Friday, August 31, 2007

Zimbabwe Enacts New Laws on Prices and Salaries

New laws on prices, salaries

Herald Reporter

NO ONE in private or public sectors can now raise salaries, wages, rents, service charges, prices and school fees on account of increases or anticipated increases in the consumer price index, the official and unofficial exchange rates, or valued added tax and duty.

The ban on indexing pay, prices, rents and fees to the CPI, an exchange rate or VAT — coupled with vastly increased powers for the National Incomes and Pricing Commission — was made by President Mugabe in regulations gazetted yesterday to temporarily amend two Acts: that setting up the Commission and the Education Act.

The regulations were made under the Presidential Powers (Temporary Measures) Act and fall away in six months unless Parliament amends the two affected Acts.

Under the regulations, all proposed fees, tariffs and charges by Government departments, State universities, statutory bodies, including statutory professional associations, and companies where the State is a majority or sole shareholder must be approved by the Commission in advance.

The Commission takes over the powers formerly possessed by ministers where ministerial approval was first required.

All fee increases by non-Government schools since June 18 are banned until the Commission gives approval. The Commission takes over the functions of the Secretary for Education, Sport and Culture in approving and setting fees at non-Government schools.

The Commission can only approve an increase if this is justified on some other grounds than the application of the CPI, killing the present link between fees and the CPI.

For all pay awards, and fee and price increases by the private sector, the Commission must now set standards after consultation.

It can set as a temporary standard the pay, fees or prices on a particular base date.

This would allow the Commission to start with the June 18 freeze date for prices, or any date it desires for pay, before implementing the standard system.

The net effect of the changes will be to push inflation down since all increases will be by less than the current inflation rate.

The regulations are less harsh than a total pay and price freeze but are designed to have a similar anti-inflationary effect. In the main ban on indexing salaries, rents, fees and prices to the CPI or exchange rate, an extra measure has been introduced to stop anyone getting around the ban by declaring an increase for some other purpose.

The regulations also totally ban any increase that would see a pay packet, rent fee or price rising to or exceeding the level it would have been if it had been indexed to the CPI or an exchange rate.

The only exception to the ban allows the Commission, when setting the standards for pay, service charges and prices to take the CPI as one of the factors considered. But only one increase a year in pay, fees or prices can be linked to CPI in any way, except for the pay of those earning below the poverty datum line for a family of four.

All sections of collective bargaining agreements, leases and contracts that call for increases to take into account CPI, exchange rate and VAT increases were declared void in the regulations.

For increases in pay, service charges and rents, the ban on indexing is total, "notwithstanding any other law . . ." For prices it is slightly different: "notwithstanding any other law to the contrary but subject to the Control of Goods Act . . ."

The bans on indexing were coupled with vastly increased powers for the National Incomes and Prices Commission.

The Act has been extended to the entire State sector. All Government departments, all State universities and all statutory bodies wanting an increase in any fee or charge must first apply to the Commission for approval. Where there is a law giving a minister the final power to approve tariffs, that power now goes to the Commission.

The regulations explicitly list the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe, the Posts and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe, the Electricity Commission, the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (for regulation of bank charges) and State universities as those who must apply to the Commission before increasing any fee or tariff.

But it adds to the list: "Any other statutory body whatsoever, including a body established to regulate the conduct and discipline of members of a specified profession or calling that is required . . . to approve the level of fees and charges . . ."

This would imply that professions such as law, which is governed by the Law Society of Zimbabwe, would have to seek Commission approval before setting new legal fees.

Companies in which the State is the sole or majority shareholder formed as a successor to a statutory body — such as CMED, Printflow (formerly Government Printers), Government Medical Stores and Air Zimbabwe — and any other company in which the State is a majority or sole shareholder, such as Noczim, must have Commission approval before increasing any charge, fee or tariff.

The regulations made it clear, for the avoidance of doubt, that the Commission’s powers to seek information or inspect extend to all its new functions.

The Commission has been made larger, now having at least nine and no more than 14 members. All commissioners will be appointed by the President and the previous provisions giving groups such as organised business and labour the power to nominate have been scrapped.

The Commission is allowed, from time to time, to consult people and bodies it believes are representative of employers, employees and those who provide services or rented property to fix a standard by which pay or a service charge is to be determined or increased. It must, under the regulations, do this at least once a year.

It can set as a temporary standard once a year the levels of pay and service charges at a specified base date. This would allow the Commission to start, for service charges for example, with the June 18 freeze date.

Similar provisions exist for prices but in that case it consults people or bodies representative of those carrying on business in the course of which the goods in question are supplied.

Again, it can fix as a temporary standard the prices on a specified base date, presumably the date of the freeze when a price was allowed to rise as this year’s starting point.

For all standard rises in the CPI can be taken into account, but only once a year.

Besides temporarily amending the National Incomes and Pricing Commission Act, the regulations do the same for the Education Act.

The regulations temporarily repeals section 21 of the Education Act, the section that deals with non-Government schools fees.

Instead of the Secretary for Education dealing with applications for fee increases, and having to approve any application which does not exceed the percentage increase in the CPI over the previous term, the power to approve is transferred to the Commission.

This section of the regulations was deemed to have come into effect on June 18.

New fees, levies and increases in old fees and levies cannot be charged until the school’s responsible authority has applied to the Commission.

The application has to set out full details of the fee or increase, the basis of the calculation and must include proof that it was approved by a majority of parents at a meeting attended by at least 20 percent of the parents.

The Commission is forbidden to approve any increase unless the application is "justified by reference to some basis other than the application of the consumer price index" and has been approved by a majority of parents.

Once the application in the correct form has been received the Commission must, without delay, consider it with regard to the costs of operating the school, any programme for improving facilities, any representation made by parents, and any other relevant economic factors.

The Commission can then approve the increase, amend the increase and set its own fee which cannot be below the legal fee at the time of the application (the June 18 figure for the next application), or reject the application.

Similar powers previously possessed by the Secretary to deal with false information or misuse of fees are now passed to the Commission.

Where a school has charged unauthorised fees or levies, it can cause the excess to be refunded to parents or credited to their accounts.

Those who break the ban on indexing pay, fees or prices to the CPI or an exchange rate, and those who breach the standards set by the Commission when increasing pay, fees or prices, can be fined a level 8 fine, jailed for up to six months or given both punishments.

Those who increase non-Government school fees, refuse to pay back unauthorised fees, or refuse to take ordered corrective action over use of fees can be fined the equivalent of the excess, jailed for six months or be given both punishments.

People's Hurricane Relief Fund Blasts Katrina Aid Program

"The Red Cross Has Basically Stolen Money from Victims in New Orleans" -

People's Hurricane Relief Fund Blasts Katrina Aid Program

Thursday, August 30th, 2007

A five-day International Tribunal on Hurricanes Katrina and Rita opened last night in New Orleans. The tribunal is bringing together hurricane survivors, international delegations, expert witnesses, a team of human rights and civil rights prosecutors, and a panel of US-based and international judges. [includes rush transcript]

One survivor of the hurricane, Viola Washington said, "We are calling for an International Tribunal to bring charges of racial discrimination, forced eviction of pubic housing residents, violations of the right to life and health, and the denial of the right to return."

We speak with two activists from the People's Hurricane Relief Fund - one of the main sponsors of the tribunal:

Kali Akuno, executive director of the People's Hurricane Relief Fund.
Malcolm Suber, national organizing coordinator for Peoples Hurricane Relief Fund.


AMY GOODMAN: We’re broadcasting from today from New Orleans, specifically from the Lower Ninth Ward. Behind me, the Industrial Canal levee that breached two years ago today.

A five-day International Tribunal on Hurricanes Katrina and Rita opened last night here in New Orleans. The tribunal is bringing together hurricane survivors, international delegations, expert witnesses, a team of human rights and civil rights prosecutors, and a panel of US-based and international judges.

One survivor of the hurricane, Viola Washington, said, "We are calling for an international tribunal to bring charges of racial discrimination, forced eviction of pubic housing residents, violations of the right to life and health, and the denial of the right to return."

We’re joined right now by two people from here in New Orleans, founders of the People's Hurricane Relief Fund, one of the main sponsors of the tribunal. Kali Akuno is executive director of People's Hurricane Relief Fund, and Malcom Suber is the group's national organizing coordinator.

Before we talk about the tribunal, I wanted to go to something that happened earlier in the day yesterday. It was outside the Convention Center. A number of people gathered. Remember, the Convention Center, that was the place Michael Brown said -- they didn't realize the difference between the Superdome and the Convention Center, that people were also in the Convention Center without water, without food, without help. But a number of people spoke, and among them was Malcolm of the People's Hurricane Relief Fund. You gave a fiery speech, Malcolm, and you particularly focused on the Red Cross. Why?

MALCOLM SUBER: Well, we believe that the Red Cross has basically stolen money from the victims here in New Orleans. They collected, by their own accounting, $2.1 billion. They claim that they spent $1.9 billion, and they had $200 million left. But we have never had any public accounting of the funds actually spent, and this last $200 million, they have decided to establish a Means to Recovery program, which works through a case management system. And basically the only people who knew about the program were their partners, the other nonprofits, and they would give the money to selective survivors. And we just don't believe that that's a very fair and democratic way. We don't think that the donors who gave the money to the Red Cross intended that the money be set aside and decided by the Red Cross what to do with the money.

