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Western Asia ("Middle East")
ABC News' Jonathan Karl reports: Sen John McCain, R-AZ, is furious that General Stanley McChrystal, US Commander in Afghanistan, has given a speech in London and appeared on ‘60 Minutes’ this week - but has not yet testified before Congress about the way forward in Afghanistan.
McCain’s furor is directed at the Obama Administration for not allowing McChyrstal and other top military officials to testify about the recommendations they are making for the way forward in Afghanistan.
In a thunderous speech on the Senate floor, McCain introduced an amendment to the Defense appropriations bill that would require McChrystal to testify before the Senate Armed Services Committee before November 15. The amendment would also require testimony from CENTCOM commander General David Petraeus and Admiral James Stravridis, the Supreme Allied Commander of NATO.
“General McChrystal gave a speech in London just yesterday talking about what we needed to do,” McCain said. “So it's ok with the administration for General McChrystal to go on ‘60 Minutes,’ it's ok for him to give a speech at the Institute for Strategic Studies in London, but the administration does not want General McChrystal and General Petraeus before the Senate Armed Services Committee. How does that work?”
McCain hammered President Obama for talking to McChrystal only once during a 70-day period “although the President talks to labor leaders almost on a daily basis, pushing a health care agenda.”
“We need to hear from the architects and the commanders. Now, if the president doesn't want to talk to the commander in the field, General McChrystal, very often ... the fact is that we as members of Congress, a coequal branch of government, also have a responsibility in this decision-making process. Now, I respect the president's role as Commander in Chief. I respect the President of the United States making a decision. But I also cherish the role of the United States Senate and House of Representatives in being informed as to the views of our military commanders in whom we place the responsibilities and the lives of our young men and women who are in harm's way,” McCain said. Read more.
Iran agrees to ship enriched uranium to Russia for refinement
By Warren P. Strobel and Margaret Talev | McClatchy
Iran agreed in principle Thursday to ship most of its enriched uranium to Russia, where it would be refined for exclusively peaceful uses, in what Western diplomats called a significant, but interim, measure to ease concerns over its nuclear program.
The agreement was announced after more than seven hours of high-level talks in Geneva among Iran and representatives of the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany, which also featured the highest-level official U.S.-Iranian encounter in three decades.
Iran also pledged that within weeks it would allow the inspection of a previously covert uranium enrichment facility near the holy city of Qom, and the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Mohamed ElBaradei, announced that he'd head to Tehran to work out the details.
In Washington, President Barack Obama said the talks marked "a constructive beginning" and showed the promise of renewed engagement with Iran, but added that "going forward, we expect to see swift action. We're not interested in talking for the sake of talking."
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the talks had "opened the door" to potential progress on the nuclear issue. "It was a productive day, but the proof of that has not yet come to fruition, so we'll wait and continue to press our point of view and see what Iran decides to do," she said.
In Geneva, Javier Solana, the European Union's foreign policy chief, said he hoped the talks — which are to reconvene later this month — were the beginning of intensive engagement with Iran after a 15-month pause. Read more.
Israel's Ofra Settlement on Unauthorized Palestinian Land
By Stephen Lendman
Israel's 130 West Bank settlements are illegal under international law, including Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention that states:
"Individual or mass forcible transfers, as well as deportations of protected persons from occupied territory to the territory of the Occupying Power or to that of any other country, occupied or not, are prohibited, regardless of their motive."
In addition, various UN resolutions (including 446, 452 and 465) condemned Israel's settlement building by declaring they have "no legal validity" to exist. Yet they do and continue expanding in reckless disregard of the law.
Even so, after its forces occupied the West Bank in 1967, Israel in principle agreed to respect binding local Jordanian law and its own subsequent military order. It didn't then and doesn't now.
B'Tselem's report titled "The Ofra Settlement - An Unauthorized Outpost" shows that Israel reneged on its agreement because Ofra is illegal under local and international law.
