/** Tools */

10 December 2004

Media blamed 'for Iraq attacks'

Is this the start of the end of war reporting?

The UK's Chief of Defence Staff General Sir Michael Walker has said about attacks on UK troops in Iraq, "The contribution towards the initial attacks against the Black Watch was certainly enhanced by a media picture that was being laid across a number of channels in all sorts of places."

So, let me see if I've got this straight - Iraqis have been sitting around positively enjoying the invasion and occupation of their country, loving the continued bombing since March 2003, and finding that the increased risk of dying every day just adds to the joys of living until they started watching television and realised things weren't quite as bright and rosy as they first thought? Maybe I'm missing the point, but surely any Iraqi attacks on British troops are related to the fact that these are the very troops that invaded and continue to occupy their country on entirely false premises?

However, let's pretend that this has nothing to do with the attacks and deal with the statement quoted above. By entirely ignoring the invasion and occupation of Iraq as the only possible reason for any attacks on British troops, not only is the issue of the invasion and occupation removed from the equation, the implication of this statement is that the reporting of events in Iraq and by logical extension any other event anywhere else in the world deemed to be of a sensitive nature, is a direct threat to certain specific interested parties. And, on occasions where these parties deem their interests to be greater than those of the requirement of the public to know what is going on, then the former should emerge victorious from the propaganda battle.

As if intimating that the already limited information that reaches us is already too much information by far wasn't sufficient cause for concern, Gen Walker went on to reject estimates, published in The Lancet (that well known bastion of outrageousness), that around 98,000 Iraqis had died as a result of the war and occupation saying, "I don't think we can put any credibility on that study in straight terms." If anyone can find any meaning for that statement in any context, please let me know. He goes on to say, "The difficulty with casualties, particularly when they are not your own casualties and are members of the civilian population or the anti-coalition forces is that we don't control the casualty evacuation, so one will never quite know what the figures are." All of which is a terribly convenient way of avoiding the issue again.

There is always going to be some margin for error in estimating the number of victims of the Iraq invasion. But, when the governments that should be accountable to their citizens decide that any data regarding this subject constitutes classified information, we are left with no other option than to rely on any available sources of data that can reasonably stand public scrutiny.

08 December 2004

Karzai sworn in as first democratically elected Afghan president

Troops from NATO-led International Security Assistance Force and personnel from the US-dominated and led coalition forces accompanied Afghan army and police as they intensified their patrols on the streets of Kabul ahead of the inauguration of the new president. But who is the man the Economist hails as "Afghanistan’'s George Washington"?

Hamid Karzai was born December 24, 1957 in Kandahar, an ethnic Pashtun and member of the powerful Populzai tribe (which has supplied Afghanistan's kings since 1747 and which, combined with Karzai's appointment as President of Afghanistan, provides yet another example how power is maintained amongst a very tightly knit group of clans the world over, throughout history and by whatever means necessary). Karzai become involved in the world of Afghan politics at an early age, supporting the incumbent clan's king, King Zahir Shah before studying to obtain a BA and MA in political science and international relations from Shimla University in India.

Following his studies, Karzai returned to Afghanistan and spent the mid-to-late eighties serving as a mujaheddin adviser and diplomat and fundraising on behalf of anti-Soviet uprisings. After the Soviet forces were expelled with the help of the CIA and Osama Bin Laden, Karzai served as a deputy foreign minister in the government of Burhanuddin Rabbani who was overthrown by the Taliban in 1996. Initially, Karzai was a keen supporter of the Taliban, "Like so many mujaheddin, I believed in the Taliban when they first appeared on the scene in 1994 and they promised to end the warlordism, establish law and order, and then call a Loya Jirga to decide upon who should rule Afghanistan," Karzai said in an interview in September 2001. "I gave the Taliban $50,000 U.S. to help run their movement and then handed over to them a large cache of weapons I had hidden away."

