JFP 12/18: US Accused on Palestinian Torture

Just Foreign Policy News
December 18, 2009


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Summary:
U.S./Top News

1) Palestinian security agents who have been detaining and allegedly torturing supporters of Hamas in the West Bank have been working closely with the CIA, the Guardian reports. Human rights activists say the abuses would end promptly if US pressure was brought to bear on the Palestinian authorities. A diplomat in the region said "at the very least" US intelligence officers were aware of the torture and not doing enough to stop it.

2) A leaked UN document indicated deceit on the part of rich country governments concerning the effects of promised carbon emission cuts, the Guardian reports.

3) President Obama's speech in Copenhagen prompted widespread criticism from environmental and development activists, the Guardian reports. A spokesman for the World Development Movement said: "The president said he came to act, but showed little evidence of doing so." The World Wildlife Fund said Obama had let down the international community by failing to commit to pushing for action in Congress.

4) U.S. drone strikes northwest Pakistan could exacerbate already high tensions between the U.S. and Pakistan, the Wall Street Journal reports. The U.S. strikes come after Pakistani authorities turned down a U.S. demand to extend Pakistan's campaign to target Sirajuddin Haqqani, a powerful Taliban commander. [The Journal notes that Pakistani authorities have been subjecting U.S. diplomats to greater scrutiny, but doesn't ask whether this might be related to U.S. threats to carry out attacks in Pakistan without Pakistani government approval - a logical connection since it is well known that CIA agents are often placed under diplomatic cover - JFP.]

5) Sen. McCaskill called for stepped-up government oversight of contract work in Afghanistan, saying Pentagon auditors have already challenged nearly $1 billion in charges by military contractors, the Washington Post reports. Pentagon auditors had examined $5.9 billion worth of contracts and found about $950 million in "questioned and unsupported costs," McCaskill said. "Because auditors have only looked at a fraction of contracts," she said, "the real amount of waste is likely to be much higher." McCaskill sought a single figure for the total value of U.S. contracts in operation in Afghanistan, but Administration officials were unable to provide it.

Yemen
6) The Obama administration is planning to repatriate six Yemenis held at Guantanamo, a transfer that could be a prelude to the release of dozens more detainees to Yemen, the Washington Post reports. "It's a breakthrough because the U.S. and Yemen governments have been at an impasse," said David Remes, an attorney for 17 Yemeni detainees. "Something has broken the logjam, and that's good, because you can't solve the Guantanamo problem without solving the Yemeni problem." Yemenis account for 46 percent of the 210 inmates remaining at Guantanamo. Officials in Yemen say they need financial assistance from the US to successfully reintegrate returning detainees.

Israel/Palestine
7) Qariout, a Palestinian village of 2,600 20 miles north of Jerusalem, illustrates why Palestinians are desperate to halt the spread of Israeli settlements, AP reports. Qariout has lost two-thirds of its land since 1979.

Pakistan
8) Important government ministers were barred from leaving the country and ordered to appear before the courts in the coming weeks following a Supreme Court decision that reopened corruption cases against thousands of politicians, the New York Times reports. Media and public opinion seemed to exult in the decisiveness of the Supreme Court decision, suggesting there would no longer be a tolerant attitude toward corruption among politicians in Pakistan, the NYT says. "We've never seen the mighty in this country held accountable," said a constitutional lawyer.

Afghanistan
9) The commander of U.S. Marines in Helmand said his forces will go after those who process drugs but not those who grow the crop, Reuters reports. Brigadier General Nicholson said farmers had told his troops they were happy the Marines had driven out the Taliban but had made clear they had no plans to stop growing drugs. "[For] a lot of these people the only way they can make any money is to sell the poppy," Nicholson said. "Creating (enemies of) 30,000 to 40,000 farmers ... is probably not good for us."

Haiti
10) Supporters of former Haitian President Aristide marched through Port-au-Prince calling for his return from exile and protesting his party's exclusion from upcoming elections, Reuters reports. The demonstrators accused the government of President Preval of planning a fraudulent legislative ballot on February 28 and said they would boycott the vote. [The election will be funded with US tax dollars through UNDP, heightening the responsibility of the US - JFP.]

