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Like the peaks of the Hindu Kusch dominating much of Afghanistan, the war in that unhappy country increasingly overshadows the political scenery in Germany. Parallels with the situation in the USA are unmistakable.
On December 3rd the Bundestag voted on prolonging the use of German troops in Afghanistan for another year. But before the delegates crowded to the front of the house to put their ballots in the container, they were surprised to hear an unusual statement. It came close to a confession.
For three months one event has repeatedly grabbed the headlines: the bombing on September 4th of two hijacked German fuel trucks in Kunduz, in northern Afghanistan. The air attack, ordered by a German colonel, resulted in the deaths of 142 people, including women, children and many other civilians despite the fact that the trucks, stuck in the mud while crossing a river, were of no immediate danger to German troops. American pilots suggested flying low over them to frighten civilians and the Taliban hijackers away. But no, the colonel insisted on bombs -- and got them. The fuel caused a terrible explosion.
Army spokespersons, including Franz Josef Jung, Minister of Defense, tried to belittle the matter and denied any certainty about even a few civilian casualties. This was a crucial matter; it was the first such case involving German troops in Afghanistan and the worst bloodshed caused by Germans in uniform since World War Two. Read more.
By Alice Ritchie, AFP
LONDON (AFP) – Tony Blair's admission that Britain would have backed the Iraq war even if he knew it did not have weapons of mass destruction sparked outrage Sunday and calls for his prosecution for war crimes.
The former British prime minister, who backed the US-led invasion in 2003, told the BBC he would "still have thought it right to remove" Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein because of the threat he posed to the region.
Lawyers representing the deposed Iraqi leadership said they would seek to prosecute Blair following his remarks, while one newspaper commentator said it was a "game-changing admission" for the ongoing official inquiry into the war.
Former UN weapons inspector Hans Blix added: "The war was sold on the WMD, and now you feel, or hear that it was only a question of deployment of arguments, as he said, it sounds a bit like a fig leaf that was held up."
Poland, U.S. sign deal on troop deployments | Reuters | Submitted by Michael Munk | www.MichaelMunk.com
Poland and the United States signed a deal on Friday that paves the way for the stationing of U.S. troops on the territory of its east European NATO ally.
The "status of forces" accord (SOFA), a technical document tentatively approved in November after 15 months of talks, also makes possible deployments of a U.S. Patriot missile battery in Poland next year as part of plans to upgrade its air defences.
"This agreement is a good basis for cooperation between the U.S. and Polish armed forces in the future," Polish Defense Minister Bogdan Klich told reporters at the signing ceremony.
"For Poland, this signifies a strengthening of our national security."
Poland, perturbed by Russia's more assertive foreign policy, has long complained that it hosts no U.S. troops or major military installations 10 years after it joined NATO and despite a strong track record of sending troops to help in U.S.-led missions in Iraq and Afghanistan. Read more.
Is Italy capable of delivering a thermonuclear strike? Could the Belgians and the Dutch drop hydrogen bombs on enemy targets? And what about Germany — a country where fear of atomkraft is so great that the last government opposed all civilian nuclear power? Germany's air force couldn't possibly be training to deliver bombs 13 times more powerful than the one that destroyed Hiroshima, could it?
It is Europe's dirty secret that the list of nuclear-capable countries extends beyond those — Britain and France — who have built their own weapons. Nuclear bombs are stored on air-force bases in Italy, Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands — and planes from each of those countries are capable of delivering them. The Federation of American Scientists believes that there are some 200 B61 thermonuclear gravity bombs scattered across these four countries. Under a NATO agreement struck during the Cold War, the bombs, which are technically owned by the U.S., can be transferred to the control of a host nation's air force in times of conflict. Twenty years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, Dutch, Belgian, Italian and German pilots remain ready to engage in nuclear war.
