Evil Americans, Poor Mullahs
By Claus Christian Malzahn
Forty-eight percent of Germans think the United States is more dangerous than Iran, a new survey shows, with only 31 percent believing the opposite. Germans' fundamental hypocrisy about the US suggests that it's high time for a new bout of re-education.
Bush-bashing is something of a national sport in Germany.The Germans have believed in many things in the course of their recent history. They've believed in colonies in Africa and in the Kaiser. They even believed in the Kaiser when he told them that there would be no more political parties, only soldiers on the front.
Not too long afterwards, they believed that Jews should be placed into ghettos and concentration camps because they were the enemies of the people. Then they believed in the autobahn and that the Third Reich would ultimately be victorious. A few years later, they believed in the Deutsche mark. They believed that the Berlin Wall would be there forever and that their pensions were safe. They believed in recycling and environmental protection. They even believed in a German victory at the soccer World Cup.
Now they believe that the United States is a greater threat to world peace than Iran. This was the by-no-means-surprising result of a Forsa opinion poll commissioned by Stern magazine. Young Germans in particular -- 57 percent of 18-to-29-year-olds, to be precise -- said they considered the United States more dangerous than the religious regime in Iran.
The German political establishment, which will no doubt loudly lament the result of the poll, is largely responsible for this wave of anti-Americanism. For years the country's foreign ministers fed the Germans the fairy tale of what they called a "critical dialogue" between Europe and Iran. It went something like this: If we are nice to the ayatollahs, cuddle up to them a bit and occasionally wag our fingers at them when they've been naughty, they'll stop condemning their women to death for "unchaste behavior" and they'll stop building the atom bomb.
That plan failed at some point -- an outcome, incidentally, that Washington had long anticipated. Iran continues to work away unhindered on its nuclear program, and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad reacts to UN demands with an ostentatious show of ignorance. The UN gets upset and drafts a resolution.
Another item on the Iranian president's wish list is the annihilation of Israel. But that will take a bit longer. In the meantime, just to make sure it doesn't get out of practice, the regime had 15 British soldiers kidnapped a few days ago. But it's still all the Americans' fault -- that much is obvious.
We've known just what they're like for a long time. The 19th-century German author Karl May taught us about the American Wild West, and Karl Marx warned us about unbridled capitalism. Besides, we've all been there at least once -- on vacation, of course. Be it in California or Florida (that's where you get the best deals on rental cars, you know), we can see right through the Americans.
For us Germans, the Americans are either too fat or too obsessed with exercise, too prudish or too pornographic, too religious or too nihilistic. In terms of history and foreign policy, the Americans have either been too isolationist or too imperialistic. They simply go ahead and invade foreign countries (something we Germans, of course, would never do) and then abandon them, the way they did in Vietnam and will soon do in Iraq.
Worst of all, the Americans won the war in 1945. (Well, with German help, of course -- from Einstein and his ilk.) There are some Germans who will never forgive the Americans for VE Day, when they defeated Hitler. After all, Nazism was just an accident, whereas Americans are inherently evil. Just look at President Bush, the man who, as some of SPIEGEL ONLINE's readers steadfastly believe, "is worse than Hitler." Now that gives us a chance to kill two birds with one stone. If Bush is the new Hitler, then we Germans have finally unloaded the Führer on to someone else. In fact, we won't even have to posthumously revoke his German citizenship, as politicians in Lower Saxony recently proposed. No one can hold a candle to our talent for symbolism!
Anti-Americanism is the wonder drug of German politics. If no one believes what you're saying, take a swing at the Yanks and you'll be shooting your way back up to the top of the opinion polls in no time. And on the practical side, you can be the head of the Social Democratic Party and endear yourself to the party's hardcore with a load of anti-American nonsense, and still get invited back to Washington -- just look at Gerhard Schröder. In fact, you could, like leading German politicians in the debate over the planned American missile shield in Europe, be accused of having "an almost unbelievable lack of knowledge" by a former NATO general, and even that wouldn't matter. It's all about what you believe, not what you know.
Anti-Americanism is hypocrisy at its finest. You can spend your evening catching the latest episode of "24" and then complain about Guantanamo the next morning. You can claim that the Americans have themselves to blame for terrorism, while at the same time calling for tougher restrictions on Muslim immigration to Germany. You can call the American president a mass murderer and book a flight to New York the next day. You can lament the average American's supposed lack of culture and savvy and meanwhile send off for the documents for the Green Card lottery.
Not a day passes in Germany when someone isn't making the wildest claims, hurling the vilest insults or spreading the most outlandish conspiracy theories about the United States. But there's no risk involved and it all serves mainly to boost the German feeling of self-righteousness.
Iran is a different story. The last time someone made a joke on German TV about an Iranian leader, the outcome was not pleasant. Exactly 20 years ago, Dutch entertainer Rudi Carell produced a short TV sketch portraying Ayatollah Khomeini dressed in women's underwear. Carell received death threats. The piece, which lasted all of a few seconds, led to flights being cancelled and German diplomats being expelled from Tehran. Carell apologized. Jokes about fat Americans are just safer.
Daniel Jonah Goldhagen, the American historian who in his 1996 book "Hitler's Willing Executioners" deprived the Germans of the belief that they didn't know what was going on back in the day, is currently studying the history of genocides in the 20th century. One of the things he has noticed is that the politicians or military leaders who planned genocides and had them carried out rarely concealed their intentions in advance. Whether the victims were Hereros, Armenians, kulaks, Jews or later Bosnians, the perpetrators generally believed that they were justified and had no reason to hide their murderous intentions.
Today, when Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad talks about a world without Israel while dreaming of an atom bomb, it seems obvious that we -- as Germans of all people -- should be putting two and two together. Why shouldn't Ahmadinejad mean what he says? But we Germans only know what we believe.
The Americans are more dangerous than the ayatollahs? Perhaps the Americans should take the Germans at their word for a change. It's high time for a new round of re-education. The last one obviously didn't do the job.
Claus Christian Malzahn is SPIEGEL ONLINE's Berlin bureau chief.
Evil Americans, Poor Mullahs
Posted by TONY on 29.3.07
Close to Million Displaced and Desperate in Southern Iraq
Report, IRIN, 28 March 2007NAJAF (IRIN) -
Nearly a million displaced people in Iraq's increasingly volatile southern provinces are in urgent need of food, medicines and municipal services, local officials and NGOs say. Aid workers have called on international humanitarian organizations and the central government to provide more assistance to the growing numbers of displaced in the south of the country."Najaf, Kerbala and Basra provinces, in particular, are greatly suffering with a continued increase in displacement. There are dozens of families arriving every day at camps for the displaced, causing a lack of essential needs such as food and health care," said Ali Fakhouri, a spokesman of Najaf provincial council."The past two months were the worst for those families. For security reasons, the delivery of aid has decreased considerably and because of a lack in medicines in the region's hospitals and inaccessibility to hospitals, children are more vulnerable to diseases," Fakhouri added. "Diarrhea is common among children in displaced groups in the south."