Colombia
11) A report on violence against women says members of the armed forces were responsible for 71% of the 69 cases of sexual assault registered in the armed conflict in Colombia in 2008, EFE reports. 21.7% were attributed to guerrillas and 7.2% to paramilitary organizations.

Contents:
U.S./Top News
1) CIA working with Palestinian security agents
US agency co-operating with Palestinian counterparts who allegedly torture Hamas supporters in West Bank
Ian Cobain, Guardian, Thursday 17 December 2009 18.16 GMT
http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/dec/17/cia-palestinian-security-agents

Palestinian security agents who have been detaining and allegedly torturing supporters of the Islamist organisation Hamas in the West Bank have been working closely with the CIA, the Guardian has learned.

Less than a year after Barack Obama signed an executive order that prohibited torture and provided for the lawful interrogation of detainees in US custody, evidence is emerging the CIA is co-operating with security agents whose continuing use of torture has been widely documented by human rights groups.

The relationship between the CIA and the two Palestinian agencies involved - Preventive Security Organisation (PSO) and General Intelligence Service (GI) - is said by some western diplomats and other officials in the region to be so close that the American agency appears to be supervising the Palestinians' work.

One senior western official said: "The [Central Intelligence] Agency consider them as their property, those two Palestinian services." A diplomatic source added that US influence over the agencies was so great they could be considered "an advanced arm of the war on terror".

While the CIA and the Palestinian Authority (PA) deny the US agency controls its Palestinian counterparts, neither denies that they interact closely in the West Bank. Details of that co-operation are emerging as some human rights organisations are beginning to question whether US intelligence agencies may be turning a blind eye to abusive interrogations conducted by other countries' intelligence agencies with whom they are working. According to the Palestinian watchdog al-Haq, human rights in the West Bank and Gaza have "gravely deteriorated due to the spreading violations committed by Palestinian actors" this year.

Most of those held without trial and allegedly tortured in the West Bank have been supporters of Hamas, which won the Palestinian elections in 2006 but is denounced as a terrorist organisation by the PA - which in turn is dominated by the rival Fatah political faction - and by the US and EU. In the Gaza Strip, where Hamas has been in control for more than two years, there have been reports of its forces detaining and torturing Fatah sympathisers in the same way.

Among the human rights organisations that have documented or complained about the mistreatment of detainees held by the PA in the West Bank are Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, al-Haq and the Israeli watchdog B'Tselem. Even the PA's human rights commission has expressed "deep concern" over the mistreatment of detainees.

The most common complaint is that detainees are severely beaten and subjected to a torture known as shabeh, during which they are shackled and forced to assume painful positions for long periods. There have also been reports of sleep deprivation, and of large numbers of detainees being crammed into small cells to prevent rest. Instead of being brought before civilian courts, almost all the detainees enter a system of military justice under which they need not be brought before a court for six months.

According to PA officials, between 400 and 500 Hamas sympathisers are held by the PSO and GI.

Some of the mistreatment has been so severe that at least three detainees have died in custody this year. The most recent was Haitham Amr, a 33-year-old nurse and Hamas supporter from Hebron who died four days after he was detained by GI officials last June. Extensive bruising around his kidneys suggested he had been beaten to death. Among those who died in GI custody last year was Majid al-Barghuti, 42, an imam at a village near Ramallah.

While there is no evidence that the CIA has been commissioning such mistreatment, human rights activists say it would end promptly if US pressure was brought to bear on the Palestinian authorities.

Shawan Jabarin, general director of al-Haq, said: "The Americans could stop it any time. All they would have to do is go to [prime minister] Salam Fayyad and tell him they were making it an issue. Then they could deal with the specifics: they could tell him that detainees needed to be brought promptly before the courts."

A diplomat in the region said "at the very least" US intelligence officers were aware of the torture and not doing enough to stop it. He added: "There are a number of questions for the US administration: what is their objective, what are their rules of engagement? Do they train the GI and PSO according to the manual which was established by the previous administration, including water-boarding? Are they in control, or are they just witnessing?"
[...]

