Saturday, January 20, 2007

In Memoriam Rachel Corrie 1979 - 2003

19 March 2003
Press Release from the Parents of Rachel CorrieOur daughter Rachel, a volunteer with the International Solidarity Movement in the Occupied Territories, died Sunday in the Gaza Strip while courageously trying to prevent the demolition of a Palestinian home. Our loss is immense, but we are buoyed by the outpouring of support and love that we’ve received from around the world. We understand that Rachel is being remembered in many places in many beautiful ways, and we are grateful. We are comforted and heartened by the compassionate expressions of love that we have received from both Palestinian and Israeli people. We will forever remember and be thankful for Rachel’s ISM and Palestinian friends who cared for her and who held her for us as she died.We are speaking out today because of Rachel’s fears about the impact of a war with Iraq on the people in the Occupied Territories. She reported to us that her Palestinian friends were afraid that with all eyes on Iraq, the Israeli Defense Forces would escalate activity in the Occupied Territories. Rachel wanted to be in Gaza if that happened.In the last six weeks, Rachel became our eyes and ears for Rafah, a city at the southern tip of Gaza. Now that she’s no longer there, we are asking members of Congress and, truly, all the world to watch and listen.One week ago I came rather timidly to members of Rachel’s delegation in Congress, expressing my concerns for the safety of those in the International Solidarity Movement. A piece of me wonders if I had spoken louder or sooner, if this week’s tragedy might have been averted. So today I am speaking up in memory of my daughter and on behalf of all her friends in Gaza.We are greatly concerned for the non-violent internationals volunteering in the Occupied Territories. We ask that members of Congress call upon the Israeli government to cease harassment of these individuals and, specifically, to cease firing upon them when they are engaged in protecting the Palestinian water supply, protecting Palestinian homes from illegal demolitions, and retrieving bodies of murdered Palestinians for return to their families – all events Rachel witnessed.In my last phone conversation with Rachel, she expressed that when we fail to support and protect the Internationals who resist non–violently, we also undercut the non-violent initiatives of the Palestinians. We are, therefore, asking our members of Congress to demand that the American Embassy in Tel Aviv, when called upon for assistance, provide all reasonable support to non-violent, American volunteers in the Occupied Territories, as well as support to other internationals as appropriate.We are asking members of Congress to bring the U.S. government’s attention back to the Israeli-Palestinian crisis and to recognize that the occupation of the Palestinian territories is an overwhelming and continuous act of collective violence against the Palestinian people. We ask that military aid to Israel be commensurate with its efforts to end its occupation of the Palestinian Territories and to adhere to the rules of international law.Rachel would not want her death to overshadow that of others. In barely glancing at headlines since word came of Rachel’s death, I note that many have died this week in the Occupied Territories – one a four-year-old child. I would like to be able to hold the mother of that child and to have her hold me.Yesterday, I looked at a publication entitled "Who Will Save the Children?" with photos of children who have died since September 2000 in Israel and in the Occupied Territories. I understand that the next publication will be dedicated to Rachel and will include her photograph. I want the mothers of these children to know that I have looked at the beaming faces of each of their babies and that I know how much the world has lost with the passing of each one of them.In one of her e-mails Rachel wrote, "Today as I walked on top of the rubble where homes once stood, Egyptian soldiers called to me from the other side of the border, ‘Go! Go!’ because a tank was coming. Followed by waving and "what’s your name?" There is something disturbing about this friendly curiosity. It reminded me of how much, to some degree, we are all kids curious about other kids: Egyptian kids shouting at strange women wandering into the path of tanks. Palestinian kids shot from the tanks when they peek out from behind walls to see what’s going on. International kids standing in front of tanks with banners. Israeli kids in the tanks anonymously, occasionally shouting - and also occasionally waving – many forced to be here, many just aggressive, shooting into the houses as we wander away." How I wish that the young man in the bulldozer that killed Rachel could have just stopped, hopped out, and talked to her. He would have met a beautiful soul.In another e-mail, Rachel wrote, "This has to stop. I think it is a good idea for us all to drop everything and devote our lives to making this stop. I don’t think it’s an extremist thing to do anymore. I really want to dance around to Pat Benatar and have boyfriends and make comics for my co-workers. But I also want this to stop. Disbelief and horror is what I feel. Disappointment. I am disappointed that this is the base reality of our world and that we, in fact, participate in it. This is not at all what I asked for when I came into this world. This is not at all what the people here asked for when they came into this world. This is not what they are asking for now. This is not the world you and Dad wanted me to come into when you decided to have me."Rachel’s brutal death illustrates dramatically the madness of war.

