Category: Middle East & Muslim World


George W’s Palace

While Bush’s Government builds what is purported to be the biggest diplomatic outpost on earth, Iraqi families suffer water shortages and power cuts and are forced to wait in line to fuel their cars.

Although $22 billion has been spent, Baghdad’s infrastructure still operates at pre-war levels. Out of 150 planned medical centres only six have been completed.

The failed $147 million programme to train Iraqi security units to protect key oil and power facilities is the subject of a current fraud investigation. Before the war oil production was 2.6 million barrels per day; now it is only 2.18 million.

As an astonishing catalogue of missed deadlines and overspending on civilian building projects is revealed, the bill, so far, for ‘George W’s palace’ stands at $592 million.

To add insult to injury the Kuwaiti contractor employs only foreign workers.

The 104 acre site, protected by a 15ft thick perimeter wall, will comprise 21 buildings, to include luxurious residences for the ambassador and his deputy, six apartments for senior officials, office accommodation for 8,000 staff, a super-sized swimming pool, an olympic class gymnasium, cinemas, tennis courts, US food chain restaurants and a top drawer American Club for evening functions.

And the USA retains ‘no long term ambitions’ here?

Not surprisingly the size of the project is seen by Iraqis as ‘an indication of who actually exercises power in their country’ (and of who will no doubt continue so to do).

Times article

I stumbled upon these words of wisdom from the fingertips of my good friend Mike E over at the Open Container Speedway:

‘If you want to understand why the end of the world is about to happen you really must watch Fox News. Make note of who advertises. Never buy their product again. And remember: For roughly 25% to a third of Americans what you see there is Truth. A mere market share. By no means a majority. But a brutally sizable & well-connected ignoramus mob.’

Read the full thing here.

For news you won’t find on Fox and CNN click here.

Hopeless in Gaza video

We live in constant fear.

Why did they break my things, all my toys?

Our children can’t even live.

We don’t know how to live.

[The Israelis] want these people cleansed from this area.

The psychological condition is one of the dimensions of the conflict that is not widely understood.

This is the reality of life in Gaza. Would you be able to live like this?

Watch the video courtesy of ICH. Runtime 5 minutes.

Mirza Tahir Hussain is to have his death sentence commuted by President Musharraf (click source). This is great news. However, questions remain.

Why did it take Musharraf so long?

Will Mirza receive any compensation for the eighteen years of his life that were taken from him on the strength of an unsafe conviction under a dubious legal system (Sharia Law)?

Why was it eighteen years before his case came to the attention of the media and the UK political establishment?

When will state sponsored murder be universally abolished?

The long wait for “justice”

December 1988 — Mirza-Tahir Hussain, 18, flies from Leeds to Pakistan, where he is arrested after death of taxi driver near Rawalpindi. He claims that he shot driver in self-defence.

September 1989 — A sessions court in Islamabad sentences him to death.

November 1992 — The High Court orders a retrial.

April 1994 — A sessions court in Islamabad sentences him to life. 

May 1996 — The High Court acquits him of murder but a month later refers the case to the Federal Sharia Court.

May 1998 — The Sharia court sentences him to death by two votes to one.

December 2003 — The Supreme Sharia Court of Pakistan rejects the appeal.

May 2006 — President Musharraf issues the first of three stays of execution. The last expires on October 1.

October 26 — Ramadan and Eid end, meaning Hussain can be hanged at any time.

November 15 — Reprieved.

America’s Lost Highway

LIKE GEORGE W’S

WAR ON TERROR

A MOEBIUS STRIP

IS A TWO

DIMENSIONAL SURFACE

WITH ONLY ONE  FACE.

A MOEBIUS STRIP REPRESENTS INFINITY.

WHEN YOU CUT A MOEBIUS  STRIP (Afghanistan) IN HALF LENGTHWAYS 

YOU GET A DOUBLE MOEBIUS STRIP (Afghanistan + Iraq).

IF YOU CUT IT AGAIN YOU GET A TRIPLE STRIP (Afghanistan + Iraq + Iran) AND SO ON INTO INFINITY.

WHEN YOU RIDE A MOEBIUS STRIP IT’S LIKE GOING BACK TO THE BEGINNING (Vietnam) IN SPACE ON A ONE-DIMENSIONAL SURFACE: YOU MUST CONTINUE AND CONTINUE AND YOU WILL NEVER CROSS YOUR STARTING POINT AGAIN.

LIKE LIFE ITSELF IT IS A PERPETUAL RESTART, NEVER FROM THE SAME POINT.

