Archive | August 16th, 2011

As America’s Economy Collapses, “New Normal” Police State Takes Shape

NOVANEWS

By Tom Burghardt

Global Research,

Antifascist Calling…

Forget your rights.

As corporate overlords position themselves to seize what little remains of a tattered social net (adieu Medicare and Medicaid! Social Security? Au revoir!), the Obama administration is moving at break-neck speed to expand police state programs first stood-up by the Bush government.

After all, with world share prices gyrating wildly, employment and wages in a death spiral, and retirement funds and publicly-owned assets swallowed whole by speculators and rentier scum, the state better dust-off contingency plans lest the Greek, Spanish or British “contagion” spread beyond the fabled shores of “old Europe” and infect God-fearin’ folk here in the heimat.

Fear not, they have and the lyrically-titled Civil Disturbances: Emergency Employment of Army and Other Resources, otherwise known as Army Regulation 500-50, spells out the “responsibilities, policy, and guidance for the Department of the Army in planning and operations involving the use of Army resources in the control of actual or anticipated civil disturbances.” (emphasis added)

With British politicians demanding a clampdown on social media in the wake of London riots, and with the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) agency having done so last week in San Francisco, switching off underground cell phone service to help squelch a protest against police violence, authoritarian control tactics, aping those deployed in Egypt and Tunisia (that worked out well!) are becoming the norm in so-called “Western democracies.”

Secret Law, Secret Programs

Meanwhile up on Capitol Hill, Congress did their part to defend us from that pesky Bill of Rights; that is, before 81 of them–nearly a fifth of “our” elected representatives–checked-out for AIPAC-funded junkets to Israel.

Secrecy News reported that the Senate Intelligence Committee “rejected an amendment that would have required the Attorney General and the Director of National Intelligence to confront the problem of ‘secret law,’ by which government agencies rely on legal authorities that are unknown or misunderstood by the public.”

That amendment, proposed by Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Mark Udall (D-CO) was rejected by voice vote, further entrenching unprecedented surveillance powers of Executive Branch agencies such as the FBI and NSA.

As Antifascist Calling previously reported, the Electronic Frontier Foundation filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against the Justice Department “demanding the release of a secret legal memo used to justify FBI access to Americans’ telephone records without any legal process or oversight.”

The DOJ refused and it now appears that the Senate has affirmed that “secret law” should be guiding principles of our former republic.

Secrecy News also disclosed that the Committee rejected a second amendment to the authorization bill, one that would have required the Justice Department’s Inspector General “to estimate the number of Americans who have had the contents of their communications reviewed in violation of the FISA Amendments Act of 2008 [FAA].”

As pointed out here many times, FAA is a pernicious piece of Bushist legislative detritus that legalized the previous administration’s secret spy programs since embellished by our current “hope and change” president.

During the run-up to FAA’s passage, congressional Democrats, including then-Senator Barack Obama and his Republican colleagues across the aisle, claimed that the law would “strike a balance” between Americans’ privacy rights and the needs of security agencies to “stop terrorists” attacking the country.

If that’s the case, then why can’t the American people learn whether their rights have been compromised?

Perhaps, as recent reports in Truthout and other publications suggest, former U.S. counterterrorism “czar” Richard Clarke leveled “explosive allegations against three former top CIA officials–George Tenet, Cofer Black and Richard Blee–accusing them of knowingly withholding intelligence … about two of the 9/11 hijackers who had entered the United States more than a year before the attacks.”

Clarke’s allegations follow closely on the heels of an investigation by Truthout journalists Jeffrey Kaye and Jason Leopold.

“Based on on documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act and an interview with a former high-ranking counterterrorism official,” Kaye and Leopold learned that “a little-known military intelligence unit, unbeknownst to the various investigative bodies probing the terrorist attacks, was ordered by senior government officials to stop tracking Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda’s movements prior to 9/11.”

As readers are well aware, the 9/11 provocation was the pretext used by the capitalist state to wage aggressive resource wars abroad while ramming through repressive legislation like the USA Patriot Act and the FISA Amendments Act that targeted the democratic rights of the American people here at home.

But FAA did more then legitimate illegal programs. It also handed retroactive immunity and economic cover to giant telecoms like AT&Tand Verizon who profited handily from government surveillance, shielding them from monetary damages which may have resulted from a spate of lawsuits such as Hepting v. AT&T.

This raises the question: are other U.S. firms similarly shielded from scrutiny by secret annexes in FAA or the privacy-killing USA Patriot Act?

Echelon Cubed

Last week, Softpedia revealed that “Google has admitted complying with requests from US intelligence agencies for data stored in its European data centers, most likely in violation of European Union data protection laws.”

“At the center of this problem,” reporter Lucian Constantin wrote, “is the USA PATRIOT ACT, which states that companies incorporated in the United States must hand over data administered by their foreign subsidiaries if requested.”

“Not only that,” the publication averred, “they can be forced to keep quiet about it in order to avoid exposing active investigations and alert those targeted by the probes.”

In other words, despite strict privacy laws that require companies operating within the EU to protect the personal data of their citizens, reports suggest that U.S. firms, operating under an entirely different legal framework, U.S. spy laws with built-in secrecy clauses and gag orders, trump the laws and legal norms of other nations.

Given the widespread corporate espionage carried out by the National Security Agency’s decades-long Echelon communications’ intercept program, American firms such as Google, Microsoft, Apple or Amazon may very well have become witting accomplices of U.S. secret state agencies rummaging about for “actionable intelligence” on EU, or U.S., citizens.

Indeed, a decade ago the European Union issued its final report on the Echelon spying machine and concluded that the program was being used for corporate and industrial espionage and that data filched from EU firms was being turned over to American corporations.

In 2000, the BBC reported that according to European investigators “U.S. Department of Commerce ‘success stories’ could be attributed to the filtering powers of Echelon.”

Duncan Campbell, a British journalist and intelligence expert, who along with New Zealand journalist Nicky Hager, helped blow the lid offEchelon, offered two instances of U.S. corporate spying in the 1990s when the newly-elected Clinton administration followed-up on promises of “aggressive advocacy” on behalf of U.S. firms “bidding for foreign contracts.”

According to Campbell, NSA “lifted all the faxes and phone-calls between Airbus, the Saudi national airline and the Saudi Government” to gain this information. In a second case which came to light, Campbell documented how “Raytheon used information picked up from NSA snooping to secure a $1.4bn contract to supply a radar system to Brazil instead of France’s Thomson-CSF.”

As Softpedia reported, U.S.-based cloud computing services operating overseas have placed “European companies and government agencies that are using their services … in a tough position.”

With the advent of fiber optic communication platforms, programs like Echelon have a far greater, and more insidious, reach. AT&T whistleblower Mark Klein noted on the widespread deployment by NSA of fiber optic splitters and secret rooms at American telecommunications’ firms:

What screams out at you when examining this physical arrangement is that the NSA was vacuuming up everything flowing in the Internet stream: e-mail, web browsing, Voice-Over-Internet phone calls, pictures, streaming video, you name it. The splitter has no intelligence at all, it just makes a blind copy. There could not possibly be a legal warrant for this, since according to the 4th Amendment warrants have to be specific, “particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.” …

This was a massive blind copying of the communications of millions of people, foreign and domestic, randomly mixed together. From a legal standpoint, it does not matter what they claim to throw away later in their secret rooms, the violation has already occurred at the splitter. (Mark Klein, Wiring Up the Big Brother Machine… And Fighting It, Charleston, South Carolina: BookSurge, 2009, pp. 38-39.)

What was Google’s response?

In a statement to the German publication WirtschaftsWoche a Google corporate spokesperson said: “As a law abiding company, we comply with valid legal process, and that–as for any U.S. based company–means the data stored outside of the U.S. may be subject to lawful access by the U.S. government. That said, we are committed to protecting user privacy when faced with law enforcement requests. We have a long track record of advocating on behalf of user privacy in the face of such requests and we scrutinize requests carefully to ensure that they adhere to both the letter and the spirit of the law before complying.” (translation courtesy of Public Intelligence)

Is the Senate Intelligence Committee’s steadfast refusal to release documents and secret legal memos that most certainly target American citizens also another blatant example of American exceptionalism meant to protect U.S. firms operating abroad from exposure as corporate spies for the government?

It isn’t as if NSA hasn’t been busy doing just that here at home.

As The New York Times reported back in 2009, the “National Security Agency intercepted private e-mail messages and phone calls of Americans in recent months on a scale that went beyond the broad legal limits established by Congress last year.”

Chalking up the problem to “overcollection” and “technical difficulties,” unnamed intelligence officials and administration lawyers told journalists Eric Lichtblau and James Risen that although the practice was “significant and systemic … it was believed to have been unintentional.”

As “unintentional” as ginned-up intelligence that made the case for waging aggressive war against oil-rich Iraq!

In a follow-up piece, the Times revealed that NSA “appears to have tolerated significant collection and examination of domestic e-mail messages without warrants.”

A former NSA analyst “read into” the illegal program told Lichtblau and Risen that he “and other analysts were trained to use a secret database, code-named Pinwale, in 2005 that archived foreign and domestic e-mail messages.”

Email readily handed over by Google, Microsoft or other firms “subject to lawful access” by the Pentagon spy satrapy?

