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Archive for January 2011

Tony Blair’s Legacy of Deception

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Pakistan Daily

He’s got the smirking grin of a politician who knows that he got away with his crimes. He escaped responsibility for his political murders and the full brunt of moral outrage for the wasteful public sacrifice on his behalf.

I can see it in his eyes. They don’t know half the truth. They don’t know they’re asking the wrong questions. I’m scott free.

Former Prime Minister Tony Blair got a second grilling in London last week over his decision to force Britain into the Iraq War, though U.N. weapons inspectors had uncovered no caches of illegal weapons to justify the invasion. Iraq was already broken by United Nations sanctions and had no capacity for self defense at all.

In the aftermath of sectarian strife and daily bombings, Blair’s delusion of nation-building has collapsed. Not so his preening moral rectitude to justify the War.

That smirk tells it all. Blair knows his legacy of public deception has prevailed.

Until now.

What the British people don’t realize is that up to this point, while Blair’s government fabricated nonsense stories of Pre-War Intelligence and phony moral arguments, intelligence Assets involved in Pre-War Iraq have been locked up in prison or otherwise silenced by phony indictments that functioned as a gag on political discourse. So much for the moral courage of Washington’s favorite puppy dog.

I myself covered the Iraqi Embassy at the United Nations in New York from August, 1996 until March, 2003. A few weeks after requesting to testify before Congress about a comprehensive peace framework that would have fulfilled all U.S. and British objectives without killing a single Iraqi child, I got indicted as an “Iraqi Agent” in “conspiracy with the Iraqi Intelligence Service.”

I got hit with all the bells and whistles of the Patriot Act- secret charges, secret evidence and secret grand jury testimony. My demands for a trial were blocked to protect the government. Instead, I “disappeared” into prison on Carswell Air Force Base in Texas for 11 months, where I faced threats of indefinite detention up to 10 years without a trial. Actually that proved to be the least of my worries. In prison, I had to fight off a Justice Department demand to forcibly drug me with Haldol-a rhinoceros tranquilizer that imitates the effects of Parkinson’s Disease-so that I could be “cured” of knowing the unhappy truth about the Iraqi Peace Option and Iraq’s substantial contributions to the 9/11 investigation.

Making matters worse, my team had delivered advance warnings about the 9/11 attack to U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft’s private staff and the Office of Counter Terrorism in August, 2001. I was definitely persona non grata at the White House and 10 Downing Street.

My indictment continued five years. It ended five days before the inauguration of President Obama. Those five years gave pro-war leaders in Washington and London ample time and free rein to invent a totally fictitious story about Iraq and anti-terrorism that beefed up their personas in the corporate media.

I watched it all on prison television at Carswell Air Force Base. And I watched it again when Blair testified last week. In the absence of public knowledge, Blair has manipulated silence and secrecy to his own advantage. He has abused security classifications to obfuscate his weakness and policy mistakes. And Blair’s government has continued to promote policies that have caused grave harm to global security, and perhaps most ironically, the War on Terrorism.

Unhappily for Blair’s legacy of deception, today Assets are free from prison and false indictment. Now it is our day to defend the public’s right to disclosure and accountability.

And so I challenge the British Government to summon Blair back to face the Inquiry. Only this time the British people should ask Blair about the comprehensive peace framework negotiated by the CIA in the two years before the War.

Oh never fear. MI-6 tracked our back channel talks exhaustively, even appearing at restaurants in New York at lunches with senior diplomats on the Security Council. British Intelligence had full knowledge of the Peace Option. Blair’s top intelligence staff understood that every single objective demanded by Washington and London could be achieved through peaceful means.

That included major oil contracts for the United States, and a package of highly innovative democratic reforms proposed by Baghdad to guarantee the successful repatriation of Iraqi Exiles and international election monitoring. Iraq also offered major reconstruction contracts for U.S (and British) corporations in any post-sanctions period. Iraq promised massive engineering contracts, translating to thousands of jobs and billions in revenues for any U.S. (or British) corporation that helped rebuild Iraqi infrastructure after sanctions.

