Posts Tagged ‘state sponsored terrorism’

The Guantánamo Bay Files are just another case in point for the Guardian’s editorial policies. The files spell out the Americans’ suspicions about individual detainees’ involvement with terrorism, their intelligence value and the threat they are considered to pose if released. They give an insight for example into

• Innocent people interrogated for years on slimmest pretexts
• Children, elderly and mentally ill among those wrongfully held
• 172 prisoners remain, some with no prospect of trial or release

The files were shared with the Guardian and US National Public Radio by the New York Times, which says it did not obtain them from WikiLeaks.

For more and extensive information on the Guantánamo Bay Files go to the Guardian website.

Americans snatched Sami al-Hajj from Pakistan, believing him to be an al-Qaida courier and source of information on Bin Laden

Ian Cobain | The Guardian – The Guantánamo Files

Al-Jazeera journalist Sami al-Hajj speaks after his release from Guantánamo Bay.

An al-Jazeera journalist was held at Guantánamo for six years partly in order to be interrogated about the Arabic news network, the files disclose. Sami al-Hajj, a Sudanese cameraman, was detained in Pakistan after working for the network in Afghanistan after 9/11, and flown to the prison camp where he was allegedly beaten and sexually assaulted.

His file makes clear that one of the reasons he was sent to Guantánamo was “to provide information on … the al-Jazeera news network’s training programme, telecommunications equipment, and newsgathering operations in Chechnya, Kosovo and Afghanistan, including the network’s acquisition of a video of UBL [Osama bin Laden] and a subsequent interview with UBL”.

The file shows that the camp authorities were convinced that al-Hajj was an al-Qaida courier who had provided funds for a charity in Chechnya suspected of having links with Bin Laden.

However, the contents of the file also appear to support complaints made by al-Hajj to his lawyer, Clive Stafford Smith, that during his first 100-plus interrogations he was never once questioned about the allegations he faced, and that he eventually demanded that he be questioned about what he was supposed to have done wrong.

Stafford Smith believes the US military authorities were attempting to force al-Hajj to become an informer against his employers.

Al-Hajj was finally released in May 2008.

The West and in particular the US like supporting dictatorships when they can economically and in terms of strategic power benefit (and those two objective are often synonymous). One way to support dictatorships is to sell them biliions of dollars worth of weapons, and America’s support of Egypt over the last few days has been highlighted in this regard by the Egyptian police’s use of teargas produced in the US. The Ars Technica article below by Nate Anderson looks at what those teargas canisters contain and what the health effects are.

 

A protestor holds a used tear gas canister (Atlantic)

 

If you’ve been watching any coverage of the Egyptian protests, you’ve no doubt seen the tear gas plumes as canisters are shot at protestors—often to be picked up and hurled back moments later. Many of those tear gas containers falling on the bridges and streets of Cairo aren’t local products, however; they come from Jamestown, Pennsylvania, home of Combined Tactical Systems.

Several reporters in Egypt have commented on that fact this week. ABC News ran a story on the gas today in which it quotes a protestor saying, “The way I see it, the US administration supports dictators.”

It’s no secret that Egypt is one of the largest recipients of US foreign military funding, much of which is designated to purchase US-made weapons; it’s just that Americans don’t often see Egyptians holding empty tear gas canisters stamped “Made in USA” up to a TV camera.

 

But what’s in those canisters?

A wide array of shiny new canisters

 

The US government requires most chemical compounds to have a Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) outlining the ingredients, the risks of contacting those ingredients, and cleanup procedures in case of an accident. Combined Tactical Systems helpfully makes puts these MSDS files on its website.

The tear gas grenades and canisters are largely filled with a fuel mixture that burns to disperse the tearing agent. The Model 5220 CN Smoke grenade (PDF), for instance, has a small starter mixture of potassium nitrate, silicon, and charcoal. This in turn in used to light the “CN smoke”—a form of tear gas.

The CN smoke is 71 percent fuel, made up of potassium chlorate, magnesium carbonate, nitrocellulose, and… sucrose. The other 29 percent of the smoke is the tearing agent, chloroacetophenone, which has been around for nearly a century and causes severe irritation of the mucous membranes. (Combined Tactical Systems also sells the commonly used “CS smoke” tear gas version, which is powered by chlorobenzalmalononitrile.)