Called a flagship settlement, it was established in 1975 by the fundamentalist Gush Emunim (Bloc of the Faithful) movement that began seizing West Bank land for itself - modestly at first in abandoned Jordanian Ein Yabrud army camp houses. Then later, more aggressively after the Rabin government recognized it as a community even though 58% of its area lies on land registered to Palestinians in Israel's Land Registry. Settlement construction there is forbidden. Yet in 1977 under Menachem Begin, recognition became official.
Ofra set a precedent. As the first northern West Bank settlement, it broke "the barrier that blocked settlement attempts in the heart of the Palestinian population" and established events on the ground for dozens more to follow - illegal settlements and outposts "in opposition to the stated official position of the government," on paper only to be defiled and ignored.
Some Background on Gush Emunim
Under the slogan, "The Land of Israel, for the people of Israel, according to the Torah of Israel," Gush Emunim (GE) emerged in the aftermath of the 1973 Yom Kippur war, but Israel's 1967 Six-Day war victory inspired its adherents to believe that all biblical Israel for Jews alone was now in reach.
Today, GE is an influential, extremist pressure group - fundamentalist, radical, messianic, militant, terrorist, and undemocratic, yet supported by all Israeli governments. Ofra gave it a footprint, a toehold, an entry for Israel to establish 130 West Bank settlements and other outposts, now home to half a million Jews on confiscated Palestinian land.
Submitted by Michael Munk | www.MichaelMunk.com
There is no good evidence that Iran has a nuclear weapons program. It has offered to allow regular International Atomic Energy Agency inspections of the newly announced facility near Qom, which would effectively prevent it from being used for weapons production.
There is a secret nuclear facility in the Middle East, however, producing plutonium and not just enriched uranium, which has the capacity to make 10 nuclear warheads a year.
It is Israel's ongoing nuclear weapon production that drives the nuclear arms race in the Middle East. Saddam wanted a bomb because Israel had one. The Iranians were then worried both about an Iraqi and an Israeli bomb. Egypt, Saudi Arabia and others are annoyed at their geostrategic helplessness in the face of Israeli nukes.
Israel's nuclear arsenal is the region's Original Sin.
William Safire, New York Times columnist, doesn't know what he's talking (or writing) about. Who says? The New York Times.
Underneath the headline, "Found: A Smoking Gun," Safire on February 11 wrote a column that maintained a "clear link" existed between Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden. A from-the-start supporter of the war in Iraq, Safire was declaring that one of Bush's main rationales for the invasion--a supposed operational relationship between Al Qaeda and Hussein's regime--was solid. In doing so, he was taking on all those who have challenged or questioned this Bush claim--a long list that even includes the Republican and Democratic leaders of the House intelligence committee who last September concluded that the prewar intelligence did not contain information to support the charge that Hussein had been in league with bin Laden.
What did Safire base his case-closed pronouncement upon? A New York Times story that had appeared a day earlier. Written by reporter Dexter Filkins (in Baghdad) and also based on reporting done by Douglas Jehl (in Washington), the front-pager revealed that the Kurds had intercepted a courier for Ansar al-Islam, a fundamentalist terrorist group that had been based in northern Iraq. The messenger, Hassan Ghul, had on him a CD-ROM that contained a seventeen-page document that appeared to be a letter from the head of Ansar al-Islam, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, to Al Qaeda requesting assistance. Ansar al-Islam wanted to start an Iraqi civil war by attacking Shi'ite Muslims, and Zarqawi was hoping Al Qaeda would help him.
A-ha, exclaimed Safire, here was the proof that Safire himself was correct when he wrote on September 24, 2001--"not two weeks after 9/11"--that Hussein was linked to Al Qaeda through Ansar al-Islam. And he praised the work of the reporters involved. But Safire was molding facts more than he was marshaling them. Read more.
Synchronized announcements on September 17 by President Barack Obama and Defense Secretary Robert Gates that the U.S. was abandoning plans to station interceptor missiles in Poland and a forward-based missile radar site in the Czech Republic are now ten days ago and information surfacing in the interim indicates that its new plans are more far-reaching than their predecessor.
Two days after the statements by the American president and defense chief the latter, Pentagon head Robert Gates, was granted a column in the New York Times.
