Saturday, October 31, 2009

Uri Avnery: A critical view of Israeli policy

Avnery is an Israeli who is always very critical of Israeli Palestinian policy. He takes a very jaundiced view of attempts to blame the Goldstone report for many of their troubles. As Avnery points out the Israelis have given nothing to Abbas in return for his more moderate approach to Israel than that of Hamas. So counterproductive is the policy that Avenery actually seems to think Israel would be happier if they had only Hamas to deal with since no one would press them to make peace with Hamas as Obama is pressing them to make peace through Abbas.

The Slippery Slope

By Uri Avnery

October 29, 2009 "Outlook India" -- IT IS, of course, all the fault of Judge Richard Goldstone. He is to blame for it, as he is to blame for all the other ills that are befalling us now.

He is to blame for the trouble we are having at the UN, both in New York and in Geneva. For the conspiracy to bring our political and military leaders to trial in The Hague. For the ongoing crisis between us and Turkey. For the many initiatives throughout the world to organize a boycott of Israel.

Now he is to blame also for the existential danger facing Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen).

WHEN THE Goldstone report was submitted to the UN Human Rights Council, our government decided to do all it could to prevent even a debate about it.

The debate was, of course, demanded by the Palestinians. When the report was published, the Palestinian representative in Geneva did the obvious: he demanded that the report be debated with a view to submitting it to the Security Council, which in turn would submit it to the international court in The Hague.

What came next could have been foreseen. The Israeli government exerted heavy pressure on the US. The US exerted heavy pressure on Mahmoud Abbas. Abbas gave in and instructed his representative in Geneva to withdraw his request for a debate.

In any other matter, this would have passed quietly. But since the subject was the Gaza War, Palestinian public opinion exploded. Throughout the war, every Palestinian in the West Bank saw on Aljazeera and the other Arab networks every day, every hour, the atrocities of the war, the mangled bodies of women and children, the destroyed schools and mosques, the white phosphorus bombs.

For the Hamas leaders, Abbas’ order to withdraw the request was a gift from Allah. They fell over Abbas with unabated fury. “Traitor”, “Collaborator”, “Subcontractor of the Zionist murderers” were the more moderate epithets. They found an echo with many Palestinians who are not necessarily Hamas supporters.

Abbas’ legal standing is shaky. According to one version, his term of office expired long ago. According to another, it will expire in a few months. Whatever the case may be, he will be compelled to hold elections soon. In this situation, he cannot remain indifferent to an upsurge of public opinion against him. So he drew the logical conclusion: he instructed his Geneva representative to renew his request for a debate on the Goldstone report. This ended yesterday with a resolution to refer the report to the UN General Assembly.

Our frustrated government reacted angrily. The orchestrated media declared Abbas an “ungrateful” person, even a hypocrite. After all, didn’t he urge the Israelis during the Gaza War to intensify their attacks on the Gaza population, in order to topple Hamas? This accusation poured oil on the flames. For Palestinians, it meant that Abbas was not satisfied with the atrocities perpetrated by the Israelis and demanded more. It is hard to imagine a more damaging allegation.

As if this was not enough, the Israeli media reported that Jerusalem had delivered an “ultimatum” to the Palestinian Authority: if the request for a debate were not withdrawn, Israel would not authorize the frequency allocation for a second Palestinian cellular telephone company, “al-Wataniya”, whose partners, it was gleefully reported, include Abbas’ sons. Such a frequency allocation is worth hundreds of millions of dollars. Even in such a matter, the Palestinians are totally dependent on the Israeli occupation authorities.

THE WHOLE affair starkly illuminates the impossible situation in which the Palestinian Authority finds itself. They are between hammer and anvil – indeed, between several hammers and an anvil.

One hammer is Israeli. The Palestinian Authority is completely dependent on the occupation masters. As the telephone affair illustrates, nothing can move in the West Bank without Israeli approval.

Binyamin Netanyahu speaks about “economic peace” as a substitute for political peace. Economic benefits instead of national independence. This, by the way, shows how far removed he is from the teachings of his idol, Ze’ev (Vladimir) Jabotinsky, who 85 years ago made fun of the Zionist leaders for entertaining the illusion that the Palestinian people could be bought off. No people, he said, sells itself for economic advantages.

The Palestinian Authority’s Prime Minister, Salam Fayad, has fallen into this trap. He points to the economic progress that has been made, according to him, in the West Bank. Several road blocks were removed. An imposing shopping mall was opened in Nablus. Within two years, he said, the Palestinians will be able to establish a Palestinian state. He is ignoring the fact that the Israeli army, the de facto sovereign in the occupied territories, can put an end to all these efforts at a moment’s notice. The road blocks can be put back and doubled, the towns put under curfew, the mall demolished. Indeed, every new mall in the West Bank increases the dependency on the goodwill of occupation authorities.

Another hammer is American. The Palestinian Authority subsists on money donated by the US and its European sidekicks. The security forces of the Palestinian Authority are being trained by the American general, Keith Dayton. Washington treats Mahmoud Abbas as it treats the Afghan President Hamid Karzai and the Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki. He is “our son of a bitch”. He exists as long as we want him to, he disappears if we let go.

In a clash between Washington and Jerusalem, Ramallah would benefit. But as the Goldstone episode shows, the US and Israel are, for the time being, fully coordinated. Abbas has no choice but to dance to the tune of the Israeli flute.

The anvil is Palestinian. At the moment, the Palestinian public is passive. It is tired, worn down, frustrated, in despair. But the Goldstone affair shows that below the surface, a volcano is brewing.

Hamas spokesmen liken Abbas to Marshal Petain, the French hero of World War I, who was the idol of the people and the army. In World War II, when the German army destroyed the French military in a Blitzkrieg that stunned the world, the political establishment in Paris disintegrated. In its hour of misery, the people called on the aged marshal, who capitulated to the Germans in order to save what could be saved. He was, without doubt, a French patriot.

Hitler respected the marshal, and initially treated him well. For a year or so, he even considered taking him on as an ally, in preference to Mussolini. A large part of France remained “unoccupied”, as a kind of German protectorate, and there the Vichy regime (after the name of its capital) was installed. But soon matters deteriorated and Petain became a full-fledged collaborator with the Nazis, even taking part in the annihilation of the Jews. “Vichy” became a synonym for treason, and after the war Petain was condemned to death. In consideration of his glorious past, his sentence was commuted to life in prison.

I don’t think that this is a fair comparison. Ramallah is not Vichy. Khaled Mashaal in Damascus is not de Gaulle in London. But Vichy serves as a warning, and the Palestinian Authority is on a slippery slope. A regime under occupation is always in danger of becoming a collaborator. The verbal attacks of Hamas only increase the misery of Abbas and his allies.

ABBAS’ INITIAL order to withdraw the request for a debate on the Goldstone report also obstructed the efforts to overcome the split among the Palestinian factions.

The Egyptians are spreading news about a forthcoming internal Palestinian agreement and leaking its contents. It is hard to believe that anything will come of it. Hamas is supposed to relinquish its sole rule of the Gaza Strip, and it is hard to believe that they will do so. Abbas is supposed to confront Hamas in free elections – and this, too, is hard to imagine. It is even harder to believe that the Americans would risk allowing such elections. They have already announced that they are doing their best to prevent the reconciliation.

The Israeli media gleefully report that the hatred between Fatah and Hamas is stronger than their hatred towards the Israelis. That is not a unique phenomenon. When we were fighting against the British regime in Palestine, David Ben-Gurion gave orders for Irgun fighters to be turned over to the British police, and only the almost inhuman restraint of Menachem Begin prevented a fratricidal war. The Irish freedom fighters killed each other with abandon when the British offered a compromise. Such things have happened in many places.

If the Palestinians will have to choose, they are not to be envied. On the one side, Hamas is seen as an uncorrupt movement, true to the fight against the Israeli occupation. But the fundamentalist religious restrictions that they are now imposing on the Gazans, especially on the women, are abhorrent to many Palestinians. On the other side, while the Palestinian Authority is seen by many as corrupt and collaborationist, it is also seen as the sole body that can attract American support for the Palestinian cause.

Today Hamas does not offer any real alternative in practice, since they, too, are observing a cease-fire with Israel. Yet the hope that Abbas could bring peace is fading.

HOW DOES our government treat this situation?

Innocents may say: Israel is interested in the elimination of the extremist Hamas and the strengthening of the moderate Abbas, who is working for peace with Israel. That is self-evident.

If so, why is the Israeli government preventing Abbas from attaining any political achievement, even a symbolic one? Why did Ariel Sharon call him a “plucked chicken”? Why do the Israeli media repeat every day that Abbas is “too weak to make peace”?

