Friday, May 9, 2008

Quick Hits Throughout The Day...

Guantanamo Commander Axed From Assignment in Pakistan

When the Pentagon announced in March that Maj. Gen. Jay W. Hood would become the senior American officer based in Pakistan, it reflected the military’s aim to put a crisis-tested veteran in a critical job at a pivotal time in the fight against Al Qaeda and the Taliban in Pakistan’s tribal areas.

But nearly two months later, the military has quietly canceled the assignment of General Hood, a 33-year Army veteran who was excoriated in the Pakistani news media for one of his previous jobs: commander of the United States prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.

During General Hood’s command from 2004 to 2006, military authorities force-fed with tubes detainees who were engaging in hunger strikes at the Guantánamo prison, a step they justified as necessary to prevent the prisoners from committing suicide to protest their indefinite confinement. Also during General Hood’s tenure, reports that an American guard may have desecrated a Koran stirred wide protests in the Islamic world.

The decision to withdraw General Hood’s assignment has not been announced, but it appears to reflect the widening shadow that the military prison at Guantánamo is casting over American foreign policy. While the United States considers Pakistan a close ally in its counterterrorism efforts, the accounts by Pakistanis who have returned to Pakistan after being held at Guantánamo Bay have added to anti-American sentiment in the country.

Several leading Pakistani military and foreign affairs commentators denounced General Hood’s selection in recent weeks, calling on their new government to block his appointment. In interviews this week, American military officials said they had reluctantly concluded that General Hood’s effectiveness could be seriously hindered, and that his personal safety might even be at risk if he were to take up the post

Myanmar Junta Seizes Food Shipments Intended For the Needy

Burma's ruling military junta today impounded United Nations food shipments bound for the storm-ravaged Irrawaddy Delta, and U.N. officials said they would suspend further aid to the country in response.

Two planes carrying about 76,000 pounds of high-energy biscuits landed in Rangoon today, but were forced to offload into a government-controlled warehouse, said Paul Risley, a spokesman for the U.N.'s World Food Program in Bangkok. Risley said UN officials were told that only Burma's minister for social welfare could release the aid for distribution.

Under UN rules, the agency coordinates it own aid distribution to ensure material reaches the people who need it.

"Our trucks are waiting," to begin shipping food to the delta area, where Tropical Cyclone Nargis on Saturday inundate a massive area, killing upwards of 100,000 and leaving perhaps 1.5 million in need of emergency help, Risley said.

"We have presented the minister with a letter. We have not received a response," Risley said. "We have no choice but to suspend further food aid into the country."

The dispute adds to a growing list of instances in which the reclusive Burmese government has shunned international efforts to help ease a large and growing humanitarian crisis -- including an apparent refusal by the country's leaders to even meet with the prime minister of Thailand. The country has said it will take any aid that other countries want to send, but will not let teams of foreign officials enter the country to help distribute the aid and assist the emergency effort.

Hezbollah goes to war in Lebanon:

Lebanon’s Iranian-backed Hezbollah took control of large areas of Beirut on Friday, tightening its grip on the city in a major blow to the U.S.-backed government after three days of intense fighting.

Security sources said at least 11 people had been killed and 30 wounded in three days of battles between pro-government gunmen and fighters loyal to Hezbollah, a Shiite political movement with a powerful guerrilla army.

The fighting, the worst internal strife since the 1975-90 civil war, was triggered this week after the government took decisions targeting Hezbollah’s military communications network. The group said the government had declared war.


A security source told Reuters that Hezbollah and its allies were in control all of the mainly Muslim half of Beirut except for one district where pro-government gunmen are in talks to lay down their weapons.

The gunmen in Tarek al-Jadeedi, a Sunni area whose residents are loyal to Hariri, were in contact with Hezbollah to surrender, the source told Reuters.

“It certainly leaves the government weaker and the Future movement weaker,” said Paul Salem, director of the Carnegie Middle East Center in Beirut. “Hezbollah is dominating most of west Beirut.”

No comments: