Archive for July, 2005

Workers Rock India

Sunday, July 31st, 2005

As I write this article, Gurgaon approaches its third day of street riots. The Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh pledged full support for neo-liberalism and the global war on terror upon his visit to Washington, only to see the Indian district in the state of Haryana explode, exposing the contradictions of the Indian economy.

Gurgaon is a prime example of combined and uneven development under late capitalism. The satellite-town of New Delhi, India’s capital, is host to an impressive lineup of multi-national corporations (MNCs) such as Honda, Suzuki, and IBM. Although eighty-percent of the Gurgaon population subsists by agricultural labor, the region is also a major industrial complex. Four-fifths of India’s cars and seventy-percent of India’s motorcycles are made in the area.

The rich and the affluent middle classes, who are tied to the circuits of global capital, can be found sipping away their Rs.100 lattes (about $2.50) in one of the many Starbucks-imitate coffee shops. This minority stands in stark contrast to the majority of the population that are engaged in rural, blue-collar, and informal labor and on average earn less than $2 a day.

5,000 US Troops Have Gone AWOL

Sunday, July 31st, 2005

Donald Rumsfeld intends to cut the number of US troops in Iraq.

The United States military says it is hoping to make a substantial reduction in its forces in Iraq, beginning next spring and summer. General George Casey, the senior US commander in Iraq, said that if political developments continued positively and Iraqi security forces became stronger then there could be sharp cuts in his 135,000-strong force.

The announcement will signal in Iraq that American desire to stay in the country is weakening. The latest opinion poll in the US shows that 53 per cent believe the US will not win in Iraq.

At a briefing with Donald Rumsfeld, the Defence Secretary, in Baghdad, General Casey said troop reductions would come after the Iraqi elections at the end of the year.

Many Iraqi officials are sceptical about US claims that an effective Iraqi army and police force is being rapidly trained by the US. They said insurgents are capable of taking over Sunni Arab districts almost at will.

The US remains very much in charge of security in Iraq despite the nominal authority of the Defence and Interior Ministries. No military action happens except on American command. A US plan to cut the number of foreign troops in Iraq to 66,000 by mid-2006 was outlined in a British Government document leaked in the US this month.

The Iraqi Prime Minister, Ibrahim al-Jaafari, said at a joint press conference with Mr Rumsfeld that the Americans should leave as soon as Iraqis are ready. He said: “The great desire of the Iraqi people is to see the coalition forces on their way as soon as [the new Iraqi security forces] take more responsibility.” He added that there should be no surprise pull-out.

Ordinary Iraqis in Baghdad ascribe their problems to the US military presence and say nothing would happen if they pulled out. The tendency of US soldiers to treat all Iraqis as potential suicide bombers has led to frequent shootings of innocent Iraqi.

Racists axe black teenager to death

Sunday, July 31st, 2005

A gang of men who murdered a black teenager with an axe in an unprovoked racist attack in a park near his home in Huyton, Liverpool, were being hunted by police last night.

Anthony Walker, an 18-year-old sixth form college student, was killed by a single blow delivered with such force that the axe was left embedded in his forehead.

Uzbek stories separated by an ocean

Sunday, July 31st, 2005

New York Times: Uzbeks Order U.S. From Base in Refugee Rift
WASHINGTON, July 30 – Uzbekistan formally ordered the United States to leave an air base that has been a hub for operations in Afghanistan in protest over a predawn United Nations operation on Friday to spirit out refugees who had fled an uprising in Uzbekistan in May, senior State Department officials said Saturday.

Karshi-Khanabad Air Base was a hub for actions in Afghanistan.
The officials said Uzbekistan had given the United States 180 days to close the base, which has played a central role in rooting out fighters of the Taliban and Al Qaeda and in carrying out relief operations.

BBC News: US asked to leave Uzbek air base
…Earlier this month, Russia, China and four Central Asian states demanded a timetable for US troop withdrawal from the region, saying military operations in Afghanistan were coming to an end.

