February 26, 2006

Sharing responsibilities for Abu Ghraib

It was only some hours since the latest video about tortures in the prison of Abu Ghraib was shown on channel Rainews24, at 7 a.m Feb 22, when the Italian government denied any involvement. The video by Sigfrido Ranucci (author also of the reportage on the use of napalm during the Falluja siege) contains an interview with the sadly famous ‘hooded’ detainee of the Iraqui prison, whose picture has appeared all over the world. The former detainee, Ali Shalal al Kaisi, states that some Italian contractors did play a role in the tortures of Abu Ghraib, by taking part in aggressive interrogations of prisoners and committing abuse together with some American soldiers.

“The Italian government doesn’t know anything about the presence of Italian citizens at Abu Ghraib – they point out from Rome – In any case we absolutely exclude that these people are soldiers or public officers”.

Several national newspapers such as La Repubblica, Il Corriere della Sera and La Stampa gave the news about the video one day in advance on their web sites. The left leaning paper L’Unità wrote on that day that “Italian mercenaries, too, tortured prisoners in Iraq”, then adding that “these people get paid a huge amount of dollars to kill and wage war under the flag of the United States of America”. The article also described the government’s attitude as “an attempt to avoid responsibilities, not a real denial“.

The MP for the Democratic Party, Ds, Fabio Mussi called for an explanation from the government before the Parliament. But, almost simultaneously, the Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi was saying that “they don’t know anything and, in any case, if there were mercenaries at Abu Ghraib, it’s not their problem”.

Watch the video on Rainews24.


Posted 09:54 AM | Comments (0)

January 16, 2006

A strategic view from Peshawar

It is generally difficult for those without Arabic, Urdu or Pashtoo language skills to guage public opinion the swath of the greater Middle East that represents the heartland of political Islam. But for those English-speakers curious about the Islamist worldview, and especially that of Al Qaeda and its Afghan and Pakistani sympathizers, there is hope in the form of Pakistan's Peshawar-based Frontier Post. Like any newspaper, it reflects the attitudes and values of its readers, who happen to also represent the regional constituency most sympathetic to Al Qaeda and the former Taliban rulers of Afghanistan.

The Frontier Post has recently run an editorial about US involvement in the region, titled "How the US views India and Pakistan?" The question mark seems to be a pure formality, since the author, Mohammad Jamil, prefers the declarative mode, and hammers in his points with authority. He sees the US manipulating India against Pakistan, in effect betraying Pakistan, loyal ally in the Cold War struggle in Afghanistan and in the War on Terror. Indeed, far from commited enmity, the piece strikes a tone of hurt betrayal.

Jamil writes about the indignities and double-dealings Pakistan has suffered at the hands of the US:

Anyhow, the way the US has treated a friend that stood by its allies for about half-a-century, got dismembered as a result of its involvement in military pacts, and even risked its very existence by becoming the frontline state against another super power during the Afghan crisis is deplorable. By entering into strategic partnership with India, the US leadership has not only disappointed Pakistan but also spawned despondency in Kashmir, as the Kashmiris always considered the US a country that stood for the right of self-determination of the suppressed nations.
It is surprising to note the double speak of the US administration. On the one hand it acknowledges Pakistan’s prodigious role in the war on terror but on the other it shows lack of trust when US-led forces enter Pakistan in hot pursuit of Al Qaeda operatives or Taliban remnants. Recently, when Washington was lauding President Pervez Musharraf’s determination against terrorism, and Pakistan forces’ action against terrorists in a briefing, eighteen people were killed and many injured in powerful explosions destroying one house and damaging other hutments in Bajaur Tribal Agency near Peshawar reportedly by the US-led allied forces.

It appears that even in Al Qaeda's backyard, it is specific policy positions and behavior - like Friday's missile strike - that motivate hostility, moreso than ideological or religious hatred.

