Friday, October 31, 2008

US risks overplaying hand with Pakistan strikes

With respect to imperial arrogance and ignoring the sovereignty of other nations there is bipartisan agreement between McCain and Obama. In respect to Pakistan raids Obama is actually more gung ho even then McCain.
One can expect anti-American feelings and exploitation of those feelings by Islamic militants will only grow. What the US is demonstrating is that the only way to deal with the US is through having military power that the US is not willing to challenge. This can only lead to huge increases in military expenditure by countries such as China and Russia and alliances with those countries by countries who cannot defend themselves against encroachment on their sovereignty by the US.

ANALYSIS-US risks overplaying hand with Pakistan strikes
Randall MikkelsenReuters North American News Service
Oct 30, 2008 00:01 EST
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. strikes at militants in Pakistan are stoking Islamabad's anger at a time analysts say the two countries must work more closely to fight militants in the region along the border with Afghanistan.

Pakistan's government summoned U.S. Ambassador Anne Peterson Wednesday to protest missile strikes by pilotless aircraft in the border region. The protest came two days after a suspected U.S. drone fired missiles that killed up to 20 militants in that area.
"It was emphasized that such attacks were a violation of Pakistan's sovereignty and should be stopped immediately," a Foreign Ministry spokesman said in Islamabad.
The United States has shrugged off previous Pakistani protests, including over a raid by U.S. ground troops last month. It says the attacks are needed to protect U.S. troops in Afghanistan and kill Taliban and al Qaeda militants who threaten them.
But the Bush administration may have overplayed its hand by keeping up the attacks after elected President Asif Ali Zardari replaced resigned former U.S. ally Pervez Musharraf in September, analysts said.
"It is clear that the Bush-Musharraf strategy ... has only aggravated the crisis and the Taliban are in a stronger position today than before," said Hassan Abbas, a Harvard University researcher and former Pakistani legal official.
"Some major rethinking is in order," he said.
Said Thomas Houlahan, an analyst at the Center for Security and Science think tank: "If we had a plan to permanently alienate Pakistan, it couldn't be better than this."
The raids fuel an already high level of anti-American sentiment among the Pakistani public, which in turn puts pressure on the fledgling government.
"Washington D.C. needs to realize that the Musharraf era is over and the new democratic government needs public support for its actions," Abbas said.
Pakistan's ambassador to the United States, Husain Haqqani, criticized what he called "impatient decision-makers" in Washington and said unilateral strikes are counterproductive.
"The new government does not need legitimacy through the war against terror. Its legitimacy comes from the vote it received from the people of Pakistan. Therefore, the new government has a different policy and a different outlook toward the war against terror," Haqqani said on PBS television's "Frontline" show Tuesday.
Pakistan is strategically essential to the United States, and provides key logistics routes into Afghanistan.
The government has little leverage to enforce its demands that the United States curb its attacks. Washington provides billions of dollars in economic assistance and the global financial crisis has hit Pakistan hard.
Nevertheless, greater communication between the two countries would help ease mistrust, analysts said.
"If they (cross-border attacks) are coordinated between the two sides, I think the government would understand and they would not be in a position where they are taken by surprise," former Pakistan Interior Minister Aftab Khan Sherpao said at the U.S. Institute of Peace this month.
The White House has promised this in the past, saying it was working to increase coordination. The chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen, assured Pakistan in September it would respect Pakistan's sovereignty.
But that was followed by the ground raid, prompting Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood to complain of a U.S. "institutional disconnect."
Washington also needs to better reduce and apologize for civilian casualties caused by the strikes, said Karin Von Hillel of the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
Both candidates to succeed President Bush, Democrat Barack Obama and Republican John McCain, have indicated they would be willing to order strikes against militant leaders in Pakistan. Obama said the United States might have to act alone, while McCain emphasized working with the Pakistan government.
Obama has also called for a stronger relationship. "There is no alternative but to work with Pakistan," said Obama adviser John Brennan, who has held several senior intelligence positions. (Additional reporting by Paul Eckert; Editing by Doina Chiacu)
Source: Reuters North American News Service

Judge questions Dirty Bomb Plot Orders US to yield papers.

This is from the NY Times. There is ample evidence against the CIA claims it does not conduct or condone torture or render anyone for torture. In fact this is just standard denial in the face of plenty of contrary evidence in cases such as Maher Arar , Almalki, Nurredin, El-Maati etc. etc. etc. etc. Of course it is true that they do not condone the torture in public and make sure that when they render someone for torture they get assurances that there will be no torture. But the CIA does know that countries such as Morocco and Syria and Egypt use torture in interrogation.
This is what is called willful ignorance.

October 31, 2008
Questioning ‘Dirty Bomb’ Plot, Judge Orders U.S. to Yield Papers on Detainee
WASHINGTON — Saying he questioned the government’s claim that a Guantánamo Bay detainee had planned a radioactive-bomb attack in the United States, a federal district judge ordered the Justice Department on Thursday to give the detainee’s lawyers documents on his treatment.
The documents are central to the claim of the prisoner, Binyam Mohamed, that he falsely confessed to the dirty-bomb plot and other offenses only after being tortured in Morocco at the direction of the United States.
“My concern is getting to the truth,” the judge, Emmet G. Sullivan, said at a hearing.
The case of Mr. Mohamed, an Ethiopian-born former British resident, has drawn international attention and been at the center of diplomatic tensions between the United States and Britain. This week, British officials said they had referred questions about his treatment for possible criminal investigation by their law enforcement authorities.
The tension between the governments has intensified in recent weeks after the Pentagon dropped war crimes charges against Mr. Mohamed and the Justice Department said it would no longer rely on its dirty-bomb claims as a justification for holding him.
At the Thursday hearing, Judge Sullivan asked why, after more than six years, the government had stepped away from its claims about a dirty-bomb plot. “That raises a question as to whether or not the allegations were ever true,” the judge said.
In 2002, John Ashcroft, then the attorney general, announced that a plot to detonate a radioactive bomb in the United States had been foiled and an American citizen, Jose Padilla, detained. The Pentagon has claimed that Mr. Mohamed assisted Mr. Padilla.
After Mr. Padilla was held for three and a half years in a naval brig, the Justice Department abandoned its dirty-bomb claims against him. He was convicted of other charges in 2007.
Pressed by Judge Sullivan on Thursday as to whether the government stood behind its assertion of a dirty-bomb plot, a Justice Department lawyer, Andrew I. Warden, said, “The short answer is yes.”
But Mr. Warden said the government could prove that Mr. Mohamed was being properly held without evidence of that plot. Military prosecutors have said they will file new charges against Mr. Mohamed with the Guantánamo war crimes tribunal, but they have not said whether the bomb plot will be among those charges.
The government claims Mr. Mohamed confessed to the plot and to attending Qaeda training camps.
But Zachary Katznelson, a lawyer for Mr. Mohamed, said in court Thursday that all his confessions were made after “he was tortured again and again and again until he just parroted what his torturers wanted him to say.” In Morocco, Mr. Katznelson said, Mr. Mohamed was beaten and repeatedly cut with razor blades on his genitals and elsewhere.
Mr. Mohamed’s lawyers have laid out a detailed argument that he was subjected to the government’s program of rendition to other countries. They say evidence shows that American intelligence agents transferred him to Morocco.
The documents Judge Sullivan directed the government to turn over concern Mr. Mohamed’s treatment during the two years he was held in Pakistan, Morocco and Afghanistan after he was first detained at the airport in Karachi, Pakistan, in 2002. Mr. Katznelson said evidence of torture would prove that Mr. Mohamed had never voluntarily admitted to the dirty-bomb plot or any other involvement with Al Qaeda.
The government has said Mr. Mohamed’s claims of torture are not credible. A Moroccan consular official, Karim el-Mansouri, said in an interview that he had no details on Mr. Mohamed’s case but that Morocco protected human rights. Paul Gimigliano, a spokesman for the Central Intelligence Agency, said: “The C.I.A. does not conduct or condone torture. Nor does it transport individuals anywhere for the purpose of torture.”
Last week, a British court ruled that 35 documents in British intelligence files concerning Mr. Mohamed’s treatment should be turned over to his lawyers. The court said the documentation “lends some support to his claim that the confession was obtained after a period of two years incommunicado detention during which he was tortured.”
The material Judge Sullivan has now ordered the government to turn over would be any additional information about Mr. Mohamed’s treatment.
The British court had said it would wait to order the actual release of the 35 documents, to give Judge Sullivan an opportunity to rule on the issue first. By the time they arrived in court Thursday, however, Justice Department lawyers had turned over those documents. That followed a letter Tuesday from a British government lawyer to the British court’s judges that said the home secretary had referred to law enforcement officials in Britain “the question of possible criminal wrongdoing” in the treatment of Mr. Mohamed.

Philippines: Scandal games...

This if from Malaya. (Manila)
When the Senate tried to question Joc Joc before, he disappeared and ended up in the US where he tried unsuccessfully to obtain asylum. Now he is seeking asylum in the hospital! Don't be surprised if he suddenly disappears from the hospital. Arroyo would love him to disappear!