Everything the U.S and Britain wanted was free for the taking. No blood had to be spilt. And this was no last ditch appeal for peace. It was a rock solid framework, with careful attention to all potential flash points for future conflict identified by the CIA. The truth is not remotely similar to what the international community has been told.

Once the British people understand the right line of questions, let us start again- with the truth this time. For the sake of historical integrity, Tony Blair should face the people to answer questions that would have been asked if Assets like myself had not been locked in prison to protect pro-War leaders in Washington and London. If Tony Blair deceives the British people in this next round of questioning, let him face criminal prosecution for perjury and obstruction of justice, like any other British citizen who lies under oath.

For that matter, I am prepared to stand before Parliament myself-as one of the very few Assets covering Iraq before the War. I am ready to look the people in the eye, and raise my hand to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Assets are primary sources of intelligence, in direct contact with people and events after all. As it stands, for all the tens of thousands of pounds financing this inquiry, the British people don’t know anything. Why not ask those of us who do?

That would wipe the smirk off Tony Blair’s face. Because now Assets are free from prison and phony indictments. And Tony Blair’s legacy of deception is finished.

Susan Lindauer covered the Iraqi Embassy at the United Nations for seven years before the invasion.

India’s Republic Day clouded by tensions in held Kashmir

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NEW DELHI: India celebrated its Republic Day Wednesday under heavy security, with tensions running high in held Kashmir over efforts by Hindu nationalists to hold a rally in the troubled region’s state capital.

Security was especially tight in New Delhi where large sections of the capital were sealed off for the annual parade of military hardware that provides the centrepiece for the nationwide celebrations.

Around 35,000 police personnel, including 15,000 members of the paramilitary forces and elite National Security Guard, were deployed across New Delhi for the event, which is always considered a possible target of militant attack.

Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono was the guest of honour.

Snipers manned rooftops along the route of the parade, while helicopters and unmanned surveillance drones monitored the area from above.

In Muslim-majority Kashmir, a strict curfew was enforced in the summer capital, Srinagar.

The streets were completely deserted apart from the large numbers of security personnel who manned barbed-wire barricades across roads leading to main downtown area of Lal Chowk.

“No procession or gathering would be allowed in any part of the city, today,” Srinagar’s district magistrate Meraj Kakroo said.

Authorities also jammed local mobile phone networks.

The Kashmir Valley is usually tense on Republic Day, but particularly so this year because of a drive by India’s main opposition, the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), to march to Srinagar and hold a special rally to raise the national flag in Lal Chowk.

Authorities had blocked road links between Kashmir and neighbouring states on Tuesday as thousands of BJP activists gathered on the state border, shouting nationalist slogans and waving the Indian flag.

Several senior BJP leaders were arrested after refusing to turn back, amid appeals by the Kashmir government and the federal government in New Delhi to call off the “provocative” march.

Kashmir has been riven by religious and separatist conflict for the last 20 years.

The BJP favours a hardline approach in the region, refusing any dilution of national sovereignty or relaxation of tough military laws that have been condemned by human rights groups.

Government ministers had warned that the BJP rally could trigger fresh protests in the Kashmir Valley, where at least 100 protesters were killed in massive anti-India demonstrations last year.

From Calcutta to Kashmir

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By Avirook Sen

For a march that kicked off so close to my home in Calcutta’s Shyambazar, this thing has gotten somewhat out of hand, and more than somewhat ridiculous.

On January 12, the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) youth wing flagged off what they called the ‘ekta yatra’ – a march for unity.

The plan was to converge on Lal Chowk in Srinagar, the arson-prone heart of Kashmir, from all over the country, to hoist the Indian tricolour on Republic Day. Assert a fundamental right, remind the fellow in the firan where it’s at, and so on. Alas, the plan lacked idiot-proofing from conception to execution.

A bunch of merry right-wing youth from Karnataka in the south, boarded a train bound for Kashmir. But sometime after midnight, when the train had barely gotten a fifth of the way there, the poor boys fell asleep, dreaming dreams of national unity.

Alert security forces grabbed their chance. At a station in Maharashtra, they detached the bogeys containing the future flag-hoisters from the mother train. They then attached the bogeys to a train headed back to Bangalore, where the volunteers had breakfast.