Posted 04:25 PM | Comments (0)

American rocket strike in Pakistan draws fire

On Friday, January 13th an unmanned Predator drone fired a number of Hellfire rockets into a house in Damadola village, in the Bajaur region near the Afghan border. The target was Ayman al-Zawahiri, the second-in-command of Al Qaeda and, since Osama bin Laden ceased issuing statements last year, the public face of the extremist movement. The CIA was working off of intelligence indicating that Zawahiri would be having dinner at the house. This information proved inaccurate, and no major Al Qaeda figure has been identified among the 18 dead, which include women and children, although some reports suggest that up to 11 may have been lower-ranking Islamic militants.

Pakistan has reacted with shock and anger. In the border provinces, protests sprung up the day after the attack, spreading to major Pakistani cities - Karachi, Islamabad, Lahore and Peshawar - by Monday. In the Western press, the Guardian has published a fairly comprehensive overview of the attacks and the reaction. The largest crowds assembled in Karachi, where 10,000 people marched shouting slogans against the US and Pakistani leader Pervez Musharraf. DAWN, a Pakistani newspaper, gives approximate turnout at protests across the country.

While the largest crowds were in Karachi, the most strident were in Peshawar, the main city of the fiercely Islamic and anti-American North-West Frontier Province. The local Frontier Post reports that those rallies were organized by an Islamic party, the Jamaat-e-Islami. Party leaders pledged themselves to Jihad against the US, advocated the partition of the US into 52 successor states (on the model of the former Soviet Union), and bemoaned the fact that Pakistan's development of nuclear weapons has failed to deter American strikes inside the country.

Posted 03:58 PM | Comments (0)

January 03, 2006

BLACK SITES, ITALIAN SOLDIERS INVOLVED IN BOSNIA

The leftist newspaper Il manifesto denounces that some Italian soldiers in Bosnia arrested a Muslim student, Nihad Karsic, suspected of terrorism and then handed him over to the Americans who kept him for one week in a Cia secret prison and tortured him.
The author of the article, Andrea Rossini, cites the magazine of Sarajevo Dani as the source of the information. On the 16th of December the Bosnian paper ran an article with the story of Karsic, dating back to December 2001. Only after the scandal of Us “black sites” broke out on the international media, did the student understand that he had been kept in a secret prison and decide to speak.

Karsic was working for an Islamic humanitarian organization when the Italian army force “Carabinieri”, arrested him allegedly for his links with terrorist groups. They questioned him without getting any information, so they handed him over to the Americans. He spent one week in a place he later realized was the base “Eagle” in Tuzla. He was kept in a cell, continuously questioned, forbidden to sleep and beaten. On the seventh day of his detention they freed him asserting “they had made a mistake”, gave him 500 dollars and made him sign a document where he promised not to say a word about what had happened.

Amnesty International has denounced several illegal arrests like this committed by Us forces in Bosnia (and all over Europe). Similar cases are reported to have happened also in the neighbouring Kosovo where the Italian army handed over three detainees to the Americans.

“The story – observes the journalist - raises some questions: Is the Italian army involved in the global fight against terrorism? On which legal basis Bosnian citizens are taken and handed over to Us forces?”. The Italian foreign minister Gianfranco Fini has just visited ex Jugoslavia and appreciated the army’s doings. The journalist says that Italy shouldn’t cooperate with the “kidnappers” in the Balkans, especially now that there have been protests against the kidnappings in the country, thus referring to the arrest warrants issued here in Italy for 22 suspected CIA agents accused of helping to kidnap a Muslim cleric in Milan in 2003 (see an article from Corriere della sera).

Posted 11:15 AM | Comments (0)

December 13, 2005

DO EUROPEANS WANT TO FIGHT AGAINST TERRORISM?

Condoleeza Rice spoke her truth: if Europeans want to wage a war on terror they have to rely on the intelligence and accept all the consequences. The Italian weekly magazine Panorama runs an article by Giuliano Ferrara - a leading right-wing journalist – who supports Rice’s view in connection with the scandal of Us “black sites” and the “extraordinary renditions”.
The journalist accuses the Italian media of being naive (“angelic”, he says ironically) if they believe the war on terror can be fought with soft measures. Intelligence operations are secret or are not at all, he states. At the beginning of the war in Iraq, pacifists called for less violence and more intelligence without realising what intelligence really is.
The journalist belongs to the group of intellectuals close to the prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, who has always been in favour of Bush’s foreign policy and, by the way, is the owner of the publishing house of the magazine.

