Wednesday, September 30, 2009

U.S. Story on Iran Nuke Facility Doesn’t Add Up

Analysis by Gareth Porter, Inter Press Service

WASHINGTON, Sep 29 (IPS) – The story line that dominated media coverage of the second Iranian uranium enrichment facility last week was the official assertion that U.S. intelligence had caught Iran trying to conceal a “secret” nuclear facility.

But an analysis of the transcript of that briefing by senior administration officials that was the sole basis for the news stories and other evidence reveals damaging admissions, conflicts with the facts and unanswered questions that undermine its credibility.

Iran’s notification to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) of the second enrichment facility in a letter on Sep. 21 was buried deep in most of the news stories and explained as a response to being detected by U.S. intelligence. In reporting the story in that way, journalists were relying entirely on the testimony of “senior administration officials” who briefed them at the G20 summit in Pittsburgh Friday.

U.S. intelligence had “learned that the Iranians learned that the secrecy of the facility was compromised”, one of the officials said, according to the White House transcript. The Iranians had informed the IAEA, he asserted, because “they came to believe that the value of the facility as a secret facility was no longer valid…”

Later in the briefing, however, the official said “we believe”, rather than “we learned”, in referring to that claim, indicating that it is only an inference rather than being based on hard intelligence.

The official refused to explain how U.S. analysts had arrived at that conclusion, but an analysis by the defence intelligence consulting firm IHS Jane’s of a satellite photo of the site taken Saturday said there is a surface-to-air missile system located at the site.

Since surface-to-air missiles protect many Iranian military sites, however, their presence at the Qom site doesn’t necessarily mean that Iran believed that Washington had just discovered the enrichment plant.

The official said the administration had organised an intelligence briefing on the facility for the IAEA during the summer on the assumption that the Iranians might “choose to disclose the facility themselves”. But he offered no explanation for the fact that there had been no briefing given to the IAEA or anyone else until Sep. 24 – three days after the Iranians disclosed the existence of the facility.

A major question surrounding the official story is why the Barack Obama administration had not done anything – and apparently had no plans to do anything – with its intelligence on the Iranian facility at Qom prior to the Iranian letter to the IAEA. When asked whether the administration had intended to keep the information in its intelligence briefing secret even after the meeting with the Iranians on Oct. 1, the senior official answered obliquely but revealingly, “I think it’s impossible to turn back the clock and say what might have been otherwise.”

In effect, the answer was no, there had been no plan for briefing the IAEA or anyone.

News media played up the statement by the senior administration official that U.S. intelligence had been “aware of this facility for years”.

But what was not reported was that he meant only that the U.S. was aware of a possible nuclear site, not one whose function was known.

The official in question acknowledged the analysts had not been able to identify it as an enrichment facility for a long time. In the “very early stage of construction,” said the official, “a facility like this could have multiple uses.” Intelligence analysts had to “wait until the facility had reached the stage of construction where it was undeniably intended for use as a centrifuge facility,” he explained.

The fact that the administration had made no move to brief the IAEA or other governments on the site before Iran revealed its existence suggests that site had not yet reached that stage where the evidence was unambiguous.

A former U.S. official who has seen the summary of the administration’s intelligence used to brief foreign governments told IPS he doubts the intelligence community had hard evidence that the Qom site was an enrichment plant. “I think they didn’t have the goods on them,” he said.

Also misleading was the official briefing’s characterisation of the intelligence assessment on the purpose of the enrichment plant. The briefing concluded that the Qom facility must be for production of weapons-grade enriched uranium, because it will accommodate only 3,000 centrifuges, which would be too few to provide fuel for a nuclear power plant.

According to the former U.S. official who has read the briefing paper on the intelligence assessment, however, the paper says explicitly that the Qom facility is “a possible military facility”. That language indicates that intelligence analysts have suggested that the facility may be for making low-enriched rather than for high-enriched, bomb-grade uranium.

It also implies that the senior administration official briefing the press was deliberately portraying the new enrichment facility in more menacing terms than the actual intelligence assessment.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s offer the day after the denunciation of the site by U.S., British and French leaders to allow IAEA monitoring of the plant will make it far more difficult to argue that it was meant to serve military purposes.

The circumstantial evidence suggests that Iran never intended to keep the Qom facility secret from the IAEA but was waiting to make it public at a moment that served its political-diplomatic objectives.

The Iranian government is well aware of U.S. capabilities for monitoring from satellite photographs any site in Iran that exhibits certain characteristics.

Iran obviously wanted to make the existence of the Qom site public before construction on the site would clearly indicate an enrichment purpose. But it gave the IAEA no details in its initial announcement, evidently hoping to find out whether and how much the United States already knew about it.

The specific timing of the Iranian letter, however, appears to be related to the upcoming talks between Iran and the P5+1 – China, France, Britain, Russia, the United States and Germany – and an emerging Iranian strategy of smaller back-up nuclear facilities that would assure continuity if Natanz were attacked.

The Iranian announcement of that decision on Sep. 14 coincided with a statement by the head of Iran’s atomic energy organisation, Ali Akbar Salehi, warning against preemptive strikes against the country’s nuclear facilities.