There are dozens of families arriving every day at camps for the displaced, causing a lack of essential needs such as food and health care.Fakhouri said that nearly 90 percent of the 700,000 internally displaced people in the southern provinces lack essential needs. According to the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR), of this total, at least 310,000 arrived there after the bombing on 22 February 2006 of a revered Shia shrine in the northern city of Samarra caused an escalation of sectarian violence.Fakhouri said that unofficial records suggest there are at least 200,000 more displaced people in the southern provinces, bringing the total to nearly a million. The economically poorer southern cities have few jobs to offer this massive influx of people. As such, the displaced are largely unemployed and depend on assistance from aid organisations.Government slow to respondLocal NGOs say they simply cannot cope with the large numbers arriving in the south and blame the government for being slow to respond to the growing humanitarian crisis there. Fareed Abbas, a spokesman for Najaf-based NGO the Muslim Organization for Peace (MOP), said the central government was unwilling to provide sufficient funds to develop sanitation, education and electricity projects in the southern provinces."We have appealed dozens of times to the central government to help in such critical circumstances but we haven't got any response yet. Instead, over the past few months, their assistance has decreased considerably, leaving people without support and infrastructure," Abbas said."Children are getting sick and the elderly are dying because they cannot get treatment for their chronic diseases. Pregnant women are dying or losing their babies because they cannot reach hospitals on time to get help from specialists," he added.Abbas stressed the urgent need for international support and better coordination of aid deliveries. "When aid convoys reach our provinces, they come with medicines that aren't useful, such as tonnes of drugs for headaches, or food stuffs that won't help to feed families," he said.Dr Aziz Ali Baroud, a physician at Najaf Main Hospital, said the region's hospitals cannot cope with the increase in people seeking medical treatment since the beginning of 2007. As a result, there are severe shortages in specialists and in medical essentials such as paediatric needles and heart disease drugs, he said."At least one person dies in our hospital every day due to lack of assistance or medicines. If you add all the people dying for the same reason in all the hospitals in the southern provinces, the number becomes very serious," Baroud said, adding that abortions have become common among displaced women unable to cope with their situation.Difficulties in food ration deliveryCompounding the health problems the displaced face in Iraq's southern provinces is a lack of access to food. According to Ministry of Trade officials, the continuous movement of families to southern areas has caused delays in the delivery of food rations (distributed as aid by the Ministry of Trade to help poor families registered by the government)."Food rations are delivered every month to the distribution centers where families have registered. When they move to another area, we have to be informed of this change of address to be able to change the delivery of their aid to another area," said Khalid Farhan, a senior official of Ministry of Trade. "But displaced families often can't carry out these administrative procedures as they are fleeing their neighborhoods for security reasons."The result is many newly displaced people do not receive food rations "for a period of time because of technical arrangements", said Farhan.Based on information from Najaf provincial council, at least 120,000 people in the province have not received their food rations after fleeing their homes in Baghdad or neighboring cities."We have been trying to get our food rations for the past four months but we haven't received any kind of answer. And we depend on assistance from NGOs that isn't always available," said Abu Hassan, 54, a displaced father of five. "We urge the government to speed up the delivery of our food rations before we die of hunger."
This item comes to you via IRIN, the humanitarian news and analysis service of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. The opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the United Nations or its Member States. Reposting or reproduction, with attribution, for non-commercial purposes is permitted. .
Posted by TONY on 28.3.07
By Rod Nordland and Babak Dehghanpisheh
April 2, 2007 issue - Describing Jalal Mustafa to a reporter, the first thing his family mentions is "that long love story of his." The young mechanic's dream was to wed his fiancée, Laila, and "have as many kids as they could." But running a small auto-repair shop, it took Mustafa a long time to save up enough for the wedding, let alone a house. On Feb. 4, he finally went to the courthouse to apply for a marriage license. As he was walking through the gates, a car pulled up next to the building. Before the vehicle came to a full stop, the driver detonated a suicide bomb. Four bystanders died, including Mustafa: burned over much of his body, a piece of shrapnel lodged in his head. The bombing didn't even make the news; it was an ordinary day in Baghdad.
For each U.S. service member killed in Iraq, at least 20 Iraqis die violently. Feb. 4 was no exception. That day in Baghdad, roadside bombs killed four Iraqi policemen in one incident and two soldiers in another, and an Army colonel lost his life to assassins in the southern suburbs. But most of the day's 81 victims of violent deaths—about the usual daily toll this past winter—were civilians like Mustafa, the softest of soft targets. Forty-two of them were gunned down execution style, many of their corpses bearing signs of torture: hallmarks of Shia death squads. Most of the other deaths appeared to be the work of Sunni and Al Qaeda extremists. NEWSWEEK talked to the families of four of the Feb. 4 victims. Among them were a street vendor, a former TV journalist and a truck-parts dealer. Two were Shia, and two were Sunni. And in each case their families lost not only loved ones but breadwinners. None of their killers has been identified:
Jawad Jasem, 44, was serving a customer at his pushcart outside the courthouse when the bomb exploded. The son of a poor Shia farmer, Jasem had wanted to be an engineer. When he was 18, family friends got him into the Air Force, where he earned good money working on jets—until the Army, desperate for infantrymen in the war with Iran, sent him to the front. He was wounded four times. He was not allowed to return to civilian life after the war, even though he had a wife and five children. "He used to tell everyone that the last day of his military service would be the happiest day of his life," says his younger brother, Kareem, a shopkeeper. "He said he'd celebrate with a great party in which he would make a feast for the entire city."
It didn't turn out that way. His last day of duty was April 8, 2003, when U.S. troops entered Baghdad. Jawad was among thousands of Iraqi soldiers who stripped off their uniforms and fled.
He started over, buying his pushcart and setting up in front of the courthouse. He built a good business. It was a predominantly Shia neighborhood, but the bomber killed members of both sects indiscriminately. "Evil has no eyes," says Kareem Jasem. "Jawad's shop had turned into just a big hole ... and his body was smashed into a wall."
Abdul Salam, 47, was a pious Sunni who believed in sectarian harmony. The father of six, he had refused to join Saddam's Army, and worked instead in defense factories. After the invasion, he started a truck-parts business; he hired two Shia apprentices and set up shop in Al Yousifiyah, a mostly Sunni suburb. Driving home from work one night with his two assistants, Salam stopped at a police checkpoint. A van full of gunmen pulled up and abducted all three. Shia friends tried to intercede for Salam at the local Mahdi Army office, but on Feb. 4, Salam's corpse was found dumped in a field a few miles from his home, shot repeatedly in the head and chest. His Shia apprentices were freed. "He was beloved by his friends, colleagues and all of his neighbors, most of them Shiites," says Salam's brother, Naser Zaidan. "He used to say Islam is the unifier of Iraqis."
For Suhad Shakir, 36, her new job was a dream come true. She had always wanted to work with Americans, and she loved helping people. Last September she quit her post as a journalist at state-owned TV and jumped at an opening with the Iraqi Assistance Center, a Coalition-run office in the Green Zone that works with U.S. and Iraqi agencies to provide social services. It seemed safer than reporting, and it paid better.
On Feb. 4 she was on her way to work, waiting in the queue at a checkpoint near an entrance to the Green Zone which is often targeted by suicide bombers. Shakir was in the slow lane, for Iraqi cars that are subject to careful searches. A convoy of armored vehicles came roaring up and got stuck at the checkpoint. One of the bodyguards in the first vehicle threw a bottle of water at the driver in front of Shakir to signal him to move. The driver panicked and backed into Shakir's car. She tried to get out of the way but backed into the car behind her. Someone aboard the fourth vehicle in the convoy, seeing Shakir's sudden move, opened fire, hitting her once. The vehicle slowed and a goateed Westerner in khaki leaned out his window and shot her again in the face at close range. Then the convoy raced off into the Green Zone.
