Have an enjoyable holiday weekend. Back here on Monday or Tuesday.
November 23, 2007
November 21, 2007
Just one telling excerpt from a radio interview with a top-ranked reporter covering Baghdad.
…What you find is a real loathing and contempt for Blackwater and the other private security contractors, a feeling that they’re a bunch of cowboys. You know, they come into an area an American commander’s trying to deal with and they mess things up, and you don’t know they’re there. They don’t coordinate. They don’t tell you they’re coming through. And most of all, that they don’t have the best interest of the country in mind. All they’re there is to make a buck by executing their contract, and their contract is to keep their principal alive, to perform their bodyguard function, at the expense of everything else. American troops know that sometimes you might have to die in the course of your duty rather than, say, kill a bunch of kids. And they really make sacrifices in executing their duty.
And they’re very unhappy when they see these boys cowboying it up, is the term they use, acting like a bunch of cowboys. I was actually talking to a brigade commander about this, and I said, `Would you want the responsibility of having these guys in your chain of command, of having to discipline them?’ And he said, `Absolutely.’ He said, `It would be a lot of extra work to try to keep tabs on these guys, but it’s a lot better than having them just shoot through my’–what he calls–`my battle space, my area, without me knowing about it and messing up the area and maybe undercutting my progress.’
I think that the security contractor situation has really come into relief this year, though, because, for years, some American units acted in a way not unlike the way the security contractors act.… Audio Link
Two top generals of the US army assured Turkey on Wednesday that the terrorist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) will be eliminated by May next year, a top military official said on Wednesday.
They also expressed that Turkey had the right to launch a cross-border operation into northern Iraq for purposes of self-defense. The two US commanders expressed the opinion that an air-offensive into northern Iraq to root out terrorist bases there might be better than conducting an operation on land.
Turkey and the US should decide on the exact date and time of such an air operation in a coordinated manner so that Turkish warplanes will not run into US planes, the sides agreed. The US would also assist Turkey by not having its fighter jets fly in that zone and opening Iraqi airspace to Turkish planes.
Cartwright and Petraeus also reported that troops of the Kurdish administration in northern Iraq would retreat to their own positions as soon as Turkey launches a cross-border operation.
Reportedly, after Turkish warplanes hit PKK targets in northern Iraq, Turkish and US officials have agreed that instead of sending large amounts of troops to the region, Turkey should launch operations against the PKK camps using the 20 squads currently positioned in the Turkish military base in Bamerni in northern Iraq. This deal is considered the strongest indication of the fact that Turkey will not launch a comprehensive land operation into northern Iraq. Article
Afghanistan summary here.
73½ months on…
The conflict in Afghanistan has reached “crisis proportions”, with the resurgent Taliban present in more than half the country and closing in on Kabul, a report said on Wednesday.
[snip]…The insurgency now controls vast swaths of unchallenged territory including rural areas, some district centres, and important road arteries.” Article
Switzerland announced on Wednesday that it would end its four years’ cooperation with the NATO-led international forces in Afghanistan by recalling its military personnel.
Two Swiss army officers, currently working with a German team in the northeastern Kunduz province, will return home by March next year, Swiss Defense Minister Samuel Schmid told a press conference in Bern, the Swissinfo website reported.
Schmid said he took the decision for security reasons. The NATO-led mission in Afghanistan has become a peace enforcement operation rather than a peacekeeping duty, he said.
According to Schmid, a continued Swiss military presence in Afghanistan - although “rather symbolic” - is impossible because it goes against the spirit of the constitution and is not in line with the law.
According to the Swiss Defense Ministry, the nature of NATO’s engagement in Afghanistan has changed since 2005. But its mission has progressively turned into a campaign against insurgents.
Even in the regions where warlords and fighters only carry out sporadic activity, the mission has faced difficulties because of the need for troops to resort to self-protection measures.
In areas of the country where the Taliban have regained strength, reconstruction work has become practically impossible, the Swiss authorities said. Article
Turning the aphorism on its head, the chaotic whole is less than the sum of its parts.
National unity has always been a difficult concept in Afghanistan, a country with a bewildering array of ethnic and tribal groups, and language often serves as the lightening rod for controversy. The issue recently resurfaced with a government plan to dramatically increase the number of Pashto-language schools in Kabul, the predominantly Dari-speaking capital.
While some politicians applauded the education ministry’s initiative, it has prompted a strong backlash from others.
