The Af-Pak War losing support, ex-Gitmo detainee speaks out, Clinton and Israel threaten Iran, North Korea sentences U.S. journalists to 12 yrs. of hard labor, two-state solution at ‘the top of Obama’s agenda’ SCOTUS shoots down gays in the military, and a 55-hour erection.

Obama-led assault on Pakistan depends on the support of Pakistanis, reports Alex Rodriguez (LAT). “Displacing” 3 million people to live in tents on refugee camps, starving, scrounging for ice cubes as their only relief from 100+ degree heat is apparently bad for P.R…. No shit.

Results of a U.S. investigation into the Obama-led bombing of Afghan province of Farah which tallied the “single largest number of deaths caused by a U.S. bombing since the overthrow of the Taliban in 2001″– killing up to 147 people, including 95 children, by some accounts — are expected this week. The military has already conceded “significant errors” in the air strike after trying to sweep it under the rug as just another bunch of ‘towel-headed brown people who hated America’s freedom’ to bury in the sand.

One of the NYT’s editorial’s today calls for reducing the death toll by “more strictly enforced rules of engagement” — not isolated “just to air strikes but to the search and detention operations… with the help of 21,000 additional troops that President Obama ordered sent to Afghanistan.” — because the “lives and livelihoods [of Afghan civilians] must now become the central purpose of American military operations in Afghanistan.” The NYT calls this approach by the president “realistic”. What’s real is that the greater U.S. presence exists in Afghanistan, the more effective the propaganda for Islamic [sic] extremist groups to recruit. The better their propaganda, the better Washington fulfills the prophecies of these Taliban-type factions,  the closer we get to mainstreaming the Af-Pak War as “Obama’s Vietnam” — a war where the number of those “we” fight grow exponentially with the number of those “we” kill as a self-fulfilling prophecy. Afghan civilians who possess these lives the NYT says “must now become the central purpose” don’t want 21,000 more occupying troops, they want “us” to leave.

Recently freed Gitmo detainee, Lakhdar Boumediene, speaks to ABC News. Boudemine won the landmark SCOTUS case, Boumediene v. Bush [.pdf] which established detainees’ ‘rights’ to challenge their detention in court. Glenn Greenwald’s comment on the interview.

The ACLU is circulating a petition to free Naji Hamdan, an American citizen kidnapped by the United Arab Emirates government, urging U.S. Secy. of State Hillary Clinton to take action. Today, a federal judge denied the ACLU request to reveal an alleged U.S. involvement in Mr. Hamdan’s detention/torture. ACLU: “Mr. Hamdan is the latest victim of the U.S. government’s practice of asking foreign governments to detain and torture terrorism suspects — including U.S. citizens — whom the federal government may not detain and interrogate itself under U.S. law. For nearly a decade, Mr. Hamdan was monitored by the FBI…. This surveillance culminated in a meeting with two FBI agents who flew from Los Angeles to Abu Dhabi to question Mr. Hamdan in the U.S. Embassy there. A few weeks later, Mr. Hamdan was arrested by U.A.E. State Security forces…. Mr. Hamdan’s description of the torture and interrogation he endured makes clear that American agents have been involved…. Mr. Hamdan noted that some of the interrogators spoke native English with an American accent and were not fluent in Arabic…. Mr. Hamdan also described severe torture. His captors placed Mr. Hamdan in a refrigerated, underground room and deprived him of almost all clothing. They severely beat him on his back, legs, head, and the soles of his feet. They kicked him with their military boots in his liver area, even after he disclosed that he has a liver condition. On some occasions, they beat him so badly that Mr. Hamdan passed out for extended periods of time and believed he would die. On at least one occasion, they strapped his arms and legs down to an electric chair, while threatening to use it. During the course of the torture sessions, the captors threatened his life and the life of his wife and children.”

Alfred McCoy notes the long history of torture by the CIA, similar to the article by Noam Chomsky a couple of weeks ago — also first published by Tom Englehardt.