Iraqi cops think Shakir's killer mistook her for a suicide bomber, but they say they're continuing to investigate. "It is very important I know why she is killed and who killed her," said Shakir's mother, Salima Kadhim, dressed in black a month after her daughter's death. Like many Iraqis, she still waits.
Chomsky is always right. It's a pity he is so thoughtful and lacks the soundbites of his intellectual inferiors. The Lebanon atrocities alone would have been enough to consign Blair and Bush to the scrapheap of history, never mind Iraq and Afghanistan. The link below is a good indicator of how far the madness has gone recently. It would be more comfortable if the lightining conductor of responsibility for all of this horror lay across the Atlantic. Unfortunately is doesn't and its not just Blair, but also his topical successor whos fingerprints are all over it.
Posted by TONY on 22.3.07
From The Herald
IAN BRUCE, Defence Correspondent
March 21 2007
The Ministry of Defence spends almost three times as much to equip members of the Household Cavalry for ceremonial duties in London as it does to kit out soldiers for the front line in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Figures obtained by The Herald show that the cost of dress uniforms, breastplate, helmet, thigh boots, swords, and ornate buckles and badges for cavalrymen who remain in London, largely as a tourist attraction, amounts to more than £6000 a trooper for up to three years.
The bill for desert camouflage combat clothing and accoutrements for soldiers sent to fight insurgents in Basra and Helmand is about £2200, while those deployed to more temperate areas such as the Balkans are issued with £760 worth of uniforms.
The five Foot Guards regiments, who also draw ceremonial guard and parade duties as part of the Queen's Household Division, have about £1000 spent on their red tunics, dark blue trousers and controversial bearskin headgear.
The MoD also pays for the upkeep of more than 400 horses for the Household Cavalry mounted regiment, the unit which provides mounted escorts for royal occasions such as Trooping the Colour.
While troops in action in both Iraq and Afghanistan have suffered shortages of everything from desert uniforms and boots to reliable ammunition in the past four years, soldiers wearing uniforms not seen on any battlefield since Waterloo in 1815 are armed with swords worth up to £1000.
Prince Harry is already a cornet (a second lieutenant) in the Blues and Royals and Prince William will follow him into the regiment after passing out from Sandhurst later this year.
Harry's dress uniform cost £2500, even though his first posting is as an armoured troop leader in Iraq.
New York Times March 10, 2007
American soldiers were accused Friday of opening fire on a car carrying a family in the Baghdad district of Sadr City, killing a man and his two young daughters and wounding his son. The allegations were made by the man’s wife, who was in the car, and members of the Iraqi police, who were at the scene. The American military command said in a statement on Friday that it was investigating an episode in Sadr City involving “an escalation of force,” but it could not confirm any details of the account given by the man’s wife.
The woman, Ikhlas Thulsiqar, said her family had turned from an alleyway onto a main street guarded by American soldiers. Seconds later, she said, a fusillade of bullets ripped into the car. “They killed the father of my children! The Americans killed my daughters!” she sobbed, sitting crumpled on the floor of Imam Ali Hospital in Sadr City where rescuers had taken the victims, including her daughters, 9 and 11, and her son, 7. “That is a serious allegation, and we’ll take a look and figure out what happened,” Lt. Col. Christopher Garver, a military spokesman in Baghdad, said late Friday.
The deadly shooting appeared to be the first in the working-class district involving either the Iraqi or American military since a joint force of more than 1,100 American and Iraqi troops began a house-to-house search for weapons and militants there last Sunday. The episode had the potential to inflame anti-American sentiment in the neighborhood and reawaken the Mahdi Army, the Shiite militia that has largely controlled the district but has agreed to stand down to allow the sweep to take place.
The military operation in Sadr City, part of an effort to pacify the capital by flooding the streets with security forces, has served as a test of a new, fragile relationship between the authorities and Moktada al-Sadr, the Shiite cleric who controls the Mahdi Army and commands a vast following among poor Shiites. The military incursion followed protracted negotiations between representatives of Mr. Sadr, neighborhood leaders and government officials. Mr. Sadr vowed not to impede the crackdown in Sadr City or elsewhere, and privately ordered his fighters not to resist the military sweeps regardless of the level of provocation. But Mr. Sadr, a fierce nationalist who has long demanded a rapid American withdrawal from Iraq, has also complained publicly about the American involvement in the Sadr City operation.
Local leaders, in turn, have also warned that a heavy-handed or prolonged American engagement in Sadr City might incite the residents and their militia to retaliate. But in the past few days, residents say, American forces have moved with great care through the neighborhood and have mostly remained on the street while their Iraqi counterparts have conducted the house-to-house searches.
Also Friday, the purported leader of an insurgent umbrella group, the Islamic State of Iraq, was captured in a raid on the western outskirts of Baghdad, according to Iraqi state television and The Associated Press, which quoted a top Iraqi military spokesman. The spokesman, Brig. Gen. Qassim al-Moussawi, told The A.P. that the man, Abu Omar al-Baghdadi, was caught in a raid in the Abu Ghraib district and was identified by another detainee. American officials had no confirmation of the capture. Last Sunday, Iraqi officials announced that they may have captured Mr. Baghdadi in Diyala Province, north of Baghdad, but the suspect turned out to be someone else. The Islamic State of Iraq has claimed responsibility for numerous major attacks in Iraq, including the kidnapping last week of 18 people, most of them police officers, who were subsequently killed.
In Diyala, American forces on Friday shot and killed three Iraqi Army soldiers in a military pickup truck after they failed to obey an American order to stop, Iraqi military officials said. The spokesman for the Defense Ministry, Muhammad al-Askary, said the military was investigating the episode, which took place north of Baquba, though it appeared to be “a mistake.” He said the soldiers were wearing uniforms and were in a vehicle with military markings. According to Colonel Garver, the American military was also investigating the matter. “We understand there were three Iraqi Army soldiers killed in this engagement, and it is too early to tell the details surrounding the event,” he said. American and Iraqi forces are fighting a growing Sunni insurgent threat in Diyala, which has become one of the bloodiest sectarian battlegrounds in Iraq. On Friday, the American commander for northern Iraq, Maj. Gen. Benjamin R. Mixon, said he had asked for more troops in the province.
General Mixon told reporters at the Pentagon in a videolink from Iraq that he had already shifted troops to Diyala from elsewhere in northern Iraq and requested reinforcements from the central command in Baghdad. He did not reveal how many additional troops he had requested, but he told reporters to “keep an eye on what goes on in Diyala over the next couple of weeks.” On Thursday, Gen. David H. Petraeus, the top American commander in Iraq, said Diyala would “very likely” get more troops.
In Hibhib, a town in Diyala with an entrenched insurgency, gunmen from the Islamic State of Iraq laid siege to a police station on Friday, killing one policeman and forcing others to flee. They then looted it of weapons and equipment, burned several police cars and blew up the building before escaping, police officials said. Four people in Baghdad, each in a different neighborhood, were killed by sniper fire on Friday, according to an official at the Interior Ministry. The official also said at least 10 bodies were found dumped around the capital. The American military reported that a marine was killed Friday during a combat operation in Anbar Province. On Friday, the satellite channel Al Jazeera reported that Raouf Abdel-Rahman, the Iraqi judge who sentenced Saddam Hussein to death, had asked for asylum in Britain. The British Home Office would not confirm the report, saying it does not discuss individual cases.
