30 June 2010
Why is West not doing anything in face of upcoming stoning of Iranian woman?
Published: 06.30.10, 18:01 / Israel Opinion
Sakineh Ashitani has been sentenced to death by stoning in Iran. The image of the miserable woman being led to her death, the hurling of the stones, the saliva dripping from the beards, and the madness in the eyes of the people around her cannot be dismissed as some natural anomaly.
The Iranian adulteress will be finding herself in the same situation faced by previous “sinners” in Iran. We can assume that some Westerners will take a few minutes to click their tongues with unease. Yet we know that the day after we shall wake up to find no commotion whatsoever. We’ll wake up to silence.
After all, everyone understands that there are more important people than another stoned woman in Iran. There’s Israel, and the occupation, and the debate over sanctions and commercial ties with Tehran; and so, the bodies in Iran keep piling up, while the people who on other occasions know how to ask tough questions suddenly grow silent.
The paradox is that Iranian brutality in fact provides a clear reflection of all the silent states that don’t care at all about human life, but rather, only concern themselves with future profits.
Just try to examine the real attitude of this world’s main institutions to Iran, a state where you can be stoned over espionage, violating religious laws, protesting against the government, homosexuality, or just for spiting Ahmadinejad or the Ayatollahs.
Where is Obama?
A few weeks ago, Iran became an official member of the UN’s Women’s Rights Commission, a group established after World War II in order to turn this world into a better place. Now let’s not pretend that UN voters did now know that Iran, the latest senior member of the commission, is not exactly a women’s rights fan.
So while officials in Tehran engage in debates on whether a woman has the right to end her life under a barrage of small stones while she’s buried chest-high, or maybe she has the right to ask for larger stones to be hurled at her, the very same Iran is tasked with protecting global women’s rights in New York.
And will our just world, that is, the Western states whose tax funds sponsor the meetings of the women’s rights commission, do anything about it? Will these states veto Iran’s membership in the commission? And will the US, headed by the most pro-human rights president in its history, embark on a loud campaign against the injustice and immediately cut its funding to the commission? We can assume that the answer is “no.”
After all, these days there is so much work to be accomplished in respect to the Iranian flotilla to Israel; who has time for yet another stoned adulteress? Or as the Persians say, one woman here, one woman there, who cares, as long as law and order is maintained. Otherwise we would just be a bunch of barbarians.
Despite wider remit, soldiers won't be questioned in Gaza flotilla probe - Haaretz Daily Newspaper | Israel News
29 June 2010
28 June 2010
27 June 2010
Neither the Long Depression of the 19th century nor the Great Depression of the 20th was an era of nonstop decline — on the contrary, both included periods when the economy grew. But these episodes of improvement were never enough to undo the damage from the initial slump, and were followed by relapses.
We are now, I fear, in the early stages of a third depression. It will probably look more like the Long Depression than the much more severe Great Depression. But the cost — to the world economy and, above all, to the millions of lives blighted by the absence of jobs — will nonetheless be immense.
And this third depression will be primarily a failure of policy. Around the world — most recently at last weekend’s deeply discouraging G-20 meeting — governments are obsessing about inflation when the real threat is deflation, preaching the need for belt-tightening when the real problem is inadequate spending.
In 2008 and 2009, it seemed as if we might have learned from history. Unlike their predecessors, who raised interest rates in the face of financial crisis, the current leaders of the Federal Reserve and the European Central Bank slashed rates and moved to support credit markets. Unlike governments of the past, which tried to balance budgets in the face of a plunging economy, today’s governments allowed deficits to rise. And better policies helped the world avoid complete collapse: the recession brought on by the financial crisis arguably ended last summer.
But future historians will tell us that this wasn’t the end of the third depression, just as the business upturn that began in 1933 wasn’t the end of the Great Depression. After all, unemployment — especially long-term unemployment — remains at levels that would have been considered catastrophic not long ago, and shows no sign of coming down rapidly. And both the United States and Europe are well on their way toward Japan-style deflationary traps.
In the face of this grim picture, you might have expected policy makers to realize that they haven’t yet done enough to promote recovery. But no: over the last few months there has been a stunning resurgence of hard-money and balanced-budget orthodoxy.
As far as rhetoric is concerned, the revival of the old-time religion is most evident in Europe, where officials seem to be getting their talking points from the collected speeches of Herbert Hoover, up to and including the claim that raising taxes and cutting spending will actually expand the economy, by improving business confidence. As a practical matter, however, America isn’t doing much better. The Fed seems aware of the deflationary risks — but what it proposes to do about these risks is, well, nothing. The Obama administration understands the dangers of premature fiscal austerity — but because Republicans and conservative Democrats in Congress won’t authorize additional aid to state governments, that austerity is coming anyway, in the form of budget cuts at the state and local levels.
