Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Afghan air war grows in intensity

The NATO force is called ISAF the International Security Assistance Force. However their priority is security for their own forces not Afghans as the article puts it: But U.S. and allied troops in trouble take precedenceKarzai has complained constantly about civilian casualties caused by these airstrikes. The response of the U.S. and NATO has been to increase the number of airstrikes rather than reduce them. Last fall, Afghan President Hamid Karzai, responding to the rising civilian death toll from airstrikes, publicly demanded that the United States find an alternative. But airstrikes only increased. The increasing civilian deaths will recruit more to the Taliban ranks. This will increase the number of attacks. In response the U.S. and others will increase troop levels and increase the level of casualties and violence. Welcome to the New American Century.,0,6638715.storybaltimoresun.comAfghan air war grows in intensityFears of civilian casualties rise as airstrikes increaseBy David WoodSun reporterJuly 28, 2008.Daily airstrikes by U.S. and allied fighter-bombers in Afghanistan have almost doubled since last summer, according to U.S. Air Force data, a trend that reflects increased insurgent attacks but also raises concerns about civilian casualties.The growing reliance on airstrikes by U.S. commanders in Afghanistan appears to mark a turn in the course of the war.Responding to requests from ground commanders, allied aircraft over the past week have pummeled enemy ground targets an average of 68 times a day across Afghanistan, dropping 500- and 2,000-pound guided bombs and strafing enemy forces with cannon fire, according to Air Force daily strike reports.A year ago, the Air Force was recording about 35 airstrikes per day in Afghanistan.Although the Air Force takes what it says are exhaustive measures to avoid accidental deaths, civilian casualties from airstrikes have spiked twice this year, from none in January to 23 in March to 60 so far this month, according to new, unpublished data from Human Rights Watch researcher Marc Garlasco, a former targeting chief for the Pentagon's Joint Staff.Taliban-led insurgents are attacking in significant numbers and staying to fight rather than engaging in traditional hit-and-run guerrilla tactics, according to U.S. commanders.In several recent incidents, U.S. and allied troops prevailed in pitched battles only after fighter-bombers showed up to blast the insurgents.The growing role of air power suggests that the war will require more than the additional troops recommended by President Bush and both presidential candidates. It might require more manned and unmanned aircraft from an already overstretched Air Force and Navy.And greater use of air power would likely result in more civilian casualties, in a conflict in which winning local loyalty is considered the key to success.Last fall, Afghan President Hamid Karzai, responding to the rising civilian death toll from airstrikes, publicly demanded that the United States find an alternative. But airstrikes only increased.Allied commanders are still investigating a July 6 airstrike that the Afghan government says killed 47 civilians on their way to a wedding."We deeply regret any incident where civilians are harmed," said Royal Navy Capt. Mike Finney, a spokesman for the U.S.-led military coalition in Afghanistan.Enemy 'emboldened'But the Air Force says it is only responding to the intensity of fighting on the ground."Let's face it, the enemy is more emboldened," said Air Force Maj. Gen. Douglas L. Raaberg, deputy commander of air operations in the region. Raaberg is a B-1 bomber pilot who has flown strike missions over Afghanistan as recently as last week."The Taliban, when they have an opportunity to take a stand, they are doing that," he said in a telephone interview from the region.Coalition aircraft have doubled the number of hours they spend each day on airborne "armed overwatch" of U.S. and allied convoys and other operations, he said. He acknowledged that strike missions also have doubled as ground commanders increasingly request air support.To meet the demand, allied air crews are flying more sorties each day, and more U.S. aircraft are on station with the recent diversion of the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln from Iraq operations to supporting operations in Afghanistan."We are shifting assets as needed to make sure we don't leave [ground forces] uncovered," Raaberg said.But the Air Force has to scramble to meet unexpected demand.A Taliban attack July 13, for example, nearly overran a remote U.S. and Afghan outpost near the Pakistani border. Insurgents held the upper hand in combat until an Air Force B-1 bomber flew in to drop 2,000-pound bombs, an unmanned Predator fired a Hellfire missile and other strike aircraft dropped bombs and strafed the enemy with cannon. The insurgents retreated, leaving nine American soldiers dead."The only reason they weren't completely overrun was air power, and that's the first time that has happened" in the Afghan war, said John McCreary, who retired in 2006 as a senior intelligence analyst for the Pentagon's Joint Staff."Coalition ground forces are not winning every battle, but they are winning every battle where they have air support," said McCreary, who follows Afghanistan closely and still assembles a daily open-source intelligence report.On July 20, Raaberg was piloting a B-1 bomber over Afghanistan when he was redirected to attack Taliban forces gathering for an assault on a U.S. forward operating base in Kunar province, in eastern Afghanistan near the border with Pakistan."They started attacking within half an hour of when I got there," Raaberg recalled. He said U.S. artillery fired at the enemy, followed by airstrikes, followed by more artillery and more airstrikes, "until we ran out of bombs."Defeating such Taliban attacks, he said, is "not so much air [power] saving the day, it's air combined with ground forces combined with our coalition partners. We're trying to use everything."Analysts who have studied casualty patterns in Afghanistan say that the vast majority are caused, deliberately or not, by the Taliban and other insurgents.According to Human Rights Watch, a nonpartisan international research organization, 929 Afghan civilians were killed in the fighting in 2006. Of those, 699 were killed by the Taliban and 230 by U.S. or coalition forces, including 116 by airstrikes.In 2007, 1,633 Afghan civilians died in the fighting, with 950 killed by the Taliban and 434 by U.S. and coalition forces, according to data provided by Garlasco. The rest died under unclear or unknown circumstances, he said.But while the number killed by U.S. or coalition ground forces stayed about the same, those killed by airstrikes more than doubled, to 321.A key reason for the increase is that the Taliban are "shielding" their fighters among Afghanistan's civilian population, Garlasco said."They actually go into peoples' homes, force them to stay there during a battle, force them to build defensive trenches for them - these are true Geneva Conventions violations," Garlasco said.Raaberg said the Air Force will not attack insurgents shielding themselves among civilians "and the enemy knows that."Unplanned strikesBut Garlasco said the Air Force has not taken as much care with its quick-reaction airstrike missions as it has with those planned in detail and reviewed by intelligence analysts and lawyers at the U.S. regional air operations headquarters in Qatar."In their planned airstrikes, they have virtually eliminated the danger of civilian casualties," Garlasco said. "It is in the unplanned airstrikes that you're seeing almost all of the civilian casualties."Such unplanned missions often involve urgent calls to support U.S. and allied troops who unexpectedly engage in battle. Or an unmanned surveillance plane might find a group of people mistakenly identified by targeters as insurgents.Raaberg said that for unplanned missions - such as the one in which he participated July 20 - the air command dispatches not just strike aircraft but intelligence and command aircraft, all in close coordination with ground commanders and tactical air controllers."It's a painstaking effort," he said. If insurgents are mixed in with civilians, "we will wait them out if we can" or ask the ground commander to flush them out.But U.S. and allied troops in trouble take precedence."My hat's off to the ones on the ground," Raaberg said."There's nothing more uncomfortable than to hear on the radio mortars and grenades going off. You've got to go help them."david.wood@baltsun.comCopyright © 2008, The Baltimore Sun

India nixes WTO deal to cut tariffs

The developed countries just love to blame these failures on developing countries. Of course developing countries often want to protect their own farmers from competition that could be disastrous for those farmers. At the same time the great free traders in the developed world subsidise their own farmers and thus make their products cheaper and cheaper simply because they are subsidised.
Personally I find it makes a great deal of sense in many cases to protect one's own agricultural production. This can provide food security in many cases whereas removing any protection can create disaster for agricultural producers. Note that Canada was excluded from the main discussions in Geneva. So much for Harper's great new presence on the global stage.

