Monday, 5 September 2011

U.N. says that famine has spread to one more region of Somalia and half of the country's south is now famine-struck - AP

U.N. says that famine has spread to one more region of Somalia and half of the country's south is now famine-struck - AP

Thursday, 5 May 2011

Bin Laden: Publishing images poses 'US security risk'

 President Barack Obama has said publishing photos of the dead Osama Bin Laden threatens US national security.

"I think that, given the graphic nature of these photos, it would create some national security risk," Mr Obama said.
The al-Qaeda leader was killed by US special forces in northern Pakistan on Monday. His body was buried at sea.
On Thursday, Mr Obama is to visit the site of the 11 September 2001 attacks on New York, one of many Bin Laden claimed to have masterminded.
Mr Obama said: "It is important for us to make sure that very graphic photos of somebody who was shot in the head are not floating around as an incitement to additional violence, as a propaganda tool. That's not who we are."
The US administration has been monitoring world reaction - amid conspiracy theories about the al-Qaeda leader following conflicting accounts given by US officials.
"There are going to be some folks who deny it. The fact of the matter is, you won't see Bin Laden walking on this Earth again," Mr Obama said.
On Thursday, Pakistan Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir again dismissed allegations his country's secret services had links to al-Qaeda, and said the investigation into the presence of Bin Laden in Abbottabad would reveal what failures there were.

Legality question Mr Obama's decision - revealed during an interview with CBS television's 60 Minutes programme - prompted a mixed reaction from US politicians, some of whom were shown the photos.
Continue reading the main story

At the scene

The compound has had lots of people around it over the past 24 hours; the police have been moving people away sporadically, closing the area and opening it again. But while it is open, a lot of locals have come round.
Of course, they have been stunned by what has happened. They are very curious about this place, and a lot of those people are talking about these pictures. A lot of people have been saying right from the start that they still can't quite believe that Osama Bin Laden was living in their midst and that he was killed here.
They want some kind of proof, even though the Pakistani authorities have been very categorical about the fact they say he has been killed.
Steny Hoyer, the number two Democrat in the House of Representatives, said he shared the president's view.
"In my opinion there's no end served by releasing a picture of someone who has been killed," he said, quoted by CNN.
But senior Republican Senator Lindsey Graham said the decision was a mistake.
"I know Bin Laden is dead," he said. "But the best way to protect and defend our interests overseas is to prove that fact to the rest of the world. I'm afraid the decision made today by President Obama will unnecessarily prolong this debate."
The decision came as US officials began to comb through computer hard drives, mobile phones and USB sticks found during the US Navy Seals raid on the compound in Abbottabad where Bin Laden was living.
US Attorney General Eric Holder said Washington expected to add more names to its terrorism watch-list as a result of data seized in the raid.
Two telephone numbers and 500 euros ($745; £450) were also found stitched into Bin Laden's clothing, there in case he needed to make a quick getaway.
Critics have raised concerns about the legality of the operation, after the US revised its account to acknowledge Bin Laden was unarmed when shot dead.
But Mr Holder said Bin Laden was a lawful military target, whose killing was "an act of national self-defence".
"It was a kill-or-capture mission. He made no attempt to surrender."
Survivors Three other men and one woman died in Monday's assault, while one of the al-Qaeda leader's wives was injured.

Mardell's America

Start Quote

There is the suspicion that the US never wanted to take Bin Laden alive”
End Quote
The Pakistani military is holding the survivors of the US special forces operation. They are being kept at secret locations in the cities of Rawalpindi and Islamabad.
The 54-year-old Bin Laden - America's most-wanted man - was buried at sea from a US aircraft carrier, say US officials.
Mr Obama, who monitored the progress of the raid from the White House, saw his approval rating jump 11 points to 57% in a New York Times/CBS News poll on Wednesday.
The compound where the operation took place is just a few hundred metres from the Pakistan Military Academy.
In unusually frank remarks, CIA director Leon Panetta told Time magazine: "It was decided that any effort to work with the Pakistanis could jeopardise the mission. They might alert the targets."
Pakistan rejected the US suggestions it could not have been trusted in advance.
Some US lawmakers are calling for billions of dollars in aid for Pakistan to be reduced or stopped altogether.