2) Leaked UN Report Shows Cuts Offered at Copenhagen Would Lead to 3C Rise
UN secretariat initial draft shows gap of up to 4.2 gigatonnes of CO2 between present pledges and cuts required to limit rise to 2C
Suzanne Goldenberg, John Vidal and Jonathan Watts, Guardian, Thursday 17 December 2009 18.03 GMT
http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2009/dec/17/un-leaked-report-copenhagen-3c

The emissions cuts offered so far at the Copenhagen climate change summit would still lead to global temperatures rising by an average of 3C, according to a confidential UN analysis obtained by the Guardian.

With the talks entering the final 24 hours on a knife-edge, the emergence of the document seriously undermines the statements by governments that they are aiming to limit emissions to a level ensuring no more than a 2C temperature rise over the next century, and indicates that the last day of negotiations will be extremely challenging.

A rise of 3C would mean up to 170 million more people suffering severe coastal floods and 550 million more at risk of hunger, according to the Stern economic review of climate change for the UK government - as well as leaving up to 50% of species facing extinction. Even a rise of 2C would lead to a sharp decline in tropical crop yields, more flooding and droughts.
[...]
The document was drafted by the UN secretariat running the Copenhagen summit and is dated 11pm on Tuesday night. It is marked "do not distribute" and "initial draft". It shows a gap of up to 4.2 gigatonnes of carbon emissions between the present pledges and the required 2020 level of 44Gt, which is required to stay below a 2C rise. No higher offers have since been made.

"Unless the remaining gap of around 1.9-4.2Gt is closed and Annexe 1 parties [rich countries] commit themselves to strong action before and after 2020, global emissions will remain on an unsustainable pathway that could lead to concentrations equal or above 550 parts per million, with the related temperature rise around 3C," it says. It does not specify a time when 3C would be reached but it is likely to be 2050.

Greenpeace campaigner Joss Garman said: "This is an explosive document that shows the numbers on the table at the moment would lead to nothing less than climate breakdown and an extraordinarily dangerous situation for humanity. The UN is admitting in private that the pledges made by world leaders would lead to a 3C rise in temperatures. The science shows that could lead to the collapse of the Amazon rainforest, crippling water shortages across South America and Australia and the near-extinction of tropical coral reefs, and that's just the start of it."
[...]

3) Barack Obama's speech disappoints and fuels frustration at Copenhagen
US president offers no further commitment on reducing emissions or on finance to poor countries
Suzanne Goldenberg and Allegra Stratton, Guardian, Friday 18 December 2009 12.53 GMT
http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2009/dec/18/obama-speech-copenhagen

Barack Obama stepped into the chaotic final hours of the Copenhagen summit today saying he was convinced the world could act "boldly and decisively" on climate change.

But his speech offered no indication America was ready to embrace bold measures, after world leaders had been working desperately against the clock to try to paper over an agreement to prevent two years of wasted effort - and a 10-day meeting - from ending in total collapse.
[...]
He offered no further commitments on reducing emissions or on finance to poor countries beyond Hillary Clinton's announcement yesterday that America would support a $100bn global fund to help developing nations adapt to climate change.

He did not even press the Senate to move ahead on climate change legislation, which environmental organisations have been urging for months.

The president's speech followed the publication of draft text, obtained by the Guardian this morning, that reveals the enormous progress needed from world leaders in the final hours of the Copenhagen climate change summit to achieve a strong deal. The draft says countries "ought" to limit global warming to 2C, but crucially does not bind them to do so. The text, drafted by a select group of 28 leaders - including UK prime minister, Gordon Brown - in the early hours of this morning, also proposes extending negotiations for another year until the next scheduled UN meeting on climate change in Mexico City in December 2010.

In his address, Obama did say America would follow through on his administration's clean energy agenda, and that it would live up to its pledges to the international community. "We have charted our course, we have made our commitments, and we will do what we say," Obama said.

But in the absence of any evidence of that commitment the words rang hollow and there was a palpable sense of disappointment in the audience.
[...]
Tim Jones, a spokesman for the World Development Movement, said: "The president said he came to act, but showed little evidence of doing so. He showed no awareness of the inequality and injustice of climate change. If America has really made its choice, it is a choice that condemns hundreds of millions of people to climate change disaster."

