January 04, 2014

Waging war on Russia: Looking into Volgograd terror blasts

Eric Draitser is an independent geopolitical analyst based in New York City and the founder of StopImperialism.com.

Get short URL Published time: January 03, 2014 14:16

The heinous terrorist attacks in Volgograd in recent days are merely the latest chapter in a terrorist war aimed at destabilizing Russia politically and economically, while tearing at the very fabric of Russian society.

As the families of the more than 30 dead mourn their loved ones, details of the incidents are beginning to paint an all-too familiar picture for anyone who has followed the development of jihadi groups in the Russian Caucasus. A suicide bomber detonates explosives inside a crowded railway station, killing at least 17 and wounding many more. Another bomber strikes an electric trolleybus, killing 14 and critically wounding many more, including several small children. Such scenes of carnage are nothing new to the Russian people, who have endured nearly two decades of terrorism and paid a heavy price in lives and resources.

While it is always important to take time to remember the innocent lives lost, it is equally critical to examine these incidents in the broadest political and geopolitical context in order to understand how and why these tragedies occurred.

Specter of Terrorism in Russia
Since the fall of the Soviet Union, the Russian people have been repeatedly victimized by acts of terrorism emanating from the Caucasus region. Beginning in 1999, with the infamous apartment bombings that killed more than 300 innocent people in several cities including Moscow, there have been a number of high-profile attacks all across the country, including the bombing of airports, marketplaces, trains and bus stops, targeted assassinations of community and religious leaders, as well as the infamous Moscow theater hostage crisis of 2002. These incidents are far more than mere national tragedies to be understood in isolation from one another. Rather, they represent a continuing campaign of terror by internationally connected jihadi organizations, based in the Russian Caucasus, who are intent on waging war against the Russian people and the Russian state.

While the facts surrounding the most recent bombings are still being gathered, investigators have noted that the tactics – a suicide bomber in a crowded public space – are characteristic of the terror organizations of the Caucasus, either directly or loosely affiliated with Al-Qaeda. In fact, it seems that this recent attack simply replicates the tactics of a similar attack which killed a prominent Muslim cleric in the Russian republic of Dagestan in 2012. Such incidents have become all too common in the troubled region, particularly as jihadi organizations take root in places like Syria, a mere 800 miles from the Russian Caucasus.

When analyzing jihadi terrorism in Russia, the name Doku Umarov and his Imarat Kavkaz organization, will undoubtedly appear. Umarov has a long track record of organizing terrorist operations in Russia, including kidnappings, bombings and assassinations. His propaganda outfit, known as Kavkaz Center, has an extensive history of supporting and legitimizing terrorist actions throughout the region, rationalizing atrocities committed in the name of “resistance.” In fact, Kavkaz engages in perpetual upside-down logic, referring to Russians as “terrorists” and terrorists as “heroes.”

This type of Goebbels-esque propaganda is the hallmark of Western imperialist projects; most recently in the conflict in Syria in which the Western corporate media and the like refer to terrorism and subversion as “rebellion and freedom-fighting.” Additionally, it is essential to note that Imarat Kavkaz (Umarov’s terrorist organization translated as “Caucasus Emirate”) has been listed by the United Nations as an organization associated with Al-Qaida. Kavkaz Center has been described by Umarov himself as “the official information organ of the Imarat Kavkaz.” This, of course, supports the claims made repeatedly by Moscow of the connection between Chechen and other extremists in the region and Al Qaeda, a claim which, until recently, Kavkaz Center continued to deny.

Damaged buildings are seen in the Damascus suburb of Arbeen January 1, 2014. (Reuters/Ammar Al-Erbeeni)Damaged buildings are seen in the Damascus suburb of Arbeen January 1, 2014. (Reuters/Ammar Al-Erbeeni)

Geopolitics of Terrorism in Russia
One cannot simply focus on Umarov or any other individual terrorist group, for that would be not seeing the forest for the trees, missing entirely the larger context within which such acts of terror occur. As a world power, Russia finds itself at the forefront of some of the key geopolitical conflicts in the world today. Whether playing the role of peacemaker in Syria, oil superpower, or weapons/defense manufacturer, Russia is perpetually in conflict with Western powers who seek to further expand their hegemony throughout Eurasia even if takes form of a ‘missile shield’.

In examining possible connections between the recent terror attacks and world events, the continuing conflict in Syria immediately comes to the fore. Not only has the war in Syria dragged Russia, along with other world powers, into a political conflict, it has also energized the terror networks of the Russian Caucasus. As the Huffington Post, along with a number of other mainstream media sources, has documented, Chechen (and other Caucasian) fighters constitute a sizeable contingent among the jihadi elements waging war on Assad and the Syrian people (though this has been denied by Chechnya’s leadership). Groups such as the Muhajireen Brigade, led by their commander known as Abu Omar al-Chechen, have been instrumental in maintaining the fighting in the face of the defeat of many of the Syrian and regional jihadi groups.

Although terrorists from the Caucasus are having a major impact on the ground in Syria, perhaps the greater threat is their ability to freely travel back to their places of origin. Keeping in mind that Syria is only about 800 miles from the Russian Caucasus, the danger is self-evident: battle-hardened fighters returning from the war in Syria bring with them their newly acquired expertise as killers, only to turn their attention back to their perceived great enemy: Russia.

Of course, the question of proximity to Syria is important for another, perhaps more frightening reason – the closest major Russian city is Sochi, site of the Olympics next month. Naturally, many have speculated that the Olympics were a motivating factor for carrying out the attacks in Volgograd, that they were intended to send a message to both Moscow and the world on the eve of the games.

While the extent to which Sochi was a motivating factor is up for debate, what is undeniable is that Russia occupies a precarious space in global politics, one that often leads to conflicts, both overt and covert, with other nations and global powers. Countries such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Israel, all part of the greater US-NATO sphere of influence, have a vested interest in ensuring that Russia does not cement its dominance of energy supplies to Europe in the coming decades.

Any conflict between Russia and these countries, as we see currently playing out in Syria, should be understood as merely one aspect of a larger geopolitical and strategic conflict between Russia and the West (US-NATO-GCC-Israel primarily). As the Russian Caucasus has become a critical part of Russian energy delivery infrastructure, it has taken on an added importance. The South Stream Pipeline, along with a number of other projects, has positioned Russia as a principal energy source for Europe, thereby weakening the position of Western energy interests who would love to monopolize the flow of oil to Europe. As long as Saudi Arabia and other US clients continue to be a primary source of energy, their interest will always be the destabilization of Russia.

Terror Lobby
Although one might be able to pinpoint the terrorist group that carried out the atrocities of recent days, this is merely the first step. Far more important in the long term is an understanding of how such organizations operate and how they survive. In the Russian Caucasus, Doku Umarov and similar leaders only exist because of an elaborate network of financiers and influential policymakers who portray their war of terrorism as a “liberation struggle.” Terrorists such as Umarov are best understood by their connection to the various organs of Western intelligence.

One such entity that bears scrutiny is the American Committee for Peace in the Caucasus (ACPC), previously known as the American Committee for Peace in Chechnya. As reported by Right Web at the Institute for Policy Studies: “The ACPC was founded in 1999 by Freedom House, a neoconservative organization that has worked closely with the U.S. government, receiving funds from the National Endowment for Democracy and other US democratization initiatives.” This intimate relationship between the ACPC and the US State Department indicates not merely a confluence of interests, but rather a direct relationship wherein the former is an organ of the latter.

The paternalistic role of the US intelligence establishment in the ACPC is made all the more evident when one examines some of the more well-known members of the ACPC, including former National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski, former Pentagon advisor Richard Perle and other top neocons such as William Kristol, Elliott Abrams, Kenneth Adelman and Robert Kagan. What becomes apparent in even a cursory analysis of these figures is that, despite the preponderance of neoconservatives, the top members of the ACPC are pulled from both the liberal and conservative establishments. Therefore, one can see how the ACPC represents a bipartisan consensus within the US ruling class – a consensus of aggression against Russia.

