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Raymond Davis And The Curious Lack of Drone Strikes

Moon Over Alabama | February 14, 2011

Raymond Davis is a U.S. government contractor who worked in Pakistan. On January 26 he gunned down and killed two people in Lahore under quite murky circumstances. He is currently in Pakistani custody. The U.S. is now claiming that he is protected under diplomatic status. But that claim seems to have evolved only after the killing. Davis arrived in Pakistan on a business visa and without diplomatic papers. In any case there is no diplomatic status protection for serious crimes.

The U.S. is pressing the Pakistani PPP-party government for the release of Davis. That isn’t easily done for the Zardari government as the case happened and will be judged in the state of Punjab where the major opposition party rules.

In the current downsizing and rearrangement of the Pakistani cabinet the, until recently, foreign minister Qureshi was supposed to stay on but yesterday he was ousted over the case:

Mr Qureshi, according to sources, was angered by President Zardari’s move to stop him from issuing any statement as foreign minister on the issue of Davis and assign the task to Interior Minister Rehman Malik.

Mr Qureshi reportedly stated that “the kind of blanket immunity Washington is pressing for Davis is not endorsed by the official record of the foreign ministry”.

The murky circumstances of the crime itself and the political shenanigans to get Davis released is already enough to make this case interesting.

But I suspect something even more interesting lies behind this.

In 2010 119 U.S. drones strike hit in Pakistan, 13 of those in November and 12 in December. In the first three weeks of January 9 drone strikes occurred, the last one on January 23, three days before the murder in Lahore.

Since then – silence. The last three weeks there were no drone strikes reported, not one.

So while there was an uninterrupted campaign of drone strikes on Pakistani ground every three days for several months, taking Mr. Davis off the streets seems to have stopped it.

It may be that the U.S. stopped the strikes to prevent further diplomatic complications. But earlier rows between the Pakistani and U.S. governments never stopped the drone campaign.

Another reason may well be that Mr. Davis is a critical component in the drone campaign and that without what he was doing, collecting targeting data from informants or whatever, the drone strikes can not continue.

It may also be that this correlation of events is not causal.

But to me it seems that keeping Davis off the streets has probably saved some Pakistani lives. Keeping him further off and inside a jail may probably save even more. That should be enough reason to press for his custody to continue.

February 17, 2011 Posted by | War Crimes | 3 Comments

EU’s “magic wand” diplomacy

The desperate race to cobble together a Palestinian state

By Stuart Littlewood | Redress | 17 February 2011

“The government are a friend to both Israelis and Palestinians,” UK Foreign Secretary William Hague, a dedicated Israel fan, told Parliament this week.

We are calling for both sides to show the visionary boldness to return to talks and make genuine compromises. Talks need to take place on the basis of clear parameters. In our view, the entire international community, including the United States, should now support 1967 borders as the basis for resumed negotiations…

Being St Valentine’s Day, he must have been feeling a sudden and unaccustomed upsurge of romantic love for our Palestinian brothers and sisters.

The next day European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said that the international community is still seeking to achieve a peace deal and a Palestinian state by September, despite the revolutionary turmoil in the region and pathetic whining from the delinquent Israeli foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, that the Iranian problem must be solved first.

There is of course no Iranian problem. There is no Palestinian problem. There is only the Israel problem. It’s been festering for 63 years. That’s what has to be solved.

Unless they’ve undergone a dramatic conversion to justice and Ashton and Hague start banging the table about enforcing international law and implementing long overdue EU sanctions against Israeli trade, such as the scrapping of the EU Association Agreement (the terms of which Israel is in permanent breach), what on earth do they think a Palestinian state cobbled together from lopsided “negotiations” is going to look like?

In particular, how are they going to transform the present shredded and impoverished remnants of Palestinian sovereignty, shockingly revealed in the clever map by Julien Boussac dubbed “Eastern Palestine Archipelago” (Atlas Du Monde Diplomatique, 2009), into the internationally recognized pre-1967 “green line” boundaries Hague says he supports?

