Archive for September 3rd, 2008
US attack pushes Afghanistan war into Pakistan
Simon Tisdall & Saeed Shah, Guardian, Islamabad, Sept. 3
The war in Afghanistan spilled over into Pakistani territory for the first time today when heavily armed commandoes, believed to be US special forces, landed by helicopter and attacked three houses in a village. The early morning attack on Jala Khel killed between seven and 20 people, according to a range of reports from the remote Angoor Adda region of South Waziristan. The village is situated less than a mile from the Afghanistan border. Local residents were quoted as saying most of the dead were civilians and included women and children. Major-General Athar Abbas, a spokesman for the Pakistan army, said NATO’s International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) had carried out the raid. “Two helicopters of ISAF landed very early in the morning and conducted a raid on a compound there. As per our report, seven civilians were killed in this raid.” But a NATO spokesman denied involvement. “There has been no NATO or ISAF involvement crossing the border into Pakistan,” the NATO spokesman James Appathurai said. There were unconfirmed reports that the incursion was carried out by US special forces, which are not under ISAF command and can operate independently. A US military spokesman at the Bagram base near Kabul did not deny an attack had occurred but declined to comment.
Official Pakistani condemnation swiftly followed the attack amid growing concern that the NATO-led war against the Taliban in Afghanistan could spread to Pakistan, sparking a region-wide conflagration. Owais Ahmed Ghanisaid, the governor of North-West Frontier province, which adjoins South Waziristan, said 20 people had died and called for retaliation by the Pakistani army. “This is a direct assault on the sovereignty of Pakistan, and the people of Pakistan expect that the armed forces … would rise to defend the sovereignty of the country and give a befitting reply,” he said. The foreign ministry in Islamabad said the incursion was “a gross violation of Pakistan’s territory” and a “grave provocation” that had resulted in “immense” loss of civilian life. “Such actions are counter-productive and certainly do not help our joint efforts to fight terrorism. On the contrary, they undermine the very basis of cooperation and may fuel the fire of hatred and violence we are trying to extinguish.” “This is a very alarming and very dangerous development,” said a former senior Pakistani official. “We have absolutely been telling them (the US) not to do this but they ignored us.”
Talk Show Host Invokes Auschwitz in Attack On Liberals
Brett Lieberman, Forward, Sept 3 2008
MINNEAPOLIS – Likening liberals to those who appeased Nazi Germany in the run-up to World War II, conservative radio talk show host Dennis Prager told 400 Jewish Republican leaders “they’d still be gassing Jews” if liberals and peace activists had their way. “The left does not understand that Auschwitz was not liberated by peace activists,” Prager said during a reception honoring GOP governors at the Republican National Convention. The US military, not peace activists, deserves credit for bringing about peace, he said. ”They’d still be gassing Jews if we listened to peace activists,” he said. “Gandhi said to the Jews, ‘Do not resist Hitler.’ Gandhi did a lot of great work in India. You know why? Because when you advocate peaceful resistance against the British, it works. Peaceful resistance against evil does not work.” Asked later about whether his remarks could be perceived by some as insensitive, Prager stood by his comments, saying, “It is inconceivable” that anybody could be offended. Told that some people might be sensitive about comparisons involving appeasement and the Holocaust, he said, “That’s fine with me, so what?”
Prager was appointed to the United States Holocaust Memorial Council, which oversees the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, by President Bush in 2006. Prager emceed the event, hosted by the Republican Jewish Council, which attracted a who’s who of Jewish Republicans including several governors, state lawmakers, major donors and Sallai Meridor, Israel’s ambassador to the US. The comments, which drew strong applause, came as Prager decried liberals as full of good intentions but lacking wisdom. “Goodness without wisdom is useless,” Prager said. “That in my opinion summarizes those on the left. Many of our fellow Jews are very, very idealistic, especially our kids in universities. They want a nice world, a kind world, but they lack the wisdom to discern the difference between good and evil. I dare say that the American military has brought more goodness on earth than all the political scientists and peace activists,” he said.