A tear gas cartridge spec sheet

 

Both kinds of tear gas have a “pungent odor,” according to the MSDS. Those handling them should wear a “full face respirator with organic filter cartridge” and should “wash thoroughly after handling.”

That’s because, as the protestor went on to tell ABC, “Your eyes tear up a lot so you can’t see, and you feel like you’re suffocating. You can actually breathe but you feel like you are suffocating so you try to run, but when you run you inhale more.”

As the MSDS puts it, rather more clinically, the gases cause “tearing of eyes, irritation of respiratory tract and mucous membranes,” and asthma may be “aggravated by exposure.”

kelly

Was Dr. David Kelly a target of Dick Cheney’s “Executive Assassination Ring”?

By Tom Burghardt

Revelations that the Central Intelligence Agency launched a world-wide assassination program, and then concealed its existence from the U.S. Congress and the American people for eight years, carries an implication that death squads may have been employed against political opponents.

The Wall Street Journal reported July 13 that “A secret Central Intelligence Agency initiative terminated by Director Leon Panetta was an attempt to carry out a 2001 presidential authorization to capture or kill al Qaeda operatives, according to former intelligence officials familiar with the matter.”

Investigative journalist Siobhan Gorman writes, “The precise nature of the highly classified effort isn’t clear, and the CIA won’t comment on its substance.”

The Washington Post however, revealed July 16 that the assassination plan was sanctioned by President Bush. Unnamed “intelligence officials” told the newspaper that “a secret document known as a ‘presidential finding’ was signed by President George W. Bush that same month, granting the agency broad authority to use deadly force against bin Laden as well as other senior members of al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups.”

According to Post reporter Joby Warrick, Bush’s finding “imposed no geographical limitations on the agency’s actions” and that the CIA was “not obliged to notify Congress of each operation envisaged under the directive.” This implies that targets could be hit anywhere, including on the soil of a NATO ally or inside the United States itself.

According to the Los Angeles Times the program “was kept secret from lawmakers for nearly eight years at the direction of former Vice President Dick Cheney.”

Despite these reports and hand-wringing amongst congressional Democrats, there’s something fishy here. After all, isn’t the whole point of America’s “global war on terror” to “capture or kill” al-Qaeda suspects? What’s so secretive or controversial about that?

The descriptions of the operation that have so far emerged however, bear a striking resemblance to charges laid earlier this year when investigative journalist Seymour Hersh said that the Bush administration stood-up an “executive assassination ring.”

During a “Great Conversations” event at the University of Minnesota in March the veteran journalist told the audience: “After 9/11, I haven’t written about this yet, but the Central Intelligence Agency was very deeply involved in domestic activities against people they thought to be enemies of the state. Without any legal authority for it. They haven’t been called on it yet. That does happen.”

The program was allegedly shut down by Panetta on June 23, a day after leaning of the agency’s clandestine initiative. What make these revelations all the more significant is that the CIA Director only learned of the program fully four months after assuming office.

“The implications,” socialist analyst Bill Van Auken writes, “are clear. The CIA maintained the secrecy ordered by Cheney even after the latter had left office, and continued to conceal the existence and nature of the covert operation not only from Congress, but from the Obama administration itself.”

But was the program shut down? The Washington Post further revealed that the plan, allegedly “on the agency’s back burner for much of the past eight years, was suddenly thrust into the spotlight because of proposals to initiate what one intelligence official called a ‘somewhat more operational phase’.”

Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, a former top aide to U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell hints that the program was in a “somewhat more operational phase” years earlier, despite repeated denials by CIA officials and congressional staffers.

Wilkerson told MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow Show July 14, “What I suspect has happened is what began to happen while I was still in the government, and that was we’re killing the wrong people. And we’re killing the wrong people in the wrong countries. And the countries are finding out about it, or at least there was a suspicion that the countries might find out about it, and so it was shut down. That’s my strong suspicion.”

According to Wilkerson, the teams may have been dispatched under deep cover, using Joint Special Operations Command as a cut-out, a confirmation of charges made by Seymour Hersh in March. When U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld was queried by the State Department, “after some hemming and hawing, which was Rumsfeld’s forte, he finally admitted that he had dispatched some of these teams,” Wilkerson explained.