And all this by September? “It’s a time frame that everybody has signed up to,” says Ashton, adding that a deal is still reachable in spite of the deadlock in the peace talks.

Abracadabra… Zzzz-zzzz… Just like that!

Hamas, which has a legitimate say in the future whether Hague and Ashton like it or not, and which feels Palestinian interests are not served by “negotiations” in the present unbalanced circumstances, must be watching bemused.

If any talking is to take place, it should first be disciplinary dressing-down from the United Nations to its rogue member, Israel.

February 17, 2011 Posted by | Deception, Illegal Occupation | Comments Off on EU’s “magic wand” diplomacy

Prairie Fire in Madison

Flames of Resistance

By CHRISTOPHER FONS | CounterPunch | February 17, 2011

From grudging complacency to thousands on the streets, Wisconsin’s protests are spreading like a prairie fire.  With notable work over the years done by small numbers of committed activists aside, widespread political activism has been dormant in Wisconsin.

Wisconsin is the state where Fighting Bob La Follette led the progressive movement a century back and was the first state where public employees secured the right to collectively bargain in 1959. Wisconsites have enjoyed the equity of this past activism for decades, yet 30 years after Ronald Reagan launched his class war against workers, labor is finally taking a stand.

After a series of cascading factory closings, longer work weeks, shortened leisure, lowered expectations and heightened insecurity Wisconsin labor is saying “enough.”

Enter Governor Scott Walker to drop a match to the parched prairie and start the flames of resistance.

Early this week labor unions called for the usual lobbying, protests, rallies, and vigils against Walker’s aggressive move to eliminate collective bargaining rights and cut benefits in order to pay for his larding up the budget with tax breaks for the rich. Except this time it was different.  Walker’s attack was not the usual administration of slow bleeding, but a move to go in for the final kill.  This time, workers across the state realized it was time to fight or see themselves sacrificed on the altar of Scott Walker’s political ambitions.

This week, with each passing hour, demonstrations grew and communication among workers left the incubator of organized labor tops and went into a high energy transformation iinto a mass movement.  On the ground, the Republican strategy to railroad the bill through in special session was confounded by protestors, abetted by progressive legislators, which halted its rapid passage in small hearing rooms and moved it into the halls of the capitol rotunda. An all night peoples’ discussion of the bill ensued.  This brought out students and trade unionists to sleep overnight at the state capitol building.

The following day saw the crowd swell to near 15,000, with a walkout by Madison area students, which was followed by the Madison teachers’ union call for a walkout on Wednesday, which continues.  The upbeat mood was further elevated by the firefighters, whom Walker tried to split off from labor by exempting them the cuts. Instead, the firefighters came in support of the people and entered the crowd as heroes. Meanwhile, Governor Walker remained rigid, but with some Republican State Senators beginning to bend and urge compromise. At this point, the largest union in the state, the teachers union (WEAC) had enough. With the vote pending on Thursday, they implored all Wisconsinites to come to Madison and get as close to the capitol rotunda as possible and sit. This call spread across with state, with 35 school districts either canceling or delaying classes today.

More to come!

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Christopher Fons is a Social Studies teacher in Milwaukee and a member of the Milwaukee Teacher’s Education Association (MTEA). He can be reached at fonsca@gmail.com

February 17, 2011 Posted by | Aletho News | 1 Comment

Israel’s Yellow Pages Publishes Ads Promoting “Hebrew Labour”-Only Businesses

Alternative Information Center  – 17 February 2011

Israel’s Yellow Pages publishes advertisements for businesses and establishments that explicitly promote themselves as employing only “Hebrew labour”, i.e. they do not employ Palestinians or non-Jews.

These racist ads flagrantly violate Israel’s Equal Opportunities in Employment Law, which prohibits discrimination by employers and job seekers on the basis of nationality, amongst other parameters.

