Rethinking Afghanistan

Rethink Afghanistan
by Robert Greenwald
Dear Friends, Colleagues and Supporters; the winner is you!  After all your efforts sending around the first parts of Rethink Afghanistan and the petition for Congressional oversight hearings, we're thrilled to announce there will be hearings before the powerful Senate Foreign Relations Committee this Thursday.  The more people who see Rethink Afghanistan, the more critical questions we raise, and the better chance we have of Congress asking these questions.

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To that end, we bring you the first of three Afghanistan debates between Katrina vanden Heuvel of The Nation and Lawrence Korb of the Center for American Progress.  Over 460 people submitted topics for these debates, with questions on everything from costs of war to regional diplomacy to the damage caused by predator drones.  Korb and vanden Heuvel picked the winning topic for the third debate, which came from Lee Fremault of Attleboro, Massachusetts, who asked, "Could you please compare and then contrast Afghanistan with Vietnam?"

Watch the first of these three debates:
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Canada: Bill C-6 and Ditching Freedoms

Restricting Our Freedoms - Shawn Buckley About Bill C-6
by Shawn Buckley
"Bill C-6 not only abolishes the law of trespass, but also allows warrants to be issued to search private homes without evidence of criminal wrongdoing."  

excellent 10 min video Restricting Our Freedoms - Shawn Buckley About Bill C-6
see also part 2 (10min)
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Latest Langford Follies

Latest news bits from Vancouver Island
by Zoe Blunt

Farmland Gold Rush? Over half of Monday's Langford Council meeting was devoted to applications to remove farm land from the Agricultural Land Reserve. Owners want to build a whole bunch of new condos on several large sections of farmland and wetlands on Happy Valley Road, but (once again) there may be problems with the city not following the proper public procedures.
Some letters went missing, while Langford's chief planner, Matthew Baldwin told other letter-writers that Langford would not accept their comments.
Nevertheless, half a dozen people spoke up and about seventy more sent feedback to the Agricultural Advisory Committee in support of local farms and food security. It remains to be seen if the city will recommend removing the land from the Reserve so it can be developed.
Read the latest on ALR at Inside Langford:

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Casual Collateral: Targeting Civilians

Killing Civilians: How Safe Do You Actually Want to Be?
by Tom Engelhardt
Almost like clockwork, the reports float up to us from thousands of miles away, as if from another universe. Every couple of days they seem to arrive from Afghan villages that few Americans will ever see without weapon in hand. Every few days, they appear from a world almost beyond our imagining, and always they concern death -- so many lives snuffed out so regularly for more than seven years now. Unfortunately, those news stories are so unimportant in our world that they seldom make it onto, no less off of, the inside pages of our papers. They're so repetitive that, once you've started reading them, you could write them in your sleep from thousands of miles away.

Like obituaries, they follow a simple pattern. Often the news initially arrives buried in summary war reports based on U.S. military (or NATO) announcements of small triumphs -- so many "insurgents," or "terrorists," or "foreign militants," or "anti-Afghan forces" killed in an air strike or a raid on a house or a village. And these days, often remarkably quickly, even in the same piece, come the challenges. Some local official or provincial governor or police chief in the area hit insists that those dead "terrorists" or "militants" were actually so many women, children, old men, innocent civilians, members of a wedding party or a funeral.

In response -- no less part of this formula -- have been the denials issued by American military officials or coalition spokespeople that those killed were anything but insurgents, and the assurances of the accuracy of the intelligence information on which the strike or raid was based. In these years, American spokespeople have generally retreated from their initial claims only step by begrudging step, while doggedly waiting for any hubbub over the killings to die down. If that didn't happen, an "investigation" would be launched (the investigators being, of course, members of the same military that had done the killing) and then prolonged, clearly in hopes that the investigation would outlast coverage of the "incident" and both would be forgotten in a flood of other events.
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Glob and Maul: The Incurably Elitist Logic of the Toronto Globe and Mail

The Incurably Elitist Logic of the Toronto Globe and Mail
by Peter Ewart
From their offices in downtown Toronto, the editors of the Globe & Mail have written an editorial titled “Mixed PR is best” (April 21 edition) about the referendum on BC-STV coming up in British Columbia in May. 
In it, they lecture both the government and legislature of BC that, after the last referendum in 2005, they should have overridden the recommendations of the Citizens’ Assembly and “presented the voters … with a better plan for proportional representation.”
Let us dissect the logic of this strange creature of an editorial that has washed up on our shores.
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The RCMP in British Columbia: Burying the Dead in Custody

RCMP attempts to close death investigations overturned
by B.C.C.L.A.
In only ten short days in 2007, the RCMP moved to close conduct investigations into four deaths of prisoners in their custody in British Columbia. The BCCLA, which had filed appeals against all four decisions to close off the investigations, learned this week that the RCMP complaints commission had rejected the RCMP actions.
Ian Bush died in custody under suspicious circumstances in 2005

"This is a small victory in a complaints system we have no faith in,” says Robert Holmes, President of the B.C. Civil Liberties Association. “Even though the deck is stacked against accountability, and it took almost two years to get to this point, we can find a silver lining that there will at least be some semblance of an investigation."

The report from the Commission for Public Complaints against the RCMP says that the effect of the RCMP terminating these in-custody death conduct investigations may not have been intended to avoid accountability, but “the result of this decision [by the RCMP] may be exactly that.”
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Reviewing the Predator State

Predator State
by Jim Miles
Not too many economists make much clarity these days, and the general run of the mill economists that populate the majority of political and business positions seem to be mired in their own illusions and myths about what the economy actually is.  James Galbraith stands out in contrast to that group and is able to see through the myths of the “free market” and provide well conceived, simple, and effective solutions to the problems of our current economy. 
In The Predator State, Galbraith follows in his father’s footsteps (whom I had the pleasure of reading and understanding many years ago) with a well structured, well argued, and clearly written examination of the supposed free market.

