Monday, February 28, 2011

Middle East: US and allies take a hard line on Libya

Al Jazeera

Clinton urges Gaddafi to step down
US secretary of state says Gaddafi's government must be held to account as EU approves new sanctions against Libya.

Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, has said the government of Muammar Gaddafi must be held to account over atrocities committed in Libya as she reiterated calls for the leader to step down.

Speaking at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland, on Monday, Clinton said Gaddafi must leave power "now, without further violence or delay".

"Gaddafi and those around him must be held accountable for these acts, which violate international legal obligations and common decency," she said.

"We have seen Colonel Gaddafi's security forces open fire on peaceful protesters. They have used heavy weapons on unarmed civilians. Mercenaries and thugs have been turned loose to attack demonstrators."

Clinton said Washington was keeping "all options on the table" in terms of action against the government, and that a no-fly zone was "an option we are actively considering".

Meanwhile, the US ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice said Washington is in talks with its NATO partners and other allies about military options for dealing with Libya.

A Pentagon official said the US military was repositioning naval and air forces around Libya.

"We have planners working and various contingency plans and I think it's safe to say as part of that we're repositioning
forces to be able to provide for that flexibility once decisions are made ... to be able to provide options and flexibility," Colonel David Lapan, a Pentagon spokesman, said.

Calls for no-fly zone

Al Jazeera's Hoda Abdel-Hamid, reporting from the eastern city of Benghazi, where the opposition is in control, said people there were opposing any possible foreign military invention but would welcome a no-fly zone.

"They say that would diminish the ability of the regime to bring in mercenaries from Africa, those mercenaries that the opposition accuse of fighting alongside government forces," she said.

"Also, they say a no-fly zone will safeguard the opposition in the sense that it would prevent any kind of aerial bombardment. That's one thing people here are very scared of."
Read more of our Libya coverage

Clinton's comments came after the European Union approved its own sanctions including an arms embargo and travel bans against Libya.

"We are already working on EU restrictive measures that should come into force quickly," Catherine Ashton, the bloc's foreign policy chief, said at the UN human rights meeting.

"Together with that we will adopt additional accompanying measures such as an embargo on equipment which might be used for internal repression and we're looking at individuals under the travel restrictions and the assets freeze."

The 27-nation bloc has agreed to freeze the assets of Gaddafi, his family and government, and ban the sale of goods such as tear gas and anti-riot equipment.

It is believed the EU sanctions are aimed at strengthening a raft of measures passed by the United Nations Security Council on Saturday, which include referring Libya to the International Criminal Court (ICC) over the brutal crackdown on pro-democracy protesters.

Luis Moreno-Ocampo, the prosecutor of the ICC, said a preliminary investigation into possible crimes against humanity committed in Libya would begin on Monday.

"There will be no impunity for leaders involved in the commission of crimes," he said.

He said he would decide within a few days whether or not to launch a full investigation of alleged crimes committed since February 15, that would enable prosecutors to collect evidence and request an arrest warrant against those identified as responsible.

A growing number of world leaders are placing pressure on Gaddafi to step down amid a violent uprising.

On Sunday Britain and Canada followed moves by the US to freeze the assets of Gaddafi and his family, while on Monday Germany said it is proposing to freeze all financial payments to Libya for 60-days.

'Exile is an option'

Navi Pillay, the UN human rights chief, told the conference that the international community must support reforms in the Middle East in "words and deeds".

"The council should not relax its vigilance over Libya as the threat of violent reprisals against civilians still looms," she said.

"Although we have not seen credible independent evidence that Gaddafi has used jets to attack the protesters, that doesn't mean that he will not."

The moves come amid growing outrage over the bloodshed in Libya, blamed on forces loyal to Gaddafi. The embattled leader remains defiant despite the opposition gaining ground across the country, and has vowed to purge the country of protesters "city by city, house by house".

The US is pressing Europe for tough sanctions on the Libyan government to turn up the heat on Gaddafi, saying that sanctions would convince the leader's remaining loyalists to abandon his regime.

"The US has a wider sanctions regime than the UN has decided and they would like the Europeans to step in on that," Al Jazeera's Nick Spicer, reporting from Geneva, said.

Speaking in Cairo, John McCain and Joe Lieberman, two leading US senators, called for the immediate imposition of a no-fly zone over Libya.

They also urged the White House to recognise the "provisional government" set up by Gaddafi opponents in the eastern city of Benghazi.

Speaking to Al Jazeera, Ibrahim Sharquieh, the deputy director of the Brookings Doha Centre, said that a "no-fly zone is certainly a good idea".

"Although we have not seen credible independent evidence that Gaddafi has used jets to attack the protesters, that doesn't mean that he will not."

David Cameron, the British prime minister, said the UK is working with its allies on a plan to establish a military no-fly zone over Libya, a move also mentioned by Jay Carney, a White House spokesman.

Carney added that Gaddafi could go into exile to help satisfy demands by the US for him to step down.

"Exile is certainly one option for him to affect that change," he said on Monday.

Middle East: Looking at lessons learned in Afghanistan and Iraq

Al Jazeera

US advised to avoid land wars
Defence secretary underscores importance of Iraq and Afghan lessons but cautions against future involvement.

Robert Gates, the US defence secretary, has warned that the US should avoid future land wars such as those it has fought in Iraq and Afghanistan but not forget the difficult lessons learned in those conflicts.

Gates was chosen as defence secretary by George Bush, the former president, and given the job of rescuing the military from what many saw as an unwinnable war in Iraq by Barack Obama, the incumbent president.

"In my opinion, any future defence secretary who advises the president to again send a big American land army into Asia or into the Middle East or Africa should have his head examined," Gates said in a speech to cadets at the US Military Academy at West Point, in New York state, on Friday.

As a result of the last 10 years at war, West Point cadets are joining a force that is "resilient but also stressed and tired", Gates said during what is expected to be his last address at the training ground for future army officers.

"The army must prepare itself for the complex threats it will face in the future, including terrorists seeking weapons of mass destruction, outlier nations capable of nuclear warfare and the modern militaries being assembled in Russia and China," he said.

Today's army is filled with soldiers who have had "little opportunity to do more than catch their breath and then get ready for the next deployment',' Gates said.

Gates, who has said he will leave office this year, but has not announced when, laid out his vision for the future of the US army as it regroups after a decade of long and repeated deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan.
Gates said conflicts will require Navy and Air Force engagements, not head-on clash of big land forces [AFP]

"The army has made a painful war-driven transition from a force designed to face off against other large militaries to a more nimble service that trains other armies and takes on nation-building even as it hunts insurgents," Gates said.

"It must better prepare itself to continue to face such unconventional threats and unorthodox duties in the future."

Gates has made many decisions regarding the nation's 1.1 million-strong ground force since he took over the senior Pentagon role in December 2006.

He came in facing an escalating war in Iraq that was requiring more forces.

Over time he sent thousands more troops into Iraq to a peak of nearly 180,000 and was forced to extend soldiers' deployment tours from 12 months to 15 months.

As the Iraq war began to wind down, he and the Obama administration ordered another surge this time into Afghanistan, where they are battling entrenched uprisings in the south and east.

Future high-end conflicts involving the US military are more likely to be fought with air and sea power instead of large ground forces such as the one that invaded Iraq in 2003 and the one in Afghanistan, he said.

UK: Why are conservatives against vegetables?

The Independent

PJ: Jamie Oliver has been a champion of improving the eating habits of children through education for several years in the UK. And his efforts have paid off. Now he hopes to help kids in the US strive for the nutrition they need for a healthy and active life. There's no secret to the obesity problem in America, and there's no hiding from the costs of obesity related ailments such as heart disease and diabetes. But Mr. Oliver also recognizes that government can only have a limited role so lauds the efforts of the First Lady in her "Let's Move" initiative. You can also assume that he is frankly shocked at the negative reaction of conservatives regarding her efforts.

Why Jamie's knives are out for Sarah Palin
Chef brands US politician a 'Froot-Loop' over her criticism of childhood obesity drive
By Guy Adams in Los Angeles

The froot-loop is a breakfast cereal full of sugar and containing a bewildering selection of processed grains made attractive to children with the addition of salt, colouring, and fruit flavours. In the world of Jamie Oliver, it's also a term of abuse which can be accurately applied to Sarah Palin.

Britain's fiercest crusader for healthy eating is at the centre of one of the many fierce disputes which now define America's fractured political landscape, after using an appearance in Miami to criticise the former Governor of Alaska's attempts to disrupt a White House campaign against childhood obesity.

Ms Palin is among a selection of big-hitters from the Tea Party movement who have been highly critical of the "Let's Move!" initiative spearheaded by Michelle Obama, which aims to improve the nation's calorie-laden diet.

During a Q&A session at a food festival on Saturday, Mr Oliver was asked what he thought about Palin's stance. He took a deep breath before declaring: "clearly, on this issue, [she] is a fruit loop".

The US is in a "really dark moment" on the issue of children's health said Oliver, who has been filming a series of his Food Revolution TV show in Los Angeles. "The health situation isn't allowing Americans to be Americans," he said, adding that healthy eating was "a civil rights issue".

Cue howls of outrage from supporters of Palin, who resent all criticism of their beloved "Mama Grizzly" – but are never more exercised than when her credibility and patriotism is attacked by an interfering foreigner.