Why the wrong turn in policy? The hard-liners often invoke the troubles facing Greece and other nations around the edges of Europe to justify their actions. And it’s true that bond investors have turned on governments with intractable deficits. But there is no evidence that short-run fiscal austerity in the face of a depressed economy reassures investors. On the contrary: Greece has agreed to harsh austerity, only to find its risk spreads growing ever wider; Ireland has imposed savage cuts in public spending, only to be treated by the markets as a worse risk than Spain, which has been far more reluctant to take the hard-liners’ medicine.
It’s almost as if the financial markets understand what policy makers seemingly don’t: that while long-term fiscal responsibility is important, slashing spending in the midst of a depression, which deepens that depression and paves the way for deflation, is actually self-defeating.
So I don’t think this is really about Greece, or indeed about any realistic appreciation of the tradeoffs between deficits and jobs. It is, instead, the victory of an orthodoxy that has little to do with rational analysis, whose main tenet is that imposing suffering on other people is how you show leadership in tough times.
And who will pay the price for this triumph of orthodoxy? The answer is, tens of millions of unemployed workers, many of whom will go jobless for years, and some of whom will never work again.
A version of this op-ed appeared in print on June 28, 2010, on page A19 of the New York edition.
MANAMA: Israel is massing warplanes in the Caucasus for an attack on Iran, it was revealed yesterday.
Preparations are underway to launch the military attack from Azerbaijan and Georgia, reports our sister paper Akhbar Al Khaleej, quoting military sources.
Israel was, in fact, training pilots in Turkey to launch the strike and was smuggling planes into Georgia using Turkish airspace, they said.
However, Turkey was unaware of Israel's intention of transferring the planes to Georgia, the sources said.
The unexpected crisis between Israel and Turkey following an Israeli commando raid on an aid flotilla bound for Gaza Strip hit Israeli calculations.
Azerbaijan-based intelligence units, working under the cover of technicians, trainers and consultants, have helped with the preparations, the sources said.
Military equipment, mostly supplied by the US, was transported to a Georgian port via the Black Sea.
Georgian coastguard and Israeli controllers are co-operating to hide the operations from Russian vessels, said the sources.
They point out that according to Israel, it will not be in a position to launch a strike on Iran without using bases in Georgia and Azerbaijan due to the limited capabilities of its nuclear submarines stationed near the Iranian coast.
Meanwhile, Iran's Press TV reported that a very large contingent of US ground forces had massed in Azerbaijan, near the Iranian border. The independent Azerbaijani news website Trend confirmed the report.
Those reports came just days after the Pentagon confirmed that an unusually large fleet of US warships had indeed passed through Egypt's Suez Canal en route to the Gulf. At least one Israeli warship reportedly joined the American armada.
Press TV also quoted Iranian Revolultionary Guard Brigadier General Mehdi Moini as saying that the country's forces are mobilised and ready to face Israelli and American "misadventures" near its borders.
* Iran last night said it has cancelled plans to send an aid ship to the Gaza Strip as Israel "had sent a letter to the UN saying that the presence of Iranian and Lebanese ships in the Gaza area will be considered a declaration of war on that regime and it will confront it," Irna said.
25 June 2010
6:05: SKIRMISH ON COLLEGE STREET
5:15 RIOT GEAR Police have donned riot gear and look daunting as they form a line at College and Bay. A cop told the Star's Jennifer Yang: "Move aside now. That's a clue."
The province has secretly passed an unprecedented regulation that empowers police to arrest anyone near the G20 security zone who refuses to identify themselves or agree to a police search.
However, Toronto’s police chief says concerns about the new powers – which he requested – are overblown.
A 31-year-old man has already been arrested under the new regulation, which was quietly passed by the provincial cabinet on June 2.
The regulation was made under Ontario’s Public Works Protection Act and was not debated in the Legislature. According to a provincial spokesperson, the cabinet action came in response to an “extraordinary request” by Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair, who wanted additional policing powers shortly after learning the G20 was coming to Toronto.
The regulation kicked in Monday and will expire June 28, the day after the summit ends. While the new regulation appeared without notice on the province’s e-Laws online database last week, it won’t be officially published in The Ontario Gazette until July 3 — one week after the regulation expires.
At a news conference Friday, a clearly exasperated Blair insisted that the temporary new rules of engagement had a very limited scope.
People “have a right not to identify themselves. They may leave. If they try to force their way in, they will be arrested,” Blair said. “The five-metre zone around the fence is to protect the barrier. We've all seen film of people trying to pull the fence down. We want to make sure people aren't pulling down the fence.”
Blair also took issue with the suggestion that the new regulation had been passed in secret.
