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November 29, 2005

Prisonners in the sky?

Spiegel-CIAprisonsEurope.jpg
The EU Council has hired Dick Marty, an ex Swiss prosecutor famous for his fight against the Mafia to investigate the issue. Marty immediately requested photos of some prison sites during the past three years from the European Union's satellite center in Torrejón, Spain.

According to Der Spiegel (Germany): “He also contacted the European aviation authority, Eurocontrol, asking for data on the flight movements of 31 aircraft suspected of having served as CIA shuttles for the transport of prisoners or abducted terrorism suspects.” Articles about flights of planes suspected to belong or to be rented by the CIA have begun to appear at least in the German, the Portuguese and the Spanish press.

The subject is obviously attracting more attention in Europe where sanctions could be applied to member countries if it is proven that they have hosted “Black sites” (see this note).

In the European Parliament, the socialist group (second in importance) criticized European leaders for their complacency. It declared that “the existence of such prisons would be a clear violation of Human Rights and EU criteria.”

One of the touchy issues is that European sanctions against “prisons” would not apply to planes in transit according to Franco Frattini the EU commissioner for Human Rights quoted by Le Monde.

But El País (Spain) quotes Marty as saying that a Guantanamo in Europe was not likely: “Everything indicates rather a methodology and logistics which consists in ferrying prisoners from one point to another and keeps them for a couple of days.”

Der Spiegel goes further: “the highest-ranking al-Qaeda members are apparently kept moving with a small group of CIA interrogation experts, like an invisible caravan, from one of the so-called black sites to another.”

[Map taken from Der Spiegel. See full size here]

Posted 11:30 AM | Comments (0)

Perils In Pakistani Earthquake Relief, Parallels to Katrina

Pakistan is more than just a U.S. ally in the war on terror – it’s also an eerie doppelganger of hard core Republican economic strategies, according to Afiya Shehrbano, a sociologist in Pakistan who points out ‘scary affinities’ between the how the Bush and Musharraf administrations handle disaster relief.

“In fact, [the Musharraf administration’s attitude] is eerily reminiscent of the kind of hard-core Republican strategy that is shaping the reconstruction process in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina's flooding of New Orleans. First of all, disasters are not indiscriminate, as the fatalists like to believe. Class, race and gender play integral roles in the nature and extent of damage, as do the flaws of rural housing and inadequate infrastructure,” she writes for The News of Pakistan.

The disaster clean-up after Katrina, she writes, is moreover a warning of both what to expect and what to avoid in Pakistan post quake.

She argues for example that, like FEMA, the ranks of Pakistan’s Relief and Reconstruction Authority have been stocked according to the calculus of patronage and profit, rather than skill and merit. Relief efforts should be conducted with a view toward ecological considerations and the needs of the affected people, not lining the pockets of the military, “who have become notoriously involved in real estate as side-businesses in every part of this country,” she advises.

“Note also the likeness in 'optimistic' conservative economic agendas that the Bush administration promised New Orleans victims and which our administration is pushing after the earthquake. Both have pledged to make the affected areas into capitalist utopias through free trade pacts,” Shehrbano observes, concluding, “It is really the right moment for civil society to step in and organise its efforts towards a meaningful, people-oriented rebuilding of the affected communities.”

David Montero, a freelance journalist in Dhaka, Bangladesh, covered the Pakistani earthquake for the Christian Science Monitor and other publications.

Posted 11:27 AM | Comments (0)

U.S. Defends Decision Not To Join Kyoto Protocol

Envoys from more than 180 nations Monday are holding talks in the Canadian city of Montreal on the Kyoto Protocol.

The 12-day gathering of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change is expected to draw between 8,000 and 10,000 participants from government, business, science and green groups.

The United States instantaneously defended its decision not to sign the Kyoto Protocol on Monday, saying during the opening of a global summit on climate change that it is doing more than most countries to protect the earth's atmosphere.

AP reports Monday that Dr. Harlan L. Watson, senior climate negotiator for the State Department, said that President Bush takes global warming seriously and noted that U.S. greenhouse gas emissions had actually gone down by eight-tenths of a percent under Bush, even though he declined to join the treaty.

Watson also said the United States spends more than $5 billion a year on efforts to slow the deterioration of the earth's atmosphere by supporting climate change research and technology, and that Bush had committed to cutting greenhouses gases some 18 percent by 2012.

However, AP's report notes that Elizabeth May of the Sierra Club Canada accused the world's biggest polluter of trying to derail the Kyoto accord, saying "We have a lot of positive, constructive American engagement here in Montreal - and none of it's from the Bush administration, which represents the single biggest threat to global progress."

Although thel Conference is considered the most important gathering on global warming since Kyoto, Japanese newspaper, the Yomiuri, says that the conference would be " the difficult negotiations with contradiction and limit", since the United States, the world biggest polluter, hasn't changed its position.

Time Magazine ran an interesting article when President Bush pulled the US out of the Kyoto accords as one of the first acts of his presidency in 2001.

When it Comes to Kyoto, the U.S. is the "Rogue Nation"

The rest of the world has decided to proceed with the Kyoto pact despite Washington's withdrawal. TIME.com's Tony Karon explains why that may be bad news for U.S. global leadership.

