‘Bush playing with fire in Pakistan’

‘Bush playing with fire in Pakistan’
Sat, 13 Sep 2008 12:44:13 GMT

US President George W. Bush

US congressman Dennis Kucinich says President George W. Bush’s authorization of attacks inside Pakistan will further destabilize the world.

“The President is once again violating international law by invading yet another nation which has not attacked the United States. Once again, he places our troops and our reputation at risk,” media reports quoted Kucinich as saying on Friday.

“Once again, he creates more enemies for America. Pakistan’s objections to the illegal US Predator strikes inside the country’s border should be a clear indication of how Pakistan would respond to another illegal attack upon their sovereign nation,” the congressman continued.

“Pakistan is a nuclear flash point on the Asian subcontinent. This situation requires intense diplomacy. The United States under George Bush is playing with fire, creating more instability, killing innocent Pakistanis, imperiling our troops in the region and weakening the hold our allies have on their democratic governments. Instead of limiting aggression, Bush expands it,” Kucinich stated.

US Congressman Dennis Kucinich

Congress must intervene legislatively and legally to block Bush from continuing down this dangerous path, he concluded.

Kucinich’s comments come after the Bush administration authorized raids against militants in Pakistan without prior approval from Islamabad.

There is growing concern in Pakistan over unilateral US military action which has killed dozens of civilians including women and children during recent weeks.

The upsurge in strikes has alarmed the Pakistani military, which says it would hit back against any further US aggression inside the country.

Iran to construct refinery in Ecuador

Iran to construct refinery in Ecuador
Sun, 14 Sep 2008 04:46:20 GMT

Iran and Ecuador have agreed to build an oil refinery in the Latin American country, says Iranian Oil Minister Gholam-Hossein Nozari.

Nozari and his Ecuadorian counterpart, Galo Chiriboga Zambrano, have signed a memorandum of understanding on cooperation in the oil sector.

Nozari said the construction of the refinery will be co-financed by Iran, Ecuador and Venezuela.

The two oil ministers also agreed to construct a petrochemicals production unit in Ecuador, he added.

Ecuador’s oil minister said that the two countries would establish an oil company through which the joint energy projects can be implemented.

Both Iran and Ecuador are members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), which accounts for about 40 percent of the world’s oil production.

Ecuador, the fifth largest South American oil producer, currently has three refineries with a total refinement capacity of 110,000 barrels of oil per day, making it the smallest producing member of OPEC.

Venezuela and Ecuador agreed in July to construct a refinery capable of producing 300,000 barrels of oil per day in Ecuador’s coastal province of Manabi.

Putin: New US gov’t should improve ties

Putin: New US gov’t should improve ties
Sat, 13 Sep 2008 22:26:05 GMT

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin says he expects the next US administration to improve the two countries’ strained relations.

“I wait for the relations to improve. They (the US) marred them, and they should improve them,” Putin said Saturday in an interview with the French paper Le Figaro.

The US-Russia relations, which enjoyed a relative calm following the collapse of the Soviet Union, began to deteriorate when Washington in 2007 decided to deploy an anti-ballistic missile defense shield in Eastern Europe.

The US claimed the system was meant to counter threats from the Middle East, while Moscow said the system was aimed at Russia. The already tense ties were further strained over the recent Georgia-Russia conflict.

Putin also revealed that Moscow had evidence proving that unauthorized US citizens were in the security zone during the recent conflict.

The prime minister said a passport copy of an American citizen, who was spotted in the security zone during the five-day operation, was made available to the media by Anatoly Nogovitsyn, the deputy chief of Russia’s General Staff, RIA Novosti reported.

“Under previously signed international agreements, only three groups of people were allowed to the very security zone, that is locals, peacekeepers and OSCE observers,” Putin said.

He added that Russia had documents proving that the Americans who were in the area did not fall under to any of those categories, calling on Washington to address the issue.

Russian bombers stage Caribbean drill

Russian bombers stage Caribbean drill
Sun, 14 Sep 2008 09:05:46 GMT

Russian Tu-160 bombers sent for training exercises to Venezuela

Two Russian Tu-160 bombers sent for training exercises to Venezuela have carried out maneuvers over neutral Atlantic and the Caribbean.

According to the Deputy Commander of the Russian Long-Range Air Force, Alexander Afinogentov, foreign fighters did not approach the Tu-160s, there were no excesses and the equipment worked well.

