Sunday, August 31, 2008

Purge of Bhutto Allies Raises Further Questions about Zardari

It looks as if Pakistan could be in for more political unrest. Zardari seems to be a rather dubious character and quite corrupt. He promised Sharif that he would re-instate all the lawyers Musharraf had fired but did not do so. This is part of the reason Sharif left the coalition govt. I wonder where the U.S. fits into all this. Apparently there have been recent meetings between U.S. and army brass.

Purge of Bhutto Allies Raises Further Questions About Zardari
Posted August 30, 2008
Updated 8/30 8:45 PM EST
Less than a week after losing their largest coalition partner the Pakistani Peoples Party’s internal stability has been called into question, amid reports that acting party leader and presumptive future President of Pakistan Asif Ali Zardari has purged many of assassinated former leader Benazir Bhutto’s closest allies from the upper ranks of the party.
Close Zardari ally Zulfiqar Mirza reportedly blamed Naheed Khan, one of Bhutto’s most loyal allies, for the assassination, claiming she was in charge of security and had declined an offer of volunteer guards at the incident. Khan denied the charge, and insisted that Mirza and Interior Minister Rehman Malik were actually in charge of security during the incident. Last year, Pakistani police raided Mirza’s home in a failed attempt to arrest him for his connection to the murder of Sajjad Hussain, who was killed three days before he was scheduled to testify against Zardari on corruption charges.
The Times quoted Khan and other Bhutto loyalists as saying Zardari had wasted the past six months, and she also warned that party workers were growing increasingly disillusioned at their lack of access to him.
Though Bhutto’s son Bilawal was named as her successor, Zardari has emerged as the de facto party leader while Bilawal is in Britain finishing college. The PPP won a plurality in the February election, and formed a coalition government with Nawaz Sharif’s PML-N party. That coalition was shattered earlier this week when Zardari refused to reinstate 60 ousted judges before Sharif’s Monday deadline, despite an earlier signed promise to do so.
Though the PPP was expected to retain its control over the Pakistani government even without the PML-N, the incidents have added yet more doubts among Pakistanis of Zardari’s suitability for the office of President. He is still widely referred to as “Mr. 10 Percent” in Pakistan because of allegations that he stole millions of dollars during his tenure as Minister of Investment. The Swiss Government had kept some $60 million in Zardari’s assets frozen since 1997 in connection to the allegations, which it released after Zardari’s government informed them that the incident was no longer under investigation. Zardari spent 11 years in prison in connection with corruption charges, and doctors report that he has suffered from severe depression, dementia, and PTSD in connection with his incarceration.
Still, Zardari is expected to prevail in Pakistan’s Presidential election, to be held a week from today. He is one of three candidates for the position, as Sharif’s party is fielding former Supreme Court Chief Justice Saeed-uz-Zaman Siddiqui, while the PML-Q, the ruling party during Musharraf’s tenure, is running Senator Mushahid Hussain Syed.
Still, with his coalition in tatters, his party increasingly divided, and even his own family attacking him publicly, it is unclear how effective a leader he will be, or how long he can maintain his grip on power.

OSCE observers fault Georgians in conflict.

This report probably will not get too much press play in the U.S. press. I just wonder how aware U.S. authorities were of what was going on. Even if the U.S. did not support Georgia's move you would think that they would have enough knowledge and influence to stop this reckless action if they had wanted to. But perhaps not. On the U.S. side there has been almost no blaming of Georgia at all which is rather surprising given the facts as this western report shows. The OSCE report supports the Russian line for the most part. Of course this does nothing to support the subsequent Russian incursion into Georgia proper.


From Monsters and Critics.com
Europe NewsSpiegel: OSCE observers fault Georgians in conflictBy DPAAug 30, 2008, 9:52 GMT
Hamburg - European observers have faulted Georgia in this month's Caucasus conflict, saying it made elaborate plans to seize South Ossetia, according to the German news magazine Der Spiegel on Saturday.
In a report to appear in its Monday edition, it said officials of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) had said acts by the Georgian government had contributed to the outbreak of the crisis with Russia.
Spiegel said OSCE military observers in the Caucasus had described preparations by Georgia to move into South Ossetia.
The onslaught had begun before Russian armoured vehicles entered a southbound tunnel under the Caucasus Mountains to South Ossetia.
It said the OSCE report also described suspected war crimes by the Georgians, including the Georgians ordering attacks on sleeping South Ossetian civilians.
© Copyright 2007 by monstersandcritics.com. This notice cannot be removed without permission.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Musharraf eyes comfy retirement home.

This is from wiredispatch.
Musharraf managed to negotiate a golden parachute with the help of the U.S. and the political parties that took over from him. It seems that he wants to stay in Pakistan. While his retirement home is not palatial it is certainly a cut above the average domicile in Pakistan! While security sounds not too tight the whole area is upscale so perhaps there is security around the whole area.


Musharraf eyes comfy retirement home
Musharraf eyes comfy, but high-security retirement as Pakistan political storm moves on
STEPHEN GRAHAMAP News
Aug 29, 2008 13:20 EST
Predictions that Pervez Musharraf will have to flee Pakistan to escape treason charges have died along with the coalition that drove him from the presidency.


The ex-general can now eye comfortable — though high-security — retirement in the luxury villa, complete with a swimming pool and strawberry patch, that he is building in an elite suburb of the capital.
Since resigning Aug. 18 to avoid impeachment, the former military ruler has stayed below the radar as the country he ran for nine years plunged into fresh political turmoil.
Nawaz Sharif, whose government Musharraf toppled in a 1999 coup, has been baying for revenge in the form of a trial for sedition — a crime punishable with death.
But he pulled his party out of the government this week as the widower of slain former leader Benazir Bhutto made a grab for Musharraf's succession.
Asif Ali Zardari, who has seized control of his late wife's party and expects lawmakers to elect him head of state on Sept. 6, has said he doesn't object to Musharraf putting his feet up in Pakistan.
And many believe Musharraf stepped down only after Zardari promised to leave him in peace — partly to please foreign backers such as the United States and Saudi Arabia.
"There is hardly any chance that Musharraf will ever be tried in Pakistan," said Nazir Naji, a commentator on Pakistan's top-selling Jang newspaper. "I believe Musharraf got all the guarantees he wanted."
Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani told reporters Friday that Zardari — who is widely expected to win a Sept. 6 presidential election by lawmakers — was staying at a hilltop mansion in Islamabad's government quarters "for security reasons."
He did not elaborate, but an intelligence official said there had been reports that the presidential hopeful could be the target of an attack and that he had switched locations after Musharraf's Aug. 18 resignation.
Musharraf, a gregarious 65-year-old who counted President Bush as a personal friend, has received a stream of guests at Army House in Rawalpindi, south of the capital, where he continues to live even though he stepped down as army chief nine months ago.
He has taken to the tennis court and the golf course to unwind after a tumultuous nine-year reign in which he took Pakistan into America's war on terror, warded of economic calamity and dealt with the aftermath of the devastating 2005 earthquake.
"He's laughed off the reports that he is about to leave the country," said Tariq Azim, a leader of the main pro-Musharraf party defeated in February elections.
"He said 'I'm not going anywhere, I'm staying in Pakistan. My house is being built and it will take another three or four months'" to complete, Azim said.
As well as a bogeyman for his feuding political enemies, Musharraf remains a prime target for Islamic extremists who hate him for allying the Muslim world's only nuclear power with the West.
He has escaped several assassination attempts and officials say the army will continue to guard its former commander closely.
But a visit to 1-A Park Road in Islamabad's Chak Shahzad district on Friday suggested that Musharraf and his wife Sehba are unwilling to live in a bunker, however well-appointed.
Behind a hedge, the spacious villa on a five-acre plot is protected only by a wall of less than six feet in places. Coils of shiny barbed wire run along the top of the barrier to thwart would-be intruders.
But for now at least, traffic can move freely on the roads along two sides and there was nothing to stop someone pressing through the bushes to get a clear view of the house.
Hammad Husain, the architect and a family friend, said the low-key security was all Musharraf's idea.
"Many people said the wall should be very high considering the security threats," Husain said. "But somehow, Mr. Musharraf has such a relaxed and cool personality that he said 'I don't want it to look like a huge, fortified castle.'"
Husain, whose father served with Musharraf in Pakistan's special forces, said the house might be finished in as little as four weeks. However, only a handful of laborers could be seen resting in the shade of the house on Friday, which has yet to be glazed or plastered.
Piles of bricks sat near the front door and a pair of idle cement mixers stood on the lawn.
By the standards of Pakistan's narrow elite, who think little of running a fleet of Land Cruisers in a country blighted by poverty, the house is quite modest.
Husain said it was one of few in the neighborhood — rough farmland on the southern edge of the city that has been parceled up for palatial residences — that abided by local planning laws that limit the house to 10,000 square feet.
The design is supposedly informed by Moroccan, Turkish and even Japanese influences — a medley partly inspired by Musharraf's travels. The facade is to be painted terra-cotta pink to strengthen the Mediterranean flavor.
Outside, the barrel-chested former commando will have a swimming pool designed for laps and a paved walking track which snakes past a moat-bound island and an orchard of lemon, peach and apple trees as well as the strawberries.
"He's into greenery," said Husain. While not a gardener himself, Musharraf likes "being with nature."
Musharraf bought the plot about five years ago from a banker who snapped up a chunk of what has become some of the country's hottest property.
Real estate dealers say the value of the land has risen sharply and that his new home will be worth as much as $2 million.
But Husain insisted Musharraf was not like previous Pakistani rulers — including some of those now back in the political saddle — who allegedly enriched themselves in power.
He said Musharraf had taken a keen interest in the design, insisted that none of the rooms be bigger than necessary and vetoed the use of expensive elements, such as imported Italian or Spanish tiles.
"Mr. Musharraf said he couldn't afford it, so we settled for medium-range tiles," said Husain. "It's definitely not a palace."
___

Some Marines in Georgia during Russian assault.