Oliver's comments gain potency since they play into a wider PR battle, which is pitting Mrs Obama and health officials against the forces of conservatism.

Every modern First Lady has spearheaded a social cause: Nancy Reagan ran the "just say no" campaign against drugs, Barbara and Laura Bush attempted to reduce childhood illiteracy, and Lady Bird Johnson planted flowers.

But while their efforts are traditionally applauded, Mrs Obama's effort to make America's children eat their vegetables has prompted a furious backlash from Republicans.

Commentators such as Glenn Beck ("Get away from my French fries, Mrs Obama!") and Rush Limbaugh ("If we are supposed to eat roots, berries and tree bark, show us how!") have fiercely criticised "Let's Move!".

Palin has claimed the First Lady "is telling us she cannot trust parents to make decisions for their own children, for their own families, in what we should eat."

India: In honour of Palin's India trip in March

PJ: Enjoy this video provided by Yeh Hai Life!

Japan: US and a delicate balancing of Pakistan relations

Japan Times

PJ: The serious challenges in the Middle East, continued threats from N. Korea against S. Korea, conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq, the US economy in a delicate and difficult recovery and tensions between India and Pakistan...anything else to fill the President's day?

India-Pakistan matrix challenges nuclear security efforts in region
Special to The Japan Times

According to the most recent estimates by U.S. intelligence, Pakistan has doubled its nuclear stockpile over the past few years. The nation's arsenal now totals more than 100 deployed weapons.

Pakistan is now ahead of India in the production of uranium and plutonium for bombs and development of delivery weapons. It is now producing nuclear weapons at a faster rate than any other country in the world. Pakistan will soon be the world's fourth-largest nuclear weapons state, ahead of France and Britain and behind only the United States, Russia and China.

Pakistan is investing heavily in plutonium-production capacity with work reportedly under way on a fourth plutonium-producing reactor at Khushab nuclear complex.

At a time when the U.S. has pushed the Pakistani military to shift its focus to the threat from extremist groups within its own borders, recent reports once again underscore the Pakistan military establishment's perception of an India-centric threat.

The danger is that this expansion is happening at a time of great internal turmoil in the country and the rise of religious extremism. The fears of proliferation and possible terrorist attempts to seize nuclear materials are real and cannot be brushed aside. Along with the defeat of al-Qaida, the Obama administration's "Afghan War Review" of last year has mentioned Pakistan's nuclear security as one of the two long-term strategy objectives in Af-Pak.

In U.S. State Department cables released by WikiLeaks last year, concerns about the vulnerability of Pakistan's nuclear material were evident.

As the Obama administration was starting to review its Af-Pak policy, an intelligence report suggested that while Pakistan's weapons were well secured, there was deep, continuing concern about "insider access," meaning elements of the military or intelligence services.

Then U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan Anne Patterson wrote in a separate document that "our major concern is not having an Islamic militant steal an entire weapon but rather the chance someone working in GOP [government of Pakistan] facilities could gradually smuggle enough material out to eventually make a weapon."

It's surprising, then, that even as American officials were trying to persuade Pakistani officials to give up nuclear material, they were quietly trying to block Pakistan from trying to buy material that would help it produce tritium, a crucial ingredient needed to increase the power of nuclear weapons.

A December 2008 U.S. intelligence briefing to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization noted that "despite pending economic catastrophe, Pakistan is producing nuclear weapons at a faster rate than any other country in the world."

Yet, any attempt by the U.S. to force Pakistan's hand on the nuclear issue will only generate further suspicion that the U.S. favors India and wants to control Pakistan's nuclear weapons. This, despite the fact that throughout the Cold War years, Washington played a crucial role in giving a boost to Pakistan's nuclear program by turning a blind eye to nuclear developments in the country.

Today Pakistan accuses the West of a double standard and discrimination as pressure mounts on Islamabad to sign the Fissile Materials Cut-off Treaty (FMCT), aimed at banning all future production of weapons-grade uranium and plutonium.

A successful conclusion of FMCT by the end of this year is a critical element of the Obama administration's nonproliferation agenda. In 2009, the U.S. Congress passed a $6.5 billion aid package for Pakistan with the stipulation that the Obama administration provide regular assessments of whether any of the money "directly or indirectly aided the expansion of Pakistan's nuclear weapons program."

The U.S. has already spent more than $100 million helping Pakistan build fences, install sensor systems and train personnel to handle nuclear weapons.

Pakistan already has more than enough nuclear weapons for an effective deterrent against India. Some 110 nuclear weapons will not make Pakistan's nuclear deterrent any more effective than a deterrent based on 60-odd weapons. Nuclear deterrence doesn't work like that. The higher number will just be used by the military to enhance its prestige by claiming that Pakistan is ahead of India, at least in this realm.

For a long time, the U.S. and its allies have viewed nuclear weapons in South Asia with dread because of the possibility that a conventional war between India and Pakistan might escalate into a nuclear one.

Indian and Pakistani officials, on the other hand, have continued to argue that just as the risk of "mutual assured destruction" resulted in a "hot peace" between the U.S. and the former Soviet Union during the Cold War, nuclear weapons in South Asia will also have a stabilizing impact. They point out that despite several provocations, India and Pakistan have behaved "rationally" during various crises by limiting their conflicts and avoiding escalation.

But on Sept. 11, 2001, the nature of the problem for the West changed insofar as the threat is now more of Pakistan's nuclear arsenal being used against the West by radical Islamists if they can lay their hands on it.

There is little hope that the "rational actor" model on which classical nuclear deterrence theory is based would apply as much to militant Islamist groups as it would to the Pakistani government. The present turmoil in Pakistan has once again raised concerns about the safety, security and command and control systems for its nuclear stockpile. Command and control arrangements continue to be beset with fundamental vulnerabilities that underline the reluctance of the Pakistani military to cede control over the nation's nuclear assets to civilian leaders.

It is instructive to note that of all the major nuclear states in world, Pakistan is the only country where the nuclear button is in the hands of the military. Moreover, senior civilian and military officials responsible for these weapons have a problematic track record in maintaining close control over them.

This poses a serious challenge to the India's minimum credible deterrent nuclear posture. While India has little to worry about Pakistan's desire to have more than 100 nuclear warheads, the possibility of leakage from the state to nonstate actors is a serious threat as it will undermine India's ability to maintain peace in the region. A dangerous new nuclear matrix is emerging in the region.
Harsh V. Pant teaches at King's College London.

Japan: A history of Muslims and Jews helping each other

Japan Times

PJ: With the current Middle Eastern unrest comes fear of the future: fear for Israel, fear for stability and fear for western interests. As other world governments look at their history of diplomatic successes and failures in determining how to respond to the needs of the people of the region, perhaps all people need to remember history to determine how they hope to live in peace for the future.

Is it the destiny of Muslims and Jews to fight?

NEW YORK — Negative stereotypes and prejudices have been a constant source of friction and misunderstanding between Muslims and Jews. Can a level of understanding be reached between them that would make peaceful relations possible? I believe so. An almost forgotten episode during World War II could bring light to this issue.

During World War II, as Jews were being persecuted by the Nazis, they found refuge in northern Albania. More than 2,000 Jews were protected by the locals, who risked their lives. Although the Germans demanded that the Albanians provide them with lists of names of Jews in the country, the Albanians did not comply and instead sheltered them from the Nazis. According to the International School for Holocaust Studies, the Albanians didn't turn over a single Jew to the Germans.

This episode was again brought to light by Norman H. Gershman, an American photographer, who has included photos of those Albanians' descendants living in the country, in a book called "BESA: Muslims Who Saved Jews in World War II." According to Gershman, only two countries in Europe refused to cooperate with the Nazis: Denmark and Albania.

Besa is an Albanian cultural concept that means "to keep the promise" and "word of honor." The word has its origin in the Kanun of Leke Dukagjini, an assembly of customary codes and traditions compiled by the legendary 15th-century Albanian chieftain and transmitted verbally over succeeding generations.

Besa means also taking care of those in need, protecting them and being hospitable. Both Catholics and Muslims participated in this effort. Since 70 percent of Albanians are Muslims, it is safe to assume that it was they who were primary in aiding the Jews. Rather than hiding them in attics or in the woods, Albanians gave the Jews Muslim names, provided them with clothes and treated them as members of their families.

Gershman tells the story of an Albanian man called Ali Pashkaj, who was visited at his store by a group of German soldiers and 19 Albanian prisoners. Among the Albanians was a young Jew whom the Germans planned to assassinate.

Since Pashkaj spoke excellent German, he invited the soldiers into the store and gave them food and wine. While he was distracting the German soldiers, he gave the young Jew a melon containing a message instructing him to jump out of the truck at a certain location and run and hide in the woods. The young man followed the instruction and was able to escape.

The German soldiers were furious. They returned to the town and threatened to shoot the man and set the town on fire if the Albanians didn't return the young Jew. The Albanians refused and the Germans finally left town. Pashkaj went to the woods where he found the young man and brought him back to his house and protected him. The young man, whose name is Yasha Bayuhovio, later went to Mexico and became a dentist. In protecting him, Ali Pashkaj was practicing Besa.

