Palestinians ‘routinely torture’ rival detainees

Palestinians detained by Fatah and Hamas, the two main factions in the West Bank and Gaza, face routine abuse and torture, according to two leading human rights organisations in reports published this week.

Al-Haq, an independent Palestinian human rights group, said yesterday that more than 1,000 people have been detained by each side within the past year. An estimated 20%-30% of the detainees suffered torture, including severe beatings and being tied up in painful positions, said Al-Haq director Shawan Jabarin, citing sworn statements from 150 detainees. It said mistreatment had led to three deaths in Gaza and one in the West Bank.

Al-Haq blamed Hamas’s Executive Force and the group’s armed wing, the Izz-al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, for most of the abuses in Gaza. It said the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas’s Preventive Security Force and General Intelligence Service were the main culprits in the West Bank.

Editor’s Comment — Ever since 9/11 there has been a popular Western trend of opinion convinced that the roots of terrorism are embedded in Islam, but the domain that has received pitifully little attention is one that is exclusive to no particular culture: the institutionalization of brutality. This is something that appears to be pervasive in political cultures across the Middle East; it is embedded in the American penal system; it is an undercurrent to the glorification of military cultures; it is one of the most influential dimensions of the entertainment industry.

Fatah and Hamas may be getting ready for another bloodbath

After three deadly bombings and a string of tit-for-tat arrests, tensions between Fatah and Hamas are once again running dangerously high. The last time that the rivalry between the two groups degenerated into street violence nearly a year ago, hundreds of innocent people were killed as a result. If the leaders of both Palestinian factions fail to come to their senses and rein in their respective supporters, the streets of Gaza and/or the Occupied West Bank could soon see yet another needless bloodbath.

Hamas leaders acted rashly when they almost immediately accused Fatah of carrying out an attack in Gaza late Friday night – and then responded by rounding up almost 200 Fatah members and shutting down cultural and sports offices. Fatah upped the ante of irresponsible behavior when it retaliated to Hamas’ move by arresting 20 the Islamist group’s members in the Occupied West Bank. Both groups know what can happen when these kinds of retaliatory actions get out of hand and both groups now have an urgent responsibility to prevent that from happening again.

Our torture policy has deeper roots in Fox Television than the Constitution

The most influential legal thinker in the development of modern American interrogation policy is not a behavioral psychologist, international lawyer, or counterinsurgency expert. Reading both Jane Mayer’s stunning The Dark Side and Philippe Sands’ The Torture Team, I quickly realized that the prime mover of American interrogation doctrine is none other than the star of Fox television’s 24: Jack Bauer.

This fictional counterterrorism agent—a man never at a loss for something to do with an electrode—has his fingerprints all over U.S. interrogation policy. As Sands and Mayer tell it, the lawyers designing interrogation techniques cited Bauer more frequently than the Constitution.

According to British lawyer and writer Philippe Sands, Jack Bauer—played by Kiefer Sutherland—was an inspiration at early “brainstorming meetings” of military officials at Guantanamo in September of 2002. Diane Beaver, the staff judge advocate general who gave legal approval to 18 controversial new interrogation techniques including water-boarding, sexual humiliation, and terrorizing prisoners with dogs, told Sands that Bauer “gave people lots of ideas.” Michael Chertoff, the homeland-security chief, once gushed in a panel discussion on 24 organized by the Heritage Foundation that the show “reflects real life.”

Olmert: Living with 270,000 Arabs in Jerusalem means more terror

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Monday that the situation in which Jews and Arabs live side by side in Jerusalem inevitably leads to terror attacks.

“Whoever thinks its possible to live with 270,000 Arabs in Jerusalem must take into account that there will be more bulldozers, more tractors, and more cars carrying out [terror] attacks,” Olmert said, referring to two incidents this month in which Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem deliberately plowed bulldozers into passing cars in the capital, causing casualties.

Olmert added that in light of the volatile situation in Jerusalem, it was unlikely that Israel and the Palestinians would reach an agreement on the issue by the end of the year, as is the stated goal. He said that other core issues, such as the fate of the Palestinian refugees and the borders of a future Palestinian state, could be agreed upon by the year-end deadline.