What is stopping Netanyahu from freeing a thousand Palestinian prisoners as a gesture for Abbas, while he is negotiating with Hamas about the release of a thousand prisoners in return for the captured soldier Gilad Shalit? Why does he present Abbas with conditions whose acceptance would mean political suicide? (For example: to recognize Israel as “the state of the Jewish nation”.) Why is the enlargement of the settlements in East Jerusalem and the West Bank proceeding at a frantic pace, under the nose of Abbas?

The political and military leadership of Israel is not composed of stupid people. Far from it. When they do things whose consequences can clearly be foreseen, one has to assume that it is these results that they want, even when they maintain the opposite. When so many of the government’s actions reinforce Hamas and weaken Abbas, isn’t that why they are doing it?

And indeed: Abbas is dangerous to the present Israeli policy. He enjoys the support of President Obama, who is pressuring Israel to start negotiations for “two states for two peoples”, which entails withdrawal from the West Bank and the dismantling of most settlements. That means an end to 120 years of Zionist expansion and a fundamental change in the very essence of Israel itself.

Hamas in power over all the Palestinian people would deflect these “dangers”. No American pressure for a compromise. No need for negotiations. No need for ”restraint” of settlement activity or for a compromise over Jerusalem. The occupation could go on undisturbed.

This may lead to disaster in the future. But who cares about the future?

Iraq oil pipeline to Turkey sabotaged...

This shows that insurgents are still active and able to cause economic damage although it seems that the flow will be stopped only for a few days. There is still no oil law in Iraq as a whole but Kurdistan has its own oil law and has signed a number of agreements that are not recognised by the federal government.

Iraq oil pipeline to Turkey sabotaged-engineer
Wed Oct 28, 2009 8:08am EDT

KIRKUK, Iraq, Oct 28 (Reuters) - The Kirkuk pipeline that takes crude from northern Iraq to the Turkish port of Ceyhan was damaged on Monday morning by an explosion caused by "sabotage action," an engineer with Iraq's North Oil Company said.

Iraq is trying to rebuild its oil infrastructure after years of war, sanctions and strife, and is working on deals with oil majors that would substantially boost output in a nation with the world's third largest crude reserves.

The engineer, who asked not to be identified, said the blast happened near Mosul, a volatile city still suffering frequent attacks by insurgents 390 km (240 miles) north of Baghdad.

In September, exports from Iraq's Kirkuk fields through the northern pipeline to Ceyhan were at 490,000 barrels per day, according to Iraqi officials.

Trading sources in London said that flows might resume as early as later on Wednesday. "It stopped pumping two days ago," said one of the sources. "It might start again this afternoon." (Reporting by Mustafa Mahmoud; Writing by Ahmed Rasheed; Editing by Michael Christie)

© Thomson Reuters 2009 All rights reserved

Thursday, October 29, 2009

The U.S. trains Georgian troops to serve in Afghanistan

This certainly does not get front page coverage in US news media! This is typical of the US trying to spread the pain of Afghanistan around. No doubt the Georgian troops are funded by the US government rather than the Georgian govt. The US also provides the Georgian army with arms and other equipment. Georgia was also a member of the coalition of the billing in Iraq but its 2000 troops had to be rushed back to Georgia during the conflict with Russia. The US is trying to have Georgia become part of NATO. This type of action on Russia's doorstep is bound to create friction with Russia.

This is from thenews.

US military trains Georgian troops for Afghanistan mission

Tuesday, October 27, 2009
TBILISI: Georgian forces on Monday launched a joint training exercise with the US military ahead of the deployment of hundreds of Georgian troops next spring in Afghanistan, the defence ministry said. US military cooperation with pro-Western Georgia has strained ties between the United States and Russia, which last year fought a five-day war with Georgia.

“The exercises are aimed at training Georgian servicemen to be deployed within the framework of the ISAF (International Security Assistance Force),” Georgian defence ministry spokeswoman Salome Makharadze told AFP.

“The exercises will last for two weeks and involve a total of 840 servicemen, 420 Georgians and the same number of Americans,” she added. She said the 420 Georgian troops will leave for Afghanistan next spring and serve under US command.

A company of Georgian servicemen is also to be sent to Afghanistan next month to serve under French command, Makharadze said. She could not specify how many Georgian troops would take part, but a company typically consists of 100-200 servicemen.

The US embassy said in a statement that the exercise, called Immediate Response, “is specifically designed to enhance Georgia’s ability to conduct joint counter-insurgency operations in Afghanistan together with US forces.”

Moscow has accused Washington of meddling in the region and of rearming Georgia. More than 100,000 foreign troops, most of them Americans, are stationed in Afghanistan, fighting an increasingly bloody insurgency being waged by the Taliban and its allies. About 2,000 Georgian troops were deployed with US forces in Iraq from August 2003 but were rushed back to Georgia in August last year for the war with Russia over the breakaway region of South Ossetia.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Pfaff: Arrogant US Misses the Message from Pakistan's People.

It is not really a question of being arrogant it is that the US is quite used to bribing people in order to achieve their aims. The Pakistani armed forces are dependent for weapons and even for funding on the US government. That being the case the US government feels it should be able to call the tune. Of course a lot of this aid feed corrupt officials in the military but if anything there is even more corruption in the civilian govt. However, there is less US complaint about that since Zardari does what he is told by Washington for the most part. Pfaff is correct of course that this type of action feeds anti-Americanism and will cause strong opposition to the Zardari govt. Pfaff might have noted that the US is also increasing drone attacks often with collateral damage that will help militants recruit more suicide bombers. This is from

Arrogant US Misses the Message From Pakistan’s People

by William Pfaff, October 28, 2009

There has always been in American foreign policy circles a virus called arrogance, caused by the hereditary assumption that Americans know better than others. Surprisingly, this does not always prove the case, but the condition seems highly resistant to treatment, even by experience.

There seems a high probability that the disease has struck Obama administration policy circles dealing with Pakistan. (We will leave aside the case of American relations with Afghanistan.) This administration came to office with a conviction that the Afghanistan problem is a problem because it actually is a Pakistan problem, Pakistan being a large country possessing nuclear weapons and a great many Pashtuns, who are the people from whom Taliban are recruited.

Afghanistan is a country with one-sixth Pakistan’s population, with a great many Pashtuns, too, harboring only a 100 or so members of al-Qaeda (if we are to believe the American national security adviser, Gen. James Jones), whereas popular opinion in Washington is that Pakistan is rife with them, and the country is on its way to becoming a "breeding ground" for terrorists who wish to invade the West, blow it up with nuclear weapons obtained from Pakistani stocks, and establish a new global terrorist caliphate amidst the ruins.

It is unknown whether Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, visiting Pakistan this week, shares so alarmed a view, but she will hear a lot about the damage American pressures are doing to Pakistan and how fearful the Pakistani populace is, not of the Taliban and al-Qaeda, but of the United States.

According to a New York Times article this week, from Jane Perlez in Islamabad, the new fighting there against Islamists "has pleased the Americans, but it left large parts of Pakistan under siege, as militants once sequestered in the country’s tribal areas take their war to Pakistan’s cities. Many Pakistanis blame the United States for the country’s rising instability."

A recent and serious poll found that 11 percent of the Pakistani respondents said that al-Qaeda is the greatest threat to Pakistan today, 18 percent said India, and 59 percent said the United States. This was in August, before the most recent offensives of the Pakistani army against the Islamists in Waziristan and the Swat Valley, and the retaliatory city bombings that subsequently have taken place.

A vocal part of the Pakistani population clearly doesn’t want the United States in their country, and it doesn’t even want the aid the United States is sending. A notorious fact in the past has been that civilian and popular opposition to the U.S. was based on the assumption that American aid was meant to keep military governments in place and buy military cooperation with American policy.

This time, it’s the army that doesn’t want the $7.5 billion aid package that the Obama administration has put together; the aid is denounced as meant to interfere in the country’s internal affairs – as indeed it is.

The civilian government of President Asif Ali Zardari, generally thought put in place by Washington, "is seen as slavishly pro-American [as well] as unable to cope" with the current situation (I am again quoting Jane Perlez).

The country’s interior minister was hit with stones by students when he visited the International Islamic University last week, and in retaliation the government closed all the schools and universities in Punjab, the most populous province (supposed to reopen Monday, Oct. 26), "a move that affected Pakistani families like never before."

To judge from the public statements of Obama counselors, Pakistan is seen as the great danger in the region, with erratic politics and nuclear weapons – and an active Islamist revolt thereby having the potential to create (according to Obama’s adviser Bruce Riedel) "the most serious threat to the United States since the end of the Cold War."

This would seem why the U.S. wants a government under its thumb to compel the army to fight the Islamists on their home territory even if this alienates the army and sows hatred of America. Is it not possible to allow Pakistan, which has a solid civil service and an excellent army, to act in defense of its own security rather than let the U.S. impose its own ideas?

