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Friday, 11 September 2009

Qaid e Azam & Mahatma Ghandi

Qaid e Azam ,Freedom of Expression & Jaswant Singh Book

Operation Enduring Freedom: War's End Not in Sight

It was supposed to be swift and decisive response to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks: Operation Enduring Freedom, the U.S. led invasion of Afghanistan, launched less than a month after the attacks and designed to destroy al Qaeda and the Taliban government that harbored the group.

Eight years later the conflict continues -- and the endgame seems elusive. Insurgent Taliban forces have gained ground; coalition troop casualties have steadily risen; and Americans have grown increasingly weary of the war, which some critics have begun to describe as a potential quagmire.

Criticism of U.S. policy on Afghanistan from the president's own party, meanwhile, has grown louder. Wisconsin Democratic Sen. Russ Feingold is calling for a "flexible timetable" for bringing the troops home, arguing that "we've become embroiled in a nation-building experiment that may distract us from combating al Qaeda and its affiliates." House Appropriations Committee Chairman David Obey of Wisconsin, another Democrat, said Congress could cut war funding in the spring if things haven't gotten significantly better.

And the criticism is not confined to the left. Last week, conservative columnist George Will offered a much-discussed column calling for the U.S. to pull troops out of Afghanistan and instead "do only what can be done from offshore, using intelligence, drones, cruise missiles, airstrikes and small, potent Special Forces units."

Other prominent Republicans, it should be noted, have been more supportive of the current policy: On Tuesday, in an illustration of the sometimes upside-down politics of Afghanistan, William Kristol, Sarah Palin, Karl Rove and others signed onto a letter backing President Obama's strategy.

Mr. Obama has already ordered the deployment of 21,000 additional troops to Afghanistan by the end of the year, bringing the U.S. total to 68,000 and the coalition total to 110,000. The administration has sent signals that a further increase might come in a few weeks following a formal recommendation from Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the U.S. military commander in Afghanistan, who last week offered the White House an assessment of the situation on the ground.

"Our goal is clear: to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat Al Qaeda and their extremist allies," the president said last month, calling the war "fundmental to the defense of our people."

"That goal will be achieved, and our troops will be able to come home as Afghans continue to strengthen their own capacity and take responsibility for their own future," he said.

The prospect of deploying additional troops to achieve that goal, however, isn't going over well with many Americans. Support for increasing U.S. troop levels in Afghanistan is declining. A CBS News poll last week found forty-one percent of Americans want troops to start coming home, up from 33 percent in April and 24 percent in February. Support for increasing the number of troops in Afghanistan dropped from 39 percent in April to just 25 percent now.

Poll: Obama's Ratings on Afghanistan Drop

"I don't think there's a great deal of support for sending more troops to Afghanistan in the country or in the Congress," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on Thursday. 

Watch CBS Videos Online

The Obama administration has argued that its Afghanistan strategy - which places a priority on clearing the Taliban from population centers and establishing effective local government and services - needs time to work. But while that approach has been lauded by many military observers, it amounts, in the words of New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, to "State Building 101 in the most inhospitable terrain and in one of the poorest, most tribalized, countries in the world."

It's a country beset by problems related to rampant opium production. Although cultivation is down from last year, 90 percent of the world's supply of the raw ingredient for heroin is grown in Afghanistan, and a U.N. report last week said the country now has drug cartels.

In addition, the U.S.-backed national government is widely believed to be rife with corruption - and Americans arenow trying to determine how to handle allegations of fraud in the recent election where results currently show President Hamid Karzai won reelection by a large margin.

Special Section: September 11, 2001 - Eight Years Later
Exclusive: In 9/11's Wake, Anguish and Anger

It's surely not lost on Obama administration officials that Afghanistan has become known as "the graveyard of empires" - a place where foreign powers have failed to impose order for 2,000 years. A group of former intelligence officials and other experts suggested to Nicholas Kristof that adding troops in the south of the country "may only galvanize local people to back the Taliban in repelling the infidels."

"President Obama and his advisors, both military and political, want to do all that they can to create a democratic government in Afghanistan to prevent it from becoming a center again for terrorism, the home of al Qaeda," said Jere Van Dyk, a Senior Fellow at the Carnegie Council and CBS News consultant who covered Afghanistan as a reporter for the New York Times. "But it's going to be far more difficult, based upon my experience, than anyone can imagine. It is not going to be easy."

