30 Dec

Events of Interest and Analyses, A Foreign Perspective

Holiday Season in the West Bank





 lsraeli ex-president guilty of rape

 Judges say Moshe Katsav’s testimony was “riddled with lies” before passing verdict in Tel Aviv.






Outgoing Brazilian leader delivers emotional speech, saying his lowly background pressured him to do well.  


The 9/11 nihilism of GOP senators

Republican senators sought to block healthcare funding for 9/11 first responders, while lobbying for extended tax cuts.
Cliff Schecter Last Modified: 26 Dec 2010 11:02 GMT


Mitch McConnell, sentate minority leader, is intent on derailing the policy agenda of the Obama administration  [Getty] 

Sometimes there are simply no words to describe the behaviour of Mitch McConnell’s band of merry misanthropes – also known as much of the US Senate Republican Caucus. The level of pathological callousness, a nihilistic streak that would make Friedrich Nietzsche blush, the willingness to put an AR-15 to the head of the nearest vulnerable group if they don’t get every last dime of the mud-bath tax credit for the likes of Kim Kardashian.  

You’ve seen these clowns in action. You know what I’m talking about.  

They diagnose patients via Youtube. They block votes on everything that doesn’t involve water boarding someone or gutting mine safety standards. They turn bathroom stalls in Minnesota airports into tourist destinations.  




Thatcher cover-up revealed


Margaret Thatcher in 1980

PM agreed to keep secret John Stonehouse’s espionage at meeting in 1980, documents show    



US military investigates ‘death squad’ accused of murdering Afghans

  • Chris McGreal in Washington
  • Brigadier general to conduct review of 5th Stryker brigade as evidence emerges of widespread complicity in deaths  


    US soldiers from the 5th Stryker brigade in Afghanistan. Photograph: Romeo Gacad/AFP/Getty Images  

    The US military is investigating the leadership of an army brigade whose soldiers are accused of running a “kill team” that murdered Afghan civilians, as further evidence emerges of widespread complicity in the deaths.  

    A brigadier general is conducting a “top to bottom” review of the 5th Stryker brigade after five of its soldiers were committed for trial early next year charged with involvement in the murders of three Afghans and other alleged crimes including mutilating their bodies, and collecting fingers and skulls from corpses as trophies.  

    Among the issues under investigation is the failure of commanders to intervene when the alleged crimes were apparently widely spoken about among soldiers.  


    Christine O’Donnell’s use of campaign funds ‘under investigation by the FBI’

    29 Dec 2010:  

    Richard Adams: Christine O’Donnell, the ill-fated Tea Party favourite, reported to be under investigation for misuse of campaign donations  



    BP facing new legal threat over Gulf spill


    Stephen Foley: An investor lawsuit against BP, claiming the oil giant repeatedly lied about its safety record, will be fronted by two ambitious politicians and range over more than five years of the company’s communications with shareholders.  



    $9 billion questions

    Willy-nilly appreciation of WikiLeaks revelations must not lift pressure for political reform in Sudan, notes Gamal Nkrumah

    The scent of war is in the air in Sudan. A religious jihad perhaps? Sudanese President Omar Hassan Al-Bashir, in retrospect, came to power with three big objectives in mind. First, Al-Bashir wanted to sell militant Islam to his people, presumably the northern Sudanese. Second, he intended to frame the Sudanese government’s overall mission for forcibly subduing the restless peoples of the far-flung and outlying, desperately impoverished and peripheralised backwaters of the country — including southern Sudan and Darfur. Last but not least, the Sudanese president planned to stiffen Khartoum’s spine about the coming possibility of relinquishing the oil-rich southern third of the country.

    It is against this dramatic backdrop that WikiLeaks dropped a bombshell concerning Sudan and its reputedly maverick leader. According to United States diplomatic cables revealed by WikiLeaks, the Sudanese president squandered public money and stole $9 billion from state coffers stacking the treasure away in the British banking group Lloyds. The revelations were leaked in blood-curdling terms. “It is time to go public with the scale of the theft in order to turn the Sudanese public opinion against [Al-Bashir],” Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) Luis Moreno-Ocampo was quoted as telling Alejandro Wolff, former US ambassador to the United Nations. The Sudanese president is wanted by the ICC to face charges of genocide and war crimes. Naturally, the Sudanese authorities rejected the allegations as “ludicrous” and “laughable”. But who is to have the last laugh? Presumably, not Al-Bashir.

    Irresponsible financial dealings and corruption have a good claim to being the primary causes of poverty in African and Arab nations, including Sudan. Rumours of African and Arab leaders raiding state coffers are nothing new. News about Western banks colluding with corrupt African and Arab leaders in transferring ill-begotten gains are, also, rife.

    The timing of this particular release by WikiLeaks is rather curious. The countdown to the Sudanese referendum on the political future of southern Sudan has begun in earnest. South Sudan could well be an independent state three weeks from now. But where does that leave the north of the country? In tatters politically and morally. Ironically, the sum of money said to be stashed away by Al-Bashir is roughly equivalent to the amount of funds transferred from the south to the north in oil revenues since the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement between the Sudanese government and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM). It is no secret that militants in Al-Bashir’s ruling National Congress Party (NCP) are prepared for the pain of separation between north and south Sudan. The SPLM, for its part, is openly ecstatic about the prospect of severing the umbilical cord that joined southern to northern Sudan since independence from Britain in 1956.

    But while enjoying the verve of WikiLeaks’ latest revelations, the question must still be asked: why now, less than three weeks before the Sudanese referendum?

    This in itself is a symbolic act — if an important one. Why was Al-Bashir picked upon? I am certain that numerous other Arab and African leaders have siphoned off billions from the state coffers. So, why was Al-Bashir singled out?

    WikiLeaks has provoked a curious coalition of hostility that unites imperialist and purportedly anti-imperialist nations. “The group’s policy is to abide by the legal and regulatory obligations in all jurisdictions in which we operate,” a Lloyds spokeswoman was quoted as saying.

    “If this allegation by the ICC prosecutor is accurate, it appears that a UK high street bank bailed out by the [British] government is holding billions controlled by an indicted war criminal, or at the very least would be able to help trace any funds,” explained Robert Palmer a human rights campaigner with Global Witness.

    Lloyds Bank vehemently denied the allegations. However, in January 2009, Lloyds Bank was fined $350 million by the US authorities for disguising the origins of wire transfer from Sudan as well as Iran and Libya. The credibility of the Western financial institution is not particularly highly rated in poor countries, let alone in the West itself. Western banks have been in cahoots with African dictators for decades.

    How being ultra-religious and jingoistic helps and hinders Al-Bashir is a mystery. In his latest outburst this week, the Sudanese president vowed to impose strict Islamic Sharia law in Sudan if the south of the country secedes. While northern Sudan is predominantly Muslim, the south is mainly non-Muslim — Christian and animist.

    Al-Bashir insists on promulgating Islamic Sharia law, but fog soon descended when he tried to explain exactly what it meant. The broader message of Sharia requires more rigorous definition.

    Al-Bashir’s vision of an Islamic state is no doubt an appealing one for many in northern Sudan. The question now posed by WikiLeaks is whether his popularity as a militant Islamist leader wanes as Ocampo hopes. How can his image as a devout Muslim be reconciled with his people’s perception of him as a public thief?

    Considerably more proof will be required than the cabled US diplomatic wires released by WikiLeaks. Lloyds will have to open its books on Al-Bashir. But then it should also open its books on all possibly super wealthy thieves, public and private, African and non-African. If the allegations are true, Al-Bashir must not be made a scapegoat and Sudan allowed to descend into civil war in vain.

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