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JFP 6/1: Boehner, Fearing Defeat, Blocks Vote on Kucinich Resolution
Submitted by Robert Naiman on 1 June 2011 - 6:59pm
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June 1, 2011
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*Action: Urge Your Rep. to Support H Con Res 51
The House leadership is currently blocking a vote on the Libya war (see #1 below.) Urge your Rep. to support H Con Res 51, to build pressure for a vote.
Kucinich Calls the Question on Libya War Powers
Asserting War Powers, House Moves to End Afghanistan, Libya Wars
In a historic vote sure to make an impression on the White House, the McGovern-Amash amendment requiring an accelerated drawdown was narrowly defeated, 204-215. Meanwhile, the Conyers amendment barring the introduction of U.S. ground troops to Libya passed overwhelmingly.
Egypt Opens Rafah Crossing: This Is What Democracy Looks Like
An inevitable consequence of more democracy in Egypt is an Egyptian government more responsive to the plight of the Palestinians. While the opening of the Rafah passenger crossing is a tremendously positive development, the siege of Gaza remains; that's why our flotilla to Gaza in June is so important.
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1) House GOP leaders pulled back from a floor vote on a resolution by Rep. Kucinich that would bar U.S. involvement in the NATO military campaign to topple Qaddafi, the Politico reports. Citing "lots of unrest on both sides of the aisle," a senior House GOP aide said Republican leaders are still working through their options. Another senior Republican staffer said House Speaker Boehner "is concerned that if this were to come to the floor now, it would pass."
Rep. Dan Burton, a co-sponsor of the resolution, said he planned to speak to Boehner and House Majority Leader Cantor about why the resolution was pulled. "I don't think we should postpone this. We should have an immediate up-or-down vote on it, we should have a debate on it this week," Burton said.
Because the Kucinich proposal relates to the 1973 War Powers Act, it is considered privileged under House rules, meaning that Kucinich could force a floor vote even if Democratic and Republican leaders are opposed to doing so. The resolution "ripens" next week, making it possible for Kucinich to bring about a vote when Congress returns from next week's recess, Politico says.
2) Afghan President Karzai demanded Tuesday that the U.S. stop all airstrikes on Afghan homes, drawing his government closer than ever to direct opposition to the US presence, the Washington Post reports. "I warn NATO forces that a repeat of airstrikes on the houses of Afghanistan's people will not be allowed," Karzai said. He added that foreign forces are close to "the behavior of an occupation" and the "Afghan people know how to deal with that" - a thinly veiled threat that Afghans could rise up against NATO and drive them out as with past occupying armies.
The immediate provocation for Karzai's remarks was a U.S. military airstrike in southern Afghanistan's Helmand province that killed at least nine civilians, including children. But Karzai's statement also was the culmination of years of complaints about civilian casualties and aggressive NATO military operations.
3) Days after Egypt, with great fanfare, opened its border permanently with Gaza, Egypt has imposed new restrictions on Palestinians who want to cross, the New York Times reports. Sari Bashi, executive director of Gisha, an Israeli human rights group focused on freedom of movement for Palestinians, said the Egyptians had told Hamas on Tuesday that crossings would be limited to 400 a day. In recent months, the daily average of those leaving Gaza through Rafah was 300. Before the Hamas takeover of Gaza, about 700 people moved into Egypt every day, according to Gisha.
4) Former Honduran President Zelaya's return home Saturday represents a partial reversal of the 2009 coup and Washington's efforts to consolidate it, writes Mark Weisbrot in the Guardian. The agreement that allowed Zelaya's return met some demands of Zelaya and his allies, but not others. It allows for the participation of the National Front for Popular Resistance as a legal political party. It also states that people can organize plebiscites of the kind that Zelaya was overthrown for organising. It has guarantees for the safety and security not only of Zelaya, but also of others who fled after the coup and remain in exile; it also contains certain non-enforceable human rights guarantees.
That is the big problem: human rights. Less than a year ago, Human Rights Watch noted that "Honduras has made little progress toward addressing the serious human rights abuses since the 2009 coup." If anything, the repression has become worse since then.