This is from the Marinecorpstimes.
No mention of the presence of the marines in reports at the time of the Russian assault. The Russians are probably just making up stories about sending the Humvees they nabbed to Moscow to be examined. Heck. If Russia makes a half decent offer to GM for the Humvee division they could probably buy the whole kit and kaboodle at bargain prices! Russia can afford the gas more than the U.S. too. Maybe the Russians intend to present the Humvees as military aid to the South Ossetian armed forces! Of course it may just be the civilian division of Humvee that GM wants to get rid of. Probably GM makes a bundle on the military side.

Corps wants its Humvees back
By Dan Lamothe - Staff writerPosted : Friday Aug 29, 2008 17:36:04 EDT

U.S. officials continue to negotiate the release of five Marine Humvees seized by Russian forces in the Georgian port of Poti during their August assault on the U.S. ally.
The Humvees were taken Aug. 19, said Navy Lt. Cmdr. Corey Barker, a spokesman for U.S. European Command, and they contained no advanced tracking technology or cryptology hardware — a contrast with Russian news reports, which said the vehicles contained sophisticated communications gear and had been sent to Moscow for examination.
The Humvees were in Georgia as part of Operation Immediate Response, a multinational training exercise involving Marine and Army units, Barker said. They were awaiting commercial transport back to the U.S. when they were seized.
The team of Marines in Georgia — primarily assigned to Brooklyn, N.Y.-based 6th Communications Battalion and a Lexington, Ky.-based detachment with 4th Marine Logistics Group’s Military Police Company — were sent to a hotel in the capital, Tbilisi, when the Russian assault began.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Malaysia Extends Philippine Peacekeeping Mission.

This welcome news for the Philippine government. Anything that may help the peace process is a plus. It seemed earlier as if Malaysia had given up on the peace process and was going to withdraw its peacekeepers. The ceasefire is monitored by personnel from as far away as Libya, as well as Japan and Brunei.



Malaysia Extends Philippine Peacekeeping Mission
By Nancy-Amelia Collins Jakarta28 August 2008
Malaysia agreed to extend a mandate to keep its peacekeepers in the volatile southern Philippines, where they will continue to monitor a shaky cease-fire between the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. Nancy-Amelia Collins in Jakarta has more.Malaysia agreed Thursday to keep its peace monitors in the war-torn southern Philippine island, Mindanao, for another three months, following appeals from the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.The announcement came after officials from the Philippine government and the MILF met in the Malaysian capital, Kuala Lumpur, for the first time since fighting broke out, earlier this month.MILF spokesman Eid Kabala told VOA the group welcomes the extension. "Anything that would improve the effort toward peace, contribute toward peace, will be a welcome development. It will help a lot in our effort to pursue the peaceful resolution of the Mindanao problem," he said. More than 40 people have died and more than 360,000 have been displaced after several renegade MILF commanders attacked several villages in the southern Philippine island, Mindanao.The attacks followed the Philippine Supreme Court's decision to issue a temporary restraining order against the signing of a crucial territorial agreement that would have given the MILF an expanded Muslim autonomous region.Thursday, the government announced aid had been stepped up to feed and shelter the hundreds of thousands left homeless by the fighting.The United Nations World Food Program says it is beefing up its food assistance with nearly 1,000 tons of rice and is trying to get food to places quickly and where it is most needed.The MILF and the government have been negotiating, on and off, since 1997 on ways to give Muslims more self rule in the south.Following the recent fighting - the worse seen in Mindanao in years - the government said it would need to review the peace agreement.But Eid Kabala says there is still hope for the two sides to return to the negotiating table. "We are still confident. And, right now the peace talks have yet to be broken down - not yet," he said.The peace talks between the government and the MILF have been brokered by Malaysia, which heads the cease-fire monitors, which include both military and nonmilitary personnel from Japan, Libya and Brunei.The Philippines is a predominately Roman Catholic. About five percent of the people are Muslim, most of them living in the south.

Philippines health dept. endorses condoms despite opposition from the RC Church.

I noticed that there were no tv ads for condoms in the Philippines or any other type either. If condoms are promoted probably the Health Department will have to pay for any advertisements. Perhaps manufacturers do not wish to alienate the Church by advertising condoms or maybe I just never noticed any advertisements. As I recall condoms are not displayed at drug stores either unless things have changed since I was there a couple of years ago.

Philippines endorses condoms despite church
21 hours ago
MANILA (AFP) — The Philippine Health Department will promote the use of condoms to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS despite disapproval from the influential Roman Catholic church, an official said Thursday.
"The use of condoms to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS is different from their use for birth control," Health Undersecretary Mario Villaverde told a media briefing.
"The church's position is detrimental to public health," he said.
Besides the use of condoms, which have 95 percent effectiveness in preventing HIV/AIDS, the government will also encourage education on the topic and promote measures to guard against the spread of sexually transmitted diseases, the official said.
Villaverde did not say how condoms would be promoted in a country where all forms of artificial contraception are strongly opposed by the church.
Although rates of HIV/AIDS remain low in the Philippines, the level has recently gone up with an average of 29 cases detected each month in 2007 and 2008, compared with 20 cases a month in previous years.

"Red-lining"in Cuba and Georgia: Hornberger

This sums up the transparent hypocrisy of the U.S. While it is quite inappropriate and a red-line for Russia to have a missile defence system in Cuba it is OK for the U.S. to have one in Poland. It is OK for the U.S. to recognise Kosovo against Russian objections and in violation of the territorial integrity of Serbia. However, it is not OK for Russia to recognise South Ossetia and Abkazia in violation of the territorial integrity of Georgia. Personally I would support independence in all three cases since I don't think any of the areas can successfully stay within the borders of Serbia in the one case or Georgia in the others but to support territorial integrity in the one case but not the other is inconsistent. Of course Russia is being inconsistent as well but then we expect that of Evil Empire II but not the Leader of the Free World!


"Red-Lining" in Cuba and Georgiaby Jacob G. Hornberger
In my August 19 blog, I pointed out how President Bush knowingly and intentionally ignored Russian President Putin’s warning that pushing to admit Georgia into NATO would cross Russian “red lines.”
At the urging of the U.S. government, NATO, whose original mission was to defend against a Soviet attack, has already admitted many Soviet-bloc countries as members. U.S. officials have also been pushing for the installation of missile batteries in former Eastern-bloc countries.
The U.S. position, and that of U.S. neo-conservatives, is that the Russians have nothing to be concerned about. The United States is a peaceful, law-abiding country, the argument goes, whose foreign policy is not based on pressure, aggression, and regime change. The Russians are simply suffering a case of paranoia over the NATO encirclement of Russia and the installation of U.S. missile batteries along Russian borders.
Previously, in my August 13 blog, I posited a hypothetical situation in which Russia entered into an agreement with Cuba to install missiles in that country. I suggested that U.S. officials and American neo-cons would go ballistic over such action.
Well, guess what happened! Last Friday, Reuters reported that Russia and Cuba are talking about an alliance in which Russian missiles are installed in Cuba.
And what do you suppose a U.S. Air Force general said in response to such an idea? According to Reuters, the general said that such action would cross a “red line”—yes, the same term that Putin used to express to President Bush Russia’s objection to Georgia’s proposed admission into NATO.
So, the military alliances between the U.S. and former Soviet-bloc countries and the proposed installation of U.S. missiles in such countries is as repugnant to the Russians as military alliances between Russia and Cuba and the installation of Russian missiles in Cuba is to U.S. officials.
How come American neo-cons have a blind spot in understanding this? Indeed, why did Bush persist in crossing one of Russia’s “red lines” when he had to know that Russia’s reaction would be no different from that of the United States if the situation was reversed? What purpose did Bush’s actions serve, other than to produce a new crisis for the United States? Have Bush’s actions made America safer?
Regardless of Bush’s motives, two things are certain: First, thanks to his actions, neo-cons and the Pentagon have a new crisis to exclaim about—the return of the Soviet “communist threat.” Second, thanks to the new crisis the Pentagon and the military-industrial complex now have reason to call for new massive increases in “defense” spending on conventional weaponry to protect against the “communist threat,” on top of all the “defense” weaponry necessary to protect against the “terrorist threat.”
Just another day in the life of the U.S. Empire and its policy of producing perpetual crises in the pursuit of perpetual peace.
Mr. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.
Hornberger’s Blog Archives
Jacob Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation. Send him email.Sheldon Richman is senior fellow at The Future of Freedom Foundation, author of

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Name change for the Philippines?