Posted by TONY on 15.3.07
How about Operation Lebanese Freedom.
Posted by TONY on 13.3.07
NATO Battles Rising Hostility in Afghanistan
By Susanne Koelbl
The fight against the Taliban in Afghanistan continues this spring. But as the number of civilian casualties rises, support for Western troops is dropping.
The grave is 14 meters long. The white flags with golden characters flutter in the wind at the tops of bamboo poles. The inscriptions are verses from the Koran meant to guide the dead into the afterlife.
The NATO offensive against the Taliban in southern Afghanistan got underway in February. Here, a British helicopter supplying a patrol in the region.Abdullah Shah stands alone in the Da Mirwais mini Hadira cemetery in western Kandahar, his hands raised to the sky. After completing his prayers, the old man strokes his face and his white beard, as ritual requires.
Twenty people are buried beneath the mound of earth at Shah's feet: his wife Miamato, his three sons, 13 grandchildren, two daughters-in-law and a cousin. They died in Lakani, a village in the embattled Panjwai district in southern Afghanistan, at 2:30 in the morning on October 25, 2006. Their lives were extinguished by fire from the 30 mm guns of an American A-10 ground attack aircraft, aka Warthog.
Prior to the killings, helicopters had already been circling the skies over Lakani for days. When the bombs began falling, patriarch Abdullah Shah ordered his family to seek shelter in a remote mud hut. By 2 a.m., when things had calmed down, the family decided to return to the village. But the A-10 gunners, peering through their night-vision goggles, couldn't tell the difference between civilians and fighters. Anything that moved was their target. The orders were clear: The Taliban were to be removed from the region.
Abdullah Shah survived the attack because he stayed at home to guard the house. His four-year-old granddaughter Aqida also survived, but she was hit in the spine by a piece of shrapnel and will never walk again. The child is now in Germany. Near the end of last year, the German military flew her to Cologne, where she was first treated in a children's clinic and later taken in by an Afghan couple in Germany. Aqida could be returned to Panjwai by the end of the month -- to a place that has become a war zone caught between NATO and the Taliban.
NATO is concerned about the advance of the Taliban in southern Afghanistan.The Western alliance hopes to make this year a turning point in the Afghanistan conflict. With the offensive it launched last week in Helmand Province, the alliance plans to head off its opponents' expected spring offensive. Alliance members agree that the terrorists cannot be allowed to regain control of the country it liberated from the Taliban and al-Qaida. But NATO's double-pronged strategy of reconstruction and military strikes comes at a high price. As civilian casualties mount, so too does animosity against Afghanistan's Western liberators.
Five adults and four young children were killed last Monday in Kapisa Province north of Kabul when a NATO fighter jet dropped a 900-kilogram bomb on a mud house. According to a NATO spokesman, rebels had fired rockets at the NATO base in Kapisa and taken refuge in the building before NATO forces launched their counterattack.
A day earlier, US troops killed nine civilians and wounded 34 bystanders, some critically, on the road to the Torkham border crossing into Pakistan, 50 kilometers (31 miles) east of Jalalabad.
"The Americans shot at everything that moved," says an eyewitness who was also wounded. "They aimed at people in cars and at pedestrians." Immediately before the attack, a suicide bomber had been driving a minibus loaded with explosives toward the US patrol.
Of the 4,000 people who died violent deaths in Afghanistan last year, about 1,000 were civilians. Most of the victims were killed when Western soldiers found themselves in "complex ambushes," the expression military spokesmen use to describe the Taliban's strategy of using civilians as human shields.
Most of the suicide bombings are also intentionally committed in civilian surroundings, part of their purpose being to create ill will within the population against the foreign troops. The strategy seems to be working, at least in the Pashtun region where very few reconstruction projects have materialized. Last week thousands of angry protestors marched through the streets of Jalalabad, furiously shouting "Death to America! Death to Karzai!"
The fronts of this new war are difficult to define, but it is still -- as Abdullah Shah and his family discovered -- possible to become caught in between them. Shah, a native of Kandahar, is 68 and illiterate, and yet he led his extended family through the country's various crises and periods of unrest for 40 years. His clan survived the Soviet invasion and the civil war in the early 1990s. He even reached an understanding with the Taliban, even if the Islamists forced him to hand over one of his sons for the fight. Had he not done so, he would have been driven from his land.
Now, though, Abdullah Shah's farm in Lakani is abandoned. The chickens, sheep and cows are gone, and Shah doesn't even know whether they were stolen or simply ran away. Distant relatives in a neighboring village have taken him in temporarily.
Caught as they are in the middle of the conflict between the Taliban and international forces, life has become difficult for the residents of southern Afghanistan, who don't know to whom they should turn for protection. The government is too weak, NATO is often fighting primarily to preserve its own security and the Taliban is infiltrating the villages.
Key to Afghan opium production
"If there is to be a spring offensive, it must be our offensive," US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said in late January at a meeting of NATO foreign ministers in Brussels. That offensive began last Tuesday at 5 a.m. local time, when 5,500 troops -- the British, Canadians, Dutch, Americans and 1,000 Afghans -- launched "Operation Achilles" in the southern Helmand Province, a predominantly Pashtun region. The aim of the NATO operation, led by Dutch Major General Ton van Loon, is to liberate villages in the region from extremist rule. The area is key to Afghan opium production and is one of the Taliban's most important strategic and economic bases.
Five months ago, the British signed a regional truce after heavy fighting and many losses. Under the terms of the agreement, tribal elders agreed to keep the Taliban out of the region. But when the British withdrew, the agreement fell apart and, by early February, the Taliban were back in control.
From his hideout in the border region between Afghanistan and Pakistan, Mullah Dadullah, the Taliban's one-legged military leader, recently issued the self-confident announcement that 6,000 fighters were ready for the spring offensive. That number is said to include up to 2,000 suicide bombers.
Likely, much of this is propaganda meant to make the allied troops nervous. At 40, Mullah Dadullah is already one of the Taliban's more seasoned veterans. He is considered especially violent and is known to have ordered videotaped beheadings of "infidels" and "collaborators" alike as a scare tactic. His boastful announcements are intended primarily to intimidate NATO and the government in Kabul. At the same time, he hopes to encourage young Pashtun men, among the country's poorest residents, to join the fighters. It has also become difficult for the Taliban, which has lost hundreds of fighters, to recruit new blood each year.
Abudullah Shah lost 21 members of his family during a NATO bombing run.In the 1980s, the Taliban's predecessors, the mujaheddin, found popular support for their struggle against the Soviet invaders. But today, few families are willing to sacrifice their sons. They sense that the international troop presence, as unpopular as it is, is probably their last best chance to escape a vicious cycle of oppression and poverty. Nevertheless, many face a daily struggle to survive, creating a perfect climate for recruiting mercenaries. If they are to fight, many Afghans reason, it will mainly be for money. The Taliban currently offers 30,000 Afghani a month -- roughly €500 -- and a motorcycle to those willing to fight for pay. The government in Kabul pays its civil servants --- teachers and police officers alike -- barely €50 a month.
Tribal leaders, feudal lords
The new offensive in Helmand will also serve as an acid test for whether the Western allies can continue their reconstruction projects in the most fiercely contested regions of the country. More than five years after the US invasion, Afghanistan is still among the world's poorest countries, a place where countless people live like slaves indebted to warring tribal leaders or feudal lords.
