Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Democracy Now: Dr. Mona El-Farra, Ali Abunimah, Shlomo Ben Ami, Christian Parenti and Ahmed Rashid

Russian Lawmakers Criticize U.S. After Killing of 4 Russian Hostages
In Russia, lawmakers have lashed out at the United States following the killing of four Russian hostages in Iraq. By a unanimous vote, Russia's lower house of parliament approved a resolution that decried the killings and criticized the occupying countries in Iraq for losing control in the country. The resolution said the abduction of the hostages occurred because of the deepening crisis in Iraq where terror and violence are becoming the order of the day.

U.S. Military Admits Security Not Improving Much In Baghdad
Meanwhile the U.S. military has acknowledged that the security situation has barely improved in Baghdad despite a two-week-old security clampdown involving 75,000 Iraqi and U.S. troops. On Tuesday at least 18 people died in Iraq including a U.S. Marine and three U.S. soldiers.

Cindy Sheehan and Others to Launch White House Hunger Strike
Code Pink, Global Exchange and Gold Star Families for Peace have announced they will launch a hunger strike on July 4th outside the White House to protest the war in Iraq. Dozens of military family members, veterans, activists and celebrities have vowed to take part in the hunger strike. The list includes Cindy Sheehan, Dolores Huerta, Willie Nelson, Danny Glover, Sean Penn and Susan Sarandon. Cindy Sheehan said in a statement: "We've marched, held vigils, lobbied Congress, camped out at Bush's ranch. We've even gone to jail. Now it's time to do more."

Israeli Tanks & Gunships Invade Gaza
Israeli tanks and helicopter gunships have invaded the Gaza Strip for the first since withdrawing ten months ago. Israel says it's launched the raid to recover captured soldier Gilad Shalit. Shalit was seized in a Palestinian operation on Sunday. The raid began after Israel rejected Shalit's captors demand for the release of all Palestinian females and Palestinians below the age of eighteen in Israeli prisons. Israel opened the attack with a series of air strikes on three bridges and Gaza's main power station. The attack left the power station in flames and knocked out electricity in most of Gaza City. Palestinian militants have reportedly taken up defensive positions around Gaza -- setting the stage for a potential firefight with the invading soldiers.

The above four items are from today's Democracy Now! Headlines and were selected by Bonnie, Stan, Charlie and Jonah. Democracy Now! ("always informing you," as Marcia says):

Headlines for June 28, 2006

- Israeli Tanks & Gunships Invade Gaza
- Study: All Electronic Voting Machines Vulnerable to Software Attacks
- UN: 150,000 Iraqis Displaced From Homes in Recent Months
- U.S. Military Admits Security Not Improving Much In Baghdad
- Mexico's Lopez Obrador Vows to Help Poor If Elected
- Sen. Specter Considers Suing Bush Over Signing Statements
- U.S. Surgeon General Urges Ban on Smoking in Public Buildings
- Tennessee Executes Sedley Alley; Lawyers Vow to Keep Fighting Case
- British Watchdog Group Condemns U.S. Bank Spy Program
- Cindy Sheehan and Others to Launch White House Hunger Strike

Fmr. Israeli Foreign Minister Shlomo Ben Ami: "It Was Wrong" For Israel to Invade Gaza

