Archive for August 23rd, 2008
The spokesman for the American Issues Project, the independent group whose ad (above) is the most negative of the cycle and links Obama to terrorism, says the group just filed a report naming its sole donor. The donor, spokesman Christian Pinkston said, is Dallas billionaire Harold Simmons, who made his first fortune in chain pharmacies and is now listed as the 73rd richest person in the world, with a net worth estimated by Forbes at $2.1 billion. Simmons, a major Republican donor, gave maximum $2,300 contributions to Senator John McCain last year, as well as to former Governor Mitt Romney and to former Mayor Rudy Giuliani. He’s listed as a bundler for the McCain campaign on McCain’s website, which says he’s raised between $50,000 and $100,000 for the Republican candidate. He’s also contributed to Rep. Chet Edwards, the Texas Democrat who has been mentioned as a possible Obama running mate. Simmons was reportedly a major donor to the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth in 2004. He’s also a backer of a controversial plan to store nuclear waste in West Texas, which his waste management company would administer.
Military offensive displaces 300,000
in north-west Pakistan (extracts)
James Cogan, WSWS, 23 Aug 2008
A major offensive by the Pakistani military against Islamist militants in the country’s Federally Administrated Tribal Areas (FATA) and North West Frontier Province (NWFP) has effectively become a campaign of collective punishment against the fiercely independent Pashtun tribes that live in the region. As tens of thousands of refugees pour out of the remote Bajaur agency, they are reporting indiscriminate air strikes and helicopter gunship attacks, devastated villages and farmlands, and hundreds of dead and wounded civilians. Government troops were dispatched into Bajaur on August 6 to seize control of the Afghan-Pakistan border crossing near the town of Loyesam from militants loyal to Tehrik-e-Taliban—the so-called Pakistani Taliban. Fierce Taliban resistance inflicted significant casualties on Pakistani forces, forcing them to pull back to positions in and around the town of Khar, the administrative headquarters of Bajaur.
Since August 10, the military has stayed in those defensive positions but aerial bombing and artillery barrages have been used to literally depopulate Bajaur and areas of the adjoining agency of Mohmand. After more than two weeks of indiscriminate attacks against alleged militant positions, it is estimated that 300,000 people have been forced to flee from their homes—a significant proportion of the population in the areas not under government control. The roads out of Bajaur and Mohmand have been filled with desperate families attempting to reach relatives in NWFP or refugee camps that the Pakistani government has established to the east and north of the tribal agencies. The impact of the government campaign is revealed in the few media reports from the area and interviews with displaced tribal people.
Journalists for Pakistan’s News International in Bajaur reported on August 18: “The major towns of the agency like Khar, Raghagan, Hajilawant, Jar and others were completely deserted, no sign of life was seen there… Some of the houses and a religious seminary near Jar village had been dashed to the ground after being hit by missiles fired from gunship helicopters or jet fighters that were used in the operation…” In another News International report on August 21, a refugee from Zigai said he had fled his home in the Zigai area because “the military helicopter gunships had started pounding civilian targets”. Another man said: “They [the military] are not hitting the known targets of the militants but blitzing the civilian abodes.” Journalist Daud Khan reported in an August 22 article for the Korean website Ohmy News that “the internally displaced people of Bajaur said the troops did not target the militant centres, which are located at stone throws distance from their bases.” A man named Gul Zamin, from an area near Khar, said: “Rather, the helicopters and artillery target the civilian population, resulting in mounting civilian casualties.”
Pakistani officials claimed on Thursday that its operation had killed over 480 Taliban fighters, at the cost of 25 troops. There are no credible reports as to the number of civilians who have been killed or wounded but the anecdotal evidence suggests that it runs into the hundreds.
There is no doubt that the Bush administration is behind the Pakistani government’s decision to wage war in the tribal agencies. The assault on Bajaur was launched in the wake of Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani’s visit to Washington in late July, where he was presented with US demands that Pakistan prevent the FATA being used as a safe haven by insurgents fighting American and NATO troops in Afghanistan. In return, the Bush administration appears to have encouraged former dictator and close ally Pervez Musharraf to step down as president, which he did on Monday. The following day, the head of the Pakistani military, General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, flew to Kabul for high-level talks with US and NATO commanders on coordinating operations against the insurgents on both sides of the Afghan-Pakistan border. On Thursday, President Bush reportedly called Musharraf to thank him for his support for the bogus US “war on terror” over the past seven years. He then called Gilani to insist that the Pakistani government intensify its operations against the anti-US militants.
