Israel's unjust and unlawful bombing and shelling continues for a fifth day. Yes, Israel has American-made war planes, bombs and missiles with which to destroy the fabric of Palestinian life and society in Gaza. But what is the result afterwards?
Do Israelis really believe that in killing the leadership of Hamas as well as hundreds of ordinary Palestinian civilians, it can make Israel safer in the future? Or that the bombing and the killing will make Palestinians suck it up and start to believe that Israel is really their friend?
If you were a Palestinian kid in Gaza and you observed the terrible destruction and suffered the roar of war planes flying over at night, and your sisters and brothers were killed by some Israel missile, would you just accept it and blame Hamas?
Of course, not. You and tens of thousands of your friends and neighbors would demand vengeance and retribution. You would vow to do anything you could to punish Israel and Israelis.
This barbaric attack of Israel will cause Palestinian attacks for the next 50 years, maybe for the next 200. It will put Israel even in more danger. It will expose ordinary Israelis to suicide bombers and Palestinian blood revenge.
And I thought Israelis were smarter than to allow this to happen.
Wednesday, December 31, 2008
Israel's unjust and unlawful bombing and shelling continues for a fifth day. Yes, Israel has American-made war planes, bombs and missiles with which to destroy the fabric of Palestinian life and society in Gaza. But what is the result afterwards?
Tuesday, December 30, 2008
Israel backed by Bush and the U.S. government insists that it is all the fault of Hamas that 350+ civilians have died in Gaza. Even though it has been Israeli war planes dropping bombs and shooting missiles, it is not Israel's fault. If only Hamas would stop shooting rockets, then Israel would not have destroy the fabric of Palestinian society in Gaza.
Where have we heard this bullshit before? Oh yeah, it is the same line of bull that the U.S. army gives out to explain why the Al Qaeda types it kills in Afghanistan turn out upon examination to be women, children and ordinary villagers, trying to subsist in some Afghani farming hamlet. Because the "terrorists" use ordinary civilians as "shields," it is they themselves who are responsible for the deaths of so many children. The fault lies with the jihadists, not with our soldiers. This is of course pure American fabrication.
We hear the same malarkey given out by the Israelis. The lesson is that every aggressor falls back on the same canard, it is not our fault, it is the enemy's fault which causes us to bomb, kill, incinerate civilians.
Monday, December 29, 2008
Where is Obama when the whole Middle East is in raging turmoil and Gaza is in conflagration? He should be out there telling Israel to back off, to cease its bombardment of the threadbare Palestinian society.
Obama should be condemning the destruction and bombing of the Islamic University which serves no military purpose other than to eliminate a center of learning and culture in Gaza. Obama should be asking why Israel targets Palestinian police stations whose only purpose is to remove any vestige of law and order the Gazan society.
We need change, as Obama promised. And nowhere more needed than in a change of American policy towards Israel which should not be allowed to continue its rampage against Palestinian civilians and social fabric.
Sunday, December 28, 2008
Thanks to Juan Cole in his Informed Comment today for pointing this out: the U.S. puts itself in danger by blithely supporting Israel's attack on the Palestinians in Gaza. One of the rationales for the 9/11 hijackers was to punish the U.S. for its support of Israel and its policies against the Palestinians.
Writes Juan Cole:
"The outbreak of hostilities affects Americans, since al-Qaeda hit New York and the Pentagon in some important part over the Israeli occupation of the Palestinians. The airstrikes and large death toll also present a challenge to the incoming Obama administration, which may find peace-making more difficult now."
The rest of the world, including the European Union and the United Nations, condemns the Israeli attack as disproportionate. Having failed to kill off the Palestinians by starvation, fuel and basic resources blockade, preventing Palestinians from leaving Gaza for essential medical treatment, shooting at Palestinian youth who happen to wander to close to the border, now Israel decides to send in the warplanes with bombs and missiles.
Yet people like that small minded republican pro Cuban blockade Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fl) are quick to express their full approval for Israel's war crimes. And Bush and Rice put the blame for Israel's attack on the victims, Hamas. No matter that over 200 people are now dead or that Israel specifically targeted the Gaza police force, the Republicans mindlessly express their support for Israel and its lethal actions. No wonder most of the Arab world is outraged by American actions.
Why is it that aggressors always claim their actions are in self-defense or that the "enemy" is killing its own people when the whole world knows well that it is the aggressor's war planes and missiles that kill the target civilian population?