Posted 07:09 AM | Comments (0)

Black Sites in Eastern Europe - The EU is not amused

It has been some weeks since the revelation that the US has set up a world-wide network of secret prisons to house terror-related detainees out of the jurisdiction of US courts. Two Eastern European countries have been named as sites - Poland and Romania. Although the governments of both states deny the allegations, the White House has so far refused to confirm or deny the existence of these prisons.

Despite the Polish and Romanian denials and the silence from Washington, the EU is taking these charges very seriously and has begun discussion possible disceplinary measures against any European states housing such prisons. Both the BBC and the Guardian report that EU Justice and Home Affairs Commissioner Franco Frattini, the top judicial official in the EU, announced that penalties may include the suspension of Council voting rights for Poland, an EU member. This action would be justified under EU conventions pledging to defend democracy, the rule of law and human rights. For Romania, aspiring to EU membership, the consequences could be even more severe - the head of the EU Parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee has called for reopening the negotiation process, a backwards step for a country that has already signed accession agreements.

Posted 02:44 AM | Comments (0)

The Torture debate viewed from Poland

The Polish daily Gazeta Wyborcza runs an article summarizing the recent torture debates in America. It reprises for Polish audiences debates that by now are familiar to most people following US news - the introduction of the McCain ammendment, the question of drawing a line for interrogation techniques, the new vulnerability of the Bush White House on this issue. A few interesting remarks are made that haven't cropped up elsewhere, however. The article notes that this is far from a new issue - the New Yorker and other higher-end news magazines have been sustaining this discussion for over a year, but it took Congress taking up the issue for it to break into the mainstream imagination.

More interesting, however, is a detail that emerges when the piece examines the effectiveness of torture in intelligence gathering. Apparently in 2002, Ibn Sheikh al-Libi, a senior Al-Qaeda operative caputured in Afghanistan, revealed under torture that Al-Qaeda had sent agents into Iraq, although he later reversed these statements. This information became part of the case for the Iraq invasion and was used to brief Colin Powell before his now infamous session at the UN.

Posted 01:25 AM | Comments (0)

November 28, 2005

Avian flu and America: A Thai cartoon

Bird Flu cartoon

Stephane Peray of Bangkok, Thailand's The Nation.

Posted 06:23 PM | Comments (0)

November 24, 2005

Avian flu and America: As seen from the UAE

An editorial in the Khaleej TImes (UAE) addresses the possibility of bird flue striking the U.S. in the not too distant future. While the possibility has been entertained by a host of American media, it is interesting to note the perceived threat in a Middle Eastern publication.

Noting that the U.S. has openly asserted its unpreparedness for an epidemic (a span of some three years into the future), the author goes on to address the fundamental paradox of a world superpower suffering from some of the same frailties of the developing world. (The WHO presently estimates that more than a million will perish after all is said and done with H151).

With bird flu cases being reported in Asia, Europe and Canada, it is clear that man-made borders will do nothing to stop the killer disease. This is a war in which we all have a stake - a war the human race cannot afford to lose.

Keep in mind that this is not a coincidental Thanksgiving posting, despite its fowl references.

Posted 05:09 PM | Comments (0)

November 21, 2005

US Senate criticizes Siberian exile

Poland's Gazeta Wyborcza picks up a Russia news story concerning a US Senate resolution about the imprisonment of the two former oligarchs of now-defunct Yukos, Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Platon Lebedev. Having been charged and convicted of tax evasion, they are serving out their sentences in Siberia and on the Yamal Peninsula, above the Arctic Circle. This is in violation of Russian penal law, which indicates that convicts serve their sentence either in the area where they reside or where they were convicted - in the case of the Yukos chiefs, this would be Moscow. The prisons that house Khodorkovsky and Lebedev are among the most notorious in Russia. The US Senate has therefore passed a resolution calling on their transfer out of these remote penal colonies back to the Moscow area.

The Senate resolution, of course, has no authority over the Russia government, and it taken as a symbolic gesture. These resolutions are not altogether uncommon - they are seen by US senators as easy ways of placating domestic constituencies. US newspapers do not take such resolutions particularly seriously, and none have reported on this case. But this story in the flagship Polish paper is suggestive of a number of things. First, Poles care much more about the US Senate taking a hard line on Russia than Americans seem to. Second, Poland still grants the US a measure of moral authority, something unlikely in the rest of Europe. Third, it turns out that Khodorkovsky has a certain level of organization and political support in the US. And finally, perhaps this is a sign that US lawmakers are resigned to their own bad reputation concerning detainees, and rather then defending their own record prefer to point out abuses elsewhere.

Posted 11:23 PM | Comments (0)

Poland and missile defense - interview with a former ambassador

Gazeta Wyborcza publishes an interview with Przemysław Grudziński, security scholar and former Polish ambassador to Washington. There is no news to report - negotiations with the US are ongoing about basing interceptors in Poland - but Grudziński clearly spells out Poland's fairly high hopes for the initiative. He notes that previous Western and US oriented security moves - joining NATO, the purchase of US F-16 fighters, participation in the Iraq war - have yet to pay dividends, but he is optimistic that the logistical, manufacturing and infrastructure requirements of hosting bases will serve to spur economic development in Poland. He also notes that such a move would cement Poland's place among the staunchest US allies. It seems that previous disappointments with the US have only increased Poles' desire to demonstrate thier reliability and loyalty.

A final decision on base locations is expected within a few weeks. Originally, Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary were considered as possible host countries, but worsening relations between Prague and Washington have ruled out the Czechs. While Hungary still remains a possibility, the odds-on favorite is Poland.