Joc Joc’ gets to staylonger in hospitalPing hits Villar stance on summons
SENATE marshals will have to wait for "a few more days" before they could bring former agriculture undersecretary Jocelyn "Joc Joc" Bolante to the chamber for detention.
Senate President Manny Villar yesterday instructed Senate Sergeant-at-Arms chief Jose Balajadia to make sure that Bolante goes through the needed check-ups at the St. Luke’s Medical Center before he could be compelled to give his testimony on the P728-million fertilizer fund scam.
Balajadia said the "few more days" could mean "reasonable number of days."
"It takes days for medical checks," he said.
The St. Luke’s Medical Center finally released its first medical bulletin declaring that Bolante was in normal and stable condition.
"Stable siya pero he needs to be subjected to further examination just to be sure he’s really stable," Dr. Romeo Saavedra said.
He said almost all test results were normal except for CT scans on Bolante’s aorta and arteries, which need to be probed further.
Saavedra also noted the hardening of blood vessels in Bolante’s heart as well as his "significant" weight loss.
He said the full results of the examinations are likely to be released Monday.
He said Bolante will be subjected to a stress test, which includes a treadmill procedure.
He will also undergo peptic ulcer check-ups today.
Sen. Panfilo Lacson criticized Villar’s "dilly-dallying" in getting Bolante to the Senate to testify.
Lacson said Villar could have subpoenaed Bolante’s medical records from St. Luke’s.
"He wants a caucus yet he’s not calling for a caucus. What does he really want out of this whole exercise?" he said.
He said the Senate risks being overtaken by events if it does not act, saying the high court can issue a temporary restraining order on Bolante’s arrest.
Lacson said Villar should have scheduled a hearing so that the Senate will have basis to subpoena the medical records of Bolante.
Lacson said he would not speculate on the real condition of Bolante since he is not a doctor.
Senate President pro tempore Jinggoy Estrada on Wednesday said he was "101 percent" sure that Bolante was just faking his illness.
"I will not speculate (on Bolante’s health). Si Jinggoy nasa US paano niya malaman? Lalong malayo," he said.
Bolante arrived Tuesday night and was served the arrest order by the Senate marshals at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport.
But before the arrest could be enforced, Bolante complained of chest pains and had to be taken to the hospital.
He was tagged by the Senate in 2005 as the architect in the illegal diversion of fertilizer funds, allotted for farm implements, to the campaign kitty of President Arroyo for the 2004 national elections.
He fled to the United States in July 2006 to seek political asylum but his petition was junked with finality by the US Supreme Court last month, resulting in his deportation.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Starbucks Blues

This is from BigMoney.
This corporate culture nonsense is big business it seems. Starbucks employees are associates not employees. Walmart uses similar rhetorical flourishes to build up a corporate culture of hot air with a balloon skin impervious to unions it seems.A wage slave by any other name apparently is much better off. The use of high sounding phrases to describe changes that make most workers worse off is also a good example of improving working conditions by rhetoric when the reality is that things are getting worse.

Starbucks Blues

By liza.featherstone
Created 10/29/2008 - 9:12pm

Fall is pumpkin-latte season for those who can still afford to indulge, but for Starbucks [1] workers, it's been a season of discontent. The coffee giant has recently responded to hard times with scheduling changes that are likely to inflict misery on its employees. These policies seem sharply at odds with Starbucks' reputation for social responsibility but make sense in the context of the company's record as an employer. Curiously, the coffee retailer's benevolent image seems most fragile at the moment that the company's best days seem to be receding into the past.
The store atmosphere remains suffused with NPR-style high-mindedness. A fact sheet from Good magazine [2] about the U.S. economy's woes is prominently displayed, as is Helene Cooper's memoir about her childhood in Liberia. So it's fitting that when Starbucks introduced a new human-resources strategy two weeks ago, a new company manual for managers—obtained and shared with TBM by the Starbucks Workers Union, a group of employees pressing for better wages and working conditions—explained the change in lofty terms, insisting that it was "a philosophy, not a program."
This new "philosophy" is called "Optimal Scheduling," and it requires that "partners" (Starbucks-speak for employees) must dramatically increase their own flexibility. If they'd like to work full time, they must be available to work 70 percent of open store hours. (For a Starbucks open 16 hours a day, as is typical, this means 80.5 hours per week.) Many Starbucks employees say they want to work more hours; the new system could make it possible for those people to work more by downsizing those who can't or don't want to. Starbucks spokeswoman Tara Darrow says optimal scheduling is "a win-win for our customers and partners" that will lead to "more stable scheduling and more satisfied partners."
Liberte Locke, a New York City barista, is not one of those "satisfied partners." Why? Because, although she has opened up her entire day to Starbucks (from 4:15 a.m. to 11 p.m.), the company is "not guaranteeing any hours, not a single one." She's right: The fact that no hours are guaranteed, even for workers classified as "full time," is underscored repeatedly in the company managers' manual. The company is demanding almost all their time and, Locke says, "We are getting nothing in return." Optimal scheduling amounts to a permanent booty call; only the most boorish boyfriend would insist on such conditions.
The new availability requirement could make it almost impossible for employees to have a second job, as many low-wage workers must in order to make ends meet. Erik Forman, who works at Starbucks in the Twin Cities' Mall of America, says one of his fellow baristas opens McDonald's and closes Starbucks every day. Another co-worker opens Starbucks and closes IKEA. As Liberte Locke points out, Starbucks "doesn't pay enough to be someone's livelihood," especially with no hours guaranteed.
Being available 80.5 hours a week, Forman points out, will also be hard on "a student, a mother, or anyone who does anything besides working." Workers who can't make themselves available for the required number of hours will, within six months, lose their jobs. "It's another way for [Starbucks] to thin the herd," says Locke, "to have layoffs without calling them layoffs."
True, and perhaps to be expected. Starbucks' business isn't booming. With consumer sentiment ranging from grim to terrified [3], who's bold enough to pay $5 for coffee? Just stepping into this emporium of high-priced foamy drinks can feel like a time capsule journey back to prerecession days. Starbucks' profits have taken a beating, and its stock price has been steadily slipping over the past year. Milk inflation has been disastrous for the company (because, let's face it, Starbucks' drinks are mostly milk). That, along with rising gas costs, led the company to raise its own prices—already prohibitive to increasingly cost-conscious consumers—this summer. Store traffic is down for the first time since the company began measuring it.
Under such circumstances, it's not unusual for a company to cut costs (though it doesn't have to fall mostly on employees). When Starbucks closed 600 stores this summer, many baristas lost their jobs, but, as spokeswoman Tara Darrow points out, the company was able to place others in nearby stores. In fairness to Starbucks, its low-wage workers have not borne the pain alone: According to Darrow, about 1,000 jobs were axed at company headquarters in July.
Still, optimal scheduling is only one installment in an epic series of workforce management missteps for Starbucks. Like Wal-Mart [4], the company has an extensive union-busting operation and has been the target of numerous National Labor Relations Board complaints over unlawful violations of workers' rights. In early October, Starbucks was forced to settle the case of Mall of America barista Erik Forman (quoted above), who was fired for talking with co-workers about managers' apparent efforts to fire him for union organizing. It is illegal to dismiss workers for this, and after local publicity and citywide store pickets, Starbucks invited Forman back to work. The company also faces trial in Grand Rapids, Mich., for firing a barista for union activity and is awaiting a trial verdict in New York City on 30 counts of violating employees' union organizing rights. Earlier this year, a California court ordered the company to pay baristas more than $100 million for tips illegally shared with shift supervisors.
Though it's easy and fun to mock Starbucks' self-righteous hype, many take it seriously. In corporate-responsibility classes in business school, the Starbucks case studies provide a beacon of hope for the ethically concerned minority. In such discussions, Starbucks is always showcased as a company that provides suppliers with positive incentives to grow coffee in ways that are better for the environment, even throwing some labor standards into the mix. But Starbucks' good reputation on supply-chain practices has deflected attention from its treatment of baristas and even helped nourish the perception that it's a decent employer. Starbucks has repeatedly landed on Fortune magazine's "Best Companies to Work For" list [5]. While Wal-Mart is constantly criticized—including by this writer—for stingy health-insurance policies, Starbucks is often praised for offering any health insurance at all [6]. Yet Starbucks insures an even lower percentage of its work force than Wal-Mart does: 40.9 percent, as calculated from figures the company disclosed to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer last year [7] (about 47 percent of Wal-Mart workers have company insurance). Spokeswoman Tara Darrow deflected TBM's questions about the percentage of employees covered by company insurance, preferring to emphasize that 88 percent of the workers are covered by some form of insurance—which could be Medicaid, or a parent's or spouse's plan—and that 65 percent of "eligible" employees are covered by the company plan.
Unlike Wal-Mart, Starbucks rarely draws criticism for its wages. Yet baristas' wages are similar to those earned by Wal-Mart workers and in some markets may even be lower: about $7 to $9 an hour. (Starbucks wouldn't offer any data on its wages, but the Starbucks Workers Union provided TBM with an internal company document from 2005, which shows the highest and lowest wage in each location. It's unlikely that Starbucks workers' wages have increased much in the last three years, since hardly anyone's have.)
There's always been some media bias in favor of Starbucks, which is perhaps why the company's worst practices have drawn so little attention. Unlike frumpy, red-state Wal-Mart, Starbucks, with its jazz compilations and recycled napkins, is our kind of company. Yet when it comes to mistreatment of employees, says labor activist and former Starbucks barista Daniel Gross (no relation to the Slate writer of the same name), who was fired from the company for union organizing, "Every retailer—McDonald's, Wal-Mart—does the same things. The difference is that Starbucks has really succeeded in convincing people that it's better."
Perhaps this is about to change. Everyone's feeling cranky, and Starbucks' self-love and feel-good branding seem as ill-fitting to our current cultural moment as its prices. The company shouldn't be surprised if recession brings more criticism along with so many other woes.

