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Obama's Address: Smooth? Yes. Transformative? No.

By Dave Lindorff

Barack Obama’s first address to Congress provided Americans with yet another example of competent speechmaking, and I suppose, given that we’ve just endured eight painful years of oratorical farce, being able to listen to your president without wincing is something.

The problem is that the way forward proposed by the president as laid out in this address was almost always half-hearted, wrong-headed or doomed.

Obama declared at the outset of his address that the economic crisis was the major issue confronting the country, and while one could argue that this crisis is merely a symptom of much bigger issues, like the nearly completed deindustrialization of the nation, the death grip of militarism, and the growing political power of corporations, one could also concede that there is an urgent need to deal with the deepening recession.

Obama widens missile strikes inside Pakistan: Report

By Indian Express

New York : After targeting al-Qaeda and Taliban militants in their 'safe havens' on the Pak-Afghan border, US forces have now also started hitting Pakistani Taliban.

US President Barack Obama has broadened the list of radical groups to be targeted by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the group led by Baitullah Mehsud is one of them, 'The New York Times' reported.

The strikes are another sign that Obama is continuing, and in some cases extending, Bush administration policy in using American spy agencies against terrorism suspects in Pakistan, as he had promised to do during his Presidential campaign.

The missile strikes on training camps run by Baitullah Mehsud represent a broadening of the American campaign inside Pakistan, which has been largely carried out by drone aircraft.

Google Earth reveals secret history of US base in Pakistan

By Times of London

images

The US was secretly flying unmanned drones from the Shamsi airbase in Pakistan's southwestern province of Baluchistan as early as 2006, according to an image of the base from Google Earth.

The image — that is no longer on the site but which was obtained by The News, Pakistan's English language daily newspaper — shows what appear to be three Predator drones outside a hangar at the end of the runway. The Times also obtained a copy of the image, whose co-ordinates confirm that it is the Shamsi airfield, also known as Bandari, about 200 miles southwest of the Pakistani city of Quetta.

An investigation by The Times yesterday revealed that the CIA was secretly using Shamsi to launch the Predator drones that observe and attack al-Qaeda and Taleban militants around Pakistan's border with Afghanistan.

Secrecy and Denial as Pakistan Lets CIA Use Airbase to Strike Militants

Secrecy and Denial as Pakistan Lets CIA Use Airbase to Strike Militants
By Tom Coghlan, Zahid Hussain, and Jeremy Page | Times On Line | Click through for online video | Submitted by Michael Munk | www.MichaelMunk.com

The CIA is secretly using an airbase in southern Pakistan to launch the Predator drones that observe and attack al-Qaeda and Taleban militants on the Pakistani side of the border with Afghanistan, a Times investigation has found.

Zardari: We Underestimated Taliban Threat - 100 Nukes

Zardari: We Underestimated Taliban Threat - 100 Nukes

12:12 mins.

'Pashtunistan' Holds Key to Obama Mission

'Pashtunistan' holds key to Obama mission
By Jason Burke, Yama Omid, Paul Harris, Saeed Shah, Gethin Chamberlain | Guardian UK
The mountainous borderlands where Afghanistan meets Pakistan have been described as a Grand Central Station for Islamic terrorists, a place where militants come and go and the Taliban trains its fighters. Now Barack Obama has made solving the 'Af-Pak' question a top priority. But could the battle to tame the Pashtun heartland become his Vietnam?

"The situation there grows more perilous every day," Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the American joint chiefs of staff, told journalists earlier this month. Holbrooke reaches for the ultimate comparison: "It's tougher than Iraq."...For Bashir, a Kabul taxi driver, the Americans would leave. "The Soviets couldn't stay in our country. How can the Americans stay?" he asked.

Killer US Drones Based in Pakistan

From the Los Angeles Times
Feinstein comment on U.S. drones likely to embarrass Pakistan
The Predator planes that launch missile strikes against militants are based in Pakistan, the senator says. That suggests a much deeper relationship with the U.S. than Islamabad would like to admit.
By Greg Miller

Reporting from Washington — A senior U.S. lawmaker said Thursday that unmanned CIA Predator aircraft operating in Pakistan are flown from an air base in that country, a revelation likely to embarrass the Pakistani government and complicate its counter-terrorism collaboration with the United States.

The disclosure by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, marked the first time a U.S. official had publicly commented on where the Predator aircraft patrolling Pakistan take off and land.

First Strikes: Bombing Civilians

Source

Bill Moyers Journal, January 30, 2009

Bill Moyers sits down with historian Marilyn Young, author of the forthcoming "Bombing Civilians: A Twentieth-century History" and former Pentagon official Pierre Sprey, who developed military planes and helped found the military reform movement.