Van Dyk said it "will certainly take much longer than one year" for the United States to achieve anything resembling success in Afghanistan. According to Defense Secretary Robert Gates, however, if the U.S. has not shown clear progress by next summer, the public perception will be that the conflict is unwinnable.

"After the Iraq experience, nobody is prepared to have a long slog where it is not apparent we are making headway," Gates said an in interview with the Los Angeles Times in July. "The troops are tired; the American people are pretty tired." The following month, August, was the deadliest yet for U.S. troops in Afghanistan, with 52 casualties.

As for the Afghans, they're "sitting on the fence," according to Van Dyk. "They're going to go with which side is winning. They want peace, they want security, and that is it."

All this leaves Mr. Obama, whose promises of a renewed focus on Afghanistan during the presidential campaign were often drown out amid the debate over Iraq, in an extremely difficult position. Adding troops may be the only way to secure the country, but there is little public support for doing so - and it could backfire. Bringing them home could mean that Afghanistan again becomes a state sponsor of terror, one capable of unleashing an attack like the one that took nearly 3,000 American lives eight years ago. 

Watch CBS Videos Online

This week the leaders of France, Britain and Germany called for a conference to take stock of the situation in Afghanistan and "evaluate the challenges that lie ahead." Anti-war sentiment is strong in all three countries, especially Britain, renewing questions about how long the current coalition can hold.

At home, meanwhile, the administration has for a list of benchmarks it can use to determine whether its Afghan strategy is working by Sept. 24th. Pelosi said Thursday that the date is "fraught with meaning for us."

"I think what President Obama needs to do is level with the American people," Van Dyk said. "I don't think the United States can win this war in the short term. It's going to take a long time." 

Afghanistan a New Vietnam?

Under the pretext of responding to the September 11, 2001, attacks in America, the United States and Great Britain invaded Afghanistan on October 7, 2001, under the banner of Operation Enduring Freedom. President Bush 43 told the American people that the US strikes were "... designed to disrupt the use of Afghanistan as a terrorist base of operations, and to attack the military capability of the Taliban regime ... As we strike military targets, we will also drop food, medicine and supplies to the starving and suffering men and women and children of Afghanistan ..."

During the 2008 presidential campaign, candidate Obama promised to immediately withdraw troops from Iraq in order to bolster the forces in Afghanistan in order to defeat the Taliban and al-Qaeda. "It's time to refocus our attention on the war we have to win in Afghanistan." This approach was taken in order to placate the anti-Iraq war contingent of the American electorate on the left while not leaving candidate Obama vulnerable to the "soft on defense" hawkish argument from the right. As a campaign tactic, this proved to be successful. As American foreign policy, this is proving to be one of the greatest miscalculations President Obama has made. Could Afghanistan become President Obama's Vietnam?

President Obama has taken ownership of this war and now calls this a "war of necessity" that is fundamental to the "defense of our people." In order to convince the American people that more troops are necessary to achieve the desired result, the president says as President Bush 43 said, the mission is to "disrupt, dismantle and defeat al-Qaeda and its extremist allies".

What may really be at play here is an attempt to stabilize and rebuild Afghanistan, thereby providing stability in the region that in the long run could provide stability for its nuclear-armed neighbor Pakistan. A destabilized Afghanistan that leads to an unstable nuclear Pakistan could have grave results in India and other countries as well. Attacking "al-Qaeda and its extremist allies" is an easier sell to the American people than nation building and the longer term geopolitical strategy of establishing stability in Central Asia.

The problem with this logic or plan is that it does not appear to be working. The increase of American and coalition forces seems to be inciting resistance in many areas of this region, not quelling it. Many Afghan's view the American and coalition forces as invaders and are compelled on a tribal and nationalist level to resist. A combination of organized resistance by Taliban forces coupled with a growing nationalist/tribal resistance will only make defeating the opposition more difficult.

According to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen, the situation in Afghanistan/Pakistan, "... is serious and it is deteriorating ... the Taliban insurgency has gotten better, and more sophisticated, in their tactics ..." To this end, August has been the deadliest month to date for American troops, with 51 dead. According to the Defense Department, 800 members of the US military have died in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Uzbekistan as a result of Operation Enduring Freedom.