“It’s not a new law, it’s not a secret law,” he said. “If you Google ‘Public Works Protection Act, Ontario’ ” it's there, he said.
“I think they were getting some information that they could breach this fence without any legal consequences, and they now know that that's not true,” Blair said. “And I hope they are deterred.
“We have heard from a number of individuals who have frankly said they're going to come here and wreck the place.
“We need to make sure we have the proper authority to deal with those threats.”
Critics who first learned about the new arrest powers yesterday had a very different view.
“It’s just unbelievable you would have this kind of abuse of power where the cabinet can create this offence without having it debated in the Legislature,” said Howard Morton, the lawyer representing Dave Vasey, who was arrested Thursday under the sweeping new police powers.
“It was just done surreptitiously, like a mushroom growing under a rock at night.”
According to the new regulation, “guards” appointed under the act can arrest anyone who, in specific areas, comes within five metres of the security zone.
Within those areas, police can demand identification from anyone coming within five metres of the fence perimeter and search them. If they refuse, they face arrest. Anyone convicted under the regulation could also face up to two months in jail or a $500 maximum fine.
“It reminds me a little bit of the War Measures Act,” said lawyer Nathalie Des Rosiers of the new regulation. Des Rosiers is a lawyer with the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, which has been working to monitor arrests during the summit. “This is highly unusual to have this declaration done by order-in-council without many people knowing about it.”
Des Rosiers learned of the regulation Thursday afternoon, shortly after Vasey was arrested while standing near the security fence.
Vasey said he was exploring the G20 security perimeter with a friend when they were stopped by police and asked for identification. Vasey says he had also been searched by police the night before.
According to Vasey, police explained there was a bylaw in place obligating him to provide identification but he refused, acting on the advice of a “Know Your Rights” information pamphlet given to him by the Toronto Community Mobilization Network, a group assisting protesters.
The York University master’s student was taken into custody at around 4 p.m. He was brought to the Eastern Ave. detention centre, a former movie studio that has been temporarily converted into a prisoner holding pen. According to his charge sheet, he was charged with refusing to comply with a peace officer under the act.
Vasey said he only learned of the new regulation after his release, at around 9 p.m. The summit’s Integrated Security Unit did not respond to interview requests from the Star.
According to Vasey’s lawyer, neither he nor his colleagues at the law union were aware of this draconian new regulation. Des Rosiers said the CCLA and protesters have met with summit officials on several occasions and the regulation was never mentioned.
“They don’t even have signs up saying you can’t be within five metres or you’re subject to the following,” Morton said. “If they really wanted to keep the peace, they would have announced the regulation.”
According to Laura Blondeau, an aide to Community Safety Minister Rick Bartolucci, the regulation “ensures that police have the legal authority” they need for such a massive security zone.
“They really wanted to ensure they could provide a certain level of security,” Blondeau said Thursday. “The regulation does not include private residences or businesses. It’s for certain streets and sidewalks in the security perimeter.”
Blondeau said “rightly or wrongly,” the new regulation can be compared with airport security.
“You don’t have to get on that plane if you don’t want to be searched and wanded,” she said, adding that Bartolucci carefully weighed public safety and civil liberty concerns before agreeing to the one-time amendment.
“It was an extraordinary request. This is just for Toronto, just for the G20,” she said. “Given the environment that the police were expecting, they needed to be prepared.”
Blondeau emphasized the law only affects those trying to enter the security zone and applies solely to police officers, not to private security guards contracted for the summit.
If someone declines to comply it empowers the police to turn them away — or face being searched.
According to government lawyers, the regulation was passed by cabinet using what is known as a “covering” order-in-council.
“The authority for the regulation is contained in the PWPA (Public Works Protection Act). The PWPA authorizes the designation by cabinet of places as ‘public works,’” the lawyers said.
The Public Works Protection Act was created in 1990 and defines a “public work” as everything from a railway to a bridge or a provincial building. The act says any other building, place or work can also be “designated a public work by the Lieutenant Governor in Council.”
Morton said he’s unaware of any precedents to such a regulation being passed in Ontario and questions if it is even constitutional.
Des Rosiers said the regulation runs contrary to the Charter of Rights because it prohibits people from generally circulating on public land.
The G20 security fence has been a magnet for passersby and protesters alike, with many people approaching to take pictures or just quench their curiosity.
For Des Rosiers, she is especially worried because most people, including protesters, will operate under the assumption they have a right to refuse handing over identification to police.
“Protesters would have been told that the law of the land is that you don’t have to talk to police officers if you don’t want to,” she said. “This changes things because even if you attempt to approach, it gives the power to the guard to demand identification.
“It’s a significant intrusion on people’s rights.”