This is from globalnation.
I doubt that most people Filipinos included associate the Philippines with the sins of the Spanish despot. The idea of the Manila councilor seems sensible enough to me. But perhaps Rizal Islands would be more nationalistic. This article claims that Mongolia is now called Ulan Bator. That is news to me. Last I heard Ulan Bat0r was still just the capital.


GLOBAL NETWORKINGName Change for the Philippines
By Rodel RodisINQUIRER.netFirst Posted 11:35am (Mla time) 08/26/2008
When I visited Manila in January of 2006, a city councilor I knew excitedly informed me that his council had just voted to change the name of the Philippines. What? The country would no longer be named after a ruthless Spanish despot? We would finally be rid of this last vestige of colonialism? Hallelujah!
Breathlessly, I asked my friend, Councilor Cassie Sison, to pray tell me what name the good City Council of Manila had proposed.
“The Philippine Islands,” he replied.
After I recovered from my disappointment and picked up my jaw from the floor, I heard Cassie explain that Manila Mayor Lito Atienza believed that the country would draw more tourists if a more exotic name could replace the staid “Republic of the Philippines.” The proposed name, Cassie said, would conjure dreamy images of palm trees, cool breezes and sandy beaches.
While the country's name change would be at or near the bottom of the nation’s immediate priorities, it should not be ignored because no other country in the world is named after a mass murderer.If Ceylon could be changed to Sri Lanka, Mongolia to Ulan Bator, Siam to Thailand, Leningrad to St. Petersburg, Peking to Beijing, why can't the Philippines change its name?
When Ferdinand Magellan “discovered” the islands on March 16, 1521, he named it the Archipelago de San Lazaro. We would have been called “Lazaroans” if Magellan had survived the Battle of Mactan against LapuLapu on April 27, 1521.
Three unsuccessful Spanish expeditions followed Magellan but all failed to reach “San Lazaro.” The fourth expedition, led by Capt. Ruy Lopez de Villalobos, reached Sarangani Island off the eastern coast of Mindanao on February 2, 1543. He renamed the islands “Felipinas” after the crown prince of Spain, Felipe II, son of the Spanish King Carlos V.
Villalobos left “Las Islas Felipinas” after eight months and sailed to the Moluccas where he died. It would not be until 1572 when Felipinas islands would become a colony of the Spanish empire.
By then, the crown prince had become King Felipe II and he was to rule Spain from 1556 to 1598. Starting in 1581, he would also rule the Netherlands and Portugal as well as the kingdoms of Milan, Naples and Sicily. In his time, Felipe II was the most powerful monarch in the world and it was said that the sun did not set on his empire.
When he became master of the Netherlands, Felipe II reenacted the Edict of 1550 which prohibited the printing, copying, keeping, buying or giving of any book written by Luther, Calvin or other “heretics” condemned by the Holy Church as well as the breaking or damaging of any image of the Holy Virgin or any Vatican-canonized saints. The penalty for Edict-breakers would be death by the sword for men and burning at the stake for women. Informers against suspects were to be entitled on conviction to half the property of the accused.Before burning his opponents at the stake, this Catholic King insisted on going through an “Auto da Fe,” a religious ceremony which accompanied the sentencing of heretics by the Inquisition. Among the victims of Felipe’s inquisition were more than 10,000 Lutherans and more than 80,000 Andalucian Moriscos, Spanish Moors who had converted to Catholicism but who had violated Felipe’s edict prohibiting the speaking of the Arabic language or retaining of any of their ethnic culture.
While he was still crown prince, Felipe II married his first cousin, Princess Maria of Portugal, who gave him a son, Don Carlos of Spain (1545-1568). Following Maria's death in 1546, he married Catholic Queen Mary I of England in 1554 to cement an alliance with England.After Queen Mary died in 1558, Felipe wanted to marry her successor, the Protestant Queen Elizabeth I but the plan failed. He blamed his son, Don Carlos, for the failure of the planned marriage and threw him in prison where he later died.
Felipe then married his son’s fiancée, Princess Elisabeth of Valois, daughter of Henri II of France. Elisabeth provided him with two daughters, but no son. So Felipe married Anne, daughter of the Emperor Maximilian II, who provided him with an heir, Felipe III.
While he was engaged in wars with the Dutch, Felipe II put together the largest Spanish fleet (Armada) ever assembled, more than 100 ships with more than 30,000 men, to invade England in 1588. The pretext was Queen Elizabeth’s execution of Mary, the Catholic Queen of Scots. But English guile and the “Protestant Wind” thwarted Felipe’s ambitions, and destroyed the Spanish fleet.
When Felipe died in 1598, Spain was bankrupt and in decline as a European power.
What then does it mean to be named after Felipe, to be called Felipinos (later changed to Filipinos) – to be "like Felipe," intolerant of other people and other religions?
Changing the name would also end all the confusion about the spelling of the country (Phillipines) or the people (Philippinos).
When Andres Bonifacio formed the Katipunan revolutionary organization against Spain in 1896, he refused to use the term “Filipinas,” preferring Tagalog or “Katagalugan” to refer to the country.
Others objected on the grounds that Pilipinas sounded too much like “Alipinas” (land of slaves). Some have proposed “Kapatiran” (brotherhood) or “Katipunan”. Others have suggested “Luzviminda” referring to the country’s three major island groups.
In the late 1970s, the Dictator Ferdinand Marcos (who should have been named after Felipe the despot) seriously attempted to change the name of the country to “Maharlika,” the “warrior-noble” in pre-colonial Felipinas who, like the Samurai class of Japan, rendered military service to his feudal lord. But his proposal went nowhere.
If countries like Bolivia could be named after their liberators, why can’t the Pilipinas be named after Rizal? We would all be Rizalians.
My personal preference would be to call the country “Bayanihan” and we would all be “bayanis” (heroes) bound together in the "Bayanihan" spirit of working for the common good.
(Please send your comments to Rodel50@aol.com or log on to rodel50.blogspot.com or write to Law Offices of Rodel Rodis at 2429 Ocean Avenue, San Francisco, CA 94127, or call (415) 334-7800.)
Copyright 2008 INQUIRER.net. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

U.S. vows enclaves will never be independent.

This is from this site.
This is rather a contrast to the U.S. reaction when Kosovo declared independence. At that time Russia specifically warned the U.S. that recognising Kosovo in spite of Russia's objections would have repurcussions with respect to Abkazia and South Ossetia. Now the U.S. knows what those repercussions are. Of course unlike the U.S. Russia may not be able to get most other nations to recognise the two entities but some probably will. In any event with the degree to which Abkazians and South Ossetians are now alienated from Georgia it seems quite unrealistic to think that they can peacefully integrate back into Georgia but Russia will not allow this to happen by force. Russia will simply ignore U.S. objections to its actions in the same way that the U.S. ignored Russia with respect to Serbia.


US Vows Enclaves Will Never Be Independent as Russian President Recognizes Abkhazia, South Ossetia
Posted August 26, 2008
Last Updated 8/26 8:40 PM EST
Earlier this month when presumptive Republican Presidential Nominee John McCain declared “we are all Georgians,” it is unclear if he was referring to the people of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Yet today the Bush Administration made it clear that this was to be America’s official position on the matter, whether the residents of those regions want to be or not.
Today, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev issued a decree recognizing the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia and ordered the foreign ministry to open talks on establishing diplomatic ties. The move comes just one day after both houses of Russia’s parliament unanimously voted to urge him to issue such a decree.
President Bush issued a statement condemning the move as irresponsible, saying it violated the ceasefire deal Russia signed earlier in the month. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice termed the decree “extremely unfortunate,” and vowed that the United States would use its position as a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council to veto any recognition of the independence of either breakaway province.
The mood was considerably less sombre within Tskhinvali and Sukhumi, as excited people took to the streets waving flags in celebration and praising the Russian declaration. Though earlier this week Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili vowed to rebuild his military and reclaim the enclaves, President Medvedev promised to protect them from any future attacks and South Ossetia’s leader planned to ask Russia to set up a military base in his territory.
This marks another major downturn in US-Russian relations, already tense after the recent US missile shield agreements with Poland and the Czech Republic. President Medvedev insisted he was not afraid of the prospect of another Cold War, as rumors swirled that the planned docking of two US warships in Poti, a city still partially under Russian control, had been put on hold. The Russian government has expressed concerns that the ships were loaded down with weapons for the Georgian military, an accusation the White House rejected as “ridiculous”.