But it is better to have Zelaya back in the country than outside of it, Weisbrot writes. He will have a voice that can possibly break through the rightwing media monopoly, and if he uses that to oppose the repression there, it can have a positive impact. There will be many struggles ahead for the Honduran pro-democracy movement, and they will need a great deal of solidarity and help from outside, especially in opposing the repression. But this accord is, at least, a step in the right direction.
5) Administration officials say the cost of the war will be the most influential statistic Obama's national security team will consider when it debates the size of forthcoming troop reductions in Afghanistan, the Washington Post reports. The U.S. military is on track to spend $113 billion on its operations in Afghanistan this fiscal year, and it is seeking $107 billion for the next. Heightened fiscal pressures, coupled with bin Laden's killing, could shift the balance of power toward Vice President Biden and other civilians who had been skeptical of the surge and favor a faster troop drawdown than top commanders would prefer.
Concern about war costs is putting new political pressure on Obama, much of it from fellow Democrats, the Post says. Some Republican presidential hopefuls also are beginning to have second thoughts about the scope of the war, which White House officials think could provide political cover to Obama as he pursues a drawdown.
6) The US pulled its human rights officer from Bahrain last week after he'd become the subject of a weeks-long campaign of ethnic slurs and thinly veiled threats on a pro-government website and in officially sanctioned newspapers, McClatchy reports.
The campaign had been going on for two months, State Department officials said, with one of the most virulent attacks coming May 7 in a posting on a pro-government website that included links to photos and information on where the official and his family lived. The posting claimed the biggest single supporter of anti-government protests was the political section of the U.S. embassy, working "in cooperation" with a cell of the Lebanese Hezbollah movement. The head of the office, the blog claimed, was "a person of Jewish origin" and charged: "He's the one who trained and provoked the demonstrators to clash with the army."
The website appears to have the approval of Bahrain's royal family, McClatchy says.
7) Bahraini Shi'ites say they have endured a reign of terror during 11 weeks of martial law, Reuters reports. Martial law was lifted on Wednesday. Authorities hope this will show investors and tourists Bahrain is back to normal. Shi'ite dissidents fear repression will go on. Doctors, teachers and journalists who have been released from detention recounted beatings with plastic hosepipes, electric shocks, threats of rape and other humiliations such as being urinated on or verbal insults against their Shi'ite faith.
8) Democracy activists in Iraq mocked President Obama's invocation of Iraq as a model for democracy, the Los Angeles Times reports. "Obama is talking about Iraq as a symbol of freedom," said one. "We don't have such freedom. Where is it?"
A senior U.S. military officer was critical of the U.S. response to the Iraqi government since a wave of protests began in February. "People fully expected to hear from the embassy here and the president what they heard them say in other places: 'We side with the demonstrators on the issue of reforming government, making government better in the provision of services and fighting corruption," the officer said. "How hard is it for us to side with people on those issues? And yet, we stood by and were very silent, and when we spoke it very weak."
1) GOP fears Kucinich resolution
John Bresnahan and Jonathan Allen, Politico, June 1, 2011 12:04 PM EDT
Seeking to avoid a showdown over Libya, House GOP leaders have pulled back from a floor vote on a resolution by Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) that would bar U.S. involvement in the NATO-led campaign to topple Muammar Qhadafi.
GOP leaders were scrambling on Wednesday morning to come up with an alternative plan for considering the measure. These could include having the Armed Services or Foreign Affairs committees draft back-up proposals.
Citing "lots of unrest on both sides of the aisle," a senior House GOP aide said Republican leaders are still working through their options.
Another senior Republican staffer said House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) "is concerned that if this were to come to the floor now, it would pass" and could adversely affect the NATO mission in Libya. NATO leaders on Tuesday authorized the contination of the military campaign against Qhadafi until September.
Boehner and other GOP leaders have called a special meeting of House Republicans on Thursday to discuss the Libya situation, aides said.
Kucinich's resolution, introduced last week, "directs the president to remove the United States Armed Forces from Libya by not later than the date that is 15 days after the date of the adoption" of the measure. Reps. Michael Capuano (D-Mass.) and Dan Burton (R-Ind.) are cosponsors of the resolution.