And so, we have just been challenging their veracity on this whole program, and witness to that is every time we've confronted them they’ve changed the figures. When we first started this campaign, they said they had $80 million left. A week later, they said they had $40 million left. And then the national president came down here, and he said they had $171 million left. So you don’t know what the story really is, so they haven't gotten their story together.

And, of course, they've been attacking the People's Hurricane Relief Fund, saying that we are spreading lies and stuff against them. But we confronted them directly, and we took our -- their application to the local news media. And they were forced to admit that the program existed, because when people first called about the program, the Red Cross would say, “What are you talking about? We’ve never heard of a Means to Recovery program.” So we want to know why such secrecy, and why did you decide that it was up to you, the Red Cross, to decide what to do?

The other important factor is they got $50 million from Kuwait, and instead of giving that money to people, they built new office buildings in New York City.

AMY GOODMAN: $50 million from -- did you say Kuwait?

MALCOLM SUBER: Kuwait, yes. That was part of the international aid given to the Red Cross on behalf of disaster victims, and they decided to take the money and build new office buildings. And we think that’s thievery.

AMY GOODMAN: Let's talk about the people's tribunal and what you’re doing with this, Kali.

KALI AKUNO: Well, today will be the first day of testimony, and we’re going to have two days of testimony, one day of deliberation and one day of going through a site tour throughout the city of New Orleans.

AMY GOODMAN: Who is deliberating?

KALI AKUNO: Deliberating today, we have -- it’s broken down into several different areas, Amy, to really try to cover the expansion of all the different things that took place. So we’re starting off with the issue of police brutality and prisoners' rights, really highlighting the torture and abuse that took place and the abandonment which took place and the different human rights violations that that brings up. We’re also going to be dealing with some of the summary killings and executions which took place, you know, shortly after the flood. That’s what begins this off.

And then, later on this afternoon, we’re going to be looking at the whole historical development and neglect around the levees, particularly, you know, this levee here with the barge that broke, and highlighting the systematic nature of how the government knew that its design was faulty, it had depleted the funds systematically since Hurricane Betsy. They knew categorically it would not withstand a Category One or Two hurricane, and yet they just left it in a total state of disrepair. And they have to be held accountable for that. Those are the things we’re going to focus on.

And then from there, really breaking down in a systematic way, later on this afternoon, of how women's rights have been violated through this particular process. And one of the things I think everyone so vividly remembers about the experience of what people saw -- CNN and all the news cameras -- was the number of just black women, single black women who were just kind of left stranded by the city not having or the government not having a systematic evacuation plan, not having buses, not having public transportation, not giving effective evacuation orders.

Those are the things we’re really going to highlight, and then ask critical questions, you know, that we’re looking for a response to, some of which we know the answer, some of which the answers have not necessarily been sufficiently provided. But, you know, we’re going to cover different things, like Blanco giving shoot to kill orders. Under whose authority? Why was that order given?

AMY GOODMAN: What to you mean, “shoot to kill”?

KALI AKUNO: When she was -- I think it was September 3rd -- or, excuse me, September 2nd, she gave orders that -- for the National Guard and other folks, that they were trained, they just came back from Iraq, they knew how to use their weapons, and if they caught anybody so-called looting, that they had the right to shoot to kill. You know, and there was no question around what if people don't have water, people don't have food. The government is not providing this. How are people otherwise supposed to fend for themselves? And it didn't really address that question, you know, just kind of left it open. And so, under what authority does she have to issue an order like that? And then, why was it necessary to bring in so many different contractors, the mercenary forces that came in. Under whose authority were they under? What rules were they operating by? And we've heard a number of different reports and accounts.

AMY GOODMAN: You mean companies like Blackwater.

KALI AKUNO: Like Blackwater, who are still here operating. Blackhawk and a number of different security companies, what were they doing here? That needs to be fully exposed. We know, in what had come out to date through some of the deliberations, that they didn't get their contracts approved, right? Many of these companies, they were just kind of operating without proper licensing. So for the different acts that they committed, similar to Iraq, who were they accountable to? Right? This all really needs to be exposed and brought out. And, you know, with all the different information and the crimes that are being alleged and are going to be demonstrated and proved throughout this process, you know, what we’re demanding is justice and reparations.

AMY GOODMAN: So you’re having this tribunal over a number of days. Will city officials be there?

KALI AKUNO: They have been invited. State officials have been invited from Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana. And Bush and the heads of FEMA have been invited.

AMY GOODMAN: This all comes out of the First Survivors Assembly.

KALI AKUNO: That’s right.

AMY GOODMAN: What was that?

KALI AKUNO: The First Survivors Assembly was the first major national gathering of survivors after they had been displaced. It was in December 2005 in Jackson, Mississippi. And it was basically a democratic forum where all those who were displaced could come together and organize themselves and make some comprehensive demands in the program to carry their actions forward. So the tribunal is just one of the programmatic things that came out of that assembly. And we’re having the Second Survivors Assembly here in New Orleans in December, December 8 and 9.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk, Malcolm, about the issue of homelessness and the issue of the destruction of housing?

MALCOLM SUBER: Yes. Because of the great destruction of the flood, 140,000 units of housing were destroyed. The other problem, of course, is that there has not been an aggressive program on the part of state or local government to repair homes or get money to the victims so that they can repair their homes, nor has there been any real effort to provide temporary housing, to construct dormitories and what have you for people to live.

As a consequence, the number of homeless in the city has grown from 6,000 before the storm to 12,000 now. And one of the characteristics of the new homeless are those -- these were people in the city who had homes before the storm. And, of course, coupled with the fact that rents have doubled and tripled, poor working-class black folk in this city can't afford to pay the rents that they are charging today.

And so, because of that crisis, we have been organizing the homeless, and they now have an encampment at Duncan Plaza, right across from City Hall, actually putting the question of homelessness in the face of the politicians and saying to them that we must make a pledge to outlaw homelessness in the new New Orleans.

And the way that we have to do that, of course, is we have to ask the city to take control of all these abandoned buildings, all these abandoned homes, get a reconstruction program going, where you’re hiring homeless folks, youth, to bring them back home and get the them to work rebuilding the city. And not only will they be rebuilding it, but they will be investing in the city, which they know and love, but they will be making a contribution to its redevelopment.

AMY GOODMAN: I asked Mayor Nagin yesterday about public housing and why most of the public housing has not been reopened, although a lot is in good shape, like Lafitte housing.


AMY GOODMAN: What is your response to that?

MALCOLM SUBER: That’s part of the gentrification and ethnic cleansing policy, which was being pursued prior to. As you know, two of the developments are right downtown, Lafitte and Iberville. The developers have always had their eye on that as an extension of the French Quarter, essentially from the French Quarter straight back to the lake.

AMY GOODMAN: Iberville is the birthplace of jazz.

MALCOLM SUBER: Right. And so, you know, this is just part of that whole gentrification program and the changing of the demographics of the city. The local white ruling class wants to maintain its -- to regain its political control, and so they have used this storm and the flooding as a convenient excuse to get rid of black folk, especially poor black people. And basically their mentality is, you can only come back to this plantation if you've got a job; if you don't have a job, we don't want to provide any social services.

AMY GOODMAN: We just have a minute. But this whole issue of the right of return, how are you framing it?

KALI AKUNO: It's an unequivocal human right, and it entails -- it has to entail a comprehensive program for both reconstruction, returning folks home with jobs, justice and equity. I mean, those are the basic parts of it.

AMY GOODMAN: About, what, 60% of people have returned home?

KALI AKUNO: I would say that that number is actually inaccurate. I mean, I think it’s still closer to between 45% and 50%. I think if you look around the region, you may find that number of people living in Slidell, people living in Baton Rouge. But I still think, you know, realistically, when the sun goes down, there’s still only half the population of New Orleans in town.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, I want to thank you both for being with us. Is there contact information for -- well, today in New Orleans, the tribunal is at People’s -- at the Pan-American building.

KALI AKUNO: It’s at the Pan-American Conference Center, which is on Poydras and Camp Streets in downtown New Orleans. If you want to get in contact with us, you can call us at (504) 301-0215, or you can visit our website, which is

AMY GOODMAN: Well, Kali Akuno and Malcolm Suber, thanks so much. People's Hurricane Relief Fund. We’re broadcasting from here in New Orleans in the Lower Ninth Ward. When we come back, we'll speak with the former head of the New Orleans Teachers Union. After the hurricane, all of the teachers in New Orleans were fired.

Katrina's Impact Strongly Felt Some Two Years Later

August 30, 2007

Katrina Two Years After

In New Orleans the rich recover while the poor continue abandoned.

NEW ORLEANS, August 29.- Discontent over the lack of progress in the reconstruction of New Orleans was in the air Wednesday in the jazz city, two years after hurricane Kartina, reported AP.


The sensation of loss remains alive here in this Gulf Coast metropolitan area where the dikes collapsed and flooding virtually destroyed the city.