The most representative segment of Gates' comments is arguably this:
"I have been a strong supporter of missile defense ever since President Ronald Reagan first proposed it in 1983. But I want to have real capacity as soon as possible, and to take maximum advantage of new technologies....American missile defense on the continent will continue, and not just in Central Europe, the most likely location for future SM-3 sites, but, we hope, in other NATO countries as well....We are strengthening - not scrapping - missile defense in Europe." 
Remarking that the earlier-envisioned system in Poland and the Czech Republic would not have been operative until 2015 and that opposition among both nations' parliamentarians would have delayed the process at least another two years, Gates evinced both impatience with and far grander designs for the European wing of the U.S.'s global missile shield program by asserting, "President Obama...decided to discard that plan in favor of a vastly more suitable approach. In the first phase, to be completed by 2011, we will deploy proven, sea-based SM-3 interceptor missiles - weapons that are growing in capability...."
The new deployments, which will be examined in depth later, are to be more mobile and less capable of being anticipated and defended against; will be implemented, according to Gates' own schedule, at least eight years ahead of the prior plan's timeline; and will extend worldwide missile interceptor networks into far broader swathes of Eurasia, the Middle East and ultimately the planet as a whole.
Congressman Jim McGovern Calls for U.S. Exit Strategy in Afghanistan
National Call-in Day: No Exit Strategy! Stop the Funding!
Wednesday September 30
To reach the Washington Switchboard: 202-224-3121
Congress is close to final passage of the $625.8 billion 2010 Defense Budget, which contains approximately $128.2 billion to conduct the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq through September 2010.
So far the White House has offered no timetable and no “exit strategy” for Afghanistan. To the contrary, General McCrystal is calling for tens of thousands of additional American troops and a long-term commitment, which could tie the United States down in Afghanistan for years to come.
The Defense Intelligence Agency and its contractors conclude that a nuclear test was conducted jointly by South Africa and Israel.
An ad hoc presidential panel contradicts that analysis and suggests a meteoroid struck the satellite causing it to sound a false alarm.
Which was it? What should've been the U.S. response? Can you decide?
But perhaps the questions we should really be deciding is does Iran have nuclear weapons; and if so, should the U.S. attack Iran and North Korea”.
Israel's Netanyahu: Let's Talk with Palestinians -- and Stop Iran's Threat
Prime Minister Tells ABC's Charles Gibson Iran's Nuclear Ambitions Threaten World Peace
By Ned Potter | ABC News
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told ABC's Charles Gibson tonight he welcomes talks -- without preconditions -- to set up a Palestinian state in the Middle East. But he said it is up to Palestinian leaders to exert leadership, and added he is not going to back down on the right of Israelis to settle in Palestinian territory.
"There are a quarter of a million people living in these communities," said Netanyahu. "You know, they need kindergartens. They need schools. ... You can't freeze life."
In a one-on-one interview with Gibson, Netanyahu said he is especially worried about Iran -- which, he said, could destabilize the entire Middle East with the development of nuclear weapons. Read more.
The U.S. intelligence community is reporting to the White House that Iran has not restarted its nuclear-weapons development program, two counterproliferation officials tell NEWSWEEK. U.S. agencies had previously said that Tehran halted the program in 2003.
The officials, who asked for anonymity when discussing sensitive information, said that U.S. intelligence agencies have informed policymakers at the White House and other agencies that the status of Iranian work on development and production of a nuclear bomb has not changed since the formal National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Iran's "Nuclear Intentions and Capabilities" in November 2007. Public portions of that report stated that U.S. intelligence agencies had "high confidence" that, as of early 2003, Iranian military units were pursuing development of a nuclear bomb, but that in the fall of that year Iran "halted its nuclear weapons program." The document said that while U.S. agencies believed the Iranian government "at a minimum is keeping open the option to develop nuclear weapons," U.S. intelligence as of mid-2007 still had "moderate confidence" that it had not restarted weapons-development efforts.