Rice, In Israel, Criticizes Surge in Settlement Construction.

This is from the NY Times.
Israel as well as Palestine violate agreements. Israel is of course in violation of oodles of UN resolutions but nothing happens as a result. Probably little will happen because of this increase in settlement. When there is any movement of Israelis out of a settlement there is often considerable coverage. This coverage in a major newspaper is a welcome addition in covering the rest of the story but with all eyes focused on the Democratic Convention and Gustav the article may not attract too many readers.

August 27, 2008
Rice, in Israel, Criticizes Surge in Settlement Construction
By ETHAN BRONNER
JERUSALEM — Peace Now, the Israeli advocacy group, said in a report released Tuesday that in the last year Israel had nearly doubled its settlement construction in the occupied West Bank, in violation of its obligations under an American-backed peace plan.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, in Jerusalem on a short visit to help Israeli and Palestinian leaders in their negotiations, said when asked about the report that she had told Israeli officials that such building did not advance the cause of peace.
“What we need now are steps that enhance confidence between the parties, and anything that undermines confidence between the parties ought to be avoided,” she said with the Israeli foreign minister, Tzipi Livni, at her side.
Ms. Livni said that settlement building should not influence the negotiations because the goal should be “not to let any kind of noises that relate to the situation on the ground these days enter the negotiation room.”
Earlier, Ms. Rice had made clear that neither Israelis nor Palestinians had fully lived up to their obligations. Israel is supposed to end all settlement building and remove illegal settlement outposts, while the Palestinians are supposed to dismantle terrorist infrastructures.
Negotiators had hoped for a full two-state peace framework between the Palestinian Authority and Israel to be completed by the end of President Bush’s term. Lately, though, they have cautioned that such an aim may be out of reach although the talks, they say, are making progress.
Most say they prefer to continue the process rather than try to put together a partial document. But Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who has pledged to resign after his Kadima Party chooses a new leader in September, seems eager for an agreement before his term ends to burnish his legacy.
Standing with the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, in Ramallah after their meeting, Ms. Rice said that “God willing,” and with the hard work of the negotiators, the two-state goal could still be attained before year’s end.
Mr. Abbas seemed already to be looking beyond the Bush administration, however, and expressed hope that its successor “will continue what we have begun.”
He also complained about the increased settlement building.
The Peace Now report on settlements, based on aerial photos, visits and government data, says that more than 1,000 buildings are going up in the West Bank, including 2,600 housing units. It says that for the first five months of 2008, construction in the settlements was 1.8 times greater than in the same period of 2007.
Peace Now opposes Israeli construction on land captured in the 1967 war, like the West Bank, and favors furthering the creation of a Palestinian state there. Yet it is considered a reliable source of settlement information.
Its report says more than half of the building is beyond the separation barrier that Israel has built in recent years on the border of and inside the West Bank. This is significant, if true, because Israeli leaders have argued that ultimately a deal with the Palestinians will allow it to keep several settlement blocs and neighborhoods in East Jerusalem in exchange for land swaps. Therefore, they say, their building in East Jerusalem and close-in settlements on their side of the barrier should cause no concern.
The Peace Now report shows that the building in East Jerusalem is intensive, with the number of tenders for houses there up to 1,761 this year from 46 in 2007.
A spokesman for Israel’s Housing Ministry, Eran Sidis, said he could not check on all the data in the Peace Now report, but he defended building in areas Israel hopes to keep, saying, “There’s nothing to prevent strengthening settlement blocs that in the end of the day, in a peace agreement, will clearly be in Israel’s hands.”
American and Palestinian officials reject the idea that such building is harmless to negotiations. In addition, the Peace Now report challenges the government’s assertions that it is limiting construction to the western side of the barrier by showing that beyond the barrier, building continues apace. It also says that in the illegal outposts that were supposed to be removed, 125 new structures have been added, including 30 permanent houses.

Philippines seeks help of UK and Sweden in peace talks with MILF

Gloria needs all the help she can get. Unless things start to cool down a bit on the ground any peace talks may be a bit premature. No doubt the MILF will not agree to start laying down their arms until they have an agreement they can live with and that may be some time if it is even possible at the present juncture.


Gloria seeks help of UK,Sweden in peace talks
BY JOCELYN MONTEMAYOR
PRESIDENT Arroyo is seeking the help of Sweden and the United Kingdom in the peace talks with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.
Brunei is also offering scholarships for MILF members and their families to enable them to "learn to moderate Islam," Arroyo said in an informal interaction with media Monday night at the Well Being Spa at the Clark Freeport Zone.
Arroyo cited the experiences of former British Prime Minister Tony Blair in talks with Northern Ireland.
"Actually Blair is willing to come to help us because he (played) a very strong part in the negotiations of Northern Ireland, although Sweden is helping us on the DDR side," she said.
She said Sweden in 2005 came up with the Stockholm Initiative on Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration (DDR) which aims to "contribute to a secure and stable environment in which an overall peace process and transition can be sustained."
The President said an invitation to Blair, whom she met during her visit to London in December 2007, has yet to be sent.
Peace talks with the MILF were disrupted this month by major attacks launched by rebel commanders in several parts of Mindanao, including Lanao del Norte and North Cotabato.
A memorandum of agreement on ancestral domain with the MILF, seen as a major breakthrough in the talks, was to be signed August 5 but the Supreme Court issued a temporary restraining order based on petitions questioning the constitutionality of the MOA.
Arroyo said the MILF attacks, which included atrocities against civilians, led to a change in the basic premise of the peace efforts. She said the government is now focusing the talks "from armed groups to the community" through public consultations.
Arroyo clarified she is not setting the disarming of MILF members as a precondition to the peace talks. But, she said, she wants the government and MILF panels to start tackling the DDR, particularly the disarmament aspect, when negotiations resume.
"It’s not a precondition, but part of the outcome of the talks. Part of the comprehensive agreement," she said.
Senate President Manuel Villar urged government to advance the internal revenue allotment funds of towns badly affected by hostilities in Mindanao.
"Towns, cities and provinces hit by MILF attacks are being saddled by unforeseen expenses caused by unforeseen events," he said.
Villar said towns need money to "care for the wounded, aid the displaced, bury the dead, rebuild homes, heal psychological wounds, construct damaged public infrastructure and other things needed to make things normal again."
For starters, he said the national government can release part of the P2-billion calamity fund to areas hit "by this man-made calamity."
This can be complemented by funds to be taken from the P800 million contingent fund, which is under the discretion of the President to release, he said. – With Dennis Gadil

60 children among Afghan Dead UN finds.

This is from the NY Times.
NATO and the U.S. insist they always show the utmost concern for civilian casualties. Yet they do not even count them. In this case as in others they insist on giving a quite different account of what happens inevitably downplaying any civilian deaths if they even admit any. Karzai has for his part been complaining about this for ages without any results. The U.S. is getting a bit peeved at his complaints however and for this and other reasons will try to arrange his replacement by a more amenable president such as Zalmay Khalilzad who has served the Bush administration well. Of course this arrangement will be democratic!
This example shows what probably happens reasonably often. Money is paid for intelligence and any Afghan who has a beef against another tribe can make some money and get even by fingering them as Taliban and indicating where they are.

August 27, 2008
60 Children Among Afghan Dead, U.N. Finds
By CARLOTTA GALL
KABUL, Afghanistan — A United Nations human rights team has found “convincing evidence” that some 90 civilians — among them 60 children — were killed in air strikes on a village in western Afghanistan on Thursday night, a statement issued by the United Nations mission in Kabul said, making it almost certainly the deadliest case of civilian casualties caused by any United States military operation in Afghanistan since 2001.
The United Nations the team visited the scene and interviewed survivors and local officials and elders, getting a name, age and gender of each person reported killed. The team reported that 15 people had been injured in the air strikes, which occurred in the middle of the night.
The numbers closely match those given by a government commission sent from Kabul to investigate the bombing, which put the total dead at up to 95.
Mohammad Iqbal Safi, the head of the parliamentary defense committee and a member of the government commission, said the 60 children were between three months old and 16 years old, all killed as they slept. “It was a heart breaking scene,” he said.
The death toll may even rise higher since heavy lifting gear is needed to uncover all the remains, said one Western official who had seen the United Nations report.
“This is a matter of grave concern to the United Nations,” Kai Eide, the United Nations special representative for Afghanistan said in a statement. “It is vital that the International and Afghan military forces thoroughly review the conduct of this operation in order to prevent a repeat of this tragic incident,” he said.
The United Nations report adds pressure to the United States military, which has to date said only that 25 militants and five civilians were killed in the air strikes, which were aimed at a Taliban named Mullah Saddiq. The military announced it was conducting an investigation after the high civilian death toll was reported.
The bombing occurred around midnight, the United Nations statement said. “Foreign and Afghan military personnel entered the village of Nawabad in the Azizabad area of Shindand district,” it said. “Military operations lasted several hours during which air strikes were called in.” “The destruction from aerial bombardment was clearly evident, with some 7-8 houses having been totally destroyed and serious damage to many others,” it said.
The parliamentarian, Mr. Safi, said the villagers were preparing for a ceremony the next morning in memory of a man who had died some time before. Extended families from two tribes were visiting the village and there were lights of fires as the adults were cooking food for the ceremony, he said.
How the military came to call in air strikes on a civilian gathering still remains unclear. Two parliamentarians, Mr. Safi and Maulavi Gul Ahmad, who is from the area, said the villagers blamed tribal enemies for giving the military false intelligence.
“According to the villagers their enemies give false report to Americans that foreign fighters were gathering in the village,” Mr. Safi said.
Mr. Ahmad directly blamed the United States Special Forces, who are training the Afghan National Army and were present in the joint operation. “I can’t blame the Afghan National Army for the incident as they had no authority for leading the operation,” Mr. Ahmad said.
The government commission met with the commander of the United States forces in Herat province but he declined to answer their questions, saying the United States military was conducting its own investigation, government officials said.
Russia, at odds with the United States and much of the West over its recognition of two breakaway regions in the Central Asian country of Georgia, said it would raise the issue on Tuesday afternoon at the Security Council.
Abdul Waheed Wafa contributed reporting.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Philippine co-ops insure themselves.