The Times’ anonymous source said “Pinwale allowed N.S.A. analysts to read large volumes of e-mail messages to and from Americans as long as they fell within certain limits–no more than 30 percent of any database search, he recalled being told–and Americans were not explicitly singled out in the searches.”

Nor, were they excluded from such illicit practices.

As Jane Mayer revealed in The New Yorker, “privacy controls” and “anonymizing features” of a program called ThinThread, which would have complied with the law if Americans’ communications were swept into NSA’s giant eavesdropping nets, were rejected in favor of the “$1.2 billion flop” called Trailblazer.

And, as previously reported, when Wyden and Udall sought information from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence on just how many Americans had their communications monitored, the DNI stonewalled claiming “it is not reasonably possible to identify the number of people located in the United States whose communications may have been reviewed under the authority.”

Why? Precisely because such programs act like a giant electronic sponge and soak-up and data mine huge volumes of our communications.

As former NSA manager and ThinThread creator Bill Binney told The New Yorker, that “little program … got twisted” and was “used to eavesdrop on the whole world.”

Three years after Barack Obama promised to curb Bush administration “excesses,” illegal surveillance programs continue to expand under his watch.

A Permanent “State of Exception”

Under our current political set-up, “states of exception” and national security “emergencies” have become permanent features of social life.

Entire classes of citizens and non-citizens alike are now suspect; anarchists, communists, immigrants, Muslims, union activists and political dissidents in general are all subject to unprecedented levels of scrutiny and surveillance.

From “enhanced security screenings” at airports to the massive expansion of private and state databases that archive our spending habits, whom we talk to and where we go, increasingly, as the capitalist system implodes and millions face the prospect of economic ruin, the former American republic takes on the characteristics of a corporate police state.

Security researcher and analyst Christopher Soghoian reported on his Slight Paranoia blog, that according to “an official DOJ report, the use of ’emergency’, warrantless requests to ISPs for customer communications content has skyrocketed over 400% in a single year.”

This is no trifling matter.

As CNET News disclosed last month, “Internet providers would be forced to keep logs of their customers’ activities for one year–in case police want to review them in the future–under legislation that a U.S. House of Representatives committee approved today.”

Declan McCullagh reported that “the 19 to 10 vote represents a victory for conservative Republicans, who made data retention their first major technology initiative after last fall’s elections.”

Significantly, CNET noted that this is also a “victory” for Democratic appointees of Barack Obama’s Justice Department “who have quietly lobbied for the sweeping new requirements.”

According to CNET, a “last-minute rewrite of the bill expands the information that commercial Internet providers are required to store to include customers’ names, addresses, phone numbers, credit card numbers, bank account numbers, and temporarily-assigned IP addresses.”

However, by “a 7-16 vote, the panel rejected an amendment that would have clarified that only IP addresses must be stored.”

Consider the troubling implications of this sweeping bill. While ultra-rightist “Tea Party” Republicans vowed to get “the government off our backs,” when it comes to illicit snooping by securocrats whose only loyalty is to a self-perpetuating security bureaucracy and the defense grifters they serve (and whom they rely upon for plum positions after government “retirement”), all our private data is now up for grabs.

The bill, according to Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), who spearheaded opposition to the measure said that if passed, it would create “a data bank of every digital act by every American” that would “let us find out where every single American visited Web sites.”

To make the poison pill legislation difficult to oppose, proponents have dubbed it, wait, the “Protecting Children From Internet Pornographers Act of 2011” even though, as CNET noted, “the mandatory logs would be accessible to police investigating any crime and perhaps attorneys litigating civil disputes in divorce, insurance fraud, and other cases as well.”

Soghoian relates that the 2009 two-page Justice Department report to Congress took 11 months (!) to release under a Freedom of Information Act request.

Why the Justice Department stonewall?

Perhaps, as the Electronic Frontier Foundation disclosed last year, political appointees at the Department of Homeland Security and presumably other secret state satrapies, ordered “an extra layer of review on its FOIA requests.”

EFF revealed that a 2009 policy memo from the Department’s Chief FOIA Officer and Chief Privacy Officer, Mary Ellen Callahan, that DHS components “were required to report ‘significant FOIA activities’ in weekly reports to the Privacy Office, which the Privacy Office then integrated into its weekly report to the White House Liaison.”

Included amongst designated “significant FOIA activities” were requests “from any members of ‘an activist group, watchdog organization, special interest group, etc.’ and ‘requested documents [that] will garner media attention or [are] receiving media attention’.”

Despite the appearance of reporting “emergency” spying requests to congressional committees presumably overseeing secret state activities (a generous assumption at best), “it is quite clear” Soghoian avers, “that the Department of Justice statistics are not adequately reporting the scale of this form of surveillance” and “underreport these disclosures by several orders of magnitude.”

As such, “the current law is largely useless.” It does not apply to “state and local law enforcement agencies, who make tens of thousands of warrantless requests to ISPs each year,” and is inapplicable to “to federal law enforcement agencies outside DOJ.”

“Finally,” Soghoian relates, “it does not apply to emergency disclosures of non-content information, such as geo-location data, subscriber information (such as name and address), or IP addresses used.”

And with Congress poised to pass sweeping data retention legislation, it should be clear that such “requirements” are mere fig leaves covering-up state-sanctioned lawlessness.

War On Terror 2.0.1: Looting the Global Economy

Criminal behavior by domestic security agencies connect America’s illegal wars of aggression to capitalism’s economic warfare against the working class, who now take their place alongside “Islamic terrorists” as a threat to “national security.”

Despite efforts by the Obama administration and Republican congressional leaders to “balance the books” on the backs of the American people through massive budget cuts, as economist Michael Hudson pointed out in Global Research, the manufactured “debt ceiling” crisis is a massive fraud.

The World Socialist Web Site averred that “as concerns over a double-dip recession in the US and the European debt crisis sent global markets plunging–including a 512-point sell-off on the Dow Jones Industrial Average Thursday–financial analysts and media pundits developed a new narrative. Concern that Washington lacked the ‘political will’ to slash long-standing entitlement programs was exacerbating ‘market uncertainty’.”

Leftist critic Jerry White noted that “in fact, the new cuts will only intensify the economic crisis, while the slashing of food stamps, unemployment compensation, health care and education will eliminate programs that are more essential for survival than ever.”

Indeed, as Marxist economist Richard Wolff pointed out in The Guardian, while the “crisis of the capitalist system in the US that began in 2007,” may have “plunged millions into acute economic pain and suffering,” the “recovery” that began in 2009 “benefited only the minority that was most responsible for the crisis: banks, large corporations and the rich who own the bulk of stocks. That so-called recovery never ‘trickled down’ to the US majority: working people dependent on jobs and wages’.”

And despite mendacious claims by political officials and the media alike, the Pentagon will be sitting pretty even as Americans are forced to shoulder the financial burden of U.S. imperial adventures long into an increasingly bleak future.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta “warned Thursday of dire consequences if the Pentagon is forced to make cuts to its budget beyond the $400 billion in savings planned for the next decade,” The Washington Post reported.

The Post noted that “senior Pentagon officials have launched an offensive over the past two days to convince lawmakers that further reductions in Pentagon spending would imperil the country’s security.”

“Instead of slashing defense,” Panetta urged lawmakers to “rely on tax increases and cuts to nondiscretionary spending, such as Medicare and Social Security, to provide the necessary savings.”

But as Hudson points out, “war has been the major cause of a rising national debt.” After all, it was none other than bourgeois icon Adam Smith who argued that “parliamentary checks on government spending were designed to prevent ambitious rulers from waging war.”

Hudson writes that “if people felt the economic impact of war immediately–rather than postponing it by borrowing–they would be less likely to support military adventurism.”

But therein lies the rub. Since “military adventurism” is the only “growth sector” of an imploding capitalist economy, the public spigot which finances everything from cost-overrun-plagued stealth fighter jets to multibillion dollar spy satellites, along with an out-of-control National Surveillance State, will be kept open indefinitely.

On this score, the hypocrisy of our rulers abound, especially when it comes to the mantra that “we” must “live within our means.”

As Wolff avers, “where was that phrase heard when Washington decided to spend on an immense military (even after becoming the world’s only nuclear superpower) or to spend on very expensive wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Libya (now all going on at the same time)? No, then the talk was only about national security needed to save us from attacks.”

“Attacks,” it should be duly noted, that may very well have been allowed to happen as the World Socialist Web Site recently reported.

Driving home the point that war, and not social- and infrastructure investment fuel deficits, Hudson averred that “the present rise in in U.S. Treasury debt results from two forms of warfare. First is the overtly military Oil War in the Near East, from Iraq to Afghanistan (Pipelinistan) to oil-rich Libya. These adventures will end up costing between $3 and $5 trillion.”

“Second and even more expensive,” the economist observed, “is the more covert yet more costly economic war of Wall Street against the rest of the economy, demanding that losses by banks and financial institutions be passed onto the government balance sheet (‘taxpayers’). The bailouts and ‘free lunch’ for Wall Street–by no coincidence, Congress’s number one political campaign contributor–cost $13 trillion.”

“Now that finance is the new form of warfare,” Hudson wrote, “where is the power to constrain Treasury and Federal Reserve power to commit taxpayers to bail out financial interests at the top of the economic pyramid?”

And since “cutbacks in federal revenue sharing will hit cities and states hard, forcing them to sell off yet more land, roads and other assets in the public domain to cover their budget deficit as the U.S. economy sinks further into depression,” Hudson wrote that “Congress has just added fiscal deflation to debt deflation, slowing employment even further.”