Posted 11:05 PM | Comments (0)

Bush in Asia: will his visit help him at home?

With his visit in Asia, will George W. Bush succeed in counterbalancing the difficulties he has at home? Various European media are not convinced.

Of course, the US president can argue that relations with Japan are strong. Indeed, in Kyoto he didn’t forget citing it as a model for Asian countries.
Japan remains the first economic and military power in Asia, the essential anchor for the USA,”in Le Figaro.
However, this honeymoon is fragile. It could suffer from the “probable departure next year of Mr Koizumi, who has done more than anyone to shore up the US relationship through his diehard support of Mr. Bush's agenda, particularly in Iraq,” explains the Financial Times.
It masks also the underlying strains that “stem from unresolved questions about how the alliance should engage with China,” adds the FT.
It tarnishes Japan’s relations with other countries in the region, which have a less conciliatory position. Indeed, in South Korea, Bush is received “as an ally, not a friend. Behind smiles, heavy will be the resentments Le Figaro. Meanwhile, China will be angry with Bush’s calls in favor of democratic rules. If “Beijing is accustomed to visiting US leaders pressing it to allow greater freedoms,” reminds the FT, “China's leaders will be irritated to have Japan and, in particular, Taiwan held up as examples of successful regional democracies.”
The success in commercial issues during the APEC summit is no longer a sure thing, according to Le Monde, which explains that neither South Korea, nor Japan will be easy to convince to open up their agricultural markets.

Posted 12:05 PM | Comments (0)

November 20, 2005

Pew Centre Report

In foreign media, much has been made of the Pew Research Centre's recent report entitled "America's Place in the World" (Nov. 17).

Many of the findings of this poll are revealing, including evidence of an attrition in the support of democracy-building projects, and similar erosion in the backing of US hegemony. In general, the report concludes that,

As the Iraq war has shaken the global outlook of American influentials, it has led to a revival of isolationist sentiment among the general public. Fully 42% of Americans say the United States should "mind its own business internationally and let other countries get along the best they can on their own."

The Economist points out that optimism is waning on the part of both the elites and the hoi polloi. This is a rare conflation, the article avers, last observed during Vietnam. It adds that though Bush can dismiss the sentiments of the elites, it cannot "dismiss the public's growing desire not to have to deal with the sort of people who strap bombs to themselves and blow up wedding parties."

After giving an exposition on prior American perceptions of Iraq, an Al-Jazeera analysis asks, exasperatingly, "how deep into the Iraq quagmire do they have to dig themselves before they collectively decide that it's time to dig themselves out?"

It is interesting to note that while US media seems to be depicting this poll as a significant blow to the current handling of the Iraq War, the overwhelming majority of foreign media still question even the extant American optimism (as is in the case of this Canadian reaction).

Posted 10:51 PM | Comments (0)

November 18, 2005

Terminator IV: Massive Political Impact (as pitched by Matt Ogdie and Keli Dailey)

"If I would do another 'Terminator' movie, I would
have 'Terminator' travel back in time to tell Arnold not to have a
special election," Schwarzenegger told reporters.

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/c/a/2005/11/11/MNGFMFMNV21.DTL

--

Let's make another Terminator movie, send the Terminator back in time and tell Ghandi and Neru that the Great Migration was going to cost ~30 million lives. The Terminator strongly advises them to take the necessary precautions!

Or

Let's make another Terminator movie, send the Terminator back in time and inform Lloyd George and the political aristocracies of Europe that the Treaty of Versailles would lead to the rise of Nazi Germany and so predominate the historical landscape of the 20th century that it is impossible to separate the Cold War from it's ill-effects.

Or

Let's make another Terminator movie, send the Terminator T-1000 back in time and tell that stupid jerk Reagan that he could engage the Soviets in a catastrophic financial contest without actually spending trillions of dollars on nuclear warheads that we are currently spending trillions of dollars dismantling and tracking as they inevitably bleed into the black market.

Or ...and this could already be in production…

Let's make another Terminator movie, send the Terminator back in time and send him to Iraq, where he would kick some serious Al-Qaeda ass, befriend a little Kurdish boy who brings out the human spirit in his Terminator source code, which emerges in time for him to sacrifice his cyborg life in order to kill Osama bin Laden in some FANTASTIC way that has lots of explosions..more explosions than anybody's ever seen on film!!!!

Why not just have the Terminator arrest Osama before 9/11? Or inform the authorities? It's a Jerry Bruckheimer film, for chrissake.

Posted 10:22 PM | Comments (0)

November 16, 2005

The Calgary Sun's Thomas Boldt

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Posted 11:20 PM | Comments (0)

November 14, 2005

Time on our side

The Hungarian edition of National Geographic Magazine takes the time to deconstruct the current debate about the fourth dimension. As always, the U.S. figures prominently as a standard bearer. Unlike thier historic resistance to the metric system, however, it appears that the States are pushing for a revolution in the world seconds and minutes. At stake are new technologies, including military ones, as such devices depend on precision for their effectiveness.

The basic premise is that Earth's rotation time isn't exactly 24 hours but a little less, and as such these little parts make about a second every year. They effectively add szokomasodperc (extra seconds--the equivalent of a leap year) to clocks evey year. This allows for the correction of time to Earth's movement.

