General rebukes Sharon, exposes rift between
military and government
By Chris McGreal
Jerusalem, Oct. 31 Israels army chief has exposed
deep divisions between the military and Ariel Sharon by branding the governments
hardline treatment of Palestinian civilians counter-productive and saying
that the policy intensifies hatred and strengthens the terror organizations.
Lieutenant-General Moshe Yaalon also told Israeli journalists in
an off-the-record briefing that the army was opposed to the route of the
security fence through the West Bank. The government also
contributed to the fall of the former Palestinian prime minister, Mahmoud
Abbas, by offering only stingy support for his attempts to
end the conflict, he said.
Gen. Yaalon had apparently hoped his anonymous criticisms would
strengthen the armys voice, which has been subordinated to the views
of the intelligence services in shaping policy.
But the comments were so devastating that he was swiftly revealed as the
The statements which a close associate characterized to the Israeli
press as warning that the country was on the verge of a catastrophe
will also reinforce a growing perception among the public that
Sharon is unable to deliver the peace with security he promised when he
came to office nearly three years ago.
The criticism is made all the more searing because Gen. Yaalon is
not known for being soft on the Palestinians. As deputy chief of staff,
he called the latest conflict the second stage of Israels independence
The general warned that the continued curfews, reoccupation of towns and
severe restrictions on the movement of Palestinians, combined with the
economic crisis they have caused, were increasing the threat to Israels
In our tactical decisions, we are operating contrary to our strategic
interest, Gen. Yaalon said. It increases hatred for
Israel and strengthens the terror organizations.
Earlier this week, army commanders in the West Bank told the military
administration in the occupied territories that Palestinians had reached
new depths of despair, which was fuelling a hatred for Israelis that had
little to do with the propaganda so often blamed by the government.
There is no hope, no expectations for the Palestinians in the Gaza
Strip, nor in Bethlehem and Jericho, said Gen. Yaalon.
The commanders warned that the situation was strengthening Hamas, a view
the Israeli intelligence services agreed with. But while the army sees
the solution as easing most oppressive elements of occupation, the Shin
Bet argues that rising support for Islamist groups is a reason to keep
the clampdown in place. This is the preferred option of the defense minister
and Gen. Yaalons predecessor as army chief of staff, Shaul
Sharon and Mofaz were reportedly furious at the generals statements
and initially demanded that he retract them or resign. But the political
establishment apparently decided it would be better to deride Gen. Yaalon.
Anonymous sources in the prime ministers office were quoted in the
Israeli press complaining that the army chief was trying to blame the
politicians for the militarys failures.
But army radio reported yesterday that the foreign minister, Silvan Shalom,
agreed that there needs to be a substantial easing of restrictions on
the Palestinian population. The deputy prime minister, Ehud Olmert, was
also reported to have backed the generals view.
Gen. Yaalon also waded into one of the most contentious issues of
the day by saying the army had recommended a less controversial route
for the steel and concrete security fence through the West
He said the military had warned that the fence, which digs deep into Palestinian
territory, caging some towns and villages and cutting farmers off from
their land, will make the lives of some Palestinians unbearable
and require too many soldiers to guard it.
Further questions were raised yesterday after the chairman of parliaments
defense budget committee revealed that the cost of the fence could triple
to £1.3bn - or 3% of the national budget if Sharon fulfils
his plan for the fence to run around Jewish settlements and the length
of the Jordan valley so that it encircles the bulk of the Palestinian
In response to questions about Gen. Yaalons comments, the
armys chief spokeswoman, Brigadier General Ruth Yaron, said they
reflected a debate within the military.
No uniformed officer has expressed criticism of the government.
The articles reflect fundamental deliberations within the army, in light
of a complex reality, she said.
Source: Guardian (UK)
Philippines gets praise from Bush, criticism
By Gustavo Capdevila
Geneva, Switzerland, Oct. 31 (IPS) The Philippines, a
country aligned with US President George W. Bushs war on terrorism,
is the scenario for executions of human rights defenders, journalists,
native leaders and even children, according to United Nations (UN) experts.