While the global economy circles the drain, with ever more painful cuts in so-called “entitlement” programs meant to cushion the crash now on the chopping block, the corporate and political masters who rule the roost are sharpening their knives, fashioning administrative and bureaucratic surveillance tools, the better to conceal the “invisible hand” of that bitch-slaps us all.

And they call it “freedom.”

Tom Burghardt is a researcher and activist based in the San Francisco Bay Area. In addition to publishing in Covert Action Quarterly and Global Research, he is a Contributing Editor with Cyrano’s Journal Today. His articles can be read on Dissident VoiceThe Intelligence DailyPacific Free PressUncommon Thought Journal, and the whistleblowing website WikiLeaks. He is the editor of Police State America: U.S. Military “Civil Disturbance” Planning, distributed by AK Press and has contributed to the new book fromGlobal Research, The Global Economic Crisis: The Great Depression of the XXI Century.

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Pakistan: Quick Sand Of New Provinces

NOVANEWS

By: Khalid Iqbal

 

 

This was the least suitable time for opening the Pandora’s Box regarding creation of new provinces; yet it has opened at a time when there is no worthwhile mass movement supporting the issue. If the process of creating new provinces gets triggered in an arbitrary way, no matter from where we may start and how we proceed, within a decade Pakistan will end up with a dozen plus provinces.

Issue of new provinces has become a hotly debated one. It has started with Punjab but may not begin or end there. While supporting the creation of new provinces may appear an easy way out for the politicians, it is going to be a difficult task to actually carve them out. Once the genie is out it will not be possible to force it back into the bottle. Like creation of new districts, addition of provinces would become a political appeasement tool in a run up to each election. At the end of the day, country is likely to end up having a provincial map very close to an existing administrative entity called ‘Division’.

There are several underlying factors that contribute to demanding new provinces. Ethnic identities within the provinces have become politicised and hence turned twitchy. Disproportionate allocation of resources within each province has created perception of deprivation in all the provinces.

Syndrome for more provinces is country wide. It is most intense in Khyber-Pukhtunkhwa; where it got jump started as a by-product of renaming of the province. Boards are put up in some areas of Khyber-Pukhtunkhwa calling such parts of the province as Hazara; it depicts a distinct feeling. People of Bahawalpur are quick to recall their ‘state’ era; ecstatic memories of yesteryears still fascinate them. Interestingly, overly politicised drive for Seraiki province is not supported by a worthwhile public movement.

Ongoing ping-pong in Sindh between ‘Commissionerate’ and ‘Local Government’ systems has amply highlighted the de’facto division of Sindh on urban-rural lines; alongside equally strong sentiment to prevent it. FATA has also been mutely voicing for provincial status. Pushtun population of Baluchistan, which is around 50%, has traditionally been uncomfortable with the current demarcation of Baluchistan, and there have been talks about a separate entity.

With general elections only one and a half years away, there would be more demands for new provinces as political parties consider it a tool to gain popularity among the people. Weaker parties in each province are expected to play the new province card to fascinate the voters among minority ethnic groups; however, there could be a blowback effect as well, because opposition by the majority communities may gravely hurt the electoral tally of such parties.

As of now, these demands are at the level of wish-lists, yet having the potential of setting in motion a process aimed at remapping all existing provinces.

Notwithstanding the pitfalls, country does need more provinces. Hence, it would be appropriate to make a virtue out of this necessity and accomplish this task in an orderly way so that it is a win-win situation for the entire nation.

There is a need to take the holistic view of the matter and take into consideration its implications on vital issues like National Finance Commission Award, water sharing and economic viability of new entities in the context of 18th Constitutional Amendment. Provincial autonomy under the 18th Amendment is unprecedented; this one notch devolution needs to be carried forth to sub-provincial levels down to division and district. Unfortunately, every province tends to centralize the administrative, financial and political power in the hands of the chief ministers. It is ironic that local government system has flourished under military rulers and civilian administrations have traditionally been shy of holding local bodies’ elections.

It would be prudent to not to set any datelines for formulation of provinces until all implications have been adequately gauged and preventive measures are taken to contain the impact of negative fallouts. Political expediency should not be allowed to become the driving factor; otherwise fierce turf battles would start and at the end of day everyone would be bruised and would harbour the feeling of betrayal on one account or the other.

India created its first province on linguistic grounds. Telugu-speaking Andhra Pradesh came to existence in 1952. Under this precedence, a number of new states emerged on the Indian map in 1956. The process continued; India now has nearly two dozen states, while it inherited a single digit tally at the time of independence.

Cultural commonalities should be duly considered while forming the provinces; however such elements should not be the sole criteria. Administrative and financial viability should be the underwriting raison d’être within which intrinsic cultural values may by adjusted. Linguistics would figure out again and again in the debates and there should be no obstructions in their way as some of the provinces may eventually emerge on this account provided they meet the remaining criteria as well. For example, since Seraiki is spoken in all four provinces in Pakistan, it would be a mockery of the process to create a province of 100 million people of Punjab in the name of Seraiki alone.

A lot of work remains to be done before the constitutional process could be triggered. Any jumping the gun approach would make creation of new provinces a pipe dream. Procedure for creating new provinces is circuitous and laborious because at a given time no political party or alliance is likely to muster two third majorities simultaneously in provincial assemblies and at the two houses of federal parliament. New provinces would entail addition in non-developmental expenditure, this would surely take care of problems of the people and promote harmonious relationship among different communities of the country. Additional administrative expenditure could be minimized by restricting the size of the provincial government and the bureaucracy.

Key political parties have differing perspectives on the issue, though none of them is publicly opposing the idea of having more provinces. Hence, a holistic approach embodying national consensus needs to be developed outside the provincial assemblies and the federal parliament before the constitutional process should be triggered as a formality. It indeed requires a much larger consensus among the competing mainstream political parties. Otherwise, no province would ever be formed and the entire nation may be subjected to a sort of emotional pressure cooker without a safety valve.

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A deliberate attempt to undermine Pak-China Relations

NOVANEWS

By Sajjad Shaukat

 

 

On July 30 and 31 this year, 14 people were killed and 42 injured in two separate incidents in the Chinese city of Kashgar.  Staring August, security forces blanketed central areas of Kashgar, it was days after violence which resulted in ethnic tensions in the Muslim Uighur area of Xinjiang where Uighurs stormed a restaurant, killed the owner and a waiter and murdered four people on a street. In another incident, a truck in Kashgar was hijacked and the attackers killed the driver, and stabbed people at random. Six culprits were killed before the crowd turned on them.

As regards these latest terror-incidents, the Kashgar authorities said in light of initial investigation that the attacks in China’s restive Xinjiang region were masterminded by terrorists trained in Pakistan.

Most of the political experts including those of the China have questioned the Chinese government’s claim that recent violent events in the Xinjiang area were planned abroad by the Islamic extremists, trained in Pakistan, adding that there is no such evidence. An analyst opined, “I don not think, there is any reason to assume that any Pakistan-based organization is orchestrating these attacks.” In this respect, on August 4, even the public security minister of China Meng Jianzhu, avoided any mention of Pakistan.

In the recent years, several violent events have rocked Xinjiang where many Uighurs, a predominantly Muslim Turkish-speaking people dislike the influx of ethnic Han Chinese.

The fact of the matter is that Indian secret agency, RAW in collusion with American CIA and Israeli Mossad has arranged these new subversive acts in China. In this respect, we cannot blame these secret agencies without some logic. With the networks of RAW, CIA and Mossad, Afghanistan has become the hub of regional conspiracies, particularly directed against Pakistan, China and even Iran.

Under the pretext of Talibanisation of Pakistan and unrest in the country, which has collevtively been arranged by CIA, RAW and Mossad, US, India and Israel have been destabilising Pakistan to ‘denculearise’ the latter. For this purpose, the US seeks to shift Afghan war to Pakistan after the withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan. While

 

Obama administration which already continues with its agenda of secret war in Pakistan, has planned a covert war against Pakistan which will include Karachi, Balochistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa where these foreign secret agencies are assisting the insurgents and their agents with money and weapons. The course of drone attacks will further be extended to other regions beyond Pakistan’s tribal areas.

On August 6, NBC TV channel disclosed that the “US has a contingency plan to seize Pakistan’s nuclear weapons…if it fears they are about to fall into the wrong hands.”

It is established fact that in India there are several training camps where many Muslims are being trained by Indian military, while some are being trained in the camps in Afghanistan. Thus, besides sending highly motivated insurgents from Afghanistan, CIA, RAW and Mossad have rapidly established their collective network in Pakistan. They have recruited Pakistani nationals who are vulnerable and can work on payroll, giving them high financial incentives to work for them. These elements are creating instability by supporting separatist and hostile elements in Balochistan province, and also in other cities of our country. In this regard, suicide attacks, assaults on Pakistan’s security personnel, targeted killings especially in Karachi etc. might be cited as example.

With the logistic aid of RAW and CIA, Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA) has been waging a separatist war. After Bugti’s death his grandson, Brahmdagh Bugti is currently operating against Pakistan from Kabul. On July 23, 2008, in an interview with the BBCBrahmdagh Bugtti, while answering to a question in relation to getting arms from neighboring countries, replied that they are fighting for self-defence and “have the right to accept any foreign aid in this perspective”. Another CIA and Indian-supported separatist group, Jundollah (God’s soldiers) is also working against the cordial relationship of Pakistan with China and Iran. In the past few years, both the militant groups, kidnapped and murdered a number of Chinese and Iranian nationals in Pakistan, while committing other subversive acts in the province.