The ACPC has taken the lead in championing the cause of separatism and terrorism directed toward Russia, both tacitly and overtly. After having championed the cause of former Chechen Foreign Minister Ilyas Akhmadov in his quest for asylum in the United States – subsequently granted along with a generous taxpayer-funded stipend – ACPC member Zbigniew Brzezinski went so far as to write the foreward to Akhmadov’s book “The Chechen Struggle.” The alliance between political figures such as Akhmadov and terrorist leaders in the region demonstrates conclusively the partnership between the various terror networks and the ruling class in the West.

Situated between Syria and Central Asia, and straddling the energy-rich Caspian region, the Russian Caucasus has become a flashpoint in world affairs. The geopolitical realities are brought into stark relief by the unimaginable grief of the families of innocents killed needlessly by these horrific acts of terrorism. In mourning the dead, we must come to understand more clearly, and on a systemic level, how international terrorism operates, and how it is used as a weapon by the forces of empire.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

The Russian-Saudi Showdown at Sochi

 The Russian-Saudi Showdown at Sochi
TEHRAN (FNA)- Last summer, Saudi intelligence chief Prince Bandar reportedly offered Russian President Putin a deal, if Russia abandons Syria, Saudi Arabia would protect the Sochi Olympics from Islamic terrorists. Putin is said to have angrily rebuffed the offer. Now, with two terrorist attacks, it’s Putin’s move.
Monday’s terrorist bombings only 400 miles away from the site of the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, have a geopolitical back story involving implied threats from Saudi Arabia’s intelligence chief Prince Bandar bin Sultan to Russian President Vladimir Putin last summer when Bandar was pressing Putin to withdraw his backing for the Syrian government.

According to a diplomatic leak detailing the Bandar-Putin meeting in Moscow on July 31, Bandar suggested that Putin’s agreement to abandon the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad would lead Saudi Arabia to restrain its Chechen terrorist clients who have been attacking Russia targets for years. Putin reportedly grew furious, interpreting Bandar’s offer as a warning that the Sochi games would be threatened by terrorism if Putin didn’t comply.

At the time, I was even told that Putin warned Saudi Arabia of potentially severe consequences – suggesting military retaliation – if Bandar’s implied warning was followed up by actual terrorist attacks like the ones in Volvograd on Monday, killing more than 30 people.

Of course, it is always hard to trace specific terrorist acts back to their origins and many terrorist cells operate with much autonomy. But Putin has staked much of his prestige on a successful Olympics in Sochi, and he also would risk losing face if it were perceived that Bandar had executed a terrorist plan to disrupt the Winter Olympics and that Putin was powerless to stop it.

According to the leaked diplomatic account of last summer’s meeting, Bandar sought Russia’s cooperation on several Mideast concerns, including Syria, and told Putin, “I can give you a guarantee to protect the Winter Olympics in the city of Sochi on the Black Sea next year. The Chechen groups that threaten the security of the games are controlled by us.”

Putin reportedly responded, “We know that you have supported the Chechen terrorist groups for a decade. And that support, which you have frankly talked about just now, is completely incompatible with the common objectives of fighting global terrorism that you mentioned. We are interested in developing friendly relations according to clear and strong principles.”

Besides safety for the Sochi Olympics, Bandar raised the potential of Saudi cooperation with Russia on oil and other investment matters, saying, “Let us examine how to put together a unified Russian-Saudi strategy on the subject of oil. The aim is to agree on the price of oil and production quantities that keep the price stable in global oil markets,” according to the diplomatic account.

I was told by a source close to the Russian government that this mix of overt inducements and implied threats infuriated Putin who barely kept his anger in check through the end of the meeting with Bandar. Putin viewed Bandar’s offer to protect the Sochi Olympics as something akin to a Mafia don shaking down a shopkeeper for protection money by saying, “nice little business you got here, I’d hate to see anything happen to it.”

Putin then redoubled his support for the Syrian government in response to Bandar’s blend of bribes and warnings. The source said Russia also issued its own thinly veiled threats against the Saudis. The Saudis may have substantial “soft power” – with their oil and money – but Russia has its own formidable “hard power,” including a huge military, the source said.

Bandar and Terrorism

Over the years, Bandar has often treated the issue of “terrorism” as a situational ethic, an ambivalence well-honed since the days when Saudi Arabia and the Reagan administration teamed up to pour billions of dollars into the Afghan mujahedeen and their Arab jihadist allies fighting Soviet troops in the 1980s.

The anti-Soviet effort in Afghanistan brought to prominence Saudi national Osama bin Laden and the terrorists who later consolidated themselves under the global brand, al-Qaeda. In the 1980s, these roving jihadists were hailed as brave defenders of Islam and even “freedom fighters,” but – in the 1990s – they began targeting the United States with terrorist attacks, leading up to 9/11 in 2001.

At the time of the 9/11 attacks on New York and Washington, Bandar was the Saudi ambassador to the United States and was so close to the Bush family that he was nicknamed “Bandar Bush.” Bandar was also very close to the bin Laden family. After the attacks, Bandar even acknowledged having met Osama bin Laden in the context of bin Laden thanking Bandar for his help financing the Afghan jihad project.

“I was not impressed, to be honest with you,” Bandar told CNN’s Larry King about bin Laden. “I thought he was simple and very quiet guy.”

However, immediately after 9/11, Bandar undermined the FBI’s opportunity to learn more about the connections between Osama bin Laden’s relatives and the perpetrators of 9/11 when Bandar arranged for members of the bin Laden family to flee the United States on some of the first planes allowed back into the air – after only cursory interviews with FBI investigators. The only segment of the 9/11 Commission’s report to be blacked out was the part dealing with alleged Saudi financing for al-Qaeda.

Now, as chief of Saudi intelligence, Bandar appears to be back in the game of coercive geopolitics, arranging weapons for some of the most brutal Syrian rebels and Arab mercenaries operating inside Syria, while offering carrots-and-sticks to foreign leaders who are seen are malleable toward Saudi regional interests. The technique may have failed with Putin but had greater success in lining up the French behind Saudi opposition to a negotiated agreement with Iran on its nuclear program.

As a repressive monarchy that preaches the ultra-conservative Wahhabi version of Sunni Islam, Saudi Arabia is bitterly opposed to the democratic reforms of the Arab Spring and the growing influence of Shiite Islam, which now stretches from Iran through Iraq and Syria to the Hezbollah enclaves of Lebanon.

Saudi Arabia backed the military coup in Egypt that ousted the elected Muslim Brotherhood government of Mohamed Morsi. The Saudis also have stepped up assistance to Sunni-dominated rebels in Syria seeking to overthrow the Assad dynasty that is based in the Alawite religion, a branch of Shiite Islam.

The commonality of interests between Saudi Arabia and Israel has given rise to a de facto alliance between the Saudi monarchy and the Jewish government of Israel. Though historically enemies, Israel and Saudi Arabia are now on the same page in backing Egypt’s military regime, in viewing Iran as their principal adversary, and in wanting a rebel victory in Syria.

The shifting sands of Middle East interests also have pushed the United States and Russia closer together, with the former Cold War rivals sharing an interest in tamping down disorder across the region. President Putin and President Barack Obama cooperated in reaching a tentative nuclear deal with Iran and in convincing Syria’s Assad to surrender his chemical weapons. Putin and Obama are pressing for Syrian peace talks, too.

Now, however, a new complication has been introduced: Islamist terrorist attacks aimed at undermining the Sochi Olympics. If Putin concludes that the Saudis are behind these bombings – that the attacks are the equivalent of a Mafia don having a store torched after the owner rebuffed an offer of “protection” – then the issue of Russian retaliation could suddenly be on the table.

