A revolution?

By Marvi Memon

These days there is a lot of talk about revolution and a change of system. I see it as a control-alt-delete button on the keyboard. A clean up action of sorts where a new benchmark of what is acceptable in politics needs to be set up. The constitution is fine. So is parliamentary democracy. The problem is that no one sticks to the system. How does one ensure zero tolerance for wavering from the system? Simple — by ensuring that when there is a wavering from set rules, people are punished according to rules.

There is a common joke going around Islamabad these days: hang a few hundred politicians and this country will be fine. What this seems to suggest is that the politicians are the core problem. I feel that the responsibility lies on the politicians to govern since they are responsible for the fate of millions.

What should one expect from politicians? That they will make good laws and implement them. That they will create an Islamic, social welfare state. That they will rule in an egalitarian way. That if they have clean water to drink themselves, they won’t sleep until they have found a way to provide each Pakistani with clean drinking water too. That if they have access to education and basic health units, they will ensure that each Pakistani has the right to education and health facilities too. And until we don’t give the basic amenities to the poor, we have no business wasting each other’s time politicking.

There is a long list of revolts, rebellions, and revolutions in world history. They happen when people reach the peak of the minimum acceptable level of humiliation and are ready to turn out those responsible for their misery. Read more of this post

US/NATO death squads killing indiscriminately in Afghanistan

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Burnt children after a NATO bomb attack. Their disfigured faces are the real face of war (by Maso Notarianni)

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By James Cogan

The New York Times reported this week that the overall commander of US and NATO troops in Afghanistan is seeking to impose tighter control over the activities of special forces units, after recent operations led to more civilian deaths. General Stanley McChrystal’s concern is not the deaths, however, but the manner in which they are fuelling Afghan hatred for the US-led occupation and their occasional exposure in the international media.

On March 5, McChrystal publicly released a portion of a directive he had issued—reportedly in late January or early February—which had placed conditions on the night raids that occupation troops regularly conduct on Afghan civilian homes.

McChrystal noted in his release: “Despite their effectiveness and operational value, night raids come at a steep cost in terms of the perceptions of the Afghan people. The myths, distortions and propaganda arising out of night raids often have little to do with the reality—few Afghans have been directly affected by night raids, but nearly every Afghan I talk to mentions them as the single greatest irritant. Night raids must be conducted with even greater care, additional constraints, and standardisation throughout Afghanistan.”

McChrystal’s directive stipulated new conditions, including the involvement of Afghan government forces in the raids; treating people with dignity; and informing victims as to how to get compensation for seized or damaged property. The cosmetic character of the order, along with that of an earlier directive calling for caution before launching air strikes, can be judged by the following incidents since early February:

* The London Times reported on March 13 that American special forces, accompanied by Afghan police, entered a housing compound near Gardez, in Paktia province on February 12. They killed a local police commander named Daoud, his brother and three women, two of whom were pregnant. His 15-year-old son was also shot.

According to an unpublished UN report obtained by the Times, the occupation forces broke in at 3.30 a.m. while Daoud’s extended family was celebrating the naming of a baby. The man who noticed them cried “Taliban”. Daoud and his son were gunned down as they ran into the courtyard to investigate. His brother, who recognised the assailants as Americans, was shot dead as he yelled in English “don’t fire, we work for the government”. The three women were killed by either a blast of gunfire that entered the house or, according to witnesses cited in a New York Times article, were gunned down as they attempted to help the men.

The UN report stated that the remaining people in the compound were “assaulted by the US and Afghan forces, restrained and forced to stand barefoot for several hours outside in the cold”. Daoud and his 18-year-old niece allegedly died of their wounds due to lack of medical treatment. Eight men were taken away and interrogated for four days before being released.

An initial press release by the US/NATO International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) claimed that the three women had been “tied up, gagged and killed” before the special forces’ attack. ISAF later admitted the allegation was false and also that Daoud was not Taliban.

