Turkish warplanes killed at least 35 people in an air strike near the country’s border with Iraq, after apparently mistaking smugglers for PKK militants.
Turkish warplanes killed at least 35 people in an air strike near the country’s border with Iraq, after apparently mistaking smugglers for PKK militants.
The U.S. state-sponsored broadcaster VOA on Friday, 30 December, aired an Israeli propaganda clip: ‘Israel and the United States are planning joint military exercises in early 2012 with a focus on missile defense. The moves come amid recent Israeli media reports that Israel’s government is considering an attack on Iran’s controversial nuclear sites. Iran has vowed to hit back. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from northern Israel that preparations are being made for that possibility’.
As usual, RT delivers a scathing indictment of the American responsibility for Iraq’s current precarious state: a ‘wave of synchronized bombings has ripped through the Iraqi capital, killing at least 72 people and wounding almost 200. Ambulances became a common sight as massive plumes of smoke rose above Baghdad. Since US troops have left, almost 20 blasts have rocked the city, in the form of car bomb and other hidden explosives. Jeremy Corbyn, Labour MP and member of the Stop the War Coalition, told RT live from London that those responsible for the recent atrocities in Baghdad are trying to say that the Iraqi government is unable to maintain control (23 December 2011)’.
Egyptian women have led a rally in Cairo against the army’s treatment of female protesters. Thousands took to the streets demanding the military be held accountable for their abuse of women. On Saturday, 17 December, a woman was stripped and badly beaten by Egyptian security forces, in an incident that was captured on camera and met with outrage around the world. Al Jazeera‘s Sherine Tadros reports from Tahrir Square (20 Dec 2011).
Ten-thousand women marched Tuesday in Tahrir Square after brutal attacks of women were reported during protests in Cairo. Margaret Warner discusses Egypt’s political struggles with corporate executive May Nabil, who participated in Tuesday’s demonstrations (21 Dec 2011).
The incident spurring the massive demonstration happened last week. Here is the contrarian RT’s report: ‘The blog-o-sphere is boiling at the cruel beating of a female protester by Egyptian military police, who continued battling protesters in Tahrir Square on Sunday. The clashes, into their third day now, have left 10 people dead and hundreds injured. The video uploaded on YouTube Sunday reveals the extreme cruelty of the country’s law enforcers during the crackdown. The army soldiers in full riot gear have been savagely beating a seemingly unconscious female protester with big sticks, kicking her and stomping on her chest. Security forces lashed out ruthlessly on armless civilians and burned down tents that had been put up by activists outside the parliament building to camp in protest against the military rule. The internet community therefore questions the methods of the military regime who took over power after the ousting of the ex-President Hosni Mubarak in February’.
The Pharaoh is gone, but his loyal servants are still in power . . .
Now that President Obama has sort of kept his promise about withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq, the Iraqi Prime Minister has come out in force: ‘Nouri al-Maliki called on Kurdish authorities to hand over Sunni vice-president, Tariq al-Hashimi, to face charges that his office ran death squads. The latest dispute between Iraq’s Shia-led government and Sunni rivals erupted during the final hours of the US troop withdrawal from Iraq. Maliki issued a warrant for Hashimi’s arrest, prompting the Sunni leader to travel to semi-autonomous Kurdistan’, as reported on Wednesday, 21 December. And here is PBS presenting its own take on Maliki’s recent behaviour: ‘The last U.S. convoy had hardly crossed into Kuwait on Sunday when Iraq was thrust into new and potentially dangerous political turmoil. Judy Woodruff discusses the country’s latest political crisis with the Naval Postgraduate School’s Abbas Kadhim and Feisal Istrabadi of Indiana University (20 December 2011)’.