With files from Robyn Doolittle, Robert Benzie and Jayme Poisson
TORONTO (Reuters) – A Canadian judge handed protesters of the G20 summit in Toronto a small victory on Friday, restricting the use of a controversial sound cannon for crowd control.
Toronto police agreed to amend their guidelines for use of the cannon, keeping volumes below the maximum and not using the device from close distances.
The portable loudspeakers are also known as sonic guns because the volume, specifically on the "alert" function that emits an ear-piercing beeping sound, can be turned up so high they can be used as weapons.
"I have concluded that a very real likelihood exists that demonstrators may suffer damage to their hearing from the proposed use of the Alert function at certain distances and volumes," Ontario Superior Court Justice David Brown wrote in his ruling.
The Canadian Civil Liberties Association and the Canadian Labour Congress had sought an injunction curbing police use of the cannon, and their lawyer, Paul Cavalluzzo, said Toronto police "went overboard."
"What this application shows ... is that the police are accountable to the citizens of Toronto, that police are there to serve and protect us, not to endanger our safety," he said.
Police said they hoped they would never have to use the device. "We'll use the alert if necessary in accordance with the guidance by the court," police Staff Superintendent Jeff McGuire said. "We would hope not to have to use it and quite frankly I'd be surprised if we do."
Canada is spending about C$1 billion on security for two international summits this week, with much of that going to control thousands of protesters who are using the events to push demands to end global poverty and address climate change.
On Friday and Saturday, leaders from the Group of Eight industrialized nations are meeting in Huntsville, Ontario, about two hours' drive north of Toronto. The Group of 20 nations will then gather in Toronto on Saturday and Sunday.
Protests have begun at both locations and have been mostly peaceful.
(Reporting by Claire Sibonney and Pav Jordan; Editing by Peter Cooney)
the blogger adds: when the police are free to assault law abiding citizens who are peaceably congregating for the sole purpose of resisting greedy, rich men from Europe, Israel and America from further destroying the quality of life in their country any further, freedom does not exist. When the police are merely bodyguards for the wealthy and have weapons that cause grievous injury or use deadly force against the common people, we live in a Soviet style system. America, her allies and the Israelis have learned the lessons taught by Adolph Hitler perfectly and have delivered Nazism, Stalinism to the United States, destroying the Republic by replacing it with a plutocracy of idiots in bed with a thriving, budding corpocracy. No American should be proud of our lack of morals and civility.
When The Washington Post's Dana Priest first revealed (in passing) back in January that the Obama administration had compiled a hit list of American citizens targeted for assassination, she wrote that "as of several months ago, the CIA list included three U.S. citizens." In April, both the Post and the NYT confirmed that the administration had specifically authorized the assassination of Anwar al-Awlaki. Today, The Washington Times' Eli Lake has an interview with Obama's top Terrorism adviser John Brennan in which Brennan strongly suggests that the number of U.S. citizens targeted for assassination could actually be "dozens":
Dozens of Americans have joined terrorist groups and are posing a threat to the United States and its interests abroad, the president's most senior adviser on counterterrorism and homeland security said Thursday. . . . "There are, in my mind, dozens of U.S. persons who are in different parts of the world, and they are very concerning to us," said John O. Brennan, deputy White House national security adviser for homeland security and counterterrorism. . . .
"If a person is a U.S. citizen, and he is on the battlefield in Afghanistan or Iraq trying to attack our troops, he will face the full brunt of the U.S. military response," Mr. Brennan said. "If an American person or citizen is in a Yemen or in a Pakistan or in Somalia or another place, and they are trying to carry out attacks against U.S. interests, they also will face the full brunt of a U.S. response. And it can take many forms."
Nobody -- or at least not me -- disputes the right of the U.S. or any other country to kill someone on an actual battlefield during war without due process. That's just obvious, but that's not remotely what Brennan is talking about, and it's not remotely what this assassination program is about. Indeed, Brennan explicitly identified two indistinguishable groups of American citizens who "will face the full brunt of a U.S. response": (1) those "on the battlefield in Afghanistan or Iraq"; and (2) those "in a Yemen or in a Pakistan or in Somalia or another place." In other words, the entire world is a "battlefield" -- countries where there is a war and countries where there isn't -- and the President's "battlefield" powers, which are unlimited, extend everywhere. That theory -- the whole world is a battlefield, even the U.S. -- was the core premise that spawned 8 years of Bush/Cheney radicalism, and it has been adopted in full by the Obama administration (indeed, it was that "whole-world-is-a-battlefield" theory which Elena Kagan explicitly endorsed during her confirmation hearing for Solicitor General).
Anyone who doubts that the Obama administration has adopted the core Terrorism policies of Bush/Cheney should listen to the concession -- or boast -- which Brennan himself made in his interview with Lake:
Mr. Brennan toward the end of the interview acknowledged that, despite some differences, there is considerable continuity between the counterterrorism policies of President Bush and President Obama.