Here is a short article on Philippine Co-ops. I gather that most Philippine co-ops are rather small and as this article points out members sometimes run off with co-op funds! Co-ops are a good way to enable smaller producers to gain by combining operations and purchases that will give savings because of size. This is from Malaya.


Coops insure themselves
By AMADO P. MACASAET
There is a snake in every forest, so old folks say. It turns out that are a few scalawags in some cooperatives. It’s hard to run after them once they have absconded with the money.
According to Rep. Agapito "Butz" Aquino, replacing an absconding coop member is simply not enough. Those left behind need continuing education, a process going on for many decades. But the record of success is less than desirable.
Two weeks ago, the Federation of Cooperatives and the National Cooperative Movement headed by Aquino gathered to galvanize what they have always thought of as the solution to thievery in some cooperatives.
Sixteen large cooperatives with a combined membership of close to one million signed up to contribute to a fund. They used the word "contribute" to escape from the jurisdiction and control of the Insurance Commission.
But the contributions are actually insurance premiums remarkably similar to what banks pay the Philippine Deposit Insurance Corp., to protect its members.
According to Aquino, the growth of cooperatives specially in the small rural communities is stymied by scalawags who run off with the members money. They are hardly punished; worse, seldom do they return the stolen money.
With an insurance cover, members need not be afraid. The Federation of Cooperatives collects the contributions or premiums, puts them in safe investment instruments and assures the paying coops they will get their money in the event that one of their members runs off with their money.
Providing insurance cover to cooperatives is a messy job. To begin with, there are just too many of them, estimated at close to 60,000 coops with an estimated three million members.
Funds of cooperatives put together is estimated to be more than P6 billion. But the bulk of it belongs to bigger ones. The smaller ones are hardly growing.
Butz Aquino points out that one of the biggest problems is continuing education. The culture of the Filipino in working as a brigade for each other’s benefit is hard to instill.
In this, the Bureau of Cooperatives is focused on almost one single objective. It wants to organize a farm cooperative for land reform beneficiaries. The idea is to put back the commercial sizes of divided land to bring back the economies of scale.
Aquino says the prospective members in practically all cooperatives invariably ask what they can get, not what they can do so that in the end they can get more.
There are many different types. Members of credit cooperatives lend money to one another at interest rates which are close to commercial rates.
Marketing cooperatives sell almost exclusively to its members with hefty discounts.
At the end of every year, these cooperatives find themselves with some profits which in the language of the members is called surplus. The money is either used to make the cooperatives expand or is distributed to members as their patronage dividends.
Borrowers from credit cooperatives are not required to put up collateral. The security is the guarantee of another member.
While there is a very large percentage of failures among many types of cooperatives, there are quite a number that have become giants with hundreds of millions in operating funds.
One is Lipa Marketing Coop in Lipa City. It started out as a marketing coop that has expanded into the likes of a commercial establishment that sells everything that its members need.

Arroyo: All-out war, no; all-out peace, yes.

A neat slogan but peace will be difficult to obtain given that the two sides are really still in disagreement over some issues and there is opposition to the agreement from many on the government side and also on the MILF side. Several MILF commanders obviously acted to occupy territory and are now being driven out by the AFP. So far the conflict has not widened it seems. This is from Malaya.


Gloria: ‘All-out war, no; all-out peace, yes’
BY JOCELYN MONTEMAYOR
PRESIDENT Arroyo yesterday informed the Organization of Islamic Conference through the Kuwaiti government and businessmen that her administration is on a path of all-out peace in Mindanao and not all-out war.
Arroyo spoke at the inauguration of the Global Gateway Logistics at the Clark Freeport Zone attended by, among others, Kuwait Ambassador Doaud Salman Al-Sabah.
She said government forces in Mindanao are running only after members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front who were responsible for the recent attacks in parts of North Cotabato, Lanao del Norte, and Sarangani.
She said the recent rampage of the "lawless" MILF elements calls for a "resolute military and police action."
"I say to the Filipinos, to the world, to our Muslim brothers in the South, to the OIC through our Kuwaiti friends, there is no all-out war. What we are doing is to have all-out peace in Mindanao," she said.
The OIC facilitated the peace agreement between the Philippine government and the Moro National Liberation Front forged in 1996. Through Malaysia, it is also facilitates peace negotiations with the MILF.
Arroyo said her government has never deviated from its objective of attaining lasting peace and development in Mindanao. But she said "peace must be anchored on justice."
She said the government’s move to offer a P10 million reward each for MILF Commanders Ameril Umbra Kato and Bravo (Abdullah Macapaar) shows the government’s resolve to hasten the arrest and "neutralization of these criminals, so that justice can be achieved and we can move on with the peace process."
Kato and Bravo led the attacks in 15 barangays in North Cotabato, Iligan City and four towns in Lanao del Norte.
Arroyo said the targeted MILF personalities are historically the recalcitrant commanders who have created trouble before and during the peace negotiations. These commanders, she said, are expected by the government to cause trouble even after a peace agreement is forged.
"So the campaign against them is intended to remove the obstacles to the peace process... We wish for all insurgents to turn their swords into ploughshares, their arms to farms. We ask all sectors to be with us, including our brothers in the OIC," she said.
Arroyo has been asked by Catholic bishops to consult stakeholders in its peace negotiations with the MILF.
The need for wider consultations was brought to Arroyo’s attention by at least 13 bishops during a meeting Friday in Malacañang, Cotabato auxiliary Bishop Jose Colin Bagaforo said over Church-run Radio Veritas.
He said they discussed means to involve Mindanao stakeholders "like lumads, civil societies, different sectors and communities" in drafting a peace agreement with the secessionist group.
Several bishops have questioned what they said was the lack of consultations in drafting the memorandum of agreement on ancestral domain which, among others, seeks to expand the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao by including 712 barangays in non-ARMM provinces.
The MOA is under question before the Supreme Court.
The government last week announced it is not signing the MOA in its current form because of the MILF attacks, among other reasons. It said it would review the agreement that would have been signed August 5 had the Supreme Court not issued a temporary restraining order.
MOA REVISION SOUGHT
Iligan Bishop Elenito Galido said the Mindanao bishops "strongly suggested" a revision of the MOA.
Bagaforo said the meeting was initiated by the Mindanao prelates led by Tandag (Surigao del Sur) Archbishop Nereo Odchimar.
Tuguegarao (Cagayan) Archbishop Diosdado Talamayan and Bayombong (Nueva Vizcaya) Bishop Ramon Villena, were also present in the meeting that lasted four hours.
Bagaforo said the bishops also formally proposed to Arroyo the need to replace the members of the government peace panel.
He said the President told them she will look "at it in light of a bigger, wider participation of Mindanao stakeholders."
Bagaforo said the peace panel massively failed in its responsibility of conducting the stakeholders.
Sen. Richard Gordon said the government could not proceed striking a peace deal with the MILF without pushing for the development of the ARMM.
"The peace process is just like a marriage – we have to continue strengthening the peace. And peace is strengthened when you see it being beneficial to the public, if there is education, if there’s economic development; if there’s security, consistency and transparency in everything that will happen when the peace process starts," he said.
Gordon, who is among those opposing the MOA, said those who would be affected should be made to understand what will happen to them if a peace accord is signed. – With Gerard Naval and Dennis Gadil

Obama selects Biden to Reassure US ruling elite.