These weapons are more than an anachronism or historical oddity. They are a violation of the spirit of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) — the 1968 agreement governing nuclear weapons that acts as one of the linchpins of global security by providing a legal restraint on the nuclear ambitions of rogue states. Because "nuclear burden-sharing," as the dispersion of B61s in Europe is called, was set up before the NPT came into force, it is technically legal. But as signatories to the NPT, the four European countries and the U.S. have pledged "not to receive the transfer ... of nuclear weapons or control over such weapons directly, or indirectly." That, of course, is precisely what the long-standing NATO arrangement entails. Read more.
The High Court ruled yesterday that the use of secret evidence to deny bail to those accused of terrorism was unlawful. The ruling echoes the Law Lords decision in June which similarly banned the use of secret evidence but in the imposition of control orders.
Inevitably the news of yet another British soldier dying in Afghanistan coincided with Gordon Brown's announcement that he is sending 500 more British troops to fight in a war which in the latest poll 71 per cent of the British public opposes.
We are witnessing a very dangerous escalation of the war. With Barack Obama likely to announce a surge of around 30,000 troops, and other Nato allies adding a further five thousand, the total number of foreign troops occupying Afghanistan will equal that deployed by the Soviet Union in the 1979-89 Afghan war, which ended in its catastrophic defeat.
Gordon Brown's troop surge is a response to failure after eight years of war. All the various war aims have been shown to be false. The war has not made Britain safer from
From: Mr Iftikhar Chaudri Most Immediate
Journalists For International Peace
Mr Hans-Rudolf Merz
President of Swiss Confederation
Dated: 30 Nov 2009
Subject: Ban on Minarets, attached to Mosques
I hope that letter of mine will find you in the best of health and prosperity. The peace lovers and promoters of Interfaith Dialogue, all over the world met a set-back , when Swiss government banned construction of minarets , the slender towers attached to mosques, after the most controversial Referendum (29 Nov), in the history of Switzerland ever. The Swiss government invariably prompted the other countries to take similar actions against the minority religions on the demand of the public and its pressure. The accusation of the Swiss People’s Party, the largest party in the Swiss parliament, that minarets can be divisive political symbols and signs of an increasing Islamic presence in Switzerland - is absurd and without any reasoning.
The architectural designs are not aimed at promoting any ‘ism’ in general or Islamization in particular. Journalists For International Peace supports the stance of The Swiss Council of Religions, which includes Jewish, Christian and Muslim leaders - it issued a statement rejecting the call for the ban. In a statement, Catholic bishops said the ban would hinder interreligious dialogue and that Swiss building codes already regulate the construction and operation of minarets.
Iraq inquiry: Blair deal on regime change? UK former ambassador to Washington tells Iraq inquiry he was excluded from Blair and Bush talks in 2002
Minarets are tall spires extending from mosques or built next to them. They help identify a mosque and also serve as a spot where a religious leader can call the faithful to daily prayers.
The move to amend the constitution to ban new construction is part of a campaign by the nationalist Swiss People's Party (SVP).
The party says the minarets are political symbols and therefore go against the the country's constitution.
It designed fliers that feature a veiled woman against a background of a Swiss flag pierced by several minarets resembling missiles.
Swiss voters on Sunday adopted a referendum banning the construction of minarets, seen by some on the far right as a sign of encroaching Islamism.
"The Federal Council respects this decision," said a statement from Switzerland's government. "Consequently the construction of new minarets in Switzerland is no longer permitted. The four existing minarets will remain.
"It will also be possible to continue to construct mosques," the government statement said. "Muslims in Switzerland are able to practice their religion alone or in community with others, and live according to their beliefs just as before." Read more.
BLOOD ON THEIR HANDS PROTEST AT IRAQ INQUIRY
What: BLOOD ON THEIR HANDS PROTEST
When: IRAQ INQUIRY TUESDAY 24 NOVEMBER 09.30 - 12.30
Where: QUEEN ELIZABETH II CONFERENCE CENTRE, SW1P 3EE (Near Parliament)
The first public hearings of the Iraq Inquiry begin on Tuesday 24 November and Stop the War has called a protest outside to demand that Tony Blair and Gordon Brown are held to account for war crimes which led to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and 179 British troops.
Joining the protest will be representatives from Military Families Against the War, reminding the inquiry committee of the anger felt by many relatives of British soldiers killed in Iraq.
