The Nether-World

March 6, 2007

David Hicks

Filed under: Afghanistan, John Reid, Terrorism, Torture — netherworld @ 10:15 pm

Many People may know who David Hicks is. He’s the Australian citizen who was arrested in Afghanistan by the Northern Alliance five years ago and sold to the Americans who have incarcerated him in the Guantanamo Bay gulag where he has been ever since. He is accused of being an “enemy combatant” although he has not, until very recently, been charged with any crime, and after five years all the US government can come up with is ‘providing material support for terrorism‘ a charge that has been tailored to fit his actions and guarantee he will not get a fair trial.

Mr Hicks, whose mother is British, should be entitled to British citizenship and therefore some help from the British Government which did help secure the release of other British citizens. However, despite senior judges ordering the home secretary to grant Mr Hicks citizenship, the Home Secretary John Reid revoked it. Hicks has therefore been abandoned by both the British and Australian governments and left in Guantanamo where he has been abused and tortured. Abuse of the inmates at Guantanamo still continues despite denials and attempted cover-ups by US authorities.

David Hicks is appealing for help through his family, friends and supporters. The following video has more information. It is a speech by Michael Mori, Hicks’ defence attorney with other images added.

Further details can be found at Mask of Anarchy, Ten Percent and Fair Go For David. You can help David Hicks by spreading the word about this injustice.

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November 28, 2006

Bush and Blair’s Stable Middle East: Progress or More Despair?

Filed under: Afghanistan, Bliar, Bush, Iran, Iraq, israel, Lebanon, Palestine, Syria — netherworld @ 7:57 am

The news coming from the Middle East this week, as well as providing us with the usual overdose of despair, is also showing some faint glimmers of change if not exactly hope in some of the hotspots.

In Palestine the tenuous cease fire between the Israelis and the Palestinians seems to be holding… just, and we are finally hearing some more positive language coming from Olmert which may just be the beginnings of a peace initiative, although it is far too early to say for sure and everyone has seen positive developments quickly collapse into renewed violence. However the cease fire, prisoner exchange and possible talks about a viable Palestinian state are developments which are to be welcomed and encouraged. One has to wonder what initiated this change of heart. Is it a realisation that Israel cannot simply murder its way to a peaceful solution (after several months of relentless attacks, massacres, demolitions and assassinations resulting in over 400 Palestinian deaths, most of them civilian, the rocket attacks continued unabated)? Is it pressure from Washington as Bush prepares to visit the region and needs at least something that will play well with the folks back home (it certainly won’t be from Iraq)? Perhaps both sides are exhausted and need a pause in order to re arm and prepare for another cycle of violence. Possibly it is a mixture of all these things.

In Iraq of course, it is very difficult to see anything positive as the country crumbles further into anarchy. If it wasn’t so tragic, it would be amusing watching the US and British governments try to use any wording they can to describe the situation without uttering those fateful words ‘civil war‘. However, civil war is exactly what is happening, or to be more precise, civil wars may be a better term because the country is so fractured now. It’s now obvious to everyone that the Bush/Blair axis does not have the faintest clue what to do about the catastrophe it has created. Talking to Iran and Syria, previously unthinkable, is now very much on the agenda. While Bush and Blair contemplate this very obvious climb down, the Iraqi leader has gone to Iran to plead for help and has received a promise of assistance. Just what form that assistance will take and how effective it will be remains to be seen, however, it is a change and the closest thing to a positive development happening.

In Britain there has been more talk of troop withdrawals, but again the rhetoric displays the bankruptcy of ideas. It has been more or less acknowledged that troops in the region are contributing to the violence, and also acknowledged that withdrawing them is likely to increase the violence in the short term. The decision seems to be to announce a withdrawal of some (possibly most) British troops by the end of next year while admitting that some troops will be in Iraq for many years to come (probably confined to bases and under siege). Hardly a clear strategy. Of course, the remainder of the so-called coalition of the willing will be out of Iraq much sooner. America is not making any such announcement. The USA is still deliberating on whether to send even more troops into the quagmire as if that would improve matters.