Washington’s rivals for regional dominance, Russia and China, have made it clear they do not want to see US forces in the region on a permanent basis.

The Times article doesn’t say a word about Russia and China.

Man Admits Role in Failed London Attack

Saturday, July 30th, 2005

ROME – A suspect in the failed London transit bombings admitted Saturday to a role in the attack but said it was only intended to be an attention-grabbing strike, not a deadly one, a legal expert familiar with the investigation said.

Osman Hussain told interrogators he wasn’t carrying enough explosives even to “harm people nearby,” the expert told The Associated Press. The expert spoke on condition of anonymity, citing the ongoing investigation, which under Italian law must remain secret.

…He also reportedly told investigators the bombers were motivated by anger over the U.S.-led war in Iraq.

Hussain also said his cell was not linked to either al-Qaida or the cell that carried out deadly bombings July 7, Italian media reported.

New post to help Castro ‘demise’

Saturday, July 30th, 2005

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has announced the creation of a new post to help “accelerate the demise” of the Castro regime in Cuba.
Caleb McCarry, a veteran Republican Party activist, was appointed as the Cuba transition co-ordinator.

Ms Rice said for 50 years Fidel Castro had condemned Cubans to a “tragic fate of repression and poverty”.

Mr Castro accuses the US of funding unrest and vowed that dissidents would never bring down his government.

After Role Is Cut, State Dept. Official Quits
WASHINGTON, July 29 – Roger F. Noriega, an outspoken critic of Cuba and Venezuela who has been assistant secretary of state for Latin American affairs for the past two years, announced his resignation on Friday, saying he had served in government long enough.

“I’ve been in government for over 20 years, and this seemed like a good time to make a change,” he said.

He resigned a day after the administration named Caleb McCarry, a Republican Congressional staff member, to a new position: “transition coordinator” for Cuba, with the mission of hastening a transition to democracy there. That took primary responsibility for Cuba, one of Mr. Noriega’s favored issues, away from him.

…Senior State Department officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, have said that they have been upset by Mr. Noriega’s outspoken attacks on Mr. Chávez even while others in the department have been trying to reduce tensions between the United States and Venezuela.

We’ll have to wait and see what wicked mischief is going on here. Time will tell.

“We Regard Falluja As a Large Prison”

Saturday, July 30th, 2005

07/29/05 “MotherJones” — — Eight months after the second invasion of Falluja, there is hardly a street that does not still feature a building pulverized during the assault. I had not been in the city since last July, when I was escorted out by three cars of mujahedeen — that’s when things were still relatively nice — and though I had expected it, the destruction was still shocking.

The dome of one mosque I had previously used as a landmark was completely missing, large holes had been blown in others. Houses have been pancaked, it is hard to find a façade without the mark of at least small arms fire. As many as 80 percent of the city’s 300,000-plus residents have returned, but the city has by no means returned to normal. On Sunday, the police were hard at work adding razor wire and new concrete blast barriers to the already sprawling fortifications around their main station in the center of town while US and Iraqi army patrols traversed the main street, the Iraqis firing their rifles in the air to clear traffic. Small arms chattered in the distance, followed by a response from a larger gun. The tension is palpable. Curfew begins at 10 p.m. but low-level fighting continues.

“They are killing one or two of us everyday,” says an Iraqi soldier at one of the checkpoints into the city, a claim confirmed by local doctors.

I have heard Iraqis make comparisons between their occupation and the Israeli occupation of Palestine, but it wasn’t until I saw families walking through the kilometer-long checkpoint, from a parking lot outside Falluja to one on the other side, that it seemed apt. Once inside, seeing the life continuing amidst the rubble, it was harder still to ignore the physical similarities.

A child jumps into the Euphrates from a one-lane bridge, the same bridge from which angry residents hung the charred and beaten bodies of four American contractors in March 2004, the same bridge that connects the center of town to Falluja General hospital, the first objective taken by the Marines in November’s invasion. Doctors Ahmed and Salam, who agreed to be interviewed on the condition that their names be changed, lamented the condition of the city and its people. In the last week, they have received three civilian casualties of US fire, and say that this week has been below average — normally, says Ahmed, they see one or two dead civilians every day, and that hundreds have been killed by coalition forces since the city was taken over by the US.