In a statement, Kucinich said he was "disappointed that the President and leadership feel the need to buy even more time to shore up support for the War in Libya. It's not surprising that some are now wondering if a preliminary vote count on my resolution came out in favor of defending the Constitution."
Burton said in an interview that he planned to speak to Boehner and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) about why the resolution was pulled. "I don't think we should postpone this. We should have an immediate up-or-down vote on it, we should have a debate on it this week," Burton said.
Because the Kucinich proposal relates to the 1973 War Powers Act, it is considered privileged under House rules, meaning that Kucinich could force a floor vote even if Democratic and Republican leaders are opposed to doing so. The resolution "ripens" next week, making it possible for Kucinich to bring about a vote when Congress returns from next week's recess.
2) Karzai orders NATO to stop airstrikes on Afghan homes
Joshua Partlow and Craig Whitlock, Washington Post, May 31
Kabul - Afghan President Hamid Karzai demanded Tuesday that the U.S.-led coalition stop all airstrikes on Afghan homes, drawing his government closer than ever to direct opposition to the American presence here.
The comments could complicate President Obama's looming decision on how quickly to withdraw U.S. troops from Afghanistan. Even for Western officials accustomed to Karzai's rebukes, his latest remarks were cause for deep concern, because they went further than before in calling for radical change in how NATO fights its war.
Tuesday's demand followed his earlier insistence that foreign forces end night raids, stop unilateral operations, and stay off roads and out of Afghan villages. With each call, Karzai has outlined in ever more stark lines a vision of a vastly less aggressive U.S. military posture against the Taliban. The stance is particularly risky for him politically because his government relies on NATO for its political and economic survival.
"I warn NATO forces that a repeat of airstrikes on the houses of Afghanistan's people will not be allowed," Karzai said at a news conference at the presidential palace. "The people of Afghanistan will not allow this to happen anymore, and there is no excuse for such strikes."
He added that foreign forces are close to "the behavior of an occupation" and the "Afghan people know how to deal with that" - a thinly veiled threat that Afghans could rise up against NATO and drive them out as with past occupying armies. He said Afghanistan would be "forced to take unilateral action" if the bombardment of homes did not cease, although he did not specify what that action would be. "History is a witness [to] how Afghanistan deals with occupiers," he said.
Karzai lacks the authority to order NATO to stop airstrikes on homes. But his criticism strikes at a central weapon for U.S. military planners: Airstrikes have surged during the past year and numbered nearly 300 in April.
The immediate provocation for Karzai's remarks was a U.S. military airstrike in southern Afghanistan's Helmand province that killed at least nine civilians, including children. But Karzai's statement also was the culmination of years of complaints about civilian casualties and aggressive NATO military operations.
Some Western diplomats in Kabul who have worked closely with Karzai think these statements reflect his authentic beliefs and are not simply an attempt to score domestic political points. They say he is deeply frustrated by his inability as president to exert real authority over the foreign presence in Afghanistan.
3) Gaza Border Not So Open, Palestinians Find
Fares Akram, New York Times, June 1, 2011
Gaza - Days after Egypt, with great fanfare, opened its border permanently with Gaza, new restrictions have been imposed on Palestinians who want to cross, and the area's Hamas rulers spoke on Wednesday with frustration and anger.
Only three buses, carrying a total of 150 passengers, entered the Egyptian hall at the Rafah crossing point on Wednesday, while five others remained stuck on the Palestinian side, Hamas officials said two hours before closing.
"Since Tuesday, we are witnessing complications that we cannot understand," said Salama Baraka, director of the crossing, who blamed "the Egyptian side for the nearly paralyzed movement of travelers."
Local reports said that Hamas was considering shutting the border in protest.
On Saturday, the new Egyptian government said it was lifting restrictions that had sharply limited entry from Gaza over the past four years after Israel, with Egyptian cooperation, imposed a closing to pressure Hamas. The new rules said that men over 40 years old, children under 18 and all women could travel from Gaza through Egypt without prior arrangement.
But Egypt has been returning dozens of travelers, Hamas officials say.
Ghazi Hamad, a Hamas deputy foreign minister, said that Hamas authorities had contacted the Egyptians for clarification. "On the ground, we face some difficulties," he said.