It is notable that on April 18, 2008, the ex-Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi openly claimed that “some external forces were trying to weaken China-Pakistan strategic ties” by “creating misunderstandings.”

In fact, the very day when Beijing signed agreement with Islamabad to develop the Gwader seaport in Balochistan, a siren went off in  Washington, New Delhi and Tel Aviv. The USA took it as a threat to its global plans, and India felt that it threatened its integrity. American close ally, Israel also took it as a greater threat from a Muslim country. China which has invested billions of dollars to develop Gwadar seaport which could link Central Asian trade with rest of the world, irritates the US and its allies India and Israel.

The problem was not restricted to Balochistan alone, it also related to the Karakorum Highway, which was extended to Khyber Pukhtoonkhwa and the tribal areas of Pakistan. When in 2004, Beijing signed an agreement with Islamabad for an extension of the historical highway from Gilgat to Swat, passing through Dir and Chitral. That highway was named the Karakorum Highway phase II. US-led India and Israel also presumed that project as a threat to their secret strategic interests.

Notably, Washington which signed a deal of civil nuclear technology with New Delhi wants to counterbalance China by making India the superpower of Asia. In this context, a cold war has already started between the US-supported India and China. In this context, during her trip to India, on July 20 this year, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton urged India to be more assertive in Asia, saying that the country should play more of a leadership role. On the other side, while showing US paradoxical approach by concealing American double game, she remarked, “Pakistan must do more to tackle terror groups operating from its territory being used for attacks that destabilise Afghanistan or India.”

It is mentionable that by ignoring Sino-Pakistan peace-approach, on December 29, 2009, Indian former Army chief General Deepak Kapoor had openly accused that Indian Army “is now revising its five-year-old doctrine” and is preparing for a “possible two-front war with China and Pakistan.” On October 15, 2010, Indian new Army Chief General VK Singh also expressed similar views.

In the recent past, when more than 180 persons died in ethnic riots occurred in Urumqi, the capital of China’s Xinjiang province, Indian and American media blamed Pakistani militants for supporting the insurgency so as to deteriorate Sino-Pak ties. In fact, with the tactical assistance of the US and Israel, New Delhi which had given shelter to the Tibetan spiritual leader, Dalai Lama and his militants has been playing a key role in supporting upsurge in the Tibetan and Muslim areas of China.

It is of particular attention that in February 2010, the US President Obama met with Dalai Lama, infuriating Beijing. In this connection, Obama’s purpose was to encourage uprising in the Tibetan areas.

It is noteworthy that India is supplying weapons to the Tibetan militants and those of the Xinjiang, but in order to conceal its covert activities, New Delhi has always accused China of backing Maoist uprising.

All these developments prove that CIA, RAW and Mossad which are behind subversive events in Pakistan are also assisting violent acts in the Chinese province of Xinjiang. By fuelling ethnic violence between Muslim Uighurs and Han Chinese, their aim is to weaken China. But their major purpose remains to manipulate the ethnic division, and terror-attacks in the Chinese province so as to divert the attention of Beijing towards Pakistan-based Islamic militant groups, while RAW-assisted Indian Muslims have joined the rank and file of these activists.

However, China and Pakistan cannot neglect their defence when their adversaries are acting upon a secret diplomacy. Both Islamabad and Beijing have signed several agreements of cooperation in the diversified areas such as defence, agriculture, healthcare, media, economy, technology etc.

Returning to our earlier discussion, India, US and Israel are plotting to disrupt the Pak-China cordial relations by backing the violent attacks in the Chinese province of Xinjiang, while distorting the image of Pakistan in the eyes of Beijing.

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Continuing Relevance of Jammu and Kashmir

NOVANEWS

By Sobia Hanif

 

The Jammu and Kashmir dispute is an intricate issue, which lies at the heart of most of the conflicts between the nuclear rivals of South Asia. It would be over optimistic to hope for a permanent congenial environment for the people of the region without resolving the Jammu and Kashmir issue according to aspirations of the Kashmiri people and in accordance with the UN Resolutions. The Kashmir issue is not merely an issue of a disputed territory holding vast resources as well as being the hub of all major waterways to both India and Pakistan; it is in fact an issue which determines the fate of over 15 million Kashmiris. Therefore, while determining its future, the human factor as well as the wishes of its citizens either to become part of Pakistan or India or to acquire an independent status must not be overlooked.

For those of us who refer to the decaying relevance of the Kashmir issue and call for the promotion of enhanced cross-border trade with India and greater people to people contact in exchange for concessions to India on the Kashmir issue, a retrospect into the past and an insight into the future would serve well for reality to dawn upon them. History speaks for itself. The Kashmir issue has been part of the incomplete agenda of the partition plan of the Sub-continent. At the time of partition in 1947, each princely state was given the choice to either become a part of India or Pakistan or to maintain its independent status.

The overwhelming Muslim population of Kashmir wanted to unite with Pakistan, but its Hindu ruler, Maharaja Hari Singh wanted the other way around. When the population revolted against him, he asked the Indian government for military assistance. This eventually led to a war between India and Pakistan in 1948. The matter was then taken into the UN Security Council by India and a ceasefire was implemented. Later on the United Nations called for the issue to be resolved peacefully in accordance with the UN Resolutions. However, India has never fulfilled its obligations to the Kashmiri people and has substituted the demand for a free and fair plebiscite under the auspices of the United Nations by unlawful and controversial elections in the valley, whereby people are forcibly dragged out of their homes and brought to the polling stations by Indian military forces.

A futuristic analysis would clearly indicate that Pakistan’s fate is inexplicably tied with the fate of the Kashmir. Any myopic decision by our top leadership could seriously jeopardize the future of the Kashmiri people as well as having hazardous consequences for the entire Pakistani nation. In addition, while it would only be logical to hope for a quick resolution of the dispute, it would be detrimental to make the wrong choices. While Pakistan has shown considerable flexibility in its position for the resolution of the issue, the matter cannot be resolved unilaterally. India’s response to the issue has been that of ‘engage and disengage intermittently.’ On one hand, the Indian governments have repeatedly stated that they are ready to negotiate all issues bilaterally with Pakistan including Kashmir; on the other hand, it has maintained that Jammu and Kashmir is an integral part of the Indian union.

Furthermore, when the Indian authorities eventually end up deciding to discuss the future of Jammu and Kashmir, it is usually the section of Jammu and Kashmir, that associates itself with Pakistan that they would like to talk about. The end result is a prolonged period of frustration among the Kashmiris as well as the people of Pakistan. These procrastinating tactics have an underlying strategy to them. Firstly, at the time of partition, the ratio of Muslims to Hindus was 8:2. However, over the years, due to mass scale atrocities and the murder of hundreds of thousands of Kashmiri Muslims the ratio has been forcibly modified to 6:4. The Indian authorities are buying for themselves enough time to convert Jammu and Kashmir into a Hindu majority state so that, if eventually they do decide to hold a plebiscite in Jammu and Kashmir, the turnout would show the majority favoring accession with India. This in fact is a case of a state committing the heinous crime of ethnic and religious cleansing for the achievement of its particular national interests.

Secondly, The Indian military forces continue to humiliate torture and murder innocent Kashmiris as a routine. The men are either tortured to be crippled for life or simply shot dead, the women are assaulted and raped brutally, the children are forced to live under extreme fear of the unknown and the old are left to see their entire generation perish before their eyes. The Indian Military forces have been granted special powers to suppress any symptoms of uprising under the Jammu and Kashmir Public Safety Act (PSA) and Armed Forces Special Power Act.  The purpose has been to dampen their spirits and to threaten them with dire consequences in case of non-compliance with the puppet government in Indian Occupied Jammu and Kashmir and the Indian authorities.

The results are however, contrary to the Indian authorities’ expectations. Their strategies have often fired back at them. History has been evident to the fact that no nation has ever been subjugated to perpetual bondage whose people have vowed to attain freedom at all costs. The Kashmiri struggle is an indigenous one with Pakistan offering its moral and political support to the Kashmiri people. However, the issue needs to be highlighted in a more assertive and convincing manner on the international arena and revitalized in the UN General Assembly.

The United States and its western allies have decided to intervene economically, politically and militarily in the Libyan crisis under the pretext that the United States cannot act as a bystander and allow a tyrannical government to suppress and murder its own people simply because they demand the right to freedom and greater civil rights. However, the shrieks and cries of thousands of Kashmiri people are falling on deaf ears. It appears as if their real concern is not the protection and promotion of human rights but actually an un-quenching thirst for the ‘liquid gold’ of the Middle East, Gulf and African states. As far as Jammu and Kashmir is concerned, the United States continues to exhibit a discriminatory behavior towards this just cause.  It feels that it is not in a position to annoy its much-needed ally in South Asia. It looks towards India to assist it in the containment of China, which is already flexing its muscles and aspiring to challenge the monopoly of the United States in the years to come.

