November 16, 2009

If it was a war for oil, the US lost

The "no war for oil" mantra only made average Americans stakeholders in the wars for Israel

By Jeffrey Blankfort
November 15, 2009

Although the Bush administration denied it, the conventional wisdom on the part of the anti-war movement was that the war on Iraq was launched in order for the US to take over Saddam’s oil supplies which would give Washington an even more dominant position in the region. That there was no concrete evidence that the war was supported by the oil companies was discounted and, as it had been in 1991 during the first Gulf War, "No blood for oil!" became the battle cry.

If the war was indeed about oil, then, as the NY Times reported on Friday, the US lost.

Those espousing that theory had company, however. It was the view held by most Iraqis.

"If true," writes the Times’ Rod Nordland. "then the war failed in more ways than some critics charge."
"It wasn’t until last week that the first major oil field exploitation contract was signed with a foreign company–BP in a joint deal with China’s state-run China National Petroleum Corporation.

"Exxon Mobil… has an oil field deal awaiting final approval from Iraq’s oil ministry. The Italian oil giant Eni, whose junior partner is the American-owned Occidental Petroleum is expected to sign a similar deal. These, however, are service contracts so the foreign oil companies don’t actually own the rights to any new oil they may find."

Pro-Israel lobby group bankrolling Tories, film claims

50% of MPs in the shadow cabinet are Conservative Friends of Israel members, according to Channel 4's Dispatches

By Ian Black
The Guardian
November 16, 2009

William Hague

Channel 4's film alleges that William Hague faced threats of a withdrawal of funding from CFI after he described a retaliatory attack by Israel on Lebanon in 2006 as 'disproportionate'. Photograph: Martin Godwin

Pro-Israeli organisations in Britain look set to see their influence increase if the Conservatives win the next election, a film scrutinising the activities of a powerful but little-known lobby warns today.

At least half of the shadow cabinet are members of the Conservative Friends of Israel (CFI), according to a Dispatches programme being screened on Channel 4. The programme-makers describe the CFI as "beyond doubt the most well- connected and probably the best funded of all Westminster lobbying groups".

Inside Britain's Israel Lobby claims that donations to the Conservative party "from all CFI members and their businesses add up to well over £10m over the last eight years". CFI has disputed the figure and called the film "deeply flawed".

The programme also describes how David Cameron allegedly accepted a £15,000 donation from Poju Zabludowicz, a Finnish billionaire who chairs Bicom (the Britain Israel Communications and Research Centre). Zabludowizc, the film reveals, has business interests in an illegal West Bank settlement. He also gave £50,000 to Conservative Central Office. Zabludowicz says his contributions "are a matter of public record".

William Hague allegedly accepted personal donations from CFI board members totalling tens of thousands of pounds after being appointed shadow foreign secretary. More than £30,000 from CFI supporters went to the campaign funds of members of Cameron's team who were first elected in 2005, the film claims, using publicly available information.

The programme-makers say that while this is legal, it is not well-known.

The CFI director, Stuart Polak, told the Guardian the figure of more than £10m is not supported by any facts. "It is fictitious, misleading and damaging to the reputation of CFI and its supporters," he said.

"CFI as an organisation has donated only £30,000 since 2005. Each of these donations has been made transparently and publicly registered. In addition to this £30,000, it is undoubtedly the case that some of our supporters have also chosen, separately, to donate to the party as individuals."

Two years ago a controversial study by American academics Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer explored the influence of the Israel lobby over US foreign policy. But Britain's pro-Israel organisations have been subjected to far less scrutiny.

"The pro-Israel lobby … is the most powerful political lobby," Michael Mates, a Conservative MP and privy councillor, told the film-makers. "There's nothing to touch them."

Full article

Gordon Brown: Britain can lead new world order

"When Britain is bold, when Britain is engaged, when Britain is confident and outward-looking, we have shown time and again that Britain has a power and an energy that far exceeds the limits of our geography, our population, and our means."

- Gordon Brown

Britain must play key Afghan role

Nov 16, 2009

LONDON - PRIME Minister Gordon Brown said on Monday Britain must play a comprehensive role in 'changing the world' as he defended the country's military mission in Afghanistan.

