Saturday, October 31, 2009

Clinton Faces Pakistani Anger At Predator Drone Attacks

by Robert Burns,, Oct 30, 2009

ISLAMABAD – U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton came face-to-face Friday with Pakistani anger over U.S. aerial drone attacks in tribal areas along the Afghan border, a strategy that U.S. officials say has succeeded in killing key terrorist leaders.

[Students protest against the visit of U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, in Lahore, Pakistan, Thursday, Oct. 29, 2009. Clinton is on a three-day state visit to Pakistan. (AP Photo/K.M. Chaudary)]
Students protest against the visit of U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, in Lahore, Pakistan, Thursday, Oct. 29, 2009. Clinton is on a three-day state visit to Pakistan. (AP Photo/K.M. Chaudary)

In a series of public appearances on the final day of a three-day visit marked by blunt talk, Clinton refused to discuss the subject, which involves highly classified CIA operations. She would say only that “there is a war going on,” and the Obama administration is committed to helping Pakistan defeat the insurgents and terrorists who threaten the stability of a nuclear-armed nation.

Clinton said she could not comment on “any particular tactic or technology” used in the war against extremist groups in the area.
The use of Predator drone aircraft, armed with guided missiles, is credited by U.S. officials with eliminating a growing number of senior terrorist group leaders this year who had used the tribal lands of Pakistan as a haven beyond the reach of U.S. ground forces in Afghanistan.

During an interview broadcast live in Pakistan with several prominent female TV anchors, before a predominantly female audience of several hundred, one member of the audience said the Predator attacks amount to “executions without trial” for those killed.

Another asked Clinton how she would define terrorism.

“Is it the killing of people in drone attacks?” she asked. That woman then asked if Clinton considers drone attacks and bombings like the one that killed more than 100 civilians in the city of Peshawar earlier this week to both be acts of terrorism.

“No, I do not,” Clinton replied.

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The Return of Howard Zinn, and Company

A packed house hears a left-wing critique of Obama

by Seth Rolbein, BU Today, Oct 29, 2009

BOSTON UNIVERSITY – With the Tsai Performance Center filled to its 500-seat capacity, many in the audience remembered when that hall was named Hayden, the University was in turmoil, and Howard Zinn was both lightning rod and radical catalyst.

Much has changed. The Howard Zinn Lecture Series, kicking off Alumni Weekend on October 22, now celebrates Boston University’s distinguished professor emeritus of political science. As Virginia Sapiro, dean of Arts & Sciences, welcomed all and introduced three intriguing writers gathered around the man of the night, cordiality rather than conflict ruled.

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Student expelled to Gaza Strip by force

Palestinian’s involuntary return is the sixth in 10 days, says human rights group

By Ben Lynfield in Jerusalem, The Independent/UK, Oct 30, 2009

Berlanty Azzam, 21,was handcuffed and blindfolded
Berlanty Azzam, 21,was handcuffed and blindfolded

Berlanty Azzam, 21, who was studying for a business degree at Bethlehem University, said she was coming home in a shared taxi from a job interview in Ramallah on Wednesday when soldiers at the “Container” checkpoint took her identity card and that of another passenger with a Gaza address.

After six hours of waiting, soldiers told her she would be taken to a detention centre in the southern West Bank, and she was handcuffed and blindfolded, she said.

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Who Governs the World?

By Patrick Seale, Agence Global, Oct, 30, 2009

Rarely in modern times has the planet been as ungovernable as it is today. Global problems assail us on all sides, but no global solutions are forthcoming.

Instead, what do we see? Wars, massacres, unprecedented financial crises, unresolved conflicts, over-population, food and water insecurity, pitiful mass migrations, the ravages of climate change — and, in many parts of the globe, a rash of cruel and corrupt regimes.

Long gone are the days – such as after the first and second world wars — when a handful of allied statesmen could lay down the law, draw frontiers, reward and punish, and impose a victors’ peace. Gone, too, is the bi-polar world of the Cold War, when the United States and the Soviet Union established an uneasy equilibrium.