Thus, a problem is evident for atomic clocks, where each miniscule split second counts, because these clocks are used by telescopes, GPS systems, missile guidance systems, satellites and other instruments vital to security. The Americans are arguing that time's dependence on Earth movement should decrease, and that we should abandon the extraseconds entirely.

What is the general sense in the EU? That this is an attempt to further militarize big science, suspicious given an American "inability to understand the utility of grams and meters over pounds and yards."

Posted 09:27 PM | Comments (0)

November 13, 2005

Missile Defense Base in Poland

Gazeta Wyborcza reports that today the new right-wing government of Poland has formally announced its willingness to participate in the American ballistic missile defense program, even to the point of housing anti-missile rockets in Poland. According to the article, secret negotiations have been taking place between Washington and Warsaw for the last six months, suggesting that the former leftist government also supported this policy. It goes on to cite that Pentagon officials will make a decision in the next six months whether to take up Poland's offer of basing interceptor missiles.

Posted 11:38 PM | Comments (0)

"Black Sites" in Eastern Europe

It has been two weeks since the revelation in the Washington Post that the US holds terror-related subjects in secret prisons in Eastern Europe and elsewhere, presumably to keep them out of the jurisdiction of US law. In Poland, one of the Eastern European countries widely suspected to house one such prison, the reaction has been slow and muted. I only found one piece that dealt with the issue, and only in passing in an article on Guantanamo Bay. The article reported the existence of secret prisons in the Middle East and Asia, but questioned whether any were located in Eastern Europe. The piece cites a Polish intelligence officer denying reports of CIA prisons in Poland, but goes on to note that the Czech government has acknowledged receiving a request to set such a prison up. Czech sources insist that that request was denied.

Posted 11:28 PM | Comments (0)

Questioning the Christian Right's presence in politics

The BBC's religion program discusses the growth of the Christian evangelical movement in American politics in its program on Saturday, but with a decided twist from most European treatments.

It begins with a look at the infamous Pat Robertson comments directed at Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, and how he was left in the cold thereafter. It then notes how various missionary groups and nonprofits have been unable to assume traction on foreign policy issues ranging from support for Israel to military intervention in Darfur.

In the end, according to the reporter,

The American government may still value the sentiments of a strong partner in its base, but it is clear that its security concerns, both domestic and otherwise, are not telephoned in by the 700 Club as previously thought.

Posted 11:16 PM | Comments (0)

A French lesson to learn

Quite surprisingly in November 11th Italian newspaper La Repubblica the Minister for Inner Affairs, Giuseppe Pisanu, warns against the risk that our city suburbs may experience the same revolt as the French “banlieues”.

Just a few days before, the same Minister had stated that Italy would not run the same risk as France. According to his analysis Italy’s main problems were: terrorism, unauthorized immigration and organized criminality (mafia, camorra, n’drangeta). Pisanu’s latest statement appears to have taken into account the recent analyses of opinion makers and psycho sociologists aimed at answering the following questions: who are the French violent young people? What do they want? How can they be handled?

Who are they? On the 8th of November “Otto e mezzo” at La7Tv has invited, besides some Italian guests, the French sociologist Catherine de Wenders and the social operator Fedela Amara to debate the subject. In spite of their different political orientations the guests all agreed: those French sons, second or third generation of immigrants, have the same look and attitude as those young violent people (Dissidents, Black Bloks and Squatters) who have demonstrated against Bush in Rio del Plata or in Genoa during the G8.

What do they want? On this point opinions diverge. Left leaning analysts insist on the youth’s request for equal rights, equal chances for employment, a better standard of life, and the end of their social marginalization. The conservatives insists on the fact that Paris’ protesting youth (the “casseurs”) like the violent youth all over the world, do not aim at anything in particular but destroying.

To strengthen this opinion Renzo Foa, political editorialist at “Il Giornale” writes on November the 9th that “nihilism” is the most appropriate word to describe the devastating vague of violence investing the French “banlieues.”

What to do? “Il Sole-24 ore”, newspaper of the Italian Industry Association, analyses under the title “Il disagio dell’altra Francia” the failure of French immigration policy. Too much statism, concludes the newspaper, has in fact inhibited those sons of immigrants any wish of integration and social growth.

According to “Il Riformista” newspaper of the Reforming Left, the model to follow would be the American one. Which means: 1) Strict respect of the law, more severe punishments for criminals. 2) Reforming the job market to increase employment. 3) Concrete opportunities for urban minorities for progressing and improving their status provided that they respect the rules of society.

This is not enough according to Giuliano Ferrara, editor of “Il Foglio”. What matters lays in the word “westernization”, i.e. to become member of our western society, the significance of a strong, but not arrogant, identity to be proud of. In other words it would be necessary to show those young people that their existence and work are based on economical and political freedom rather than on State assistance.

Posted 10:05 PM | Comments (0)

No APEC, No Bush

anti-bush.bmp
Member economies of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) began the annual APEC forum Saturday , with the start of the Concluding Senior Officials' Meeting (CSOM).

This week Asia Pacific summit will be attended by US President George W. Bush. Exactly like the one in Mar del Plata and Buenos Aires during this year's Summit of the Americas, President Bush has thousands of protesters here in Busan, South Korea's second largest city, again.

AFP reports following.

Farmers' union leaders said 50,000 of their members would rally in Busan next Friday along with a similar turnout of workers in an anti-Bush, anti-trade liberalization protest.