During a roundtable discussion on Tolo TV, Kabul member of parliament Najibullah Kabuli went as far as calling the initiative a “crime”, and accused Education Minister Hanif Atmar of seeking to sow disunity among schoolchildren.
Dari and Pashto are by far the most widespread languages in Afghanistan, and very roughly speaking prevail in the north and south, respectively. Kabul parliamentary Fawzia Nasiryar pointed out that many other languages are spoken throughout Afghanistan, for instance Uzbek and Turkmen. If Kabul’s Pashtuns have access to education in their language, other linguistic minorities should be granted the same right, she argued.
“This action by the education minister is a tribal action,” she claimed. “If it isn’t tribal, why hasn’t he built schools for other languages? The minister is taking such action only for the sake of his tribe.”
Ministry spokesman Afghan defended the cabinet’s decision to create separate schools for Pashtuns, who are by far the largest group in Kabul using a language other than Dari in daily life.
There are about 200,000 Pashtun students in the city, according to ministry statistics. Of those, only 20,000 actually study in Pashto. Just five out of Kabul’s 175 schools are Pashto-only, while nine more provide classes in both Pashto and Dari. Article
Pakistan’s ousted chief justice remains under arrest, a day after officials said judges detained under emergency rule could move around freely.
Iftikhar Chaudhry tried to leave his Islamabad residence but was stopped from doing so by security forces.
Meanwhile, President Musharraf has amended the constitution to prevent future legal challenges to his actions.
Mr Chaudhry tried to leave his residence on Wednesday but was stopped from going to the Supreme Court by large numbers of security forces ringing his residence.
Another judge, former presidential candidate Wajihuddin Ahmed, tried to visit Mr Chaudhry and was briefly detained along with a lawyer. Article
A bit more:
The capital police Wednesday arrested lawyers and members of civil society including the former presidential candidate, Justice (Retd.) Wajihuddin Ahmed and Advocate Athar Min-Allah here from Judges Colony and took them to an unknown location.
The administration intercepted the above persons by erecting barricades and deploying heavy security forces on the way leading to the Chief Justice House and later arrested them in front of an area hotel. Article
#2 — and it is damned past time for a voice in authority to squarely and robustly lay this on the table.
The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights [said] on Tuesday the restoration of the independence of Pakistan’s judiciary is as important as the holding of elections.
The UN rights chief said Pakistan had turned down her request for a visit but she would be in transit in Islamabad Wednesday.
She said it was worrying that “nobody seems to be calling for a reversal on this attack on the judiciary,” adding it remained to be seen if the democratic process could “regain its momentum” after the recent events.
“I think a lot of judges have refused to pledge to take an oath of allegiance to the new regime, but because of the state of emergency we haven’t seen the level of protest that otherwise could have manifested itself,” she said. Article
Analysis du jour:
In 1999, after mounting a coup, General Pervez Musharraf spoke to the nation late at night. One of the reasons he attributed for the necessity of the coup was Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif disturbing the integrity of the Pakistan army by summarily replacing Musharraf with another general. That telling observation indicated the army’s perception of its role in Pakistan.
The integrity of the army was more important than the integrity of the country, and for that an elected government had to be removed. This perception has guided the Pakistan army through the country’s independent history. The past and future of Musharraf is better understood through the conviction of the Pakistan army’s image of itself.
The question being asked now is if, when and in what manner Musharraf would leave office. But the real question is: How would the Pakistan army respond to the possibility of Musharraf either continuing in or leaving the political scene?… Article
Stifled freedoms: Like a homely dowager dripping with jewels the entire flawed, shabby and unattractive process is weighted down with layer upon layer upon layer of smothering (and deligitimizing) secrecy.
Five news organizations complained Wednesday that they are being denied access to much of the military commission proceeding against a Canadian terror suspect.
Various arguments in the case of Omar Khadr at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, are apparently made via e-mail - a communications channel to which the public has no access - and issues apparently are being raised in closed sessions for which no transcripts or summaries are available, the news organizations, including The Associated Press, wrote in a filing.
In addition, the filing stated, the public is not permitted access to motions and other documents submitted by the parties and “even the existence of a motion is not currently disclosed in any publicly accessible way.”
Besides The AP, the organizations are The New York Times Co., Dow Jones & Company Inc., The Hearst Corp. and The McClatchy Company.
The presiding judge, Army Col. Peter Brownback, has postponed a decision on whether Khadr can be tried by the military as an unlawful enemy combatant. Khadr has not entered a plea, and no trial date has been set.