Obama and Socialism

This is from this Magazine.

The term ''socialism'' is used in popular discourse as a boo word. A boo word is one that has purely negative emotive meaning and very little cognitive meaning. Socialism replaces private ownership of the major means of production, distribution and exchange by some form of socialised ownership. Production is on the basis of need not on the basis of profit. Redistribution within a capitalist system may be progressive but it is not socialism. Often it is simply a means of stimulating capitalist production as in the recent distribution of tax refund checks by the US government in the hopes of stimulating buying and consumption. Even the partial nationalisation of financial institutions has nothing to do with socialism. It is a rescue plan to bail out the system in a crisis and when the crisis passes the institutions pass back completely into private ownership. Some institutions such as the courts, police, and often the post office, and some infrastructure such as highways usually remain socialised under capitalism since they involve necessary costs rather than profits. However under advanced capitalism even these institutions are privatised as far as possible. The prison system is a good example, and security contractors, even for services formerly done by military and police. Prisons are another example.

October 29, 2008
Obama and socialism
Posted by Daniel Tseghay at 04:13 PM ET
McCain, Palin, and their Republican acolytes have recently taken to calling Barack Obama a socialist. In making that "charge" (apparently socialism is a very bad thing in the States) they point to Obama's progressive, or punitive, depending on how you look at it, income-tax plan. In his plan, people making more than $250,000 will face increased tax rates. The rest will experience tax cuts. The McCain campaign calls this redistributionist and, therefore, socialist.
There are a few things to keep in mind at this point: graduated taxation is not necessarily socialism. It is, at best, only one of the conditions for socialism. The United States is now and has been for quite a while a country with a graduated income-tax rate. Obama merely wants to increase the top marginal income-tax rate from 35 to 39.6, amounting to an incremental progression from an existing income-tax plan - not a major shift into a totally different economic system.
Finally, McCain and Palin should not be throwing stones. Palin, as Alaska's governor, did nothing but redistribute wealth. Here is the New Yorker's Hendrik Hertzberg on Palin's hypocrisy:
"She is, at the very least, a fellow-traveller of what might be called socialism with an Alaskan face. The state that she governs has no income or sales tax. Instead, it imposes huge levies on the oil companies that lease its oil fields. The proceeds finance the government's activities and enable it to issue a four-figure annual check to every man, woman, and child in the state. One of the reasons Palin has been a popular governor is that she added an extra twelve hundred dollars to this year's check, bringing the per-person total to $3,269."
And when asked in 2000 why people are being penalized for making more money and if this was socialism, McCain responded: "Here's what I really believe: That when you reach a certain level of comfort, there's nothing wrong with paying somewhat more."
That indeed might be what he really feels. Now why can't he bring himself to let the truth out? He knows Obama is not a socialist and, ultimately, he sort of agrees with Obama's plan, if not the specifics. Where's the "Straight Talk Express" now?More entries on: American Presidential Election

US unlikely to accept revised Iraq SOFA

This is from the Monterey-Herald.
Time is running out and it seems that the US has drawn the line at its final draft. While that draft gives more power to the Iraqis than earlier drafts it still does not give the Iraqis much jurisdiction when troops or contractors commit crimes and none when they are on missions.

U.S. unlikely to accept revised Iraq security pact
By LEILA FADEL McClatchy Newspapers
Article Last Updated: 10/29/2008 01:47:27 AM PDT

BAGHDAD — The Iraqi cabinet agreed Tuesday to amend a draft agreement governing the status of U.S. forces in Iraq, but introducing new provisions that the U.S. military is unlikely to accept.
Among other things, the amendments would give Iraqi authorities the right to determine whether a U.S. service member was on- or off-duty when he or she committed an alleged crime outside American bases, where such an American would be tried. It also would allow authorities to inspect all U.S. cargo entering the nation.
Iraqi politicians see the changes as a way to preserve Iraqi sovereignty.
The amendments were made to "preserve the basic principles and the sovereignty of Iraq and its supreme interests," said government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh in a statement. The government, al-Dabbagh said in an interview on an Arabic satellite news station, has no "third option."
U.S. officials have described the original draft agreement, which would replace the United Nations mandate for U.S. military operations in Iraq, as "final," and the Iraqi amendments are likely to push negotiations between Iraq and the U.S. to an impasse.
In Washington Tuesday, senior U.S. military officials said that while they were unaware of the proposed changes, the Pentagon very likely would reject them.
"We are very comfortable with the draft sent forward," a senior U.S. military official said Tuesday, speaking on the condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to discuss the negotiations

publicly. "But the longer we wait, the more in peril this gets."
The Iraqi parliament must approve any agreement, so if the Americans don't accept the proposed Iraqi changes, the cabinet will have to decide whether to submit the agreement to the parliament as it stands, which could doom its chances of passage.
Iraqi officials involved in the process told McClatchy Newspapers that they don't believe the two nations will reach an agreement before the U.N. mandate for the U.S. presence in Iraq expires at the end of this year.
Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is considering renewing the mandate, but he wants changes that would lift the immunity from Iraqi prosecution that private contractors in Iraq now enjoy. The U.S. will veto a new mandate with any changes, officials have said.
While U.S. military officials are skeptical about the agreement, the Bush administration remains hopeful.
"We remain confident that we'll be able to get one," said White House spokeswoman Dana Perino referring to the status of forces agreement. "However, if we don't, there will be consequences for that. I don't think there are Iraqis — I don't think there are any Iraqis who think that they are ready to do this all on their own — deep down."

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

US attack on Syria

This is from
The attack is puzzling. Syria has been trying very hard to repair relationships with the West and is even having talks with Israel. It has co-operated with the US against Al Qaeda. It always has done yeoman work torturing and interrogating terror suspects rendered to Syria by the US.
Security has much improved on the Syrian border. A US official was scheduled to meet with the Syrians now that is cancelled as a result of the raid. Perhaps there is conflict within the government between Pentagon and State Dept. but who knows.
Anyway the article is probably right that the permission came right from the top. It is an arrogant and stupid move so it could only have come from high up not from those lower down who probably have more sense. It puts the SOFA agreement in even more danger.
The unofficial official explanation aka propaganda is that it is warning to Syria to do better in the war on terror or else the US will move in. There is no official explanation just official silence. This is totally bizarre. Perhaps it is learned from the Israelis and the bombing of the supposed nuclear site or their response when asked if they have nuclear weapons.
I have yet to see any response by Obama and McClain on these attacks although I may have missed any. According to the Syrian several children were killed in the raid. No doubt they were child suicide bombers!