Sir John Chilcot, the chairman of the inquiry, insists that it will not be a whitewash but the committee - the five members of which were all hand picked by Gordon Brown - looks like it was set up with exactly that purpose.
Leaked secret government reports that prove Tony Blair's serial lying throughout 2002, as he repeatedly denied there were any preparations for war, will make it difficult for the enquiry to deny that Parliament and the British public were mislead.
But the logical conclusion that Blair or anyone in his government should be indicted on the basis of such evidence has already been discounted by Chilcot, despite the majority of bereaved military families having already told his committee that this is the outcome they expect if war crimes are proven.
Did Rumsfeld Tour KGB Torture Museum to Pick Up Useful Tips?
By Jonathan Schwarz | Tiny Revolution
Where has the CIA tortured people? ABC has just reported that one place was Lithuania:
The CIA built one of its secret European prisons inside an exclusive riding academy outside Vilnius, Lithuania, a current Lithuanian government official and a former U.S. intelligence official told ABC News this week. Where affluent Lithuanians once rode show horses and sipped coffee at a café, the CIA installed a concrete structure where it could use harsh tactics to interrogate up to eight suspected al-Qaeda terrorists at a time.
But here's the lighter side of the CIA-Lithuania torture story, which ABC didn't mention: Donald Rumsfeld visited Vilnius in 2005, where he took the time to tour the KGB torture museum there. Then the U.S. embassy in Vilnius released an "Open Letter to People of Lithuania" from Rumsfeld: Read more.
By Alice Ritchie, AFP
LONDON (AFP) – Prime Minister Gordon Brown offered to host an international conference on Afghanistan in London, which he said could set a timeframe for a handover of security to Afghan forces from 2010.
In a speech here late on Monday, Brown stressed that such a handover was a requirement for the withdrawal of Britain's 9,000 troops deployed in the country.
"I have offered London as a venue in the new year," Brown said in his annual speech to the Lord Mayor's Banquet. A pre-released version of the speech quoted him as offering to host a conference in January.
"I want that conference to chart a comprehensive political framework within which the military strategy can be accomplished.
"It should identify a process for transferring district by district to full Afghan control and if at all possible set a timetable for transfer starting in 2010."
ANTI-WAR SOLDIER ARRESTED: PROTEST NOW
Lance Corporal Joe Glenton, the soldier who faces desertion charges for refusing to return to Afghanistan, has been arrested and charged with five further offences for leading Stop the War's demonstration in London on 24 October and for expressing his opposition to the media in defiance of orders.
The new charges carry a maximum of ten years imprisonment in addition to the sentence of three to four years that Joe could get if the desertion charge is upheld.
Joe's mother, Sue Glenton, has spoken out against his arrest: "You've got government ministers, army commanders and MPs speaking every day in support of the war. What's so scary about a Lance Corporal having his say? My son is only speaking out for what he thinks is right."
By David Swanson
The United States of America owes much of the hope it has right now of remaining what John Adams called "a nation of laws, not men" to Italian law enforcement. Were it not for the fact that Italian prosecutors, unlike their American counterparts, answer to the law rather than a president, the enforcement of laws against a massive crime spree by U.S. officials (and their Italian accomplices) would not have begun.
In Europe, most swine flu shots by invitation only
By Maria Cheng, AP Medical Writer | Yahoo! News | Submitted by Michael Munk | www.MichaelMunk.com
In Britain, there are no long lines of people seeking swine flu vaccine. Doctor's offices aren't swamped with desperate calls. And there are no cries of injustice that the vaccine is going to wealthy corporations or healthy people who don't really need it.
Here, and across most of Europe, vaccine to protect against the pandemic flu is mostly given by invitation only to those at highest risk for flu complications.
"That is one of the great advantages of the British health system," said Dr. Steve Field, president of the Royal College of General Physicians. "We have a list of all the names of patients who qualify to be vaccinated."
When Britain unrolled its pandemic vaccination program last month, it designed its campaign to ensure that priority groups — including pregnant women, health workers and those with chronic health problems like diabetes, cancer and AIDS — get the shots first.