Another one for the ‘No Shit’ file: the U.S. is the world’s largest military spender, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) reported It’s $607bn receipt in 2008 consisted of 41% of the world’s military spending ($1.464tn) — the highest since WWII. China finished 2nd in the contest with 6% ($84.9bn) with France, Britain, and Russia all around 4%. Germany passed Japan for 6th. The U.S. and Russia remained the largest arms exporters from 2004-08 with a total of 56% of the global share (31% and 25%, respectively). China and India were the largest importers. Press TV notes the UAE, Greece and South Korea are large importers, as well. SIPRI also reported 8,400 nuclear weapons are in global stockpiles — 2,000 capable of being launched within minutes — and about “23,300 nuclear weapons were held in the arsenals of eight states: the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France, India, Pakistan and Israel”. the current U.S. war-spending bill — that will top the Iraq and Afghanistan wars to over $1tn — is stalled in the House of Representatives due to $5bn (of the $100bn promised by the president) slipped into the bill for the U.S. Third World Robbery Organization, better known as the IMF.

AP: “Construction of a $30 million dining facility at a U.S. base in Iraq is scheduled to be completed Dec. 25…. U.S. reliance on contractors has grown to ‘unprecedented proportions’… More than 240,000 private sector employees are supporting military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Thousands more work for the State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development…. But the government has no central data base of who all these contractors are, what services they provide, and how much they’re paid…. In Afghanistan, where President Barack Obama has ordered a large increase of U.S. troops, existing bases will have to expand and new ones will be built…. There are questionable construction projects in Afghanistan, too…. KBR Inc., the primary LOGCAP contractor in Iraq, has been paid nearly $32 billion since 2001. The commission says billions of dollars of that amount ended up wasted due to poorly defined work orders, inadequate oversight and contractor inefficiencies. In one example, defense auditors challenged KBR after it billed the government for $100 million in costs for private security even though the contract prohibited the use of for-hire guards.” (h/t: The Raw Story)

The Obama Administration “seems split on executing detainees,” reports Jason Ditz. “Killing detainees would avoid messy ‘trials’, but could create martyrs” in this “literally Kafkaesque proposal”.

“Clinton Threatens to Attack Iran ‘The Way That We Did’ Iraq” by Jason Ditz (AntiWar.com): “Secretary of State Hillary Clinton today warned that by continuing to refuse to abandon its civilian nuclear program, Iran was risking the possibility of an invasion by the US or ‘some other enemy that would do that to them’…. when asked by interviewer and former Clinton-era official George Stephanopoulus, Secretary Clinton reiterated “that’s right, as a first strike.”

“Israel Demands IAEA Action on Iran, Syria, Not Itself” by Jason Ditz (AntiWar.com): “Israeli Foreign Ministry today demanded that the [IAEA] take “immediate and determined” action against Iran and Syria… The incredible thing is that Israel is not itself a signatory of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and has developed its own massive nuclear weapons program, which it has refused to subject to international scrutiny.”

On the IAEA report released last Friday [.pdf], Kaveh Afrasiabi writes today: “confirms the absence of any evidence of military misuse as well as Iran’s nuclear transparency”, but “fails to give Iran a complete clean bill of health and raises questions about the alleged studies and ‘possible military use'” The U.S. is committed to being active in preventing a Middle East arms race. The article continues: “The trouble with such policy statements is that Israel possesses hundreds of nuclear warheads. The U.S. has no clue how to bring Israel into a serious discussion on a nuclear weapons’ free zone in the Middle East. This was illustrated by Obama’s rather vacuous reference to the issue in his Cairo speech — a passing reference to general disarmament. If Obama is serious about dialogue with the Muslim world, many believe he must seriously consider the Muslim Middle East’s anxieties about Israel’s nuclear arsenal… [Iran’s] four presidential candidates are in unison over Iran’s nuclear right [to its existing peaceful nuclear program].”

North Korea (DPRK) sentenced two American journalists, Laura Ling and Euna Lee, to 12 years of “hard labor, dramatically raising the stakes in its confrontation with the United States”. after being convicted of an unspecified “grave crime”. U.S. Secy of State Hillary Clinton states the U.S. is considering putting the DPRK back on the ‘state sponsors of terror’ list. Analysts argue that the DPRK is “looking to put itself into a strong bargaining position with the U.S.” The DPRK has “warned it will respond to any increase in international sanctions with ‘extreme’ measures and said any such move would be seen as a declaration of war”.

