Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Sharia law 'would undermine British society'

    7:20 AM   No comments
By Andrew Porter, Political Editor
Last Updated: 2:08pm GMT 26/02/2008

Muslim Sharia law would undermine society if it was introduced in Britain, Conservative leader David Cameron said today.

  • 'Osama bin London' guilty of organising terror training camps
  • His words put him at odds with the Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams who earlier this month suggested some element of Sharia law was unavoidable.


    Mr Cameron said it would in fact lead to a "legal apartheid".

    He added that "state multiculturalism" was also the wrong way to tackle integration.

    He said: "I don't believe that by introducing Sharia law, we will make Muslims somehow feel more British - more content with life here and more happy to work for a common good.

    "In my view the opposite is the case: I think it would be to head in the wrong direction. The reality is that the introduction of Sharia law for Muslims is actually the logical endpoint of the now discredited doctrine of state multiculturalism instituting, quite literally, a legal apartheid to entrench what is the cultural apartheid in too many parts of our country.

    Saturday, February 9, 2008

    G.I. Tells of Ordering Unarmed Iraqi’s Death - New York Times

        6:30 AM   No comments
    G.I. Tells of Ordering Unarmed Iraqi’s Death - New York Times
    February 9, 2008

    CAMP LIBERTY, Iraq — A top Army sniper testified Friday in a military court that he had ordered a subordinate to kill an unarmed Iraqi man who wandered into their hiding position near Iskandariya, then planted an AK-47 rifle near the body to support his false report about the shooting.

    Under a grant of immunity, the sniper, Sgt. Michael A. Hensley, an expert marksman and sniper trainer, testified in the court-martial of Sgt. Evan Vela. Sergeant Vela is accused of murder, impeding a military investigation and planting evidence to cover up an unjust shooting. An earlier charge of premeditated murder was dropped.

    Sergeant Vela is the third soldier to be charged in the death of the Iraqi, Genei Nesir Khudair al-Janabi, last May. Sergeant Hensley and another soldier, Specialist Jorge G. Sandoval Jr., were acquitted of murder charges last year, but were convicted of planting evidence. As part of his sentence, Sergeant Hensley was demoted from staff sergeant.

    All three soldiers were elite snipers with the 501st Infantry Regiment, Fourth Brigade (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division, based at Fort Richardson, Alaska.

    The military trials have highlighted a secret baiting program, begun in early 2007, in which snipers placed lures like fake explosives or other weaponry to draw insurgents into the open, where they could be killed.

    But Sergeant Hensley’s testimony at the base here suggested that by last spring, in addition to baiting and killing, soldiers had added a new tactic: carrying weapons to plant on bodies to deter prosecution.

    Sergeant Vela’s lawyer, James Culp, of Austin, Tex., did not dispute that his client had shot and killed Mr. Janabi, but emphasized the battlefield stresses the soldiers endured. Mr. Culp argued that Sergeant Vela had had only a few hours of sleep over three days of constant operations.

    Mr. Culp also said his client’s superiors pressed his squad to increase their kill rate, while holding out the threat of prosecution for unjust shootings.

    “It’s not a case of beyond reasonable doubt,” Mr. Culp said in an interview after Friday’s proceeding. “It’s about giving warriors the benefit of the doubt.”

    Sergeant Vela may testify Saturday.

    Sergeant Hensley said that on May 11, he led his squad to a hiding spot overlooking a village they suspected was controlled by Sunni insurgents. But after several days with little rest, soldiers were drifting into sleep.

    “I woke up to a local national squatting in front me with his hands up,” Sergeant Hensley testified. The man was Mr. Janabi, who lived nearby. Sergeant Hensley said he tackled Mr. Janabi and pinned him to the ground.

    Mr. Janabi was followed into the hide-out by his son, Mustafa, 17. Sergeant Hensley and his team held the two captive until he spotted several Iraqi men in the distance and Mr. Janabi became agitated. Sergeant Hensley feared that Mr. Janabi’s thrashing would alert the other Iraqis.

    Sergeant Hensley said he released the boy and ordered everyone except Sergeant Vela to leave because he “didn’t want them to bear witness” to what they were about to do.

    “I pretty much knew at this point that something was going to happen to the father,” Sergeant Hensley testified. “He was making too much noise. I thought that the only way to protect my guys was to take this guy’s life.”

    Sergeant Hensley said he ordered Sergeant Vela to load his 9-millimeter pistol, and then made four radio calls to his command post to support a cover story. The first call reported that an Iraqi man was approaching, the second that the man was armed, the third that the sergeant was preparing to shoot.

    The fourth call confirmed that he had killed his target.

    “At that point his head was at Sergeant Vela’s feet, and I asked him if he was ready and then I moved out of the way,” Sergeant Hensley said. He ordered Sergeant Vela to fire, and Sergeant Vela complied immediately, Sergeant Hensley said.

    “A round was fired into his head,” he said.