I refer to the U.S. army in Afghanistan claiming it was not responsible for killing villagers and innocent civilians when it bombed and fired missiles at houses and homes, but it was the fault of "terrorists" who happened to live in those homes who thus put their families at risk. Oh yeah, sure!
It is the same explanation that we now hear from Israel, after sending in its war planes to bomb and destroy Hamas police stations and control centers. It is not Israel's fault if hundreds of civilians are blown apart, but it is Hamas that causes the death and destruction of its own population.
Or as I heard yesterday on BBC Radio, some guy from the Israeli government claims Israel is the "friend" of the Palestinians in Gaza and wants to "help" those Palestinians, if they could only get rid of their elected government, Hamas.
Now as I have repeatedly said before, I condemn those Palestinians who fire rockets into Israeli villages and towns and threaten and kill Israelis. There is no justification for violence, whether by means of a gun or a tank or a rocket.
But I also strenuously condemn Israel for thinking it can defeat the Palestinians by military force and air raids. So far, we receive reports of hundreds of Palestinians killed by the Israeli air raids. Please don't argue that this will solve the Israeli-Palestinian question. We all know it will just inflame and exacerbate the hatred of the Palestinians for Israel. To think that it will cause some Palestinians to end firing of rockets into Israel is, like Shakespeare said, but hope of orphans and unfathered fruit. Totally without basis.
Leaders of Israel in their use of military might are much like Bush and Cheney, thinking that killing "enemies" will bring peace. They are equally deluded.
Saturday, December 27, 2008
Remember the U.S. government reaction to the Israeli war against Hezbollah in Lebanon. Condoleeza Rice and George Bush did nothing to stop the Israelis when they bombed the Beirut airport, fired missiles at apartment buildings, and dropped cluster bombs in a 30-mile swathe in southern Lebanon.
Now today with Israel invading Gaza, all the Bush government can do is to counsel Israel not to kill civilians. This is outrageous. The U.S. should be loudly protesting the Israeli action and calling for an immediate Israeli withdrawal.
When Israel sends war planes into Gaza to fire missiles and drop bombs, the casualties are sure to be civilians, I mean, men, women and children who have done nothing wrong other than to be Palestinian.
Just as I condemn those few Palestinians firing missiles into southern Israeli towns and villages, so do I condemn the Israelis for leveling apartment buildings with their bombs.
After WWII, we all thought collective punishment was done away with, given the universal scorn and condemnation it merited. But it seems to have returned with even more ferocity. Witness the Israeli attack on Palestinian civilians as retribution for the actions of a few deranged Palestinians firing missiles at defenseless Israeli civilians.
Bush and Rice, don't just sit there when Israeli war planes are killing civilians, demand an immediate end to this Israeli aggression directed at innocents.
Just yesterday Israel bowing to international pressure opened its portal entries to Gaza, allowing basics of life to start flowing again to the Palestinians.
Now today, the BBC reports attacks by Israeli war planes against police stations and Hamas offices in Gaza, killing over 100 people, maybe many more.
"Israeli F-16 bombers have launched a series of air strikes against key targets in the Gaza Strip, killing at least 155 people, medical chiefs say.
"Gaza officials and the Hamas militant group said about 200 others were hurt as missiles hit security compounds and militant bases across the territory.
"The strikes, the most intense Israeli attacks on Gaza for decades, come days after a truce with Hamas expired."
And Tzipi Livni, Israel's Foreign Minister, says that this is the just the start of a comprehensive Israeli military campaign inside of Gaza. Reports the BBC:
"Israel's Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni defended the air raids, saying Israel had "no choice". "We're doing what we need to do to defend our citizens," she said in a television broadcast.
Israel hit targets across Gaza, striking in the territory's main population centres, including Gaza City in the north and the southern towns of Khan Younis and Rafah."
Israel is thus starting another protracted military offensive against the Palestinians, showing itself to be a dangerous actor against world peace. This Israeli strike could be the start of a protracted drawn-out blood bath, with Palestinians civilians being hurt the most.
Reports the BBC:
"Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak said "it won't be easy and it won't be short".
""There is a time for calm and a time for fighting, and now the time has come to fight," he said, quoted by Reuters."
Friday, December 26, 2008
There is tension between India and Pakistan over the terrorists attack in Mumbai. Let's hope there is no escalation of these tensions into outright war.
But it seems that the foreign policy of the U.S. powered by the Bush/Cheney administration is to dictate superciliously to other countries what they should do and not do. Forget about diplomacy and leadership. All we and other countries hear from Bush, Cheney and their devotee Rice is "do this, don't do that." As if Bush were the supreme intellect of the universe. Unbelievably this is the engine that drives American foreign policy.
Such sophomoric foreign policy brings up the question, how does Bush treat Laura or his two daughters at home if all he can do with other nations is to hector and dictate?
Thursday, December 25, 2008
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
I wrote yesterday about the foolish statement of Pope Benedict saying that homosexual acts constituted as grave a danger as global warming.
I thought Benedict was more thoughtful than his statement indicates. But this seems to be the way with all churchmen, no matter the denomination. Sex "morality" is most central to their teachings. Witness the actions of some authorities in the LDS Church in helping bigots pass Proposition 8 in California which bans marriage other than between a man and a woman.
Equal protection has no place in small minds. However, marriage is a legal contract regulated by the state. It is not governed by religious institutions. To deny the legal protections of marriage to two men or two women flaunts the notion of equal protection under the law. If a state allows marriage for a heterosexual couple, how can it deny the same right to a homosexual pair?
Yet for Benedict as well as for other religious authorities, equal protection means little. All they care about is their warped sense of sexual transgressions. Morality for them is boiled down to observance of sexual "norms." No matter that many of these same people who complain the loudest about sexual "deviations" are in secret the worst offenders of their own principles.
There is a recognized long-standing legal axiom, false in one thing, false in all things. We can apply this axiom to Benedict and church teachings in general. Be careful of trusting anyone or any authority whose principles on sexual morality are so patently and hypocritical wrong.
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
What is the Pope thinking? Saving the world from homosexuality is just as necessary as protecting the environment? Here Benedict, otherwise seemingly rational, has gone off the deep end.
The BBC reports on the story:
"Speaking on Monday, Pope Benedict said that saving humanity from homosexual or transsexual behaviour was as important as protecting the environment."
The Pope displays utter ignorance about sexuality and those who are born homosexual. It prompts my question, has the church or the clergy ever understood human sexuality in the church's two thousand year history.
By emphasizing celibacy and by refusing to accept the facts of life, the pope and the church naturally fear and diminish anything having to do with either hetero or homo-sexual practice.
Here we see ecclesiastical anti-lust in action, and quoting one of Shakespeare's sonnets, it is mean, cruel, rude, not to trust. Furthermore from a legal point of view, the pope is violating principles of equal protection. Everyone has a right to his or her own sexuality.
Reports the BBC:
"The comments were "irresponsible and unacceptable", the UK's Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement (LGCM) said.
"Vladimir Luxuria, a transgender former Italian MP, called his words "hurtful". . . .
"LGCM head Rev Sharon Ferguson said the Pope's remarks justified "gay bashing" and bullying.
"Mark Dowd, strategist for Christian environmental group Operation Noah, said the comments betrayed "a lack of openness to the complexity of creation".
"And Ms Luxuria, who recently lost her seat in the Italian parliament, said suggesting people like her were destructive was very hurtful.
""I'm someone who was born as male and has a spiritual and female soul, and it's contradictory that a Pope just thinks of people just made as flesh and not made of a spiritual aspect." "
Monday, December 22, 2008
The BBC reports that the Iraqi who threw his shoes at George W. Bush calling him a "dog" is now facing trial on December 31st.
Muntazar al Zaidi could be sentenced to as many as 15 years. This would be a legal outrage and an affront to anyone who tries to speak truth to power, in other words, tell Bush to his face that he is responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis by his foolish and bloody occupation and unjustified war.
Writes the BBC:
"Investigating Judge Dhiya al-Kenani told the AFP news agency that the trial date had been set for the last day of 2008.
""The investigation phase is over and the case has been transferred to the Central Criminal Court," he said.
"Aggression against a head of state carries a prison term of between five and 15 years - but media reports said Mr al-Zaidi could eventually face a lesser charge of "attempted aggression".
"The journalist's brother, Uday al-Zaidi, confirmed the court date, but made accusations against the Iraqi authorities of beating and abusing his brother."
I join those who want Iraq to free al Zaidi, not put him on trial. His courageous act of throwing shoes was intended not to hurt Bush but to humiliate him. That act should be rewarded, not punished.
Sunday, December 21, 2008
The Pentagon wants to add 30,000 American soldiers to join the fighting in Afghanistan. This is sheer madness.