Since the US invasion of Afghanistan in October 2001, the Bajaur agency has been used as a base by the Afghan Hezb-e-Islami movement headed by Pashtun warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, which is the main anti-occupation force fighting for control of the eastern provinces of Afghanistan. This year, it has inflicted significant casualties on both American and Afghan government troops in border districts such as Paktika, Khost, Paktia, Nangahar, Konar and Nurestan. The Pakistani tribal agencies of South Waziristan and North Waziristan are the strongholds of the overall head of the Pakistani Taliban, Baitullah Mehsud, as well as the safe haven for the Afghan Taliban forces led by Jalaluddin Haqqani. Between them, the two Islamist warlords are believed to command 20,000 to 30,000 fighters, who are conducting an increasingly effective guerilla war against the US and NATO forces in southern Afghanistan. Analysts believe the Taliban and Hekmatyar’s forces are pursuing a similar military plan to that used during the CIA-backed guerilla war against the Soviet military occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980s. They are gradually extending the areas under their control, positioning themselves to disrupt supply routes to the major cities and, ultimately, encircle Kandahar and Kabul.
The US demands for a crackdown in the tribal agencies to disrupt the Afghan insurgency may end up plunging Pakistan into severe political instability or even civil war. The brutal character of the offensive in Bajaur is provoking outrage among the millions of Pakistanis, especially in the Pashtun-populated FATA and NWFP, who oppose the US occupation of Afghanistan. Anger over the offensive has the potential to shatter the unstable ruling coalition between Gilani’s Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and the Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N) led by Nawaz Sharif just six months after it took government. Sharif has threatened to leave the coalition over the PPP’s refusal to reinstate a number of senior judges sacked by Musharraf. The tremendous suffering being caused by the government offensive is likely to trigger further calls for a break with the PPP. Most PML-N supporters label the war in Afghanistan as “America’s war” and oppose using the Pakistani armed forces against Islamic militants in the Pashtun tribal agencies.
Jamaat-e-Islami, the oldest Islamic-based party in Pakistan, is organising demonstrations by its supporters and refugees from the FATA, denouncing Gilani and demanding an end to the military operation. The Pashtun-based Awami National Party, which holds the provincial government in NWFP and is a minor partner of the ruling coalition, is under intense pressure to come out openly against the offensive. Yesterday, NWFP Religious Affairs Minister Namroz Khan denounced the invasion of Afghanistan as a neo-colonial war for control of Central Asia. “No one can deny the fact that Pakistan and Afghanistan are the gateway to the rich oil and gas reserves of the Central Asian republics,” he said. “The ‘war on terror’ was started to gain control of these reserves.”
The Pakistani Taliban is heightening the political instability with a vicious campaign of suicide bombings against police and military facilities in various parts of the country. Two bombers blew themselves up on Thursday at the gates of the heavily-guarded Wah armaments factory, just 30 kilometres from the capital Islamabad. As many as 78 people were killed and over 100 wounded. Most of the casualties were workers leaving their shift. Taliban spokesman and Bajaur tribal leader Maulvi Omar told journalists via telephone: “If it [the offensive in the FATA] doesn’t stop, we will continue such attacks. The Wah factory is a killer factory where arms are being produced to kill our women and children.”
The attacks against targets far from the tribal agencies are intended to demonstrate the reach of the Taliban and pressure the government to call off its offensive. On August 19, Mehsud offered to take part in peace talks, provided that the Pakistani government repudiated “the pro-US policies pursued by the Musharraf-led regime.” However, the PPP-led government, which is just as beholden to Washington as Musharraf, has shown no signs that it intends to call off military operations in the tribal areas.
[...] The government’s approach will be different from that adopted by Musharraf when he signed onto the “war on terror” in 2001, officials in Pakistan’s top strategic circles tell Asia Times Online. Then, Musharraf, who was also chief of army staff, acted as he saw fit, often not to the liking of Washington, which often accused Islamabad of dragging its feet in the fight against Taliban and al-Qaeda militancy. The new elected government is expected to be an active partner in the South Asian war theater and its military will help the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). The coordination will be similar to that between Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s government and NATO. NATO command will identify problem areas and Pakistan will hit those targets.
