Thursday, May 31, 2007

The US deals in Middle Eastern politics, under the table.

In the new issue of Counterpunch Frank Lamb gives us a glimpse into the ways of Middle Eastern politics. Unfortunately, old deals, even then poisoned by coercion and betrayal, have a way of resurrecting into new poisoned commitments. Here is a story of the malign relations that underlie a new American plan to build an arbase in Lebanon. As he says, "the average Lebanese is rather more sophisticated, clever, descent, and patriotic than many Israeli or American politicians give them credit for."

Sharon's Bastille Day Dream Materializes: Lebanon and the Planned US Airbase at Kleiaat


[Read the whole story by clicking on the title above.]

Monday, May 28, 2007

The Lawyers' Mutiny in Pakistan

Ali Khan has an insightful note on the prospects for the lawyer mutiny in Pakistan. I hope he is right that they will prevail in the end. We'll see.

*May 18, 2007*
*Confronting a Soft Dictatorship* The Lawyers' Mutiny in Pakistan


A lawyers' mutiny is making history in Pakistan.

The sight of a "strong and honest" Chief Justice leading the nation's
lawyers to oust a military ruler who seized power by removing a democratically elected government makes a fabulous story. The story is even more engaging because the national Parliament elected by the people is playing dead. And the two popular leaders (former prime ministers Nawaz Sharif and Benazir Bhutto) who could have led the masses in this urgency live happily in exile.

A senior Supreme Court advocate in Pakistan tells me that this is the first time in Pakistan's history that lawyers have dropped their conflicting political affiliations and forged an unprecedented professional unity to restore the rule of law.

The lawyers are protesting in the streets to mobilize a popular uprising against the President. They are making it difficult for the Parliament to grant another five years term to the President.

Pakistan's leading lawyers are seeking the annulment of the CJP's suspension. Soon after the suspension, there existed a small window of time in which the President himself could have undone the worst mistake of his rule. That option is no longer available. ... The annulment is most likely to occur, however, because the constitutional petitions are not about the hermeneutics of Article 209 but about a colossal struggle between two primary institutions of Pakistan, the Armed Forces and the Judiciary.

More evidence that the Iraq problems were well known in advance

The new report, just released, on the CIA warnings about the problems of going into Iraq, provides one more piece of evidence of what we already knew, that the Bush administration was warned that the plans to invade Iraq would be costly and draw insurgent groups such as Al Qaeda into the area, compounding the problems in the Middle East. Some Republican Senators have tried to downplay the report, forgetting that even "W"'s father, George H. W. Bush, had already predicted serious complications if in his time American forces had gone after Saddam Hussein. Even so, this will surprise some people.

The Iraq Problems were Anticipated. [Friday May 25, 2007 10:16 PM]

By KATHERINE SHRADER Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) - Intelligence analysts predicted, in secret papers circulated within the government before the Iraq invasion, that al-Qaida would see U.S. military action as an opportunity to increase its operations and that Iran would try to shape a post-Saddam Iraq.

The CIA report said
- Establishing a stable democracy in Iraq would be a long, steep and probably turbulent challenge.

- Al-Qaida would see the invasion as a chance to accelerate its attacks, and the lines between al-Qaida and other terrorist groups ``could become blurred.''

For more, click on the title above.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Worry about Afghanistan and Pakistan

The recent conference on Afghanistan at the Carnegie Endowment provides reason for the people in Washington to worry about the situation in Afghanistan. They had some good heads there. I respect Marvin Weinbaum’s years of study and experience in the Middle East and South Asia; in this report he says nothing that has not been known, but it has continually been denied by Pakistan: Pakistan is providing sanctuary for Al Qaeda and the Taliban, as he says, only it appears that Musharraf is quite unable to do anything about it. Such is the configuration of power relations within Pakistan. And yes, any serious league between Iran or any Shi’ites with Osama is impossible.

Click on the title above for more.

