Tag Archives: UN

Jerome Starkey: Footage of civilian ‘massacre’ forces inquiry into US attack

America’s most senior soldier in Afghanistan has called for the Pentagon to investigate claims that more than 90 civilians were killed in an American airstrike, after harrowing video footage emerged showing the broken bodies of at least 11 children among the dead.

The grim, eight-minute clip, filmed on a mobile phone in the aftermath of the bombing, shows rows of shrouded bodies laid side by side in a make-shift morgue. Among them are at least 11 children, many of them toddlers.

General David McKiernan, the commander of Nato’s International Assistance Force (Isaf), ordered a fresh investigation led by a Pentagon general after footage was released on Sunday night. In a statement he said: “In light of emerging evidence pertaining to civilian casualties … I feel it is prudent to request that US Central Command send a general officer to review the US investigation and its findings.”

The top-level review comes just days after he admitted there were “large discrepancies” among accounts of the death toll. American officials claim there were just seven civilians killed. The United Nations, the Afghan government and human rights groups said that the body count was closer to 90. Locals said most of the dead were women and children.

The damning footage was shot by a doctor who visited the morgue, in a building normally used as a mosque, on the morning after the attack on 22 August.

At one point a blanket is pulled back to show the grey, lifeless face of an infant. The dead child’s head is no bigger than a man’s hand. A large section of skull is missing. Women can be heard wailing in the background. One mourner is heard crying for his mother.

The bombs were called in by American Special Forces after their patrol was ambushed in Azizabad, in Herat province, shortly before dawn on that day. Officials said the American soldiers were trying to arrest a suspected Taliban commander.

Days after the attack, American officials remained adamant that just 30 Taliban insurgents had been killed, including their commander, despite detailed claims by Afghan officials that at least 76 people were killed, including 50 children.

Four days after the airstrike, on 26 August, the UN’s senior official in Kabul, Kai Eide, claimed he had “convincing evidence … that some 90 civilians were killed, including 60 children, 15 women and 15 men”.

Hamid Karzai, Afghanistan’s President, said relations with the United States had “worsened” in the wake of the raid, which prompted a grovelling phone call from President George Bush.

There has been growing criticism of international troops for failing to curb civilian killings. A report by Human Rights Watch, published yesterday, said civilian deaths as a result of airstrikes by the US and Nato tripled from 2006 to 2007, which have sparked a public backlash.

Brad Adams, the group’s Asia director, said: “Mistakes by the US and Nato have dramatically decreased public support for the Afghan government and the presence of international forces.”

American officials eventually revised their initial body count, on 2 September, but they were still nowhere close to the numbers reported elsewhere. A spokesman said: “The investigation found that 30 to 35 Taliban militants were killed. In addition five to seven civilians were killed, two civilians were injured and subsequently treated.”

Mr Eide, the UN’s Special Representative, summoned General McKiernon to his office in Kabul on Friday last week to see the evidence for himself. General McKiernon was furious that the UN had released such an uncompromising statement condemning the raid. But a source close to the Isaf commander revealed he was almost moved to tears when he finally saw the images for himself. “He was shocked and humbled. He left like a little boy,” the military aide said.

If the 90 dead are confirmed, it would be the worst incident of collateral damage in Afghanistan since US and UK forces invaded in 2001.

Missiles fired by US drones killed 16 people, in an attack launched across the border into Pakistan yesteday. The strike targetted a religious school founded by an old friend of Osama bin Laden, intelligence officials and Pakistani villagers said. The US has increasingly used drones to make cross broder strikes on suspected Taliban targets in recent weeks. The missile killed 16 people, most of them Pakistani and Afghan Taliban fighters, though four women and two children were also killed, according to a senior intelligence officer.

* The Independent


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Sparks that risk igniting another Balkan war

One response to the results of this week’s parliamentary elections in Kosovo will be: why should we care? A small part of the former Yugoslavia, an aspiring independent state under UN protection, has gone to vote in reasonably good order. Things are moving in the right direction; we can relax and leave the two million or so people of this Balkan enclave to their own devices.

At the present juncture, however, nothing would be more dangerous. The clear victor in these elections looks set to be the Democratic Party of Hashim Thaci, a former guerrilla leader. This was the party that campaigned most stridently and impatiently for Kosovo’s full independence.

If the results suggest growing militancy among Kosovo’s voters, the election offered other malign indicators. The turnout was the lowest ever recorded, suggesting that even voters from the Albanian majority are now frustrated and cynical about the political process. Nor is there the slightest sign of rapprochement between the ethnic Albanians and the minority Serbs. The Serbs – who want Kosovo to remain constitutionally a part of Serbia – stayed away from the polling stations. Their boycott, coupled with the low turnout, allows both sides to cast aspersions on the results.