The main objective of the new NATO offensive is to secure the Sangin Valley and the Kajaki dam in northern Helmand Province. If the plan succeeds, they hope to repair a major power plant that could supply electricity to almost 2 million Afghans. The NATO-led ISAF troops, and even the Americans, have now realized that they can only win the "hearts and minds" of their Afghan allies by significantly improving their standard of living.
The Taliban, for its part, is trying to impede technological progress at all costs, knowing full well that its power will dissipate as soon as Afghans see improvements in their lives or be able to find jobs. But if the extremists manage to up the number of civilians killed in battle, the Afghans will be more likely to stand behind the Taliban.
In short, this is far from a holy war and never was here in the permanently ungovernable south. The Taliban has entered into a strategic alliance with the powerful smuggling mafia that operates between Pakistan and Afghanistan. Far from supporting the establishment of a caliphate, the smugglers are only interested in drugs, weapons, women and holding on to power.
The population, for its part, wants piece -- but is preparing for a lengthy war of attrition. Fear of the international troops is palpable; when a NATO patrol walks around a corner in Kandahar, every child remains frozen in place. The Afghans know that any unexpected movement could produce a deadly reaction. Most young NATO soldiers sit in their armor-clad vehicles, their fingers on the triggers of their machine guns, watching the outside world on a monitor. A red target marks every potential danger -- and death is never more than two clicks away.
The Americans have lost a lot of credibility in the country.Just what the foreign soldiers are good for is difficult for the rural population to tell. They speed through the dusty landscape in their outlandish vehicles, periodically engage the enemy, and then return to their fortified bases. In the strategically important Panjwai district in Kandahar Province, entire villages have been leveled because Taliban fighters were using them for cover.
Poor security is still the Afghans' biggest problem. The police, rarely on hand when they are needed, make convenient targets for the Taliban, interested as they are in intimidating the locals. Miserably trained and poorly paid or not paid at all, Afghanistan's police officers often abuse their power to extort bribes from the very people they are meant to protect. It's a situation that results in many villagers preferring to see the Taliban keep the peace. They say that although the Taliban may not have brought development to the country, it did provide stability. The current government has been able to offer neither.
Examples are many. Since the Taliban government was thrown out in late 2001, many rural areas no longer have judges to address the countless disputes over land or water. Cases of murder or robbery go unpunished. In some places where the Taliban has regained control, many believe that harsh justice is better than no justice at all. And those places are multiplying. The Taliban has already recaptured entire regions in the southern Kandahar, Helmand and Zabul provinces, and it is also making inroads in the country's east, primarily in the Khost region, and in Paktia and Paktika provinces. Taliban fighters infiltrate these areas in small groups, either from neighboring Pakistan or from the Hindu Kush Mountains, forcing villagers to hide them in their houses -- and turning local residents into human shields.
Anyone suspected of cooperating with the government in Kabul or with foreign troops lives in mortal danger. In the space of just 10 days last month, extremists murdered seven government officials in the city of Kandahar, including two mullahs and two lower-ranking police officials. The murderers waited for their victims on motorcycles in front of their houses and shot them with Kalashnikovs as they drove to work in the morning. Not even the employees of public transportation companies can feel safe. Anyone seen as a collaborator risks being punished.
Meanwhile, the increasingly courageous members of private aid organizations are demonstrating that development and reconstruction are possible in war zones. Senlis Council, a British aid organization, provides assistance to refugees throughout most of the country's southern portion. German engineers recently completed an important 4.3-kilometer (2.7-mile) connecting road in the embattled Panjwai district. Non-governmental organizations are offering their assistance to anyone, friend or foe. It's a strategy that usually works, but not always. Last week, unknown assailants shot and killed German aid worker Dieter Rübling, who had worked for Deutsche Welthungerhilfe (German Agro Action), in Sar-i-pul in northern Afghanistan.
It's a difficult balance and the challenge facing NATO is huge. On the one hand, it must prevent the Taliban from recapturing the country. On the other hand, it cannot afford to gamble away its last remaining support among the population. As have the Americans. Once celebrated as liberators, the US has largely lost its credibility among Afghan civilians as a result of its not-always considerate behavior. Now the Europeans are likewise on the verge of losing respect.
This dilemma sometimes prompts diplomats and military officials in Kabul to consider radically new approaches. "Why don't the Americans pull out altogether and leave reconstruction to the Europeans?" high-ranking European officials ask themselves in private. But they don't dare express their ideas openly -- for fear that someone could actually take them seriously.
But if the numbers of civilian casualties cannot be reduced, the West could face a serious backlash in Afghanistan. Widower Abdullah Shah, who lost almost his entire family to NATO fire, has become something of a symbol in that struggle. When his fate became known throughout the country, President Hamid Karzai met with Shah in Kabul. Karzai sent him on a pilgrimage to Mecca and made arrangements for his paralyzed granddaughter Aqida to receive treatment in Germany.
Abdullah Shah took advantage of his meeting with the president to ask Karzai who would compensate him for the loss of his family. Karzai offered Shah two pieces of property and encouraged him to look for a new wife and remarry. Since then the widower has been in negotiations for the hand of his new bride-to-be. The woman he has chosen is only around 30 years old, and because of the advanced age of the now largely toothless groom, her family is demanding a high price: 800,000 Afghanis, or about €12,000.
"Men are always in such a hurry," the Afghan president said when asked by SPIEGEL whether he would pay Abdullah Shah's bride money. "I promised him I would, and I will keep my promise."
The Afghans are apparently capable of solving at least some of their problems in their own way -- the way they have been doing it for centuries.
Translated from the German edition of Der Spiegel by Christopher Sultan
Posted by TONY on 13.3.07
How the US is courting disaster in IraqBY PRAFUL BIDWAI 10 March 2007
THE United States’ political-military failure in Iraq will have terrible consequences for the entire world. And the US seems to be failing-badly.
While its occupation forces continue their anti-insurgent offensive, Prime Minister Nuri Al Maliki’s government appears shaky. Its collapse will signify the US’s greatest political failure in Iraq. This could happen if Al Maliki yields to US pressure to end his dependence on Shia cleric Moqtada Al Sadr.
The recent raid by coalition troops on the interior Ministry’s intelligence headquarters has further embarrassed the embattled Prime Minister. Their "security sweep" in Baghdad and Anbar province has had extremely limited success.
Former anti-insurgency experts advising US commander General David Petraeus have reportedly concluded that they have six months to win the war-"or face a Vietnam-style collapse."
Washington has no Plan B in case the "new way forward" strategy announced by President George W. Bush in January fails. According to reports, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Peter Pace was asked at a high-level meeting about his back-up strategy. He answered: "I am a Marine and Marines don’t talk about failure. They talk about victory."
This is part of a larger crisis of strategy. Earlier US plans all ran into rough weather. These included "stabilising" Iraq through the Coalition Provisional Authority; return of "sovereignty" in 2004 through a handpicked government; installation of an elected regime in 2005; and launching the anti-insurgency "Plan Baghdad" that summer.
The latest "new way forward" is an awkward, half-hearted attempt at a final "big push"-by inducting 21,500 more US troops into Iraq. US policy-makers are busy blaming one another for the Iraq fiasco. The Republicans accuse former CPA chief Paul Bremer for messing things. The Democrats blame the Republicans. And Bush blames Iran’s Mahmood Ahmedinejad!