This is from Information Clearing House.
This article shows how mainstream Obama is. Of course those fearful of him will say it shows how he can hide his real tendencies! At any rate the two party system is a big sales media event The Democratic convention paid for partly by some taxpayers has no real purpose except as a media show since Obama is already the candidate. I have to stay away from U.S. news TV stations for several days. It is like the Olympics except there are no contests just the opening ceremonies but in no way as spectacular or entertaining. We don't even have any adorable little American girl lip-syncing the Stars and Stripes for us.


Obama Selects Biden to Reassure the US Ruling EliteBy Patrick Martin
25/08/08 "WSW" --- The selection of Senator Joseph Biden as the vice-presidential candidate of the Democratic Party underscores the fraudulent character of the Democratic primary campaign and the undemocratic character of the entire two-party electoral system. Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama, the supposed protagonist of “change,” has picked as his running-mate a fixture of the Washington establishment, a six-term US senator who is a proven defender of American imperialism and the interests of big business.
The rollout of the Biden selection over three days of escalating media attention, culminating in the text-message announcement early Saturday and a kickoff rally in Springfield, Illinois, is a metaphor for the entire Obama campaign. His presidential candidacy represents not an insurgency from below, but an effort to manipulate mass sentiments, using Internet technology and slick marketing techniques, aided by a compliant media, to produce a political result that is utterly conventional and in keeping with the requirements of the US ruling elite.
Long gone are the days when the selection of a vice-presidential candidate by one of the two major big business parties involved a complex balancing act between various institutional forces. In the Democratic Party, this would have involved consultations with trade union officials, civil rights organizations, congressional leaders and the heads of particularly powerful state and urban political machines.
Today, neither party has any substantial popular base. In both parties there is only one true “constituency”: the financial aristocracy that dominates economic and political life and controls the mass media, and whose interests determine government policy, both foreign and domestic. The selection of Biden, the senator from a small state with only three electoral votes, whose own presidential bids have failed miserably for lack of popular support, underscores the immense chasm separating the entire political establishment from the broad mass of the American people.
Obama has selected Biden to provide reassurance that, whatever populist rhetoric may be employed for electoral purposes in the fall campaign, the wealth and privileges of the ruling elite and the geo-strategic aims of US imperialism will be the single-minded concerns of a Democratic administration.
An establishment figure
Biden has been a leading figure in the political establishment for three decades. He was first elected to the US Senate from Delaware in 1972, when Richard Nixon was president and Obama was 11 years old, and he has held that position through seven administrations. He has headed two of the most important Senate committees: Judiciary, which vets nominations to judicial positions, including the Supreme Court, and Foreign Relations, which Biden chaired in 2001-2002 and again since the Democrats regained control of the Senate in the 2006 election. Biden ran for president 20 years ago and again this year.
In the 1990s, with Bill Clinton in the White House, Biden was one of the principal proponents of US intervention in the former Yugoslavia, a role that he describes in his campaign autobiography, published last year, as his proudest achievement in foreign policy. In the mid-1990s he called for the US to arm the Bosnian Muslim regime against Serbia, and then advocated a direct US attack on Serbia during the 1999 Kosovo crisis, joining with a like-minded Republican senator to introduce the McCain-Biden Kosovo Resolution, authorizing Clinton to use “all necessary force” against Serbia.
This legislative proposal provided a model for a 2002 congressional resolution authorizing Bush to wage war against Iraq, which Biden co-authored with Republican Senator Richard Lugar. The Bush administration opposed the Biden-Lugar resolution, because it was limited to ridding Iraq of weapons of mass destruction, and successfully pressured the Democratic-controlled Senate to adopt a broader war resolution, for which Biden voted.
On domestic policy, Biden is a conventional liberal whose roots go back to the Cold War era. He combines occasional populist bromides about concern for the poor and downtrodden with close relations with the trade union bureaucracy and unquestioning defense of the profit system. Like every other senator, he has “looked after” the interests of those big corporations with major operations in his state, including the Delaware-based MBNA, the largest independent issuer of credit cards until it was acquired in 2005 by Bank of America.
In this capacity, Biden was one of the most fervent Democratic supporters of the reactionary 2005 legislation overhauling the consumer bankruptcy laws, making it much more difficult for working class and middle-class families to escape debt burdens exacerbated by the corrupt and misleading marketing tactics employed by companies like MBNA. The 2005 law has compounded the problems of distressed homeowners seeking to avoid foreclosure.
Biden defended the bankruptcy bill during the Senate debate and voted for the legislation along with the overwhelming majority of Republicans, including John McCain. Obama opposed the bill, and has attacked it repeatedly during the 2008 campaign as a punitive measure against working families.
Employees of MBNA were the biggest single financial supporters of Biden’s campaigns over the past two decades. In 2003, MBNA hired the senator’s son, Hunter Biden, fresh out of law school, quickly promoting him to the position of executive vice president. (While his father is not wealthy by US Senate standards, Hunter Biden has since become a hedge fund multi-millionaire).
Biden has occasionally taken positions slightly more liberal than those of Obama, most recently voting against the bill (which Obama supported) authorizing a massive expansion of government surveillance of telephone calls and e-mail, and providing legal immunity to the giant telecom firms that collaborated with such illegal spying over the past seven years. But he is a fervent supporter of the USA Patriot Act, defending it during the recent Democratic primary campaign against criticism by some of his opponents.

Biden and the war in Iraq

Senator Obama prevailed over Hillary Clinton in the Democratic nomination contest in large part because she had voted in October 2002 to authorize the Iraq war, while Obama, not then a US Senator, verbally opposed the decision to go to war. This difference in political biographies was utilized by Obama’s campaign to make an appeal to antiwar sentiment, although Obama’s record once he arrived in the Senate in January 2005 was indistinguishable from Clinton’s.
Biden’s record on Iraq makes his selection as the vice-presidential candidate all the more cynical, since he was an enthusiastic supporter of the war far longer than most Senate Democrats. He advocated measures to drastically increase the scale of the violence in order to win the war, including the dispatch of 100,000 additional US troops and the breakup of Iraq into separate Sunni, Shia and Kurdish statelets—on the model of the former Yugoslavia—which would presumably be more easy to control.
In the run-up to the launching of the unprovoked US aggression in March 2003, Biden echoed Bush administration propaganda. At a hearing of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee just after Secretary of State Colin Powell’s notorious appearance before the United Nations Security Council in February 2003, Biden gushed, “I am proud to be associated with you. I think you did better than anyone could have because of your standing, your reputation and your integrity ...” Every major element of Powell’s indictment of Iraq has since proven to be false.
Once the Bush administration’s lies about weapons of mass destruction and Iraqi connections to Al Qaeda and the 9/11 attacks had been exposed, Biden began to express increasing alarm over the failure of the Bush administration to find an adequate rationale for maintaining public support for the war.
He bemoaned the Bush administration’s failure to sell the war effectively to the American people. In a speech to the Brookings Institution in June 2005, he declared, “I want to see the president of the United States succeed in Iraq...His success is America’s success, and his failure is America’s failure.”
Biden was particularly critical of the rosy forecasts of imminent success in Iraq being issued by the Pentagon and White House, which were at odds with the reality on the ground. “This disconnect, I believe, is fueling cynicism that is undermining the single most important weapon we need to give our troops to be able to do their job, and that is the unyielding support of the American people. That support is waning.”
Only after public opinion turned decisively against the war did Biden shift from advocating escalation to a limited pullout of US troops. A Washington Post column in late 2005—which noted the convergence of views of the longtime senator from Delaware and the newly elected senator from Illinois, Barack Obama—described Biden as “an early and consistent supporter of the US intervention against Saddam Hussein.”
Once the Democrats regained control of Congress in the November 2006, Biden became chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, where he played a major role in the capitulation by the congressional Democrats to the Bush “surge” policy. Millions of antiwar voters had cast ballots for the Democrats seeking an end to the war, but the White House escalated the war instead, and the Democrats postured impotently and then went along.
The Democratic-controlled Congress meekly submitted after Bush vetoed modest restrictions on the conduct of the war, and in May 2007 passed full funding for military operations in both Iraq and Afghanistan. When several Democratic senators voted against the funding bill as a protest—including Clinton and Obama—Biden denounced them for undermining the safety of the troops.
Two weeks after this critical vote, Biden denounced antiwar critics of the Democratic Congress, claiming, “We’re busting our neck every single day” trying to end the war. There could be no end to the war, he said, until a significant number of Republican senators defected, to provide the two-thirds majority needed to override a Bush veto, or until a Democratic president was in the White House. “We’re funding the safety of those troops there till we can get 67 votes,” he declared.
By then, the Democratic presidential contest was well under way, and Biden, despite winning little support and no delegates, played an important political role. As the World Socialist Web Site noted following a candidates’ debate in August 2007, “Biden has carved out a niche as the Democratic presidential candidate most willing to publicly rebuke antiwar sentiment.”
In the course of the debate, Biden attacked those who suggested that by threatening a quick withdrawal, the US government could compel Iraqi politicians to establish a stable government in Baghdad. He denounced illusions “that there is any possibility in the lifetime of anyone here of having the Iraqis get together, have a unity government in Baghdad that pulls the country together. That will not happen.... It will not happen in the lifetime of anyone here.” In other words, the US occupation would have to continue indefinitely.
There have been numerous suggestions from Democratic Party officials and the media over the past few days that, given Biden’s reputation for verbal confrontation, his selection signals a more aggressive attitude from the Obama campaign. On his record, however, it is quite likely that Biden will be deployed as an “attack dog” against antiwar critics of the Obama campaign.
This fact makes all the more despicable the fawning embrace of Biden by purportedly “antiwar” publications like the Nation. John Nichols, Washington editor of the left-liberal magazine, wrote that the choice of Biden was an “acceptable, perhaps even satisfying conclusion to the great veep search,” which could tip the polls back in Obama’s direction.
Commenting on the Springfield rally Saturday, Nichols gushed, “When Biden went after John McCain, with a vigor and, yes, a venom that has been missing from Obama’s stump speaking, it was a tonic for the troops who have been waiting for a campaign that is more prepared to throw punches than take them.”
This response only confirms a fundamental truth about the political crisis facing working people in the United States: it is impossible to conduct a serious struggle against American imperialism, and its program of social reaction and war, without first breaking free of the straitjacket of the Democratic Party.
Working people have no stake in the outcome of the Obama-McCain contest, which will determine, for the American ruling elite, who will be their commander-in-chief over the next four years. The task facing the working class is to break with the two-party system and build an independent political movement based on a socialist and internationalist program.
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Monday, August 25, 2008

