Thursday, February 23, 2006

Democracy Now: Allister Sparks; David Sirota, BuzzFlash ...

Study: Nearly 100 Detainees Have Died in US Custody
In others news, a new study from the group Human Rights First has found that nearly 100 prisoners in US custody have died in Iraq and Afghanistan in the last three and a half years. At least 34 deaths were due to suspected or confirmed homicides. Another 11 deaths were deemed suspicious and up to twelve deaths were caused by lethal torture. The report found that most deaths went un-punished. The report comes one week after a set of new photographs were released showing prisoner abuse at the US-run Abu Ghraib.
NATO General: Foreign Troops To Remain in Afghanistan For "Years and Years"
This news on Afghanistan -- the head of Canada's contingent to the NATO force in the country said foreign troops will be there for "years and years." Major General Michel Gauthier made the comments in an interview published in the Guardian of London today. The non-US contingent is set to increase to 16,000 troops in the coming months, in addition to the 20,000 US troops currently there.
Bombing of Shiite Shrine Sparks Protests, Violence
In Iraq, the bombing of a sacred Shiite shrine has set off a wave of sectarian violence that is rekindling fears of an escalated civil war. At least 60 people have been killed since the Askariya shrine was attacked Wednesday. The dead include Al-Aarabiya TV reporter Atwar Bahjat and two members of her crew. Three Sunni imams have also been reported killed. Adel Abdul Mahdi, a Shiite Iraqi Vice-President, said: "This is as 9/11 in the United States." USA Today is reporting at least 90 Sunni mosques came under attack in violent reprisals. In Basra, about 10 foreign prisoners were removed from a local jail and executed. In Baghdad, the offices of the Iraqi Islamic Party -- the country's largest Sunni group -- were attacked. Iraqi Islam Party head Tareq Al-Hashimi said: "The Iraqi Islamic party consider the attacks on mosques and the party buildings as historical crimes that demand an official stand from all (Iraqis) and to put an end to these crimes, confronting the perpetrators before it will be too late for that. We are calling on demonstrators to show self- restraint and not to be drawn behind a sectarian tension in which there will be no winner or a loser."
The above three items are from today's Democracy Now! Headlines and were selected by Amanda, Joan and WestDemocracy Now! ("always informing you," as Marcia says):
Headlines for February 23, 2006

- Bombing of Shiite Shrine Sparks Protests, Violence
- Study: Nearly 100 Detainees Have Died in US Custody
- 100 Killed, Thousands Displaced in Nigeria Religious Violence
- General: NATO To Remain in Afghanistan For "Years and Years"
- Preval Says Aristide Welcome to Return to Haiti
- South Dakota Approves Near-Total Abortion Ban
- Rumsfeld Backtracks on Iraq News Planting Denial
Legendary South African Journalist Allister Sparks on Wiretapping and Torture, Under Apartheid and Bush