By Robert Parry

This article has originally appeared on Consortiumnews website.

[NOTE: Alawites are not a Shiite branch. In fact, the two Islamic sects are different in form and content. Alawites are as much different from Shiites as they are from the Sunnis and this can even be observed in the form of daily prayers.]

Some at U.S. diplomatic posts earn less than $1 a day

Story Highlights
Report: Diplomatic posts overseas losing staff to other higher-paying jobs S ome forced to cut back to one meal a day, have children to peddle on street Report has no numbers about how many employees are in that situation Official: Difficult to confirm $1 pay claims because of local currency

May 13, 2009 -- Updated 0055 GMT (0855 HKT)

By Charley Keyes


 WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A new State Department report says some local employees hired by U.S. embassies and other posts around the world are so poorly paid they have to cut back to one meal a day or send their children to peddle on the streets.
The State Department has established a "working group" to better assess pay situations for locally employed staff.
The State Department has established a "working group" to better assess pay situations for locally employed staff.

The report from the department's Office of the Inspector General looked at how the U.S. pays more than 51,000 local, non-American employees in about 170 missions. In addition to the hardship caused to the workers because of inadequate pay, the report found that the U.S. is losing staff to other higher-paying employers and may not be able to fill vacancies with qualified people.

While the report did not name missions where such situations occur or provide numbers of low-paid employees, it blamed an overwhelmed, inadequately staffed employment office in Washington for the inability to make appropriate changes to pay levels and to keep up with events overseas, such as inflation that quickly erodes buying-power.
The report says the hardest-hit local employees are those at the lowest levels, and quotes some employees as saying they make less than $1 a day.

Some U.S. missions are in impoverished parts of the world where low salaries are common, and there is a wide range in pay depending on what jobs are performed and where. But the report sets out a stark picture of the richest country in the world paying some of the lowest salaries.

"Twenty-seven missions presented compelling arguments that their lower-grade employees fall short of minimal living standards," the report said.

"These arguments included accounts of LE [locally employed] staff: removing children from school, cutting back to one meal a day, sending children to sell water or little cakes or toiletries on the streets ... employees depending on salary advances and defaulting on loans in order to cover basic expenses ... [pay]grades 1 to 3 earning less than $1.00 per day."
But the report provides no specific numbers of how many local employees might be making less than $1 a day.
The pay review report is dated last month but was released Wednesday by the State Department Inspector General. It said the problems had direct impact both on the employees themselves and the U.S. offices.

"About 25 percent of missions noted reduced productivity and lower efficiency as a result of inadequate compensation," the report said. "Also, 32 percent of missions reported LE [local employees] staff taking second jobs to cover their expenses."
A State Department official without authority to speak publicly and who requested anonymity said she was not aware of employees making less than $1 a day and that it was difficult to confirm since they would be paid in local currencies.

The State Department has established a "working group" to better assess pay situations for locally employed staff, the official said. In addition to providing adequate compensation, the goal is to keep good employees and recruit qualified new workers, the official said.
"Our local employees are too valuable a resource to lose. We are committed to addressing this concern," the official said.
Employee pay is based on surveys of local pay conditions in every country, the official said, adding that the State Department's local workers were all given a 2.9 percent increase in January and in some cases an additional 1 percent increase.

The Inspector General report said there had been misunderstandings between local employees and American workers, whose pay was increased annually.

"The differences in how salary increases are initiated and implemented for American and LE staff are a point of tension, and make it difficult for post management to explain the compensation process to the LE staff," the report said.
The report quoted a response to a survey of U.S. missions saying the current process is unfair to local employees.
"It is entirely unfair for LE staff to see their American colleagues receive a January increase year after year and they receive nothing for 5 years and counting," the report said.

"Who wouldn't be demoralized watching this year in and year out? There should be some mechanism to give at least a token increase, if not yearly, then every second or third year so that you never have the situation this post has of no increase for 5 years," said the report, which did not identify the post mentioned

Litany of US Torture abroad of ‘the other’ against International law and Conventions.

 By Gajendra Singh 
Since September 2002, I have written dozens of articles on the 2003 US led illegal invasion of Iraq with its “shock and awe ‘barbarism and criminality to frightened, not only the Iraqi natives, but the entire world. Yes with crazies having and idiotic G Bush in power, it was a pathetic and brutal show by US which spends more than USD 600 billion, against Iraq’s 5 billion of military expenditure, even that was degraded with’ Operation comfort ‘for N. Iraq .In its so-called defence, Washington maintains hundreds of bases all around the world to frighten everyone into submission. The World War II finished in 1945, but the US troops are still based in Germany and Japan.
Apart from writing dozens of articles on the invasion and brutal occupation of Iraq 50 selected articles are given below.
 I had also delivered lectures at various universities in India, defence academies in India, India International, Habitat Centre and other venues. At the end of my lecture 2 or 3 Indians will jump up and say I am anti- American. My answer used to be that I am an analyst of International affairs, and I have only pointed out the criminal aspect of US invasion and occupation. I also predicted how event will unfold which turned out to be correct, including beginning of the decline of the American century and its hegemony.
Now that international law breaking by the ugly American has been condemned in India over uncivilized treatment of an Indian lady diplomat, and Washington’s subservient and lover of George Bush on the way out, even the idiotic Indian media knows of US decline, there is some receptivity about the crimes of Americans in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, and earlier in south-east Asia.
Below is a article on how criminal ruling class of USA is tortured is real and presumed enemies and even innocents, not only in its own prisons, but in its military bases like Guantánamo (rhymes with Namo) and all over the world .I hope it will enlighten India's ignoranti  and media pressitutes and the pro-US establishment in New Delhi.
3 January, 2014, Mayur Vihar, Delhi
US Franchised Torture Refuses To Go Away
By Gajendra Singh 
01/18/06 "ICH" -- -- The ramifications of US franchised torture and street revolutions in Serbia, Georgia ,Ukraine , Kyrgyzstan et al are not going to go away . The recent fence-mending visit to Washington by the newly sworn in right wing German Chancellor Angela Merkel was overshadowed by human right violations and torture at US base in Guantanamo and  rendition of terrorism suspects to prisons in Europe and elsewhere by CIA.
To it were added reports that German intelligence had fed America key information about military targets in Iraq before the US led 2003 illegal invasion of Iraq. The Iraq war was vehemently opposed by the government of Merkel's predecessor Gerhard Schröder of Social Democrat party, which is now in "grand coalition" with her party.
The question of torture at secret prisons specially in East Europe had erupted following a clutch of media reports led by the Washington Post and Der Spiegel which reported  US use of airports in Europe for CIA flights to transport terror suspects to a network of secret jails for questioning.
One of the persons picked up for questioning as a suspected terrorist was a German citizen Khaled Masri , who was on holiday in Macedonia. He was flown out and tortured in Afghanistan for five months before being released on grounds of mistaken identity in 2004. During the last December visit of Ms Condoleeza Rice to Europe , Merkel had said that the United States had acknowledged responsibility.