Mr Brown also said more has been planned in 2009 and 'enacted with greater success' to cripple Al-Qaeda than in any year since the US-led invasion of Afghanistan to oust the Taleban regime in 2001.

The premier is facing mounting pressure at home over Britain's involvement in the war amid waning public support as the number of soldiers killed grows. An increasing majority of Britons want the country's 9,000 troops out of Afghanistan within 12 months, according to the latest opinion poll.

Mr Brown, who is tipped to lose a general election to the opposition Conservatives due by June, said Britain must not retreat 'into isolation' on foreign policy, but be both 'patriotic and internationalist'.

'I believe that Britain can inspire the world. I believe that Britain can challenge the world. But most importantly of all I believe that Britain can and must play its full part in changing the world,' he said in a speech, extracts of which have been released by Downing Street.

'To do so we must have confidence in our distinctive strengths: our global values, global alliances and global actions: because with conviction in our values and confidence in our alliances, Britain can lead in the construction of a new world order.' -- AFP

Copyright © 2007 Singapore Press Holdings.

November 15, 2009

Nuclear disposal put in doubt by recovered Swedish galleon

The plan to use copper for sealing nuclear waste underground is being thrown into disarray by corrosion in artifacts from the Vasa

* Terry Macalister
* November 14, 2009

Plans for nuclear waste disposal could be thrown into confusion tomorrow at a summit because of new evidence of corrosion in materials traditionally used for burial procedures.

The Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) says it will keep careful watch on a meeting organised by the Swedish National Council for Nuclear Waste, which will look at potential problems with copper, designated for an important role in sealing radioactive waste underground.

Concerns have risen from a most unexpected quarter. Examination of copper artefacts from the Vasa, a fifteenth-century galleon raised from Stockholm harbour, has shown a level of decay that challenges the scientific wisdom that copper corrodes only when exposed to oxygen.

David Lowry, a consultant on the nuclear industry, said the latest evidence had profound implications. "As the British nuclear industry gears up to build a new generation of nuclear reactors, so the pressure builds to demonstrate there is a solution to the long-term management of nuclear waste. But plans to adopt the Swedish system of nuclear waste disposal look as if they might have hit the rocks."

The NDA said that no decision had been taken on what materials would be used for containment. "It's not a showstopper. There are other options," a spokesman said. Researchers from the Royal Institute of Technology (KTH) in Stockholm have prepared a report for tomorrow's meeting which says its findings "cast additional doubt on copper for nuclear waste containment and other important applications."

How ABC News' Brian Ross Cooked His 'Hasan Contacted Al Qaeda' Scoop

The Gawker
November 11, 2009

ABC News' Brian Ross has a breathtaking record of recklessly inaccurate, overhyped stories that don't live up to the headline. His scoop yesterday about Nidal Malik Hasan's "attempt to reach out to al Qaeda" was one of them.

Ross' report yesterday that Hasan had attempted to "make contact with people associated with al Qaeda" took over the internet yesterday and sparked a furious round of speculation that Hasan's attack was part of an Islamic terrorist plot. The headline, "Officials: U.S. Army Told of Hasan's Contacts with al Qaeda," said it all. The far more mundane truth emerged today in the pages of the New York Times and the Washington Post: Hasan had communicated via e-mail with Anwar al-Awlaki, a radical American cleric living in Yemen who formerly served as the imam of a mosque Hasan had attended in Virginia. What did they talk about? From the Washington Post:

The FBI determined that the e-mails did not warrant an investigation, according to the law enforcement official. Investigators said Hasan's e-mails were consistent with the topic of his academic research and involved some social chatter and religious discourse.

We were confused this morning, because Ross had clearly reported that Hasan had made contact with "people associated with Al Qaeda," and the only contacts that other reporters were confirming were with al-Awlaki, who is, as far as we know, a single person. We called Ross and asked him if there were more "people." No, he told us, his initial report was only in reference to al-Awlaki.