"No Bush! No War! No Globalization! No APEC!," read a leaflet calling on workers to take part in an anti-APEC rally.

*snip*

In a statement, the group said APEC had become a tool for US multinationals seeking to expand their dominance in the world market "under the pretext of trade liberalization."

The group leaders also criticised Bush at a rally here for leading a "war of aggression" against Iraq. One protester, wearing a face mask and carrying a mock M-16 rifle, was bound by ropes with a sign attached reading "war criminal."

Photo is also from AFP.

Posted 09:37 PM | Comments (0)

November 10, 2005

Bill Clinton and George Bush: same strategy

From the war in Iraq to the Kyoto protocol, to the International Criminal Court, Bush’s international strategy is regularly accused of unilateralism in Europe. "But if George W. Bush’s positions exacerbated the discussion, it is not exclusively an issue of the present administration: Bill Clinton prepared the way", says Mariano Aguirre, expert in international politics, in an article in Enjeux internationaux.

He explains that even the liberal point of view is full of contradictions: “they want to be ‘multilateralists,’ but at the same time continue to act as a superpower.” Aguirre gives the example of the presidential campaign when John Kerry said that the war in Iraq was a mistake but at the same time asked the participation of France and Germany.

Bill Clinton simply was a “transition between the status of superpower during the Cold War and the aggressive leadership of the neo-conservatism of George Bush Jr.” “Bill Clinton already weakened the United Nations,” he says. That’s the consequence of a vision which sees the United States as the unique power in the world. But ironically, this strategy is absolutely not in line with the US’s interest, following Aguirre’s analysis. Over the long term, their interest lies not in a “benevolent domination,” nor in a “new empire.” To the contrary, it is in line with the “reinforcement of the multilateral system and its security, environmental and human rights accords,” he says, pointing out that the Bush and Clinton strategies led their country to “lose their credit, spend enormous resources in military research, and weaken their own economic system.

In any case, he concludes, the complexity of the international system requires new responses. “A unique State can no more dominate the global system. And even if it could, it would probably not be the United States.”


Enjeux internationaux. N°9. 3eme trimestre 2005


Posted 10:44 AM | Comments (0)

November 09, 2005

ITALIAN TV ACCUSES, US CHEMICAL WEAPONS IN IRAQ

Italian satellite television Rainews24 (http://www.rainews24.rai.it/ran24/inchiesta/default_02112005.asp,watch the video) yesterday revealed in an exclusive that USA allegedly used white phosphorus in November 2004 during the siege of Falluja, the Sunni stronghold in Iraq. Sigfrido Ranucci, the author, reports that American soldiers bombed the city also with Nk-77, a new version of napalm, the deadly substance employed in Vietnam and forbidden from 1980.

Exposure to white phosphorus causes burns and “melts” the body. Images and photos in the reportage show the victims of the American attack. A woman, for example, with the face completely melted by the heat and her clothes intact. The Pentagon denies and states that the death toll amounted to 2,000 terrorists, no civilians were involved.
The video includes the testimony of a Marine, Jeff Englehart, who says that he was told to hit everything that moved. He says he heard through the radio the order of paying attention because white phosphorus was being used. “In military jargon - he adds – it’s called ‘Willy Pete’”.

On the whole, Italian newspapers have been running this piece of news, but not in the same way and with little resonance. Only some left leaning newspapers have given more space to the issue. For instance, the title on the first page of “Il Manifesto” is “Bush used forbidden weapons in Iraq”. Inside there is also an article by Giuliana Sgrena, the journalist kidnapped in Iraq and witness to the killing of the security agent Nicola Calipari. She affirms that some soldiers in front of the camera have recognised their responsibility in the massacre. Not so their superiors. Sgrena’s report can be found in the book “Fuoco amico”(Friendly Fire), edited by Feltrinelli and due to be released from tomorrow.
It is curious that even a Russian television talked about Rainews24 reportage, whilst the most important Italian media have dealt this exclusive rather superficially.

Posted 08:23 AM | Comments (0)

November 08, 2005

Cool Guantanamo

Poland's Gazeta Wybrocza sends Marcin Gadziński on a tour of Camp Delta, the American detainment center at Guantanamo Bay. Setting out, he admits a certain ambivalence:

What is Guantanamo? I considered this on the flight into Cuba. A sybol of American's contempt for the rule of law? Their use of force against individuals who haven't even been formally accused of anything? Or, as Amnesty International alleges, the "gulag of our time?"

But quite quickly into his trip, he reaches the exact opposite conclusion. Under a headline asking "Guantanamo: Gulag or vacation resort?" he describes seeing prisoners, well hydrated with gatorade, playing soccer (and not evening pausing their game at the call to prayer), snacking on California strawberries and Milky Way bars, and making jokes with their guards. Every effort is made to make their incarceration comfortable - prison cooks look up Afghan and Arab recipes on the internet, guards are prohbited from even touching prisoners' Korans, and during Ramadan meals are served before sunrise or after sunset - even the force-feeding of prisoners on hunger strikes only takes place at night.