"The American government admitted its mistake," Merkel said. But Rice said she could not talk about the case specifically but added, "Any policy will sometimes result in errors, and when it happens we will do everything we can to rectify it." This had led to some confusion in Washington.
Angela Merkel's visit to Washington;  
George W. Bush spent 45 minutes with Angela Merkel signaling a "new chapter" in U.S.-German relations . But it was admitted that there was a "spirited" but respectful one-on-one Oval Office session where she challenged U.S. treatment of terror suspects but lent strong support to joint diplomatic efforts to defuse the nuclear standoff with Iran. Merkel, raised the question of detainee treatment at Guantánamo Bay, but she was non-confrontational stating that Europeans critical of such treatment needed to suggest reasonable alternatives for dealing with lawless terrorists. 
Bush described his first impressions of Merkel "incredibly positive." "She's smart," he said. "She's plenty capable. She's got kind of a spirit to her that is appealing. She loves freedom." Some years ago he had looked into the soul of another visitor , Russian President Vladimir Putin, and was equally effusive.
But Merkel's visit was further blighted by a growing scandal reported by Germany's ARD television channel that Germans had fed USA key information about military targets in Iraq. Citing a US government source the TV channel said German intelligence officers in Baghdad passed information about a restaurant in the Mansur district of the city which the Iraqi leader, Saddam Hussein, was likely to visit on the eve of the US-led invasion. The US military bombed the building killing 12 people.
German MPs have called for a full inquiry into the allegations putting under cloud future of Franz Walter Steinmeyer, Merkel's Social Democrat Foreign Minister, who was a close aide of Schröder   during the Iraq war. The allegations were reportedly confirmed by Berlin government sources and were perhaps made to embarrass the Schröder government and his party.
From such reports it is clear that many segments of western establishments in contravention of officially stated policies help each other against eastern nations. During the 1990-91 Gulf Crisis and War , many sections of former communist states in East Europe and good friends of Iraq ,had helped US-led coalition forces . Both in USA and West Europe there are leaks galore now a day’s .While there are many sincere and righteous people angered and worried by immoral and illegal policies and acts of their governments, there are many who remained silent when Iraq was being invaded and destroyed. They are now croaking and singing a new tune to earn brownie points, especially senior foreign officials and some think tanks in UK and USA. This is fooling no one.
USA with almost total bi-partisan support, with co-operation from its willing and supine corporate media, sought to sell " Operation Iraqi Freedom " to the American public as a bedside story with a happy ending .Ahmed Chalabi, in exile since decades and a longtime CIA agent, now Deputy Prime Minister of Iraq, but a convicted embezzler in Jordan, cheer led the invasion saying that Iraqis would welcome US [invading?] forces with flowers .Among others ,he also conveniently produced an Iraqi defector named " curve ball " to mislead the Administration and the media ,about weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) , not that it was needed , with the Neo-Cons in the Bush administration having already made up their minds for an invasion. But the 'Operation' has turned out to be a night mare for the Administration.
Swiss paper uncovers Ugly truth about CIA torture centers in Europe;
Swiss newspaper Sonntag’s Blick better known for its light reading material said that it had hard evidence of CIA operated secret prisons in Europe, where al-Qaeda sympathizers were detained and interrogated. It said that the Swiss Intelligence had intercepted a message from the Egyptian Foreign Office to its Embassy in London in the middle of November, 2005 by the Swiss "Big Ears" , its Onyx system .Since 2000 it has enabled the Swiss to keep watch over civil and military satellite communications around the world . Onyx is a miniature Echelon system winch the American use for eavesdropping and information around the world including Europe , even on commercial matters which is then passsed on to US companies to give them undue advantage.It has led to debates in European Parliaments.
This interception would constitute the first proof of the existence of secret CIA prisons in Europe. Leakage of this secret according to France's Le Monde, has caused embarrassment and confusion in Switzerland. The Federal Department of Defense (DDPS), which refused to make any comment did admit that a secret document had leaked. It announced the opening of an administrative investigation which will be led by a Parliamentary Commission in charge of activities linked to national security.
Ironically , Swiss Senator Dick Marty, appointed by the Council of Europe to investigate on the "secret CIA prisons" in Europe, said he couldn't confirm the authenticity of the Egyptian message. Quoted by Swissinfo, he pointed out that this document used "information that confirms clues which was already suspected."
In Romania, the SonntagsBlick article reopens the scandal that broke in November 2005, triggered by Human Rights Watch accusations. At that time, Bucharest denied everything. The site of Mihail Kogalniceanu - a base used by the American army during the  Iraq war - was mentioned as the airport where a CIA plane, coming from Kabul and going to Guantanamo, had stopped on September 23, 2005. This base was enthusiastically offered to USA by the Romanian government, after Turkey had refused use of its military bases for attacks against Iraq in 2003.
In the intercepted message the Egyptian Foreign Ministry claimed to have discovered, "through its own sources," that Romania allowed the CIA to interrogate 23 Iraqi and Afghan citizens at a interrogation centre at the Mihail Kogalniceanu military base near its major Black Sea port Constantza.
The ugly truth about the doings of the US administration is now becoming fully public even in USA .The American Civil Liberties Union (ACL) recently released new documents obtained from the Defense Department detailing abuse at U.S. facilities in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantánamo Bay. Included in the release is the first publicly available government document confirming the existence of a secret "Special Access Program" involving a special ops unit, Task Force 6-26, which has been implicated in numerous detainee abuse incidents in Iraq, and whose operatives used fake names to thwart an Army investigation.
"These documents confirm that the torture of detainees and its subsequent cover-up was part of a larger clandestine operation, in all likelihood, authorized by senior government officials," said ACLU attorney Amrit Singh. "Despite mounting evidence of systemic abuse authorized or endorsed from above, however, not a single high level official has thus far been brought to justice."
Rendition of  Khaled Masri;
It may be recalled that in May 2004, the White House had dispatched US Ambassador Daniel R. Coats to Berlin to tell that the CIA had wrongfully imprisoned Khaled Masri, for five months, and would soon release him, with a request that the German government not disclose what it was told even if Masri went public. The U.S. officials feared exposure of covert action programs on thin or speculative evidence and transfer of the suspects to countries with secret bases would have serious repercussions .The CIA, working with other intelligence agencies, has captured an estimated 3,000 people, including several key leaders of Al Qaeda, in its campaign to dismantle terrorist networks. But it is impossible to know how many mistakes the CIA and its foreign partners have made.
Masri said that he underwent coercive interrogation and confinement for five months before being released, two months after the CIA concluded it was a case of mistaken identity. He is suing former CIA director George Tenet with the help of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). In filing the suit in Washington, the ACLU said it was seeking to "reaffirm that the rule of law is central to our identity as a nation".
In another instance, according to the Washington Post, the CIA seized Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasir, an Egyptian refugee known as Abu Omar, from a street in Milan. The agency then told Italian anti-terrorism police that he had fled to the Balkans - a piece of disinformation. The deception worked for more than a year, until the Italians discovered that the CIA had whisked Nasir off to Egypt, where he was reportedly interrogated and tortured. The Italian courts are investigating the case.
Clive Stafford Smith of UK based Charity 'Reprieve', fighting against the death penalty and other human rights abuses who represented 40 of the prisoners in Guantánamo Bay feels that Rumsfeld operates an archipelago of Gulags, and Guantanamo is now just a decoy. Many of the media reported captured associates of Osama bin Laden like Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, Abu Zubaydah, Ibn Al-Shaykh al-Libi, Abdul Rahim al-Sharqawi, Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, Ramzi Binalshibh, Mohammed Omar Abdel-Rahman, Waleed Mohammed bin Attash, Hassan Ghul, Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani, and Abu Faraj al-Libbi are not in Guantanamo. They were perhaps removed form there in the summer of 2004, when the US Supreme Court ruled that the writ of habeas corpus should be available to prisoners in Guantánamo. Apart from East Europe , Arab countries like Morocco and Jordan appear to be good candidates for secret prisons.