Friends of the Earth said in a statement, "Obama has deeply disappointed not only those listening to his speech at the UN talks, he has disappointed the whole world."

The World Wildlife Fund said Obama had let down the international community by failing to commit to pushing for action in Congress: "The only way the world can be sure the US is standing behind its commitments is for the president to clearly state that climate change will be his next top legislative priority."
[...]

4) U.S. Attacks Kill Suspected Militants In Pakistan
Zahid Hussain, Wall Street Journal, December 18, 2009
Strikes in Northwest Border Region Come as Tensions Increase Between the Two Countries Over Visas and Security Checks http://online.wsj.com/article/SB126108383559796015.html

Islamabad - Five drones fired missiles that killed at least 17 suspected militants in Pakistan's northwestern border region, in one of the biggest attacks in the U.S. campaign of missile strikes.

The strikes could exacerbate tensions between the U.S. and Pakistan at a time when their alliance is strained on several fronts.

A Pakistani security official said the 10 missiles targeted suspected militant hideouts in the Ambarshaga area of North Waziristan. There was a separate missile attack in Miranshah, in the same region, though details of casualties weren't available, the official said. It wasn't clear whether there were any prominent militants among the dead in either attack.

The U.S. strikes come after Pakistani military authorities turned down a U.S. demand to extend Pakistan's antimilitant campaign in neighboring South Waziristan to target Sirajuddin Haqqani, a powerful Taliban commander based in North Waziristan, the security official said.

American officials say Mr. Haqqani presents a serious threat to the U.S.-led coalition forces in Afghanistan. Pakistani officials have complained publicly that the drone strikes infringe Pakistani sovereignty and fuel anti-American sentiment, though some have acknowledged privately that the strikes have been effective in killing insurgents.

But distrust between the two nations appears to be increasing, with Pakistan seeking to impose security checks on U.S. diplomatic vehicles in Pakistani cities and tougher visa restrictions for American officials.

A U.S. official in Islamabad said the slow granting of visas by Pakistani authorities has forced American consulate offices to sometimes function with only 60% of the desired staff at a time when a new U.S. law approved aid for Pakistani civil programs.
[...]
Pakistani police last week impounded U.S. diplomatic vehicles in the eastern city of Lahore after American officials refused to let the vehicles be searched, citing diplomatic immunity.

Pakistani security officials also have accused Americans of using fake registration numbers on their vehicles. In some cases, police said the occupants of official vehicles were armed and couldn't prove their identity.
[...]
In many cases, even U.S. diplomats who are posted for one year or more are given single-entry visas for a short period, requiring frequent renewal. A Pakistani foreign ministry official, however, blamed the U.S. for the delay in the visa process, saying it was largely because most of the time the applicants don't provide the required information. "We do not intend to deny visas to anyone, but they have to follow the procedure," the official said.
[...]

5) McCaskill Calls For Increased Oversight Of Contract Work In Afghanistan
Walter Pincus, Washington Post, Friday, December 18, 2009; A04 http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/12/17/AR2009121704654.html

The chairman of a Senate investigative subcommittee called Thursday for stepped-up government oversight of contract work in Afghanistan, saying Pentagon auditors have already challenged nearly $1 billion in charges by military contractors.

"What additional controls and government oversight are needed to make sure that these contracts don't result in the waste, fraud and abuse we saw in Iraq?" Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) asked a panel of witnesses from the State Department, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Defense Department.

Pentagon auditors had examined $5.9 billion worth of contracts and found about $950 million in "questioned and unsupported costs," she said. "Because auditors have only looked at a fraction of contracts," she said, "the real amount of waste is likely to be much higher."

There are conflicting estimates about the total value of U.S. contracts in operation in Afghanistan. McCaskill sought a single figure and a way to keep track of it - saying she was "trying to find out who was responsible for putting out this money" - but the assembled group could not give her a total.

Significant funding has gone to the Pentagon's Commanders Emergency Response Program ($1.3 billion this year), logistics ($1.8 billion), USAID projects (more than $2 billion), equipment for Afghan security forces ($1 billion), the State Department's anti-drug and rule-of-law programs ($900 million) and the Army Corps of Engineers' construction projects (more than $1 billion).
[...]