No release of Bin Laden photos

Total view of the map of Usama Bin Ladin Operation
Reports of the operation to find al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden paint a picture of high tension, with White House officials watching the operation unfold on a live video feed.

At the climax at the end of a 40-minute firefight, one of the soldiers uttered the words "Geronimo EKIA", meaning a man visually identified as the target of the operation - Bin Laden - had been killed in action, officials said.
A high-risk operation given the green light by President Barack Obama in what his counter-terrorism adviser, John Brennan, termed "one of the gutsiest calls by any president in recent memory" had achieved its aim, the death of Washington's most wanted man.

The raid begins
The operation took place at a fortified compound on the outskirts of Abbottabad in north-west Pakistan, about 100km (62 miles) from the capital, Islamabad.
The raid happened at some time between 0000 and 0130 local time on Monday morning (1900-2030 GMT on Sunday), residents told the BBC.
At least two US helicopters, believed to have taken off from US air bases at either Jalalabad or Bagram in Afghanistan, were seen flying low over the area, causing panic among some residents.
They describe hearing three explosions several minutes apart, followed by a huge explosion that shook their houses. Most residents said they then also heard gunshots, but that the firing was brief, just a couple of minutes.
As the explosions started, they say, the lights in the area went off, going on and then off again shortly afterwards.
One report quotes some residents as saying they were commanded in Pashto - not the common language of the area - to turn their lights off, but this is unconfirmed.
It is believed that people inside the compound fired at the helicopters.
CIA director Leon Panetta said "25 people went on the ground" from two Blackhawk helicopters.
When one helicopter developed "problems", Mr Panetta said the plans changed and both helicopters set down rather than drop troops on the roof of the compound.
The US special forces, said to be from the elite Navy Seals Team Six, then breached "three or four walls" to get in the compound.
Rather than let the disabled helicopter fall into the wrong hands, the commandos blew it up.

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Login Edit Feedback Can Obama Construct a Different Presidential Legacy?

"I have never seen devastation like this...this is heartbreaking...We're going to make sure you're not forgotten." -President Barack Obama on visiting cities destroyed by tornadoes.
"Brownie, you're doing a heck of a job." Former President George W. Bush congratulating his appointee to FEMA after Hurricane Katrina ravaged New Orleans.

For America, it is a shame that World War II came on the heels of near recoveries from enormous economic and environmental catastrophes. While New Deal programs had put eight million Americans, who were reeling from the Great Depression, back to work and expanded government for the Many, fresh conservation policies were being implemented due to years of drought across the Great Plains, better known as the Dust Bowl. But because of World War II and America's war mobilizing spirit, many Americans have carried the faulty notion that it ended the Great Depression. World War II also had another far reaching impact, specifically in how presidents would perceive themselves, and how Americans would view their leaders. Because of World War II, Franklin D. Roosevelt would always be remembered as a tremendous wartime leader and military strategist, instead of a president who helped America recover from the Great Depression through numerous public works projects. World War II would forever overshadow his conservation policies, put in place to safeguard against another environmental disaster, and his public works projects, like the Tennessee Valley Authority and Hoover Dam, that increased the quality of life for millions. To America's demise, future presidents would always be judged by popularized wartime images and a military legacy.
Therefore, it was a great relief to see President Barack Obama immediately visit tornado-ravaged Alabama. Not only did severe storms kill more than three hundred Americans- over three hundred tornadoes struck Georgia, Tennessee, Mississippi, and Virginia-but tens of thousands of homes were either destroyed or severely damaged. Entire neighborhoods have been completely eliminated, and some are claiming this "apocalyptic-like" disaster was the worst in almost a century. Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of Americans are without food and water and basic services like electricity, medicines and healthcare. President Obama claimed the devastation was heartbreaking, and that those affected would never be forgotten. He also declared many areas to be national and state emergencies. As people start removing twisted heaps and downed power lines, and as they begin rebuilding collapsed buildings and homes, along with still finding survivors buried beneath rubble, others are acknowledging that there needs to be improvements in areas of meteorology, Doppler radars, warning systems, and more durable structures with basements that can withstand-or lessen the fatal impact-of an EF-5 tornado with winds of 200-300 mph. Still, some scientists are concerned that recent weather patterns and tornado-genesis research points to the impact of Global Warming.
At this juncture in time, President Obama can avoid a major mistake made by former President George W. Bush (and many other presidents since Franklin D. Roosevelt.) He can also begin to reverse a destructive ideological legacy that has caused the United States to commit to needless wars and useless military engagements, ones that have wasted trillions of dollars. By the time President Bush returned from his five-week getaway at his Crawford ranch and visited the death and devastation in New Orleans (Sept. 2, 2005) as a result of Hurricane Katrina, several levees had already broken days before and had drowned over two-thousand Americans. Tens of thousands of others were either still trapped in their homes or in convention and sports centers, many without food and water and other basic necessities. Under the Bush Administration, the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) had been placed under the direction of the Department of Homeland Security. Not only had it been stripped of its authority and proper funding-due to the Sept. 11 attacks and overseas wars in Iraq and Afghanistan-but President Bush appointed a close friend to run FEMA, someone without any experience in dealing with disasters. While this new FEMA was a far cry from the one of the 1990's, one that quickly responded and dealt with national emergencies, the Bush Administration scoffed at warnings from climatologists who predicted as early as 2001 of severe weather related to an abundance of greenhouse gasses.