Israeli forces have invaded the Gaza Strip for the first time since withdrawing ten months ago. Israel says it launched the raid to recover a soldier captured by Palestinian militants. The strikes came just hours after Fatah and Hamas agreed on a document to implicitly recognize Israel within its 1967 borders. We go to Gaza to speak with Palestinian physician Dr. Mona El-Farra and we get comment from former Israeli foreign minister Shlomo Ben Ami and Palestinian activist Ali Abunimah.
AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to go to Gaza right now, where Dr. Mona El-Farra is. She is a physician in northern Gaza, a health development consultant for the Union of Health Work Committees in Gaza. What is the situation on the ground right now, Dr. El-Farra?
DR. MONA EL-FARRA: Since the early hours of the morning, the Israeli army did not stop their sonic bombing against the Gaza Strip. They started the operation last night, 10:30. They targeted the infrastructure of the Gaza Strip. Two-thirds -- the main target was the electrical power plant. And now, two-thirds of Gaza Strip are with no electricity.
The population mood is angry, anxious, worried, scared. But despite all this, demonstrations are going in the streets against the release of the soldier, especially by the families of the political prisoners. This is the opinion, feeling.
And I have a comment here to say. There's no balance of power between the Israeli army and the militia or the resistance movement here in Gaza. Israeli knows that very well. So what's happening in Gaza now is collective punishment. I don't understand, why to destroy the infrastructure? Why to deprive the population from the electricity? It is collective punishment. This will not bring the soldier back.
What will bring the soldier back: negotiation, understanding the rights of Palestinian people to exist. The disengagement plan, for example, and the wall in the West Bank, all these measures Israel did to guarantee its security, it did not, anyway, because the security of Israel is not harmed by the resistance or largely harmed by the Palestinian resistance.
The mood is very bad in Gaza and angry. You can see twenty -- 2,000 people last night demonstrated in the middle camps of Gaza Strip against the release of the soldier, or the release of the soldier in swap of the political prisoners. People feel they are humiliated and Israel and the world wants us to kneel down. This is the mood of the people here now in Gaza.

Rice Praises "Democratic Future of Afghanistan" As Fierce Fighting Continues in one of Bloodiest Months Since 2001 U.S. Invasion

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice arrived in Afghanistan today for talks with Afghan President Hamid Karzai. Her visit comes during one of the bloodiest months in Afghanistan since the US-led invasion in 2001 - over the past few weeks more than five hundred people have been killed. We speak with The Nation correspondent Christian Parenti who interviewed Taliban fighters in Afghanistan and we go to Islamabad to speak Pakistani journalist and analyst Ahmed Rashid.
AMY GOODMAN: There was a report, Christian Parenti, from the Council on Foreign Relations, talking about Afghanistan as a failed state by many of the indicators of a state, around issues of poverty, etc., that it's one of the worst in the world.
CHRISTIAN PARENTI: Indeed. It ranks, I think, 174th on all those indicators, the bottom being 178, and the security situation has deteriorated very radically in the last several months. It's no longer possible for Westerners to drive safely from Kabul to Kandahar. So -- there's also reports that Pashtun communities in the north of Afghanistan are also -- now have Taliban activity in them.
So it's a total disaster, and there's a hope by the Europeans, who are picking up a lot of the slack, that they can do a better job than the Americans, and they claim they're better at counterinsurgency, but I fear that the situation is really beyond that and that the cancer of the Taliban has set in too deep and the money that's been spent so far has been wasted. And I think what has to happen is there has to be like a radical restructuring of the Afghan government. There are 32 ministries. It has to be constricted, and there has to be a real commitment to ending corruption.
The U.S. forces, when I was with them, I was shocked at how little they knew. Some soldiers around Bagram, who were responsible for securing that valley, were being attacked in some villages and not others, and it's a mixed area between Tajiks and Pashtuns, and the lieutenant in charge of this group didn't know the ethnicities of different villages and didn't know that there might be some sort of political explanation that went along with that, as to why they were being attacked in what were actually Pashtun villages and not in Tajik villages. So the whole thing is in utter shambles.

Iraq snapshot.

Chaos and violence continue.

Five corpses were found in Baghdad on Tuesday. Other incidents included, in Mahaweel, a roadside bomb took the life of a police officer and three were wounded amd, in Kirkuk, a car bomb took the lives of three and wounded 17. In all, the New York Times estimates that 21 Iraqis died Tuesday and forty-one were wounded.

Today bombs continued. CNN notes a carbomb in Baquba "near a coffee shop" that took at least one life and wounded at least fourteen more. Reuters notes that bombing as well as nother in Baquba which "seriously wounded two" police officers. Reuters also notes a bomb that went off in a Baghdad market and resulted in one death and eight wounded. CNN notes "a roadside bomb targeting a U.S. military convoy detonated" taking the lives of "one civilian and wounding two." The Associated Press notes that Riyad Abdul-Majid Zuaini ("customs director for Central Baghdad") was shot dead by assailants (as was his driver) and that, in Mosul, a clash "between gunmen and police . . . broke out" with one police officer left wounded.

