WAR NEWS FOR WEDNESDAY, February 15, 2006
Bring 'em on: A roadside bomb killed a U.S. Marine in western Baghdad on Tuesday at about 10:30 a.m. near Abu Ghraib. Two other "coalition personnel" wounded in the attack. [incident mentioned in yesterday's post]
Bring 'em on: — Four policemen were killed and four civilians wounded when a car bomb went off targeting an Iraqi police patrol in northern Baghdad, police said. Another policeman was wounded in the blast.
— A civilian was killed and four others wounded when a car bomb went off near a police patrol in central Baghdad, police said.
— Four civilians and two traffic policemen were wounded when a car bomb went off targeting police commandos in central Baghdad, police said.
— Three children were killed when a roadside bomb went off near a primary school in an impoverished area of central Baghdad, an Interior Ministry source said.
— Two trucks laden with wood for U.S forces burned in western Baghdad, police and witnesses said. The cause of the fire was not clear, police added.
— The bodies of four people with hands bound and gunshot wounds to the head were found in the Shula district of the capital, police said. The bodies showed signs of torture, the police added.
— A police captain was killed along with his driver by gunmen while he was heading to work in southern Baghdad, police said.
— Eight civilians were arrested by U.S forces in Duluiya, 40 km (25 miles) north of Baghdad, police said. Three others were arrested in Yathrib, near Balad, 90 km (55 miles) north of Baghdad. The U.S. military had no immediate comment.
More Abu Ghraib torture pictures released: Tonight [Feb. 14] the SBS Dateline program [Australia] plans to broadcast about 60 previously unpublished photographs that the US Government has been fighting to keep secret in a court case with the American Civil Liberties Union.
Some of the photos are similar to those published in 2004, others are different. They include photographs of six corpses, although the circumstances of their deaths are not clear. There are also pictures of what appear to be burns and wounds from shotgun pellets.
The executive producer of Dateline, Mike Carey, said he was showing the pictures leaked to his program because it was important people understood what had happened at Abu Ghraib. Mr Carey said he could not explain why the photographs had not yet been published, as he thought it was likely that some journalists had them. "It think it's strange, maybe they think its more of the same."
British Military arrest two more people over abuse tape: A spokesman of the UK Ministry of Defence said on Tuesday the arrests brought to a total of three the number of people who have now been arrested since the tape surfaced on Sunday.
"Two more people have been arrested in connection with the allegations," the ministry spokesman told Reuters. "The Royal Military Police have identified several people in the video and investigations are ongoing to identify all those involved in the alleged incident," he added.
A ministry spokesman said on Monday the First Battalion of the army's Light Infantry Regiment was helping military police with their investigation into the incident. He confirmed the man arrested on Sunday night was a serving soldier.
Denmark rejects withdrawl call by Basra council: Denmark on Tuesday rejected a call by the city council in Basra, Iraq, for Danish troops to be withdrawn until Copenhagen apologizes for the publication of Prophet Mohammed cartoons.
"The council's decision has no influence on our presence in Iraq," Defence Minister Soeren Gade told journalists. "Denmark's policies are not decided by a provincial council in Basra."
The council's statement came as thousands demonstrated in front of the headquarters of the British and US consulates in Basra, an area under British military control.
Iraq's Kurdish leaders warn Shiites over Kirkuk: Kurdish political chiefs led by President Jalal Talabani warned Shiite leaders Tuesday that a deal on the oil-rich northern city of Kirkuk would be their key demand in talks on forming the country's next government.
Kurdish, Shiite and Sunni Arab leaders met in the most intensive discussions over the next government since Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari narrowly won a ballot last week to be the dominant Shiite alliance's candidate to retain the premiership.
Talabani said his Kurdish coalition's key demand in the government talks concerned Kirkuk, particularly implementation of the constitution's Article 136, which calls for a census to be held there followed by a referendum on whether it should be part of the Kurdish self-ruled Kurdistan region.
Talabani also said he wants the next government to include the Iraqi National List of former premier Ayad Allawi, who has close ties with the United States and has been touted as a possible interior minister.