Another hotspot in the news again is Lebanon which also looks close to descending into chaos again. Hizbollah’s threat to leave the government unless it was given greater representation could be a body blow to the pro Western administration. The assassination of Pierre Gemayel, Lebanon’s anti-Syrian industry minister has obviously added to the pressure on Lebanon and also Syria, which has been accused of the murder without a shred of evidence. It is interesting that the killing took place just as Syria was making positive noises about coming in from the cold and helping ease the tension in Iraq. For Syria to murder a Lebanese Cabinet Minister at this time is hardly in its best interests, so we have to ask ourselves who would benefit most from the renewed chaos in Lebanon and and more pressure on Syria as well as who is best placed to carry out such an assassination. Hopefully the tension in the Levant will be allowed to calm down in order for all parties to focus on the far more dangerous situation in Iraq.

Palestine, Iraq and Lebanon are the three civil wars (potential or already started) that Jordan’s King Abdullah warned that we could be facing next year. Not exactly the advance of freedom and hope in the greater Middle East promised by Bush and Blair when they lied their way into the Iraq war and now try to lie their way out of it. But there is also the quagmire in Afghanistan to consider. That conflict is not going well either and America and Britain are having trouble finding other NATO allies to join them in their mission. Far from rushing to join in the fun, NATO countries are looking for a way out of that mess.

While there is very little to get exited about in terms of stability in the region, there is a noticeable change in the air. America’s stranglehold on the Middle East might well be coming to an end. An attack on Iran now looks less likely as the US realises that it needs Iranian cooperation and that Iran seems to be holding the best cards and knows how to play them. Also it will be much harder to attack Iran now that the CIA has said that it has found no proof that Iran is developing nuclear weapons. This with the possibility of a peace initiative in Palestine and Iranian and Syrian cooperation in Iraq does give us some reason to hope, however small that hope is.

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October 7, 2006

Blair tries to defend his Afghan mission

Filed under: Afghanistan, Bliar — netherworld @ 8:54 am

It’s the fifth anniversary of the British occupation of Afghanistan and to commemorate the occasion Tony Blair has addressed the troops on British Armed Forces Radio (as if they didn’t already have enough to piss them off). In the interview he insisted that the Government had not underestimated the scale of the mission.

He denied any suggestion that the government was trying to downplay the seriousness of the situation for UK troops, nor had it underestimated the danger.

“It was always going to be tough. In some senses whenever you go into a battlefield situation like that, there are always things that you learn, there are always things that come at you in a more intense way then you expect,” Mr Blair said.
Source

Let’s examine this falsehood… once again.

The Government not only underestimated the danger of the mission, it misled the public public over the type of mission this was. At the time the current mission in Helmand province was decided, the Defence Secretary was John Reid. According to a senior defence official he omitted a crucial caveat when talking up the mission . The public was told that this was not a combat mission and that there were sufficient troops to accomplish it.

While ministers claimed the resistance had taken commanders by surprise, officials from the Ministry of Defence and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office yesterday told journalists that the government had been fully briefed about the dangers troops would face in Helmand.

Both diplomats and army chiefs had briefed ministers to expect “pretty stern opposition” from the Taleban, one FCO official said.

But, an MoD official suggested, those dangers were not fully explained to the public.

“Whether that was insufficiently communicated by the MoD or by the government as a whole… it probably was insufficiently communicated,” the MoD official said. During a pre-deployment visit to Afghanistan in April, Mr Reid even appeared to suggest that the British troops might not be involved in any combat operations at all during the three-year mission.

“We would be perfectly happy to leave in three years and without firing one shot because our job is to protect the reconstruction,” the minister said at the time.

According to the MoD official, Mr Reid had been advised by civil servants accompanying him to Afghanistan to add a caveat to that statement, a form of words such as “but it ain’t going to be like that.”
Source

And then there’s this:

Britain’s most senior military chiefs warned John Reid not to commit UK troops to “a war on two fronts” in Iraq and Afghanistan more than 18 months ago, The Independent on Sunday can reveal.

Despite clear advice that a “significant” withdrawal of troops from Iraq was needed before a new mission, Mr Reid went ahead with the Afghan deployment after coming under pressure from Tony Blair. The advice, prepared by military planners and endorsed by the Chiefs of the Defence Staff, was given to Mr Reid on his arrival as Secretary of State for Defence in May last year. Despite the warnings, he went ahead with the deployment in January.