Different churches held services in memory of the more than 1,700 people who died in the tragedy.

George W. Bush promised, once again, to take care of the situation of the New Orleans population, where the most well-off sectors are already rebuilt and the large area where the poor live is still in ruins.

"People are angry and they want to send a message to politicians that they want them to do more and do it faster," said Baptist Reverend Marshall Truehill. "Nobody's going to be partying," he said.

"It's an emotional time. You relive what happened and you remember how scattered everybody still is," said Robert Smallwood a New Orleans writer.

"The city has been dying this slow death. There's no escape. In New Orleans there's bad news everyday," he added.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

US Preparing 'Massive' Military Attack Against Iran

Study: US preparing 'massive' military attack against Iran

08/28/2007 11:04 am
Filed by Larisa Alexandrovna and Muriel Kane

The United States has the capacity for and may be prepared to launch without warning a massive assault on Iranian uranium enrichment facilities, as well as government buildings and infrastructure, using long-range bombers and missiles, according to a new analysis.

The paper, "Considering a war with Iran: A discussion paper on WMD in the Middle East" – written by well-respected British scholar and arms expert Dr. Dan Plesch, Director of the Centre for International Studies and Diplomacy of the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) at the University of London, and Martin Butcher, a former Director of the British American Security Information Council (BASIC) and former adviser to the Foreign Affairs Committee of the European Parliament – was exclusively provided to RAW STORY late Friday under embargo.

"We wrote the report partly as we were surprised that this sort of quite elementary analysis had not been produced by the many well resourced Institutes in the United States," wrote Plesch in an email to Raw Story on Tuesday.

Plesch and Butcher examine "what the military option might involve if it were picked up off the table and put into action" and conclude that based on open source analysis and their own assessments, the US has prepared its military for a "massive" attack against Iran, requiring little contingency planning and without a ground invasion.

The study concludes that the US has made military preparations to destroy Iran’s WMD, nuclear energy, regime, armed forces, state apparatus and economic infrastructure within days if not hours of President George W. Bush giving the order. The US is not publicising the scale of these preparations to deter Iran, tending to make confrontation more likely. The US retains the option of avoiding war, but using its forces as part of an overall strategy of shaping Iran’s actions.

Any attack is likely to be on a massive multi-front scale but avoiding a ground invasion. Attacks focused on WMD facilities would leave Iran too many retaliatory options, leave President Bush open to the charge of using too little force and leave the regime intact.

US bombers and long range missiles are ready today to destroy 10,000 targets in Iran in a few hours.

US ground, air and marine forces already in the Gulf, Iraq, and Afghanistan can devastate Iranian forces, the regime and the state at short notice.

Some form of low level US and possibly UK military action as well as armed popular resistance appear underway inside the Iranian provinces or ethnic areas of the Azeri, Balujistan, Kurdistan and Khuzestan. Iran was unable to prevent sabotage of its offshore-to-shore crude oil pipelines in 2005.

Nuclear weapons are ready, but most unlikely, to be used by the US, the UK and Israel. The human, political and environmental effects would be devastating, while their military value is limited.

Israel is determined to prevent Iran acquiring nuclear weapons yet has the conventional military capability only to wound Iran’s WMD programmes.

The attitude of the UK is uncertain, with the Brown government and public opinion opposed psychologically to more war, yet, were Brown to support an attack he would probably carry a vote in Parliament. The UK is adamant that Iran must not acquire the bomb.

The US is not publicising the scale of these preparations to deter Iran, tending to make confrontation more likely. The US retains the option of avoiding war, but using its forces as part of an overall strategy of shaping Iran’s actions.

When asked why the paper seems to indicate a certainty of Iranian WMD, Plesch made clear that "our paper is not, repeat not, about what Iran actually has or not." Yet, he added that "Iran certainly has missiles and probably some chemical capability."

Most significantly, Plesch and Butcher dispute conventional wisdom that any US attack on Iran would be confined to its nuclear sites. Instead, they foresee a "full-spectrum approach," designed to either instigate an overthrow of the government or reduce Iran to the status of "a weak or failed state." Although they acknowledge potential risks and impediments that might deter the Bush administration from carrying out such a massive attack, they also emphasize that the administration's National Security Strategy includes as a major goal the elimination of Iran as a regional power. They suggest, therefore, that:

This wider form of air attack would be the most likely to delay the Iranian nuclear program for a sufficiently long period of time to meet the administration’s current counterproliferation goals. It would also be consistent with the possible goal of employing military action is to overthrow the current Iranian government, since it would severely degrade the capability of the Iranian military (in particular revolutionary guards units and other ultra-loyalists) to keep armed opposition and separatist movements under control. It would also achieve the US objective of neutralizing Iran as a power in the region for many years to come.

However, it is the option that contains the greatest risk of increased global tension and hatred of the United States. The US would have few, if any allies for such a mission beyond Israel (and possibly the UK). Once undertaken, the imperatives for success would be enormous. Butcher says he does not believe the US would use nuclear weapons, with some exceptions.

"My opinion is that [nuclear weapons] wouldn't be used unless there was definite evidence that Iran has them too or is about to acquire them in a matter of days/weeks," notes Butcher. "However, the Natanz facility has been so hardened that to destroy it MAY require nuclear weapons, and once an attack had started it may simply be a matter of following military logic and doctrine to full extent, which would call for the use of nukes if all other means failed."

Military Strategy

The bulk of the paper is devoted to a detailed analysis of specific military strategies for such an attack, of ongoing attempts to destabilize Iran by inciting its ethnic minorities, and of the considerations surrounding the possible employment of nuclear weapons.

In particular, Plesch and Butcher examine what is known as Global Strike – the capability to project military power from the United States to anywhere in the world, which was announced by STRATCOM as having initial operational capability in December 2005. It is the that capacity that could provide strategic bombers and missiles to devastate Iran on just a few hours notice.

Iran has a weak air force and anti aircraft capability, almost all of it is 20-30 years old and it lacks modern integrated communications. Not only will these forces be rapidly destroyed by US air power, but Iranian ground and air forces will have to fight without protection from air attack.

British military sources stated on condition of anonymity, that "the US military switched its whole focus to Iran" from March 2003. It continued this focus even though it had infantry bogged down in fighting the insurgency in Iraq.
Global Strike could be combined with already-existing "regional operational plans for limited war with Iran, such as Oplan 1002-04, for an attack on the western province of Kuzhestan, or Oplan 1019 which deals with preventing Iran from closing the Straits of Hormuz, and therefore keeping open oil lanes vital to the US economy."

The Marines are not all tied down fighting in Iraq. Several Marine forces are assembling in the Gulf, each with its own aircraft carrier. These carrier forces can each conduct a version of the D-Day landings. They come with landing craft, tanks, jump-jets, thousands of troops and hundreds more cruise missiles. Their task is to destroy Iranian forces able to attack oil tankers and to secure oilfields and installations. They have trained for this mission since the Iranian revolution of 1979 as is indicated in this battle map of Hormuz illustrating an advert for combat training software.

Special Forces units – which are believed to already be operating within Iran – would be available to carry out search-and-destroy missions and incite internal uprisings, while US Army units in both Iraq and Afghanistan could mount air and missile attacks on Iranian forces, which are heavily concentrated along the Iran-Iraq border, as well as protecting their own supply lines within Iraq.

A key assessment in any war with Iran concerns Basra province and the Kuwait border. It is likely that Iran and its sympathizers could take control of population centres and interrupt oil supplies, if it was in their interest to do so. However it is unlikely that they could make any sustained effort against Kuwait or interrupt supply lines north from Kuwait to central Iraq. US firepower is simply too great for any Iranian conventional force.

Experts question the report's conclusions

Former CIA analyst and Deputy Director for Transportation Security, Antiterrorism Assistance Training, and Special Operations in the State Department's Office of Counterterrorism, Larry Johnson, does not agree with the report’s findings.

"The report seems to accept without question that US air force and navy bombers could effectively destroy Iran and they seem to ignore the fact that US use of air power in Iraq has failed to destroy all major military, political, economic and transport capabilities," said Johnson late Monday after the embargo on the study had been lifted.

"But at least in their conclusions they still acknowledge that Iran, if attacked, would be able to retaliate. Yet they are vague in terms of detailing the extent of the damage that the Iran is capable of inflicting on the US and fairly assessing what those risks are."

There is also the situation of US soldiers in Iraq and the supply routes that would have to be protected to ensure that US forces had what they needed. Plesch explains that “"firepower is an effective means of securing supply routes during conventional war and in conventional war a higher loss rate is expected."

"However as we say do not assume that the Iraqi Shiia will rally to Tehran – the quietist Shiia tradition favoured by Sistani may regard itself as justified if imploding Iranian power can be argued to reduce US problems in Iraq, not increase them."

John Pike, Director of Global Security, a Washington-based military, intelligence, and security clearinghouse, says that the question of Iraq is the one issue at the center of any questions regarding Iran.

"The situation in Iraq is a wild card, though it may be presumed that Iran would mount attacks on the US at some remove, rather than upsetting the apple-cart in its own front yard," wrote Pike in an email.