At the same time, and as early as 2001, the Bush Administration scoffed at dire warnings over heightened hurricane activity, perhaps exacerbated by global warming related to byproducts of industrialization. The Bush Administration also continued to oppose the Kyoto Protocol signed by the United States in 1997 but never ratified. In 2003, the Bush Administration again ignored Environmental Protection Agency warnings of levees needing to be rebuilt around New Orleans. Hundreds of millions of dollars were being diverted from flood control projects to fund the ongoing war in Afghanistan and a new ill-fated war in Iraq. When the levees broke on the morning of August 29, many of the city's poor residents were trapped, since they had no transportation or means to buy bus, train or plane tickets, let alone stay in hotels far away from the flooding. National Guard troops and state aid arrived late too, as much of it was being used for military conflicts. Even as flood waters continued to engulf poor neighborhoods, transportation systems and evacuation routes proved severely inadequate. Seven days later after Hurricane Katrina made landfall a second time, and four days after two of the city's flood walls collapsed, President Bush finally visited New Orleans. Meanwhile, Vice President Dick Cheney appeared agitated when he had to cut short his vacation and return. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice spent much of her time in New York at Broadway shows and shopping.
Based on a detailed investigation of the Bush Administration's delayed response, it is now known that each member received numerous forewarnings about the category 5 hurricane and about the breach of the levees. The devastation was also played out around the clock through the mass media, as reporters were stationed throughout New Orleans and other parts that were being devastated. At meetings and briefing regarding Hurricane Katrina smashing into New Orleans and the levees being breached, it was reported that President Bush never asked any questions. Giving him the benefit of doubt, in the sense that he campaigned on a platform that promoted Compassionate Conservatism, many claim that his focus was on the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, especially Iraq. Others believe that President Bush was extremely distracted and worried about his presidential legacy, and that he was anxious if he would be perceived as popular and decisive war president, much like Franklin D. Roosevelt. This is exactly the kind of destructive mentality and fatalistic legacy President Obama can start to unravel and undo by visiting areas ravaged by tornadoes. In other words, he can reverse decades of misguided presidential leadership, ones that were often militarily oriented at the expense of domestic emergencies. He can begin to symbolically fashion himself as a proactive presidential leader that deals with recovery and rebuilding efforts and healing after natural disasters.
For President Obama to do this, though, he (and Americans) will have to address how the Arsenal of Democracy has turned into a permanent and corrupt war economy, and how it has become addicted to selling superior weapons technologies to other nations while manufacturing ever more wars. Reshuffling leadership in the Department of Defense and Central Intelligence Agencies will not be enough. He will have to completely cleanse militant and hateful ideologies that are often based on misinformation and hysteria, versus reason and factual evidence. He will have to address how U.S. foreign policy and militarism around the world has made Americans less safe, how they have provoked attacks and retaliation, and how they have indirectly killed tens of thousands of Americans. President Obama will also have to fight hard to end the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and divert monies away from trillion dollar weapons budgets programs, in order to fund infrastructure projects desperately in need of repair or are durable against catastrophic events. The funds and people-power are available to make sure every American has strong and adequate housing and protection from severe weather.
While implementing viable evacuation plans and bettering transportation systems for all-whatever happened to high speed rail?-he will have to make sure every city is fitted with emergency shelters and adequate medical facilities. While paying particular attention to poor areas, President Obama should increase funding to prevent future environmental disasters and to upgrade warning systems. He might even want to eliminate tax programs and tax cuts that benefit corporations and the very wealthy, while hurting the working classes and the very poor. Government policies and a lack of funding can directly or indirectly kill Americans. Presidential legacies built on militarism, and which prioritize being a great wartime president, can do the same. In thinking back to his campaign speeches before becoming president, then Senator Obama likened himself to Dr. Martin Luther King, claiming the election was a "defining moment" and if elected he would serve with the "fierce urgency of the now!" He talked of a nation fighting too many wars and of sending too many people overseas to die or become disabled. Most people in attendance spoke of healthcare, education, employment, social concerns and hopes of recovery, rebuilding and healing.
If President Obama can become a leader that addresses natural disasters and helps prevent future environmental emergencies, unlike former President Bush and others before him, he will have accomplished "change we can believe in and live with." He will also leave behind a legacy that improves and protects the quality of life for all Americans.