Karzai's allegiance with the Taliban came to an end when Karzai began to oppose their rigid policies and distrust their connections to Pakistani intelligence and Arab Islamic radicals. In 1997 Karzai refused to become ambassador to the UN, even though Unocal oil barons were happy to entertain the Taliban in Texas.

Shortly afterwards, Unocal declared the political climate in Afghanistan to be too unstable to proceed with their plans for a pipeline through Afghanistan and in 1998, from his home in Quetta, Karzai set about organising opposition to the Taliban. On July 14, 1999 Karzai's father Abdul Arhad Karzai was assassinated with reports stating he was gunned down by unidentified killers who fled on a motorcycle as he emerged from a mosque. Blame was tacitly assigned to the Taliban, despite the killers being 'unidentified' and who may well have been another third party that wished for a perfidious connection to made between the murder of Karzai's father and the Taliban). Eight days later Hamid Karzai was nominated by Afghan leaders and Islamic scholars to be the next leader of the Populzai tribe, even though he has several older brothers living in the United States that might have qualified for the position.

In October 2001 Karzai's brother said that Karzai survived an ambush by Taliban forces and was still in Afghanistan. Other reports said that U.S. forces had rescued him and took him out of Afghanistan. The U.S. says it whisked him out of the country; Karzai insists he never left--perhaps concerned about being seen as too close to the U.S. Neither report could be independently confirmed. In December 2001 Karzai is sworn in as Afghanistan's new leader, a role which he filled until his presidential inauguration ceremony today.

In a country that has suffered from a notoriously unstable political climate for its entire history, one might have thought that the execution of the coup d'etat by conquering imperialist forces in Afghanistan would have been a little more swift than the three years it has taken to arrange for Hamid Karzai to become "democratically" and "popularly" elected as the country's President. And, with the likes of former Halliburton fraudster, U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney and U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld among a select 150 of "the world’s great and good" foreign delegates that attended the inauguration of the new president, one has to wonder quite what the Afghan definition of 'stability' might be in the future.

Fittingly, and in a perverse reversal of Afghani, Iraqi and increasingly global truth Cheney announced, "We gather to mark a historic moment in the life of the nation and in the history of human freedom."

06 December 2004

Afghan warlord plans $100m ski resort fighter plans a Swiss-style resort

According to the UK's Independent newspaper, the former warlord Izatullah Atif Rooz plans to build a $100m (£56m) mini-Switzerland ski-resort in the battleground of the Afghan mountains.
Rooz, who says the area was virtually destroyed by the soviets, then the Taliban and that he lost 700 members of his family, is now seeking investment from Switzerland to build 600 homes within the next three years, using labourers that once made up his 2,000 strong private army, recently disbanded. The plans include ski slopes with snowmaking facilities and alpine chalets.

One of the hurdles that must be overcome for this venture to go ahead is that of removing any left over landmines in the area - what better way to do this than to cover them in snow and let fat rich skiers find 'em!

French End Hiding Of Explosives In Luggage

In another of those 'you couldn't make it up' stories, French police have decided that their practice of hiding plastic explosives in air passengers' luggage to train bomb-sniffing dogs is to come to an end after a package of plastic explosives went walkabouts.

In regular training exercises French Airport police deliberately placed plastic explosives into passenger's luggage in a bid to test the effectiveness of their bomb dogs. Early on Friday evening such a test occured and the luggage containing the plastic explosive was lost on a conveyor belt carrying bags through a restricted area from check-in to planes!

At the time of writing, no passenger has contacted French authorities to report discovering a bag with nearly 5 ounces of explosives tucked into his or her suitcase

In one slickly executed training exercise the French police have exposed the mindless risks to which authorities will expose citizens, proved that sniffer dogs are no good for anything other than working out if someone's smoked a spliff on the way to the airport, and given some poor soul a lot of explaining to do when they arrive at their destination - assuming, of course, that anyone official notices they happen to be carrying half a pound of plastic explosive!