"There has been a lot of continuity of effort here from the previous administration to this one," he said. "There are some important distinctions, but sometimes there is too much made of those distinctions. We are building upon some of the good foundational work that has been done."
I would really like never to hear again the complaint that comparing Bush and Obama's Terrorism and civil liberties policies is unfair, invalid or hyperbolic given that Obama's top Terrorism adviser himself touts that comparison. And that's anything but a surprise, given that Brennan was a Bush-era CIA official who defended many of the most controversial Bush/Cheney Terrorism policies.
I've written at length about the reasons why targeting American citizens for assassination who are far away from a "battlefield" is so odious and tyrannical, and I won't repeat those arguments here. Suffice to say -- and I'm asking this literally -- if you're someone who believes, or are at least willing to acquiesce to the claim, that the U.S. President has the power to target your fellow citizens for assassination without a whiff of due process, what unchecked presidential powers wouldn't you support or acquiesce to? I'd really like to hear an answer to that. That's the question Al Gore asked about George Bush in a 2006 speech condemning Bush's claimed powers merely to eavesdrop on and imprison American citizens without charges, let alone assassinate them: "If the answer is yes, then under the theory by which these acts are committed, are there any acts that can on their face be prohibited? . . . If the president has th[is] inherent authority. . . . then what can't he do?" Can anyone defending this Obama policy answer that question?
One other thing that is truly amazing: the U.S. tried to import this same due-process-free policy to Afghanistan. There, the U.S. last year compiled a "hit list" of 50 Afghan citizens whose assassination it authorized on the alleged ground (never charged or convicted) that they were drug "kingpins" or funding the Talbian. You know what happened? This:
A U.S. military hit list of about 50 suspected drug kingpins is drawing fierce opposition from Afghan officials, who say it could undermine their fragile justice system and trigger a backlash against foreign troops. . . .
Gen. Mohammad Daud Daud, Afghanistan's deputy interior minister for counternarcotics efforts . . . said he worried that foreign troops would now act on their own to kill suspected drug lords, based on secret evidence, instead of handing them over for trial . . . "They should respect our law, our constitution and our legal codes," Daud . "We have a commitment to arrest these people on our own" . . . .
The U.S. military and NATO officials have authorized their forces to kill or capture individuals on the list, which was drafted within the past year as part of NATO's new strategy to combat drug operations that finance the Taliban.. . . . "There is a constitutional problem here. A person is innocent unless proven guilty," [Ali Ahmad Jalali, a former Afghan interior minister] said. "If you go off to kill or capture them, how do you prove that they are really guilty in terms of legal process?"
In other words, Afghans -- the people we're occupying in order to teach about Freedom and Democracy -- are far more protective of due process and the rule of law for their own citizens than Americans are who meekly submit to Obama's identical policy of assassination for their fellow citizens. It might make more sense for Afghanistan to invade and occupy the U.S. in order to spread the rule of law and constitutional values here.
What makes all this most remarkable is the level of screeching protests Democrats engaged in when Bush merely wanted to eavesdrop on and detain Americans without any judicial oversight or due process. Remember all that? Click here and here for a quick refresher. Yet here is Barack Obama doing far worse to them than that without any due process or judicial oversight -- he's targeting them for assassination -- and there is barely a peep of protest from the same Party that spent years depicting "mere" warrantless eavesdropping and due-process-free detention to be the acts of a savage, lawless tyrant. And, of course, Obama himself back then joined in those orgies of condemnation, as reflected by this December, 2008, answer he gave to Charlie Savage, then of The Boston Globe, regarding his views of executive power:
5. Does the Constitution permit a president to detain US citizens without charges as unlawful enemy combatants?
[Obama]: No. I reject the Bush Administration's claim that the President has plenary authority under the Constitution to detain U.S. citizens without charges as unlawful enemy combatants.
So back then, Obama said the President lacks the power merely to detain U.S. citizens without charges; indeed, when asked if "the Constitution permit[s]" that, he responded: "no." Yet now, as President, he claims the power to assassinate them without charges. Could even his hardest-core loyalists try to reconcile that with a straight face? As Spencer Ackerman documented in April, not even John Yoo claimed that the President possessed the power Obama is claiming here. Given Brennan's strong suggestion that there are not merely three but "dozens" of Americans who are being targeted or at least could be ("they also will face the full brunt of a U.S. response") -- and given the huge number of times the Government has falsely accused individuals of Terrorism and its demonstrated willingness to imprison knowingly innocent detainees -- is it time yet to have a debate about whether we think the President should be able to exercise a power like this?