Worse, many US commentators blame the victims, the Iraqi people. Leading Neoconservative and former Defence Planning Board chairman Richard Perle, who lobbied for war against Iraq even before 9/11, now says he "underestimated the depravity" in Iraq.
Right-wing columnist Charles Krauthammer says the Iraqis alone are responsible for the violence and strife. "We mid-wifed their freedom. They chose civil war." Even Fareed Zakaria, considered a liberal critic of the Bush administration says Iraq’s Sunnis "have mostly behaved like self-defeating thugs."
These critics don’t see the disaster’s root-cause: the US’s project of Empire.
The US waged war on Iraq out of choice. It knew Iraq didn’t possess mass-destruction weapons, nor was its government in league with al-Qaeda. The US wanted to bring about "regime change" and "instill some democracy in the heart of the Middle East"-as part of Bush’s Greater Middle East Initiative.
Washington’s core-objectives were to secure access to West Asia’s energy resources, promote Israel’s security, establish its global hegemony, and reduce the global spread of terrorism.
All of these stand defeated. The US achieved what an Egyptian described as "a miracle": "It has made people regret the downfall of Saddam’s regime."
According to pre-invasion polls, 43 per cent of Iraqis considered the US presence as "liberation" and 46 per cent as "occupation"; six months later, the figures were 15 and 67 per cent. In December 2006, 95 per cent felt that the security situation was better before the invasion.
Iraq has been systematically looted and reduced from a middle-level human development society to a low-level, impoverished one, with high unemployment, inflation and a burgeoning black market. Baghdad gets electricity for 6 to 8 hours a day. Education has collapsed.
The psychological impact of violence’s on Iraqi society has proved devastating. An Association of Iraqi Psychologists study says the violence has affected millions of children. "Children in Iraq are seriously suffering psychologically with all the insecurity, especially with the fear of kidnapping and explosions."
The US has spent $350 billion on the occupation and sustained over 3,000 deaths among its troops, besides killing 650,000 Iraqis. But it has failed to contain the insurgency. The number of insurgents rose four-fold to 20,000 between 2003 and 2004, and has since risen to 30,000.
Even worse is the external impact of Iraq’s occupation-through the political radicalisation of Muslims and spread of jehadi terrorism the world over. The occupation has fomented anti-Western sentiment and made the world more unsafe.
It didn’t take a prophetic vision to see that this would happen. Like the injustice heaped upon the Palestinian people by Israel, Iraq’s occupation is seen as proof of the West’s Islamophobia and racist attitude towards the Middle East. This has produced a backlash-through terrorism.
A study by the Centre on Law and Security at the NYU Foundation for "Mother Jones" magazine (US) proves this with hard numbers. The study looked at two periods, September 2001 to March 2003, and from March 2003 to September 2006.
Globally, there was a 607 per cent rise in the yearly incidence of attacks and a 237 per cent rise in fatalities. The first period witnessed 729 deaths. The second saw 5,420. Even excluding Iraq, terrorist attacks and fatalities rose sharply, by 265 per cent and 58 per cent.
Iraq and Afghanistan account for 80 per cent of all attacks and 67 per cent of deaths. But even if they’re excluded, there’s still a 35 per cent increase in terrorist attacks and a 12 per cent rise in fatalities (to 554 per year).
The Iraq war has caused a precipitous drop in support for the US in Muslim countries: from 25 per cent to 1 per cent in Jordan, a major US ally; in Lebanon, from 30 to 15 per cent; and in Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim country, from 61 per cent to 15. This has grave implications for the world — not least India and Pakistan, where terrorism’s fatalities have risen from 182 to 489. It’s in humanity’s interest that jehadi forces don’t gain. That will only produce more violence and insecurity — and eventually, assaults on human rights and democracy. However, the way the US is acting will ensure precisely that outcome.
The US must be dissuaded from this catastrophic course. This poses a challenge before the global peace movement and progressive political forces.
Posted by TONY on 10.3.07
Major General William Caldwell said in an interview with John Humphries on the BBC's Today Programme this morning that the Bush 'surge' had been successful so far in Baghdad. He cited as part of his justification that there had been a decrease in the number of 'traditional murders and executions'. If Major General Caldwell were not a thoughtful man, which he is, this could be put down to yet another crass remark by another US Military bonehead. However, when an intelligent soldier appears to think that there is a traditional dimension to the murders and executions, this could mean he thinks it is part of the culture. Murders and executions in Baghdad were never 'traditional' even under Saddam. Major General Caldwell will be aware, as are the citizens of Baghdad, that they have become routine and part of the landscape in the last fours years since he and his comrades arrived to destroy the fabric of the country.
Posted by TONY on 8.3.07
Iraqi Crisis Report
Baghdadis Keep a Low Profile
Residents fearful of the murderous gangs roaming their streets are careful not to draw attention to themselves.
By Hussein al-Yasiri in Baghdad (ICR No. 213, 23-Feb-07)Mahmood, 30, is a car dealer, but drives around Baghdad in a battered old vehicle, while newer, more expensive models gather dust in his garage.He likes to be as inconspicuous as possible after he narrowly escaped with his life while heading home in his Mercedes Benz. A gang tried to rob him and opened fire as he sped away, some of the bullets hitting the car.With murder, kidnapping and burglary a daily feature of Baghdad life, people like Mahmood choose to take their own precautions rather than rely on the police or other security forces for protection.For women, the perils of being on the street on their own are such that they always try to ensure that they’re escorted by a male member of their family or join up with a group of people when they go out - if they go out at all.Parents who still send their kids to school pick them up after class. Those who do not have a car hire busses to ferry the children home, but not before making sure they can trust the driver not to hand them over to kidnapping gangs.Sumaiya Faruq, 12, wears the hijab along with the standard blue school uniform for girls when she attends her primary school in the tense neighbourhood of Dora in the south of Baghdad. She used to walk to class but now her parents pay a driver 60,000 Iraqi dinars (40 US dollars) per month to take her and her sister to school. Even though she’s escorted, Sumaiya worries about being held up at one the many bogus checkpoints set up by militants across the city or being blown by a roadside or car bomb. "I’m terrified whenever I go to school," said the little girl.Joseph Yousif’s son Nabil, 18, was kidnapped last year on his way home from school. Fortunately, the kidnappers were stopped at a police checkpoint. Officers found the boy unconscious in the trunk of the car.Since then, Nabil has been escorted to school by two guards, members of the three-man-security team Yousif hired to protect his family for 900 dollars per month. The men, all Shia, were recommended to Yousif, a Christian, by a friend and until now have proved to be loyal to their employer. In other cases, guards have colluded with criminals to commit crimes against the families they’re supposed to be protecting. "Thank God so far I have had no problems,” said Yousif.The journey to school is so dangerous that teachers have grown used to classes where only half or less of their students turn up. They permit parents to decide for themselves whether it’s safe enough to let their kids go to school.Caution is the watchword: don’t make a journey unless you absolutely have to and if you do try to be as inconspicuous as possible, something Baghdadis have learnt to do very well. No one wears fancy clothes or jewelry - and expensive cars and top of the range mobile phones are a rare sight.Fahwa Faysal, a lawyer, stopped driving her BMW out of fear of attracting unwanted attention. And instead of visiting the main shopping centres in downtown Baghdad she now only goes to stores in her immediate neighbourhood. She’s also changed her appearance, dispensing with fashionable clothes for more modest attire and a veil.People go to such lengths to conceal their wealth and status that they leave their jobs and homes.Goldsmith Salah Hasan, 32, used to live in Mansoor, a once upmarket neighbourhood in western Baghdad. After his 18-year-old son was kidnapped and released for a ransom of 35,000 dollars, Hasan rented a house in a less affluent neighbourhood, sold his BMW and new Toyota Camry, buying two old cars instead, and opened a small electrical appliance shop. Those who work for the Iraqi security forces or for the multi-national forces have to be particularly vigilant as they are a prime target of kidnappers and death squads who view them as collaborators.Omar Mahmood, 34, from Baghdad, who serves as an officer in the Iraqi army in the south, told his family and neighbours that he works as a taxi driver. "I have had to hide my occupation for a long time,” he said. “Under Saddam, we were proud of joining the army. But now we are afraid of even keeping our military uniforms at home." Sarmad Aziz, 28, works as a translator for American troops, sometimes sleeps at his military base. When he’s at home, he keeps his gun next to him at all times, rarely sleeping more than two hours, as he’s fearful that someone might burst into the house. And when he goes to work, he always uses a different route. Aziz Ala, a social researcher at the ministry of labour and social affairs, believes that unless something is done to curb the criminal gangs that roam the streets of Baghdad, they could in time take over."If the state continues to turn a blind eye to these crimes, uncontrollable organised crime could take hold, dominating our daily lives and politics.”
