Wednesday, April 30, 2008
By Jim Hoagland
Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama offer the same beguiling Democratic version of the global war on terrorism: Get out of Iraq and put more U.S. forces into Afghanistan to win that conflict decisively. Republicans are also increasingly urging President Bush to adopt an Afghanistan-first policy.
"The basic failure in priorities" in Bush's war on terrorism lies "in the fact that our monthly investment in Iraq is $10 billion a month and $2 billion a month in Afghanistan," writes David Abshire, a GOP elder statesman, in "A Call to Greatness," a new book intended to set the agenda for the next presidency. When a Republican White House loses a seasoned foreign policy thinker such as Abshire on a key issue, it has big problems.
So does the solution that is being pushed. A major shift in resources into Afghanistan may not significantly help in that battle in the near term. Decisions on drawing down forces in Iraq should be based on conditions there -- as Gen. David Petraeus argued to Congress this month -- and not on campaign-fostered illusions that troop numbers and money alone can turn the tide against terrorists in Afghanistan and elsewhere.
Bush's decision last week to put Petraeus in charge of the Pentagon's Central Command and thus of the wars in both Iraq and Afghanistan will intensify this Iraq vs. Afghanistan argument on Capitol Hill. Critics see the Petraeus promotion as a Bush ploy to keep Iraq the "central front" in the war on terrorism and to continue to shirk the war in Afghanistan.
That sells Petraeus short and ignores the reality that the war in Afghanistan will not be won or lost in Afghanistan alone. It must also be won inside Pakistan, where things go from bad to worse for U.S. policy, which has been a set of forlorn wishes that seem to boomerang.
President Pervez Musharraf, after a breathtaking exercise in compulsively and systematically destroying his own rule, sits by silently while a civilian-led, democratically elected government takes charge in Islamabad and narrows U.S. options.
Continued . . .
by Thomas Palley
Speaking the truth is discouraged in Washington DC. For journalists there is the fear that truth telling will mean not being invited back for the next press conference or another exclusive interview. For political insiders the fear is that speaking up will injure their careers by costing them political appointment. This dynamic has helped keep the lid on the curse of the Clintons.
From the start of the 2008 primary campaign many political experts have believed Hillary Clinton would have difficulty winning the general election even if she sailed through the primaries. This is because polls have consistently shown she has exceptionally high negative ratings, which matters enormously as it is very difficult to win-over people holding negative views. The best that can be done is persuading them not to vote.
If winning were difficult before, current conditions make a Clinton general election win even less likely. Her slick assist in letting the race genie out of the bottle has alienated African-Americans, and without their turnout a Democratic win is almost impossible.
Equally importantly, should Senator Clinton manage to wrest the nomination from Senator Obama by insider dealings, she stands to alienate the young and independent voters that he has attracted. These voters will probably not vote for John McCain, but their enthusiastic support is also critical for a Democratic victory.
Continued . . .
By Morgan Strong
An obscure academic dispute – over whether Israeli archeology sought to obscure the land’s last two millennia of history and promote a continual Jewish claim of ownership – has shown again how tensions in the Middle East can reverberate in unlikely ways in the United States.
The dispute centered on whether Barnard College should grant tenure to Nadia Abu El-Haj, an American-born scholar of anthropology who, in the 1990s, challenged the scientific integrity of what she saw as the Israeli use of archeology in a politically motivated way to justify Jewish settlements on territory that had belonged to Palestinians.
Although the controversy wasn’t new – it had been argued out within archeological circles in Israel for years – El-Haj became a lightning rod because she was the first academic of Palestinian descent to publicize the debate in a 2001 book, Facts on the Ground: Archeological Practice and Territorial Self-Fashioning in Israeli Society.
This academic debate boiled over the past two years when El-Haj – who had been a professor at Barnard College since 2002 – applied for tenure in 2006 and became a target of neoconservative attack groups determined to punish her for undermining Israel’s claims to the Holy Land.
Continued . . .
Tuesday, April 29, 2008
By Elana Schor
The lawyer for US vice-president Dick Cheney claimed today that the Congress lacks any authority to examine his behaviour on the job.
The exception claimed by Cheney's counsel came in response to requests from congressional Democrats that David Addington, the vice-president's chief of staff, testify about his involvement in the approval of interrogation tactics used at Guantanamo Bay.
Ruling out voluntary cooperation by Addington, Cheney lawyer Kathryn Wheelbarger said Cheney's conduct is "not within the [congressional] committee's power of inquiry".
"Congress lacks the constitutional power to regulate by law what a vice-president communicates in the performance of the vice president's official duties, or what a vice president recommends that a president communicate," Wheelbarger wrote to senior aides on Capitol Hill.
The exception claimed by Cheney's office recalls his attempt last year to evade rules for classified documents by deeming the vice-president's office a hybrid branch of government - both executive and legislative.
The Democratic congressman who is investigating the legal framework for the violent interrogation of terrorist suspects, John Conyers, has asked Addington and several other top Bush administration lawyers to testify. Thus far all have claimed their deliberations are privileged.
Continued . . .
If the U.S. or Israel were to accept Hamas’ willingness to negotiate, they would tacitly acknowledge that Hamas is a player in the game.
Here is some recent news from Israeli and Arab sources that you might have missed:
Haaretz reported that “Hamas’ political leader Khaled Meshal said Hamas would accept a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip along Israel’s pre-1967 borders, and would grant Israel a 10-year hudna, or truce, as an implicit proof of recognition if Israel withdraws from those areas.”
According to Gulf News, “Former US president Jimmy Carter said that exiled Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal had told him the movement would accept a peace deal if it was approved in a Palestinian vote. … Hamas will accept a ceasefire that is limited to the Gaza Strip, dropping its long-standing demand that the West Bank be included in any halt in fighting with Israel, senior representatives of the group said.”
Haaretz also noted that “the most significant change in Hamas’ stance in the talks over a calm is that it gave up on its demand that the calm extend to both Gaza and the West Bank. This may lead to a breakthrough, but if Israel refuses this offer, Hamas will continue its policy of the past few weeks ¬ escalating the violence and rocket fire.”