Analysts Question Timing of Syria Raid
by Ali Gharib
A cross-border raid into Syria by U.S. forces in Iraq and subsequent stonewalling by U.S. officials unwilling to divulge details have led to rampant speculation among U.S. analysts about the origins and meaning of the attack.
"So the question is: Why?" wrote geo-strategic analyst and journalist Helena Cobban on her blog, wondering if the raid could have been pulled off without explicit permission from the highest levels of the President George W. Bush administration.
"So why now at the end of the Bush administration, with Washington trying to play nice with Damascus and tensions easing throughout the region, would U.S. forces stage such a gambit?" echoed Borzou Daragahi on the Babylon and Beyond blog at the Los Angeles Times Web site.
The questions started to swirl late Sunday afternoon when U.S. helicopters allegedly crossed five miles over the desert border between Syria and Iraq. According to reports, eight U.S. soldiers alighted when a helicopter landed, attacking the al-Sukkari farm in the Syrian Abu Kamal border area.
The cross-border raid – the first of its kind involving a helicopter attack and U.S. boots on the ground that far into Syrian territory – left eight dead, according to Syrian press reports.
The attack is especially curious since, according to a report this weekend in the New York Times, Bush appears to have rolled back his initiative to lead troop-driven cross-border attacks – initially approved this summer – by Afghan-based U.S. forces into Pakistani territory.
The raid also comes as Syria is negotiating with Israel, through Turkish mediation, presumably in a calculated effort to alleviate tensions with the West and the U.S. The Bush administration's take on the Israel-Syria talks has been lukewarm at best.
More immediately for the U.S., the raid could complicate negotiations on a status of forces agreement (SOFA) with Iraqi authorities to allow U.S. forces to keep operating in Iraq after the UN mandate expires at the end of this year.
The talks on the SOFA have been bogged down, and a persistent Iraqi demand has been that Iraqi soil not be used as a launch pad for attacks on other countries.
"The Iraqi government rejects U.S. aircraft bombarding posts inside Syria," a government spokesperson, Ali al-Dabbagh, said Tuesday. "The constitution does not allow Iraq to be used as a staging ground to attack neighboring countries."
The U.S. Department of Defense has repeatedly declined to comment on the Syrian incident, including to a direct request by IPS, but several press reports have quoted unnamed U.S. officials confirming the attack, and saying that it was ordered by the CIA.
One U.S. official anonymously told Agence France-Presse that the strike was aimed at Abu Ghadiya, whom the official called "one of the most prominent foreign fighter facilitators in the region." The official said he believed the target was killed.
The spokesman for the Syrian embassy here, Ahmed Salkini, told IPS that the name did not appear on the official Syrian list of those dead.
In retaliation, Syria shut down a U.S. school and cultural center in Damascus, and its UN envoy has requested that the Security Council intervene to prevent further incursions into Syrian territory.
Neoconservatives and hawks within the administration have long clamored for expanding Middle Eastern conflicts into Syria, which was named as one of the three countries in Bush's famous "Axis of Evil."
Indeed, Bush's neoconservative deputy national security adviser, Elliott Abrams, told Israeli officials during a high-level meeting that the U.S. would not object if Israel extended its 2006 war with Hezbollah into Syria.
But if the cross-border attack was an attempt by hawks to lure Syria into a war, it appears to have failed; Syria has engaged in a measured and strictly diplomatic response.
"[T]he Syrians have not responded, and are not about to respond, in any way that is violent or otherwise escalates tensions," said Cobban, a well respected commenter and veteran analyst, on her Just World News blog.
"I've been studying the behavior of this Ba'athist regime in Syria closely for 34 years now. They have steely nerves. They are just about impossible to 'provoke,' at any point that they judge a harsh response is not in their interest," she wrote.
While foreign fighters from Syria have long been problematic to the U.S. occupation of Iraq, since 2006, U.S. patrols along the border and some Syrian cooperation have dramatically reduced the number of foreign fighters flowing into Iraq.
Last December, the former U.S. commander in Iraq and now the Centcom chief, Gen. David Petraeus, said, "Syria has taken steps to reduce the flow of the foreign fighters through its borders with Iraq."
Petraeus reiterated the notion this month when he reported that fighters from Syria moving into Iraq have had their monthly total reduced from about 100 to 20.
But last Thursday, the commander of U.S. troops in western Iraq, Marine Maj. John Kelly, said that while there has been progress, it wasn't enough.
The suspected involvement of some of the most vociferous anti-Syria hawks at the highest levels of the Bush administration, including Vice President Dick Cheney, have combined with U.S. silence on the matter to fuel a guessing game as to just exactly who ordered or approved Sunday's cross-border raid.
"This operation is pretty clearly run by U.S. special operations forces pursuing a terrorist target," Col. Pat Lang, a retired U.S. military intelligence officer, told IPS. "Their sole mission is like a SWAT team to go around and hunt terrorists."
Lang said that these special operations forces sometimes operate distinctly outside the normal military chain of command by design of hawkish former Pentagon chief Donald Rumsfeld.
"If left to themselves, they would do this kind of thing [the Syria raid]. That's what they do," said Lang. "They don't follow policy, they carry out their assigned mission."
Because the U.S. commander in Iraq, Gen. Ray Odierno, is dealing with mounting concerns about the SOFA, Lang suspects that he'd be hesitant to directly approve such a bold a provocative attack as Sunday afternoon's.
"I haven't established it yet, but I have a sneaking suspicion that the authority to do this came right out of the White House," Lang told IPS.
Asked if the decision doesn't undermine pressing U.S. goals for commanders in Iraq, Lang said that while the considerations are there, they don't always filter up into decision making in the executive branch.
"Usually command arrangements of various kinds are messy," Lang said, "and this White House has shown a tendency to want to bypass the established chain of command and influence what's going on [in the field]."
But in addition to being a bold foreign policy move, the raid has also been interpreted by some as a political stunt, albeit one unlikely to succeed.
Some journalists and experts have speculated that the raid was a Bush administration attempt to deliver an "October Surprise" – a late game-changing development favoring one candidate – for Republican candidate Sen. John McCain just over a week before the presidential election in which he badly trails Democratic rival Sen. Barack Obama in most polls.
McCain has been seen as holding an advantage in issues of national security.
(Inter Press Service)

William Bowles on the Global Crisis

This is an interesting take on the current crisis. Bowles is certainly correct that China will hardly profit from the US decline. The US is one of its big customers and it also holds a humungus amount of US dollars. Anyway the decline of the US as a world power I find quite unconvincing. The most you can say is that other powers such as China and India are growing in influence but that is about it.
Bowles also has an interesting comparison with the situation now as contrasted with after the second world war. It is true that there are differences but I think he is wrong that the war on terror cannot substitute for the war on communism. It can and does. In fact the wars associated with the war on terrorism represent a type of Military Keynesianism that keeps the economy in terms of the military industrial complex going. It remains to be seen whether there will be a stimulus program involving new large infrastructure projects in the U.S. but it is quite possible especially if Obama is elected.
Bowles is right that socialism hardly exists as an alternative now. As a result expenditures on social programs or other programs that are redistributive are probably not in the cards. The most one could expect are some crumbs in the way of checks to stimulate consumer spending. The coming crisis of debt in states and muncipalities will serve as an excuse to cut entitlements and social services. Contrast this with the necessity to bail out investment banks, insurance companies and mortgage lenders.
The quote from the UK ministry of defence is interesting. It seems unlikely that the middle classes become revolutionary. More likely they will become Fascist or counter-revolutionary. The naive patriotism of US citizens could easily be whipped up so that you have cries of Amerika Uber Alles. Remember that German Naziism and militarism arose partly as a reaction to the decline of German power and the feeling of humiliation and victimisation of the German people. There will be cries to restore America to its former imagined grandeur and greatness.