Yemen
6) Six Held At Guantanamo To Be Sent Home To Yemen
Peter Finn, Sudarsan Raghavan and Julie Tate, Washington Post, Friday, December 18, 2009; 5:04 AM
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/12/18/AR2009121800898.html

The Obama administration is planning to repatriate six Yemenis held at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, a transfer that could be a prelude to the release of dozens more detainees to Yemen, according to sources with independent knowledge of the matter.

The release is a significant first step toward dealing with the largest group of detainees at the prison - there are currently 97 Yemenis there - and toward meeting President Obama's goal of closing the facility.

But Yemen's security problems and lack of resources have spawned fears about its ability to monitor and rehabilitate returnees. Critics of the administration charge that returning detainees to Yemen, a country where al-Qaeda is believed to be thriving, is tantamount to returning terrorists to the battlefield.

The six Yemenis, along with four Afghans, will be transferred out of Guantanamo Bay in coming days. The release follows months of high-level meetings between the government in Yemen and senior American officials, as well as a visit to the country last week by Stephen R. Kappes, the deputy director of the CIA, sources said.
[...]
The transfer will be closely monitored and, if successful, could lead to the release of other Yemenis who have been cleared to go home by a Justice Department-led interagency review team, which examined the case of each detainee held at Guantanamo Bay. Obama set up the review process to accelerate the closure of the detention center.

"It's a breakthrough because the U.S. and Yemen governments have been at an impasse," said David Remes, an attorney for 17 Yemeni detainees, when asked about the impending transfer. "Something has broken the logjam, and that's good, because you can't solve the Guantanamo problem without solving the Yemeni problem."

Since the detention center in Guantanamo Bay opened in early 2002, 15 Yemenis who were deemed not to be a threat have been repatriated: 14 by the Bush administration and one by the Obama administration.
[...]
Yemenis account for 46 percent of the 210 inmates remaining at Guantanamo Bay. Three of those Yemenis have been ordered released by federal judges following proceedings in which they challenged their detention under the doctrine of habeas corpus. Two of those decisions have been appealed by the government.
[...]
Although at least 34 Yemenis have been cleared for release, the fate of more than 60 others remains uncertain. Some will be tried in either federal court or military commissions, and others will likely be held in some system of prolonged detention at a prison in Thomson, Ill., once the detention center at Guantanamo Bay is closed.
[...]
Yemeni officials said none of the 15 former Guantanamo Bay detainees have returned to terrorism, and officials are demanding the release of more of their nationals.

The Obama administration attempted to forge a deal with Saudi Arabia that would allow Yemeni detainees to attend its highly regarded rehabilitation program. But Saudi officials said the program, which relies on strong family and tribal involvement, was ill-suited for Yemenis.

Officials in Yemen, the poorest Arab nation, insist that they need financial assistance from the United States to successfully reintegrate returning detainees.

Israel/Palestine
7) Palestinian village caught amid Israel settlements
Ben Hubbard, Associated Press, Thursday, December 17, 2009; 5:29 PM http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/12/17/AR2009121700734.html

Qariout, West Bank - In this West Bank village surrounded by Israeli settlements, a Palestinian farmer says he has documents proving he owns his land. On a nearby hill, Jewish settler Batya Medad says she too has proof of ownership - the Old Testament. This quarrel over the land Palestinians claim for their future state is the chief roadblock in Middle East peace efforts.

Mohammed Muqbil was born in this West Bank village in 1939; Medad has lived in neighboring Shiloh since its creation four decades later. They speak different languages and have never met, though their homes lie less than a mile apart. And between them lies the harsh conflict over Israel's West Bank settlements.

The Palestinians have refused to resume negotiations until all settlement building stops. Last month, Israel's government announced a 10-month halt to new construction in hopes of bringing the Palestinians to the table. But east Jerusalem and some 3,000 homes already under construction were exempt and the Palestinians rejected it.

Qariout, a rocky village of 2,600 people about 20 miles north of Jerusalem, illustrates why Palestinians are desperate to halt the spread of Jewish settlements.

Beyond the political issue of their effect on borders for any future Palestinian state, settlements restrict daily life in hundreds of West Bank villages and gobble up farmland - Qariout has lost two-thirds of its land since 1979.