The day after the United States, Britain and France denounced the Qom facility as part of a deception, Salehi said, “Considering the threats, our organisation decided to do what is necessary to preserve and continue our nuclear activities. So we decided to build new installations which will guarantee the continuation of our nuclear activities which will never stop at any cost.”

As satellite photos of the site show, the enrichment facility at Qom is being built into the side of a mountain, making it less vulnerable to destruction, even with the latest bunker-busting U.S. bombs.

The pro-administration newspaper Kayhan quoted an “informed official” as saying that Iran had told the IAEA in 2004 that it had to do something about the threat of attack on its nuclear facilities “repeatedly posed by the western countries”.

The government newspaper called the existence of the second uranium enrichment plan “a winning card” that would increase Iran’s bargaining power in the talks. That presumably referred to neutralising the ultimate coercive threat against Iran by the United States.

*Gareth Porter is an investigative historian and journalist specialising in U.S. national security policy. The paperback edition of his latest book, “Perils of Dominance: Imbalance of Power and the Road to War in Vietnam”, was published in 2006.

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Yasmin Alibhai-Brown: Don’t Israel’s nuclear weapons count?

Netanyahu has what he wants to keep up the idea of his plucky, vulnerable little state

By Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, The Independent/UK, Sep 28, 2009

Influential Europeans – including many Muslims – recently debated freedom of expression with the Danish editor who commissioned the cartoons of Prophet Mohammed which led to riots. Held in Berlin, it was a good, at times blazing, debate.

Freedom of expression, we were given to understand, is one of the valves in Europe’s heart that must remain open to keep our continent alive and healthy. In good faith I exercise that freedom in this column. Let us see if readers and interest groups will support my right to write what follows even if they violently disagree with my observations.

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Another War in the Works

America Is Led And Informed By Liars

by Paul Craig Roberts, Foreign Policy Journal, Sep 30, 2009

Does anyone remember all the lies that they were told by President Bush and the “mainstream media” about the grave threat to America from weapons of mass destruction in Iraq? These lies were repeated endlessly in the print and TV media despite the reports from the weapons inspectors, who had been sent to Iraq, that no such weapons existed.

The weapons inspectors did an honest job in Iraq and told the truth, but the mainstream media did not emphasize their findings. Instead, the media served as a Ministry of Propaganda, beating the war drums for the US government.

Now the whole process is repeating itself. This time the target is Iran.

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Gore Vidal: ‘We’ll have a dictatorship soon in the US’

The Times/UK, Sep 30, 2009

The grand old man of letters Gore Vidal claims America is ‘rotting away’ — and don’t expect Barack Obama to save it

Gore Vidal

Tim Teeman

A conversation with Gore Vidal unfolds at his pace. He answers questions imperiously, occasionally playfully, with a piercing, lethal dryness. He is 83 and in a wheelchair (a result of hypothermia suffered in the war, his left knee is made of titanium). But he can walk (“Of course I can”) and after a recent performance of Mother Courage at London’s National Theatre he stood to deliver an anti-war speech to the audience.

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US Rabbis Protest Israel’s Policy Over Gaza

By Gilbert Mercier

NEWS JUNKIE POST, Sep 29, 2009


A group of 13 American Rabbis and some of their congregants in Los Angeles, Chicago, Boston, San Francisco and Philadelphia are fasting on the third Thursday of every month in an effort to shake the conscience of the American Jewish community about what they see as the inhuman blockade by Israel of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. The group is called Jewish Fast For Gaza, and it has been gathering steam since its creation in mid-July.

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Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Kashmir dispute main cause of tension in South Asia

Kashmir Media Service,

New York, September 26 (KMS): The Chairman of All Parties Hurriyet Conference, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, has said that Kashmir dispute is the main cause of tension in South Asia and needs to be resolved without any further delay. Addressing the OIC Foreign Ministers’ Conference in New York, the APHC Chairman said, because of its impact on relations between Pakistan and India, the conflict over Kashmir directly affects the peace and stability in the entire region, which is home to millions of people.

Mirwaiz maintained that the APHC was committed to bring about a peaceful and political solution to the dispute through meaningful dialogue among Pakistan, India and Kashmiris’ genuine leadership. He demanded demilitarization of Jammu and Kashmir, complete withdrawal of Indian troops from town and villages of occupied Kashmir and repeal of all draconian laws including Disturbed Areas Act, Public Safety Act and Armed Forces Special Powers Act.

The APHC Chairman said that human rights violations should be stopped and the international rights organisations should be allowed to have access to the occupied territory. He also called for the restoration of the rights of peaceful association, assembly and demonstrations, unconditional release of all political prisoners, freedom of all political leaders to travel abroad and allowing people to people contact on either side of the Line of Control.

Mirwaiz appealed to the leaders of the Islamic countries to use their moral and political influence to help resume the peace process for a just and honourable settlement of the Kashmir dispute and to grant the people of Kashmir their inalienable right of self-determination.

Complete text of the APHC Chairman’s speech is as follows

Mr. Chairman, Mr. Secretary General, Excellencies, distinguished guest, ladies and gentlemen,
Assalam-u-Alaikum Warahmatula-e-Wabarakatuhu,
I am enormously grateful for the opportunity to address this highly esteemed gathering of Foreign Ministers of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) on the subject of Kashmir. I was also invited to participate in the OIC Council of Foreign Ministers in Damascus, Syria in May 2009. However, I could not attend that meeting because I was not given the travel document by the Government of India.