Therefore, it is up to the Kashmiri people and the people of Pakistan to keep this issue burning and alive. An enduring peace in the entire region cannot be attained until and unless the Jammu and Kashmir issue is resolved according to the aspirations of its people. India too, must realize that its desire to become a regional power and a key global player cannot be realized, if it continues to display such indifference towards the Jammu and Kashmir conflict. It will always serve as a ‘bleeding wound’ and continue to drain the life and vitality from the Indian existence. The international community has lot of responsibilities in this regard. It should at least deplore India for the unparallel human rights violations by its security forces.

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More dangerous than IsraHell?

NOVANEWS

Saudi propaganda has been hard at work since Sep. 11 to serve US propaganda interests.  They have been working hard to make Iran the biggest danger facing Arabs to downplay Israeli dangers (although they did not manage to sway public opinion in that regard).  They work hard to turn every Arab political development into a service to Israel.  This Saudi propagandist writes that “Asad is more dangerous than Israel.”  Of course, if this writer is known for his care about the Syrian people, one would understand an impulse.

But this is a writer, like other Saudi propagandists, who never ever cared about the Syrian people and supported the regime when it has excellent relations with Saudi Arabia’s government.  It is turning every opportunity to downplay Israeli dangers and threats.  This is the fruits of the Saudi-Israeli alliance that I have been writing about.

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Flogging reforms in Saudi Arabia

NOVANEWS

“It is highly disturbing to read or hear about such stories, which include reports where lawyers are evicted from courtrooms, jailed or flogged, all because of their differences of opinion or disputes with one judge or another.  We are afraid of turning such incidents into a trend encompassing society as a whole. After some time, perhaps university professors, doctors, engineers, teachers or other professionals may be awa

Should lawyers be flogged?

By KHALED AL-NUWAISER |
AL-EQTISADIAH

We often read newspaper reports about judges taking punitive action against lawyers in some courts in the Kingdom.

It is highly disturbing to read or hear about such stories, which include reports where lawyers are evicted from courtrooms, jailed or flogged, all because of their differences of opinion or disputes with one judge or another.

We are afraid of turning such incidents into a trend encompassing society as a whole. After some time, perhaps university professors, doctors, engineers, teachers or other professionals may be awarded with similar flogging punishments.

Punishing a lawyer with lashes would have dangerous and negative ramifications not only for the legal profession but also for the image of the country and the smooth functioning of its judicial system as well.

If we are to go ahead with accepting such means to punish lawyers, then it means that we have become part of a society that does not value justice. This is because the lawyer is part of this judicial system, which also includes judges and all others working in the sector irrespective of their ranks and positions.

I understand that there are some lawyers with whom it is very difficult to deal with.

Perhaps they are doing irreparable damage to their profession. During my long period of practice as a lawyer, I have come across several legal professionals who follow unethical practices.

Unfortunately, as an arbitrator I have also had to deal with lawyers who do not have even the least consideration for the rights of others. I am fully aware of the professional and mental pressures facing judges at our courts.

This is more evident when taking into account the general state of our courts that are not up to scratch. These courts face a shortage of qualified staffers to lend a helping hand to these judges so that they can perform their duties in the best possible manner.

On the other hand, I have come across problems and difficult situations involving a number of judges.

But I see that the major underlying problem is the lack of necessary legislation specifying the relationships between judges and lawyers so that they can together work to resolve cases satisfactorily as well as to elevate the status of the judicial system.

All of these factors should not be taken as justifications to evict a lawyer representing his client from the courtroom, detain or lash him. Such acts do more harm to the judiciary and judges than the lawyers.

Imagine a situation when a lawyer who comes to court with his client only to then face penal action himself. What would be the client’s impression of his lawyer then? How much would the embarrassment be when the lawyer faces such humiliation in front of his foreign client? Is such a situation not inflicting damage on the reputation of the Kingdom as a whole? This happens at a time when Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah is taking bold steps to reform the judiciary.

The way to overcome this painful and dangerous situation is expediting the establishment of the vaunted Lawyers’ Commission. I don’t know the reason for the delay in the formation of this organization. Judges can refer cases of any lawyers involved in violating the provisions of the judicial system to this commission.

I appeal to the chairman of the Supreme Judiciary Council and the Ministry of Justice to urgently intervene and ensure lawyers are not punished in this way.

I request them to issue directives to judges telling them that the maximum disciplinary action that they can take against lawyers is preventing them from appearing in certain cases or refer their issue to the Ministry of Justice’s department for lawyers. There is no problem even if the erring lawyers are being prevented from practicing for a specific period of time.

I also suggest that taking videos of court proceedings would be helpful in taking disciplinary action against lawyers in case they behaved improperly in courtrooms. We can follow the example of a large number of countries in this respect. This would help safeguard the reputation of our country and send a message to the entire world that Saudi Arabia is a country that gives due respect to all those who are part of the judiciary, including lawyers.

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Syrian armed forces

NOVANEWS

I was opposed to dedicate a Friday to the Syrian armed forces as was done weeks ago by the Ikhwan opposition movement.  But then again, I oppose the Ikhwan as I oppose the lousy Syrian regime.  Those armed forces are not part of the solution: they are part of the problem.  Also, note that they have stayed almost intact during the repression.  We have not had brigade or unit defections like in Yemen.  The apparatus of repression in Syria has been maintained and tightly managed by the regime.

I watch the reports about their heavy gunfire: from the sea or from the land (they won’t dear fly their planes because they don’t want to upset Israel–this is a regime that is more sensitive to Israel than to the feelings of the Asad dynasty).  Look how ferocious their gunfire use is: where was all that courage in the successive confrontations with Israel?  It was one failure and one defeat after the other.  The Asad family has started their failed leadership of the Syrian military from the 1967 defeat (when Hafidh was commander of the air force).

The defeat of 1973 has been the fuel that kept the Syrian and Egyptian regime going for too long: the lie of the 1973 defeat (when the outcome of the war expanded Israeli achievements beyond 1967) provided a big boost of political legitimacy for both the Syrian Asad regime and the Egyptian Sadat regime. It seems that the Syrian army does not mind being used against a civilian population, while being trained to avoid any contact with Israel even when Israel bombs deep inside Syria or when Israeli planes flies over the Asad palace in Latakia.  The scenes are symptomatic of status Arab armies: always for repression and never for the protection of borders or for standing up to Israeli aggression.  If it is up to me, I would name a Friday (although I am not in favor of mixing religion with the political manifestations of any Arab uprising): down with the Syrian armed forces: the arm of repression of the Asad regime.

Syrian repression

The savagery of the Syrian regime has given the Syrian people the right to mount an armed rebellion against it.  But no Arab government can be trusted in that effort (they are NATO clients, those regimes), and no Arab government really cares about the welfare of the Syrian people.  And armed Arab groups, like Hamas and Hizbullah, are aligned with the Syrian regime although both organizations have been silent as of late.  Indicatively, even the pro-Syrian regime newspaper, As-Safir, has published critical articles by its publisher, Talal Salman.
The Syrian regime also benefits from the unity of the armed forces: defections have been scant and minimal and security agencies continue with the brutal crackdown with little organizational fissures.  It is unclear how things will turn out in Syria:  the regime–rightly or wrongly–seems to operate on the assumption that a large sector of the population is on its side.  There is a class element: many pro-regime websites and some Syrians on FB refer to protesters as “Abu Shahhatah” (literally, Father of slippers but a reference to the “low class status” of protesters).   Don’t trust Turkey: it may not be coincidental that the crackdown in Syria intensified after the visit of Turkish foreign minister.
The Syrian people are alone: I don’t count Saudi exploitation of the Syrian situation, or the American, as indication of solidarity.  It is much worse than that.  Those would sell the Syrian people and even add fuel to repression and gunfire if Syria offers them foreign policy concessions.

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So who has sovereignty over Sinai?

NOVANEWS
Zionist  premier Benjamin Naziyahu approved an Egyptian puppet’s request to increase its number of troops in the Sinai Peninsula in order to “restore or

Israel approves extra 1,000 Egyptian troops in Sinai to ‘restore order’

Israeli premier Benjamin Netanyahu approved an Egyptian request to increase its number of troops in the Sinai Peninsula in order to “restore order” in the region. (File Photo)

Israeli premier Benjamin Netanyahu approved an Egyptian request to increase its number of troops in the Sinai Peninsula in order to “restore order” in the region. (File Photo)

By AFP

OCCUPIED JERUSALEM

Israeli premier Benjamin Netanyahu approved an Egyptian request to increase its number of troops in the Sinai Peninsula in order to “restore order” in the region, public radio said on Monday.

The number of Egyptian forces in the peninsula are limited by the terms of the 1979 Israel-Egypt peace treaty, but Netanyahu approved the move following a request from Cairo, the radio said.

A senior Israeli official refused to confirm the report, but indicated such a move would be welcome given a spate of attacks in the area, notably against a pipeline transporting natural gas from Egypt to Israel and Jordan.

“In recent months we have seen increased activity by extremist elements in the Sinai Peninsula. It is not in the interest of any country in the region to see the area become a centre for international terrorism,” the official told AFP, speaking on condition of anonymity.

More than 1,000 soldiers and policemen began deploying in the northern Sinai on Saturday, entering the town of Rafah which straddles the border between Egypt and the Gaza Strip, Egyptian security officials said at the weekend.

The aim of the operation is to clamp down on militants who have staged four attacks on the gas pipeline over the past six months since the start of a massive uprising which in February led to the fall of Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak.

Egypt supplies about 40 percent of Israel’s natural gas, which is used to produce electricity.