But some Shiite leaders, including allies of radical cleric and al-Jaafari ally Muqtada al-Sadr, also oppose Allawi taking a senior government post, seeing it as a "red line" issue. Al-Sadr supporters reject Allawi because he directed Iraqi security forces in campaigns against al-Sadr militiamen in Najaf and eastern Baghdad in 2004 and early 2005.
Baghdad residents take security into own hands: In response to increasing cases of kidnapping, robbery and theft in the capital, Baghdad, residents are joining forces to protect themselves and their families by taking security matters into their own hands.
In recent weeks, groups of men from seven districts of the capital have formed informal security committees, organising eight-hour shifts and erecting roadblocks in central areas of the capital. The move comes after a series of meetings between both Sunni and Shi'ite religous leaders, as well as representatives of the capital's Christian community.
Committee members armed with pistols and Kalashnikov rifles, available on the black market for as little as US $100 apiece, alternate positions during the day at dozens of improvised check-points. At least 50 men from each district are involved in the operation. The group also stops suspicious cars to check the identification cards of drivers and passengers.
The Iraqi police forces, meanwhile, say they are too few in number to provide adequate total security. Increasing numbers of insurgent attacks have resulted in the resignation of hundreds of police officers over the last year, compounding the problem further. According to the Ministry of Interior, there is at least one attack against police personnel every day in Iraq.
Iraq's infrastructure near collapse: There are many reasons the Iraqi infrastructure is in such poor shape. Twelve years of bombing and sanctions prevented real maintenance and repair under the Saddam Hussein regime. But it's also obvious that U.S. rule not only has brought no improvement and the infrastructure has further deteriorated.
For the first time in winter there have been severe water shortages in Baghdad's suburbs. Iraqis have running water only a few hours daily. Another item in short supply is cement, with 13 state-owned plants running at 25 percent capacity. The U.S. economic advisers suggest that the cement plants be privatized.
Any attempt to repair the oil infrastructure is hampered by the resistance, and now by a new kind of "corruption." According to an article in The New York Times Feb. 5, "a sitting member of the Iraqi National Assembly has been indicted in the theft of millions of dollars meant for protecting a critical oil pipeline against attacks and is suspected of funneling some of that money to the insurgency."
Virtually every measure of performance of Iraq's oil, electricity, water and sewerage sectors falls below pre-invasion values: Of seven different measures of infrastructure performance presented Wednesday at the [the Senate Foreign Relations Committee] hearing by the inspector general's office, only one was above pre-invasion values.
Those that had slumped below those values were electrical generation capacity, hours of power available in a day in Baghdad, oil and heating oil production and the numbers of Iraqis with drinkable water and sewage service.
In addition, two of the witnesses said they believed that an earlier estimate by the World Bank that $56 billion would be needed for rebuilding over the next several years was too low.
At the same time, as Iraq's oil exports are plummeting and the country remains saddled with tens of billions of dollars of debt, it is unclear where that money will come from, said one of the witnesses, Joseph Christoff, director of international affairs and trade at the Government Accountability Office.
And those may not be the most serious problems facing the physical infrastructure, said Stuart Bowen Jr., the special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction, an independent office. In one sense, focusing on the plummeting performance numbers "misses the point," Bowen said. The real question, he said, is whether the Iraqi security forces will ever be able to protect the infrastructure from insurgent attack.
"What's happened is that an incessant, an insidious insurgency has repeatedly attacked the key infrastructure targets, reducing outputs," Bowen said. He added that some of the performance numbers had fluctuated above prewar values in the past, only to fall again under the pressure of insurgent attacks and other factors.
This downsizing of expectations was striking given that $30 billion of U.S. taxpayer money has already been dedicated to the task, according to an analysis by Christoff of the GAO.
'The illusion of Britain as a friendly force has gone': Arab fury at caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad grew when the beating of Iraqis was seen. "Insults and degradation by so-called gentlemen," said al-Jazeera television station, calling the abuse "savagery". "Britain's Abu Ghraib", the English language Arab News said. "What is most intriguing is that the authorities appear absolutely clueless as to what is happening right under their noses," an editorial read.