"That's how it was initially described to me by my sources," he says. "Given what they told me, that's all I could say. It's a strange use of the word 'people.' But when pinned down, my sources said it's just al-Awlaki."

A strange use, indeed. How about false, too? Especially because Ross' original story did, in fact, report that al-Awliki was among the "people" Hasan was suspected of having contacted. So he reported that Hasan contacted more than one person associated with al Qaeda, and then named one person that he was suspected of contacting. What he apparently didn't bother to do was "pin his sources down" on exactly what they were saying. The result was a clear suggestion that Hasan had tried to communicate with the al Qaeda network on more than one occasion.

So did he? Al-Awlaki is routinely described by the FBI and others as an al Qaeda supporter, and a fiery inciter of violence against infidels. And he was the imam at the Virginia mosque attended by two of the 9/11 hijackers, as well as Hasan. But while it's clear that Al-Awlaki is a bad guy, what's not clear is whether he's simply a propagandist or someone who actually operates as a part of al Qaeda. It's one thing for Hasan to have sent e-mails to someone who vocally supports al Qaeda, and quite another for him to have sent e-mails to al Qaeda itself, or to operatives actively involved in trying to kill people. Ross told us that, according to his sources, "Al-Awlaki is considered a recruiter," which is how he justified invoking the name of the terrorist network. We'll defer to him on that point.

But without knowing what the e-mails are about, can it really be known that Hasan's communications were "attempts to reach out"? The FBI didn't consider them as such. Ross didn't know the contents of the e-mails when he described them that way, but felt perfectly justified in doing so based solely on the knowledge that Hasan had sent the e-mails.

We asked Ross if he had tried to contact Al-Awlaki in reporting the story:


So you reached out to al Qaeda, then?

"To al Qaeda? No. I reached out to him. Oh. I see what you're saying."

What's particularly maddening about Ross' hype is that it had already been well established that Al-Awlaki was the imam at Hasan's Virginia mosque in 2001. Hasan's mother's funeral services were held there at the time. While it hadn't been definitively established that Hasan had ever met Al-Awlaki, it was abundantly clear that the two men were in one another's orbits and that Hasan likely heard him preach. That wasn't reported as a "contact with al Qaeda," but once Ross got his hands on the fact that Hasan sent e-mails to his former imam, who had a web site with a comment form, he turned it into a blockbuster story.

Which wouldn't be the first time. Ross reported—inaccurately—after the anthrax attacks in 2001 that the powder contained a "potent additive...known to have been used by only one country in producing biochemical weapons - Iraq." He laundered CIA agent John Kiriakou's lie that the agency only used waterboarding once, for 30 seconds, when in fact Kiriakou wasn't even in the same country as the secret prison where his colleagues waterboarded two men a total of 266 times. He fell for the lies of Alexis Debat, a grifter and fraud who masqueraded as an intelligence expert. And he hyped his access to the phone records of DC madam Deborah Jean Palfrey for days, but only came up with the names of two low-level clients.

Ross' stock response to these complaints is that he only reports what his sources tell him. "We reported what we knew, when we knew it," he says. "I'm comfortable with the story." His problem, as we've said before, is that he has shitty sources. And he just repeats what they tell him. Which is how you get from "Hasan sent e-mails to his former imam, who now preaches in support of Al Qaeda. We don't know what the e-mails were about, but they didn't raise alarms at the FBI" to "Hasan tried to make contact with people associated with al Qaeda" to the headline's blunt, and thoroughly unsupported, reference to "Hasan's Contacts with al Qaeda." It would have been a good story if Ross had stuck to the first, accurate, formulation.

Send an email to the author of this post at

Gordon Brown to apologise for Britain's 'shameful' child migration policies

Britain is to join Australia in issuing an official apology for the "shameful" export of tens of thousands of children to Commonwealth countries with the promise of a better life, only for many of them to end up abused and neglected.