Craig and Cindy Corrie

Ethiopian troops in Somalia ambush

Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed, the Somali president, hopes to bring stability to his country [AFP]
Posted By

A convoy of Ethiopian troops has been ambushed in Mogadishu, the Somali capital, just hours after government troops repelled an attack on the president's palace.

At least one bystander was killed in the fighting that erupted after unknown men attacked the military convoy with machineguns and rocket-propelled grenades on Saturday morning.
The Ethiopian troops responded to the ambush by returning fire with heavy weapons. Some accounts said that as many as four people were killed in the ensuing firefight.

The government played down the attack, dismissing speculation that it was part of a broader anti-government offensive.
"Neither government forces nor our Ethiopian friends suffered any casualties in the attack, which was carried out by simple gunmen to show the international community that Mogadishu is still very unsafe," Abdirahman Dinari, a government spokesman, said.
Several people were also wounded in the brief exchange of fire.

"The Ethiopians shot me," Ali Kheyre Mumin, one of the wounded, said. "They shot at me and the others indiscriminately ... they shot everybody who was moving around."

A senior leader of the Union of Islamic Courts, which controlled Mogadishu and much of southern Somalia until December, took credit for the attack.

"This is a new uprising by the Somali people," Ahmed Qare, deputy chairman of the movement, told the Associated Press.

"The only solution can be reconciliation and talks between the transitional federal government and the Islamic courts."

The attack is the latest of several targeting Ethiopian troops who helped Somali's weak government drive fighters from the Union of Islamic Courts out of the Somali capital last month.

Presidential compound attacked

Late on Friday, attackers fired three mortars into the presidential compound and then engaged guards in a 30-minute fire fight, residents living nearby said.

Ethiopian and government troops riding tanks and heavily armed trucks rolled out of the compound and immediately sealed off the area

There were no reports of casualties.
The president and prime minister were in Mogadishu, but their exact whereabouts were unclear.

Dinari, the government spokesman, said one shell hit the presidential palace, known as Villa Somalia, but that no one inside was injured or killed.

"Those who ambushed the presidential palace escaped, and this is a cowardly act intended to terrorize the public," Dinari said.

The attacks have increased pressure on the Ethiopian troops to withdraw from Somalia.

The African Union has it wants to send troops to replace the Ethiopians but it has yet to prove that it has the troops, money or logistical capability to keep the peace in Somalia.

Somalia has lacked a functioning central government since the authoritarian government of Muhammad Siad Barre was toppled in 1991.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

