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Pakistani troops fire on intruding U.S. choppers
By Augustine Anthony
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ISLAMABAD, Sept 22 (Reuters)

- Pakistani troops fired on two U.S. helicopters that intruded into Pakistani airspace on Sunday night, forcing them to turn back to Afghanistan, a senior Pakistani security official said on Monday.

It was the second such incident in a week, and reflects frayed relations with the United States over Pakistan's failure to act more forcibly against Islamist fighters in the tribal lands bordering Afghanistan.

The number of missile attacks by U.S. drone aircraft in the remote tribal areas has multiplied in recent weeks.

The helicopters violated the border in the area of Lowara Mandi, 40 km (25 miles) west of Miranshah, the main town in the North Waziristan tribal region, at around 9 p.m. on Sunday, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the subject.

There was no official confirmation.

"We don't have any information on border violation by the American helicopters," Major Murad Khan, a military spokesman, said.

Residents said drones had been flying overnight and early on Monday over Miranshah but did not attack.

"It's really so scary, we just can't sleep when you hear them flying," said Zia-ur-Rehman, a resident of Hamzoni village near Miranshah.

Relations became strained between the allies in the war on terrorism after U.S. commandos raided a border village in South Waziristan and killed 20 people, including women and children, on Sept. 3.

Pakistanis were outraged by the raid and the six-month-old civilian government issued a diplomatic protest.

It was the first overt incursion by U.S. ground troops into Pakistani territory, though the U.S. military has conducted numerous missile strikes against al Qaeda and Taliban targets in Pakistan's tribal lands.

ZARDARI TO MEET BUSH

The U.S. action prompted army chief General Ashfaq Kayani to issue a statement saying that foreign troops would not be allowed on Pakistani soil and Pakistan's sovereignty and territorial integrity would be defended at all costs.

Pakistani troops fired on two U.S. helicopters that crossed the border at the same village, Angor Adda, a week ago, again forcing them to turn back, according to residents and security officers.

Pakistan and the United States issued denials.

Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari is scheduled to meet President George W. Bush on Tuesday in the United States, and is also due to attend the U.N. General Assembly.

Pakistan's support is regarded as crucial to the success of Western forces trying to stabilise Afghanistan, and in the fight against al Qaeda.

Admiral Mike Mullen, the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, held talks in Islamabad with top Pakistani officials last week. Mullen "reiterated the U.S. commitment to respect Pakistan's sovereignty", the U.S. embassy said in a statement.

The United States is Pakistan's largest donor, and the dissonance between them has been a factor pushing down Pakistani shares and the rupee because Pakistan needs an inflow of dollars to rebuild rapidly depleting foreign currency reserves to prop up its ailing economy. (Writing by Simon Cameron-Moore; Editing by David Fogarty)

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Russian Navy ships head to Venezuela exercises
22 September 2008
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MOSCOW - The Interfax news agency says Russian Navy ships have set off for exercises in Venezuela.

Russian Navy spokesman Igor Dygalo is quoted as saying that the nuclear-powered Peter the Great cruiser accompanied by several other ships sailed from Severomorsk Monday.

Dygalo said the ships will call at Venezuelan ports and take part in join maneuvers with Venezuela.

The deployment follows a weeklong visit to Venezuela by a pair of Russian strategic bombers.

Russia's intensifying military contact with Venezuela appears to be in response to the U.S. sending warships carrying aid to Georgia after its war with Russia.

Russian warships set sail for manoeuvres near US waters
22 September 2008
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MOSCOW - A fleet of Russian warships led by a massive missile cruiser set sail from their Arctic base on Monday for naval exercises off Venezuela near US waters that have not been seen since the Cold War.

"They left at 10:00 am (0600 GMT). It's the nuclear-powered guided missile cruiser Peter the Great, the anti-submarine warship Admiral Chebanenko and other accompanying ships," Russian navy spokesman Igor Dygalo told AFP.

Dygalo said he could not reveal how many ships were involved in the deployment or when they would arrive. The exercises in the Caribbean Sea are expected to take place in November or December, officials said.

The deployment follows the arrival of two Russian Tu-160 nuclear bombers in Venezuela earlier this month also for exercises, an event that Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez branded a "warning" to the US "empire."

Chavez was due in Moscow this week on his third visit since June last year.

