From Volume 37, Issue 15 of EIR Online, Published Apr. 16, 2010
Asia News Digest

Amnesty International Goes To Bat for Jihadis

April 4 (EIRNS)—That old British intelligence apparatus, Amnesty International, landed itself in hot soup when its Secretary-General, Claudio Cordone, issued a statement saying that jihad is a form of "self-defense." The issue arose after Amnesty International suspended Gita Sahgal, one of its senior officials in London, for expressing the view that Amnesty's collaboration with former Guantanamo Bay detainee Moazzem Begg "fundamentally damages" the group's reputation. Sahgal pointed out that "to be appearing on platforms with Britain's most famous supporter of the Taliban, whom we treat as a human rights defender, is a gross error of judgment."

Begg is also reputed to be a friend and supporter of Anwar al-Awlaki, imam to some of the 9/11 hijackers, and an inspiration to both the 2009 "Christmas Day bomber" and the Fort Hood mass-murderer.

On Feb. 10, Sahgal stated: "This morning the Sunday Times published an article about Amnesty International's association with groups that support the Taliban and promote Islamic Right ideas.... Within a few hours of the article being published, Amnesty had suspended me from my job." Sahgal is not expected to back down. Lyndon LaRouche commented: "This is going to be very painful for Gorbachov's British owners. Somebody is going to revolt against this. With all the killing, you can no longer cover up for the Brits on this one."

British lawyer Peter Benenson, a member of the Bletchley Park (British intelligence codebreaking) establishment, was set up by British intelligence to launch a worldwide campaign, Appeal for Amnesty, 1961. His article launching the appeal, "The Forgotten Prisoners," published in The Observer, was reprinted in newspapers around the world and turned out to be the genesis of Amnesty International. Targeting the Soviet Union primarily, AI set up its office and library, staffed by volunteers, in Benenson's chambers in London.

Stavridis: Afghan Opium Is Security Threat in Caucasus

April 5 (EIRNS)—Adm. James Stavridis, who took over as commander of the U.S. European Command (EUCOM) last July, said at an April 1 conference in Stuttgart, Germany, with ambassadors from the Black Sea nations, that the flow of narcotics, particularly heroin from Afghanistan, human trafficking, and weapons smuggling, are some of the factors that contribute to instability in an area where regional rivalries have historically limited cooperation. "When I look at the [Caucasus] in general, as we see with the recent subway bombings, ... I'm worried about that as a zone of terrorism," Stavridis said.

"For instance," he said, "NATO needs to do more regarding heroin flowing into the region from Afghanistan." Stavridis said that heroin is to blame for the deaths of some 30,000 Russians between the ages of 18-24, last year. "That, in and of itself, is a humanitarian disaster. And the profit and the money from that goes right back to the Taliban in Afghanistan. Heroin made from Afghanistan poppy crops generates from $100 to $400 million each year for the insurgency. And though poppy production has declined in the past year, the situation is a long way from good."

Acknowledging that the U.S. relationship with Russia, the most important player in the region, was complicated in recent years, but has now begun to improve, Stavridis expressed sympathy with the Russian concern with poppy production in Afghanistan. Stavridis said he intends to speak with his Russian counterparts in the near future to discuss NATO's counternarcotic efforts, which in large part are focussed on getting farmers to grow alternative crops. "We're going to have to help Afghanistan solve that problem," Stavridis said.

Thai Government Retreats—To Fight Another Day

April 12 (EIRNS)—The crisis in Thailand took a bizarre turn today, two days after the bloody but failed assault by military forces on the mass anti-government demonstrations in Bangkok. The Election Committee, one of several judicial bodies appointed directly by the King which have "Star Chamber" type dictatorial powers, ruled that the Democratic Party, the governing party headed by Prime Minister Abhisit Vijjajiva, should be dissolved over possibly illegal contributions during the elections in 2005—five years ago! Although the decision must be approved by the Constitutional Court, the announcement of the ruling at this time is a clear signal from the Monarchy that they have decided to throw their baby, Prime Minister Abhisit, to the wolves, or they will soon face the wrath of the people against the institution of the Monarchy itself.