“Just yesterday a middle-aged lady was brought here by coalition forces — she was killed by a single shot to the head,” Ahmed says. “The coalition forces came to the hospital and took her name and all her information.”

“The people of Falluja feel depressed because they can’t move freely from place to place, because the coalition forces and the Iraqi national guard make new checkpoints every day, make new obstacles,” says Salam. “They cannot move freely at night. There are medical cases at night that result in casualties because they cannot reach us.”

At Al-Furqan Mosque, one of the city’s moderate places of worship, some of the men stay after the prayers to discuss the situation. Even more than the US military, they feel the new, government, dominated by conservative Shiite parties, has laid siege to their city.

“They use their weapons to clear traffic,” says Imam Abdul Majid. Some of the men cry during his sermon, when he asks god to save Falluja and Iraq. “We can say the Americans are better than them. Let me speak frankly — the new government has failed.” They complain of continued raids and arrests, missing persons, harassment, he says. “Before we were oppressed by invaders. Now it’s getting worse.”

“Shops are broken into at night,” one of the men says. “Tell me, if there is a curfew and the army and the police control the streets, who is breaking into our shops?”

The men are afraid of the Iranian influence on the new government, the government that has failed to continue sending aid, something which US-appointed prime minister Ayad Allawi’s government, despite supporting November’s invasion, did do.

Back at the hospital, Ahmed says he expects the fighting to continue. “Even civilian people will change to be fighters,” he says. “We regard Falluja as a large prison.” (People in Falluja will not talk directly about fighting, though all indications are that the new attacks are homegrown.)

The Iraqi army in Falluja, who don’t mind telling a journalist that they are all from cities in the south, don’t seem particularly thrilled to be here. (When the US tried recruiting Fallujis to fight in Falluja, they turned their guns on the US or turned them over to the guerillas.)

“Falluja — death,” says one of them, drawing a finger across his throat, a motion that I would like to go one day in Iraq without seeing someone make.

9/11 in Historical Perspective: Flawed Assumptions

Saturday, July 30th, 2005

Deep Politics: Drugs, Oil, Covert Operations and Terrorism, A briefing for Congressional staff

by Peter Dale Scott
The American people have been seriously misled about the origins of the al Qaeda movement blamed for the 9/11 attacks, just as they have been seriously misled about the reasons for America’s invasion of Iraq.

The truth is that for at least two decades the United States has engaged in energetic covert programs to secure U.S. control over the Persian Gulf, and also to open up Central Asia for development by U.S. oil companies. Americans were eager to gain access to the petroleum reserves of the Caspian Basin, which at that time were still estimated to be “the largest known reserves of unexploited fuel in the planet.”[1]

To this end, time after time, U.S. covert operations in the region have used so-called “Arab Afghan” warriors as assets, the jihadis whom we loosely link with the name and leadership of al Qaeda.[2] In country after country these “Arab Afghans” have been involved in trafficking Afghan heroin.

Blair welcomes ‘alliance of civilisations’ plan

Friday, July 29th, 2005

Tony Blair has welcomed a plan for an “alliance of civilisations” to combat Islamist terrorism by bringing together Christian and Muslim nations, after meeting both the Spanish and Turkish leaders in Downing Street today.

Although details were scant on the bones of the proposal from the Spanish prime minister, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, Mr Blair welcomed it as a way of joining “civilised people from whatever race or religion to combat the barbarity of terrorism”.

…”I should think everyone can see the common-sense of having a coming together of civilised people from whatever religion.

“And that is the importance of it. And the term the alliance of civilisations is in direct contrast to the idea that we are in clash of civilisations.

“It is the terrorists who want to stir up these differences between Islam and the rest of the world.”

Oxford Law Prof alarmed at “police’s Mossad-style execution” of innocent ’suspect’

Friday, July 29th, 2005

John Gardner is the Professor of Jurisprudence at the University of Oxford, and occasional Visiting Professor at Yale Law School.