And now, as reported by AP’s Qassim Abdul-Zahra: a ‘wave of at least 14 bombings ripped across Baghdad Thursday morning [, 22 December], killing at least 60 people in the worst violence in Iraq for months. The apparently coordinated attacks struck days after the last American forces left the country and in the midst of a major government crisis between Shiite and Sunni politicians that has sent sectarian tensions soaring. The bombings may be linked more to the U.S. withdrawal than the political crisis, but all together, the developments heighten fears of a new round of Shiite-Sunni sectarian bloodshed like the one a few years back that pushed Iraq to the brink of civil war’, yet again. All’s well that ends well, or not perhaps . . . The Americans will still have sufficient firepower on the ground in Iraq, due to it mercenaries and other contractors hired to protect U.S. assets. Still, on Wednesday, 21 December, Maliki went on the record: “We call for the government of the Kurdistan region to take its responsibility and hand over Hashimi to the justice system. We do not accept any interference in Iraqi justice”, arguably implying that neither President Obama not Secretary Clinton could sway him in his resolve to get Hashimi. The next day, Thursday, 22 December, a ‘wave of at least 14 bombings ripped across Baghdad [in the] morning, killing at least 60 people in the worst violence in Iraq for months’.
 “Iraqi PM urges Kurds to hand over vice-president Tariq al-Hashimi – video” The Guardian (21 December 2011).
 Qassim Abdul-Zahra, “At Least 60 Killed in Baghdad Attacks” AP (22 December 2011).
 “Iraq’s Maliki urges Kurds to hand over VP” Al Jazeera (21 December 2011).
 Qassim Abdul-Zahra, “At Least 60 Killed in Baghdad Attacks”.
In another great leap for human rights after proclaiming full head covering illegal, the state of France under Sarko is planning to make saying the wrong thing equally illegal within its borders: ‘French parliament has assured that the bill on criminalizing the denial of the Armenian Genocide in Turkey will be put to the vote as planned on December 22, despite Ankara’s pressure. The bill envisages one year prison term and a fine of 45,000 euros for anyone who denies the fact that Ottoman Turks committed genocide against Armenians in Anatolia a century ago. Turkey has threatened to recall its ambassador and freeze ties with Paris if French lawmakers approve the bill. This is the second time the French parliament is attempting to pass a bill on criminalizing the denial of the genocide. French MP and author of the bill, Valerie Boyer, represents the Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) party led by French President Nicolas Sarkozy. According to Boyer, the bill in 2006 was failed because it had some conflicts with the French constitution, but the new version is in line with the country’s constitutions and EU norms. Armenians say up to 1.5 million of their people were killed during World War I by forces belonging to Turkey’s past Ottoman Empire. France, which has a large population of Armenian descent, has recognized the event as genocide since 2001. Turkey refuses to call the 1915-16 killings a genocide and says 300,000 to 500,000 Armenians, and at least as many Turks, died when Armenians rose up and sided with invading Russian forces’.
The phrase refers to a policy of ethnic cleansing enacted by the Ottoman government during the Great War, which subsequently became known as the First World War (1914-18). At the time, the Ottoman heartland, Anatolia, had a population which was an uneven mix of many religious groups, with the Muslim section being in the majority. These Muslims were however not all Turks, even though they constituted a slim majority. Anatolian Muslims consisted of Kurds, Arabs, Lazes, Muslim Georgians, Greek-speaking Muslims, Albanians, Macedonian Muslims, Pomaks, Serbian Muslims, Bosnian Muslims, Tatars, Circassians, Abkhazes, and Daghestanis among others. In the course of the ongoing war, possibly as a result of a perceived security threat, or, maybe to construct a more homegeneously Islamic population composition, the Ottoman authorities decided to forcibly relocate the ‘entire Armenian population of the war zone to Zor [Deir-ez-Zor or Dayr-az-Zawr] in the heart of the Syrian desert’ (E.J. Zürcher). As a result, the government issued a ‘Temporary Law of Deportation’ (Tehcir Kanunu) on 29 May 1915, which remained in effect till 8 February 1916. In the course of the execution of this officially-approved exercise in ethnic cleansing, many Armenian Ottomans perished, the historian Erik J. Zürcher estimates that “[b]etween 600,000 and 800,000” individuals died, a number he calls “most likely”. Problems arise now when people try to apply the term ‘genocide’ to these events. The United Nations’ Convention against Genocide, adopted in December 1948 and put into effect in January 1951, defines genocide as follows: ‘[t]his convention bans acts committed with the intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group’. It seems to me that the government of the Republic of Turkey will never ‘recognise’ the Armenian genocide as a result of the inclusion of these four words – ‘with the intent to’. In addition to a whole host of other issues that would make the Turkish authorities most uneasy.