One of the two officials said that the Obama administration has now worked out a system in which intelligence agencies provide top policymakers, including the president, with regular updates on intelligence judgments like the conclusions in the 2007 Iran NIE. According to the two officials, the latest update to policymakers has been that as of now—two years after the period covered by the 2007 NIE—U.S. intelligence agencies still believe Iran has not resumed nuclear-weapons development work. Read more.
President Obama will host meetings Tuesday with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, the White House announced Saturday.
The meetings come as hopes for renewed Israeli-Palestinian talks have dimmed despite diplomatic efforts of former Maine Sen. George Mitchell, the U.S. envoy for the Middle East, who capped off last week's visit to the region with a second round of talks with both sides.
The meetings, set for the sidelines of next week's U.N. General Assembly session in New York, are "another sign of the president's deep commitment to comprehensive peace that he wants to personally engage at this juncture," Mitchell said in the White House statement.
Obama will talk with each leader separately before all three meet together, the White House said. Read more.
Since the surprise news from the White House and the Pentagon on September 17 that the United States was relinquishing plans to deploy ground-based interceptor missiles to Poland and a missile radar installation to the Czech Republic speculation has been rife on two scores.
First, was this move a sincere effort to "reset" relations with Russia, possibly part of a trade-off for Russian transit and logistical support for the American and NATO war in South Asia and for Moscow agreeing to tougher measures - sanctions at any rate - against Iran?
Overriding Western objections, a 150-nation nuclear conference on Friday passed a resolution directly criticizing Israel and its atomic program for the first time in 18 years. Iran hailed the vote as a "glorious moment."
The result was a setback not only for Israel but also for the United States and other backers of the Jewish state, which had lobbied for 18 years of past practice — debate on the issue without a vote. It also reflected building tensions between Israel and its backers and Islamic nations, backed by developing countries.
Of delegations present at the International Atomic Energy Agency meeting Friday, 49 voted for the resolution. Forty-five were against and 16 abstained from endorsing or rejecting the document, which "expresses concern about the Israeli nuclear capabilities," and links it to "concern about the threat posed by the proliferation of nuclear weapons for the security and stability of the Middle East."
In an attempt to sway the assembly before the vote, U.S. chief delegate Glyn Davies spoke out against an "attempt to use this resolution to criticize a single country."
"Such an approach is highly politicized and does not truly address the complexities at play regarding crucial nuclear-related issues in the Middle East," he said. Read more.
A 12-year-old Yemeni girl, who was forced into marriage, died during a painful childbirth that also killed her baby, a children's rights group said Monday.
Fawziya Ammodi struggled for three days in labor, before dying of severe bleeding at a hospital on Friday, said the Seyaj Organization for the Protection of Children.
"Although the cause of her death was lack of medical care, the real case was the lack of education in Yemen and the fact that child marriages keep happening," said Seyaj President Ahmed al-Qureshi.
Born into an impoverished family in Hodeidah, Fawziya was forced to drop out of school and married off to a 24-year-old man last year, al-Qureshi said.
Child brides are commonplace in Yemen, especially in the Red Sea Coast where tribal customs hold sway. Hodeidah is the fourth largest city in Yemen and an important port.
More than half of all young Yemeni girls are married off before the age of 18 -- many times to older men, some with more than one wife, a study by Sanaa University found. Read more.
OpedNews Journalist and Protesters Charged With Criminal Conspiracy After Arrest At "Army Experience Center"
By Linda Milazzo
Philadelphia, PA, September 13, 2009: Six members of various anti-war groups, including World Can't Wait and Military Families Speak Out, and an OpedNews journalist, were arrested on Saturday, September 12, 2009, at approximately 3pm (ET) at a protest organized to shut down The Army Experience Center, located in Franklin Mills Mall in Philadelphia, PA. They were released early Sunday morning and charged with Criminal Conspiracy and Failure To Disperse. Their arraignment is scheduled for September 23, 2009 at 11:30am (ET) at Philadelphia Municipal Court,1301 Filbert Street.