Is it not imaginable that they know better than the Americans? Would Americans appreciate a Pakistani army installed in Washington, instructing the United States in how to conduct its own foreign policy in ways that suit Pakistan’s

US sending envoys to try to end crisis in Honduras

There seem to be splits within the government on Honduras but even those opposed to the coup have been rather half-hearted about cracking down on the regime. They have cut off some aid and cancelled some visas but refrained from further pressure. Indeed, they have yet to declare the coup a military coup. The sending of envoys may be another fruitless efforst as Micheletti has spurned every effort at negotiations from the very beginning and in effect insulted the OAS and thumbed its nose at the US. Unless the pressure within Honduras for Micheletti to compromise is stronger than it has been so far nothing much will happen. This has been surprising to me all along since if Zelaya did come back it would be with reduced powers and for only a short period and there would be an amnesty for coup leaders. In a short time things would be back to normal with the elite in firm control.

U.S. Sending Envoys to Try to End Crisis in Honduras
Published: October 26, 2009
WASHINGTON — Senior Obama administration officials are scheduled to travel to Honduras this week in an effort to resolve a political crisis that began nearly four months ago when soldiers detained President Manuel Zelaya and forced him into exile.

President Manuel Zelaya has been holed up in the Brazilian Embassy in Tegucigalpa.
This will be the first time since the coup that the Obama administration has taken a leading role in pressuring the leaders of the de facto government to restore democratic order in Honduras. The stepped-up pressure comes after months of apparently fruitless talks about whether Mr. Zelaya will be returned to power.

The new effort began on Friday, officials said, when Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton made calls to both Mr. Zelaya and the head of the de facto government, Roberto Micheletti.

In those calls, officials said, Mrs. Clinton told the two leaders that there was “increasing frustration” in the United States and Latin America over the deteriorating situation in Honduras, the hemisphere’s third-poorest country. She reserved her toughest comments for Mr. Micheletti, officials said, because the United States believes he has been “the most difficult.”

“During the call, he spent a lot of time talking about the past,” a State Department official said. “She wanted to talk about the future.”

Among other things, Mr. Micheletti has refused to accept any political deal that would allow Mr. Zelaya to return to power. He has demanded that the international community declare Mr. Zelaya’s ouster a legal transition of power. And, with the help of lobbyists in Washington, he has tried to pressure the United States to agree to recognize the outcome of presidential elections scheduled for next month.

Most Latin American countries have said that they would not recognize the elections unless Mr. Zelaya, who is holed up in the Brazilian Embassy in Tegucigalpa, is first restored to power. The United States has threatened to do the same.

A senior administration official said Mrs. Clinton spoke to Mr. Micheletti on Friday for more than half an hour.

“The purpose was to remind him there were two pathways to the elections,” the official said, “one where Honduras goes by itself and the other where it goes with broad support from the international community.”

The coup in Honduras has threatened to become a sore point between the Obama administration and the rest of Latin America, where an increasing number of leaders have accused the United States of failing to put sufficient pressure on the de facto government to force it to compromise and stop its repression of journalists, human rights activists and pro-Zelaya demonstrators.

The issue has also created political headaches for President Obama in Congress, where a few Republicans have held up key State Department appointments as a way of pressuring the administration to reverse its condemnation of the coup. The Republican group, led by Senator Jim DeMint of South Carolina, has said Mr. Zelaya’s opponents had no choice but to oust him because he had tried to illegally extend his time in power.

Meanwhile, Senator John Kerry, chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, has called on the administration to stand firm in condemning the coup. Frederick Jones, a spokesman for Mr. Kerry, said Monday, “It should be perfectly clear to Mr. Micheletti that the coup, and his martial provisions to shut down media outlets, harass and arrest politicians, and influence the elections are unacceptable, and will not succeed.”

If smoking tobacco is so bad then outlaw it!

This creeping criminalisation of smoking is indefensible. If smoking is as bad as it is claimed for people why not just outlaw it entirely? The reason is clear. The same politicians who climb on the moralistic bandwagon to limit smoking want to collect high taxes from smokers at one and the same time. The point is that sin is profitable both for the tobacco companies and also helps fill government coffers which are very much depleted these days.

All Smoking on patios may be banned
New anti-tobacco bill expected later this fall
By James Wood, The StarPhoenixOctober 27, 2009 8:47 AM
The provincial government is contemplating a smoking ban on restaurant and bar patios and in vehicles carrying minors.

New anti-tobacco legislation, expected to be introduced later this fall, would also set new limits on how close people smoking can be to public buildings and curtail tobacco sales in pharmacies.

The Saskatchewan Party government promised new anti-tobacco measures in the throne speech that started the legislative session last week.

"Allowing pharmacies, especially the big-box store pharmacies, to be selling tobacco products, it's a little counterintuitive to be passing out (smoking) cessation . . . medicine, for example, as well as selling tobacco at the same time," Health Minister Don McMorris said Monday. He noted some provinces have banned stores with pharmacies from selling cigarettes or have required groceries and big-box retailers to keep tobacco products separated from the pharmacy in an area with a distinct entrance.

McMorris said details of the province's legislation still need to be worked out but Saskatchewan must take steps to deal with smoking rates that are among the highest in Canada.

"All provinces are looking at the whole piece of trying to drive down the use of tobacco, denormalize it and, more importantly, protect the people around a smoker from second-hand smoke," he told reporters at the legislature.

Under the NDP, the provincial government instituted a provincewide smoking ban in enclosed public places at the start of 2005. Outdoor patios in bars and restaurants were exempt, although some communities, such as Saskatoon, instituted local restrictions on smoking on decks.

A number of jurisdictions, including Ontario, British Columbia, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and the Yukon, have already implemented bans on smoking in vehicles carrying minors, with the cut-off point ranging from 16 to 19 years of age.

"Children, in particular, are especially susceptible to the poison in second-hand smoke, particularly in an enclosed confined space like a car," said Donna Pasiechnik, tobacco control co-ordinator of the Canadian Cancer Society, Saskatchewan division.

In response to concerns about infringing on drivers' rights, Pasiechnik notes cars are already regulated spaces, pointing to seatbelt laws, mandatory children's seats and drunk-driving restrictions.

As well, the Sask. Party government intends to introduce legislation this session banning hand-held cellphone use while driving, she noted.

As for restaurant and bar patios, Paul Van Loon, an educator with the Lung Association in Saskatchewan, said smoking should not be allowed in spaces where people are gathered together.

"Usually in a patio situation you're clumped quite closely together and frequently there's not actually good wind flow because there can be partial roofing and that kind of stuff around there. And frequently the servers are very close, so it's a concern for the people working there," he said.

Van Loon said another benefit of a provincewide ban on smoking on patios is that it would level the playing field between restaurants that are able to have decks and those that can't, and it would mean the same law applies in all communities.

But Tom Mullin, president of the Saskatchewan Hotel and Hospitality Association, said the move will be a blow to rural hoteliers who were hard-hit by the smoking ban four years ago.

Many businesses sunk a considerable investment into building patios precisely because of the smoking law, he said.

However, the association won't be "duking it out" with the government this time because public opinion is likely on its side, said Mullin. Instead, the hospitality industry will press for a better deal with the province on liquor sales.

Ray Joubert, registrar of the Saskatchewan College of Pharmacists, said pharmacists would welcome a move to ban tobacco sales from pharmacies, noting many already don't sell cigarettes.

"Generally, it's a product that's not compatible with good health and pharmacies are places where one goes for good health, health care," said Joubert, adding such legislation would level the playing field among small players and large retailers.

While health groups were applauding the government's intentions, they also said more needs to be done.

Van Loon said the measures discussed won't have a substantial impact on smoking rates in and of themselves and the province needs to put more money into helping smokers quit.

The provincial government puts $350,000 into anti-smoking initiatives, which doesn't include money from the health region budgets.

Pasiechnik said the government should look at increasing its tobacco tax, which hasn't gone up since 2006, as "one of the most effective ways to stop kids from starting and persuading smokers to quit."

McMorris said that step will be considered as part of next spring's provincial budget.

© Copyright (c) The StarPhoenix

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

AFRICOM and U.S. Global Military Agenda

This article gives a detailed account of the U.S. agenda in Africa and how it is involved in so many countries there. The program is so large that it is not surprising that a separate AFRICOM command has been set up to co-ordinate activities. All of this helps protect US investment and to project its power throughout Africa where the US is in competition with other countries such as China. This military empire is hugely expensive and a drain on scarce US resources when the US debt is going through the roof. Terrorism may very well win the war on terror simply by bankrupting the US or at the very least ensuring that the US pays for its war on terror by having a lower standard of living at home.