TORONTO - Police forces in charge of security for the G20 in Toronto have been granted special powers for the duration of the summit.The new powers took effect Monday and apply only along the border of the G20 security fence that encircles a portion of the downtown core. This so-called red zone includes the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, where delegates will meet.
The new powers are designed specifically for the G20, CBC's Colin Butler reported Friday.
Ontario's cabinet quietly passed the new rules on June 2 without legislature debate.
Sgt. Tim Burrows of the G8/G20 Integrated Security Unit said the new regulations make parts of the existing Public Works Protection Act apply to the G20 security zone in downtown Toronto.
"The public has nothing to fear with this legislation and the way the police will use this legislation," said Burrows. "It really comes down to a case of common sense and officer discretion. If you're approaching that fence line, we want to know why."
The new powers are in effect on the streets and sidewalks in and around the security fence.
Under the new regulations, anyone who comes within five metres of the security area is obliged to give police their name and state the purpose of their visit.
Police, at their discretion, can deny access to the area and "use whatever force is necessary" to keep people out.
Anyone who refuses to identify themselves or refuses to provide a reason for their visit can be fined up to $500.
The new rules also give police the power to search anyone who approaches the fence.
The regulation also says that if someone has a dispute with an officer and it goes to court "the police officer's statement under oath is considered conclusive evidence under the Act."
The new regulations authorize police to use the powers starting on Monday, June 21 and police will have those powers until Monday, June 28 when the G20 delegates leave town.
Burrows said police have already made "two or three" arrests under the new rules as of Friday morning.
"We're bound by duty to protect the people that are going be within that fence line," said Burrows. "If you refuse to tell us [why you're there], then we have to assume that your purposes are not of a peaceful nature."
'Americans Don’t Flinch' – They Duck!
by Kathy Kelly and Dan Pearson
Yesterday, accepting General McChrystal’s resignation, President Obama said that McChrystal’s departure represented a change in personnel, not a change in policy. “Americans don’t flinch in the face of difficult truths or difficult tasks.” he stated, “We persist and we persevere.”
Yet, President Obama and the U.S. people don’t face up to the ugly truth that, in Afghanistan, the U.S. has routinely committed atrocities against innocent civilians. By ducking that truth, the U.S. reinforces a sense of exceptionalism, which, in other parts of the world, causes resentment and antagonism.
While on the campaign trail and since taking office, President Obama has persistently emphasized his view that attacks against civilians are always criminal, unless the U.S. is the attacker, in which case they are justified. We heard this again, yesterday, as the President assured the U.S. people that we will persevere in Afghanistan. “We will not tolerate a safe haven for terrorists who want to destroy Afghan security from within, and launch attacks against innocent men, women, and children in our country and around the world.”
In considering the security of Afghan civilians, it’s crucial to ask why, on May 12, 2009, General McChrystal was selected to replace General McKiernan as the top general in Afghanistan. News reports said it was because he had experience in coordinating special operations in Iraq. That experience involved developing death squads, planning night raids, and coordinating undercover assassinations. McChrystal proved, since his appointment, that he could organize atrocities against Afghan civilians and simultaneously present himself as a protector of Afghan civilians. In doing so, he relied on collaboration and cooperation from Defense Secretary Gates, General Petraeus and President Obama. They are united in their culpability.
We, ourselves, bear responsibility to examine disturbing patterns of misinformation regarding U.S./NATO attacks against Afghan civilians. In each of eleven incidents since April 9th, 2009, U.S. forces killed innocent civilians, then engaged in a cover-up, insisting that they had killed insurgents, and eventually acknowledged having killed civilians. Generally, U.S./NATO officials issued an apology.
Wikileaks is expected to release a video that establishes U.S. responsibility for a May 4th, 2009 air attack which killed an estimated 86 – 140 civilians, mostly women and children. In the days and weeks after the attack, U.S. and NATO military officials made a concerted effort to avoid blame for this attack.
Voices for Creative Nonviolence has maintained a list, assuredly only a partial list, of U.S./NATO attacks, since April 2009, which caused civilian deaths. Below is the entry describing the May 4, 2009 attack.