One Jewish leader attending the event called the comparison inappropriate. “The holocaust is a unique episode in world history and is an issue that should not be used for contrast and comparison with other political or non-political events,” he said. “I think it lessens the memory of those who were murdered in the holocaust.” Meridor, who Prager introduced during the reception, declined to be drawn into the issue. “I’m not going to comment on any particular statement,” said Meridor, who also attended last week’s Democratic National Convention in Denver. Meridor emphasized the bipartisan relationship Israel enjoys with the US and he was not endorsing any candidate or party.
Prager said he saw nothing wrong with his comments. “Peace activists have done nothing good I’m aware of compared to the US military,” he said. “More peace has been achieved by the US military than all the pacifists and peace activists in history.” He then repeated that “Auschwitz was liberated by military people not by poets and not by peace activists. If one is no longer allowed to say that, we are in a very scary period,” he added.
extracted from Tom Burghardt, Global Research
[...]That al-Qaeda attacks Western targets and visits outrages upon innocent civilians does not mean it is not also a blunt-edged weapon selectively deployed by imperialism to stoke ethnic and religious tensions in areas deemed vital to US geostrategic interests. As investigative journalist Robert Dreyfuss has documented,
Sixty years earlier, when the United States began its odyssey in the Middle East, there were other voices who wanted conservative Islam, and early fundamentalist groups associated with the nascent Islamic right, to do battle with the secular left, with Nasser, with Arab communists and socialists. Now, six decades later, the Bush administration is pursuing a strategy in the Middle East that seems calculated to boost the fortunes of the Islamic right. The United States is counting on Shiite fundamentalists in Iraq to save its failed policy in that country, and a major theoretician of that campaign explicitly calls for the United States to cast its lot in with the ayatollahs and the Muslim Brotherhood. (Devil’s Game: How the United States Helped Unleash Fundamentalist Islam, New York: Metropolitan Books, 2005, p. 342)
Long after the Bush administration has sailed off into the proverbial sunset, policies launched across the decades by successive Democratic and Republican governments will continue along the same imperial trajectory: war and covert operations as the preferred instruments for capitalist resource extraction and global domination.
Al-Qaeda: Asset and Adversary
One need only review the role played by al-Qaeda in the Balkans during the 1990s when the United States and their NATO allies, particularly Germany and the United Kingdom, provided entrée to demobilized Afghan-Arab mujahedin fighters as the West dismembered the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, culminating in 1999 with NATO’s murderous 78-day bombing campaign of Serbia to “liberate” Kosovo.
Earlier in the decade, thousands of Islamist fighters flooded Bosnia-Herzegovina, directly recruited by former Waffen SS Handzar Division foot soldier and Islamist ideologue, Alia Izetbegovic, the President of Bosnia and darling of liberal interventionists such as Bernard-Henri Lévy. In calling for Western intervention, Lévy shamelessly described Izetbegovic’s neofascist statelet as an exemplar of “modern, secular Islam”! Quite naturally, Izetbegovic’s Nazi past was covered-up by Western interventionists intent on smashing multiethnic Yugoslavia into smithereens.
Indeed, intelligence analyst and senior lecturer at the University of Amsterdam, Cees Wiebes, documents in Intelligence and the War in Bosnia 1992-1995, how Western intelligence agencies, including the CIA, MI6 and BND assisted major arms transshipments into Bosnia despite a UN arms embargo, often in concert with the reactionary Iranian regime. Some estimates claim that by 1994, as many as 4,000 mujahedin fighters were present in Bosnia. Indeed, none other than Osama bin Laden himself visited Izetbegovic in Sarajevo. As a gesture of appreciation for his support, Izetbegovic gave bin Laden a Bosnian passport. And, a November 1, 2001 account in the European edition of the Wall Street Journal claimed that bin Laden continued to visit the Balkan region as late as 1996.