Posted 07:28 AM | Comments (1)

December 01, 2005

Yellowcake, again

A new episode in the Yellowcake case. Today La Repubblica runs an interview with Alain Chouet, French 007 till 2002. The interview controverts the Italian government reconstruction in four essential points:

1. Rocco Martino, the fake Italian 007, did not work for the DGSE (Direction Générale de la Sécurité extérieure), as the Italian government stated.
2. CIA gets the fake documents about the Niger Yellocake in June 2002. That is, when the Italian magazine Panorama gives the fake documents to the American Embassy in Rome in August 2002, CIA already has the documents.
3. As opposed to what stated by the Italian government, the DGSE did not pass the documents to Washington. On the contrary, Washington passed the documents to the DGSE asking to verify them. The DGSE informs Washington that the documents are false since July 2002.
4. Rocco Martino gets in touch with the DGSE only in the summer of 2002, not before.

If what stated by Alain Chouet is true, as it seems to be so far, La Repubblica gets another scoop about the Yellowcake.

Posted 04:15 PM | Comments (0)

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)

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 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 13, 2005

"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)

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)

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)

October 18, 2005

Evolving security issues

“Most forms of political violence have declined significantly since the end of the Cold War,” states a recent report published by the Human Security Center under the title Human Security Report: War and Peace in the 21st Century.

The situation has improved significantly since 1990 and the end of the Cold War. The report finds a reduction of 80% in genocides, 40% in the number of conflicts, 30% in the number of refugees. The number of deaths in each conflict is declining significantly but the proportion of civilians in relation to combatants is much higher today than it was 20 years ago. (See graphics here).

Human security is a relatively new concept. “Unlike traditional concepts of security, which focus on defending borders from external military threats, human security is concerned with the security of individuals,” explains the Center. It is linked to the Canadian Consortium on Human Security which is funded by the Human Security Program of the Foreign Affairs Canada (FAC).

The French daily Le Monde asked Gareth Evans, chief executive of the International Crisis Group, to comment on the report.

The International Crisis Group is an independent, non-profit, non-governmental organization working to prevent and resolve deadly conflict. It is chaired by the former European Commissioner for External Relations Lord Patten of Barnes.

An ex Australian Foreign Minister, Evans sees three major threats for today’s world:

- The proliferation of weapons of mass destruction;

- Terrorism;

- “The loss of influence of the notion of international order due to the American administration discourse according to which the world does not need the U.N.”

It is obviously linked to the fact that the Human Security Center Report summarizes its finding by saying that, among other elements, “the best explanation for this decline is the huge upsurge of conflict prevention, resolution and peacebuilding activities that were spearheaded by the United Nations in the aftermath of the Cold War.”

Interestingly enough the title of Le Monde’s interview only says “Two dangers: Nuclear proliferation, and terrorism.”

Posted 12:43 PM | Comments (0)

October 11, 2005

Disasters far and near

The Asian Age has a story about how the recent earthquake in Pakistan and Kashmir will change the American geopolitical scene. It cites an American intelligence clearinghouse.

The Stratfor Intelligence has labeled the disaster Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf’s "Hurricane Katrina." The pressures to balance the Al Qaeda threat, deal with the Kashmiri border, and maintain a burgeoning economy are obviously compounded by the quake.

And while discontent with Musharraf should increase as the relief effort stultifies, the lack of political dissent in a country that is already seen as being too close to the U.S. probably gives him "breathing space."

The focus here is predominantly on the border issues of the Asian subcontinent, but the American element seems to be consistently present as a result of involvement in Afghanistan.

Posted 12:27 PM | Comments (0)

October 10, 2005

Public opposed to extending Japan's mission in Iraq: poll

From Mainichi Shimbun

A whopping 77 percent of pollees were opposed to an extension of Japan's noncombatant mission in Iraq while 18 percent were in favor, a Mainichi weekend poll has found.