Date: May 4, 2009 Place: Farah Province near the town of Granai Circumstances: Mainstream media reports estimate that between 86 and 140 people, mostly children, died in a US air attack. According to Reuters, only 22 of the victims were adult males. Initial U.S./NATO response: The following chronology indicates multiple attempts on the part of US officials to avoid blame. May 6, 2009—U.S. officials’ plea ignorance and state that an investigation is under way. (http://www.defense.gov/news/
newsarticle.aspx?id=54224)May 6, 2009—According to The Guardian, a spokesperson for US forces in Afghanistan, Captain Elizabeth Mathias says, “This was not coalition forces. This was Afghan national security forces who called in close air support, a decision that was vetted by the Afghan leadership,” May 7, 2009—An Armed Service Press Service report announces that a team is “investigating differing accounts of the events leading up to the casualties. Those accounts include allegations that the Taliban tossed grenades into homes to ‘frame’ Afghan and coalition forces.” U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates states that “the United States and coalition partners do everything we can to avoid civilian casualties.” He goes on to say that “While there have been civilian casualties caused by American and NATO troops, they have been accidental. When the Taliban cause casualties, they are on purpose.” May 8, 2009—Pentagon spokesperson Col. Greg Julian insists that earlier estimates of the death toll were “grossly exaggerated”. May 10, 2009—In an interview with Mike Wallace, General David Petraeus suggests that the Taliban forced people “to remain in houses from which the Taliban was engaging us forces”. May 15, 2009—Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James Conway again blames the Taliban for civilian casualties. “We believe that there were families who were killed by the Taliban with grenades and rifle fire,” he said, “that were then paraded about and shown as casualties from the airstrike.” (http://www.militarytimes.com/ news/2009/05/ap_afghanistan_) U.S. /NATO acknowledgement that the people killed were unarmed civilians: May 13, 2009—Referring to the May 4th raids in an Afghan press interview, Ambassador Karl W. Eikenberry admitted that “there were a number of civilians killed, a number of civilians wounded. We don’t know the exact amount. You are aware that our President of the United States and our Secretary of State and our Secretary of Defense have all very explicitly expressed their condolences for what happened.” June 2, 2009— According to The New York Times “A military investigation has concluded that American personnel made significant errors in carrying out some of the airstrikes in western Afghanistan on May 4 that killed dozens of Afghan civilians, according to a senior American military official.” (http://www.defense.gov/news/ deaths_051509/ newsarticle.aspx?id=54224)
With all due respect for Ambassador Eikenberry’s sincerity, and recognizing that condolences may have been relayed to Afghanistan, we nevertheless want to say that we couldn’t find any record of U.S. officials publicly expressing sorrow, explicitly, for the U.S. attack against Afghan civilians on May 4, 2009. However, we do note that U.S. officials, one week later, nominated General McChrystal to replace General McKiernan. It seems that this appointment signaled U.S. intent to shift assaults against Afghan civilians into the realm of undercover operations, making it much easier to duck the blame.
Minister: Israel Won’t Hesitate to Use Force Against Lebanon in Gas Field Dispute -- News from Antiwar.com
Israel has never needed any particular pretext to attack its neighbor to the north, but with Israel finding itself in possession of (or at least within the vicinity of) some $40 billion in oil and gas fields, the nation’s Infrastructure Minister Uzi Landau is threatening the use of military force to back up Israeli claims to owning all of those fields.
Lebanon’s Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri for his part accused Israel of “ignoring the map.” They really aren’t, however, they just have a different (and secret) map of their own.
While Lebanon’s map of maritime claims is based on drawing a perpendicular line off the Mediterranean coast at the location of the border, which seems to be the usual practice, Israel’s map assumes that since its declared border juts off at an obtuse angle with Lebanon they can extend the line to claim “economic waters” even though they are off the Lebanese coast. Furthermore, Israel has never actually defined what they claim as their waters.
The offshore fields in question are right along the disputed border, and would put a significant percentage in Lebanese territory. Israeli officials are claiming that the Lebanese objection to Israel building massive oil and gas rigs off the coasts of their southern towns are simultaneously part of a larger objection to Israel’s “very existence” and a cynical attempt to make Israel do all the exploration work and then swoop in and claim a share of the proceeds.
the blogger adds: the israeli's love using violence when it can't get its way.
24 June 2010
Despite the growing international condemnation and isolation incurred by the government of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, the right-wing leadership of the so-called "Israel Lobby" here is riding high in the U.S. Congress.
So far this week, it has chalked up a key victory on Capitol Hill in its longstanding effort to impose "crippling sanctions" against Iran.
It also succeeded in getting a large majority of U.S. lawmakers to fire a shot across the bow of the government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, which has led the international chorus of criticism against the Jewish state since the deadly Israeli seizure in international waters of a Turkish vessel carrying humanitarian supplies to Gaza.
While privately critical — often scathingly so — of Israel’s recent behavior, especially the May 31 commando raid, top officials of the administration of President Barack Obama are increasingly reluctant to air their complaints in public lest they harm Democratic prospects for retaining control of both houses of Congress after the mid-term elections in November.
Indeed, Obama will himself host Netanyahu at the White House in what is being billed as a "kiss-and-make-up" session Jul. 6 designed to reassure Jewish voters, in particular, that the two leaders’ contretemps over Israeli settlements in East Jerusalem earlier this spring has been put behind them.