By 1995 as Wiebes documented, American Hercules C-130 transport planes accompanied by jet fighters began landing at the Tuzla Air Base in eastern Bosnia laden with arms, ammunition and communications equipment destined for Izetbegovic’s Islamist brigades. Similar arms pipelines were opened between Albania, Bosnia, Croatia and later in the decade Kosovo, where Albanian narcotrafficking networks rule the roost and continue to wreck havoc across the region.
As I documented in “Welcome to Kosovo! The World’s Newest Narco State,” beginning in 1998 and perhaps earlier, the London-based cleric Omar Bakri Mohammed, the “emir” of the al-Qaeda-linked al-Muhajiroun began a recruitment drive for aspiring mujahedin for the “holy war” in Kosovo at London’s notorious Finsbury Park Mosque.
In 2005, in the wake of the July 7, 2005 terrorist attacks in London, it was revealed that Bakri, a probable MI6 asset and simultaneously an al-Qaeda operative, was the “spiritual” force behind the deadly attacks that claimed 52 lives and wounded hundreds of others. Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed reported that,
The reluctance to take decisive action against the leadership of the extremist network in the UK has a long history. According to John Loftus, a former Justice Department prosecutor, Omar Bakri and Abu Hamza, as well as the suspected mastermind of the London bombings Haroon Aswat, were all recruited by MI6 in the mid-1990s to draft up British Muslims to fight in Kosovo. American and French security sources corroborate the revelation. The MI6 connection raises questions about Bakri’s relationship with British authorities today. Exiled to Lebanon and outside British jurisdiction, he is effectively immune to prosecution. (“Sources: August terror plot is a ‘fiction’ underscoring police failures,” The Raw Story, Monday, September 18, 2006)
During NATO’s Kosovo aggression, analyst Michel Chossudovsky wrote,
Mercenaries financed by Saudi Arabia and Kuwait had been fighting in Bosnia. And the Bosnian pattern was replicated in Kosovo: Mujahadeen mercenaries from various Islamic countries are reported to be fighting alongside the KLA in Kosovo. German, Turkish and Afghan instructors were reported to be training the KLA in guerrilla and diversion tactics. … According to a Deutsche Press-Agentur report, financial support from Islamic countries to the KLA had been channelled through the former Albanian chief of the National Information Service (NIS), Bashkim Gazidede. “Gazidede, reportedly a devout Moslem who fled Albania in March of last year , is presently  being investigated for his contacts with Islamic terrorist organizations.” (“Kosovo ‘freedom fighters’ financed by organised crime,” World Socialist Web Site, 10 April 1999)
As I documented, the Kosovo Liberation Army’s links to both narco-trafficking networks and al-Qaeda was a defining feature of Western intervention in the former Yugoslavia. Indeed, Hashim Thaci’s KLA served as the militarized vanguard for the Albanian mafia whose “15 Families” control virtually every facet of the Balkan heroin trade. Thaci is currently Kosovo’s Prime Minister. Kosovar traffickers ship heroin originating exclusively from Asia’s Golden Crescent. At one end lies Afghanistan where poppy is harvested for transshipment through Iran and Turkey; as morphine base it is then refined into “product” for worldwide consumption. From there it passes into the hands of the Albanian syndicates who control the Balkan Route.
US destabilization programs and covert operations rely on far-right provocateurs and drug lords (often interchangeable players) to facilitate the dirty work. Throughout its Balkan operations the CIA made liberal use of these preexisting narcotics networks to arm the KLA and provide them with targets. Today, similar features are visible for all the world to see as the U.S. warlord state in Afghanistan battles the Taliban and al-Qaeda for control of the lucrative opium growing and processing regions of that destroyed nation.
As a sometime Western intelligence asset, al-Qaeda is not simply a puppet of the United States and NATO as some believe. Such simplifications mask a harder and crueler reality. In the opinion of this writer, the 9/11 cover-up, rather than burying the Bush administration’s alleged orchestration of the attacks (the “inside job” thesis), concealed something far more sinister: U.S. imperialism’s decades-long collaboration with Islamist extremists to achieve geopolitical advantage over their capitalist rivals.