Israel did refuse this offer, in such a quiet low-key way that it seemed Israel simply ignored the it, along with other olive branches tentatively offered by Hamas in the wake of Jimmy Carter’s talks with Hamas leaders. The U.S. government and our mainstream media did much the same (though the New York Times belatedly let Carter publish an op-ed column). What could have been heralded as a new opening toward peace in the Middle East has instead been expunged from the discourse, flushed down the memory hole into the oblivion of official nonexistence.
Continued . . .
The Guardian, Tuesday April 29 2008
A Palestinian mother and her four children were killed yesterday as they ate breakfast at home during an Israeli military attack in the Gaza Strip.
The violence came despite efforts led by the Egyptians to arrange a ceasefire between Israel and the militant groups in Hamas-controlled Gaza.
Shortly after 8am yesterday, Meyasar Abu Me'tiq was in her home in the eastern town of Beit Hanoun with her six children. Israeli military vehicles had crossed into Gaza on one of their now frequent incursions and there were reports of heavy gunfire in the area. The Israeli military said it launched an air strike against two men who it said were gunmen approaching the Israeli soldiers.
Shrapnel from the attack appears to have severely damaged the Abu Me'tiq house, and particularly the front door. Four of the children were killed immediately, according to the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights: Saleh, five, Rudeina, four, Hana, three and one-year-old Mes'id. The children's mother, Meyasar, 40, was severely injured and died later. The two other children and 10 others who were nearby were also injured.
Continued . . .
Monday, April 28, 2008
Vice-President, shilling troupe of retired generals, deliver fantastic tales for their cause
PARIS -- U.S. intelligence released a dramatic video last Thursday, supposedly taken by an Israeli spy, that purportedly showed North Korean technicians helping build a nuclear reactor in Syria.
The reactor was destroyed seven months ago by Israeli warplanes.
Until now Israel and the U.S. have remained silent about the attack. Syria claimed a warehouse was hit, but curiously said nothing more about what was an act of war. Washington offered no proof the reactor, if it was one, would have produced weapons rather than electric power. U.S. and Israeli intelligence have long stated Syria had no nuclear weapons capabilities.
Vice-President Dick Cheney and fellow neocons forced the CIA to release the James Bondish video in an effort to sabotage an impending six-nation agreement to end North Korea's nuclear program. They bitterly oppose the deal for being too soft on Pyongyang. Neocons long have worried the possibility of North Korea selling nuclear technology to Arab states posed a potential threat to Israel.
This mysterious imbroglio also is being used by Israel's rightwing Likud Party, a close ally of U.S. neocons, to attack political rival Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and his Kadima Party.
Islamic finance has become the fastest-growing, most dynamic sector of global finance. Every Western-style financial product has its sharia, i.e. Islamic law, compliant instrument: microfinance, mortgages, oil and gas exploration, bridge building, even sponsorship of sporting events. Islamic finance is innovative, flexible, and potentially very profitable. “Operating in 70 countries with about $500bn in assets, it is poised to expand geometrically.” With more than one billion Muslims eager to support it, analysts project that this system will soon manage approximately 4 percent of the world economy, equivalent to $1 trillion in assets. Such figures explain the eagerness of Western banks to tap into sharia financial services. Citigroup, along with many other Western banking retailers, have opened Islamic branches in Muslim countries.
At the end of 2004, the Islamic Bank of Britain, the first bank catering to a European Muslim client base, floated its shares on the London Stock Exchange. Ironically, Western capitalism’s three major global economic crises - the 1970s oil shocks, the late 1990s Asian crisis, and 9/11 - paved the way to the ascent of Islamic finance. Unlike market economics, Islamic finance centers on the religious tenets of Islam and operates in a way to keep Muslims compliant with sharia, the religious law that comes directly from the Koran. Islamic activists, intellectuals, writers, and religious leaders have always upheld the prohibition of riba, the interest charged by moneylenders, and denounced gharar, which refers to any type of speculation. Under this belief, money must not become a commodity in itself to create more money. Islamic finance thus shuns hedge funds and private equities, because they simply multiply cash by stripping assets. Money serves as a means or instrument of productivity as originally envisioned by Adam Smith and David Ricardo. This principle is embodied in the sukuks, Islamic bonds. Sukuks always link to real investments - for example, to pay for the construction of a toll highway - and never for speculative purposes. This principle springs from the sharia’s ban on gambling as well as on the prohibition of any forms of debt and activities that trade risk.
Continued . . .
RINF, Saturday, April 26th, 2008
Reuters | Syria’s ambassador to the United States said Friday that the CIA fabricated pictures allegedly taken inside a secret Syrian nuclear reactor and predicted that in coming weeks the U.S. story about the site would implode from within.
“The photos presented to me yesterday were ludicrous, laughable,” Ambassador Imad Moustapha told reporters at his Washington residence.
He refused to say what the building in the remote eastern desert of Syria was used for before Israeli jets bombed it in September 2007.
Senior U.S. intelligence officials said Thursday they believe it was a secret nuclear reactor meant to produce plutonium, which can be used to make high-yield nuclear weapons. They alleged that North Korea aided in the design, construction and outfitting of the building.
Syria bulldozed the building’s ruins a month after it was bombed and
constructed a new, larger building in its place, leaving little or no evidence of what had been on the site.
Moustapha would not explain the purpose of the new building. But he said the lack of military checkpoints, air defenses or barbed wire fences around either building should show that it was not a sensitive facility.
So far, Syria has not allowed the International Atomic Energy Agency to
inspect the area.
Syria’s ambassador to the United Nations, Bashar Ja’afari, pledged on Friday to cooperate with the IAEA and suggested that the main target of the American CIA allegations against Syria is to justify the Israeli attack against the Syrian side.