In a letter written to the Yellow Pages Company Ltd. by Shutfut-Sharaka, a forum of social change organizations sharing democratic values and a vision of equality and partnership between Jews and Arabs in Israel, it is noted that “the stage given to businesses that violate this (above) law turns a blind eye and provides legitimacy to this unacceptable conduct.”

Israel’s Yellow Pages Company Ltd. is owned by Israeli businesses Bank Hapoalim, Psagot, Menorah Insurance and Clal Insurance.

Shutfut-Sharaka called on the Yellow Pages to immediately remove the discriminatory ads from the internet version of the Yellow Pages and to remove them in the upcoming editions of the printed version.

The response of Yellow Pages was reported by Arutz 7, that “the Yellow Pages group vigorously opposes all phenomenon of discrimination and racism on the basis of gender, race, religion, age etc. The company serves as an advertising platform for its customers and has no ability to influence the behavior of the clients in the manner they manage their businesses. From here (we) cannot act to remove the advertisements, done at the responsibility of the clients. The solution to the question raised is with the legal authorities in the state.”

February 17, 2011 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Timeless or most popular | 1 Comment

Netherlands and Germany call for an end to the storage of the US nuclear weapons in Europe

Press TV – February 17, 2011

The United States currently has 200 nuclear warheads in six bases in five European countries without an all-out accord from Europe, a report says.

According to the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany host 10 to 20 US nuclear weapons each, while a total of over 100 US warheads are stocked in Italy and Turkey.

Some European countries, including the Netherlands and Germany, are calling for an end to the storage of the US weapons in the continent.

Germany brought up the issue in the NATO Summit meetings of Heads of State and Government in Lisbon, Portugal, last November, but no result was achieved then.

On the other hand, the NATO members have laid down a condition that Russia should cut down on its tactical nuclear weapons in an attempt to decrease the number of their own warheads.

Russia and the United States, following the new START Treaty early February, agreed on reducing only their strategic nuclear weapons; whereas, nothing concerning tactical nuclear weapons was agreed on.

The United States, in 1952, started storing tactical weapons in Europe, the number of which reached 7,300 in 1971. Ever since, however, there has been a gradual decrease in the number of them.

February 17, 2011 Posted by | Militarism, Timeless or most popular | Comments Off on Netherlands and Germany call for an end to the storage of the US nuclear weapons in Europe

Diplomatic and Consular Immunity: One Rule for Foreign Consulates in US, Another for US Consulates Abroad

Dave Lindorff – This Can’t Be Happening! – 02/16/2011

President Obama, before he was a President or a Senator, was a constitutional law professor. He should know the law.

And yet in the increasingly dangerous show-down over Pakistan’s arrest and detention of Lahore consular contract “security official” Raymond Davis, who is charged with two counts of murder for the shooting deaths of two young Pakistanis on January 27, the president has grossly misstated what international law is with respect to the immunity from prosecution of diplomatic and consular officials.

As the president put it a few days ago at a press conference:

“With respect to Davis, our diplomat in Pakistan, we’ve got a very simple principle here that every country in the world that is party to the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations has upheld in the past and should uphold in the future. If our diplomats are in another country, then they are not subject to that country’s local prosecution. We respect it with respect to diplomats who are here. We expect Pakistan, that’s a signatory should recognize Davis as a diplomat, to abide by the same convention.”

The first problem is that Davis isn’t a “diplomat.” At best he’s a consulate employee. Furthermore, whoever wrote the president his lines or gave him his background briefing sure didn’t read the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations of 1963! Nor did he or she read a document issued last August by the US State Department titled: Diplomatic and Consular Immunity; Guidance for Law Enforcement and Judicial Authorities (Dept. of State Pub. 10524)

US State Dept. has one rule on immunity for consular officials here, another for our guys overseas

The Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations of 1961 that the president mentions, and to which the State Department keeps referring when telling Pakistani and American journalists that Davis must be released from jail, is really not even the relevant document. Davis is not a diplomatic employee. He stated himself to police that he is “only a consultant at the Lahore Consulate”. Whether even that statement is true or not, the point is that his legal status would then be determined in accordance with the later treaty, the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations of 1963.