US claims that Gulag prisoners were captured on the Afghan battlefield is false . Many of prisoners were not captured in Afghanistan at all, but purchased in Pakistan for the bounties offered by the US – starting at US$5,000, a fortune for many locals.Two of
 Smith's clients, Bisher al Rawi and Jamil el Banna, both British residents, were captured in the Gambia ( a winter holiday resort of the British ,where the author was concurrent High Commissioner from Senegal in 1978-81 ) far from Kabul or London.
US refused the Red Cross access to all detainees;
The state department's top legal adviser, John Bellinger admitted for the first time in Geneva that the US has not given the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) access to all detainees in its custody. But he gave no details about where such prisoners were held. He said ICRC had access to "absolutely everybody" at the prison camp in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, which holds suspects detained during the US war on terror.
Adam Ereli, the State Department's deputy spokesman, had said the United States would not alter its position after the ICRC president said in Geneva that his organization was holding discussions to gain access to all detainees, including those held in secret locations.
Ereli said that the Geneva Conventions requiring humane treatment of prisoners of war did not apply to certain terrorism suspects seized as "unlawful enemy combatants," but that, in any case, the United States treats most of them as prisoners of war. "We're going the extra mile here," Ereli said, by allowing the Red Cross access to Al Qaeda suspects and others held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and in Afghanistan. The Red Cross also has access to prisoners held in Iraq.
Commentators said that this has confirmed suspicions that the CIA has been operating secret prisons outside international oversight.
UN against US led detentions in Iraq;
John Pace, human rights chief for the United Nations Assistance Mission in Iraq (UNAMI), said that the US military is abusing its United Nations mandate in Iraq by detaining thousands of people without due process of law. The Iraqi Government, installed by the US led Occupation Forces, is also guilty of major human rights abuses, including holding people without charge in secret jails "littered" across the country. Referring to accusations of corruption among Iraqi justice officials and police, Pace said illegal detentions were fuelling rather than curbing revolt.
"There is no question that terrorism has to be addressed. But we are equally sure that the remedies being applied … are not the best ways of eliminating terrorism," he said. "More terrorists are being created than are being eliminated." Pace added that the system, including the pattern, duration and conditions of detention, were "not consistent with what is foreseen in the UN Security Council Resolution 1546" and complained of "total breakdown" in individuals' rights.
UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan has also voiced concern about mass detentions without charge, which US commanders say are a legitimate response to security threats under the Resolution 1546, their mandate for occupying Iraq.
United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour said that the U.S.-led war on terror has undermined the global ban on torture. This did not please U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. John Bolton, appointed by Bush against the wishes of the US Congress. Bolton called Arbour's statement "inappropriate and illegitimate."
Rice's December tour of Europe;
Tell us about the CIA flights. 
The US does not torture.
Tell us about the black sites.
The US does not torture.

"Let me be clear," was a popular refrain of Secretary State Ms Condi Rice about US rendition of terrorism suspects, when she visited Europe last month. But for many, she was everything but clear. [From Der Spiegel]
Before her departure for Europe in a pep talk for US audience at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland, Ms Rice told critics of tough U.S. tactics in the war on terror that the intelligence gathered by the CIA had saved European lives. Responding to the outcry over detailed reports of secret CIA run prisons in Europe. Rice said the United States "will use every lawful weapon to defeat these terrorists."
But Ms Rice steadfastly refused to respond to the question if the United States had CIA-operated secret prisons there. "We cannot discuss information that would compromise the success of intelligence, law enforcement, and military operations. We expect other nations share this view."
Reports of the existence of the secret prisons did cause a trans-Atlantic uproar. The European Union asked the Bush administration about these reports.  Britain, the current EU president, sent a two-paragraph letter to Washington for clarifications.
Dutch Foreign Minister Ben Bot said Rice's  comments about secret CIA flights and detention centers for terrorist suspects outside the United States were "unsatisfactory," Bot told MPs that "rendition" was not kidnapping as some critics claimed but a speedy process of extraditing suspects to the US. Normal extraditions through the courts can last for years, he said. Media reported that the CIA regularly made use of Dutch airports for secret flights.
The European Union (EU) has threatened to sanction any EU member countries, which had such prisons on their territories. Let us see !
US admits policy of renditions;
National Security Adviser, Stephen Hadley, Ms Rice's successor told CNN that "we do not move people around the world so they can be tortured". Thus dittoing the official line. But Hadley added that the policy of renditions "has been a practice before 9/11, before this Administration", as well as "a practice engaged in by a number of countries".
What is 'rendition'?
Rendition is an old western practice beginning perhaps from the days of the Spanish inquisitions if not earlier. In his memoirs, Field Marshal Wilhelm Keitel  wrote that during the World War II the secret abduction and 'rendition' from Third Reich occupied countries  to Germany of suspected Resistance members - otherwise known as the Nacht und Nebel (Night and Fog) Decree - was the worst of all of the orders issued by Adolf Hitler . Nacht und Nebel-type practices were used by the French to suppress successive uprisings by Algerian freedom fighters in the 1950s. Since then the practice of "disappearances" has spread around the globe - according to Human Rights Watch. Iraq and Sri Lanka accounted for the most cases between 1980 and 2003.
In Latin America, the technique was successfully internationalized under "Operation Condor". The operation, conceived and effectively implemented under Chilean president Augusto Pinochet, brought together the intelligence agencies of Argentina, Paraguay, Bolivia and Uruguay, as well as Pinochet's own secret police chief, Manuel Contreras, in 1975. The objective was to "enhance communications among each other and integrate tactical operations in tracking down, secretly detaining, torturing and terminating [the lives of] critics or suspected militants, who were often referred to as 'terrorists'," according to Peter Kornbluh, a senior analyst at the Washington-based National Security Archive (NSA).
So what is new !Yes , Western leaders and media keep on maligning eastern governments for similar practices .In many cases the techniques have been taught by western agencies to the agencies of their allies e.g. CIA to Savak of Shah's Iran or to Pakistan's ISI and Jihadis during the Afghan resistance against USSR. Israel's Mossad almost openly implements rendition techniques and teaches it to any takers.
An Important Rice visit to Romania;
During her short December trip to Bucharest, Ms Rice signed with the Romanian Foreign Minister Mihai Razvan Ungureanu a bilateral agreement for use of Romanian military bases at Mikhail Kogalniceanu, Babadag, Cincu and Smardan, with President Traian Basescu watching over at the Cotroceni Palace. Ms Rice also had talks with President Basescu on bilateral relations and cooperation within the Black Sea region and in the Balkans, as well as the cooperation in Afghanistan and Iraq. Romania announced that it would not withdraw troops from Iraq.
"Romania will turn into a pylon of stability in the region through the setting up of the American bases," declared Basescu. "The location of the American facilities on the territory of Romania represents a confirmation of the fact that the Romanian army has reached a certain potential as partner of the USA", added Basescu.
He also said that the other security structures of Romania could cooperate at the highest level with those of the US. "Washington's decision means also political credibility from the point of view of Romania," The acceptance by the Romanian people of the American presence in Romania is considered a precious asset of the bilateral relations, Basescu concluded.
Ms Rice replied that "Romania has become a strong ally for the US." She recollected that when she was in Bucharest with President Bush a rainbow appeared as a symbol of bilateral relations. She added that the US and Romania are not just friends, but also brother and sister in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Ms Rice thanked Romania for the sacrifices of their soldiers in difficult and dangerous places, calling this a strong commitment for the future of democracies like Iraq and Afghanistan. "We have a great, committed partner in Romania, which is ready to make sacrifices.
"Explaining why Washington chose Romania instead of Bulgaria, Rice said this was because of Romania's progress in the fields of defense and military training and that it was President Bush's decision who also took into account the strategic position of Romania.
In connection with the reported CIA detention centers, Ms Rice said the agreement regarding the bases in Romania would be a transparent one and up for discussion in the Parliament.
Asked about the risks following the signing, President Basescu said the risk was neither big, nor small, but that this was "just a leap forward for Romania in the global security system." "When I decided to sign, I had already assessed the risks and I knew that Romania was able to face the risks." He pledged commitment for stability in Iraq. "Romania will not diminish her military capabilities destined for this end in Iraq and will stay at the disposal of the Iraqi Government under the UN resolution and close to her allies," Basescu assured.
Ms Rice did not give a direct reply about the CIA prisons in Romania, but Basescu reiterated that Romania did not have and does not have such prisons on its territory, "My only appeal is that those who say that Romania has allegedly hosted or is hosting torture places assumed the responsibility of their declarations. It was improper to state that secret prisons existed only subject to the arrival of some planes. Romania is not willing to accept accusations of infringement of the human rights based on mere speculations," President Basescu said.
After 50 years under communism, a reluctant member of the Soviet Camp (but not fully of the Warsaw pact) Romania has discovered and assumed its European Christian identity as a full member of NATO and hopes to join EU in 2007. For USA and EU, the Romanian location is very important militarily and as a vantage point for trade with Caspian basin and Central Asia across the Black Sea.
How ever ,as the author had pointed out last year to senior Romanian leaders in meetings along with members of the foreign media in Bucharest that Romania must avoid projecting too close an affinity with US policies of torture .There are around 100,000 Muslims , mostly Tatars in Romania , which has a history of anti-Semitism . A few hundred thousand Romanian Jews had migrated to Israel. Tens of thousands of Israelis visit Romania for rest and recreation.  The November 2003 bombings of a Synagogue in Istanbul was to punish it for the pro Israel policy . Turkey also receives hundreds of thousands of Israeli tourists every year. When President Basescu, soon after his election, visited Iraq to show solidarity with USA, the three journalists accompanying him were kidnapped. The story of their capture and release remains a mystery.

