Friday, January 08, 2010

Honduran Masquerade

Zelaya: Charges Against Army Officers 'a Trick'
Published: January 7, 2010

TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras (AP) -- Ousted Honduran President Manuel Zelaya said Thursday that charging military commanders with abuse of power is ''a trick'' to avoid punishing them for the June 28 coup.

Zelaya said the nation's top prosecutor is trying to avoid bringing to justice the army officers who rousted him out of his home at gunpoint and other officials who planned and ordered his ouster from the presidency.

''It's a trick from prosecutors to charge the army officers with a minor crime instead of with the grave crimes they committed,'' Zelaya said in a statement.

He said they should be charged with treason, murder and human rights violations.

Honduras' chief prosecutor Luis Alberto Rubi on Wednesday asked the Supreme Court to issue arrest warrants charging all six members of the Joint Chief of Staff with abuse of power for sending Zelaya out of the country -- but not for removing him from office. The charge carries a maximum sentence of four years in prison.

Defenders of Zelaya's ouster argue that he violated the country's constitution, meriting removal from office, and say that the army's move to arrest him was legally backed by the Congress and the Supreme Court. But they have often acknowledged that it was also a violation of the constitution for the military to send him out of the country.

The court has yet to decide whether to grant Rubi's request.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Blackwater Among the Dead in Khost

Blackwater and the Khost Bombing: Is the CIA Deceiving Congress?
By Jeremy Scahill

January 6, 2010

A leading member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence has told The Nation that she will launch an investigation into why two Blackwater contractors were among the dead in the December 30 suicide bombing at the CIA station at Forward Operating Base Chapman in Khost, Afghanistan. "The Intelligence Committees and the public were led to believe that the CIA was phasing out its contracts with Blackwater and now we find out that there is this ongoing presence," said Illinois Democrat Jan Schakowsky, chair of the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations,

In December, the CIA announced that the agency had canceled its contract with Blackwater to work on the agency's drone bombing campaign in Afghanistan and Pakistan and said Director Leon Panetta ordered a review of all existing CIA contracts with Blackwater. "At this time, Blackwater is not involved in any CIA operations other than in a security or support role," CIA spokesman George Little said December 11.

But Schakowsky said the fact that two Blackwater personnel were in such close proximity to the December 30 suicide bomber--an alleged double agent, who was reportedly meeting with CIA agents including the agency's second-ranking officer in Afghanistan when he blew himself up--shows how "deeply enmeshed" Blackwater remains in sensitive CIA operations, including those CIA officials claim it no longer participates in, such as intelligence gathering and briefings with valuable agency assets. The two Blackwater men were reportedly in the room for the expected briefing by the double agent, Humam Khalil Muhammed Abu Mulal al-Balawi, who claimed to have recently met with Al Qaeda leader Ayman al Zawahiri.

"It's just astonishing that given the track record of Blackwater, which is a repeat offender endangering our mission repeatedly, endangering the lives of our military and costing the lives of innocent civilians, that there would be any relationship," Schakowsky said. "That we would continue to contract with them or any of Blackwater's subsidiaries is completely unacceptable."

Under the Obama administration, Blackwater continues to work for the Department of Defense, the State Department and, as evidenced by the December 30 bombing, the CIA in Afghanistan. The company even maintains its own forward operating bases in Afghanistan, including one along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. "This is the closest base to the [Pakistani] border," Blackwater's owner Erik Prince recently bragged to Vanity Fair. "Who else has built a fob along the main infiltration route for the Taliban and the last known location for Osama bin Laden?"

Blackwater has been working for the CIA since at least April 2002. Prince recently claimed he was personally a CIA asset, conducting clandestine black operations around the globe. In June, Leon Panetta reportedly told Congress he had canceled the CIA assassination program involving Blackwater.