Instead of advertising that vaccine had arrived and waiting for the lines to form, Britain's National Health Service sent letters, inviting all those who qualify to make an appointment and get the shots first.
Field said Britain's socialized health care system allows the country to target people who need to be vaccinated quickly: "It's not like the U.S., where it's the survival of the fittest and the richest." Read more.
Berlin Wall: From Europe Whole And Free To New World Order
By Rick Rozoff | Stop NATO | Blog
"When the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, NATO was an Alliance of 16 members and no partners. Today, NATO has 26 members – with 2 new invitees, prospective membership for others, and over 20 partners in Europe and Eurasia, seven in the Mediterranean, four in the Persian Gulf, and others from around the world.
"NATO matched the Partnership for Peace with the establishment of the Mediterranean Dialogue, and...NATO realized the need to reach out to new partners around the world....This included establishing the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative to reach out to nations of the Persian Gulf. In addition, Australia, Japan, New Zealand, South Korea, and now Singapore are making valuable contributions to NATO operations, especially in Afghanistan...."
On November 9 a modest gathering of political figures and at least one long-since-its-prime American rock band will gather at Berlin's Brandenburg Gate to make political capital or attempt to revive a flagging career.
The Fall of The Berlin Wall has been enshrined as a mythic event comparable to the parting of the Red Sea, the defeat of Bonaparte at Waterloo, Neil Armstrong hopping over moon craters and the 1985 We Are the World musical extravaganza to eliminate world hunger.
This year's twentieth anniversary ceremony, though, will reflect the West's preoccupation with the after-effects of the new world order that the Berlin events of a generation ago are considered to have ushered in.
The twin offspring of the end of the Cold War, global neoliberalism and the transformation of the North Atlantic Treaty organization into history's first international military bloc, have assuredly both assisted and reflected the domination of the world by the United States and its Western allies. They have also resulted in the near collapse of the American financial sector with reverberations around the world, especially in Europe, and the worst global economic crisis since the Great Depression preceding World War II.
1989-2009: Moving The Berlin Wall To Russia’s Borders
By Rick Rozoff | Stop NATO | Blog site
November 9 will mark the twentieth anniversary of the government of the German Democratic Republic opening crossing points at the wall separating the eastern and western sections of Berlin.
From 1961 to 1989 the wall had been a dividing line in, a symbol of and a metonym for the Cold War.
A generation later events are to be held in Berlin to commemorate the “fall of the Berlin Wall,” the last victory the West can claim over the past two decades. Bogged down in a war in Afghanistan, occupation in Iraq and the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression of the 1930s, the United States, Germany and the West as a whole are eager to cast a fond glance back at what is viewed as their greatest triumph: The collapse of the socialist bloc in Eastern Europe closely followed by the breakup of the Soviet Union.
All the players in that drama and events leading up to it – Ronald Reagan, Mikhail Gorbachev, George H. W. Bush, Vaclav Havel, Lech Walesa – will be reverently eulogized and lionized.
Gorbachev will attend the anniversary bash at the Brandenburg Gate and the editorial pages of newspapers around the world will dutifully repeat the litany of bromides, pieties, self-congratulatory praises and grandiose claims one can expect on the occasion.
What will not be cited are comments like those from Mikhail Margelov, Chairman of the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the upper house of the Russian parliament, the Federation Council, on November 6. To wit, that “The Berlin Wall has been replaced with a sanitary cordon of ex-Soviet nations, from the Baltic Sea to the Black Sea.” 
The British government announced Tuesday that it will break up parts of major financial institutions bailed out by taxpayers, highlighting a growing divide across the Atlantic over how to deal with the massive banks that were partially nationalized during the height of the financial crisis.
The British government -- spurred on by European regulators -- is forcing the Royal Bank of Scotland, Lloyds Banking Group and Northern Rock to sell off parts of their operations. The Europeans are calling for more and smaller banks to increase competition and eliminate the threat posed by banks so large that they must be rescued by taxpayers, no matter how they conducted their business, in order to avoid damaging the global financial system.