Powell’s former aide told Maddow, “It’s laughable that the CIA has never lied to Congress. “They lie to Congress on a routine basis.” Much the same can be said of General Powell who lied to the entire world “on a routine basis” during the run-up to the invasion of Iraq.

It must also be said there is precedence for the CIA’s alleged death squad activities during the Bush era. In Vietnam for example, the CIA and U.S. Special Forces jointly ran a secret assassination program that targeted Vietnamese dissidents. As author Douglas Valentine revealed in his definitive study, The Phoenix Program, Operation Phoenix “was a computer-driven program aimed at ‘neutralizing’, through assassination, kidnapping, and systematic torture, the civilian infrastructure that supported the insurgency in South Vietnam.”

Those programs never died and have since morphed into above top secret “Special Access Programs” used with deadly effect in Central- and South America during the 1980s and across the Middle East today.

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Lia Tarachansky speaks to Nancy Youssef, Pentagon Correspondent for McClatchy Newspapers currently based in Kabul, Afghanistan. Youssef speaks about a list recently released by Pentagon, identifying that 14% or 74 former detainees of Guantanamo Bay Naval Base detention center are “confirmed or suspected of reengaging in terrorist activities.” Following to story of former inmate #798, Haji Sahib Rohullah Wakil who after imprisonment for 6 years in the Bagram Airbase and Guantanamo Bay was found back on the list in spite of the allegation, Youssef says, being baseless. She says that, “It’s not really clear who compiles that list and how they determine who’s a suspected terrorist and who’s a confirmed one. As I mentioned earlier, this is the fourth list that they’ve released, and there are a lot of inconsistencies. The list is not complete. They say that there are 74 people suspected or confirmed as returned to terrorism, but the names listed is only partial ones.”

Bio

Nancy Youssef is McClatchy Newspapers’ chief Pentagon correspondent. She spent the past four years covering the Iraq war, most recently as Baghdad bureau chief. Her pieces focused on the everyday Iraqi experience, civilian causalities and how the US’ military strategy was reshaping Iraq’s social and political dynamics. While at the Free Press, she traveled throughout Jordan and Iraq for Knight Ridder, covering the Iraq war from the time leading up to it through the post-war period.

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Israeli soldiers involved in the attacks on Gaza at the start of this year claim that they were ordered to fire, regardless of the risk to civilians. Israel banned journalists from its invasion of Gaza in December and January, making it hard to verify allegations of indiscriminate firing, the use of phosphorous bombs, and forcing Palestinians to be human shields. Now an Israeli human rights group has produced a disturbing account of what it says happened in Gaza, as told by soldiers.

This Channel 4 clip is already a few days old but it’s good to get a reminder of how the anti-Semitic Nazi State of Israel operates (even though I find it hard to cope with having to listen to Mark Regev).

Iranian Grand Ayatollah Montazeri suggests that Iran’s Supreme Leader and the country’s government and institutions are illegitimate, and he urges Iranians to fight oppression.

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There’s nothing clean about the business of politics, and certainly ethics play no part part in it – unless they can be exploited for personal gain. Julia Gillard, this slow-speaking nasty piece of Labor conservatism, camouflaging as deputy prime minister of Australia (hard to believe she’s been a student activist once representing the political left), presented yet another example for political sanctimoniousness with her phony stance on Palestine and her fervent defence of Israel’s fascist practices against the Palestinian people.

It always amazes me how the politicians of the West are able to manage to twist their thoughts and mangle their speech in face of overwhelming evidence of Israel’s blatant violations of international law and acts of barbarism against unarmed civilians – from cold blooded murder to depriving their victims of such basics as a roof over their heads, food on their table (if they still have one left) or medicines for their hospitals. Not speaking out against such brutal savagery leave alone defending it makes people like Gillard undoubtedly an accomplice of the Israeli regime and its crimes against humanity.