OpedNews Journalist and Six Protesters Arrested At "Army Experience Center" In Philadelphia (Updated 9/13/09)
By Linda Milazzo
UPDATED - 9/13/09: The six women, including OpedNews journalist Cheryl Biren, and one man, who has now been identified as Richard Marini of World Can't Wait, arrested yesterday at the Army Experience Center, were released early this morning, September 13, 2009. All were charged with Criminal Conspiracy and Failure to Disperse. Their arraignment is scheduled for September 23, 2009 at 11:30am (ET).
Philadelphia, PA, September 12, 2009: Six members of various anti-war groups, including World Can't Wait and Military Families Speak Out, and an OpedNews journalist, were arrested today at approximately 3:00pm (ET) at a protest organized to shut down The Army Experience Center, located in Franklin Mills Mall in Philadelphia, PA.
Toward the latter half of last month the Polish daily Gazeta Wyborcza, "citing officials and lobbyists in Washington," revealed that the Pentagon would reevaluate planned interceptor missile deployments in Poland and a complementary missile radar site in the Czech Republic and instead shift global missile shield plans to Israel, Turkey and the Balkans 
"Washington is now looking for alternative locations including in the Balkans, Israel and Turkey...." 
The news came a week after it was reported that at the annual Space and Missile Defense Conference hosted by the Pentagon's Missile Defense Agency in Huntsville, Alabama the Chicago-based Boeing Company offered to construct a "47,500-pound interceptor that could be flown to NATO bases as needed on Boeing-built C-17 cargo planes," a "two-stage interceptor designed to be globally deployable within 24 hours...." 
This initiative, much as with the reports of plans to expand the American worldwide interceptor missile system to the Middle East and Southeastern Europe, has been presented as a way of alleviating Russian concerns over anti-missile components being deployed near its borders. But on the same day that Boeing announced the project for a rapid deployable missile launcher for NATO bases in Europe the First Deputy Foreign Minister of the Czech Republic, Tomas Pojar, was quoted as asserting that a "possible U.S. mobile anti-missile shield does not threaten the U.S. plans to build a radar base on Czech soil because the system is to be a combination of fixed and mobile elements." 
That is, what is being presented in both instances as substitutes for U.S. and NATO missile shield deployments in Eastern Europe may in fact be added to rather than replace plans for Poland and the Czech Republic.
By Linda Milazzo
I was out last evening. I tried to escape, just for a while, back to the days of (Taking) Woodstock when we who worked to end the Vietnam war did so as a united, free-spirited force. I readily admit that in today's times of racism disguised as patriotism, religious perversion, rampant ignorance, unhinged media menaces, and growing hostility amongst Americans, I yearn for that long ago era of 'peace and love.'
Enroute home after my wistful evening, I glanced at my phone and saw a Washington Post alert saying Obama's Green Jobs appointee, Van Jones, had resigned. I was shocked. I knew Jones was being assaulted by the right, but I didn't think he'd resign, and I didn't think the Obama administration would so readily sacrifice this brilliant advocate for the environment and the poor. After all, Jones is a person in the Obama administration who personifies the term "public servant." For progressives, Van Jones' appointment was, and is, Obama's tour de force gift to America of a high level appointee free of corporate entanglements who cannot and will not be bought. Jones is a man for the people in an administration where for the corporation is the norm.
G.W. Bush, Dick Cheney and Tony Blair scheduled to visit Canada in October, 2009
In October G.W. Bush, Tony Blair and Dick Cheney, all accused of horrifying war crimes and crimes against humanity plan to visit Canada. Under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act each of these people if reported plans go ahead.
- G. W. Bush will be, on October 22, 2009 at the Fairmont Queen Elizabeth in Montreal PQ to deliver a lunch-time speech at an invitation-only event organized by tinePUBLIC Inc
- Tony Blair will be the keynote speaker October 6 2009 at the Surrey Regional Economic Summit, at the Sheraton Vancouver Guilford Hotel, Surrey BC. Blair was invited by Surrey Mayor Dianne Watts
- Dick Cheney is booked for a week of fishing at the Silver Hilton Lodge on the Babine River near Smithers BC from October 8 to 15 2009.