Let Us SpeculateBy William Bowles
October 28, 2008 "Information Clearinghouse" -- --There’s an awful lot of speculation going on right now, from both the left and right about where the latest crisis of capital is headed, chief amongst them is the notion that this signals the end of the US Empire, that the so-called uni-polar world is over, that a new multi-polar world, headed by China, Russia, India and Brazil is emerging.
The theory is based upon the fact that the US is no longer the world’s numero uno economic power and it’s true that even an overwhelming military force is dependent on the economics that fuels it. But how true is this idea and even if it is true, over what timescale are we talking about here?
Moreover, it’s only one of a number of possible outcomes, much depends on how the leading capitalist countries deal with the crisis. One thing strikes me most forcefully and that is with all the talk of trillions being needed to save capitalism from itself, the ease with which these vast sums have been conjured up, reveals a striking fact about the role of money namely that the value being assigned to it is totally ficticious.
After all, it’s just paper that has long ceased to represent real wealth given that it exists only in the imagination of those who allegedly run the system. Of course, to those of us who possess only nominal amounts of the stuff, out here in the real world, it has a very real value, but let us not confuse the world of finance capital with the one we live in.
The problem boils down to the fact that a tiny percentage of the world’s population has effectively sucked the real wealth out of the system and replaced it with a notional money, this is the one we’re stuck with and it’s called debt and debts only make sense if we agree to pay them and unlike the banks we don’t have governments that are sympathetic to our needs.
But let us return for a mo’ to the idea that the new multi-polar world that is emerging is headed by China, the world’s industrial powerhouse. The problem with this idea is that it’s the developed world that created this situation in order to reduce the cost of production by exporting manufacturing to countries like China. In turn, the markets for China’s stupendous productive capacity is directly linked to Western consumption and to products that are so cheap as to be virtually given away. Perhaps over time, China’s domestic consumption could ‘take up the slack’ but it’s doubtful given the the pathetically low wages being paid to China’s working class.
And already, literally thousands of China’s sweatshops are going belly-up, not only because of the global recession but also because (predictably) wages are slowly rising in China and as the situation gets worse, we can expect major labour upheavals to increase and, it must be added, the major capitalist countries are rapidly running out of cheap labour countries in which to relocate production, just as Marx predicted over 150 years ago.
Worse still, the vast surplus that China has accumulated is denominated in dollars, thus the fate of China’s economy rests entirely on the future well-being of US capitalism, and in turn, because we are all tied to the US’s coattails in this global financial sting operation, so are the rest of us! Thus, China too, is tied to the US’s coattails! China's motto is no doubt 'don't rock the boat' (anymore than it is already).
The reaction of the (marginally) more savvy of the developed capitalist powers in the EU is to reinstate what appears to be the same Keynesian economic policies that happened after the end of WWII, making the state once again the major capital investor but there are major differences between the post-WWII situation and that of today:
1) Unlike the 1940s where the state was not only the major investor but also, and this is crucial, directed the nature of investment via state-owned institutions, and it was investment in major social projects, housing, education, transportation, health care, energy and communications (I might add that these were projects that private capital was unwilling to invest in due to the long term nature of any return on investment). Today, by contrast, we see a ‘hands-off’ approach being used, the money is being handed over effectively as a ‘gift’ from ‘us’ to the crooks and fraudsters to do with it as they want;
2) Unlike the situation in the 1940s, which following the destruction of WWII and powered by the wealth accumulated by the US through financing the war, needed rebuilding, we now live in a world of global over-production, so where and how is this new environment of capital accumulation going to take place?
3) Much of the boom of the post-war period resided in retooling war production for the new world of consumerism led by the automobile, television, consumer goods and ironically, housing (setting aside for the moment the emergence of the Cold War and the military-industrial complex which skewed economic development in so many disastrous ways, that we still live, and die, with its effects).
There is no equivalent in the current situation (the ‘War on Terror’ is simply no replacement for the war on communism), thus in the short term (at least) we are entering a world that has more in common with the world leading up to the outbreak of WWII not the one that followed it; mass unemployment, even more massive cuts in social spending and, if capitalism runs true to form, the need for WWIII to trigger a new round of capital destruction and accumulation.
Some have pointed to the need for some kind of ‘New Deal’ but is this possible? Where will the money come from after bailing out the banks? Moreover, the major capitalist powers are no longer industrial power houses, most of the ‘wealth’ generated comes from two sources: 1) consumer consumption and 2) financial services, both of which are going down the tubes right now.
The other crucial difference between the post-WWII period and today is that socialism was seen by many as a real alternative to capitalism, indeed, not only were Keynesian policies seen as a way of bailing out capitalism, it was also the appropriation of essentially socialist economic policies but geared toward maintaining capitalism when the capitalists failed to do it themselves.
No such luck today however and largely because we have no organized and progressive working class to mount such a programme following the adoption of the so-called neo-liberal economic and political programme, which came about for precisely the same reasons as today’s meltdown, over-production and a falling rate of profit (let us not confuse the vast profits made by sleight-of-hand in the financial sector with the production of real wealth, health care, housing, education and so forth).
In conclusion, what can we say about the nature of the capitalists’ responses to this crisis? Firstly, because the state has decided to try and maintain the current status quo but with some nods in the direction of establishing some kind of global financial order, we are as they say, in the hands of the gods. And judging by the current responses of the G-7, some kind of global set of rules governing the financial markets is simply not on the cards. Remember, these national economies are all competing one against the other but at the same time are tied to each other by the globalized nature of finance capital. All they have done so far is muck about with the system without any idea of the consequences except to try and save capitalism from itself.
Second, these fiscal policies will result in mass unemployment running into the tens of millions and the collapse of the ‘good life’ or what’s left of it. And of course, mass unemployment will lead to the collapse of largely consumer-powered economies. Such a policy could of course, trigger a reawakening of class consciousness, but don’t bank on it, even if the civil servants of the British government envisage such a scenario (we should be so lucky).
“The Middle Class Proletariat — The middle classes could become a revolutionary class, taking the role envisaged for the proletariat by Marx. The globalization of labour markets and reducing levels of national welfare provision and employment could reduce peoples’ attachment to particular states. The growing gap between themselves and a small number of highly visible super-rich individuals might fuel disillusion with meritocracy, while the growing urban under-classes are likely to pose an increasing threat to social order and stability, as the burden of acquired debt and the failure of pension provision begins to bite. Faced by these twin challenges, the world’s middle-classes might unite, using access to knowledge, resources and skills to shape transnational processes in their own class interest.” — ‘UK Ministry of Defence report, The DCDC Global Strategic Trends Programme 2007-2036’ (Third Edition) p.96, March 2007The problem of course, is that for such a scenario to take shape requires not only time but the development of a coherent alternative to the current chaos. Slogans are all well and good when they represent the distillation of an existing economic and political alternative, but without such an alternative they will remain only empty slogans.
Thus I think it accurate to say that only the re-emergence of a revolutionary force composed of working people (whether they are so-called middle-class or the traditional working class) will be able to rescue us from this calamity.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The end of the road for the U.S. carmakers

Somehow I imagine that the taxpayer will end up bailing out at least some of the big three. Perhaps it will take the form of helping out financially with the merger of GM and Chrysler. As one wag described it: This is like thinking that if you tie two stones together and throw them in the water that being together will somehow keep them from sinking.
The failure of a big car maker could be the next big jolt to the economy.,0,1118586.story

The end of the road for U.S. carmakers?
Some analysts suggest failure may not be such a bad thing for Detroit's Big Three. Others, especially Michigan politicians, warn of calamity.By Ken BensingerOctober 28, 2008

Are the Big Three worth saving?The U.S. auto industry's downward spiral has accelerated dramatically in recent weeks. In a desperate bid for solvency, General Motors Corp. is seeking a merger with Chrysler. Chrysler has talked with Renault and Nissan about partnerships. And now Ford Motor Co., GM and Chrysler -- backed by Michigan lawmakers -- are lobbying Washington to give them cash, implying that failure to provide a bailout could doom the industry to bankruptcy.Congress last month approved $25 billion in loan guarantees for automakers, and rules for those loans are being drafted. But the companies say they need more -- now. GM, Ford and Chrysler are burning through cash far more quickly than they're bringing it in, sales have fallen off a cliff, and none of them has been able to borrow money in months because of the credit crisis.White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said Monday that officials at the Treasury, Energy and Commerce departments were discussing aid to automakers. Options may include buying equity stakes in the companies, providing more loans, guaranteeing their borrowing or buying troubled auto loans. Bush administration officials, she added, were "working as quickly as we possibly can" to speed disbursement of the loans.A Ford Credit spokeswoman said Monday that the company had applied for new short-term loans offered by the Federal Reserve to businesses having trouble borrowing. Recent news reports indicate that GM and Chrysler are seeking about $10 billion in government funds to support their merger.Meanwhile, the drumbeat of bad news continued. Rating firm Moody's downgraded Chrysler and GM debt Monday for the second time in three months, as well as the debt of Ford's lending arm, citing "the pace and severity of erosion in the U.S. automotive sector" and suggesting that the companies may have difficulty remaining solvent through 2009.With about 200,000 U.S. employees, hundreds of thousands more abroad and $400 billion in annual revenue among the Big Three, the prospect of failure by any of them is worrisome. Yet there is considerable debate about what might happen if they did fail.Some analysts, economists and industry insiders predict a financial cataclysm, while others foresee little more than a shift of the industry to foreign companies such as Toyota Motor Corp. and Honda Motor Co. Some argue that, in the long term, the U.S. economy would be better off moving past automobile making."A failure from the Big Three would be a huge, huge hit," said Donald Grimes, a research specialist at the University of Michigan. "But there's a real question about whether there's room for all of them."Others posit that the failure of just one of the Big Three would send shock waves through the entire manufacturing sector that could devastate suppliers and freeze up the other two carmakers. Hundreds of thousands of jobs would be lost."If Ford or GM goes down, you take a 2-million-job hit" that would also dump hundreds of thousands of retirees on the federal Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp., said David Cole, chairman of the Center for Automotive Research. Chrysler and GM will be responsible for an estimated $90 billion in pension and health insurance benefits by 2017.This month, the center began running what it calls catastrophe studies to predict the consequences of an automaker's failure. The studies project a toll of up to 2% of gross domestic product. "The hit to the economy is $200 [billion] to $300 billion," Cole said.The Big Three's slow loss of market share to foreign brands sped up in the 1990s. In the 1970s, GM controlled more than 40% of the U.S. market; today, foreign carmakers account for 51% of U.S. sales.What's more, most foreign automakers have plants in the U.S. So far this year, 27% of the cars bought in the United States were built in U.S. plants owned by foreign carmakers.That, says David Gregory, law professor at St. John's University and a former labor representative for Ford, clearly indicates where the industry is headed. Because companies such as Nissan Motor Co., with a huge operation in Tennessee, and BMW, which builds vehicles in South Carolina, have erected plants in areas where labor is inexpensive and local laws make it difficult to establish unions, they have a huge cost advantage over Detroit.Last fall the Big Three renegotiated their contracts with the United Auto Workers union, imposing a two-tier wage structure that is more competitive with foreign automakers. But they won't see most of the benefits until 2010."The reality is that Japanese and European automakers are already in the U.S. in a big way," Gregory said. "They can more than make up the capacity lost by the closure of the Big Three. I'd say they could do it in five years or less."He and others contend that companies such as Toyota would quickly fill the void for supplier giants such as Lear Corp. and Johnson Controls Inc., particularly if the economy recovers enough to boost sales to pre-2008 levels. For laid-off autoworkers willing to relocate, they might even offer employment. Essentially, the theory goes, the net effect on employment would be nil."After a period of adjustment, it would basically be a wash," said the University of Michigan's Grimes.Romain Wacziarg, economics professor at UCLA's Anderson School of Management, takes the premise a big step further. He suggests that building any cars -- be they Toyotas or Chevys -- in the U.S. no longer makes sense because they can be built more efficiently in semi-skilled labor markets such as Mexico.He compares automaking to shipbuilding and steelmaking, which were huge in the U.S. decades ago but ultimately moved overseas, forcing development of new industries or specialized remnants of the departed industries."You have very severe short-term effects on communities," Wacziarg said. "But in the long run, the economy learns to specialize in new activities that have a higher value. Pittsburgh reinvented itself after steel. Detroit may have to do the same."As U.S. bulk steelmaking ceded to specialty steels, so could U.S. automaking focus on cutting-edge vehicles such as hybrids and electric cars."I think carmaking in the U.S. will continue to exist in some form," said Elon Musk, chairman and chief executive of San Carlos-based electric carmaker Tesla Motors. "There's some fundamental restructuring to be done though."For those who work in the auto business, such a transition is unthinkable. "If you're looking at identifying an essential part of the economy, we would insist that this industry still plays a huge role," said Greg Martin, a GM spokesman. "Any plan to stabilize the economy would have to encompass the U.S. auto industry."That's very much on the mind of Rep. Dale Kildee (D-Mich.). He joined seven other members of Michigan's congressional delegation in sending a letter last week to Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke urging the two to "use their broad regulatory authority" to "promote liquidity" for U.S. carmakers."There's hardly a congressional district in the nation that isn't affected by the Big Three," said Kildee, the son of a UAW member who helped pass the $1.5-billion bailout of Chrysler in 1979. He said he'd push Congress to fast-track disbursement of the $25 billion in guaranteed loans and ask for $25 billion more. "It's not just the auto industry we're helping; it's the entire industry of this country."Michigan would be the epicenter of an automaker collapse. The state already has the second-highest unemployment rate in the country, 8.7%, compared with 6.1% nationwide. After years of job losses, much of the workforce has migrated elsewhere: Detroit's population is now barely 900,000, down from 1.8 million in 1950. Recent estimates suggest the state could lose 60,000 more jobs should one of the Big Three fall.In the wake of the federal bailouts of Wall Street and insurer American International Group Inc., experts feel little doubt that some sort of government aid to carmakers will be forthcoming. With GM and Ford spending cash at a rate of $1 billion a month, it remains to be seen whether an infusion of taxpayer dollars will stop the bleeding. Economist Gregory said any bailout might be pouring money down a hole."The damage to the public psyche of losing GM, Ford or Chrysler is incalculable, and the effect on whatever is left of the Rust Belt will be even worse," he said."But the truth is, our economy doesn't depend on cars, not anymore. The only question is how painful the transition will be."Bensinger is a Times staff writer.