In a message to employees, CIA Director Michael Hayden praised the agency’s outstanding work, calling it a case study in rigorous analytic tradecraft, skillful human and technical collection.
by George Hunsinger
According to an explosive ABC News report on April 9, dozens of top-secret meetings took place in the White House, beginning in 2002, in which the president’s top advisors approved the use of torture. Those involved were members of the National Security Council’s “Principals Committee” — Dick Cheney, Condoleezza Rice, Donald Rumsfeld, Colin Powell, George Tenet, and John Ashcroft. Unfortunately, however, these dramatic revelations have been largely ignored by the media and the public. Yet we now know more clearly than ever before that it is because of these senior officials — and not just Animal House on the night shift — that America is regarded around the world as a Torture Nation.
The techniques that the advisors not only approved, but reportedly even choreographed in particular cases amount to torture by any reasonable standard. Near drowning (waterboarding), sleep deprivation, subjection to temperatures of extreme cold (hypothermia), physical assault and stress positions are proscribed by international and domestic law. They are gulag tactics that have no place in a democratic society. John Ashcroft rightly asked at one point: “Why are we talking about this in the White House? History will not judge this kindly.” But according to the report, Condoleezza Rice prevailed, telling the CIA: “This is your baby. Go do it.”Continued . . .
Sunday, April 27, 2008
Amnesty International has urged the Indian government to launch urgent investigations into the mass graves, which are thought to contain the remains of victims of human rights abuses in the context of the armed conflict that has raged in the region since 1989.
The findings appear in the report Facts under Ground, issued on 29 March by the Srinagar-based Association of the Parents of Disappeared Persons (APDP). The report details the existence of multiple graves which, because of their proximity to Pakistan controlled-areas, are in areas not accessible without the specific permission of the security forces. Since 2006, the graves of at least 940 people are reported to have been discovered in 18 villages in Uri district alone.
The Indian army has claimed that those found buried were armed rebels and "foreign militants" killed lawfully in armed encounters with military forces. However, the report recounts testimonies from local villagers saying that most buried were local residents hailing from the state.
The report alleges that more than 8,000 persons have gone missing in Jammu and Kashmir since 1989. The Indian authorities put the figure at less than 4.000, claiming that most of these went to Pakistan to join armed opposition groups.
In 2006, a state police report confirmed the deaths in custody of 331 persons, and also 111 enforced disappearances following detention since 1989.
Continued . . .
An Interview with Bashir Abu-MannehNew Politics, Vol XI No 4
New Politics: 2008 is the sixtieth anniversary of the founding of Israel and of the Nakba, the Palestinian catastrophe. What do you see as the Israeli goal and has it changed over the years?
Bashir Abu-Manneh: Israel's goal has been a constant: Jewish sovereignty in Palestine. Israel has always sought to expropriate as much Palestinian land as possible and to rule over as few Palestinians as possible. This has been the single most important ideological and political principle informing the practices of the dominant strand of Zionism which founded the Jewish State in Palestine against the wishes of the Arab indigenous majority. 1948 epitomizes this principle: 78 percent of Palestine was forcibly conquered and 750,000-840,000 Palestinians were systematically expelled and prevented from returning to their cities and villages (hundreds of which were completely erased) in violation of international law and of UN General Assembly resolution 194 safeguarding refugees' right of return.
Israel bears full responsibility for destroying Palestinian society and for turning most Palestinians into stateless refugees. No Israeli denial or American diplomatic summersaults can erase this nagging and unresolved fact. Palestinians still constitute the largest refugee population in the world today: 70 percent of Palestinians, out of 10 million in all, are refugees (the American occupation of Iraq has produced around 4 million refugees and internally displaced Iraqis). For most Palestinians and Arabs, the Palestinian question is a refugee question and 1948 remains at the heart of the Arab- Israel conflict. If Israel wants real peace, it must rectify the wrongs it willfully committed in 1948, and do so in a way that is democratically acceptable to a majority of Palestinians (i.e. subject to popular referendum). There is no historical reconciliation or lasting peace without justice and national rights for the Palestinians.
By Saed Bannoura - IMEMC & Agenices, April 26, 2008
Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas, said that his talks with the US President, George Bush, and US Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, have failed in achieving any positive results.
Abbas stated that the talks failed to address the core issues of an Israeli withdrawal to the 1967 borders and a halt of Israeli settlement expansion in the occupied West Bank.
The president added that he will be heading back to the Palestinians territories “with no, or little to show”.
Israeli Ynetnews reported that Abbas told the Associated Press that it does not seem that a peace deal would be achieved with Israel this year.
He added that one of the biggest obstacles in front of peace talks is the issue of Israel’s ongoing expansion of settlements in the West Bank and Jerusalem.
“We demanded the US Administration to implement the first phase of the Road Map Peace Plan which talks about halting settlement expansion”, Abbas stated, “This issue is the biggest obstacle that obstructs peace talks”.
Close aides to Abbas said that he was upset on Thursday after he had lunch with the US Secretary Of State. Both were discussing the shape of the peace deal, but Rice said nothing about the Palestinian demand of creating an independent Palestinians State”.
Abbas also said that the US Administration did not offer any new proposals to advance the peace process.
So far, Israel refuses to hold talks on the final borders of the Palestinian State, Jerusalem and the Right of Return of the Palestinian Refugees. Yet, Israeli leaders always said that Jerusalem will always be the “united capital of Israel”, and they continue to reject talks on the right of return of the Palestinian refugees, and refuse to talk on border issues.
It is worth mentioning that Israel is the only sovereign state that does not have set borders as it continues to expand its settlement blocks in the West Bank, and continues to construct the illegal annexation wall in order to create a its own version of a peace deal.
On Thursday, chief Palestinian Negotiator, Dr. Saeb Erekat, said that Abbas brought the Palestinian objections to Bush, but the later did not respond directly, the Ynetnews reported. Abbas was informing Bush of the Palestinian objections on the ongoing Israeli settlement expansion.
The Ynetnews quoted Erekat as saying that “Bush told Abbas…I am focusing on the bigger scope”.
Source ::: REUTERS
|Activists of Jammu Kashmir Muslim Khawteen Markaz shouting pro-Independence slogans as they march during a demonstration in Srinagar, yesterday. (EPA)|
SRINAGAR • Police in Kashmir's main city fired tear gas yesterday to disperse several thousand demonstrators protesting against alleged human rights violations by Indian security forces.