Friday, May 25, 2007

The brutality of MQM

MQM is a thuggish party that helps keep Musharraf in power. 
Here is an article from a Marxian point of view.

Following bloodbath in Karachi US reaffirms support for Musharraf By Vilani
Peiris and Keith Jones
22 May 2007

The Bush administration has reiterated its support for Pakistan's military
strongman, General Pervez Musharraf, in the wake of bloody,
government-orchestrated attacks on opposition protesters in Karachi, May 12
and 13, that left more than forty people dead.

The violence, which was perpetrated by armed thugs of the pro-Musharraf
Muttahida Quami Movement (MQM), was aimed at stamping out a mounting wave of
anti-government protests. But on Monday, May 14, most of Pakistan's major
cities, including Lahore, Peshwar, Quetta, and especially Karachi, were
paralyzed by a general strike called by the opposition parties to protest
the previous weekend's violence. There is a "complete strike in Karachi,"
conceded the police chief Azhar Faruqi to the *Guardian.* The next day large
numbers of teachers demonstrated in Lahore against government plans to
privatize the education system.

Click on the title to go to the full article.

The probabilities that the Lawyers will win: not good.

Pakistan's leading lawyers are seeking the annulment of the CJP's suspension by President Musharraf.
The lawyers have dropped their conflicting political affiliations and forged an unprecedented professional unity to restore the rule of law. More than 80,000 lawyers are acting in solidarity to challenge arbitrary powers that the President exercises on a regular basis with no constitutional authority. The suspension of the Chief Justice on March 9 was the President's most blatant act to intimidate the judiciary.

This is the first time in Pakistan's history that lawyers have dropped their conflicting political affiliations and forged an unprecedented professional unity to restore the rule of law.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Menace of a dictator to his critics: “We are not cowards …”

Pervez Musharraf, General of the Army and President (through a rigged election), is being challenged by widespread demonstrations in many parts of Pakistan. Lawyers and other members of the middle class are accusing him of abusing his power by attempting to destroy the career of the Chief Justice of the Supreme court – a man who has been willing, unlike his predecessors, to investigate “forced disappearances,” and even to consider whether it is legal for Musharraf to hold both offices, President, and General of the Army. Musharraf is showing himself to be, in all but name, a practicing Dictator. His statement to his opponents reeks with menace: “Do not challenge us. We are not cowards like you, we have the power of the people.”

A man who both heads the army, the institution that has from almost the beginning been the actual ruler of Pakistan, and who now pretends to hold office legitimately through a popular election, accuses those ordinary people of being cowardly who are willing to risk personal wellbeing, life, limb, career, by confronting Musharraf’s police and goons in the streets.

Those of us who look in from the outside can miss the menace in this situation. His statement, “Don’t challenge us,” “We have the power,” is coupled with police beatings of demonstrators, the murder of dozens (over 40 killed) in Karachi by goons of Musharraf’s party, Muttahida Quami Movement, as the police deliberately took no action against the shooters -- such affairs reveal the mechanisms of intimidation that shape Pakistani society. Together they “say” to those who oppose Musharraf, “I will do whatever necessary to crush any challenge to my regime, even from the middle-class.” To the lawyers they say, “I will beat and murder you until all public demonstration is quelled.” To those who act as judges they say, “I will take to task any of you who fails to legitimate my actions.” To those in the media who report on and take pictures of the brutality in the streets they say, “I can brutalize you as well as them, and I can ruin your investments.”

So where is the cowardice? Among those unarmed professional types willing to risk life and limb and career to insist on rule by law? Or with a dictator holed up in his presidential palace, protected by thousands of armed military personnel? This is a dictator who claims he has no control over the Islamists running armed camps in the tribal areas. At least he has the power to threaten and brutalize its own unarmed citizenry.