And as that document states, in Article 41:

Consular officers shall not be liable to arrest or detention pending trial, except in the case of a grave crime and pursuant to a decision by the competent judicial authority.

Murder would, of course, constitute such a “grave crime.”

Perhaps police and prosecutors in Lahore, when they arrested Davis and jailed him pending a court hearing on his legal status vis-a-vis possible immunity from prosecution for the crime of murder (and possibly also espionage, which is a charge reportedly also being considered), were following some kind of protocol of Pakistan’s Department of Foreign Affairs–something akin to the US State Department’s legal advice to American police and judicial authorities.

Because here’s what the US State Department says regarding the immunity claims of diplomatic and consular officials of foreign governments in the US:

International law, to which the United State is firmly committed, requires that law enforcement authorities of the United States extend certain privileges and immunities to members of Foreign diplomatic missions and consular posts. Most of the privileges and immunities are not absolute and law enforcement officers retain their fundamental responsibility to protect and police the orderly conduct of persons in the United States.

Ahem.

The document goes on to state:

Diplomatic immunity is not intended to serve as a license for persons to flout the law and purposely avoid liability for their actions.

The State Department guidance document notes that the staff of embassies are afforded the highest level of privileges and immunities in the host country (ambassadors and their immediate subordinates, such as the charge d’affaires) have virtually total immunity from detention and prosecution. But it goes on to state that it is another thing altogether when it comes to consular officials. Here the document states:

There is a common misunderstanding that consular personnel have diplomatic status and are entitled to absolute immunity.

Hmmmm. Sounds like what Obama is suffering just such a misunderstanding.

But as the State Department tells American law enforcement personnel:

Consular officers..have only official acts or functional immunity in respect of both criminal and civil matters and their personal inviolability is quite limited. Consular officers may be arrested and detained pending trial…if their offense is a felony and the arrest is made pursuant to a decision by a competent judicial authority.

The document also makes it clear that it is not up to the arrested consular official’s home country to determine whether the person is properly being held for trial:

No…diplomatic mission or consulate is authorized to determine whether a given set of circumstances constitutes an official act. This is an issue that may only be resolved by the court with subject matter jurisdiction over the alleged crime.

Only (a) court, in the full light of all the relevant facts, determines whether the action complained of was an official act.

Clearly then, the President and the State Department are factually wrong to insist that Davis must be released from jail. Pakistani judicial authorities in Lahore are doing exactly what the police and courts in the US would do with State Department blessing if a similar incident occurred involving a foreign country’s consular employee here in America.

Raymond Davis may never face trial for the execution-style slaying of two Pakistanis, who appear not to have been robbers threatening him, as claimed by the US, but rather Pakistani intelligence agents who were tailing him, suspecting him of being a spy, but if he is released without facing a judicial hearing, or if that hearing is less than a thorough evidentiary proceeding, it will be not because of the Vienna Conventions, but because of the intense pressure, diplomatic, military and economic, being brought to bear on the Pakistani government by the US, which has dispatched Congressional representatives and senators and the Secretary of State, and now the President, to send the message: Let him go or else!

They might want to reconsider.

The president, the secretary of state and myriad government flaks and Congressional stooges like Rep. Daryl Issa and Sen. John Kerry aren’t just insulting Americans’ intelligence with this “absolute immunity” nonsense. They are insulting the Pakistani people.

At this point, if Davis is sprung because of US pressure, the anger that has led Pakistanis to take to the street by the thousands over this case, demanding that Davis face justice for his actions, could well explode in a revolution that will make Egypt’s People Power uprising a distant memory.

February 17, 2011 Posted by | Progressive Hypocrite, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | Comments Off on Diplomatic and Consular Immunity: One Rule for Foreign Consulates in US, Another for US Consulates Abroad

Three fishermen shot dead in northern Gaza

Ma’an – 17/02/2011

GAZA CITY — Three Palestinians were shot dead in the northern Gaza Strip on Wednesday, Israeli military officials informed Gaza authorities.