Footage from inside Bin Laden's compound

Pakistan's main intelligence agency, the ISI, has said it is embarrassed by its failures on al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden.
An ISI official told the BBC the compound in Abbottabad where Bin Laden was killed by US forces on Sunday had been raided in 2003.
But the compound "was not on our radar" since then, the official said.
The government of Pakistan has categorically denied any knowledge of the raid before it took place.
No base within Pakistan was used by US forces, the ministry of foreign affairs said in a statement.
It went on: "US helicopters entered Pakistani airspace making use of blind spots in the radar coverage due to hilly terrain."
However, the ministry defended the ISI, saying: "As far as the target compound is concerned, ISI had been sharing information with CIA and other friendly intelligence agencies since 2009."
'Caught by surprise' Bin Laden, 54, was the founder and leader of al-Qaeda. He is believed to have ordered the attacks on New York and Washington on 11 September 2001, as well as a number of other deadly bombings.
The ISI official gave new details of the raid, saying Bin Laden's young daughter had said she saw her father shot.
He told the BBC's Owen Bennett-Jones in Islamabad that the compound in Abbottabad, just 100km (62 miles) from the capital, was raided when under construction in 2003.
It was believed an al-Qaeda operative, Abu Faraj al-Libi, was there.
But since then, "the compound was not on our radar, it is an embarrassment for the ISI", the official said. "We're good, but we're not God."
He added: "This one failure should not make us look totally incompetent. Look at our track record. For the last 10 years, we have captured Taliban and al-Qaeda in their hundreds - more than any other countries put together."
The compound is just a few hundred metres from the Pakistan Military Academy - the country's equivalent of West Point or Sandhurst.
The ISI official also gave new or differing accounts of some of the events of Sunday's raid. They included:
  • There were 17-18 people in the compound at the time of the attack
  • The Americans took away one person still alive, possibly a Bin Laden son
  • Those who survived the attack included a wife, a daughter and eight to nine other children, not apparently Bin Laden's; all had their hands tied by the Americans
  • The surviving Yemeni wife said they had moved to the compound a few months ago
  • Bin Laden's daughter, aged 12 or 13, saw her father shot
The official said it was thought the Americans wanted to take away the surviving women and children but had to abandon the plan when one of the helicopters malfunctioned.