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Friday, October 30, 2009

American and NATO dependence on Afghan warlords

Written by Gareth Porter,, Oct. 30, 2009


October 29, 2009 — WASHINGTON, Oct 29 (IPS) – The revelation by the New York Times Wednesday that Ahmed Wali Karzai, the brother of Afghan President Hamid Karzai, has long been on the payroll of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency is only the tip of a much bigger iceberg of heavy dependence by U.S. and NATO counterinsurgency forces on Afghan warlords for security, according to a recently published report and investigations by Australian and Canadian journalists.

U.S. and other NATO military contingents operating in the provinces of Afghanistan’s predominantly Pashtun south and east have been hiring private militias controlled by Afghan warlords, according to these sources, to provide security for their forward operating bases and other bases and to guard convoys.

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Who speaks for Islam?

Everyone, it seems, has a party line about who the good Muslims and bad Muslims are. Sadly, many of the dichotomies distort as much as they reveal, and use simple labels based on superficial preconceptions and over-simplifications, says Meena Sharify-Funk.

Middle East Online, Oct 30, 2009

Waterloo, Canada – Ever since the tragic events of 9/11, the diverse voices claiming to speak with authority about Islam have become increasingly cacophonous. Few contemporary topics are more controversial than that of how to interpret Islamic practices and beliefs.

In the West as well as in the Muslim world, interpreting Islam has become a virtual cottage industry. The ranks of interpreters are incredibly diverse, including counter-terrorism experts, policymakers and journalists, as well as religious studies academics, political scientists, Muslim ulama (Islamic legal scholars), Muslim feminists in the West, and people speaking on behalf of various religious groups. Interest in how Islam is understood and practiced has expanded dramatically in recent years, and it’s not always clear whom to listen to amongst the din.

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US faces pressure to lift Cuba blockade

Morning Star Online, Thursday 29 October 2009

The UN general assembly voted overwhelmingly on Wednesday to condemn the US blockade on Cuba and for the 18th consecutive year, urged Washington to lift it.

The 192-nation assembly voted 187-3, with two abstentions, to adopt yet another resolution calling for the US embargo to be struck down.

US ambassador to the UN Susan Rice and the representatives from Israel and Palauwere the only three members to vote against the non-binding resolution.

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Sami Al-Hajj Addresses Conference to Criminalize War

Posted: 2009/10/29
From: Mathaba

@mathaba | Re-Tweet | / FaceBook

Peace be Upon You… Sami Al Hajj opened his speech with the words of Muslim greetings to the 1,000 strong crowd at the Kuala Lumpur PWTC Conference Hall on the 2nd day of the Conference to Criminalise War.

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (Mathaba) After thanking those who are present and those who spoke out against torture and human rights abuses, and Dr Mahathir the former Prime Minister of Malaysia, and all the people of the world who want peace for mankind, the Al-Jazeera journalist who had been abducted to Guantanamo Bay and tortured, he went on to say:

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Thursday, October 29, 2009

European Human Rights Lawyers To Sue Israeli Officers For War Crimes

Saed Bannoura,IMEMC, Oct 28, 2009

A number of European lawyers and human rights activities stated that they obtained names of Israeli army officers suspected of committing war crimes during the war against the Gaza Strip earlier this year.

The lawyers said they would be filing lawsuits against the officers for committing war crimes against the Palestinian people.

Israeli paper Haaretz said that the lawyers collected testimonies from residents of the Gaza Strip in preparation to file the lawsuits.

The lists are being filed in Britain, Spain, Norway, Belgium and Holland as the legislation in these countries allow arrest warrants against war crimes suspects.

Haaretz added that attorney Daniel Makeover, from London, told its reporter that the report of Judge Richard Goldstone will be helpful in the lawsuits.

Israel said it would be countering the lawsuits, and that it is preparing legal teams but did not offer further details.

The Israeli Foreign Ministry said that it is working against the issue which it described as ‘efforts carried out by pro Palestinian groups and their supporters to harm Israel’.

Last month, former Israeli Army Chief of Staff, Moshe Yaalon, had to cancel a trip to London due to fears of being apprehended there.

Yaalon is the current vice Prime Minister and Minister of the so-called Strategic Affairs.