The move to downsize some of Britain's largest banks comes as U.S. politicians are debating whether American banks should also be required to shrink. Read more.
November 4, 2009, New York – In response to news of an Italian court’s conviction of 23 U.S. officials for their role in the extraordinary rendition of a Muslim cleric unlawfully seized from the streets of Milan more than six years ago, Center for Constitutional Rights Executive Director Vincent Warren issued the statement below. On Monday, an 11-judge panel of the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit here in New York dismissed the case of CCR client and rendition victim, Canadian citizen Maher Arar.
Today the Italian legal system held 23 U.S. officials accountable for unlawfully grabbing a man, Abu Omar, off the streets of Milan and sending him to be tortured in Egypt. In 2006 and 2007, the Canadian government concluded an extensive public inquiry and apologized to our client Maher Arar for its role in his rendition by the U.S. to Syria for torture when he was unlawfully seized while changing planes at JFK on his way home to Canada. On Monday, our own courts threw out his case and told him and the world that our legal system was no place to bring his grievances.
Italian court convicts 23 Americans in CIA rendition case
By Craig Whitlock | Washington Post
An Italian court on Wednesday convicted 22 CIA operatives and a U.S. Air Force colonel of orchestrating the kidnapping of a Muslim cleric in Milan in 2003 and flying him to Egypt, where he said he was later tortured.
The judge in the case, Oscar Magi, said three other Americans, including the former Rome station chief for the CIA, were covered by diplomatic immunity.
The Americans were all tried in absentia. A Milan prosecutor said his office would seek to have them extradited from the United States, but a formal decision will be made later by the Italian Justice Ministry.
The case is the only instance in which CIA operatives have faced a criminal trial for the controversial tactic of extraordinary rendition, under which terrorism suspects are seized in one country and forcibly transported to another without judicial oversight. Read more.
SOLDIER DEFIES MILITARY ORDERS TO JOIN DEMONSTRATION
Lance Corporal Joe Glenton is refusing an order from his
regimental commander that he returns to barracks and does not
attend the Stop the War Bring the Troops Home demonstration on
Saturday 24 October.
Lance Cpl Glenton faces court martial because he refuses to
return to fight in Afghanistan. In July he gave his reasons in
a letter to Gordon Brown.
He says, "I am marching tomorrow to send a message to Gordon
Brown. Instead of sending more troops, he must bring them all
home. He cannot sit on his hands and wait while more and more
of my comrades are killed.
"I am proud to be marching again - this time for Stop the
For more details on why Joe is defying the orders of his
military commander, go to: http://bit.ly/CYOUE
Joe Glenton will lead the demonstration tomorrow, together
with ex-soldiers, a number of military families and Peter
Azerbaijan could scuttle the Nabucco pipeline over the Turkey-Armenia rapprochement, Brian Whitmore writes for RFE/RL.
By Brian Whitmore for RFE/RL
Azerbaijan has apparently decided to play its energy card.
As much of the world applauded Turkey's historic rapprochement with Armenia last week, Azerbaijan felt left out in the cold and abandoned by its closest ally.
Baku had argued strenuously that a deal to reestablish relations between Ankara and Yerevan should not be signed while Armenia continued to occupy Nagorno-Karabakh, and it threatened to take unspecified countermeasures if one was.
Speaking at a nationally televised cabinet meeting on October 16, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev revealed one of those steps: "It is not a secret to anyone that for many years Azerbaijan has been selling its gas to Turkey for one-third of market prices."
Aliyev added: "What state would agree to sell its natural resources for 30 percent of world market prices, especially under current conditions? This is illogical."
Aliyev presented the move as a purely commercial decision and did not explicitly link it to the Turkish-Armenian deal. Azerbaijan currently sells Turkey natural gas at the bargain rate of $120 per thousand cubic meters. But the timing of Aliyev's announcement, less than a week after the accord between Yerevan and Ankara was signed, left little doubt.
If Baku follows through on the move, analysts say it could severely undermine - if not completely kill - the Western-backed Nabucco pipeline project to bring gas from the Caspian Sea to Europe via Turkey.