The helicopter was destroyed by the special forces unit.
The US has not commented on anyone it captured or had planned to capture, other than saying it had taken Bin Laden's body.
The ISI official said the organisation had recovered some documents from the compound.
The CIA is already said to be going through a large number of hard drives and storage devices seized in the raid.
The White House has not disclosed whether anyone has claimed the $25m (£15m) reward for leading the US to Bin Laden.
White House counter-terrorism adviser John Brennan said there had been concern Pakistani forces would deploy to counter the US Navy Seal team conducting the raid but it had avoided any confrontation.
The ISI official said: "We were totally caught by surprise. They were in and out before we could react."
Our correspondent says residents near the compound in Abbottabad reported that Pakistani soldiers had asked them to switch off their lights an hour before the attack, but the ISI official said this was not true and that it had no advance knowledge of the raid.
Earlier, in an opinion piece in the Washington Post, President Asif Ali Zardari admitted Bin Laden "was not anywhere we had anticipated he would be".
But he denied the killing suggested Pakistan was failing in its efforts to tackle terrorism.
Mr Zardari said Pakistan had "never been and never will be the hotbed of fanaticism that is often described by the media".
"Such baseless speculation may make exciting cable news, but it doesn't reflect fact," he said.
"Pakistan had as much reason to despise al-Qaeda as any nation. The war on terrorism is as much Pakistan's war as it is America's."
Mr Brennan had said it was "inconceivable that Bin Laden did not have a support system" in Pakistan. He estimated Bin Laden had been living in the compound in Abbottabad for five or six years.
Pakistani Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir tried to draw a line under the matter, saying: "Who did what is beside the point... This issue of Osama Bin Laden is history."
'Geronimo' Bin Laden was America's most wanted man but had eluded capture for more than a decade.
US officials say that after DNA tests they are "99.9%" sure that the man they shot and killed and later buried at sea was Bin Laden.

President Obama: "We were reminded again that there is a pride in what this nation stands for"
US President Barack Obama watched the entire operation in real time in the White House with his national security team.
Mr Brennan said: "The minutes passed like days."
CIA director Leon Panetta narrated via a video screen from a separate Washington office, with Bin Laden given the code name Geronimo.
Mr Panetta's narration lasted several minutes. "They've reached the target... We have a visual on Geronimo... Geronimo EKIA (enemy killed in action)."
Mr Obama said: "We got him."
Bin Laden, his son Khalid, trusted personal courier Sheikh Abu Ahmed and the courier's brother were all killed, along with an unidentified woman.
Bin Laden was shot above his left eye, blowing away a section of his skull, and was also shot in the chest.
The BBC's Andrew North in Washington says the White House is still discussing whether to release a video that was made of Bin Laden's burial from an aircraft carrier in the Arabian Sea, which some Islamic scholars have said did not conform with tradition.
Our correspondent says many people will want proof that Bin Laden is dead but the White House will be concerned about the reaction if the video, and still photographs of the body, are released.

Monday, 2 May 2011

Bin Laden's death: A cathartic moment for the US

President Barack Obama is making it clear that the killing of Osama Bin Laden didn't occur by accident - and that it happened while he was in charge. He told former Presidents Bush and Clinton what he was about to announce before he made his televised White House statement. I am sure he resisted any suggestion that he had done what they had only talked about. Yet he made it clear that his administration had been determined.

The president said that on taking office he had told the CIA that the al-Qaeda chief's death or capture was to be the agency's top priority. Senior administration officials say that he chaired five meetings in March working out the plans for this attack. It's really not clear to me if the political leadership makes much difference to operations like this, but it is certainly the impression Mr Obama wants to linger.
The raid took 40 minutes. The intelligence operation took years. It started with the search for a courier, perhaps something of a misnomer for a senior aide to Bin Laden, one of the few men he trusted, according to prisoners who had been interrogated. Four years ago they uncovered his identity. The very high level of precautions the man took made them all the more suspicious. Two years ago they discovered the areas in which he operated. Last summer they identified the compound, in an affluent suburb of Islamabad. Eight times the size of similar homes in the area, it had 18ft-high walls topped with barbed wire and inner walls 7ft high. A large place, worth a million dollars, but with no phone, no internet access. The CIA believes it was purpose-built to hide Bin Laden.
The US didn't tell the Pakistanis about the compound or about the raid until it had happened. That may create some diplomatic friction.
But the mood in America is exultant. As Twitter proclaimed the death of Bin Laden, before the president spoke, crowds gathered outside the White House, waving the stars and stripes and chanting "USA, USA". This is not a country that does quiet satisfaction. This is a cathartic moment for the nation, a moment when America's military might, know how and sheer will power seem to have come together to produce a result.
At a time when there are so many doubts about America's role in the world, and so much economic gloom, there is something clear and plain about celebrating the "rubbing out" of a bad guy, an enemy. The president has been congratulated by even his opponents, and this success allows him to appear grimly resolute in pursuit of America's core interests.
Senior administration officials say Bin Laden's death is not just a symbol, it removes a charismatic and respected leader whom al-Qaeda cannot replace. The official suggests the organisation is on a downward path that will be difficult to reverse. The domestic implications for Mr Obama are in the opposite direction, but may be just as important.