Political Considerations

Plesch and Butcher write with concern about the political context within the United States:

This debate is bleeding over into the 2008 Presidential election, with evidence mounting that despite the public unpopularity of the war in Iraq, Iran is emerging as an issue over which Presidential candidates in both major American parties can show their strong national security bona fides. ...

The debate on how to deal with Iran is thus occurring in a political context in the US that is hard for those in Europe or the Middle East to understand. A context that may seem to some to be divorced from reality, but with the US ability to project military power across the globe, the reality of Washington DC is one that matters perhaps above all else. ...

We should not underestimate the Bush administration's ability to convince itself that an "Iran of the regions" will emerge from a post-rubble Iran. So, do not be in the least surprised if the United States attacks Iran. Timing is an open question, but it is hard to find convincing arguments that war will be avoided, or at least ones that are convincing in Washington.

Plesch and Butcher are also interested in the attitudes of the current UK government, which has carefully avoided revealing what its position might be in the case of an attack. They point out, however, "One key caution is that regardless of the realities of Iran’s programme, the British public and elite may simply refuse to participate – almost out of bloody minded revenge for the Iraq deceit."

And they conclude that even "if the attack is 'successful' and the US reasserts its global military dominance and reduces Iran to the status of an oil-rich failed state, then the risks to humanity in general and to the states of the Middle East are grave indeed."

Larisa Alexandrovna is managing editor of investigative news for Raw Story and regularly reports on intelligence and national security stories. Contact:

Muriel Kane is research director for Raw Story.

Minister of Home Affairs in South Africa Says There Will Be No Camps for Zimbabwe Migrants

CAPE TOWN 28 August 2007 Sapa


Home Affairs Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula again dismissed
suggestions on Tuesday that government set up refugee camps for Zimbabweans in South Africa.

It is clear there is "a problem" in Zimbabwe and this should be accepted, she told a media briefing at Parliament.

However, South Africa could not establish refugee camps for people who did not want to be refugees.

Most illegal migrants from Zimbabwe simply wanted to earn some money and then return home, Mapisa-Nqakula said.

They would not be able to do this if they were placed in refugee camps.

Making people refugees also meant they could not return to their countries until all the problems there had been resolved.

Such camps would also have a "pull effect," with people "jumping the fence" [border] for a meal or other benefit before going back.

Although difficult, it was necessary to strike a balance between the humanitarian crisis in Zimbabwe and the rule of law in South Africa, she said.

Deporting them had not helped and was a waste of money, because "two weeks later they are back in South Africa."

New ways of dealing with the illegal migrants from Zimbabwe had to be found; possibly such as temporary residence permits.

Zimbabweans with scarce skills could also make use of the work permit quota system, provided they brought their qualifications documents with them, Mapisa-Nqakula said.


SA needs new approach on Zim influx

Wed, 29 Aug 2007

The government needs to adopt a new approach to deal with Zimbabwean citizens flocking into South Africa, Home affairs Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula said on Tuesday.

The SABC reported her as saying one solution could be to provide them with temporary residence permits.

"...What that means is that they can't go back home until the political problems have been resolved," she told reporters in Cape Town.

"And yet the people who come in here would like to get a job, get some money and provide for their families. A number of them go back on a monthly basis."

Mapisa-Nqakula said it was a waste of money to keep deporting people as the majority of them returned within a few days.

She reiterated that no refugee camps would be set up to deal with the influx.


Somali Resistance Leader Vows to Fight to the Death Against US-backed Occupation

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Somali Islamic leader vows to fight to death

Compiled by Daily Star staff

The leader of an ousted Islamic group that has launched a bloody insurgency to topple the Somali government said his fighters are ready to fight to the death as at least six more civilians died in the capital on Tuesday.

Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys, whose Council of Islamic Courts ruled much of southern Somalia for six months last year, accused Ethiopian forces supporting the Somali government of indiscriminate killings.

"They kill people remorselessly and the world does not speak of it. They only accuse the insurgents, whose only target is the enemy," Aweys told the Somali-language service of Voice of America radio Monday night.

Aweys, who spoke by satellite telephone from an undisclosed location, said "surrender to the enemy" would be shameful and his forces are willing to fight to the death. He and other Islamic leaders were forced into hiding when they were driven from power in December by Somali and Ethiopian troops.

Both sides of the conflict have been accused of killing civilians, and thousands of people have been killed this year. Aweys is on a US list of people with suspected ties to Al-Qaeda, though he has repeatedly denied having ties to international terrorists.

Mogadishu has been the scene of near daily grenade attacks and roadside bombs. At least six people were killed overnight when insurgents launched attacks on government bases, police and witnesses said on Tuesday.

Two civilians were killed and one wounded on Tuesday in the capital's Bakara market where Somali policemen tackled insurgents, forcing traders to flee, an AFP correspondent witnessed.

Insurgents also shot dead two civilians in Baruwa district that has been a theatre of fighting in the recent weeks, residents said.

Elsewhere, two other civilians were killed by stray gunfire and two wounded.

Elders had warned of renewed clashes and urged civilians to flee high-risk areas.

"No one can live in this situation," said Mohammad Hashi, a Shirkole elder told AFP.

"We expect insurgents to strike that is why we are asking civilians to leave areas where government forces and insurgents are based."


Sunday, August 26, 2007

Judge Deborah Thomas Speaks at a MECAWI Forum on the Prison Industrial Complex

Judge Deborah Thomas Speaks at MECAWI Forum on the Prison Industrial Complex

PANW Editor's Note: Judge Deborah Thomas spoke yesterday at a public forum on the Prison Industrial Complex that was held at the offices of the Michigan Emergency Committee Against War & Injustice (MECAWI)in Detroit. She discussed the current attacks on her as an African-American Judge in the city of Detroit.

Judge Thomas has been under attack for her efforts aimed at providing legal avenues for people to protect themselves from the unjust implementation of the constitution. This forum featured several other speakers who analyzed the growing perils of the right-wing control of the Michigan and the Federal Supreme Courts.

Additional speakers included: Kevin Carey of MECAWI, Doreen Bey, an advocate for juveniles within the legal system, a phone-in call from Rev. Edward Pinkney who is under house arrest in Benton Harbor, Michigan, Kay Perry of MI-CURE, which monitors state legislation related to prison reform, Cheryl LaBash, of the Justice for Cuba Coalition, who spoke about the recent federal appeals hearing on the Cuban Five, Andrea Egypt, of MECAWI, who spoke on the plight of women in the prison system and Abayomi Azikiwe, editor of the Pan-African News Wire.

Also a film was shown entitled: "Torture: America's Brutal Prisons," documenting the fact that what is happening in Abu-Ghraib, Guantanamo Bay and in Afghan detention centers is part and parcel of the United States practices of denying the fundamental human and civil rights of oppressed peoples around the world.

Participants of yesterday's forum pledged support in building the demonstration in support of Judge Deborah Thomas and other jurists on September 10 outside the Coleman A. Young Municipal Cener in downtown Detroit.

Black Women Judges under court attack

Judges Deborah Thomas left, and Beverly Nettles-Nickerson

By Diane Bukowski
The Michigan Citizen

DETROIT — Majority white juries sending Blacks to prison, prison overcrowding, and evictions by suburban landlords — these are some of the issues three of Michigan’s Black women judges have tackled. In return, they have faced investigations and charges from mostly white chief judges and the all-white state Judicial Tenure Commission (JTC), as well as the threat of removal from the bench by the State Supreme Court.

The three are Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Deborah Thomas, Ingham County Circuit Court Judge Beverley Nettles-Nickerson, and Detroit’s 36th District Court Judge Jeannette O’Banner-Owens. O’Banner-Owens, 62, died July 27 after a long fight against lung disease.

“She really died of a broken heart, after years of attacks,” said her attorney Philip Thomas, who had just succeeded in having the state Supreme Court reject a JTC recommendation to remove her from the bench. Philip Thomas also represents Judges Thomas and Nettles-Nickerson.

Judge Thomas challenged lack of Blacks on juries

In 2004 Judge Thomas challenged the disproportionate number of whites on Wayne County Circuit Court juries after a jury panel appearing in front of her contained only one Black out of 30 individuals.

Her order in that case led to two studies showing Blacks make up only 27 percent of jury panels in the county, while the county’s population is 42 percent African-American.

The second study, by the National Center for State Courts, found systematic exclusion of Blacks including the permanent removal from the eligible list of anyone who fails to return a jury questionnaire.

During that time, Chief Judge Mary Beth Kelly, who is white and Republican, attempted to remove Thomas from the court’s Criminal Division. Kelly ordered that all challenges to jury composition be heard only by herself. Kelly most recently barred Thomas from hearing all pre-trial motions, claiming Thomas’ docket is backed up.

Thomas also faces a Judicial Tenure investigation, challenging some of her rulings as anti-police and anti-prosecution.

Thomas has filed for a writ of superintending control from the state Supreme Court. She says two of the JTC members, Michael Talbot and Nancy Diehl, have personally opposed her rulings in their capacities on the appeals court and in the prosecutor’s office.