The top American commander in the region, Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, continues to work on a major war strategy review and has yet to request additional troops above those already added by President Obama. There is speculation that thousands more troops will soon be added. Since taking office, President Obama has sent an additional 21,000 US troops to Afghanistan for a total of 68,000 in country, well below what the commanders need to "win in Afghanistan."

So far, because so many Americans have been focused on the economy, health care, and other domestic issues, Afghanistan has not been the focal point of their interest. This is slowly beginning to change as more conservatives and progressives alike are beginning to compare the military escalation in Afghanistan with the failure in Vietnam.

The similarities between Afghanistan and Vietnam may be more perceived than real, but the hearts and minds of the people can prove to be more powerful than military realities. Col. Henry Summers, a military historian, once said to a Vietnamese counterpart, "You never defeated the US in the field." To which the counterpart replied, "That may be true. It is also irrelevant."

In his speech "Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence", Dr. King called the Vietnam War an "enemy of the poor." It drained precious financial and human capital away from important poverty and other social programs. In this time of catastrophic global economic recession, the Obama administration has requested $65 billion to fight the war in Afghanistan in the FY 2010 budget. Total annual spending in Afghanistan will soon eclipse that of Iraq, draining precious financial and human capital away from unemployment, education, and other social programs needed today.

As with the Vietnam government of President Diem, the Afghan government of President Karzai is viewed by many of its own citizens as corrupt. By his own admission, President Karzai has said, "The banks of the world are full of the money of our statesmen." Providing foreign aid to a country where the resources are stolen and mismanaged is becoming more difficult to justify....

Pakistan ambassador speaks in Denver Art Museum

Eight years of fighting terrorism has led to recalibration from Washington to Denver, where Pakistan's ambassador Thursday delivered a pointed critique of U.S. tactics.
A lack of focus on the situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan, failure to win popular support, impatience, and relying too much on military force such as the unmanned Predator drones have limited U.S. effectiveness, Pakistan Ambassador Husain Haqqani said in an interview here.
"If the United States cannot get the people on its side, then any number of bombings from high altitude are not going to change the ground reality," Haqqani said.
"This is an ideological war, and it is an economic war. You have to create economic opportunities, because somebody who does not have a future is more likely to become a suicide terrorist than somebody who has a chance to earn a college degree."
Haqqani was the featured guest with Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter and counterterrorism experts at an evening public forum in the Denver Art Museum put on by Denver's Center for Empowered Living and Learning, or CELL. The forum drew more than 550 people.
"We can't lose sight of the threat of terrorism . . .," Ritter said. "We must continue to engage Pakistan as a key to stabilizing the entire region."
The local deliberation coincides with Obama administration efforts to chart a new course in counterterrorism. Defense officials are weighing a further buildup of U.S. troops — already increased by 21,000 since President Barack Obama took office — to try to control resurgent Taliban forces in Afghanistan.
U.S. officials also are considering legislation that would send $1.5 billion a year for five years in non-military aid to nuclear- armed Pakistan for improving health care and schools.
Pakistan has come under fire in Congress for not doing enough to root out Taliban and al-Qaeda forces in its mountainous, tribal borderlands.
Haqqani called this unfair.
"When the U.S. government says they've been able to eliminate 13 of the top 20 al-Qaeda leaders in the past 14 months, it hasn't been without Pakistani support," he said.
He defended the performance of Afghan President Hamid Karzai. He urged the equivalent of the post-World War II Marshall Plan in Europe to create schools and clinics in Pakistan, where U.S. neglect during the 1990s, after mobilizing legions of holy warriors to fight Soviet occupiers, fostered "deep-seated anti-Americanism."
"I'd rather that people had the opportunity to make boxer shorts for Wal-Mart than IEDs for the Taliban," Haqqani said.
Yet Taliban forces on both sides of the Pakistan-Afghanistan border benefit from a $3 billion opium trade and "close to $100 million a year" sent from outside Pakistan "under the guise of charities."
Pakistan still needs more military technology including helicopters and night-vision gear that has been delayed by Congress amid concerns that Pakistan could use the weaponry against India, he said. And Predator drones "need to be operated by Pakistanis" or deployed "with Pakistani participation" to minimize resentment.
Pakistan's government also is trying non-military tactics such as running a radio talk show, using U.S. equipment, in the contested Swat Valley.
"Isn't it sad that the non-military approach is only now starting?" Haqqani said.
After U.S. forces in 2001 helped topple the Taliban, Americans "talked victory" and neglected the region again.
Today, "it's much easier to get support for a quick war than a war that helps change people," he said.
"It's easier to get Americans to support a car industry bailout in this country" than a comprehensive campaign to stabilize the place where 9/11 attackers hatched their plot.