Canada’s Legal Duties
By ratifying the Convention against Torture and the Rome Statue for an International Court, Canada agreed not only to make the torture and other war crimes and crimes against humanity crimes under Canadian law but also to participate in acting effectively to prevent and punish these crimes wherever they occur. To ensure Canada’s ability to fulfill these duties, Parliament has:
- Passed laws enabling Canada to prosecute war crimes and crimes against humanity wherever the crimes occurred and whatever the nationality of the suspected perpetrators and the victims. (e.g. Criminal Code, torture provisions and the Crimes against Humanity and War Crimes Act.) Under the Convention against Torture , when a person suspected of any involvement in torture enters Canada, Canada has a duty to either prosecute that person or extradite him to a state that is willing and able to prosecute.
- Passed laws to ensure that Canada will not allow people suspected of war crimes and/or crimes against humanity and/or gross human rights abuses to enter Canada or otherwise provide a safe haven, even temporarily, for people suspected of any involvement in carrying out or acquiescing to war crimes, crimes against humanity or other gross human rights abuses. (e.g. Immigration and Refugee Protection Act)
The Canadian Ministers responsible are not enforcing these laws.
In any kind of major transnational event, there is the historical truth, what actually happened, and the political truth, what must have happened for the nations involved to continue on as before.
Sometimes, these accounts match; other times, these “truths” are wildly divergent, which appears to be the case with the Lockerbie bombing.
On Thursday, Abdel Baset al-Megrahi, the former Libyan intelligence officer convicted of planting a bomb aboard Pan Am Flight 103 which exploded over the hills over Lockerbie, Scotland, on Dec. 21, 1988, was released. The Scottish authorities said they were letting al-Megrahi go free on “compassionate grounds” because he was terminally ill from cancer.
This decision caused an uproar in the United States. Obama administration officials lodged angry protests; family members of the victims decried the move, and TV pundits joined in the lamentations. But what do they really know about the Lockerbie bombing, beyond what they’ve read in the last few days?
The truth about what happened at Lockerbie appears quite a bit more complex than the cookie-cutter version presented by the mainstream media. Several longtime observers of the al-Megrahi case have concluded that it has always been weak, at best.
According to British journalist Hugh Miles in a 2007 article for London Review of Books, many “lawyers, politicians, diplomats and relatives of Lockerbie victims now believe that the former Libyan intelligence officer is innocent.” Read more.
"Daybreak: Undoing the Imperial Presidency and Forming a More Perfect Union," by David Swanson is due in stores September 1st, but the publisher has it now and you can get it straight from Seven Stories Press.
Global Depression and Regional Wars - Reviewing James Petras' New Book: Part I
By Stephen Lendman
James Petras is Binghamton University, New York Professor Emeritus of Sociology. Besides his long and distinguished academic career, he's a noted figure on the left, a well-respected Latin American expert, and a longtime chronicler of the region' popular struggles. He's also a prolific author of hundreds of articles and dozens of books, most recently his new one titled, "Global Depression and Regional Wars" addressing America, Latin America and the Middle East.
Part I - Global Depression
Variety's famous October 30, 1929 headline is again relevant: "Wall Street Lays an Egg," or as economist Rick Wolff puts it: "Capitalism hit the fan" following a familiar pattern of boom and bust cycles punctuated by bubbles that always burst. Petras explains it this way:
"All the idols of capitalism over the past three decades have crashed. The assumptions and presumptions, paradigms and prognosis of indefinite progress under liberal free market capitalism have been tested and have failed. We are living the end of an entire epoch (and bearing witness to) the collapse of the US and world financial system."
Grim prospects are ahead:
- a world depression with one-fourth of the labor force unemployed;
- global trade in free fall;
- a proliferation of bankruptcies with General Motors a metaphor for a decaying system;
- free-market capitalism in disrepute; and
- "planning, public ownership, nationalization(s and other) socialist alternatives have become almost respectable" because most sacred cow "truisms" and solutions have failed.
