Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Russians Up The Ante In Missile Shield Mess

Think the Russians aren't pissed by U.S. plans to put a radar station in the Czech Republic and missiles in Poland as part of the tested-but-definitely-not-true anti-missile system? Think again. The Russian bear is beginning to roar, warming the cockles of folks who yearn for the days of the Cold War. On February 8, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov announced plans for drastic increases in the number of ballistic missiles, nuclear submarines and aircraft carriers. The Russian's also plan to quadruple the number of Topol-M missiles. It's all part of a what the Guardian calls a $189 billion 'revamp' of Russia's rusty, and rotting military. The Guardian report partially pegs the Russian military increase to anxiety over Washington's missile defense plans. This weekend, Ivanov is at a big defense-type pow wow in Munich where he's expected to chat with U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates. Ivanov has restated some of Russia's arguments against the 'shield.' A glance at the map shows that Poland and the Czech Republic are in the wrong place to protect the United States from North Korean attack, while a launch from Iran could be brought down in neighboring states, Ivanov said. "It is common knowledge that any missile that is following a ballistic trajectory can be intercepted at the initial booster stage. If it is so... why can't our U.S. partners deploy the system in Iraq, Afghanistan or Turkey?" Ivanov said, according to the AP news agency. Asked if he understood Ivanov's concerns, Gates said "Not really." That's a real quote, folks.

Germany Going After CIA Spooks

The short arm of German law is coming for the CIA. They want to arrest 13 suspected (always suspected, not like CIA agents roam about handing out business cards blowing their cover) CIA agents for their role in the 2003 abduction of a German national. Khaled al-Masri, a German citizen of Lebanese descent, says he was abducted in December 2003 in Macedonia and flown by the CIA to a detention center in Afghanistan, where he was allegedly abused. Al-Masri says he was released in Albania in May 2004 after the CIA discovered they had the wrong man. Oops! The 13 suspects were crew and passengers on an aircraft which flew el-Masri from Macedonia to Afghanistan. My friends at Deutsche Welle have this interesting bit: Public broadcaster NDR had reported earlier that most of the CIA employees sought lived in North Carolina in the United States. NDR said Spanish authorities had learned the identities of all 13 agents on board and had copies of some of their passports. Although all of the names were believed to be aliases, NDR said it was possible, using other data, to learn their real identities. The report said three of the suspects worked for Aero Contractors, believed to be the CIA's secret airline.German arrest warrants are not valid in the United States but if the suspects were to travel to the European Union they could be arrested. Maybe during Oktoberfest? Germany, as you CEEI readers know, Hamburg, to be precise, was a hangout for the 9/11 terrorists. As the German muckracking mag, Der Spiegel, reported in 2005, it was a key 9/11 suspected who fingered al-Masri. Here's a good bit from that article: One of the key figures in the deadly Sept. 11 attacks, the Hamburg-based Yemenite Ramzi Binalshibh, told the CIA of a coincidental meeting he had once had on a train ride. He was told of a man by the name of "Khalid al-Masri" who had apparently urged Mohammed Atta's Sept. 11 pilot crew to get training in Osama bin Laden's camps in Afghanistan. Binalshibh was also told that this man "al-Masri" had helped Atta's men establish contact with a senior al-Qaida member in the city of Duisburg in western Germany's Ruhr region. Not satisfied with the CIA's mea culpa it goofed, ( and who would be?) Al-Masri has filed a landmark suit, with the help of the ACLU, against the U.S. The suit, as the BBC, nicely sums up here, claims that former CIA director George Tenet and other CIA officials violated US and universal human rights laws when they authorised agents to kidnap Mr Masri. The lawsuit says Mr Masri suffered "prolonged arbitrary detention, torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment".

Friday, January 26, 2007

Czech Town Set To Rebury Nazi Remains

You'd think few if any in the Czech Republic would want to memorialize anything to do with the Nazi regime. After rolling into the country in 1938, Nazi soldiers killed, maimed, and deported thousands as well as razed villages before the nightmare ended (at least for a brief time before the Communists unleashed their own brand of terror) in 1945.

Not so. Tucked away in the northeast of the country, not far from Poland, where coal and heavy industry is king lies the town of Hlučin. The town is testament to a time when a mishmash of nationalities lived in Czechoslovakia. Many in Hlucin were Germans. And during World War II, several hundred served not as partisans with their fellow countrymen the Czechs, but with the invading Wehrmacht.

Today, many in this town of 14,000 are proud of their German heritage. In fact, hundreds hold German passports. Now, some think its time to honor their forebears who picked up a gun to fight for Adolf Hitler's Germany. They want to rebury the remains of 3,900 Wehrmacht soldiers in the town cemetery.