India nixes WTO deal to cut tariffs

From Wednesday's Globe and Mail

July 29, 2008 at 7:53 PM EDT
WASHINGTON — Sending a powerful message to the world's richest countries, India has rejected a long-sought deal to cut global trade barriers on the grounds that it wouldn't have protected poor farmers.
The deal fell apart in Geneva yesterday after India, one of the new standard bearers of an emboldened developing world, balked at U.S. demands that countries limit emergency tariffs to shield their farmers from sudden import surges.
The collapse of talks for the third time in seven years provoked a wave of recriminations and finger pointing.
Indian Trade Minister Kamal Nath, saying he was speaking for a collection of more than 30 developing countries, insisted he wasn't willing to sacrifice the "livelihood of poor and subsistence farmers" for the sake of a deal.
The United States accused India and China of ignoring a global food crisis and turning back the clock on free trade by decades. The World Trade Organization (WTO) estimated the deal would have boosted trade by as much as $130-billion (U.S.) a year.
U.S. Trade Representative Susan Schwab called India and China's stand "unconscionable" at a time of soaring food prices.
"In the face of a global food price crisis it is ironic it came down to how much and how fast nations could raise their barriers to food imports," Ms. Schwab told reporters in Geneva.
The collapse of the talks after 10 days of intense negotiations all but rules out a deal this year, and perhaps much longer as political fatigue and looming elections in the United States and elsewhere get in the way.
And getting them back on track may require a new consensus on globalization between rich and poor countries.
"The days when Western countries can swing a deal are over," said Lawrence Herman, a trade lawyer at Cassels Brock & Blackwell LLP in Toronto.
Indeed, Canada was excluded from the main discussions in Geneva, leaving Trade Minister Michael Fortier to spend the past week in bilateral talks with other trade ministers.
In the interests of speeding up negotiations, WTO chief Pascal Lamy had designated seven trading "powers" to hammer out a deal for everyone else. They were the United States, the European Union, Japan, Australia, Brazil, India and China — representing a cross-section of developed and developing countries. The plan was to get a deal among those powers, and then present the text to the full WTO.
Yesterday, Mr. Fortier said Mr. Lamy shouldn't bother getting ministers back together until the seven have a consensus.
Mr. Fortier, echoing several of his counterparts from the 153-member WTO, talked optimistically about resuming talks in the "not-so-distant future."
But he also said Canada, like the United States, would forge ahead with bilateral free-trade deals to expand access for its exporters in Europe, South Korea and elsewhere.
"Canada is a trading nation, and the growth and prosperity of our manufacturers, service providers and agricultural producers are improved by access to new markets," said Mr. Fortier, who has been on the job slightly more than a month.
In spite of the official optimism, trade experts said the so-called Doha round, launched in 2001 in Qatar, is effectively over, further marginalizing the 14-year-old WTO.
"For all practical purposes, the Doha round is dead," said Arturo Porzecanski, an economist at American University in Washington.
And that's a shame, he said, because a WTO deal would have helped curb soaring global food prices by cutting the subsidies and quotas that bog down agricultural trade.
Just as importantly, the failed talks stand out as a missed opportunity to deal with the key impediments to freer trade in agriculture, and many emerging areas, such as services. The round would also have begun the process of dismantling protectionist trade rules.
"No question this is a lost opportunity, for international business," Mr. Herman said. "There were just way too many unresolved issues to deal with in 10 days."
A disappointed Mr. Lamy said negotiators were "85 per cent" of the way toward a deal.
"Anyone coming from another planet, they would not believe after all the progress we made we were not able to find agreement," said Brazilian Foreign Minister Celso Amorim, visibly shaken. "It's unbelievable, unbelievable, that we failed over this one issue," he said.
But Mr. Fortier and other ministers acknowledged there was a multitude of unresolved issues standing in the way of a deal, suggesting a breakthrough was still a long way off.
Canada, like nearly all other countries, has fought to keep key sectors outside the WTO umbrella. Canada, for example, has insisted that the supply management system, which regulates dairy and poultry production, be kept off the table. It has also jealously guarded the right of the Canadian Wheat Board to be the sole seller of Canadian wheat on world markets, over the objections of the United States and the EU.
The WTO estimates the deal envisaged in Geneva this week would have boosted trade in farm products to the tune of $35-billion a year and the industrial sector by $95-billion a year. The biggest commercial prize was seen to be the freeing up of trade in services such as banking and telecommunications.
Canadian poultry and dairy farmers, who had insisted on continued protection of their sector, said they were simultaneously disappointed and relieved at the talks' collapse.
"The talks didn't seem to be favouring our interests so I guess no deal is better than a bad deal," said Mark Davies, chairman of the Canadian Turkey Marketing Agency.
With files from Juliane von Reppert-Bismarck in Geneva

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

NAM ministerial conference in Tehran

There seems to be complete silence on this in the western mainstream press. I suppose the non-aligned countries are regarded as of no significance especially given they are meeting in Iran!

NAM ministerial conference opens in Tehran 2008-07-29 13:55:52

TEHRAN, July 29 (Xinhua) -- The 15th Ministerial Conference of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) opened here on Tuesday with an inaugural speech of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
"The world is on the verge of change," Ahmadinejad said in his speech. "It is facing frustrating challenges."
Big powers are root of many problems, said Ahmadinejad, adding that poverty is a result of wrong policy of big powers.
He accused big powers of trying to keep a monopoly on technology, saying that nuclear powers are blocking peaceful nuclear work of other states.
He said that the NAM which has the capacity for peace and justice can establish an arbitration council and can defend countries against invasion and discrimination.
The NAM potentials can be tapped to serve global development, Ahmadinejad added.
Representatives from 118 members, 15 observer members and 8 international and regional organizations including 60 foreign ministers attended the conference at the Conference Hall of the Organization of the Islamic Conference.
The conference is expected to review the developments and implementation of decisions made in the 14th NAM Summit in Havana in 2006, evaluate the latest international developments, particularly those related to the issues of interests for NAM member states, and also assess the achievements made so far in the process of revitalization and strengthening of the NAM since the holding of the last summit.
The NAM, founded in 1961 with 118 members as of 2007, is an international organization of states considering themselves not formally aligned with or against any major power bloc. China became an observer to the NAM in 1992 which is made up of mostly developing countries from Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean.

U.S. warned against Pakistan missile strikes

Apparently the U.S. carried out the strikes (and others) without the permission of the Pakistani government. Pakistani intelligence already seems to be reacting strongly against the U.S. nuclear deal with India by undermining Indian influence in Afghanistan and certainly Pakistan's relationships with the Karzai government are frigid. No doubt Pakistan is ready to cut a deal with the Taliban and other foes of the Karzai government if it can. The U.S. is helping to create an even more anti-U.S. feeling in Pakistan so that if the Pakistan government takes action to curb the power of the U.S. in Afghanistan and Pakistan that will have a great deal of public support. The U.S. simply does not seem to care about the sensibilities of the Pakistanis about the issue of sovereignty. This same lack of sensitivity is evident in bombings by the U.S. in Afghanistan as well. Karzai has complained mightily without changing the policy one iota. In fact now that bomber McNeill is gone the policy is still continuing under his successor.

US warned against missile strikes Tuesday, July 29, 2008- • Repeated US missile strikes in Pakistan could harm relations between the two countries, a top Pakistani military officer told a visiting US commander yesterday, a statement said.
The warning by General Tariq Majid, chairman of Pakistan's joint chiefs of staff, to Lieutenant General Martin Dempsey, head of US Central Command, came hours after a suspected US missile strike in Pakistan's tribal belt.
"Expressing concern over repeated cross-border missile attacks/firing by coalition and Afghan forces, General Tariq said that our sovereignty and territorial integrity must be respected," a Pakistani military statement said.
"Any violation in this regard could be detrimental to bilateral relations," it said.
Majid "also reemphasised that Pakistan armed forces are capable of handling any challenges to our security."
Pakistani officials said a suspected missile strike by US-led coalition forces in Afghanistan early yesterday had killed three foreign militants and three boys in the South Waziristan tribal region.
The United States has stepped up missile attacks in Pakistan in recent months in response to a surge in violence in parts of Afghanistan bordering Pakistan. Fears have also grown in Pakistan of a possible US offensive in the tribal areas.
Rising violence in Afghanistan has meanwhile, prompted harsh words from Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who accused Pakistani intelligence of orchestrating an attack on the Indian embassy in Kabul earlier this month.
Pakistan's Majid said the "baseless allegations against Pakistan could affect mutual trust and would definitely influence our efforts in the war against terror."

Bush praises Pakistan just hours after U.S. strike.

This is from the NY Times.
Gilani may be able to neglect to mention the missile strike on Pakistani soil but it will be noticed in Pakistan as I note in another post. This is the second time that Midhat Umar has been reported killed so we still will need to wait to have the kill confirmed. Apparently seven people were killed including the head of a school. That the U.S. should carried out this attack just hours before Bush met with Gilani is meant to send a message to Pakistan. With other attacks inside Pakistan and with the new nuclear deal with India, the U.S. can expect that whatever Pakistan may say they will probably work for some type of deal with the Taliban and even try to undermine the Karzai government and also the influence of India in Afghanistan.