    Mr. Janabi did not die immediately, Sergeant Hensley said. As his brain hemorrhaged, he choked on his blood. Sergeant Hensley simulated the gurgling sound and testified that he ordered Sergeant Vela to fire again.

    Sergeant Hensley said he pulled out an AK-47 that he had ordered one of his men to carry and placed it near the body.

    “It wasn’t uncommon for us to have stuff like that out there,” he said. They often carried incriminating items to plant on Iraqis as “insurance,” he said.

    Dr. Michael Baden, a prominent New York forensic pathologist, showed several poster-size photographs of Mr. Janabi’s body and said he had been killed by a single shot to the head. The photos showed two coin-size wounds behind each ear, which Dr. Baden described as entrance and exit wounds.

    The victim’s son, Mustafa Ghani Nesir al-Janabi, also testified. He said he had found his father being held captive by American soldiers hiding in a stand of trees. When the soldiers saw him, they sat him next to his father.

    “At the beginning I talked to him and he answered back,” he said. Perhaps drawing a parallel with their perilous situation, he said he told his father about how one of their relatives had recently been killed. “I was talking to him about how my cousin Saif was killed in Iskandariya,” Mr. Janabi said. “I told him that the Mahdi Army killed him.”

    The Americans shushed them repeatedly and then told the son to go away, he said.

    When a military prosecutor exhibited a picture of the dead man, the young man said, “That’s my father.” Another was shown and he repeated, “That’s my father.”

    “Did your father look like this when they released you?” the prosecutor asked.

    “No, he didn’t,” the son answered.

    Bombs Kill 5 G.I.’s

    BAGHDAD (AP) — Five American soldiers were killed Friday in two roadside bombings, the military said on Saturday.

    Four of the deaths were in Baghdad. The fifth death was in northern Iraq, in Tamim Province.

    The military gave no further information.

    Friday, February 8, 2008

    Gaza Diary: Not a life for children

        8:35 AM   No comments

    By Omar, a humanitarian worker in partnership with Oxfam

    A young Palestinian girl wounded in an Israeli air strike on Gaza [GALLO/GETTY]

    "Why us? Why are we cold? What is happening?" my children ask all the time.

    They are six and two. When they ask for chocolate and I cannot give it to them, they ask why. I explain to them that it is because of the closure, but this does not explain things any further to them, they still ask: "Why? Why us?"

    What they least understand is why their lives are being affected by something which they are not responsible for.

    It is hard for me to explain. I am 37-years old and have spent my whole life under occupation. My father was a refugee from Barbara, my original village. He said to me the other day: "Son, we have never lived in a situation like this before. I hope that this will be the last time that we live like this, forever".

    But people live in hope. They believe, even after all this time, that peace will return to us.

    It has been five days now since I have had a shower. This is due to a lack of power to fuel the water system and to the hectic times that are upon us.

    It is winter and we are all beginning to get very cold. Without electricity, all my family and I can do to stay warm it to huddle around a gas lamp. We cover ourselves in sheets.

    Sometimes, I warm some water for my children to immerse their hands or feet in. But there is very little that we can do apart from hope that this will be the last time that we live like this.

    The cold makes it difficult for us to get to sleep but even when we manage to, the blasts of Palestinian and Israeli rockets wake us throughout the night. The tremors and explosions scare my children so much that they now sleep with my wife and me.

    They are so small and vulnerable and also very confused. They come home from school talking of Hamas and Fatah, but they do not understand the situation.

    This is not a life for children. It is not for anyone.

    Stress and anxiety

    I try as best as I can to divert their attention away from the crisis that is continuing to unfold before them - I take them to the sea or to a relative's home.

    I cannot even turn on the television because we have had no electricity for five days. To find out what's going on or whether or not there will be military operations I ask my colleagues in Jerusalem to keep me updated.

    I also call my family every few hours to find out if they are OK.

    My children live in an area of violence and hear on a daily basis people arguing, complaining and shouting about the situation. To be honest, they need some professional support for their stress and anxiety but, of course, this is not available to us.

    Like many other children living in Gaza, they can rarely get away from the crisis, even while they sleep.

    This situation is affecting a lot of children. The other day, when I went to my kid's school, the teacher said that 70 per cent of the children were failing their exams.

    The stress of the situation, whether children realise it or not, will effect their education. It is not great for school work or anything at all.

    A lack of good quality food, clean drinking water, milk, sleep, fear and cold are just some of the issues that the children of Gaza face.

    The adults, too.

    The unborn child

    There is already little hope for the future for the children of Gaza but without education, they really have nothing. Education is the only capital that we have for our future.

    My third child is due in March. This is just two months away.

    As a father and a husband I am worried - really worried for my wife and my unborn child. How can she deliver a child when there is no electricity and little supplies in the hospitals?

    Will she and our third child suffer as a result? These are some of the questions that keep me awake at night.

    Speaking about this makes me want to cry, not just for my family but also for the people of Gaza.

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