As Gershman told the Jewish Chronicle: "Look, you are not talking to someone who is pro-Arab. It is really quite simply that there are good people in this world. I found Muslims who saved Jews. The perception of the religion of Islam as crazy is nonsense. I am a Jew to my core. I would lay down my life for Israel. However, we have objectified Muslims. They are just people.

"In this little people (Albanians) they have a message for the world. I defy anyone to look at them and say they are terrorists or terrorist sympathizers."

France: A review of US and the West's involvement in the Middle East

Le Monde diplomatique

PJ: This piece offers an excellent reminder of the west's thought process as well as its history of diplomatic endeavors in the Middle East. Hindsight seems to be playing a role in how the Obama administration is cautiously moving forward in dealing with the current, unprecedented conflicts.

The Arab wall begins to fall
The impossible happened
by Serge Halimi

Political leaders often claim a situation is so complex that any attempt to change it would be disastrous. This is not always the case. After 9/11, President George Bush offered a clear choice: “Either you are with us or you are with the terrorists.” According to President Sarkozy, the choice in Tunisia was between a friendly dictator and “a Taliban-type regime in North Africa” (1). This suits both sides: a dictator can claim to be the last bastion against militant Islam, and the Islamists can claim that they alone oppose the dictator.

But if there is a social or democratic movement, and new players, the scenario suddenly changes. The embattled authorities look out for subversive activity among the protesters. If they find it, they exploit it. If not, they invent it.

In an interview with the Tunisian ambassador to Unesco, Mezri Haddad, on 13 January (the day before Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali fled), the opposition leader Nejib Chebbi criticised “development in which low pay provided the only comparative advantage in international competition” and “provocative displays of illicit wealth in the cities”, and claimed that “the people are all against the regime” (2). Haddad responded: “The people will ransack your fine house in La Marsa, that is what people do in societies where there is no fear of the police … Ben Ali saved Tunisia from the fanatics and fundamentalists in 1987… He must remain in power, come what may, because the country is under threat from the fanatics and their neo-Bolshevik allies.”

A few hours later, Haddad called on the man who “saved Tunisia” to stand down. On 16 January, Chebbi became the new minister for regional and local development. Revolution in Arab nations is rare but rapid. Less than a month after Mohamed Bouazizi’s suicide drew attention to the grievances of unemployed graduates, the Trabelsi family houses in Carthage had been seized, political prisoners had been released and Tunis was full of peasants demanding the abolition of privileges.

The historic events in Tunis had a familiar, French Revolutionary feel. A spontaneous movement spreads, widely diverse social strata are brought together, absolutism is vanquished. At which point, there are two alternatives left: take your winnings and leave, or double your stakes. Generally, one section of society (the liberal bourgeoisie) tries to stem the flood; another (peasants, employees in dead-end jobs, unemployed workers, poor students) backs the tide of protest, in the hope that the ageing autocracy and the monopolists will be swept away. Some of the protestors, especially the young, do not want to have risked their lives so that others, less daring but better placed, can use the protests to their own advantage. The social system survives, minus the police and the mafia.

Extending opposition to dictatorship in the person of the Ben Ali family to opposition to economic domination by an oligarchy would not suit the tourists, the money markets or the International Monetary Fund. The only freedom they want is for tourists, trade and movement of capital. Moody’s rating agency naturally downgraded Tunisia’s bond ratings on 19 January, citing “political instability and uncertainties caused by the collapse of the previous political regime”.
France’s outstretched hand

Cairo, Algiers, Tripoli, Beijing and western chanceries were equally unenthusiastic. As mainly Muslim crowds called for liberty and equality, France had its own interpretation of the compatibility of democracy with Islam, offering Ben Ali’s failing regime “the expert assistance of our security forces”. Ruling oligarchies, Muslim, secular and Christian, always close ranks at any public unrest. The former Tunisian president claimed to support secularism and women’s rights against fundamentalism, his party was a member of the Socialist International, yet he fled. To Saudi Arabia of all places.

Imagine the outcry if police had opened fire on demonstrators in Tehran or Caracas, leaving a hundred dead. Such comparisons were rejected in principle over 30 years ago in an article by the US academic, Jeane Kirkpatrick (3), in which she claimed that pro-western “authoritarian” regimes were always preferable and more susceptible to reform than the “totalitarian” regimes that might succeed them.

President Ronald Reagan was so impressed that he appointed her ambassador to the UN. Her article, published in November 1979, examines major blows the US had suffered that year, the revolutions in Iran and Nicaragua. She maintained that the Carter administration, in its efforts to promote democracy, had in both cases “actively collaborated in the replacement of moderate autocrats friendly to American interests [the shah of Iran and Augusto Somoza] with less friendly autocrats of extremist persuasion.” These friendly regimes had their faults. Both were “led by men who had not been selected by free elections, … who sometimes invoked martial law to arrest, imprison, exile, and occasionally, it was alleged [sic], torture their opponents.” But “they were positively friendly to the US, sending their sons and others to be educated in our universities, voting with us in the United Nations, and regularly supporting American interests and positions even when these entailed personal and political cost. The embassies of both governments were… frequented by powerful Americans. And the shah and Somoza themselves were both welcome in Washington, and had many American friends.”

Then, “viewing international developments in terms of… a contemporary version of the same idea of progress that has traumatised western imaginations since the Enlightenment”, the Carter administration made a fatal mistake: it encouraged regime change. “Washington overestimated the political diversity of the opposition (especially the strength of ‘moderates’ and ‘democrats’), … underestimated the strength and intransigence of radicals in the movement, and misestimated the nature and extent of American influence on both the government and the opposition”, preparing the way for the ayatollahs and the Sandinistas.

There is nothing new about the idea of a “dictatorship of the lesser evil”, which is pro-western and may mend its ways given endless time, or the fear of finding fundamentalists (or communists) masquerading as democratic demonstrators. But the spirit of Jeane Kirkpatrick seems to have influenced Paris more than Washington. The US was reassured by the relatively minor role of Islamists in the Tunisian uprising, enabling a broad social and political front against Ben Ali. WikiLeaks had revealed the State Department’s feelings about the “mafia-esque elite” and the “sclerotic regime” of the ruling family. The White House left them to their fate, trusting that the liberal bourgeoisie would provide a replacement friendly to western interests.

But the Tunisian uprising has had wider repercussions, notably in Egypt. For the conditions that caused it are to be found elsewhere: unequal growth, high unemployment, protest crushed by grossly overblown police forces, well-educated young people with no prospects, bourgeois parasites living like tourists in their own country. Tunisians will not solve all these problems at a stroke but they have made a start. Like the rest of us, they were told there was no alternative. Yet they have shown us that “the impossible happens”.

Middle East (via London based Libyan newspaper): Stopping Qadhafi

Al Masry Al-Youm

World powers struggle to find way to stop Qadhafi

World powers struggled to find a way to stop Libyan leader Muammer Qadhafi lashing out at his people as he clings to power in Tripoli, the last big city where an uprising against his rule has yet to take hold.

President Barack Obama signed an order prohibiting transactions related to Libya and blocking property, the first major step to isolate the North African leader, who has used army, police and irregular forces to try to crush the protests.

"By any measure, Muammar Qadhafi's government has violated international norms and common decency and must be held accountable," Obama said in a statement on Friday.

Diplomats at the United Nations said a vote on a draft resolution calling for an arms embargo on Libya as well as travel bans and asset freezes on its leaders might come on Saturday after UN chief Ban ki Moon said it could not wait.

Western powers, with whom Qadhafi has exploited Libya's oil after years of diplomatic isolation, have struggled to keep up with the pace of protests that have swept away Western-backed strongmen in neighboring Egypt and Tunisia already this year.

Tripoli's streets were eerily quiet overnight, with portraits of Qadhafi adorning street corners and a few police cars patrolling after a day in which residents said pro-Qadhafi forces fired at and over the heads of protesters in many areas. Up to 25 people were said to have been killed in one area alone.

"Peace is coming back to our country," one of Qadhafi's sons, Saif al-Islam Qadhafi, told reporters flown into Libya under close supervision.

"If you hear fireworks don't mistake it for shooting," the 38-year-old London-educated younger Qadhafi said, smiling.

He acknowledged pro-Qadhafi forces had "a problem" with Misrata, Libya's third largest city, and Zawiyah, also in the west, where protesters had beaten back counter-attacks by the military but said the army was prepared to negotiate.

"Hopefully there will be no more bloodshed. By tomorrow we will solve this," he said on Friday evening.

The country's second city Benghazi fell to the opposition along with much of eastern Libya earlier in the uprising, which began more than a week ago. Qadhafi vowed to "crush any enemy" on Friday, addressing a crowd of supporters in Tripoli's central Green Square. Residents said government forces had fired when protesters, who had gathered after Friday prayers around the capital, approached.

"They just started shooting people," Ali, a businessman who declined to give his full name, said by telephone. A female resident said her friend had seen police fire at people in another district and had told her 25 people were killed there.

At Tripoli's international airport, thousands of desperate migrant workers besieged the main gate trying to leave the country as police used batons and whips to keep them out.

International diplomats say some 2,000 or more people have been killed. The UN Security Council draft, drawn up by Britain and France, said the attacks on civilians in Libya may amount to crimes against humanity.

The White House did not express direct support for the proposal but said it was discussing it with members of the Security Council, including the other four permanent members--China, Russia, Britain and France.