"Where was the British Ministry of Defence all this time? Why is the ministry so often the last one to know what its personnel are doing? Or did it know?" The Bahrain Tribune said that the video could not have been shown at a worse time. "The Arab and Muslim world is already sitting on a powder keg over the offensive cartoons," it said. "The illusion of the British being a friendly force is no longer there. The grainy video has exposed deep-seated animosity they, too, have for the Iraqis."
'This is never about rotten apples': The scenes of troops brutally assaulting people in the streets of southern Iraq show the reality of occupation by British troops.
The mainstream media likes to talk of how British soldiers have had experience in Northern Ireland that equips them for their duties in Iraq.
They have a point. In the New Lodge area of Belfast in 1992, 19 year old Peter McBride was shot in the back by two Scots Guards, Mark Wright and James Fisher, seconds after they had stopped and searched him.
After perjuring themselves, a Belfast court found the two guilty of murder.
"Our family has watched events unfold over the past months in Iraq," she [Peter's sister Kelly McBride ]said. "The humiliation and abuse of civilians there brings sadness but no surprise. "People talk about these soldiers 'disgracing' the army. But the soldiers who murdered my brother have been allowed to remain in the British army.
"Peter was not suspended from the prongs of a forklift truck, nor was he forced to simulate sexual acts or beaten in the streets. "Instead he was shot in the back in broad daylight in a Belfast street - and then finished off as he tried to pull himself up.
"But despite their convictions the Ministry of Defence has allowed both convicted murderers to stay on in the army. General Mike Jackson sat on the army board that made this decision. "They gave us assurances that these two would never be put in a situation where they could kill again. Then they handed them their guns and sent them off to Iraq.
"Wright and Fisher were stationed in Basra later. This is never about rotten apples. Tony Blair tolerates the murder of those who are not British citizens. "Should we be surprised that British soldiers in Basra believe that they can literally get away with murder when they are serving alongside two convicted murderers?"
Intel pros say Bush is lying about foiling 2002 terror attack: Outraged intelligence professionals say President George W. Bush is "cheapening" and "politicizing" their work with claims the United States foiled a planned terrorist attack against Los Angeles in 2002.
"The President has cheapened the entire intelligence community by dragging us into his fantasy world," says a longtime field operative of the Central Intelligence Agency. "He is basing this absurd claim on the same discredited informant who told us Al Qaeda would attack selected financial institutions in New York and Washington."
Within hours of the President's speech Thursday claiming his administration had prevented a major attack, sources who said they were current and retired intelligence pros from the CIA, NSA, FBI and military contacted Capitol Hill Blue with angry comments disputing the President's remarks.
"He's full of shit," said one sharply-worded email.
Although none were willing to allow use of their names, saying doing so would place them in legal jeopardy, we were able to confirm that at least four of the 23 who contacted us currently work, or had worked, within the U.S. intelligence community.
But Los Angeles Mayor Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa is willing to go on the record, claiming Bush blind-sided his city with the claims.
"I'm amazed that the president would make this (announcement) on national TV and not inform us of these details through the appropriate channels," the mayor says. "I don't expect a call from the president â€" but somebody." Villaraigosa also said he has twice requested meetings with Bush to discuss security issues for Los Angeles and was turned down both times.
Intelligence pros say much of the information used by Bush in an attempt to justify his increased spying on Americans by the National Security Agency, trampling of civil rights under the USA Patriot Act, and massive buildup of the Department of Homeland Security, now the nation's largest federal bureaucracy, was "worthless intel that was discarded long ago."
US terror suspect list growing fast: The US National Counterterrorism Centre maintains a list of 325,000 names of alleged international terrorism suspects or people who aid them. Citing unnamed counter-terrorism officials, the Washington Post newspaper said on Wednesday that the number had more than quadrupled since the fall of 2003.
The list kept by the National Counterterrorism Centre, NCTC, contains a far greater number of international terrorist suspects and associated names in a single government database than has previously been disclosed, according to the report. The paper said because the same person may appear under different spellings or aliases, the true number of separate individuals was estimated to be more than 200,000.