Obama, according to some reports circulating here, hopes to receive a return invitation from his guest to visit Israel in October, a month before the November elections here.
Despite their relatively small number — about two percent of the total U.S. population and about three percent of voters in most elections, Jewish Americans are major donors to political campaigns, accounting for as much as 25 percent of all financial contributions to national campaigns and as much as 40 percent of all contributions to Democratic candidates, in particular.
They are also widely — if often mistakenly — seen by political candidates as virtually unconditional supporters of Israel prepared to reward or punish candidates based on their positions on the Jewish state.
"Every Democrat assumes that the biggest discernible group that contributes to their campaign is Jews," according to M.J. Rosenberg, a Middle East analyst who worked for the most powerful Lobby group, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), in the 1980s.
"…(I)f a donor has a Jewish name, or is known to be Jewish, the assumption is that he or she is pro-Israel and will be offended by any deviation from the [Lobby's] line," he said.
At the same time, harsh criticism of Israel by the administration risks mobilizing the Christian Right, a major constituency of the Republican Party, whose support for Israel’s ruling Likud Party and Jewish settlements in East Jerusalem and the occupied territories is based primarily on its theological views.
Thus, with the mid-term elections less than five months away and a succession of polls predicting major gains for Republicans in both houses, Obama and senior Democrats appear eager to avoid clashing with Israel, an impression that AIPAC and its allies are using to maximum advantage on Capitol Hill.
Under pressure from the Lobby, the Democratic leadership in Congress Monday approved sweeping sanctions legislation aimed at third-country companies that do business with Iran without granting Obama the kind of flexibility in implementing the sanctions — particularly as they apply to Russia and China — that he had sought.
While the White House indicated Tuesday that it still hopes to work out some changes in the bill before Obama agrees to sign it, the fact that the administration’s own lobbying efforts had failed to bring along top Democratic leaders on the issue marked a major victory for AIPAC and its allies.
"AIPAC applauds toughest Iran sanctions ever proposed," crowed the group’s press release after the joint announcement by the leaders of the "conference committee" that was charged with reconciling the differing — and weaker — versions of the sanctions bill that were passed earlier this year by the Senate and the House of Representatives.
"It provides the best hope that political and economic measures can peaceably persuade Iran to end its illicit nuclear program before it is too late," the statement added.
In what many observers saw as a similarly impressive display of the Lobby’s strength, 87 of the 100 senators signed an AIPAC-backed letter to Obama that not only supported Israel’s blockade of Hamas-controlled Gaza, but also defended Israel’s efforts to enforce it, specifically its attack on the Turkish vessel.
Nine Turkish activists, including one who was also a U.S. citizen, were killed after Israeli commandos opened fire when they encountered resistance to their attempt to board the ship during the night.
"Late last month when Israel learned that groups operating in Turkey wanted to challenge its blockade of Gaza, Israel made every effort to ensure that all humanitarian aid reached Gaza without needlessly precipitating a confrontation," according to the letter that was jointly circulated by both the Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid, and the Minority Leader, Mitch McConnell.
"Israeli forces were able to safely divert five of the six ships challenging the blockade. However, video footage shows that the Israeli commandos who arrived on the sixth ship, which was owned by the Turkish Humanitarian Relief Foundation (the IHH), were brutally attacked with iron rods, knives, and broken glass," according to the letter, which uncritically recited the version of events propagated by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). "They were forced to respond to that attack and we regret the loss of life that resulted."
The letter went on to "recommend" that the administration "consider" adding the IHH to the list of "foreign terrorist organizations" and noted that the signers "have additional questions about Turkey and any connections to Hamas."
Indeed, some lawmakers most closely associated with the Lobby have since called for the administration to suspend military ties with Turkey or to seek its expulsion from NATO.
The letter also "deplore(d)" a resolution approved by the U.N. Human Rights Council (UNHRC) that called for "an independent international fact-finding mission" to investigate the incident, adding that Israel, which announced its own investigation, "has the right to determine how (it) is conducted."
"AIPAC strongly applauds the U.S. Senate’s overwhelming statement of support for Israel’s right to defense in the wake of the Gaza flotilla incident and its call on President Obama to continue standing shoulder-to-shoulder with Israel at the United Nations, as Democratic and Republican presidents have done since the birth of the modern Jewish state," the lobby group said in a release Thursday that also commended a companion letter circulated by the House leadership and signed by more than 315 of the chamber’s 435 members.
"Addressed to President Obama, both letters state emphatically that the United States must continue to stand with Israel in every international forum because it is in America’s ‘national security interest’," according to AIPAC which stressed the importance of conducting an investigation into "the Turkish terrorist-linked ‘charity’ that led the flotilla."