Romania and Poland are two very pro US countries, described by US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld as new Europe (an appellation the countries rejected) which was chided by French President Jacque Chirac when they had sided with USA on the question of US invasion of Iraq, against the general EU policy of opposition or neutrality.

Poland appears to be the center of CIA’s secret detention network in Europe, with bases there holding a quarter of the 100 detainees estimated in such camps worldwide.
"Poland was the main base for CIA interrogations in Europe, while Romania played more of a role in the transfer of detained prisoners," Marc Garlasco, a leading analyst at Human Rights Watch, was quoted by Polish daily Gazeta Wyborcza.
Garlasco said that the CIA maintained two detention centers in Poland, which were closed only after the Washington Post broke the story. He said the allegations were based on information from CIA sources and other documents obtained by Human Rights Watch. "We have leads, circumstantial evidence to check but it's too early to reveal them," Garlasco added.
Polish authorities have repeatedly denied the existence of secret jails of any form on Polish territory, with Prime Minister Kazimierz Marcinkieicz saying this week he would fully cooperate in human rights probes into the allegations. On 11 December, he ordered a detailed probe to "check if there is any proof that such an event took place in our country. It is necessary to finally close the issue because it could be dangerous to Poland." Said Marcinkiewicz's spokesman, Konrad Ciesiolkiewicz.
Rice in Ukraine of US franchised revolution;

Ms Rice flew to Kiev from Bucharest to express solidarity with US protégé President Viktor Yushchenko of Ukraine. US organizations across the board had spent hundreds of millions of US dollars last year to get him elected in a US franchised election organized through street revolutions , a process which was begun with the overthrow of Milosevic in Serbia and then perfected in Georgia . Street revolutions failed dismally in Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan with Russia and China with central Asian states vociferously opposing US led franchised revolutions.

The sheen has come off the so called Orange revolution with Yushchenko's rich partner the Prime Minister quitting his company .The Ukrainian masses are unhappy with the results of the revolution with bribery and other scandals on increase. Russia on which Ukraine is dependent for its energy needs is squeezing Kiev. Next year's Parliament elections would be a litmus test for the Yushchenko regime. Ukraine is feeling the pinch of moving away from Russia, as Moscow is now charging market price for its gas, making the government unpopular .Western media and leaders objected to the market price .US and west use such tactics regularly .What is good for the goose is not good for the gander!
Shift in US Policy? 

By the time Ms Rice reached Kiev, there was apparent shift in her position. She said that Washington now viewed its responsibilities under a UN treaty as banning the cruel or inhumane treatment of prisoners anywhere. She appeared to give the torture question a clear and broad interpretation. Referring to the UN Convention against Torture (CAT), ratified by USA in 1994, Rice said that "as a matter of U.S. policy, the United States' obligations under the CAT, which prohibits cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment - those obligations extend to U.S. personnel wherever they are, whether they are in the United States or outside of the United States."

Scott McClellan, the White House spokesman, described the new approach by Rice as "existing policy." But when pressed repeatedly by reporters, he would not say whether the United States took steps to ensure that countries to which it transferred prisoners lived up to promises against using torture.

Rice's shift produced some confusion in Washington, possibly reflecting tensions among the State Department, White House, Congress and the Pentagon on how narrowly to define some of the tools available .These can include techniques known as water boarding, in which a prisoner is strapped to a plank and dunked into water to create a sense of being drowned. Rights groups say that these methods have been used on prisoners at the U.S. base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and elsewhere.
No rendition for torture –George Bush;

President Bush, referring to the process known as rendition, under which the United States has turned detainees over to other countries reiterated: "We do not render to countries that torture. That has been our policy, and that policy will remain the same."
But wrote Naomi Klein in the Guardian "It's [ torture] a history exhaustively documented in an avalanche of books, declassified documents, CIA training manuals, court records and truth commissions. In his forthcoming book, A Question of Torture, Alfred McCoy synthesizes this evidence, producing a riveting account of how monstrous CIA-funded experiments on psychiatric patients and prisoners in the 1950s turned into a template for what he calls "no-touch torture", based on sensory deprivation and self-inflicted pain. McCoy traces how these methods were field-tested by CIA agents in Vietnam as part of the Phoenix program and then applied in Latin America and Asia under the guise of police training.
"It is not only apologists for torture who ignore this history when they blame abuses on "a few bad apples". A startling number of torture's most prominent opponents keep telling us that the idea of torturing prisoners first occurred to US officials on September 11 2001, at which point the methods used in Guantanamo apparently emerged, fully formed, from the sadistic recesses of Dick Cheney's and Donald Rumsfeld's brains. Up until that moment, we are told, America fought its enemies while keeping its humanity intact."
David Luban, a Georgetown University law professor said that Rice appeared to be marking a genuine shift. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales had implied that such treatment was forbidden by the U.S. Constitution - meaning within the United States. So the techniques short of outright torture could legally be employed abroad. "But this looks like it's different," Luban said, "and I think if Rice meant what she said, that's a big change." He cautioned, however, that only U.S. personnel were covered and perhaps not foreign police or security personnel or even foreign contractors.
Opposition in UK to rendition in CIA torture Prisons;
Resistance to wayward US ways has grown steadily in UK, where assurances by Ms Rice that Washington did not send detainees abroad for torture were dismissed as "beyond belief" by a group of MPs from various parties.
The group was launched to investigate the "extraordinary renditions" of prisoners by the CIA. It claimed that Ms Rice confirmed that Britain had been informed about the nature of the secret CIA flights to UK airports. Andrew Tyrie, the group's Tory chairman, said: "There has been so much smoke on this issue; it's very unlikely that there is not a fire somewhere. I think it's likely they have been tortured."
Photographs were produced of CIA planes landing and taking off at UK airports while the government denied that British airports were used for torture flights, "so far as we aware". This did not satisfy the MPs, and Mr. Mullin , a former Labor foreign affairs minister said , "Some of the assurances in [Ms Rice's] statement defy belief in a country where there has recently been a public discussion on whether submerging prisoners in water to the point of drowning constitutes torture or not."
Tyrie interpreted Rice's claim that the US respected the sovereignty of other countries to mean that UK ministers knew about the flights. "By implication, whatever has been going on, the British authorities were informed," he said. He added that Ms Rice chose her words carefully to avoid ruling out abuse of prisoners that stopped short of torture. "She said torture is defined by law and by implication there may be levels of duress that may be short of torture," he clarified.
He warned Ms Rice that defending abuse of prisoners would be counter-productive. "It's not just that people may have been tortured. It is that using torture to combat terrorism is likely to inflame Muslim opinion and leave us less secure, not more. We have learnt that lesson the hard way in Northern Ireland; the French learnt that lesson in Algeria."
Liberal Democrat MP Menzies Campbell described Ms Rice's statement as "disingenuous". He said: "The volume of evidence of transfers has become overwhelming but what possible purpose is served by rendition other than to subject individuals to harsher treatment than would otherwise be the case?
"Parliament and the public are entitled to expect the British Government to show equivalent candor. But the question remains, what did our government know and when did it know it? How high up the political tree did such knowledge go?"
The Labor chairman of the Commons Foreign Affairs Committee, Mike Gapes pledged that his committee would also pursue ministers over "extraordinary rendition" flights across UK airspace. Some member of the committee privately said they were appalled after Ian Pearson, a Foreign Office minister, who told a recent hearing that the Government would use information gained from torture to protect against attacks by terrorists.
In spite of Tony Blair being in a state of denial that US-UK led invasion of Iraq had any relation to last July bombings in London, the people know better and are worried about implications of torture by US and UK , with many British citizens being victims of such torture in Guantanamo, in Iraq , Afghanistan and even UK itself .
British Lords ban "torture evidence"
The Law Lords ruled in London that information gleaned from torture anywhere in the world was unacceptable as evidence in British courts. Rights groups immediately said the ruling sent a clear signal to governments around the world who are wrestling with accusations that they participated in, provided facilities for, or used evidence in court extracted from people detained as part of a CIA program known as "rendition". The decision by UK's highest court to refuse evidence obtained under torture in third countries comes a day after the United States explicitly banned its interrogators from treating detainees inhumanely after widespread anger and pressure from European governments and the U.S. Congress.