But Thomas’ supporters are fighting back, addressing the issues behind the attacks.

“Justice can only be found in a legal system that allows for an independent judiciary operating diligently and with impartiality,” said David Roby, President of the Wayne County Criminal Defense Bar Association, in a release announcing an investigation of Kelly’s actions.

“Judge Kelly’s order reeks with the appearance of partisan politics rather than a true concern for courtroom operation,” Roby went on. “The removal of pretrial motions does not reduce Judge Thomas’ courtroom workload, it merely makes conduct of any trial with a clear sense of all the information nearly impossible. . . Just because some other judges and prosecutors may disagree occasionally with her opinions, it doesn’t mean she is incapable of managing her own courtroom.”

Supporters plan rally

Judge Thomas’ supporters are planning a rally Sept. 10 from noon to 2 p.m. in the Coleman A. Young Municipal Center auditorium to protect the people’s right to a jury of their peers, or to a bench trial. The Wayne County Prosecutor’s office has insisted that most trials before Thomas and several other judges go to the Circuit Court’s predominantly white juries.

The rally would also support the right to habeas corpus, an ages-old law which mandates that a prisoner can be brought before a judge forthwith to challenge the legality of his/her confinement. Kelly has relegated that duty to one assigned judge out of 60 per week.

“We keep sitting down and letting our constitutional rights slip away,” said Thomas. “We don’t stand up like our parents and grandparents did 50 years ago. We’re hoping to have representatives from government agencies like the City Council, the Wayne County Commission, the Michigan Civil Rights Department, and others from the grass roots. We want a very diverse group, not only Blacks, but the Muslim, Hispanic, and Arab communities, as well as our European-American brothers and sisters.”

Judge Beverley Nettles-Nickerson faces trial

Ingham County Circuit Court Judge Beverley Nettles-Nickerson was the first Black judge elected to that bench in 2003, after 12 years as a district court judge. Ingham County is home to Lansing, the state capital, where the city council awarded her the Sojourner Truth award for her years of service.

Nettles-Nickerson has spoken out in favor of alternatives to prison sentencing, such as residential programs, due to prison overcrowding.

On June 6 the State Supreme Court indefinitely suspended her, pending outcome of a trial set for Sept. 12.

The court based the suspension on numerous charges filed by the Judicial Tenure Commission, including one that she unfairly accused Circuit Court Chief Judge William E. Collette of racial bias in his treatment of her, and filed a complaint with the Michigan Civil Rights Commission. Judge Nettles-Nickerson later withdrew the complaint in favor of attempting to settle the matter internally.

State Supreme Court Justice Clifford Taylor, who is Black but a Republican conservative, appointed a white retired judge, Marvin Robertson, to investigate her allegations. According to Carl Gromek, Chief of Staff for the State Court Administrator, Robertson “found no evidence of racism on Judge Collette’s part.” Nettles-Nickerson countered that Robertson interviewed only one of five witnesses she gave him.

In a letter to the Judicial Tenure Commission, Gromek asked them to investigate the judge, adding, “As Judge Nettles-Nickerson drew a great deal of public attention to the race issue, I ask that you expedite your investigation to the extent possible.”

In response to subsequent JTC charges, the Michigan Civil Rights Department issued a strongly-worded release.

“It is our sincere hope that the JTC did not intend to imply that Judge Nettles-Nickerson should be disciplined in any way for exercising her right to file a civil rights complaint,” said the Department. “A suspension for filing an allegation of illegal discrimination would violate state and federal civil rights laws . . .and have a chilling effect on the state’s ability to protect persons who legitimately believe they may be victims of illegal discrimination.”

The JTC also alleges, among other matters, that Nettles-Nickerson held a press conference to support her court clerk, Dorothy Dungey, who is Black, against allegedly imaginary attempts by Collette and others to fire her. They also say that Nettles-Nickerson lived out of the district, while staying at a friend’s house for three weeks pending her divorce, and that in various instances she was late in holding court proceedings.

Nettles-Nickerson’s fellow judge, James Giddings, has filed an affidavit in her support, as has Lawrence Nolan, former President of the Ingham County Bar Association. Five Lansing-area pastors joined together in a statement condemning the JTC investigation and calling for an independent investigation of the JTC itself.

“The investigation and complaint have the appearance of being personally, politically and racially motivated,” said the pastors. “Why would three judges who happen to be white go on record making personal, subjective statements against Judge Nettles-Nickerson before she has her day in court? . . . We believe that Judge Nettles-Nickerson is the victim of a public lynching.”

Judge Jeanette O’Banner-Owens dies after fight to keep her seat

On June 13, the State Supreme Court denied a petition by the JTC to have Thirty-Sixth District Court Judge Jeanette O’Banner-Owens removed for allegations of judicial misconduct, after 19 years on the bench. O’Banner-Owens, who had been on sick leave for lung disease, died July 27.

“At the time she passed away,” said attorney Philip Thomas, “the JTC had just added a formal complaint alleging she was faking her illness because she didn’t want to go back to work. I believe she died of a broken heart after fighting seven years of allegations against her.”

The JTC accused her of “unnecessarily harsh remarks” and interrupting witnesses excessively, voicing “erroneous legal opinions” and rulings, and “frequent ethnocentric remarks and other comments reflecting bias . . . in favor of parties from Detroit or who are African-American.”

They also alleged that she frequently made religious remarks out of court, dressed “inappropriately” under her robes, and said her psychological behavior had deteriorated. They subjected her to detailed examinations by three psychiatrists who concluded that she suffered from dementia.

But Atty. Thomas said that after two years, he was finally able to obtain two eight-page letters sent by the JTC to the psychiatrists that “poisoned the well.”

A fourth psychiatrist, Dr. Stephen Aronson, an adjunct University of Michigan professor, said in fact that O’Banner-Owens showed no signs of dementia, and expressed shock that the other doctors had taken those letters into account before examining O’Banner-Owens.

Under US/NATO Occupation Afghanistan Raises Poppy Production to a Record Level Again

August 26, 2007

Taliban Raise Poppy Production to a Record Again

New York Times

LASHKAR GAH, Afghanistan, Aug. 25 — Afghanistan produced record levels of opium in 2007 for the second straight year, led by a staggering 45 percent increase in the Taliban stronghold of Helmand Province, according to a new United Nations survey to be released Monday.

The report is likely to touch off renewed debate about the United States’ $600 million counternarcotics program in Afghanistan, which has been hampered by security challenges and endemic corruption within the Afghan government.

“I think it is safe to say that we should be looking for a new strategy,” said William B. Wood, the American ambassador to Afghanistan, commenting on the report’s overall findings. “And I think that we are finding one.”

Mr. Wood said the current American programs for eradication, interdiction and alternative livelihoods should be intensified, but he added that ground spraying poppy crops with herbicide remained “a possibility.” Afghan and British officials have opposed spraying, saying it would drive farmers into the arms of the Taliban.

While the report found that opium production dropped in northern Afghanistan, Western officials familiar with the assessment said, cultivation rose in the south, where Taliban insurgents urge farmers to grow poppies.

Although common farmers make comparatively little from the trade, opium is a major source of financing for the Taliban, who gain public support by protecting farmers’ fields from eradication, according to American officials. They also receive a cut of the trade from traffickers they protect.

In Taliban-controlled areas, traffickers have opened more labs that process raw opium into heroin, vastly increasing its value. The number of drug labs in Helmand rose to roughly 50 from 30 the year before, and about 16 metric tons of chemicals used in heroin production have been confiscated this year.

The Western officials said countrywide production had increased from 2006 to 2007, but they did not know the final United Nations figure. They estimated a countrywide increase of 10 to 30 percent.

The new survey showed positive signs as well, officials said.

The sharp drop in poppy production in the north is likely to make this year’s countrywide increase smaller than the growth in 2006. Last year, a 160 percent increase in Helmand’s opium crop fueled a 50 percent nationwide increase. Afghanistan produced a record 6,100 metric tons of opium poppies last year, 92 percent of the world’s supply.

Here in Helmand, the breadth of the poppy trade is staggering. A sparsely populated desert province twice the size of Maryland, Helmand produces more narcotics than any country on earth, including Myanmar, Morocco and Colombia. Rampant poverty, corruption among local officials, a Taliban resurgence and spreading lawlessness have turned the province into a narcotics juggernaut.

Poppy prices that are 10 times higher than those for wheat have so warped the local economy that some farmhands refused to take jobs harvesting legal crops this year, local farmers said. And farmers dismiss the threat of eradication, arguing that so many local officials are involved in the poppy trade that a significant clearing of crops will never be done.

American and British officials say they have a long-term strategy to curb poppy production. About 7,000 British troops and Afghan security forces are gradually extending the government’s authority in some areas, they said. The British government is spending $60 million to promote legal crops in the province, and the United States Agency for International Development is mounting a $160 million alternative livelihoods program across southern Afghanistan, most of it in Helmand.

Loren Stoddard, director of the aid agency’s agriculture program in Afghanistan, cited American-financed agricultural fairs, the introduction of high-paying legal crops and the planned construction of a new industrial park and airport as evidence that alternatives were being created.