As with neo-Nazi networks that were reconstituted by the West for war against their domestic leftist adversaries during the Cold War, al-Qaeda and related terror organizations will, at times, share limited tactical goals with the West, such as the destruction of secular, leftist opponents in the Middle East, or as a force for destabilization operations in target countries such as Iran, as investigative journalist Seymour Hersh has reported in The New Yorker.
That al-Qaeda has reconstituted its military-political-mafia structures along the Afghanistan-Pakistan borderlands and continues to attack targets across the region at will, is testament to the resilience of the organization and the appeal of its reactionary ideology. There is a deadly irony here, since its murderous “tradecraft” was quite literally bequeathed to it by Western intelligence services and America’s preeminent regional allies, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. [...]
Ukraine’s pro-Western government on brink of collapse
The party of Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko decided to quit the pro-Western governing coalition on Wednesday, plunging Ukraine into a new political crisis as relations with Russia worsened. Leaders of Yushchenko’s Our Ukraine party were due to announce their decision officially to parliament at around 0700 GMT and were expected to hold talks with the president starting from 0900 GMT. The decision would come into force in 10 days if maintained. It was approved by a narrow majority of 39 out of the party’s 72 deputies in the parliament, Ukrainian media reported, citing officials. The move came in response to the adoption on Tuesday of a series of laws that would weaken the powers of the president, laws initiated by the pro-Russian opposition in league with the Tymoshenko Bloc. The Tymoshenko Bloc is headed by Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, who is sharply at odds with the president, despite broadly sharing his pro-Western political goals. In a heated parliament session on Tuesday, the Ukrainian president’s party stormed out of the chamber in protest at the adoption of the laws, which would also ease the rules for impeaching the president, Ukrainian media reported. In a sign of deepening divisions, the ruling coalition on Tuesday also failed to agree a joint declaration about the war between Russia and Georgia, which like Ukraine is bidding to join NATO and the European Union.
Yushchenko has accused Tymoshenko of “high treason and political corruption” for allegedly siding with Moscow over the conflict in Georgia last month, a charge she has denied. If the pro-Western allies Our Ukraine and Tymoshenko Bloc do not get back together and the decision to split comes into effect, members of parliament would have a further 30 days to form another coalition government. The president would have the right to dissolve parliament if talks failed. Tymoshenko has long had rocky relations with Yushchenko despite their alliance in the peaceful protests known as the Orange Revolution of 2004. She is believed to be planning to run against Yushchenko for president in elections due in 2009 or 2010. Tymoshenko abstained from a vote in Ukraine’s Security Council last month imposing restrictions on the movements of Russia’s Black Sea fleet, which is based in southern Ukraine and was involved in military action against Georgia. European officials including French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner and EU Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn have warned Ukraine could be the next target of political pressure from Russia in its mounting stand-off with the West. US Vice President Dick Cheney was due to visit Kiev this week as part of a four-nation tour to support US allies Georgia and Ukraine. Cheney arrived in oil-rich Azerbaijan on Wednesday at the start of his tour.
‘Palin told AIPAC she wants stronger Israel ties’
Palin told the pro-Israel lobby AIPAC on Tuesday that she would “work to expand and deepen the strategic partnership between US and Israel,” the group’s spokesman told the Wall Street Journal on Wednesday. According to the Wall Street Journal, Palin spent Tuesday in her hotel suite with campaign aides working on her speech at the Republican Convention scheduled for Wednesday. Sources familiar with her schedule said that she also had a private session with Joe Lieberman. Lieberman has come out in support of the Republican ticket, saying in his speech Tuesday, “Governor Palin, like John McCain, is a reformer, that’s why I sincerely believe the real ticket for change is the McCain-Palin ticket. I’m here to support John McCain because country matters more than party. John McCain’s whole life testifies to a great truth: being a Democrat or a Republican is important. But it is not more important than being an American.”