The military commissions, which will be conducted at Guantanamo Bay, are the first to be conducted since World War II. It is important that the proceeding in the Khadr case not only be fair but that it be perceived as fair, and that cannot happen unless the public is able to follow and understand the events as they transpire, the five news organizations said.
The Military Commissions Act and its regulations make clear that the public’s right to access extends beyond an actual trial to all proceedings, the filing stated.
In addition, the news organizations argued, the First Amendment protects the press and the public from blocking their rights of access to information about the operation of their government. Article
The dismal road of the woebegone G. Walker administration, particularly higlighted by the emphasis added here.
The US federal judge who presided over the Zacarias Moussaoui terrorism conspiracy case suggested from the bench Tuesday that she might order a new trial for a Muslim cleric convicted of soliciting treason, saying that she could no longer trust representations made by the US government in light of recent revelations that it had withheld evidence during the Moussaoui proceeding. Source
November 20, 2007
Things seem to have returned to at least a semblance of normalcy on this side of the computer screen, so will be attempting to maintain a more regular schedule.
Anti-women violence in Basra, Iraq’s second largest city, about 600 km south of the capital, Baghdad, has increased markedly in recent months and has forced women to stay indoors, police and local NGOs have said.
“Basra is facing a new type of terror which leaves at least 10 women killed monthly, some of them are later found in garbage dumps with bullet holes while others are found decapitated or mutilated,” the city’s police chief Maj. Gen. Abdel Jalil Khalaf told IRIN in a telephone interview.
Like other parts of Iraq, Basra before the US-led invasion in 2003 was known for its mixed population and active night life with social and night clubs. Basra women had the right to choose their own life-style although it was considered a tribal society.
But now vigilantes patrol the streets of Basra on motorbikes or in cars with dark-tinted windows and no license plates. They accost women who are not wearing the traditional dress and head scarf known as hijab. They also attack men for clothes or haircuts deemed too Western. Article
Shorter version: Tooth(less) or consequences.
Iraq’s government turned up the heat on private security firms on Tuesday, threatening to deal firmly with those that act outside the law and opening an investigation into the shooting of a woman in central Baghdad.
Monday’s shooting was the latest in a string of incidents that have triggered widespread anger and prompted the Iraqi government to propose a change to the laws under which foreign security contractors operate.
The U.S. military said those responsible for the shooting in Baghdad on Monday could be charged under Iraqi law because the company involved, Dubai-based ALMCO, is a logistics contractor for food supply, construction and training, not a security firm.
Contacted in Dubai, ALMCO declined comment on the incident.
“We demand that all security companies obey the law and orders released by the Iraqi government, otherwise the security forces will be obliged to deal firmly with these companies,” Baghdad security spokesman Brigadier-General Qassim Moussawi told a news conference.
Moussawi said Iraqi officials would try to bring charges against those responsible for seriously wounding the woman.
“There was a violation of Iraqi law,” he said. “They were driving on the wrong side of the road, there was a random shooting and they hit a woman in her legs.”
An investigation has been launched into the incident, government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said in a statement.
Statements from the firm’s employees, taken in front of a civil judge, “revealed attempted murder of Iraqi civilians and other violations”, Dabbagh said.
“The Iraqi government will release those not found guilty in the Karrada incident once the investigation is concluded.”
Moussawi and government officials identified 43 people detained at an Iraqi checkpoint after the shooting as including 21 Sri Lankans, nine Nepalis and one Indian.
There were 12 guards — 10 Iraqis and two Fijians — with the convoy of four vehicles, they said. Article
Iraqi authorities on Monday detained at least 33 foreigners, including two men with U.S. Department of Defense-issued identification cards, in connection with a shooting incident in central Baghdad that injured a woman, the U.S. military said.
Also on Monday, the governor of Muthanna province said U.S. troops were no longer welcomed in the town of Samawa after U.S. troops opened fire on civilians there Sunday. Two people were reported dead in that incident on Sunday; a hospital worker said a third died Monday.
“We don’t want the American troops to enter Samawa, and we will oppose if they enter,” said the governor, Ahmed Marzook al Salal, who suspended cooperation with U.S. reconstruction efforts Sunday to protest the shooting. “We were handed responsibility for security a year ago, and we are not in need of the American troops.”