Charles Ries, director of the Center for Middle East Public Policy at Rand Corporation, said the UN resolution was risky.

"The UN Security Council is a very risky proposition if, for example, the Chinese were not in favor of voting a resolution, and I don't think the administration feels confident that it has all of those ducks lined up," Ries said.

Washington, which in recent years had a rapprochement with Qadhafi and has several energy companies in Libya still working while other foreign firms have curtailed or suspended operations, announced unilateral sanctions first.

"His legitimacy has been reduced to zero in the eyes of his people," said Obama's spokesman, who also refused to rule out military action.

Qadhafi's own people seemed close to forcing him from power, although it is hard to assess the relative strengths of forces that include irregular units, tribal loyalists and militias backing Qadhafi and regular army units who have now gone over to the opposition.

Other towns were reported by residents to have fallen to the opposition, although Qadhafi retained the defiance he has often displayed against the West over more than four decades.

"We can crush any enemy. We can crush it with the people's will," he urged the crowd of thousands, threatening to open military arsenals to his supporters and tribesmen.

Residents said parts of Tripoli, apparently the last major stronghold of the man who took over Libya as a young colonel in a 1969 military coup, were already beyond his control.

Washington, having evacuated Americans from Libya after days of difficulties, said it was closing down its embassy. Qadhafi, once branded a "mad dog" by the White House for backing global militants, had in recent years sought cooperation with the West.

Protesters in Zawiyah, an oil refining town on the main coastal highway 50km west of Tripoli, fought off government forces on several nights, according to witnesses who fled across the Tunisian border at Ras Jdir.

"There are corpses everywhere ... It's a war in the true sense of the word," said Akila Jmaa, who crossed into Tunisia on Friday after traveling from the town.

Prosecutor-general Abdul-Rahman al-Abbar became the latest senior official to resign, telling Al-Arabiya television he was joining the opposition. Libya's delegations to the Arab League and the United Nations in Geneva also switched sides.

State television said the government was raising wages and food subsidies and ordering special allowances for all families, a late bid to enrol the support of Libya's 6 million citizens.

In the east, ad hoc committees of lawyers, doctors, tribal elders and soldiers appeared to be filling the vacuum left by Qadhafi's government with some success.

There was little sign of the radical Islamists whom Qadhafi has accused of fomenting the unrest.

Army and police in the eastern city of Adjabiya told Al-Jazeera they had joined the opposition and a man back from the Western Mountains, some 150km southwest of Tripoli, said three towns there had shrugged off central control.

Libya supplies 2 percent of the world's oil, the bulk of it from wells and supply terminals in the east. The opposition says it controls nearly all oilfields east of Ras Lanuf.

Industry sources told Reuters that crude oil shipments from Libya, the world's 12th-largest exporter, had all but stopped because of reduced production, a lack of staff at ports and security concerns.

Middle East: Results of regional protests remains vague, US associates with protesters

Dar Al Hayat

A Few Characteristics of the Current Confrontations
By Abdullah Iskandar

The movement of Arab protests is taking a course of escalation. And if some of them have been able to introduce change at the level of those in power, in Tunisia and Egypt, while some are still demanding change, in Yemen, Bahrain and Jordan, and others are facing terrible bloody repression, in Libya, the features of the next phase in each of these countries remain vague, as they remain open to every possibility, including the worst.

It is clear that those in power in all of these countries are trying to resist change, despite the particularities of each of them. It is also clear that the protest movement still has great power in terms of objections, of demonstrations and of proclaiming its demands, which are taking on more radical characteristics with time. Yet neither the authorities nor the protest movements have a clear roadmap for emerging from the crisis and resolving the difficult issues. This is why dialogue between the two sides has broken down, despite the fact that all demand it and declare their willingness to participate in it. Indeed, there are no common grounds for such dialogue that would make it start from a specific point. Moreover, there is a complete lack of mutual trust, in view of the long years of oppression and caution, voiding any promises of their content.

Consequently, the situation in both Egypt and Tunisia is marking time. Demonstrations and protests continue in Yemen, Bahrain and Jordan, recently joined by Iraq as well. Meanwhile, the situation in Libya excludes any dialogue, in light of the purely bloodthirsty tendencies of Colonel Gaddafi, whose delusions of grandeur are increasing as his collapse draws near.

Thus the lack of dialogue represents the first characteristic of the current confrontation between Arab authorities and protest movements. And while the security situation remains under control, except in Libya, any slipup involves the danger of the outbreak of wide-ranging violence, which would do away with the function of any subsequent dialogue, as is the case in Libya.

Another characteristic of the situation is the fact that only one side, that of the authorities, is subjected to the influence of foreign, and especially American, stances and pressures. Indeed, the United States, ever since the situation erupted in Tunisia, has been defending the necessity of meeting the demands of protesters, especially in terms of political change. Its role has become clear in the way former President Zine El-Abidne Ben Ali was toppled and former President Hosni Mubarak resigned. In other words, it is only putting pressure on the authorities. This kind of unilateral pressure is connected to a US strategy based on abandoning obsolete regimes for the benefit of what it considers to be regimes capable of containing their citizens’ popular culture, on the basis of the desire repeatedly expressed by President Barack Obama to open up to Islamic culture. This is what US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton expressed when she spoke of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and the possibility of their participation in government.

In other words, the United States is interested in imposing concessions from the authorities for the benefit of the protest movement, according to a notion that assumes that ensuring US strategic interests goes through associating itself with a popular state of affairs, at the cultural, religious and perhaps sectarian (as is the case in Iraq) level, not facilitating dialogue between the authorities and protest movements, reaching common grounds that support democracy, peaceful alternation of power and heading towards sustainable growth that would ensure natural economic cycles. Washington’s inspiration in this comes from non-Arab experiences, such as Turkey, Indonesia and Pakistan, without stopping at Arab experiences and at the conclusions one might draw from them.

And as the movements of moderate political Islam advance to the forefront of the protest movement, by virtue of their ability to organize and also of US pressure on authorities, the radical trend that accuses others of disbelief, which seems detached from the popular movement and its direct concerns, is receding, even if temporarily, especially as the predominantly peaceful nature of the protests has shown an effectiveness terrorism has failed to achieve, despite all the ruckus and suicide bombings. This is to such an extent that Al-Qaeda, which holds the theory of “entrenchment” and “immersion”, has become concerned about the lives of civilians, as Ayman Al-Zawahiri recently advised.

Korea: Annual war games begin despite N. Korea threats

Korea Times

Allies start war games amid NK threats
US aircraft carrier to join in Key Resolve, Foal Eagle
By Lee Tae-hoon

South Korean and U.S. troops began their annual joint military drills Monday, despite North Korea’s threat to turn Seoul into a “sea of flames.”

North Korea has repeatedly threatened to annihilate Seoul or wage a "full-scale war" since Sunday, a day prior to the launch of the military exercises, Key Resolve and Foal Eagle.

It has also warned that it will undertake "precision strikes" at border areas from which balloons carrying propaganda leaflets are sent into the communist regime.

In response, Seoul issued a warning that should the North take any action, it will fire more than three shots for every North Korean one under the rules of engagement. It has also raised the military alert status at maritime and land borders.

"So far, no unusual movement by North Korea's military has been detected, but it has put its forces on a higher state of alert," a defense official said.

Key Resolve is a command-post drill using computer-based simulations to respond to any potential contingency that could arise on the Korean Peninsula.

A U.S. unit specializing in eliminating weapons of mass destruction is expected to participate in the drills to demonstrate its capability to remove North Korean nuclear weapons and missiles.

Key Resolve, whose exercise scenarios will focus on crisis management and command and control of alliance forces, will involve 2,300 U.S. troops of which some 500 will be arriving from outside Korea, according to defense officials.

Foal Eagle, which runs concurrently, is a large field training exercise focused on ground maneuvers, and air, naval, expeditionary and special operations forces drills.

It will involve some 10,000 U.S. troops, with the majority of the participants coming from units stationed outside the peninsula.

When asked whether a U.S. aircraft carrier would join the upcoming exercises, military officials neither confirmed nor denied it.

"A U.S. aircraft carrier plans to participate in this year's Key Resolve and Foal Eagle exercises, but it has not been decided yet which of the two drills it would be involve with," a defense official said.

In an effort to validate the defensive nature of the combined drills, 10 international observers from the Neutral Nations Supervisory Commission will oversee the exercises, said Kim Young-kyu, spokesman of the Combined Forces Command (CFC).

The South and the United States held two joint military drills last year, first in the East Sea in July and the second in the Yellow Sea in December.

The allies said the joint drills are defensive in nature but Pyongyang has vehemently lashed out at them.

"If the aggressors launch provocation for a 'local war,' the world will witness unprecedented all-out counteraction on the part of the army and people of North Korea," the North`s state-run Korean Central News Agency said Sunday.

The North also threatened to unleash an attack against the South, unless the latter suspends “psychological warfare” operations that involve sending basic necessities and leaflets via balloons to the communist North.

Last year, a North Korean torpedo sank the South Korean frigate Cheonan, killing 46 sailors on board in March. Then in November, North Korea shelled Yeonpyeong Island, saying that it was in legitimate defense as the South was carrying out military drills “against the North.”