While the rest of us laughed our heads off, spokesmen for the BJP objected in the strongest possible terms: “Our workers had valid tickets!”

There is a sense of deja vu about these events. In late 1991, a year before they demolished the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya, the BJP undertook almost the exact same march. The then president of the party, Murli Manohar Joshi, led the marchers.

Landslides (and a not a little Kashmiri outrage) prevented Joshi’s followers from reaching the spot. Joshi himself had to be flown in, amid what witnesses called the tightest security they had seen. Sympathetic commentators put the number of people getting to Lal Chowk at 40, including journalists. Curfew had been imposed on the town and announcements made that Lal Chowk had been handed over to the army.

There are varying reports of how the actual hoisting took place on January 26, 1992.

It is clear that security personnel helped Joshi with the flag, but when he was raising it to the pedestal of the clock tower on which it was supposed to fly, the rod broke and knocked the old man on the head. It has been reported that the flag was finally hoisted on a lamppost. Having raised the flag, a slightly dizzy Joshi left the scene and went off to plot the razing of a mosque.

Leading the marchers this time is a fellow called Anurag Thakur, MP, and the son of the chief minister of Himachal Pradesh. An official website lists his professions as “cricketer” and “industrialist”. Though what he really does is run an export house and make sure, with a little help from papa, that he’s in control of all cricket administration in his home state.

His own webpage has a picture of a cricket team with a trophy in front, he sits in the middle with a blue jacket, the boys are in white. The header reads: “If he can do this in sports, he can do better in politics. There is a need to bring young talent to the forefronts (sic) of politics.”

By the standards of Indian politics, this chap should visit the pediatrician if he catches a cold during his march, but at 36, he’s been pushed to the forefront all right.

Now all he has to do is find a suitable lamppost, and not injure himself, or cause injury to others. In Shyambazar, where it all began, Republic Day represents a peaceful holiday. That I have from the horse’s mouth.

Base Building in Afghanistan?

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The National Interest

When President Barack Obama addresses the nation tonight, the expansion of America’s Afghan military bases will be notably absent from his remarks. Given the administration’s commitment to job creation and economic recovery, it may want to disclose that much of those activities over the next several years will be taking place in Central Asia, rather than America.

Nick Turse, associate editor of TomDispatch.com and author of the The Case for Withdrawal from Afghanistan, has done a fantastic job collating which of America’s forward operating bases (FOBs) are being expanded, improved, and hardened:

FOB Shindand in western Afghanistan will receive “new security fencing, new guard towers, and new underground electrical lines.”

FOB Salerno near the city of Khost will be undergoing expansion of its fuel facilities. “Estimated to cost $10 million to $25 million, these upgrades will increase fuel storage capacity to one million gallons to enhance land and air operations, and may not be completed for a year and a half; that is, until well into 2012.”

FOB Shank in Logar Province has a new $12 million, 1.4-mile-long airstrip that can accommodate Lockheed C-130 Hercules and Boeing C-17 Globemaster transport aircraft.

According to Turse, government documents released in August show that in addition, FOB Shank “will be adding a new two-story barracks, constructed of containerized housing units known as ‘relocatable buildings’ or RLBs, to accommodate 1,100 more troops. Support facilities, access roads, parking areas, new utilities, and other infrastructure required to sustain the housing complex will also be installed for an estimated $5 million to $10 million….New aircraft maintenance facilities and 80,000 square feet more of taxiways will also be built at the cost of another $10 million to $25 million.”

FOBs Tarin Kowt in Uruzgan Province, Dwyer in Helmand Province, and Sharana in Paktika Province will undergo “major expansions of infrastructure to support helicopter operations, including increased apron space, taxiways, and tarmac for parking, servicing, loading, and unloading are planned for facilities.”

The mega-base at Bagram will get a “24,000 square-foot, $10-million command-and-control facility as well as a ‘Joint Defense Operations Center’ with supporting amenities-from water storage tanks to outdoor landscaping.”

The mega-base in Kandahar will undergo numerous upgrades, including “a $28.5 million deal for the construction of an outdoor shelter for fighter aircraft, as well as new operations and maintenance facilities and more apron space, among a host of other improvements.”