No foreign force or occupier has won in Afghanistan since Alexander the Great around 330 BC.
Instead of pulling troops out, the Americans think they can pacify the country by putting more troops in.
Stop this unhinged foreign policy mistake. Take all Americans out. Solve all "problems" by diplomacy, not by tanks and missiles.
Saturday, December 20, 2008
Larry Kudlow is the master of bluster on CNBC. He rants and rails against the auto bail-out both with his mouth and his hands which are especially objectionable. He points at the camera, at viewers and at his guests. Has no one ever taught him any manners?
But isn't this the same Larry Kudlow who demanded that the government, the Fed and the Treasury do something to rescue Wall Street Banks? As I recall just a few months ago, Kudlow wanted the government to ride to the rescue, and indeed it did, handing some 700 billion to banks like Citi and JP Morgan under the TARP program. Then, unlike now, Kudlow was pleased because, with Wall Street banks secure, his job at CNBC and his 401(k) was protected.
But when the issue concerns the lowly unionized auto worker, the guy not in a suit and tie but in his blue industrial uniform - the hourly wage earner who toils his whole life for bare minimums - Dr. Jekyl, aka Larry Kudlow, turns into a mean and parsimonious Mr. Hyde. He belittles the accepted prediction that chapter 11 for a company like GM would throw hundreds of thousands into the street unemployed. We see that Kudlow couldn't care less about auto workers' life savings or their health care or even their 401(k)s, if they're lucky enough to have a plan. No, Kudlow wants free enterprise to control, and please, no government interference, damn the workers.
So Larry Kudlow is for a bailout, no strings attached, when his own career and retirement savings are on the line, but against government help when unionized auto workers are involved.
Friday, December 19, 2008
Today's The New York Times carries a report by Adam B. Ellick of a U.S. raid against a home in a small village on the border of Afghanistan and Pakistan that killed three civilians and left a four-year old bitten by an attack dog.
Writes Ellick :
"A deadly United States military raid on a house near Afghanistan’s border with Pakistan became a new source of tension on Thursday, with the Americans calling it a successful counterterrorism strike and the Afghans saying it left three innocent civilians dead and two wounded, including a 4-year-old boy bitten by an attack dog.
"The raid took place on Wednesday in the village of Kundi, in Khost Province. American military leaders and Afghan officials said they were investigating the conflicting accounts of what happened. But President Hamid Karzai, who has grown increasingly impatient with the American-led war effort against the Taliban insurgency, condemned the raid in front of government leaders and foreign diplomats, saying that “entering by force to our people’s houses is against the government of Afghanistan.”"
This latest American raid is a good example of the principle that nations never "win" wars with guns and tanks. Why the U.S. thinks that military force will "win" anything in Afghanistan is beyond rational minds. Here we see a commando raid that the U.S. military terms as "successful," yet it has left a whole village angry and hostile towards Americans and the American military effort.
"In Khost, American-led forces blasted the gate of the house early on Wednesday, then fatally shot the family’s father and mother and a male relative, according to Tahir Khan Sabry, deputy governor of the province. Their relationship with the wounded boy was unclear, and another woman was also bitten. Mr. Sabry described all the victims as noncombatant civilians.
"The American military said that the raid led to the detention of an operative of Al Qaeda and that those killed were armed and showing “hostile intent.” Grenades, AK-47s, pistols and a shotgun were confiscated, American officials said."
The raid in Khost kills a family's father and mother as well as another relative, and what for? So that the U.S. army can say that it detained an "Al Qaeda operative"? For all the world knows, this "operative" probably was a civilian like the others who happened to express anger and outrage at the American occupation.
And even if the captured man was really connected to Al Qaeda, was it worth it for the Americans to kill a family to capture this guy? My answer is NO. The killing of the father and mother has forever destroyed what little sympathy there might have been in that Khost village and will probably result in 20 other males joining Al Qaeda to take revenge against the United States.
Congratulations to Cong. Hilda Solis on her appointment to Secretary of Labor by president-elect Obama.
Solis said that she would strengthen worker protections and wage and hour laws. At last we have a Secretary of Labor who respects worker rights and unions. Furthermore, some American businesses have taken advantage of labor by making workers work off the clock and put in overtime without being compensated and in violation of state and federal labor laws. Solis will not allow these practices to continue.