US citizens make up "only a very, very small fraction" of that number, The Post said, quoting an administration official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. "The vast majority are non-US persons and do not live in the US."
Reporters Without Borders urges release of Aljazeera journalists: An international media watchdog has urged the United States to free Sami al-Hajj, an Aljazeera cameraman, and another journalist, saying they had been unfairly detained. Paris-based Reporters Without Borders (known by its French acronym, RSF) said in a statement on Tuesday: "These journalists have been denied justice and not allowed to see family or lawyers."
Al-Hajj is being held at a military base in Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, and Abdel Amir Yunes Hussein, 26, who works for US network CBS News, is being held at a US prison in Iraq. The statement accompanied a new report into the arrests of journalists in Iraq and Afghanistan. Al-Hajj, 36, has been held at Guantanamo Bay since 2002 after being arrested in Afghanistan in 2001, it said. He has been accused of making videos of Osama bin Laden.
RSF said he had told a human rights lawyer who visited him in Guantanamo that he had been interrogated more than 130 times and tortured, including sexually.
COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS
How can the US ever get out of this quagmire?: The White House seemed very upset with what happened in the Green zone, when US soldiers "found" the jail of Jadriya while they were looking for a 15 years old kidnapped child. The images of torture and execution disturbed the US government, who now claims to be the champion of human rights and democracy. Even Condolencia Rice proclaimed that "the US does not torture". They pretended that the Jafaari government had let them down with such abuses. How hypocrite can you get? They trained these men, spent 3,3 billion $ out of the 2004 Pentagon's 87 billion $ budget to create and fund militia's like the Badr militia's and the Wolf brigade. They don't fool no Iraqis, even when they hire people like Christian Bailey to plant false stories in Iraqi newspapers. We Iraqis know what's happening. The US bears prime responsibility for the torture and killing of Iraqi civilians. They transferred their dirty methods used in Nicaragua, El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala to Iraq. And they kill without remorse, using their militia's to carry out the torture for them. They must be very desperate. On the one hand they want to invade Iran, on the other hand they fund and train Iranian militia's, and support Iranian fundamentalist currents. But when they decide to invade Iran, every single Shia in Iraq will join the resistance. And they will be as ruthless against US forces as they are now against the Iraqi resistance. How can the US ever get out of this quagmire? A good advice: the sooner they leave, the better for them.
To read this article, after linking through the heading to the Brussells Tribunal / People vs. Total War Incorporated site, choose first “Eyewitness: Stories from inside Iraq” and then “Inside Iraq’s secret prisons: An Iraqi testimony”.
The time has come to ask for a clear definition of "civilization": Britain has boasted much about its standards of military justice being some of the highest in the world. Let us see how far up the chain of command investigations are able to reach. Let's see whether the defense secretary is called upon to answer for the crimes.
If we are serious about such matters as peace and security, let us stop denying what is obvious to people living in Muslim countries. Let us not just keep our attention anchored on the silly cartoons and their aftermath on the streets of the Middle East. Let us consider the far graver matters threatening the moral core of civilization itself.
Now the actions last week on the streets of Cairo, Jakarta and Tehran appear in quite a different light. It should have been obvious that the issue - for people living there - did not concern freedom of expression at all. It should have been evident that it wasn't just a matter of a few cartoons. The actions against the cartoons are only at the little-rippling surface of surging anger among people living in Muslim countries at the systematic injustices they continue to suffer at the hands of the West, especially the United States and the United Kingdom. The Muslim clergy is able to make hay only because the blazing sun of foreign injustices refuses to set.
The Abu Ghraib revelations took place almost two years ago - those at the Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba even earlier. More recently, it was learned that special Central Intelligence Agency flights were being routed through Europe to carry suspects to be tortured in places where it would be safe to do so. Illegal detentions and tortures continue in a global archipelago of prisons run by Washington.
No significant (by which I mean proportionate) justice has been done with regards to the torture revelations. Muslims, much more so than others, cannot forget that. Nor has there been any promise that the practices would be stopped. On the contrary, Washington has sought to legalize torture.