(click on image to enlarge)

Yesterday (October 18) the session judge in the case of Mirza Tahir Hussain issued a fresh warrant for the Leeds man’s execution. According to Adiala jail authorities Mirza’s family were informed that he would hang at 06:30 am November 1st, a date which would have coincided with a visit to Pakistan by a member of the British royal family.

Today, in response to a plea for clemency by Prince Charles, the man has been granted a further stay of execution (his fourth). He will not now be executed before 31 December.

His brother Amjad, speaking to the BBC, expressed his anger at the decision: “Pakistan has no due regard for the representations that have been made. It’s like saying to my brother ‘Live to die another day’. It’s murder by a thousand cuts.

“They’re not going to execute my brother while Mr Musharraf takes his Royal Highness to dinner, but after that he will execute him, maybe a month or two months later… It is a continuation of the torture and the agony. It is not a solution.”

Under article 45 of Pakistan’s constitution the President has the power to pardon mirza but has refused to do this, in spite of his self confessed doubts regarding the safety of the conviction.

By not bringing the matter to a positive conclusion at this time, Musharraf throws away a timely opportunity to show the world that Islamic governments are capable of compassion and justice. Simply delaying the execution one more time is an act of terrible cruelty both to Mirza and his family.

Liberal Democrat Mep Liz Lynne said on 10 October at the World Day Against the Death Penalty that Musharraf had “heard the collective voice of Europe during his recent visits to Brussels and London”. When she met with him privately she told him “in no uncertain terms, that the carrying out of this execution would cast a shadow over the reputation of Pakistan within the EU, as it would clearly represent a rare combination of excessive cruelty and profound injustice.”

It seems the “terms” were not “certain” enough. I wonder how much more certain they would be if the man suffering the injustice was a white European. 

“God gave the savior to the German people. We have faith, deep and unshakeable faith, that he was sent to us by God to save Germany”: Hermann Goering, speaking of Hitler

“Why is this man in the White House? The majority of Americans did not vote for him. Why is he there? And I tell you this morning that he’s in the White House because God put him there for a time such as this”: Lt Gen William Boykin, speaking of G. W. Bush, New York Times, 17 October 2003

“A tyrant must put on the appearance of uncommon devotion to religion. Subjects are less apprehensive of illegal treatment from a ruler whom they consider god-fearing and pious. On the other hand, they do less easily move against him, believing that he has the gods on his side”: Aristotle

“If this were a dictatorship, it would be a heck of a lot easier – just so long as I’m the dictator”: George W. Bush, 18 December 2000

“International law? I better call my lawyer; he didn’t bring that up to me”: George W. Bush, 12 December 2003

Israel’s and America’s tactics in the Phony War On Terror:

TERROR BOMBINGS; CONDUCTING A BRUTAL WAR AGAINST CIVILIANS;

TRUMPED UP EXCUSES FOR INVASIONS;

DEHUMANIZATION OF THE ENEMY;
 
UNETHICAL AND ILLEGAL ENTRIES, SEARCHES AND DETENTIONS; USE OF TORTURE;

These are exactly the same tactics the Nazis used in WW2. They lost.

Click here to read The Axis of Powers by Joel Fischer in ICH

The eleventh hour

In a few hours (October 1), British Time, it will be my birthday. It may also be the last day on earth for Mirza Tahir Hussain.

It seems appeals to Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf during his presidential visit to Britain have fallen on deaf ears.

Musharraf alone has the power to commute Mirza’s sentence but he “brushed past” demonstrators in Oxford today and refused to comment on the Leeds man’s case.

At a meeting in Brussels earlier this month, Liberal Democrat Euro MP Sajjad Karim, Chair of the Friends of Pakistan group, said:

“I, and the whole of the UK Liberal Democrat delegation, have been leading a European Parliament campaign to prevent what would be a gross miscarriage of justice.

“We have garnered the support of the European Parliament President, Josep Borrell, to see to it that, after spending half his life on death row, Mirza Tahir Hussain is granted clemency. It is the eleventh hour and time is running out to end the suffering of Mirza Tahir Hussain and for his distraught family and all of us who have been working tirelessly to secure his release.”

In response President Musharaff said:

“I have received those pleas and appreciate your concern for this individual. You must understand that I have to work within the constraints of the law, but I am willing to find a solution to this case that goes over and above what the courts are able to do.”

As time runs out for Mirza those words sound increasingly hollow. If I had faith in a supernatural God I would praying to him right now to intervene and save this man.

Sadly, I have no such faith. I do, however, believe that Mirza will survive. Musharraf needs a “distraction” from a couple of “higher profile” issues at this time. Perhaps an act of clemency towards the man from Leeds will provide it? 