Bin Laden death reminds Kenya of bombing horrors

Bombing survivor Douglas Sidialo says Bin Laden should have been put on trial
When Charles Muriuki heard that Osama Bin Laden had been killed, he rushed to the memorial park which now stands on the site of what used to be the US embassy in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi.

His mother was one of the more than 200 people killed when al-Qaeda operatives blew up the US mission on 7 August 1998. Like her, most of the victims were Kenyan.A similar attack took place just minutes later in neighbouring Tanzania, where the embassy in Dar es Salaam was also targeted and 11 people lost their lives.
Mr Muriuki's mother, Mary Wanjiru Muriuki, was at the Co-operative Bank, next door to the former US embassy building which was destroyed by the massive bomb.

"I had to come here and comfort her memory and tell her not to worry - everything has been taken care of, justice has prevailed," he told the BBC.But Mr Muriuki was one of just a handful of people who had gone to pay their respects at the memorial - a granite slab engraved with the victims' names.
He savoured his "victorious" moment in solitude, the small crowd at the park were oblivious to him and only took note of him when journalists interviewed him, with curious, but brief stares.
Caught in the middle.
The reaction has been largely subdued - there have been no jubilant crowds like those seen outside the White House in Washington, and in New York. Kenyans are getting on with their lives, although they are in the main relieved to hear about the death of the militant leader. Most see this as a victory for the Americans.
Some also reflect with bitterness that Kenyans were not specifically targeted by al-Qaeda - those killed were bystanders caught up a battle between a superpower and the Islamist militant network.
Local TV and radio stations have carried on with their scheduled programming, relegating the death of the al-Qaeda leader to their hourly bulletins or rebroadcasting the coverage being aired by the international media houses.

But Kenyan leaders have welcomed the news. President Mwai Kibaki described Bin Laden's killing as an act of justice for those Kenyans who lost their lives and suffered injuries in al-Qaeda's first attack on US interests. "I commend all those people behind the successful tracking down and killing of Osama Bin Laden," he said.

High alert

Douglas Sidialo lost his sight following the 1998 attack and now chairs an association for victims of the attack. He welcomed Bin Laden's death, describing it as "a reason for celebration".
But he was quick to point out that it would have been better if al-Qaeda's leader had been captured alive to face trial.Reaction on local websites is mostly positive, with US President Barack Obama receiving plaudits for bringing down the world's most wanted man.
Nearly all of those killed in the 1998 Nairobi bombing were Kenyans Interestingly, the contentious subject of compensation for the Kenya victims of the 1998 bombing is being raised again. Kenyans are also well aware that the death of the al-Qaeda leader does not end the threat of another terror attack in the country.
Prime Minister Raila Odinga welcomed Bin Laden's death but noted that the influence of al-Qaeda had spread to Kenya's neighbour Somalia, where foreign insurgents are fighting alongside militants opposed to the UN-backed government.

"Osama's death can only be positive for Kenya, but we need to have a stable government in Somalia. The loss of [al-Qaeda's] leader may first upset the movement but then it will re-group and continue," Mr Odinga said.

The country went on high alert just over a week ago after Somali militant group al-Shabab, which has links to al-Qaeda and which last year staged an attack in Uganda killing 76 people, threatened to attack public areas and places of worship over the Easter period.

The porous border between Kenya and Somalia means the threat of an attack from insurgents affiliated to al-Qaeda operating in Somalia can never be discounted. The death of Bin Laden will not see the disappearance of the ubiquitous security checks in front of hotels, office blocks, shopping centres and recreation facilities. Indeed, security forces have been put on ever higher alert in case of revenge attacks.