The following op-ed puts Gillards politics and values in the context of Israel’s war crimes and recent acts of piracy on the high seas.

gaza boat main

Politicide or politic: Gillard and the Gaza muzzle

Jake Lynch
Sydney Morning Herald

Days after the Deputy Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, was greeted in Israel and thanked for having been “alone in sticking by us” during Operation Cast Lead, the attack on the Gaza Strip in December and January, the Jewish state added piracy to its list of recent crimes against international law. The two developments are connected, and not just by coincidence of timing.

Israel sent six military vessels to seize a ship, the Spirit of Humanity, sailing from Cyprus with relief supplies for the people of Gaza, and arrested – no, make that abducted – 21 people on board, including the Nobel laureate Mairead Corrigan Maguire. After a week in detention, they were released and deported.

At no time did the Spirit enter Israeli waters, so Israel’s action could be deemed piracy under the definition of the International Maritime Bureau: “The act of boarding any vessel with an intent to commit theft or any other crime, and with an intent or capacity to use force in furtherance of that act”. At least it amounts to an infringement of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, which reserves the high seas for “peaceful purposes”.

The Spirit’s three-tonne cargo included medical and reconstruction supplies, and children’s toys. Greece, whose flag the ship was flying, has asked for its return, and Israel says some of the goods on board may be passed on to Gazans for whom they were intended, “subject to security clearance”. For now, it is forcibly keeping them from their rightful owners.

The international jurist Richard Falk, who has served as UN Human Rights Rapporteur for the occupied Palestinian territories, points out that this compounds an existing and ongoing violation of international law. The boat set sail in response to Israel’s blockade of Gaza, which, Falk says, contravenes Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which prohibits any form of collective punishment of an occupied people.

A study of the transcripts of Ms Gillard’s speeches and interviews, from her recent trip to Israel and Ramallah, reveals that the word “Gaza” did not once pass her lips. Challenged by a reporter to say whether she believed Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians was “fair and just”, she avoided the question and retreated into platitudes: “We are concerned about the humanitarian situation of the Palestinian people”.

This amounts to connivance with what the late Israeli political scientist Baruch Kimmerling called “politicide”: Israel’s desire to have the outside world forget Palestinian political aspirations to self-determination, and regard their struggle in purely humanitarian terms.

Gillard’s don’t-mention-Gaza stance puts Australia further into Israel’s camp than any other country, including the United States. Cynthia McKinney, the former US congresswoman who was on the ship, points out that President Barack Obama called the blockade “unjust” and urged its lifting, so she, as an American citizen, was attempting to carry out his wishes.

The European Union responded to Cast Lead by shelving plans to upgrade its trading relations with Israel, and even ASEAN, through the Heads Statement of its 14th summit, identified Israel’s attack as the cause of a humanitarian crisis, and called for an immediate ceasefire.

Gillard, standing in for the Prime Minister at New Year, characterised the onslaught as no more than Israel exercising its “right to defend itself” against Hamas. Hamas, she told her questioners in the Middle East, would first have to “renounce violence” if it wanted to qualify as a partner in any peace process sponsored by the “quartet” of the UN, EU, US and Russia.

The home-made rockets that Hamas militiamen fired into Israel were indiscriminate weapons, and the 20 or so deaths they caused over several years are war crimes, but all independent observers have pointed out the obvious – that pales into insignificance when compared with the impact of Israel’s high-tech weaponry, which claimed 1300 lives, mostly civilians and including 400 children, and injured thousands. No stipulation from Australia, then, that Israel must also renounce violence as a precondition to have its views heard at the top table.

Israel is aware of acting within the scope allowed by international political opinion: it does what it believes it can get away with. The unexpected firmness of the White House on settlement-building had constrained its room for manoeuvre. Gillard paid lip service to a settlement freeze and a two-state solution – but her visit as the leader of a large delegation, her demeanour and above all her refusal to condemn Israeli lawlessness or call for it to cease, all conspired to send the opposite signal.

Thousands of people whose homes Israel destroyed are still without shelter, says the International Committee of the Red Cross, because Israel refuses to allow cement and other building material into the Gaza Strip. The report also notes that hospitals are struggling to meet the needs of their patients due to Israel’s disruption of medical supplies.

It is this situation that the passengers and crew of the illegally seized vessel were trying to remedy. They have vowed to send more boats. Israel should let them pass, and Australia should say so.

Associate Professor Jake Lynch is director of the Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies at the University of Sydney.