The protest came hours after Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh began a two-day visit to the troubled Himalayan region, where tens of thousands of people have been killed since a revolt against New Delhi's rule broke out in 1989.
The demonstration erupted weeks after the Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons (APDP), an independent group in Kashmir said they discovered nearly a thousand unmarked graves in cemeteries in 18 villages close to the Line of Control, which divides Kashmir between India and Pakistan.
More than 3,000 people led by Kashmir's chief cleric, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, marched through streets of Srinagar, the summer capital of Kashmir, carrying banners reading: "Stop human rights violations."
"We want freedom, long live Pakistan," protestors shouted.
Half a dozen people were injured after police fired teargas shells at stone-throwing protestors.
Police said they later escorted Farooq, also chairman of Kashmir's main separatist alliance, the All Parties Hurriyat Conference, safely home.
"We ask Indians and the world community, whose graves are these? ... Human rights violations in Kashmir have increased and we will continue protest," Farooq said in his Friday sermon before leading the protest demonstration.
Police said they also placed four Hurriyat leaders under house arrest as a preventative measure earlier yesterday.
The APDP estimates up to 10,000 people have gone missing following their arrest by security forces during the nearly two-decade-old separatist revolt in Kashmir, and says many of the missing could have ended up in these unmarked graves.
Authorities in Kashmir have denied the allegations, saying such reports were intended to malign Indian security forces. According to authorities, separatist militants have kidnapped and murdered people.
Amnesty International has appealed to Indian authorities to urgently investigate unmarked graves in north Kashmir.
Officials say violence has declined in Kashmir since India and Pakistan, who have gone to war twice over the region, launched a peace process in 2004.
But people are still killed in daily shootouts.Indian troops shot dead four suspected militants in separate shootouts across Kashmir since Thursday evening, police said.
The former Prime Minister of Malaysia, Mahathir Mohamad, has echoed calls for Western leaders to be charged with war crimes over the invasion of Iraq.
Speaking at Imperial College in London Mahathir, who was in office from 1981 to 2003, singled out US President George Bush, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Australia’s former prime minister John Howard as he wants to see them tried “in absence for war crimes committed in Iraq”.
The event was organised by the Ramadhan Foundation which is a leading British Muslim youth organisation working for peaceful co-existence and dialogue between communities.
Mohammed Shafiq, spokesman for the group said: “It was an opportunity for students to put a range of questions about war crimes and the international situation. He said that people have to stop killing each other and use arbitration, negotiation and discussion as an alternative to violence, war and killing.”
Speaking about the Iraq war, Mahathir focused on “the thousands dying, the economic war, the power of oil and how we could utilise some of these tools to have a leverage against the people who commit countries to war”, Shafiq said.
60 years of enormous military spending is taking a dramatic toll on the rest of the economy.
The military adventurers in the Bush administration have much in common with the corporate leaders of the defunct energy company Enron. Both groups thought that they were the "smartest guys in the room" -- the title of Alex Gibney's prize-winning film on what went wrong at Enron. The neoconservatives in the White House and the Pentagon outsmarted themselves. They failed even to address the problem of how to finance their schemes of imperialist wars and global domination.
As a result, going into 2008, the United States finds itself in the anomalous position of being unable to pay for its own elevated living standards or its wasteful, overly large military establishment. Its government no longer even attempts to reduce the ruinous expenses of maintaining huge standing armies, replacing the equipment that seven years of wars have destroyed or worn out, or preparing for a war in outer space against unknown adversaries. Instead, the Bush administration puts off these costs for future generations to pay or repudiate. This fiscal irresponsibility has been disguised through many manipulative financial schemes (causing poorer countries to lend us unprecedented sums of money), but the time of reckoning is fast approaching.
There are three broad aspects to the U.S. debt crisis. First, in the current fiscal year (2008) we are spending insane amounts of money on "defense" projects that bear no relation to the national security of the U.S. We are also keeping the income tax burdens on the richest segment of the population at strikingly low levels.
Second, we continue to believe that we can compensate for the accelerating erosion of our base and our loss of jobs to foreign countries through massive military expenditures -- "military Keynesianism" (which I discuss in detail in my book Nemesis: The Last Days of the American Republic). By that, I mean the mistaken belief that public policies focused on frequent wars, huge expenditures on weapons and munitions, and large standing armies can indefinitely sustain a wealthy capitalist economy. The opposite is actually true.
Third, in our devotion to militarism (despite our limited resources), we are failing to invest in our social infrastructure and other requirements for the long-term health of the U.S. These are what economists call opportunity costs, things not done because we spent our money on something else. Our public education system has deteriorated alarmingly. We have failed to provide health care to all our citizens and neglected our responsibilities as the world's number one polluter. Most important, we have lost our competitiveness as a manufacturer for civilian needs, an infinitely more efficient use of scarce resources than arms manufacturing.
Economic conditions in the West Bank as well as Gaza are deteriorating, leaving many incensed at the masquerade of peace talks, writes Khaled Amayreh in Ramallah
As 1.5 million Gazans are crying out to the world to pressure Israel to lift its scandalously callous blockade of the coastal territory, another 2.5 million Palestinians in the West Bank are struggling to cope with an unprecedented economic crisis that is further impoverishing and exhausting them.
The crisis, the harshest in recent memory, stems from a host of local and global factors, including soaring food and energy prices, sagging currency value, rampant joblessness and draconian Israeli restrictions on the movement of people, goods and services.
Further exacerbating these conditions is a devastating drought, unseen for decades, and which has nearly destroyed this year's grain crops upon which many Palestinian families depend for their livelihood. And the drought is not just affecting farmers. Coupled with a phenomenal rise in temperatures, it is also expected to cause a serious water shortage crisis in most localities, especially in the summer months.
Some Palestinians are already at loss as to how they will be able to cope with the steep rise in basic commodities.
