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Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Blackwater: a private army in Iraq

source almanarTV

17/09/2007 Armed contractors employed by private US security firm Blackwater USA gained a reputation of shooting first and not bothering to ask questions later as they charged through Iraq protecting US personnel and property.

The North Carolina firm, whose license was cancelled by the Iraqi government on Monday after its personnel were involved in a deadly shootout in Baghdad, has never been far from controversy in war-ravaged Iraq. Nor have its estimated 1,000 or so contractors in Iraq, who have been drawn increasingly into the war, been far from death.

Established 10 years ago by Erik Prince, right-wing son of a multi-millionaire and a former Navy SEAL, the security consulting firm has grown into what US investigative reporter Jeremy Scahill describes as the "world's most powerful mercenary army." According to Scahill, Blackwater has "more than 2,300 private soldiers deployed in nine countries including the United States." Its "private soldiers" arrived in Iraq soon after the US-led invasion of March 2003, being employed by then US pro-consul Paul Bremer to provide protection for US officials.

Blackwater's presence has however been a bone of contention for Iraqi officials as it has never been clear whether they are immune from prosecution. Blackwater's security consulting division holds at least 109 million dollars worth of State Department contracts in Iraq and is authorized to use deadly force, according to a Washington Post report in June.

Armed contractors are deployed to protect US officials and convoys transporting reconstruction material, including vehicles, weapons and ammunition for the Iraqi army and police. But, the report said, they are becoming increasingly involved in military action, fighting militiamen, enduring attacks and taking hundreds of casualties that have been sometimes concealed.

Armed contractors can make up to 20,000 dollars a month in Iraq but the risks are high. Blackwater lost four employees in Fallujah in March 2004 when a mob mutilated their bodies and hanged them from a bridge. The slaughter sparked the first major US assault on Fallujah. In April 2005, Blackwater contractors were again in the line of fire when six were killed after fighters downed a Bulgarian helicopter with a missile strike near the northern city of Tikrit. A seventh Blackwater employee was killed at the same time near Ramadi when a roadside bomb blew up near his vehicle.

For Iraqis, Blackwater contractors were known for their propensity to open fire indiscriminately when they felt they were under threat. In May, according to the Washington Post, a guard working for Blackwater shot and killed an Iraqi driver near the interior ministry. The Blackwater guards said the victim drove too close to their convoy and drew fire, the report said.

Also in May, a Blackwater-protected convoy was ambushed in downtown Baghdad, triggering a furious battle, in which the security contractors, US and Iraqi troops and AH-64 Apache attack helicopters opened fire in a crowded area. A similar incident occurred on Sunday, when Blackwater guards were escorting a US diplomatic convoy through the Al-Yarmukh neighborhood of west Baghdad. Witnesses and victims lying in hospital suffering gunshot wounds said the Blackwater guards had opened indiscriminate fire into the crowded streets and at cars trapped behind the convoy. When the pandemonium had died down, at least eight people were dead and 13 wounded. The incident was just one too many for the Iraqi authorities, who on Monday issued orders to revoke Blackwater's license.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Abbas announces new electoral law to exclude Hamas


Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas said on Sunday that his office has published an amended electoral law that could effectively exclude Hamas from any future polls.

"The new election law has been published," Abbas told reporters
during a joint press conference with visiting EU foreign policy
chief Javier Solana.

On August 15, Abbas's office said the president was mulling changing the law to require candidates in presidential and legislative elections "to respect the political program of the PLO" and to respect all previous agreements signed by the Palestinian Authority.

The amended text also said all parliamentary candidates will be chosen according to party lists. Previously, half of those standing for the legislature were chosen in single constituencies. Such a requirement makes it easier for candidates from Abbas's Fatah party to run in the Gaza Strip, which has been under the control of Hamas since June.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

War on Terror !

As Marjorie Cohn, president of the National Lawyers Guild, pointed out, Bush “overlooked the 4 million Indochinese and 58,000 American soldiers who paid the ultimate price for that imperial war. And the myriad Vietnamese and Americans who continue to suffer the devastating effects of the defoliant Agent Orange the U.S. forces dropped on Vietnam.”

In fact, the U.S. “liberated” Japan by dropping two atomic bombs on it--entirely unnecessary militarily, but politically useful in sending a warning to the USSR, then looming as its main rival in the postwar world.

Lying about Vietnam to justify his war

Oliver Stone to film My Lai massacre
Tue, 28 Aug 2007 19:44:45

The American director Oliver Stone is slated to start the production of another movie about the US massacres during the Vietnam war.