Maan, a Palestinian news agency, quoted an Egyptian security official as saying that Hamas was sending in ineligible people, including some involved in illegal smuggling through tunnels beneath Gaza's southern borders with Sinai.
Sari Bashi, executive director of Gisha, an Israeli human rights group focused on freedom of movement for Palestinians, said the Egyptians had told Hamas on Tuesday that crossings would be limited to 400 a day and that everyone, including women and children, now needed to clear their names a day in advance.
In recent months, the daily average of those leaving Gaza through Rafah was 300. Before the Hamas takeover of Gaza, under a system that included European monitors between November 2005 and June 2006, about 700 people moved into Egypt every day, according to Gisha.
4) Zelaya's Return to Honduras: A Step Forward, But Will Political Repression Continue?
The former president's return is welcome, but human rights remain at risk in Honduras after the coup that deposed him
Mark Weisbrot, Guardian, Saturday 28 May 2011 12.00 BST
Former Honduran President Zelaya's return home Saturday has important implications for the western hemisphere that, we can predict, will be widely overlooked. Zelaya was ousted from the presidency when he was kidnapped at gunpoint by the military on 28 June 2009. Although no hard evidence has yet emerged that the US government was directly involved in his overthrow, the Obama administration did everything it could to help the coup government to survive and then legitimate itself through elections that most of the rest of the hemisphere, and the world, rejected as neither free nor fair.
Zelaya's return represents a partial reversal of that coup d'etat and Washington's efforts to consolidate it, just as President Aristide's return to Haiti after seven years in exile, on 18 March – despite furious efforts by the Obama administration, and even President Obama himself, to prevent it – is a partial reversal of the 2004 US-organised coup that overthrew the democratically elected government of Haiti. And it is another demonstration of how the western hemisphere has changed: the agreement for Zelaya's return was mediated through the governments of Venezuela and Colombia, with no US involvement or even lip-service support until it was over.
Instead, the mediation process had the unanimous support of Latin America and the Caribbean, which endorsed it through their new organisation, Celac (the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States). Celac contains all the countries of the Organisation of American States (OAS) except the US and Canada. It was formed in February 2010, partly as a response to Washington's manipulation of the OAS in the aftermath of the Honduran coup.
The Obama administration lost a lot of trust throughout the hemisphere as a result of its support for the Honduran coup government, and so it was not surprising that US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was smart enough to endorse the Cartagena agreement (for Zelaya's return) after it was signed. She had been lobbying, without success for the past year and a half, to get Honduras admitted back into the Organisation of American States, from which it was kicked out after the coup. It is assumed that this new accord will pave the way for Honduras' readmission, so she can spin it as a victory for Washington. But it clearly is not.
The agreement met some of the demands of President Zelaya and his allies, but not others. It allows for the participation of the National Front for Popular Resistance, which struggled against the coup and subsequent repression, as a legal political party. It also states that people can organise plebiscites of the kind that Zelaya was overthrown for organising. And it has guarantees for the safety and security not only of Zelaya, but also of others who fled after the coup and remain in exile; it also contains certain non-enforceable human rights guarantees.
And that is the big problem: human rights. Less than a year ago, Human Rights Watch noted that "Honduras has made little progress toward addressing the serious human rights abuses since the 2009 coup." It cited the cases of eight journalists and ten members of the National Front for Popular Resistance who had been murdered since President Porfirio Lobo took office, as well as the impunity for human rights abuses committed by the coup government. If anything, the repression has become worse since then.
Three Honduran journalists have been shot since 11 May; two of them, TV station owner Luis Mendoza and television reporter Francisco Medina, were killed. Paramilitary groups have killed over 40 campesinos since Lobo has been in office. Trade unionists have also been killed, including Ilse Ivania Velásquez Rodríguez, a striking teacher whom Honduran police shot in the face, at close range, with a tear gas canister in March.
The OAS will likely vote on Wednesday to readmit Honduras, but there will be a struggle inside the organisation to attach some conditions. It goes without saying that Washington will push for unconditional readmission. President Correa of Ecuador, himself the victim of a coup attempt in September, has publicly stated his opposition to the readmission of Honduras altogether, partly on the grounds of the impunity granted the people who carried out the coup and post coup repression. Dozens of Honduras' human rights organisations and social movements have similar views.