Middle East: Reform in Bahrain, Obama calls for talks

Al Jazeera

US calls for talks in Bahrain

US President Barack Obama has called for talks between the Bahraini government and the opposition as pro-democracy demonstrators continue their campaign for regime change in the Persian Gulf country.

"The United States supports the national dialogue initiative led by Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad al-Khalifa, and encourages a process that is meaningful, inclusive, non-sectarian, and responsive to the people of Bahrain," Obama said in a statement on Sunday.

According to the US president, the dialogue is an "opportunity for meaningful reform."

But, the protesters, camping out near Pearl Square in the capital Manama, are demanding the removal of the monarchy system in the tiny Persian Gulf littoral state.

Facing mass pro-democracy protests during the past two week, King Hamad bin Issa al-Khalifa reshuffled his cabinet on Sunday.

King Hamad also released political prisoners and allowed an exiled opposition leader to return to Bahrain in an attempt to appease the opposition.

Carrying Bahraini flags, pro-democracy protesters on Sunday shouted anti-government slogans and called for long-serving Prime Minister Sheikh Khalifa Bin Salman Al-Khalifa to step down.

A group of doctors and nurses also joined the protesters on Sunday to call for political reform in the country, which is headquarters of the US Navy's Fifth Fleet in a region.

At least seven people have lost their lives and hundreds wounded after pro-democracy protests started in Bahrain fourteen days ago.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

New Zealand: Picking up the "Fruit Loop" comment

New Zealand Herald

PJ: The enigmatic Palin remains an entertaining curiosity around the world.

Palin a 'Fruit Loop'

Chef Jamie Oliver called Republican politician Sarah Palin a "Froot Loop" for criticising the Obama Administration's healthy eating initiatives, and said getting healthy foods to kids is a civil rights issue.

Oliver said the US needed to make children's health a priority. He said he did not have much faith that government would lead the way, but said the Administration of President Barack Obama was on the right track.

Palin, in contrast, "clearly on this issue is a Froot Loop," he said in a reference to the highly sweetened breakfast cereal.

Canada: Palin's falling star

Winnipeg Free Press

Sarah Palin's star continues to fall in U.S. as Republicans chide her
By: Lee-Anne Goodman, The Canadian Press

In two short years, Sarah Palin has gone from being the belle of the Republican ball to a near pariah among the party elite and its supporters, with many now openly dismissing her as a credible presidential candidate as she continues to weigh a run for the White House.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is the latest Republican to suggest that Palin doesn't have what it takes to mount a successful bid as she communicates her message almost exclusively via Twitter and Facebook and makes appearances only on friendly media outlets like Fox News.

Americans need an unfiltered look at the people who want to occupy the Oval Office, Christie said.

"They want somebody who is going to speak straight to them, and they want to ask you questions and they want unguarded moments," Christie said Sunday on CBS's "Face The Nation."

"I think if she wants to prove she's ready for this, you've got to have some unscripted moments."

The criticism was harsher at a recent fundraising dinner in South Carolina, a key early primary state, where party faithful told McClatchy Newspapers that the former Alaska governor lacks the experience and knowledge to run a successful bid for president, never mind govern.

Michele Bachmann, a Minnesota lawmaker, spoke at the event and was lauded by those in attendance as "Sarah Palin with a brain."

Palin's "major weakness is that she needs to bone up on how the government works," Don Long of Lake Wylie, S.C., told a reporter from the newspaper group. "I don't know if she's done as much of that as she needs to."

"She's not really creative," added Swain Shepperd of Rock Hill. "She just repeats what's already been said by others."

Even as she plans a trip to India next month to attend a conference and speak on her vision of America, 2011 has not proven to be a great year for Palin so far as her star continues to fall.

There's even a recent Canadian element to her woes _ her scheduled appearance at a fundraiser for two hospitals in Hamilton has been cancelled due to complaints from potential donors.

It was reminiscent of the situation a few weeks earlier when Palin's daughter, Bristol, was removed from a sexual health panel at a university in St. Louis, MI, after students protested against paying her a speaker's fee. The panel was going to discuss abstinence and preventing teen pregnancy.

A CNN/Opinion Research poll last month suggested Palin's unfavorability rating stands at 56 per cent, its highest level ever, as she loses serious ground among the country's all-important independent voters. Other polls suggest she'd still win the support of about one in five Republicans in a battle for the nomination.

Nonetheless, the Republican establishment has distanced itself from Palin, fearful she can't possibly beat U.S. President Barack Obama in 2012. Some have even been directly challenging some of her opinions.

Mike Huckabee, the former Arkansas governor who's also pondering a run for the White House, has repeatedly chided both Palin and Bachmann for their attacks against First Lady Michelle Obama's efforts to combat childhood obesity. Palin has called Obama's "Let's Move" campaign an attempt to impose a "nanny state" on Americans.

"What Michelle Obama is proposing is not that the government should tell you that you can't eat dessert," Huckabee, who lost 100 pounds after being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in 2003, said Sunday on Fox News.

"What Michelle Obama has proposed is that we recognize that we have a serious obesity crisis — which we do."

He prefaced his remarks with an insistence he's not "in a war" with Palin, Bachmann or Rush Limbaugh, the conservative radio personality who said last week Obama didn't look like she followed her own dietary advice.

Christie also called criticism of Obama's campaign "unnecessary" on Sunday.

"I think it's a really good goal to encourage kids to eat better…I think the First Lady is speaking out well," he said.

India: Palin's India trip

The Times of India

Palin's India trip build-up to Prez bid?
By Chidanand Rajghatta

America's political theater is spewing snickers and sarcasm over Sarah Palin's proposed trip to India next month amid uncertainty over whether she will run for the White House in 2012.

While state governors bidding for Presidency typically make overseas trips to shore up their foreign policy credentials, Palin, ex-governor of Alaska and former vice-presidential candidate, is famously shy of foreign travel.
She got a passport only in 2006, and before signing up with John McCain for the Republican ticket in 2008, she had travelled overseas only once, to visit US troops in the Middle East.

Since then, she has gone abroad twice, travelling to Hong Kong in 2009 for a conference where she spoke about US-China relations, and then going to Haiti on an earthquake relief mission.

But in a huge leap of faith and distance, Palin is scheduled to be in New Delhi on March 19 for the annual India Today conclave, where she will give a speech on "My Vision for America". Political pundits are divided on whether that stab at policy articulation by the controversial politician widely perceived as having a limited worldview is meant to signal a Presidential run in 2012.

Some analysts think the trip actually indicates Palin will not be running. In a blog post headlined "Palin going for the outsourced vote?,"A ndrew Cline, a leader writer for a conservative New Hampshire paper, said he has a hard time believing that "someone who makes a trip to India a higher priority than a trip to New Hampshire is a serious presidential candidate."

New Hampshire is a key state in the Presidential stakes because it traditionally holds the first primary in the race to the White House. Palin has not visited New Hampshire after her 2008 vice-presidential bid.
"Chalk this up as one more bit of evidence that she's probably not running,"Cline wrote.

While some arch conservatives are dismayed that Palin is not making a call on a White House run, the former governor is being pilloried for her India sortie, with comedians and cartoonists having a field day.

A Huffington Post cartoon by Sunil Adam, editor of the 'Indian-American', wondered why Palin is going to India, with one character replying, "Probably because she can"t see it from her house in Alaska."Palin had been mocked by pundits for declaring during her 2008 run that Alaska's proximity to Russia gave her foreign policy experience

UK: A Look at Glen Beck and right wing nuttery in the US

The Guardian

PJ: To view clips associated with this piece, click on the link provided below.

Middle East unrest according to Glenn Beck and friends

Bored of balanced coverage from the lamestream, so-called news media? What you can learn about the Middle East protests from US rightwing commentators

'Tunisia is our Archduke Ferdinand moment'

Says Glenn Beck, Fox News host:

"This is not just happenstance. This is not just poor people mad at rich people. This is coordinated. Tunisia was the beginning. I think there is a chance Tunisia was our Archduke Ferdinand moment that I've been telling you about, warning that it would start in some place that wouldn't look like anything – and most of us wouldn't understand it. He was the guy assassinated in Sarajevo. Month later Austria and Hungary declared war against Serbia and the rest is called World War One"

Beck, the apocalyptically-minded TV host, has the most complete theory on Egypt: the protests there are part of what he calls the "coming insurrection".

He illustrates how it will happen in the clip below using blackboards featuring maps of Europe and the Middle East. He marks friends with a yellow smiley face (Israel), "Frenemies" (Egypt, Saudi Arabia, etc.) with blue faces and enemies (Iran) with red. Through the use of stick-on fires to illustrate riots he announces to his American viewers: "I'm going to show you how all this cascades over to us".

Key to all it all is that Europe, as his map shows, is already in flames because of some of our recent street protests. Beck never explains the connection between the Greek government's austerity programme, tuition fees demonstrations in the UK and radical Islam (which no one on the ground in Egypt says is behind the protests there). Do I need to? Because I can't.