Turkey is now foaming at the mouth at French impudence, people are calling for a general boycott of all things French and for retaliatory measures, for instance, placing the spotlight on French atrocities in Algeria . . . The pro-AKP Today’s Zaman reports that ‘Ankara has warned France of the “irreparable damage” that could ensue should France’s latest move to criminalize denying that an alleged Armenian genocide took place in Turkey in 1915 be passed next week in the French parliament. “Turkish efforts and contact [with French officials] are ongoing at the moment,” Turkish officials told Today’s Zaman on Monday, [12 December] as they recalled statements from Ankara that urge France not to politicize a historical matter that is very sensitive for both Turks and Armenians. “The French administration is well aware of the sensitivity of this issue [of the Armenian genocide] for our country. We hope that no steps that could cause irreparable damage will be taken at a time when Turkey and France have entered a stable phase that could increase opportunities of cooperation at bilateral and international levels,” a statement released by the Foreign Ministry said on Friday, [9 December] as Ankara repeated once more that it regarded such attempts as “reoccurring events” ahead of elections in France. Turkey’s reaction to the move has been revived as the French parliament readies to vote a legislation that could make denying the 1915 events that took place in Turkey as genocide punishable by up to one year in prison and a fine of 45,000 euros, the Anatolia news agency reported on Monday. The voting, however, is not the first time France has mulled over criminalizing the denial of the events as genocide, as the French National Assembly adopted a bill in 2006, proposing that anyone who denied the “Armenian genocide,” would be punished, but the bill was dropped the same year before coming to the senate. Since France officially recognized the genocide in 2001, stirring up heated but short-lived tension between France and Turkey, French governments have attempted to introduce penalties for denying the alleged Armenian genocide several times, all of which were turned down before gaining full force’.
At the same time, Ankara is now hosting the leader of another persecuted nation: on Monday, 19 December, the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas visited the Anatolian city of Konya where the Reform Monitoring Group (RMG) held a meeting. Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu took the opportunity to say something: “Turkey supports the right of its Palestinian brothers to establish a state . . . We will stand by our Palestinian brothers, and we support the Palestinians in their struggle”. Abbas next went to Ankara to meet President Gül and PM Erdoğan. On Monday, the Hamas leader İsmail Haniyeh announced his intention to visit Turkey, Bahrain, Qatar and Tunisia in the near future.
 “Ankara warns Paris of ‘irreparable damage’ if genocide bill approved” Today’s Zaman (19 December 2011).
 “Turkish FM says Turkey supports Palestinian cause” Xinhua (20 December 2011).
 “Ismail Haniyeh announces visit to Turkey as Abbas arrives” Today’s Zaman (19 December 2011).
Trucks carrying soldiers and weaponry finished streaming over the border into Kuwait after they had handed over the last American base to the Iraqis (18 Dec 2011).
Here is an interesting account, presented by West Virginia Public Broadcasting: a ‘West Virginia National Guard military police battalion helps transform the Iraqi police in Anbar province from a force that served a brutal regime to one that serves the people and the law. This is the last, and perhaps most important mission for the US Army before it leaves the country at the end of 2011 (16 June 2011)’.