Afinogentov also thanked Venezuela for its assistance in the organization of the flight which lasted about six hours.

Colonel General Pavel Androsov told a briefing in Moscow that the Tu-160 bombers were not equipped with nuclear weapons when they landed in Venezuela and carried only dummy missiles.

Russian Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Andrei Nesterenko also stressed that the bombers do not imply a Russian military base in Latin America. “The bombers landed in Venezuela in line with an earlier bilateral agreement,” he said.

Wednesday’s arrival of strategic bombers in Latin America was the first since the Cold War, which means Russia’s new show of force so close to US-patrolled waters is likely to heighten security tension with Washington.

Tensions were already high between the two nations over US plans to site elements of a missile defense shield in Eastern Europe. A move Russia considers a threat to its national security.

Last month’s war in US-backed Georgia has also taxed relations, with Russia throwing its weight behind South Ossetia and supporting its declaration of independence.

The bombers landed in Venezuela on Wednesday for a four-day stay ahead of joint naval exercise in the Caribbean. Russian Major General Vladimir Drik says the bombers are scheduled to return to their bases in Russia on October 15th when the exercises finish.

Venezuela, which is closing off a $4 billion purchase of Russian Sukhoi fighter planes and helicopters, may also acquire “a powerful Russian anti-aircraft defense system,” Chavez announced Wednesday.

Russia is also dispatching a nuclear cruiser and other warships and planes to the Caribbean for the joint exercises with Venezuela.

Pak jets ‘sent to confront US drones’

Pak jets ‘sent to confront US drones’
Sat, 13 Sep 2008 17:55:30 GMT

Pakistan has ordered its jet fighters to confront any attack by the US-led coalition forces on the tribal belt near the Afghan border.

Air force fighters have carried out sorties in the tribal region for the first time after US missiles attacks killed dozens of civilians, sources said on Saturday.

Air Force Chief Marshal Tanvir Mehmood, meanwhile, said that the Air Force could respond to violation of the country’s air space by the US forces if the government issued orders.

Tribal elders and witnesses in Miranshah told local news networks that they had seen Pakistani fighter planes hovering over North Waziristan. They had also seen warplanes flying towards the Afghan border area.

Earlier, Pakistan’s army chief General Ashfaq Kayani issued a harshly-worded statement, criticizing cross-border attacks by the coalition forces from Afghanistan and vowing to defend the country “at all cost”.

The Air Force’s decision followed bloody incursions by the US ground troops into the tribal belt as well as a string of missile strikes by US-operated drone aircrafts.

The reaction comes after US President George W. Bush endorsed US military raids inside Pakistan without Islamabad’s agreement.

The Baby Killers

The Baby Killers

RICHARD NEVILLE keeps promising not to mention the wars but can’t help commenting on the ongoing blood bath in Afghanistan.

I keep promising myself not to mention the wars for these reasons: the invaders couldn’t care less about their crimes or their critics, my friends think I’ve become a ranting bore and many of today’s citizens have more pressing worries than the serial massacres of toddlers in badlands. Bad stuff keeps happening. It keeps being denied. And is soon forgotten.

From the very first days of the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan, the U.S. air force has specialised in dropping bombs on family compounds supposedly containing “militants”. Often they are not at home, unlike the women and children and elderly, whose bodies are eventually spread on the ground in preparation for a mass burial, while the Pentagon issues a curt “regret”. Then it bombs the funeral. It’s happened more than once. Another target is wedding parties. Back in July 2002, snug in their AC-130 bombers, American pilots wiped out a celebration in Uruzgan province, killing 48 civilians – mostly women and children – and injuring 117 locals. It’s happened more than once.

It happened again this July, when a U.S .missile strike slaughtered 27 guests in Nangarhar province, 19 of them women and children. When locals arrived at the scene to care for the injured and collect the dead, four more bombs were unleashed, killing the bride and two of her relatives.

It’s been much the same in Iraq and Pakistan, though barely reported. We kill on the hint of a whisper, kill because we can, kill because we rule the skies. Even as the Pentagon continued to deny its August massacre of 60 children and 15 women in Nawabad, in the district of Azizabad, Afghanistan, the bombs were raining down on a religious school in Waziristan, a tribal area of north west Pakistan. (The fourth U.S. assault this week on its “ally”).