To cut to the chase, a new caliphate will emerge in the Middle East and push further east until China, as Beck puts it, says "Knock it off guys" and takes over India, reaching some way into Pakistan. The caliphate will then push north, which is when it will absorb the UK:

"What happens to the overwhelming radical population of the UK, of radical Islamicists. What happens? Do they just sit around on their hands or do they see an opportunity? When you take the Marxists and you combine them with the radical in Islam the whole world begins to implode"

So there you have it, an "Archduke Ferdinand moment" which will split Europe, the Middle East and Asia into Chinese and radical Islamic zones. In the full Beck, he also introduces Bill Ayers (who Sarah Palin had in mind when she accused Barack Obama of "palling around with terrorists"), Hizbullah and Code Pink, a feminist antiwar group. But that's enough for now.

'It has spread, as we predicted it would'

Says a Glenn Beck radio show co-host:

"Even when the French riots were going on, this was before Greece. The rioting in France - Paris was on fire virtually every night - we said this is coming to other countries"

That's right. The origins of Egypt's protest lie not in Mubarak's dictatorship, a languid economy and lack of opportunity for young people but the 2005 unrest in Paris's banlieues. Does Greece have something to do with it too?

Here is Beck - this time on the radio - expanding on his theme of what the Egypt protests mean for Europe:

"The Muslim radicals in Europe and England rise up. You've got the communists and the Muslim radicals, they are not one and the same, they are not coordinating or anything else. But once they start to work together - whether it is coordinated or not, and I don't believe it would be - once they start to work together in concert Europe is done. It is done. Where is the police force that is going to be able to police the entire world like that. Russia? The United States? How are you going to quell the Middle East?"

'It tracks with this administration's views on the economy'

Says David Asman, Fox host:

"President Mubarak sent a message by camel to President Obama today ... Mubarak was telling Obama to mind his own business, that he will leave on his own terms, not on terms or timetables dictated by the White House [...]"

"The administration's inability to have any sway there is what happens when you desert your allies and try to apply Robert's rules of order to the raw power plays of the Middle East. We saw the same thing happen with the Carter administration's mishandling of Iran in 1979 and we are shocked that this administration thinks the same lofty ideals will have better luck in Egypt. It is a fairyland, it is an academic view of the world that frankly tracks very closely with this administration's views on the economy. Take healthcare, for example ..."

To a man with a hammer every problem is a nail, as the saying goes. To a man with a problem with Obama's healthcare reform, every problem looks like it has something to do with healthcare reform.

'Obama should be impeached'

The strangest thing I've seen on the internet for a while: footage of JFK unconvincingly voiced-over by someone who cannot do a JFK impression.

"Recently the fires of discontent in the Middle East have been inflamed by the aid and comfort that have been given to America's enemies by our 44th president [...] The 44th president and Joseph Biden [should] be impeached for high crimes and misdemeanours. At that point the speaker of the house, John Boehner, will become the 45th president of our nation. I'm asking John Boehner to use our military power to quell the uprising that is currently threatening the government of Hosni Mubarak"

I have no idea whether this is serious or satire. None at all.

'Obama is on the side of radical Islam'

Michael Savage, who calls Obama the "socialist-in-chief", talks over the US president's recent statement calling for a transition to democracy in Egypt.

Obama: "... people want the same things that we all want. A better life for ourselves and our children ..."

Savage: "What the heck does that mean? This is the rhetoric you would have heard from the Black Panthers"

And here is a key quote:

"Grievances? Here is the community organiser now using community organisational mentality for a nation of Egypt, which is flooded with the Muslim Brotherhood. This is astounding. We are listening to the biggest mistake in US diplomatic history. This fool. This pinheaded fool running this country either doesn't know his history or is on the side of radical Islam. There's no two ways about it"

'What the Bible has already said'

Joseph Farah of WorldNetDaily:

"Iran's quest serves a second purpose of eliminating all of Israel's supposed Islamic allies and replacing them with like-minded radical government heads that will renounce their alliance with the US and harden hatred toward Israel. Of course, this scenario only strengthens what the Bible has already said - that the enemies of Israel will one day attack them, thereby giving occasion for God to destroy their enemies"

'Muslim Brotherhood has infiltrated the US government'

Frank Gaffney, neoconservative:

"There are questionable people who are sympathetic to the program of the stealth jihadists who have influence with the United States government. Some I think are actually working for it, but for sure people who are persuaded that the folks that they need to work with to reach out to the Muslim-American community, for example, who incessantly turn to Muslim Brotherhood organisations for that purpose, are a very real problem"

'We will have a world war on our hands'

Bill O'Reilly forsees a domino effect where, aided by al-Jazeera, the Muslim Brotherhood takes charge in Tunisia, Yemen, Egypt and Jordan and gives al-Qaida free reign.

'Al-Jazeera is British intel'

Another take on al-Jazeera: Alex Jones talks Egypt with author and host of GCN's World Crisis Radio, Webster Tarpley. I have no idea what is going on here. There is an Anglo-American imperialist plot, they say, aided by al-Jazeera, to overthrow Mubarak. China and Russia might get involved somewhere down the line. Here is one exchange:

Jones: "People are opening saying what al-Jazeera is: British intel"

Tarpley: "Yeah, that's for sure"

'The US should not fear Egypt regime change'

This may not fit the narrative but the US right is not speaking with one voice on Egypt. There are those (mainly above) who fear the consequences if Mubarak was to fall, but others who support the possibility that Egypt may transition to democracy. The quote heading this section comes from an article for Forbes by Michael Rubin of the American Enterprise Institute (also home to Paul Wolfowitz) while a Bush administration official, Elliott Abrams, claims in the Washington Post that the Egypt protests are a vindication of his former boss.

And then there are more non-partisan positions, such as Glenn Beck's Egypt protest theories show he's finally lost the plot.

to view clips:

China: Libya

People's Daily

Obama presses Libyan leader to leave

U.S. President Barack Obama on Saturday stepped up pressure on Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, saying that he should leave now.

In a telephone call to German Chancellor Angela Merkel on the situation in Libya, Obama said the Libyan leader "has lost the legitimacy to rule and needs to do what is right for his country by leaving now," the White House said in a statement.

They discussed "appropriate and effective ways" for the international community to respond, the statement said.

Obama ordered on Friday to freeze assets of the Libyan government, Gaddafi and his family following the suspension of U.S. embassy operations in Tripoli earlier in the day.

Gaddafi has said that he would not leave his country but rather die "as a martyr".

Source: Xinhua

China calls for immediate end to violence in Libya

China on Saturday called for efforts to put an immediate end to violence in Libya, to restore stability and normal order as soon as possible and to solve the current crisis through peaceful means such as dialogue.

China appreciates international support in Libya evacuations

China appreciates the warm and considerate support of other countries in the evacuation of Chinese nationals from Libya, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu said Thursday.

Ma said at a regular press briefing in Beijing that China was cooperating with other countries to evacuate its nationals in Libya.

He said the support of other countries fully reflected the spirit of international cooperation.

"The Chinese people also have a tradition of lending assistance to other countries in times of need," Ma said.

Ma said China was closely following developments in Libya. He expressed the strong wish that Libya restore social stability and order as soon as possible, and earnestly guarantee the safety of foreign nationals and institutions.

China had made clear its stance at a closed door meeting of the UN Security Council on Tuesday, calling for early resumption of social stability in Libya and urging Libya to earnestly guarantee the safety and lawful rights of foreign nationals. China also called for all parties to facilitate the evacuation of Chinese nationals.

Ma said China's stance had been included in the statement released by the chairman of the Security Council after the meeting.

According to Ma, more than 4,600 Chinese had so far been evacuated from Libya.

Source: Xinhua

Middle East: Arab countries taking back their wealth

Al Jazeera

PJ: This is one example of the propaganda that will continue to spread across the region; blaming the west for the sins of Arab leaders and demonizing the US for supporting dictators such as Mubarak will be popular themes for some. Please read the comments on this opinion by clicking on the link provided. As you will see, not everyone shares the views of the author of this piece.

'Arab world takes back wealth from West'

The Arab world has awakened to take back all its wealth and rights plundered by the West and its current embattled dictatorial regimes, a political analyst says.

“It is the West and these regimes that prevented the development of these people and took away their wealth,” American University of Beirut professor Ahmad Musalli told Press TV.

“What we need to do is to regain our wealth, to start building our state, and to gain our freedom to rebuild what we think is important for us not important for the West,” he went on to say.

“It has been very clear that the national bonds between different Arab countries are still there … we are resurrecting our power and we need our freedom and rights and since we have not been given that people are getting it back by force,” Musalli pointed out.

Pro-democracy movements have been spreading across the Arab countries in recent weeks.

In Tunisia, nationwide outrage at the government's suppressive policies sparked a massive revolution that ended the 23-year-long rule of its despotic President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and forced him to flee to Saudi Arabia last month.

On February 11, millions-strong nationwide revolution in Egypt, which started on January 25, ended the three-decade-long rule of US-backed dictator Hosni Mubarak.

Other pro-democracy uprisings have also flourished in Libya, Bahrain, Yemen, Algeria and Jordan, as more Arab countries are expected to witness similar popular revolts.

UK: Sarah Palin is a "Froot Loop"

Daily Mail

PJ: It is obvious to the world that America has an obesity problem. And to Jamie Oliver, the efforts of Michelle Obama in helping to educate children and adults about healthy eating is a no brainer. For those of us on the outside, watching the antics of US celebrities such as Sarah Palin criticizing those efforts makes us wonder if she really is insane.