We cannot blame the ordinary people of Pakistan for the contradictory policies of this administration – jailing militant Islamists with much fanfare, releasing them quietly a few weeks later; claiming legitimacy to rule but brutalizing any popular movement against their control. The voters have demonstrated in previous elections only a tepid support for the Islamists (5 to 10 percent of their vote in the past). Pakistanis as a whole are not militant or radical. The problem lies with the leadership, who are too cowardly or perhaps too venal to give the Pakistani public what it craves: honest, courageous government.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Have Pakistani Intelligence Agencies Been Backing Islamic Insurgency?

The answer to this question is , "Of course!" How much more evidence is necessary?

By Carlotta Gall
International Herald Tribune

"The most explosive question about the Taliban resurgence here along the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan is this: Have Pakistani intelligence agencies been promoting the Islamic insurgency?"
"...Pakistani intelligence agencies ... have been supporting a Taliban restoration, motivated not only by Islamic fervor but also by a longstanding view that the jihadist movement allows them to assert greater influence on Pakistan's vulnerable western flank."
"At Jamiya Islamiya, a religious school here in Quetta, Taliban sympathies are on flagrant display, and residents say students have gone with their teachers' blessings to die in suicide bombings in Afghanistan."
"The Pakistani military and intelligence services have for decades used religious parties as a convenient instrument to keep domestic political opponents at bay and for foreign policy adventures"
"The Inter-Services Intelligence once had an entire wing dedicated to training jihadis ... Today the religious parties probably have enough of their own people to do the training"
"Pakistan has long seen jihadi movements like the Taliban as a counter to Indian and Russian influence next door in Afghanistan"

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Over tea, Afghan prisoners describe torture

By Rosie DiManno
The Toronto Star

"They've been to hell and survived it. Now they're in prison purgatory and blessedly thankful for it.
In ... Sarposa Provincial Prison [in Kandahar] ... there's even tea with the warden in his office and candy in a crystal goblet, a pleasant if suspiciously contrived tableau."
"A damn sight better than ... torture allegedly inflicted during an earlier period of incarceration in the notorious National Directorate of Security headquarters across town."
"two inmates, both convicted as Taliban operatives ... have been summoned here to be
interviewed by the Star"
"Mohammed Nadar, 43, is serving a seven-year sentence; Amadullah, 35, is down for 14 years."
"...scars have healed, they say, since being transferred to Sarposa from the widely feared NDS, this country's intelligence police agency, usually mentioned only in whispers."
"The alleged torment of detainees at the un-tender mercies of the NDS has triggered a firestorm in Ottawa, with accusations that Canada is complicit in their abuse because they were turned over by Canadian troops as per a transfer agreement signed with Afghanistan in 2005."
"There appears little pity for the vast majority of prisoners who routinely – according to human rights organizations – suffer horrendous mistreatment in custody"
" 'I was kept for six months in a cage that was less than 2 metres wide, with two other prisoners,' says Amadullah. 'I thought, I will die in here. And for what? I've never even been presented with an
arrest warrant.' "
"Mohammed, in contrast to Amadullah, tells a more gruesome tale of the interrogation methods used against him by the NDS. His crime – and conviction in sharia court – arose from denouncement as a Taliban militant ... 'They whipped me with rubber hoses. Another time, they used a chain to hang me from the ceiling, my head towards the floor. Always they kept saying: Tell us the truth! Tell us what you know!' "
"Their miserable fate apparently doesn't trouble the Canadian conscience"