Israel’s Haaretz newspaper on Monday reported that senior defense official Amos Gilad had on Sunday travelled to Cairo for talks about the security operation in Sinai as well as the case of Gilad Shalit, an Israeli soldier who was captured by Gaza militants in 2006 who is still being held.

der” ? in the region, public radio said on Monday.

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Trying Mu-Barak

NOVANEWS
 Since February, there have been growing signs of pressures upon the SCAF from Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states, not to try Mubarak. Their monarchs clearly fear the implications of this precedent at home, in the wake of their own uprisings. They will also wish to avoid any revelations of their ties with the Mubarak regime, whether those of Saudi business and intelligence, or of the Al Saud, Al Nahyan and Al Sabah families on a personal level.
When Mubarak suddenly issued a statement on April 10, it was on Saudi-owned satellite channel Al-Arabiyya and it seemed that Saudi elites were sponsoring his gamble to escape charges. This having failed, pressures from the Gulf will likely continue in line with the trial’s progress, and may well be connected to the financial assistance that was promised to Egypt by Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates after the high-profile Gulf tour of prime Minster Essam Sharaf in April 2011.
[Image from unknown archive]

[Image from unknown archive]

On the morning of August 3, 2011, Egypt stood still as millions watched the televised trial of their former president Hosni Mubarak begin. The other defendants in Case 1227, Qasr al-Nil, were Mubarak’s two sons Gamal and Alaa, his tycoon business associate Hussein Salem, former Interior Minister Habib al-Adly, and six of his aides, variously charged with the deliberate killing of protestors, and profiteering on a massive scale. Traffic reduced to a trickle on Cairo’s streets, as shop-keepers, cafe owners and their customers gathered around television sets, whilst activists and martyrs’ relatives met at the screen set up outside the High Court of Justice. Others headed for the screen outside the courtroom itself, ironically housed in what was formerly named the ‘Mubarak Police Academy’. For most, reactions were a mixture of incredulous joy and anxious hope that justice truly be done. Others lamented the demise of Hosni Mubarak, who for them was an Egyptian statesman after all. Still others, particularly those who had participated in the recent July 8 protests, voiced their pride and sense of vindication at having brought the Mubarak regime to account. They remembered those who lost their lives in the struggle against it and could not see this day.

An historic event by any measure, Mubarak’s trial invites reflection in and of itself, but also as a barometer of the fortunes of the January Revolution as a whole. A common challenge confronts both the achievement of accountability in the trial, and the fulfilment of the Revolution’s demands, namely the role of the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF). Since it took power in February, there has been much talk of SCAF ‘collusion’ with the old regime. In reality, the generals have been stalling Mubarak’s trial to protect their own interests, as well as those of certain Gulf monarchies, also taking into account their relationship with the United States. As Mubarak’s defence now attempts to expose these interests, the SCAF is likely to respond forcefully, combining repression, diversion and media control. The democracy movement will have to be wary of the divisive impact of these tactics: fortunately, the trial’s sound progress is a unifying concern. If the trial does see a new faultline prised open, between the SCAF and Mubarak, this may well alter the balance of power between the SCAF and the revolutionaries.

In the long run, if the process is deemed fair and the regime’s crimes exposed, the trial will become an emblem for the Arab uprisings, and a cautionary tale for remaining despots, their allies abroad, and aspiring leaders. Whatever this single case’s outcome, it has certainly revitalised the quest for accountability which was so central to the popular revolution of January 2011.

Historic Moments: Highs and Lows

The first hearing itself had all the components of a drama – tension, character, conflict, and spectacle. It was scheduled for 9 a.m., and many had camped outside the Academy building since the early hours, awaiting reassurances that Mubarak had indeed arrived. Suspense began to build after the first sight of his helicopter, crushing powerful predictions that he would ultimately fail to attend. Unforgettable moments followed with the first glimpses of Alaa Mubarak and Habib Al-Adly hovering outside the dock, as well as the image of Mubarak in the line-up shielded by his sons. Then came the roll call of the three, and their cool d     enial of all charges in steady succession. The prosecution’s recital of these charges created probably the most moving and triumphant moments for this Revolution since Omar Suleiman’s February 11 announcement of Mubarak’s resignation. Listening to them, seasoned activists and others who had lost family members to the Mubarak regime’s violence broke down outside the courtroom.

Last to arrive and first to leave, Mubarak was carried into court on a stretcher. This was a surprising twist, since many had predicted a wheelchair at most, after successive medical reports from the Ministry of Health had confirmed Mubarak’s fitness to stand trial. Many feel that this was an attempt to gain the sympathy of observers, which dismally failed. Poet Mourid Barghouti expressed revulsion at the Mubaraks’ sour and unrepentant faces throughout the proceedings. Prominent psychiatrist Ahmad Okasha noted that the former president’s stretcher, unattached to any medical equipment, seemed unnecessary. Even jokes on the subject quickly began to make the rounds across mobile networks. One of these noted that if the defense prolonged the case, the lawyer would probably die before Mubarak. Another parodied a popular advert campaign for non-alcoholic beer, which helps the consumer toughen up apparently, to warn against sympathising with Mubarak. When Ahmad Rif‘at, President of the Criminal Court and presiding judge, declared that the former president would finally be moved to a Cairo hospital, far from his hideaway in Sharm al-Sheikh, congratulations immediately began circulating online on the ‘liberation’ of Sharm and Sinai.

Alongside these signs of a well-received and credible first hearing, there were also disappointing scenes which require explanation. First came the image of the courtroom looking a third empty, when hundreds who had travelled to Cairo from across Egypt had struggled in vain to get in. Thousands more had not even applied for access, having considered the martyrs’ families far more entitled to attend. According to Mohammad Manee‘, Assistant to the Minister of Justice for Courts Affairs, those who obtained permits to attend totalled 361, of a possible total capacity of 600.

The application process itself was complex. Judge Rif‘at had said in a press conference on July 31 that applications would open that day, and close at 4 p.m. on the next. With such a short window, there were still crowds outside the Ministry of Justice on August 2. The arrangements for getting a pass for the following days of the trial also seem to be intentionally convoluted, involving two separate courts’ procedures. More worryingly, Gamal Eid, Director of the Arab Network for Human Rights Information, complained that only five of his legal team were given passes, while the media got 99 and the Egyptian State Television alone a total of 93 passes. What was more, applicants would have to collect them on the day of the trial, picking their way through the crowds. In the end, security forces were in charge of admissions to the courtroom, and many of the meagre 361 were not allowed in. One of those kept out, former Deputy Chief Justice of the Court of Cassation Mahmoud al-Khodeiri, described applying in advance, and then seeing a cross by his name on the admission list.

This generated another disturbing scene once the trial had begun, that of the large number of civil rights lawyers, jostling for space and clamouring over the microphone to explain that only thirty of them were present, while over a hundred of their colleagues were stuck outside. Many in Egypt and abroad have commented since, calling the courtroom ‘chaotic’ and judging the lawyers ‘incompetent’. Some have seized upon these scenes to cast doubt on the entire Egyptian justice system.

Explanations, Obstacles Ahead

Commenting on the famed issue of the ‘chaotic’ scenes, legal experts have clarified that submitting written and verbal requests is the normal procedure in an Egyptian criminal court, and that observers are simply unfamiliar with the workings of the legal system.

On the question of the competence of the lawyers, this must be placed in the context of the vast difference in resources between the defendants and the martyrs’ families. To get some perspective, consider the defendant who was absent, business tycoon Hussein Salem: nobody has yet been able to estimate the total size of his fortune. He is currently being held in Spain for money-laundering, and is charged in Egypt with profiteering from ties with Mubarak. Salem built his Sharm al-Sheikh empire on vast swathes of state-owned land in South Sinai, and made over two billion dollars profit by illegally exporting Egyptian gas to Israel at prices well below market levels. Meanwhile, the Mubarak family fortune was notoriously estimated at 70 billion dollars in February 2011, bringing floods more of angry protestors onto Egypt’s streets at the time. Needless to say, the defense is able to afford the best paid and most experienced lawyers in Egypt, while the majority of the civil rights lawyers are representing victims from Egypt’s working and lower middle classes.

It is a bitter irony that most of those who braved the worst of Egypt’s police brutality in January and February were those least equipped to defend themselves legally. Khaled Abu Bakr, one of the civil rights lawyers, hasexplained that these people’s families, in the midst of such crisis, would reach out to lawyers they knew personally, and could not always afford the strongest legal representation. Compounding this has been a grave lack of coordination. Abu Bakr pointed out that the case in hand – which only relates to the events of 27 and 28 January – involves 848 victims, coming from six of Egypt’s governorates. With their families scattered across the country like this, coordination between their lawyers was a serious challenge, whether in terms of numbers, or joint legal discourse and strategy.

Yet within hours of the trial’s adjournment, a spontaneous campaign had got underway in Cairo to remedy this, supervised by Heba Raouf Ezzat, Lecturer in Political Science at Cairo University. The campaign aimed to strengthen the ranks of the civil rights lawyers, and to get in touch with anyone needing representation. Prominent lawyers such as Essam Sultan of the Wasat Party responded to the call, and a ‘Unified Front’ of lawyers has been formed since, holding coordination meetings daily. It is difficult not to wonder why figures like Sultan did not step forward earlier: the civil rights lawyers inside and outside the courtroom on August 3 did so well before the trial was confirmed, and before such media interest. One of these lawyers, long-time human rights activist Ahmad Seif al-Islam of the Hisham Mubarak Law Center, has pointed out that the issue most urgently requiring coordination next will be witness questioning.