Maj. Bradford Leighton, a spokesman for the U.S. military, said it was unclear whether the men were on business related to their contracts. Leighton said that the company wasn’t contracted as a security firm and that it was required to provide its own security. The men were detained by Iraqi police and are being held at an Iraqi army base that they share with U.S. troops. A few coalition soldiers are staying with the men, Leighton said.… Article
Iraqi Kurds issued a scathing rebuke of Iraq’s oil minister, who has warned companies signing deals in the north will be kept out of the rest of the country.
“Our contracts with the (international oil companies) are both constitutional and legal within the framework of the Kurdistan Oil and Gas Law, the only existing framework regulating our oil industry in the post-Saddam era,” the Kurdistan Regional Government said in a statement Tuesday.
“It is amazing that a Minister in Baghdad should continue to threaten international oil companies with sanctions and punishment because they have decided to invest in one of the secure and safe parts of Iraq,” the statement said. Article
Destroyed, seized, pinched or stolen? No matter how it is sliced, the loss is immense, and the onus lies with the woebegone G. Walker administration.
Thousands of manuscripts have disappeared among them priceless copies of the Holy Koran, an Iraqi librarian said.
The librarian, who wanted his name kept secret, said the manuscripts were “expropriated” by a U.S.-led force shortly after the 2003 invasion of Baghdad.
The former government had moved the manuscripts from the national library shelves to a cellar close to the Umm al-Teboul mosque in Baghdad for fear of damage or theft.
The librarian said the troops removed the manuscripts from the cellar but there is no trace of them.
Eyewitnesses say they still remember the troops carrying the manuscripts from the cellar onto vehicles.
U.S. troops say they have no knowledge of the manuscripts and their spokesman, Abdullatif Rayan, denied that U.S. troops had entered the cellar where the books were kept.
Most of these manuscripts were at least 1,000 years old, added the librarian. Article
The Iraqi Football Association said [Tuesday] it plans to block three players from joining foreign clubs and may try to ban them from international matches after they sneaked off after an Olympic qualifier in Australia with plans to seek asylum.
The association’s Secretary-General Ahmed Abbas said it was considering “severe punishment” against the players, who secretly left their team hotel just hours after losing 2-0 in a 2008 Olympic qualifier on Saturday.
Midfielder Ali Abbas, one of the heroes of Iraq’s stunning Asian Cup triumph in July, was among the defectors.… Article
The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) has said it will not allows news agencies to send journalists to interview members of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) at their bases near Iraq’s northern border…. Article
Three defiant judges of the Supreme Court, who are presently under house arrest after imposition of emergency, have now declared in their detailed judgment submitted before the SC last Friday that General Musharraf could not be allowed to contest the presidential elections.
These judges who had refused to take oath under the PCO, have also observed in their joint judgment, which has not been released to the media, that continuation of Musharraf as the army chief beyond December 31, 2004 was “illegal and unlawful”.
The judges, Justice Rana Bhagwandas, Justice Sardar Mohammad Raza Khan and Mian Shakirullah Jan, were part of the nine-member bench which had dismissed the petitions of Qazi Hussain Ahmed and Imran Khan on September 28, 2007 with regard to the question whether Musharraf could contest election from the present assemblies with or without uniform. Article
Thousands of people fled from a valley in northwest Pakistan as security forces stepped up an offensive against pro-Taliban militants, while fighting killed 19 people. Advancing ground troops killed 15 militants in the Shangla district in the scenic Swat valley, the site of fierce clashes with insurgents led by hardline Islamist cleric Maulana Fazlullah in recent weeks in which more than 300 people have died. Article
Police in Pakistan’s southern port city of Karachi on Tuesday baton-charged journalists protesting curbs on the media imposed by President Pervez Musharraf and arrested more 150 people, news reports said.
Several demonstrators were injured in the clashes, which occurred outside the city’s press club, Geo News reported on its website, the television channel’s only service still operating after it was shut down by the government at midnight Friday. Article
It’s not called critical mass for nothing.
Pakistan’s nuclear weapons are already under American control even as analysts are working themselves into a lather on the subject, a well-regarded intelligence journal has said.
In a stunning disclosure certain to stir up things in Washington’s (and in Islamabad and New Delhi’s) strategic community, the journal Stratfor reported on Monday that the “United States delivered a very clear ultimatum to Musharraf in the wake of 9/11: Unless Pakistan allowed US forces to take control of Pakistani nuclear facilities, the United States would be left with no choice but to destroy those facilities, possibly with India’s help.”