Excellencies, today, at this august body, I stand before you not just as a representative of the Kashmiri people struggling for their inalienable right of self-determination, but, more importantly as a ‘believer’. A believer who is urging the Ummah to reclaim its intellectual and spiritual glory. A believer who is proud of the accomplishments of the Organization of Islamic Conference, yet, recognizes that there is much work still to do.

The Foreign Ministers in this annual coordination meeting aim to discuss various issues related to the United Nations’ agenda in order to enhance cooperation and coordination among the OIC Member States at the UN. The importance of this initiative cannot be overstated. And, we need to be sure that our cooperation cannot be built on the hatred of anyone or anything, rather it should be undertaken with a love for ourselves and our traditions.

The present Charter of the Organization was adopted by the Eleventh Islamic Summit held in Dakar on 13-14 March 2008, which laid down the objectives and principles of the organization and fundamental purposes to strengthen the solidarity and cooperation among the Member States. The Organization has the singular honor to galvanize the Ummah into a unified body and have actively represented the Muslims by espousing all causes close to the hearts of over 1.5 billion Muslims of the world. The Organization has consultative and cooperative relations with the UN to protect the vital interests of the Muslims and to work for the settlement of conflicts and disputes involving Member States. One such conflict is that of the Jammu and Kashmir.

It bears no reiteration that the Kashmir conflict primarily involves the life and future of the people of the land. However, unresolved dispute is at the underlying cause of tension between two nuclear rival – India and Pakistan. Because of its impact on relations between these two neighboring countries, it directly affects the peace and stability in an unstable region, which is home to more than 1.2 billion people, and the peace and security of many more nations beyond.

It has been a cause of two wars and numerous battles between the two neighbors, India and Pakistan. The place has been aptly described by the former US President, Bill Clinton as the “most dangerous place” on earth. The situation has taken an ominous turn since the Mumbai attacks o November 26, 2008. With extremist threat growing in the region, the escalating turmoil in Kashmir promises to engulf the entire region extending from Afghanistan to Bangladesh.

Excellencies, the APHC is committed to a peaceful and political solution to the Kashmir dispute. We believe that for a meaningful dialogue between Pakistan, India and the Leadership of Jammu & Kashmir the following measures need to be taken.

1. To demilitarize the arena of conflict – the State of Jammu and Kashmir – through a phased withdrawal of the troops;

2. Complete withdrawal of India’s military presence from Kashmiri towns and villages;

3. Immediate repeal of all draconian laws including Jammu and Kashmir Disturbed Areas Act and Public Safety Act and Armed Forces Special Powers Act;

4. End to violations of human rights and allowing the international human rights organisations to have access to Kashmir;

5. The restoration of the rights of peaceful association, assembly and demonstrations;

6. The unconditional release of all political prisoners;

7. Freedom of all political leaders to travel abroad; and

8. To allow people to people contact on either side of the Line of Control.

Excellencies, we trust you will bring your immense moral and political influence to bear on initiating a peace process which will lead to a speedy, just an honourable settlement of the dispute and to restore the inalienable right of self-determination of the people of Kashmir.

I thank you, Excellencies for your patient hearing.

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UN says caste system is a human rights abuse

United Nations is to declare discrimination based on the Indian caste system is a human rights abuse.

By Dean Nelson in New Delhi,, Sep 29, 2009

The UN’s Human Rights Council, meeting in Geneva, is expected to ratify draft principles which recognises the scale of persecution suffered by 65 million ‘untouchables’ or ‘Dalits’ who carry out the most menial and degrading work

Many of them work as lavatory and sewer cleaners and in remote villages as “night-soil carriers”.

They are considered unclean by many higher-caste ‘Brahmins’ who regard their presence, and sometimes even their shadow as ‘polluting’.

Continues >>

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The Comic Genius of Netanyahu

Middle East Online, Sept 29, 2009

Nearly every offensive remark he makes about Iran and Palestine can be flung back in his face because Israel is no better and in most respects far worse. Netanyahu’s speech to the UN was the most hilarious example in history of the pot calling the kettle black, notes Stuart Littlewood.

Knowing that Iran won’t surrender its right to civil nuclear power, the schemers in Tel Aviv and Washington were bound to mount a hysterical campaign to scare the rest of the world into believing this would bring terror to our own streets.

And at the United Nations we saw the process swing into action as Netanyahu tried to whip up support for another Middle East war for Israel’s benefit.

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Obama Decides Karzai to Stay in Power Despite Fraud

White House Embraces Fraudulent Win, Calls for ‘Reconciliation’

by Jason Ditz,, September 28, 2009

Ending weeks of speculation regarding the massive fraud in Afghanistan’s August presidential election, the Obama Administration has formally decided that incumbent President Hamid Karzai will get a second five year term, no matter what the investigations determine.


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Monday, September 28, 2009

US: Endorse Goldstone Report on Gaza

Promote Justice for Victims on Both sides

Human Rights Watch, September 27, 2009

(Washington, DC) – The Obama administration should fully endorse the report of the United Nations fact-finding mission on the Gaza conflict led by Justice Richard Goldstone and demand justice for the victims of serious laws-of-war violations in the conflict, Human Rights Watch said today.