Like many of my fellow-Londoners I am less alarmed by suicide bombers than I am by the police’s Mossad-style execution of a ’suspect’ (who turned out to be a completely innocent passer-by) on Friday 22 July. This is not because we are at greater risk of death at the hands of the police than at the hands of the bombers. (Both risks are pretty tiny, but of the two the risk posed by the police is clearly smaller). Rather, it is because, all else being equal, it is worse to be killed by one’s friends than by one’s enemies, and worse to be killed by people in authority than by people not in authority.

Here are some other important things to remember in thinking about the police actions of 22 July:

(1) There is no general legal duty to assist the police or to obey police instructions. Rice v Connolly [1966] 2 QB 414.

(2) There are special police powers to arrest and search. But there is no special police licence to injure or kill. If they injure or kill, the police need to rely on the same law as the rest of us.

(3) The law allows those who use force in prevention of crime to use only necessary and proportionate force. Jack Straw and Sir Ian Blair say that officers are under great pressure. But this is no excuse. In law, as in morality, being under extra pressure gives us no extra latitude for error in judging how much force is proportionate or necessary. R v Clegg [1995] 1 A.C. 482.

(4) Arguably, the police should be held to higher standards of calm under pressure than the rest of us. Certainly not lower!

(5) The necessity and proportionality of the police use of force is to be judged on the facts as they believed them to be: R v Williams 78 Cr. App R 276. This does create latitude for factual error. In my view it creates too much latitude. The test should be reasonable belief. The police may be prejudiced like the rest of us, and may treat the fact that someone is dark-skinned as one reason to believe that he is a suicide bomber. But in court this reason should not count.

(6) It is no defence in law that the killing was authorised by a superior officer. A superior officer who authorises an unlawful killing is an accomplice. R v Clegg [1995] 1 A.C. 482.

(7) The fact that those involved were police officers is irrelevant to the question of whether to prosecute them. It is a basic requirement of the Rule of Law that, when suspected of crimes, officials are subject to the same policies and procedures as the rest of us.

(8) Some people say: Blame the terrorists, not the police. But blame is not a zero-sum game. The fact that one is responding to faulty actions doesn’t mean one is incapable of being at fault oneself. We may blame Tony Blair for helping to create the conditions in which bombing appeals to people, without subtracting any blame from the bombers. We may also blame the bombers for creating the conditions in which the police act under pressure, without subtracting blame from the police if they overreact. Everyone is responsible for their own faulty actions, never mind the contribution of others. This is the moral position as well as the position in criminal law.

Proposed new anti-terrorist offences: The one that has been variously labelled as ’condoning’ or ’glorifying’ or ’indirectly inciting’ terrorism gives cause for concern. It is already an offence to incite another person to commit an act of terrorism (Terrorism Act 2000 s59). In which respects, we may wonder, is the scope of this offence to be extended? The word ’indirect’ suggests that they mean to catch those who incite the s59 inciter. But under general doctrines of English criminal law it is already an offence to incite the s59 inciter. So one suspects some other extension of the existing offence is being cooked up. Is the plan to criminalise the mere defence or endorsement of a terrorist act? If so we are in for trouble. Terrorism in English law is defined to cover all modes of political violence, however trifling. Are academics and commentators no longer to be permitted to defend any political violence? Is Ted Honderich’s Violence for Equality, or Peter Singer’s Democracy and Disobedience, to be put on the banned books list? The only thing protecting these books at the moment is that, in the eyes of the law, an argued endorsement is not an incitement. The thought that the government may be thinking of changing this should send a shiver down the spine of anyone who still has a spine (damn few).

Lord Hoffman in A v Home Secretary [2005] 2 WLR 87: ’The real threat to the life of the nation … comes not from terrorism but from laws like these.’ Quite right. Some extra risk of being blown up by fanatics on the way to work is one of the prices we pay for living in a free society. Let’s make sure we keep it that way.