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Israel’s European Lobby

by Maidhc Ó Cathail, Dissident Voice, October 28, 2009

In their 2006 article “The Israel Lobby,” John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt famously assert, “Other special-interest groups have managed to skew foreign policy, but no lobby has managed to divert it as far from what the national interest would suggest, while simultaneously convincing Americans that US interests and those of the other country – in this case, Israel – are essentially identical.” Having for decades successfully steered policymaking in Washington in a pro-Israel direction, Israel’s American Lobby has more recently turned its attention to Europe. Despite its brief presence in Brussels, it appears to have already had marked success in influencing the nascent foreign policy of the European Union.

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US drone strikes may break international law: UN


The Raw Story, Oct 27, 2009

US drone strikes against suspected terrorists in Afghanistan and Pakistan could be breaking international laws against summary executions, the UN’s top investigator of such crimes said.

“The problem with the United States is that it is making an increased use of drones/Predators (which are) particularly prominently used now in relation to Pakistan and Afghanistan,” UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial Executions Philip Alston told a press conference.

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Pakistani army offensive devastates tribal communities

By James Cogan,, Oct 28, 2009

The ongoing Pakistani military offensive into the tribal agency of South Waziristan is having a devastating impact on the entire civilian population. Villages and towns are literally being bombed into rubble and tens of thousands of people have been forced to flee for their lives.

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Matthew Hoh: A Great American Patriot

Malou Innocent,, Oct 28, 2009


Former Marine captain Matthew Hoh became the first U.S. official known to resign in protest over the Afghan war. His letter of resignation echoes some arguments I have made earlier this year, namely, that what we are witnessing is a local and regional ethnic Pashtun population fighting against what they perceive to be a foreign occupation of their region; that our current strategy does not answer why and to what end we are pursuing this war; and that Afghanistan holds little intrinsic strategic value to the security of the United States.

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Wednesday, October 28, 2009

NY Times: Karzai’s Brother On C.I.A. Payroll

The Huffington Post, Oct 28, 2009

Afghanistan Karzai Brother

WASHINGTON � Ahmed Wali Karzai, the brother of the president of Afghanistan, gets regular payments from the CIA and has for much of the past eight years, The New York Times reported Tuesday.

The newspaper said that according to current and former American officials, the CIA pays Karzai for a variety of services, including helping to recruit an Afghan paramilitary force that operates at the CIA’s direction in and around Kandahar.

The CIA’s ties to Karzai, who is a suspected player in the country’s illegal opium trade, have created deep divisions within the Obama administration, the Times said.

Allegations that Karzai is involved in the drug trade have circulated in Kabul for months. He denies them.

Critics say the ties with Karzai complicate the United States’ increasingly tense relationship with his older brother, President Hamid Karzai. The CIA’s practices also suggest that the United States is not doing everything in its power to stamp out the lucrative Afghan drug trade, a major source of revenue for the Taliban.

Some American officials argue that the reliance on Ahmed Wali Karzai, a central figure in the south of the country where the Taliban is dominant, undermines the U.S. push to develop an effective central government that can maintain law and order and eventually allow the United States to withdraw.

“If we are going to conduct a population-centric strategy in Afghanistan, and we are perceived as backing thugs, then we are just undermining ourselves,” Maj. Gen. Michael T. Flynn, the senior American military intelligence official in Afghanistan, was quoted by the Times in an article published on its Web site.

Ahmed Wali Karzai told the Times that he cooperates with American civilian and military officials but does not engage in the drug trade and does not receive payments from the CIA.

Karzai helps the CIA operate a paramilitary group, the Kandahar Strike Force, that is used for raids against suspected insurgents and terrorists, according to several American officials. Karzai also is paid for allowing the CIA and American Special Operations troops to rent a large compound outside the city, which also is the base of the Kandahar Strike Force, the Times said.

Karzai also helps the CIA communicate with and sometimes meet with Afghans loyal to the Taliban, the newspaper reported.

CIA spokesman George Little declined to comment on the report.

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US-Israeli Missile Defense War Game Signals Israeli Attack on Iran

By Paul Craig Roberts, Information Clearing House, Oct 28, 2009

There’s no word in the Western press, but Al Jazeera reports that the US and Israel are conducting tests of the high altitude missile defense system that the US has provided to Israel.

The anti-missile system is useless against the short range rockets of Hamas and Hezbollah. Its purpose is to protect Israel from longer range Iranian missiles.

