Wednesday, November 30, 2005

The rise of Iraqi death squads

The New York Times has confirmed that Iraqi security forces have executed hundreds of Sunni men. They have been taken from their homes by men in Iraqi uniforms and either "found dead in ditches or fields, with bullet holes to their temples, acid burns to their skin, and holes in their bodies apparently made by electrical drills. Many have simply vanished".

In January Pentagon officials told Seymour Hersh that the Pentagon was going to trigger "The Salvador Option"; a strategy involving the training of "death squads" to execute a bloody secret war against "alleged" insurgents. One official told Hersh;

Do you remember the right-wing execution squads in El Salvador? We founded them and we financed them. The objective now is to recruit locals in any area we want. We’re going to be riding with the bad boys.

Ghali Hassan writes that the U.S. continues to indiscriminately attack Sunni cities blanketing the towns, from the ground and from the air, with artillery shells, cluster bombs and napalm bombs with the full knowledge that civilians, particularly women and children, would be killed. After the shelling, the Marines entered the city to fight those who were still alive. Humanitarian aides and medical supplies were prevented from entering the town, in gross violations of international law and the Geneva Conventions.

Qaim last 29 August, a thriving town of 150,000 people in western Iraq, they cordoned it off, cut electricity, water and food supplies. Then they indiscriminately and disproportionately blanketed the town, from the ground and from the air, with artillery shells, cluster bombs and napalm bombs with the full knowledge that civilians, particularly women and children, would be killed.

The cities of Qaim and Tel Afar have been decimated and hundreds of innocent people killed. Iraqi news reports revealed, "'scores of casualties' due to indiscriminate bombing" by U.S. forces. Paralleling the atrocities committed in other towns and cities, all of which savagely attacked and destroyed the entire population of Tel Afar are now 'ethnically cleansed' refugees.

Virtually everything we see and hear about the war is mere rhetoric and spin. The White House strategy can come to no good end. Congressman Murtha has stood up and told the truth, but he is mighty lonely in that position.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Newly Released Documents Show U.S. Acquiesence in East Timor Genocide

On Monday East Timorese President Xanana Gusmão sent to Parliament the final report of East Timor's Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation on human rights violations committed in East Timor between 1974 and 1999. At the same timee, the Security Archive make available some of the more than 1,000 formerly classified U.S. documents that it provided for use in the report.

Brad Simpson, assistant professor of history at University of Maryland, Baltimore County and Director of the National Security Archive's Indonesia and East Timor Documentation Project remarked that;

We expect the final report of the CAVR to demonstrate, as these documents do, that Indonesia's invasion and occupation of East Timor and the resulting crimes against humanity occurred in an international context in which the support of powerful nations, especially the United States, was indispensable. These documents also point to the need for genuine international accountability for East Timor's suffering, especially as Indonesia embarks on its own truth commission process."

President Bush has anchored his war in Iraq on human rights grounds. The administration's rhetoric can only highlight the failings of past administrations, and heighten criticisms of international power politics.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Starvation Results from IMF Policy

An estimated 5 million of Malawi's 12 million people are hungry this year, according to the United Nations. Hospitals also report higher rates of malnutrition and, with the harvest still five months away, unusually large numbers of hungry children are beginning to sicken and die in rural areas.

Malawian agriculture once appeared to have a brighter future. A state-run farm agency, although widely criticized as overbearing, sold reliable supplies of seeds and fertilizer, guaranteed prices for whatever was grown, and even reached distant areas that were not well intigrated into Malawi's market. For a time, the government actively sought ways to build irrigation networks drawing on the mighty Shire River that flows through the dry, destitute valley south of Blantyre, Malawi's commercial center.

But in the past 20 years, under pressure from the World Bank, IMF and donor nations, Malawi has liberalized its agricultural economy and dismantled the state-run agricultural system. The government's clumsy implementation of this change has led to complaints from farmers that the market was unable to deliver a more efficient and bountiful harvest. The government, under IMF pressure, also sold off state food reserves at times, leaving nothing for emergencies.

Meanwhile, various water schemes have remained on the drawing board. Today less than 1 percent of this southern African nation, roughly the size of Pennsylvania, is irrigated, and that land mainly belongs to commercial farms that grow tea, sugar and tobacco for export.

The IMF and World Bank's blind reliance on markets, their insistance on eliminating government run programs, and their ignorance of local conditions, is taking a terrible toll in human lives, leaving Malawi nothing but rising debt to show for it.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

China and North Korea Complicit in Sexual Slave trade

The governments of China and North Korea are failing to protect North Korean women trafficked to China. Instead of helping them, the women are detained, forcibly repatriated and used as forced labour, a new report from Anti-Slavery International reveals.

Rather than being rescued by the Chinese authorities, trafficked North Korea women are put in detention facilities and held in horrific conditions before being forcibly repatriated to North Korea, where they are sent to forced labor camps.

Leaving North Korea without permission can be punishable by death. Yet the Chinese Government returns refugees from North Korea, even though it is party to the United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, which prohibits the forced return of refugees.

"These policies make the tens of thousands of North Koreans living irregularly in China particularly vulnerable to trafficking and other exploitation. The Chinese Government needs to recognise them as victims of a crime and as refugees, and accord them the protection and assistance that is their right," the report's author, Norma Muico of Anti-Slavery International, said.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Brazil Steps Up Anti-Slavery Raids

Marcelo Campos, chief of Brazil's anti-slavery task force, is stepping up armed raids on ranches, farms and work camps he says force people to work against their will.

About 25,000 people in Brazil work under conditions similar to the slavery the government abolished in 1888, according to the Catholic Church. They often have jobs in backland ranches, covert brick factories and rainforest camps that make charcoal used to produce pig iron. In the last 15 years, 17,000 captive workers have been freed by police, the Labor Ministry said.

``This has been a crime since abolition, but in spite of that people are still being exploited,'' said Campos, 43, who has run the Labor Ministry's Division of Investigation for the Eradication of Slave Labor for five years. ``We continue to find people forced to work like slaves.''

Slaves are used to clear the Amazon rainforest for cattle ranches and soybean fields from the northeastern state of Para to Mato Grosso near the border with Bolivia, Campos said.

They also cut wood for charcoal that mills in the eastern Amazon states of Para and Maranhao buy to produce some of the world's cheapest and purest pig iron.

Vermont Adopts New Rules to Cut Car CO2 Emissions

Vermont on Wednesday approved stricter standards for vehicle emissions to reduce greenhouse gases, leading five other Northeastern states working on the same rules.

The changes by the Legislature's Administrative Rules Committee means that all 2009 and later model cars sold in Vermont will be required to meet higher fuel efficiency standards to reduce emissions such as carbon dioxide.

New York, Massachusetts, Maine, Connecticut and Rhode Island also have been moving to adopt the new carbon-reduction rules to keep pace with California.

California is the only state that can create emissions standards stricter than the federal government's, but other states can follow California's example.

When California beefed up its rules to take aim at carbon dioxide, the Northeastern states that had followed its previous rules had to either make the same changes or fall back to the federal standard.

Car makers have sued in California to overturn the new rules. The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers has argued that changes will add about $3,000 to the cost of a car.

Environmentalists counter that the increased costs are more like $1,000 per car, an amount easily offset by lower fuel costs. They also note that a number of car models on the road today meet the new standards.

"It's smart environmental policy that's good for consumers. This is a perfect example of where we should be," James Moore, clean energy advocate with the independent Vermont Public Interest Research Group.

Gov. James Douglas said the state's efforts to improve air quality -- along with its natural beauty and quality of life -- will help recruit new businesses.