* On February 21, special forces in Uruzgan province called in a helicopter gunship strike on three trucks they were monitoring, killing 27 people. The occupants were all unarmed and all civilians. An anonymous NATO official told the New York Times: “What I saw on that video would not have led me to pull the trigger. It was one of the worst things I’ve seen in a while.” The nationality of the troops has not identified but the Australian Special Air Service (SAS) is the most active special forces unit in Uruzgan province. It has been blamed for a number of atrocities against civilians.

* According to the London Times, American and Afghan troops in February raided the home of Rahmatullah Sediqi, a 61-year-old shopkeeper in Ghazni province who had provided shelter to Taliban fighters the night before, reportedly under threat. The Taliban were gone. The occupation forces shot dead his wife and son.

* This month, a helicopter gunship fired a missile into the guest room of a housing compound in Karakhil village in Wardak province, killing three alleged Taliban insurgents. Locals claim that a landing party of occupation troops then entered the home and shot dead its owner, 32-year-old engineer Hamidullah, his wife and his son. Another child was seriously wounded.

The publicity given to McChrystal’s directive by the New York Times has all the hallmarks of a public relations exercise, intended to give the appearance that he is “reining in” special forces’ operations to protect civilian lives.
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McC-hrystal’s much-vaunted new strategy in Afghanistan is running into the throes of a crisis

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By I. M. Mohsin:

The payback for the atrocious policies pursued by the neocons appears to be on. General Stanley McC-hrystal’s much-vaunted new strategy in Afghanistan is running into the throes of a crisis. Starting with a massive attack on Marjah in Helmand, which put up traditional resistance, the tactical retreat of the ‘enemy’ occasioned rather optimistic reactions from the US high command. Perhaps playing to the gallery, the general announced that the whole of the southern part would be taken over by the US forces to “hold and build.”

Furthermore, Marjah itself is reported to be having an uneasy calm which is manipulated by the ‘cash flow’ being made to the local people to ingratiate them. No wonder all has been quiet on this front for about a fortnight, while some attacks against the foreign troops including the Bagram Bastion have taken place in other provinces. In the meantime, either as propaganda or strategy, it was indicated that the next push would be against Kandahar. Accordingly, several reports projected a massive mobilisation of the forces.

Consequently, last Saturday the Taliban launched awful attacks in Kandahar. As per the BBC, quoting AP, one local Muhammad Anwar termed it “like Doomsday for all of Kandahar people.” It killed atleast 35 people including some policemen, besides injuring double that number. Referring to McChrystal’s statement pledging to “trample the Taliban” in the area, AFP quoted Yousuf Ahmadi, a spokesman for the ‘enemy’, as emphasising: “This was an answer to General McChrystal…this was to sabotage the operation and to show we can strike anywhere, any time we want.” Nevertheless, the situation in Kandahar is pretty grim and well reflects the ground realities. Although such statements from the general maybe meant to boost the morale of their forces deployed in the operation, as well as the American electorate, but apparently these are counterproductive.

The American policy in Afghanistan appears as an anomaly. On the one hand, it is pursuing – through their acolyte Karzai – to negotiate with the Taliban that would be mediated by Pakistan and Saudi Arabia’s. No wonder President Karzai has been running around to comply with the agenda set in Washington DC. On the other hand, military operations are being undertaken in the south to ‘wipe out the Taliban’. Unfortunately, the killings of civilians, as a result of such moves, get billed against the US.

It should be remembered that America’s massive military presence in the area is supposed to provide security to the local people. However, when that gets breached due to its actions or the enemy’s reaction, the Afghans are resentful. As a corollary, the recent spate of bombing in Pakistan has killed about 100 people with many injured. The people here have little faith in governance but they believe such depredations to be the outcome of our support for the US war; so while Lahore saw a deadly spectacle like Kandahar last week, the point-scoring among politicians was an affront to the nation.

As such the US is losing considerable goodwill also in Pakistan. Some Pakistanis see the current set-up as being a proxy of the US which fans the extremism further. Still others, while appreciating the grit of our army and police are upset by US failure to provide the Pakistani forces with the latest equipments necessary for waging a successful campaign.