"Potentially this is very important because it could potentially deliver a knockout blow to Nabucco. Without Azerbaijan it would be even more difficult than it is," says Federico Bordonaro, an energy-security analyst with the Italian-based group equilibre.net. Read more.
SOLDIERS AND THEIR FAMILIES LEAD SATURDAY'S MARCH
Lance Corporal Joe Glenton (http://bit.ly/eO3V0 )will become
the first serving British soldier to openly attend an anti-war
demonstration when he leads marchers from Hyde Park to
Trafalgar square on Saturday 24 October calling for all troops
to be withdrawn from Afghanistan.
Joe, who is currently fighting a court martial for refusing to
return to Afghanistan, will be joined by families of soldiers
who have given their lives during the occupations in Iraq and
Joan Humphries' grandson Kevin Elliott, 24, from Black Watch,
was killed while on on foot patrol in the southern Afghan
province of Helmand on August 31 of this year. She says:
"I have supported CND all my life and have been involved in
Stop the War since the march in 2003 when more than a million
people were on the streets. Kevin knew my feelings. But there
were no jobs, education was poor and the politicians down
Lithuanian President Announces Investigation into CIA Secret Prison
Investigation a result of ABC News.com report on CIA 'Black Site' in Lithuanian Capitol
By Matthew Cole | ABC News
The president of Lithuania called for an official investigation Tuesday into an ABC News.com exclusive report in August that the CIA housed a secret prison for al Qaeda suspects in Lithuania for more than a year beginning in 2004.
"If this is true," President Dalia Grybauskaite said, "Lithuania has to clean up, accept responsibility, apologize, and promise that it will never happen again."
At a press conference with the Council of Europe Human Rights Commission, Grybauskaite announced the investigation after it was clear a previous attempt by the Lithuanian Parliament was insufficient, according to a Council of Europe official. Read more.
The justices above are clearly the most rational group of high level functionaries in the industrialized world. They did what no other court would do in Europe or the United States. They effectively outlawed electronic voting. On March 3, 2009, the German Federal Constitutional Court declared that the electronic voting machines used in the 2005 Bundestag elections for the German national parliament were outside of the bounds of the German Constitution.
They reasoned that electronic voting is not verifiable because citizen votes are counted in secret. It is obscured a technology inaccessible to all but a very few initiates. Most importantly, the German high court noted, electronic voting machines don't allow citizens to "reliably examine, when the vote is cast, whether the vote has been recorded in an unadulterated manner" Mar. 3, 2009.
The written opinion effectively bars electronic voting in future elections based on the complexity of voting machines and the inability of voters to watch their vote being counted. This raises the bar of acceptability well above the meaningless solutions offered by "paper trails" for touch screen voting or the so-called "paper ballots" for computerized optical scan voting machines, the most popular form of voting in the United States.
Germany's 2009 Bundestag elections were conducted with hand counted paper ballots.
In a stunning and refreshing decision, the British High Court has overruled the British government’s attempt to suppress torture evidence on the US and British treatment of Binyam Mohamed. From The Guardian:
David Miliband, the foreign secretary, acted in a way that was harmful to the rule of law by suppressing evidence about what the government knew of the illegal treatment of Binyam Mohamed, a British resident who was held in a secret prison in Pakistan, the high court has ruled.
In a devastating judgment, two senior judges roundly dismissed the foreign secretary’s claims that disclosing the evidence would harm national security and threaten the UK’s vital intelligence-sharing arrangements with the US.
In what they described as an “unprecedented” and “exceptional” case, to which the Guardian is a party, they ordered the release of a seven-paragraph summary of what the CIA told British officials – and maybe ministers – about Ethiopian-born Mohamed before he was secretly interrogated by an MI5 officer in 2002.
“The suppression of reports of wrongdoing by officials in circumstances which cannot in any way affect national security is inimical to the rule of law,” Lord Justice Thomas and Mr Justice Lloyd Jones ruled. “Championing the rule of law, not subordinating it, is the cornerstone of democracy.” (emphasis added). Read more.