AFRICOM and America's Global Military Agenda: Taking The Helm Of The Entire World
By Rick Rozoff
Global Research, October 27, 2009
Stop NATO - 2009-10-22
“The developments come as the White House seeks grounds to establish a major military presence in Africa….[A]nalysts caution that similar pretexts were used to justify the US invasion of Afghanistan, the missile attacks in Pakistan, and its waning military operations in Iraq, where the civilian population continues to bear the brunt of the US intervention.”
AFRICOM facilitates the United States advancing on the African continent, taking control of the Eurasian continent and proceeding to take the helm of the entire globe.”—————————
October 1st marked the one-year anniversary of the activation of the first U.S. overseas military command in a quarter of a century, Africa Command (AFRICOM).
AFRICOM was established as a temporary command under the wing of U.S. European Command (EUCOM) a year earlier and launched as an independent entity on October 1, 2008.
Its creation signalled several important milestones in plans by the United States and its North Atlantic Treaty Organization allies to expand into all corners of the earth and to achieve military, political and economic hegemony in the Southern as well as the Northern Hemisphere.
AFRICOM is the first American regional military command established outside of North America in the post-Cold War era. (The Pentagon set up Northern Command, NORTHCOM, in 2002 after the September 11, 2001 attacks to take in the U.S., Canada and Mexico.)
Its area of responsibility includes more nations – 53 – than any other U.S. military command. By way of comparison, EUCOM includes 51 nations, among which are 19 new nations emerging from the breakup of the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia and the reunification of Germany.
The Pacific Command (PACOM) incorporates 36 countries in its theater of operations, down four since the creation of AFRICOM.
Central Command (CENTCOM) currently includes 20 nations in what is referred to as the Broader Middle East.
Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) covers 32 states, 19 in Central and South America and 13 in the Caribbean, of which 14 are U.S. and European territories.
AFRICOM is also the only new U.S. regional military command absorbing nations formerly in other commands; in fact in all other commands outside the Western Hemisphere.
EUCOM ceded 42 nations (including Western Sahara, a member of the African Union whose recognition has been virulently opposed by the West since Morocco invaded it in 1975) to AFRICOM.
The Horn of Africa region (Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Somalia and Sudan) was transferred from CENTCOM to AFRICOM, with the former picking up Lebanon and Syria from EUCOM in return. Egypt is the sole African nation still in CENTCOM. The Pentagon’s Combined Joint Task Force – Horn of Africa, which includes Djibouti, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Kenya, the Seychelles, Somalia, Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda and Yemen, the last on the Arabian Peninsula, was also transferred from CENTCOM to AFRICOM. The U.S. has an estimated 2,000 troops stationed in Djibouti at Camp Lemonier which hosts the Combined Joint Task Force – Horn of Africa.
PACOM lost the Indian Ocean island nations of the Comoros, Madagascar, Mauritius and the Seychelles to Africa Command.
Africa is, lastly, the first new continent targeted by the Pentagon for a comprehensive military structure, as the U.S. created comparable commands in Asia, Europe and Latin America after World War II and during the Cold War and had fought wars in all three areas by 1918. With the exception of the bombing of Libya in 1986 and military operations in Somalia in the early 1990s and by proxy since 2006, Africa has to date escaped direct American military intervention. And until the acquisition of Camp Lemonier in Djibouti in early 2001, before September 11, there was no permanent U.S. military installation on the continent.
The beginning of AFRICOM’s second year has witnessed major military exercises on the western and eastern ends of the continent.
On September 29 AFRICOM led the militaries of 30 African nations in the ten-day Africa Endeavor 2009 maneuvers in Gabon off the coast of the oil-rich Gulf of Guinea. “The U.S. military has begun an exercise in the African nation of Gabon…to improve command and control between forces for possible peacekeeping or anti-terrorism missions.
Africom…is sponsoring the exercise and much of the instruction is done by U.S. military personnel based in Europe and the United States.” [1]
Coordinated with the command out of which AFRICOM arose, “The AFRICOM exercise comes on the heels of a similar U.S. European Command-sponsored operation – Combined Endeavor – that tested the communication compatibility of the U.S. and its European allies.” [2]
The Gabon-based exercise reprised the previous year’s Africa Endeavor which was run by European Command before AFRICOM’s formal activation and which included “21 African nations, the African Union, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), Sweden and the United States.
“Nations and organizations who participated…were Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Chad, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Mali, Namibia, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Sweden, Uganda, the United States and Zambia….” [3]
The Pentagon participated with personnel from “U.S. Marine Forces Europe (MARFOREUR); U.S. Air Forces in Europe, Public Affairs; First Combat Communications Squadron, Ramstein Air Force Base; 8th Communications Battalion, Camp Lejeune; Marine Headquarters History, Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa; U.S. European Command (EUCOM); U.S. African Command (AFRICOM); and the Joint Interoperability Test Command (JITC).” [4]
This year’s maneuvers effected the formal transfer of Africa from European Command to the new Africa Command.
From October 16-25 the U.S. is heading a multinational military exercise, Natural Fire 10, in Uganda in which “More than 1,000 American and East African troops are…deployed…as the United States carries out its biggest military exercise in Africa this year.” [5]
Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi are to provide troops to join 450 U.S. military personnel in drills which “involve live fire in the field as well as convoy operations, crowd control and vehicle checkpoints….” [6]
An African newspaper account of the exercises suggests ulterior motives: “[T]he decision to site the exercise in northern Uganda raises questions about whether it may presage a renewed US-supported assault against the Lord’s Resistance Army,” which has waged an armed rebellion against the Ugandan government since 1987.
The same source continued with these observations:
“The exercise in northern Uganda is scheduled to begin one week after the conclusion of another US-led military exercise in Gabon.
“Nearly 30 African nations – including Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda – took part in that communications-focused initiative led by the US Africa Command….Together, these exercises are cited by Africom’s critics as further indications of what they describe as the growing militarisation of the US presence in Africa.
“Situating the exercise in Uganda reflects the close military relationship that the United States has developed with that East African country….
“Worries persist in Africa that the Pentagon intends to station large numbers of US troops on the continent, despite denials by Africom’s leaders that such a move is being planned.
“The United States already maintains about 2,000 troops at a base in Djibouti. This Joint Task Force/Horn of Africa detachment is the source of some of the US soldiers, sailors and Marines who will participate in Natural Fire 10.” [7]
Two days after the above was published a Ugandan newspaper announced that “Hundreds of Rwandan and Burundi troops have arrived in the country for joint military training exercises geared towards the formation of the first Joint East African Military Force.
“The training, which will also have troops from Kenya and Tanzania with experts from the US, will be conducted in Kitgum….Last week, the UPDF [Uganda Peoples Defence Force] said it supports the formation of a joint regional army, believing this will handle conflicts in the region.
“The proposal was mooted during a meeting of delegates from the five member countries in Kampala early this month.” [8]
The Pentagon is setting up a new African regional military force.
On October 20 a Rwandan news source revealed that “The visiting US commander of US Army Africa, Maj. Gen. William B. Garrett III, has stressed that the US army is interested in strengthening its cooperation with the Rwandan Defence Force (RDF).”
Garrett was quoted as saying “We are hoping to improve the relationship between Rwandan Defence Forces and the US army – this involves increase in interaction between our forces….Likewise, we hope that the Rwandan Defence Forces can also participate in our exercises. So we are hoping to increase the level of cooperation between the US and the Rwandan Defense forces.” [9]