As if Afghanistan was not enough of a teaser, the trauma caused by the Israeli land grabbing in East Jerusalem and the rebuff given by Benjamin Netan-yahu to Joe Biden on the subject lately is the “most unkindess cut of all.” Biden, like Hillary Clinton, has been an effusive supporter of the Jewish lobby. Since the Obama Administration took-over, it has been trying to act goody-goody about all the violations of human rights committed by Israel against occupied Palestine. Despite the diplomatic overtures by Oba-ma’s special representative for Middle East, George Mitchell, the Israeli government has found it convenient to insult the US president by their defiance.
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Peace, Propaganda & the Promised Land

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Peace, Propaganda & the Promised Land U.S. Media & the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict: How Israel manipulates and distorts American public perceptions Through the voices of scholars, media critics, peace activists, religious figures, and Middle East experts. Peace, Propaganda & the Promised Land carefully analyzes and explains how–through the use of language, framing and context–the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza remains hidden in the news media, and Israeli colonization of the occupied terrorities appears to be a defensive move rather than an offensive one.

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Video: False Flags, Lies & Nuclear Bombs

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Russia, Turkey and the Great Game: Changing teams

Russian President Dmitri Medvedev’s visit to Turkish last month shows that Turkey and Russia are rapidly developing close economic and political ties.

For all intents and purposes, Turkey has given up on the European Union, recognising it as a bastion of Islamophobia and captive to US diktat. As Switzerland bans minarets and France moves to outlaw the niqab, the popular Islamist government in Istanbul moves in the opposite direction — supporting the freedom to wear headscarfs, boldly criticising Israel and building bridges with Syria. This is nothing less than a fundamental realignment of Turkish politics towards Turkey’s natural allies — the Arabs … and the Russians.

This new alignment with Russia began in 2001 when Turkish and Russian foreign ministers signed the Eurasia Cooperation Action Plan. It went into high gear in February 2009, when Turkish President Abdullah Gul made a state visit to Russia, including a visit to the Russian Federation’s thriving and energy-rich Autonomous Republic of Tatarstan, populated by a majority of Muslim Turks, with pipelines, nuclear energy and trade the focus of attention.

In the past, Russia had poor relations with Turkey, which since its founding as a republic in 1922 was firmly in the Western camp and seen by Moscow as a springboard for infiltration into the Caucasus and its Turkic southern republics. With the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Yeltsin’s Russia acquiesced to US hegemony in the region, and as part of this opening to the West, Turkish schools, construction firms and traders came in great numbers to the ex-Soviet “stans” (Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan). 9/11 convinced Russian president Vladimir Putin to go so far as welcoming US military bases in the most strategic “stans”. The old Great Game appeared to be over, lost resoundingly by Russia.

But as the world tired of the US-sponsored “war on terrorism”, it seemed the Great Game was not over after all. A NATO member, Turkey was soon joined by Bulgaria and Romania, making the Black Sea a de facto NATO lake, alarming a now resurgent Russia.

Ukraine’s Western-backed “Orange Revolution” in 2004 further tilted the balance away from Russia, with Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko defiantly vowing to join NATO and kick the Russian fleet out of Crimea. He even armed Georgia in its war with Russia in 2008.

However, not only Russia was fed up with the new pax americana. Over 90 per cent of Turks had an unfavourable view of the US by 2007. It is no surprise that Turkey began to back away from unconditional support of NATO and the US, notably, during the 2003 invasion of Iraq, by its refusal in 2008 to allow US warships through the Bosphorus Strait to support Georgia, and by its outspoken criticism of Israel following the invasion of Gaza that year.

In contrast to the US-sponsored colour revolutions in the ex-socialist bloc, Turkey’s “Green Revolution” brought the religious-oriented Justice and Development Party to power in 2002. Its political direction has been in search of balance in the region and peaceful relations with its neighbours, including Armenia and the Kurds. In 2004 Russian president Vladimir Putin signed a joint declaration of cooperation in Ankara, updated in February 2009 by Gul and Russian President Dmitri Medvedev in Moscow. Gul declared, “Russia and Turkey are neighbouring countries that are developing their relations on the basis of mutual confidence. I hope this visit will in turn give a new character to our relations.”