Louise Arbour, the UN's high commissioner for human rights, also warned that the absolute ban on torture could become a casualty of the "war on terror". Without naming the United States, she criticized "governments in a number of countries" who were claiming that the world had changed and that the old rules no longer applied. No credible case for this had been made, she insisted.
With the growing opposition in USA and even reawakening of some in the US media to Bush policies, there is hope. Even before the March 2003 war more than 1,000 law professors and U.S. legal institutions had organized opposition to the U.S. war crime of launching an "aggressive war in violation of the UN Charter" against Iraq. Violation of international law was also a central theme in worldwide demonstrations by tens of millions against the war. The illegality of the war was confirmed by the leak of the Downing Street memo; 130 members of Congress joined Rep. John Conyers in demanding that the Bush administration come clean about the invasion ,supported by a half million citizen signatures gathered in barely a week. "Scootergate" is fundamentally about the cover-up of White House lies justifying the war.
"Illegal detention and torture are also war crimes. Starting with the exposure of prisoner abuse at Abu Gharib and Guantanamo, cascading revelations have established that these cases exemplify a pattern of abuse authorized at the highest levels of government. Human rights groups like the Center for Constitutional Rights, the American Civil Liberties Union, and Human Rights First have suggested suing in U.S. and foreign courts Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and others for breaching the U.S. Constitution and the Geneva Conventions.
Paul Craig Roberts, Hoover Institution senior fellow and assistant secretary of the treasury under Ronald Reagan, has charged Bush with "lies and an illegal war of aggression, with outing CIA agents, with war crimes against Iraqi civilians, with the horrors of the Abu Gharib and Guantanamo torture centers" and calls for the president's impeachment. Anne-Marie Slaughter, dean of the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton and former president of the American Society of International Law, declares: "These policies make a mockery of our claim to stand for the rule of law. [Americans] should be marching on Washington to reject inhumane techniques carried out in our name." Cindy Sheehan, mother of a soldier killed in Iraq, whose single handed resistance to US policies, including sit-ins near Bush's Texas ranch ,brought various opposition groups together ,insists: "We cannot have these people pardoned. They need to be tried on war crimes and go to jail."
Throughout the discourse on Iraq war , which now agitates USA and Western Europe, the point made is that the US invasion could have been carried out better and implemented better and successfully.  There is no realization or acknowledgement that time for colonization is now gone.  It is not the divine right of Christian West to subjugate and rule the Middle East, Africa or Asia through the power of its guns.  The Iraqi resistance to U.S.-led occupation from the very beginning has made it clear that the era of colonization is over.
 (Gajendra Singh., served as Indian Ambassador to Turkey and Azerbaijan in 1992 -96. Prior to that, he served as ambassador to Jordan (during the1990 - 91Gulf war), Romania and Senegal. He is currently chairman of the Foundation for Indo-Turkic Studies, in Bucharest. The views expressed here are his own

January 01, 2014

Why the US will have to eat crow over Devyani Khobragade row

 by Rajeev Sharma Jan 1, 2014  

It is now a question of when, not if, the United States throws in the towel in the long and ugly Indo-US diplomatic spat involving Devyani Khobragade, India’s deputy consul general in New York, and withdraw all criminal cases against her. The US will have to eat crow over the Devyani affair, though it may or may not apologise for the incident. But that is not so material. However, it will be in long term national interests of India if the US takes a few months in closing all cases against Devyani. Stumped! Here is the explanation. The US will have to eat crow over the Devyani affair, though it may or may not apologise for the incident. PTI Two points have been made here at the outset: (i) that it is an open and shut case that India and Devyani will win the legal battle in the US; and (ii) that it will be in long term Indian interest if the “closure” of the Devyani case were to formally drag on a few months. 

These twin arguments derive strength from the chance discovery, and a belated discovery, that Devyani was indeed “accredited” to the Permanent Mission of India (PMI) in New York as early as 26 August 2013 and thus entitled to full diplomatic immunity, more than hundred days before she was arrested on 12 December and incarcerated. On 26 December, the Ministry of External Affairs came up with a belated revelation that Devyani was indeed accredited as an “advisor” to the PMI with full diplomatic immunity with effect from 26 August 2013. Under the "Convention on the Privileges and Immunities of the United Nations" Article 4 Section 11A specifies “Immunities from personal arrest or detention and from the seizure of their personal baggage” of all representatives of members to the United Nations. Section 16 of the same Article specifies that the expression “Representative” shall be deemed to include all Delegates, Deputy Delegates, Advisors, Technical Experts and Secretaries of delegations. Her arrest, therefore on 12 December, was contrary to her status on that date. This explains why the US has already initiated an internal probe into the Devyani case while acknowledging mistakes in the episode. 

In a way, the US ambassador in India Nancy Powell has already expressed ‘regrets’. She said that she joins "Secretary Kerry in expressing our regret for the circumstances of the consular officer's arrest, but we believe that we can look forward to continuing to expand our bilateral relations." But this is too little, too late and not just enough. India should exploit the Devyani incident to the hilt to ensure that complete reciprocity is maintained (something which has never been in place as the American diplomats in India have always been more equal than others). This brings us to the second point mentioned above: how it will be beneficial for India if the formal “closure” in the Devyani case were to take a few more months, which it will. Thanks to the Devyani incident, we have come to know several things. The first thing is that the American diplomats in India have routinely been enjoying all sorts of privileges without reciprocating these to the Indian diplomats in the US. This has been going on for years and no government in New Delhi ever dared to question this unequal diplomatic practice. This may change forever, and it should, after the Devyani incident has blown the lid off this diplomatic apartheid. Two, the US must understand that it has to take India as seriously as it takes China and Russia. 

The Americans are known to handle China and Russia with kid gloves mainly because it knows that if Washington were to do anything outrageous with Beijing and Moscow the retaliation will be fast and furious. As per the World Bank-IMF projections, India will be Number Three economy in the world in just 15 years, relegating Japan to the fourth spot. Even now, India is ranked Number Eleven, with Canada managing to have nudged past India for the tenth spot. This economic reality should be reflected in the international politics and diplomacy too. India can do this and drive the point home to the Americans in the coming weeks. New Delhi has already directed the American embassy in New Delhi to submit all relevant details of the salaries being given to all employees in American diplomatic missions in India. The deadline for furnishing this information was 23 December. The Americans have sought more time in submitting the data as many American diplomats serving in India are on vacation at this point of time. India needs to ensure compliance from the Americans. The Americans are bound to be found breaking several Indian laws once this exercise is completed. For example, the manner in which the family of Devyani’s maid Sangeeta Richard was “evacuated” from India to the US will inevitably expose the Americans in breaking several Indian laws, including taxation laws. 