Dismissal of all or parts of the Goldstone report would contradict President Barack Obama’s stated commitment to human rights in the Middle East and reveal an ill-timed double-standard in Washington’s approach to international justice, Human Rights Watch said. It would also undermine efforts to revive the peace process.

“Failure to demand justice for attacks on civilians in Gaza and southern Israel will reveal hypocrisy in US policy,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “The Obama administration cannot demand accountability for serious violations in places like Sudan and Congo but let allies like Israel go free. That approach will bolster abusive governments that challenge international justice efforts.”

The UN Fact-Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict mandated by the UN Human Rights Council determined that both Israel and Hamas had committed serious violations of the laws of war during the 22-day conflict last December and January, some amounting to war crimes and possible crimes against humanity. Neither side, the report said, has conducted adequate, impartial investigations of alleged laws-of-war violations by its forces.

The Goldstone report recommends that the Israeli government and Hamas authorities be given six months to show that they will conduct independent and impartial domestic investigations. It says the UN Security Council should establish a group of independent experts to monitor and report on whether the two sides have undertaken effective and genuine investigations.

Thus far, US officials have dismissed the Goldstone report. Ambassador Susan Rice, US permanent representative to the UN, said her government had “serious concerns about many recommendations in the report.” She and other US officials have cited what they called the report’s “unbalanced and one-sided mandate.” They said the United States wants discussion of the report to stay within the confines of the Human Rights Council, and not be taken up by other UN bodies such as the Security Council.

The original mandate of the mission was indeed one-sided, Human Rights Watch said, because it addressed alleged violations by only Israel. But at the insistence of Goldstone, an eminent international jurist and former chief prosecutor at the UN war crimes tribunals for Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia, the mandate was revised to allow investigation of all sides. The report, in turn, addressed abuses by Israel, Hamas, and other Palestinian armed groups in detail, as well as abuses by the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank.

“Goldstone’s report, scathing in its criticism of both sides, is the best evidence that his mandate in practice was neither biased nor unfair,” Whitson said. “US insistence that the report stay at the Human Rights Council and not reach the Security Council is a clear attempt to avoid justice mechanisms with teeth.”

The US claim that Israel can be relied upon to investigate itself ignores the well-documented pattern of impunity in the country for past violations of international humanitarian law, Human Rights Watch said.

“Israel has repeatedly shown that it lacks the political will to investigate itself impartially,” Whitson said. “And Hamas’s record on internal investigations is even worse.”

The Goldstone report, if taken up by the Security Council, provides an opportunity to break this pattern of impunity, Human Rights Watch said. The US will squander that opportunity if it confines discussion of the report to the Human Rights Council because the council’s disproportionate focus on Israel makes it easier for Israel and others to ignore. Indeed, Israel cited the council’s unbalanced record to justify its refusal to cooperate with the Goldstone investigation.

“If the aim is to convince Israel at long last to conduct genuine, impartial investigations of its conduct in Gaza, confining the issue to the Human Rights Council is a terrible step,” said Whitson. “Only the Security Council has the authority and power to convince Israel to take seriously the need for real investigations.”

Rice also downplayed the need for justice by suggesting that it might interfere with the peace process. The US government wanted to “look not to the past but to the future [because] the best way to end suffering and abuses is for there to be a long-term solution and peace,” she said. In fact, continuing attacks on civilians by both sides are the biggest impediment to establishing the trust needed to advance the peace process, Human Rights Watch said.

“The US has it backwards,” said Whitson. “Ending impunity for attacks on civilians is needed for positive movement in the peace process.”

Human Rights Watch urged the United States to support a resolution at the UN Human Rights Council that endorses the fact-finding mission’s report in its totality, including the recommendation that it be submitted to relevant UN bodies for follow-up. The Human Rights Council will debate the Gaza report in Geneva on September 29.

Unlike in the past, the governments that traditionally reject criticism of Hamas now seem willing to allow a blanket endorsement of the Goldstone report at the Human Rights Council, but only if backers of Israel take the same approach.

“If the United States and other allies of Israel start picking and choosing among the Goldstone recommendations, that will undermine this historic opportunity to put the Human Rights Council on a more principled course,” said Whitson.

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Entangled Giant

By Garry Wills | The New York Review of Books, Volume 56, Number 15, October 8, 2009

George W. Bush left the White House unpopular and disgraced. His successor promised change, and it was clear where change was needed. Illegal acts should cease—torture and indefinite detention, denial of habeas corpus and legal representation, unilateral canceling of treaties, defiance of Congress and the Constitution, nullification of laws by signing statements. Powers attributed to the president by the theory of the unitary executive should not be exercised. Judges who are willing to give the president any power he asks for should not be confirmed.

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Roy: What Have We Done to Democracy?

Of Nearsighted Progress, Feral Howls, Consensus, Chaos, and a New Cold War in Kashmir

Arundhati Roy,, Sep 27, 2009

While we’re still arguing about whether there’s life after death, can we add another question to the cart? Is there life after democracy? What sort of life will it be? By “democracy” I don’t mean democracy as an ideal or an aspiration. I mean the working model: Western liberal democracy, and its variants, such as they are.

So, is there life after democracy?