At the Special Operations headquarters in Mazar-e-Sharif, according to Noah Shachtman of Wired.com’s Danger Room, the Army’s plans to build a “communications building, Tactical Operations Center, training facility, medical aid station, Vehicle Maintenance Facility… dining facility, laundry facility, and a kennel to support working dogs” worth $30 million.

I assume that some of these bases might in the future allow the United States to keep a watchful eye on developments in Iran and Pakistan, have transit control over air and ground space in the “cockpit” of Asia, and retain a permanent outpost in the backyard of Russia and China. But as a critic of primacy, it seems like I’m fighting a losing battle. After all, despite an increasing perception that the war is being lost-and Obama’s pledge to begin withdrawing troops in July 2011-the majority of Americans could care little about the conflict, and probably much less about the expansion, improvement, and hardening of America’s Afghanistan bases.

BJP supporters vow to march to Kashmir

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Thousands of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) supporters massed on a bridge to the disputed Kashmir region on Tuesday as officials sought to stop a flag-raising ceremony that could spark violence.


Workers of India’s main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) hold national flags and shout slogans during a protest on a bridge at Madhopur, in the northern Indian state of Punjab

Police faced off with flag-waving BJP workers as authorities sealed routes into Kashmir to thwart the planned raising of the national flag in the state that has been racked by unrest by Muslim separatists opposed to Indian rule.

Police forced about 7,000 marchers on to buses and drove them away, police sources said, while the remaining 2,500 protesters attempting to cross the border from the Jammu region into Kashmir faced arrest or detention.

Officials in Kashmir fear that the symbolic show of Indian cental control over the disputed region could reignite separatist protests in which more than 100 people were killed last year.

The BJP has gained political ground through recent pressure on the ruling coalition struggling with graft and it hopes to show the government’s weakness on Kashmir, a potent symbol of India’s territorial integrity, with state elections looming.

But the main oppostion party risks a backlash. The government has criticised it for “divisive politics” and its nationalistic rhetoric may alienate secular Indians and other political parties.

“There is no justification whatsoever to push a political agenda that will certainly affect peace and law and order in the state of Jammu and Kashmir,” Home Minister P. Chidamabaram said in a statement.

“It would be most unfortunate if the BJP leaders defy the restrictions placed by the state government or deliberately cause a breach of the peace.”

The state government, backed by the ruling Congress party, sealed all road links into the state, media reported, a day after BJP leaders Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley were detained at the airport in the main Kashmiri city of Srinagar and sent back out.

Senior BJP officials have said raising the national flag in Srinagar, the summer capital of Kashmir, to celebrate India’s Republic Day on Wednesday, was a patriotic right, and have vowed to push on with their march to the city.

“We have started march towards J&K … We are marching in a group of 500 people holding tricolour (flag)… Huge police presence on the other side of the bridge,” Swaraj, the BJP leader in the lower house of parliament, posted on Twitter.

Republic Day has traditionally been a lightning rod for anti-Indian protests in the Himalayan region which is at the heart of hostilities between nuclear-armed India and Pakistan, who both claim it.

“The (BJP’s) aggressive and adamant stand … betrays a dangerous inability to understand the subtlety and calibration needed in a place like Jammu and Kashmir,” the Indian Express newspaper said in an editorial.

“Aggressive postures aimed at little more than self-serving polarisation will do no good to any cause, least of all one proclaimed in the name of this country’s unity.”

Militants backed by Pakistan have been battling Indian security forces in Muslim-majority Kashmir since 1989. Tens of thosuands of people have been killed in the violence.

U.S. eases some high-tech export curbs on India

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By Doug Palmer

The U.S. Commerce Department said on Monday it was easing restrictions of exports of high-technology goods to India in recognition of the two countries’ stronger economic and national security ties.


India’s Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV-D3), blasts off carrying the communication satellite GSAT-4 from the Satish Dhawan space centre at Sriharikota, north of Chennai,

“Today’s action marks a significant milestone in reinforcing the U.S.-India strategic partnership and moving forward with export control reforms that will facilitate high-technology trade and cooperation,” Commerce Secretary Gary Locke said in a statement.