We spend the hour with legendary South African editor and reporter Allister Sparks. Sparks gained fame as editor of South Africa's Rand Daily Mail in the late 1970s where he helped bring down a South African Prime Minister in a government propaganda scandal. He also helped expose the death of anti-apartheid activist Steve Biko at the hands of South Africa's security forces. In 1995, South African president Nelson Mandela appointed Sparks to the Board of the South African Broadcasting Corporation.
Sparks discusses wiretapping and torture, under apartheid last century and under the Bush administration today. He also discusses indicted Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff, and his ties to the apartheid regime. [includes rush transcript - partial]
AMY GOODMAN: Tell us about the wiretapping. That's a topic that's very hot in the United States right now, domestic surveillance.
ALLISTER SPARKS: Well, you know, I think wiretapping was pervasive in South Africa. South Africa was never quite a totalitarian society, but it was authoritarian, and it had a very tough police state dimension to it. And they all used wiretapping. I mean, what was worse than wiretapping, I think, was the planting of spies in your midst, and you suddenly find that you've got people on your own staff who are actually members of the security services, who are spying on you, and you don't know that until they turn up in court and some other members of your staff are in the dock, being prosecuted under these so-called security laws.
Highlights.  What's on everyone's mind?  The ports.  The following are highlights members have selected.  Doug notes David Sirota's "The Dirty Little Secret Behind the UAE Port Security Scandal" ( via Common Dreams):
Politicians and the media are loudly decrying the Bush administration's proposal to turn over port security to a firm owned by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) -- a country with ties to terrorists. They are talking tough about national security -- but almost no one is talking about what may have fueled the administration's decision to push forward with this deal: the desire to move forward Big Money's "free" trade agenda.
How much does "free" trade have to do with this? How about a lot. The Bush administration is in the middle of a two-year push to ink a corporate-backed "free" trade accord with the UAE. At the end of 2004, in fact, it was Bush Trade Representative Robert Zoellick who proudly boasted of his trip to the UAE to begin negotiating the trade accord. Rejecting this port security deal might have set back that trade pact. Accepting the port security deal -- regardless of the security consequences -- likely greases the wheels for the pact. That's probably why instead of backing off the deal, President Bush -- supposedly Mr. Tough on National Secuirty -- took the extraordinary step of threatening to use the first veto of his entire presidency to protect the UAE's interests. Because he knows protecting those interetsts -- regardless of the security implications for America -- is integral to the "free" trade agenda all of his corporate supporters are demanding.
It has nothing to do with Dubai being an Arab nation (that would be racist); it has everything to do with Dubai (as part of the United Arab Emirates) cozying up to the terrorists who threaten us in order to buy them off and prevent an overthrow of their corrupt sheikdom, as is the case in Saudi Arabia.
The treasonous port deal brings into direct conflict the primary domestic and foreign agendas of the Bush Administration. The former "faith-based" coordinator didn't call the White House staff the Mayberry Machiavellis for nothing.
First, you have the Rovian agenda of using the "appearance" of "a war on terrorism" to instill fear in the American Public and using that primal emotion to secure Republican victories in the voting booth (along with voter suppression and stealing an election or two, just ask Al Gore). Rove is a master of manipulating "perception," not accomplishing national security goals. In fact, a feeling of national insecurity better serves his political goals than implementing measures to assure our safety as a nation. In short, the "war on terrorism" is a political construct.
Yes, there are terrorists out there, and we should protect ourselves against them, but that is precisely not what the Bush Administration is doing. They are as incompetent in fighting terrorism as they were in dealing with Hurricane Katrina. In fact, their policies increase the risk of terrorism and the number of terrorists.
While Rove played the domestic fear fiddle, Cheney used foreign policy to advance big oil and financial interests in the Middle East. The big oil/big banking/big business agenda has a lot of leeway for friendly relationships with nations that condone or overlook the terrorists in their midst. In fact, as we and others have pointed out, the Saudi Arabian and Dubai (United Arab Emirates) royal families have paid "insurance money" to terrorists in order to prevent themselves from being overthrown.
What the Dubai port deal represents is the seedy, treacherous, greedy, cynical underside of the Bush dynasty. They are experts at playing the American public for suckers while they and the Republican Party -- which is really their Royal Treasury (along with private firms like Halliburton and the Carlyle Group) -- gorge themselves at the trough of big oil and multinational corporate sellouts.
And our third port highlight is via Zach who notes Robert Parry's "UAE, Port Security & Hariri Hit" (Consortium News):
Press accounts have noted that the UAE's port of Dubai served as the main transshipment point for Pakistani nuclear engineer Abdul Q. Khan’s illicit transfers of materiel for building atomic bombs as well as the location of the money-laundering operations used by the Sept. 11 hijackers, two of whom came from the UAE.
But the year-old mystery of the truck-bomb assassination of Hariri also has wound its way through the UAE’s port facilities. United Nations investigators tracked the assassins' white Mitsubishi Canter Van from Japan, where it had been stolen, to the UAE, according to a Dec. 10, 2005, U.N. report.
At that time, UAE officials had been unable to track what happened to the van after its arrival in Dubai. Presumably the van was loaded onto another freighter and shipped by sea through the Suez Canal to Lebanon, but the trail had gone cold in the UAE.
Security Skills
While not spelling out the precise status of the investigation in the UAE, the Dec. 10 report said U.N. investigators had sought help from "UAE authorities to trace the movements of this vehicle, including reviewing shipping documents from the UAE and, with the assistance of the UAE authorities, attempting to locate and interview the consignees of the container in which the vehicle or its parts is believed to have been shipped."
The UAE's competence -- or lack of it -- in identifying the "consignees" or the freighter used to transport the van to Lebanon could be the key to solving the Hariri murder. This tracking ability also might demonstrate whether UAE port supervisors have the requisite skills for protecting U.S. ports from terrorist penetration.
The evidence about the van also could either buttress or repudiate the tentative U.N. investigative conclusions implicating Syrian intelligence and pro-Syrian Lebanese officials in Hariri’s murder.
Though Syria's supposed complicity has already hardened into conventional wisdom, those tentative U.N. conclusions were undercut by disclosures that chief U.N. investigator Detlev Mehlis relied on two witnesses whose credibility later crumbled.
On another topic, remember last Thursday's indymedia roundup?  Remember Dwight Scarbrough, visited by Homeland Security at his place of business?  Lloyd notes more on that via Matthew Rothschild's "Homeland Security Hassles Owner of Truck with Bumperstickers" (McCarthyism Watch, The Progressive):
Dwight Scarbrough used to be in the Navy. He was a machinist on submarines, some of them nuclear, in the Pacific from 1975-1980.
Now he heads up the Vets for Peace chapter in Boise, Idaho.
And he's not shy about expressing his opinion.
At any given time, he may have as many as ten bumperstickers or peace signs on every conceivable spot of his truck.
He usually doesn't get hassled, he tells me.
But then, on February 7, at his day job for a federal natural resource agency, Scarbrough got a call from, of all places, Homeland Security.
An official told him to come out to the parking lot and said he was in violation of the Code of Federal Regulations.
When Scarbrough came out, he found two armed officers of Homeland Security, who told him he was violating the regulation against the posting of signs on federal property.
(Scarbrough, fearing trouble, brought a tape recorder along and taped the entire confrontation. You can read a transcript at the Boise Weekly, which broke the story on February 15 in an excellent article by Nicholas Collias.)
Yes, I'm still sick but, yes, we will have indymedia roundup tonight. (And phoning this dictated entry in -- more so than usual.  My apologies.)
Also, please note that Diane Wilson is free (see this entry by Elaine for more on that) and that Betty has a new chapter up.
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