Gadziński tries to explain the cause for the camps dismal and widespread reputation. The first pictures that came out - of hooded prisoners kneeling in low cages, surrounded by barbed wire - were of Camp X-Ray, a hastily-constructed temporary facility that has since been replaced with the more spacious and adequate Camp Delta. In talking with camp officials, he brings up prisoner allegations about torture. American soldiers explain that, in the early stages of the camp, with 9/11 still fresh in everyone's mind and a very living fear of fresh attacks, the now-notorious interrogation tactics of stress positions, canine intimidation and sexual humiliation were used against inmates. But these were necessary measures, camp officers insist - a lot of good information came out of those interrogations that ended up saving American lives. Since then, and after the outcry over prisoner abuse at Abu Ghreib, those techniques have been suspended and replaced with less invasive, more effective ones.

Bringing up prisoner protestations of innocence, Gadziński is referred to the "Manchester document," a section of an Al-Quaeda manual that gives advice for those caputred. It's first rule is to provide as little information as possible, it's second to always allege torture, and it's third to always protest your innocence. Spreading stories about prisoners innocence, one general tells him, just plays into the hands of Al-Quaeda.

Gadziński sees little at the camp to upset him about this "vital bastion in the war on terror." He describes a friendly staff, respect for prisoners (all of whom, we are reminded, are dangerous terrorists) and clean, spacious conditions (the article is illustrated with slides of the spartan by spic-and-span cells). It's clear that on the gulag vs. vacation resort question, he's been decisively persuaded to the resort side.

Posted 03:42 PM | Comments (0)

Yellowcake timeline

Joshua Marshall posted a detailed timeline of the "yellocake case" on his website.


October 15, 2001:

US intelligence agencies receive reports from the Italian intelligence service SISMI of a supposed agreement between Iraq and Niger for the sale of yellowcake uranium. The State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research considers the report “highly suspect” because the French control Niger ’s uranium industry. The CIA, the Defense Intelligence Agency, and the Department of Energy consider a uranium deal “possible.”

October 18, 2001:

The State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research issues a report stating that there is no corroborative evidence that there was any agreement on uranium transfer between Iraq and Niger, or that any uranium was actually transferred.

February 5, 2002:

The CIA’s Directorate of Operations–the clandestine branch that employed Valerie Wilson–issues a second report including “verbatim text” of an agreement for the sale of 500 tons of uranium yellowcake per year that was supposedly signed July 5-6, 2000.

[...]

You can also send additions and corrections to the timeline by sending an email to talk@talkingpointsmemo.com

Posted 02:22 PM | Comments (0)

Map of the rios in France

EmeutesNov-07-LM.gif
THis is a map of the places where riots have taken place. It was published by Le Monde on November 7th.

Posted 01:31 PM | Comments (0)

SURPRISE, ANTIAMERICANISM ‘IN THE BACKYARD’

Bitter discovery for Us, phenomenon in Latin America not only in Europe and the Middle East

“Is this a show for our cameras or are they acting seriously?”. This is what Lou Dobbs of the Cnn asked his reporters when he saw the first images of the riots in Mar del Plata. Stars and stripes flags burning outside the building where the FTAA meeting was being held. Italian newspaper “La Stampa” reports Dobbs’ words and describes the scene. The journalist Paolo Mastrolilli, correspondent from NY, explains that protests against Us and president Bush “are getting into Americans’ living rooms through TV”.

The author states that Americans’ were taken by surprise as they are used to seeing similar behaviours only in the Middle East and, after “the invasion of Iraq”, in Europe. “Now this feeling of anger is spreading at their threshold”, goes on the journalist.

According to Mastrolilli, the United States didn’t expect much positive attitudes from the rest of the continent – “Latin America has always looked at them with a mixture of envy and grudge” - but, still, they should have taken into account that some problems would arise. The journalist reminds the readers that the Venezuelan leader Hugo Chávez, who calls Bush ‘Mister Danger’, and his Brasilian colleague Luiz Inácio Lula were at the meeting. Without forgetting the presence of the Argentinian Diego Armando Maradona (a beloved ex football player in Italy) in a Che Guevara new version.

Posted 09:39 AM | Comments (0)

November 07, 2005

Summit of the Americas redux

The Summit of the Americas ended without any agreement on the U.S. led Free Trade Area of the Americas. Although President Bush made another speech calling for its implementation shortly thereafter, this time in Brazil, it appears as though the measure is stalled.

The left-leaning Mexican daily La Jornada gives one of the more thorough rundowns of the final proceedings of the conference. While the majority of the conference's participants were predisposed toward excising the present language of the Area de Libre Comercio de las Américas (ALCA), a plenary session at the 11th hour was called in as Panama's support for the pact suddenly increased. Apparently, both Bush and Mexican President Vincente Fox were eager to push forward something more substantial, but whatever diplomatic moves were made were futile.

In the end, the only agreement was that of concordance on a document whose language called for the end of poverty, promotion of democracy, and higher employment. This, of course, doesn't even begin to address the main contention of Latin American countries concerning farm subsidies. Moreover, ALCA, which in many ways resembles the language in NAFTA, has not exactly lifted Mexico to the upper reaches of global wealth.

The UK's Financial Times frames the summit in even more imperturbable terms, noting that the Bush Administration's drive for a massive free trade zone in Latin America has all of the rhetoric of JFK's 1961 Alliance for Progress initiative (a domestic policy) but none of the substance that would go a long way toward ensuring the economic betterment of the region.

Focusing resources on infrastructure and social spending in Latin America might still be the most effective means of rebuilding US influence in the region, however. It would also bring a much more important economic benefit: with better infrastructure and more equal societies, Latin American markets would be more effective than they are at the moment. Hemispheric free trade would be a vastly more realistic aspiration as well.