When one has come to live in such a brutalized global village, when men in suits and ties calmly impose barbarities on others in the name of defending something they call civilization and for passing on the torch of liberty to less fortunate souls in strange lands, the time has come to ask for a clear definition of "civilization".
If you reserve your brutality for bar-room brawls and post-soccer angst, or export it abroad in the shape of oil-seeking military missions masquerading as human-rights campaigns, it does not make you any less barbaric than those Muslims who were openly burning European flags and throwing stones at consulates last week. On the contrary, machines kill more effectively than machetes.
Much deeper things than just freedom of speech are at stake these days. The very dignity of human beings is under the sword - everywhere.
Long before the first atom had been split and the first-ever bomb dropped from the air (by the Italians on Libya in 1911), the great 19th-century American writer Herman Melville had written with self-critical honesty that few in this modern world (which, we are assured, is freer today than ever before) would dare, though the truth is far more grim today:
The fiend-like skill we display in the invention of all manner of death-dealing engines, the vindictiveness with which we carry on our wars, and the misery and desolation that follow in their train, are enough of themselves to distinguish the white civilized man as the most ferocious animal on the face of the earth ... it is needless to multiply the examples of civilized barbarity; they far exceed in the amount of misery they cause the crimes which we regard with such abhorrence in our less enlightened fellow-creature.Times have moved on much since Melville. But the world is such that the integrity of a white man still has greater impact on human destinies than the honesty of others (who are by no means exempt from their duty to find and tell the truth). One shudders to imagine what Melville would have written today. But the rest of the world expects exactly such honesty from Western citizens today. And we know, from the example of numerous noble exceptions, that they are capable of it. It is for them to terminate their indoctrinated ignorance, seek the truth and make it count.
We are truly scratching the bottom of the barrel of civilization now.
The enemy, of course, is you, dear reader: The Pentagon has developed a comprehensive strategy for taking over the internet and controlling the free flow of information. The plan appears in a recently declassified document, "The Information Operations Roadmap", which was provided under the FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) and revealed in an article by the BBC.
The Pentagon sees the internet in terms of a military adversary that poses a vital threat to its stated mission of global domination. This explains the confrontational language in the document which speaks of "fighting the net"; implying that the internet is the equivalent of "an enemy weapons system."
The Defense Dept. places a high-value on controlling information. The new program illustrates their determination to establish the parameters of free speech.
The Pentagon sees information as essential in manipulating public perceptions and, thus, a crucial tool in eliciting support for unpopular policies. The recent revelations of the military placing propaganda in the foreign press demonstrate the importance that is given to co-opting public opinion.
Information-warfare is used to create an impenetrable cloud around the activities of government so that decisions can be made without dissent. The smokescreen of deception that encompasses the Bush administration has less to do with prevaricating politicians than it does with a clearly articulated policy of obfuscation. "The Information Operations Roadmap" is solely intended to undermine the principle of an informed citizenry.
The Pentagon's focus on the internet tells us a great deal about the mainstream media and its connection to the political establishment.
Why, for example, would the Pentagon see the internet as a greater threat than the mainstream media, where an estimated 75% of Americans get their news?
The reason is clear; because the MSM is already a fully-integrated part of the corporate-system providing a 24 hour per day streaming of business-friendly news. Today's MSM operates as a de-facto franchise of the Pentagon, a reliable and sophisticated propagandist for Washington's wars of aggression and political subterfuge.
The internet, on the other hand, is the last bastion of American democracy; a virtual world where reliable information moves instantly from person to person without passing through the corporate filter. Online visitors can get a clear picture of their governments' depredations with a click of the mouse. This is the liberalization of the news, an open source of mind-expanding information that elevates citizen awareness of complex issues and threatens the status quo.
The internet is a logical target for the Pentagon's electronic warfare. Already the Downing Street memos, Bush's bombing-threats against Al Jazeera, the fraudulent 2004 elections, and the leveling of Falluja, have disrupted the smooth execution of Bush's wars. It is understandable that Rumsfeld and Co. would seek to transform this potential enemy into an ally, much as it has done with the MSM.