The U.S. and its allies previously deployed Rwandan troops they trained and armed to Darfur and Somalia.
In northwest Africa, on October 20 the U.S. ambassador to Mali presented the latest tranche of “more than $5 million in new vehicles and other equipment” to the armed forces of his host country. [10]
Two years earlier the Pentagon led a multinational military exercise, Operation Flintlock 2007, in the capital of Mali with troops from thirteen African and European nations.
In the prototype exercise, Flintlock 2005, the U.S. deployed over 1,000 Special Operations troops, Green Berets, for joint military maneuvers with counterparts from Senegal, Niger, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, Algeria and Tunisia.
Flintlock 2005 was employed to launch Washington’s Trans Saharan Counterterrorism Initiative with Algeria, Burkina Faso, Libya, Morocco, Tunisia, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria and Senegal. An American news report of the exercise bore the title “U.S. Said Eying Sahara For New War Front.” [11]
An official with the U.S. Special Operations Command Europe said at the time, “This is just the start of decades worth of work in Africa,” [12] a sentiment echoed by an American armed forces publication which wrote “If military planners have their way, U.S. troops are going to be deploying to Africa for years or maybe decades.” [13]
Within days of the completion of the 2007 exercise in Mali a U.S. military cargo plane, “flying food to Malian troops fighting rebels in the far north of the country,” was hit by gunfire. The plane had remained in the nation after Flintlock 2007.
“Malian troops had become surrounded at their base in the Tin-Zaouatene region near the Algerian border by armed fighters and couldn’t get supplies….[T]he Mali government asked the U.S. forces to perform the airdrops….” [14]
The fighters in question were ethnic Tuaregs.
Tuaregs in Mali and Niger, “whose armies have received U.S. counter-insurgency training,” have “taken up arms…driven by resentment over unresolved grievances and against what they see as interference in their territories by government armies and foreign companies.” [15]
What is in fact the reason for the heightened American military role in Mali and Niger rather than the Pentagon’s by now standard claim – alleged al-Qaeda threats – was mentioned in a Reuters dispatch of last year.
“The stakes are rising. We’ve got companies, beyond gold exploration [Mali is Africa's third largest gold producer], wanting to explore for oil in northern Mali.
“There has been significant interest by investors wanting to explore for oil in Timbuktu (and other northern towns)….If oil is eventually discovered, that could of course play a role.” [16]
The report from which the above is quoted also said: “Tuareg tribesmen in neighbouring Niger…launched a fresh rebellion early last year, demanding greater autonomy and a bigger slice of revenues from French-operated uranium mines in their traditional fiefdom around the northern town of Agadez.” [17]
Last year the Red Cross reported that 1,000 Tuareg civilians fled into neighboring Burkina Faso to escape a U.S.-supported Malian government offensive.
AFRICOM’s mission in the region, as with much of the rest of Africa, is to wage counterinsurgency campaigns to secure vital resources including gold, precious stones, oil, natural gas and uranium.
The infamous Niger “yellow cake” forgeries played a decisive role in U.S. propaganda leading up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
Off the eastern coast of Africa “The US has supplied the Seychelles with drone spy planes….Seychelles officials say the planes will be used for surveillance, but did not say how many aircraft the US would be handing over….The move comes a day after the US gave equipment to Mali to fight insurgents.” [18]
A Middle Eastern website put together several components of AFRICOM’s plans in rendering this analysis:
“The United States is taking its military venture in Africa to new levels amid suspicions that Washington could be advancing yet another hidden agenda. American operatives are expected to fly pilotless surveillance aircraft over [Seychelles] territory from US ships off its coast….Washington has also started to equip Mali with USD 4.5 million worth of military vehicles and communications equipment, in what is reported to be an increasing US involvement in Africa.
“The developments come as the White House seeks grounds to establish a major military presence in Africa….[A]nalysts caution that similar pretexts were used to justify the US invasion of Afghanistan, the missile attacks in Pakistan, and its waning military operations in Iraq, where the civilian population continues to bear the brunt of the US intervention.” [19]
The same news site reported two days earlier that a U.S. spy drone had been shot down over the southern Somali port of Kismayu. “Kismayu residents routinely report suspected US drones flying over the port. The drones are believed to be launched from warships in the Indian Ocean.” [20]
It was also reported in a feature titled “US to make Blackwater-style entry into Somalia” that “The grounds have reportedly been established for armed American presence on Somali soil with a US security firm [Michigan-based CSS Global Inc.] winning a contract in the war-ravaged country.” [21]
The development was characterised as follows: “Washington has been [increasingly] deputizing the companies, which are notorious for misusing their State Department-issued gun licenses as excuses for trigger-ready atrocities. The move has been denounced as an effort at putting a non-military face on the US pursuits in the respective countries.” [22]
Though not part of AFRICOM’s area of responsibility, the African nation of Egypt recently hosted the latest Bright Star war games.
The Pentagon’s website described aspects of this year’s Bright Star, “U.S. Central Command’s longest-running exercise”:
“U.S. Marines and sailors were part of a four-nation coalition that stormed the beaches…during a major amphibious assault demonstration Oct. 12.
“The 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit and the Navy’s Bataan Amphibious Ready Group, as well as the Egyptian army and navy and Pakistani and Kuwaiti marines, took part in the assault as part of Exercise Bright Star 2009, which began Oct. 10 and ends Oct. 20.
“As part of the simulation, Egyptian special operations forces conducted beach reconnaissance prior to the assault. U.S. Marines followed with four AV-88 Harriers. Then amphibious assault vehicles, Humvees and landing craft came ashore….Troops from the various nations, along with 30 vehicles including aircraft, landing craft, amphibious assault vehicles and amphibious tracked vehicles, participated. [23]
Another American source added: “The coalition of military forces participating in the exercises also includes France, Greece, Italy, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and the United Kingdom.
“During the past week, Fort Bragg soldiers made parachute jumps with Egyptian, German, Kuwaiti and Pakistani soldiers.” [24]
AFRICOM was nurtured by U.S. European Command since then U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld in 2002 proposed the creation of a NATO Rapid Response Force (NRF), which was approved by NATO defense chiefs in Brussels in June 2003 and was inaugurated in October 2003. In 2006 Rumsfeld followed up on that initiative by forming a planning team to establish a new Unified Command for the African continent.
The top military commander of EUCOM is simultaneously NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander Europe, and the two generals holding those joint positions during preparations for forming and activating AFRICOM were Marine General James Jones (2003-2006) and Army General Bantz John Craddock (2006-June, 2009). The first is now National Security Adviser to the U.S. president.
“[T]he newly formed NRF [NATO Rapid Response Force] carried out its first exercise code named STEADFAST JAGUAR in Cape Verde…in West Africa from 14-28 June 2006.” [25]
“The islanders of Cape Verde are slowly getting used to German armored vehicles and Spanish helicopters descending on their sun-drenched beaches as U.S. fighter F-16 jets roar overhead.
“7,800 troops involved in the maneuvers, the alliance’s first major presence on African soil.” [26]
Reuters reported at the time that “The NATO Steadfast Jaguar exercises are the final test of a 25,000-strong rapid-reaction force due to be ready from October to dive into troublespots around the world and deal with everything from natural disasters to terrorist attacks.”
And it quoted U.S. Lieutenant-Colonel Matt Chestnutt, “whose unit of F-16 fighters was deployed in the 1991 Gulf War and later conflicts in Bosnia and Kosovo,” as saying “Africa was a great choice. It is possible the NATO Response Force could come here one day.” [27]
Agence France-Presse was no less effusive in its account of the unprecedented war games, dubbing its report “Military Brass Hail ‘the New NATO’ at Cape Verde War”: “Troops, fighter planes and warships descended on the West African archipelago of Cape Verde as NATO continued major war games this week to test its global rapid-response force.