Unleashed by two drones, the strikes killed 23 people, though not the intended target, Jalaluddin Haqqani, a religious scholar and former commander of the U.S.-backed mujahideen which trounced the Russians (“Charlie’s War”).  Twenty others were wounded, mainly women and children. The guys who push the buttons at the Creech Air Force base in Nevada, managed to murder one of  Haqqani wives, his sister-in-law, a sister, two nieces, eight grandchildren and a male relative.

“Sitting in a virtual cockpit is not as exciting as flying a fighter jet”, noted CNN’s breathless Laurie Ure, “but unmanned attack-plane pilots can enjoy a normal workday schedule”. Captain Matt Dean agrees, “seeing bad guys on the screen and watching them possibly get dispatched, and then going down to the Taco Bell for lunch, it’s kind of surreal”. This is the Pentagon’s version of Second Life, soon to be known as Exit Life. One day it will come to a war near you.

The latest unmanned bomber is called the Reaper and caries the same payload as an F-16 fighter plane, but happily, Laurie assures us – ‘its pilots are not put in harm’s way.’ Of course not, they’re eating tacos.  Col. Chris Chambliss is commander of the 432nd Air Expeditionary Wing, which was established last year as the first unit dedicated to unmanned aerial systems and remote controlled assassinations. “We’re the victims of our own success”, he tells a Defence correspondent, while he plays tapes of the victims of the Reaper. Chambliss says there is an “insatiable appetite” for his systems and their “capabilities” and his air-wing is currently flying 28 combat air patrols around the clock, and rising.

On Sept 8, while the boys from Creech were wolfing down their tacos, the London Times published an eight-minute of video of the massacre in Azizabad, the “most compelling evidence to emerge” of 75 civilian deaths. The hero here is an unnamed Afghan doctor who arrived at the scene with a cell phone and shot footage of weeping parents, injured children and charred babies –  line upon line of  shrouded corpses. Along with attack helicopters and a C130 Spectre gunship, armed drones were used in the attack.

And so it goes, this depressing spiral of wars without end, arms trading, Government lies, the obliteration of the innocent and an insane certainty that our Kilpingesque military missions are wise and noble. Oh yes, Australia’s on board, fists flying. We’re building a bigger navy to defend our sea lanes from, er, what? Oh yes, Asia’s ascent. George Bush, Barack Obama and John McCain are pushing for a “surge” in Afghanistan, a country which never attacked anyone. True, it did harbour Osama bin Laden, just as America once harboured the Shah of Iran and still harbours anti-Castro terrorists and fully backed General Pinochet and nourished Pervez Musharraf and still trains torturers, etc, but as yet no army has invaded Washington.

Why are we in Afghanistan? “To spread democracy”. Surely it’s death we’re spreading. If we cared about democracy we’d be listening to the locals, who want us out. In the most recent survey of public opinion, (this June, prior to the latest bout of killings), “more than six out of ten of those interviewed… said that foreign troops should leave.”  And let’s not mention the encroaching famine – no-one else does.

The only war worth fighting anymore, is the war against carbon emissions. Instead of which, we’re being sucked into an arms build-up, which will further scorch the planet. The chance of changing this priority is slim, given the West’s long devotion to bloody combat.  According to Johan Galtung, a longtime peace researcher and futurist, the “number of people killed in overt Pentagon-driven military action after the Second World War is now between 13 and 17 million”. That’s not a misprint. The number of people killed in covert action is “at least 6 million”. Such figures are not to be found on Fox News, or even in the New York Times.

So while war may be hell, it’s as American as apple pie, and  unlikely to disappear before we do. It also explains why John McCain is edging ever closer the White House. In an era when Geneva is mocked, dissent ineffective and baby killing tolerated, it is strangely perfect that a presidential aspirant and his running mate should have blood on their hands, whether of Vietnamese civilians or an Alaskan Moose. If America signs up to this dark adventure, forget about calming the weather, restoring the eco system and embarking on an age of sustainability and transformation. All you’ll get is a blood bath.

Footnote: Within hours of publishing this piece, it is reported that U.S. drones fired several missiles at a house of a “militant” in North Waziristan, leaving 12 people dead, including women and children. Eight others have been taken to hospital. They’ll be dancing on the tables at Taco Bell’s.