But it is better to have Zelaya back in the country than outside of it. He will have a voice that can possibly break through the rightwing media monopoly, and if he uses that to oppose the repression there, it can have a positive impact. As elsewhere in the hemisphere, the media – controlled largely by wealthy elites – are a major obstacle to progress. In Honduras, most media organisations supported the coup and promoted the falsehood that Zelaya and his supporters were foreign agents (much like the propaganda of the Arab dictators facing demands for democracy in the Middle East). These themes spilled over to the international media, where they remain visible to this day.
On the positive side, it is good to see Latin American countries taking control of the mediation, with Washington relegated to the sidelines. The biggest mistake they made after the coup was to allow Hillary Clinton, along with Oscar Arias of Costa Rica, to hijack the mediation process. Clinton's goal was the exact opposite of restoring democracy in Honduras, and she succeeded. There will be many struggles ahead for the Honduran pro-democracy movement, and they will need a great deal of solidarity and help from outside, especially in opposing the repression. But this accord is, at least, a step in the right direction.
5) Cost of war in Afghanistan will be major factor in troop-reduction talks
Rajiv Chandrasekaran, Washington Post, May 30
Of all the statistics that President Obama's national security team will consider when it debates the size of forthcoming troop reductions in Afghanistan, the most influential number probably will not be how many insurgents have been killed or the amount of territory wrested from the Taliban, according to aides to those who will participate.
It will be the cost of the war.
The U.S. military is on track to spend $113 billion on its operations in Afghanistan this fiscal year, and it is seeking $107 billion for the next. To many of the president's civilian advisers, that price is too high, given a wide federal budget gap that will require further cuts to domestic programs and increased deficit spending. Growing doubts about the need for such a broad nation-building mission there in the wake of Osama bin Laden's death have only sharpened that view.
"Where we're at right now is simply not sustainable," said one senior administration official, who, like several others interviewed for this article, spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal policy deliberations.
Civilian advisers, who do not want to be seen as unwilling to pay for the war, are expected to frame their cost concerns in questions about the breadth of U.S. operations - arguing that the troop surge Obama authorized in 2009 has achieved many of its goals - instead of directly tackling money matters. When the president's war cabinet evaluates troop-withdrawal options in the next few weeks presented by Gen. David H. Petraeus, the top coalition commander, "it's not like each of them will have price tags next to them," the official said. But "it's certainly going to shape how most of the civilians look at this."
The question of cost will have a far greater impact on the eventual decision than it did during the White House debate about the Afghan surge in late 2009. The heightened fiscal pressures, coupled with bin Laden's killing four weeks ago, could shift the balance of power in the Situation Room toward Vice President Biden and other civilians who had been skeptical of the surge and favor a faster troop drawdown than top commanders would prefer.
"Money is the new 800-pound gorilla," said another senior administration official involved in Afghanistan policy, who also spoke on the condition of anonymity. "It shifts the debate from 'Is the strategy working?' to 'Can we afford this?' And when you view it that way, the scope of the mission that we have now is far, far less defensible."
Military and civilian officials agree that the cost of the Afghan mission is staggering. The amount per deployed service member in Afghanistan, which the administration estimates at $1 million per year, is significantly higher than it was in Iraq because fuel and other supplies must be trucked into the landlocked nation, often through circuitous routes. Bases, meanwhile, have to be built from scratch.
The U.S.-led effort to create a new national army, which Afghanistan never had, already has consumed more than $28 billion. The Pentagon wants $12.8 billion for fiscal 2012 - the largest single line item in next year's Defense Department budget request - to continue training and equipping Afghan soldiers.
To civilian administration officials, the budgetary drain of the Afghan war means fewer resources to put toward other pressing national security challenges.
Last year, the United States spent nearly $1.3 billion on military and civilian reconstruction operations in one district of Helmand province - home to 80,000 people who live mostly in mud-brick compounds - about as much as it provided to Egypt in military assistance.