Eighth anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks.In Terror's Wake

A service to remember those who died will be held at the site where the Twin Towers of the World Trade Centre once stood.
Some 2,993 people died when a group of 19 al Qaeda terrorists hijacked four commercial planes, flying two of them into the buildings in 2001.
Both buildings collapsed within two hours.
A third plane was flown into the Pentagon just outside Washington and the fourth crashed into a field in Pennsylvania.
President Barack Obama will visit the Pentagon memorial to those who died and meet relatives of the dead.
He will also lay a wreath.
Aides say he will stress community service as a way for Americans to show their unity and patriotism.
180 9/11 Twin Towers World Trade Centre
An attack which shocked the world
He has already issued a proclamation honouring those who died and urging Americans to mark the anniversary with community works.
Vice President Joseph Biden will attend the commemorative events in New York.
Other services will also be held around the world, including in the UK.
For many Americans, the anniversary is a time to remember US troops serving abroad, including those sent to Iraq and Afghanistan after the "war on terror" declaration.
White House spokesman Robert Gibbs has acknowledged that Mr Obama is consciously trying to avoid using the "war on terror" phrase.
However, he stressed that the president will remember those serving abroad on Friday, as he does on a daily basis.
"That takes up part of his day and is something that... he's thankful for and I think all of us are thankful for each and every day," he said.

Thousands of people are gathering to mark the eighth anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks in remembrance ceremonies planned across the United States and internationally.
On Sept. 11, 2001, two hijacked planes crashed into the World Trade Center in New York City, one at the Pentagon in Arlington, Va., and a fourth in a field in Shanksville, Pa. Almost 3,000 people died in the attacks, including 24 Canadians.
Four moments of silence, at 8:46 a.m., 9:03 a.m., 9:59 a.m. and 10:29 a.m. ET, will be held, marking the times when the first and second hijacked planes hit the WTC buildings and when the south and north towers fell.
The memorial ceremony in New York will be held at a park southeast of Ground Zero because construction on the footprint site of the World Trade Center is underway for a new tower, an underground museum and a memorial park.
The names of the victims will be read at the ceremony, which will be attended by U.S. vice-president Joe Biden.

Name added

This year, one new name will be read — a victim added to New York's death toll in January. The medical examiner's office ruled that Leon Heyward, who died last year of lymphoma and lung disease, was a homicide victim because he was caught in the toxic dust cloud just after the towers collapsed.
It's the second time the city has added to the victims' list someone who died long after Sept. 11, ruling that exposure to toxic dust caused lung disease.
Many emergency workers died as they tried to rescue victims from the twin towers, while thousands more say they are still suffering from persistent respiratory problems.
A wreath will also be laid at the Pentagon, where 184 people died. In Pennsylvania, the names of victims on United Flight 93 will be read at 10:03 a.m., the time the plane crashed.
A name-reading ceremony is also scheduled in Boston, where two of the planes departed.

9.11-kilometre run

Meanwhile, in Afghanistan, about 1,000 American troops were participating in a memorial run that spanned 9.11 kilometres at Bagram Air Field.
U.S. President Barack Obama and Defence Secretary Robert Gates are scheduled to meet with victims' family members on Friday.                