“Leading politicians and military top brass from the western alliance’s member countries hailed the maneuvers — NATO’s first on African soil — underway on the archipelago’s northern island of Sao Vicente.” [28]
Two months before NATO held a warm-up naval exercise, Brilliant Mariner 2006, ranging from the Netherlands to Norway and consisting of “sixty four ships from eighteen countries…conducting joint warfare inter-operability training in a multi-threat environment,” which was “the final preparation phase before the land, air and maritime components of the NATO Response Force come together in June for the capability demonstration exercise Steadfast Jaguar 2006 in Cape Verde, off the west coast of Africa.” [29]
A month before the NATO global strike force pilot exercise in Cape Verde, Portuguese Foreign Minister Diogo Freitas do Amaral said “the West African archipelago is interested in joining both NATO and the European Union. [30]
The test run for the NATO Rapid Response Force was also conducted off the African mainland. In 2005 the Alliance held the 16-nation Noble Javelin 2005 air force, army and naval exercises in Spain’s Canary Islands off the coasts of Morocco and Western Sahara.
U.S. warships returned to Cape Verde the following year and an American commander said of the event that “These are the types of efforts that are contributing to the CNO’s [Chief of Naval Operations] ‘1000-ship Navy’ initiative.” [31] On Washington’s 1,000-ship Navy, see Proliferation Security Initiative And U.S. 1,000-Ship Navy: Control Of World’s Oceans, Prelude To War. [32]
Also in 2007 it was reported that the “USS Fort McHenry will begin a roughly six-month deployment to Western Africa as the Navy tries a new concept it has dubbed the Global Fleet Station program.” [33]
The Global Fleet Station (GFS) program was elaborated in 2007 in a U.S. combined maritime services release, “A Cooperative Strategy for 21st Century Seapower.”
In June of that year Admiral Harry Ulrich, commander of U.S. Naval Forces Europe, spoke at the Africa Center for Strategic Studies in Washington, D.C. and said “The Global Fleet Station concept is ‘closely aligned’ with the task to be provided by the still-developing U.S. Africa Command.” [34]
Africa, then, is a testing ground for NATO’s Rapid Response Force and the U.S.’s 1,000-ship Navy and Global Fleet Station projects.
Later in 2007, even before AFRICOM was formally announced, Defense News reported that the Pentagon had already decided to divide the continent into five regions: North, south, central, east and west.
“One team will have responsibility for a northern strip from Mauritania to Libya; another will operate in a block of east African nations – Sudan, Ethiopia, Somalia, Uganda, Kenya, Madagascar and Tanzania; and a third will carry out activities in a large southern block that includes South Africa, Zimbabwe and Angola….A fourth team would concentrate on a group of central African countries such as the Democratic Republic of Congo, Chad and Congo [Brazzaville]; the fifth regional team would focus on a western block that would cover Nigeria, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Niger and Western Sahara….” [35]
Before the official inauguration of AFRICOM, analysts around the world sounded the alarm that beneath the innocuous-sounding claims by Washington that it was solely interested in becoming a “security partner” to African nations lurked something more geostrategically significant. And more sinister.
The following are from Nigerian, Algerian and Chinese sources, respectively.
“From the current data on production capacities and proven oil reserves, only two regions appear to exist where, in addition to the Middle East, oil production will grow and where a strategy of diversification may easily work: The Caspian Sea and the Gulf of Guinea.
“The Caspian Sea came into the limelight after the demise of the Soviet Union, and the US has since entered the region and built up a strong military presence on both sides of the lake.
“Some of the problems linked to Caspian oil give the Gulf of Guinea a competitive edge.
“Much of its oil is conveniently located off shore.
“[T]he region enjoys several advantages, including its strategic location just opposite the refineries of the US east coast. It is ahead of all other regions in proven deep water oil reserves, which will lead to significant savings in security provisions. And it requires a drilling technology easily available from the Gulf of Mexico.” [36]
“A major focus of AFRICOM will be the Gulf of Guinea, with its enormous oil reserves in Nigeria, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Angola and the Congo Republic….The U.S. is already pouring $500 million into its Trans-Sahel Counterterrorism Initiative that embraces Morocco, Tunisia, and Algeria in North Africa, and nations boarding the Sahara including Mauritania, Niger, Mali, Mauritania, Chad and Senegal.” [37]
“By building a dozen forefront bases or establishments in Tunisia, Morocco, Algeria and other African nations, the U.S. will gradually establish a network of military bases to cover the entire continent and make essential preparations for docking an aircraft carrier fleet in the region.
“The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) with the U.S. at the head…carried out a large-scale military exercise in Cape Verde, a western African island nation, with the sole purpose for control of the sea and air corridor of crude oil extracting zones and to monitor the situation with oil pipelines operating there.
“[The US} is also seeking to set up small military facilities in Senegal, Ghana and Mali, so as to facilitate its interference in the oil-rich African nations....[T]he African Command represents a vital, crucial link for the US adjustment of its global military deployment.
“At present, it moves the gravity of its forces in Europe eastward and opens new bases in East Europe.
“Africa is flanked by Eurasia, with its northern part located at the juncture of the Asian, European and African continents. The present US global military redeployment centers mainly on an ‘arc of instability’ from the Caucasus, Central and Southern Asia down to the Korean Peninsula….
“AFRICOM facilitates the United States advancing on the African continent, taking control of the Eurasian continent and proceeding to take the helm of the entire globe.” [38]
The third set of observations is from a director of the Chinese Army’s Academy of Military Sciences. That is, from an authority expected to be familiar with world geopolitical dynamics and trends.
He situates America’s military drive into Africa, all of Africa, within an integrated global context, as does the Nigerian commentary that preceded his analysis once removed.
The campaign to subjugate an entire continent with its more than one billion inhabitants to Western military and economic demands is an integral and milestone component of broader designs around the world. Starting with the Balkans and Eastern Europe as a whole after the breakup of the Warsaw Pact and the Soviet Union in 1991, the U.S. and its NATO allies have relentlessly pursued plans to penetrate and dominate the former Eastern bloc, former Soviet space, the Broader Middle East, the Arctic Circle and Greater Antarctica and to reclaim and solidify control of Latin America and Oceania.
AFRICOM and complementary NATO initiatives are an exponential advancement of the campaign by the West to reassert and expand global supremacy by targeting a continent at the crossroads of north and south, west and east, and the industrial and the developing worlds. As an earlier citation mentioned, it is also the meeting place of three continents and the Middle East with coasts on two of the world’s oceans and three of its seas.
Notes1) Associated Press, September 30, 20092) Stars and Stripes, October 4, 20093) United States European Command, July 29, 20084) United States European Command, July 16, 20085) The East African, October 12, 20096) Ibid7) Ibid8) The Monitor, October 14, 20099) The New Times, October 20, 200910) Associated Press, October 21, 200911) United Press International, December 28, 200512) Stars And Stripes, May 15, 200513) Stars And Stripes, July 17, 200514) Stars and Stripes, September 18, 200715) Reuters, May 23, 200816) Reuters, June 6, 200817) Ibid18) BBC News, October 21, 200919) Press TV, October 21, 200920) Press TV, October 19, 200921) Press TV, October 16, 200922) Ibid23) U.S. Department of Defense, American Forces Press Service, October 14, 200924) Fayetteville Observer, October 4, 200925) Leadership (Nigeria), November 22, 200726) Reuters, June 29, 200627) Ibid28) Agence France-Presse, June 23, 200629) NATO, Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe, April 5, 200630) Reuters, May 19, 200631) Navy NewsStand, April 11, 200732) Stop NATO, January 29, 2009 33) Stars and Stripes, June 14, 200734) Ibid35) Defense News, September 20, 200736) Abba Mahmood, Country, Gulf of Guinea And Africom Leadership, November 22, 200737) U.S. embassies turned into command posts in North Africa Ech Chorouk, October 17, 200738) Lin Zhiyuan, deputy office director of the People’s Liberation Army Academy of Military Sciences, U.S. moves to step up militaryinfiltration in AfricaPeople’s Daily, February 26, 2007
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Monday, October 26, 2009

