only three of the remaining 15 states could add the amendment to the Constitution.

During the 1970s, one of the main objections to the ERA by conservative religious and political organizations was that women would no longer be exempt from compulsory military service and combat duty; however women are now fighting in almost every element of the “War on Terrorism,” except “close combat” troops including infantry, armor and special forces. The CongressionalMilitary Leadership Diversity Commission is currently preparing to recommend that even these restrictions be lifted.

Women are flying strike fighters and helicopter gun ships, they are “manning” machine guns and mortars, and they are protecting convoys being attacked by roadside bombs. More than 134 women soldiers have been killed in the line of duty in Afghanistan and Iraq and more than 721 have been wounded in action.

Perhaps the most grievous injuries suffered by women in the military is the widespread incident of rape and murder by fellow soldiers. The Department of Defense (DoD) reports that one in three women in the military will be sexually assaulted or raped by men in the military. Of these, an alarming number are dying after being raped.

“8 women soldiers from Fort Hood, Texas (six from the Fourth Infantry Division and two from the 1st Armored Cavalry Division) have died of ‘non-combat related injuries’ on the same base, Camp Taji, and three were raped before their deaths. Two were raped immediately before their deaths and another raped prior to arriving in Iraq. Two military women have died of suspicious ‘non-combat related injuries’ on Balad base, and one was raped before she died. Four deaths have been classified as ‘suicides.’” (Ann Wright - Common Dreams)

The rate of sexual assault and rape in the military is double the civilian rate. Congresswoman Jane Harman (D-Calif.) has testified that, “Women serving in the U.S. military are more likely to be raped by a fellow soldier than killed by enemy fire in Iraq.”

Harman’s testimony is confirmed by the DoD, which admits that 80% of all rapes in the military are not reported because the victims fear ostracism, punishment and loss of careers. Half of all reported cases receive no official action, a third are dismissed, and only 8% are referred to Court Martial. Even then, the majority of those ultimately convicted receive only mild punishments.

It is often heard in the United States that “Muslim men abuse their women;” however In 2006,almost a quarter of a million American women reported to the police that they had been raped or sexually assaulted. Women suffer 4.8 million intimate partner-related physical assaults and rapesannually in the U.S., and one-third of the more than 1,100 women who are murdered each year arekilled by an intimate partner.

In spite of these gruesome statistics, legislative efforts are directed toward the further punishment and humiliation of women and are more driven by religious fundamentalism than logic. Women are being denied basic contraception and are being punished for becoming pregnant:

●A South Dakota legislature bill would expand the definition of “justifiable homicide” to include the killing of abortion providers, and the Ohio legislature is entertaining a law which would make it illegal for women to seek abortions as soon as 18 days after conception.

●Although Planned Parenthood does not currently spend any federal money on abortion services, House Republicans just voted to deny any funding to the organization, cutting money for contraceptives, HIV test, cancer screening and reproductive health services.

●A Republican-sponsored bill in the House of Representatives would deny any federal funding for abortions except in cases of “forcible rape or, if a minor, an act of incest.” Under the law, a 12-year-old girl coerced and impregnated by her step-father or a young woman subjected to date rape would be forced to bear the child.

●The Health Care Reform act contains provisions that are likely to cause the elimination of all private as well as public insurance coverage for abortions, and President Obama issued an executive order supporting the anti-choice provisions.

Lady Liberty Weeps

Twelve-year-old boys can tell an adult woman what to do in Iraq, while 12-year-old girls in the United States are forced to suffer rape and sexual assault and to endure the pregnancies that result.

The evils of the Iraqi rape rooms that Bush boasted about eliminating were merely transferred to the actions of warring soldiers, both U.S. and tribal, and by the rape and murder of innocent civilian women and fellow female soldiers.

The United States is already a nation which requires women to work outside the home in order to support an adequate standard of living for a family, without providing safe and nurturing daycare for their young children.

Now, as sexual education for women regarding their bodies and reproductive health and choices is eliminated, punishment for becoming pregnant is increased by making abortion illegal and shameful, and by eliminating funding for organizations that provide contraceptives and health care for pregnant women.

The U.S. uses images of the plight of women in the Middle East to justify its illegal wars of aggression, while figuratively stoning its own women and cutting off their noses by curtailing theirrights to determine the fate of their own bodies and by failing to protect them from sexual assaults.

Once again, the banner of Christianity leads another crusade – this time against women and children in the United States. For women subjected to medieval practices, there is little difference between Christian and Muslim fundamentalism.

As the tsunami of freedom spreads around the world and upon American shores, women and girls can only hope and pray that it can deliver them from the repression and violence that victimizes them in their Citadel of Freedom.

William John Cox is a retired prosecutor and public interest lawyer, author and political activist. His efforts to promote a peaceful political evolution can be found at VotersEvolt.com, his writings are collected at WilliamJohnCox.com and he can be contacted at u2cox@msn.com.

Photo Credit: supportamericansoldiers.com

Another Pakistani Drone Strike Within Sight of Durand Line

[Another bluff strike, carried-out to blunt criticism of Davis as Predator-killer key.]

Suspected US Drone Strikes Kill At Least 7 In Pakistan

(RTTNews) - As many as seven people have been killed in two attacks by US pilotless aircraft in Pakistan’s volatile north-western tribal regions bordering Afghanistan, reports said on Thursday.

An unnamed security official told media that three missiles were fired at a residential compound in Dattakhel Mohammedkhel area near Miranshah in North Waziristan. Five people died in the attack which completely demolished the house.

However, he said the identity of those killed could not be ascertained as the site of the incident was agog with preparations for burying the dead.

According to another official, who too requested anonymity, two people were killed when a missile strike from another drone hit a vehicle proceeding towards the house that was targeted earlier.

The US had lately suspended attacks by drone aircraft in order to contain a possible backlash following the killing of two men in the eastern Pakistani city of Lahore by an American embassy staff. The embassy official, later identified as Raymond Davis, had claimed that he had acted in self-defense as the two men had tried to rob him.

Despite repeated pleas from the US for a military push in the militant stronghold of North Waziristan, the Pakistani army has pleaded its inability to launch a full-fledged operation citing lack of sufficient manpower.