“This was a fait accompli that Musharraf, for credibility reasons, had every reason to cover up and pretend never happened, and Washington was fully willing to keep things quiet,” the journal, which is widely read among the intelligence community, said.
The Stratfor commentary came in response to an earlier New York Times story that reported that the Bush administration had spent around $100 million to help Pakistan safeguard its nuclear weapons, but left it unclear if Washington has a handle on the arsenal. Article
Contours of ceremonial chaos.
Hamid Karzai flew to Kandahar last month for a ceremony that later emerged as a key moment in the war against the Taliban, although many people here are still arguing about whether the Afghan president averted disaster or opened a new tribal conflict with his visit to the south.
Mr. Karzai arrived shortly after the legendary warrior Mullah Naqib died of a heart attack on Oct. 11. As hundreds of mourners gathered in the front garden of Mr. Naqib’s home on the north side of Kandahar city, the president stood and placed a silver turban on the boyish head of Kalimullah Naqibi, the tribal elder’s 26-year-old son.
Some politicians in the city approved of the President’s action, viewing it as a swift intervention to give the tribe a leader with firm loyalty to the central government. Mr. Naqibi and his supporters say the move was purely decorous, a symbol of the President’s approval for a decision already taken by top elders in the tribe.
But senior members of the Alokozai’s leadership are publicly expressing their discontent, blaming Mr. Karzai for interfering in their affairs and violating their traditions. Installing an untested young man as their tribal leader has hurt security, they say, pointing to the fact that, within weeks of the decision, Canadian and Afghan troops were required to push back the first major Taliban attack on Alokozai lands north of the city.
General Khan Mohammed, an Alokozai tribesman who serves as an adviser to the Interior Minister, said he recently visited Mr. Karzai at his palace with another senior elder to complain about the selection of the young leader.
“I said, ‘Why did you put the turban on Kalimullah’s head?’” Gen. Mohammed said in an interview at his home in the capital. “The tribe didn’t choose this leader. I told him, you’re increasing the violence in our lands.”
Variations of the same question are asked in private by senior politicians in Kandahar, who say the disgruntled contenders for the Alokozai leadership are trying to revoke the blessings they have already bestowed on Mr. Naqibi.
But the rules of Pashtun tribal etiquette forbade anybody from raising a fuss in the wake of Mr. Naqib’s death, Gen. Mohammed said, so the elders in attendance that night didn’t feel comfortable raising their voices against the President. Article
Centuries — nay, eons — to hone an accepted and viable judicial system set on a foundation of developed law and precedent, all but ground underfoot by the ‘make it up as we go along, the King cannot be wrong’ presumptions of the woebegone G. Walker administration. The world screams “Nay.”
The United Nations has registered its unease over the military trial of Canadian terror suspect Omar Khadr.
Radkhika Coomaraswamy, the UN Special Representative for Children in Armed Conflict, complained Tuesday to the secretary of state’s top legal adviser, John Bellinger.
“She raised her concerns about the creation of an international precedent where an individual is being tried for war crimes with regard to alleged acts committed when he was a child,” said spokeswoman Laurence Gerard.
Human rights groups say his military trial contravenes the Optional Protocol of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which the United States has signed.
The protocol says youths under the age of 18 in armed conflict are entitled to special protection. Article
The number of Somalis uprooted by fighting in their own country has hit a “staggering” one million, with nearly 200,000 streaming out of the capital in the past two weeks alone, the United Nations said on Tuesday.
n a separate development, Mogadishu’s mayor ordered on Tuesday the closure of all independent radio stations in the city in response to a 24-hour strike by broadcasters protesting earlier crackdowns on fellow stations.
Also on Tuesday, Burundi delayed the deployment of 825 peacekeepers to join African Union forces in Somalia, which so far only number 1,600 Ugandans.
Burundian army spokesman Adolphe Manirakiza said the first batch of soldiers would not go until the AU and Burundi signed an agreement stipulating terms of deployment.
And in Nairobi, police deported some 50 Somalis back to Mogadishu, after denying them asylum. Muslim rights groups complained the move violated humanitarian law. Article
A bit more here.
Kicking disabled vets in the gonads with a steel-toed boot.
The U.S. Military is demanding that thousands of wounded service personnel give back signing bonuses because they are unable to serve out their commitments.
To get people to sign up, the military gives enlistment bonuses up to $30,000 in some cases.