Orphans Preparing to Emigrate to Australia: Australia to say sorry to abused British child migrants
Orphans Preparing to Emigrate to Australia...20 Mar 1956, Barkingside, London, England, UK --- A group of orphans from a Barnardo's orphanage in London prepare to emigrate to Australia. Comedian Tommy Trinder sees the children off Photo: CORBIS

In what Ed Balls, the children secretary, described as "stain on our society" the child migrant programmes saw poor, orphaned and illegitimate children sent to Australia, Canada and other former colonies until as recently as the late 1960s, often without the knowledge of their families.

Many ended up in institutions, many suffered abuse and neglect and many others were used as "slave labour" on farms.

Now after years of campaigning from pressure groups, Gordon Brown has agreed to meet with representatives of the surviving children before making a formal apology next year.

Mr Balls said the apology would be "symbolically very important".

"I think it is important that we say to the children who are now adults and older people and to their offspring that this is something that we look back on in shame," he said.

"It would never happen today. But I think it is right that as a society when we look back and see things which we now know were morally wrong, that we are willing to say we're sorry."

The government has estimated that a total of 150,000 British children may have been shipped abroad under a variety of programs that operated between the early 19th century and 1967.

A 2001 Australian report said that between 6,000 and 30,000 children from Britain and Malta, often taken from unmarried mothers or impoverished families, were sent alone to Australia as migrants during the 20th century.

Some of the children were told, wrongly, that they were orphans.

The migration was intended to stop the children being a burden on the British state while supplying the receiving countries with potential workers.

A 1998 British parliamentary inquiry noted that "a further motive was racist: the importation of 'good white stock' was seen as a desirable policy objective in the developing British Colonies".

Mr Balls said that while an apology would not "take away the suffering" it was important to the victims to admit it was wrong and to make sure lessons are learnt.

He said the government was talking to the victims' organisation to work out how to frame the apology.

"These were children who were shipped out of the country, often without their parents even knowing, went on to be labourers thousands and thousands of miles away, suffered physical and sometimes sexual abuse as well and it was something that was sanctioned by government and that is no way to treat children," he said,

"I think there have been discussions going on for some months about how to do this but to be honest it’s a matter of shame for our country and countries around the world that this terrible policy happened for so many years and decades and was actually government policy."

The issue of the UK child migrants was investigated in 1998 by the Commons health select committee, a process which led to the Department of Health drawing up guidance for families to trace those sent away.

Kevin Barron, the chairman, said Mr Brown wrote to him over the weekend to confirm he would issue an apology in the new year.

The Prime Minister told him "the time is now right" for the UK government to apologise for the "misguided policies" of previous governments.

However some survivors felt the apology was too little too late.

Harold Haig, the secretary of the International Child Migrants Association, said he was appalled that the Australian apology has come before any British apology.

"Gordon Brown should hang his head in shame," he said.

"He is allowing the country that we were deported to to apologise before the country where we were born. It is an absolute disgrace. He should hang his head in shame."

15-fold rise in birth defects in Fallujah

Press TV - November 15, 2009 02:34:21 GMT

There has been a 15-fold rise in birth defects and early childhood cancers in the war-ravaged enclave of Fallujah, the site of two major battles after the Iraq invasion, doctors say.

Dr. Ayman Qais said that before the war began in 2003, there were sporadic numbers of deformities in babies, but now the frequency of deformities "is increasing dramatically."

"We are seeing a very significant increase in central nervous system anomalies," Dr. Qais added.

Doctors of Fallujah's over-stretched health system say they are unsure of what is behind the spike in birth defects, but suggest it may be linked to the toxic materials left over from the fighting.

The city was the site of some of the worst fighting of the war, including a battle in which the United States admitted to using white phosphorus in 2004.

There have also been unconfirmed reports that US troops used depleted uranium munitions in Fallujah.

Neurologists and obstetricians in the city interviewed by the British daily The Guardian say the rise in birth defects — which includes a baby born with two heads, babies with multiple tumors, and others with nervous system problems — is unprecedented and at present unexplainable.

Iraqi and British officials and doctors have petitioned the United Nations to set up an international committee to investigate the sharp rise in birth defects and to clean up toxic substances in Fallujah.

Clusters of congenital defects have also been found in Basra and Najaf, which began after the 2003 invasion.

Doctors say that detailed clinical records of all babies born are being compiled.