That was the year Shiloh was founded - the first settlement created in the area. Two other settlements have since sprung up, along with six smaller wildcat outposts, which, although illegal under Israeli law, get electricity, water and protection from the government.

Together, they surround Qariout on three sides and deny it access to about two-thirds of its land, according to the Israeli rights group Yesh Din, which tracks settlements.

The Israeli government has officially allocated 28 percent of the village's original 2,100 acres to nearby settlements, said Dror Etkes of Yesh Din. Another 35 to 40 percent has been taken unofficially by settlers or the Israeli army, he said.

Settlers sometimes fence off or cultivate plots, chasing off Palestinians who try to reach them, Etkes said. At other times, Israeli authorities seize land to build army posts or roads between settlements. Once a road is built, villagers can rarely reach the land beyond it, he said.

At the same time, Israel refuses to let the village pave the mile-long road to the highway and regularly bulldozes it shut, calling it "illegal" and forcing villagers to make a 13-mile detour.

Muqbil said he has lost two of his three plots to settlements. The army confiscated one in 1982 and settlers now grow grapes on it. Settlers chased him from another in 2003, then planted olive trees, he said.

His remaining plot, near the Shvut Rachel settlement, has been a battleground since 2000. Settlers have plowed up his wheat, harvested his olives, prevented him from working and even beat him up, he said. In 2007, a settler uprooted his 300 trees with a bulldozer.

Muqbil's father farmed the plots before the 70-year-old farmer was born, and Muqbil said he has documents from Israel and Jordan, ruler of the West Bank until 1967, proving his ownership. He also keeps an inch-thick stack of Israeli police reports he filed after each incident - all to no avail, he said.

Yesh Din has documented 14 incidents near Qariout of criminal trespassing and attacks on Palestinians by settlers in the last two years. But complaints rarely bear fruit.

An Israeli police statement said that of 60 cases involving damaged trees in the West Bank over the past three years, only three brought indictments. That's because the vandalism is often carried out at night by "lone perpetrators" and Palestinians sometimes wait months or years to file complaints, the statement said.

Neta Patrick of Yesh Din's legal team said "such investigations are not the top priority of the Israeli police." Investigators rarely collect forensic evidence or check settlers' alibis when looking into alleged settler crimes, she said.
[...]

Pakistan
8) Pakistan Ministers Are Called Before the Courts
Jane Perlez and Salman Masood, New York Times, December 19, 2009
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/19/world/asia/19pstan.html

Islamabad, Pakistan - A sweeping Supreme Court decision that reopened corruption cases against thousands of politicians, including President Asif Ali Zardari, reverberated through the government Friday as important ministers were barred from leaving the country and ordered to appear before the courts in the coming weeks.

Among those immediately affected were the interior minister, Rehman Malik, who is considered particularly close to the United States, and the Defense Minister, Ahmed Mukhtar, raising concerns about how effectively the Zardari government, under pressure from a violent Islamic insurgency, could continue to function.

The two men were among 247 officials, also including Salman Farooqi, the chief of staff to Mr. Zardari, placed on what is known as an exit control list, barring them from leaving Pakistan, a measure Pakistan authorities often use to ensure those under criminal investigation do not abscond.

At least 52 politicians were called to appear before corruption courts, according to the National Accountability Bureau, the anticorruption unit that was ordered by the Supreme Court on Wednesday to act expeditiously in reopening the cases.
[...]
President Zardari enjoys immunity under the Constitution from prosecution. He remained defiant Friday against calls from the main opposition party that he step down. Moreover, he had no intention to ask cabinet ministers or colleagues facing corruption charges to quit either, a media adviser, Farahnaz Ispahani, said Friday.
[...]
A cabinet reshuffle in which "some people will be out and some will be moved," would be the main response to the revocation of the amnesty by the Supreme Court, Ms. Ispahani said.

But as Mr. Zardari and his party, the Pakistan Peoples Party, the biggest in Pakistan, battled to survive, a groundswell of media and public opinion seemed to exult in the decisiveness of the Supreme Court decision, suggesting there would no longer be a tolerant attitude toward corruption among politicians in Pakistan. "We've never seen the mighty in this country held accountable," said Babar Sattar, a Harvard-trained constitutional lawyer.
[...]