'She's a fruit loop': Chef Jamie Oliver attacks Sarah Palin on healthy food for children

British celebrity chef Jamie Oliver branded Sarah Palin a 'Fruit Loop' for criticizing the Barack Obama administration's healthy eating initiatives.

He said making sure America's youngsters had a good nutritional diet was a 'civil rights issue'.

Oliver claimed that the U.S. was in a 'really dark moment' when it comes to children's health and needs to make it a priority.

Oliver, in Los Angeles filming the second series of his ABC show Jamie's Food Revolution, insisted that improving what children eat at school alone can have a far-reaching effect on their habits and health as adults.

He doesn't have much faith government will lead the way, but said the administration of President Obama is on the right track.

But former Alaska governor Palin,'clearly on this issue is a Fruit Loop,' he claimed in a reference to the highly-sweetened breakfast cereal.

The President recently signed a bill increasing the federal pay-outs for free school lunches and expanded the government's nutrition requirements to cover all foods sold during school hours.

Palin and other conservatives have said that telling children what to eat is government meddling and believes parents should decide.

But Oliver, who tried to transform the diets of a West Virginia town with his 2010 ABC show, claimed that paediatricians and dentists believe some parents are edging toward child abuse by not feeding them healthy food.

The obesity epidemic is hampering the American spirit of problem-solving and ingenuity, he said.

Oliver added: 'From my view of the health situation we're in at the moment, it really isn't allowing Americans to be Americans.'

But, he predicted that once a majority of the public takes to his ideas, things will change quickly.

He said: 'Americans, when you get them on something, will shift faster than anyone else.'

Korea: Looking at a government shutdown in the US

Korea Times

PJ: The last paragraph of this article speaks volumes.

Stumbling toward government shutdown

The leadership of the Senate Democrats and the House Republicans are adamant that they don't want a shutdown of the federal government and will work mightily to prevent that from happening.

The Republican leadership, mindful that their party took the blame the last time the government shut down in 1995-96 and never recovered its political momentum, is particularly forceful.

"Let me be clear, a government shutdown is not an acceptable outcome," said House Republican leader Eric Cantor. Let's stipulate that the leadership is truly sincere about this.

The variable in this equation is the 87 Republican newcomers, many of them that the Tea Party backed, in the House. Some of them seem to want a shutdown to show their supporters that they really are tough on spending. Others, one suspects, are simply curious as to what will happen.

The answer is: Nothing good.

The national parks, the federal museums, the national monuments close down and go dark. Passport applications stack up untouched. New Social Security claims go unclaimed. Processing veterans' benefits and claims slows to a trickle. Communities with a large federal presence begin to struggle as furloughed workers stop spending.

The angry citizens can't complain to the federal government. It's closed. So they complain to their local member of Congress. And complain and complain.

Because Congress never passed a budget or its spending bills last year, the government has been operating under a series of temporary measures, called continuing resolutions, that allow it to keep spending at 2010 levels.

The most recent of those measures expires March 4. The House Republicans have already passed their own resolution, cutting spending for the remaining seven months of the year by $61 billion, a serious whack.

The Senate Democrats have said no way, and in any event President Barack Obama has said he would veto it. Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid proposed a simple 30-day extension of the current resolution while the two sides negotiate on a bill that would get them through to Sept. 30, the end of the fiscal year.

Republican House Speaker John Boehner countered with a two-week extension but one with $4 billion in cuts, basically the $61 billion prorated. It's possible that Boehner could be mollified with some cuts, just not the magnitude of those being demanded. As Politico put it, "The bill should at least nick bureaucratic flesh." That, in turn, might not mollify the Republican newcomers.

As the lawmakers begin straggling back to Congress after their Presidents Day recess, they face the real possibility of blundering into a government shutdown that no responsible lawmakers wanted and their leaders strove mightily to avoid.

UK: Obama focuses on budget


PJ: The last time the republicans actually shutdown the government proved detrimental to the economy and only seemed to achieve a muscle flexing by the GOP (which ultimately hurt them politically). In an already fragile economic recovery, a government shutdown or drastic reductions in spending could hurt them even more.

Obama urges budget consensus to prevent 'gridlock

US President Barack Obama has urged Congress to find "common ground" over the budget to prevent a government shutdown.

In his weekly radio address, Mr Obama said economic recovery would stall if lawmakers could not agree on spending cuts before a 4 March deadline.

Republicans and Democrats are trying to work out a compromise short-term budget as an interim measure.

The 2012 budget proposes a $1.1tn (£690bn) deficit cut over a decade.

Although Mr Obama is empowered to propose a budget, it is up to the US Congress to pass it into law and then to distribute the funds.

"Next week, Congress will focus on a short-term budget. For the sake of our people and our economy, we cannot allow gridlock to prevail," Mr Obama said in his weekly radio address.

"I urge and expect them to find common ground so we can accelerate, not impede, economic growth," Mr Obama said.

"It won't be easy. There will be plenty of debates and disagreements and neither party will get everything it wants. Both sides will have to compromise," he added.
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“Start Quote

There will be plenty of debates and disagreements and neither party will get everything it wants.”

End Quote President Barack Obama
'Interim plan'

The president unveiled his proposed budget earlier this month and described the proposal as a "down payment" on future cuts to the US budget deficit.

He said the US had to live within its means and called for some reductions, but said "we can't sacrifice our future" with drastic cuts.

But Republicans, who control the House of Representatives, do not think the cuts go far enough in tackling the deficit.

Republicans put together an interim proposal to cut $4bn (£2.5bn) in federal spending on Friday as part of legislation to keep the government operating for two weeks past the deadline.

House Democrats have reportedly responded positively to the plan, according to CNN.

Neither party wants to be blamed for a government shutdown, but the Republicans say any plan will have to include cuts.

"Our goal as Republicans is to make sensible reductions in this spending and create a better environment for job growth, not to shut down the government," Senator Rob Portman said in his party's weekly address.

On Friday, fourth quarter US growth was revised down to a 2.8% annual rate from the 3.2% previously estimated.

Korea: US school anti-discrimination policies

Korea Times

PJ: Watching the behavior of some adults, especially when watching political rallies such as those organized by the Tea Party, makes you appreciate how learning respect for one another must start at an early age.

US schools up the ante against discrimination
By Jane Han

NEW YORK ― Even a small careless comment, if directed at a particular race, can get students into big trouble now, as more schools in America are cracking down on racial discrimination at new levels.

Last week, New York City public schools launched a ``Respect For All’’ curriculum, which primarily promotes cultural diversity and prohibits students from bias-based harassment, intimidation and bullying.

Based on the rulebook, some of the banned behavior includes threatening, harassing, teasing, using derogatory language and physically assaulting another student because of their race, color, ethnicity, religion, national origin, gender and sexual orientation.

``Teaching our students to embrace diversity is essential to preventing hate among future generations,’’ said City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, who added that a strengthened safety system will ensure students a safe learning environment.

Under the new initiative, students who’ve been a victim of one or more negative acts can report the incident to school authorities for immediate investigation. If the conduct violates the strict discipline code, appropriate disciplinary action will be taken, according to officials of the New York City Department of Education.

Korean parents welcomed the wide-ranging efforts against discrimination.

``You’d think that making fun of people’s skin color is a thing of the past,’’ said Eunice Rhee, a New York mother of one 10-year-old daughter, ``but it surprises me to hear some horrible things kids thoughtlessly say to each other. We need to root out discriminatory ideas from a young age.’’

Lim Hae-jung, teen counselor at a Korean community center, stressed that the new discipline codes must be strictly enforced for real change.

``We need school teachers and principals to really push these new rules and punish students who break them,’’ she said, adding that rules on paper won’t improve anything.

Racial discrimination in schools recently grabbed national attention and rekindled a call for fresh solutions after a high-profile incident in Philadelphia saw more than two dozen Asian American students get attacked by their black peers.

The Asian students, many of them recent immigrants, boycotted classes for eight days, saying school officials ignored their complaints.

After an official complaint was filed with the U.S. Justice Department, the Philadelphia School District signed a two-and-a-half year civil rights agreement in December to address anti-Asian immigrant violence by submitting an anti-harassment action plan and implementing policies to prevent harassment based on race, color and national origin.

Following the case, other states including New York, Missouri and Oklahoma took a more combative approach in addressing school bullying issues by introducing new policies.

``We've been giving it lip-service for a long time, but there is a ground swell of support to end it now. Until every child feels safe in school, no one is really secure and protected," said Dr. Roxanne Henkin, professor of interdisciplinary learning at The University of Texas at San Antonio.

Korea: Tensions mount as N. Korea threatens attack

Korea Times

N. Korea threatens to attack South
By Lee Tae-hoon

North Korea threatened Sunday to unleash another military attack against Seoul if the latter refuses to suspend “psychological warfare” operations, as South Korean and the U.S. troops prepared to start annual joint military exercises on the peninsula.

The latest warning came a day before the commencement of the Key Resolve/Foal Eagle drills and follows a lawmaker’s revelation last week that the South Korean military had resumed sending propaganda leaflets to the North.

"The ongoing psychological warfare … is a treacherous deed and a wanton challenge to the demand of the times and desire of all the fellow countrymen to bring about a new phase … through all-round dialogue and negotiations," a North Korean military official told the regime’s state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).