In December last year when Japan decided to extend the dispatch of the Self-Defense Force (SDF) to Iraq by one year, 62 percent of pollees opposed the move while 31 percent were in favor. The SDF mission expires on Dec. 14 this year.

Several Japanese politicians even from the ruling coalition say the dispatch of the SDF should be reconsidered if British and Australian forces withdraw from the country in May 2006.

The Mainichi polled 1,068 people on Saturday and Sunday and found that 66 percent of pollees who support the ruling Liberal Democratic Party were in opposition to extending the SDF dispatch.

More than 80 percent of those who support the Democratic Party of Japan, Japanese Communist Party or Social Democratic Party were opposed to the extension.

Posted 06:35 PM | Comments (0)

October 07, 2005

Living in 2001

By Elena Favilli

From The Spiegel online:

Bush’s speech of yesterday gives the Spiegel an opportunity to talk about his political inability. With the threat of bombing in New York subway, it seemed to be a perfect moment to talk about terrorism, "but his talk was not about the nation's current challenges. He delivered a reprise of his Sept. 11 rhetoric that suggested an avoidance of today's reality that seemed downright frightening […] Yesterday, it seemed like the President was still trying to live in 2001”. It was an ideal moment for Bush to demonstrate that he was really in control of his administration: “For instance, he could have addressed the crisis facing the overstretched military due to the endless demands made by Iraq on both the Army and the beleaguered National Guard”, but he didn’t. He just used again the same rhetoric of 9/11: “The president's inability to grow beyond his big moment in 2001 is unnerving. But the fact that his handlers continue to encourage him to milk 9/11 is infuriating”.

Posted 11:50 AM | Comments (0)

October 05, 2005

Reaction to one-year extension for law on terrorism in Japan

Japanese Cabinet on Tuesday decided to extend a special measures law on assisting the U.S. military in its battle against terrorism-but for only a year.
This will be the second time Japanese government has decided to extend the special measures law.
Even though Foreign Ministry and Defense Agency officials in Japan wanted another two-year extension, Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi insisted that the time period be for just one year.
In response to this extension, Japanese two major newspapers showed two different editorials.

Asahi Shimbun, which is known liberal, said in their October 5th's editorial "We are not surprised at Koizumi's caution. The fighting has ceased in Afghanistan. The country has an elected president and parliamentary elections were held last month. The nation is on its way to reconstruction, at least after a fashion, and these developments certainly warrant a close re-examination of how Japan should help Afghanistan. Is the MSDF(Maritime Self-Defense Force) presence in the Indian Ocean really necessary? If it is effective, how so? How long should this continue? Is this the best form of cooperation for Japan to offer? The Diet must address these questions when it starts deliberations on the government bill."

On the other hand, the Yomiuri Shimbun, which is supposed to be relatively conservative, said in the same day's editorial that "We would like to stress again that a permanent law should be enacted on international peace cooperation activities conducted by the Self-Defense Forces."
In their editorial, Yomiuri even referred to Article 9 and said "MSDF ships have been dispatched to the Indian Ocean since December 2001 based on the Antiterrorism Law. They have been refueling British, French and U.S. aircraft carriers, frigates and other naval vessels that stop and inspect suspicious ships in international waters. From an international viewpoint, refueling such ships effectively means exercising the right to collective self-defense.
If the SDF helps troops of another country in danger, it may be considered as exercising the right to collective self-defense or the kind of use of arms prohibited by the Constitution.
The government is responsible for making clear rules on the right to collective self-defense and the use of arms.
Japan must try to release itself quickly from the spell of the constitutional interpretation of Article 9. "


Posted 06:51 PM | Comments (0)

September 27, 2005

Interview with Al Jazeera Host YUSUF AL-QARADAWI

By Elena Favilli

Yusuf Al-Qaradawi, one of the most influential contemporary Muslim scholars, reaches millions each week with his show televized on Al-Jazeera. Der Spiegel talks with him about terrorism, USA and West modernity.