Posted by TONY on 6.3.07
March 5, 2007, 3:24PMCoalition airstrike kills Afghan family
By AMIR SHAH and RAHIM FAIEZ Associated Press Writers © 2007 The Associated Press
JABAR, Afghanistan — A coalition airstrike destroyed a mud-brick home after a rocket attack on a U.S. base, killing nine people from four generations of an Afghan family including a 6-month-old, officials and relatives said Monday — one of the latest in a string of civilian deaths that threaten to undermine the government.
It was the third report in two days of U.S. forces killing civilians. The airstrike took place late Sunday in Kapisa province north of the capital, some 12 hours after U.S. Marines opened fire on civilian cars and pedestrians following a suicide bombing in eastern Nangahar province.
In the other incident, an American convoy in the southern city of Kandahar — where suicide attacks have become commonplace over the past year — opened fire Monday on a vehicle that drove too close, killing the driver, said Noor Ahmad, a Kandahar police officer who said he witnessed the shooting. A NATO spokesman said he did not have any information.
Up to 10 Afghans died in the aftermath of the Nangahar suicide attack, which wounded a U.S. Marine. President Hamid Karzai condemned the bombing, "which caused the American forces to fire on civilians," and a statement said relatives of the dead wanted the "perpetrators" brought to justice.
In both the Nangahar and Kapisa incidents, the U.S. military blamed militants for putting innocent lives in danger. A villager in Kapisa, about 50 miles northeast of the capital, confirmed the U.S. account that a rocket was first fired at the American base.
Karzai has repeatedly pleaded for Western troops to show more restraint amid concern that civilian deaths shake domestic support for the foreign military involvement that the president needs to prop up his government, increasingly under threat from a resurgent Taliban.
"These incidents will make people unhappy and upset with the international forces as well as the government of Afghanistan," said Zalmai Mujadedi, head of a parliamentary committee on domestic security. "The incidents in Nangarhar and Kapisa will make the people's confidence in the Afghan and international security forces even lower than before."
Bryan Whitman, a Pentagon spokesman, said coalition forces will always respond in self-defense when fired upon: "It is often the enemy that is putting innocent peoples' lives in danger by where they're conducting these attacks on our forces."
The political fallout could resonate widely among Afghans, analysts said.
Civilian deaths "encourage people toward the Taliban and give the Taliban a chance to turn the situation to their advantage," said Mohammad Qasim Akhgar, an Afghan political analyst and spokesman for the non-governmental Freedom of Expression Association.
Human Rights Watch said neither side was taking enough precautions to prevent human casualties and accused the U.S. and international troops of using excessive force.
"International forces don't have carte blanche to shoot anything they want in response to insurgent attacks," said John Sifton, a New York-based researcher for the group.
In the Kapisa province violence, the U.S. military said a rocket was fired at a hilltop U.S. base, prompting return fire by the coalition forces and the airstrike.
Two men with automatic rifles were seen leaving the site of the rocket attack and heading into a compound that was then hit by two 2,000-pound bombs, a military statement said. Rural homes in Afghanistan are built in a compound style with one large outer wall often encasing several small rooms; many families tend to share the same compound.
"These men knowingly endangered civilians by retreating into a populated area while conducting attacks against coalition forces," said Lt. Col. David Accetta, a U.S. military spokesman. "We observed the men entering a compound and that compound was targeted and hit by an airstrike."
The bombs left a large crater of twisted lumber and chunks of mud and killed four women, four children between the ages of 6 months and 5 years, and an 80-year-old man, said Gulam Nabi, a relative of the victims.
Sayad Mohammad Dawood Hashimmi, Kapisa deputy governor, confirmed the nine deaths.
Among those killed were Gulam Nabi's parents, his sister, two female relatives by marriage and four of the extended family's youngest children.
Mohammad Akbar, a resident, said he heard a rocket fired from a mountain behind his village toward a hilltop U.S. base. After that, U.S. mortars were fired on the village, two helicopters flew overhead, and then a warplane dropped the two bombs, destroying one home and damaging another nearby, he said.
In Sunday's violence in Nangahar, an explosives-rigged minivan crashed into a convoy of Marines that U.S. officials said also came under fire from gunmen. As many as 10 people were killed and 34 wounded as the convoy made a frenzied escape, and injured Afghans said the Americans fired on civilian cars and pedestrians as they sped away.
Hundreds of Afghan men held an anti-U.S. demonstration afterward.
A U.S. official called The Associated Press on Monday to say military authorities believe Sunday's suicide bombing was a "clearly planned, orchestrated attack" that included enemy fire on the convoy.
The official, who asked not to be named because of the sensitivity of the matter, said authorities believed that criminal elements orchestrated the attack because of eradication efforts against the region's profitable opium poppy crop.
He said there was "no doubt in the minds of Marines on the ground that they were being fired on." The official said Afghan casualties could have been caused by militants or by U.S. gunfire.
However, two senior provincial Afghan officials who also asked not to be named said they had found no evidence to corroborate the U.S. military's claim that militants fired on the Americans. An AP reporter who spoke with more than a dozen witnesses could not find anyone who said they saw or heard incoming militant gunfire.
Akhtyar Gul, who ran outside after the suicide bombing, said he saw Americans firing in all directions.
"There was nobody on the street, nobody on the road to fire on the Americans," said Gul. "The only firing that came toward us was from these American vehicles."
The U.S. official also questioned how a large demonstration could develop so quickly, suggesting it was planned. But witnesses said the demonstration took place more than three miles west of the bombing and only after the U.S. convoy had driven by shooting at civilian cars and pedestrians.
Gul Batikoti, 25, said no one encouraged the Afghans to demonstrate.
"Ten minutes after the vehicles left, all the angry people who were collecting the injured people and also carrying the dead bodies, they were shouting, they were very angry," he said.