The three were said to have been killed near the evacuated Doget settlement, north of Beit Lahiya. A Palestinian official in Gaza said he was informed that the men were shot allegedly sneaking into Israel.

Medics were alerted and permitted by Israeli forces occupying the border region to enter the “no-go zone” to retrieve the bodies, spokesman of the higher committee of ambulance and emergency services Adham Abu Salmiya told Ma’an.

The same official told AFP that no weapons were found near the bodies of the men.

Beit Lahiya residents said they heard a helicopter flying and shots fired at approximately 2:15 a.m.

The retrieved bodies were transferred to the Kamal Odwan Hospital in Beit Lahiya, where medics identified the slain as Jihad Fathi Khalaf, 20, Tal’at Ar-Ruwagh, 25, and Ashraf Eqtefan, 29.

Initial inquiries revealed that at least two of the men were fishermen. Relatives later confirmed that all three worked on the sea.

The Israeli military spokesperson’s office released a statement late Thursday morning, saying the military had “thwart[ed a] terror attempt.”

The statement said a “number of Palestinian militants approaching the security fence in the northern Gaza Strip,” were identified by soldiers occupying the area, adding that the men were apparently trying to plant explosives.

“Thwarting the attempt, the force fired at the militants, hitting three of them,” the statement continued.

Workers shot, injured

Two additional incidents, medics said Israeli forces fired on two workers from the cement factory in Gaza City, injuring both in the legs as they collected stone aggregates separately east of Gaza City on Thursday.

Medics said both were taken to the Ash-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City with moderate injuries.

An Israeli military official confirmed two incidents at 10 and noon respectively, when individuals approached the border area. Both were told to retreat from the 300-meter no-go zone, a spokesman said, and when they did not pull back warning shots were fired, then fire was directed at the legs of the workers.

February 17, 2011 Posted by | Deception, Illegal Occupation, Subjugation - Torture | 1 Comment

Tanks in Bahrain block ambulances

Press TV – February 17, 2011
At least four killed as security forces raid protesters camped out in central Manama

Tanks in the Bahraini capital, Manama, prevented ambulances from taking the victims of clashes to hospitals, as the pro-democracy uprising in the country has entered its fourth day, a report says.

The report also added that Bahraini security forces attacked and beat medical workers who are helping the victims on Thursday.

Pro-democracy uprising in Bahrain has entered its fourth day, as protesters, inspired by revolutions in Egypt and Tunisia, have taken to the streets to protest against the government’s dictatorial policies.

More than a dozen army tanks and several military ambulances and trucks are seen in a main highway in the central Manama.

According to witnesses, the nearby roads have almost been cleared of civilian traffic. Security forces have also put up barbed wire around Pearl Square.

On Thursday, security forces raided the protesters camped out in Pearl Square in central Manama and fired tear gas and rubber bullets at the people to disperse them, Reuters reported.

Four people were killed in the incident, raising the number of the deaths to seven since Monday.

At least 2,000 protesters were occupying the Pearl Square on Wednesday, calling for a new constitution and an elected prime minister.

On Wednesday, Bahraini authorities said that they would seek to restore calm in the streets on Thursday, after days of protests inspired by the revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt and intensified by the deaths of two protesters in 24 hours.

The magnitude of the pro-democracy protests in Bahrain is unprecedented in the history of the kingdom and the authorities’ efforts to quell them have so far been ineffective.

The demonstrators are demanding a new constitution that would move the country toward democracy and limit the king’s powers.

Bahrain is ruled by a royal family, who are blamed for discrimination against the country’s Shia population — comprising 70 percent of the population.

Protesters have called on the Bahraini to fire his uncle, Khalifa bin Salman al-Khalifa, who has been the country’s prime minister since 1971.

The US Navy’s Fifth Fleet is based in the kingdom of Bahrain.

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Al-Jazeera:

February 17, 2011 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Solidarity and Activism, Video | Comments Off on Tanks in Bahrain block ambulances