Pakistan's President Asif Ali Zardari, rejects Obama strategy

Pakistan's President Asif Ali Zardari, has rejected the Obama administration's strategy of linking policy on Pakistan and Afghanistan in an effort to end a Taliban insurgency and bring stability to the region.
US President Barack Obama earlier this year appointed senior diplomat Richard Holbrooke as his special representative to Pakistan and Afghanistan in a move intended to address these two states as a single arena of conflict.
"Afghanistan and Pakistan are distinctly different countries and cannot be lumped together for any reason," Zardari said in an interview with the Financial Times on the anniversary of his first year in office.
Zardari's comments reflect Pakistan's unwillingness to be aligned in a joint policy framework with neighbouring Afghanistan, an approach referred to as "AfPak". The Pakistani leader and his senior officials draw a distinction between a Pakistan with functioning institutions, diversified economy and a powerful national army, and Afghanistan, a state shattered by decades of conflict and ethnic divisions.
Ending the Taliban insurgency raging on both sides of the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan is only likely to be achieved by concerted military action by Nato forces fighting in Helmand and Kandahar and Pakistan's army in Waziristan and other tribal areas along the border. Military experts say Taliban leaders travel across the Durand Line, the colonial era border, to avoid military pursuit.
Holbrooke's two-country mandate was also a recognition of Pakistan's historic role in supporting the Taliban regime ousted from Kabul in 2001, and Islamabad's former doctrine of "strategic depth" into Afghanistan in case of a conflict with arch-rival India.
Zardari said Holbrooke had brought a "unique focus on relations with Pakistan" and acknowledged the emphasis President Obama had put on Pakistan's economic and energy needs.
The appeal by the husband of slain former prime minister Benazir Bhutto for individual, rather than joint, focus comes ahead of a high profile meeting with President Obama and Gordon Brown, the UK's prime minister, in New York later this month and a visit next month to Islamabad by Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state.
At these meetings, Zardari is expected to appeal for more financial assistance to his country, which he says is essential to ending the menace of terrorism.
"Pakistan does not have the luxury of time. Given the severity of internal security challenge the country is facing, it is critical that the economy is provided a strong stimulus as quickly as possible so that the maximum number of jobs are created in the shortest time," he said.
"If [international aid flows] are delayed beyond the next few months, the country will be forced to cut development spending as well as the provision of critical social services. You can then imagine how big a setback that could be for the global war on terror."
Many analysts say Pakistan and Afghanistan have a shared history and were badly affected by geopolitical shifts in the 20th Century.
"You have to remember we are young countries trying to find our feet," Talat Masaoud, a retired general and security analyst, said. "We are on the fault lines of the end of three empires: the Ottoman Empire, the British and the Soviet. [The terror strike on the US on] September 11 and the War on Terror came at the end of all that."
Many-Pakistani officials-regard the AfPak formulation as "insulting", and resist comparison between what they see as their own modern state and the fractious peoples-of Afghanistan.
Diplomats while acknowledging-that the terminology is unpopular say it does reflect an operational reality in fighting Al Qaida and Taliban militants. "One of the realities of talking about AfPak is that you can't crack these [insurgency] problems without putting pressure on both sides. It's much more difficult to do that from Pakistan," said one