A defense official said the North warned of firing on South Korean facilities involved in "psychological warfare" in a “self-defense action,” unless the South suspends its propaganda campaign.

The threat came on the heels of remarks by Rep. Song Young-sun of the minor opposition Future Hope Alliance that the South Korean military began sending basic necessities and leaflets via balloons to the communist North in early February.

Citing a military report submitted to the National Assembly, lawmaker Song said Thursday that the South Korean military has purchased 620 million won ($550,000) worth of basic goods for the anti-North Korean government campaign.

She added that Seoul sent 100,000 “pieces of basic supplies,” including toiletries, gloves and instant food over the past month, and 3 million propaganda leaflets in balloons since late 2010.

Seoul had stopped sending supplies in balloons to the North since 2000 and other types of psychological warfare had been suspended between the two Koreas for years under a 2004 agreement.

In May last year, the North threatened to fire at South Korean loudspeakers along the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) and destroy them, if Seoul resumed propaganda broadcasting.

Also on Sunday, North Korean representatives at Panmunjeom, the inter-Korean border village, reiterated their usual threat against the joint war games, which will begin today.

The North Korean officials said their armed forces would launch "an all-out war of unprecedented scale" and turn Seoul into "a sea of fire" if the South and the U.S. "invaders" provoked Pyongyang with the threat of war.

UK: Obama calls for Gaddafi to go


Libya: Barack Obama calls on Col Gaddafi to step down
Barack Obama has for the first time called on Col Muammar Gaddafi to step down, saying that the Libyan government must be held accountable for its brutal crackdown on dissenters.
By Alex Spillius

Late on Saturday night, the UN Security Council unanimously approved international sanctions against the Libyan regime and voted unanimously to refer evidence of atrocities in Libya to the International Criminal Court.

The US administration earlier announced new unilateral sanctions against the country.

The White House said that in a conversation with Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor, the president stated “that when a leader's only means of staying in power is to use mass violence against his own people, he has lost the legitimacy to rule and needs to do what is right for his country by leaving now".

Until Saturday, US officials had held back from openly throwing all their support behind the protest movement, insisting that it was for the Libyan people to determine how they want to be led and to determine whether or not Col Gaddafi should leave the country.

The impact of Mr Obama’s statement was still open to question however, as it lacked the force that a televised statement would have had.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

UK: In search of civility in US politics

The Guardian

PJ: As former Presidents Bush Sr. and Clinton open a centre for civility in Arizona, an attendee shouts out "Who's gonna shoot Obama" at a republican town hall meeting (held by Representative Paul Broun R-GA)in the State of Georgia. In response to the question Broun said "I know there's a lot of frustration with this President". After wide publicity of the event, a Broun spokesman said that the question was "inappropriate".

Bill Clinton and George Bush Sr open US centre for political civility in Arizona
By Ewen MacAskill

National Institute for Civil Discourse launched after shooting of Gabrielle Giffords to encourage less vitriolic public discussion

Former presidents George Bush Sr and Bill Clinton have joined forces to open a new centre in Arizona committed to encouraging civility in US politics, in the wake of the shooting of a Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.

The two are to serve as honorary chairmen of the centre, the National Institute for Civil Discourse, whose board will also include other prominent US political figures from both the Democratic and Republican parties.

Although there is no evidence that the the man suspected of the shooting, Jared Lee Loughner, was motivated by politics, the attack on the congresswoman opened a nationwide debate about whether politics in the US has become too polarised. There was special concern about the use of violent imagery and language that might encourage extremists.

Rightwing commentators at the time hit back, arguing that liberals were using the shooting, even though it was apparently not political, to smear conservatives.

The sheriff investigating the shooting complained at the time that political discourse in the country had become too extreme and there was an echo in this on Monday from the two former presidents.

Bush, in a statement at the opening of the new centre, said: "Our country needs a setting for political debate that is both frank and civil." Clinton said the new institute "can elevate the tone of dialogue in our country".

Among those who will serve on the board of the new centre will be the former supreme court justice Sandra Day O'Connor, the former Democratic Senate majority leader Tom Daschle, former secretary of state Madeleine Albright, former chief of staff to Ronald Reagan, Kenneth Duberstein, and Fox News anchor Greta Van Susteren.

About $1m (£616,000) has been raised for the centre, which will be funded by private donations.

Meredith Hay, provost of the University of Arizona, said that although the Tucson shootings were not linked to public discourse, they "created a space for us to think about civil discourse".

She told the Washington Post: "If anyone should lead this conversation, it should be the University of Arizona. We've lived through this terrible event and grown stronger through it. We have extraordinary scholars in the area of public discourse and public policy who can reach out nationally and create an exciting conversation."

One of the most prominent conservative talkshow hosts, Glenn Beck, has seen ratings plummet. It could be part of a backlash against his brand of conservatism in the wake of the Tucson shooting or his outspoken support for the outgoing Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak, though the downward trend began last year.

Sarah Palin also faced a backlash after the shooting over a list of Democratic targets, each marked with crosshairs, including Giffords, on her website. Two weeks after the shooting a poll showed 56% of respondents did not like her.

Australia: US first move in Libya crisis

The Sydney Morning Herald

Obama moves to freeze assets
By Nicholas Johnston

WASHINGTON: Barack Obama has signed an order freezing any US assets of Muammar Gaddafi, his family and members of his regime in Libya, in what the US says is the first in a series of sanctions.

The President's executive order says that Colonel Gaddafi ''and close associates have taken extreme measures against the people of Libya, including by using weapons of war, mercenaries and wanton violence against unarmed civilians''.

The US had earlier issued a warning to banks to monitor movements of Libyan-related assets and has suspended what had been limited military co-operation between the two countries.
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In a statement Mr Obama criticised the Libyan government for its ''continued violation of human rights, brutalisation of its people and outrageous threats'' and said the regime must be held accountable.

''We will stand steadfastly with the Libyan people in their demand for universal rights, and a government that is responsive to their aspirations,'' he said. ''Their human dignity cannot be denied.''

Earlier on Friday the administration temporarily shuttered its embassy in Tripoli following the evacuation of diplomatic personnel and other Americans by ferry to Malta and by chartered aircraft to Turkey.

The new White House press secretary, Jay Carney, said the US sanctions were ''a first step'' and ''we continue to review our options''.

As part of an effort to put a unified global response in place, Mr Obama plans to meet the United Nations Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, tomorrow to discuss co-ordinated action. He also talked to Nicolas Sarkozy of France, David Cameron of Britain, Silvio Berlusconi of Italy and Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey.

The US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, will travel to Geneva tomorrow to meet other foreign ministers to discuss the suspension of Libya from the UN Human Rights Council. The council approved a recommendation on Friday to move ahead with the suspension.

Canada: US Republicans toying with government shutdown

National Post

PJ: Regardless of how a government shutdown affects normal citizens, all Congress men and women, all Senators as well as all members of congressional staff will still receive their paychecks and benefits on time.

U.S. Republicans raise pressure on spending cuts
Donna Smith and Kim Dixon, Reuters

WASHINGTON — Republicans in the House of Representatives Friday called a U.S. government shutdown ”unacceptable” but raised the pressure on President Barack Obama and his fellow Democrats to go along with deep spending cuts this year.

The two parties are fighting a pitched battle over public spending and must agree at least to a stopgap measure next week or the government will run out of cash and nonessential services will shut down.

Energized by big wins in November elections, Republicans say any short-term funding for government operations must include deep savings.

“We don’t want to shut the government down. This is not an acceptable or a responsible option for any of us ... but we want to see spending cuts,” House Majority Leader Eric Cantor said in a telephone conference with reporters.

He said House Republicans later Friday would detail US$4-billion in spending cuts for a two-week stopgap spending bill, which would need approval by the Senate where Democrats are in the majority.

The current spending authorization ends March 4.

Investment firm Goldman Sachs estimates that deep cuts of US$61-billion by September in a bill passed by the Republican-dominated House last week would significantly slow U.S. economic growth in the second and third quarters of this year. That bill was declared dead by Senate Democrats.

A US$4-billion cut in spending over two weeks would trim the government at about the same rate that House Republicans won in the bill their chamber approved.

The partisan stand-off over the budget comes amid growing nervousness among investors about chaos in the oil-rich Middle East and a U.S. government shutdown could further unnerve global financial markets.

Thousands of federal workers could be laid off in a shutdown, hitting services for millions of Americans and yielding uncertain dividends for whichever political party is blamed for the disruptions. A shutdown would most likely begin with the museums in Washington and national parks.


The Republican proposal Friday will include spending cuts embraced by Obama in his recently submitted budget plan for fiscal 2012, which begins October 1, Cantor said.

It also will target spending earmarked for lawmakers’ pet projects, which both Democrats and Republicans have said is not essential.

Democrats say it is the Republicans who want to stage a government shutdown and argue that cutting too much too fast would hurt the struggling economy.

Democrats want to avoid deep cuts in a temporary stopgap measure and focus negotiations on the longer-term measure instead.

The government has been running on a series of massive temporary funding bills because Congress never enacted specific appropriations bills for this fiscal year, which ends September 30.

House Republican leaders aim to get their chamber to approve their new, temporary spending-cut proposal next week and send it to the Democratic-led Senate.