Take flour, for example -- a staple for most Palestinian families. Last year, a sack of wheat flour weighing 50 kilogrammes cost 70 Israeli Shekels, or $20. Today, the same amount costs 210 Israeli Shekels or $65. Prices of other basic consumer products, such as rice, sugar, cooking oil, meat, including poultry, vegetables and fruits have likewise skyrocketed, making them nearly unaffordable for many Palestinian families. This week, a kilo of medium-quality tomatoes was sold in the Hebron region for 10 Israeli Shekels or $3.
Saturday, April 26, 2008
Read the full article:
David Ray Griffin, Global Research, April 24, 2008
Published: Friday April 25, 2008
Adm. Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that the Pentagon is planning "potential" military actions against Iran, reports The Washington Post.
Mullen criticized Iran's "'increasingly lethal and malign influence' in Iraq," writes Ann Scott Tyson for the Post.
Addressing concerns about the US military's capability of dealing with yet another conflict at a time when forces are purportedly stretched thin, Mullen said war with Iran "would be 'extremely stressing' but not impossible for U.S. forces, pointing specifically to reserve capabilities in the Navy and Air Force," Tyson notes.
"It would be a mistake to think that we are out of combat capability," she quotes the U.S.'s top military leader at a Pentagon news conference.
A prior incident involving U.S. forces in the Strait of Hormuz and Iranian speedboats in January of this year--which Republican White House candidates used (with the notable exception of Ron Paul) as a saber-rattling opportunity during a nationally-televised debate--was later discredited as a virtual fabrication.
By signalling an aggressive posture by the US toward Iran, the promotion of George Bush's favourite general is a dangerous miscalculation
By naming his favourite military officer, General David Petraeus, to head the US Central Command, President Bush evidently hopes to terrify Iran. Americans and people in the rest of the world, however, have at least as much reason to be terrified as anyone in Tehran.
For several years, President Bush and those around him sought to justify the idea of attacking Iran on the grounds that Iranian leaders were on the brink of producing nuclear weapons. "Iran's pursuit of technology that could lead to nuclear weapons threatens to put a region already known for instability and violence under the shadow of a nuclear holocaust," Bush said in August last year.
That argument was deflated by the end of last year, when US intelligence agencies announced their conclusion that Iran was not, in fact, building nuclear weapons. Almost immediately, the administration found a new argument: Iran is an outlaw state because it is responsible for killing Americans in Iraq. General Petraeus has vigorously promoted this view.
"Is it fair to say that the Iranian-backed special groups in Iraq are responsible for the murder of hundreds of American soldiers and thousands of Iraqi soldiers and civilians?" Senator Joseph Lieberman asked General Petraeus at a recent hearing in Washington. "It certainly is," Petraeus replied. "That is correct."
General Petraeus and President Bush may well be right that groups in Iran are supporting and arming factions in Iraq. Their suggestion that some Iranian leaders dream of building nuclear weapons may also be true. What makes their charges so frightening, though, is their evident belief that these transgressions may justify an American attack on Iran. Such an attack would strengthen militant factions in Iran rather than weakening them; make Iran more dangerous rather than less; and undermine US national security rather than strengthening it.
Friday, April 25, 2008
|By Reuters, Apr 24, 2008, 19:00 || |
"It is more than what happened in the concentration camps," Libya's deputy permanent UN representative, Ibrahim Dabbashi, told reporters. "There is the bombing, daily bombing [by Israel] ... in Gaza. It was not in the concentration camps."
"It is worse than that," said Dabbashi, who holds the rank of ambassador.
U.S. envoy Alejandro Wolff rejected the Libyan statement. He was one of several Western envoys who walked out of a UN Security Council discussion on Gaza on Wednesday after Dabbashi compared the situation in the Gaza Strip to the Holocaust, in which six million Jews were systematically murdered by Nazi Germany.
Wolff told reporters the remarks "reflect a degree of historical ignorance and moral insensitivity that is one of the large reasons this council has been unable to act on Middle East issues and why peace in the Middle East is so difficult."
The French, British, Belgian and Costa Rican envoys also left the council on Wednesday after Dabbashi made his remarks. Such protests against fellow Security Council members are rare, diplomats said.
On Wednesday, Western envoys to the United Nations walked out of a Security Council discussion after Libya's ambassador likened the plight of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip to Nazi concentration camps.
"The Libyan ambassador [Giadalla Ettalhi] compared the situation in Gaza to the Nazi Holocaust," said a Western diplomat who was present at a council discussion on the Middle East. "Afterwards, the Western envoys stood up and left the room in protest."
Among the chief diplomats who left the council chamber were the U.S., French, British, Belgian and Costa Rican envoys, diplomats said. Some others remained.
Continued . . .
By Glenn Kessler,Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, April 24, 2008
A letter that President Bush personally delivered to then-Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon four years ago has emerged as a significant obstacle to the president's efforts to forge a peace deal between the Israelis and Palestinians during his last year in office.
Ehud Olmert, the current Israeli prime minister, said this week that Bush's letter gave the Jewish state permission to expand the West Bank settlements that it hopes to retain in a final peace deal, even though Bush's peace plan officially calls for a freeze of Israeli settlements across Palestinian territories on the West Bank. In an interview this week, Sharon's chief of staff, Dov Weissglas, said Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice reaffirmed this understanding in a secret agreement reached between Israel and the United States in the spring of 2005, just before Israel withdrew from Gaza.
U.S. officials say no such agreement exists, and in recent months Rice has publicly criticized even settlement expansion on the outskirts of Jerusalem, which Israel does not officially count as settlements. But as peace negotiations have stepped up in recent months, so has the pace of settlement construction, infuriating Palestinian officials, and Washington has taken no punitive action against Israel for its settlement efforts.
Israeli officials say they have clear guidance from Bush administration officials to continue building settlements, as long as it meets carefully negotiated criteria, even though those understandings appear to contradict U.S. policy.
Dan Hamburg, Mirror Contributing Writer
George W. Bush is poised to order a massive aerial bombardment – possibly including tactical nuclear weapons – of up to 10,000 targets in Iran. The attack would be justified on grounds that Iran is interfering with U.S. efforts in Iraq and that Iran is developing a nuclear weapon, a charge that was debunked last fall in the National Intelligence Estimate (NIE).