July 29, 2008
Bush Praises Pakistan Just Hours After U.S. Strike
WASHINGTON — President Bush on Monday praised Pakistan’s commitment to fighting extremists along its deteriorating border with Afghanistan, only hours after an American missile strike destroyed what American and Pakistani officials described as a militant outpost in the region, killing at least six fighters.
Mr. Bush, meeting with Pakistan’s prime minister, Yousaf Raza Gilani, at the White House, sought to minimize growing concerns that Pakistan’s willingness to fight extremists was waning, allowing the Taliban and Al Qaeda to regroup inside Pakistan and plan new attacks there and beyond.
Senior American officials, including Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice just three days ago, publicly scolded Pakistan for not doing more to root out safe havens like the one bombed on Monday in Azam Warsak, a village in South Waziristan near the Afghan border.
Among those believed to have been killed in the missile attack, evidently carried out by a remotely piloted aircraft operated by the Central Intelligence Agency, was an Egyptian identified as a senior Qaeda trainer and weapons expert, according to residents and officials in the area, as well as American officials. Neither the operative’s identity nor that of the others has been confirmed.
The officials spoke anonymously because of the political and diplomatic sensitivities of attacking targets in Pakistan.
The Egyptian operative, Midhat Mursi al-Sayid Umar, also known as Abu Khabab al-Masri, appears on the State Department’s list of 37 most-wanted terrorists, with a reward of $5 million for his capture. He is said to be the man who designed the explosives that Richard C. Reid, the so-called shoe bomber, hid in his sneakers during a failed attempt to blow up an airliner on a flight from Paris to Miami in 2001.
He was falsely reported to have been killed in a similar attack in January 2006 in news accounts that attributed the claim to Pakistani officials. The timing of Monday’s strike, the latest in a series by remotely piloted American aircraft inside Pakistan, coincided with the first official visit by Mr. Gilani to the United States.
The meetings on Monday carefully sidestepped the political and diplomatic sensitivities that have strained relations ever since political opponents of the country’s authoritarian president, Pervez Musharraf, won elections this year and formed a governing coalition lead by Mr. Gilani.
Neither Mr. Bush nor Mr. Gilani discussed the American strike inside Pakistan, nor recent episodes like the American bombing of a border post in June that killed 11 Pakistani soldiers and inflamed anti-American sentiment. The two leaders appeared eager to show that they were working together closely and respectfully.
With Mr. Gilani by his side on the South Lawn, Mr. Bush praised Pakistan as “a strong ally and a vibrant democracy” and expressed appreciation for “the prime minister’s strong words against the extremists and terrorists.”
“We talked about the need for us to make sure that the Afghan border is secure, as best as possible,” Mr. Bush said before the leaders continued their discussions. “Pakistan has made a very strong commitment to that.”
In his brief remarks and in a joint statement later, Mr. Bush also expressed respect for Pakistan’s sovereignty.
Mr. Gilani, himself seeking to demonstrate his government’s willingness to fight extremism, noted that his party’s leader, Benazir Bhutto, died in an attack by extremists in December.
“This is our own war,” he said, speaking in English. “This is a war which is against Pakistan. And we’ll fight for our own past. And that is because I have lost my own leader, Benazir Bhutto, because of the militants.”
Mr. Bush also announced that the United States would provide $115 million in food aid, including $42 million in the next nine months, to help Pakistan deal with rising food prices, and pledged to support Congressional efforts to expand American aid to areas beyond security and military affairs, including education, energy and agriculture.
The focus of their meetings remained terrorism, though. Asked about tensions in the relationship, the White House press secretary, Dana M. Perino, acknowledged what she described as “the complex issues on the border” between Pakistan and Afghanistan but suggested that differences were overblown.
“It’s tense in that we are working together to try to fight counterterrorism,” she said, “but I think that we are much more on the same page than some people would like to paint.”
In Pakistan, officials and a resident with ties to the Taliban in South Waziristan said Monday’s strike occurred before dawn. At least two missiles hit a compound that had been used as a school, the officials said.
The local resident, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said there had been a meeting at the compound on Sunday, but that many of the attendees had left. A local militant commander, Maulavi Nazir, said the strike left seven people dead, including the head of the school. He complained of frequent American strikes in Pakistan and violations of its airspace.
In Washington, officials were still awaiting confirmation that Mr. Midhat, the Qaeda operative, was among those killed, an American official said.
If so, the official said, it would deal Al Qaeda a significant blow.
“This guy is one of their absolute key specialists in poisons and explosives,” the official said. “He was also a key trainer of people involved in operations inside and outside the tribal areas.”
Mr. Midhat helped Al Qaeda and Taliban plotters tailor bombs or poisons for specific terrorist missions, according to the official and the State Department’s rewards list..
“It doesn’t mean they can’t find other trainers,” the official said, “but they will have lost their most seasoned trainer.”
Ismail Khan contributed reporting from Peshawar, Pakistan, Pir Zubair Shah from Islamabad, and Eric Schmitt from Washington.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Bush meets with Prime Minister Gilani of Pakistan.

This is from Washington Post.
Quick summary:
Blah blah...democracy hurrah...blah blah militants boo...blah blah...sovereignty hurrah...blah blah..extremists boo....blah blah....self-determination hurrah......terrorists boo....blah hurrah.......blah blah...thank you all.

Bush Meets With Prime Minister Gilani of PakistanBush, Gilani Hold a Media Availability
CQ TranscriptsMonday, July 28, 2008; 12:28 PM
PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: Mr. Prime Minister, welcome. It's been a -- it's been a very constructive morning.
BUSH: We've had a good meeting in the Oval Office. And then I'm going to have lunch with the prime minister here in the main White House. And that's fitting. After all, Pakistan is a strong ally and a vibrant democracy, and the United States supports the democracy and supports the sovereignty of Pakistan.
We talked about areas of concern. Of course, we're going to spend a lot of time on the economy, about how the United States and Pakistan can continue to cooperate for economic benefits for all the people, of Pakistan and for our own country, for that matter.
And of course we talked about the common threat we face, extremists who -- who are very dangerous people. We talked about the need for us to, you know, make sure that, you know, Afghan border is secure as best as possible. Pakistan's made a very strong commitment to that.
I told the prime minister that the United States is committed to helping the Afghan democracy succeed, which is in Pakistan's interest. After all, the prime minister wants there to be a peaceful country on his border.
(inaudible), I repeat, respects the sovereignty of this democracy. And we also appreciate the prime minister's strong words against the extremists and terrorists who not only would do us harm, but have harmed people inside Pakistan.
So we welcome you, here, Mr. Prime Minister. And I'm looking forward to having a good lunch with you after -- after your statement.
GILANI: Thank you so much.
BUSH: Please, yes, absolutely.
GILANI: First of all, I want to thank Mr. President Bush for inviting me to United States. And this is my second meeting with the president. Previously, I met Mr. President in Sharm el-Sheikh, and today again I'm meeting Mr. President.
And I appreciate what he has said about supporting democracy, supporting sovereignty, looking after the interests -- and in a lot of other areas, there is a cooperation between us. We are -- Pakistan and the United States have very cordial relations, and bilateral relations, and this is not of today. This is for over 60 years, since the creation of Pakistan.
We were inspired with their slogan of liberty and self- determination, and now we want to further improve our relations.
We are committed to fight against those extremists and terrorists who are destroying and making the world not safe. And that is -- this is our own war. This is a war which is against Pakistan, and we'll fight for our own cause.
And that is because I have lost my own leader, Benazir Bhutto, because of the militants. And, therefore, I assure the United States and the people of the United States that the majority of the people of Pakistan and the people of those areas in NWFP and FATA -- they are the patriots, the loyalists. They want peace in the world. And they want to cooperate.
And there are few militants -- there are hand-picked people, militants who are disturbing this peace. And I assure Mr. President we'll work together for democracy and for the prosperity and peace of the world.
Thank you very much.
BUSH: Thank you, sir. Thanks.
Thank you all.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Democrats: No blank check for Iraq war.

This is from wiredispatch.
I have never heard Obama complain about military spending overall. He wants to send more troops to Afghanistan. It seems as if the Democrats might be willing to grant blank checks for the Afghan war! Anyway they do not seem to have been successful at cutting budgets for the Iraq war.

No 'blank check' for Iraq war, Democrats say
Democratic Sen. Jack Reed: US can't afford GOP strategy of writing blank checks for Iraq war
Jul 26, 2008 15:16 EST
Sen. Jack Reed says America can't afford the Republican strategy of continuing to write blank checks for the Iraq war.

"At a time when the war in Iraq costs $10 billion each month, Americans are paying $4 a gallon for gasoline, and our economy is struggling, we cannot continue down the path that President Bush and Senator McCain propose: writing blank check after blank check," Reed, a Rhode Island Democrat, said Saturday in his party's weekly radio address.
Reed said Democrats have outlined a better plan to carefully redeploy combat troops out of Iraq and give them missions such as counterterrorism and training Iraq's military.
"Make no mistake: This is a plan that seizes on the progress and sacrifices our troops have made in Iraq, and it recognizes the desire of the Iraqi people to take control of their own destiny," he said.
Reed and Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska accompanied presumed Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama on a six-day trip to Afghanistan, Iraq, Jordan and Kuwait that ended this week.
Obama says he will pursue a 16-month timetable for withdrawing combat troops if he is elected. That idea won conditional support on Monday from Iraqi leaders during talks in Baghdad.
"Our proposal to responsibly redeploy American troops out of Iraq will send a message to the Iraqi government that it must do more," Reed said. "And it will encourage more progress toward Iraqi self-sufficiency."
A West Point graduate and former Army Ranger, Reed emerged as one of his party's leading anti-war voices after he voted against authorizing the war. Reed, who serves on the Senate Armed Services Committee, is a potential vice presidential pick for Obama.
"Some of the soldiers and Marines we met in the field are on their third and fourth tours of duty," Reed said. "And they deserve a policy that is worthy of their sacrifice."
Source: AP News

Bolton: U.S. should help Israel hit Iran

No doubt Israel already receives intelligence from the U.S. about Iran or perhaps it is the other way around! Fortunately, Bolton is now not in a position of power. Bolton is famous or infamous for his outspoken and aggressive neo-con foreign policy views. This is from the Jewishledger.

Bolton: U.S. should help Israel hit Iran
Published: Wednesday, July 23, 2008 9:08 PM EDT
WASHINGTON, D.C. (JTA) -- Former U.N. ambassador John Bolton said the United States should assist Israel in any strike on Iran's nuclear facilities. The ex-U.S. envoy in an op-ed in the July 15 Wall Street Journal said the United States must consider what assistance to extend to Israel before and after an airstrike. “We will be blamed for the strike anyway, and certainly feel whatever negative consequences result, so there is compelling logic to make it as successful as possible," wrote Bolton, who was known for his hawkish foreign policy views. "At a minimum, we should place no obstacles in Israel's path, and facilitate its efforts where we can." Bolton said the efforts to curb Iran's nuclear ambitions through sanctions had failed, and even if they could still be enacted, the time for their effectiveness has passed. He also lashed out at presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama for advocating the threat of sanctions and incentives for changed behavior to divert Tehran from its present course. Bolton had only a slightly milder appraisal of presumptive Republican nominee John McCain's approach, describing the Arizona senator's call for a workable missile defense system to protect the United States from the Iranian threat "only a component of a post-failure policy."

The 25 most vicious Iraq war profiteers

The list and descriptions of the companies are at businesspundit.