Pakistani soldiers Arrests Taliban spokesman, Muslim Khan in Swat

Pakistan has arrested two senior Taliban leaders in the Swat Valley, northwest of the capital, including the movement’s spokesman, the army said.
The detention of Muslim Khan, who also served as a senior negotiator for the Taliban, and Mahmood Khan is meant to disrupt a militant effort to reorganize in Swat, three months after the army re-captured the valley from Taliban control.
“The army is trying to consolidate its victory in Swat before it would attempt any other offensives,” notably against the main Taliban strongholds along the western border with Afghanistan, said Fazl Rahim Marwat, a political science professor at the University of Peshawar in northwest Pakistan.
Pakistan had offered a reward of 10 million rupees ($120,500) for both men, said Major General Athar Abbas, the Pakistan army spokesman. The top Taliban leader in Swat, Maulana Fazlullah, heads the government’s list of wanted guerrillas, with an offer of 50 million rupees for his capture.
Muslim Khan, 55, became the Swat Taliban’s main spokesman last year, leading a delegation that negotiated a truce with provincial authorities. As a fluent English-speaker, his “multilingual skills and his rich experience of working abroad in Western countries makes him a rare talent for the Taliban movement, a group that involves mostly madrasa graduates and illiterate activists,” said a report in February from the Combating Terrorism Center at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York.
Student Leader
In the 1970s, Khan was a student leader in Swat of the ruling Pakistan People’s Party. He told the BBC in an interview last year he worked as a seaman and visited Europe in the 1980s, before returning home and joining Swat’s Islamist movement.
Three other “terrorist leaders” -- Fazle Ghaffar, Abdul Rehman and Sartaj -- were also arrested in an army operation in Swat, the military said. An English-language daily, The News, cited the Taliban as saying the three men are clerics.
The military’s announcement of the arrests came after The News quoted a Taliban spokesman named Salman as saying the five men were detained eight days ago after meeting an officer of military intelligence for peace talks.
Interior Minister Rehman Malik denied that report, telling reporters in Islamabad that “the arrest was a result of action by the security forces and not because of talks.” “Most of the militants have either been killed or arrested, and the remainder have no choice but to surrender,” Malik said.
Mehsud Killing
The government says the Taliban are in disarray after losing control of Swat in June and suffering the death last month of Baitullah Mehsud, the movement’s overall leader in Pakistan. Mehsud was killed in a U.S. missile strike on his home in South Waziristan, the Taliban’s biggest stronghold.
Fazlullah’s Taliban group has fought the government for control of Swat for more than five years. The guerrillas’ advance there marked their deepest penetration into Pakistan from its western border, and the closest approach to the capital.
President Asif Ali Zardari’s administration signed a peace deal with the guerrillas in February, agreeing to impose Islamic Shariah law in Swat and nearby districts. Despite the truce, Taliban guerrillas advanced from Swat in April taking an adjacent district, Buner, centered only 60 miles (96 kilometers) northwest of Islamabad.
Swat Refugees
The Taliban advance triggered a 10-week army offensive that re-captured the valley in June. The military killed 1,800 Taliban militants and arrested 2,000 in the Swat campaign, Abbas said yesterday on Aaj TV. About 340 soldiers died, Abbas said.
Fighting in Swat and other parts of northwest Pakistan displaced an estimated 2.7 million people and destroyed 548 schools, according to UN figures released yesterday. About two- thirds of those displaced have returned to their villages and towns, the UN said. Many face a struggle to rebuild their homes.
After pushing back the Taliban in Swat in 2007, the army failed to arrest their leaders, said Marwat, author of a book on the Taliban movement in the area. “Fazlullah was able to recover that time and recapture the valley, but this time the army is being tough to stop them from re-grouping,” he said.
The U.S. wants Pakistan to continue its offensives against the Taliban and other militant groups. Richard Holbrooke, the special U.S. envoy for Pakistan and Afghanistan, and General Stanley McChrystal, the commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, made appeals when they visited the capital, Islamabad, last month.
(http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601091&sid=am_h2PWEAUkA)By Khalid Qayum and James Rupert)

America: Arms dealer to the stars

And then along comes one of those stories that makes you cringe down to your very core, that makes you see our semi-fine nation and the world around it through a bleak and unforgiving lens indeed. No matter how hard you try and how you spin the story and flip it around and try to forcibly shape it into something less slightly nauseating, all you can do is realize that sometimes ugliness and violence win the day, the year, the planet.