The children of Falluja


Palestinian Youth Killed By Army Fire In Gaza, Three Wounded

November 13, 2009
By Saed Bannoura - IMEMC News

Palestinian medical sources in the Gaza Strip reported on Friday that a Palestinian youth was killed by Israeli army fire, and three others were wounded, when the army invaded an area close to Juhr Al Deek, east of Gaza City.

The sources identified the slain youth as Mohammad Wadi, 17, from Al Boreij refugee camp. His body and his three wounded friends were moved to the Al Aqsa Hospital.

Local sources reported that Israeli soldiers invaded the area and opened fire at children who were hunting birds. Troops later kidnapped four children, including two brothers.

The two brothers were identified as Ahmad Khader Sa’doun, 16, and Mohammad, 15. One of them was also wounded and was moved to an Israeli hospital.

The Israeli Radio claimed that the army invaded the area after a group of Palestinians approached the border fence in Nahal Oz area, and that the Palestinians intended to plant an explosive charge.

The army admitted to killing one and kidnapping three others. There was no mention of ‘locating’ the claimed explosive.

The army prevented Palestinian medics from approaching the area in an attempt to evacuate the casualties.

Local sources reported that there were no resistance fighters in the area, and that the persons who were reportedly close to the border were fishermen.

Rocket hits southern Israel after Palestinian killed

JERUSALEM, Nov. 13 (Xinhua) -- A Kassam rocket hit Israeli Negev region on Friday, after Israel Defense [sic] Force (IDF) soldiers shot and killed a Palestinian near the border with the Gaza Strip, local media reported.

The Kassam fired by the Palestinians fell into an open area in the western Negev region, with no casualties or damage reported, said Israeli daily The Jerusalem Post.

Earlier in the day, an IDF spokeswoman confirmed that Israeli soldiers shot at Palestinians suspected of planting explosives near the Karni crossing between the Palestinian strip and Israel and killed one early Friday.

While security sources with Palestinian Islamic Hamas movement said Israeli soldiers stationed at Johor el-Deik neighborhood in Gaza opened fire at four Palestinian young men, killing one of them and detaining the other three. The four young men were hunting birds then, added Palestinian witness.

Also on Friday, IDF Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi said if Hamas continues its rocket attacks against Israel, Israeli army would operate in Gaza again as a response.

"If necessary, we will operate again in the Gaza Strip to stop the rocket fire," local daily Ha'aretz quoted Ashkenazi as saying when he visited a high school in the southern city of Be'er Sheva.

Israel launched a major military offensive against the Hamas- controlled Gaza Strip last winter. In a UN investigation report into the 22-day conflict, both Israeli army and the Palestinian group are accused of committing war crimes.

Interview: "My film makes you part of Gaza's reality"

Adri Nieuwhof, The Electronic Intifada, 15 November 2009

A scene To Shoot an Elephant shows the body of Palestinian paramedic Arafa Abdel Daim after he was killed by Israel's assault on Gaza.

Directed by Alberto Arce and Mohammed Rjuailah, To Shoot an Elephant is a documentary film that offers an eyewitness account from the Gaza Strip during Israel's assault last winter. During the attacks, when the Israeli military banned foreign journalists from entering the Strip, Arce managed to stay inside Gaza and filmed how medical teams and hospitals were targeted by Israeli forces while performing their duties. One day after receiving the Anna Lindh Journalist Award for conflict reporting for his articles on Gaza published by the Spanish daily newspaper El Mundo, Arce won the Best Director prize at the Dei Popoli Film Festival in Florence on 7 November 2009. The Electronic Intifada contributor Adri Nieuwhof met with Arce and interviewed him about the motivation behind his film.

Adri Nieuwhof: Can you tell us who you are and why you wanted to make the film?

Alberto Arce: I am a 33-year-old journalist from Spain. I am inspired by the support we received from internationals to our struggle in 1936. [In July 1936 Spanish generals launched a military campaign to overthrow the young, democratically-elected Republican government.] George Orwell participated in the International Republican Brigades and at the same time reported our war. I try to follow Orwell's example. I followed the events in Palestine for five years and became aware of the media blackout in Gaza. I wanted to report on the collective punishment of the people in Gaza and decided to join the boat of the Free Gaza Movement [which set sail for Gaza] at the end December 2008. I wanted to break down the wall of censorship.