The report on the situation in the Philippines to be issued next week
by the UN Human Rights Committee will include a request that Manila
implement laws and other measures to prevent these crimes, said a source
close to the evaluations.
The human rights record of the Philippines government, which Bush praised
earlier this month during a visit to the country, has come under scrutiny
of the Committee during its current period of sessions, which end here
Abdelfattah Amor, Human Rights Committee chairman, warned the Filipino
delegation that the legislative bill on terrorism being debated by the
countrys parliament is a threat to respect for human rights.
In contrast, Bush expressed gratitude in Manila for the anti-terrorism
initiative of the Gloria Macapagal Arroyo government, as well as its
support this year for the US-led invasion of Iraq. In the war
on terror, the US-Philippines military alliance is a rock of stability
in the Pacific, Bush said.
The promotion and protection of human rights are a priority for the
Filipino government and can only be strengthened in a climate of democracy
and economic prosperity, said undersecretary of justice, Merceditas
N. Gutiérrez, in her presentation to the UN committee of human
A report from the Federation of American Scientists outlines the support
of the Philippines for Washingtons anti-terrorism fight through
the offer to use its military bases and air space, as well as beefing
up legislation against terrorist activities.
The Bush government has repaid Manila with military equipment worth
more than $92 million, including a C-130 transport aircraft, eight UH-1H
helicopters, a patrol boat, 30,000 M-16 rifles and corresponding ammunition,
as well as advisers for supporting combat against insurgents in the
The Human Rights Committee, entrusted with monitoring compliance with
the International Pact on Civil and Political Rights by the 150 member
states, takes into account national security demands related to efforts
against terrorism, said a UN source speaking on condition of anonymity.
However, the 18 independent experts who make up the Committee expressed
concern about the excessive scope of the anti-terrorism bill being debated
by the national Congress and the potential consequences for human rights
protections if it is passed, said the source.
Rights activists from the Philippines said the bill is unconstitutional
The bill violates the right to due process and fails to tackle terrorism,
says Aurora A. Parong, director of the Task Force Detainees of the Philippines,
an organization founded by Roman Catholic clergy.
The protests of the Filipino human rights groups are aimed at all abuses,
but at the continued practice of torture in particular.
Since January 2001, when Arroyo became president, and up to June of
this year, 88 cases of torture have been reported, although many more
have never been made public, says Paul Harrison, of the Geneva-based
World Organization Against Torture (OMCT).
The perpetrators of these abuses have for the most part been members
of the armed forces, and the persecutions and threats have been targeted
at human rights defenders and journalists, activists said during the
Since 1986, 43 journalists have been murdered and none of those cases
have been cleared up, said Marlea Munez, activist with the Womens
Education, Development, Productivity and Research Organization.
Women and children have also been the preferred victims of state-sponsored
violence in the Philippines said Irish priest Shay Cullen, head
of Peoples Recovery, Empowerment and Development Assistance (PREDA),
based in the northern city of Olongapo.
Numerous street children, even eight-year-olds, have been arrested without
valid charges against them and held in cells without beds or sanitary
facilities, and have been subjected to torture and other abuses, said
Of the 86 executions perpetrated by death squads in the southern city
of Davao since May 2001, 16 percent were minors, ages 13 to 17, activists
said in reports to the UN committee.
The absence of birth certificates at the time of the indictment
resulted in children being put on death row for crimes they committed.
But following the introduction of evidence on their dates of birth,
some of them were transferred from death row to high security prisons,
said Filipino justice official Gutiérrez.
The measures taken involving street children are aimed to comply with
anti-vagrancy statutes, she said. The government has expanded shelters
to accommodate children apprehended in such situations, and the revised
criminal code punishes security agents who abuse minors during their
Some 25,000 to 35,000 Filipina women have been victims of human trafficking,
and in many cases have been forced to move to Western countries or to
other areas in Southeast Asia and to engage in prostitution, according
to rights activists.