Attempts to answer this question often turn into a comparison of different systems of governance, and end with a somewhat prickly, combative defense of democracy. It’s flawed, we say. It isn’t perfect, but it’s better than everything else that’s on offer. Inevitably, someone in the room will say: “Afghanistan, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Somalia… is that what you would prefer?”

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Tamils shot by army after attempting to ‘escape’ from internment camp

The Times/UK, Sep 28, 2009

Jeremy Page, South Asia Correspondent

Sri Lankan troops opened fire on dozens of Tamil civilians as they allegedly tried to escape from internment camps where they and 280,000 others have been held since the defeat of the Tamil Tiger rebels in May.

Police said that three of the civilians suffered gunshot wounds, but a pro-Tiger website put the number at six, and said that they had been out collecting firewood rather than attempting to escape.

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Obama follows Bush’s modus operandi on Iran

Peter Symonds,, Sept 28, 2009

In a manner chillingly reminiscent of the Bush administration’s buildup to the Iraq war, top White House officials yesterday intensified the US propaganda offensive against Iran, threatening heavy sanctions if Tehran does not provide unrestricted access to its newly revealed uranium enrichment plant near the city of Qom and other nuclear facilities and personnel.

Continued >>

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Saturday, September 26, 2009

Drones and Dishonor in Central New York

by Ed Kinane, Dissident Voice, September 25, 2009

If war becomes unreal to the citizens of modern democracies, will they care enough to restrain and control the violence exercised in their name? Will they do so, if they and their sons and daughters are spared the hazards of combat?

– Michael Ignatieff, Virtual War (2000)

The drones are coming. Readers of the Syracuse Post-Standard know that the drones (a.k.a. “Reapers”) are arriving at our local New York Air National Guard Base at Hancock Airport.

These Reapers are a new level of aerial warfare. They are high-flying, sharp-shooting, 36-foot long robots. They are crewless – remote-controlled – aircraft. Although they are unmanned, drones do have “pilots.” Those pilots operate in front of computer screens in ground control rooms far from any target.

Last year our former Congressperson, James Walsh (R-NY), hailed the arrival of the Reaper. Not only will it provide a few jobs, but this killer allows, Jim said, pilots to be “literally fighting a war in Iraq and at the end of their shift be playing with their kids in Camillus” (P-S, 25 June 2008, page A1 ).

Drones surveil the US/Mexico and US/Canada borders. In Gaza, the Israeli Air Force uses them to assassinate Palestinians. In its various overseas wars, the US military has come to depend on drones to assassinate humans while bombing vehicles and buildings. Drones preying on Iraq, Pakistan and Afghanistan are piloted from Creech Air Base in Nevada. Beginning this November, Reapers will also be piloted from here in Central New York.

Because drones seem in the short term and within narrow contexts to reduce US casualties, some cheer them on. However – and this is essential – drones make war easier to initiate… and perpetuate. The folks back home wouldn’t even need to hear about the drones’ brave deeds. No thought-provoking body bags – at least not here at home.

Like many other high-tech weapons, drones are indiscriminate: they can kill offensively or defensively, invaders or resisters. They kill combatants and non-combatants, adults and children. Because most victims are civilian, drones are terrorist.

Terror isn’t just something “they” do. Perpetrators of terrorism can have dark skin or light, be “Islamic” or “Christian.” Terrorists can be states or non-state actors. Terrorist budgets can be scanty or vast. Terrorist weapons can be low-tech or high-tech. They can be launched from land, sea or air.

Like other forms of aerial warfare, drones may well spawn reactive terrorism. Because they kill and maim mostly civilians, drones incite hatred. Such hatred could lead to retaliatory strikes either today or when the victims’ survivors come of age. Those strikes could target any of the hundreds of US military bases bestriding the globe.

They could also target any of the domestic bases from which the drones are piloted. Like it or not, without our consent, Central New York is becoming part of the battleground. (Note: I have no desire to feed into the “fear-of-terrorism” industry, but Central New Yorkers ought to be aware that hosting drones may have blowback.)

Besides being indiscriminate and terrorist, aerial warfare is cowardly. Think about the various devices of aerial maiming and massacre (napalm, white phosphorus, cluster bombs, depleted uranium, cruise missiles…). For decades aerial warfare has been the weapon of rich, powerful, high-tech nations bullying poor, weak, low-tech nations. Apart from a steely will to resist, these latter nations have few defenses. So corrupted now is any notion of military honor that our war-besotted culture no longer even thinks about a “level playing field.” Seldom are warplanes used to defend a nation from attack or from threats to its sovereignty. Generally warplanes – robotic or not – are the aggressor, the violator of others’ sovereignty.

Drones raise cowardice to new heights. Unlike World War II bombardiers or pilots of other pre-robotic aircraft, drone pilots take no risk. Anti-aircraft artillery will never reach them. They shoot goldfish in a goldfish bowl. The various branches of the service use aerial weapons imagery – invariably phallic – to recruit gutsy, often idealistic, kids. In time many of them learn the hard way that enlisting has little to do with defending their country, defending “freedom,” or spreading “democracy.”

Many fail to come home intact. Few find glory, few find honor. Some then realize that only corporations – the organizational mirror image of drones – profit from war.