"It's a warning. Russia is with us... we are strategic allies. It is a message to the empire. Venezuela is no longer poor and alone," the fiercely anti-US leader said during a public event this month after the bombers landed.

The state-owned Vesti-24 television channel, broadcasting from the deck of the Peter the Great, on Monday showed the vessel's heavy artillery firing to test their readiness for the joint exercises with the Venezuelan navy.

"The planned naval exercises by Russia and Venezuela are not aimed at third countries and do not have an aggressive character. There is no political subtext to these exercises," Dygalo said, Interfax news agency reported.

The nuclear-powered Peter the Great is one of the largest warships of its kind and carries a variety of weapons systems including Granit anti-ship cruise missiles that can be armed with nuclear warheads.

The pro-Kremlin daily Izvestia speculated the ships could stop in Syria as part of a broader show of force in the Mediterranean, quoting a navy source who said Russian engineers were expanding the Syrian ports of Tartus and Latakia.

"The possibility of basing aircraft carriers and missile cruisers there is foreseen," the source told Izvestia, referring to the ports in Syria, a Moscow ally during the Cold War that hosted a Soviet naval supply base.

Dygalo declined to comment on the newspaper's claim, saying only: "Next they'll be saying we're going to Australia."

The Venezuela-bound ships are from Russia's Northern Fleet and are based in Severomorsk, a port on the Barents Sea in the Arctic Ocean close to Norway.

Their visit to the Caribbean is the first such manoeuvre in the vicinity of the United States since the Cold War and it comes as relations between Moscow and Washington are in a deep chill over Russia's war in Georgia last month.

Chavez, one of the few world leaders who backed Moscow in the conflict, said last week that the Russian fleet would arrive in his country's territorial waters in "November or December."

US State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said Washington would monitor the deployment "very closely."

Venezuelan Defence Minister Gustavo Rangel has said the military cooperation with Russia would prepare Venezuela to face possible US "threats," citing the reactivation of the US Fourth Fleet for Latin America and the Caribbean.

The US Fourth Fleet, created during World War II, has been dormant since 1950 but was reactivated this summer.

Moscow's decision to send warships to the Caribbean also came after Russian officials reacted angrily to the deployment of US naval vessels, including the flagship of the US Sixth Fleet, to Georgia for humanitarian aid deliveries.

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The lies of Hiroshima are the lies of today
Friday, September 19th, 2008
By John Pilger
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In an article for the Guardian on the anniversary of the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945, John Pilger describes the ‘progression of lies’ from the dust of that detonated city, to the wars of today - and the threatened attack on Iran.

When I first went to Hiroshima in 1967, the shadow on the steps was still there. It was an almost perfect impression of a human being at easeIn an article for the Guardian on the anniversary of the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945, John Pilger describes the ‘progression of lies’ from the dust of that detonated city, to the wars of today - and the threatened attack on Iran.

When I first went to Hiroshima in 1967, the shadow on the steps was still there. It was an almost perfect impression of a human being at ease: legs splayed, back bent, one hand by her side as she sat waiting for a bank to open. At a quarter past eight on the morning of August 6, 1945, she and her silhouette were burned into the granite. I stared at the shadow for an hour or more, then walked down to the river and met a man called Yukio, whose chest was still etched with the pattern of the shirt he was wearing when the atomic bomb was dropped.

He and his family still lived in a shack thrown up in the dust of an atomic desert. He described a huge flash over the city, “a bluish light, something like an electrical short”, after which wind blew like a tornado and black rain fell. “I was thrown on the ground and noticed only the stalks of my flowers were left. Everything was still and quiet, and when I got up, there were people naked, not saying anything. Some of them had no skin or hair. I was certain I was dead.” Nine years later, when I returned to look for him, he was dead from leukaemia.

In the immediate aftermath of the bomb, the allied occupation authorities banned all mention of radiation poisoning and insisted that people had been killed or injured only by the bomb’s blast. It was the first big lie. “No radioactivity in Hiroshima ruin” said the front page of the New York Times, a classic of disinformation and journalistic abdication, which the Australian reporter Wilfred Burchett put right with his scoop of the century. “I write this as a warning to the world,” reported Burchett in the Daily Express, having reached Hiroshima after a perilous journey, the first correspondent to dare. He described hospital wards filled with people with no visible injuries but who were dying from what he called “an atomic plague”. For telling this truth, his press accreditation was withdrawn, he was pilloried and smeared - and vindicated.

The atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was a criminal act on an epic scale. It was premeditated mass murder that unleashed a weapon of intrinsic criminality. For this reason its apologists have sought refuge in the mythology of the ultimate “good war”, whose “ethical bath”, as Richard Drayton called it, has allowed the west not only to expiate its bloody imperial past but to promote 60 years of rapacious war, always beneath the shadow of The Bomb.

The most enduring lie is that the atomic bomb was dropped to end the war in the Pacific and save lives. “Even without the atomic bombing attacks,” concluded the United States Strategic Bombing Survey of 1946, “air supremacy over Japan could have exerted sufficient pressure to bring about unconditional surrender and obviate the need for invasion. Based on a detailed investigation of all the facts, and supported by the testimony of the surviving Japanese leaders involved, it is the Survey’s opinion that … Japan would have surrendered even if the atomic bombs had not been dropped, even if Russia had not entered the war and even if no invasion had been planned or contemplated.”

The National Archives in Washington contain US government documents that chart Japanese peace overtures as early as 1943. None was pursued. A cable sent on May 5, 1945 by the German ambassador in Tokyo and intercepted by the US dispels any doubt that the Japanese were desperate to sue for peace, including “capitulation even if the terms were hard”. Instead, the US secretary of war, Henry Stimson, told President Truman he was “fearful” that the US air force would have Japan so “bombed out” that the new weapon would not be able “to show its strength”. He later admitted that “no effort was made, and none was seriously considered, to achieve surrender merely in order not to have to use the bomb”. His foreign policy colleagues were eager “to browbeat the Russians with the bomb held rather ostentatiously on our hip”. General Leslie Groves, director of the Manhattan Project that made the bomb, testified: “There was never any illusion on my part that Russia was our enemy, and that the project was conducted on that basis.” The day after Hiroshima was obliterated, President Truman voiced his satisfaction with the “overwhelming success” of “the experiment”.

Since 1945, the United States is believed to have been on the brink of using nuclear weapons at least three times. In waging their bogus “war on terror”, the present governments in Washington and London have declared they are prepared to make “pre-emptive” nuclear strikes against non-nuclear states. With each stroke toward the midnight of a nuclear Armageddon, the lies of justification grow more outrageous. Iran is the current “threat”. But Iran has no nuclear weapons and the disinformation that it is planning a nuclear arsenal comes largely from a discredited CIA-sponsored Iranian opposition group, the MEK - just as the lies about Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction originated with the Iraqi National Congress, set up by Washington.

The role of western journalism in erecting this straw man is critical. That America’s Defence Intelligence Estimate says “with high confidence” that Iran gave up its nuclear weapons programme in 2003 has been consigned to the memory hole. That Iran’s president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad never threatened to “wipe Israel off the map” is of no interest. But such has been the mantra of this media “fact” that in his recent, obsequious performance before the Israeli parliament, Gordon Brown alluded to it as he threatened Iran, yet again.

This progression of lies has brought us to one of the most dangerous nuclear crises since 1945, because the real threat remains almost unmentionable in western establishment circles and therefore in the media. There is only one rampant nuclear power in the Middle East and that is Israel. The heroic Mordechai Vanunu tried to warn the world in 1986 when he smuggled out evidence that Israel was building as many as 200 nuclear warheads. In defiance of UN resolutions, Israel is today clearly itching to attack Iran, fearful that a new American administration might, just might, conduct genuine negotiations with a nation the west has defiled since Britain and America overthrew Iranian democracy in 1953.

In the New York Times on July 18, the Israeli historian Benny Morris, once considered a liberal and now a consultant to his country’s political and military establishment, threatened “an Iran turned into a nuclear wasteland”. This would be mass murder. For a Jew, the irony cries out.

The question begs: are the rest of us to be mere bystanders, claiming, as good Germans did, that “we did not know”? Do we hide ever more behind what Richard Falk has called “a self-righteous, one-way, legal/moral screen [with] positive images of western values and innocence portrayed as threatened, validating a campaign of unrestricted violence”? Catching war criminals is fashionable again. Radovan Karadzic stands in the dock, but Sharon and Olmert, Bush and Blair do not. Why not? The memory of Hiroshima requires an answer.

With thanks to William Blum

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