What is more, time for an internationally sponsored settlement is running out. As part of his election pitch, Mr Thaci vowed to declare formal independence from Serbia once the official 10 December deadline for a deal had expired. With the post of prime minister now within his sights, Mr Thaci is repeating that promise. Yet a unilateral declaration of this sort is the very outcome that everyone involved – the UN, the EU, the government of Serbia and its Russian supporters – has been trying with increasing urgency to avoid.

Now there is a real risk that much, if not all, of the good achieved by the 1999 western military intervention will be undone. Of course, that intervention had its difficulties. It received UN authority only afterwards. It was later than it should have been. The decision making was ponderous. There were mistakes – the bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade leaps to mind. And there were dangerous stand-offs. Russia’s advance on Pristina airport risked the first East-West military confrontation since the Cold War and precipitated a spat between the British commander on the ground, General Sir Mike Jackson, and Nato’s American supreme commander, General Wesley Clark.

For all that went wrong with the Kosovo operation, however, the balance remains overwhelmingly positive. This was a successful example of armed force used for humanitarian intervention. It afforded international protection to a group – Kosovo’s ethnic Albanians – who were in immediate physical danger. It also, although this was not the prime objective, sowed the seeds of Slobodan Milosevic’s downfall and speeded the advent of democracy in the rump of Yugoslavia.

The path to independence for Kosovo was never going to be smooth. The small Serbian population needs real guarantees that their rights will be protected; even then, their sense of grievance will run deep. For Serbs, parts of Kosovo have profound religious and cultural significance; more Serbs will probably leave. If, as is likely, Serbia refuses to recognise an independent Kosovo, and if – as is also likely – Russia vetoes recognition at the UN, Kosovo will be in a diplomatic limbo.

In this event, nothing can be ruled out, including resort to arms by disillusioned Albanian Kosovans and irate Serbs. The flames of a new Balkan war could reignite latent conflicts further afield, destabilising the region as a whole. Unless we show greater awareness of these dangers now, Kosovo risks becoming a small country of which we get to know all too much.

* http://comment.independent.co.uk/leading_articles/article3174393.ece

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Fidel Castro: Un argumento más para la ONU

Mientras trabajo con el ya famoso libro de Greenspan, leo un artículo publicado por El País, órgano español de prensa con más de 500 mil ejemplares según se afirma, que deseo transmitir a los lectores. Está firmado por Ernesto Ekaizer, y dice textualmente:

‘Cuatro semanas antes de la invasión de Irak, que se produjo en la noche del 19 al 20 de marzo de 2003, George W. Bush mantenía en público su exigencia a Sadam Hussein en los siguientes términos: desarme o guerra. A puerta cerrada, Bush reconocía que la guerra era inevitable. Durante una larga conversación privada con el entonces presidente español, José María Aznar, celebrada el sábado 22 de febrero de 2003 en el rancho de Crawford, Tejas, Bush dejó claro que había llegado el momento de deshacerse de Sadam. ‘Quedan dos semanas. En dos semanas estaremos militarmente listos. Estaremos en Bagdad a finales de marzo’, le dijo a Aznar.

‘Llegó el momento de deshacerse de Sadam.

‘Dentro de este plan, Bush había terminado por aceptar, el 31 de enero de 2003 —tras una entrevista con el primer ministro británico, Tony Blair—, introducir una última maniobra diplomática: la propuesta de una segunda resolución del Consejo de Seguridad de Naciones Unidas. Su objetivo: abrir la puerta legal a la guerra unilateral que Estados Unidos se aprestaba a desencadenar con más de 200 000 soldados preparados en la región para atacar.

‘Bush era consciente de las dificultades internas de Blair y no desconocía las de Aznar. Sólo siete días antes de esa reunión en el rancho de Crawford, tres millones de personas se manifestaban en varias ciudades de España contra la guerra inminente. ‘Necesitamos que nos ayudéis con nuestra opinión pública’, pide Aznar. Bush le explica el alcance de la nueva resolución que piensa presentar: ‘La resolución estará hecha a la medida de lo que pueda ayudarte. Me da un poco lo mismo el contenido’. A lo que Aznar responde: ‘Nos ayudaría ese texto para ser capaces de copatrocinarlo y ser sus coautores y conseguir que mucha gente lo patrocine’. Aznar, pues, se ofrece a dar cobertura política europea a Bush, en unión con Blair. El sueño de Aznar de cimentar una relación con Estados Unidos, siguiendo el ejemplo del Reino Unido, estaba a punto de hacerse realidad.