Galbraith stays within a well-defined focus, examining the myths of the market and solutions in economic terms, which necessarily reach over into other areas.  He does not dwell on these other areas, but in his final analysis he provides three lines of insight that indicate where others could expand on the topic, denouncing in effect the “hidden fist” that supports the U.S. economy.
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AIPAC, NSA Spying and the Corruption of Congress

AIPAC, NSA Spying and the Corruption of Congress
by Tom Burghardt
A major scandal involving a top Democrat, the Israeli lobby-shop AIPAC and charges that former U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales sought congressional help to suppress media reports of systematic, illegal warrantless surveillance of Americans by the National Security Agency (NSA) broke on Sunday.
Representative Harman with former Israeli PM Ariel Sharon

Congressional Quarterly revealed that Rep. Jane Harman (D-CA) "was overheard on an NSA wiretap telling a suspected Israeli agent that she would lobby the Justice Department [to] reduce espionage-related charges against two officials of the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee, the most powerful pro-Israel organization in Washington."

The former ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, Harman is the co-sponsor of the shameful "Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act" (H.R.1955) and its mutant relative in the Senate (S.1959). In other words, Harman's "liberal" veneer is the perfect cover for currying favor with politically well-connected corporate grifters, major beneficiaries of the national security state's largesse.
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President Ahmadinejad’s Remarks at U.N. Conference on Racism

Full Text of President Ahmadinejad’s Remarks at U.N. Conference on Racism
by President Ahmadinejad
This is a rush transcript of the Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s remarks at the United Nations Durban Review Conference on racism in Geneva, Switzerland, on April 20, 2009. Transcribed from the translation given in the U.N. webcast of the speech.
In the name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful… [Protestors in clown costumes escorted out by security] May he bestow upon his prophets… Praise be upon Allah, the Almighty, who is just, kind, and compassionate. May he bestow upon his prophets his blessings and his grace from Adam to Noah; Abraham, Moses, Jesus Christ, and His last prophet, Mohammed. Peace be upon them all who are the harbingers of monotheism, fraternity, love … [Applause] … human dignity and justice.
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The Great Emancipator: Obama Vows to Allow Torturers and Traitors Remain Free

When the Deal Goes Down: Obama Signals Move to Save Bush Bigwigs on Torture
by Chris Floyd
There has been much throwing about of brains on the matter of Barack Obama's ballyhooed "turnaround" on the torture prosecution issue. As usual, there is much less to the Beltway puffery than meets the eye -- although a key aspect of the burgeoning Torturegate affair can be found buried deep in the New York Times story on the subject.

So what has happened so far? After his groveling trip on Monday to soothe the hurt feelings of the tender little babies at the CIA -- who had been feeling unloved and uncherished since the tiniest ray of media light had shone briefly on their black arts -- Obama then tacked back to soothe the rumblings of his progressive base, parts of which had been disturbed by their hero's guarantee that no Bush torturer would ever face justice.

Of course, in this Obama is only following in the footsteps of his great Democratic predecessor, Bill Clinton, who very quickly killed off a number of important investigations into rampant criminality -- including a very credible case of treason -- on the part of the first Bush Administration and its various players, from the president on down.
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Note to Obama re: Iraq's Second Intifada

Attacks Commence
by Dahr Jamail | T r u t h o u t
Everyone knows the analogy of the beehive. When it is goaded, countless bees emerge, attacking the tormentor. Right now in Iraq, the formerly US-backed al-Sahwa (Sons of Iraq) Sunni militia, ripe with broken promises from both the occupiers of their country and the Iraqi government that they would be given respect and jobs, have gone into attack mode.

It is an easily predictable outcome. An occupying power (the US) sets up a 100,000-strong militia composed of former resistance fighters and even some members of al-Qaeda, pays them each $300 per month to not attack occupation forces, and attacks decrease dramatically. Then, stop paying most of them and tell them they will be incorporated into Iraqi government security forces. Proceed to leave them high and dry as the government of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki begins targeting them - assassinating leaders, detaining fighters and threatening their families. Allow this plan to continue for over six months, unabated.

Not surprisingly, the Sahwa are fighting back against US forces and those of the Iraqi government.
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Nebulous Terror Network Teams Up with Phantom Pyrates

Monsters vs. Aliens: Why Terrorists and Pirates Are Not About to Team Up Any Time Soon
by John Feffer
In the comic books, bad guys often team up to fight the forces of good. The Masters of Evil battle the Avengers superhero team. The Joker and Scarecrow ally against Batman. Lex Luthor and Brainiac take on Superman. And the Somali pirates, who have dominated recent headlines with their hijacking and hostage-taking, join hands with al-Qaeda to form a dynamic evil duo against the United States and our allies. We're the friendly monsters -- a big, hulking superpower with a heart of gold -- and they're the aliens from Planet Amok.
In the comic-book imagination of some of our leading pundits, the two headline threats against U.S. power are indeed on the verge of teaming up.
The intelligence world is abuzz with news that radical Islamists in Somalia are financing the pirates and taking a cut of their booty. Given this "bigger picture," Fred Iklé urges us simply to "kill the pirates." Robert Kaplan waxes more hypothetical. "The big danger in our day is that piracy can potentially serve as a platform for terrorists," he writes. "Using pirate techniques, vessels can be hijacked and blown up in the middle of a crowded strait, or a cruise ship seized and the passengers of certain nationalities thrown overboard."
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