Everyone understands that Iran would not attack Israel except in retaliation. It is logical to conclude that the missile defense system signals an upcoming Israeli attack on Iran.

If the US were opposed to an Israeli attack on Iran, the US would not provide Israel with protection against retaliation and would not engage in war games with Israel to test the system. The best way to prevent an Israeli attack on Iran is to leave Israel open to retaliation.

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US Official Resigns in Protest over Afghan War

By sudhan

Foreign Service officer and former Marine captain says he no longer knows why his nation is fighting

by Karen DeYoung, The Washington Post, October 27, 2009

When Matthew Hoh joined the Foreign Service early this year, he was exactly the kind of smart civil-military hybrid the administration was looking for to help expand its development efforts in Afghanistan.

[Matthew Hoh was asked to stay in the job. (Gerald Martineau - The Washington Post) ]

Matthew Hoh was asked to stay in the job. (Gerald Martineau – The Washington Post)

A former Marine Corps captain with combat experience in Iraq, Hoh had also served in uniform at the Pentagon, and as a civilian in Iraq and at the State Department. By July, he was the senior U.S. civilian in Zabul province, a Taliban hotbed.

But last month, in a move that has sent ripples all the way to the White House, Hoh, 36, became the first U.S. official known to resign in protest over the Afghan war, which he had come to believe simply fueled the insurgency.

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Obama commits to slow surge decision

Morning Star Online, Tuesday 27 October 2009

by Tom Mellen
INCREASINGLY HATED: Anti-US protesters burning an effigy of Barack Obama

INCREASINGLY HATED: Anti-US protesters burning an effigy of Barack Obama

US President Barack Obama on Monday defied Republican pressure to announce an immediate military escalation in Afghanistan.

During a visit to Naval Air Station Jacksonville in Florida, Mr Obama told personnel: “While I will never hesitate to use force to protect the American people or our vital interests, I also promise you this – and this is very important as we consider our next steps in Afghanistan. I will never rush the solemn decision of sending you into harm’s way.

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Court hears Radovan Karadzic’s threats of Muslim slaughter

The Times /UK, Oct 28, 2009

David Charter in The Hague
Radovan Karadzic

Radovan Karadzic has refused to enter pleas

Image :1 of 2

Radovan Karadzic showed his contempt for international justice by shunning his own trial again yesterday, but the chilling threats he made before Europe’s worst atrocities since the Second World War still echoed around the UN courtroom.Judges in The Hague refused to let Dr Karadzic’s boycott disrupt the proceedings any further and the prosecution took full advantage. If the presence of the bereaved Mothers of Srebrenica who crowded the public gallery was not enough, transcripts of phone taps from 1991 reminded the court who they were dealing with.

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French FM Warns Israel May Soon Attack Iran

Iran Downplays Threat, Says Israel in No Position to Attack

by Jason Ditz,, October 26, 2009

During a visit to Lebanon, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said that time was of the essence to finalize a deal with Iran, cautioning that Israel might launch an attack against Iran soon in the absence of such a deal.

Bernard Kouchner

Kouchner also said that he didn’t believe sanctions were an effective way to deal with Iran, noting that they wind up disproportionately harming the poor and do little to those in power.

Speaking through the state media, Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki downplayed the threat, insisting that Israel was in a weak position and in no position to launch an attack against them.

Though the IAEA has insisted that the alleged “threat” posed by Iran’s civilian nuclear program is greatly exaggerated, Israel has repeatedly threatened to attack the nation if the international community didn’t force Iran to abandon it.

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MIDEAST: Is Jerusalem Burning?

Analysis by Jerrold Kessel and Pierre Klochendler, Inter Press Service

JERUSALEM, Oct 26 (IPS) – Déjà vu on one of the world’s most volatile religious sites, a site deeply revered by both Muslims and Jews.

On Sunday, Israeli police helicopters circle over the Al-Aqsa mosque and the adjacent Golden Dome of the Rock from where Muslims believe the Prophet Muhammad ascended to heaven and where, for Jews, two Biblical temples once stood.

In the narrow alleyways below, heavy Israeli police reinforcements, batons, tear-gas and shock grenades at the ready in order to confront young Palestinian protesters.

