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UK to withdraw troops from Afghanistan

Press TV – May 22, 2010

In a U-turn in Britain’s policy regarding the Afghan war, senior government officials say they want UK soldiers to return home as soon as possible.

In an interview with The Times newspaper before arriving in Kabul on Saturday, Defense Secretary Liam Fox described the Afghan war as Britain’s most urgent priority. He said no more troops will be deployed in Afghanistan, adding that he wants to speed up the withdrawal of UK soldiers and training of Afghan forces.

Fox emphasized that the new government in London will put national security issues on top of its priority list.

“National security is the focus now. We are not a global policeman. We are not in Afghanistan for the sake of the education policy in a broken 13th-century country. We are there so the people of Britain and our global interests are not threatened,” Fox said.

Britain is the second-largest contributor of troops to Afghanistan. It has deployed some 10,000 soldiers in the war-torn country. The number of British soldiers killed in Afghanistan since 2001 stands at 286.

May 22, 2010 Posted by | Aletho News, Illegal Occupation | Comments Off on UK to withdraw troops from Afghanistan

Israel blocks mail between Gaza, West Bank

Ma’an – 20/05/2010

Gaza – Israel has halted the flow of government sector mail between Gaza and the West Bank, causing a delay in the receipt of official documents, officials said on Thursday.

Maher Abu Ouf, Palestinian director for the Erez crossing between Gaza and Israel, said Israel shut-down all mail services last Wednesday after forces detained Gaza-based postal service official Sufian Abu Zubda.

“We do not know the reasons for Abu Zubda’s detention,” Abu Ouf told Ma’an.

The crossings official said they had called on Israel to resume the postal service between Gaza and the West Bank, but had yet to receive an official response.

Said Ash-Sharfa, head of Gaza exports, said only DHL still has permits to operate.

A representative from Israel’s Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) did not immediately return phone calls seeking comment on the report.

Despite unilaterally withdrawing its forces and citizens living on illegal Gaza settlements, Israel maintains strict control over the Gaza Strip, notably over the passage of goods in and out of the coastal enclave since Hamas’ takeover in 2007.

Until late 2009, all mail sent and received by Palestinians went through the Israeli Postal Service with letters designated for the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem often marked “via Israel.”

However, with support from USAID’s PA Capacity Enhancement Program, implemented by Chemonics International, the Palestine Postal Service was awarded an International Mail Processing Center Code by the Universal Postal Union, allowing the Palestine Postal Service to send and receive mail directly to and from other postal administrations around the world, rather than through Israel.

It also enables the Palestine Postal Service to receive payment from other postal administrations to facilitate delivery of incoming international mail to addresses in the West Bank and Gaza. Previously, the Israeli Postal Service received the payments.

May 22, 2010 Posted by | Illegal Occupation | 3 Comments

Obama wins the right to detain people with no habeas review

By Glenn Greenwald | May 21, 2010

Few issues highlight Barack Obama’s extreme hypocrisy the way that Bagram does. As everyone knows, one of George Bush’s most extreme policies was abducting people from all over the world — far away from any battlefield — and then detaining them at Guantanamo with no legal rights of any kind, not even the most minimal right to a habeas review in a federal court.  Back in the day, this was called “Bush’s legal black hole.”  In 2006, Congress codified that policy by enacting the Military Commissions Act, but in 2008, the Supreme Court, in Boumediene v. Bush, ruled that provision unconstitutional, holding that the Constitution grants habeas corpus rights even to foreign nationals held at Guantanamo.  Since then, detainees have won 35 out of 48 habeas hearings brought pursuant to Boumediene, on the ground that there was insufficient evidence to justify their detention.

Immediately following Boumediene, the Bush administration argued that the decision was inapplicable to detainees at Bagram — including even those detained outside of Afghanistan but then flown to Afghanistan to be imprisoned.  Amazingly, the Bush DOJ — in a lawsuit brought by Bagram detainees seeking habeas review of their detention — contended that if they abduct someone and ship them to Guantanamo, then that person (under Boumediene) has the right to a habeas hearing, but if they instead ship them to Bagram, then the detainee has no rights of any kind.  In other words, the detainee’s Constitutional rights depends on where the Government decides to drop them off to be encaged.  One of the first acts undertaken by the Obama DOJ that actually shocked civil libertarians was when, last February, as The New York Times put it, Obama lawyers “told a federal judge that military detainees in Afghanistan have no legal right to challenge their imprisonment there, embracing a key argument of former President Bush’s legal team.”

But last April, John Bates, the Bush-43-appointed, right-wing judge overseeing the case, rejected the Bush/Obama position and held that Boumediene applies to detainees picked up outside of Afghanistan and then shipped to Bagram.  I reviewed that ruling here, in which Judge Bates explained that the Bagram detainees are “virtually identical to the detainees in Boumediene,” and that the Constitutional issue was exactly the same: namely, “the concern that the President could move detainees physically beyond the reach of the Constitution and detain them indefinitely.”

But the Obama administration was undeterred by this loss.  They quickly appealed Judge Bates’ ruling.  As the NYT put it about that appeal:  “The decision signaled that the administration was not backing down in its effort to maintain the power to imprison terrorism suspects for extended periods without judicial oversight.”  Today, a three-judge panel of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals adopted the Bush/Obama position, holding that even detainees abducted outside of Afghanistan and then shipped to Bagram have no right to contest the legitimacy of their detention in a U.S. federal court, because Boumediene does not apply to prisons located within war zones (such as Afghanistan).