In serious contention for Dumbest Washington Consensus for September is the idea of cutting off Iran's gas imports to pressure Iran to stop enriching uranium. A majority of Representatives and Senators have signed on to legislation that seeks to block Iran's gas imports, a top legislative priority for the so-called "Israel Lobby." But it's a stupid idea. Let us count the ways.
One: there is no indication that Russia and China will go along with it. Even Europe is split, Reuters reports. Turkey is also likely to be unenthusiastic - a country that has good relations with Iran, has a long border with Iran, and is currently on the UN Security Council. A U.S.-sponsored gas embargo on Iran isn't likely to have much impact if Russia, China, Turkey and half of Europe aren't cooperating - after all, it's not the U.S. that's exporting gas to Iran - unless it is imposed by force.
Michael Munk commented on the news article below:
Americans forget that Iraq turned out to be telling the truth when it insisted against US claims that it had no WMDs. Now, finally, another US claim turns out the be false and confirms Iraq was again telling the truth: The attacking US pilot was indeed killed when his plane was shot down and he was NOT held prisoner.
Remains of first U.S. Gulf War casualty found
By Jim Wolf | Reuters via Yahoo! News | August 3, 2009
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The remains of a U.S. Navy pilot have been found and positively identified, more than 18 years after he was shot down over Iraq and became the first U.S. casualty of the first Gulf War, the U.S. Defense Department said on Sunday.
The Pentagon's announcement resolved questions about the fate of Captain Michael Scott Speicher, who some believed had survived his shoot-down and been taken prisoner by Iraq.
Bone fragments and skeletal remains were recovered in the desert last week by U.S. Marines stationed in Iraq's Anbar province, thanks to a tip from an Iraqi citizen, the department said. It said they were identified as Speicher's by the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology.
Speicher's F/A-18 Hornet fighter was shot down over west-central Iraq on January 17, 1991, the first night of the first Gulf War, which eventually drove Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein from Kuwait.
An official Navy history identified Speicher as the first American casualty of the conflict. Some reports had emerged that Speicher, 33 when he was downed, might have survived and become a captive of Saddam.
On January 11, 2001, Speicher's status was changed from killed in action to missing in action.
The U.S. intelligence community had concluded that Baghdad could account for Speicher's fate but was concealing information, according to an unclassified summary of its findings released in March 2001.
Then-president George W. Bush, in a September 12, 2002, speech to the U.N. General Assembly, had cited Speicher's possible detention as part of his case for post-September 11 action against Iraq, along with allegations that Saddam was developing banned weapons of mass destruction and was sponsoring terrorism.
The Iraqi government had maintained from the start that Speicher died in the crash, although his remains had gone unrecovered, fueling conspiracy theories.
The Iraqi who told Marines about the remains said he knew of two Iraqi citizens who recalled a U.S. jet crashing in the desert. One said he had been present when Speicher was found dead at the site and buried there by Bedouin tribesmen. The Iraqis led the Marines to the crash site. Read more.
"I come to you with humility that I didn't heed the call sooner. It was purely because of cowardice."
Naomi Klein's recently completed visit to Israel had a galvanizing effect on the "boycott from within" movement here, which has endorsed the Palestinian call for BDS [Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions].* Her public meetings, in Ramallah, East Jerusalem, Haifa, and Jaffa drew hundreds of people to hear her clear-eyed analysis of why it is time for a full boycott of Israel until the occupation ends, Arab Palestinian citizens of Israel have full and equal rights, and the right of return for Palestinian refugees is fully realized under international law.
President Obama has ordered national security officials to look into allegations that the Bush administration resisted efforts to investigate a CIA-backed Afghan warlord over the killings of hundreds of Taliban prisoners in 2001.
"The indications that this had not been properly investigated just recently was brought to my attention," Obama told CNN's Anderson Cooper in an exclusive interview during the president's visit to Ghana. The full interview will air 10 p.m. Monday.
"So what I've asked my national security team to do is to collect the facts for me that are known, and we'll probably make a decision in terms of how to approach it once we have all of the facts gathered up," Obama said.