Associated Press writers Rahim Faiez contributed to this story from Nangarhar province, Amir Shah from Jabar and Jason Straziuso from Kabul.
Posted by TONY on 5.3.07
US troops kill 16 Afghans after attack
By Reuters, Sun Mar 4, 12:22 GMT
After a suicide bomber attacked an American military convoy in Afghanistan on Sunday, US troops opened fire and killed eight civilians and wounded more than 30, Afghan police said.
In a separate incident, two NATO soldiers were killed during combat operations in the south on Saturday. Their nationalities were not given.
The civilians were killed on a main road outside the city of Jalalabad in the east of the country after a suicide car-bomber attacked the US convoy.
There were no reports of casualties among the US troops and it was unclear why they opened fire on civilians.
“We have eight confirmed killed and more than 30 wounded, some of whom are in critical condition,” said provincial police spokesman Abdul Ghafour.
He said US troops from a US-led coalition force were responsible. Spokesmen for the coalition were not available.
Officials from a separate NATO-led force, which has US troops in the area, referred queries to the coalition force.
After the shooting, hundreds of people staged a protest and blocked the road, residents and officials said.
Bombing and accidental shootings by Western forces feeds resentment of the government of President Hamid Karzai and its allies and even bolsters support for the Taliban guerrillas.
More than 45,000 foreign troops are in Afghanistan battling a resurgent Taliban who have threatened a spring offensive after the bloodiest year since their ouster by US forces in 2001.
Posted by TONY on 4.3.07
BAGHDAD, Mar 2 (IPS) - Three young women accused of joining the Iraqi insurgency movement and engaging in "terrorism" have been sentenced to death, provoking protest from rights organisations fearing that this could be the start of more executions of women in post-Saddam Hussein's Iraq. The execution of the three -- Wassan Talib, Zaineb Fadhil and Liqa Omar Muhammad -- and a fourth, Samar Sa'ad 'Abdullah, found guilty of murdering five members of her family, are scheduled to begin Mar. 3, according a member of the BRussells Tribunal. All four are being held in the Khadamiya female prison in northern Baghdad. One of the three alleged "terrorists", Muhammad, 25, gave birth to a daughter after her arrest and is still nursing the child in prison. A second, Talib, 31, is also in prison with her three-year-old child, according to Amnesty International. Talib and Fadhil, 25, were sentenced to death by the Central Criminal Court of Iraq (CCCI) on 31 August 2006 for the 2005 murder of several members of Iraqi security forces in the Baghdad district of Hay al-Furat. Both women denied any involvement. Fadhil reportedly claimed that she was abroad at the time of the alleged killings, according to Amnesty International. Muhammad was sentenced to death on 6 February 2006 by the CCCI, for kidnapping an official from the 'Green Zone' in 2005, according to sources in the Iraqi Lawyers' Union. Her husband is said to have been detained and accused of the same crime. It is not known whether the three alleged "terrorists" will lodge appeals. But while this is possible, it is unlikely they will be successful without their own legal representation, according to sources. An appeal by Abdullah was earlier rejected and she faces imminent execution, according to Amnesty International. Many lawyers here are interpreting the death sentences on the three alleged "terrorists" as an attempt by the Iraqi regime to intimidate insurgents. Two of those sentenced to death -- Fadhil and Mohammad -- were accused of joining their husbands and two members of their families in their alleged crimes, according to the Iraqi Lawyers' Union. Some Iraqis here have openly expressed surprise and disbelief that these women could have been involved in any insurgency. It was a question of honour for Iraqi men that their women did not participate in any form of violence, they told IPS. Independent lawyers have expressed strong criticism of the trials, saying they were "unfair" and violated international conventions. The accused were denied the right of legal defence, Walid Hayali, a lawyer, said. He was barred from representing the three in court, he added. "No lawyer was given the opportunity to do his job," a close friend of Talib confirmed to IPS. But the right to independent legal representation was guaranteed under international law, lawyers here said. The passing of a death sentence on the mother of a newly born child was also in violation of a specific UN safeguard, they added. Iraqis questioned here said they believed the executions, if allowed to take place, would raise the level of violence across Iraq. "This won't go unpunished," Fadhil Aziz, 40, from the Amiriya district in Baghdad told IPS. "The U.S. and their Iraqi collaborators must pay for the crimes they are committing against our honour," he warned. The impending executions are likely to increase the exodus of Iraqis out of the country. "I am taking my family anywhere in the world rather than staying here and facing this," Abi Muhannad, an Iraqi teacher from the Kadhamiya district in Baghdad told IPS. The UN estimates that some two million Iraqis have already fled the country. Approximately 50,000 are leaving every month, threatening to overwhelm other Middle Eastern countries, particularly Syria, Jordan and Lebanon. Approximately one million are today living in Syria and up to 750,000 in Jordan, according to the UN High Commission of Refugees. Roughly 40 percent of Iraq's middle class is believed to have fled the country since the U.S. invasion in 2003, according to the UN. After the overthrow of Saddam Hussein's regime, the American occupation authorities suspended the death penalty. But in August 2004, the new interim Iraqi government reinstated it for crimes including murder, kidnapping and threats to national security. In October 2005 a tough new anti-terrorism law was introduced, setting capital punishment for "proving, planning, financing and enabling" terrorism. Last year Iraqi courts sentenced 235 people to death and over 6,000 to life imprisonment, according to the London daily al-Sharq al-Awsat. There are over 2,000 women classified as "security detainees", according to Mohamed Khorshid, quoted by the newspaper. It is not known for certain how many have been executed since August 2004, but it is believed the figure is between 50 and 100. During 2006 at least 65 men and women were executed by the Iraqi government, including former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein. (Ali al-Fadhily is our Baghdad correspondent. Dahr Jamail is our specialist writer who has spent eight months reporting from inside Iraq and has been covering the Middle East for several years.) (END/2007)
Posted by TONY on 3.3.07
By EDITH M. LEDERER
UNITED NATIONS Mar 1, 2007 (AP)— The U.N. human rights chief expressed concern Wednesday at recent U.S. legislative and judicial actions that she said leave hundreds of detainees without any way to challenge their indefinite imprisonment.
Louise Arbour referred to the Military Commissions Act approved by Congress last year and last month's federal appeals court ruling that Guantanamo Bay detainees cannot use the U.S. court system to challenge their detention. The case is likely to go to the Supreme Court.
Arbour was critical of the ruling, calling on the judicial system to "rise to its long-standing reputation as a guardian of fundamental human rights and civil liberties and provide the protection to all that are under the authority, control, and therefore in my view jurisdiction of the United States."
Twice before, the Supreme Court issued ruling giving Guantanamo detainees full access to courts. But last June, the justices suggested President Bush could ask Congress for more anti-terrorism authority, prompting passage of the commissions act that in part stripped federal court review.
The act grants suspects at Guantanamo Bay the right to confront the evidence against them and have a lawyer present at specially created "military commissions." But it does not require that any of them be granted legal counsel and specifically bars detainees from filing habeas corpus petitions challenging their detentions in federal courts.
"I am very concerned that we continue to see detention without trial and with, in my opinion, insufficient judicial supervision," Arbour told a news conference after meeting with Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
"I thought there had been progress in that direction. There's been a legislative setback now recently in my view, a judicial decision," she said. These people have "no credible mechanism to ascertain the validity of these … suspicious or allegations."
Posted by TONY on 1.3.07