AN: Is To Shoot an Elephant your first film?

AA: No, it is my fifth film. I directed three films on Palestine and one on Iraq. All movies are filmed from the perspective of what civilians, local and international, can do during a war. We, civilians, have to do anything that is possible to stop a war. Collective punishment of the people in Gaza is not allowed under international law. I cannot accept that Israel does not allow journalists into the Gaza Strip. My film is also about defending the right to freedom of speech. I wanted to show the facts.

AN: How did Palestinians in Gaza react to your camera?

AA: The situation in Gaza is getting worse by the day. You cannot imagine the level of suffering. The civilians welcomed me and appreciated that I was there. There were two reporters from Al-Jazeera and seven other foreigners [documenting the attacks] in Gaza during the heavy military attacks. You know, the civilians on the ambulances are the real heroes. They were risking their lives every day to save civilians. One of them was shot [in front of the camera] by an Israeli sniper [while 16 emergency medical workers were killed while on duty].

AN: How do you feel about winning the Best Director prize in Florence?

AA: I am proud to have received the prize for the film I directed together with Mohammad. I trust it will help to reach a wide audience. After winning the prize people asked me if I was happy about it. But I will not ever feel happy about the film. [The] characters of the film are the civilians in Gaza. They are still trapped. During the military attacks I was one of them. The situation in Gaza needs to be changed, and it will only happen with international pressure to enforce respect for international law.

AN: How did the public respond to your film?

AA: A few people had to leave the cinema before the movie ended. I feel sad that they could not face the facts. People died in Gaza and I cannot wake the dead. The hundreds of children who died during Operation Cast Lead were human beings. It is not about statistics. The audience at the world premier in Florence remained silent after watching the film. I found that impressive. The film is cruel. It makes you feel you are part of this reality.

AN: Looking back on your stay in Gaza, what was the most difficult or moving moment?

AA: The worst was the first day. After the heavy bombing that day, our group of seven internationals got the offer to leave to save our lives. It took us three minutes to decide that we wanted to stay. At that moment I became a Palestinian, and I was no longer an international. That meant that we were also subjected to the bombing, to the random violence. You realize you are alive by chance. I did not want to be a dead hero, I want to be a living professional journalist and filmmaker. I cannot describe what it is like to spend a night under heavy bombing, to find out the next day that your neighbors died that night. Or what it feels like to be shot at, and the person in front of you dies, and not you. This violence is what Palestinians have experienced for 60 years. What would my life have looked like if I, as a five-year-old, saw my two schoolmates burned by white phosphorous?

AN: In which cities will the movie be shown?

AA: On our website you can find the information. The film will also play a role in the sessions of the Russell Tribunal on Palestine. I would like to invite solidarity groups and activists to participate in a global free screening of the film on 18 January 2010, one year after the so-called "cease-fire" in Gaza. This global screening is organized to remind us that the situation in Gaza has not changed. On the contrary, it is getting worse. If you want to join in the global screening, you can contact me via the website.

Adri Nieuwhof is a consultant and human rights advocate based in Switzerland.

Israeli military Chief Rabbi: Troops who show mercy to enemy will be 'damned'

Brig. Gen. Avichai Rontzki
By Anshel Pfeffer
Haaretz - Excerpt
November 15, 2009

The Israel Defense Forces' chief rabbi told students in a pre-army yeshiva program last week that soldiers who "show mercy" toward the enemy in wartime will be "damned."

Brig. Gen. Avichai Rontzki also told the yeshiva students that religious individuals made better combat troops.

Speaking Thursday at the Hesder yeshiva in the West Bank settlement of Karnei Shomron , Rontzki referred to Maimonides' discourse on the laws of war. That text quotes a passage from the Book of Jeremiah stating: "Cursed be he that doeth the work of the Lord with a slack hand, and cursed be he that keepeth back his sword from blood."