The Pentagon's plans for engaging in "virtual warfare" are impressive. As BBC notes: "The operations described in the document include a surprising range of military activities: public affairs officers who brief journalists, psychological operations troops who try to manipulate the thoughts and beliefs of an enemy, computer network attack specialists who seek to destroy enemy networks." (BBC)
The enemy, of course, is you, dear reader, or anyone who refuses to accept their role as a witless-cog in new world order. Seizing the internet is a prudent way of controlling every piece of information that one experiences from cradle to grave; all necessary for an orderly police-state.
Open season on Cheney: When there is a national emergency, reporters are told that Dick Cheney is in a secure location. It may be secure for him, but it's obviously not so safe for his companions. The one advantage for his companions is that the US Vice-President, who has a history of heart problems, is accompanied by medical personnel. So, say he accidentally shoots you, then medical assistance is at hand.
The friendly-fire incident in which he accidentally shot his quail-hunting companion, Harry Whittington, has provided plenty of jokes for American comedians, and plenty of ammunition for left-wing conspiracists. David Letterman began his show: "Good news, ladies and gentlemen. We have finally located weapons of mass destruction: it's Dick Cheney. We can't get bin Laden but we nailed a 78-year-old attorney."
Jay Leno said there was so much snow in Washington that Cheney shot a fat man thinking it was a polar bear. Even the newspapers found it hard to play it straight. The New York Daily News headline was "Duck! It's Dick", while the more Administration-friendly New York Post said simply: "Big Shot."
Ronald Reagan's former press secretary, Jim Brady, who has become a leading gun-control advocate since being shot in a presidential assassination attempt, said: "Now I understand why Dick Cheney keeps asking me to go hunting with him. I had a friend once who accidentally shot pellets into his dog - I thought he was an idiot."
Bloggers were ahead of the pack. "Guns don't shoot people. The Vice-President shoots people," was common, mocking the National Rifle Association's excuse for everything.
IRAN AND BEYOND
Knight-Ridder bangs the drums of war: Knight-Ridder newspapers are out with a major article on Iranian nuclear activities; it's splashed all over page 3A of today's San Jose Mercury News, complete with ominous maps showing the alleged range of Iran's Shahab missiles (being sure to note that "American troops in the region" are at risk, naturally without asking the question of what those troops are doing there in the first place), ominous "Colin Powell at the U.N."-style aerial photos showing alleged underground buildings (quite a trick in an aerial photo) and alleged "dummy buildings covering the entrance to an underground truck road" (again, quite a deduction from an aerial photo). Here's the article's lead sentence:
Tehran's insistence on enriching uranium could destabilize a volatile region, wreak havoc on energy markets and bring nuclear weapons to an Islamic theocracy.Throughout the article, which is more than a thousand words long, there is not one word to indicate that enriched uranium is used in nuclear power plants; it is simply assumed that "Tehran's insistence on enriching uranium" is due to an intent to build a bomb. Iran's denial that it has any such intent? Never mentioned in the article.
And the "options" which the article lays out for the "international community" to "deal" with Iraq? Sanctions, "beef up treaty" ("significantly increase the diplomatic costs of Iraq ever deploying nuclear weapons," whatever that means), "strengthen regional defenses," "bypass the Persian Gulf" (meaning take Saudi Arabian oil by a different route), and military strikes. There are five options, some of them peaceful, so why did I title this post "Knight-Ridder bangs the war drums"? Because the entire thrust of this article is to convince the American people that there is a "problem" that "we" have to "deal with." Which, in the end, is quite likely to mean war of some kind, a war which articles like this will have pre-conditioned the American people to accept and support.