Now men and women who have lost arms, legs, eyesight, hearing and can no longer serve are being ordered to pay some of that money back. Article
Need it be repeated that it is also borrowed money?
US contracts in Iraq and Afghanistan more than doubled from 2004 to 2006 to over 25 billion dollars but government oversight of the firms involved has slackened, a watchdog group said on Monday.
“While the billions of dollars involved and the complexity of these war-related contracts has only grown, the lack of oversight has been staggering,” said Bill Buzenberg, head of the Center for Public Integrity.
The study by the independent center said government outsourcing for the two war theaters was marred by issues such as a lack of competitive bidding, missing contracts and unidentified companies.
The Centre for Public Integrity, which says it is a non-partisan group that investigates major public issues, said it was seeking more information on those contracts through the Freedom of Information Act.
The group said that 31 of the contractors on the top 100 list were foreign, including 12 from Turkey. Article
Testing the waters for more vigorous splits with the U.S.?
A top Gulf state police chief [Tuesday] surprised an international security forum by accusing the United States of increasing support for Al Qaeda and its allies by demonising Muslims. “We the Arabs are charged with terrorism no matter how much we try to reassure them (the Americans),” Dubai police chief Lieutenant-General Dhahi Khalfan Tamim told the Middle East: Homeland and Global Security Forum at the Ritz-Carlton Bahrain Hotel and Spa. Tamim’s comments shocked the audience of past and present ministers, ambassadors and other officials from the Middle East, Europe, Asia and the US. He complained of the change in the US attitude to Arabs since the September 11 attacks which, together with the invasion of Iraq and a perceived “war of civilisations” with the West, he said, had made Muslims more radical.…
Referring to the alleged US role in once helping Osama bin Laden’s activities when he was with the mujahideen fighting the Soviet presence in Afghanistan in the 1980s, Tamim said “you created the Satan” and Western experts had taught the Al Qaeda forerunners “how to make and explode bombs”.
His speech was applauded by Middle East participants in the audience but surprised Western observers. Article
Keeping up with doings in Nigeria’s restive oil region.
Shell reported that a pipeline feeding one of its export terminals was attacked and ruptured by a group of assailants.
The pipeline supplies crude oil to the Forcados oil export terminal. Shell confirmed that the attack on the pipeline occured November 15 during the early morning hours and that the pipeline was ruptured. Article
Any comment made here would be superfluous, so noted FYI:
the new Japanese woman, according to the fashion critic Ikuko Hirayama, is: “strong, robust, bursting with energy. She takes care of her body but is not obsessed with being thin. She’s proud of her biceps and also proud of her sexuality.” Accordingly, the most popular relaxation sport for single working women nowadays is “boxercising,” or the combination of boxing moves plus aerobics, which is said to increase adrenaline flow by 80 percent and is an ideal way to blow off aggression and stress.
In stark contrast, it’s the men who want to be slender, vulnerable and protected. Young males between the ages of 18 and 30 make up the slimmest segment of the population and the ideal fashion weight as decreed by the apparel industry is 57 kilograms, or about 125 pounds, for a height of 175 centimeters, or 5 feet 8 inches. Many men try to adhere to that figure and some claim they want to be even skinnier.
Twenty-five-year-old Junichi Shirakawa, who works at the denim boutique 45 RPM, said that his goal is to get his weight down from 57 to 55 kilograms, although his height is 182 centimeters. “Being really skinny is essential, not just for fashion and work purposes but also because girls seem to go for thin guys,” he said.
Both Shirakawa and his girlfriend like the fact that she weighs more than he does, and is the leader of the couple. “She’s a lot stronger than I am, can lift heavy things and go drinking until dawn. I admire that about her, and feel protected when I’m around her,” he said. Older than he by five years, it was Shirakawa’s girlfriend who made the approach, started the dating process and decided what course their relationship would take.
“Frankly, I think women should be in the driver’s seat. Society and relationships work better that way,” he said. Shirakawa likes to wear his girlfriend’s clothes and often shows up for work wearing her blouse and jeans, to the general approval of his co-workers.
Hirayama said: “For young men, wearing women’s clothes has almost become a status symbol - a confirmation of being slim and pretty and, therefore, desirable.… Article
November 18, 2007
Necessity and health concerns dictate taking some time off. With fingers crossed, the amount of time away will not be too long.
November 14, 2007
Cultural chaos: Irreplaceable loss of the ties of history and heritage.
