Foreign Policy

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  Court Rules In Favor Of Chinese Muslim Held At GitmoJune 23, 2008 12:34 A federal appeals court ruled Monday that a Chinese Muslim held by the U.S. military was improperly labeled an "enemy combatant" by the Pentagon.

It's the first time a Guantanamo Bay detainee has been given an opportunity in a civilian court to try to secure his release.

The decision throws into serious doubt the underlying reasons for keeping Hazaifa Parhat in custody for more than six years.

A brief one-page order from the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington directed military officials to either "release or transfer Parhat, or to expeditiously hold a new [military] tribunal."

The order came just 11 days after the Supreme Court ruled the approximately 270 detainees at Guantanamo have a basic constitutional right to challenge their detention in federal courts -- another setback for the Bush administration's anti-terror and war policies.

The justices moved quickly Monday to give federal judges further authority to hear an expected flood of appeals from accused terrorists and foreign fighters being held at the Guantanamo base in Cuba.

  Pakistan Fury At Deadly Us StrikeJune 11, 2008 11:14 Pakistan's Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani has condemned an air strike by Afghanistan-based US forces that Islamabad says killed 11 of its troops.

The incident took place inside Pakistan, near the border with Afghanistan.

The US military confirmed it had used artillery and air strikes after coming under fire from "anti-Afghan" forces.

The incident comes as relations between the US and Pakistan militaries have been hit by mounting tensions.

The soldiers' deaths occurred overnight at a border post in the mountainous Gora Prai region in Mohmand, one of Pakistan's tribal areas, across the border from Afghanistan's Kunar province.

Eight Taleban militants were also killed in the clashes, a Taleban spokesman said.
  Bush'S Last Major Visit To Europe Greeted With HostilityJune 09, 2008 10:35 .S. President George W. Bush is making his last major visit to a continent where many dismiss him as yesterday's man.

As his presidency winds down, Bush — reviled by many Europeans and simply ignored by others — can do little this week but smooth the way for his successor.

His tour kicks off Tuesday with a one-day summit of U.S. and European leaders in Slovenia, where officials have alluded to long-standing misgivings in Europe over Bush's foreign policy in Iraq and its approach to climate change and other issues.

  Us Threatens Britain With Legal Action Over Airline TaxesJune 06, 2008 19:13 An official letter sent by the US Embassy to the British Government - which has been leaked to The Daily Telegraph - reveals the Americans have "deep concerns with the proposal". They threaten the Treasury with legal action over the planned tax increase.

Ministers are planning to sharply increase the amount of money raised from airline taxes in a move that will net an extra £520 million annually.

Airlines - already struggling to deal with record fuel prices - calculate that the tax per person on a flight to America or other long-haul destinations will rise from £40 to about £100 from next year. The levy will be passed on to passengers.

The unusual attack from the Americans - ahead of a visit to Britain by President Bush next week - is understood to be causing serious concerns within Downing Street. It could lead to yet another climb-down by the Government over a major tax policy.

The six-page letter provides a detailed rebuttal of claims made by Alistair Darling, the Chancellor, that taxes on flying are being increased to produce environmental benefits.

  The Strange Ways Of Guantanamo Bay's Version Of JusticeJune 06, 2008 19:08 In the contentious history of Guantanamo Bay, Thursday was momentous. It was the first time senior al-Qa'eda suspects had been seen in public since the September 11 attacks on America nearly seven years ago, and the first time any had been charged in a US court.

Short of capturing Osama bin Laden or his number two, Ayman al-Zawahiri, this was as close as America will come to submitting leading perpetrators of the worst terrorist atrocity on its soil to the rule of law.

But justice is strange at Camp Justice. No images were allowed of the courtroom exterior - a boxed structure surrounded by high fences and razor wire plonked in the middle of a disused Second World War airstrip - let alone the inside.

The defendants, who face the death penalty, have been denied habeas corpus, but some rights were over-respected at times, most notably when Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (KSM), the self-confessed mastermind of the attacks, complained that the court artist's sketch contained an unflattering nose.
  Bush Misused Iraq Intelligence - Us Senate ReportJune 05, 2008 10:51 U.S. President George W. Bush and his top policymakers misstated Saddam Hussein's links to terrorism and ignored doubts among intelligence agencies about Iraq's arms programs as they made a case for war, the Senate intelligence committee reported on Thursday.

The report shows an administration that "led the nation to war on false premises," said the committee's Democratic Chairman, Sen. John Rockefeller of West Virginia. Several Republicans on the committee protested its findings as a "partisan exercise."

The committee studied major speeches by Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and other officials in advance of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in March 2003, and compared key assertions with intelligence available at the time.

Statements that Iraq had a partnership with al Qaeda were wrong and unsupported by intelligence, the report said.

It said that Bush's and Cheney's assertions that Saddam was prepared to arm terrorist groups with weapons of mass destruction for attacks on the United States contradicted available intelligence.

Such assertions had a strong resonance with a U.S. public, still reeling after al Qaeda's Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States. Polls showed that many Americans believed Iraq played a role in the attacks, even long after Bush acknowledged in September 2003 that there was no evidence Saddam was involved.

The report also said administration prewar statements on Iraq's weapons programs were backed up in most cases by available U.S. intelligence, but officials failed to reflect internal debate over those findings, which proved wrong.
  U.S. Soldiers Launch Campaign To Convert Iraqis To ChristianityJune 01, 2008 22:45 Some U.S. military personnel appears to have launched an initiative to covert thousands of Iraqi citizens to Christianity by distributing Bibles and other fundamentalist Christian literature translated into Arabic to Muslims.