"SPIEGEL: Your eminence, you are considered one of the most influential contemporary Muslim scholars, but even your word is not unconditional. Does Islam need an uncontested spiritual leader -- a Muslim pope?

Qaradawi: Most Muslims would like such a central authority, to avoid constant debate over contradictory and extremist scholarly opinions. But we don't have a pope; we have the Ulama, the association of scholars. To protect the unity of Islam, we urgently need to reach a consensus on the great questions of our time: terror, occupation, and resistance. We took a first step in July 2004, with the foundation of a world union of Muslim legal scholars. I was elected chairman, and my deputies are a Sunni, a Shiite, and an Ibadit (a branch of Islam found mainly in Oman). We thank God for this success.

SPIEGEL: Yet no one in the Islamic world hinders men like Osama bin Laden or Abu Musab al-Zarqawi -- bin Laden's lieutenant in Iraq -- from setting themselves up as imams and preaching hate.

Qaradawi: A person can't just call himself an imam or a mufti and hand out fatwas according to whim. For this position there are clear prerequisites regarding professional experience, academic background and character.

SPIEGEL: People like bin Laden or Al-Zarqawi don't tend to worry about that. Nevertheless they have a huge influence on Islam's image.

Qaradawi: The vast majority of Muslim scholars have condemned Bin Laden's deeds; only a small minority stand behind him. What helps his reputation even more than scholarly opinion is the injustice that befalls Muslims every day -- above all in Palestine. You underestimate this in the West: The one-sidedness of American support for Israel has devastating consequences."

Continue reading the interview.
See also Islam on line, Al-Qaradawi's web site.

Posted 10:45 AM | Comments (0)

September 26, 2005

Face-saving solutions

By Elena Favilli

From Gulfnews:

"Allied troops will stay in Iraq as long as the Iraqi government needs them, chant George W. Bush and Tony Blair, stubbornly singing from the same tired old hymn sheet.
And despite all evidence to the contrary, they are still trying to hammer home to their respective publics the myth of Iraq's sovereignty along with the good works their helmeted legions are supposedly accomplishing there.

In their fantastical universe, Iraq's cobbled together constitution viewed by most as a recipe for civil war could be a face-saver that will clear the way for an exit-plan."

Continue reading the article.

Posted 10:12 PM | Comments (0)

September 22, 2005

Australia's Anti-Terrorism Offensive: Unease Down Under

While the U.S. continues to debate the possible civil liberties implications of the U.S. Patriot Act, a similar act is causing great unease among human rights groups in Australia, according to the Korean newspaper OhmyNews. In early September, Australian Prime Minister John Howard proposed a body of new measures, which he termed a response to the London subway bombings last July. The new anti-terror laws would strengthen the hand of law enforcement by permitting the detention of suspects up to two weeks without charges; facilitate surveillance of individuals for up to a year by (among other things) forcing them to wear tracking devices; and create a new crime of "indirect incitement" to terrorism.

The story’s author, Tessa Morris-Suzuki, editor of the online journal Asia Rights, asserts that such initiatives are not an effective response to terrorism.

“After 9/11,” writes Morris-Suzuki, “experts around the world repeatedly emphasized that responses to terrorism must involve two strands. The first is a security response: stricter surveillance of airports and other likely terrorist targets, increased information gathering about likely terrorist groups etc. The second is the long-term response, tackling the root causes of terrorism.”

"Governments …have been quick to come up with security responses to terrorism, but are much more reluctant to take the difficult steps necessary to tackle the long-term, root-cause side of the agenda…."

"Al Qaida and its allies… are doubtless delighted to see the steady erosion of free speech and human rights, and the increasing marginalization of Islamic communities in developed countries. Every retreat of the front-line defenses of free speech and human rights is an advance for their own brand of bigotry and totalitarianism. ‘Standing firm against terrorism’ requires a determination to deny them that satisfaction.”

Among the regional powers that will no doubt be watching developments closely in Australia are Thailand and the Philippines—identified by the U.S. government as primary new operating centers for al-Qaida and its allies.

Posted 01:20 AM | Comments (0)