On the contested ‘Temple Mount’ (for Jews), ‘Haram el-Sharif’ or ‘Noble Sanctuary’ (for Muslims), clashes soon erupt – dozens are lightly injured on both sides; the Israeli police arrest 21 Palestinians, among them the former Palestinian Authority minister in charge of Jerusalem, Hatim Abdel Qader.

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Israel rations Palestinians to trickle of water

Amnesty International USA, 27 October 2009

Amnesty International has accused Israel of denying Palestinians the right to access adequate water by maintaining total control over the shared water resources and pursuing discriminatory policies.

These unreasonably restrict the availability of water in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT) and prevent the Palestinians developing an effective water infrastructure there.

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Monday, October 26, 2009

Americans pull strings in Afghan election

Eric Margolis, The Toronto Sun, October 25, 2009

Henry Kissinger once observed that being America’s ally can be more dangerous than being its enemy.

Take poor Hamid Karzai, the amiable former business consultant and CIA “asset” installed by Washington as Afghanistan’s president. As the U.S. increasingly gets its backside kicked in Afghanistan, it has blamed the powerless Karzai for its woes and bumbling.

You can almost hear Washington rebuking, “bad puppet! Bad puppet!”

The U.S. Congressional Research service just revealed it costs a staggering $1.3 million per annum to keep an American soldier in Afghanistan. Costs for Canadian troops are likely similar. This huge expense can’t go on forever.

The U.S. government has wanted to dump Karzai, but could not find an equally obedient but more effective replacement. There was talk of imposing an American “chief executive officer” on him. Or, in the lexicon of the old British Raj, an Imperial Viceroy.

Washington finally decided to try to shore up Karzai’s regime and give it some legitimacy by staging national elections in August. The UN, which has increasingly become an arm of U.S. foreign policy, was brought in to make the vote kosher. Canada eagerly joined this charade.

No political parties were allowed to run. Only individuals supporting the West’s occupation of Afghanistan were allowed on the ballot.

Occupation army

The vote was conducted under the guns of a foreign occupation army — a clear violation of international law. The U.S. funded the election commission and guarded polling places from a discreet distance. The Soviets were much more subtle when they rigged Afghan elections.

As I wrote before the election, it was all a great big fraud within a larger fraud designed to fool American, Canadian and European voters into believing democracy had flowered in Afghanistan. Cynical Afghans knew the vote would be rigged. Most Pashtun, the nation’s ethnic majority, didn’t vote. The “election” was an embarrassing fiasco.

To no surprise, Washington’s man in Kabul, Hamid Karzai, won. But his supporters went overboard in stuffing ballot boxes to avoid a possible runoff with rival Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, another American ally. The Karzai and Abdullah camps were bitterly feuding over division of U.S. aid and drug money that has totally corrupted Afghanistan.

The vote was discredited, thwarting the Obama administration’s plans to use the election as justification for sending more troops to Afghanistan. The White House’s Plan B: Forcing its two feuding “assets,” Karzai and Abdullah, into a coalition. But two puppets on a string are no better than one.

Washington just arm-twisted Karzai into agreeing to a run-off vote that will likely be as bogus as the last one. In Afghanistan, ethnicity and tribe trump everything else. Karzai is a Pashtun, but has almost no roots in tribal politics.

The suave Abdullah, who is also in Washington’s pocket, is half Pashtun, half Tajik. But he is seen as a Tajik who speaks for this ethnic minority which detests and scorns the majority Pashtun. Tajiks will vote for Abdullah, Pashtun will not. If the U.S. manages to force Abdullah into a coalition with Karzai, Pashtun — 55% of the population — won’t back the new regime which many Afghans will see as western yes-men and Tajik-dominated.

Abdullah also has some very unsavoury friends from the north: Former Afghan Communist Party bigwigs Mohammed Fahim and Uzbek warlord Rashid Dostam — both major war criminals. Behind them stand the Tajik Northern Alliance and resurrected Afghan Communist Party, both funded by Russia and backed by Iran and India.

Ironically, the U.S. is now closely allied with the Afghan Communists and fighting its former Pashtun allies from the 1980s anti-Soviet struggle. Most North Americans have no idea they are now backing Afghan Communists and the men who control most of Afghanistan’s booming drug trade.