Mr Reid was accused last night of having taken “a gamble” by the Conservative spokesman on foreign affairs as the political and military fall-out from the conflict continues to grow. The present Secretary of State for Defence, Des Browne, has been forced to deny persistent reports that military chiefs are pressing for significant withdrawals from Iraq in order to shore up the Afghanistan operation.
Source

So Blair’s statement is obviously untrue. If he hadn’t underestimated the seriousness of the mission, one would assume that he would have provided the troops with the proper equipment in the first place instead of belatedly promising it now.

However, the Prime Minister said: “If the commanders on the ground want more equipment — armoured vehicles for example, more helicopters — that will be provided. Whatever package they want, we will do.”
Source

Why now instead of at the start of the mission? Why wait until 40 of our troops are dead before promising to supply them with what they need? The military and MPs have been saying right from the start of this mission that they were under equipped for a combat mission. If the claims made by Reid and Blair had been true then the troops might well have had the correct resources and numbers as we were all told that what they would be doing was peacekeeping and reconstruction rather than the full scale war that they are fighting. Either we were lied to or New Labour is so incompetent at fighting wars that they have no business being in Afghanistan or Iraq.

Let’s look at another falsehood from Blair.

“If we let Afghanistan be used again as a training ground for the export of terrorism, it turns up on our streets – it harms British citizens.

“So what our troops are doing in Afghanistan is of fundamental importance not just to the security of our country but [to] global security.”
Source

Has the threat of terrorism decreased since sending troops to Afghanistan? In short, no it hasn’t. The threat has in fact increased dramatically.

RADICAL reforms to speed up terrorist trials are being considered in an attempt to free up a worsening legal log jam, The Times has learnt.

[…]

Government lawyers have held talks with the Bar Council to discuss how best to streamline a trial process that is struggling to cope with increasingly complex cases and a growing number of defendants. The backlog is certain to increase because police and the intelligence services are conducting more than 70 anti-terrorist investigations which, they believe, will lead to more arrests.
Source

Would such measures have been necessary before the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq? Somehow I doubt it. Blair has subjected us to his lies and spin for so long that few people believe a word he says anymore. I don’t think the troops at the sharp end of his failed policies are going to fall for this bullshit either.

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October 1, 2006

A secret truce with the Taliban

Filed under: Afghanistan — netherworld @ 11:13 am

Just over a month ago it was revealed that the public had been misled over the British troop deployment to Afghanistan. Ministers had been fully briefed about the dangers facing the soldiers by senior military chiefs and diplomats, and yet they claimed the level of resistance from the Taliban had taken them by surprise. Then Defence Secretary, John Reid, famously said “We would be perfectly happy to leave in three years and without firing one shot because our job is to protect the reconstruction”. Well, since that statement, over 400,000 bullets have been fired and there have been numerous casualties.

Now we are learning a little more about the warnings John Reid was given by these senior army officers and ignored.

Britain’s most senior military chiefs warned John Reid not to commit UK troops to “a war on two fronts” in Iraq and Afghanistan more than 18 months ago, The Independent on Sunday can reveal.

Despite clear advice that a “significant” withdrawal of troops from Iraq was needed before a new mission, Mr Reid went ahead with the Afghan deployment after coming under pressure from Tony Blair. The advice, prepared by military planners and endorsed by the Chiefs of the Defence Staff, was given to Mr Reid on his arrival as Secretary of State for Defence in May last year. Despite the warnings, he went ahead with the deployment in January.

Mr Reid was accused last night of having taken “a gamble” by the Conservative spokesman on foreign affairs as the political and military fall-out from the conflict continues to grow. The present Secretary of State for Defence, Des Browne, has been forced to deny persistent reports that military chiefs are pressing for significant withdrawals from Iraq in order to shore up the Afghanistan operation.
Source

Well now we are fighting a war on two fronts, or two wars on two fronts. In Afghanistan the troops are under equipped and there aren’t enough of them to do the job. NATO cannot find any countries willing to send more troops into what is looking like the beginnings of another quagmire.

What to do? Well the British army seem to have found a unique way of preventing the situation getting any more out of control. The soldiers have negotiated a secret truce with the Taliban.

BRITISH troops battling the Taliban are to withdraw from one of the most dangerous areas of Afghanistan after agreeing a secret deal with the local people.