Mr. Stoddard, who helped Wal-Mart move into Central America in his previous posting, predicted that poppy production had become so prolific that the opium market was flooded and prices were starting to drop. “It seems likely they’ll have a rough year this year,” he said, referring to the poppy farmers. “Labor prices are up and poppy prices are down. I think they’re going to be looking for new things.”

On Wednesday, Mr. Stoddard and Rory Donohoe, the director of the American development agency’s Alternative Livelihoods program in southern Afghanistan, attended the first “Helmand Agricultural Festival.” The $300,000 American-financed gathering in Lashkar Gah was an odd cross between a Midwestern county fair and a Central Asian bazaar, devised to show Afghans an alternative to poppies.

Under a scorching sun, thousands of Afghan men meandered among booths describing fish farms, the dairy business and drip-irrigation systems. A generator, cow and goat were raffled off. Wizened elders sat on carpets and sipped green tea. Some wealthy farmers seemed interested. Others seemed keen to attend what they saw as a picnic.

When Mr. Stoddard and Mr. Donohoe arrived, they walked through the festival surrounded by a three-man British and Australian security team armed with assault rifles. “Who won the cow? Who won the cow?” shouted Mr. Stoddard, 38, a burly former food broker from Provo, Utah. “Was it a girl or a guy?”

After Afghans began dancing to traditional drum and flute music, Mr. Donohoe, 29, from San Francisco, briefly joined them.

Some Afghans praised the fair’s alternatives crops. Others said only the rich could afford them. Haji Abdul Gafar, 28, a wealthy landowner, expressed interest in some of the new ideas.

Saber Gul, a 40-year-old laborer, said he was too poor to take advantage. “For those who have livestock and land, they can,” he said. “For us, the poor people, there is nothing.”

Local officials said all the development programs would fail without improved security.

Assadullah Wafa, Helmand’s governor, said four of Helmand’s 13 districts were under Taliban control. Other officials put the number at six.

Mr. Wafa, who eradicated far fewer acres than the governor of neighboring Kandahar Province, promised to improve eradication in Helmand next year. He also called for Western countries to decrease the demand for heroin.

“The world is focusing on the production side, not the buying side,” he said.

The day after the agricultural fair, Mr. Stoddard and Mr. Donohoe gave a tour of a $3 million American project to clear a former Soviet airbase on the outskirts of town and turn it into an industrial park and civilian airport.

Standing near rusting Soviet fuel tanks, the two men described how pomegranates, a delicacy in Helmand for centuries, would be flown out to growing markets in India and Dubai. Animal feed would be produced from a local mill, marble cut and polished for construction.

“Once we get this air cargo thing going,” Mr. Stoddard said, “it will open up the whole south.”

That afternoon, they showed off a pilot program for growing chili peppers on contract for a company in Dubai. “These kinds of partnerships with private companies are what we want here,” said Mr. Donohoe, who has a Master’s in Business Administration from Georgetown University. “We’ll let the market drive it.”

As the Americans toured the farm, they were guarded by eight Afghans and three British and Australian guards. The farm itself had received guards after local villagers began sneaking in at night and stealing produce. Twenty-four hours a day, 24 Afghan men with assault rifles staff six guard posts that ring the farm, safeguarding chili peppers and other produce.

“Some people would say that security is so bad that you can’t do anything,” Mr. Donohoe said. “But we do it.”

Mr. Wafa, though, called the American reconstruction effort too small and “low quality.”

“There is a proverb in Afghanistan,” he said. “By one flower we cannot mark spring.”

Who Gets Blame For Deaths in Sudan?

Who gets blame for deaths in Darfur?

By John Parker
Published Jul 19, 2007 9:30 AM

A close look at the crisis in Sudan shows that the imperialist powers and especially the U.S. have active responsibility for the social turmoil and passive responsibility for an ecological disaster that is tantamount to genocide.

Yet on May 29, President George W. Bush, in trying to promote U.N. sanctions against Sudan, accused the Khartoum government of the “bombing, rape and murder of innocent civilians” and said, “The world has a responsibility to put an end to it.”

This charge against Sudan comes from the commander-in-chief of an armed force that is carrying out genocide, rape, murder and bombing in numbers far outweighing what even the U.S. State Department alleges were committed by the Sudanese government. Currently millions of civilians have been either tortured or murdered directly by the U.S. military in Iraq, Afghanistan and U.S. occupied Guantánamo.

In contrast to this direct U.S. role are the charges against Khartoum: that a proxy grouping working at the behest of the Sudanese government is engaged in the violence.

Bush went further in regards to the violence on the part of the Sudan government: “My administration has called these actions by their rightful name: genocide.”

The prime motivation for U.S. intervention into Sudan has everything to do with that country’s rich resources and oil reserves rivaling those of Saudi Arabia.

Bush, speaking on behalf of the U.S. ruling class, with its oil, financial and military interests in Africa and Western Asia, was ready to give any excuse that would allow the U.S. access to the old and newly discovered oil wealth in the region. He would like as much as possible to put an international cover on U.S. designs for the region. Charges of genocide help force the UN to do as it finally did in Iraq and in the Balkans: help facilitate U.S. occupation there.

This is not the first time the Bush administration has tried to promote the charge of genocide against Sudan.

When former Secretary of State Colin Powell was used to level the “genocide” charge, a U.N. commission in 2005 investigating alleged atrocities said the Sudan government was not guilty of genocide. Many in the international community agreed with this U.N. commission.

What the U.N. did recently say last month about the crisis in Sudan, however, helps point the finger of genocide right back at the U.S. and other imperialist countries.

This June the U.N. published an 18-month study by the U.N. Environmental Program that blamed environmental factors as the root causes of the violence in Sudan. It warned that inaction will spread violence well beyond Sudan’s borders.

The U.N. report found that the desert in northern Sudan has advanced southwards by 60 miles over the past 40 years and that rainfall in the area has dropped by 16-30 percent.

“It [the U.N. report] illustrates and demonstrates what is increasingly becoming a global concern,” said Achim Steiner, UNEP’s executive director. “It doesn’t take a genius to work out that as the desert moves southwards, there is a physical limit to what systems can sustain, and so you get one group displacing another.” (British Guardian)

The U.N. study also found that there could be a drop of up to 70 percent in crop yields, devastating areas from Senegal to Sudan.

Before rebel groupings attacked government forces in 2003, sparking the current civil war in Sudan, the rains had diminished and the desert was growing by over a mile per year.

Why didn’t the government of Sudan do more to avert this environmental crisis? One thing is for sure—British, French and U.S. interference in the affairs of Sudan had an extremely draining effect on its resources and ability to develop economically, let alone defend itself from natural disaster. Sanctions, such as those Bush is promoting, have been one of the means used to drain Sudan.

Sudan’s colonial legacy

Sudan’s problems can be traced to its colonial past. After 1916, when Britain militarily gained full control over the Sudan as its colony, British rule depended on creating conflict and dividing the Muslim north from the Christian or animist south. It left isolated and unnourished what were then thought to be unprofitable regions like Darfur.

In another words, the British Empire did not allow the creation of an infrastructure facilitating government assistance to the region. Like Darfur today, these regions contained people who were all Muslim and possibly harder to divide.

Despite current claims to the contrary by U.S.-based propagandists, who want to promote the idea that this is a war between “white Arabs and Black Christians,” all the people in the Darfur region were and are people who look alike in terms of their dark skin and features. They are all Muslim.

The poverty and inequities facing Darfur have roots in the British Empire, as do the civil wars between the South and North of Sudan, whose combatants have migrated also to the Darfur region.

The more recent history of intervention by imperialist forces, especially the U.S., into Sudan should make everyone see through Bush’s hypocritical talk.

The current situation with this spread of war from the South of Sudan to the Darfur region was exacerbated greatly by U.S. military and financial support of the Sudanese People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) in southern Sudan. The SPLA was the nucleus for the Sudanese Liberation Army now fighting in Darfur. Fueled by U.S. dollars, that war in the South helped drain Sudan’s economy and discouraged the development of its oil resources.

The U.S. call for sanctions during a natural crisis has precedent. The senior Bush administration called for sanctions in March 1990, at exactly the same time a drought crisis occurred. Later, former President Bill Clinton pushed additional sanctions and went further by bombing Sudan in August 1998 and destroying its primary pharmaceutical plant.

The current sanctions by Bush Jr. hit 31 Sudanese companies, mainly companies that build and maintain Sudan’s vital infrastructure, including agriculture and transportation and the development of its oil resources, which could help provide money to avert the effects of the drought.

The U.S.-led U.N. sanctions against Iraq starting in 1990 are estimated to have killed 1.5 million people, including a half-million children. What effect sanctions will have on one of the poorest countries in the world is yet to be seen.

In the 1990s, while U.S. aid fueled the civil war in the South of Sudan, many Christian and other religious charities also sent their dollars to support rebel forces against the Sudanese government.

Likewise, today, the Bush-endorsed Save Darfur Coalition, a grouping led by Christian and Zionist organizations with some Hollywood and even African-American members, supports U.S. military intervention in Darfur. In spite of the overwhelming evidence that U.S. sanctions seriously damage developing countries, these groups encourage sanctions against Sudan.