Posted 01:22 AM | Comments (0)

Two Perspectives on America in the West

Two high-brow American boutique publications - Harper's magazine and the New York Times magazine - have recently published two radically different takes on the ambivalent place of the United States in the Western community of nations.

The New York Times' James Traub starts with the recent awarding of the Nobel Prize in literature to Harold Pinter, a British playwright who "views the United States as a moral monster bent on world domination." The Swedish Academy's decision, Traub argues, is emblematic of the mood in Europe, where "the anti-American left is far more intellectually respectable" even in "the highest reaches of European culture." He names names - John Le Carée, Tariq Ali, Arundhati Roy - and cites the harsh criticism of these "implacable ideologues" to US intervention in Serbia, Iraq and elsewhere as proof of "a virulent strain of anti-Americanism."

He suggests the route cause is the resentment of the European left when confronted by the "socialist debacle" at home and American power and prosperity abroad. His solution? Broadening the war of ideas being waged in the Middle East to now-hostile European territory.

William Pfaff, writing in Harper's, takes an almost opposite approach. Rather then beginning with the fact of European hostility towards the US (prevalent, at least, among the intelligentsia), he starts instead with specific parts of US policy, most significantly the use of torture in the war on terror.

Pfaff notes that there are few significant value differences between America and the other Western nations. One concerns international law - most Western nations view international organizations as legitimate and beneficial, and multilateral agreements, especially on human rights questions, as sacrosanct, while the US tends to view these things instrumentally and suspiciously, preferring to safeguard its sovereignty. Conversely, there seems to be a consensus on the human rights protected - on both sides of the Atlantic, these rights are considered to represent the highest ideals of the West. Under normal circumstances, these differences would not cause severe friction - there is more keeping the West together than pulling it apart. But, Pfaff argues, after Sept. 11 normal circumstances came to an end in the United States.

Instead, he describes a Manichean worldview held by American political leaders, pitting their country against an objectively "evil" terrorist threat. The depravity and seriousness of this threat justified anything in the effort to counter it - disregard for international law, undermining traditional institutions and alliances and, most seriously, the widespread use of torture. Pfaff's accusations are not new - he cites the existence of secret prisons abroad, the practice of extraordinary rendition and, of course, the indefinite detainment of prisoners in Guantanamo and Iraq - but his conclusions, in light of the brazenness of US authorities - are startling.

International illegality, the deliberate repudiation of international law, and torture, gratuitously employed in defiance of the moral intuitions of ordinary people, all show that the Bush Administration has chosen to place itself outside the moral community of modern Western democratic civilization.

If this is being published in Harper's, maybe Traub's war of ideas needs to be taken to the home front as well.

Posted 01:11 AM | Comments (0)

November 06, 2005

Italian Yellowcake

On the Italian newspapers much has been made about the “yellowcake case”.
On the 24th of October the national daily newspaper La Repubblica, a strong Berlusconi opponent, published an investigation revealing that the SISMI (the Italian intelligence agency) made a strong contribution to the hunt for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. The article accuses the Italian spymaster, General Nicolo Pollari, of knowingly passing forged documents to the United States suggesting that Saddam Hussein had been seeking uranium in Niger, claims that helped justify the case for the 2003 invasion of Iraq. La Repubblica also reported that General Pollari had acted at the behest of Mr. Berlusconi, who was said to be eager to help President Bush in the search for weapons in Iraq.
On the 27th of October the Italian Government categorically denied any involvement in the Niger Fraud, denying any "direct or indirect involvement in the packaging and delivery of the false dossier on Niger's uranium". But nobody seems to really believe that and the debate is still heated in Italy, even after Pollari’s hearing in Rome on the 3rd of November.
While La Repubblica is keeping investigating on the SISMI contribution to the Iraqi war, other right-wing newspapers and blogs are trying to emphasize the errors and the contradictions of its investigation.
In order to have a complete and objective overview of the case, you can look at the Italian blog Paferrobyday.

Posted 05:23 PM | Comments (0)

November 05, 2005

US-Japan Alliance: Cold War again?

In response to the report entitled "US-Japan alliance: For future reforms and regrouping" published at the end of last month, People's Daily, the most influential and authoritative Chinese newspaper, Saturday put the review "US-Japan military alliance reflects Cold War mentality" written by Jiang Xinfeng who is a research fellow with the Chinese Academy of Military Sciences and World Military Research Institute.

Jiang elevated sense of vigilance against accelerating Japan-US military integration and called it "full of Cold War mentality".

On October 29, Japan-US "2+2" Security Consultation Committee held a meeting in Washington, which reached an agreement on the adjustment of US troops stationed in Japan and the share of duties between Japan's Self-Defense Forces and US troops, and published the report entitled "US-Japan alliance: For future reforms and regrouping". Intensified Japan-US military alliance is manifested mainly in the following aspects:
First, accelerating Japan-US military integration, enhancing joint combat capability. The report points out that the headquarters of US troops stationed in Japan will set up a Japan-US joint combat command post at the Yokota Airport, move the US ground force first headquarters on the land of America to the Camp Zama and set up there a central quick reaction group headquarters of Japan's land Self-Defense Forces, move the aviation Self-Defense Forces headquarters located in Foochow to the Yokota Airport where the Fifth Air Force headquarters of the US army is located. This is aimed to establish a Japan-US emergency mechanism, strengthen coordinated command between Japanese and US headquarters, realize share of information and enhance ballistic missile defense capability, thereby speeding up the process of Japan-US military integration and improving Japan-US commanding and combating abilities. Military integration is also manifested in the shared use of US troops' facilities in Japan by the two countries. US troops in Japan and Japanese Self-Defense Forces can use civil airports and docks and harbors under emergency situations.