The attack on Syria and self defence

The Bush amplified definition of self-defense is simply a self interested definition that supports US aggression. It also removes any credibility that the US still has on the international scene. The same self-interested redefinition of terms has occured in the definition of torture. Experts can always be found to support these redefinitions and they are usually well rewarded for doing so. The second quote is from the NYTimes.
The first quote is from a widely accepted view of what would constitute justified anticipatory self-defence by the famous American Daniel Webster. The Syrian attack as the Pakistan attacks hardly fit the terms of this definition. Neither did the original invasion of Afghanistan let alone Iraq.

The most widely accepted modern standard for anticipatory self-defense was articulated by U.S. Secretary of State Daniel Webster in diplomatic correspondence with his British counterpart over the Caroline incident (often mischaracterized as the Caroline "case") and consisted of two prongs. One was that the need to use force in anticipatory self-defense must first rise to the level of being a necessity, and one that is instant, overwhelming, and leaving no choice of means and no moment for deliberation. The other requirement was that the action taken must be proportionate to the threat and not be excessive.

But in justifying the attack, American officials said the Bush administration was determined to operate under an expansive definition of self-defense that provided a rationale for strikes on militant targets in sovereign nations without those countries’ consent.
Together with a similar American commando raid into Pakistan more than seven weeks ago, the operation on Sunday appeared to reflect an intensifying effort by the Bush administration to find a way during its waning months to attack militants even beyond the borders of Iraq and Afghanistan, where the United States is at war.
Administration officials declined to say whether the emerging application of self-defense could lead to strikes against camps inside Iran that have been used to train Shiite “special groups” that have fought with the American military and Iraqi security forces.

US faces International Condemnation in Wake of Syria Strike.

Interesting that Lebanon should condemn this attack. In spite of being supported strongly by the US the Lebanese government must show some independence or perhaps face civil war. The hostile stance of the US to Syria is causing Russia to move in to strengthen relations.
Notice that there is not any official comment upon the raid at all. There are just reports of anonymous US officials justifying the attack on grounds of self defence and on the basis of claims that are not at all verified. This does not keep them from being dutifully reported by an ''objective'' press. Not a single word of condemnation from European countries or South or North America. Surely Venezuela and Cuba will condemn the attacks at least.

US Faces International Condemnation in Wake of Syria Strike
Posted October 27, 2008
While the White House has declined comment and other US officials defended the strike on a Syrian border town yesterday which killed eight, international condemnation rained down on the strike from a number of sources.
The Syrian government, which already summoned the US Charges d’Affaires to complain about a strike which they labeled as “serious aggression,” had further condemnations and a warning today. Foreign Minister Wallid al-Muallem condemned the strike as an act of “criminal and terrorist aggression” and warned that his government “would defend our territories” in the event of a future attack.
The Lebanese government, which has been on shaky terms with Syria, also harshly condemned the move. Prime Minister Fouad Seniora released a statement condemning the attack as “dangerous” and “unacceptable” and “constitutes a violation of Syrian sovereignty.” Foreign Minister Fawzi Salloukh likewise condemned the raid as a violation of international law.
The Arab League took a similar position, with Secretary General Amr Mussa defending Syria’s “right to defend its land and people” and calling for an investigation into the strike. He also condemned the attack as “a violation of Syrian sovereignty.”
Russia, which had recently negotiated an arms deal with Syria, cautioned against attacks “on the territory of sovereign states under the slogan of the fight against terrorism” and that the attack would have a “sharply negative effect” on the region.
Unnamed US officials said the attack had targeted and killed a “smuggler of foreign fighters into Iraq” and said they didn’t kill any of the women and children found at the attacked site. US officials say the attack is justified under an “expansive definition of self-defense” similar to the argument made by Israel when it attacked a site in Syria last year.

Claims of Syrian Nuclear Facility Falter over Lack of Evidence

So far no analysis has shown any evidence for US claims. No much in the news about this. If we hear anything it will be about Syrian intransigence in not allowing inspectors to visit three or four other sites. Apparently Western intelligence sources have infomed the IAEA that they are also suspect. What a wonderful way to get the IAEA to collect intelligence for free. Syria has denied the requests on security grounds. This sensible position will be spun as if it shows obvious guilt. This is from

Claims of Syrian ‘Nuclear Facility’ Falter Over Lack of Evidence
Posted September 21, 2008
With the IAEA’s next Board of Governors meeting set to begin tomorrow, the probe into Syria’s alleged secret nuclear facility appears to be faltering over lack of evidence. While the analysis of the samples taken from the facility during the IAEA’s June visit to the site are only partially complete, the tests so far have found nothing to back up the US claims about the nature of the target.
Israeli planes attacked the site in September of last year, with the help of the United States. While Israel’s government has remained officially silent about the operation to this day, the Bush Administration told Congress in April that the facility was designed to produce small amounts of plutonium. Dana Perino also said the White House was convinced the facility “was not intended for peaceful purposes”.
But other than a handful of Israeli diplomats claiming to have overheard a Syrian admit the site was a “nuclear facility,” the evidence so far remains elusive. While a still-in-construction facility wouldn’t have had radioactive material yet, the Israeli strike should have strewn a significant amount of graphite around the area if the was truly being built for the alleged purpose.
The only explanation given for the lack of this evidence is a quote from an anonymous diplomat who claimed “the feeling is that the Syrians may have dumped all of it down the hole“. Syria built a new building over the top of the attacked site, which it insists was just an ordinary military building.
IAEA Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei condemned Israel and the US for their “unilateral use of force” and for withholding information on the site until seven months after the attack. Syria agreed to a single visit, but with it yielding no results the IAEA has reportedly asked to visit “three or four other sites“. Syria declined the request for additional visits to other sites, citing security concerns.
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Analysis: Syrian raid suggests new US stance

This is from IHL.

This is not really a new stance. The Bush ultra rogue state doctrine has always been that the US has the right to strike anywhere in world be it territory of friend (Pakistan) or foe(Syria) on the grounds of self-defence or even more vaguely as part of the war against terror. It is so common that the press doesn't even bother to mention that the policy is a clear violation of the UN charter and international law. Notice that they do not do this in countries such as Russia which might not just reply with rhetoric. Nor do they do it in cases where the terrorists are helpful to the US as with MEK in Iraq and they certainly do not help out Turkey with the PKK. The raids can simply be seen as a symbol of US imperial supremacy showing others, especially those that are weak, that the US is the world boss and policeman. Or to put it in the moral crapology of the US itself: The leader of the free and democratic world in the war against terror and the dark forces of evil. The article is correct however in that there seems to be a new emphasis upon the doctrine in actual practice.

I am wondering if Obama will have anything to say about these policies. He certainly did not take the opportunity to condemn this raid. Perhaps Bush and McCain hoped that this would happen. As far as Pakistan attacks are concerned from Obama's own comments he probably thinks that this was a great idea! Whoever wins the presidency there is bipartisan agreement upon continued US military domination of the world and Obama wants to increase the size of the military.

Syria has been trying to mend relationships with the West and even with Israel. Perhaps the US thinks that this is a bad idea. There was even to be a meeting with a US official but this has now been cancelled by Syria. These policies are alienating Pakistan an ally and also Iraq. Iraq worries about the US using Iraq as a jumping off point to attack neighbours such as Iran or Syria. This action will just make that worry more real. Also, Iraq wants good relationships with Syria and this action will not help.