According to international experts, the U.S. declared economic war against Iran on March 20. On that day, the U.S. Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) called on the world’s financial institutions to stop doing business with Iran, making it much more difficult for Iran to engage in global commerce.
Now the Bush administration is preparing to drop the other shoe. Below are some of the indications that a U.S. military attack on Iran is imminent:
The March 11 resignation of CENTCOM Commander Admiral William Fallon who, according to a well-publicized Esquire magazine article, “openly opposed Bush’s Iran policy and was a lone voice against taking military action to stop the Iranian nuclear program.”
The recent removal of Vice Admiral John Stufflebeem, Commander of the 6th Fleet (Mediterranean Sea), also known to be a critic of the administration’s war plans.
Two U.S. warships took up positions off Lebanon last month. According to US News & World Report, “The United States would want its warships in the eastern Mediterranean in the event of a military action against Iran.”
The United States has two aircraft carrier strike groups (the USS John C. Stennis and the USS Eisenhower) stationed in the Persian Gulf with at least one additional group reportedly on the way.Continued . . .
Shahid Buttar | Posted April 22, 2008
Government handouts to corporations might seem untenable at a time when more and more Americans suffer every day from the impacts of a mounting economic crisis. Yet efforts to bolster the economy have largely taken the form of corporate welfare -- much like an appalling effort, in the closing days of the Bush administration, to subsidize corporate violations of the rule of law and individual liberties.
After the Federal Reserve's $30 billion bailout for investment bank Bear Stearns last month came the Senate's recent decision to set aside $25 billion in tax breaks for corporate homebuilders, and then last week's revelation of "a historic collapse in audits" of major corporations by the IRS. All three stories prompted outrage from observers noting the implications for American workers.
But even these insults pale next to another round of corporate welfare currently considered by Congress for the telecom industry -- a handout that, despite a smaller price tag, even more thoroughly degrades the public interest by both undermining national security and offending our nation's fundamental interests in transparency and the rule of law.
Thursday, April 24, 2008
By Matthew Cardinale
ATLANTA - With media attention focused almost exclusively on the dramatic contest between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, millions of U.S. voters probably have no inkling that there is a ballot option beyond the Democratic and Republican Parties.
“There needs to be room for a lot of policy threads in American discourse. But the corporate media is not informing the people,” Cynthia McKinney, the front-runner for the Green Party presidential nomination, told IPS during a rare 90-minute interview.
Founded in 2001 as the successor of the Association of State Green Parties, the party’s platform revolves around environmentalism, non-violence, social justice and grassroots organising. It has slightly more than 300,000 registered voters nationwide, and a standing ballot line in 20 states plus Washington, DC. In other states, the party must circulate petitions to get its candidates on the ballot.
McKinney, a former congressional representative from Georgia, abandoned the Democratic Party last year in disgust at its failure to end the U.S. troop presence in Iraq, and is now poised for a presidential run on the Green Party ticket.
She has won Green Party primaries in Arkansas, Illinois, and Washington, DC. Ralph Nader, who gave the party national stature as its candidate in 2000, won in California and Massachusetts, prior to announcing he is running as an Independent instead.
New Statesman, April 24, 2008
John Pilger argues that an unreported war is being waged by the US to restore power to the privileged classes at the expense of the poor
Beyond the sound and fury of its conquest of Iraq and campaign against Iran, the world’s dominant power is waging a largely unreported war on another continent - Latin America. Using proxies, Washington aims to restore and reinforce the political control of a privileged group calling itself middle-class, to shift the responsibility for massacres and drug trafficking away from the psychotic regime in Colombia and its mafiosi, and to extinguish hopes raised among Latin America’s impoverished majority by the reform governments of Venezuela, Ecuador and Bolivia.
In Colombia, the main battleground, the class nature of the war is distorted by the guerrillas of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, known as the Farc, whose own resort to kidnapping and the drugs trade has provided an instrument with which to smear those who have distinguished Latin America’s epic history of rebellion by opposing the proto-fascism of George W Bush’s regime. “You don’t fight terror with terror,” said President Hugo Chávez as US warplanes bombed to death thousands of civilians in Afghanistan following the 11 September 2001 attacks. Thereafter, he was a marked man. Yet, as every poll has shown, he spoke for the great majority of human beings who have grasped that the “war on terror” is a crusade of domination. Almost alone among national leaders standing up to Bush, Chávez was declared an enemy and his plans for a functioning social democracy independent of the United States a threat to Washington’s grip on Latin America. “Even worse,” wrote the Latin America specialist James Petras, “Chávez’s nationalist policies represented an alternative in Latin America at a time (2000-2003) when mass insurrections, popular uprisings and the collapse of pro-US client rulers (Argentina, Ecuador and Bolivia) were constant front-page news.”
The US "war on terror" has backfired, strengthening extremists in Afghanistan and Somalia and turning them into legitimate political actors in the eyes of their local populations, a thinktank said today.
The Senlis Council, which has strongly criticised US policy in Afghanistan in the past, is particularly scathing of the Bush administration's "abject policy failures" in Somalia.
It said air strikes, support for Ethiopian troops that attacked Somalia last year and the ill-timed designation of a radical Islamist group, al-Shabab, as a terrorist group had been successfully exploited by the insurgency to boost recruitment.
"The lack of strategic acumen present in the 'war on terror' in Somalia and Afghanistan is in fact enabling the spread of the insurgencies present throughout both countries," said Norine MacDonald QC, the council president.
"The US is the common denominator in both countries – instead of containing the extremist elements in Somalia and Afghanistan, US policies have facilitated the expansion of territory that al-Shabab and the Taliban have psychological control over."
Aid groups say Somalia, wracked by anarchy and violence for decades, is suffering its worst humanitarian crisis since 1993.