Is there a better solution for Sudan? The U.N. commissioned another report by the U.N. Millennium Project, which calculated that extreme poverty could be ended in the entire continent of Africa with $189 billion. The supplemental appropriations passed by the U.S. Congress in May for the Iraq and Afghanistan occupations would cover most of that cost.

When the last G8 summit ended in Germany, the leaders of the imperialist NATO powers—including Britain and the U.S.—all agreed that climate problems on the African continent affecting Sudan existed and would continue to devastate more of the continent. Yet they came up with no solutions.

Given that the U.S. and other imperialist countries continue to fuel the fire of natural disaster in Sudan while sitting on the very means to solve the situation, one could consider this a passive act of genocide against African people.
Articles copyright 1995-2007 Workers World. Verbatim copying and distribution of this entire article is permitted in any medium without royalty provided this notice is preserved.

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UN Official: Sudan Cooperating in Darfur

Posted: 2007-08-24 17:05:04

WASHINGTON (AP) - The Sudanese government, which fought efforts to bring international peacekeepers to the devastated Darfur region, seems to be cooperating as the United Nations-mandated force takes shape, a top U.N. official said Friday.

Goods that had been bottled up at Sudanese ports began moving more freely in July, and there have been other signs of cooperation "for the moment," said Jane Holl Lute, the U.N. assistant secretary-general for peacekeeping worldwide.

She declined to speculate on the motivations of the Arab-led government in Khartoum, which the United States and others blame for allowing and encouraging much of the killing of Africans and the destruction of their farms and villages in Darfur.

Lute would not go so far as to say she is fully satisfied with Khartoum's role now, nor confident that cooperation will continue.

Her U.N. planners are "able to work," Lute said.

Lute was in Washington to update the White House on progress toward fielding the force of more than 20,000 early next year. The United States is not providing troops but is expected to fund about a quarter of the mission's projected $2.4 billion annual cost.

The U.N. needs additional help with engineering projects including roadbuilding and transporting goods and troops by air. Lute was discussing U.N. hopes for more practical help from the United States, although she said she was not on a lobbying mission.

The Sudanese government is adamantly opposed to non-Africans playing any major role in the hybrid U.N.-African Union operation that was authorized by the U.N. Security Council on July 31 and will be made up of 20,000 peacekeepers and 6,000 civilian police.

Disagreements over the composition of the mission were a major reason the authorization was delayed for months despite mounting pressure on Khartoum to accept it to help end nearly four years of internal conflict. More than 200,000 people have died and 2.5 million have been displaced.

Lute predicted the force will be "predominantly African" as the compromise U.N. Security Council resolution required. The Africa Union has said it expects to be able to fill all the peacekeeping slots with Africans, but President Bush 's special envoy for Darfur has said that is unrealistic.

A human rights group said Thursday that Sudan's government continues to violate a U.N. arms embargo in Darfur.

Amnesty International's report also said air raids by Sudanese forces continued in Darfur, with strikes reported by the U.N. in North Darfur in late June. Sudanese forces also used aircraft for several bombing raids on South Darfur in August, near the town of Adila, the group said.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

MECAWI Forum Today on the American Prison Industrial Complex: Breaking Down the Walls of Injustice

Break Down the Walls of Injustice

Forum on the Prisoner Industrial Complex

Saturday, Aug. 25, 2007
5 PM
5920 Second Ave at Antoinette
(just north of Wayne State University)
$5 - employed, $2 - unemployed
Dinner Will Be Served

Sponsored by the Committee for Corrections and Judicial Reform of MECAWI.

Speakers include:

Abayomi Azikiwe on the prison industrial complex;
Kay Perry from MI-CURE on Michigan State and House bills on prisoners’ rights;
Judge Debra Thomas, currently under attack for speaking out against racist jury pools in Wayne County and statewide;
Andrea Egypt on conditions for women prisoners, subject to rape and deplorable conditions;
Elena Herrada on ICE raids against Latino immigrants;
Reverend Edward Pinkney – victim of racist frame-up from Benton Harbor -- will call in from his house arrest;
Sandra Hines from the anti-police brutality coalition;
Doree Bey on juvenile prisoners;

For more information call 313-831-0750.

New Rules Could Shorten Death-Row Inmates' Appeal Time

New Rules Could Shorten Death-Row Inmates' Appeal Time

The Justice Department is considering new rules that could give Attorney General Alberto Gonzales power to expedite death penalty cases. Legal experts discuss the proposed changes.

RAY SUAREZ: Rules currently under consideration at the Justice Department would give Attorney General Alberto Gonzales new powers that could ultimately limit the time inmates spend on appeal on death row. Today, on average, that's just over 10 years.

Under the new arrangement, Justice Department officials would be able to fast-track the death row appeal process if the state requests it and if the attorney general agrees the state has proper legal counsel in place for the defendants. Right now, that decision is made by a federal appeals court.

If the regulations are approved, death row inmates could have six months, rather than a year, to file appeals in the federal courts, and federal judges would have less time to consider petitions in capital cases.

Now, we get two perspectives on the new rules from Kent Scheidegger, legal director of the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation, a non-profit organization that advocates for swift and decisive punishment of criminals; and Virginia Sloan, president and founder of the Constitution Project, a Washington, D.C., non-profit that examines the fairness and accuracy of death penalty cases.

And, Kent Scheidegger, if you're a condemned person fighting execution or a prosecutor arguing that the sentence be carried out, how would this new regulation change the way the process works?

KENT SCHEIDEGGER, Legal Director, Criminal Justice Legal Foundation: Well, the regulation doesn't really change anything. The change has already been made by an act of Congress a year-and-a-half ago. These regulations simply implement the act of Congress, and they are basically just the mechanics of the application process.

What would happen is that federal courts would have deadlines that they would have to meet to conduct what is actually the third review of these cases that have already been reviewed twice by the state courts.

And the deadlines are not severe. The federal district court has a year and three months to do this third review of already-reviewed cases. Unfortunately, at present, the federal courts often take longer than that, especially here in the West. It's not unusual for these cases to drag out six, seven, eight years.

Your report said the average time is 10 years. In California, it's 20. And the courts have just taken too long with these cases.

The point was to give the states the incentive to provide qualified and adequately compensated counsel. And these regulations and the new statute only apply if the states have, in fact, done that.

RAY SUAREZ: And, Virginia Sloan, you heard Kent Scheidegger say that these new regulations, this new timetable, is not a severe one because, in fact, a condemned person has already had several bites at the apple at this point.

VIRGINIA SLOAN, President, The Constitution Project: Well, that's absolutely not true. This is a disastrous limitation on defense in capital cases. The 1996 Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act already has basically stripped the process to the bone, and this makes it even a much faster process.

And at the same time, what it does is strips the defendant of access to competent, and well-resourced, and fairly compensated lawyers. And without those competent lawyers, you really cannot have an accurate process, and you cannot have a fair process.

So these regulations and the statute that they purport to implement are really just a disaster for the fairness and accuracy of the system.

RAY SUAREZ: By saying that, it sounds like you're assuming that the lower levels of the jurisprudence are acting in bad faith, that they're going to go ahead and give substandard legal defense, for instance, to death row inmates.

VIRGINIA SLOAN: Well, that's already the case. Our indigent defense system in this country is a national disgrace, and especially when it comes to death penalty cases, even more so. Study after study and widespread, bipartisan consensus is that people charged with capital crimes simply do not get adequate representation. And the states that purport to provide representation for these people who are accused of capital crimes are not giving them the kinds of lawyers who have the appropriate skills, and resources and compensation that are needed.

These are extremely complex cases, and you need someone who is very skilled and who has the resources to do an adequate investigation and to carry out a proper defense. Otherwise, we are going to be doing what we've already been doing, which is convicting the wrong people and perhaps even executing the wrong people. Speeding up the process is only going to make that worse, and providing lawyers who simply aren't up to the task is certainly going to make that process much, much worse.

RAY SUAREZ: Well, Kent Scheidegger, that is the other moving part of this new set of rules, that the attorney general of the United States would have some oversight over whether states are providing adequate legal defense to death row inmates. Virginia Sloan, as you heard, says they're not.

KENT SCHEIDEGGER: Well, that's the whole point of the compromise. And this is a bill that originally did -- with a committee headed by retired Justice Lewis Powell, and the point was to give the states the incentive to provide qualified and adequately compensated counsel. And these regulations and the new statute only apply if the states have, in fact, done that.

It provides the incentives to those states -- and they are relatively few states -- that currently don't provide good counsel. We've done it the whole time in California, and yet we have the longest delays of anybody. So it is not true that no state provides good counsel. A number of states do. And yet that doesn't change the unconscionable delays.

The Justice Department is the other side of these cases. It is completely inappropriate and completely unethical, according to a prominent group of ethicists, for the attorney general to be making the decisions in these cases.

RAY SUAREZ: Well, why do you think it's appropriate to take an authority that had been heretofore in the federal courts and give it to the attorney general of the United States? Why will that streamline California's process?