The new movie called Pinkville will be written by Mikko Alanne, focusing on the investigation of the 1968 My Lai massacre.

Production will begin early next year with a 40 million dollar budget.

Pinkville will be Stone's fourth movie on the Vietnam war, following the Oscar winner Platoon, Heaven and Earth, and Born on the Fourth of July.

'Redacted' depicts Iraqi horrors
Sat, 01 Sep 2007 02:35:50
Source: Agencies
American film director, Brian De Palma

American film director Brian De Palma has stunned the Venice Film Festival with his traumatic new film about the horrors of the Iraq war.

Brian De Palma said he hoped seeing such images would alert Americans to the truth of what is going on in Iraq and would ultimately stop the war.

The film, Redacted, is based on the horrible real-life incident in Mahmudiya, south of Baghdad, in which American soldiers violated a 14-year-old schoolgirl before setting her body alight and shooting dead her parents and her five-year-old sister.

Other events shown on film include the fatal shooting of a pregnant Iraqi woman at a US military checkpoint as her brother was driving her to hospital.

The film is a response to what De Palma sees as sanitized media accounts of the war seen in the United States.

"All the images we have of our war are completely constructed - whitewashed, redacted," said De Palma adding that "one only hopes that these images will get the public incensed enough to get their congressmen to vote against the war."

De Palma casts relatively unknown actors as the army recruits and filmed on location in Jordan

US 'intellectually bankrupt' over Iraq
Sat, 01 Sep 2007 22:07:57
Source: agencies
General Sir Mike Jackson

The head of the British army during the invasion of Iraq has criticized the US post-war policy in Iraq as intellectually bankrupt.

General Sir Mike Jackson, a now retired former chief of the general staff, said the approach taken by former US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld was "intellectually bankrupt" and described his comment that US forces "don't do nation-building" as "nonsensical" The Daily Telegraph reported on Saturday.

Gen Jackson said Mr. Rumsfeld was "one of the most responsible for the current situation in Iraq."

Jackson was particularly critical of US President George W. Bush's decision to hand control of the post-invasion running of Iraq to the Department of Defense.

"All the planning carried out by the State Department went to waste," he noted.

Jackson further added the entire US approach to tackling global terrorism was "inadequate" because it relied too heavily on military power at the expense of nation building and diplomacy.

The remarks come as officials from both the US and UK have been blaming each other over Iraq.

General Jack Keane, a former vice-chief of staff of the US army, said there was "frustration" in Washington at Britain's role in southern Iraq as he shed light on media reports that American officials think British forces have failed there.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Will G3 stops IAEA report to UNSC

Diplomacy can resolve Iran's N-issue
Fri, 31 Aug 2007 21:43:52
Source: PressTV, agencies

Former UN chief weapons inspector Hans Blix

The former UN chief weapons inspector says diplomacy is the best way to resolve the standoff with Iran over its uranium enrichment program.

Iran should be provided with security guarantees that it will not be attacked, and the United States should normalize relations with Iran to help resolve the current row over that country's nuclear activities, Hans Blix maintained.

The former UN official, who is currently chairman of Sweden's Weapons of Mass Destruction Commission, said that the diplomatic approach as adopted by Washington toward North Korea has not been used with Iran.

"On the contrary, you have three US aircraft carriers in the Persian Gulf which the Iranians may see as needing to protect themselves from in future," said Blix who was delivering a keynote address to the Second Commonwealth Red Cross and Red Crescent Conference on International Humanitarian Law in Wellington, New Zealand.

Without taking into account the peaceful objective of Iran's nuclear program, Blix said Iranians should be assured that they do not need to have nuclear weapons.

France, UK, US slam IAEA report

Thu, 30 Aug 2007 22:28:30
France, UK, and the US disapprove of recent IAEA report on Iran.
American, British, and French envoys to the IAEA Board of Governors have voiced their disapproval of improving Iran-IAEA cooperation.

A senior Iranian diplomat said that the envoys had met with IAEA Chief Mohammad ElBaradei, to object to his report and politically influence him. Chinese, German, and Russian diplomats did not attend the meeting.

The American, British, and French envoys reportedly stepped up pressures on ElBaradei as the agency nodded its agreement with Tehran to remove Iran's case from the UN Security Council's agenda.

ElBaradei's report suggested that the recent agreement between the Islamic Republic and UN nuclear watchdog was a breakthrough in Iran's nuclear case.

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