Key to this is Turkey’s proposal for the establishment of a Caucasus Stability and Cooperation Platform. Following Gul’s visit, Turkish media even described Turkish-Russian relations as a “strategic partnership”, which no doubt set off alarm bells in Washington.

None of this would be taking place without solid economic interests. Turkish-Russian economic ties have greatly expanded over the past decade, with trade reaching $33 billion in 2008, much if it gas and oil, making Russia Turkey’s number one partner. They may soon use the Turkish lira and the Russian ruble in foreign trade.

This is the context of Medvedev’s visit 13 January to Ankara, which focussed primarily on energy cooperation. Russia’s AtomStroiExport had won the tender for the construction of Turkey’s first nuclear plant last year, and Medvedev was eager to get final approval on Turkish cooperation in Gazprom’s South Stream gas pipeline to Europe. Turkey will soon get up to 80 per cent of its gas from Russia, but this dependency is no longer viewed as a liability in light of the two countries’ new strategic relations.

Just what will happen to the West’s rival Nabucco pipeline, also intended to transit Turkey, is now a moot point. Nabucco hopes to bring gas from Iran and Azerbaijan to Europe through Turkey and Georgia. Given the standoff between the West and Iran and the instability of Georgia, this alternative to Russia’s plans looks increasingly unattractive. Azerbaijan, shrewdly, has already signed up with South Stream.

Kommersant quoted Gazprom officials as saying that Turkey could soon join Italy and Germany as Russia’s “strategic partner”. Italy’s ENI is co-funding the South Stream project. The other arm of Gazprom’s pincer move around Ukraine is Nord Stream, and Germany late last year gave its final approval for Nord Stream. A Polish minister compared the Russia-Germany Nord Stream project to the 1939 Molotov-Ribbentropp pact, because the pipeline allows Russia to deliver gas to Western Europe and “turn off the taps” to Ukraine in case it stops paying or starts stealing gas as happened several times under the Orange revolutionaries.

Turkey is very much a key player in this new Great Game, only it appears to have changed sides. The Russian and Turkish prime ministers voiced the hope that their trade would triple by 2015, and announced plans to for a visa-free regime by May this year. “In the end, without doubt, [a visa-free regime] will lead to activating cooperation between our countries,” said Turkish Prime Minister Recep Erdogan.

The presidential elections now in progress in Ukraine could take some of the wind out of the sails of South Stream. Its rationale could be brought into question if the new Ukrainian president succeeds in convincing Moscow that s/he will make sure no further hanky-panky takes place. Ukraine, in dire economic straits, needs the transit fees, which would disappear if current plans go ahead. But the damage the Orange revolutionaries did to Ukraine’s economy and relations with Russia is already a fait accompli. Says Alexander Rahr at the German Council on Foreign Relations, “Under every leadership, Ukraine will try to make use of its geographical position and the Russians realised this some time ago. This is why they desperately need a way to circumvent Ukraine.”

Even if Ukraine, too, changes teams and rejects NATO expansion plans, it will still have to thrash out a new role, most likely minus its gas transit commissions. Contender Viktor Yanukovich has signalled he would sign up to an economic cooperation agreement with Russia and smooth over existing political problems like the question of the Russian fleet and possibly the recognition of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Turkey could well follow suit. “If any Western country is going to recognise the independence of Abkhazia, it will be Turkey because of a large Abkhazian diaspora there,” says Rahr.

There is no reason why Ukraine couldn’t join the budding Russian-Turkish alliance, founded on regional stability and peace, unlike the current NATO-led one of confrontation and enmity. This would leave only the mad Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili quixotically fighting his windmills, dictator of a rump state — the very opposite of his intended role as NATO’s valiant knight leading its march eastward. Even inveterate Turkish foe Armenia seems eager to join the new line-up, as last year’s exchange of ambassadors demonstrated.by Eric Walberg

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