In the Philippines, women who are arrested on prostitution charges on
Fridays are kept behind bars for the rest of the weekend. In that period,
they are often abused and even raped in the prison cells, they said.
The worlds largest labor organization, the International Confederation
of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU), told the committee it is concerned about
the exploitation of women who work in the 89 tax-free zones of the Philippines.
The women workers are forced to work long overtime hours, often without
being compensated for the extra time. Rules protecting maternity are
frequently violated, wages are a pittance and sexual harassment is common,
says the ICFTU.
A factory that produces clothing for babies, under the trademarks of
Jansport, Eddie Bauer and Outdoors, sold in the United States and South
Korea, distributes amphetamines to workers on the night shift in order
to keep them awake, states a document that ICFTU secretary-general Guy
Ryder sent to the Human Rights Committee.
The independent experts on the committee will include the activists
concerns about human rights abuses in the report on the Philippines
to be presented Nov. 7, said sources close to the discussions.
A special paragraph will reprimand the Arroyo government for sentencing
people under 18 to death and will stress that there are currently seven
such minors awaiting execution, they said.
Global businesses profit from Congo War
By Jim Lobe
Washington, DC, Oct. 28 (IPS) A dozen major international
human rights and development groups are calling on the UN Security Council
to press the United States and other western governments to launch immediate
investigations into the involvement of multinational corporations based
in their countries in profiteering from the war in the Democratic Republic
of Congo (DRC).
The appealby such groups as Human Rights Watch (HRW), Friends
of the Earth (FoE), Oxfam, and the International Human Rights Law Groupcharges
that multinational corporations (MNCs) have developed elite networks
of key political, military, and business elites to plunder the Congos
natural resources during a five-year conflict that has caused the deaths
of more than three million peoplethe highest civilian death toll
of any war since World War II.
Given the key role played by MNCs in fueling and perpetuating the many-sided
conflictby purchasing the natural resources from the warring parties
or their middlemen, according to the groupsthe companies
activities should be thoroughly investigated and, where appropriate,
sanctioned, the groups argue.
The Security Council can no longer ignore clear evidence linking
the exploitation of resources to the war in the Congo, they said
in a joint statement.
It must insist that member states hold the companies and individuals
involved to account, including companies based in Western countries.
Business must demonstrate its commitment to change the way it operates
in conflict situations, the groups said.
The groups appeal comes on the eve of the final report of a Panel
of Experts that was established by the UN in 2000 to study the illegal
exploitation of the DRCs abundant natural resources.
The Panel has so far published three reports, the last one in October,
2002. In that report, it found that 85 companies had violated international
norms, including the Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises promulgated
by the Paris-based Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development
(OECD) in connection with their purchase of key natural resources from
parties engaged in fighting in the DRC.
In particular, the Panel called on governments to place financial restrictions
on 29 of the companies and impose travel restrictions and other sanctions
against more than 50 specific individuals.
The OECD, to which all western industrialized countries belong, has
specific procedures for processing complaints against western-based
companies that violate its various codes of conduct by referring such
cases to National Contact Points (NCPs) for investigation and possible
sanctions. In the United States, the NCP is Wesley Scholz, based at
the Office of Investment Affairs in the State Department.
In January, 2003 the Security Council approved a resolution strongly
condemning the illegal exploitation of natural resources in the DRC
and demanding that all governments act immediately to end those abuses.
The war, which has featured the intervention of the militaries of half
a dozen neighboring countries, as well as a multiplicity of internal
factions, has wound down over the past year, thanks mainly to UN- and
South Africa-led negotiations resulting in the withdrawal of most foreign
forces. Some internal parties, backed by foreign sponsors, have continued
to battle for control of several mineral-rich parts of the country.
Of the 85 companies named in the October 2002 report, eight, including
Cabot Corporation, Eagle Wings Resources International, Trinitech International,
Kemet Electronics Corporation, OM Group (OMG); and Vishay Sprague, are
When the report was issued, the US representative, Richard Williamson,
pledged that his government will look into the allegations against
these companies and take appropriate measures [and] not torn a blind
eye to these activities.