Concern about war costs is putting new political pressure on Obama, much of it from fellow Democrats. On Thursday, the House narrowly defeated an amendment calling for an accelerated withdrawal from Afghanistan and a fixed timetable for turning over military operations to the Kabul government. The vote, 204 to 215, was far thinner than last year's 162-to-260 tally on the same issue.
In the Senate, influential members have said recently that the cost of the war merits a reexamination of the overall U.S. strategy in Afghanistan. "It is fundamentally unsustainable to continue spending $10 billion a month on a massive military operation with no end in sight," Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.), the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, said this month.
Some Republican presidential hopefuls also are beginning to have second thoughts about the scope of the war, which White House officials think could provide political cover to Obama as he pursues a drawdown. Among those who have questioned the cost is former Utah governor Jon Huntsman Jr., who told ABC News that "we have to evaluate very carefully our presence in Afghanistan," which he called "heavy and very expensive."
An initial indication of the White House's view on the costs occurred this month when the National Security Council rejected the military's request to expand Afghanistan's security forces by 73,000 personnel.
Concerned not just about the price of training but also the cost of maintaining the force - estimated at $6 billion to $8 billion a year, which far exceeds the resources of the Kabul government, whose annual budget is about $1.5 billion - the NSC authorized the addition of just 47,000 personnel. That would bring the total combined size of the Afghan army and national police force to 352,000.
"We're building an army that they'll never be able to pay for, which means we're going to have to pay for it for years and years to come," the first official said.
Recent supplemental appropriations to fund the war, which have included billions of dollars for construction and equipment, "have been like crack" cocaine for the military, said one officer in southern Afghanistan."We've become addicted to building."
But moving too aggressively to control that spending could open the White House to criticism that it is depriving troops of necessary supplies and infrastructure. As a consequence, administration officials have concluded that the only practical way for them to bring down costs is by reducing troops.
"The head count is the only variable that we can control," said a civilian official involved in war policy.
6) U.S. yanks diplomat from Bahrain after he's threatened
Roy Gutman, McClatchy Newspapers, May 31, 2011 07:55:53 AM
Baghdad - The United States pulled its human rights officer from Bahrain last week after he'd become the subject of a weeks-long campaign of ethnic slurs and thinly veiled threats on a pro-government website and in officially sanctioned newspapers.
Ludovic Hood left the island nation on Thursday. During his final days in Bahrain, Hood was given security protection equal to that of an ambassador, U.S. officials said.
"The safety and security of our diplomatic personnel is our highest priority," the State Department in Washington said in a statement in response to inquiries from McClatchy. "It is unacceptable that elements within Bahrain would target an individual for carrying out his professional duties."
Hood's early departure from Bahrain - five human rights and U.S. officials confirmed that he had not been scheduled to leave Bahrain last week - underscores the serious tensions that have arisen between the U.S. government and Bahrain, the home port of the U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet.
On May 19, President Barack Obama criticized the Sunni Muslim government's harsh crackdown on the country's majority Shiite Muslim population. The crackdown has featured the destruction of Shiite mosques, the jailing and physical abuse of leading opposition political figures and journalists, and official harassment and intimidation of teachers, medical professionals and others.
The campaign against Hood, however, had been going on for two months, State Department officials said, with one of the most virulent attacks coming May 7 in an anonymous posting on a pro-government website that included links to photos of Hood and his wife on their wedding day and information on where Hood and his family lived.
The posting claimed that the biggest single supporter of the anti-government protests that began Feb. 14 was the political section of the U.S. embassy, working "in cooperation" with a cell of the Lebanese Hezbollah militant movement.
The head of the office, the blog claimed, was "a person of Jewish origin named Ludovic Hood," and charged: "He's the one who trained and provoked the demonstrators to clash with the army" near the Pearl Roundabout that was the epicenter of the demonstrations.
Hood also was "the one" telling the opposition of the steps they should take "to inflame the situation," the posting claimed.
The blogger called for "honest people to avenge" Hood's role, gave the neighborhood in which he lived with his family in Manama, the capital, and promised to provide his street address. It linked to a wedding photo of Hood with his "Jewish wife, Alisa Newman."
The attacks continued even after Hood left Bahrain, according to an official in Washington, with two newspapers on Monday targeting both Hood and the embassy's current top diplomat, Stephanie Williams.