So it is that a new report has just emerged, announcing with a sort of drab and bitter capitalistic glee that America is once again the number one weapons dealer in the world. It's true: We sell more guns, more major weaponry, tanks and rocket launchers, fighters and Gatling guns and all sorts of brutal devices specifically designed to destroy human life and induce fear and dread and all manner of sadistic horror, than any other developed nation on the planet. By a long shot.
But that's not all. Despite the bleak economy, despite what you might expect to be a major downturn in such transactions, sales of American-made guns and weapons of mass annihilation worldwide are actually way up. As far as U.S.-made weapons are concerned, it appears to be a boom time for war and death and conflict. Isn't that fun to swallow with your hopes and dreams for a peaceful and calmly evolving future?
So far ahead in weapons sales to the world are we, it's not even a contest. We own the game. According to the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service, while overall weapons sales were indeed down due to global economic blight, sales of U.S. weaponry rose more than 50 percent in a single year, totaling about $37 billion, up from $25 billion the year before.
Translation: the U.S. now owns a whopping 68 percent of the arms games worldwide. We're just like Wal-Mart, if Wal-Mart sold Browning M2s and Stingers and flamethrowers. Isn't that reassuring?
Sure, you can water it down a bit, maybe propose to your exhausted soul that we only sell said weapons to our friendly, peace-seeking allies so they may protect themselves from various evildoers and swarthy terrorists whom we also detest and wish death and hate upon, or you could tell yourself that most of said weaponry is really for defense and for shielding babies and puppies and virgins from the darker nature of man.
You can even go so far as to suggest that our arms deals are not promoting war, per se, but actually promoting peace, in that inverse, bad-is-good, multiple-wrongs-make-a-right sort of way. It's the classic, ridiculous NRA argument: if everyone owns a few thousand warheads, no one will shoot anyone simply because they don't want to get shot themselves. It's pathetic nonsense, but hey, whatever gets you through, right?
Sad fact is, capitalism trumps all rational arguments, all notions that we are out only to promote good in the world, and we will sell weapons to just about anyone anywhere short of Al Qaeda itself. Guerrillas? Dictators? Drug lords? If they somehow serve our global agenda, hell yes. We sell billions in arms to our pals in the UAE and Saudi Arabia, for example, regimes second only in oppression and totalitarianism to the Taliban. We buy their oil, we turn around and sell them fighter jets and grenades and sniper rifles. It's a win-win, where everybody loses.
Of course, it's all nothing new. America has always been the world's foremost arms dealer. Who can forget one of the classic hypocrisies of all time, Bush's pathetic wail that we must stop the development of weapons of mass destruction in countries we do not like, when of course the United States owns more WMD than any developed nation on the planet? We argue it's all about intent, all about protecting our vital interests. Which may be partly true. The other truth is, it's also all about profit, ethics and morals bedamned.
I can't help but recall that cute little scene in Iron Man, when Robert Downey Jr.'s Tony Stark character, a cocky, heartless arms dealer, finally realizes the horrible human consequences of his trade, what sort of mayhem and death he has helped promote, and decides to turn his life around and fight for justice and help save the world.
Isn't that a charming little cartoon fable? Isn't that just ridiculous, ultraviolent fantasy? Don't we nevertheless love to rub such childish ideological balm all over ourselves and think that's really what America is all about, that selling death to oppressive regimes is merely a necessary evil and, gosh golly, if we could, we'd put a stop to all such sales tomorrow in favor of ensuring a peaceful and utopian future? Sure we do. In many ways, such a mass delusion is the only way we can really get out of bed in the morning.
I'm not exactly certain how you counterbalance such bleak data. I'm not sure where to look for an equally powerful story to battle the dour fact that we are, at heart, a rather ruthless capitalist military juggernaut that will gladly sell a sharpening stone to an axe murderer if it serves our purposes and makes Lockheed Martin a tidy profit.
Where do you look for proof that $37 billion in weapons sales does not, in fact, exert a simply massive downward thrust on the desire to imagine humanity is moving in an ultimately positive, hopeful, nonviolent direction? The green movement? Solar power? Hybrid cars? As if.
Maybe you don't look at all. Maybe there is no such story, no way to offset the fact that war and violence are a major engine of capitalism, and always will be. Maybe you only swallow it whole, hope it doesn't tear a permanent gash in your spirit, and eagerly await Iron Man 2.

Read more: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/g/a/2009/09/09/notes090909.DTL#ixzz0QmriqKSG

Afghan election result a 'naked' fraud

In private remarks picked up by a BBC camera crew ,the Tory leader was heard to say that disparities between the number of votes cast and the number of people who could not be right.
Mr cameron was recorded as saying .The things that seem to have hapened are so naked, you know,you just saw the number of votes and the number of people who actually turned up at polling station .It just could not possibly be riht.

He was talking to Mr Hague at the Imagination Centre in central London before he gave his speech on cutting pay and perks at Westminster.
Mr Hague said: 'I remember the 1979 election in Nigeria and this is the same sort of thing.'
Mr Cameron replied: 'We should be very clear about that.'
The candid remarks will be seen as revealing the current thinking at the top of the Conservative Party on the elections in Afghanistan, which have been widely criticised.
The UN-backed watchdog investigating the poll has said it has found 'clear and convincing evidence of fraud' and ordered a recount at some polling stations.
Today Mr Hague said a second round of the election should not be ruled out if the Electoral Complaints Commission required it.
He said: 'We are very concerned about the widespread reports of irregularities and fraud in the elections in Afghanistan.
'It is very important for the success of what our troops are doing in Afghanistan that the Afghan people accept the legitimacy of the Government.
'It is vital that the Electoral Complaints Commission completes its work and that President (Hamid) Karzai does not declare victory before that work is done, even if it means delaying the provisional result of the election.
'If the Electoral Complaints Commission requires some elections to be re-run, that should happen. Nor should a full second round of the election be ruled out if that proves necessary.'

Stop blaming Pakistan for UK terrorism

Enough is enough, Pakistanis must speak up for themselves! 