‘Aznar había viajado el 20 de febrero con su esposa, Ana Botella, a Estados Unidos haciendo una escala en México para persuadir —infructuosamente— al presidente Vicente Fox de la necesidad de apoyar a Bush. El 21, la pareja, acompañada por los colaboradores del presidente, llegó a Tejas. Aznar y su esposa se alojaron en la casa de invitados del rancho.

‘En la reunión del día siguiente, sábado, participaron el presidente Bush, su entonces asesora de Seguridad Nacional, Condoleezza Rice, y el responsable de asuntos europeos del Consejo de Seguridad Nacional, Daniel Fried. Por su parte, acompañan a Aznar su asesor de política internacional, Alberto Carnero, y el embajador de España en Washington, Javier Rupérez. Bush y Aznar mantuvieron, como parte del encuentro, una conversación telefónica a cuatro bandas con el primer ministro británico, Tony Blair, y el presidente del Gobierno italiano, Silvio Berlusconi.

‘El embajador Rupérez tradujo del inglés para Aznar y también del italiano para Condoleezza Rice; otras dos intérpretes hicieron su trabajo para Bush y sus colaboradores. Fue Rupérez quien se encargó de elaborar el acta-resumen de la conversación en un memorándum que ha permanecido secreto hasta hoy.

‘La conversación impresiona por su tono directo, amigable y hasta amenazador, cuando, por ejemplo, se refiere a la necesidad de que países como México, Chile, Angola, Camerún y Rusia, miembros del Consejo de Seguridad de la ONU, voten la nueva resolución como una muestra de amistad hacia Estados Unidos o se atengan a las consecuencias.

‘Se advierte la nula expectativa en el trabajo de los inspectores, cuyo jefe, Hans Blix, había desmontado hacía solo una semana, el 14 de febrero, los argumentos expuestos por el secretario de Estado norteamericano, Colin Powell, ante el Consejo de Seguridad el 5 de febrero de 2003, con ‘datos sólidos’ apoyados calurosamente por la ministra de Exteriores española, Ana Palacio. Unos datos que el propio Powell calificó, más tarde, como un conjunto de falsedades.

‘El informe de Blix

‘Según Blix, Irak estaba dando pasos hacia una cooperación activa para resolver los temas de desarme pendientes. Su tono había sido menos crítico que el de su informe del 27 de enero de 2003. ‘Desde que llegamos a Irak hace tres meses hemos realizado más de 400 inspecciones sin previo aviso en unos 300 lugares. Hasta ahora, los inspectores no han encontrado ninguna de las armas prohibidas… Si Irak se decide a cooperar todavía más estrechamente el periodo de desarme a través de las inspecciones puede todavía ser breve’, señalaba el jefe de inspectores.

‘El director general del Organismo Internacional de la Energía Atómica (OIEA), Mohamed El Baradei, informó el 14 de febrero de que todavía quedaban por aclarar algunas cuestiones técnicas; pero, añadió, ‘no quedan ya problemas de desarme por resolver’. Según dijo, no se había hallado prueba alguna de que en Irak se estuvieran llevando a cabo actividades nucleares o relativas a la energía nuclear, otro claro mentís de lo que afirmó Powell sobre el programa nuclear iraquí.

‘Tanto los primeros frutos de la labor de inspección como la finalización de los preparativos de Estados Unidos llevaron a Bush a fijar el comienzo de la operación militar hacia la fecha del 10 de marzo de 2003, a la cual se añadieron nueve días para obtener la segunda resolución. El proceso de persuasión moral al cual se abocaron Aznar y Palacio a golpe de teléfono y en reuniones bilaterales no logró reunir más que cuatro votos: los tres promotores y Bulgaria. Eran necesarios 9 votos.

‘El fracaso de esta cobertura legal de la guerra inminente llevó a Bush a acordar con Blair y Aznar la celebración, el 16 de marzo de 2003, de una cumbre en las Islas Azores, lugar sugerido por Aznar como alternativa a las islas Bermudas por una razón que él mismo explicó a Bush: ‘El solo nombre de esas islas va asociado a una prenda de vestir que no es precisamente la más adecuada para la gravedad del momento en que nos encontramos’. Allí, ese 16 de marzo, Bush, Blair y Aznar decidieron sustituir al Consejo de Seguridad de Naciones Unidas y usurparon sus funciones para declarar por su cuenta y riesgo la guerra contra Irak. En la mañana del 17 de marzo, el embajador del Reino Unido ante la ONU anunciaba en Nueva York la retirada de la segunda resolución. Una derrota en la votación hubiera complicado más la carrera hacia la guerra.’

Fidel Castro Ruz

Septiembre 27 del 2007

7:25 p.m.

* Fidel Castro Ruz.
Fidel Castro
Foto: ©Argenpress
* http://www.argenpress.info/nota.asp?num=047617&Parte=0

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