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CYPRUS-MIDEAST-CONFLICT-GAZA-AID-BOAT

Interview with Caoimhe Butterly, an Irish solidarity activist, conducted by Melinda Tuhus

 RealAudio

 MP3

On June 30, an unarmed boat, named “Spirit of Humanity,” carrying 21 international peace activists was seized in international waters by the Israeli Navy, as it attempted to sail from Cypress to Gaza with relief supplies and messages of solidarity for Palestinians living in Gaza. Israel says the boat had been boarded for security reasons in the area of the blockade, after it had entered into Gaza’s coastal waters. According to an International Committee of the Red Cross report released June 29, the Palestinians living in Gaza are “trapped in despair.” Thousands of Gazans whose homes were destroyed during Israel’s December/January invasion and air attacks are still without shelter despite pledges of almost $4.5 billion in international aid, because Israel refuses to allow cement and other building materials into Gaza. The report also notes that hospitals are struggling to meet the needs of their patients due to Israel’s disruption of medical supplies.

Since August 2008, the Free Gaza Movement has organized eight sea missions, successfully landing in Gaza on five separate occasions. On two earlier voyages, Israeli Occupation Forces used violence to stop the ships, physically ramming and almost sinking the boat named “Dignity,” in December 2008, and threatening to fire on and kill unarmed passengers in January.

Between The Lines’ Melinda Tuhus spoke with Caoimhe Butterly, an Irish solidarity activist who was on board one of the boats last fall that arrived successfully in Gaza. She spent most of the next several months there, and was in Gaza during part of the Israeli winter offensive and served on the support team from Cypress for this most recent voyage of the Spirit of Humanity, whose passengers included former U.S. Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney and Nobel Peace Laureate Mairead Maguire. Butterly explains exactly what happened in the June 30 seizure.

CAOIMHE BUTTERLY: Probably at 12 today it was clear that what had been sort of quite general threats made by the Israeli navy over the course of the whole morning were becoming much more serious. At about 3 o’clock, the boat was boarded by Israeli navy commandos. They took possession of the boat, looks like confiscated the phones of those on board, and proceeded to tow the boat to Ashdod, and the activists who were on the boat were split off into different groups and taken on navy vessels to Ashdod as well.

The boarding of the boat was done in international waters. The boat was blocked in international waters and the navigation system — radios, etc. — of the Spirit of Humanity had been jammed for hours, which is extremely dangerous, to jam the navigation system of a boat obviously places it in a very vulnerable position. But the activists — we got a text from them — are okay, they’re safe. They’re obviously very frustrated, but they’re okay and they’re presently being interrogated in four different police stations around Ashdod and Ashkelon, and it looks like they’ll be deported tonight or in coming days, some of them out through Allenby Bridge out across Jordan and others through Ben Gurion airport.

BETWEEN THE LINES: And what about the boat?

CAOIMHE BUTTERLY: The boat — it looks like there’s a possibility the captain and crew might be able to sail it, probably with military — I’m not sure if escort is the right word – but yes, out to Cypress. The activists will be deported, it looks like, back to their home countries. And we’re hoping we’ll manage to get the boat back quite quickly. The Lebanese boat that was attacked in January is still being impounded by the Israelis, so we’re hopeful we can get the boat back sooner rather than later, and obviously that everybody who was on board from the 11 different countries who came to participate in this siege-breaking initiative, returned safely to their families. Among those participating was quite a large delegation from Bahrain of different women from different humanitarian organizations. There were folks from the States, Britain, Ireland, Scotland, Jamaica, Palestine, etc., so it was quite a diverse group of people from diverse backgrounds, but completely united in the mission and the belief that the time for demonstrations and petitions and perhaps the more traditional ways we have to resist this occupation, they’re not over, but it’s really necessary to up the ante. And we feel that taking direct action in resisting these policies of collective punishment and the hermetic closure of the Gaza Strip — these sort of actions and activities need to spread and more people need to get involved. I know there’s a North American initiative coming up in a few days –Viva Palestina — U.S. convoy, and, again, that’s a great embodiment and symbol, I think, of the outrage and solidarity and dissent that so many people in the world feel, watching the daily oppression and brutalization of the Palestinian people.