“A senior Pakistani diplomat has accused Britain of failing to do enough to tackle home-grown terrorists and told The Guardian it should stop falsely blaming Pakistan for it.” 

A senior Pakistani diplomat has accused Britain of failing to do enough to tackle home-grown terrorists and told The Guardian it should stop falsely blaming Pakistan for it.

He said the terrorists, including those convicted on Monday for the airlines plot, were British not Pakistanis. The diplomat also stressed Pakistani intelligence had tipped the UK off about the plot and thwarted Al Qaeda’s biggest attack since 9/11. Counter-terrorism officials in the UK have said the plot was put together on Pakistan’s border with Afghanistan. daily times monitor

Blackwater Guard Saw Iraqi Killings as 9/11 Revenge

Guards "routinely acted in disregard of the use of force policies," and one, known as "Raven 23," allegedly bragged that disregard for Iraqi lives stemmed from a desire for revenge after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. 

“Did Blackwater mercenaries murder Iraqis to satiate their thirst for 9/11 revenge?According to Department of Justice files, at least one did, noted Mother Jones associate editor Daniel Schulman on Tuesday morning.” 

Did Blackwater mercenaries murder Iraqis to satiate their thirst for 9/11 revenge?
According to Department of Justice files, at least one did, noted Mother Jones associate editor Daniel Schulman on Tuesday morning.
The revelation was torn from documents relative to the prosecution of Blackwater Worldwide guards involved in a 2007 Baghdad massacre that left 17 dead.
According to the documents Schulman pulled, guards “routinely acted in disregard of the use of force policies,” and one, known as “Raven 23,” allegedly bragged that disregard for Iraqi lives stemmed from a desire for revenge after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
Iraq had nothing to do with the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. While Bush administration officials eventually admitted this, in the run-up to invasion they repeatedly implied that the middle eastern nation was loosely connected to the attacks.
A key passage excerpted from the filings reads:
This evidence tends to establish that the defendants fired at innocent Iraqis not because they actually believed that they were in imminent danger of serious bodily injury and actually believed that they had no alternative to the use of deadly force, but rather that they fired at innocent Iraqi civilians because of their hostility toward Iraqis and their grave indifference to the harm that their actions would cause.
Mother Jones has posted the court records online (PDF link).
Controversy has surrounded the private security firm practically since it was founded, but erupted anew recently when former employees accused Blackwater’s founder and former CEO of murdering or facilitating the murders of other employees who were preparing to blow the whistle on his alleged criminal activities.
The sworn statements also say that founder Erik Prince and Blackwater executives were involved in illegal weapons smuggling and had, on numerous occasions, ordered incriminating documents, e-mails, photos and video destroyed. The former employees described Blackwater as “having young girls provide oral sex to Enterprise members in the ‘Blackwater Man Camp’ in exchange for one American dollar.” They add even though Prince frequently visited this camp, he “failed to stop the ongoing use of prostitutes, including child prostitutes, by his men.”
One of the statements also charges that “Prince’s North Carolina operations had an ongoing wife-swapping and sex ring, which was participated in by many of Mr. Prince’s top executives.”
The former employees additionally claim that Prince was engaged in illegal arms dealing, money laundering, and tax evasion, that he created “a web of companies in order to obscure wrong-doing, fraud, and other crimes,” and that Blackwater’s chief financial officer had “resigned … stating he was not willing to go to jail for Erik Prince.”
The company was also allegedly involved in the planning stages of the CIA’s assassination program, which was reportedly never used, then scrapped by CIA chief Leon Panetta.
Prince has repeatedly insisted his company has done nothing wrong and Blackwater continues to fulfill its contracts with the United States government.
For the massacre of Iraqi civilians, five Blackwater guards were arrested and charged with manslaughter. A sixth guard flipped and agreed to testify against the others. Government informants later claimed the company tried to gather up and destroy weapons involved in the slaughter.
The State Department announced last January that it would not be renewing Blackwater’s contract for security services in Iraq when it was set to expire in May, however the Obama administration decided to extend it through Sept. 3, according toThe Nation’s Jeremy Scahill.
ABC reported the new contract extension is for an unspecified amount of time and could end “within weeks or months.”
When it is finally allowed to expire, Blackwater’s involvement with Iraq will have ended, completely.

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