Pakistan: The Taliban takeover

By Ziauddin Sardar
New Statesman

"Pakistan is reverberating with the call of jihad. For more than two months, the capital, Islamabad, has been held hostage by a group of burqa-clad women, armed with sticks and shouting: 'Al-jihad, al-jihad.' "
" A new generation of militants is emerging in Pakistan ... they emerged after the US invasion of Afghanistan and represent a revolt against the government's support for the US. Mostly unemployed, not all of them are madrasa-educated. They are led by young mullahs who, unlike the original Taliban, are technology- and media-savvy, and are also influenced by various indigenous tribal nationalisms, honouring the tribal codes that govern social life in Pakistan's rural areas"
"The Pakistani Taliban now dominate the northern province of Waziristan, adjacent to Afghanistan"
"Taliban-type militias have also taken control of parts of the adjacent [North-West Frontier Province]"
"Why is the ostensibly secular government of President Pervez Musharraf not taking any action against the Taliban militants and the parties that support them? Part of the answer lies in the militants and religious parties having served the military regime well. After coming to power in 1999, Musharraf used them to neutralise the mainstream political parties"
" Pakistan's foreign policy towards Afghanistan is based on the assumption that the Nato forces therewill withdraw sooner rather than later"
"While Musharraf continues to placate the Taliban, the rest of Pakistan is standing up against Talibanisation. Huge demonstrations have been held ... throughout Pakistan"

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Scapegoating Pakistan

It is scarry to think that Pakistan, despite its denials, is not only promoting the Taliban but also sees its future to be linked to maintaining the Taliban. How do they know that the Taliban will not get out of the cage? What will the tiger do to his handlers?

By Ken Silverstein
Harper's Magazine

"It is now the conventional wisdom in Washington that American efforts to defeat Al Qaeda are being undermined by Pakistan."
"There are factions within Pakistan's political and defense establishment ... that are sympathetic to the Taliban"
"But is Pakistan really to blame for our failures to stomp out Al Qaeda?"
" former senior CIA official Michael Scheuer [said] ... 'The first duty of any intelligence agency,' he said, 'is to protect the national interest. Pakistan is not going to destroy the Taliban because at some point they would like to see the Taliban back in power. They cannot tolerate a pro-Indian, pro-American, pro-Russian, pro-Iranian government in Afghanistan."
"The conduct of the ISI has been a source of concern, and not without reason. The agency, which worked closely with the CIA during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, subsequently helped bring the Taliban to power in 1996."
"The ISI has a strong radical Islamist influence due in part to its primary role in protecting Pakistan from India, a conflict framed in religious terms."
"Add to this that the United States is unpopular in Pakistan."
"How does this play out in the real world? Very simply, Pakistan cooperates with the United States when it serves its interests and doesn't cooperate when it feels that its interests aren't served.Islamabad has, despite all the current hysteria to the contrary, generally cooperated in fighting Al Qaeda—indeed, Musharraf has survived several assassination attempts by Al Qaeda, and Pakistan's Army has taken more casualties in the tribal areas than NATO and coalition forces in Afghanistan."

Pakistan's Shaky Dictatorship

Graham Usher is putting out reports on Pakistan's tribal areas that we all need to read carefully. This -- despite all the hoopla about affairs elsewhere -- is the real epicenter of the war on terror. And it seems, for the time being beyond reach. It is not only that several kinds of militant Islamist groups are ensconced there; it is that they are welcome there, or at least welcome enough to gain control of the territory. Usher's subtext is that the US is happy with a military dictatorship in Pakistan. Not what the governments anywhere are free to say.

By Graham Usher
The Nation

"Pakistan's President-General, Pervez Musharraf, is facing his worst crisis since he took power in a coup in October 1999. The last three weeks of March have seen violent protests in Islamabad, Lahore and other cities led by black-suited lawyers but followed, increasingly,by once-docile political parties, including the Pakistan People's Party (PPP) of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. All scent that more than seven years of military rule may be coming to a close."
"Unaccountable military rule is one constant of Pakistani politics.American power is another. Two weeks before the lawyers took to the barricades, US Vice President Dick Cheney flew into Islamabad in a Black Hawk helicopter. He was in town to deliver a "tough message" to the Pakistani leader. Since September Washington has become exercised by peace agreements Musharraf signed with pro-Taliban tribesmen in Pakistan's border areas with Afghanistan."
"These pacts have not only failed to reduce the flow of Taliban and Al-Qaeda guerrillas into Afghanistan; they have created ungoverned spaces in which Taliban and foreign fighters have regrouped for a spring offensive"
"What the army did not foresee was the way Islamization would rupture the tribal order on which its rule rested. As a result of the anti-Soviet insurgency and then the Taliban government in Afghanistan,power in tribal areas slipped away from "political agents" and tribal elders appointed by Islamabad. It fell instead to young clerics or mullahs and their followers, who, like them, were poor,disenfranchised and radical. These are the 'Pakistan Taliban.' "
" The agreements consecrated the Pakistan Taliban as a political power"
"Which brings us back to the Chief Justice and protesting lawyers in Islamabad. Their demands are no longer just for the defense of an independent judiciary. They want Musharraf to stand down, exiled civilian leaders like Benazir Bhutto to come home and free and fair elections"
"But is Washington ready to tolerate change?So far no US government official has called for a return to civilian rule in Pakistan."