It is important to clarify the role that the public prosecution will play as the trial unfolds, and the potential for coordination between it and the civil rights team. In the Egyptian justice system, criminal and civil cases are often heard together by the same judge. In the Mubarak trial then, the prosecution is concerned with proving the guilt of the defendants, while the civil rights lawyers are there to prove damage and seek compensation for the victims’ families. Finally, the Egyptian State Lawsuits Authority is dealing with the issue of squandering public funds: on August 3, its lawyer demanded compensation of one billion Egyptian pounds.

[Image from unknown archive]

One challenge facing both the prosecution and civil rights lawyers is the defence team’s manoeuvres to prolong the trial. On August 3, Mubarak’s and Al-Adly’s star lawyer, Fareed al-Deeb, requested to cross-examine 1631 witnesses for the prosecution, as well as all former governors of South Sinai and several other senior figures. The trial now looks likely to stretch to several months, and will soon overlap with the September preparations for the parliamentary elections. If the trial turns into a saga, it may well become overshadowed or easier to sideline.

However, contrary to their dismissal in some media, the civil rights lawyers made several important points when given their turn. Requests were made for a list of duty officers between January 25 and 28, for records of all phone calls made between the defendants during that time, and for the summoning of all State Security snipers to testify on the source of their orders. One lawyer also requested that representatives from the management of each of Egypt’s telecommunications companies be summoned as witnesses, to tell the court who issued the order to close down network services from January 27 until February 2. The next hearing, scheduled for August 15, will allow the court to hear from those civil rights lawyers kept outside and off television screens so far.

Beyond the Trial: Containing the Revolution

It is not just events in the courtroom that pose challenges to the quest to bring Mubarak to account. The ruling military council has presided over significant delay in the progress of legal proceedings against Mubarak, ever since pledging to try him in February. He was only detained after the Friday demonstrations of April 8 and subsequent sit-in, and he was only formally charged a month later. The public prosecutor had ordered Mubarak to move to Cairo’s Tora Prison hospital, but he was allowed to stay in Sharm al-Sheikh until his trial. The past six months have also seen several of Mubarak’s aides acquitted or escape charge altogether – including former Media Minister Anas al-Fiqi and Finance Minister Youssef Butrus Ghali respectively – while his sons and Habib al-Adly are rumoured to be enjoying five-star service and even sharing legal counsel at Tora. Doubts have been raised at the destruction of evidence under the army’s watch, after it emerged that the surveillance tapes of the Egyptian Museum from January 25 to 31 had been recorded over. On August 3, as the suspects left court, Egyptians were shocked to see several of them shake hands warmly with their military security guards, and Alaa Mubarak defiantly cover a camera lens in front of them. Yet the military council and government are now taking credit before the world for having held the trial at all.

In this sense, the Mubarak trial mirrors a contradiction defining the wider political scene in Egypt since January. On the one hand, there is abundant evidence of what appears to be collusion between the military council and members of the ancien regime. But on the other, SCAF generals assumed power on the pretext that they had protected, and would continue to protect the January Revolution.

First came the March referendum on constitutional amendments, which took advantage of people’s keenness to participate democratically, and produced a yes vote rather than an insistence on writing the constitution from scratch. In fact, legally, the 1971 constitution was void the day the SCAF took over. Soon enough, the yes vote was overtaken by 63 amendments imposed by the military council. Unsurprisingly, though this has not been made sufficiently clear, these contained provisions to enshrine the SCAF’s predominant position in new law. So article 51 created a vague ‘Defence Council’, its authorities unspecified, and most controversially, article 56 equated the powers of the military council with those of the president, leaving intact the associated extensive range of executive powers.

Since launching the transition period in this flawed way, the SCAF has at best been sluggish in the pace of reform, and at worst, worked to undermine the Revolution’s pluralist demands. It has employed crackdowns on strikes and protest, using violent tactics no different from those of the Mubarak regime, most recently in‘Abbasiya and Tahrir Square. It has also displayed obstinacy on party law and electoral reform, and has formed a tacit alliance with the quietist portion of the Islamist movement that pledges loyalty to the military council. Most recently, the SCAF has used the state media to spread the line that any further democracy protests are selfish and frivolous, threatening the security, industry and tourism of Egypt. Turning public opinion against the revolution in this way is key to engineering a very controlled and limited change in the status quo.

What are the SCAF’s precise motives in this behaviour? Is it colluding with Egypt’s former rulers to protect them from retribution? There is no doubt that the Egyptian army’s senior command was in collusion with Mubarak the president: the SCAF are simply his former generals. General Tantawi and other senior officers in the council were loyal to their Commander-in-Chief and October War hero for years. However, the generals had also long resented Mubarak’s favouring of the police apparatus, which was key to his security system and enjoyed great privileges, over the military. The generals also chafed at the ascent of the civilian business wing of Mubarak’s elite, personified in his son Gamal, which threatened the military’s financial interests and its claims on the presidency. They therefore seem to have welcomed the revolution as a way to outmanoeuvre Mubarak and his son.

This said, the military council appears to desire a transition to a civilian government not unlike the Mubarak regime in terms of overall control, business orientation and collaboration, accompanied by deference to the military – Islamist politicians are useful allies in this regard. This is why, since February, the SCAF have employed calculated divide and rule tactics to contain the revolution’s impact, and dissipate its momentum.

Moreover, the military command’s record under Mubarak remains, and cannot be undone. In stalling Mubarak’s trial then, the SCAF generals are not so much covering for their former masters and partners, as for themselves. They are unwilling to open up a Pandora’s Box that might expose the extent of their own privileges under the old regime. The military was the first to take over state land in the 1970s and 1980s, using it to build and sell on public housing, as well as to launch business enterprises. The army has its own domestic goods companies, which sell to its personnel at subsidised prices. Under Mubarak, a substantial number of Governor positions in Egypt’s 27 districts traditionally went to the military. Senior commanders’ privileges also extended to priority treatment in luxury sites on the Mediterranean, many of which were purpose-built for them. Considering all this, allegations of corruption may not be so far away from the SCAF if this trial is allowed to get ‘out of hand’.

The same interests and fears link the SCAF to another set of actors: regionally, the Gulf monarchies, and internationally, the United States. The Gulf states were the swiftest to put down the uprisings on their own doorsteps: Saudi Arabia halted an uprising in Qatif province, and provided support and refuge to Ali Abdullah Saleh of Yemen. Its forces also fortified the ‘Peninsula Shield’ sent to put down the democracy movement in Bahrain. The Gulf monarchs have been disturbed by Egypt’s new foreign policy directions. This was particularly the case under its first Foreign Minister after the revolution, Nabil al-Arabi, who took firm stances on normalising Iranian relations for example, as well as on demonstrating solidarity with the Palestinian people, before he was moved to the position of Secretary-General of the Arab League. Meanwhile, Egyptian journalist Hamdi Qandeel has demanded that the SCAF investigate the raising of Saudi flags at the pro-SCAF Islamist demonstration of 29 July in Cairo. While some Salafi groups allege that these were simply the banners carried by Prophet Muhammad, Qandeel has raised pertinent questions regarding the political and financial influence of Wahabi groups over Egypt’s Islamists.

Since February, there have been growing signs of pressures upon the SCAF from Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states, not to try Mubarak. Their monarchs clearly fear the implications of this precedent at home, in the wake of their own uprisings. They will also wish to avoid any revelations of their ties with the Mubarak regime, whether those of Saudi business and intelligence, or of the Al Saud, Al Nahyan and Al Sabah families on a personal level. When Mubarak suddenly issued a statement on April 10, it was on Saudi-owned satellite channel Al-Arabiyya and it seemed that Saudi elites were sponsoring his gamble to escape charges. This having failed, pressures from the Gulf will likely continue in line with the trial’s progress, and may well be connected to the financial assistance that was promised to Egypt by Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates after the high-profile Gulf tour of Prime Minister Essam Sharaf in April 2011.

[Protester carrying a sign that reads “Trying Mubarak and his associates is a popular demand.” Image from unknown archive]

Then there is the role of the US: it goes without saying that Washington has lost important allies in Zeinedine Ben Ali and Mubarak to the Arab Spring. But it has been quick to adjust and has found reassurances in the SCAF’s stances so far. America’s massive military aid to Egypt has generated close ties over the years between senior US officials and Egypt’s senior command. SCAF General Sami Anan shuttled between Cairo and Washington during the first January uprisings, and by March, Secretary of State Hilary Clinton had visited Egypt and blessed its democratic transition. There has been some friction recently over US funding for Egyptian NGOs, but these seem to be a side-issue in the broader context. While it is not easy to unravel the precise overlaps and differences in their positions, it is safe to say that the SCAF enjoys US support overall, and that the generals will safeguard any US-related information from revelation in the trial. In this regard, Washington’s public approval of the Mubarak trial in a statement on 4 August was telling.

The only regional state whose officials vocally lamented the demise of Hosni Mubarak on August 3 was Israel. As the trial got underway, Trade and Labour Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliazer told Israeli Army Radio that he had offered Mubarak asylum in Tel Aviv. He called Mubarak a ‘patriot’ for refusing to die outside Egypt, and added that he was personally saddened by Mubarak’s treatment at home.