Militias linked to the former Islamic Courts authority, which controlled Mogadishu in the latter half of 2006, are waging a guerrilla war against the occupying Ethiopian troops and the weak central government. With a small African Union peacekeeping force reduced to the role of bystander, several thousand civilians have been killed in the crossfire since early 2007.
by Scott Horton
The author of 'The Torture Tapes' describes how coercive interrogation came to be the policy of the United States government.
The New Republic | Post Date Tuesday, April 22, 2008
British writer and international lawyer Philippe Sands is the author of The Torture Team , in stores May 5, which chronicles the role lawyers played in the introduction of the Bush administration's program of coercive interrogation techniques. Here, Scott Horton talks to Sands about his findings.
TNR: In The Torture Team, you focus on a single document, Donald Rumsfeld's December 2, 2002 approval of extraordinarily aggressive interrogation techniques. You give us the document's genesis, and the revolt within the Pentagon that led to its being formally withdrawn. But what you show is a process as much as a document, and that process appears to me to be a conscious, studied circumvention of the normal procedure followed by the
Documents suggest CIA stonewalled Congress
The Central Intelligence Agency has acknowledged having 7,000 pages of documents pertaining to President George W. Bush's secret rendition and detention programs, according to three international human rights groups.
Amnesty International USA, the Center for Constitutional Rights and the International Human Rights Clinic at NYU School of Law made the claim following a summary judgment motion by the agency this week to avoid a lawsuit that seeks to force the nation's top spy outfit to make the documents public under a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit.
"Among other assertions, the CIA claimed that it did not have to release the documents because many consist of correspondence with the White House or top Bush administration officials, or because they are between parties seeking legal advice on the programs, including guidance on the legality of certain interrogation procedures," the groups wrote in a release. "The CIA confirmed that it requested—and received—legal advice from attorneys at the Department of Justice Office of Legal Counsel concerning these procedures."
“For the first time, the CIA has acknowledged that extensive records exist relating to its use of enforced disappearances and secret prisons,” Curt Goering, AIUSA senior deputy executive director, said in a statement. “Given what we already know about documents written by Bush administration officials trying to justify torture and other human rights crimes, one does not need a fertile imagination to conclude that the real reason for refusing to disclose these documents has more to do with avoiding disclosure of criminal activity than national security.”
By Haider Rizvi
UNITED NATIONS, Apr 23 (IPS) - Leaders of the world's 370 million indigenous peoples are calling for the United Nations to include their voices in its future talks on climate change.
"Both the climate change and its solutions are concerns for indigenous peoples," said Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, chairperson of the U.N. Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues.
Currently, the Forum, which includes 16 representatives -- eight nominated by governments and eight by indigenous representatives -- is holding its seventh annual meeting in New York. The meeting is being is being attended by more than 3,300 delegates from around the world.
"The indigenous peoples contribute the smallest ecological footprints on Earth," according to Tauli-Corpuz, "but they suffer the worst impacts from climate change and mitigation measures, such as the loss of land and biofuel production."
Despite representation from nearly 500 aboriginal groups worldwide, the Forum is not empowered to enact laws; it can only advise the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), a 54-member U.N. body, whose members are elected by the General Assembly every three years.
Continued . . .
Wednesday, April 23, 2008
FAIR, April 22, 2008
A lengthy April 20 New York Times investigation of the Pentagon's program of feeding talking points to military pundits featured on TV newscasts raised disturbing questions about the media's role as a conduit for Pentagon propaganda.
According to the Times, the Pentagon recruited over 75 retired generals to act as "message force multipliers" in support of the Iraq War, receiving special Pentagon briefings and talking points that the analysts would often parrot on national television "even when they suspected the information was false or inflated." The Times even noted that at one 2003 briefing the military pundits were told that "We don't have any hard evidence" about Iraq's illicit weapons-a shocking admission the analysts decided not to share with the public.
The Times also documented that many of the analysts had ties to "military contractors vested in the very war policies they are asked to assess on air"--information that the media outlets did not disclose to viewers. The Times reported that the "analysts represent more than 150 military contractors either as lobbyists, senior executives, board members or consultants." The analysts themselves told the Times that "the networks asked few questions about their outside business interests," and "were only dimly aware" of the special Pentagon briefings they were receiving.
Continued . . .
GENEVA (AFP) — Kofi Annan on Tuesday defended former US president Jimmy Carter for holding direct talks with Hamas in Syria in the face of sharp attacks from both Israel and the White House.
"I don't think the criticism is entirely fair," the former United Nations secretary general told reporters at a press conference for his new Global Humanitarian Forum in Geneva.
"We should be cautious not to over-react but take advantage of whatever openings president Carter has been able to obtain to move the process forward," he said.
"He's the only president who's been able to broker an enduring peace agreement between Israel and Egypt and for that we are very grateful," Annan said.
Carter held talks last week with exiled Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal in the Syrian capital Damascus against the advice of US officials.
"We counseled president Carter against going to the region, in particular against having contact with Hamas," US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Tuesday.
"The United States is not going to deal with Hamas, and we certainly told president Carter that we didn't think meeting with Hamas was going to help the Palestinians who (are) actually devoted to peace," Rice said.
Annan urged the administration of current US President George W. Bush to step up its efforts in the region, saying only Washington carries sufficient clout to make a deal possible.
|Paul Craig Roberts | Antiwar, April 23, 2008 |
The Bush regime has quagmired America into a sixth year of war in Afghanistan and Iraq with no end in sight. The cost of these wars of aggression is horrendous. Official U.S. combat casualties stand at 4,538 dead. Officially, 29,780 U.S. troops have been wounded in Iraq.
On April 17, 2008, AP News reported that a new study released by the RAND Corporation concludes that "some 300,000 U.S. troops are suffering from major depression or post-traumatic stress from serving in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and 320,000 received brain injuries."
On April 21, 2008, OpEdNews.com reported that an internal e-mail from Gen. Michael J. Kussman, undersecretary for health at the Veterans Administration, to Ira Katz, head of mental health at the VA, confirms a McClatchy Newspaper report that 126 veterans per week commit suicide. To the extent that the suicides are attributable to the war, more than 500 deaths should be added to the reported combat fatalities each month.