Tall Asmar, the famous ancient Sumerian settlement, has been stripped of its contents and digging implements, the Antiquities Department said in a statement.
The site in the restive and violent Diyala Province is Iraq’s most important and significant Sumerian settlement in central Mesopotamia.
Known as Eshnunna among Mesopotamian scholars, it has given the Iraq Museum its famous and priceless collection of votive stone and marble sculptures representing tall and bearded figures with huge, staring eyes and long, pleated skirts.
“An armed group stormed the archaeological site, handcuffed the guards and stole its possessions,” the department said in a statement. Article
Damning preliminary fidndings fron ;our’ side. No study or report has yet been set up, though, to determine whether the mercenary mayhem is not an aberration but rather S.O.P.
Early findings by the FBI on a September shootout in Baghdad involving private security firm Blackwater show that at least 14 Iraqis were killed for no reason, The New York Times reported Wednesday.
In all, 17 people were killed when Blackwater private security guards opened fire in a crowded Baghdad neighborhood as they protected a State Department convoy. Blackwater said the guards came under attack.
At least 14 of the shootings broke rules for private security guards in Iraq regarding the use of deadly force, the Times reported, citing unnamed civilian and military officials briefed on the case.
Federal Bureau of Investigation agents also found no evidence that the convoy was attacked by Iraqis, as Blackwater claims.
“I wouldn’t call it a massacre,” an unnamed government official told the Times. “But to say it was unwarranted is an understatement.” Article
Related: movement from “there’s nothing we can do” to CYA.
The US security company Blackwater promised [Wednesday] that any of its guards complicit in wrongdoing would be held to account after FBI investigators were reported to have concluded the fatal shooting of 14 Iraqis was unjustified. Article
More airmen will be doing soldier-type jobs in Iraq, and those that already are can expect to be deployed longer and more often than most in the Air Force.
The Air Force next year will triple the number of airmen working under and helping the Army and the Marine Corps as part of its own “surge” in troops to Iraq, an Air Force commander said earlier this month.
Since March 2004, the Air Force has provided airmen to serve combat support roles. The airmen include civil engineers, security forces officers and intelligence analysts serving six-month tours or longer. Many doing six-month tours can expect to return home for a year and then return to Iraq, Bosworth said.
“They’re very stressed,” he said. “[But] they know they’re coming back.”
Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. T. Michael Moseley has sounded warnings about having airmen filling Army jobs they are not trained to do. Article
Afghanistan summary here.
Internal chaos abides.
The Pakistani military said Wednesday it had killed at least 33 militants, while two soldiers died in rocket attacks, as heavily-armed supporters of a pro-Taliban cleric gained control over a third town in the north-western valley of Swat. Article
Internal political chaos abides.
Pakistani authorities have charged former cricket star and opposition politician Imran Khan under the country’s anti-terror act, which includes penalties such as life imprisonment.
Khan was arrested Wednesday, shortly after arriving for a rally at Punjab University in the eastern city of Lahore. It was his first public appearance since the imposition of emergency rule.
In a separate development, Pakistani opposition politicians are considering plans to form a united front against the state of emergency and Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf. Article
More. (And also a comment from ye old scribe noting the abject silence from the U.S., the EU, etc., etc. regarding restoration of the judiciary.)/p>
The counsel of General Pervez Musharraf on Wednesday submitted in the Supreme Court a written reply to the petition of Tikka Iqbal against November 3 Proclamation of Emergency, praying that the petition be dismissed and the Proclamation be validated. Raja Ibrahim Satti advocate filed the reply through advocate-on- record Ejaz Muhammad Khan a day before the 10-member full court is due to resume hearing of the two constitutional petitions on Thursday.
The other petition has been moved by Watan Party through its counsel Barrister Zafarullah Khan.
In the reply, the counsel stated that the petition was not maintainable as the Article 3 of the Provisional Constitution Order (PCO) clearly lays down that “No court including the Supreme Court, the Federal Shariat Court, the High Courts and any Tribunal or other authority shall call in question the PCO, the Oath of Office (Judges) Order 2007 or any order made in pursuance thereof.”
The PCO also lays down that “No judgment, decree, writ, order or process whatsoever shall be made or issued by any Court or tribunal against the President or the Prime Minister or any other authority designated by the President.” Article
Short of an armada of airlifts, the alternate options for permissible overland transport are highly limited, particularly with winter setting in.
The U.S. military is looking at alternate routes to send supplies to troops in Afghanistan in case the political crisis in Pakistan makes current supply lines unavailable, the Pentagon said on Wednesday.