But, in a memo released Monday, FoE charged that the Bush administration
has failed to take any meaningful steps toward investigating, let alone
sanctioning, any of the companies.
On the contrary, both the United States and other OECD members have
successfully pressured the Panel to remove from its final report the
names of the companies registered in their jurisdictions or to declare
that such cases have been resolved, according to the groups.
In the US, Scholz has argued that the OECD Guidelines do not apply to
the US corporations named in the October report because they were not
directly involved in the DRC, but only purchased resources through their
parties. But the groups insist this is far too narrow an interpretation
of the OECDs code, which notes that parent companies or retailers
have an obligation to ensure that the principles contained in the Guidelines
are observed by their suppliers and sub-contractors.
While the Panels final report does not provide specifics, according
to FoE, Cabot, Kemet, and Vishay Sprague all appeared to have had supply
chain relationships with parties in the DRC to obtain coltan (columbo
tantalite), which is used in the production of sophisticated electronic
equipment, particularly cellphones.
Cabot, whose CEO and chairman from 1992 until 2001 was the current deputy
director of the Commerce Department, Samuel Bodman, is the worlds
largest refiner of coltan, according to FoE. It noted that Cabot, which
sells processed tantalum to both Kernet and Vishay, said in response
to the Panels October 2002 report that it had taken measures to
ensure that it is not obtaining coltan from the DRC.
The Panel also found last October that Eagle Wings had received privileged
access to coltan sites and captive labor through its contacts with the
Rwandan military, which controlled coltan mining areas in eastern DRC
during much of the war. It specifically recommended placing a travel
ban and financial restrictions on three of the companys managers.
The company is a joint venture of Trinitech International Inc. and the
Dutch-owned Chemie Pharmacie Holland.
The OM Group was named by the Panel as having reaped considerable profit
from its joint venture, in which it holds percent stake, with a Belgian
national, George Forrest and the DRCs state mining company, Gecamines,
by ignoring agreements that required it to build two refineries and
a converter to process germanium in the DRC. Instead, it shipped semi-processed
ore from its Big Hill Project, one of the most profitable
mining operations in the DRC, to a processing plant in Finland. OMG
has insisted that it has not violated any OECD guidelines.
It is not just the Security Council but also the governments of
member states that must live up to their responsibilities, the
NGOs statement said. They must conduct open and transparent
investigations using the OECD process or other judicial procedures to
clarify the role that companies have played in the conflict in Congo.
Other groups that signed the appeal include Britains Christian
Aid, Fatal Transactions, Global Witness, the International Human Rights
Law Group, the International Peace Information Service, the International
Rescue Committee, OECD Watch; Pax Christi Netherlands; Save the Children
UK; and a number of Congolese human rights groups.
Uribes Democratic Security
on shaky footing
Bogota, Colombia, Oct. 27 (IPS) The opposition in Colombia
hopes that the setback suffered by right-wing President Alvaro Uribe
in the weekends referendum and local elections will tone down
his strong-arm policy towards the countrys civil war.
Much of the political and social opposition called on Colombians to
abstain from voting in Saturdays referendum. Of the nearly 25
million citizens registered to vote, just over six million came out
for the referendum.
Minister of Interior and Justice Fernando Londoño acknowledged
that he shared responsibility if the referendumthe final results
of which will not be in for at least a weekfails, and said Uribe
was very disappointed with the preliminary results.
Based on the incomplete tally, authorities reported that none of the
15 questions listed on the referendum, with which Uribe aimed to push
through a series of fiscal and political reforms, won the necessary
support to be considered valid: 25 percent of registered voters, or
just under 6.27 million.
But in order to be approved, each proposal would have had to receive
a yes vote from at least 50 percent of voters.
And on Sunday, leftist candidates won the mayors seat in the four
largest citiesBogotá, Medellín, Cali and Barranquillain
local elections for governors, mayors, town councilors, and provincial
The referendum was promoted as a plebiscite on the president and
his policies, to the point that in the final stage of the campaign,
failure to turn out was stigmatized, and there were few guarantees
for the trade unions and social groups that urged people not to vote,
Professor Marco Romero at the National University told IPS.