Editor’s Comment — Olmert’s statement is nothing more than a thinly veiled appeal for ethnic cleansing.

Pakistan plans a push into its tribal areas

Meeting a key Pentagon demand, Pakistan’s military is planning to move a major unit of its regular army into the tribal areas on its western border, a largely lawless area used as a haven by Al Qaeda and Afghan insurgents, Pakistani commanders have told U.S. military officials.

The army unit would supplement the country’s Frontier Corps, an ill-trained force frequently routed by insurgents, a senior U.S. military officer said. A fully trained and equipped army unit would represent a change, long sought by U.S. officials, in Islamabad’s stance toward the troubled region.

However, U.S. officials also question how effective or long-lasting the Pakistani push is likely to be.

Pakistani leader reproaches Bush for missile strike

A U.S. missile strike that’s believed to have killed a senior al Qaida operative in Pakistan’s tribal area roiled talks Monday between President Bush and Pakistani Prime Minister Sayed Yousaf Gilani, who reproached Bush for acting unilaterally and failing to share intelligence with Pakistani authorities.

A U.S. official defended the missile strike as a message that Washington will no longer abide Pakistan’s failure to deny al Qaida and the Taliban refuge at a time of surging cross-border attacks on U.S., NATO and Afghan forces in Afghanistan.

“If they (Pakistan) aren’t doing anything, then we are,” said the official, who requested anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to discuss the issue publicly.

Why Sunday’s bombings could help Erdogan

Sunday’s terror attack in Istanbul hit Turkey at a particularly critical juncture. The country’s highest court is expected to rule soon on the legality of the prime minister’s Islamist-rooted AKP party. But Erdogan himself stands to profit if the bloodbath leads the judges to issue a ruling that fosters national unity.

Regardless who was responsible for the bombings on Sunday evening in Istanbul, the attackers could hardly have chosen a more sensitive time to hit the country. Just a few hours after the massacre in the district of Güngören, which killed 17 people and left more than 150 injured, the Constitutional Court in Ankara convened to deliberate the case seeking to ban the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP). A verdict is expected by the end of the week. It is possible that by next week the country could be without any political leadership at all.

Meanwhile another historic case was launched on Friday by a different prosecutor — for the first time former generals were indicted on charges of plotting a putsch to overthrow the government. They are accused of having formed a shadowy organization called Ergenekon along with ultranationalist commandos, far-right lawyers, well-known business leaders and journalists with radical Kemalist sympathies.

Snub for Iran eases nuclear crisis

A window of opportunity for Iran to become a member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) seemed to have opened when on July 18 the Russian news agency quoted a source in the Foreign Ministry in Moscow hinting at such a prospect. It happened two days after Washington let it be known that a shift in its Iran policy was under way.

The unnamed Russian diplomat said the SCO foreign ministers at a meeting in Dushanbe, Tajikistan, a week later would decide on whether to lift a moratorium on bringing in new states. “The moratorium has lasted for two years. We have now decided to consider the possibility of the SCO’s enlargement,” he said. It appeared that weathering US opposition, Moscow was pushing Iran’s pending request for SCO membership. Founded in 2001, the SCO currently comprises China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. Iran has observer status.

However, in the event, following the meeting in Dushanbe on Friday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov revealed that the foreign ministers did not discuss the enlargement of the SCO, while finalizing the agenda of the organization’s summit meeting on August 28, and that Iran wouldn’t be able to get the status of an associate member.

California field goes from rush to reflection of global limits

In May 1899, a pair of oil prospectors wielding picks and shovels dug into a bank of the Kern River where some gooey liquid had seeped to the surface. About 45 feet down, they hit oil, and when the local newspaper printed the news, it set off an oil rush that swept up hundreds of fortune seekers, oil companies, a big railroad and even some enterprising school districts that bought up tracts in hope of turning a profit.

Today, on an arid square of land the size of Manhattan, thousands upon thousands of black derricks crowd the landscape, bobbing gently up and down and sipping crude oil from the field discovered a century ago. The wells aren’t gushers these days, but they still squeeze out a few barrels a day here, a few more there.

Chevron has injected steam into the reservoirs, coaxing the sedimentary rock into giving up millions of barrels of heavy oil that was too thick and sticky to retrieve using the technology of decades past.

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