The decision came in the wake of a stalemate between the government and the opposition "Red Shirts," loyalists to deposed Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. Thaksin has enormous popularity among the rural and urban poor, due to his "general welfare" approach to uplifting the living standards and educational opportunities of the poor. But the Monarchy and its Privy Council, with support from their sponsors in the British Royal Family, have orchestrated three military and/or judicial coups against Thaksin and his supporters since 2006, and then placed the British-born and educated Abhisit in the Premiership.

The "Red Shirts" have been occupying the streets of Bangkok, and now regional capitals as well, for weeks, demanding that Abhisit resign and hold new elections. Numerous attempts by the government to get the military to crack down have failed, as the protestors fraternized with the soldiers, and convinced them to back down. A brief military crackdown, which killed 10 to 20 protestors, was finally achieved on April 10, but the military refused to follow through.

EIR will be monitoring this situation closely, as it is part of the global British imperial crackdown against sovereign national movements, and the crisis is far from over.

Chinese-Developed Maglev Slides Out in Time for Expo

April 9 (EIRNS)—The first Chinese-developed, 312-mph, maglev train was delivered in Chengdu, capital of Sichuan province yesterday, China News Service reported. This train was built by Chengdu Aircraft Industrial (Group) Co., a subsidiary of the Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC), for the Shanghai Maglev Transportation Development Company, and is expected to be put into use during the Shanghai Expo, which starts in May. The train is energy-efficient, the report said; when running at the speed of 250 m.p.h., it only consumes half the energy of a sedan.

In 1876, America exhibited her newly developed industrial might to the world at the Philadelphia World Exposition. China has similar hopes.

EIR's Jones Nails Obama's Support for Afghan Drug Trade

April 6 (EIRNS)—The following exchange between EIR's Bill Jones and State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley occurred at yesterday's regular State Department briefing:

Jones: On Afghanistan and drugs, last week, there were two major meetings on the issue. One was held by General Stavridis, the head of the European Command, who called in the ambassador—U.S. ambassadors, from the Black Sea countries to talk about it, saying that the question of the narcotics in Afghanistan is one of the biggest threats facing the NATO countries and urging action on this issue. The second one was in Kabul, which was addressed by Viktor Ivanov, the Russian drug head, who indicated that over the past year, there have been 30,000 victims of death by heroin overdoses, calling it a war that Russia is fighting which is undermining their capability, and addressing NATO, calling on them to set up a strategy within the NATO-Russia Council for going after the drugs.

Now, our policy under the McChrystal plan is to—hands off the heroin, let them do what they're doing. And in effect, we're actually defending the heroin trade, and our soldiers are fighting and dying to create an Afghanistan in which drugs, the heroin, is flowing. Isn't that a contradiction? And don't we have a responsibility to do something to get together with these nations like Russia, which is heavily affected by that, to deal with the drug trade?

Crowley: Well, Bill, I do not agree with your characterization of our strategy or its implications. Clearly, narcotics is a major concern as it pertains to Afghanistan and the region and beyond, including Europe. This was a subject that came up during the Secretary's recent trip to Moscow and her bilateral with Foreign Minister Lavrov. We are looking to have—we have a strategy. We've made some adjustments over the past year. Our focus is on going after the middlemen, those who are responsible for the drug trades.

As you've had people here, including a couple of visits by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, we are affirmatively working to shift the Afghan economy, to try to expand and re-grow a legitimate agricultural sector. So we are working this hard. It is an issue of great concern to the region, to Europe, to the United States. Ninety percent of the world's poppies are grown in Afghanistan. So central to the future of a stable and democratic and prosperous Afghanistan is dealing with the current drug challenge.

We are working that aggressively, but we work this on many levels. Focussing just on one thing, as we've seen in recent years, despite heavy emphasis during the previous administration on eradication, the growth of poppies continued in Afghanistan. We think we have the right strategy. We're putting resources in place. This is not—this is something we're—that is central to our efforts in Afghanistan.

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