Sarkozy, Assad to Discuss Ties
Massoud A. Derhally, Sept. 3 (Bloomberg)
French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who arrives in Syria today on a two-day visit, will meet with President Bashar al-Assad as the nations seek to improve ties. Sarkozy will tomorrow take part in a four-way summit with Assad, the Emir of Qatar Sheik Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Syria’s official SANA news agency reported. Syrian Arab Airlines, the country’s state-run carrier, may agree to buy 50 planes from Airbus SAS to modernize its fleet during Sarkozy’s visit, Syrian Deputy Prime Minister for Economic Affairs Abdallah Dardari said in an Aug. 12 interview with Bloomberg News. Total SA, Europe’s third-largest oil company, is also among French companies that may sign a contract in Syria after the visit, a Sarkozy aide said. Paris-based Total, which produces oil in eastern Syria, may get new exploration permits, said the aide. Lafarge SA, the world’s biggest cement producer, is considering building two plants in Syria, the aide said, while Vinci SA is bidding for a contract to upgrade Damascus airport and CMA CGM SA is interested in developing a Syrian port.
ST. PAUL, Minnesota (CNN) — St. Paul police fired chemical agents and projectiles into a large crowd of protesters outside the Republican National Convention on Tuesday night. Witnesses said the protesters marched from the grounds of the state Capitol after a concert there ended abruptly. The protesters were noisy but peaceful as they approached the convention. Once they arrived, a police officer read an order to disperse, CNN reporters on the scene said. But almost immediately, officers along the exit route opened fire with gas and projectiles. In one instance, a CNN producer said, an officer stepped out of line to hit a young woman with pepper spray as she ran for the exit. Police said officers were trying to scatter protesters who they said were trying to get past security fences. Police told the AP that about 2,000 people participated in the anti-poverty march, which lasted about three hours. Other officers used gas and pepper spray in the path of those attempting to comply with the disperse order, forcing some to stop in their tracks, a CNN crew reported.
The Israel of the Caucasus
Arnaud de Borchgrave, UPI, Sept 2 2008
NATO guarantees that an attack against one member country is an attack against all are no longer what they used to be. Had Georgia been inside NATO, a number of European countries would no longer be willing to consider it an attack against their own soil. For Russia, the geopolitical stars were in perfect alignment. The US was badly overstretched and had no plausible way to talk tough without coming across as empty rhetoric. US resources have been drained by the Iraq and Afghan wars, and the war on terror. As Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov put it, Washington must now choose between its “pet project” Georgia and a partnership with Moscow. Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili evidently thought the US would come to his side militarily if Russian troops pushed him back into Georgia after ordering an attack last Aug. 8 on the breakaway province of South Ossetia. And when his forces were mauled by Russia’s counterattack, bitter disappointment turned to anger. Along with Abkhazia, Georgia lost two provinces. Georgia also had a special relationship with Israel that was mostly under the radar. Georgian Defense Minister Davit Kezerashvili is a former Israeli who moved things along by facilitating Israeli arms sales with US aid. “We are now in a fight against the great Russia,” he was quoted as saying, “and our hope is to receive assistance from the White House because Georgia cannot survive on its own.” The Jerusalem Post on Aug. 12 reported, “Georgian Prime Minister Vladimir Gurgenidze made a special call to Israel Tuesday morning to receive a blessing from one of the haredi community’s most important rabbis and spiritual leaders, Rabbi Aaron Leib Steinman. ‘I want him to pray for us and our state,’” he was quoted.
Israel began selling arms to Georgia seven years ago. US grants facilitated these purchases. From Israel came former minister and former Tel Aviv Mayor Roni Milo, representing Elbit Systems, and his brother Shlomo, former director general of Military Industries. Israeli UAV spy drones, made by Elbit Maarahot Systems, conducted recon flights over southern Russia, as well as into nearby Iran. In a secret agreement between Israel and Georgia, two military airfields in southern Georgia had been earmarked for the use of Israeli fighter-bombers in the event of pre-emptive attacks against Iranian nuclear installations. This would sharply reduce the distance Israeli fighter-bombers would have to fly to hit targets in Iran. And to reach Georgian airstrips, the Israeli air force would fly over Turkey. The attack ordered by Saakashvili against South Ossetia the night of Aug. 7 provided the Russians the pretext for Moscow to order Special Forces to raid these Israeli facilities where some Israeli drones were reported captured. At a Moscow news conference, Gen. Anatoly Nogovitsyn, Russia’s deputy chief of staff, said the extent of Israeli aid to Georgia included “eight types of military vehicles, explosives, landmines and special explosives for clearing minefields.” Estimated numbers of Israeli trainers attached to the Georgian army range from 100 to 1000. There were also 110 US military personnel on training assignments in Georgia. Last July 2000 US troops were flown in for “Immediate Response 2008,” a joint exercise with Georgian forces.
Details of Israel’s involvement were largely ignored by Israeli media lest they be interpreted as another blow to Israel’s legendary military prowess, which took a bad hit in the Lebanese war against Hezbollah two years ago. Georgia’s top diplomat in Tel Aviv complained about Israel’s “lackluster” response to his country’s military predicament and called for “diplomatic pressure on Moscow.” According to the Jerusalem Post, the Georgian was told “the address for that type of pressure is Washington.” Haaretz reported Georgian Minister Temur Yakobashvili — who is Jewish, the newspaper said — told Israeli army radio that “Israel should be proud of its military which trained Georgian soldiers” because he explained rather implausibly, “a small group of our soldiers were able to wipe out an entire Russian military division, thanks to Israeli training.” The Tel Aviv-Tbilisi military axis was agreed at the highest levels with the approval of the Bush administration. The official liaison between the two entities was Reserve Brig. Gen. Gal Hirsch who commanded Israeli forces on the Lebanese border in July 2006. He resigned from the army after the Winograd Commission flayed Israel’s conduct of its Second Lebanon War. Hirsch was also blamed for the seizure of two Israeli soldiers by Hezbollah. Israeli personnel, working for “private” companies with close ties to the Israel Defense Forces, also trained Georgian soldiers in house-to-house fighting.
That Russia assessed these Israeli training missions as US-approved is a given. The US was also handicapped by a shortage of spy-in-the-sky satellite capability, already overextended by the Iraq and Afghan wars. Neither US nor Georgian intelligence knew Russian forces were ready with an immediate and massive response to the Georgian attack Moscow knew was coming. Russian double agents ostensibly working for Georgia most probably egged on the military fantasies of the impetuous Saakashvili’s “surprise attack” plans. Saakashvili was convinced that by sending 2000 of his soldiers to serve in Iraq (who were immediately flown home by the United States when Russia launched a massive counterattack into Georgia), he would be rewarded for his loyalty. He could not believe President Bush, a personal friend, would leave him in the lurch. Georgia, as Saakashvili saw his country’s role, was “the Israel of the Caucasus.” The Tel Aviv-Tbilisi military axis appears to have been cemented at the highest levels, according to YNet, the Israeli electronic daily. But whether the IAF can still count on those air bases to launch bombing missions against Iran’s nuke facilities is now in doubt. Iran comes out ahead in the wake of the Georgian crisis. Neither Russia nor China is willing to respond to a Western request for more and tougher sanctions against the mullahs. Iran’s European trading partners are also loath to squeeze Iran. The Russian-built, 1000mw Iranian reactor in Bushehr is scheduled to go online early next year. A combination of Putin and oil has put Russia back on the geopolitical map of the world. Moscow’s oil and gas revenue this year is projected at $201b — a 13-fold increase since Putin succeeded Boris Yeltsin eight years ago. Not shabby for a wannabe superpower on the comeback trail.