As Amy Goodman noted on Democracy Now!, Russia's lower house of parliament has "criticized the occupying countries in Iraq for losing control in the country." Xinhua reports Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Foreign Minister of Germany, noted, on behalf of the ministery, that they were "outraged and shocked over the terrible fater of our Russian colleagues." KUNA notes that Kuwait has "condmended . . . the killing of Russian diplomats by a terrorist group in Iraq."

There were four diplomats kidnapped on June 3rd in Baghdad after their car was attacked by unknown assailants. During the attack a fifth diplomat,Vitaly Vitalyevich Titov , was killed. On Sunday, a videotape was released which showed what appear to be three of the four being killed. The Mujahedeen Shur Council have proclaimed that they are responsible for the murders.

Reuters reports that Russia experienced "a roadblock" today when it the United States and England "objected to parts of a draft Russian statement on the killings, arguing the text amounted to a slap at the U.S.-led multinational force, which includes 127,000 U.S. troops and 7,000 British soliders". This as another official 'response' is reported: Russian president Vladimir Putin, according to the Associated Press, has sent "special services to hunt down and 'destroy' the killers." Possibly this is what Bully Boy saw when he looked Putin in the eye? Pavel Felgenhauer dismisses the news as "a public relations excercise" to AFP and dubs it "an obvious imititation of those of Bush after September 11."

Meanwhile, Japanese government feels they met their "objectives" in Iraq. Japan's chief of defense, Fukushiro Nukaga, termed the venture "a success" while speaking to the Associated Press and noted that, "The Iraqis are ready to resume control."

But are the bits and pieces of the so-called coalition willing to leave? Reuters reports that Austraila's Brendan Nelson (defense minister) is making noises about not being held 'hostage' by a deadline and comparing his government's position to that of the United States' government.

In other news, apparently there was a poll of so-called insurgents. The Associated Press is all over the so-called news (anonymice, of course) that "insurgents" are pushing for a withdrawal of US forces within two years. Does anyone believe that? Nouri al-Maliki may be meeting with representatives for resistance groups but, despite what an unnamed "senior Iraqi government" official says, it doesn't seem logical that the resistance would propose a two-year timetable. It will be all over the news but to buy into it, you have to suspend all disbelief and then some. (For any who are confused, people -- from various groups -- are willing to risk their lives, give their lives, resort to various acts of violence and they're going to send envoys to tell occupation puppet al-Maliki, "Hey, we're good. Two more years? Sure." Call it the resistance or call it the "insurgency," it's not about a two-year time-line. This very obvious propanganda is American made, my opinion.)

On the issue of "a media feeding frenzy," Dahr Jamail takes a look at the so-called "plan" offered by al-Maliki and notes that resistance groups have "rejected the 'plan' because they do not recognize the Iraqi 'government' as a legitmate entity. These same resistance groups understand that under international law, the current Iraqi 'government' controls nothing outside of the 'green zone,' and its existence violates the Geneva Conventions."

Meanwhile, Iraqi forces have Yousri Fakher Moahmmed Ali in custody and allege that he is the one who blew up the Shi'ite shrine in February. As Amy Goodman noted, the Samarra bombing was followed by "increased fighting" which has resulted in the displacement of at least 150,000 Iraqis. Yusri Fakhir Muhammad Ali is also known as Abu Qudama and Al Jazeera quotes Iraq's national security adviser (Mouwafak al-Rubaie) reports that he "is also wanted for the murder of Atwar Bajhat, a television correspondent for Al-Arabiya news channel who was shot dead along with two of her colleagues hours after the shrine bombing". China's People's Daily notes: "The shrine of Ali al-Hadi, or the al-Hadhrah al-Askariyah, contains two tombs of Ali al-Hadi, who died in 868 A.D., and his son Hassan al-Askari who died in 874 A.D. The two were the 10th and 11th of Shiite's twelve most revered Imams. Shiite pilgrims visit the shrine from all over the world."

The UN Assistance Mission for Iraq estimates a total of 1.3 million are displaced. One of the refugee camps is Baladiyat Refugee Camp set up for the Palestinian refugees. This camp was attacked Sunday June 25th and Omar interviews residents of the camp at Alive in Baghdad.

And finally, the ICRC is noting that "public services have almost ground to a halt" in Ramadi which "has been without power since 22 May." That's when US forces began the seige of Ramadi and power, water and phone services were cut.

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