Watch the Discussion

Sprey says:

Does it kill the person it's intended to kill? Not often. And when it does, it usually kills a bunch of other people around. And that, of course, raises the problem that the Predator and the missiles become a recruiting tool for the opposition and — beyond a shadow of a doubt — recruit more opposition than we get rid of by killing the one person at the table that we wanted to kill.

Read the Transcript, some cuts from:

Pakistan an Early Test of Obama’s Approach

Pakistan an Early Test of Obama’s Approach
By David E. Sanger | NYTimes

Vice President Joseph R. Biden is a famously garrulous guy. As chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, he would talk endlessly about what went wrong in Iraq or how to engage Iran, offering tutorials on the modern histories of those countries, and winding around to a seven-point plans about what needs to happen next.

So it was pretty noticeable on Sunday, when Bob Schieffer of CBS asked Mr. Biden a seemingly straightforward question about whether the United States would notify Pakistan before sending forces on cross-border raids to capture or kill al Qaeda or insurgents from the country’s ungovernable tribal areas, that Mr. Biden shut up.

Biden Vows More Strikes Inside Pakistan

Biden vows more strikes inside Pakistan | Press TV

US Vice President Joe Biden emphasizes that Pentagon would not hesitate to launch strikes inside Pakistani territories near the Afghan border.

"I can say that the President of the United States said during his campaign and in the debates that if there is an actionable target, of a high-level al-Qaeda personnel, that he would not hesitate to use action to deal with that," Pakistani media quoted him on Monday.

The remarks come after 22 people were killed in two separate US missile strikes in the Waziristan region, on Friday.

US commanders said they had consulted President Barack Obama before launching recent drone attacks on Pakistan's tribal belt bordering Afghanistan.

"Four days after assuming the presidency, he (Obama) was consulted by US commanders before they launched the two attacks," Guardian said Sunday.

The Wrong Man for the Job

The Wrong Man for the Job
By Scott Ritter | Truth Dig

It was early in October 2001, and I had been invited to New York City on behalf of The History Channel for a show in which I was to discuss the situation in Afghanistan in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks. I was pitted against a seasoned American diplomat who had made his reputation negotiating peace accords in difficult corners of the world. I felt a little out of place, since my area of expertise was arms control and disarmament, and specifically how arms control was being implemented in Iraq. I had written a few scholarly articles about Afghan-Soviet relations, with a focus on the ethnic and tribal aspects of Afghan politics, and in the mid-1980s I had been an analyst with the Marine Corps component of the rapid deployment force, following very closely the Soviet war against the Afghan mujahedeen, so I wasn’t totally out of my element.

Pakistan Calls on US to End Attacks

Pakistan calls on US to end attacks | al Jazeera

"With the advent of the new US administration, it is Pakistan's sincere hope that the United States will review its policy and adopt a more holistic and integrated approach toward dealing with the issue of terrorism and extremism," a ministry statement said....The Pakistani parliament has adopted a unanimous resolution stating that US and Nato attacks would be considered an affront to the country's sovereignty."

Asif Ali Zardari, the Pakistani president, has called on Barack Obama, his US counterpart, to end American missile attacks in South Asian nation's tribal border regions with Afghanistan.

Zardari's comments were reported in the local media on Saturday, a day after the first US attacks in Pakistan since Obama's inauguration.

Death Toll in US Drone Strikes Rises to 21

Death toll in US drone strikes rises to 21 | The News

Six more bodies were recovered from the rubble of an Al-Qaeda den hit by a suspected US missile, pushing the death toll in two separate strikes to 21, security officials said Saturday.

"Six bodies of local tribesmen were found in the rubble of the house which was destroyed in a US missile strike on Friday just outside the town of Mir Ali in North Waziristan district," the official said.

On Friday officials said eight people including five foreigners -- Pakistani officials use the term "foreigners" to describe Al-Qaeda militants -- died in the missile strike at the house of a pro-Taliban tribesman near Mir Ali.

Hours later another suspected US drone fired two missiles into a house in Wana, the main town in South Waziristan, killing seven people.

Suspected U.S. Missile Strike Kills 10 in Pakistan

Suspected U.S. missile strike kills 10 in Pakistan
From Reza Sayah | CNN

Ten people were killed Friday evening in a suspected U.S. missile strike in Pakistan's tribal region, said a local political official and two military sources.

The suspected strike would be the first since President Obama took office Tuesday.

The attack happened about 5:15 p.m. (7:15 a.m. ET) in a village near Mir Ali, North Waziristan, said Nasim Dawar, the local official.

North Waziristan is one of seven districts in Pakistan's ungoverned tribal region along the Afghan border, where the Taliban and other militants have set up a haven.

The region has seen a spike in the number of aerial attacks by unmanned drones on what are believed to be Taliban targets.