The U.S. military sends 75 percent of its supplies for the Afghanistan war through or over Pakistan, including 40 percent of the fuel sent to troops, the Defense Department said.
…Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell said the military had to make contingency plans due to importance of those supply lines.
“There are efforts underway right now to figure out contingency supply lines to our troops in Afghanistan if it becomes necessary to alter the way we now support our troops in Afghanistan,” Morrell said.
“In light of the fact that there is civil unrest in Pakistan, in light of the fact that there is a state of emergency in Pakistan, we feel it is responsible, given the importance of the Pakistani supply lines to our operations in Afghanistan, to have a contingency plan.”
Morrell said the United States does not send ammunition through Pakistan.
“No matter what is happening on the ground in Pakistan, it will not impact us being able to provide ammunition to troops in Afghanistan,” he said. Article
Rules and procedures exist not only to provide instruction and guidance, but also accountability.
Canadian diplomats and corrections officers in Kandahar have come across what they consider to be a clear and “credible” case of torture involving a Canadian-captured Taliban fighter.
The revelation came as the federal government was forced to release over 1,000 pages of court documents that outline in graphic detail some of the abuse claims made by Afghan prisoners.
Foreign Affairs Minister Maxime Bernier told the House of Commons about the latest case, which brings to seven the number of complaints Canadian authorities have received since Ottawa signed a revised prisoner transfer agreement with the government of Afghan president Hamid Karzai.
Senior government officials, speaking on background late in the evening, said the incident was discovered during the latest inspection by Canadian authorities of a jail – likely belonging to Afghanistan’s notorious intelligence service.
“Our trained observers came across particularly credible evidence of mistreatment,” said a senior official, who indicated the injuries were physical.
“We have since heard from the Afghans that their investigation has already been launched and they come to an initial indication of wrongdoing and that they’re considering measures that include both firing personnel and prosecution.”
Published reports last spring said as many as 30 prisoners – captured by Canadian troops, but handed over to local authorities – complained of being beaten and abused prior to the signing of a new transfer arrangement last May. Six more cases surfaced in the wake of the new deal.
Both the Canadian and Afghan governments promised investigations into the allegations last spring.
Senior officials said, with the exception of the latest case, the investigations are either incomplete – or inconclusive because record-keeping in Afghan jails is spotty.
Human rights officials have raised concern that Canadians maybe held liable under international law if they’ve been deemed to have handed someone over to be tortured.
A senior federal official, with responsibility for United Nations matters, said the issue falls into a legal gray area and that Canadians might not be accountable as long as it’s demonstrated they took every precaution to ensure torture didn’t take place.
But a University of Ottawa law professor, who first raised concern about prisoner treatment, dismissed the defence.
“We have not met our obligation under international law to avoid aiding and abetting torture,” said Amir Attaran. “If you deliver the body to them in good faith and they go away and torture, you’re safe? There’s no disputing we now know torture is taking place.”
The court records show that Canadian officials are not sure what happened to a number of the prisoners it transfered to the Afghans prior to the signing of the new arrangement. They were also put in the embarassing position of writing to the United States, which took custody of Canadian-captured insurgents between 2002-2005, to determine what happened to some of them. Article
A picture of one kind of hell, in stark strokes.
On a 40-kilometer stretch of road between the southern cities of Kismayo and Jilib, there are at least 35 checkpoints manned by armed men who take $50 to $200 from passing travelers.… Article
The US military’s operating manual for the Guantanamo prison camp has been posted on the internet, providing a glimpse of the broad rules and tiniest minutia for detaining suspected terrorists.
The 238-page manual, Standard Operating Procedures for Camp Delta, is dated March 27, 2003, and signed by Army Major General Geoffrey Miller, who was then the commander of the prison that still holds about 300 al-Qaeda and Taliban suspects.
It appeared to be an authentic copy of the rules as they existed at the time at the US naval base in Cuba, a spokesman for the Guantanamo detention operation, Lieutenant Colonel Ed Bush, said overnight. Article
IIO = Illegal Invasion and Occupation
Congress CX = 110th Congress
SNABU = Situation Negative, All Bushed Up
And So It Goes is a reincarnation and continuation of the late Vox Digitatus blog (2004 - 2006).
re: the phrase And So It Goes — A tip o' the ol' topper to Kurt Vonnegut, Lloyd Dobyns and Linda Ellerbee.