(Observe the British way : grown men ‘in hiding’ because of juvenile MI6 fantasies involving polonium – RB)
TNK-BP’s chief accuses Russians of power abuse
Louise Armitstead, Telegraph, Aug 22, 2008
Robert Dudley, the chief executive of TNK-BP who was forced into exile, has struck out against the Russian authorities in a public letter accusing them of abusing their powers. The letter, which Mr Dudley wrote from his secret hiding place somewhere in central Europe, lays out a list of grievances that the chief executive believes he has suffered at the hands of Russian labour law investigators in recent months that led to his ban from Russia last week. The letter claims: “There has been an abuse of power by the State Labour Inspectorate.” It demands an immediate investigation, arguing that the reason for the investigation by Russian authorities stems from his bitter fight with TNK-BP’s AAR partners. A Moscow court last week banned Mr Dudley from working in Russia for two years. The move was the latest blow to hit the troubled firm, which has seen its two equal partners – BP, the British oil giant, and the AAR partners which comprise the four Russian oligarchs – at loggerheads over management and strategy. The AAR Partners are Mikhail Fridman, German Khan, Viktor Vekselberg and Len Blavatnik. Observers in Britain have been horrified by the treatment of Mr Dudley, his removal from Russia and his forced hiding. AAR have dismissed these sentiments as anti-Russian and argue that, since 50pc of shareholders want Mr Dudley to step down, BP is ignoring corporate governance standards by insisting he stays [...]
This presidential race was no contest: John McCain sped to the finish while Barack Obama was reluctant to leave the starting point. Of course there’s no guarantee giant Madagascar hissing cockroaches will predict the real result in November. The roach race Thursday was part of the New Jersey Pest Management Association’s annual clinic and trade show. Organizers liken the race’s prediction success to that of Punxsutawney Phil on Groundhog Day, when lore says the rodent can predict how long winter weather will last depending on whether he sees his shadow. (AP)
Democrats in Israel irate over Hikind’s support for Huckabee
Cnaan Liphshiz, Haaretz, 23/08/2008
Democrats living in Israel on Thursday criticized New York Assemblyman Dov Hikind, a party member, for endorsing Republican Mike Huckabee during a visit to Israel this week. One activist said the ties between Huckabee, a potential vice presidential nominee with Hikind, a former (sic-RB) follower of Jewish extremist Meir Kahane, puzzled her. At a Jerusalem press conference on Tuesday, Hikind and Huckabee exchanged praises, with the Democrat jokingly announcing he supported Huckabee for president. Huckabee replied he wished he enjoyed such support from more Republicans. Stressing that she did not speak in her capacity as chairwoman of Democrats Abroad Israel but only as a private citizen, Joanne Yaron told Anglo File she didn’t understand why Hikind persists in calling himself a Democrat and belonging to the Democratic Party. Although she admits “the Democratic Party is a big tent of ideas,” she questions whether Hikind’s ideas are “in the least bit in accord” with those of the party.
In Yaron’s opinion, what makes Hikind “a rogue” is not his support of McCain, but his support for the “violent ideas of Meir Kahane.” Yaron went on to question Huckabee’s acceptance of Hikind’s support in light of this. Yaron added she doubted Democrats Abroad or the Democratic Party would involve themselves with Hikind’s support for Huckabee in any way, “though perhaps as a friendly gesture they could warn Mr. McCain of the dangers of Mr. Hikind’s extreme ideas.” She said, “I personally want the Democratic Party and its nominee Senator Barack Obama to have a worthy opponent — not a person who accepts support from such an unworthy source as Dov Hikind.”