Note the way in which a detailed justification is given by anonymous US officials for the attack showing how valuable it was in the war on Al Qaeda. Of course nothing is verified! Officially nothing is even admitted. People should surely see through this transparent bit of psychological warfare and management of disinformation.

Analysis: Syria raid suggests new US stance
The Associated Press
Monday, October 27, 2008
WASHINGTON: Bold U.S. raids into Pakistan and Syria show the stark choice the Bush administration is putting to both friends and adversaries in its final weeks: Clamp down on militants and terrorists or we'll do it for you.
Raids like the one in Syria on Sunday hold the potential to kill or capture wanted al-Qaida terrorists or other militants, but they also risk killing civilians and angering foreign governments and their citizens.
Selective U.S. military action across the borders of nations friendly and unfriendly reflects increasing willingness to embrace what U.S. commanders consider a last resort: violating the sovereignty of a nation with whom the U.S. is not at war.
It's a demonstration of overt military strength that the U.S. has been reluctant to display in public for fear it would backfire on U.S. forces or supporters within the governments of the nations whose borders were breached.
Now, senior U.S. officials favor judicious use of the newly aggressive tactics, seeing more upsides than down. They reason that whatever diplomatic damage is done will be mitigated when Bush leaves office and a new president is inaugurated.
The raid in Syria also comes about a week before a presidential election that sees John McCain, the candidate of President George W. Bush's Republican Party, lagging behind Democrat Barack Obama. Such a show of strength could boost McCain's standing among some voters.
A new administration could, in fact, help mend fences with Syria, where the government has already said it is looking forward to a better relationship with the next U.S. president, said Anthony Cordesman, a Middle East expert with the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
In Pakistan, however, special operations raids could box in the new American president by inflaming an already outraged public.
"Public opinion is already very strongly against the U.S. and 'anti' any U.S. role or interference," Cordesman said. "It's not clear that you are not building up a broad public resistance that will bind the next administration."
The target of Sunday's raid in Sukkariyeh, Syria, just over the Iraq border from Husaybah was a man known as Abu Ghadiyah, the leader of the most prolific network to move al-Qaida associated foreign fighters into Iraq.
The U.S. operation was precipitated by intelligence that he was planning an imminent attack in Iraq, a senior U.S. official told The Associated Press. U.S. intelligence picked up similar reports last spring. The information — not detailed enough to take action on — was followed by the killings of 11 Iraqi policemen just over the border from Abu Ghadiyah's Syrian compound. He personally led the attack, the official said.
"The trip wire was knowing an attack was imminent, and also being able to pinpoint his location," the official said.
Abu Ghadiyah, the nickname for Badran Turki Hishan Al Mazidih, was among those killed, a U.S. counterterrorism official confirmed Monday. All the officials spoke anonymously to discuss sensitive intelligence about the raid.
The attack was carried out at 4:45 p.m., timed to coincide with the customary afternoon rest period. A ground attack was chosen over a missile strike to reduce the chances of hurting civilians not associated with Abu Ghadiyah's network, the official said.
Syria said troops in four helicopters attacked a building and killed eight people, including four children.
The U.S. official confirmed that women and children were at the house, but he said "they were protected at the objective and left behind." He did not specifically address whether any women and children were among the casualties. He said "several" men were killed and identified them as Abu Ghadiyah's body guards.
The cross-border action from U.S. positions inside Iraq comes at a touchy time in U.S.-Iraqi relations. The two sides are negotiating an agreement to extend the legal basis for American forces in Iraq after a U.N. mandate expires on Dec. 31.
Opponents led by Iran worry that a long-term U.S. military presence in Iraq is an invitation to the Americans to use Iraq as a staging ground for attacks against its neighbors. The Iraqis insist they will not allow that.
The attack comes at time when Syria has been working to improve its image in the world. And periodically, U.S. commanders have noted that Damascus has worked harder to clamp down on the use of its country by terrorists.
Bush secretly approved a separate directive three months ago allowing special operations forces to cross the Afghan border to conduct raids inside Pakistan.
Just one such raid has been carried out, according to a senior Pakistan government official. Helicopter-borne U.S. special forces conducted a raid Sept. 3 inside Pakistan. Islamabad has complained bitterly about the move, which it says killed two dozen people, including civilians, and violated its sovereignty.
The raid capped nearly a year of debate among the CIA, U.S. special forces and commanders in Iraq about how to handle the Syrian tributary of the Iraq foreign fighter problem, according to a former intelligence official and a current U.S. military official who deals with Iraq.
The United States has been asking Syria to hand over, capture or kill Abu Ghadiyah for months or years. The U.S. Treasury Department claims he ran a resupply operation on the Syrian border.
Syria rebuffed the U.S. request, saying it was monitoring Abu Ghadiyah's activities, said two U.S. military officials with direct recent knowledge of U.S. intelligence in western Iraq.
The raid came just days after the commander of U.S. forces in western Iraq said American troops were redoubling efforts to secure the Syrian border, which he called an "uncontrolled" gateway for fighters entering Iraq.
Syria called the raid a "serious aggression," and its foreign ministry summoned the charges d'affaires of the United States and Iraq in protest.
The U.S has become frustrated with the use of Pakistan's northwestern tribal areas as a safe haven for militants over the nearly seven years since the Taliban was rousted from Afghanistan for harboring Osama bin Laden.
U.S. forces, including the CIA, continue to conduct missile attacks inside the border region but is doing so in closer coordination with the Pakistan government, a Pakistani official said. He spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive intelligence matters.
On Monday, suspected U.S. missiles killed 20 people at the house of a Taliban commander near the Afghan border on Monday, the latest volley in a two-month onslaught on militant bases inside Pakistan, officials said.
Missile attacks have killed at least two senior al-Qaida commanders in Pakistan's wild border zone this year, putting some pressure on extremist groups accused of planning attacks in Afghanistan — and perhaps terror strikes in the West.
EDITOR'S NOTE — Pamela Hess has covered national security in Washington since 1993. AP writers Zeina Karam Albert Aji in Damascus, Hussein Malla in Sukkariyeh and Pauline Jelinek in Washington contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2008 The International Herald Tribune

Monday, October 27, 2008

Philippines: Former official to be arrested on return from US.

This is from the Manila Tribune.
It will be interesting to see if Bolante is actually arrested or manages to disappear. His arrest and testimony could be embarassing to the government. He knows a lot about a longstanding scandal having to do with a fertilizer fund. Some urban politicians managed to get paid from this fertilizer fund. I suppose that was to grow Arroyo lots of votes!

Senate to arrest Bolante; gov’t evasive on his arrival
By Michaela P. del Callar
The government until yesterday remained tight-lipped on the arrival of controversial former Agriculture Undersecretary Jocelyn “Joc-joc” Bolante in the country, raising the specter of a repeat of the abduction of Rodolfo “Jun” Lozada, a key Senate witness in the anomalous $320-million National Broadband Network (NBN) deal, upon his arrival from Hong Kong where he went to evade a Senate inquiry.
Lozada eventually revealed all that he knew about the controversial deal in the Senate inquiry and said that he was snatched by state agents from the airport.
Like Lozada, Bolante will likely be served a warrant of arrest from the Senate upon his arrival in Manila tomorrow because of his involvement in the P728-million fertilizer fund scam, Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel Jr said.
He added the Senate sergeant-at-arms can implement the arrest order against Bolante on the basis of an arrest warrant issued by the Senate.
Pimentel also favors the re-opening of the investigation into the fertilizer fund scam if Bolante arrives in Manila.
The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) was tight-lipped on details of
Bolante’s impending deportation of Bolante who was accused of diverting million of pesos supposedly for the purchase of fertilizers to the campaign fund of President Arroyo in 2004.
Foreign Affairs officials declined to give interviews and comments when asked about details and preparations being made by the government for Bolante’s on Tuesday.
DFA officials said they have not received an official report from the Philippine Consulate General in Chicago, Illinois on the deportation proceedings. The consulate in Chicago has jurisdiction on the case of Bolante, who is detained at the Kenosha county jail in the state of Wisconsin.
They said, however, the Philippine government will continue to provide assistance to Bolante until he is safely returned to Manila.
“We don’t have details of his arrival nor can we confirm that he really is coming back this week. However, the DFA, through its consulate in Chicago will provide him with whatever assistance that he needs and will ensure that his rights are protected because he is a Filipino citizen,” one official said.
DFA sources said Bolante will be escorted by US Marshals on his flight back to the Philippines.
The Tribune earlier reported that Bolante is arriving at 11 p.m. on Tuesday via Northwest Airlines Flight 71.
Bolante, who was arrested on July 7, 2006 in Los Angeles, California, was accused of diverting P728-million fertilizer funds of the Department of Agriculture to the campaign kitty of President Arroyo for her 2004 presidential bid.
In Aug. 27, the US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit in Chicago denied the former Deaprtment of Agriculture official’s petition for review of his asylum claim.
The court ruled that Bolante “cannot meet his burden of proof on his asylum claim” and that his “fear of persecution is objectively unreasonable” after failing to provide specific information or details about it.
With Bolante’s deportation, the Senate is expected to revive its investigation on the fertilizer fund scandal involving the President, who is facing another impeachment complaint at the House of Representatives.
The impeachment charges were filed by opposition lawmakers and were recently endorsed by former staunch ally and ex-House speaker Jose De Venecia Jr. Although lacking in numbers in the administration-controlled Lower House, De Venecia’s support is expected to give voice to the complaint, which has been quashed thrice in the past.
Pimentel added if Sen. Edgardo Angara, chairman of the committee on agriculture and food, does not want to reopen the case, the Senate Blue Ribbon committee should investigate it motu proprio.
He added the Senate blue ribbon committee can assume jurisdiction of the case from the committee on agriculture which had conducted an exhausted probe of the anomaly under the chairmanship of former Senator Ramon Magsaysay Jr.
Pimentel noted the Office of the Ombudsman has not resolved the graft charges against Bolante.
Due to the failure of the Ombudsman to decide on the case, there is still no criminal case against Bolante that can serve as basis for his arrest by law enforcement agencies.
He added that some senators have urged the Department of Justice to issue a hold departure order against Bolante to prevent him from leaving the country again and evade investigation and prosecution.
Malacañang insisted that the government has not prepared any special arrangement for Bolante’s arrival.
Bolante fled to the United States two years ago to evade a Senate inquiry on the fertilizer fund scam.
“Why the need for special preparations? The government does not make such plans on the return to the country of an ordinary citizen,” Deputy Presidential spokesman Anthony Golez said on radio.
Golez said Bolante’s possible return is being hyped up by critics of Mrs. Arroyo.
Golez had said if parties are really after justice, then a case should be filed against Bolante in court to get to the bottom of the fertilizer fund controversy.
“As enshrined in the Constitution, if you want to know the truth and if you want to bring justice, then it has to be brought in the right courts, in the right forum,” he said.