I mentioned that there is no clue in this article that enriched uranium is used in nuclear power plants and not just in nuclear bombs. There's another subject missing from the article, and if anything it's even more astonishing than that. The word "Israel" does not appear in this article. How bizarre is that? Here's one quote from the article: "Arab states also will have to worry that Iran's possession of nuclear weapons will embolden Tehran to revert to a more aggressive foreign policy." Arab states? Not Israel? A map accompanying the article showing "a nuclear world" even includes this curiously circumspect description: "Israel neither confirms nor denies possessing nuclear weapons. United States intelligence reports have labelled Israel as a de facto nuclear power for years." An uneducated reader would clearly be left thinking this was still an open question. After all, we all know "United States intelligence reports" were wrong about Iraqi WMD, clearly, they might be wrong about this too. And, by the way, what the heck is a "de facto" nuclear power? What other kind is there? [Elsewhere in another sidebar describing "the role of the IAEA," the reader does learn than Israel is "estimated to own 200 nuclear warheads," but it's curious this information doesn't appear on the map's label of Israel itself]
The curious (and absolutely intentional) omission of Israel from the article has an obvious effect on the central conclusion of the article. The author claims that Iran's "enriching uranium" (by which he means build nuclear weapons, as I've already discussed) "could destabilize a volatile region," but, had he noted that Israel is the sole nuclear power in the region, it could just as easily be argued that an Iranian nuclear bomb would stabilize the region by putting limits on Israel's ability to act unilaterally in using nuclear weapons, as it has threatened to do.
British think tank says thousands will be killed if Iran is attacked, warns of lengthy confrontation: The report by the independent Oxford Research Group said any bombing of Iran by U.S. forces, or by their Israeli allies, would have to be part of a surprise attack on a range of facilities including urban areas that would catch many Iranians unprotected. "I think there is at least a 50:50 risk of some sort of real crisis, probably with military action, before the end of next year," said the report's author, Professor Paul Rogers of the University of Bradford.
"There is always the possibility that the Israelis do (it). I don't think you can rule that out," he told Reuters. "For the Israelis, having an Iran which is getting anywhere close to a nuclear weapons capability is simply not acceptable."
An attack could eventually lead to a lengthy confrontation involving many other countries in the region, could mean the closure of the Gulf, and would probably have a "formidable" impact on oil prices, as well as spurring new attacks by Muslim radicals on Western interests, the report said. "A U.S. military attack on Iranian nuclear infrastructure would be the start of a protracted military confrontation," the report said. Such a confrontation would probably involve Iraq, Israel and Lebanon as well as the United States and Iran, with the possibility of Arab Gulf states being involved as well.
The report said an attack by the United States or Israel on Iran would probably spur Tehran to work as rapidly as possible towards developing a nuclear military option. It said U.S. forces, already tied down in Iraq, would have a limited number of military options when dealing with Iran and would have to rely almost entirely on the air force and navy.
Any attack would have a "powerful unifying effect within Iran", bolster the Tehran government, and mean any future U.S. relationship with Iran would be based on violence. The report concluded that a military response to the crisis would be a "particularly dangerous option and should not be considered further".
While the world was not looking Denmark lurched to the far right: Denmark has at last managed to catch the world's eye, after so many years of failing to get credit for being at the cutting edge of liberalism. But the inelegant handling of the controversy over the cartoons of the prophet Muhammad is the result of a country that has been moving in the direction of xenophobia and racism - especially towards its Muslim inhabitants.
The world needs to realise that the Denmark that helped Jews flee from Nazi deportation is long gone. A new Denmark has appeared, a Denmark of intolerance and a deep-seated belief in its cultural superiority.
We were a liberal and tolerant people until the 1990s, when we suddenly awoke to find that for the first time in our history we had a significant minority group living among us. Confronted with the terrifying novelty of being a multicultural country, Denmark took a step not merely to the right but to the far right. Now, politicians of most stripes have embraced ignorance.
The Social Democrats, formerly Denmark's largest party and the force behind its postwar social reforms, were forced to realise that the rhetoric of solidarity and social reforms no longer impressed voters in an increasingly prosperous economy. To win support mainstream politicians felt they needed to bully the same scapegoat blamed by the far right for the social problems arising in modern Danish society, in the form of the Muslim minority. The rhetoric of politicians and media hardened and became offensive. Where else could liberal politicians get away with saying that one of their party's main aims is to stop Turkey joining the EU?
The discussion has focused on freedom of expression, but that is not what Jyllands-Posten had in mind when it published the caricatures, nor is it the prime mission of the rightwing Danish government. Denmark has embarked on a self-declared crusade to tell others how to live. The prime minister, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, is quoted as saying: "Freedom of speech should be used to provoke and criticise political or religious authoritarians."