If Hamid Karzai really wants to establish himself as an authentic national leader, he should demand the U.S. and NATO withdraw their occupation forces and let Afghans settle their own disputes in traditional ways.

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Administrative Detention in Israel: Palestinians Behind Bars with No Recourse to Justice

By Christoph Schult, Spiegel Online International, Oct 23, 2009

Hundreds of Palestinians are kept behind bars in Israel without charges having been filed and with no access to a fair trial. Not even their lawyers are allowed to look at the evidence. Some governments in the West have expressed their concern, but the Israelis haven’t budged.

The cell is only a few square meters in size and there are no windows. A mattress lies on the floor; a hole in the floor for prisoners’ needs, cynically called a “Turkish toilet” is next to it.

Mohammed Othman has been held in Kishon Detention Center in northern Israel for almost a month. But neither he nor his lawyer knows exactly what he is being accused of. Othman is locked up as an administrative detainee — called Maazar Minhali in Hebrew — and is one of around 335 Palestinians currently in the same position.

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Thousands in London call for troops home now

Morning Star Online, Sunday 25 October 2009

Lizzie Cocker in Trafalgar Square
UNITED: Trafalgar Square packed with protesters

A soldier facing two years in jail for refusing to return to Afghanistan defied the army on Saturday to lead thousands of anti-war marchers through the streets of London.

Lance Corporal Joe Glenton, along with former soldiers and military families, stood shoulder to shoulder with demonstrators who branded Gordon Brown and the US president – who plan to pour over 20,000 more troops into Afghanistan – terrorists.

Speaking from the platform later to anti-war activists packed into Trafalgar Square, L/Cpl Glenton said: “I’m here today to make a stand beside you because I believe great wrongs have been perpetrated in Afghanistan.”

As children, students, trade unionists, pensioners and dedicated peace campaigners from across the country braved the threatening weather to demand the return of troops, a poll was released showing that over half the British public supported them.

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The infirmity of noble minds

Badri Raina, The Hindu/India, October 25, 2009

When George W. Bush lost the American Presidency to Barack Hussein Obama the better part of the world breathed again. Something had actually happened that reversed many dearly-held political and Biblical myths. Christian red-necks had lost out to a very young man with a Muslim lineage and middle name. And a white knight on a white horse (house) had been bested by a dark knight on a dark steed. Racist warmongers were flabbergasted to see that in the land of the brave and the free, a dark man need not anymore be a Prince of Darkness but a source of light. And that those who had peddled themselves as the torch-bearers of light were pronounced the sources of darkness at home and abroad. This writer was sufficiently enthused to write a long poem which found its way to the Obama website. Not a panegyric, but one that celebrated but cautioned even as it celebrated.

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Stop the War Coalition demonstration in London

Dr George Barnsby, The Barnsby Blog, No. 957, October 26, 2009

Today’s website of Barack Obama again shows a splendid animated portrait of the President’s First Lady but the question of whether she is more warlike than the President who promised so much to the world only a month ago be stating that he would ban all nuclear weapons, but has only of yet intensified the conflict by sending more troops to Afghanistan and elsewhere. Today we have had reports of the great demonstration in London which the Observer reported held up the traffic in Central London as the tens of thousands of protesters marched from Hyde Party to Trafalgar Square
in a series of event organised by the Stop the War Coalition. Highlights were the procession being led by Lance Corporal Joe Glenton who bids fair to become a national hero at the same time as he is prosecuted by the military for refusing to return to the fighting in Afghanistan .No less heroic are the parents of soldiers who have perished in the conflict. Peter Brierley whose son was killed in Iraq in 2003 who refused to shake hands with Tony Blair and told him he had blood on his hands for which he would pay. He also was leading the parade whose theme, of course, was the ending of wars, bringing the troops home and allowing their peoples to solve their own

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Robert Bernstein: Human Shield for Criticism of Israel

Palestinians are routinely subjected to violence–often lethal–at the hands of the IDF.
By Max Kantar, The Palestine Chronicle, Oct 24, 2009

Earlier this week the New York Times published an op-ed article, Rights Watchdog, ‘Lost in the Mideast’ written by Robert L. Bernstein, the founding chairman emeritus of Human Rights Watch.