US threatens to halt services if Iraq rejects troop deal.

This is from
This is a form of blackmail, no doubt about it. Sometimes the US simply ignores the political effects its actions cause. There are elections coming up in Iraq. Pro US groups will be left completely out in the cold except for the Kurds and even they may want to keep their distance.
If the Iraqi government were to sign SOFA without going through parliament as it could it would lose all credibility but this seems the only way that the agreement could be finalised without amendments. Does the US really want that?

US Threatens to Halt Services if Iraq Rejects Troop Deal
Posted October 26, 2008

As the United States struggles to get Iraqi officials to change their position on the all-but-dead Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) top US commander General Ray Odierno has issued a three-page letter to high ranking Iraqi officials. The letter includes a list of major services which the United States would halt if the Iraqi government does not approve the SOFA by the end of the year.

In addition to military functions, which would have no legal basis without an extension to the United Nations mandate, the letter threatens to cease all economic aid and aid to the Iraqi educational system. The letter includes an exhaustive list of “tens” of services which would be severed on January 1.

The move is “shocking” according to Iraqi Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi, whose Iraqi Islamic Party severed ties with the United States yesterday over the killing of a senior party member in a raid. Hashemi said many in the Iraqi government view the letter as a form of political “blackmail.”

As of this weekend, the SOFA is reported to be “dead in the water,” with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki having said he will not submit the agreement to parliament for consideration and an informal poll suggesting parliament would reject it by a wide margin at any rate. Other top US officials have issued warnings to the Iraqi government about the ramifications of rejecting the current draft of the deal, with Secretary of Defense Robert Gates saying the US was reluctant to consider further amendments to the deal.

It is unclear which portions of the current SOFA draft are unacceptable to the Iraqi government, but they are seeking several amendments. The United States has repeatedly blamed Iran for the delay, accusing them of bribing Iraqi officials. The Iraqi government has denied the accusations.

What if ..?

What if the Iranians decided in self-defence to attack Ashraf city the home of an anti-Iranian terrorist group in Iraq. Ashraf city is protected by the Americans even though those same Americans have the terrorist group on their terrorist list! Boggles the mind? Usually of course terrorists who support the US are not called terrorists at all. But these terrorists are not pure US supporters. They are Marxists and socialists who fought against the Shah and who supported Saddam Hussein at times. But then so did the US. Anyway what would happen if the Iranians who rightly regard these terrorists as a threat to them attacked Asraf city in the name of self defence? Well of course the Iranian attackers would be shot down if they used air transport and the US would no doubt do more than send a stiff diplomatic note to Tehran!
The MEK or PMOI are worried that if jurisdiction of Ashraf city is given to the Iraqi authorities they will lose their protection. The Iraqi govt. does not look as kindly upon a terrorist group that helped Saddam Hussein and threatens their neighbour Iran as does the US. The US has found the PMOI useful as an intelligence gatherer and a pain in the neck to Iran.

Here are some relevant articles: from Unbossed.

For a long time Iraqis have been all too aware that the Bush administration sponsors a powerful group of Sunni terrorists in their midst, the MEK (or MOK), who are on the US State Department's list of terrorist organizations. Before the US invasion, these Marxist Iranian exiles had been sponsored by Saddam Hussein. But because the MEK enjoys American support, the Iraqi government has been unable to drive them out of the country

And this from the PMOI website:

Iraqi Prominent figure asks UN secretary general to guarantee protection of Ashraf City
In a letter to UN Secretary General, Ali Al-Qaisi, chairman of the Association of War Victims and member of Non-Governmental Organization’s Federation in the Islamic World, stressed on the necessity of guaranteeing Ashraf City protection.This letter partly reads: 'Camp Ashraf is the residence of more- than 3500 members of the PMOI, democratic opposition of the Iranian terrorist regime; in order to prevent the threats that have engulfed them, we ask you to intervene in order to provide their security and rights based on the international law.“On July 2, 2004, the US Government recognized the status of PMOI members in Camp Ashraf as 'protected persons' under the Geneva Convention and signed an agreement with each individual to assume protection of Ashraf until their final disposition is determined.”He added in his letter, “We want that the U. S. forces continue to protect the Ashraf residents. Under current conditions, transferring protection of Ashraf residents is nothing but welcoming a human catastrophe and violation of international conventions and covenants.”

The world's biggest and best armed Rogue State is at it again.

The everyday violation of international law by the U.S. is so normal now that commentary in the press does not even bring up the issue of these being violations. Of course if it were brought up nonsense would be brought up about the acts being self-defence. Here is a sampling of what is going on:

From Of course no US official so far has given an official version just anonymous stuff that sounds like it might as well be an official version. The second article shows the Pakistani prime minister's reaction to drone attacks. It is likely that relations with Pakistan will go from bad to worse. This is happening at a time when Pakistan is taking serious casualties from its own war on terror but the US could care less about that.

Syria Condemns US Attack as “Serious Aggression”
Posted October 26, 2008
An unnamed US military official has confirmed the attack on the Syrian border town of al-Sukkariya earlier this evening, which killed at least eight and wounded 14 others. He said the attack targeted “elements of a robust foreign fighter logistics network” and that the US had decided to take matters “into our own hands.” US Marines Major General John Kelly had recently expressed discontent with Syria’s slow progress on constructing a physical barrier at the border, though as recently as Thursday he described security incidents in the border province as so uncommon as to be “almost meaningless,” making the timing of the attack puzzling.
Syria summoned the Charges d’Affaires of both the United States and Iraq to protest the attack, which it condemned as “serious aggression.” In a statement released through their state media they called on the Iraqi government to “assume its responsibilities and make an immediate investigation into the dangerous violation and prevent using the Iraqi lands from launching aggression on Syria.”
Iraqi officials have so far not publicly commented on the strike, but have consistently said that they would not allow the US to use their territory for attacks on neighboring countries. None of the reports suggest that Iraqi forces played any role in the raid, which may serve to further harm relations between the US and Iraq, already deteriorating over US warnings about the Status of Forces Agreement.
The attack may also have ramifications from US-ally Israel’s ongoing indirect peace talks with Syria. Israeli defense officials tried to distance themselves from the strike, saying it was in no way connected to Israel.

This article is also from It would seem that the US wants to ensure that there is no peace deal with militants in the Tribal zone. In fact the US is pressing for enlisting tribespeople opposed to the militants to fight militancy. Whether this will work is moot. Perhaps in some areas but not in others. Certainly it will spill more Pakistani blood and provide more business for US arms suppliers.

Pakistan PM Slams US After Latest Drone Strike Kills 20
Posted October 26, 2008
Pakistani Prime Minister Yousef Raza Gilani publicly condemned the “intolerable” series of unilateral US drone strikes launched in North and South Waziristan in the past two months at a press conference today. He said the strike were an attack on Pakistan’s national sovereignty and were weakening the nation’s anti-terror efforts. He added that he had raised the issue at the latest Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) Summit and they supported the Pakistani position.
The most recent strike came earlier today, when a US drone attacked a village in South Waziristan Agency, killing at least 20 people. The strike reportedly hit two houses in an area of South Waziristan known to be a stronghold of Pakistani Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud.
This is the second reported US drone strike in the past few days, and the 12th in the past 10 weeks, with a strike on Thursday morning on a North Waziristan Agency religious school killing 10. The previous attack was publicly condemned by several Pakistani Senators as an attack on the sovereignty of Pakistan’s parliament, which had recently passed a 14-point resolution criticizing the strikes and urging Pakistan to “de-link” its security policy from the US war on terror.

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