The 25 Most Vicious Iraq War Profiteers
The Iraq war is many things to different people. It is called a strategic blunder and a monstrous injustice and sometimes even a patriotic mission, much to the chagrin of rational human beings. For many big companies, however, the war is something far different: a lucrative cash-cow. The years-long, ongoing military effort has resurrected fears of the so-called “military-industrial complex.” Media pundits are outraged at private companies scooping up huge, no-questions-asked contracts to manufacture weapons, rebuild infrastructure, or anything else the government deems necessary to win (or plant its flag in Iraq). No matter what your stance on the war, it pays to know where your tax dollars are being spent.
Following is a detailed rundown of the 25 companies squeezing the most profit from this controversial conflict.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

How many US Troops will remain in Iraq

This is from VOA hardly a hard leftist source! The US seems to be doing nothing to build up the Iraqi Air Force. I expect this is deliberate so that control of air space remains in US hands. In fact I gather all air traffic in Iraq is under US control!
As this article points out withdrawal of troops from Iraq means combat troops but there could still be many thousands of troops remaining. This is often overlooked when talking about bringing home the troops. A sovereign Iraq needs a big complement of US troops to look after US interests, the pampered in the embassy mansion, contractors, and so forth.

VOA Home

As Surge Ends, How Many US Troops Will Remain in Iraq?
By Al Pessin Pentagon24 July 2008
Pessin report - Download (MP3) Pessin report - Listen (MP3)
The U.S. troop surge in Iraq has now ended, with the top general's spokesman confirming to VOA that all the combat troops sent in last year to bolster security efforts have ended their tours of duty and left the country. But according to the Pentagon there are about 16,000 more U.S. troops in Iraq now than there were before the surge started early last year. VOA Pentagon Correspondent Al Pessin got out his calculator to try to figure out the discrepancy.
US Troops participating in assault mission, 3 Jul 2008Students of mathematics will tell you there is a traditional approach called Old Math, and there are concepts known as New Math. But they probably don't know about something that falls into neither category. That is Pentagon Math.Before the surge, there were about 132,000 U.S. troops in Iraq. Now the Pentagon says there are 148,000. That's a substantial increase, more than 12 percent. Pentagon Spokesman Bryan Whitman was asked to explain."We've always said that we know there are certain capabilities that the United States military is going to have to continue to provide until the Iraqis can establish their own organic ability to do those things - medical, logistics, maintenance, air support," he responded. So these are support troops, not combat troops, and the support troops are staying - or being replaced by fresh reinforcements - to provide the same capabilities to the increasingly active Iraqi Army and Police.
Boosting Iraq's Security
Iraqi soldier practices 'dime drills' to improve trigger squeezeThe Iraqis have demonstrated considerable combat ability in several recent operations, including the expulsion of insurgent and militia forces from Basra and Mosul. But they still can not provide all their own logistics support, and they lack air power, the ability to do medical evacuations and other important capabilities.Indeed, the increased need for support troops was predicted back in February by Lieutenant General Carter Ham, who was the chief of operations for the senior U.S. military staff, when he predicted that about 8,000 of the surge forces would stay after the surge combat troops left."It also takes into account, as our forces look to transition from leading to partnering and then to over-watch, the need to retain some key enabling capabilities, to help the Iraqi forces with their capabilities," he explained, "such capabilities as command and control headquarters, logistics, aviation, detainee operations and the like."In the end, the Pentagon says the extra support troops number about 10,000. But there are 16,000 more U.S. troops in Iraq than before the surge. The Pentagon says some of the other 6,000 extra U.S. troops are in the process of taking over for departing troops, so the overall number should go down by a few thousand in the coming weeks. But that still leaves at least a couple of thousand troops not exactly accounted for.
US Troop WithdrawalThe Pentagon spokesman, Bryan Whitman, says some may be leaving in the coming weeks, if their services are not needed by the Iraqis. In addition, he says U.S. commanders routinely request additional capabilities, such as bomb squads and intelligence units, which results in the deployment of small groups, or even individuals, which can add up over time."The onesies and twosies become dozens, and the dozens become a few hundred, and a few hundred become a thousand sometimes," Whitman said. "It's just the way it does. Commanders have appetites for capabilities."And he says commanders are always reluctant to give up capabilities once they have them. "It's hard to give up capability. If you're a commander on the ground and you've got something that's working well, it's always a little bit hard to say, 'Well, we can do with less of this or less of that.' It's hard, I'm sure," he noted.
Combat Troops vs. Support TroopsThe number crunching this week over the post-surge U.S. troop numbers in Iraq, raises a question - when Iraqi leaders call for the withdrawal of U.S. troops by 2010, are they talking about all the troops or just the combat troops? Or put another way, if the end of the surge left 16,000 troops behind, how many troops would a so-called complete U.S. withdrawal leave behind?Experts say the Iraqi need for air support and other capabilities will not go away by 2010, and neither will the needs to protect American diplomats and reconstruction teams and to use high-end U.S. military capability to pursue any remaining hard-core terrorists and insurgents.
Senator Barack Obama listens as General David H. Petraeus discusses security improvements in Baghdad, 21 Jul 2008The Democratic Party's presidential candidate, Barack Obama, also wants U.S. troops out of Iraq in 2010, but he is careful to specify that he's talking about combat troops, as he did during a news conference in Jordan on Tuesday, shortly after ending a visit to Iraq. "Once we redeploy our combat brigades, we're still going to retain a capability to protect our personnel, to target terrorists and to train Iraqi security forces, if there is political progress," Obama said.In Pentagon Math, even by a candidate who has pledged to end the war, if you deploy troops and then bring the troops home, you're still likely to have a substantial number of troops remaining. But no one is saying exactly how many will be, as we used to say in Old Math, 'left over.'

Official says Zimbabwe power-sharing talks go well.

So what happens if the talk are successful? Surely the sanctions should be withdrawn. Given that there is still violence and many want Mugabe out completely the talks may end up failing. What is surprising is that talks seem to be going forward at all. The western sanctions just play into Mugabe's script about western colonialism still being a strong force.

Official says Zimbabwe power-sharing talks go well
Zimbabwe talks go well though many Zimbabweans feel betrayed and some violence continues
Jul 25, 2008 13:20 EST
Power-sharing talks between Zimbabwe's rival political parties were proceeding well Friday, a South African official said, although violence continued and hundreds of opposition supporters remained jailed.

Both sides are under pressure: the opposition from fear of more state-sponsored violence and longtime President Robert Mugabe from widening Western sanctions. The United States on Friday broadened its sanctions against targeted Zimbabweans and their companies, calling Mugabe's an "illegitimate" and "brutal" regime.
South African presidential spokesman Mukoni Ratshitanga said the Zimbabwean talks got "fully under way" on Thursday and were "continuing and they are proceeding well"
Mugabe's ruling ZANU-PF party and Morgan Tsvangirai's opposition Movement for Democratic Change have committed themselves to negotiating "an inclusive government" within two weeks.
The Zimbabwe parties also agreed to negotiate a slew of other issues, including revival of the shattered economy and a new constitution — but most points already had been negotiated at talks that broke off in January, ahead of presidential and legislative elections.
The biggest obstacle is agreeing on who will lead a new government.
"The opposition wants to be in the driving seat. The only way for the economy to be handled is for Mugabe to withdraw altogether, and I don't see that happening," said John Makumbe, a political analyst at the University of Zimbabwe. "I see the whole thing collapsing or, if a deal is reached, it will look so bad no one will accept it."
But the resilient Mugabe, who has survived years of attempts to oust him even by his own party, insists that he should head any government.
Tsvangirai says he won the most votes at the only legitimate election in March. But he did not win enough to avoid a runoff, from which he belatedly withdrew because of mounting state violence against his supporters.
Mugabe ran alone in the June runoff and declared himself victor, though most of the world sees that election as a sham.
Under immense pressure, with even some African leaders declaring they did not consider him Zimbabwe's elected president, Mugabe on Monday signed an agreement with the opposition to hold talks.
Makumbe, the analyst, said Monday's handshake between Mugabe and Tsvangirai has left militant followers of both leaders feeling betrayed. Victims of violence feel Tsvangirai is "supping with the devil," and should not have signed before all his supporters were released.
Tsvangirai's party says some 2,000 of its activists remain jailed on trumped up charges of violence and inciting violence. Three newly elected legislators are out on bail on various charges, including the opposition's chief negotiator at the talks, secretary-general Tendai Biti. He is accused of treason, a charge that carries the death sentence. Seven other opposition legislators are in hiding, on a wanted list for spurious allegations including rape and fraud.
Makumbe said the prospect of Mugabe and Tsvangirai sharing power is bitterly opposed by military commanders backing Mugabe and militants responsible for attacks on the opposition, who now fear retribution.
Monday's agreement also calls for an end to the political violence in which more than 150 people have been killed. Doctors who have been documenting the deaths and injuries say it's too early to tell: Most violence is committed in rural areas and, with roadblocks and other difficulties, it is taking victims up to two weeks to reach hospitals in Harare, the capital.
One opposition supporter who arrived at the Avenues Clinic in Harare this week, suffering complications from a beating perpetrated in rural Zimbabwe two weeks ago, died on Friday, according to the doctors, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of attacks.
An opposition official admitted to the clinic this week had been beaten up by ZANU-PF militants at the weekend when he went home, thinking the violence was over, the doctors' group said.
Makumbe said the violence already had diminished after the runoff. "It served its purpose for that election but its always remains an option for ZANU-PF," Makumbe said.
Looking to put pressure on Mugabe, the United States and European Union broadened sanctions banning travel and freezing assets of people and companies considered to support Mugabe's regime.
The United States on Friday added 17 entities and one individual to its existing list targeting 132 people and 36 farms and companies.
On Tuesday, the European Union added another 37 people and companies, increasing its targeted list to 168.
"No regime should ignore the will of its own people and calls from the international community without consequences," President George W. Bush said in a statement.
Source: AP News


Friday, July 25, 2008

Cleaning up sunk ferry mess expensive: Philippines.