In their last campaign speeches, the president and other officials implied
that coming out for the referendum was equivalent to being on the side
of democracy, while abstaining amounted to complicity with terrorism,
added Romero, a member of the Consultancy on Human Rights and Displacement
(CODHES), a local rights group.
The Uribe administration has not only stigmatized the human rights and
peace movement, but also the opposition, said Romero.
If the referendum had produced a strong result in favor (of the
presidents proposals), he would have radicalized his agenda, and
we would have immediately seen a flood of counter-reforms of the 1991
constitution, with respect to the justice system as well as democracy,
said the analyst.
Colombias two traditional parties, the Conservative and Liberal
parties, both campaigned in favor of Uribes proposals.
The questions on sanctions for corrupt officials and the elimination
of alternates in Congress came closest to passage, according to the
The points that received the smallest number of votes referred to freezing
public spending for two years, including the salaries and pensions of
public employees, and eliminating local and regional fiscal oversight
In the economic arena, a favorable vote would have prompted Uribe to
advance more quickly with his neoliberal agenda, said Romero.
But with these results, the president will have to engage in deeper
reflection about the fact that in this country there are other political
forces and that they think differently than he does.
In Romeros opinion, Uribe is obligated now to take a more democratic
stance, one that is more open to dialogue and more tolerant in general.
One of the messages that the ballot boxes have for the government, according
to an editorial in El Tiempo newspaper, is that positive ratings for
the president (70 percent, according to polls) and his democratic
security policy do not represent a blank check, nor do they
exempt him from listening to dissident voices.
Uribe received a very strong lesson in humility, both in the referendum
vote and Sundays elections, said Senator Carlos Gaviria,
of the leftist Independent Democratic Pole, which encouraged voters
to abstain from the referendum.
It is a good thing that the citizens did not turn out to vote
on a referendum that was perverse, because with the pretext of fighting
against corruption it called on the people to approve economic measures
that would have had negative consequences for the population, but the
population itself would have been blamed for those consequences,
Furthermore, the victory of Gavirias party colleague and former
labor leader Luis Garzón, who won the mayors race in Bogotá,
is a landmark in the sense that this spell that Uribe
has been casting over national public opinion has begun to dissipate,
said the senator.
In Medellín, Colombias second biggest city, mathematician
Sergio Fajardo was elected mayor, while in Cali, Apolinar Salcedo, the
candidate of the poor, won the citys top seat, while victory
in Barranquilla went to Guillermo Hoeninsberg.
The tragic side of the weekend vote is that the campaign was marked
by the assassinations of 25 candidates for governor, mayor or city councilor.
The blame is being pinned on the leftist guerrillas and right-wing paramilitaries
that are at the core of the decades-old civil war.
Botswana: Tensions heightened over fate
Gaborone, Oct. 31 Tensions between the Botswana government
and lobby group Survival International (SI) have heightened over the
alleged forced removal of the Basarwa, or San people, from Botswanas
Central Kgalagadi Game Reserve (CKGR), which they consider their ancestral
home. The government has called SIs campaign against the removal
of the Basarwa as a cheap, calculated and malicious use
of the Basarwa, and defended its decision not to sign an International
Labor Organisation Convention on the rights of indigenous people, arguing
that every Motswana, not just the Basarwa, is indigenous to Botswana.
Inasmuch as Basarwa have to preserve their culture, they must
also be granted that opportunity to prepare for their own sustenance
in the 21st Century and beyond, Clifford Maribe, assistant director
of the research and information division in the Foreign Affairs Ministry
told IRIN. The government said that of Botswanas 60,000 Basarwa,
most of whom live in small, remote communities scattered throughout
the country, about 3,000 lived in the CKGR when it was gazetted as a
game reserve. The reserve, located in the eastern part of the southern
Ghanzi district, was established in February 1961 to protect wildlife
resources and provide sufficient land for use by the hunter-gatherer
Maribe said, over time, many residents of the CKGR had abandoned their
traditional hunter-gatherer lifestyle in favor of permanent or semi-permanent
settlement around or near water sources provided by government to mitigate
the effects of recurring droughts.