Hikind openly admits having had ties with the late American-Israeli Orthodox rabbi and founder of the ultra-rightist Kach party, which the Knesset successfully banned from politics by amending the Basic Law to bar parties promoting racist ideas. “I was involved with Rabbi Kahane and have no regrets,” Hikind told Anglo File on Thursday. “I’ve always made it very clear. I got involved when the issues were anti-Semitism, Jewish poor — things that were in America.” The New York politician went to say that he did have objections when Kahane “did and said certain things in Israel.” He accused Yaron of being “either ignorant or trying to smear me with a label, which is a clear McCarthy tactic.“
Huckabee and Hikind visited Israel at the invitation of the Jerusalem Reclamation Project, a New York foundation working to move Jews into the Muslim Quarter. The chairman, Dr. Joseph Frager, who also attended the press conference, said the visit was particularly important because “Obama has moved the debate way to the left” and “out of the realm that even Kadima would understand.” Hinting at what some took to be conflicting statements by Obama on his position on Jerusalem, Hikind said at the press conference that although “everyone says Jerusalem shouldn’t be divided,” the former Arkansas governor was the only one “who really means it.” In June, Obama declared his commitment to a unified Jerusalem, later clarifying he didn’t rule out Palestinian sovereignty over parts of the city. “I don’t know where the governor’s going, but he’s going big places,” Hikind said at the conference. “He’s young; he’s going to be around, playing a role, and talking this straight talk.”
In explaining his support for Huckabee and other Republicans, Hikind told Anglo File: “I’ve been elected 13 times by a 90-percent Democrat community of 150,000 Jews and non-Jews. I’m running for reelection this year as a proud Democrat, but not a blind one. For me, it’s about supporting people whom I think are best. I support Republicans and many Democrats.” Responding to criticism of his siding with Republicans, Hikind said, “When it comes to politics, crossing party lines is a greater sin than being a crook.” But Hikind’s cross-party support of a Huckabee “presidency” also received praise from an unlikely source. Tony Jassen of Israelis for Obama said he applauded Hikind‘s “willingness to look beyond party politics and support a candidate in whom he believes,” despite rejecting Hikind’s belief in the Christian right as a viable partner for Israel. Jassen, who noted he was speaking as a private citizen, added that although he disagreed with Hikind’s political choice of endorsing Huckabee, he felt the move was in fact “emblematic of Senator Obama’s call for unity.”
The Reuters news agency reported on August 20 that the cost of these deployments should be over “$4 billion though cost overruns typical in nearly every US defense program could easily drive the price higher.” Indeed virtually every space technology program under development today is 100-200-300% over budget. The aerospace industry stands to turn some great profit as a result of this US-Georgia provocation and Russian response. Reuters also reported that:
Chicago-based Boeing Corporation, prime contractor for the US ground-based missile defense system, will supply the rockets to be placed in Poland, but the Army Corps of Engineers will manage construction of the site. Boeing had no immediate comment on the potential value of the deal, but said in a statement that it would work closely with the US military and its industry partners to extend missile defense capability to Europe. Waltham, Massachusetts-based Raytheon Corporation built the powerful X-band radar now based in the Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands, which will be moved to the Czech Republic. Bethesda, Maryland-based Lockheed Martin said its system to integrate separate missile defense elements and provide a common view of the ‘battlespace’, known as Command, Control, Battle Management and Communications (C2BMC), would play a key role in the European missile defense site.
Georgian-Russian DDoS-attacks: a third party provocation
Lilly Brin, Webplanet.ru, Aug 23, 2008
For last two weeks, Western media including many respectfull newspapers was spreading hysteria about “Russian hackers” who attacked Georgian sites during the fight on the border between Georgia and South Ossetia. No, our Webplanet magazine is not going to tell you “Russia is always right”. We just say this story is a perfect situation to tell the difference beetween professional journalism and propaganda dummies. It is true that IT topics are hard for a common journalist. Yet the job of journalist is not about being a passive carier for the media viruses. So next time you want to recall “that story about Kremlin cyber-attacks”, please take into account these facts:
(1) The first DDoS-attacks on Georgian sites on 8th of August started more than 12 hours after the Russian military operation started. The botnets used for attacks previously had targeted porn and gambling sites. It’s casting doubt on Georgia’s claims it was orchestrated as part of Moscow’s military offensive. This is recognized even by western press (“Analysis: Russia-Georgia cyberwar doubted” by UPI).
(2) On 8th of August, some Russian and Ossetian sites were DDoS-attacked as well. The biggest Russian news agency RIA Novosti (rian.ru) was down for two days, the problem started with their Georgian project newsgeorgia.ru. Ossetian news sites osinform.ru, cominf.org, tskhinval.ru went down, too. Most western news ignored this fact, or dropped just a couple words about it (Jose Nazario, security researcher for Arbor Networks, told CNET News that “he’s seeing evidence that Georgia is apparently fighting back, attacking at least one Moscow-based newspaper site”).