This is from the Inquirer.
The cleanup of the mess left in the sunk ferry is going to cost millions. Hopefully Titan Salvage will be able to remove the toxic chemicals without too much trouble. For now Sulpico is not allowed to run its ferries according to this article and probably will only be allowed to carry cargo when it can run the ships.

Sulpicio signs deal for retrieval of ferry’s toxic cargo
Titan Salvage has month and a halfBy Riza T. OlchondraPhilippine Daily InquirerFirst Posted 19:46:00 07/24/2008
MANILA, Philippines -- After yet another extension in its deadline, Sulpicio Lines Inc. (SLI) has finally signed a contract to retrieve toxic cargo from the sunken MV Princess of the Stars.
SLI first vice president Edgar Go and Titan Salvage commercial manager Amit Wahil signed, at around 6:50 p.m. Thursday, the $7.55-million contract to retrieve the toxic cargo, bunker fuel and bodies still inside the ferry, SLI lawyer Victoria Florido said.
Florido said the company was "not at liberty" to disclose the name of the bank which gave the letter of credit assuring Titan's payment. This had been the bottleneck of negotiations for more than a week.
Officials estimated it would take about two weeks for Titan to mobilize its personnel and equipment, after which it would need about 30 days for the retrieval operations.
The current contract with Titan does not include the re-floating of the wreck, which would entail further negotiations.
Florido said the company chose to secure the contract for the retrieval of the toxic cargo first "to diffuse the ticking ecological bomb" as a result of the prolonged exposure to corrosive seawater of the highly.
Operations to retrieve the hundreds of bodies believed trapped inside the sunken ferry’s hull were stopped after it was learned that the ship had been carrying 10 metric tons of the highly toxic pesticide endosulfan owned by food company Del Monte.
Aside from this, another chemical shipment, this time owned by Bayer CropScience, was also onboard the vessel.
"First, the endosulfan and other toxic cargo will be removed. The bunker fuel will be removed next, and then the bodies that are still inside the wreck," Florido said.
In the meantime, grounded passenger ships of SLI may be allowed to sail with only cargo, SLI safety and quality assurance manager Nelson Morales said in a separate interview.
"We have not received official advice from Marina [Maritime Industry Authority], but as far as we know, if ever our passenger ships are allowed to sail again, it would just be to deliver cargo," he said. "This is just to maintain the flow of cargo throughout the country."

Philippine govt. co-ording release of 20 Filipino seamen seized by pirates off Somalia

This is from the Inquirer.
No doubt there will be ransom demanded. The Philippine government leaves it to others to pay the ransom! Of course it does this for noble motives namely that one should not encourage pirates by giving in to ransom demands. It is OK I imagine if others do so though! Some pirates need to kidnap these lofty idealists who refuse to pay ransoms and see if they request that their government not pay to release them.

VICE PRES DE CASTRO:Efforts on for safe release of seamen seized in Somalia
Gov’t coordinating with ship ownersBy Cynthia BalanaPhilippine Daily InquirerFirst Posted 14:34:00 07/24/2008
MANILA, Philippines -- The government is coordinating with a Japanese shipping firm, manning agents and international maritime authorities to secure the safe release of 20 Filipino seamen of a bulk carrier seized by pirates off Somalia last Sunday, Vice President Noli de Castro said Thursday.
In an interview, De Castro, who is also presidential adviser on Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs), said the Department of Foreign Affairs has instructed the embassies in Japan and Kenya to stay in touch with MMS Co. Ltd. of Tokyo, owner of the MV Stella Maris and provide regular updates on negotiations for the hostages’ release.
The families here of the seamen have been informed by the DFA of the incident and of efforts to secure their release, De Castro said.
DFA Undersecretary for Migrant Workers Affairs Esteban Conejos said the Panamanian-flagged ship, reportedly loaded with lead and zinc, was boarded and seized by the pirates in the Gulf of Aden, which is in international waters, at around 8:30 a.m. Sunday.
Conejos said the ship owners reestablished contact with the ship’s crew and their abductors after two days and were assured that the hostages were unharmed.
As of posting time, the ship was sailing toward the northeast tip of Somalia.
"I was assured that contact has been established between the crew and the owner of the ship…This was also according to the captain who is also a Filipino. All the 20 Filipinos are safe and sound," Conejos said.
Although there has yet been no report of a ransom demand, De Castro said the government would stand firm on its no-ransom policy.
Conejos said that, like similar incidents in the past, the government will not be directly involved in the negotiations for the release of the hostages.
"I stressed to the local manning agent that it is the policy of government never to negotiate with pirates. We look towards the local manning agents and the ship owner and the host country because they have the responsibility to ensure the safety and the earliest release of the crew," Conejos said.
Pirate attacks in Somalia and Nigeria went up in the first quarter of 2008, making Africa the world’s top piracy hotspot, the International Maritime Bureau reported earlier this month.
In April, Somali pirates seized a luxury French yacht with a crew of 30 on board, six of them Filipinos. A week later, French troops arrested six pirates after the hostages were released.
On May 25, about five Filipino seafarers were also held hostage after the MV Amiya Scan was hijacked in the Gulf of Aden. The vessel and its passengers were released by pirates 30 days later. The Filipino crew arrived in the Philippines last July 1.

Iranian military convoy rocked by mystery explosion.

This is from the Telegraph.
As the article notes at the end the U.S. has increased the funding of covert operations inside Iran to the tune of 200 million. It is just possible that the U.S. is behind the explosion. On the other hand it may simply be an accident.

Iranian military convoy rocked by mystery explosion
Iran's Revolutionary Guards have launched an urgent inquiry after a mysterious explosion wrecked a military convoy in Tehran, killing at least fifteen people and injuring scores more.

By Con Coughlin Last Updated: 1:55PM BST 25 Jul 2008
The explosion took place in the Tehran suburb of Khavarshahar as the military convoy left a munitions' warehouse controlled by the Revolutionary Guards. According to reports received by Western officials, the convoy was taking a consignment of military equipment to Hizbollah, the Shia Muslim militia Iran supports in southern Lebanon, when the explosion occurred.
Senior Revolutionary Guard commanders immediately imposed a news black-out following the explosion, even though it could be heard throughout the capital Tehran, and no details of the incident have so far appeared in the Iranian media.
But Western officials yesterday said they had received reports that the explosion took place in Tehran on July 19, and that the Revolutionary Guards had launched an investigation into the causes of the blast.
"This was a massive explosion that was heard throughout Tehran," one official told the Daily Telegraph. "Even though lots of people were killed the Revolutionary Guards are trying to conceal what really happened."
Iran is believed to have recently stepped up arms shipments to Hizbollah in preparation for any future armed confrontation with the West over its controversial nuclear enrichment programme.
The Revolutionary Guards' investigation into last weekend's explosion is understood to be looking into the possibility that it was caused by sabotage. Iran has suffered a number of unexplained explosions in recent months, including an explosion at a mosque in Shiraz, which had been holding a military exhibition, and another incident at a missile site that killed dozens of Iranian technicians.
Last month Seymour Hersh, the respected American investigative journalist, reported that US President George W Bush had authorised up to $400 million (£200 million) to fund a major escalation of covert operations against Iran to destabilise the regime.

Obama: Jerusalem should not be capital of Palestinian State.

This is from Maan.
Obama continues to court Israeli support or rather the support of the Israel lobbyists in the U.S. Many Palestinians see Obama as just more of the same and that is probably correct. If Israel and the U.S. have a common understanding of what should happen how can the U.S. be an honest broker let alone a neutral mediator between the two sides? Anyway unless Hamas is brought into the picture it is hard to see how there can be any real peace. Israel is going ahead with more settlements and is keeping Gaza crossings virtually sealed. The situation could soon return to increase violence. Hamas is getting almost nothing from the ceasefire.

MAAN NEWS AGENCY---------------------------
Obama: Jerusalem will not be capital of Palestinian state
Date: 24 / 07 / 2008 Time: 09:44
Bethlehem – Ma'an - US democratic candidate Barak Obama said during a press conference on Wednesday in Sderot, a city in the south of Israel, that he does not support the idea of East Jerusalem as the capital of a Palestinian state.Obama made it clear that Jerusalem would remain the capital of Israel and that he would not see the city divided. He added that this position needed to be fixed through negotiations with the Palestinians.Recent years have seen Obama's position on Israel/Palestine shift dramatically towards the Israeli side. He previously stated that the issue of Jerusalem should be on the table of any peace negotiation, but after criticism of his 'naïve' stance, Obama dropped this position.The press conference was held with Israeli foreign minister, Tzipi Livni, who said, "Israel and the USA have a common understanding of what must happen in the region."Earlier Obama met with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah, where he said that he would work hard to continue the peace process.Obama stressed that if he takes office this fall he will not "start from zero" with the Palestinian peace process. Rather, he said, "we will continue peace process efforts." He also expressed the desire to show Palestinians that there was good reason to hope for a resolution.

Obama on talking with Iran.

This is from Haaretz.
So it seems that one reason for talking to Iran is to legitimate action taken by the U.S. or Israel! It seems that if the Iranians do not give in to U.S. demands then action is legitimate!

Obama to PM: Iran action legitimate only if talks fail
By Barak Ravid and Jack Khoury, Haaretz Correspondents
Tags: Ehud Olmert, Barack Obama
Near the close of his visit to Israel on Wednesday, Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama met with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. A major topic of their long conversation was Obama's declared willingness to engage in direct dialogue with Tehran. Obama reportedly told Olmert that he is interested in meeting the Iranians in order to issue clear ultimatums. "If after that, they still show no willingness to change their nuclear policy, then any action against them would be legitimate," an Israeli source quoted him as saying.