BETWEEN THE LINES: Caoimhe Butterly, the Israeli military seized the boat in international waters, but did they give any explanation? Did they claim the boat was in their territorial waters?

CAOIMHE BUTTERLY: All three attacks that happened on a variety of boats — the Lebanese boat, the Dignity in January, and now the Spirit of Humanity — have happened in international waters. Generally, the Israelis only pretext for this is either that we were told we were entering a closed military zone. They said they had a duty and a responsibility to stop us, that we had given them false information, that we were going somewhere else and then tried to enter Gaza, etc. Regardless of the very well publicized pullout of settlers from the Gaza Strip, the Gaza Strip remains — and I think it’s a semantic question of whether it’s occupation or siege — but whatever it is, it results in the collective punishment and humiliation and degradation of a captive population, so the Israelis control not only the sea, but the air space, the borders, etc. And Gaza is completely locked down, and it’s in that context that the responsibility we have to act is pretty big. I think a lot of us feel as Westerners that we come from countries that finance this occupation. We come from countries where multinationals and our own governments profit off of the blood of the Palestinian people. In that context, it’s so important, I think, that we embody an alternative face of the West — one of compassion and solidarity and humanity. And one of action. It’s really, really time to act.

Interview with Caoimhe Butterly, an Irish solidarity activist, conducted by Melinda Tuhus

For more information, and ways to contact Israeli officials responsible for the boat seizure, visit the group’s website at www.freegaza.org.

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Melinda Tuhus is a producer of Between The Lines, which can be heard on more than 45 radio stations and in RealAudio and MP3 on our website at http://www.btlonline.org. This interview excerpt was featured on the award-winning, syndicated weekly radio newsmagazine, Between The Lines for the week ending July 10, 2009. This Between The Lines Q&A was compiled by Anna Manzo and Scott Harris.

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iranian riot police

July 08, 2009
By Stephen Shalom, Thomas Harrison, Joanne Landy, and Jesse Lemisch
Source: Campaign for Peace and Democracy
View online
here

(July 7, 2009) — Right after the June 12 elections in Iran, the Campaign for Peace and Democracy issued a statement expressing our strong support for the masses of Iranians protesting electoral fraud and our horror at the ferocious response of the government. Our statement concluded: “We express our deep concern for their well-being in the face of brutal repression and our fervent wishes for the strengthening and deepening of the movement for justice and democracy in Iran.” Since the elections, some on the left, and others as well, have questioned the legitimacy of and the need for solidarity with the anti-Ahmadinejad movement. The Campaign’s position of solidarity with the Iranian protesters has not changed, but we think those questions need to be squarely addressed.

Below are the questions we take up. Questions three, four and five deal with the issue of electoral fraud; readers who are not interested in this rather technical discussion are invited to go on to question six. And we should say at the outset that our support for the protest movement is not determined by the technicalities of electoral manipulation, as important as they are. What is decisive is that huge masses of Iranians are convinced that the election was rigged and that they went into the streets, at great personal risk, to demand democracy and an end to theocratic repression.

  1. Was the June 12, 2009 election fair?
  2. Isn’t it true that the Guardian Council is indirectly elected by the Iranian people?
  3. Was there fraud, and was it on a scale to alter the outcome?
  4. Didn’t a poll conducted by U.S.-based organizations conclude that Ahmadinejad won the election?
  5. Didn’t Ahmadinejad get lots of votes from conservative religious Iranians among the rural population and the urban poor? Might not these votes have been enough to overwhelm his opponents?
  6. Hasn’t the U.S. (and Israel) been interfering in Iran and promoting regime change, including by means of supporting all sorts of “pro-democracy” groups?
  7. Has the Western media been biased against the Iranian government?
  8. Is Mousavi a leftist? A neoliberal? What is the relation between Mousavi and the demonstrators in the streets?
  9. Is Ahmadinejad good for world anti-imperialism?
  10. Is Ahmadinejad more progressive than his opponents in terms of social and economic policy? Is he a champion of the Iranian poor?
  11. What do we want the U.S. government to do about the current situation in Iran?
  12. What should we do about the current situation in Iran?
  13. Is it right to advocate a different form of government in Iran?

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