Turning to Iraqi deaths, expert studies support as many as 1.2 million dead Iraqis, almost entirely civilians. Another 2 million Iraqis have fled their country, and there are 2 million displaced Iraqis within Iraq.
Afghan casualties are unknown.
Both Afghanistan and Iraq have suffered unconscionable civilian deaths and damage to housing, infrastructure, and environment. Iraq is afflicted with depleted uranium and open sewers.
Then there are the economic costs to the U.S. Nobel economist Joseph Stiglitz estimates the full cost of the invasion and attempted occupation of Iraq to be between $3 trillion and $5 trillion. The dollar price of oil and gasoline have tripled, and the dollar has lost value against other currencies, declining dramatically even against the lowly Thai baht. Before Bush launched his wars of aggression, one U.S. dollar was worth 45 baht. Today the dollar is only worth 30 baht.
By William Fisher
NEW YORK - The U.S. government’s anti-terrorist financing programmes are based on the “guilt by association” tactics of the McCarthy era and have had a widespread negative impact on U.S. charities, critics say.
That is the view of Kay Guinane, director of the Nonprofit Speech Rights Programme for OMB (Office of Management and Budget) Watch, an independent not-for-profit government watchdog group. Guinane told IPS that government actions have resulted in programme cutbacks and increased fear of speaking out on important public issues.
The organisation accused Congress of continuing “an unfortunate pattern of insufficient congressional oversight of anti-terrorist financing programmes, neglecting to address the unnecessarily harsh impacts the programmes have on U.S. charities and philanthropy.”
As an example of insufficient congressional oversight of charities’ alleged support of terrorist organisations, OMB Watch cited a recent hearing before the Senate Finance Committee in which the only witness was a government official. The witness was the under-secretary of the treasury for terrorism and financial intelligence, Stuart Levey, who plays a lead role in identifying charities that the Treasury Department claims are supporting terrorist causes.
OMB Watch asked the committee for an opportunity to testify, but was not invited.
The McCarthy era refers to a 1950s Cold War campaign led by then Republican Senator Joseph McCarthy of Wisconsin. McCarthy charged that communist “subversives” had infiltrated the U.S. government and were undermining national security and disclosing secret information. He accused the administration of President Harry S. Truman of sheltering such subversives rather than investigating and ousting them.
Hundreds of citizens were eventually “blacklisted” and lost their jobs. Congress made membership in the Communist Party a criminal offence, in a statute known as the Smith Act.
With spectacular fanfare and a plethora of highlighted events, Israel is planning to celebrate its 60th birthday on 18 May 2008.
According to an Israeli government website called Israelfestival.com, the festival will include "non-stop entertainment, [a] fashion show, a variety of ethnic food for sale, Israeli folk dancing, arts and crafts, Israeli and Jewish cultural and heritage pavilions and art exhibits".
The centrepiece ceremony is expected to take place in West Jerusalem and be attended by Israel's political and military leaders as well as foreign dignitaries. Among those expected are US President George W Bush, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Israeli media and non-governmental organisations have already begun celebrations in earnest. For example, Israeli television has begun airing a new series called Shishim (meaning "60"), which looks back at the six decades since Israel was created in May 1948. The series, which began 31 March, is divided into six episodes, each devoted to one of the decades following the founding of the state.
Israel hopes that the high-pitched celebrations will serve as an opportunity to promote Israel and enhance its questionable standing abroad. "It is an opportunity to celebrate our achievements, our successes, our national being," boasted Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, who was not yet born in 1948.
From the Zionist viewpoint, Israel is a story of success. Today, Israel is a political and military force to be reckoned with, even if its power is based on the patronage of foreign entities. A country of no more than seven million people, including nearly 1.5 million non-Jews (mainly Palestinians), Israel more or less directs the politics and policies of world's only superpower, the United States, thanks mainly to powerful Jewish lobbies in Washington.
The power of the Jewish lobby largely explains how massive American financial and military support is to Israel, which is measured in hundreds of billions of dollars. Were it not for this nearly unlimited financial, economic, technological, political and military backing, Israel would never have been able to survive, especially given its predator tactics.
|Gulfnews, April 16, 2008 |
By Paul Findley
Candidates for public office, high and low, are bewitched -frightened is the more accurate word - by an unwarranted but costly fear of the US lobby that functions on behalf of the State of Israel.
Comb through the millions of words expressed by the "final three" in the presidential sweepstakes - Barak Obama, Hillary Rodham Clinton and John McCain - and you will not find a word, not even a syllable, of criticism of the longstanding US policy bias that heavily favours Israel, a policy that imposes a staggering burden on US society and infuriates Muslims worldwide, including eight million who are US citizens.
A search of the millions of words of analysis of talking heads and other commentators who make a living examining day-by-day the impact of presidential candidate behaviour discloses the same empty-headed silence. They don't even mention candidate silence on this topic that should be a fundamental and continuing focus of discussion.
A search of major media -print, radio and television - has virtually the same result: silence. The internet is one of the few places where one can find thoughtful and candid examinations of Israel's dominance of US society.
Tuesday, April 22, 2008
Suzanne Goldenberg in Philadelphia
guardian.co.uk, Tuesday April 22 2008
Hillary Clinton, in her most bellicose comments since the presidential race began, today threatened to obliterate Iran if it launched a nuclear strike against Israel.
Speaking as voters went to the polls in the potentially crucial Pennsylvania primary, she said: "I want the Iranians to know that if I'm the president, we will attack Iran (if it attacks Israel)."
Barack Obama immediately accused her of "sabre-rattling", saying this was the kind of language that had been used by the Bush administration over the last few years and was not helpful.
In an interview with ABC's Good Morning America, she was asked what she would do if Iran attacked Israel with nuclear weapons. She said: "In the next 10 years, during which they might foolishly consider launching an attack on Israel, we would be able to totally obliterate them. That's a terrible thing to say but those people who run Iran need to understand that because that perhaps will deter them from doing something that would be reckless, foolish and tragic."