Drive out the Drone

Work with your local peace group to end the wars where drones are being used. At the Syracue Peace Council we seek to demystify the macho militarism that permeates our culture. We seek to expose the emperor’s nakedness. The Peace Council staunchly opposes “our” overseas wars. Only in macho fantasy can more war make this a better world. Like cancer, war spreads.

Write letters to your Congress people opposing the Reaper. Even better: write letters to the editor. A published letter will be read, not only by the influential editors, but also by tens of thousands of readers. (And by Congressional staffers.) Since the Reaper will be piloted from Central New York, write to the Syracuse Post-Standard. Our local daily has publicized the Reaper’s arrival in more or less neutral terms; urge the editors to speak out against it.

And do your homework. You might ask your local library to order P.W. Singer’s, Wired for War: the Robotics Revolution and Conflict in the 21st Century (Penguin, 2009). Be sure to read chapter 9, “The Refuseniks: The Roboticists Who Just Say No.”

Ed Kinane worked in Iraq with Voices in the Wilderness before, during and after “Shock and Awe.” Reach him at: Read other articles by Ed, or visit Ed’s website.

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Separatism and Class Politics in Latin America

Prof. James Petras, Global Research, Sep 26, 2009

Throughout the world there is an upsurge of regional, ‘sub- national’ movements whose demands range from greater ‘autonomy’ to complete independence. Many analysts have commented on the apparent paradox of increasing global integration of economies and the increasing fragmentation of nation-states. A deeper look at the internal dynamics of regional conflicts and external imperial strategies unravels the ‘paradox’ – by revealing the inter-relationships between competing empire building strategies and national fragmentation and regional conflicts.

Several points of reference highlight the underlying dynamic of regional and global politics.

Continues >>

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U.S., NATO Poised For Most Massive War In Afghanistan’s History

by Rick Rozoff

Global Research, September 24, 2009

Over the past week U.S. newspapers and television networks have been abuzz with reports that Washington and its NATO allies are planning an unprecedented increase of troops for the war in Afghanistan, even in addition to the 17,000 new American and several thousand NATO forces that have been committed to the war so far this year.

The number, based on as yet unsubstantiated reports of what U.S. and NATO commander Stanley McChrystal and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Michael Mullen have demanded of the White House, range from 10,000 to 45,000.

Fox News has cited figures as high as 45,000 more American soldiers and ABC News as many as 40,000. On September 15 the Christian Science Monitor wrote of “perhaps as many as 45,000.”

The similarity of the estimates indicate that a number has been agreed upon and America’s obedient media is preparing domestic audiences for the possibility of the largest escalation of foreign armed forces in Afghanistan’s history. Only seven years ago the United States had 5,000 troops in the country, but was scheduled to have 68,000 by December even before the reports of new deployments surfaced.

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International Law Versus the Law of the Jungle

By Stuart Littlewood, The Palestine Chronicle, Sep 18, 2009

Outgoing United Nations General Assembly President Miguel d’Escoto Brockman says he was obstructed by leading UN members from trying to improve the lives of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.

“My greatest frustration this year has been the Palestine situation,” he told the 192-nation assembly in his final address on 14 September before handing over the one-year presidency to Libyan diplomat Ali Treki.

He found it “disgraceful” the way influential members of the UN Security Council had shown “passivity and apparent indifference” about the long and cruel Israeli blockade of Gaza.

Continues >>

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Afghanistan: Escalation is futile in a war in which complexity defies might

GABRIEL KOLKO, National Times, Sep 23, 2009

The US scarcely knew what a complex disaster it was confronting when it went to war in Afghanistan on October 7, 2001. It will eventually – perhaps years from now – suffer the same fate as Alexander the Great, the British and the Soviet Union: defeat.

What is called ”Afghanistan” is really a collection of tribes and ethnic groups – Pashtuns, Tajiks, Uzbeks and more. There are seven major ethnic groups, each with its own language. There are 30 minor languages. Pashtuns are 42 per cent of the population and the Taliban come from them. Its borders are contested and highly porous, and al-Qaeda is most powerful in the Pashtun regions of northern Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Continues >>

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Where is the Defund Blackwater Act?

Democrats joined Republicans in voting to “Defund ACORN,” yet have done nothing to stop Blackwater’s ongoing taxpayer funded crusade in Iraq and Afghanistan.

By Jeremy Scahill, RebelReports, Sep 24, 2009

Republican Congressional leaders are continuing their witch-hunt against ACORN, the grassroots community group dedicated to helping poor and working class people. This campaign now unfortunately has gained bi-partisan legislative support in the form of the Defund ACORN Act of 2009 which has now passed the House and Senate. As Ryan Grim at Huffington Post has pointed out, the legislation “could plausibly defund the entire military-industrial complex:”

The congressional legislation intended to defund ACORN, passed with broad bipartisan support, is written so broadly that it applies to “any organization” that has been charged with breaking federal or state election laws, lobbying disclosure laws, campaign finance laws or filing fraudulent paperwork with any federal or state agency. It also applies to any of the employees, contractors or other folks affiliated with a group charged with any of those things.

According to the Project on Oversight and Government Reform, this legislation could potentially eliminate a virtual Who’s Who of war contractors including Lockheed Martin, Boeing and KBR to other corporations such as AT&T, FedEx and Dell.