The Arabic language website appears to have the approval of Bahrain's royal family. Called Bahrainforums.com, its homepage includes photos of Salman bin Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, Bahrain's crown prince, the country's prime minister, ?Prince Khalifa bin Salman al Khalifa, and of the king, Hamad bin Isa al Khalifa.
Khalifa bin Salman is the longest serving unelected prime minister in the world.
Human rights activists in Bahrain said that it is unlikely that under martial law imposed in mid-March a publication featuring the smiling faces of the royal family would be permitted if the regime did not approve.
The U.S. Embassy asked the government to stop the campaign against Hood, but the government "didn't, wouldn't, couldn't stop it," said one U.S. official, who couldn't be named because the department was restricting its comments to its public statement. The offending blog item could still be read on the website Monday.
"If the facts hold up...if it's true that the embassy human rights officer has been run out of town by extremist vigilantes peddling a vile racist screed, then Bahrain has some accounting to do," the official said.
Shiite Muslims comprise more than two thirds of the island's population but are largely excluded from high office. Many moderate Sunnis also took part in the demonstrations, but the crackdown has fallen largely on the Shiite population.
7) Bahrain Shi'ites talk of abuse under martial law
Andrew Hammond, Reuters, June 1, 2011, 9:09am EDT
Manama - Bahraini Shi'ites say they have endured a reign of terror during 11 weeks of martial law imposed to break up a pro-democracy movement that for the first time threatened the control of a Sunni-ruled Gulf Arab dynasty.
Martial law was lifted on Wednesday. The authorities hope this will show investors and tourists that the island state is back to normal. Shi'ite dissidents fear repression will go on.
Thousands have been detained or dismissed from jobs in a crackdown that has targeted those who took part in six weeks of protests centered on the capital's Pearl Roundabout. Dozens of Shi'ite places of worship have been pulled down or vandalized.
Twenty-one people, seven of whom are abroad, are on military trial for trying to overthrow the government. They include figures from Shi'ite opposition parties who had advocated making Bahrain a republic, as well as the Sunni leader of secular group Waad and independent Shi'ite rights activists.
Four people have died in custody and two Shi'ites have been sentenced to death for the killing of a policeman.
The crackdown has for now stifled an unprecedented pro-democracy movement inspired by uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia that toppled long-time U.S. allies. The government says the protests were manipulated by Shi'ite power Iran.
An island state where the Sunni Al-Khalifa family rules over a majority Shi'ite population, Bahrain has seen such strife before. But doctors, teachers and journalists who have been released, as well as the families of some of the 21 men on trial, say the repression was far worse this time. They recounted beatings with plastic hosepipes, electric shocks, threats of rape and other humiliations such as being urinated on or verbal insults against their Shi'ite faith.
Victims were usually blindfolded to avoid seeing their interrogators, who sometimes wore masks themselves to avoid identification, they told Reuters. They all spoke on condition of anonymity and it was not possible to verify the claims.
A teacher in Hamad Town said she and 25 colleagues were hauled out of their school one morning last week by women police who came in two buses. "They asked us if we went to the roundabout, did we want to bring down the government, and they hinted that they would abuse us sexually once we arrived at the station," the teacher said.
"They made us sing the national anthem and say 'the people want Khalifa bin Salman'," the powerful prime minister of 42 years who is seen as a hard-liner in the ruling family.
In the local police station some of the women faced sexual harassment, the teacher said. "They sexually harassed most of us, but there are things I can't say that they did," she said.
"Some teachers never went to the roundabout but had to admit that they did. I was there and admitted that I was, but they wanted me to say I had got a mut'a marriage," she said, referring to a Shi'ite form of temporary marriage. "They said 'Your loyalty is to Iran, let Iran take care of you'. They called us Zoroastrians and said we teach prostitution."
The women were forced to sign papers vowing good behavior and readiness to return to police stations if requested, which would circumvent the ending of the emergency laws.
Dozens of doctors and nurses have also been arrested and around 19 doctors remain in detention. It is not yet clear how many will face trial and on what charges.