Obama has the choice to be a failed war president or successful peacemaker.

Turse goes on at length about present day US operations in the Philippines. However, the US is not directly fighting or at least is not supposed to be. They are supposed to be doing aid work and training the Philippine Armed forces. However Turse's flashback to operations a hundred years ago that were also aimed at Philippine separatists the Moros is quite interesting although at present there is a rather shaky truce with them. The Vietnam war was of course a disaster for the US but the conquest of Iraq was supposed to have overcome the Vietnam syndrome that supposedly made the US cautious in invading other countries. However, early optimism was followed by a long gruelling war which is still not over although the US is supposed to have most combat troops out soon and the Iraqis see the withdrawal plan as a victory for them rather than the U.S. Turse does not really go into how Obama is supposed to be a peacemaker in Afghanistan or elsewhere just that warmaking leads to failure. Probablay a deal could be made between the Afghan govt. and the Taliban and other insurgents if the US at the same negotiated a withdrawal timetable. The reason no deal has been reached so far is that NATO and the U.S. still occupy Afghanistan. Reaching a deal is conditional upon withdrawal.
This is from

Obama’s ChoiceFailed War President or the Prince of Peace?
By Nick Turse
When the Nobel Committee awarded its annual peace prize to President Barack Obama, it afforded him a golden opportunity seldom offered to American war presidents: the possibility of success. Should he decide to go the peace-maker route, Obama stands a chance of really accomplishing something significant. On the other hand, history suggests that the path of war is a surefire loser. As president after president has discovered, especially since World War II, the U.S. military simply can’t seal the deal on winning a war.
While the armed forces can do many things, the one thing that has generally escaped them is that ultimate endpoint: lasting victory. This might have been driven home recently — had anyone noticed — when, in the midst of the Washington debate over the Afghan War, a forgotten front in President Bush’s Global War on Terror, the Philippines, popped back into the news. On September 25th, New York Times correspondent Norimitsu Onishi wrote:
"Early this decade, American soldiers landed on the island of Basilan, here in the southern Philippines, to help root out the militant Islamic separatist group Abu Sayyaf. Now, Basilan’s biggest towns, once overrun by Abu Sayyaf and criminal groups, have become safe enough that a local Avon lady trolls unworriedly for customers. Still, despite seven years of joint military missions and American development projects, much of the island outside main towns like Lamitan remains unsafe."
In attempting to explain the uneven progress of U.S. counterinsurgency operations against Muslim guerillas in the region after the better part of a decade, Onishi also noted, "Basilan, like many other Muslim and Christian areas in the southern Philippines, has a long history of political violence, clan warfare and corruption." While he remained silent about events prior to the 1990s, his newspaper had offered this reasonably rosy assessment of U.S. counterinsurgency efforts against Muslim guerrillas on the same island — 100 years earlier:
"Detachments of the Twenty-third and Twenty-fifth Infantry, with constabulary and armed launches assisting, are engaged in disarming the Moros on Basilan Island. The troops are distributed around the coast and are co-operating in a series of closing-in movements."
Days after Onishi’s report appeared, two American soldiers were killed on nearby Jolo Island. As a Reuters story noted, it "was the first deadly strike against U.S. forces deployed in the southern Philippines since a soldier in a restaurant was killed in 2002…" As in Basilan, however, the U.S. counterinsurgency story in Jolo actually goes back a long way. In early January 1905, to cite just one example, two members of the U.S. military — the 14th Cavalry to be exact — were killed during pacification operations on that same island.
That U.S. forces are attempting to defeat Muslim guerrillas on the same two tiny islands a century later should perhaps give President Obama pause as he weighs his options in Afghanistan and considers his recent award. It might also be worth his time to assess the military’s record of success in conflicts since World War II, starting with the stalemate war in Korea that began in June 1950 and has yet to end in peace, let alone victory. That quiescent but unsettled conflict provides a ready-made opportunity for the president to achieve a triumph that has long escaped the U.S. military. He could help make a lasting peace on a de-nuclearized Korean peninsula and so begin earning his recent award.
Vietnam and Beyond
At the moment, Obama and his fellow Washington power-players are reportedly immersed in the literature of the Vietnam War in an attempt to use history as a divining rod for discovering a path forward in Afghanistan. At the Pentagon, many evidently still cling to the notion that the conflict was lost thanks to the weakness of public support in the U.S., pessimistic reporting by the media, and politicians without backbones.
Obama would do well to ignore their revisionist reading list for a simple reason: bluntly put, the U.S.-funded French military effort to defeat Vietnamese nationalism in the early 1950s failed dismally; then, a U.S.-funded effort to set up and arm a viable government in South Vietnam failed dismally; and finally, the U.S. military’s full-scale, years’ long effort to destroy the Vietnamese forces arrayed against it failed even more dismally — and not in the cities and towns of the United States, nor even in the halls of power in Washington, but in the hamlets of South Vietnam. U.S. efforts in neighboring Cambodia and Laos similarly crashed and burned.
Victory aside, the U.S. military proved capable during the Vietnam War of accomplishing much. Its true achievement lay in the merciless pummeling it gave the people of Southeast Asia, leaving the region blood-soaked, heavily cratered, significantly poisoned, and littered with explosives, which kill and maim villagers to this day.
In the wake of out-and-out defeat in Indochina, Americans diagnosed themselves as suffering from a "Vietnam Syndrome" (resulting in a less muscular foreign policy — embarrassing for a global superpower) and in need of a victory cure. In the 1980s and 1990s, this led to "triumphs" over such powers as the tiny Caribbean island of Grenada and Panama, a country whose "defense forces," in total, numbered just 12,000 (about half the size of the U.S. ground troops in the invading force) — and cut-and-run flops in Lebanon and Somalia.
The "lessons" of Vietnam were declared officially buried forever in the scorching deserts of the Middle East in March 1991. "By God, we’ve kicked the Vietnam syndrome once and for all!" President George H.W. Bush triumphantly exclaimed at the end of the First Gulf War — and yet Saddam Hussein, the enemy autocrat, remained firmly ensconced in power in Baghdad and the conflict continued at a less than triumphant simmer for over a decade until his son, George W. Bush, again took the country to war against the same Iraqi leader his father had fought and again declared the mission accomplished.
Following a lightning-fast march on Baghdad in 2003, much like the speedy pseudo-victory in Kuwait in Gulf War I, U.S. forces again proved unable to seal the deal. Bush administration efforts to dominate the country politically by writing Iraq’s constitution, while circumventing real elections, were quickly laid low by Iraq’s most powerful religious leader, the Shiite cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani. Then, the U.S. military was sent reeling for years by a Sunni insurgency. Though violence is currently tamped down to what is often called "an acceptable level," Iraq remains a war zone and Barack Obama is the fourth president to preside over a seemingly never-ending, irresolvable set of conflicts in that country. (The U.S.-allied Iraqi government has already proclaimed the U.S. a loser, announcing a "great victory" over the U.S. occupation in June 2009 and comparing the withdrawal of most U.S. forces from the country’s cities to a historic 1920 Iraqi revolt against British forces. American officials have not disagreed.)
During the 1980s, U.S. proxies in Afghanistan, Muslim mujahideen guerrillas, fought the Soviet occupation. Today, U.S. troops are the occupiers, fighting some of those same mujahideen and in the ninth year of this latest war in Afghanistan, victory still appears to be nowhere on the mountainous horizon, while failure, according to Afghan War commander General Stanley McChrystal, is once again a possibility.
Late last year, at the 26th Army Science Conference, I listened to one of the top-ranking enlisted men in the Army, a highly decorated veteran of the Global War on Terror, and a draftee during America’s losing war in Vietnam, candidly admit that U.S. troops in Afghanistan simply could not keep up with enemy forces. The lightly-armed, body-armor-less guerrillas were too mobile and too agile, he said, for up-armored, heavily weighed-down American troops. When I asked him about the comment later, a colleague of the same rank and fellow Global War on Terror veteran quickly jumped to his defense, declaring, "Yeah, I can’t run the mountain with them, but I’ll still get them — eventually." Almost a year later, the better part of a decade into the fight, the unanswered question remains, "When?"
Peace President
The U.S. military is unquestionably powerful and has repeatedly demonstrated the ability to mete out tremendous amounts of destruction and death. From Korea, Vietnam, and Cambodia to Iraq and Afghanistan, enemy fighters and unfortunate civilians, military base camps and people’s homes have been laid waste by U.S. forces in decade after decade of conflict. Yet sealing the deal has been another matter entirely. Victory has repeatedly slipped through the fingers of American presidents, no matter how much technology and ordnance has been unleashed on the poor, sometimes pre-industrial populations of America’s war zones.
Now, the Nobel Committee has made a remarkable gamble. It has seen fit to offer Barack Obama, who entered the Oval Office as a war president and soon doubled down the U.S. bet on the expanding conflict in Afghanistan and Pakistan, an opportunity for a lasting legacy and real achievement of a sort that has long escaped American presidents. Their prize gives him an opportunity to step back and consider the history of American war-making and what the U.S. military is really capable of doing thousands of miles from home. It’s an unparalleled opportunity to face up honestly to the repeatedly demonstrated limits of American military power. It’s also the president’s chance to transform himself from war-maker by inheritance to his own kind of peace-maker, and so display a skill possessed by few previous presidents. He could achieve a more lasting victory, while limiting the blood, American and foreign, on his — and all Americans’ — hands.
More than 100 years after their early counterinsurgency efforts on two tiny islands in the Philippines, U.S. troops are still dying there at the hands of Muslim guerillas. More than 50 years later, the U.S. still garrisons the southern part of the Korean peninsula as a result of a stalemate war and a peace as yet unmade. More recently, the American experience has included outright defeat in Vietnam, failures in Laos and Cambodia; debacles in Lebanon and Somalia; a never-ending four-president-long war in Iraq; and almost a decade of wheel-spinning in Afghanistan without any sign of success, no less victory. What could make the limits of American power any clearer?
The record should be as sobering as it is dismal, while the costs to the peoples in those countries are as appalling as they are unfathomable to Americans. The blood and futility of this American past ought to be apparent to Nobel Peace Prize-winner Obama, even if his predecessors have been incredibly resistant to clear-eyed assessments of American power or the real consequences of U.S. wars.
Two paths stretch out before this first-year president. Two destinations beckon: peace or failure.

Nick Turse is the associate editor of and the winner of a 2009 Ridenhour Prize for Reportorial Distinction as well as a James Aronson Award for Social Justice Journalism. His work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, the Nation, In These Times, and regularly at TomDispatch. A paperback edition of his book The Complex: How the Military Invades Our Everyday Lives (Metropolitan Books), an exploration of the new military-corporate complex in America, has recently been published. His website is

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Zelaya conditions talks to his reinstatement.

These negotiations have been a farce from the beginning. From the very start the premise was that the negotiations would set conditions for Zelaya's return to the presidency. Also from the start Micheletti and the coup govt. has made it clear that on no conditions would they agree to Zelaya's return. The negotiations were a complete waste of time. However, the negotiations did waste so much time that the presidential elections will soon take place in November. The coup government is banking on many in the international community simply giving up on Zelaya and recognising the results of the election. Micheletti et al may very well be correct and there are some signs that the elections may be recognised by the U.S.
This is from Presstv.