“In all-too-real worlds beyond our reach, everything tends toward permanency. Whatever the discussion may be, whatever issues may seem to be gripping Washington or the nation, whatever you’re watching on TV or reading in the papers, elsewhere the continual constructing, enlarging, expanding, entrenching of a new global system of imprisonment, which bears no relation to any system of imprisonment Americans have previously imagined, continues non-stop, unchecked and unbalanced by Congress or the courts, unaffected by the Republic, but very distinctly under the flag ‘for which it stands.'”

In August the Imperialist Bush neo-con administration and its associated “big 5” media corporations proudly proclaimed that Abu Ghraib prison had been emptied of detainees and was to be turned over to the “Iraqi government”.

Well, it’s one thing to close a prison but quite another to release its inmates. So, what happened to them?

Have you heard of Camp Bucca? What about Camp Cropper?

Perhaps you have heard of the latter: it started off as a “temporary facility”, a “bunch of tents” appended to the US base adjoining Baghdad International Airport (which, incidentally is now one of the many “enduring camps” that have, since 2004, become fair-sized American towns, complete with Pizza Huts, Burger Kings and mini-golf courses) and is now a 60 million dollar state of the art prison.

The emptying of Abu Ghraib may have made big news; the filling of Camp Cropper, however, didn’t get a mention.

So, what about the other one, Camp Bucca? You can’t read about that anywhere, says Tom Engelhardt and, what is more:

“While arguments spin endlessly here at home about the nature of withdrawal ‘timetables,’ and who’s cutting and running from what, and how many troops we will or won’t have in-country in 2007, 2008, or 2009, on the ground a process continues that makes a mockery of the debate in Washington and in the country. While the ‘reconstruction’ of Iraq has come to look ever more like the deconstruction of Iraq, the construction of an ever more permanent-looking American landscape in that country has proceeded apace and with reasonable efficiency.”

Currently the Bush administration, in the name of the American people and financed by their tax dollars — and, due to the complicity of our “leaders”, in the name of the people and courtesy of the tax Sterling of the UK — is holding 14000 prisoners in Iraq; possibly more that 500 in Afghanistan; and nearly 500 in Guantanamo. Most of these individuals are beyond the jurisdiction of any system of justice.

And if all of the camps that we know about are shut down none of those prisoners is going anywhere closer to justice soon, because a globally outsourced penal system has been created to absorb them.

If you don’t take the time to read Tom Engelhardt’s article you deserve what may be coming.

In response to that statement some may say that knowing the facts doesn’t eradicate the problem. I reply in this fashion:

To win a war you must first know your enemies.

Click here to take that essential first step on the road to victory.

The other day I’m having a drink with a friend and she starts on about the Pope thing and I tell her: “Yeah, I read the speech but I didn’t write anything about it.”

Actually, I read it very closely with a view to doing just that but, as an atheist, concluded that there was really nothing to write about, except to say: listen guys, don’t worry about it, because, you know, THERE’S NOBODY THERE!

Of course, they’re not going to fall for that one, are they — scientists and modern philosophers have been telling them the same thing without avail since the Enlightenment.

Fact is, they want to believe it, don’t they? And that’s fine: I have no problem with other people’s beliefs, even though, in my opinion, religion — any religion — is the ultimate sting. I think: let them be stung.

So look, I have to tell my friend to forget about the Pope thing. To my Muslim friends (I have many and they know and respect my views, which is more than I can say for the few Christians I count as friends) I say, if the Pope’s speech upset you, forget it, take strength from your faith, ask yourself: can words, or cartoons for that matter, harm the Prophet? 

Outside of friendship, as a secularist, what I say is that everything, faiths and deities included, is, in a secular society (which accurately describes the society I live in, although sometimes it seems that I’m the only one in it) open to discussion and sometimes criticism. And if that strikes you as simplistic and dismissive then you’ve got my view on the subject nailed to the cross (sorry, couldn’t resist that one).

Because the whole “faith” thing, although it doesn’t hold scientific water, is in a very real and dangerous sense water-tight: If you’re a secularist and you’ve ever tried arguing the non-existence of a supernatural God with a Christian or a Muslim or a Jew you’ll know exactly what I mean. You can’t do it, can you? Because faith precludes reason: “well, look, you can say what you like but I know God exists because I believe he does”.

What the Pope said about Islam was that it is incompatible with reason, because some medieval Christian bigot said it was a faith of violence. The pot calls the kettle black and, while they’re arguing about it, the water goes cold.
 
The main agenda of the speech, however, wasn’t about about Islam versus Christianity. It was about the war — and by that I mean the very real conflict — between faith and reason, between religion and secular humanism.

I’m over it.

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