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Friday, September 25, 2009

Classified McChrystal Report: 500,000 Troops Will Be Required Over Five Years

by Tom Andrew, former member of Congress, Maine

The Huffington Post, Sep 24, 2009

Embedded in General Stanley McChrystal’s classified assessment of the war in Afghanistan is his conclusion that a successful counterinsurgency strategy will require 500,000 troops over five years.

This bombshell was dropped by NBC reporter Andrea Mitchell on MSNBC’s Morning Joe on Wednesday:

The numbers are really pretty horrifying. What they say, embedded in this report by McChrystal, is they would need 500,000 troops – boots on the ground – and five years to do the job. No one expects that the Afghan Army could step up to that. Are we gonna put even half that of U.S. troops there, and NATO forces? No way. [Morning Joe, September 23, 2009]
Mitchell got the figure from an independent source. It was not revealed in the redacted version of the once classified report released by the Pentagon earlier this week. McChrystal has warned the administration that without an infusion of more troops the eight-year war in Afghanistan “will likely result in failure.”

There are perhaps only two people in America who think that this level of commitment is sustainable by the United States and its allies, and they left office last January.

Thankfully, President Obama is re-thinking his Afghanistan strategy from top to bottom in light of McChrystal’s report. In addition to the impossibility of sustaining the level of commitment this doomed-to-fail strategy would require are these stubborn facts:

  • 2009 is already the deadliest year for U.S. forces since the war began eight years ago. Fifty-one of the seven hundred and thirty eight U.S. soldiers who have lost their lives in Afghanistan were killed last month alone.
  • The national Afghanistan election that Ambassador Karl Eikenberry hoped would lead to a “renewal of trust of the Afghan people for their government” was a disaster and has had the opposite effect. The European Union election monitor has found that over 1 million votes for President Karzai, one third of his total, may be fraudulent. General McChrystal himself describes the Afghanistan government as “riddled with corruption”. A government already mired in allegations of widespread fraud and corruption, now facing serious charges and compelling evidence that it has attempted to steal the national election, has no hope of regaining the support of the people of Afghanistan.
  • A February 2009 ABC/BBC/ARD poll found that only 18 percent of Afghans support increasing the number of U.S. troops in their country. This should come as no surprise. Historically, Afghans have always forcefully resisted the presence of foreign military forces, be they British, Soviet or American.
  • The presence of foreign forces strengthens the hand of Taliban recruiters. An independent analysis early this year by the Carnegie Institute concluded that the presence of foreign troops is probably the single most important factor in the resurgence of the Taliban.

Andrea Mitchell hit the nail on the head after revealing that 500,000 troops would be required over five years on MSNBC:

Would you prefer to have a president who doesn’t shift strategy when he gets this kind of ground troop from the commanders?

Right question. And the answer is: NO!

Congress should immediately convene hearings to discuss alternatives to General McChrystal’s proposal for such a massive escalation of the war in Afghanistan. It is time for the administration and Congress to demilitarize U.S. policy in Afghanistan and strike out in a new, sustainable, direction.

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Obama will bypass Congress to detain suspects indefinitely

By John Byrne, The Raw Story, Sep 24, 2009

President Barack Obama has quietly decided to bypass Congress and allow the indefinite detention of terrorist suspects without charges.

The move, which was controversial when the idea was first floated in The Washington Post in May, has sparked serious concern among civil liberties advocates. Such a decision allows the president to unilaterally hold “combatants” without habeas corpus — a legal term literally meaning “you shall have the body” — which forces prosecutors to charge a suspect with a crime to justify the suspect’s detention.

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Tamil detainees in Sri Lanka: “Almost living in hell”

By our correspondent,, Sep 25, 2009

The Sri Lankan government has underscored its determination to keep 280,000 Tamil civilians in internment camps indefinitely, in blatant violation of their basic democratic rights.

UN Under-Secretary, Lynn Pascoe arrived in Sri Lanka last week for further talks on resettling detainees. Sri Lanka President Mahinda Rajapakse told him his government had a target of resettling 70 percent of the people within 180 days. But he added that this target would depend on the de-mining of the former war zone in the island’s north.

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Nuclear-armed Israel slams non-nuclear Iran

Middle East Online, Sep 25, 2009

Hypocrisy personified

UN-defying Israeli hardliner slams nations that did not walk out on Ahmadinejad’s speech.

UNITED NATIONS – Hardline Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the UN General Assembly Thursday that Iran’s alleged quest for nuclear weapons was the greatest danger the world faces, in what observers say is an untrue hypocritical remark.

Nuclear-armed Israel is the only country in the Middle East that actually has nuclear weapons.

Although Israel was created by a UN resolution over 60 years ago, it is known for its defiance of the international community, especially when concerning UN resolutions on it’s illegal occupation of Arab land.

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Obama’s peace effort has failed but our struggle continues

Ali Abunimah, The Electronic Intifada, 24 September 2009

US President Barack Obama, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Fatah leader Mahmoud Abbas in a kitschy reprise of the famous 1993 White House lawn handshake between Yasser Arafat and Yitzhak Rabin. (MaanImages)

There is the old joke about a man who is endlessly searching on the ground beneath a street light. Finally, a neighbor who has been watching him asks the man what he is looking for. The man replies that he lost his keys. The neighbor asks him if he lost them under the streetlight. “No,” the man replies, pointing into the darkness, “I lost them over there, but I am looking over here because here there is light!”