KENT SCHEIDEGGER: That's not an accurate description of what the bill did. The question of whether a court was subject to a deadline was previously vested in the very same court that was subject to the deadline. And so it's not surprising that they would go out of their way to avoid having that deadline apply to them.

The amended statute initially vested in the attorney general, but that decision is subject to review by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia circuit. That is the one circuit in the country that does not do any of these cases; that is the place for a fair and neutral decision on whether the state has, in fact, qualified.

We had a decision from the state of Arizona, from the Ninth Circuit, where they had, in fact, complied with every requirement that Congress specified, and yet the federal court that would have been subject to the deadline still denied them the application of that law. That wasn't a fair decision, and it needed to be taken away from them.

RAY SUAREZ: Virginia Sloan, I heard you trying to get in there. Go ahead.

VIRGINIA SLOAN: If Mr. Scheidegger thinks that the federal courts are not impartial and a fair decisionmaker, I cannot imagine why he thinks the attorney general of the United States would be. The Justice Department is often a party to these cases and, in the past 10 years, has consistently opposed every case brought by a person who's been convicted of a capital crime, claiming that his or her lawyer did not provide at adequate representation.

The Justice Department is the other side of these cases. It is completely inappropriate and completely unethical, according to a prominent group of ethicists, for the attorney general to be making the decisions in these cases.

Furthermore, while these concerns would apply whether you have a Democratic or a Republican administration, we have right now an attorney general whose credibility has been questioned by both Republicans and Democrats and who has been cited for overturning the decisions of U.S. attorneys around the country who decided not to pursue a capital case against certain defendants, and he has overturned those decisions. And there's been a lot of concern that he's done so on partisan or political grounds.

The attorney general is simply not the person to be making the decisions about whether a state is providing adequate, competent lawyers for people on death row.

As far as the attorney general personally, you know, he really is not a strong advocate of the death penalty. Nobody has been executed in the federal system during his tenure. He has not pushed for those cases.

RAY SUAREZ: Well, Kent Scheidegger, Ms. Sloan puts two issues on the table, one, whether it's appropriate for the chief prosecutor of the United States to have some say, some judgment power, over whether states are providing adequate legal defense to death row inmates, another criticism based on who is attorney general at the moment. Why don't you quickly take them both on?

KENT SCHEIDEGGER: Ms. Sloan's statement that the federal government is a party to these cases is simply false. These are cases of a state against a person who's committed murder in that state. The United States is not a party. The U.S. DOJ is not a party. So that is just completely false.

As far as the attorney general personally, you know, he really is not a strong advocate of the death penalty. Nobody has been executed in the federal system during his tenure. He has not pushed for those cases. So I think trying to tie this to the attorney general personally is kind of political spin.

U.S. DOJ was not behind this legislation. They didn't ask for it. They didn't particularly want it. But it is the law, and it is their responsibility, and these regulations are required by the statute. They are required to put them forward.

RAY SUAREZ: So it's your belief that it's consistent with the Constitution to take a power that's often been the purview of a federal appeals court and give it to an appointed member of the executive branch?

KENT SCHEIDEGGER: That happens all the time in administrative law with judicial review. And this statute does provide for judicial review. It is reviewed by the D.C. Circuit. It is reviewed de novo -- that is, from scratch, without any deference to the attorney general's decision. The real decisionmaker here is the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, and that is the fairest place that we can vest this decision.

I have no idea what Alberto Gonzales' view of the death penalty is, but I do know that there have been considerable and serious allegations that he has pushed for capital prosecutions in states that don't have the death penalty...

RAY SUAREZ: Virginia Sloan, your response?

VIRGINIA SLOAN: I completely disagree with that. First of all, the Justice Department is most certainly a party in any number of these cases because, through the Office of the Solicitor General, the department weighs in quite frequently on cases arising from the states and has consistently done so in cases where a person on death row has claimed ineffective assistance of counsel and has consistently done so on the side of the state. The Justice Department is a very interested party in these cases.

Furthermore, I have no idea what Alberto Gonzales' view of the death penalty is, but I do know that there have been considerable and serious allegations that he has pushed for capital prosecutions in states that don't have the death penalty or in cases where the U.S. attorney, who's the person on the ground in those cases, has declined to prosecute a capital case. So the Justice Department has a considerable interest on the other side of these cases and is not the neutral and impartial decisionmaker that we need here.

And in addition, it's very unclear what the role of the Court of Appeals is going to be in reviewing any decision that the attorney general makes, because the regulations and the statute itself set out no guidelines for what the state needs to show in order to try to have its system qualify or for what the attorney general needs to consider in deciding. And that case, the decision is not in any way transparent, it's not public, and it's not clear what evidence the Court of Appeals itself will consider or whether it would, in fact, defer to the Justice Department.

RAY SUAREZ: Ms. Sloan, we have to leave it there. Guests, thank you both.



With Troop Rise, Iraqi Detainees Soar in Number

August 25, 2007

With Troop Rise, Iraqi Detainees Soar in Number

New York Times

WASHINGTON, Aug. 24 — The number of detainees held by the American-led military forces in Iraq has swelled by 50 percent under the troop increase ordered by President Bush, with the inmate population growing to 24,500 today from 16,000 in February, according to American military officers in Iraq.

The detainee increase comes, they said, because American forces are operating in areas where they had not been present for some time, and because more units are able to maintain a round-the-clock presence in some areas. They also said more Iraqis were cooperating with military forces.

Nearly 85 percent of the detainees in custody are Sunni Arabs, the minority faction in Iraq that ruled the country under the government of Saddam Hussein; the other detainees are Shiites, the officers say.

Military officers said that of the Sunni detainees, about 1,800 claim allegiance to Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, a homegrown extremist group that American intelligence agencies have concluded is foreign-led. About 6,000 more identify themselves as takfiris, or Muslims who believe some other Muslims are not true believers. Such believers view Shiite Muslims as heretics.

Those statistics would seem to indicate that the main inspiration of the hard-core Sunni insurgency is no longer a desire to restore the old order — a movement that drew from former Baath Party members and security officials who had served under Mr. Hussein — and has become religious and ideological.

But the officers say an equally large number of Iraqi detainees say money is a significant reason they planted roadside bombs or shot at Iraqi and American-led forces.

“Interestingly, we’ve found that the vast majority are not inspired by jihad or hate for the coalition or Iraqi government — the vast majority are inspired by money,” said Capt. John Fleming of the Navy, a spokesman for the multinational forces’ detainee operations. The men are paid by insurgent leaders. “The primary motivator is economic — they’re angry men because they don’t have jobs,” he said. “The detainee population is overwhelmingly illiterate and unemployed. Extremists have been very successful at spreading their ideology to economically strapped Iraqis with little to no formal education.”

But the detention system itself often serves as a breeding ground for the insurgency and a training opportunity for those who, after they are released, may attack Iraqi or American-led forces, military officers say.

According to statistics supplied by the headquarters of Task Force 134, the American military unit in charge of detention operations in Iraq, there are about 280 detainees from countries other than Iraq. Of those, 55 are identified as Egyptian, 53 as Syrian, 37 as Saudi, 28 as Jordanian and 24 as Sudanese.

Some foreign fighters are difficult to identify with certainty, the officers said, because they tried to conceal their identities with forged documents and aliases.

About 800 juveniles are held in the American internment facilities. The officers said insurgent groups had used them to plant roadside bombs and to serve as lookouts, assuming that American and Iraqi forces and their allies would not see them as suspicious. Geoff Morrell, the Pentagon press secretary, returned this week from a seven-day visit to Iraq that included tours of the detention facilities, and he said Friday that a six-room schoolhouse is operating for the education of the juveniles.

For the adults in detention, he said, the goal was to separate “the worst of the worst” from the other detainees, so hard-core insurgents and suspects have less chance to influence other detainees. A current goal is to set up a brick factory and a textile mill where adult detainees would work, he said.

Over all, the average length of detention is about a year, the officers said. So far this year, 3,334 detainees have been released, they said. Military officers in Iraq said the growing detainee population had not strained the internment system, nor had it hindered combat operations.

In preparation for the troop increase ordered by President Bush in January, plans were made to increase the number of detention officers and to build extra space for detainees. The task force is expanding the internment facilities at Camp Bucca, in southern Iraq, and Camp Cropper, near Baghdad, with the help of the Army Corps of Engineers.

The most notorious of the detention centers, at Abu Ghraib prison, is no longer used by American-led forces to hold captured insurgents. Images of American jailers abusing their detainees at Abu Ghraib stained the reputation of American fighting forces in Iraq.

Few reliable numbers exist for those detained by the Iraqi government, according to John Sifton, a researcher with Human Rights Watch, an advocacy organization. The American military in Iraq will not provide numbers for detainees held by the government of Iraq.

“The allegations of abuse are far worse for Iraqi facilities than for those detainees in U.S. custody,” he said. “It is difficult to know the Iraqi detainee population. There are both official and unofficial Iraqi detention systems.”

Over all, he said, human rights organizations “have concerns about a 50 percent increase in detainees because it is 50 percent more people at risk of having been arbitrarily detained or, worse, of being handed over to Iraqi officers who might subject them to torture.”