Karzai ousts general as religious leaders call for trials.

Perhaps the general gave the U.S. the information that led to the airstrikes. Probably he sanctioned the U.S. version of the incident as well. Maybe he even provided that disinformation to the U.S. authorities. Who would be on trial? The NATO brass. Forget it. Occupiers don't commit war crimes and the Afghan government has no power to bring them to court in any event. Also, this is a UN sanctioned mission with the neat acronym ISAF the International Security Assistance Force. There is also the US Enduring Freedom aspect of the situation too. With all those high sounding phrases surely a few dozen civilian deaths are a small price to pay for such a noble mission.


Karzai Ousts General as Religious Leaders Call for Trials
Posted August 24, 2008
As the fallout from the Herat bombing continues, Afghan President Hamid Karzai issued a Presidential decree today ordering the immediate firing of two Army officials, including the top ranking officer in western Afghanistan, General Jalandar Shah Behnam, for “negligence and concealing facts,” as al-Jazeera reports that the air strikes have cost Karzai considerable support in the area.
Meanwhile, a council of local religious leaders demanded that those involved in the deaths be brought to trial. In a statement released earlier today they declared “(we) will not accept their apologies this time,” while United Nations Envoy Kai Eide issued a statement cautioning that civilian casualties “undermine the confidence of the Afghan people.”
Stopping short of an apology, the White House expressed its “regret” for the loss of innocent life while promising an investigation. Though the US military had persistently denied that any civilians were killed in Friday’s strike, the Times reported that they had conceded the deaths of at least five civilians.
Initially reported by US military as a raid killing 30 militants and no civilians, Afghan officials quickly contested the account, claiming a large number of civilian deaths. The toll rose as Afghan officials completed their investigations to 95 dead and an unknown additional number wounded. Afghan Minister Nematullah Shahrani said that most were women and children, and challenged US forces to produce evidence that any Taliban were at the site of the strike, which stands as one of the largest incidents of US-inflicted civilian casualties since the 2001 invasion.

Pakistan coalition breaks apart..

This is not surprising. As the article notes Zardari has broken several key parts of the agreement that formed the coalition. He chose the presential candidate without consultation and has not agreed upon re-instatement of the lawyers and chief justice who were dismissed by Mussharaf. While Zardari may be able to govern as a minority or obtain enough support to survive from smaller parties the political situation seems to be becoming more unstable. This is from the NY Times.


August 26, 2008
Fractious Coalition in Pakistan Breaks Apart
By JANE PERLEZ
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — The five-month-old coalition government in Pakistan collapsed Monday when the head of the minority party, Nawaz Sharif, announced his members would leave the fractious alliance, citing broken promises by Asif Ali Zardari, the leader of the majority party.
“We have been forced to leave the coalition,” Mr. Sharif said in Islamabad. “We joined the coalition with full sincerity for the restoration of democracy. Unfortunately all the promises were not honored.”
The exit by Mr. Sharif’s party, the Pakistan Muslim League-N, had been expected in the last few days, and was finally spurred by the decision of Mr. Zardari to run for president, in an electoral college vote set for Sept. 6. President Pervez Musharraf resigned last week under threat of impeachment.
The departure of Mr. Sharif, whose party sat uneasily with Mr. Zardari’s Pakistan Peoples Party, is unlikely to result in immediate elections. Mr. Sharif said his members would sit in the opposition in the Parliament and try to play a “constructive” role.
The Pakistan Peoples Party holds the most seats in the Parliament, but not a majority. Political analysts said they expected it would be able to cobble together a new parliamentary coalition with smaller parties.
Still, Pakistan faces continued political instability that may distract from serious governance and serious efforts to turn back the growing strength of the Taliban in the northwestern parts of the nation.
The main problem between Mr. Sharif and Mr. Zardari was a profound disagreement over the future of the former chief justice, Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry, who was fired by President Musharraf in March 2007, reinstated by the court in July, and placed under house arrest in November. He was finally freed in March of this year, but has yet to be restored to the bench.
Mr. Sharif has insisted that Mr. Chaudhry along with some 60 other judges, who were also fired in November, when Mr. Musharraf declared emergency rule, should be restored to the bench.
To drive home the point about broken promises, Mr. Sharif, a former two-time prime minister, released an accord signed by the two men on Aug. 7.
The document shows that Mr. Zardari and Mr. Sharif agreed that all the judges would be restored by an executive order one day after Mr. Musharraf’s impeachment or resignation. But Mr. Zardari stalled.
In an interview with the BBC Urdu-language radio service on Saturday, Mr. Zardari defended his position, saying agreements with the Pakistan Muslim League-N were not “holy like the holy Koran.”
The Aug. 7 accord, signed as the two parties maneuvered to force Mr. Musharraf out, also said the two men would agree on a presidential candidate.
Instead, according to Mr. Sharif’s aides, Mr. Zardari went ahead to plan his own candidacy for the presidency, and arranged for the election to be held on Sept. 6 without consulting Mr. Sharif.
At the news conference in Islamabad, Mr. Sharif introduced his party’s candidate for president, Saeed-uz-zaman Siddiqui, a former chief justice. Mr. Siddiqui refused to take the oath of office to remain as chief justice after Mr. Musharraf took power from Mr. Sharif in a bloodless coup in 1999.
The presidential vote polls the national Parliament and four provincial assemblies. It is expected that Mr. Zardari will prevail.
There was no immediate official reaction from the Pakistan Peoples Party on the collapse of the coalition.
But a member of Parliament from the party, Fauzia Wahab, said the party would “conveniently and easily survive” without the support of the Pakistan Muslim League-N. She criticized Mr. Sharif for “holding the system hostage of one man,” meaning Mr. Chaudhry.
Mr. Zardari, the widower of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, who was assassinated in December, has consistently opposed the reappointment of Mr. Chaudhry since the coalition came together after Feb. 18 parliamentary elections.
The basis of Mr. Zardari’s objection appears grounded in a fear that the judge would undo the amnesty granted to Mr. Zardari on corruption charges when he returned to Pakistan on the death of his wife after years in exile.
Mr. Zardari served in government in the 1990s, when Ms. Bhutto was twice prime minister in the 1990s. He spent more than eight years in jail on various corruption charges that were dropped on his return and which he says were politically motivated.
In the week since Mr. Musharraf resigned, Mr. Zardari has emerged as the chief political force in Pakistan, and he appears to have the backing of the Bush administration as he drives forward toward the presidency.
In the past two days, Mr. Zardari’s statements have increasingly coincided with Washington’s policies, particularly on the campaign against terror, the United States’ central concern here.
In the BBC radio interview, Mr. Zardari used unusually strong words against the Taliban, whose presence in Pakistan’s tribal areas has gathered steam in the last year. “The world is losing the war,” he said of the fight against the Taliban. “I think at the moment they definitely have the upper hand.”
Mr. Zardari said in the interview the Tehrik-i-Taliban, an umbrella group of the Taliban in Pakistan, should be banned. On Monday, the Interior Ministry announced the group would be added to the list of banned organizations. Other Islamic extremist groups are on the Interior Ministry’s list, but the listing appears to have had little effect.
Several months ago, the government in the North-West Frontier Province, which is allied with Mr. Zardari’s party, signed a peace agreement with an Islamic extremist group, in the province’s Swat Valley. That accord is now broken and the Pakistani Army has been fighting the group for the last several weeks.
Salman Masood contributed reporting.