How racism has invaded Canada

By Robert Fisk - 10 June 2006
This has been a good week to be in Canada — or an awful week, depending on your point of view - to understand just how irretrievably biased and potentially racist the Canadian press has become. For, after the arrest of 17 Canadian Muslims on “terrorism” charges, the Toronto Globe and Mail and, to a slightly lesser extent, the National Post, have indulged in an orgy of finger-pointing that must reduce the chances of any fair trial and, at the same time, sow fear in the hearts of the country’s more than 700,000 Muslims. In fact, if I were a Canadian Muslim right now, I’d already be checking the airline timetables for a flight out of town. Or is that the purpose of this press campaign?
First, the charges. Even a lawyer for one of the accused has talked of a plot to storm the Parliament in Ottawa, hold MPs hostage and chop off the head of Prime Minister Stephen Harper. Without challenging the “facts” or casting any doubt on their sources — primarily the Royal Canadian Mounted Police or Canada’s leak-dripping Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) — reporters have told their readers that the 17 were variously planning to blow up Parliament, CSIS’s headquarters, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and sundry other targets. Every veiled and chadored Muslim woman relative of the accused has been photographed and their pictures printed, often on front pages. “Home-grown terrorists” has become theme of the month — even though the “terrorists” have yet to stand trial.
They were in receipt of “fertilizers”, we were told, which could be turned into explosives. When it emerged that Canadian police officers had already switched the “fertilizers” for a less harmful substance, nobody followed up the implications of this apparent “sting”. A Buffalo radio station down in the US even announced that the accused had actually received “explosives”. Bingo: Guilty before trial.
Of course, the Muslim-bashers have laced this nonsense with the usual pious concern for the rights of the accused. “Before I go on, one disclaimer,” purred the Globe and Mail’s Margaret Wente. “Nothing has been proved and nobody should rush to judgment.” Which, needless to say, Wente then went on to do in the same paragraph. “The exposure of our very own home-grown terrorists, if that’s what the men aspired to be, was both predictably shocking and shockingly predictable.” And just in case we missed the point of this hypocrisy, Wente ended her column by announcing that “Canada is not exempt from home-grown terrorism”. Angry young men are the tinderbox and Islamism is the match.
The country will probably have better luck than most at “putting out the fire”, she adds. But who, I wonder, is really lighting the match? For a very unpleasant — albeit initially innocuous — phrase has now found its way into the papers. The accused 17 — and, indeed their families and sometimes the country’s entire Muslim community — are now referred to as “Canadian-born”. Well, yes, they are Canadian-born. But there’s a subtle difference between this and being described as a “Canadian” — as other citizens of this vast country are in every other context. And the implications are obvious; there are now two types of Canadian citizen: The Canadian-born variety (Muslims) and Canadians (the rest).
If this seems finicky, try the following sentence from the Globe and Mail’s front page on Tuesday, supposedly an eyewitness account of the police arrest operation: “Parked directly outside his ... office was a large, gray, cube-shaped truck and, on the ground nearby, he recognized one of the two brown-skinned young men who had taken possession of the next door rented unit...” Come again? Brown-skinned? What in God’s name is this outrageous piece of racism doing on the front page of a major Canadian daily? What is “brown-skinned” supposed to mean — if it is not just a revolting attempt to isolate Muslims as the “other” in Canada’s highly multicultural society? I notice, for example, that when the paper obsequiously refers to Toronto’s police chief and his reportedly brilliant cops, he is not referred to as “white-skinned” (which he most assuredly is). Amid this swamp, Canada’s journalists are managing to soften the realities of their country’s new military involvement in Afghanistan.
More than 2,000 troops are deployed around Kandahar in active military operations against Taleban insurgents. They are taking the place of US troops, who will be transferred to fight even more Muslims insurgents in Iraq.
Canada is thus now involved in the Afghan war — those who doubt this should note the country has already shelled out $1.8bn in “defense spending” in Afghanistan and only $500m in “additional expenditures”, including humanitarian assistance and democratic renewal (sic) — and, by extension, in Iraq. In other words, Canada has gone to war in the Middle East.
None of this, according to the Canadian foreign minister, could be the cause of Muslim anger at home, although Jack Hooper — the CSIS chief who has a lot to learn about the Middle East but talks far too much — said a few days ago that “we had a high threat profile (in Canada) before Afghanistan. In any event, the presence of Canadians and Canadian forces there has elevated that threat somewhat.” I read all this on a flight from Calgary to Ottawa this week, sitting just a row behind Tim Goddard, his wife Sally and daughter Victoria, who were chatting gently and smiling bravely to the crew and fellow passengers. In the cargo hold of our aircraft lay the coffin of Goddard’s other daughter, Nichola, the first Canadian woman soldier to be killed in action in Afghanistan.
The next day, he scattered sand on Nichola’s coffin at Canada’s national military cemetery. A heartrending photograph of him appeared in the Post — but buried away on Page 6. And on the front page? A picture of British policemen standing outside the Bradford home of a Muslim “who may have links to Canada”. Allegedly, of course.

Emergency landing for Minister

Norway's Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre was aboard a plane forced to land in Kandahar in southern Afghanistan on Wednesday
Støre and bodyguards, co-workers and a group of Norwegian press were supposed to return to capital Kabul after a visit to Tirin Kot in the south of the country in an Australian transport plane. Only upon landing did the passengers learn that they were in Kandahar, reputed to be the most dangerous city in the country.
"I thought we had landed in Kabul," said a surprised Støre after emerging onto the landing strip in the darkness. From there he was taken to a provisional terminal building.
Problems with air pressure aboard the plane forced the landing, as the plane was unable to rise above the mountains surrounding the Afghan capital.
As night began to fall there was doubt that either the plane or a replacement would be ready in time to transport the group to Kabul on Wednesday. Støre, who is on a three-day visit to Afghanistan, was preparing for a night in Kandahar under uncertain conditions.
Kandahar has been the scene of recent fighting between NATO soldiers and Taliban insurgents.
Posted by aftenposten
(Aftenposten English Web Desk/NTB)

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Saddam's half brother hanged


Saddam Hussein's half brother and the former head of Iraq's revolutionary court are reported to have been hanged.
Barzan Ibrahim, Saddam's half brother and former intelligence chief, and Awad Hamed al-Bandar, the ex-head of Iraq's Revolutionary Court, had been found guilty along with Saddam in the killing of 148 Shiite Muslims.
Munqith al-Faroon, an Iraqi prosecutor, confirmed the deaths to the Associated Press news agency only two weeks and two days after Saddam was executed in chaotic scenes that drew worldwide criticism.

Jalal Talabani, the Iraqi president, last week urged the government to delay the executions.