(3) The words “fighting back” are wrong – the attacks on both Russian and Georgian sites started the same time and stopped the same time. By the 12th of August (when the most papers cried about it) all the attacked sites mentioned were up and running OK, both Georgian and Russian ones. But all these sites had different hostings, different security. This fact leads us to the conclusion that both waves of DDoS-attacks were orchestrated by the same “third party” as a provocation to make media buzz and create more tensions between Russian and Georgian folks. Later our sources among security experts proved this guess: most of the attacks on Russian and Georgian sites on 8-12 August were started from Ukraine which is now used by many badboys as an “Internet off-shore” for malware.
(4) Neither Russian nor Georgian military get its own serious “cyber-troops” nowadays. But this kind of special units for cyber war are well developed in the USA. Before this conflict, the Georgian army was trained by US military experts in Iraq. The Wired magazine published a good story about it (“Did the U.S. Prep Georgia for War with Russia?“). And its readers recalled the scenario (or should we say “a training guide”?) for this case – Tom Clancy’s “Ghost Recon” videogame. The game is about a squad of U.S. Special Forces, with special missions in foreign countries. The game starts in Georgia: “During the first few missions of the game, the Ghosts battle South Ossetian rebels… The Ghosts fight in the forests, on farms, and in villages while assisting their NATO allies in fighting the enemy”. Now, the game gets real. Could the US Ghosts bring the same “help” to the cyberworld by assisting NATO-bended ukrainian hackers? Ask Tom Clancy if you don’t see the whole picture by yourself.
ISTANBUL/MOSCOW, August 23 (RIA Novosti) – NATO has sent a Polish frigate and a US destroyer through the Bosporus to boost its presence in the Black Sea, where it is delivering humanitarian cargoes to Georgia, a source in the Turkish navy said. “Two more NATO ships passed through the strait and entered the Black Sea on Friday evening,” the source told RIA Novosti. An officer said the Russian Navy was aware of the ships’ movements, and would continue its operations in support of Georgia’s separatist republic of Abkhazia. “The Black Sea fleet continues to carry out its task of maritime traffic security patrols off the coast of Abkhazia,” Captain Igor Dygalo said. The ORP General Pulaski and the USS McFaul joined two ships from Germany and Spain that entered the sea earlier Friday. The Turkish navy source expected the NATO presence in the Black Sea to grow to about seven vessels. Russia has expressed doubts that NATO vessels need to be in the Black Sea, and promised to respond swiftly to any provocations against its Black Sea Fleet. Tensions between NATO and Russia are high following the recent conflict over Georgia’s breakaway region of South Ossetia.
from US debates going after militants in Pakistan
Peter Spiegel, Josh Meyer, LA Times, Aug 23, 2008
[...] the US’s leverage with the Pakistani military is extremely limited. Years of sanctions against Pakistan after nuclear tests in the 1990s have produced a generation of officers who have had little or no interaction with US counterparts and — unlike those of Kayani and Musharraf’s age — are highly skeptical of US intentions in the region. “You hear it all the time: I don’t know that the Pakistanis completely trust us,” said the military official working on the training mission. “We’ve left the region before; are we using them just for the war on terror, and once Afghanistan becomes a stable environment we’re going to go away?” US officials said al Qaeda and other extremist groups have exploited this assumption, spreading word that the US will soon abandon Pashtun tribesmen in both Pakistan and Afghanistan, just as it did in 1989 after expelling Soviet forces from Afghanistan, said a senior State Department official involved in South Asia policy. Several senior US military officials believe Pakistan’s inability to disrupt Islamic extremists in its tribal regions has led to the recent increase in violence against US troops in Afghanistan, a view that has prompted a new round of discussions on the advisability of unilateral action. “We are truly conflicted,” said a senior military official involved in the Pakistan policy discussions. “As a military guy, every bone in your body says, ‘Let’s go find them and kill them.’ You temper that, with the fragility of the current government in Islamabad, by asking, ‘Do you do more long-term harm if you act very, very aggressively militarily?’ That debate continues, and it’s very difficult.” [...]