The intense focus on the “peace process” is a similarly futile search. Just because politicians and the media shine a constant light on it, does not mean that is where the answers are to be found.

The meeting hosted by US President Barack Obama with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Fatah leader Mahmoud Abbas at New York’s Waldorf Astoria hotel on 22 September signaled the complete and terminal failure of Obama’s much vaunted push to bring about a two-state solution to the Palestine/Israel conflict.

To be sure, all the traditional activities associated with the “peace process” — shuttle diplomacy, meetings, ritual invocations of “two states living side by side,” and even “negotiations” — will continue, perhaps for the rest of Obama’s time in office. But this sterile charade will not determine the future of Palestine/Israel. That is already being decided by other means.

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Thursday, September 24, 2009

Gideon Levy: Obama, you won’t make peace without talking to Hamas

By Gideon Levy, Haaretz Correspondent, Haaretz/Israel, Sep 24, 2009

It’s as if U.S. President Barack Obama did the least he had to. He “rebuked” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. That’s not how a president with star power acts. That is not how a superpower does things. America is again falling down on the job, and Obama is betraying his mission and the promise of his presidency.

True, it’s an anomaly that the United States wants a peace settlement more than the hawkish parties to the conflict, but the leader of the free world has a crucial role, and he is not fulfilling it. Nine months after Obama assumed the presidency, precious time has been totally wasted, in the Middle East at least, and suspicions are growing that the promise of his presidency is on the wane, even if the man is attractive and uproariously funny on David Letterman. Laugh, laugh, but ultimately, where are the results?

Beautiful speeches like the one last night at the UN General Assembly are no longer enough. Being America means enjoying numerous international privileges, but also involves a few obligations. One of them is to look after world peace. Just as it set off for war and occupation in Iraq and Afghanistan in the name of global goals, however dubious, and just as it is working to prevent a nuclear Iran, America is also obligated to act to settle the Middle East conflict. That is not its right but its obligation. Locals don’t want its services in either Iraq or Afghanistan, but America is shedding its own blood there nonetheless. Why? Because it believes this is essential to world security.

When he was elected, President Obama declared that the Middle East conflict was endangering world peace. Nothing is more true. The potential danger between Jenin, Gaza and Jerusalem is no less serious than that in the killing fields of Kandahar and Mosul. But what is the president doing to eliminate the fuel that feeds international terrorism? Or at least to show that he is doing something? He ruins nine whole months over the issue of a construction freeze in the settlements, and even that pathetic goal was not achieved.

It has to be one way or the other: Either Obama thinks a solution to the conflict isn’t a worthy goal and so should get out of the picture and devote his energies elsewhere or he means what he said and must use all his power and act. Meanwhile, instead of change, we have gotten distressing continuity. Instead of “yes we can,” we have gotten “no we can’t.”

Obama needs to turn things upside-down and break with convention. That’s why he was elected. Two decisive steps would change things completely: an American effort to introduce Hamas into the negotiations and pressure on Israel to end the matter of the occupation. Simplistic? Perhaps, but the complex and gradual solutions haven’t gotten us anywhere up to now. Like it or not, without Hamas peace is not possible. The fact that Obama has put his trust only in Abbas’ Fatah has guaranteed failure, which was foreseeable. History has taught us that you make peace with your worst enemy, not with those who are seen as collaborators by their own people.

You also don’t make peace with half a people, in half of the territory. Obama didn’t even try to break this unnecessary spell and automatically went, unbelievably, down the path of his predecessor, George W. Bush. The president who was willing to engage North Korea and Iran and dares Venezuela and Cuba didn’t even think about entering negotiations with Hamas. Why is it okay to talk to Iran but not to Hamas? Obama, too, thinks Hamas is fit for negotiations only over the fate of a single soldier, Gilad Shalit, but not over the fate of two peoples.

The second step, which is no less essential, is applying pressure on Israel. Given Israel’s total dependence and in the face of its blindness to the price of the occupation, Obama’s friendship with Israel is actually to be judged by the steps he would seemingly take against Israel. As Israel’s isolation in the world only grows, and the danger of Iran threatens the country, Israel’s best friend must pressure its ally and save it from itself. Instead, we got another condemnation of the Goldstone Commission report, this time from the new American ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice, who had held the promise of major change.

It’s not too late. True, the initial momentum has been lost, but now, following this week’s “summit of rebukes,” America must hurry up and rebuke itself and mainly ponder how to get out of the booby trap to which it has succumbed. Now, too, only America can (and must) do it.

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Seven Former CIA Directors Want To Bury The Truth


Last week, seven former directors of the Central Intelligence Agency, who made their own contributions to the CIA’s low esteem over the past 35 years, asked President Barack Obama to make sure there is no criminal investigation of the crimes associated with the Agency’s detentions and interrogations policies over the past eight years.

Their letter to the president is particularly self-serving for three of the directors (Michael Hayden, Porter Goss, and George Tenet), who would presumably be the subject of any investigation, and simply self-aggrandizing for the others (John Deutch, James Woolsey, William Webster, and James Schlesinger), whose stewardship of the CIA since the early 1970s has contributed to the Agency’s loss of influence and credibility.

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