But, at some distance from any kind of propaganda effort, remains the fact that many private contractors and mercenaries will still be statioined on Iraqi soil. Even the notorious company Xe Services, formerly known as Blackwater and now carrying the name Academi is set to return to Iraq, arguably to create more mayhem and chaos, while improving upon their target practice. Joseph Fitsanakis, who coordinates the Security and Intelligence Studies program at King College, in Bristol TN, says laconically that the company is “trying to blur its institutional image through a series of corporate renamings . . . [because] Iraq is a lucrative market for Blackwater/Academi. [But it] is going to be difficult [for them] particularly in Iraq because of the murky past of the organization there”.[i] What come around, goes around . . . The newly rebranded mercenary outfit’s new CEO Ted Wright came out saying that “Our focus is on training and security services. We’re continuing that . . . We’re not backing away from security services. The lion’s share of our business today is providing training for security services and [providing] security services”.[ii] Erik Prince, the notorious Christian Crusader who founded Blackwater has since left the firm . . . The new kid on the block, Wright goes on to say that “[a]s we make changes and they take root and we convince everyone they’re real . . . then the real proof in the pudding is convincing the government of Iraq and the U.S. government to let us do business in Iraq”. Blackwater clearly wants to return to the mean streets of Baghdad. On its new website, the company formerly known as Blackwater/Xe informs the world that ‘ACADEMI is an innovative, privately-held training and security solutions provider serving government and commercial industries worldwide. Founded in 1997, ACADEMI was initially envisioned as a training facility to support the needs of local and regional law enforcement personnel. Today we are capable of providing risk assessment, training and security solutions in multiple locations across the globe, reacting to need with near-immediate deployment. ACADEMI operates across the security spectrum: ASSESS, TRAIN and PROTECT’, adding that ‘ACADEMI serves U.S. Government departments and agencies, law enforcement organizations, allied government and corporate and individual customers worldwide. The Board of Directors has established ethical corporate governance and oversight for the company, with a guiding vision to empower a talented collection of seasoned professionals with a wide range of disciplines, directing them to develop cost-efficient and operationally effective solutions for clients. These efforts and all activities throughout the company are guided by six core principles of integrity, governance, excellence, dignity, growth and innovation. Our 7,000-acre flagship training center, located in Moyock, N.C., is the largest private training center in the United States. This facility boasts many unique training facilities, including 50 tactical ranges, five ballistic houses, multiple MOUT/scenario facilities, three ship-boarding simulators, two airfields and three drop-zones, a three-mile tactical driving track, 25 classrooms, multiple explosive training ranges, two private training centers, accommodations for over 300 personnel and other training support activity centers. The facility proudly represents the DNA of our company and is the model of and support system to our satellite operations located in Salem, Conn. and San Diego, Calif. ACADEMI’s corporate headquarters is located in Arlington, Va.’.
And as usual, Alyona Minkovski is able to bring us the low down on the ghost of Blackwater: the ‘US presence in Iraq is far from over. In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Ted Wright, the President and Chief executive of what used to be known as Blackwater, and then turned into Xe Services, had a big announcement that they’re changing names yet again, this time to Academi. Wright hopes with the new name, and demand for contractors in Iraq surging, they’ve hired an outside company to help them apply for a new operating license. So how will Iraq handle a new surge of contractors? Scott Horton with Harper’s Magazine weighs in’.
 Spencer Ackerman, “Blackwater 3.0: Rebranded ‘Academi’ Wants Back in Iraq” Wired (12 December 2011).
 Spencer Ackerman, “Blackwater 3.0: Rebranded ‘Academi’ Wants Back in Iraq”.
An in-depth discussion into Syria’s turmoil and its future course. With guests: Samir Aita, Patrick Seale, and Ammar Waqqaf.
The BBC’s Stephen Sackur relates how Japan’s government has now declared that it has the Fukushima disaster under control . . .