The open letter to George Tenet by former CIA officers Phil Giraldi, Ray McGovern, Larry Johnson, Jim Marcinkowski, Vince Cannistraro, David MacMichael and distributed to the press by Larry Johnson, and later signed by a long list of former officials, military and intelligence, denounces not only George Tenet but a long list of the top decision makers of this administration: George Bush, Richard Cheney, Richard Rumsfeld, Condi Rice. And it further embarrasses the Attorney General by the statement: “you were the Alberto Gonzales of the intelligence community -- a grotesque mixture of incompetence and sycophancy shielded by a genial personality.” One more exposure of the irresponsibility of the administration of this country for the last several years.

One of the great blessings of this country, scarcely ever mentioned, is a highly professional bureaucracy. Many of those who serve in the intelligence community, as well as the military, and the other agencies of government are the best that our country can produce. A strength of our system is that these highly professional and dedicated people are placed at the disposal of the elected leaders of our country. Collectively they represent great erudition, great knowledge, and even much wisdom. But collectively they are at the mercy of elected leaders. When our leaders are irresponsible, incompentent, indifferent to the high requirements of leading the greatest economic, political, and military system in human history, the American people and indeed the peoples of the world lose. Thanks to those eminent figures mentioned in this letter, we have all lost much.

Here, in brief, are the most damning statements in the letter to Tenet. [From, accessed 5/3/07]:

“Vice President Dick Cheney and other Bush administration officials took the United States to war for flimsy reasons.”

“…. the war of choice in Iraq was ill-advised and wrong headed.”

“You were a willing participant in a poorly considered policy to start an unnecessary war and you share culpability with Dick Cheney and George Bush for the debacle in Iraq.”

“Those who remained silent when they could have made a difference also share the blame …”

“You helped send very mixed signals to the American people and their legislators in the fall of 2002. CIA field operatives produced solid intelligence in September 2002 that stated clearly there was no stockpile of any kind of WMD in Iraq. This intelligence was ignored and later misused. On October 1 you signed and gave to President Bush and senior policy makers a fraudulent National Intelligence Estimate (NIE)—which dovetailed with unsupported threats presented by Vice President Dick Cheney in an alarmist speech on August 26, 2002.”

“… the White House tried to present as fact intelligence you knew was unreliable.”

“Although CIA officers learned in late September 2002 from a high-level member of Saddam Hussein's inner circle that Iraq had no past or present contact with Osama bin Laden and that the Iraqi leader considered bin Laden an enemy of the Baghdad regime, you still went before Congress in February 2003 and testified that Iraq did indeed have links to Al Qaeda.”

“…the Bush Administration pushed and cajoled analysts and managers to let them
make the bogus claim that Iraq was on the verge of getting its hands on uranium.”

“…you allowed suspect sources, like Curveball, to be used based on very limited reporting and evidence. Yet you were informed in no uncertain terms that Curveball was not reliable.”

“… you were the Alberto Gonzales of the intelligence community -- a grotesque mixture of incompetence and sycophancy shielded by a genial personality.

“Your candor during your one-on-one with Sir Richard Dearlove, then-head of British Intelligence, of July 20, 2002" provides documentary evidence that you knew exactly what you were doing; namely, "fixing" the intelligence to the policy.”

