"A United Nations human rights investigator has accused the US and British forces in Iraq of breaching international law by depriving civilians of food and water in besieged cities.
"But the US military denied the charge and said that while supplies were sometimes disrupted by combat, food was never deliberately withheld.
"Jean Ziegler, a former Swiss sociology professor who is UN special rapporteur on the right to food, said on Friday that the Geneva Conventions banned military forces from using 'starvation of civilians as a method of warfare'.
"But he said that in Falluja, Tal Afar and Samarra, Iraqi and US-led forces had cut off or restricted food and water to encourage residents to flee before assaults on entrenched Sunni fighters over the past year.
"'A drama is taking place in total silence in Iraq, where the coalition's occupying forces are using hunger and deprivation of water as a weapon of war against the civilian population,' Ziegler told a news briefing in Geneva."
There is no way to independently verify these claims, though US denials should be ignored. The lack of truly independent news from Iraq - and the UN's disturbing acquiescence with occupation authorities - gives these accusations the air of authenticity.
In related news:
"A purported al-Qaida web posting has charged the US with fabricating a letter from the group's overall second-in-command allegedly to its leader in Iraq asking for money and laying out the group's plans for the Middle East.
'We in al-Qaida declare that there is no truth to these claims, and they are baseless, except in the imagination of the politicians of the Black (White) House,' according to the statement on a website known as a clearing house for al-Qaida material.
"The statement was signed by Abu Maysara, who claims to be spokesman for al-Qaida in Iraq. It could not be authenticated."
Can we trust this? Impossible to know. The point remains, however: the American, British and Australian governments are spinning themselves to death defending the Iraqi quagmire.