"It won't offend anyone. Afterall, lots of Hluciners fought in German uniforms," explains Mojmir Sonnek, the leading organizer to rebury the fallen Nazi soldiers.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

European Parliament Names Names In CIA Rendition Probe

European lawmakers have named the names of those countries who knew the CIA was soiling on their soil and either looked the other way or held out a helping hand. Who's on the list? Britain, Poland Germany and Italy are among the 10 naughty nations listed in the report drafted by Italian Socialist Giovanni Fava. What's in the report? Not much in the way of hard facts. That doesn't mean there's no meat. Secret documents, confidential sources, including records of meetings between EU, NATO and senior U.S. State Department officials are in there. Plus, there are dozens of hours of testimony by those who said they were kidnapped by U.S. agents on European soil and transferred to secret prisons. Perhaps most eye-raising is what they got from Eurocontrol, the EU's air safety agency, according to which more than 1,200 undeclared CIA flights entered European airspace since 9/11. The EU lawguys "condemned the fact that European countries have been relinquishing their control over their airspace and airports by turning a blind eye or admitting flights operated by the CIA which, on some occasions, were being used for extraordinary renditions." The Europeans admitted they couldn't dig up enough evidence on Poland's alleged CIA torture center. The report also points the finger at the Germans for failing to accept a U.S. offer, made in 2002 to release Murat Kurnaz, a Turkish citizen resident in Germany, from the U.S. prison camp at Guantanamo Bay. Kurnaz was picked up in Pakistan in 2001 turned over to U.S. authorities and held at Guantanamo as a terror suspect. He was released in 2006 after a federal judge deemed the evidence against him was too weak to hold him. The European parliament report was followed by another report, this one by Human Rights Watch which accused European countries of undermining an international ban on torture by accepting "empty promises of humane treatment" in justifying turning over terror suspects to countries where they risk being tortured. Human Rights Watch singled out Britain and Sweden, (yes, you read that right) as the worst transgressors in this respect. The land that gave us Abba handed over to the CIA two Egyptian terrorism suspects after the U.S. spooks gave their word -- who would think the CIA would lie? -- the two would not be tortured. And they weren't ............................. not, as Borat would say.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Poles And Czechs Mull U.S. Anti-Missile Shield

American plans to build part of their controversial anti- missile defense system in the Czech Republic has sparked debate in the central European country and mobilized progressive forces who oppose it. Several hundred turned up on a chilly, snowy day in late January on Wenceslas Square in the Czech capital, Prague, just part of a multi- pronged campaign against the plan. Hinting at the Soviet crackdown on the “Prague Spring” reform movement of 1968, demonstrators held up placards reading: “1968 – Go Home, Ivan! 2007 – Go home, John!” Pavel, a Prague university student said he was tired of his government “kissing someone’s ass.” The Bush administration announced on January 20 that Washington had asked the Czech Republic and Poland to base parts of the system. Under the proposal, the Czechs would house the radar system and the Poles the silos with 10 rockets to shoot down missiles fire from “rogue regimes” like Iran and North Korea. The U.S. already has missile interceptor sites in California and Alaska. A missile site in Poland would be the first outside the U.S. and the only one in Europe. Public reaction to the proposal in both countries has been lukewarm at best, while Moscow has criticized it with rhetoric reminiscent of the Cold War. Critics see it as the latest American move to expand its military grip around the globe. “The government does not have a mandate to authorize the base,” Jan Tamas, the main organizer of the “No Base” movement, which is calling for the government to at least let the people vote on the proposal. Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek has balked at the idea of holding a referendum, arguing, “security issues usually are not decided by referendum.” “Locating the base here will undoubtedly improve the security of the Czech Republic and Czech citizens,” Topolanek said. But many Czechs fear the base will make them a target of a terrorist attack as they are dragged into Washington’s geopolitical schemes. Nevertheless, several vox populi show a majority of Czechs actually back the plan, perhaps hoping the U.S. will at least drop visa requirements for them. Also lingering fears of Russia, may tip the Poles and Czechs into the arms, literally, of the Americans. Backers also see it as a chance for the Czech Republic to do its part in the global “war on terror,” among them the former dissident, playwright and president, Vaclav Havel, who has backed many an American intervention, including the Iraqi war. “Do the Czechs want to be a modern European society, which feels a shared responsibility for the state of the world, or would we prefer to leave the resolution of global problems to others,” Havel asked. Topolanek will face a tough task winning parliamentary backing for the American plan. His fragile center-right government was cobbled together after seven months of on-again, off-again talks. Topolanek’s Civic Democratic generally backs the radar scheme, but coalition partner the Christian Democrats are less enthusiastic and the third and oddest member of the government, the Greens, are the most hostile, saying it could back the plan if it is part of a NATO system and not just an American one. The leader of the opposition Social Democrats, Jiri Paroubek, has said most members of his party oppose the idea. The Czech and Moravian Communist Party are firmly in the opposition camp. Perhaps, some of the wariest Czechs are those living in Jince, about 30 miles southwest of Prague, where the U.S. wants to base the radar installation at a former military site. Protests have been held there as well. Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg was dispatched to the region in early February to meet nervous local mayors, reassuring them that hosting about 200 Americans will pump up the local economy. Convincing the mayors will be easier than Moscow. Vladimir Popovkin, who commands the country's space forces, has said, "The radar in the Czech Republic would be able to monitor rocket installations in central Russia and the Northern Fleet." Russia wants Washington to put in writing that the missile system is not aimed at it, according to an Interfax report on February 6. “The Russians say ‘this is my backyard. You need our cooperation.’ They are right. You cannot stop Iran or contain Iran without Russia. You need the Russians onboard, “ Andrew Brookes, a space technology expert at London’s International Institute for Strategic Studies, told the AFP news agency. Some experts argue there is no point, militarily at least, to building another radar station in the Czech Republic. Bruno Gruselle, researcher at the Paris-based Strategic Research Foundation said “the U.S. military already has radar stations in Norway, in Greenland, and in Britain—on top of its Defense Support System satellite alert system – which permit the early detection of missiles, wherever they come from.” Rarely if ever mentioned in the debate is whether the system will ever be operable. After spending more than $100 billion on missile defense, the U.S. hasn’t proved the system can work. Test results have been mixed at best. Not many officials in Prague or Warsaw are talking about that.