Over the past two months British soldiers have come under sustained attack defending a remote mud-walled government outpost in the town of Musa Qala in southern Afghanistan. Eight have been killed there.

It has now been agreed the troops will quietly pull out of Musa Qala in return for the Taliban doing the same. The compound is one of four district government offices in the Helmand province that are being guarded by British troops.

Although soldiers on the ground may welcome the agreement, it is likely to raise new questions about troop deployment. Last month Sir Richard Dannatt, the new head of the British Army, warned that soldiers in Afghanistan were fighting at the limit of their capacity and could only “just” cope with the demands.

When British troops were first sent to Afghanistan it was hoped they would help kick-start the country’s reconstruction. But under pressure from President Hamid Karzai they were forced to defend Afghan government “district centres” at Musa Qala, Sangin, Nowzad and Kajaki.

The move — opposed by Lieutenant-General David Richards, the Nato commander in Afghanistan — turned the four remote British bases into what Richards called “magnets” for the Taliban. All 16 of the British soldiers killed in action in southern Afghanistan have died at Musa Qala, Sangin or Nowzad.

The soldiers risk sniper fire and full-scale assaults from experienced Taliban fighters who can then blend into the local population after each attack.

The peace deal in Musa Qala was first mooted by representatives of the town’s 2,000-strong population. About 400 people living in the immediate area of the district centre compound have been forced to evacuate their homes, most of which have been destroyed in the fighting.
Read on

This seems like a very practical arrangement under such difficult circumstances. I can’t see it lasting though. Sooner or later the politicians will get in the way of peace again so that they can claim to have made “progress” in the war. Progress these days seems to be measured in dead bodies and destroyed buildings rather than any actual reconstruction.

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September 29, 2006

Message to the Government from the military: Leave Iraq

Filed under: Afghanistan, Bliar, Iraq — netherworld @ 8:34 am

During his Labour Party Conference speech, Tony Blair said that retreating from Iraq would be “a craven act of surrender that will put our future security in the deepest peril” and that “there are no half-hearted allies of America today”.

That doesn’t seem to be a view shared by senior British military officers. To the dismay of their American counterparts, they want to withdraw from Iraq, which looks more like a lost cause every day, and focus on Afghanistan where they think there is a slight possibility they might be more successful.

Senior military officers have been pressing the government to withdraw British troops from Iraq and concentrate on what they now regard as a more worthwhile and winnable battleground in Afghanistan.

They believe there is a limit to what British soldiers can achieve in southern Iraq and that it is time the Iraqis took responsibility for their own security, defence sources say. Pressure from military chiefs for an early and significant cut in the 7,500 British troops in Iraq is also motivated by extreme pressure being placed on soldiers and those responsible for training them.

[…]

Political arguments, including strong US pressure against British troop withdrawals, have won, at least for the moment. US generals in Iraq privately made it clear they were deeply unhappy about British talk of troop reductions and complained that the British seemed interested only in the south of the country.
Source

The only people now believing in the Iraq mission are the Bush administration and Tony Blair. When the top military brass think that the war is lost, it really is time to give up.

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August 31, 2006

Public misled over Afghanistan

Filed under: Afghanistan, Bliar — netherworld @ 6:07 am

It seems that once again the British public have been misled over one of Blair’s wars. This time it’s Afghanistan where there have been fourteen casualties since the mission started. The public were not properly informed by Ministers of the danger of the mission and the defence secretary at the time, John Reid, omitted a crucial caveat when talking up the mission according to a senior defence official. The public was told that this was not a combat mission and that there were sufficient troops to accomplish it. Obviously this turned out to be untrue in the light of the recent casualties and fierce fighting with a renewed Taliban. Liam Fox, the Conservative shadow defence secretary said:

“The clear intent of the government was to give the impression that the mission in Afghanistan might be conducted with low levels of casualties, and this was clearly at odds with advice ministers were getting.”
Source

This is despite warnings from the military and diplomats that the mission would be frought with dangers. The Government has feigned surprise at the level of resistance encountered in Helmand Province.

New Labour’s dishonesty over the Iraq war is well documented, and it is now very apparent that the dishonesty is continuing with the Afghan conflict. Leaving aside the immorality of Blair’s wars, it is plain that he and his Party are just not competent enough to conduct them.

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