The blowback from Kosovo

This is from antiwar.com

The U.S. recognised Kosovo when it unilaterally declared independence in the absence of any agreement with Serbia. Serbia always claimed that Kosovo was a part of its sovereign territory. This did not matter as the U.S. was able to get many countries to go along and recognise the newly minted state. At the time Russia warned that the recognition of Kosovo's independence without the agreement of Serbia would change Russia's policy with respect to Abkhazia and South Ossetia. This is the culmination of that change. Bush continually stresses that Abkhazia and South Ossetia are territories within Georgia in effect part of sovereign Georgia. In the light of Kosovo this is complete hypocrisy. While Serbia with Russian support complained about U.S. recognition of Kosovo the U.S. simply ignored Russia. Now Russia will return the favor with respect to South Ossetia and Abkazia. Of course most of the western media will treat the two cases quite differently and complain of Russian aggression.

Russian Parliament Unanimously Backs Independence for Abkhazia, South Ossetia
Posted August 25, 2008
In a move many see as retaliation for the February recognition of independence for Kosovo, both houses of Russia’s parliament voted unanimously to recognize the independence of the separatist regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Though not legally binding, the vote urges Russian President Dmitry Medvedev to officially recognize them and establish full diplomatic relations.
The Georgian Foreign Ministry condemned the vote as a continuation of “Russian aggression” and a violation of Georgia’s sovereignty. Yesterday, Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili vowed to rebuild his shattered military and reclaim the enclaves. Earlier this month, the Bush Administration reiterated its commitment to Georgia’s “territorial integrity.”
Both enclaves have enjoyed varying degrees of autonomy since 1992, and tensions with the Georgian government have led to intermittent violence. This all came to a head earlier this month, when the Georgian government launched an offensive against South Ossetia, shelling its capital city of Tskhinvali. The Russian military, along with thousands of Abkhaz and Ossetian volunteers, swept into Tskhinvali, and advanced into parts of Georgia. Though a cease-fire has been declared, Russian troops remain in and around certain strategic Georgian cities.
In February, the breakaway province of Kosovo, long part of Serbia, declared independence with United States backing. At the time, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov warned that the move would affect Russia’s policy toward Abkhazia and South Ossetia’s long-standing independence claims.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

After pullout, Russia envisions long-term shift

Russia is giving notice that it is not about to let the situation return to the status quo before Georgia tried to reassert control over South Ossetia. Russia also interprets the cease-fire in a much broader way than does the U.S. or France among others. The U.S. and Germany continue to support Georgia joining NATO a recipe for even more conflict. These events are going to create problems for Obama and McCain probably to the benefit of McCain who is more likely to be hawkish on relations with Russia. This is from the NY Times.



August 23, 2008
After Pullout, Russia Envisions Long-Term Shift
By CLIFFORD J. LEVY
MOSCOW — As the Russian Army withdrew most of its forces from Georgia, it was becoming ever more clear on Friday that Moscow had no intention of restoring what once was — either on the ground or diplomatically.
The West wants a return to early August, before an obscure territorial dispute on the fringes of the old Soviet empire erupted into an international crisis. But Russia’s forces are digging in and seizing ribbons of Georgian land that abut two breakaway enclaves allied with Moscow, effectively extending its zone of influence.
At the same time, the Kremlin is nearing formal recognition of the independence of the enclaves, South Ossetia and Abkhazia, possibly as early as next week.
These moves indicate that despite the French-brokered cease-fire framework that Russia accepted, it is striving to maintain considerable economic and military pressure on Georgia, a close ally of the United States. The ultimate goal, it seems, is the ouster of its president, Mikheil Saakashvili, who is detested by the Russian leadership, and the installation of a government that it considers less hostile.
The Russian president, Dmitri A. Medvedev, promised early this week that most Russian troops would be withdrawn by Friday, and throughout the day, soldiers were observed heading north toward the two enclaves. Russian tanks swept along Georgia’s main roadways, abandoning an important military camp and checkpoints outside the central city of Gori.
By the night, the defense minister, Anatoly E. Serdyukov, had declared the pullback completed, saying that “the Russian side has fulfilled” the cease-fire.
Even so, Russian soldiers maintained a series of armed checkpoints along Georgia’s main highway, leaving the Kremlin with the ability to cut off trade and traffic across the country and to isolate the capital, Tbilisi, from much of the nation.
It also continued to occupy areas near a military base in Senaki, the western city of Zugdidi and the vital port of Poti on the Black Sea. Russian officials say 500 soldiers they refer to as peacekeepers will remain in Georgia near South Ossetia.
In Washington on Friday, a State Department spokesman, Robert Wood, said that by establishing the buffer zones, the Russians “failed to live up to their obligations under the cease-fire agreement.” France expressed similar objections.
In spurning a complete pullback, the Kremlin is sending a message that it has no regrets about marching into its much smaller neighbor, even if the conflict has stirred the sharpest tensions between Moscow and Washington since the end of the cold war.
Having grown increasingly angry over NATO expansion into Eastern Europe, the Russians believe that they have finally and justly struck back, according to analysts and officials in Moscow.
The Russian leadership has also expressed more confidence in recent days that it is getting across its view that it attacked Georgia two weeks ago only in response to an unprovoked assault by the Georgian military on civilians in South Ossetia.
Alexei Pankin, a columnist for the Russian state news agency, said on Friday that the Kremlin had undoubtedly ordered tanks into Georgia because it wanted to somehow topple Mr. Saakashvili. While it did not immediately achieve that aim, it is now in a better position to do so than it was before the conflict.
“Their feeling now is, you made gains and you should keep them,” Mr. Pankin said. “After what happened, their successes, they are not really feeling constrained now.”
The Kremlin has signaled its intention to remove Mr. Saakashvili in part by trying to isolate him. The Russian Foreign Ministry, which has often suggested that Mr. Saakashvili is unstable, said this week that it would not negotiate directly with him “for reasons absolutely understandable to any sensible person.”
Still, dangers loom for the Kremlin, especially if it falls victim to its historical tendency to overreach. For now, the West has shied from severe steps to punish Russia, such as ousting it from the Group of 8. But should Russia be perceived in the coming weeks as actively trying to overthrow Mr. Saakashvili or retake parts of the country, it could set off new penalties that might threaten its robust economic revival.
Already, Russia’s financial markets have evinced concern about that, with the stock market falling since the conflict began and capital flowing out of the country at a fast pace.
In Tbilisi on Friday night, Mr. Saakashvili spoke live on national television, appearing grim and subdued. He warned Georgians to expect more problems, and he pledged to offer compensation to families who had lost relatives in the fighting.
Despite all Georgia’s setbacks in the last two weeks, Mr. Saakashvili vowed anew to restore Georgia’s territorial integrity — restating an ambition that had helped propel Georgia into a clash with its much more powerful neighbor to the north.
“Georgia has no extra territories to give to others,” he said.
The war started late on Aug. 7 when Mr. Saakashvili ordered his small, American-trained military to attack and seize Tskhinvali, the capital of South Ossetia, a tiny mountainous region on the southern face of the Caucasus Ridge. The region has been out of Georgia’s control, and under Russian support, since a brief war in the 1990s.
Mr. Saakashvili’s order, which he has said was necessary to prevent a Russian assault, turned into a disaster that threatened the Georgian state. Russian planes, rockets and artillery pounded Georgian positions, while armored units routed Georgian forces and swept into several principal cities.
Moreover, a wide plain of Georgian villages was largely depopulated and is now behind a new administrative border defended by Russian troops. Tbilisi was crowded on Friday with refugees, many subsisting in squalid conditions.
Even with many of the Russian troops withdrawn by Friday night, fears lingered that soldiers would try to conduct checks on the main east-west highway, creating economic stress on, or even a blockade of, Tbilisi and much of the rest of the country. Under the cease-fire accord, Russian forces are prohibited from blocking traffic, though they have done so this week.
“One of the Russian war goals was to bring down this government, and by economic pressure they hope to do that,” a senior NATO official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the situation with reporters. “Bringing down the government was more likely their goal than conquering Tbilisi.”
In response, NATO foreign ministers have sent civil emergency planning teams to help Georgia rebuild civilian infrastructure and restore its economy.
Georgia’s prime minister, Lado Gurgenidze, played down the risk of an extended blockade of Tbilisi. “There’s been no hoarding, no panic buying, apart from a few incidents,” Mr. Gurgenidze said.
He said the capital had stocks of gasoline and flour, though he declined to say how long they were expected to last.
At stores in Tbilisi, food prices have risen sharply since the conflict began and did not drop on Friday, even with the partial pullout. At one fruit stand, the price for peaches had risen by 40 percent, and for apples by 100 percent.
“We are afraid — most people are stocking up, it’s not just me,” said Lyuda Marishvili, an elderly woman who was shopping at a market in the capital. “The roads are closed. There will be no products.”
C. J. Chivers contributed reporting from Karaleti, Georgia, and Andrew E. Kramer from Tbilisi.