Afghanistan
9) Afghan Surge Troops Won't Target Drug Crops
Yara Bayoumy, Reuters, Wednesday, December 16, 2009; 8:46 AM
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/12/16/AR2009121601029.html

Camp Leatherneck, Afghanistan - Thousands of extra Marines pouring into Afghanistan's opium-growing heartland will go after those who process drugs but not those who grow the crop, the commander of U.S. Marines in the area said.

Brigadier General Larry Nicholson, commander of 10,000 Marines in Helmand, which produces the bulk of Afghanistan's and the world's opium crop, said his forces did not want to alienate local farmers by targeting the crop.

"The reality we have to face right now is that the number one cash crop in this area is still the poppy. We are not making war with the poppy farmer," Nicholson said in an interview with Reuters and CNN at Camp Leatherneck, the Marines' sprawling desert base in Helmand.
[...]
Nicholson said Marines often found black-tar opium alongside bomb-making materials during their raids, a sign of the link between the trade and the insurgency. "We will go after the processing plants and the labs. We will go after those with great vengeance. We will destroy the poppy seeds if we find it. What we have been very careful not to do is make an enemy of the poppy farmer," he said.

He said farmers had told his troops they were happy the Marines had driven out the Taliban but had made clear they had no plans to stop growing drugs.

British and American programs were being set up to encourage farmers to grow other crops like wheat, but in some areas it was still not always possible to earn a living growing food crops and get them to market safely.

"The fact of the matter is, for a lot of these people the only way they can make any money is to sell the poppy, and that's the sad reality now," he said. "Creating (enemies of) 30,000 to 40,000 farmers, getting them angry at the government and the coalition, is probably not good for us."

Haiti
10) Aristide Supporters Protest Election Ban In Haiti
Reuters, December 16, 2009, 7:51 p.m. ET
http://www.nytimes.com/reuters/2009/12/16/world/international-uk-haiti-aristide.html

Port-Au-Prince - Supporters of former Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide marched through Port-au-Prince on Wednesday calling for his return from exile and protesting his party's exclusion from upcoming elections.

Several thousand protesters joined in the protest march, which marked Aristide's rise to power as Haiti's first democratically elected president in December 1990.

The demonstrators accused the government of President Rene Preval, a one-time Aristide ally, of planning a fraudulent legislative ballot on February 28 and said they would boycott the vote in the impoverished Caribbean nation.

Aristide's populist Fanmi Lavalas political movement has been banned from participating in the election on grounds it failed to meet the legal requirements for registration.

"There will be no election in February, there will be a selection. What the authorities are planning is really a big farce," Dr. Maryse Narcisse, a leading member of Aristide's party, told Reuters. "The president and election officials are the masterminds behind the plan to exclude the majority of the population from the vote," said Narcisse, who spoke as she marched with others through the streets of Port-au-Prince.
[...]

Colombia
11) Armed Forces responsible for 71% of sexual assaults in 2008
Ashley Hamer, Colombia Reports, Thursday, 17 December 2009 11:00
EFE, December 16, 2009
http://colombiareports.com/colombia-news/news/7398-armed-forces-responsible-for-71-of-sexual-assaults-in-2008.html
http://www.google.com/hostednews/epa/article/ALeqM5jim61T9b3bl9bSNxVgsxVvDRS2Vw

Members of the armed forces were responsible for 71% of the 69 cases of sexual assault registered [in the armed conflict] in Colombia in 2008, revealed a study on Wednesday.

A report regarding socio-political violence against women and young females which focuses on sexual abuse was presented before the association Mesa de Trabajo Mujer y Conflicto Armado, and sought to shed light on the various forms of violence perpetrated against this sector of the Colombian population.

According to the report, of the remainder of 2008's 69 cases, 21.7% were attributed to guerrillas and 7.2% to paramilitary organizations, reported news agency EFE.
[...]

-
Robert Naiman
Just Foreign Policy
www.justforeignpolicy.org

Just Foreign Policy is a membership organization devoted to reforming US foreign policy so it reflects the values and interests of the majority of Americans.

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