While the CIA said in December that Blackwater only continues its security and support role for the CIA, NBC News reported that the Blackwater men were not doing security at the time of the blast. The two Blackwater operatives killed in the bombing have been identified as Jeremy Wise, a 35-year old ex-Navy SEAL, and 46-year-old Dane Clark Paresi.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Scorpions for Xmas: more gifts from Harper

Scorpions for Xmas: more gifts from Harper
Sat. Dec 19

YOU’VE HEARD, of course, of the Harper government’s Afghan detainee muddle and about Canada’s sullied environmental reputation the world is sneering at in Copenhagen. Here’s a couple you haven’t heard of — scorpions handed out for Christmas by this increasingly ugly little government as Parliament takes its break.

Last week, on Thursday, the House of Commons voted to turn down a new treaty with the European Union for the Northwest Atlantic fishery — a document that would open the door to the EU having a say in how fish stocks are managed inside Canada’s 200-mile zone, one drafted by the EU and, according to Canada’s foremost experts on fish treaties, naively and incompetently accepted by the Harper government.

Then on Friday, one day later, the Harper government signed the treaty anyway in a casually arrogant defiance of Parliament.

Another one. The interchurch group Kairos, which works on human rights and environment issues involving Canada and the Southern Hemisphere, had its federal funding cut abruptly after a 35-year relationship. Like other non-government agencies, Kairos got a government dollar for every one it raises on its own through CIDA, the Canadian International Development Agency. Its 2009-2013 budget had been vetted and approved by CIDA — then, from the top, and without explanation, the axe came down.

The logical explanation: Kairos has been raising questions around the tarsands, including initiating a tour by 17 church leaders there in the spring.

More explanation: A private member’s mining bill (C-300), close to passage by the opposition parties, would deny federal grants to Canadian mining companies that are in violation of human rights and environmental standards in developing countries. Despite the modesty of the bill, the government, at the mining industry’s behest, is apoplectic.

The bill originated with a campaign by Development and Peace, which is connected to Third World problems and is one of Kairos’ biggest members, and which gathered some 400,000 petition signatures in Catholic churches across the country over the past four years. Even the churches are apparently getting to the supposedly religious Stephen Harper.

Regarding the fishery bill, Bob Applebaum, leading a group of top fishery bureaucrats, now retired, who opposed the new agreement and have been involved with fish treaties in Canada and the UN since the era of the 200-mile limit in the1970s, says that they expected the government to do what it did but after allowing "a decent amount of time to pass, paying at least lip-service to the parliamentary process." Apparently, even lip-service is now out the window.

Also, since Newfoundland and Labrador, the province mainly affected by this, is totally opposed, is this the vengeful Harper getting back at Newfoundland’s prickly premier, Danny Williams, for past barbs?

The government has treated Parliament with flagrant contempt, says Applebaum, raising "issues of governance" that go well beyond the fishery.

Indeed, the Harper government merely gets worse: more controlling, angry, manipulative, contemptuous of Parliament, more suspicious of its own civil service — and more incompetent, in its Bush/Cheney way, on anything touching foreign affairs. It also represents a minority of Canadians.

The "issue of governance" is how to get rid of it — and what to replace it with. Although the Harper government has managed repeatedly to work its way up to the 40 per cent range in the polls, considered majority country by the pollsters, as soon as the cameras focus on that fact, something blows up and the lead sinks like a stone.

The problem is that when the cameras turn to the Liberals, they sink like a stone as well (in Quebec, more stuff has come out from the sponsorship scandal, giving the party more grief).

Unless I miss my guess, this looks like Nova Scotia some time ago, in which both major parties were dysfunctional and finally a third party busted through.

The NDP doesn’t look like that party federally, but I was intrigued about the talk of the party changing its name recently, perhaps signalling other changes — a broad social democratic party of Canada might in fact swoop up both Liberals and Progressive Conservatives orphaned by Harper’s reactionary Reform-Conservatives.

Remember, too, that we nearly had a coalition government last fall. These are signs that something is trying to crack.

The Liberals will have another shot at it at the next election. If they fail again, then something will really have to be done. Enough international humiliation and enough scorpions.


Ralph Surette is a veteran freelance journalist living in Yarmouth County.