The editorial amounts to one regurgitation of Israeli propaganda after another in an effort to delegitimize mainstream criticism of Israeli policies in the international human rights community. The timing of Bernstein’s article is instructive; its publication in the New York Times comes on the heels of the release of the Goldstone Report as the intellectual apologists for Israeli crimes in the U.S. go into ultra-hysteria mode to save the already eroding image of their favorite client state. Bernstein decries HRW for its supposed anti-Israel bias and unleashes a tirade of familiar accusations routinely invoked by ‘supporters of Israel’ to deflect criticism of the Jewish state. To make the case that HRW–and presumably the international human rights community in general—has ‘lost critical perspective’ on Israel-Palestine, Bernstein cites six major points:

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Saturday, October 24, 2009

Obama’s Peace

Joseph Massad
By Joseph Massad, Al-Ahram Weekly, 15 – 21 October, 2009

For his continued wars against Pakistanis, Afghanis, and Iraqis, his support for the overthrow of democracy in Honduras, his abetting dictatorships across the Arab and Muslim worlds (which his government finances, arms, and trains in torture methods), his planning for a possible invasion of Iran, and his enthusiastic support for the racist Israeli settler colony (and its colonial wars and occupations against Palestinians), President Barack Obama received the Nobel “Peace” Prize. This comes as no surprise, as Obama joins a long list of recipients of this sham of a prize, who are distinguished for similar “peaceful” pursuits. These include terrorists like Menachem Begin, war criminals like Henry Kissinger, ethnic-cleansing colonial generals like Yitzhak Rabin, dictators like Anwar Sadat, corrupt politicians like Yasser Arafat, and imperial presidents like Jimmy Carter. Granting this overambitious power-hungry man the recognition of the Nobel committee is therefore most apt.

Obama’s most recent pursuit of peace has been to force the corrupt Palestinian Authority to discard the United Nations-issued Goldstone Report which detailed the war crimes committed by Israel in its murderous war against Palestinian civilians in Gaza ten months ago. Indeed, the first Black American President has just enjoined the Palestinians and Arab and Muslim countries from the pulpit of the United Nations to recognize Israel’s right to be a racist “Jewish State.” One wonders what the American reaction would be if Palestinian and Arab leaders would call on Obama and on African Americans to recognize the right of the United States to be a white state.

This is the same Obama whose hubris was of such caliber that when he gave his infamous speech in Cairo several months ago he did not grieve the tens of thousands of Arab, including Egyptian, civilians killed by Israel’s six decade-long wars and massacres against them; nor did he show solidarity with the millions of Arabs who were rendered refugees (including one million Egyptians during the War of Attrition) by Israel’s barbaric bombings. Instead, Obama chose to give Arabs a lesson in European Jewish history and enjoined them to appreciate the holocaust committed by European Christians against European Jews and not the ongoing Nakba committed by European Jewish colonial settlers against Arabs. He has even forbidden Palestinians or other Arabs from ever attempting to destroy Israel’s racist structures to end its racist rule. Indeed, Obama threatened Arabs that any attempt by them to destroy the racist basis of the Jewish state would be seen as tantamount to a holocaust. One wonders if he thinks ending segregation in the United States and Apartheid in South Africa were tantamount to the extermination of white people! This is also the same Obama who, in order to fend off the accusation of being Muslim, told us during his electoral campaign that not only was he a Christian, but that he prays to Jesus every night and that the blood of Jesus Christ will redeem him.

But general wisdom in the US has it that the election of Obama, even if it did not instantiate any change in US imperial policy abroad, has been the best thing that happened to most Americans, or at least to white liberal Americans and all African Americans, at the domestic level. This is a largely mistaken conclusion. Obama in my estimation is the worst thing that happened in recent years to African Americans, who continue to face institutional, structural, economic, cultural, social, and personal discrimination on a daily basis. The racism that informs US domestic policy and causes the poverty of African Americans is not unrelated to the racism that informs US imperial policies that impoverish Egyptians, Palestinians, Hondurans, Iraqis, and Afghanis.