A government study conducted in 1985 found that locations in the CKGR
were evolving into permanent, settled agricultural communities, not
consistent with the land-use patterns envisaged when the CKGR was established.
The Basarwa were abandoning their traditional means of hunting on foot
with bow and arrows, in favor of guns, horses, and even four-wheel drive
vehicles. Residents were also grazing increasing numbers of livestock
inside the reserve, it said. According to SI, forcible relocations
of the Basarwa from the CKGR took place in 1997 and 1998. Many
Bushman families then tried to return, but faced difficulties in doing
so. After the relocations stopped, the government continued to pressure
and intimidate people into relocating. In early 2002, pressure intensified,
and almost all those left in the reserve were driven from their homes.
SI allege that the governments interest in the CKGR land, which
they once considered barren, was because it houses one of the worlds
richest diamond fields. Under Botswana law, all proceeds from mining
activities are not subject to claims of ownership of mineral rights
from communities resident in the areas of exploration and mining development.
There is also concern over the exclusion of the Basarwa from the countrys
House of Chiefs, the non-recognition of their tribal status, and of
their form of land use as legitimate. Test drilling has already taken
place at Gope, and mining company BHP Biliton has allegedly invested
very heavily in the Kalahari and Khutse areas through a subsidiary company,
Kalahari Diamonds (which in turn has set up another subsidiary called
Godi) with the support of the International Finance Corporation, a branch
of the World Bank. Only one Motswana citizen sits on the Godi board
- Archibald Mogwe, a senior political advisor to former Botswana president
Sir Ketumile Masire, and formerly the minister of mineral resources.
SI said that diamond company De Beers had also spent a large amount
of money studying the Gope site and had commissioned anthropologist
James Suzman to study Bushman land rights in the CKGR.
Early in 2002, De Beers reportedly said it had no plans to mine for
the foreseeable future. Towards the end of 2002, a De Beers spokesperson
was quoted by SI as saying: We cannot say we will never mine it.
According to Maribe, the government has made no secret that there
is general exploration for minerals throughout the country, including
the CKGR. However, at this point in time, nothing other than the Gope
deposit has been found in the CKGR.
He conceded: If a commercially viable deposit is discovered in
the CKGR, the merits and demerits of mining the deposit will be assessed,
as government has never said, nor is it saying, that mining is banned
in the CKGR. The Botswana human rights group Ditshwanelo, which
is part of an NGO negotiating team that has engaged the government in
discussion over the fate of the CKGR Bushmen, has criticized SIs
stance. Survival International has continued its campaign against
the Government of Botswana through focus on Botswana diamonds and De
Beers. Survival International believes that diamonds are the reason
for the resettlement of the Basarwa to two settlements, New Xade and
Kaudwane, which are outside the CKGR. Ditshwanelo is not convinced that
diamonds are the reason for the relocation of the Basarwa, Ditshwanelo
said in a statement in November last year. In a speech in June this
year, President Festus Mogae explained that a drive to modernity lay
behind the relocations. Over the years people have been encouraged
to move out of our game parks and reserves for two fundamental reasons.
The first is that their modern economic activities, be it hunting, arable
and/or pastoral agriculture or some other commercial activity are inconsistent
with the primary purpose of the parks and the reserves ... The second
reason that people move out from game parks is to give themselves and
their children the benefit of development. To address the interests
of the relocated Basarwa, the government has engaged a local NGO, Permaculture
Trust Botswana, to assist in identifying income-generating projects
like backyard gardens, raising poultry, and brick-making for the construction
of houses in the new settlements of Kaudwane and KGoesakene in
Reverend Moiserele Dibeela, principal of Kgolagano College of Theological
Education, said: This is the main problem with government - in
the way it has handled the relocation of Basarwa from the CKGR, is that
they may mean well, but they appear very condescending and patronizing.