One who has been released but does not know if charges will be pressed said she was threatened with rape. "They said 'We are 14 guys in this room, do you know what we can do to you? It's the emergency law and we're free to do what we want'," she said. Two doctors said a group was forced to record confessions which they believe are intended for Bahrain TV. The channel has aired previous apparent doctor confessions.
A Western diplomat said: "We 100 percent believe torture takes place. But the detail of what abuse and the evidence is unclear."
Bahrain rights activists have reported abuse that some of the 14 men facing military trial have mentioned in court. Families and lawyers of the men facing trial each have 10 minutes after the court sessions to speak to the accused.
The son of one said an electric drill had been applied on at least one occasion to his father's leg by military interrogators with Iraqi accents. "In the 1990s they used electricity on him but this time it was much worse. Now they use a machine with wires," he said, adding this was in three weeks of interrogation before trial. "They make him kiss a photo of King Hamad (of Bahrain), King Abdullah (of Saudi Arabia) and the prime minister in the morning and then sing the national anthem," he said, adding his father said his captors had urinated on him.
Nabeel Rajab of the Bahrain Human Rights Society said two of the 14 men on trial said in court they had marks made by electric drills.
The government has said it is investigating abuse reported by Nazeeha Saeed, a Bahraini correspondent for France 24 television, when she was detained for some 12 hours last week. Reporters Without Borders said she was beaten by women interrogators to force her to confess that she works with Shi'ite-run TV channels al-Manar and al-Aalam. They beat her with plastic tubes, made her bray like a donkey on all-fours and tried to make her drink a bottle of what they said was urine, the group said in a statement.
8) Amid talk of democracy, Iraqi activists decry detentions
'Obama is talking about Iraq as a symbol of freedom,' says one young man angry over the detainment of several demonstrators, whose whereabouts are still unknown. 'We don't have such freedom. Where is it?'
Ned Parker and Salar Jaff, Los Angeles Times, 5:25 PM PDT, May 31, 2011
Baghdad - Encouraging the democracy protests sweeping the Arab world, President Obama has presented Iraq as a model for the region - praise that contrasts with the detention of four young activists for days without access to lawyers or their families.
Fellow protesters in the movement demanding better governance, including an end to corruption and improved services, say they worry they are next to be picked up by plainclothes security agents or paramilitary police seeking to crush their demonstrations. The army raided a meeting Saturday about the four and detained at least nine more people, said respected activist Hanna Edwar.
The activists are among a few hundred demonstrators who gather with posters and old bullhorns on Fridays in downtown Baghdad's Tahrir Square, where they are cordoned off by ropes and watched by hundreds of police and soldiers in combat gear.
A U.S. Embassy spokesman said he was not aware of the case or whether it had been raised with the Iraqi government.
A senior U.S. military officer, speaking on condition of anonymity, was critical of the U.S. response to the Iraqi government since a wave of protests began in February.
"People fully expected to hear from the embassy here and the president what they heard them say in other places: 'We side with the demonstrators on the issue of reforming government, making government better in the provision of services and fighting corruption," the officer said. "How hard is it for us to side with people on those issues? And yet, we stood by and were very silent, and when we spoke it very weak."
Sitting at a cafe Tuesday, two protest organizers who go by the code names Mohammed Guevara and Hussein Baghdadi in the hopes that will help them avoid arrest, laughed bitterly about Obama's speech.
"Obama is talking about Iraq as a symbol of freedom," said the one who goes by Guevara. "We don't have such freedom. Where is it?"
The activists' movement began coalescing in online debates about politics and religion, and at a rally in support of secularism in December after police raids on bars and a writers club that served alcohol.
People were beaten at a Feb. 25 rally, and dozens were arrested. Those who persisted found themselves being followed by security agents.
The pair interviewed Tuesday said the events of Friday started with a text message from Muayad Taieb, a 29-year-old actor and director who said he had been picked up by national police. Five friends at Tahrir Square decided to look for him. Three of them, Ali Jaff, Jihad Jalil and Ahmed Baghdadi, were first approached by a man in civilian clothes who tried to tackle one of them, and then confronted with soldiers who pointed assault rifles at their heads and pushed them into an ambulance.
"We don't call this detention. It was a kidnapping," said the activist who called himself Hussein Baghdadi. "Detentions have rules, including a warrant of arrest."
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