Obama’s election has been best for white liberal Americans whose conscience can be assuaged by pretending that they are not racist at all and that indeed America is no longer a racist place evidenced by the election of a black man to the presidency. The fact that today African Americans are less educated and poorer than they were in the 1960s is immaterial to this self-congratulatory logic. Neither is the fact that there are more African American men today (in relative and absolute numbers) in America’s racist jails than there had been at the height of Apartheid in South Africa. As for Obama’s ongoing policies on education and racialized crime, they of course continue the policies of his white predecessors in pushing for more corporatization of schools and jails and busting teachers unions in the interest of the white business class.

But Obama is the culmination of white liberal hopes entertained since the early seventies when the language of racism was transformed, as an effect of the cooptation of the Civil Rights movement, into a culturalist language. Black people were not inferior racially, white liberals averred, “their problem” was diagnosed as “cultural.” The feeling was that if black Americans would simply speak and act like a fantasized white middle class and adopt its social and cultural values, they would cease to face discrimination and they would break the “cycle of poverty.” Reform, it was decided, should aim to effect such transformation. The black middle class, formed in the late nineteenth century in the wake of the abolition of slavery, though a small minority among African Americans, was seen as a model to be emulated. Indeed white liberal remedies like Affirmative Action (the largest beneficiaries of which were and still are white women and not African Americans) when it benefited any blacks at all, it did so by benefiting the established small black middle class. It was conservative members of this class who, after reaping its benefits, would advocate against Affirmative Action. Thus, white women and middle class African Americans benefited from a program that improved little in the lives of most African Americans, while the latter would increasingly be blamed for benefiting from it at the expense of white men –a refrain used by most white conservatives and not a few white liberals!

As Derrick Bell has eloquently demonstrated, Affirmative Action is a cover for a system by which racism continues to be institutionalized and African Americans continue to be blamed for refusing to improve their lives despite alleged Herculean efforts on their behalf. Some of the culturalist arguments of white liberals centered on Affirmative Action’s production of white-acting black folks who would join the ranks of “hard-working Americans,” a racist code that refers to white people which Obama often invokes in his speeches. The fantasy of low-grade American television programs in the late 1970s and 1980s like “Different Strokes” and “Webster” was to demonstrate that if white families were afforded the opportunity to raise black kids, these kids would end up as model citizens; indeed, they could grow up to become presidents one day. It was culture, you see, not race!

Obama was of course not only raised by his white Christian mother and her family (something he –and Joe Biden –never tired of reminding us during his electoral campaign to fend off his paternal Muslim contamination), but even his black father was African and not African American. Passing him off as an example of what happens when African Americans are raised the “right way” is the pride and joy of white liberals enamored of their own culturalist-cum-racist ideology and inebriated by virulent American nationalism. Obama’s continuation of America’s imperial wars and aggressions is proof that if you put an African American in office who is raised “the right way,” he will perform his imperial duties as well as any white president. Obama’s winning the Nobel Peace Prize was therefore a major gain for white liberal Americans who can bask in the sun of their achievement. For after all, producing a few African Americans in the form of Barack Obama can and will silence whoever can still muster the courage to criticize this thoroughly racist system dubbed “American democracy” which continues to victimize most African Americans and much of the Third World.

The writer is associate professor of modern Arab politics and intellectual history at Columbia University.

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Burma: Release Political Prisoners Before Election

Scoop, Friday, 23 October 2009, 10:28 am
Press Release: United Nations

Myanmar: UN Expert Urges Release Of All Political Prisoners Before Elections

New York, Oct 22 2009 5:10PM An independent United Nations expert has called on Myanmar’s Government to release all political prisoners before the national elections planned for 2010 so that the polls can be as inclusive as possible.

“I told the Government that these elections should be fair and transparent, that freedom of speech, movement and association should be guaranteed in the country, and of course that all prisoners of conscience should be released before those elections,” Tomás Ojea Quintana told a news conference in New York.

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Amnesty International Calls on Pakistani Army to Stop Harassment of Mehsud Tribe

Amnesty International, October 22, 2009

WASHINGTON – October 22 – The Pakistani military must stop its harassment of civilians from the Mehsud tribe as they flee the government’s latest offensive against the Pakistani Taliban in the northwest of the country, Amnesty International said today.

The Pakistani military refused to allow Mehsud members to use major roads in fleeing the conflict zone, witnesses told Amnesty International. Some of the tribe members are involved in the senior leadership of the Pakistani Taliban.

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