A videotape message from al-Qaida leader Osama bin laden’s top deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri, was broadcast yesterday by al Jazeera. The network said it broadcast only 10 percent of the five minute tape. The tape was delivered exactly one month after the July 7 bombings in London that killed 56 people, including four suicide attackers. In the excerpts aired by Al- Jazeera, al-Zawahiri did not directly claim that al-Qaida carried out the July 7 or July 21 attacks. But he presented the attacks as a result of British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s decision to participate in the invasion and occupation of Iraq and said that there will be more attacks.
Meanwhile, in Crawford, Texas, President Bush has finished his 320th day of vacation since being elected president. He did come out of his compound to address reporters during a visit by Colombian President and Bush ally Uribe.
As Bush exchanges words with Zawahiri, two of the most vocal critics in Britain of the Iraq occupation are speaking out once again. Rebel Member of Parliament George Galloway has been on a tour of the Middle East where he said the resistance in Iraq was made up of ordinary Iraqis defending their country against “foreign invaders.” Galloway said, “It can be said, truly said, that the Iraqi resistance is not just defending Iraq. They are defending all the Arabs and they are defending all the people of the world against American hegemony.” Galloway was expelled from the Labour Party over his outspoken remarks about the Iraq war. Meanwhile, London Mayor Ken Livingstone on Thursday called on the British Government to withdraw troops from Iraq to prevent further attacks against Britain. In an op-Ed in The Guardian newspaper, Livingstone wrote “The London bombings demand clear thinking, not rhetoric. People’s lives depend on the decisions made. These must be for every community to aid the police; to treat Britain’s Muslim community with respect… And for Britain to withdraw from Iraq.”
Iran’s new President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad began his first day in office on Thursday, issuing orders for his picture not to be put up in government offices and ordering civil servants not to waste money sending him letters of congratulations. The real work of his government begins after Saturday when he takes the oath of office and announces his cabinet.
Two former employees of the powerful pro-Israel lobbying group AIPAC were charged Thursday with illegally receiving classified information from a Defense Department analyst. This according to unsealed court documents. In a superseding indictment, a federal grand jury also restructured the charges against the analyst, Lawrence Franklin, who is alleged to have disclosed classified defense information to the two AIPAC employees. The new indictment charges AIPAC’s former policy director, Steven Rosen, with illegally receiving classified information from Franklin and with illegally helping Franklin pass on that information. Another former AIPAC employee, Keith Weissman, is charged with illegally receiving classified information. Weissman formerly worked for AIPAC as a senior Middle East analyst specializing on Iran. Franklin, who has pleaded not guilty, has been the subject of an FBI investigation centered on allegations that he gave classified U.S. information on Iran to AIPAC, which then passed it on to Israel. Franklin is an Air Force reservist who served in Israel and also worked for the Defense Intelligence Agency. As an Iran analyst, Franklin worked for undersecretary of Defense and leading neocon Douglas Feith.
A team of experts from the United Nations Human Rights Commission said Thursday that the massive barrier Israel is building to seal off the West Bank is a violation of Israel’s human rights obligations. The eight rights experts called on Israel “to stop construction of the wall” and to pay compensation to Palestinians for damage caused by work on the barrier — a series of fences, walls, watchtowers and trenches along the West Bank. Israel also plans to install remote controlled weapons systems as well. The UN team said in a statement, “The wall violates important norms of international humanitarian law prohibiting the annexation of occupied territory, the establishment of settlements, the confiscation of private land and the forcible transfer of people.” The UN statement also reminded the international community that “they are under an obligation not to recognize the illegal situation resulting from the construction of the wall and not to render aid or assistance in maintaining the situation.”
The San Francisco Chronicle is reporting that the Chevron oil corporation paid Nigerian soldiers guarding Chevron oil rigs more than $100 a day even after the soldiers allegedly attacked two Nigerian villages, killing four people and setting fire to homes. This fact surfaced this year as part of a lawsuit against Chevron for the deadly attacks in 1999. An invoice to pay 23 soldiers who say they responded to an alleged assault by men from Opia against a Chevron oil rig. Villagers say they had gone to the rig to meet with Chevron representatives and returned home to see soldiers open fire from a hovering helicopter. To the villagers’ lawyers, the invoice shows Chevron knew of the attacks and should be held accountable for them. This attack came a few months after Democracy Now! broke the story of a similar attack on villagers in the Niger Delta in 1998. Chevron admitted to us that it had provided helicopters for the an attack and that the company’s head of security rode in the helicopters with feared troops from the Nigerian mobile police as they attacked unarmed villagers. The company is also being sued for that attack.
CNN has suspended rightwing commentator Robert Novak indefinitely after he swore and walked off the set Thursday during a debate with Democratic strategist James Carville. The incident happened during CNN’s “Inside Politics” during a discussion of Florida’s Senate campaign. CNN correspondent Ed Henry, who was hosting the show, noted when it was through that he had been about to ask Novak about his role in the investigation of the leak of a CIA officer’s identity. Here is what happened.
Novak: Just let me finish what I’m going to say, James, please. I know you hate to hear me Carville: He’s got to show these right-wingers that he’s got a back bone, ya know? Wall Street Journal editorial page is watching. You show 'em you're tough… Novak: You know I think that’s bull__it. And I hate that. Just let it go.”
Host Ed Henry said at the end of the broadcast “I’m sorry as well that Bob Novak left the set a little early. I had told him in advance that we were going to ask about the CIA leak case, he was not here for me to be able to ask him about that. Hopefully, we’ll be able to ask him about that in the future.” A CNN spokesperson called Novak’s behavior “inexcusable and unacceptable.” She said Novak had apologized to CNN, and CNN was apologizing to viewers, saying that CNN asked Novak to take some time off.
This weekend marks the 60th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima. There are events happening across the world. We’ll have more on that in a moment.
This week also marks the 10th anniversary of what the New York Times called the “single greatest” ethnic cleansing of the Yugoslav civil war of the 1990s. In a 4 day blitzkrieg in August, 1995, US trained Croatian forces expelled more than a quarter of a million Serbs from their homes in the Krajina region of Croatia. It was called Operation Storm. One of the leaders of the operation was trained by the Virginia-based paramilitary firm, Military Professional Resources Inc. He is now a senior official in the US-installed government of the Kosovo province of Serbia.