“By your silence you helped build the case for war. You betrayed the CIA officers who collected the intelligence that made it clear that Saddam did not pose an imminent threat. You betrayed the analysts who tried to withstand the pressure applied by Cheney and Rumsfeld.”

“Your silence contributed to the willingness of the public to support the disastrous war in Iraq, which has killed more than 3300 Americans and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis.”

“The reality of Iraq, however, has not made our nation more secure nor has the cause of human liberty been advanced. In fact, your tenure as head of the CIA has helped create a world that is more dangerous.”

“…you seem still to lack an adequate appreciation of the enormous amount of death and carnage you have facilitated.”

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Journalist's death casts long shadow over afghan government

One cannot avoid the feeling that in the long run the senseless killing of innocent people -- here the journalist Ajmal Naqshbandi -- by those who identify with Al Qaeda / Taliban is counterproductive. True, it was an iniquitous blunder for Karzai to arrange for the Italian journalist to be freed while he left the Afghan journalist to languish in limbo, ultimately to die. But who will respect those who killed him? Even if a population could be brought under subjection to such brutes, would their subjects respect them, trust them? The ultimate cost to the militant movement will be fatal; no one will want to deal with them. This seems to me the fate of the takfir movement -- the movement that declares that all those who do not subscribe to their own legalistic practice of Islam should be killed. Who wants to live in a world like this? Beneath the takfir movement is an unspoken desperation: either society must be subjected to the formalities of religious observance by force or all will be lost. Indeed, if we refer to authentic "hearts and minds" all has already been lost.

By Hafizullah Gardesh
Institute for War and Peace Reporting

"The news hit the airwaves on April 8 ... the young journalist [Ajmal Naqshbandi] had been beheaded"
"Within hours, the country was in uproar ... a Kabul resident, could not speak of Ajmal without tears in his eyes.'Why are these oppressors killing you [journalists], who have no weapons besides a pen and a notebook?' he said."
"Newspapers were printed with a black-bordered portrait of Ajmal onApril 10, and electronic media observed two minutes of silence."
" 'After this, journalists will never feel safe, because they have no support,' [Fazel Hossein Sancharaki, head of the National Union of Journalists] said. 'This will have a very negative impact on freedom of speech in Afghanistan.' "
"However, the Taleban are also losing some support."
" 'The Taleban are killers,' said Mustafa, 22, a resident of LashkarGah. 'This time they killed simple Afghans - a driver and a journalist. That is a very great crime.' "

Why there was no exit plan

Seiler and Hamburg are stating what many of us have surmised but have had no certainty of. That the United States is committed to establishing a major position in Iraq -- for many reasons, at least some of them being its strategic location with respect to oil and gas resources -- has been evident from the beginning (and there is that huge new embassy, over a 100 acres in size, in construction). But these guys now have formulated more explicitly why our troops are there. What it means is that despite the quarreling over withdrawing troops out of there our troops will not leave; they will instead disappear into huge bases, from which they will reappear only when our government feels it is necessary.

By Lewis Seiler and Dan Hamburg
San Franscisco Chronical

"There are people in Washington ... who never intend to withdraw military forces from Iraq"
-- former President Jimmy Carter, Feb. 3, 2006

"There is to be no withdrawal from Iraq, just as there has been no withdrawal from hundreds of places around the world that are outposts of the American empire."
"The United States maintains 737 military bases in 130 countries across the globe. They exist for the purpose of defending the economic interests of the United States, what is euphemistically called 'national security.' In order to secure favorable access to Iraq's vast reserves of light crude, the United States is spending billions on the construction of at least five large permanent military bases throughout that country."
"A new Iraq oil law, largely written by the Coalition Provisional Authority,is planned for ratification by June. This law cedes control of Iraq's oil to western powers for 30 years"
"The question we must ask as citizens is this: Is the United States a democratic republic or an empire? History demonstrates that it's not possible to be both."