There would have been no issue if they had followed the consultative
process from day one. But when we thought the consultative process was
going on, they cut water, blocked access to the reserve as well as incentives
to stay on the reserve, and came up with a grand scheme for their [the
Basarwas] social upliftment.
SI director Stephen Corry warned: The evicted Bushmen will end
up like reservation Indians in North America, or Aboriginal fringe-dwellers
in Australia - wracked by alcohol and substance abuse, social disintegration,
HIV/AIDS, domestic violence and poverty. This is happening now in the
relocation camps, where many Bushmen are desperate for their land.
Indeed, the government has made no secret of the fact that it
wants to end the Bushman way of life and assimilate them once and for
all into the dominant tribes which control Botswana. It wants them to
However, the matter may finally be settled by the courts, as 242 Basarwa
are currently taking the government to court to be allowed to continue
living in the reserve.
Source: IRIN (Integrated Regional Information Network)
Appeal for draft board volunteers
revives memories of Vietnam era
By Suzanne Goldenberg
Washington, DC, Nov. 5 The Pentagon has begun recruiting
for local draft boards, dredging up painful memories of Vietnam era
conscription at a time of deepening misgiving about Americas occupation
In a notice posted on the Defense Departments Defend America web
site, Americans over the age of 18 and with no criminal record are invited
to serve your community and the nation by volunteering for
the boards, which decide which recruits should be sent to war.
Thirty years have passed since the draft boards last exerted their hold
on America, deciding which soldiers would be sent to Vietnam. After
Congress ended the draft in 1973, they have become largely dormant.
However, recruitment for the boards suggests that in some parts of the
Pentagon all options are being explored in response to concerns that
the US military has been stretched too thin in its occupations of Afghanistan
Although Pentagon officials denied any move to reinstitute the draft,
the Defense Department website does not shirk at outlining the potential
duties for a new crop of volunteers to the draft boards.
If a military draft becomes necessary, approximately 2,000 local
and appeal boards throughout America would decide which young men who
submit a claim receive deferments, postponements or exemptions from
military service, based on federal guidelines, it said.
This is significant, said Ned Lebow, a presidential scholar
at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire and former professor of strategy
at the National War College in Washington.
What the Department of Defense is doing is creating the infrastructure
to make the draft a viable option should the administration wish to
go this route, Lebow told the Toronto Star.
Pentagon officials were adamant that there were no plans to bring back
That would require action from Congress and the president and
they are not likely to do that unless there was something of the magnitude
of the second world war that required it, said Dan Amon, a spokesman
for the Selective Service Department.
Bringing back conscription would be catastrophic for George Bush in
an election year, and at a time when parallels are increasingly being
drawn between Iraq and Vietnam.
However, officials were not immediately able to explain how the advertisement
appeared on the site. Amon said the notices were a response to the natural
attrition in the ranks of the draft board, where some 80% of 11,000
places are now vacant. It is the routine cycle of things,
But it was unclear why the Pentagon decided at this time it was necessary
to fill staff bodies which had played no function since the early 1980s.
The idea of a draft has never entirely disappeared, and is contemplated
by Democrats and some military experts.
In the run-up to the war, the New York congressman Charles Rangel argued
for a draft on the grounds that the US military was disproportionately
made up of poor and black soldiers, and that it was unfair for Americas
underclass to go off and die in wars.
I dont think a presidential candidate would seriously propose
a draft, said Charles Pena, a senior analyst with the Washington-based
Cato Institute. But an incumbent, safely in for a second term
that might be a different story.
When you crunch the numbers, you understand why you hear talk
about a draft. You only have to look at troop levels to realize we dont
have the numbers to do the job in Iraq properly, Pena said in
a Toronto Star interview.
In recent weeks, there has been growing concern within the Defense Department
about relying too heavily on members of the National Guard and army
Some 60,000 of the 130,000 US soldiers in Iraq are members of the National
Guard or the reserves. An opinion poll last month in the Pentagon-funded
Stars and Stripes newspaper, showed 49% threatening not to re-enlist.