In spite of Japanese optimism and the BBC’s positive report, Nature’s Geoff Brumfiel critically remarks that “in truth, cold shutdown will mean very little in any practical sense for what goes on at the plant. Nor is it likely to change the fate of the thousands of evacuees who were forced to leave their homes after the Fukushima crisis”, adding that “[a]s of 15 December, temperatures in the three reactor vessels known to have melted down were well below 100°C. According to the latest data from the Japan Atomic Industrial Forum, which tracks the reactors’ vital statistics, unit 1 is now at 38.3°C, unit 2 is at 68.7°C and unit 3 is at 64.1°C. The Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), which runs Fukushima, had imposed an additional requirement that the release of radioactivity is ‘under control and public radiation exposure by additional release is being significantly held down’. It has been months since any major release from the reactors, and it seems reasonable to consider this condition achieved as well. But this is a cold shutdown like no other. Under normal conditions, operators could, theoretically at least, walk away from a reactor once cold shutdown is achieved. No more water needs be circulated, and as long as no one tries to restart the reactor core, it would sit there indefinitely. This is certainly not the case at Fukushima. For one thing, the reactors are leaking, and TEPCO must continue to inject water at the rate of around half-a-million litres a day, according to its latest press release. Moreover, the plant continues to pose an environmental risk, as evidenced by a recent leak from a system designed to decontaminate water flowing out from the core”.
 Geoff Brumfiel, “Fukushima reaches cold shutdown” Nature (16 December 2011).
There once was a time when people looked up to that faraway country across the ocean as a beacon for personal liberty, where unrestrained individual freedom meant that you could basically do whatever you wanted, within bounds of course . . . But now, those days are well and truly over, they had been slipping away ever since Bush II authorised the Patriot Act, but now, under the Democrat administration of Barack Obama, all of Bush and Cheney’s designs seem to have come to a grand finale of sorts. As noted by United Liberty’s Editor-In-Chief Jason Pye, the ‘United States Senate passed the NDAA . . . by a vote of 86 to 13. It will now head to President Obama’s desk for approval . . . House and Senate conferees were moving the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) forward to the final action in both chambers with compromise legislation that kept in controversial language that would allow for the indefinite detention of American citizens and legal residents of the United States. Unfortunately, the House of Representatives passed the NDAA overwhelmingly last night by a vote of 283 to 136 . . . For those of you that are just now catching up on this, the House basically voted [on Thursdaym 13 December] to suspend the right to due process, the right to a trial by a jury of an accuser’s peers, and the right to habeas corpus. And now that the so-called “war on terror” has been expanded to include not only al-Qaeda but also the Taliban and other “associated forces.” Given the war on terrorism has become an open-ended war with civil liberties being offered by Congress on the altar of the “national security,” this provision will be no doubt be abused; if not by this administration than the next’. A requisite Wiki entry explains that the ‘National Defense Authorization Act is a United States federal law that has been enacted for each of the past 48 years to specify the budget and expenditures of the United States Department of Defense. A recent controversial provision in the NDAA act for 2012 has received critical attention because Section 1031 allows for the indefinite detention of U.S. citizens, and Section 1032 requires that the detention be by the armed forces in the case of non-citizens. As passed, the 2012 bill includes language in Section 1032 stating the intent is not to change existing common law, such as Hamdi v. Rumsfeld and Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, which ruled that lawful United States citizens have the right to challenge their detention before an impartial judge and military commissions (such as those at Guantanamo Bay) lack the power to proceed, respectively. Citizens of the United States are statutorily excluded only from the “requirement for military custody” in Section 1032, which provides the executive branch discretion whether to indefinitely detain U.S. citizens within military detention centers, or alternatively in the Federal prison system . . . The bill passed with 93 ‘yea’ votes to 7 ‘nay’ in the U.S. Senate, and is now available for view by the public. On December 14, 2011, the bill was passed by the United States House of Representatives, with a 283–136 vote in favor. On December 15, 2011, the bill was passed by the United States Senate, with a 86–13 vote in favor. The bill will be signed into law by President Barack Obama on December 16, 2011’. Here is Congresswoman Lynn Woolsey giving us her view.
Still, the White House Press secretary Jay Carney came out with this statement: Obama wants legislation that “does not challenge the president’s ability to collect intelligence, incapacitate dangerous terrorists and protect the American people”. And here is the fuming and foaming Punk Patriot giving us his take on the not-so-slow slide towards a police state the U.S. seems to be taking now.
 Jason Pye, “House passes NDAA, White House backs off veto threats” United Liberty (15 December 2011).
 “National Defense Authorization Act” Wikipedia.
 Jason Pye, “House passes NDAA, White House backs off veto threats”.