Mubarak’s Defense, the SCAF’s Attack

Despite these multiple pressures then, the SCAF has failed to stall the trial any further. It is now caught in its dilemma between the need to undermine full transparency, and the need to preserve its self-image as guardian of the January Revolution. Since February, Egyptian politics has been characterised by a tug of war between the military council and the democracy movement, with the latter effectively using the SCAF’s proclaimed commitment to the revolution to extract concessions.

Now, Mubarak’s defense is playing upon the same contradiction, but in a different direction. During the first hearing, both defense and prosecution requested the presence of SCAF Chairman General Tantawi at the next hearing. The prosecution will wish to ask him precisely whose orders to shoot at demonstrators he so famously disobeyed. The defense, however, may ask other questions, intending to embarrass or expose the SCAF, perhaps inducing it to censor or reign in this trial somehow. Most controversially in the hearing, Al-Deeb referred to Tantawi as having ‘assumed control’ on January 28, well before Mubarak’s resignation was announced, thereby implicating him in events such as the camel and horse attacks of February 2. Indeed two days later, one of Mubarak’s lawyers alleged that Tantawi had been present, and Mubarak absent, at the meeting whose attendees decided to cut Egypt’s phonelines. A SCAF spokesman sharply refuted this allegation, but then a different lawyer in Mubarak’s team denied the original claim, fuelling the media controversy.

How will the SCAF react to this strategy in the longer run? Significantly, Mubarak’s trial only went ahead after the popular pressure exerted by the recent Tahrir Square sit-in and demonstrations held nationwide since July 8. The SCAF was compelled to begin the trial because of symbolic entrapment in a ‘heroic’ self-image. It is therefore highly unlikely to allow the hearings’ contents to erode this very image by exposing SCAF culpability in any crimes committed during Mubarak’s rule. Hence channelling public opinion toward indifference, impatience or outright hostility to the protesters, and more broadly to their notions of the demands of this revolution, is a crucial SCAF strategy.

Tactics include releasing agents of moral panic such as Islamic fundamentalists, and drumming up others such as the threats to security and national income allegedly posed by the Tahrir protests. The generals stayed away when busloads of Salafis descended on Tahrir on July 29 to declare their loyalty to the SCAF and to Shari‘a law. Days earlier, and without a hint of irony, the SCAF’s 69th statement had declared the April 6thmovement an untrustworthy organisation for allegedly receiving foreign funding.

Another tactic is violence followed by outright censorship: the SCAF ordered the violent break-up of the Tahrir sit-in just two days before Mubarak’s trial and then relied on pliant media not to give this particularly critical coverage. One young lady who was beaten at Tahrir on August 1 – also the first day of Ramadan this year – gave her testimony at a public debate, because none of the private media channels she approached agreed to run her story.[1] SCAF control over the media was most dramatically illustrated when DreamTV television host Dina Abdel Rahman was fired by businessman Ahmad Bahgat, after she ‘talked back’ to retired Major General Abdel Moneim Kato in a live interview.

Meanwhile, state television images beamed to the world on August 3 highlighted the clashes outside the courtroom between those supporting the former president, and those involved in protesting against him. Since then, there has been a wave of television appearances by several of Mubarak’s cronies, competing to give their testimonies of January’s events on air. They have aimed to humanise Mubarak and portray him as a victim of misinformation. The overall intention is to depict the country as equally divided, and then try to make it so. However, it is more accurate to note that the majority differ over tactics, on how to run Egypt without Mubarak, but not on whether to do so. Privileging the more conservative trends in Egypt will be a prerequisite for a variety of possible SCAF actions: taking the trial slowly out of the public eye, limiting the information released in the name of national security with little opposition, and facilitating a plea for amnesty for Mubarak at the end. An alternative tactic could be to enhance the sensationalism in the trial’s coverage, partly to distract from the SCAF’s own poor record in fulfilling popular demands, but also to help invalidate the trial later.

Beyond the Trial: Advancing the Revolution

In the face of all these challenges stands the Mubarak trial’s effect in rejuvenating the consensus around the Revolution’s demands in several quarters. This was seen in much of the public debate in Egypt on and since August 3. In discussions, and interviews in the press and on the television, Egyptians of different backgrounds and political orientations expressed satisfaction at seeing the dictator on trial, and this within Egypt’s own justice system.

Some analysts have resorted to the term ‘show trial’, while others have expressed legitimate concern at the scapegoating that might result from an exclusive focus on retribution. Rather, what is needed is a systematic and public investigation into the workings of the old regime, in a way that facilitates the process of reconstruction by pointing in the direction of necessary reform, rather than indulging in a blame game.

In this trial, the outcome is as yet unclear and the process itself, which will be as important, is just beginning. So far, the performance of the prosecution and civil rights lawyers has not displayed undue sensationalism. The elaborate rhetoric of some may have seemed overdone, but others were simply keen to mark the gravity of their clients’ claims. The call for the establishment of truth and reconciliation committees might seem idealistic at the moment – no doubt they would flourish best under civilian rule – but the national debate has encompassed the main values and goals behind them. Many Egyptians distanced themselves from both Schadenfreude (shamata in Arabic) and vengefulness, stressing that they wished only to see a fair trial. A statement by the April 6th Youth movement echoed that a fair trial was key to establishing a new order in Egypt, one characterised by accountability and the rule of law.

Meanwhile, the brutality with which activists and martyrs’ relatives were cleared from Tahrir Square on August 1, and arrested in waves since, has brought the SCAF’s duplicity back into the limelight. Fifteen political movements and parties, some involved in the Tahrir sit-in and others calling for other tactics, condemned these latest violations in one voice. Activists have since reminded their audiences that the majority of the Revolution’s demands remain unfulfilled, from overhauling corrupt state institutions to ending military rule and the state of emergency. They have also signalled that they will be vigilant at attempts to use the Mubarak trial against the Revolution. They know that without their activism, there may have been a much longer wait for Mubarak’s trial, and they will watch any wrangling between the SCAF and Mubarak with caution.

Indeed, Mubarak’s trial opened against the backdrop of ongoing state violence against citizens not only at home, but in uprisings across the Arab world. While Egyptians’ protests grew daily outside the Syrian Embassy in Cairo, they expressed their pride at setting the important regional precedent of having brought their former oppressor to account, in a standard civilian court and not a military or special tribunal, and most significantly, by themselves and not as a result of US intervention, as with Iraq. In frequent comparisons with Saddam Hussein’s case, many highlighted the indignity of what was clearly a show trial by an American dictat, compared with the credible trial of Mubarak as a fulfilled demand of Egypt’s popular revolution. One opinion contrasted the figure of Saddam, his hair greying and standing tall, with that of Mubarak, still dying his hair and unable to stand up to his fate. As Mubarak lay in his cage, Syrian troops intensified their assault on Hama: to many in Cairo, the excesses of the Asad regime could only spell its downfall.

Since Mubarak’s ouster in February, analysts, politicians and activists have increasingly lamented that the Revolution has lost its focus, falling victim to divisive arguments on religion and stability. With the renewed attention paid to the second hearing this week, however, it seems that the Mubarak trial may yet restore the focus of the democracy movement, and test the credibility of the military council to its limit. The revolutionaries will have to be wary, however, of the SCAF brandishing the trial as the concession to end all concessions. In fact, this trial should only be the beginning, since it covers just two, albeit bloody, days in a period of state violence spanning weeks this year, and in a term of corrupt dictatorship lasting thirty years. Judging from the public debate, it has inspired and revitalised a large sector of Egyptian lawyers and rights activists. No matter the outcome of this week’s case, the repression, corruption and negligence that characterized the Mubarak era will surely generate enough trials to keep him caged for the significant future.

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The Children We Kill

NOVANEWS

“”The highest number of child deaths occurred during Zionist Bush presidency, with 112 children reportedly killed. More than a third of all Bush drone strikes appear to have resulted in the deaths of children.

“The Obama administration has also killed over 50 children, but seems to be trying to improve:””

 

2009.08.21-Syed-Wali-Shah-Aged-7-Ob32

A new report from the Bureau of Investigative Journalism reveals the profound moral costsof drone warfare, waged by the unacccountable CIA:

The highest number of child deaths occurred during the Bush presidency, with 112 children reportedly killed. More than a third of all Bush drone strikes appear to have resulted in the deaths of children.

On only one occasion during Bush’s time in office did a single child die in a strike. Multiple deaths occurred every other time.  On July 28 2008 for example, CIA drones struck a seminary in South Waziristan, killing al Qaeda’s chemical weapons expert Abu Khabab al Masri along with his team. Publicly the attack was hailed a success.

But the Agency’s strike also killed three young boys and a woman. Despite the secrecy surrounding the drones campaign, details emerged in May of this year that not only was the US aware of this ‘collateral damage’, but that the then-CIA chief Michael Hayden personally apologised to Pakistan’s Prime Minister Gilani for the error.

The Obama administration has also killed over 50 children, but seems to be trying to improve:

There are indications that the Obama administration is making efforts to reduce the number of children being killed. Following the incident in September 2010 that killed Din Mohammad’s children, and another strike just weeks earlier in which a further three children died, there has been an apparent steep fall in the number of child fatalities reported by media.

That is partially in line with claims by some US intelligence officials that drone targeting strategies have been altered to reduce civilian casualties. Although the Bureau has demonstrated that CIA claims of ‘zero casualties’ are false, there are fewer reports of child casualties since August 2010.

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