The families of reservists have become increasingly vocal in their complaints
after the Pentagons decision to extend duty tours to up to 15
Source: Guardian (UK), additional info:
Attacks on Americans escalate
Insurgents using rocket-propelled grenades struck a US compound in
the northern city of Mosul Nov. 5, a day after Baghdads heavily
guarded central district came under fire from mortars or missiles.
Huge explosions thundered through Baghdad on Nov. 4 as the insurgents
targeted the five-square-kilometer Green Zone, which includes
coalition headquarters, the military press center and other key facilities.
A Pentagon spokesman said three people were wounded but it was unclear
if they were military or civilians.
It was the second mortar attack against the Green Zone in as many days.
There has been a dramatic escalation in attacks, starting with the October
26 missile barrage against the Al-Rasheed Hotel, where many coalition
and US military officials lived. One US colonel was killed and 18 people
On Sunday, guerillas near Fallujah shot down a US Army Chinook helicopter,
killing 16 soldiers.
Violence persisted on Tuesday when a roadside bomb killed a 1st Armored
Division soldier and wounded two others in Baghdad.
Source: Associated Press
Judge is shot dead as Iraqis hatred
of occupiers grows
By Patrick Cockburn
al-Qadasiya, Iraq, Nov. 5 Gunmen shot dead a prominent judge
in Mosul in northern Iraq yesterday, a day after another judge was kidnapped
and killed in Najaf in the south of the country.
A car with tinted windows drew up outside the house of Ismail Yousef,
a judge in Mosuls appeal court, early in the morning. Several men
got out and shot the judge in the chest and side. The reason for the killing
is a mystery; he was not involved in prosecuting Baathists.
On Monday, a senior judge, Mohan Jaber al-Shoueli, was kidnapped with
his deputy in the city of Najaf to the south of Baghdad. According to
the deputy who was later released, the gunmen said they were obeying the
orders of Saddam. Mystery surrounds the murder because Najaf is a Shia
holy city and most of its population hated the deposed president.
The assassination of two judges at opposite ends of the country differs
from other killings in Iraq in that the victims were prominent enough
for their names to be recorded.
In the little farming village of al-Qadasiya yesterday, buried deep in
the Iraqi countryside south of Balad and only accessible by dusty tracks,
relatives were mourning six men who died in a pick-up truck when they
were ambushed by American troops after returning from Ramadan prayers
on Sunday night.
Sitting in a tent, surrounded by neighbors who had come to comfort him,
Abed Obaid Yass said his 61-year-old brother, Salman, his two sons, Arkan
and Daoud, and two cousins had gone to a small cement mosque for prayers.
They left the mosque at 8pm thinking they were safe because the
Americans announced over a loudspeaker that curfew was lifted. They
drove home in three trucks, the last of which suddenly came under fire.
Five people were hit, including the driver, but they kept going.
When they got back to the village, the driver died but two men offered
to take the wounded to hospital in another pick-up. But they were attacked
again, and five more people were killed. One old man who was wounded escaped
into the bushes beside the road and watched an American ambush party surround
the pick-up, which they presumably thought was being used by guerrillas.
The villagers deny that anybody in the truck was involved in the resistance.
They said there had been no attacks on American troops in the district
But a few miles away lies the scene where a US bulldozer had uprooted
part of a grove of orange trees and a few date palms from which American
troops had been ambushed a week before. The owner, an ageing sheikh, persuaded
them to stop, saying there was no way he could prevent guerrillas using
the trees for cover.
The men gathered in the mourning tent were bitter about the killings but
they were almost as angry that nobody in the outside world knew or cared
their relatives had been killed. They had made an attempt to tell others
what had happened to them since the American-led invasion. Close to the
road was a banner in broken English reading: Them removed the tree
and killed the kids, women and elderlies and cracked the houses.
The US army does not keep a count of Iraqi civilians killed in such incidents,
but the hostility they create towards the occupation goes a long way to
explain why guerrilla war is becoming endemic in this part of the Iraqi
Source: Independent (UK)