Roseann Rife, Amnesty International’s Asia-Pacific Deputy Director responded: “These two foreign journalists were subjected to the failures and shortcomings of the North Korean judicial system: no access to lawyers, no due process, no transparency… The North Korean judicial and penal systems are more instruments of suppression than of justice.” Amnesty reports labor camp prisoners are “forced to undertake physically demanding work” and those “suspected of lying, not working fast enough or for forgetting the words to patriotic songs” are regularly beaten by guards and subject to “forced exercise, sitting without moving for prolonged periods of time and humiliating public criticism” leading many to die in custody.

U.S. Middle East Enovy George Mitchell says that a Palestinian state is at the “top of [the president’s] agenda” in the Middle East: “The president has made it very clear publicly and privately over his entire administration that the United States believes that the two-state solution is the only viable political solution… that means two states, Israel and Palestine, living side-by-side in peace and security.” Tuesday, Mr. Mitchell is to meet with Israel PM Bibi Netanyahu who is to make a “key policy address” next week announcing a “policy for achieving peace and security”, as the PM has told Pres. Obama. Sunday, Interior Minister Eli Yishai said that “he would use all resources in the Interior Ministry, ‘its branches and its influences over local government” to expand Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories'” and “lend full support to settlers, by allowing them to continuously erect new buildings in the major West Bank settlements”, stating: “There were understandings with previous administrations in the United States that allowed us to build in keeping with natural population increase and certainly within the limits of the settlements.”

“Israel Cracks Down on Minority Rights” by Mel Frykberg (IPS): “Three bills recently making the rounds in the Israeli parliament have caused outrage amongst Israel’s Arab minority…. In an attempt to establish facts on the ground and make it harder for Jerusalem to be divided, Israeli has been carrying out a policy of Judaising East Jerusalem.”

Johnathon Cook reports on Israeli towns adopting the “Loyalty Oath” laws to “bar Arab residents”.

Rami Almeghari interviews a farmer in the Gaza Strip: “Last week Israeli warplanes dropped leaflets warning individuals not to set foot in a 300-meter-wide (1,000 foot) strip of land on the Gaza side of the border…. The soldiers have shot at al-Buhairi and his family members with increasing frequency despite the fact that the family’s house and land are about 700 meters (2,300 feet) from the border…. The al-Buhairi family already lost half of its livestock as Israeli tanks shelled the area near the family home during last winter’s invasion of Gaza.”

More on Obama’s Cairo Speech:

In addition to Noam Chomsky’s immediate response from last Thursday, his must-read extended response was posted last night.

Little Alex related the speech to the Mearsheimer/Walt work, The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy, which is also referenced in a decent article (definitely worth reading) by Robert Bridge posted today on Russia Today‘s site which points out: “Some observers went so far as to mourn the end of the Israel-U.S. ‘special relationship’…. Obama called America’s bonds with Israel ‘unbreakable’.”

Alan Bock calls the Palestine-Israel conflict, “a snare and a delusion,” noting that: “What seems certain is that neither the United States nor any other outside power will be able to develop a framework for peace on its own that both Palestinians and Israelis will be able or willing to accept,” as “every U.S. president has officially opposed since 1967 or so.”

Mona Alami reports on the elections in Lebanon (IPS): “The Jun. 7 election in Lebanon has provided another dramatic turn of events in the country’s tumultuous political arena. While early opinion polls had pointed to a landslide sweep for the March 8 opposition that prominently includes Hizbullah, the Western and Arab backed March 14 coalition won the majority of parliamentary seats in a surprise victory.” Hizbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah has conceded defeat. Roula Khalaf and Ferry Biedermann analyze the March 8 opposition’s “failure”. in today’s FT: “The election outcome represents a huge setback for Hizbollah – and its backers in Syria and Iran – depriving it of the greater legitimacy it was seeking through the ballot box. It marks a rare boost for pro-western Arab governments in the region, who had grown increasingly alarmed by Hizbollah’s rising power…. The results also provide particular satisfaction to the Obama administration whose officials had warned that American support would be reconsidered if the opposition won.” The Obama Administration’s threat is consistent with the U.S. legal definition of “international terrorism”. The initial NYT headline the went to my Google Reader “U.S.-Backed Alliance Wins in Lebanon”. Within an hour, it was changed to: “Analysts Cite Obama Effect in Lebanese Election”.