Geopolitical Poker

Geopolitical Poker
By Arnaud De Borchgrave | UPI.com

A new start with the Muslim world, as pledged by President Obama in his inaugural speech, has a sine qua non: a Palestinian settlement, a quest that has eluded the last five U.S. presidents. Following Israel's invasion of Gaza and its 22-day campaign of airstrikes, tank and artillery bombardment that left 1,300 Palestinians killed for the loss of only 13 Israeli soldiers, a Palestinian state remains a diplomatic chimera.

US Reaches Deal on Afghan Supply Routes to Troops

US reaches deal on Afghan supply routes to troops
By Chris Brummitt | Yahoo!News | Submitted by Michael Munk | www.MichaelMunk.com

Russia and neighboring Central Asian nations have agreed to let supplies pass through their territory to American soldiers in Afghanistan, lessening Washington's dependence on dangerous routes through Pakistan, a top U.S. commander said Tuesday.

Securing alternative routes to landlocked Afghanistan has taken on added urgency this year as the United States prepares to double troop numbers there to 60,000 to battle a resurgent Taliban eight years after the U.S.-led invasion.

A Tale of Two Terror Attacks

By Dave Lindorff

Before the odor of burned gunpowder has left the air of the Taj Mahal Hotel in Mumbai, the US is lecturing India not to go off half-cocked and attack Pakistan, simply because all of the attackers in the terrorist assaults in that city arrived by boat, apparently from neighboring Pakistan. US officials, including Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, are calling on India to engage in a “transparent” and “thorough” investigation into the attacks to establish who was responsible.

How different this is from the American government’s response to the 9-11 attacks in the US!

To End All War: Restoring America as a Champion of Peace and Law

To End All War: Restoring America as a Champion of Peace and Law
By Mary Ellen O'Connell | Jurist

The First World War ended November 11, 1918. It was to be the end of the war to end all wars. But war did not end, and this country, the champion of the new peace order that followed World War I, is currently involved in the unlawful use of force in four countries. On this 90th anniversary of the end of World War I, America’s new president-elect will do the right thing by recommitting this country — if not to end all war - to end all unlawful war.

Pakistani officials told General David Petraeus on his recent visit to Pakistan to stop the lethal U.S. raids on their country. America has been carrying out attacks on Pakistani soil without Pakistan’s consent. The raids violate Pakistan’s sovereignty; they are a serious violation of Pakistan’s rights under international law, which no state interested in remaining independent can tolerate.

US Missile Kills Ten in Pakistan

By Pir Zubair Shah and Alan Cowell, New York Times

Islamabad, Pakistan - Missiles fired from a remotely-piloted United States aircraft slammed into a village in the North Waziristan region of Pakistan along the Afghan border on Friday and killed between 10 and 13 people, according to a local intelligence official, a Pakistani reporter and two Pakistani television channels.

State television put the death toll at 10 and other news reports said the dead included eight local people and five foreigners. . The deaths were the latest fatalities in a series of American missile attacks that have drawn increasingly irate protests from Pakistan to senior American officials, including the head of the United States Central Command, Gen. David H. Petraeus, and the American ambassador here, Anne Patterson.

The Pakistani president, Asif Ali Zardari, and the prime minister, Yousaf Raza Gilani, both condemned Friday's attack.

Pakistan Protests US Attacks Within Its Borders

By Jane Perlez, New York Times

Peshawar, Pakistan - The Pakistani government lodged a formal protest Wednesday against American missile attacks on Taliban and al-Qaeda militants in the nation's tribal areas and told the American ambassador the strikes should be "stopped immediately," the Foreign Ministry said.

Ambassador Anne Patterson was summoned to the ministry two days after a missile strike by a drone aircraft in South Waziristan killed 20 people, including several local Taliban commanders.

Last Friday, a similar strike hit a religious school in North Waziristan, killing eight people, all of them militant fighters, according to local residents. There have been at least 19 American strikes against the militants in the tribal region since August.

The End of International Law?

By Robert Dreyfuss, The Nation

A parallel new Bush doctrine is emerging, in the last days of the soon-to-be-ancien regime, and it needs to be strangled in its crib. Like the original Bush doctrine -- the one that Sarah Palin couldn't name, which called for preventive military action against emerging threats -- this one also casts international law aside by insisting that the United States has an inherent right to cross international borders in "hot pursuit" of anyone it doesn't like.

They're already applying it to Pakistan, and this week Syria was the target. Is Iran next?

China to Help Pakistan Build Two More Nuclear Power Plants

China to help Pakistan build two more nuclear power plants | CNN.com

Pakistan said Saturday that China will help it build two more nuclear power plants, offsetting Pakistani frustration over a recent nuclear deal between archrival India and the United States.

The agreement with China was among 12 accords signed during Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari's recent visit to Beijing, said Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi.