A recent article published on the website of Mission Network News reported that Bible Pathway Ministries, a fundamentalist Christian organization, has provided thousands of a special military edition of its Daily Devotional Bible study book to members of the 101st Airborne Division of Fort Campbell, Kentucky, currently stationed in Iraq, the project "came into being when a chaplain in Iraq (who has since finished his tour) requested some books from Bible Pathway Ministries (BPM).”

“The resulting product is a 6"x9" 496-page illustrated book with embossed cover containing 366 daily devotional commentaries, maps, charts, and additional helpful information," the Mission Network News report says.

Chief Warrant Officer Rene Llanos of the 101st Airborne told Mission Network News, “the soldiers who are patrolling and walking the streets are taking along this copy, and they're using it to minister to the local residents.”

"Our division is also getting ready to head toward Afghanistan, so there will be copies heading out with the soldiers," Llanos said. “We need to pray for protection for our soldiers as they patrol and pray that God would continue to open doors. The soldiers are being placed in strategic places with a purpose. They're continuing to spread the Word.”

Karen Hawkins, a BPM official, said military chaplains "were trying to encourage [soldiers] to be in the Word everyday because they're in a very dangerous situation, and they need that protection."

That would appear to violate the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment prohibiting government officials, including military personnel, from using the machinery of the state to promote any form of religion. The book’s cover includes the logos of the five branches of the armed forces giving the impression that it’s a publication sanctioned by the Pentagon.

The distribution of the Bibles and Christian literature comes on the heels of a report published Wednesday by McClatchy Newspapers stating that U.S. Marines guarding the entrance to the city of Fallujah have been handing out “witnessing coins” to Sunni Muslims entering the city that read in Arabic on one side: "Where will you spend eternity?” and on the other side: "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. John 3:16."

A Pentagon spokesman said he was unaware of the issue involving the distribution of coins and Bibles and declined to comment.

The issue comes at a particularly sensitive time for Sunnis who recently clashed with U.S. military in an area west of Baghdad a week after an American soldier was found to have used a Koran, the Islamic holy book, for target practice. Following a daylong protest by Iraqis that threatened to turn violent, Maj. Gen. Jeffery Hammond issued a public apology to Sunnis in the area.

"I come before you here seeking your forgiveness," Hammond said. "In the most humble manner I look in your eyes today and I say please forgive me and my soldiers."

The soldier who shot up the Koran was disciplined and removed from duty in Iraq.

Mikey Weinstein, founder and president of the watchdog agency, The Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF), said the religious intolerance among U.S. military personnel calls for a federal investigation.

"The shocking actions revealed just last week of American soldiers in the combat zones of Iraq and Afghanistan callously using the Koran for automatic weapons 'target practice' is absolutely connected to the same issues of national security breach wrought by our United States armed forces proselytizing the local populations via the distribution to them of fundamentalist Christian coins, bibles, tracts, comics and related religious materials written in Arabic," Weistein said.

"The Military Religious Freedom Foundation has been acutely aware of such astonishing unconstitutional and illicit proselytizing in Iraq and Afghanistan for over three years now and knows how massively pervasive it really is. These proselytizing transgressions are all blatant violations of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) and MRFF is now demanding that any and all responsible military personnel be immediately prosecuted under Failure to Obey an Order or Regulation," Weinstein added.

Members of the U.S. military first started actively proselytizing Iraqi Muslims soon after the U.S. invaded Iraq in March 2003.

In a newsletter published in 2004 by the fundamentalist group International Ministerial Fellowship (IMF), Capt. Steve Mickel, an Army chaplain, claimed that Iraqis were eager to be converted to Christianity and that he personally tried to convert dozens of Iraqis, which is also an apparent constitutional violation.

"I am able to give them tracts on how to be saved, printed in Arabic," Mickel said, according to a copy of the IMF newsletter. "I wish I had enough Arabic Bibles to give them as well. The issue of mailing Arabic Bibles into Iraq from the U.S. is difficult (given the current postal regulations prohibiting all religious materials contrary to Islam except for personal use of the soldiers). But the hunger for the Word of God in Iraq is very great, as I have witnessed firsthand."

Mickel evangelized Iraqis while delivering leftover food to local residents from his unit's mess hall. He handed out Bibles translated into Arabic in the village of Ad Dawr, a predominantly Sunni territory where Saddam Hussein was captured.

"Such fundamentalist Christian proselytizing DIRECTLY violates General Order 1A, Part 2, Section J issued by General Tommy Franks on behalf of the United States Central Command (USCENTCOM) back in December of 2000, which strictly prohibits 'proselytizing of any religion, faith or practice,'" said Weinstein, a former Reagan administration White House counsel and former Air Force Judge Advocate General (JAG).

In addition to coins and Bibles, there have been reports of the distribution to Iraqi children of Christian comic books published by companies such as Chick Publications. These inflammatory comic books, published in English and Arabic, not only depict Mohammed, but show both Mohammed and Muslims burning in hell because they did not accept Jesus as their savior before they died

Chick Publications states on its website that its literature "is desperately needed by Muslims, but getting it to them without endangering our soldiers or enflaming the Muslim leadership will not be easy."

Postal regulations prohibit sending bulk religious materials contrary to Islam into Iraq, but allow religious materials to be sent to an individual soldier for their personal use.