Pilger: Obama, the Prince of Bait-and-Switch

Even though Obama still is simply a candidate for the presidency he is being treated as if he were already one of the chief world leaders whose every move and every mouthing of a platitude is to be covered extensively. Here is an article by John Pilger who puts Obama in a different perspective. With Obama the main change will be in imagery, but the reality with respect to U.S. militaristic foreign policy is not about to change.

Obama, the Prince of Bait-and-Switch
by John Pilger
On 12 July, The Times of London devoted two pages to Afghanistan. It was mostly a complaint about the heat. The reporter, Magnus Linklater, described in detail his discomfort and how he had needed to be sprayed with iced water. He also described the "high drama" and "meticulously practiced routine" of evacuating another overheated journalist. For his US Marine rescuers, wrote Linklater, "saving a life took precedence over [their] security." Alongside this was a report whose final paragraph offered the only mention that "47 civilians, most of them women and children, were killed when a US aircraft bombed a wedding party in eastern Afghanistan on Sunday."
Slaughters on this scale are common, and mostly unknown to the British public. I interviewed a woman who had lost eight members of her family, including six children. A 500lb US Mk82 bomb was dropped on her mud, stone and straw house. There was no "enemy" nearby. I interviewed a headmaster whose house disappeared in a fireball caused by another "precision" bomb. Inside were nine people – his wife, his four sons, his brother and his wife, and his sister and her husband. Neither of these mass murders was news. As Harold Pinter wrote of such crimes: "Nothing ever happened. Even while it was happening it wasn't happening. It didn't matter. It was of no interest."
A total of 64 civilians were bombed to death while The Times man was discomforted. Most were guests at the wedding party. Wedding parties are a "coalition" specialty. At least four of them have been obliterated – at Mazar and in Khost, Uruzgan and Nangarhar provinces. Many of the details, including the names of victims, have been compiled by a New Hampshire professor, Marc Herold, whose Afghan Victim Memorial Project is a meticulous work of journalism that shames those who are paid to keep the record straight and report almost everything about the Afghan War through the public relations facilities of the British and American military.
The US and its allies are dropping record numbers of bombs on Afghanistan. This is not news. In the first half of this year, 1,853 bombs were dropped: more than all the bombs of 2006 and most of 2007. "The most frequently used bombs," the Air Force Times reports, "are the 500lb and 2,000lb satellite-guided..." Without this one-sided onslaught, the resurgence of the Taliban, it is clear, might not have happened. Even Hamid Karzai, America's and Britain's puppet, has said so. The presence and the aggression of foreigners have all but united a resistance that now includes former warlords once on the CIA's payroll.
The scandal of this would be headline news, were it not for what George W. Bush's former spokesman Scott McClellan has called "complicit enablers" – journalists who serve as little more than official amplifiers. Having declared Afghanistan a "good war," the complicit enablers are now anointing Barack Obama as he tours the bloodfests in Afghanistan and Iraq. What they never say is that Obama is a bomber.
In the New York Times on 14 July, in an article spun to appear as if he is ending the war in Iraq, Obama demanded more war in Afghanistan and, in effect, an invasion of Pakistan. He wants more combat troops, more helicopters, more bombs. Bush may be on his way out, but the Republicans have built an ideological machine that transcends the loss of electoral power – because their collaborators are, as the American writer Mike Whitney put it succinctly, "bait-and-switch" Democrats, of whom Obama is the prince.
Those who write of Obama that "when it comes to international affairs, he will be a huge improvement on Bush" demonstrate the same willful naïveté that backed the bait-and-switch of Bill Clinton – and Tony Blair. Of Blair, wrote the late Hugo Young in 1997, "ideology has surrendered entirely to 'values'... there are no sacred cows [and] no fossilized limits to the ground over which the mind might range in search of a better Britain..."
Eleven years and five wars later, at least a million people lie dead. Barack Obama is the American Blair. That he is a smooth operator and a black man is irrelevant. He is of an enduring, rampant system whose drum majors and cheer squads never see, or want to see, the consequences of 500lb bombs dropped unerringly on mud, stone and straw houses.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Naomi Klein on Bush and Iraq Oil

This is excerpted from the Canadian Dimension blog.
There is little mention or discussion of these contracts in the mainstream media. But that is not surprising since the Iraq war is never supposed to be about oil. I hadn't heard about the management contracts. As I understand it the contracts are not yet signed so there could be political opposition before they are finalised as there has been to the Oil Law. The Oil Law benchmark is never mentioned any more!

NAOMI KLEIN: Well, I think we’re seeing the Bush administration in its final months just handing out a series of gifts to the oil and gas industry, both at home, pushing for opening up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and then in Iraq, the prize, the biggest prize of all, which is allowing foreign multinationals to gain control of Iraq’s oil fields. And we’re seeing a two-stage process now, and it isn’t over yet, where first there was the service—the short-term service agreements, no-bid contracts, that were announced. They haven’t been signed yet, but they’re going to the big oil companies that were kicked out of Iraq in the ’70s. They’re coming back.AMY GOODMAN: Explain how that works, these no-bid contracts, how it is—who’s signing these contracts?NAOMI KLEIN: OK. Well, at the moment, Iraq does not have an oil law, so Iraq can’t sign long-term exploration agreements, although they are doing it in Iraqi Kurdistan, and we’ve heard about this with Hunt Oil. But that’s—those are illegal contracts. They’re very precarious. There could be future expropriations. It’s really risky to go that route, because there isn’t a law. And we know it’s been a major push of this administration to get the Iraqi parliament to accept a US-backed oil law. This has been sold as a symbol of Iraqi unity. That’s not the way it’s seen in Iraq.
In Iraq, the reason why it has been years in resisting this oil law is because nationalizing the oil in Iraq was the centerpiece of the anti-colonial struggle, as it was in neighboring nations throughout the Arab world. And it is not just a pro-Saddam idea. It is not just a Baathist idea. It’s the core of Arab nationalism. And that victory is being protected by many political forces in Iraq, and most notably by the oil workers’ unions in Iraq, who said, “We don’t need these foreign multinationals to get the oil out of the ground. We can do it ourselves. We can bring in technical support without giving away management control, without giving away ownership control.”
And, I mean, but let’s stress here that unlike the oil offshore, unlike the shale, this is very difficult oil to extract. It’s extremely—it requires a huge amount of technology. It requires a huge amount of investment. And that’s part of the problem with what the Bush administration is selling. These—actually, they—the oil companies need the price of oil to stay high in order for it to be economically viable to do these—to get oil out of solid rock, for instance, which is very hard, very expensive. Offshore oil drilling, also very, very expensive—you have to build the rigs and so on. Iraq, no. Iraq, stick a straw in the ground and suck. I mean, this is incredibly accessible oil. And Iraqis actually know how to extract this oil themselves. So this idea that they need these foreign multinationals to come in is yet another myth.
And not only have companies like BP and Texaco been offered these no-bid contracts, but what’s strange about it is that they’re service contracts, and these are not oil service companies. So what’s significant about these contracts is that they appear to be giving these oil companies the right of first refusal on future, more significant contracts. So, one week after these smaller service agreements were announced, the Iraqi Oil Ministry announced that they also will be handing out longer-term management agreements, which will give oil companies the ability to manage existing fields in Iraq and hold onto 75 percent of the worth of those contracts and leave only 25 percent for Iraqis, which is absolutely unheard of in the region, where 51 percent for the country is the baseline for new exploration, for new fields. These are existing fields. They’re already working. The technology is already there. And these foreign companies are going to be taking 75 percent of the worth of those existing fields in Iraq. So it’s daylight robbery. It’s armed robbery, actually, Amy.

Israel mulls building new settlement in West Bank

This may very well derail any chance of success of peace talks with the Palestinians. Do we hear outraged cries from McCain and Obama?

Israel mulls building new settlement in West Bank 2008-07-24 19:02:12

Special report: Palestine-Israel Relations
JERUSALEM, July 24 (Xinhua) -- An Israeli parliamentary committee has greenlighted the construction of 20 new housing units for Jewish settlers in the West Bank, local media reported Thursday.
Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak is slated to endorse the project soon, which will be carried out at a site named Maskiot in the Jordan Valley, following the approval of the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, said local daily Ha'aretz.
The project has to be approved by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Defense Minister Ehud Barak to go ahead.
Another newspaper The Jerusalem Post reported that Israel originally announced in 2006 that it would build a settlement at Maskiot, where an Israeli military base had been established decades ago, but the plan had been frozen later after it provoked an international outcry.
The impending construction, which The Jerusalem Post said would become Israel's first new settlement in a decade, is certain to infuriate the Palestinians and raise the eyebrow of the Americans, as the two sides have repeatedly warned the Jewish state that its settlement expansion would jeopardize the already sluggish peace process.
"This is destroying the process of a two-state solution," Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat was quoted as saying. "I hope the Americans will make the Israelis revoke the decision. I think they can make the Israelis do this."
Israel promised not to establish new settlements in the West Bank at a U.S.-hosted Middle East conference last year where Israeli and Palestinian leaders resumed the long-stalled peace talks and pledged to reach a comprehensive peace deal within 2008.
Meanwhile, Israel has given no signal to halt construction in east Jerusalem, which Israel seized in 1967 and later annexed, in defiance of the official stance of the United States and the Palestinians' demand that east Jerusalem be the capital of their future state.
Earlier this month, Israel gave tentative approval to a plan to build 1,800 new housing units in Har Homa and Pisgat Ze'ev, two neighborhoods in east Jerusalem.