While Qureshi gave few details, the accord deepens Pakistan's long-standing ties with China at a time when its relations with Washington are strained over the war against terrorism.

U.S. officials including Assistant Secretary of State Richard Boucher, who arrived in Islamabad on Saturday for talks, have rejected Pakistani calls for equal treatment with India on nuclear power.

Pakistan Facing Bankruptcy

Pakistan facing bankruptcy
Pakistan's foreign exchange reserves are so low that the country can only afford one month of imports and faces possible bankruptcy.
By Isambard Wilkinson | Telegraph.co.UK

Officially, the central bank holds $8.14 billion (£4.65 billion) of foreign currency, but if forward liabilities are included, the real reserves may be only $3 billion - enough to buy about 30 days of imports like oil and food.

Nine months ago, Pakistan had $16 bn in the coffers.

The government is engulfed by crises left behind by Pervez Musharraf, the military ruler who resigned the presidency in August. High oil prices have combined with endemic corruption and mismanagement to inflict huge damage on the economy.

Pakistan Raid Start Of Concerted Bid To Hit Al-Qaida

Pakistan Raid Start Of Concerted Bid To Hit Al-Qaida
by Tom Gjelten and Tom Bowman | NPR.org

NPR has learned that the raid by helicopter-borne U.S. Special Operations forces in Pakistan last week was not an isolated incident but part of a three-phase plan, approved by President Bush, to strike at Osama bin Laden and top al-Qaida leadership.

The plan calls for a much more aggressive military campaign, said one source, familiar with the presidential order, which gives the green light for the military to take part in the operations. The plan represents an 11th-hour effort to hammer al-Qaida until the Bush administration leaves office, two government officials told NPR.

"Definitely, the gloves have come off," said a source who has been briefed on the plan. "This was only Phase 1 of three phases."

A Wild Frontier

A Wild Frontier
By Lakki Marwat | The Economist

It will take more than American missiles to bring order to Pakistan’s north-western border region

AMERICA and Pakistan both deny it; but it appears that on September 15th they fought a short war. America started it. Local reports suggest that, under cover of darkness, two helicopter-loads of its soldiers crossed on foot from Afghanistan into the Pakistani tribal area—and terrorist haven—of South Waziristan. This followed an American policy, allegedly authorised by President George Bush in July, of launching raids into Pakistan without its government’s approval. But, on this occasion, Pakistani border troops responded as to the act of aggression that it constituted: shooting over the heads of the advancing Americans, forcing them back.

20 Dead in Islamabad Hotel Blast

At least 17 dead in Pakistan hotel blast

A suspected car bomb caused a huge explosion outside the Marriott Hotel in the Pakistani capital on Saturday and the Dawn television station said at least 17 people had been killed.

Note: CNN was reporting at least 20 dead; the number continues to climb.

A reporter at the scene told CNN that as many as 200 people were feared to be inside the building.

Television images showed flames and smoke pouring out of the hotel and bodies being carried away.

"The explosion happened as a car reached the barricade outside the hotel," a senior police official said, adding that it appeared to have been a suicide attack.

A Reuters witness said he could see fires in at least two places in the hotel and at least 20 cars parked on the street outside had been destroyed.

Vested Interests Drove New Pakistan Policy

Vested Interests Drove New Pakistan Policy
by Gareth Porter | IPS

The George W. Bush administration's decision to launch commando raids and step up missiles strikes against Taliban and al Qaeda figures in the tribal areas of Pakistan followed what appears to have been the most contentious policy process over the use of force in Bush's eight-year presidency.

That decision has stirred such strong opposition from the Pakistani military and government that it is now being revisited. Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, arrived in Pakistan Tuesday for the second time in three weeks, and U.S. officials and sources just told Reuters that any future raids would be approved on a mission-by-mission basis by a top U.S. administration official.

Tomgram: Tariq Ali, Has the U.S. Invasion of Pakistan Begun?

As Andrew Bacevich tells us in the latest issue of the Atlantic, there's now a vigorous debate going on in the military about the nature of the "next" American wars and how to prepare for them. However, while military officers argue, that "next war" may already be creeping up on us.

RIGHTS-PAKISTAN: Live Burial of Women - Activists Demand Action

RIGHTS-PAKISTAN: Live Burial of Women - Activists Demand Action
By Zofeen Ebrahim | IPSNews.net

Prominent civil rights activists are demanding that the government act against those responsible for the burial alive of five women in Balochistan, in July, that politicians from the province have defended as an age-old custom.

On Jul. 14, in the remote village of Babakot, 80 km from Usta Mohammad town in Jafferabad district, three teenage girls and two older women were buried alive, allegedly on the orders of Abdul Sattar Umrani, brother of Sadiq Umrani, a provincial minister belonging to the ruling Pakistan People’s Party (PPP).

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