The inquiry stems from the deaths of at least 1,000 Taliban prisoners who had surrendered to the U.S.-backed Northern Alliance in late 2001.
The fighters were in the custody of troops led by Gen. Abdul Rashid Dostum, a prominent Afghan warlord who has served as chief of staff of the country's post-Taliban army. Read more.
Military Escalation: From Afghanistan To the Caspian Sea and Central Asia
Largest ground combat operation since the Vietnam War.
by Rick Rozoff | Global Research CA
The Pentagon and its NATO allies have launched the largest combat offensive to date in their nearly eight-year war in South Asia - Operation Khanjar (Strike of the Sword) with 4,000 US Marines, attack helicopters and tanks and Operation Panchai Palang (Panther's Claw) with several hundred British engaged in airborne assaults - in the Afghan province of Helmand.
The American effort is the largest ground combat operation conducted by Washington in Asia since the Vietnam War.
Tomgram: Michael Schwartz, Twenty-First-Century Colonialism in Iraq
One of the earliest metaphors President George W. Bush and some of his top officials wielded in their post-invasion salad days in Iraq involved bicycles. The question was: Should we take the "training wheels" off the Iraqi bike (of democracy)? Then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, for example, commented smugly on the way getting Iraq "straightened out" was like teaching your kid to ride a bike:
"They're learning, and you're running down the street holding on to the back of the seat. You know that if you take your hand off they could fall, so you take a finger off and then two fingers, and pretty soon you're just barely touching it. You can't know when you're running down the street how many steps you're going to have to take. We can't know that, but we're off to a good start."
That image (about as patronizingly colonial as they come) of the little pedaling Iraqi child with an American parent running close behind, was abandoned when around the first corner, as it turned out, was an insurgent with an rocket-propelled grenade. Many years and many disasters later, though, Americans, whether in the Obama administration, the Washington punditocracy, or the media are still almost incapable of not being patronizing when it comes to Iraq. Take a typical recent piece of "news analysis" in the New York Times by a perfectly sharp journalist, Alissa J. Rubin. It was headlined in print "America's New Role in Iraq Prompts a Search for Means of Influence" and focused, in part, on Vice President Joe Biden's recent trip there supposedly to "assuage" Iraqi feelings that they are being "moved to the bottom shelf."
Rubin writes (and this sort of thing has been written countless times before) that the Americans are now in search of a "new tone" for their dealings in that country. (In the Bush years, this was often called -- in another strange imperial metaphor -- "putting an Iraqi face" on things.) "They have," she comments, "a reputation for being heavy-handed, for telling Iraqis what to do rather than asking what they want." But of course, as the piece makes clear, whatever his tone, Biden arrived in Iraq to tell Iraqis what they should do -- or as she puts it, to try to "solve" the "troubles... that stymied three previous ambassadors and President George W. Bush": continuing sectarian animosities, the passage of an Iraqi oil law, and the Kurdish problem.
These, it seems, are still our burden and we really can't imagine it any other way. As the Iraqis quoted in Rubin's piece make clear, the dominant role played by the U.S. is resented by the occupied -- especially the elite -- who have contempt for the occupiers, even if they find it hard to imagine life without them.
I mention this only because the tone of American writing and thought on Iraq has always been tinged with what Michael Schwartz, TomDispatch regular and author of a superb study, War Without End: The Iraq War in Context, says is a deeper colonial urge, one that unfortunately may not be fading, even as discussion of a U.S. military withdrawal from Iraq grows. (Catch a TomDispatch audio interview with Schwartz by clicking here.) Tom
The Obama Doctrine?
By Michael Schwartz
Here's how reporters Steven Lee Myers and Marc Santora of the New York Times described the highly touted American withdrawal from Iraq's cities last week:
"Much of the complicated work of dismantling and removing millions of dollars of equipment from the combat outposts in the city has been done during the dark of night. Gen. Ray Odierno, the overall American commander in Iraq, has ordered that an increasing number of basic operations -- transport and re-supply convoys, for example -- take place at night, when fewer Iraqis are likely to see that the American withdrawal is not total."