Khmer Rouge’s former torturer-in-chief Kaing Guek Eav (“Duch”) testified today: “I am criminally responsible for killing babies, young children and teenagers.” He recalled “the horrendous images of the babies being smashed against the trees.” Duch is being tried by a U.N.-assisted tribunal in Phnom Penh, Cambodia for being a U.S.-enabled sick fuck. Zbigniew Brzezinski, on China and the Khmer Rouge, 1979: “‘I encouraged the Chinese to support Pol Pot. Pol Pot was an abomination. We could never support him, but China could.’ According to Brzezinski, the U.S.A. ‘winked, semi-publicly’ at Chinese and Thai aid to the Khmer Rouge.”

The Fort Worth Star-Telegram on the Dr. Tiller murder: “When one American takes the life of another in the nation’s heartland over an issue with deep political, ideological and moral implications, that’s domestic terrorism.” We don’t disagree, but the editors go on to say, “regardless of anyone’s perspective on abortion, such violence is unacceptable as a tool for changing the way society or any individuals treat that difficult and divisive issue…. and reasonable people can disagree about the morality of Tiller’s practice…. killing an unarmed man in a sacred place, without warning or clear and overwhelming justification, isn’t right. It isn’t acceptable in the United States and never should be.” which is borderline nihilistic and they might’ve been better off avoiding the topic.  If one wants abortion to be illegal — just as if they want drugs, rape, sodomy, or selling candy on the corner without a permit — one wants people committing such illegal acts to be shot or they don’t want it illegal. There’s no grey area on this one. Little Alex went into detail with this rationale last week. (h/t: McClatchy)

Anti-immigration, “centre-right” authoritarianism on the rise in Europe, as shown by weekend elections over socialist-leaning authoritarianism.

Inflation of the Latvian currency (lat), which is pegged to the euro, is feared after the central bank reports spending 1bn euros in supporting the lat. The economy contracted 18% in the first quarter of 2009 as the government resigned last February. Investors are fleeing the currency as fears of devaluation increase. Prime Minister Valdis Dombrovskis said he expects 1.2 billion euros this summer from the IMF and EU to keep Latvia out of bankruptcy and will cut spending in time for the second reading of the budget later this month. The FT’s “Lex” column suggests: “Fewer bad loans means banks could lose less money than if the crisis ground on.” No shit.

The Obama Administration supports the U.S. Supreme Court upholding the ban on gays in the military, today. In court papers, the Administration “said the appeals court ruled correctly in this case when it found that ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ is ‘rationally related to the government’s legitimate interest in military discipline and cohesion’.” I’m cool with the ban. Next, let’s ban Blacks, Latinos, women, the poor, the working-poor, and the uneducated for a quicker collapse of the Empire.

GOP objects to Bellingham, WA becoming a “G.I. Sanctuary City” for AWOL soldiers who refuse to fight in Iran (Freudian slip. I meant “Iraq”) and Afghanistan. If such an ordinance passes, Bellingham would be the third city that doesn’t kidnap people for deciding not to serve the Empire with Ithaca, NY and Berkeley, CA.

Wilfredo Cancio Isla reports a post-embargo possibility for Cuba (Miami Herald): “Cuba has launched a bold policy of oil development that could turn the country into an important supplier of fuel in the Caribbean — and the United States, should the embargo be lifted in the future.” (h/t: McClatchy)

Police in Indian-administered Kashmir have used tear gas and live rounds on thousands of protesters demonstrating against the alleged rape/murder of two young women. Kashmiris have been protesting for over a week. One protester died. Over 100 have been wounded, including four on Monday.

An ex-con’s suing his old prison nurse for giving him meds that resulted in a 55-hour erection. The 65-year-old nurse, Judith Lovelace (I know, RIGHT?!) “allegedly did nothing ‘other than telling Mr. Yaduallah to apply ice to his penis.'” (h/t: Greg Mitchell)

The Af-Pak War losing support, ex-Gitmo detainee speaks out, Clinton and Israel threaten Iran, North Korea sentences U.S. journalists to 12 yrs. of hard labor, two-state solution at ‘the top of Obama’s agenda’ SCOTUS shoots down gays in the military, and a 55-hour erection.
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