Arabs hear alarm bells as ICC targets Sudan's Bashir

In Africa what is looked at in the west in terms of long overdue justice for human rights violators is seen as a form of western imperialism and an attempt to control African countries. The same feeling underlies the reluctance to sanction Mugabe. When the U.S. violates human rights or Israel ignores UN resolutions nothing happens at all. Countries such as China have good relationships with Sudan. The U.S. would be happy for regime change and a regime which favored western oil interests.

Arabs hear alarm bells as ICC targets Sudan's Bashir
Wed 23 Jul 2008, 10:26 GMT

By Cynthia Johnston
CAIRO, July 23 (Reuters) - When the International Criminal Court prosecutor sought an arrest warrant for Sudan's president, the move set off alarm bells in Arab capitals that fear it may showcase a new form of Western meddling in Arab affairs.
Arab leaders, many of whom run governments accused of rampant human rights abuses, worry the court could next turn its focus to other Arab states if it succeeds in prosecuting Omar Hassan al-Bashir for Darfur war crimes.
Anticipating the ICC move, Sudan swiftly called for an emergency meeting of Arab foreign ministers, whose ranks include strong North African friends of Khartoum and who swung to action with a plan that appeared aimed to avoid prosecution of Bashir.
"A large part of the developing world is very, very suspicious of the ICC," Sudan expert John Ashworth said. "If you look at the Arab League itself, I guess there would be members of the Arab League who would fear being indicted as well."
Many Arabs believe that Muslim states are being targetted disproportionately by the West for any perceived misteps, citing the U.S.-led wars on Iraq and Afghanistan as well as pressure on Iran over its nuclear programme.
Meanwhile, Arabs say the international community has failed for half a century to secure statehood for Palestinians or speak up about Israeli human rights violations.
That makes them all the more resentful of Western calls for action on Darfur, where the ICC prosecutor has accused Bashir of orchestrating genocide that has killed 35,000 people outright, at least another 100,000 through slow death, and forced 2.5 million from their homes.
Arabs' cultural and political affinity with Sudan's largely Arab north also means some may feel more natural empathy with the Bashir government than with mostly non-Arab Darfur rebels.
"All the Arabs now feel, and I think they have a right, that they are already targetted... For those average people, Omar al-Bashir represents Arab legitimacy, Arab dignity even," Cairo-based political analyst Diaa Rashwan said.
Both the Arab League and the African Union want the U.N. Security Council to put on hold the ICC move to indict Bashir, and the Arab League said on Tuesday that it had secured a pledge from Sudan to try those it suspects of crimes in Darfur at home.
The deal will allow the United Nations, African Union and Arab League to follow the proceedings, although it would be up to Sudan to decide who to try. The League did not say if two Sudanese indicted by the ICC last year would face charges.
The agreement, after a visit by Arab League chief Amr Moussa to Khartoum, showed the League may be well-placed to pressure Sudan. But the move may still not satisfy Western critics.
"From the Sudan government's point of view, what they clearly want to do is to get the Arab League to put pressure on the African Union to try and back up the president," said Patrick Smith, editor of UK-based Africa Confidential.
"Part of its strategy is to have at any one time four or five different initiatives to deal with what's going on in Darfur. So in that way the core issues are obfuscated," he said.
Some Arab states have practical concerns as well. Cairo, for example, fears a handful of potentially unpredictable new states emerging to its south that could threaten stability or covet Egypt's share of Nile waters, analysts say. Those fears are among factors that lead it to lend more support to Khartoum than to separatist rebels.
But there is by no means a true Arab consensus for full backing of Khartoum, and the League's criticism of the ICC has so far been relatively mild.
Analysts say some states may want to avoid strong criticism of the ICC or unconditional backing for Khartoum because it could embarrass them before the international community.
Yet if diplomatic efforts by Arab and African states are unable to delay an arrest warrant for Bashir, analysts said they doubt very much that the Sudanese leader would face any dangers in the countries of his Arab friends.
"I don't think at all that President Bashir will have any kind of problems in any Arab country," Rashwan said. "I think they will decide to receive President Bashir." (Writing by Cynthia Johnston; Editing by Samia Nakhoul)
© Reuters 2008. All Rights Reserved.

Car sale growth to slump in Philippines

Given the rising cost of fuel and inflation in the Philippines this is not too surprising. Although the remittances from oversease Filipino workers is rising, those who are paid in U.S. dollars are hurt by the rise of the peso against the U.S. dollar. As the article notes this will still be a record year for sales even though the rate of growth in sales is declining.

Growth in car sales to flag in Philippines
Tue Jul 22, 2008 10:47am BST
MANILA, July 22 (Reuters) - Growth in new vehicle sales in the Philippines is expected to slow to 6 percent this year from 18 percent in 2007 as oil price hikes bite, an industry leader said on Tuesday.
Demand for more fuel-efficient vehicles, however, will continue to support the market, said Elizabeth Lee, president of the Chamber of Automotive Manufacturers of the Philippines.
New car sales in the first half of the year rose nearly 14 percent to 61,654 units despite a flurry of price increases that have seen prices of gasoline and diesel jump 36 percent and 50 percent, respectively, so far this year.
Lee said the industry is targetting sales of 125,500 units this year, up from last year's record 117,903 units.
Honda (7267.T: Quote, Profile, Research) and Toyota Motor Corp (7203.T: Quote, Profile, Research) vehicles are among the top sellers in the Philippines.
"Remittances would (also) be a strong contributor," Lee said on the sidelines of an industry conference.
Remittances from over 8 million Filipinos working overseas, around 10 percent of the population, continue to support the domestic economy in the face of a slowing world economy and financial shocks from the U.S. subprime mortgage crisis.
The Philippine central bank expects total remittances through formal channels this year to reach a new peak of $15.7 billion, up 9 percent from last year's record.
Lee said a change in the buying patterns of consumers who now prefer economical and dual-purpose vehicles over gas guzzling compact wagons and sport utility vehicles would also drive auto sales growth this year.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Mideast Sees more of the Same if Obama is Elected.

This is from the NY Times.
Although the media strives mightily for product differentiation of the McCain and Obama brands with respect to many policies there are only marginal if any differences between the Obama and McCain. Of course these are already framed as the only choices by the media although there may be a patronising hello once in a while to other candidates.Both candidates in an attempt to get Jewish votes and the support of the Israel lobby declare their undying support for Israel. As many Palestinians point out there is no hope of the U.S. being an unbiased broker for peace, but then there never has been so what you have is more of the same as the article claims.