The Danish establishment weighed in on its leader's side. The rightwing newspaper Weekendavisen - at one time Denmark's foremost intellectual journal - justified Rasmussen's initial reaction of indifference to complaints about the cartoons and his refusal to meet with 10 concerned ambassadors from Muslim countries as "a desire for an activist foreign policy which has clashed with the traditional diplomatic wish to smooth things over". An MEP, Mogens Camre, declared: "It is 2005 and there is no reason whatsoever to respect foolish superstition in any form."
Following the lead of the moderates, the founder of the ultra-rightwing Danish People's party, Pia Kjærsgaard, felt emboldened to say that in order to qualify for citizenship, immigrants must not only master the Danish language but be examined on their respect for Danish society and its values. The words "Danish values" are repeated reverentially, as if all Danes possess a single mindset opposed to that held by Muslims. Kjærsgaard tells her countrymen the issue is not one of cartoons, but concerns rather a titanic struggle of values between totalitarian, dogmatic Islamic regimes and the freedom and liberty beloved of western democracies. Meanwhile the 200,000 Muslims living in Denmark have been denied a permit to build a mosque in Copenhagen. There is not a single Muslim cemetery in the country.
· Kiku Day is a Danish musician living in London
China denies arrest of any individual for releasing online comment: China's government denied the arrest of any individual for "just releasing his comment on the Internet", implying that any online comment shouldn't challenge nation's regulations and laws. "Since 2000, China has enacted serial regulations and laws for Internet service providers, by which China manages its Internet market in line with international conventions," said Liu Zhengrong, an official with the Internet Affairs Bureau of the State Council Information Office.
Liu gave the remark in response to questions raised by foreign reporters who had expected him to confirm a case in which reportedly a Chinese dissident was arrested for releasing comment on the Internet at a press conference held on Tuesday. "It's common that some websites deleted law-breaking content from the webpage, for many international news providers, such as the New York Times and Washington Post, have similar claims in their websites that netizen's comment should comply with relevant laws," he said.
"It is unfair to slam website's deletion of harmful content in China which websites in other countries like the United States regularly do," the official said, "It is double-standard." Liu said the management of the Internet should not be an obstacle for the development of new technology and the public Internet users should be the master in management, noting that China is not "controlling" but "regulating" the development of the Internet.
Violent reactions to cartoons continue: More than 70,000 protesters in Peshawar have burnt a fast-food restaurant, offices of two mobile phone companies and three cinemas as violence continues in Pakistan for a third day over the Prophet Muhammad cartoons.
Iranian commander accuses Germany's FM of thinking like Hitler: On Wednesday, a commander in Iran's Revolutionary Guards lashed out at German Chancellor Angela Merkel over her remarks on the nuclear programme, saying she "thinks she's Hitler."
"In her childish dreams, Merkel imagines she's Hitler and thinks that now she occupies the chancellor's seat she can dictate orders to the world and to free countries," Commander Massoud Jazayeri was quoted as saying by the ISNA news agency. "We cannot expect anything else from people with a 'Zionist' past," he added.
German FM says Holocaust cartoons competition is "provocation": "To deny the Holocaust in such a manner and to denigrate the memory of the victims, is not only tasteless but a provocation," Steinmeier told reporters after a meeting with his Portuguese counterpart Diogo Freitas do Amaral.
He said that freedom of expression and freedom of the press should not only be written into the constitutions of most European countries, but should be enforced. "We have to explain that to Arab nations," Steinmeier added.
Even bigots and Holocaust deniers must have their say: Muslims who are outraged by the Danish cartoons point out that in several European countries it is a crime publicly to deny, as the president of Iran has denied, that the Holocaust ever took place. They say that western concern for free speech is therefore only self-serving hypocrisy, and they have a point. But of course the remedy is not to make the compromise of democratic legitimacy even greater than it already is but to work toward a new understanding of the European convention on human rights that would strike down the Holocaust-denial law and similar laws across Europe for what they are: violations of the freedom of speech that that convention demands.