It is extremely likely that the American staff in Indian diplomatic missions, particularly some semi-skilled Indian staff, would be getting the wages which are well below those prescribed under India's Minimum Wages Act. Already, it has come to light that an Indian Visa Officer gets a salary of around Rs 17,000 per month as against about Rs 1.10 Lakh for an American holding similar position and a particular Indian security guard has been hired for a lowly sum of Rs eight thousand per month for an eight-hour duty daily, which is way below the Minimum Wages Act. Clearly, the Americans have bitten much more than they could chew. Their bluff would be called soon. 

Once the Americans are cornered and fall in their own trap, India must deliver its master stroke. India must demand the scalp of the US attorney for New York’s South District Preet Bahara, a native Indian from Ferozepur. Bharara is afflicted with the MATA syndrome – More American than the Americans. That is why it will be in India’s interest if the “closure” in the Devyani case lingers on for a few months. This is because once the US officially acknowledges its mistakes in the Devyani case and withdraws all cases against her, there will be immense pressure on the MEA from the Prime Minister’s Office to forgive and forget. Forgive is okay; but India must not forget the humiliation the Americans have heaped in the Devyani case. The writer is a Firstpost columnist and a strategic analyst who tweets @Kishkindha

Read more at: http://www.firstpost.com/world/why-the-us-will-have-to-eat-crow-over-devyani-khobragade-row-1317477.html?utm_source=ref_article


- How a road was restored to its rightful owners
Diplomacy: K.P. Nayar


The story of a more-than-a-decade-long road closure surrounding the American embassy in New Delhi — now withdrawn — is the story of the most egregious land-grab in the heart of India’s capital by the United States of America, playing on the trauma and disquiet among Indian officials after the events of September 11, 2001. Within hours of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, the prime minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, called a meeting of the cabinet committee on security to which the three armed-services chiefs and heads of security agencies were also invited. “We have already initiated action for providing all necessary additional security and safeguards required for the US embassy [in New Delhi and American consulates in other cities],” the external affairs minister, Jaswant Singh, announced suo motu after the CCS meeting.

The very next day, the president, K.R. Narayanan, who did not have a great reputation as a friend or admirer of Washington, reflected the mood in India when he wrote to George W. Bush that “we stand united with the American people in this hour of grief”. Four days later, Vajpayee spoke to Bush at Camp David, and the US president agreed to receive the national security adviser, Brajesh Mishra, soon after. India’s top leadership having set that tone of commiseration with the American people, their diplomats in New Delhi could ask for almost anything and hope to get an answer in the affirmative. Files in the archives of the ministry of external affairs now reveal that these American diplomats proceeded to do just that.
In complete inconsideration of several other embassies and diplomatic residences in Chanakyapuri, the Americans approached the Indian government with their intention to appropriate a whole stretch of thoroughfare, Nyaya Marg, merely because they did not want to cross a public road from the rear of their main embassy on Shanti Path to the secondary properties that lay on Nyaya Marg. They also owned properties beyond Nyaya Marg: the American Embassy School is on Chandragupta Marg. The recreation facilities of the American Community Support Association, its bar, swimming pool and restaurant on embassy premises, have their main entrance on Panchsheel Marg, which is adjacent to Nyaya Marg.
Looking back, it is reminiscent of the methods of the East India Company that in the wake of September 11, exploiting the sympathy that was triggered by al Qaeda’s terrorist acts, US diplomats in New Delhi had the temerity to demand that the public roads they cross in Chanakyapuri should be exclusive to them and that no one else, not even ambassadors and diplomats from other countries who lived on those roads, should be allowed to use them.

MEA files now categorically reveal that security was not the consideration for closing the road behind the American embassy. It was a courtesy extended to the staff of the US embassy at their request in the post-September 11 surfeit of sympathy so that they could cross this road, Nyaya Marg, unimpeded.

This should never have been done, even in the flush of commiseration with the people of America. And in doing so, a thought should have been spared for the staff of the neighbouring French embassy, who were put to great inconvenience by the closure of Nyaya Marg. The French ambassador’s residence could only be reached by a longer route because of the road closing. The Swedish embassy suffered even more: their main entrance is on Nyaya Marg.

The French have stood by India more solidly than any other major country, with the solitary exception of Russia, on issues of its concern and national interest. The Swedes have been major donors for India’s development since Independence. Neither the French nor the Swedes retaliated in Paris or in Stockholm against the respective Indian embassies in these cities: if they had taken any retaliatory action on the strict principle of reciprocity such action would have been fully justified.
It is depressing to recall how America squandered such deep and widespread support they garnered from all over the world in the aftermath of September 11. In New Delhi, there were no murmurs of disapproval over road closures because the overwhelming popular view at that time was that such gestures to America were their due even if threat perceptions did not warrant them. And if such actions helped prevent anything happening to Americans that had even a whiff of the terrorist attacks on the twin towers and the Pentagon, they should be sanctioned even at considerable inconvenience to others.
There have been suggestions from time to time at internal government meetings that Nyaya Marg should be reopened to the public and that periodic reviews showing lesser threat perceptions to the US embassy in New Delhi should be acted upon. But no one in the government wanted to pursue any unpleasant options with the Americans. Meanwhile, the US embassy in New Delhi appeared to have become a victim to India’s VIP culture: so any downgrading of security would have been unpalatable to them. In any case, they have the wherewithal to whip up a storm in New Delhi on any issue of their concern and that capability has been on display many times. So the matter was never seriously taken up.

Two years ago, after the US accused Iran of plotting to murder the Saudi ambassador in Washington, US security agencies did an audit of the vulnerability of diplomatic missions in their national capital. The Indian embassy in Washington came up short during this exercise. Subsequently, the Indian government undertook a comprehensive enhancement of security systems and procedures at the mission. Therefore, it came as a surprise recently, when municipal workers on Washington’s embassy row set about uprooting road signs in front of the Indian embassy that proclaimed the street as a parking zone for the Indian ambassador and other senior diplomats. Thereafter, they put up new signs and installed pay-and-park meters, which allowed anyone to park their vehicles within a stone’s throw of the Indian chancery building, an ostensible terrorist target.

The Indian embassy queried the US authorities in the matter, but as in the Devyani Khobragade case, these representations elicited no reply. The twin idea of reopening Nyaya Marg and allowing cars into the service road off Shanti Path right in front of the US embassy was then approved as a reciprocal action by India. It would have been done, anyway, in response to Washington’s decision to allow public parking literally at the doorstep of the Indian embassy, in total disregard of the mission’s safety. The reopening of the Chanakyapuri roads was on the MEA’s table well before India’s deputy consul general in New York was arrested and strip-searched. That it happened after Khobragade’s detention was one of those coincidences that gave this decision a different colour.

The traffic pattern around the US embassy is unlikely to return to its old ways even after the case of the Indian diplomat is resolved in New York and the two countries decide to move on to restore a semblance of status quo ante. For one thing, the other embassies that have a better claim to Nyaya Marg as a thoroughfare, most notably the French, will vehemently protest against closing the road again so that Americans can cross the street as if it is their private property.

The sympathy for Americans over September 11, which facilitated the road closure, has long evaporated in France and Sweden, and, in India, it has been replaced, after the New York arrest, by anger and demands for strict reciprocity with Washington. In real life, properties that are appropriated immorally — even if legally — are rarely restituted. Nyaya Marg may be that rare instance of such a restitution of a piece of real estate of immense value to its rightful owners, the citizenry of Delhi.