July 22, 2008
Mideast Sees More of the Same if Obama Is Elected
AMMAN, Jordan — For what feels like forever, Israelis and their Arab neighbors have been hopelessly deadlocked on how to resolve the Palestinian crisis. But there is one point they may now agree on: If elected president, Senator Barack Obama will not fundamentally recalibrate America’s relationship with Israel, or the Arab world.
From the religious center of Jerusalem to the rolling hills of Amman to the crowded streets of Cairo, dozens of interviews revealed a similar sentiment: the United States will ultimately support Israel over the Palestinians, no matter who the president is. That presumption promoted a degree of relief in Israel and resignation here in Jordan and in Israel’s other Arab neighbors.
“What we know is American presidents all support Israel,” said Muhammad Ibrahim, 23, a university student who works part time selling watermelons on the street in the southern part of this city. “It is hopeless. This one is like the other one. They are all the same. Nothing will change. Don’t expect change.”
Across the border, in Israel, Moshe Cohen could not have agreed more. “Jews there have influence,” Mr. Cohen said, as he sold lottery tickets along Jaffa Road in Jerusalem. “He’ll have to be good to Israel. If not, he won’t be re-elected to a second term.”
Mr. Obama, who will be here on Tuesday, has promised change. He has offered to begin dialogue where the current president has refused, in places like Syria and Iran. But when he stepped into the Middle East, he walked into a region where public expectations were long ago set. The Bush years have supercharged those sentiments, especially in the Arab world, where there is little faith that the United States can ever again serve as a fair broker between the sides.
In Israel, Mr. Bush was seen as the most supportive American president yet, and early opinion polls show a preference there for the presumptive Republican nominee, Senator John McCain.
But Mr. Obama gained ground — or lost it, depending on which side was reacting — when he spoke in June to a pro-Israel lobby, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. He said that Jerusalem “will remain the capital of Israel, and it must remain undivided.”
He later qualified his comments, saying he meant that the two sides of Jerusalem should not be separated by walls or barbed wire. But the message had already been sent.
“The Arabs need America to be straight and unbiased, but anyway we feel, that American policy will not be changed too much,” said a Palestinian who identified himself by his nickname, Abu Fadi, a salesman in an electrical appliance store in downtown Arab East Jerusalem.
Behind this general agreement, there is a fundamental difference. In the Arab streets, there is a hope, perhaps limited, that this candidate might be different. He is black, his father was Muslim and his middle name is Hussein, so there is hope that he will be more sympathetic, though that hope is not joined to any expectation.
“There is optimism wrapped in cynicism,” said Hussein al-Shobokshy, a columnist in the pan-Arab Saudi-owned daily newspaper, Asharq Alawsat.
In Israel, the reverse is true, the lingering suspicion that he is saying what he needs to say to be elected.
Uri Savir, a former director general of the Israeli Foreign Ministry and now president of the Peres Center for Peace in Tel Aviv, said there were people who want peace, like himself, who “are quite excited about what Obama can bring.”
But, he acknowledged that his friends on the center-right were somewhat more ambivalent. “They ask, is he really a friend of Israel?” he said.
The answer here and in Cairo and elsewhere around the region is: Of course he will be a friend of Israel’s.
“He’s like a chameleon,” said Walid Ghalib, 50, as he bought meat from a butcher in the Jabal al Nasr neighborhood of east Amman. “One day he is with the Palestinian cause. One day he’s with Israel. We have a saying here: ‘What’s better, a black dog or a white dog?’ It’s all the same. For us, nothing will change.”
It was not always like this here, but the indifference is a lesson learned.
Eight years ago, many Arabs, leaders and citizens alike, rooted for Gov. George W. Bush over Vice President Al Gore in the race for the presidency. There was an assumption that Mr. Bush would be like his father, who was seen as relatively Arab-friendly.
Nearly four years ago, there was hope among Arabs that Americans would have soured on President Bush and elect Senator John Kerry. President Bush had disappointed. Then American voters did, too.
“The Arab street has been here before,” said Mustafa Hamarneh, the former director of the University of Jordan’s Center for Strategic Studies. “We rooted for this and that, and nothing happened. Its déjà vu.”
“Unless the Americans realize that they really have to change and become more evenhanded and apply justice in the region, things will be the same,” he said.
Jordan is a small country, just six million people, half of whom are of Palestinian descent. It is without oil and without much water, and has been battered by the crises in the West Bank and Iraq. Mr. Obama will visit a city tense with politics and economics, which are inevitably intertwined. It is also conservative, clean and quiet.
Mr. Obama “will be no different than Bush,” said Moatasem Hussein, 34, who sold nuts from a shop on a street corner in east Amman.
“What’s going to be different?” said Jasser Shehadi, 40, who sold shoes in the shop next door. “They are all the same.”
Across the street, Muhammad al-Banna, 41, said: “Obama is excellent. He is direct. He is like the successor to J.F.K.”
Instantly, Khaled Attiat, a carpenter working in an open storefront, jumped into the conversation. “Oh, come on,” he shouted. “They are all as bad as each other.”
Mr. Banna replied, “Yes they are all bad, but still, Obama might be a little less bad.”
The reaction was similar in Egypt which, like Jordan, is one of America’s closest allies in the region.
“For me it doesn’t matter that he’s black or his name is Hussein,” said Ahmed Amin, 34, as he drank a beer in a downtown Cairo bar. “He’s an American, and so I disagree with most of what he says about the Arab world. I mean, Condoleezza Rice was black and poor, and she still invaded Iraq.”
There is, however, at least one positive lesson drawn by some in this region over Mr. Obama’s success. It has served to restore a bit of their faith in American-style democracy, which has been tarnished in recent years by the invasion of Iraq and by an administration that talked about promoting democracy but then seemed to backtrack on its promises, many people here said.
The United States, many said, may be a biased supporter of Zionism hostile to Muslims, and still be, for its citizens, a place of opportunity unknown here.
“I think it’s very impressive that someone can start very poor and reach the top like this,” said Hazen Haidar, 23, a gym clerk in Cairo. “It doesn’t happen in Egypt.”
Michael Slackman reported from Amman, and Isabel Kershner from Jerusalem. Mona el-Naggar contributed reporting from Amman, and Nadim Audi from Cairo.

NAIA 3 finally opens in Manila.

This is from the Inquirer.
It seems that all terminals except Terminal 3 are processing traffic far beyond rated capacity. Whenever I have landed there or left there has not been much in the way of delays but I have heard others complain. There is always the problem of making sure you have money to pay the exit fee! These fees keep increasing and smaller airports now are joining the bandwagon. I see that there are still legal battles going on concerning Terminal 3!

Inquirer Headlines / Nation
After 6 years, NAIA 3 finally opens
By Tarra QuismundoPhilippine Daily Inquirer
Posted date: July 23, 2008
MANILA, Philippines—Once a white elephant that slept soundly in the dark, the mothballed Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 3 (NAIA 3) flickered into life before dawn Tuesday and accepted its first passengers.
Lights glowed on one side of the kilometer-long terminal on Andrews Avenue in Pasay City while the rest of the city slept. At 3:02 a.m., the facility finally started partial operations for domestic flights of Cebu Pacific Air, ending some six stale years forced by contract controversies and building safety concerns.
“This has been a long time coming,” said Transportation Secretary Leandro Mendoza.
Added Lance Gokongwei, Cebu Pacific president: “This is like heaven when we just came from hell ... It is going to be the same for our passenger experience.”
Originally built for some 13 million international passengers annually, the NAIA 3 terminal opened its main hall—around 20 percent of the building—for eight local flights. The load is expected to carry a daily average of 500 people to destinations like Caticlan, Tuguegarao, Laoag, San Jose (Mindoro) and Naga.
The biggest change
“This gives passengers a welcome reprieve coming from the old domestic terminal and then coming here. It’s a major change ... [Passengers] asked if there will be any changes in the process, and we said there’s none. The biggest change is the feeling of passengers when they come in,” said Cebu Pacific spokesperson Candice Iyog.
Randy Samson and wife Maria Donna Lee were the first passengers to walk into the terminal for check-in Tuesday, more than two hours ahead of their 5:10 a.m. flight to Caticlan.
They were among 48 passengers that boarded Cebu Pacific’s maiden NAIA 3 flight 5J-891, which used one of the airline’s two 72-seater turbo-propeller ATR 72-500s.
Legal disputes that had for long kept the NAIA 3 shut seemed a distant reality for passengers who were only too glad to be using the modern terminal.
“It looks better than the old terminal and the security was very tight. I was informed that we will be using the NAIA 3 and I expected that there might be some additional procedure to be done so we decided to come early,” said Maria Donna Lee, the first recorded NAIA 3 passenger for which she received a roundtrip Cebu Pacific ticket to Caticlan.
First-time Philippine visitors Zheng Yanxia, Wei Zhigang and Mai Ruifang readily noted the difference between the old international terminal and the newer facility when they arrived in Manila Tuesday.
‘At last, it’s open’
The group from Guangzhou province had arrived via a Cebu Pacific flight from China and passed through the NAIA 1 before they shuttled to the new facility. They were not aware that it was the NAIA 3’s opening day until told by the media.
“It’s much, much better. It’s very clean,” said Zheng, 28, who booked a five-day stay in Boracay with her group.
Lisa Panaligan, 33, a migrant worker on a month-long vacation here, thought the new terminal was more conducive to travel than the old NAIA terminal she had been used to seeing on her way to jobs in Taiwan and Dubai.
“At long last, it was opened. When it comes to comfort, it’s bigger and the style of the terminal is for international. The security check was more strict. More expats would be encouraged to come here,” said Panaligan, who flew to Boracay with sister Racquel and aunt Nida Stuart.
Operating at a loss
Those who booked their flights before the planned opening was finalized were informed by phone call, text and e-mail about their flight’s transfer to the new terminal, passengers said.
Alfonso Cusi, general manager of the Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA), said that partial operations of the NAIA 3 would cost more than the fees to be generated.
“We only have eight flights, that will not even be enough to pay the electricity bill. But we’re looking at it as a whole, that we have to put it into use for the interest of the public,” Cusi said.
He said power costs alone to feed the NAIA 3 terminal lights and air-conditioning units would cost roughly P1 million per day even at partial operations.
Cebu Pacific is planning to move all its operations to NAIA 3, while Philippine Airlines (PAL) is expected to begin operations of its budget-brand PAL Express at the new facility.
The MIAA now operates four terminals, including the NAIA 1 and 2 (Centennial Terminal), and the Manila Domestic Terminal (MDT).
The NAIA 1, built for 4.5 million passengers yearly, was used by 6.5 million passengers last year. The Centennial Terminal, home to PAL operations, hosted 10 million travelers in 2007, or 3 million beyond capacity. The MDT’s 2.5-million capacity building hosted 5 million last year.
Cusi said talks were also under way for PAL to use the NAIA 3 terminal for arrivals of its early morning trans-Pacific flights—from San Francisco, Los Angeles, Las Vegas and Vancouver.
Cebu Pacific is hoping to shift to full domestic operations at the NAIA 3 by early August, moving the rest of its local flights to 19 destinations, Iyog said.
The move would transfer some 80 percent of total domestic operations at the MDT, freeing up the crammed and aged facility for other airlines. The MIAA would retain the domestic terminal fee at P200.
A sigh of relief
“The upside is that passengers are now going to decide to take (Cebu Pacific) because of a better terminal. Now, we have a level playing field,” Iyog said.
The MIAA is expected to continue repair and completion work at the facility as partial operations proceed. Unfinished parts of the terminal include the commercial strip at the departure level.
During ceremonies at 11:30 a.m. Tuesday, some six hours after the inaugural flight, government officials congratulated each other for finally opening the terminal.
Calling the old domestic terminal “an embarrassment,” Sen. Richard Gordon said: “I’m sure when people arrive here, they’ll feel comfort, confidence, pride and safety. Today, we move forward, we address the severe problems we are facing. We heave a sigh of relief.”
The NAIA 3 opening beat the congressional oversight committee’s September deadline for the MIAA to open the terminal.
The MIAA had twice postponed planned openings of the terminal in 2006 and 2007 because of structural defects that were traced to the March 27, 2006, collapse of a gypsum board ceiling at the terminal’s arrival area.
The NAIA 3 had remained shut because of controversies surrounding the contract between the Philippine government and the Philippine International Air Terminals Corp. (PIATCo) consortium, which built the terminal with Germany’s Frankfurt Airport Services Worldwide (Fraport) as its principal investor.
The Supreme Court voided the contract in 2003, but claims for the terminal’s construction cost continue in international arbitration courts. With a report from Reuters
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