So congratulations to the United States and Barack Obama for winning the power to abduct people anywhere in the world and then imprison them for as long as they want with no judicial review of any kind.  When the Boumediene decision was issued in the middle of the 2008 presidential campaign, John McCain called it “one of the worst decisions in the history of this country.”  But Obama hailed it as “a rejection of the Bush Administration’s attempt to create a legal black hole at Guantanamo,” and he praised the Court for “rejecting a false choice between fighting terrorism and respecting habeas corpus.”  Even worse, when Obama went to the Senate floor in September, 2006, to speak against the habeas-denying provisions of the Military Commissions Act, this is what he melodramatically intoned:

As a parent, I can also imagine the terror I would feel if one of my family members were rounded up in the middle of the night and sent to Guantanamo without even getting one chance to ask why they were being held and being able to prove their innocence. . . .

By giving suspects a chance — even one chance — to challenge the terms of their detention in court, to have a judge confirm that the Government has detained the right person for the right suspicions, we could solve this problem without harming our efforts in the war on terror one bit. . . .

Most of us have been willing to make some sacrifices because we know that, in the end, it helps to make us safer.  But restricting somebody’s right to challenge their imprisonment indefinitely is not going to make us safer. In fact, recent evidence shows it is probably making us less safe.

Can you smell the hypocrisy?  How could anyone miss its pungent, suffocating odor?  Apparently, what Obama called “a legal black hole at Guantanamo” is a heinous injustice, but “a legal black hole at Bagram” is the Embodiment of Hope.  And evidently, Obama would only feel “terror” if his child were abducted and taken to Guantanamo and imprisoned “without even getting one chance to ask why and prove their innocence.”  But if the very same child were instead taken to Bagram and treated exactly the same way, that would be called Justice — or, to use his jargon, Pragmatism.  And what kind of person hails a Supreme Court decision as “protecting our core values” — as Obama said of Boumediene — only to then turn around and make a complete mockery of that ruling by insisting that the Cherished, Sacred Rights it recognized are purely a function of where the President orders a detainee-carrying military plane to land?

Independently, what happened to Obama’s eloquent insistence that “restricting somebody’s right to challenge their imprisonment indefinitely is not going to make us safer; in fact, recent evidence shows it is probably making us less safe“?  How does our policy of invading Afghanistan and then putting people at Bagram with no charges of any kind dispose people in that country, and the broader Muslim world, to the United States?  If a country invaded the U.S. and set up prisons where Americans from around the world where detained indefinitely and denied all rights to have their detention reviewed, how would it dispose you to the country which was doing that?

One other point:  this decision is likely to be appealed to the Supreme Court, which serves to further highlight how important the Kagan-for-Stevens replacement could be.  If the Court were to accept the appeal, Kagan would be required to recuse herself (since it was her Solicitor General’s office that argued the administration’s position here), which means that a 4-4 ruling would be likely, thus leaving this appellate decision undisturbed.  More broadly, though, if Kagan were as sympathetic to Obama’s executive power claims as her colleagues in the Obama administration are, then her confirmation could easily convert decisions on these types of questions from a 5-4 victory (which is what Boumediene was, with Stevens in the majority) into a 5-4 defeat.  Maybe we should try to find out what her views are before putting her on that Court for the next 40 years?

This is what Barack Obama has done to the habeas clause of the Constitution:  if you are in Thailand (as one of the petitioners in this case was) and the U.S. abducts you and flies you to Guantanamo, then you have the right to have a federal court determine if there is sufficient evidence to hold you.  If, however, President Obama orders that you be taken to from Thailand to Bagram rather than to Guantanamo, then you will have no rights of any kind, and he can order you detained there indefinitely without any right to a habeas review.  That type of change is so very inspiring — almost an exact replica of his vow to close Guantanamo . . . all in order to move its core attributes (including indefinite detention) a few thousand miles North to Thompson, Illinois.

May 22, 2010 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance, Progressive Hypocrite | 8 Comments

Soldiers fire at ambulance evacuating injured demonstrator

International Solidarity Movement | 22 May 2010

The West Bank village of An Nabi Saleh held their weekly demonstration on Friday, attempting to reach the village land that has been annexed by the illegal settlement of Halamish. Demonstrators marched down from the village mosque till they were blocked by a line of Israeli soldiers and jeeps. Participants chanted, danced and sang for approximately half an hour before the military decided to violently disperse the group by throwing tear gas and sound grenades directly at the participants.

Soldiers continued to fire gas and rubber-coated steel bullets at the villagers for several hours, injuring several people, including a local teenage boy who was hit directly in the face by a canister. It opened up a hole in his face and shattered his cheek bone. As the ambulance tried to drive him away to hospital, soldiers fired volleys of tear gas at it, forcing it to turn around and take a much longer route round.

Towards the end of the demonstration, two internationals were arrested. The two, Swedish and Canadian citizens, were not taken to military base, but were held for four hours in a small shack. They were blindfolded and had their hands tied behind their backs for the whole four hours, before being released without charge. A similar ordeal was endured by three Israeli activists arrested earlier in the day in Bili’in.

The hilltop village of An Nabi Saleh has a population of approximately 500 residents and is located 30 kilometers northeast of Ramallah along highway 465. Today and every Friday since January 2010, around 100 un-armed demonstrators leave the village center in an attempt to reach a spring which borders land confiscated by Israeli settlers. The District Coordination Office has confirmed the spring is on Palestinian land, but nearly a kilometer before reaching the spring, the demonstration is routinely met with dozens of soldiers armed with M16 assault rifles, tear gas, rubber-coated steel bullets and percussion grenades.

May 22, 2010 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, Subjugation - Torture | Comments Off on Soldiers fire at ambulance evacuating injured demonstrator