It follows President Barack Obama’s meeting with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in November in New Delhi, where they announced plans to expand cooperation in civil space, defense and other high technology sectors.

It also contrasts with remarks made by U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner before Chinese President Hu Jintao’s visit last week to the United States.

Geithner tied the possibility of increased U.S. high-technology exports to China to movement by Beijing on currency and a number of trade reforms.

As a first step in implementing Obama and Singh’s commitment, the Commerce Department’s Bureau of Industry and Security said it would publish a new rule changing how India was treated under Export Administration Regulations (EAR).

A key measure removes several Indian space and defense-related organizations from the U.S. Entity List, which imposes extra export licensing requirements on foreign groups or individuals whose activities have aroused concern about the possible diversion of U.S. high-technology products that could be used to build weapons of mass destruction.

Those removed from the Entity List include Bharat Dynamics Limited, four subordinates of India’s Defense Research and Development Organization and four subordinates of the All Indian Space Research Organization.

The reforms also “realign” India’s standing in the U.S. export control regime by removing it from several country groups associated with proliferation concerns. It adds India to a more favorable category consisting of members of the Missile Technology Control Regime.

“These changes reaffirm the U.S. commitment to work with India on our mutual goal of strengthening the global nonproliferation framework,” Under Secretary of Commerce Eric Hirschhorn said in a statement.

Locke will lead 24 U.S. businesses on a high-tech trade mission to India in February.

The group includes Boeing, Exelon Nuclear Partners, Lockheed Martin and GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy.

The delegation, which also includes senior officials from the U.S. Export-Import Bank and the Trade Development Agency, will make stops in New Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore.

An administration official, who briefed reporters on condition he not be identified, said less than 1 percent of current U.S.-India trade was affected by export controls.

However, “the perception of onerous export controls certainly has been a hindrance to high-technology trade over the years,” the official said.

Mumbai police silent on Headley’s role in 26/11 attacks

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If Mumbai Police is to be believed, American-born terrorist David Headley, who has confessed to conducting a recce of all 26/11 targets in the city, may have played no role in the carnage. The assessment by the Mumbai Police is reflected in its appeal before the Bombay High Court in which its elite Crime Branch is silent on the role of the Pakistan-origin LeT terrorist while contesting the acquittal of Fahim Ansari and Sabahuddin in the November 26, 2008 attack that left 166 people dead.

While the Ministry of Home Affairs burnt midnight oil over getting access to Headley after his role in the brazen attack emerged, the focus of Mumbai Police through its Special Public Prosecutor Ujjwal D Nikam was that the terrorists intruded into the country’s financial capital with the help of hand-written maps drawn by Ansari.

Headley is at present in a jail in Chicago in the US.

Headley, who was recruited by Pakistan-based Lashker-e-Taiba (LeT) terror group, has confessed to the US authorities and India’s National Investigating Agency (NIA) in front of a magistrate about his role in carrying out the survey of the locations attacked by the terrorists on 26/11.

“When they (police) are seized of the issue of 26/11, it was incumbent upon them to bring forward all criminals concerning the crime and their respective roles played therein before the court of trial and appeal so that truth prevails and no scope for misunderstanding occur,” defence counsel for Ansari, R B Mokashi, said in Mumbai.

Headley’s arrest and subsequent revelations had left Mumbai Police red-faced and punctured their theory of criminal conspiracy involving only Ansari and Sabauddin.

The two had, however, been discharged by the Special Judge M L Tahaliyani saying that better maps were available on Internet.

“As per the judicial confession of Ajmal Kasab, Lashker had explained the targets with the help of video shootings and map. It is clear from the plea bargain of David Headley that he was entrusted the work of taking video of targets,” Nikam said and maintained that the maps were prepared by Ansari and Sabauddin.

“One such map was found in the pocket of deceased terrorist Abu Ismail and the hand writing on it is proved to be of Ansari,” Nikam claimed.

A response was also sought from Joint Commissioner of Mumbai’s Crime Branch Himanshu Roy to comment on role played by Headley in 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks. However, there was no immediate response from him.