Zelaya conditions talks to his reinstatement

Ousted Honduran president Manuel Zelaya will return to talks only if his rivals agree to reinstate him first, his advisers say. The Organization of American States (OAS) on Wednesday called for a push to restart dialogue as a solution to the crisis appeared ever more distant, with both sides stuck on the issue of Zelaya's return to office before the elections next month. Stalled talks this week represent the latest setback since the June 28 military-backed coup, which took place following a dispute over Zelaya's plans to change the constitution. Critics saw the move as a bid to extend term limits. "Zelaya will return to dialogue if it is to sign his restitution," his adviser Rasel Tome told AFP. The de facto regime, led by Roberto Micheletti, wants to push ahead with the presidential polls set for November 29 to resolve the crisis, as Zelaya remains holed up in the Brazilian embassy. Zelaya's term expires in January. Meanwhile, in an increasingly polarized Honduras, Zelaya's supporters planned new protests, despite a continued clampdown after the lifting of curbs on civil liberties imposed by the de facto regime, union leader Juan Barahona told AFP on Thursday. Zelaya's ouster was backed by the country's courts, Congress and business leaders, and came after he swerved to the left and aligned himself with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Honduran coup government stalling until election..

This is from Reuters.
This article strikes me as correct although it is possible that some negotiated solution might still happen as'the Honduran economy is suffering from the continuing isolation of the coup government. Nevertheless no further economic punishment has been meted out by the US and there is also a concerted PR campaign that has enlisted support for the coup govt. in the US. There are signs as well that the US might very well recognise the results of the presidential elections even though they are being undertaken under a govt. that the international community does not recognise! From the very start it seems that the coup govt. took a certain line namely that there was no coup or no illegality and it has ignored the OAS and never bargained in good faith but is simply stalling with the thought that this will all blow over after the election. They may be correct. This shows that Obama is not really an agent of change but that he fears change particularly change that might challenge a ruling group. He will do the same in the US but with many a flourish in the opposite direction to appease the public where there is outrage. An example would be pay restrictions to top executives in companies that have TARP funds.

De facto Honduran government stalls for time before election
Thu Oct 22, 2009 1:33pm EDT
By Mica Rosenberg - Analysis
TEGUCIGALPA (Reuters) - Honduras' de facto leaders are hunkering down to stay in power until a November election, tightening controls on protests and grinding down ousted President Manuel Zelaya by blasting his refuge with rock music.
With Central America's worst political crisis in years now in its fourth month, talks between Zelaya's camp and that of de facto ruler Roberto Micheletti are stalled with no sign of compromise on the main sticking point: returning the toppled leftist to power temporarily as part of a solution.
Micheletti is drumming up support for the November 29 election, saying it is the only way to end the deadlock sparked by a June 28 army coup that is testing U.S. President Barack Obama's seriousness about wanting better relations with Latin America.
So far, Washington has taken a backseat role in resolving the crisis and let regional leaders and the Organization of American States take the lead.
The de facto government hopes the November vote will be recognized by foreign governments, bringing Honduras back into the fold of the international community after it was denounced for sending soldiers to roust Zelaya from his bed and fly him into exile.
With or without an agreement to resolve the crisis, Micheletti's camp says the vote will move forward.
"Whatever happens with these negotiations, the elections are the way out of this crisis," said Marcia Facusse, a congresswoman from Micheletti's Liberal Party and a close ally of the caretaker leader picked by Congress.
Zelaya, a ranching and logging magnate, split his Liberal Party by moving closer to Venezuela's hardline socialist President Hugo Chavez during his term, which is set to end in January.
If dialogue between the two sides fails, Zelaya will be left in the lurch. He has been camped out at the Brazilian Embassy for a month with his family and a handful of followers and journalists since he snuck back into Honduras last month.
This week the army set up giant speakers to blast the embassy through a full night with loud, grating noise ranging from military band music to pig grunts and imposed new controls on street protests, which are mainly pro-Zelaya.
The United States suspended military aid to Honduras and froze visas of key figures in the coup but analysts say the pressure is not enough to force Micheletti to back down.
"I would be really surprised if they reinstate Zelaya because they have been so incredibly recalcitrant and truthfully there is no pressure on them to do otherwise," said Central America expert Christine Wade at Washington College in Chestertown, Maryland.
Recognizing the elections for political expediency could set a dangerous precedent for the volatile region, she said.
Zelaya also opposes going ahead with the November election without a prior solution. "Holding elections under these conditions is opening the door to coups," he told a local television station by telephone. "It's an aberration."
The Supreme Court, backed by Congress, ordered Zelaya's June ouster, saying he violated the constitution by seeking to reform the constitution to allow presidential re-election.
Zelaya denies the charge but the coup backers argue he was legally stripped of his powers and cannot come back.
Meanwhile, the election campaign is moving along in full swing, with the leading candidates from Zelaya and Micheletti's Liberal Party and the main opposition National Party airing peppy spots, holding rallies and talking to the local press.
"They are waiting for international opinion to fracture, until more and more countries see recognizing the elections as the most acceptable alternative," said Armando Sarmiento, the former tax chief in Zelaya's finance ministry said.
Sarmiento said the de facto leaders might be looking to the example of the African country of Mauritania where the leader of an internationally chided military coup won an election this year and was quickly recognized by France.
But human rights groups accuse the de facto rulers of major abuses, including deaths, and say a free and fair election is impossible after Micheletti temporarily shut down pro-Zelaya media and banned protests with an executive decree last month.
"The elections are not a magic wand that will solve the country's problems. Those who believe that are wrong," Honduran political analyst Efrain Diaz said.
(Additional reporting by Adriana Barrera and Gustavo Palencia; Editing by Catherine Bremer and Eric Beech)

Friday, October 23, 2009

Honduras negotiations. Now going round in circles.

On Friday Micheletti presented for consideration a proposal which had already been rejected several times. Micheletti seems to treat the whole issue of negotiations as joke. Yesterday he presented a proposal which ina the first instance would require recognising that there was really no coup that everything done by the de facto govt. was on the up and up! Micheletti has never accepted the basic presuppositions of any negotiations and that is that Zelaya return to the presidency. From this site.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Going Around in Circles
The de facto government of Roberto Micheletti Bain, yet again today, proposed the already rejected idea that if Zelaya steps down, Micheletti will step down, and some third party could take over. Its been suggested, and rejected, multiple times in the negotiations, and even in the months leading up to the negotiations. Vilma Morales, negotiator for Micheletti, made this suggestion during a press conference this morning after Zelaya declared the dialogue closed.Zelaya, in a phone call to Radio Globo, compared it to staging yet another coup.

Philippines: Govt. stealthily implements Agricultural agreement.

This is typical government behavior. Doing things behind the scenes that have important implications for constituents in this case farmers while not keeping them informed or able to have time to fight back. This agreement cannot be enforced according to the constitution unless approved by the senate. Not only will this move hurt farmers but it will cut down on govt. revenues as well just at a time when the govt. needs money to deal with the costs of the recent calamites from typhoons.

Senate to grill Favila on sneaky trade accord
By Angie M. Rosales
The Senate will summon Trade and Industry Secretary Peter Favila next week to seek his explanation over what senators saw as a stealthy implementation of an international agreement that will allow imported farm products into the country tax-free to the detriment of local agricultural products.
Sen. Loren Legarda, chairman of the Senate committee on agriculture, pointed out that the Asean Trade in Goods Agreement (Atiga), which was supposed to take effect on Jan. 1 next year, may not be legally enforced as senators have yet to concur with the accord, as required by the Constitution.
She cited a constitutional provision which states, in part, that no treaty or international agreement shall be valid unless concurred in by two-thirds vote of the Senate. “If it (Atiga) is an international agreement, why was it not submitted to the Senate,” she asked. “The Senate was kept in the dark,” she added.
At an impromptu press conference, Legarda told reporters that she had received information that Favila signed the Atiga in Bangkok, Thailand last Feb. 26 but that it was “intentionally kept from the public.”
She said the Atiga, reportedly part of the Asean Free Trade Agreement, was initially set to take effect in 2015 but the new tariff schedule was accelerated to 2010. It was touted to be an accord that would allow free-flow of goods among Asean countries but Legarda voiced fears it would open the floodgates and allow cheap products into the country without paying duties and taxes.
Aside from the Philippines, among the other signatories to the accord were Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Singapore, Brunei, Cambodia, Laos, Burma and Vietnam.
Legarda learned, however, that Indonesia has requested for a two-year grace before implementing the accord and she suggested that the Philippines should ask for a similar deferment.
She warned that the Atiga will in effect waive billions of pesos in revenues from duties and taxes at a time when the country is hard put looking for additional sources of funds to deal with the calamity caused by recent typhoons.
“We are foregoing revenues while we are begging for aid from foreign donors,” she said.
Legarda is concerned that the tariff accord would also kill the livelihood of farmers and other local food producers because the government failed to provide safety nets for them in anticipation of the effectivity of the agreement.
“I am alarmed so I am appealing to the government to seek its deferment for humanitarian reasons,” she said. “Why are we in a hurry when this will adversely affect our people?”
In a separate letter to President Arroyo, the Federation of Philippine Industries Inc. also voiced misgivings about the impact to businesses of the Atiga. FPII warned that businesses will close down as a result of it contributing to unemployment.

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