Second, ensuring the containing power of US troops in Japan when they tend to become more capable and flexible. The agreement focuses on adjusting US troops stationed in Okinawa. The Futenma Airport of US forces in Japan will be moved to Camp Schwab, at the same time, US 7,000-member marine corps in Okinawa will be reduced, the majority of which will be shifted to Guam. On the one hand, this can help lighten the burden on the Okinawa Base; on the other hand, it can make US Marine Corps cope with various situations more flexibly. In addition, although US Land Force First Headquarters to be shifted to Camp Zama does not have subordinated army units, once warfare breaks out in the area from the Pacific to the Indian Ocean under its jurisdiction, the headquarters can instantly dispatch crack troops from the US proper and other places to plunge into battles. Despite reduction in the number of US troops in Japan, due to strengthened commanding and controlling functions of US forces in Japan, the containing power of US troops has become stronger.

Third, the substantial upgrading of Japanese military role has made Japan the frontline of US Asian strategy. The report points out that Japan and the United States will strengthen cooperation in a dozen or so fields such as antiaircraft, ballistic missile defense, anti-proliferation and counter-terrorism, the two sides confirm the need to formulate a joint combat plan for dealing with contingencies and stress that Japan will give US troops "unceasing support". The United States regards Japan as a strong point for realizing its Asian strategy, and Japan, on its part, takes advantage of the opportunity to upgrade its military position and role, so as to take more and deeper participation in regional and global security affairs and raise its status in the international community, and thus accumulate capital for realizing its goal of becoming a political power.

Fourth, its intention to contain China and some other countries has become conspicuous. Japan and the United States have clearly regarded the Taiwan Straits and the Korean Peninsula as their common strategic goals in the Asian region. The present adjustment to US troops in Japan and various military cooperation measures of the two countries mainly aim to cope with armed conflicts possibly occur in the Taiwan Straits and the Korean Peninsula in the future, their intention to contain China is obvious.

Amidst the theme of the UN initiation for the establishment of a harmonious world, the act of the United States and Japan in presenting the new military cooperation agreement which is full of Cold War mentality entirely goes against the trend of the times featuring peace and development. It has not only met with severe criticisms from farsighted personages of Japan, but also has aroused the high vigilance of the surrounding countries. That Japan ties itself to the war chariot of the United States will not make itself more secure, but instead will harm its long-term national interests.

The author Jiang Xinfeng is research fellow with the Chinese Academy of Military Sciences and World Military Research Institute; Translated by People's Daily Online

Posted 12:32 PM | Comments (0)

Tokyo Governor Ishihara Bashes US

Some of Japanese media reported at a Washington press conference on Thursday, Tokyo's right-wing governor, Shintaro Ishihara said that if the US and China get into a war, then "there is no chance of the United States defeating China in a war. Washington should take measures to contain China economically."

"A war is an attrition of lives," the anti-US novelist-turned politician said, "the US is making a fuss over 2,000 victims of the Iraq war. But since the Chinese do not value life, they would not care if they lose millions of soldiers, unlike the US."

He said that China has successfully tested ICBM missiles and brought nuclear submarines into Japanese territorial waters, therefore "the world situation is more dangerous than it ever was during the U.S.-Soviet Cold War".

Posted 10:16 AM | Comments (0)

Free Trade of Insults

The Argentinean press continues to cover the chaotic atmosphere in both Mar del Plata and Buenos Aires during this year's Summit of the Americas, it is clear that Bush's visit is garnering the brunt of the news.

Clarín gives details of how the American president had extensive talks with a number of leaders, including a lengthy session with Argentine President Nestor Kirchner. La Nueva Provincia goes a little further in describing the setting as one that ranges in hostility from "anti-Bush" to "anti-anti-Bush," which is to say very little.

The largest circulation Venezuelan daily,Últimas Noticias, also provides coverage of the summit, including President Hugo Chavez's Declaration of Ten Points (against the Free Trade Zone of the Americas). Apparently both have agreed to be civil if they meet, but Bush has conspicuously avoided most leaders with the exception of Kirchner and the U.S.'s closest Latin American ally, Vincente Fox.

Thus far the reactions to Bush's visit and his accompanying free trade policies can be categorized as:
* Neoliberalism run amok, sheparded by one of the worst imperialists modern history has ever known (Chavez model).
* An audacious move on the part of a man who cares nothing for the poor, but who serves as an important economic ally nonetheless (Kirchner).
* A severe pain in the behind as they bring more attention to the problems plaguing those governments strongly allied with the U.S. (Fox).
* A chance to compare the American head of state to Hitler and human trash without offering much in the way of substantive argument (soccer start Diego Maradona).

It will be interesting to see how the proceedings unfold, but it is clear that with growing poverty and unemployment rising in the region, the "free trade policies applied during the past 15 years by regional governments under pressure from the US and the International Monetary Fund" will persist in their acuity (The Guardian).

Posted 03:07 AM | Comments (0)