Solis thanked her immigrant Hispanic parents and their upbringing in the Obama news conference today. I am sure she will also extend labor law protections to the millions of immigrants working in the U.S. and not permit employers to use immigration status as a pretext to deny minimum wage and other benefits.
Another example of the great damage that Bush & Co. can do in his last 30 + days in office comes from the United Nations whwere the U.S. refused to go along and vote to declare that homosexual acts should not be considered "crimes."
NEIL MacFarquhar reports for today's The New York Times on the vote:
"An unprecedented declaration seeking to decriminalize homosexuality won the support of 66 countries in the United Nations General Assembly on Thursday, but opponents criticized it as an attempt to legitimize pedophilia and other “deplorable acts.”
"The United States refused to support the nonbinding measure, as did Russia, China, the Roman Catholic Church and members of the Organization of the Islamic Conference. The Holy See’s observer mission issued a statement saying that the declaration “challenges existing human rights norms.”
"The declaration, sponsored by France with broad support in Europe and Latin America, condemned human rights violations based on homophobia, saying such measures run counter to the universal declaration of human rights."
The U.S. claimed that the wording of the declaration would violate its federalism principle of not interfering with state laws. But that was mere pretextual. No one seriously believes federalism has anything to do with the American vote against human rights. It is clear that Bush & Cheney and their Republican followers don't believe homosexuals have the same rights as everyone else.
"The official American position was based on highly technical legal grounds. The text, by using terminology like “without distinction of any kind,” was too broad because it might be interpreted as an attempt by the federal government to override states’ rights on issues like gay marriage, American diplomats and legal experts said.
"“We are opposed to any discrimination, legally or politically, but the nature of our federal system prevents us from undertaking commitments and engagements where federal authorities don’t have jurisdiction,” said Alejandro D. Wolff, the deputy permanent representative."
The U.S. opposition to decriminalization of homosexuality made the U.S. part of a group of Islamic and African nations which voted no on the declaration. Certain Islamic countries in particular still apply the death penalty to anyone caught in a homosexual act. And underlying this harsh repression is the scientifically repudiated notion that homosexuality is identical to pedophilia.
"The opposing statement read in the General Assembly, supported by nearly 60 nations, rejected the idea that sexual orientation was a matter of genetic coding. The statement, led by the Organization of the Islamic Conference, said the effort threatened to undermine the international framework of human rights by trying to normalize pedophilia, among other acts.
"The Organization of the Islamic Conference also failed in a last-minute attempt to alter a formal resolution that Sweden sponsored condemning summary executions. It sought to have the words “sexual orientation” deleted as one of the central reasons for such killings."
It is shameful to reflect that the U.S. for one specious reason or another refused to go along and vote to ban criminalization of homosexuality and the policy of some countries in applying the death penalty to homosexuals. This is another reason why Bush will be seen in history to be among the most biased, small minded, and above all, dangerous of American presidents.
Thursday, December 18, 2008
The outrage of the day is that the Iraqi government continues to hold Muntazar al Zaidi in jail following his taking aim at George W. Bush with his shoes.
Al Zaidi is a hero to everyone in the Arab world and elsewhere who sees Bush as the direct cause of the deaths of over 600,000 Iraqis. Bush's name will be forever associated with that unjustified and illegal invasion of Iraq.
By hurling his shoes, Al Zaidi was expressing his contempt and disdain for Bush. Bush claimed al Zaidi was merely expressing his freedom of expression under Bush's new Iraq. Bush well knows what al Zaidi meant, but true to form over the last eight years, Bush tries to put an entirely different spin on being the object of the Arab world's loathing.
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
I disagree with comments made by Raghida Dergham a guest on on World Focus last night regarding the recent show-throwing brouhaha in Baghdad. Dergham said it was disgraceful. But I think it broke through the Bush spin about doing great things for the Iraqi people, and showed that many if not most Iraqis hold Bush in rightful contempt.
Because of Bush and his unjustified invasion and war, more than 600 thousand Iraqis have lost their lives. The entire Iraqi society has been destroyed and broken. Instead of obsequious comments from politicians like al Maliki thanking Bush for his intervention, Muntazar al-Zaidi threw his shoes, nearly hitting Bush twice. Now that deserves a medal of honor.
PS Raghida Dergham is just a Bush lackey. Why does World Focus feature her as a guest or expert?
Monday, December 15, 2008
George Bush claims the shoe-throwing incident was no big deal but merely a sign of Iraq's new-found freedom of speech. Bush claims that it was like attending a political event here in the U.S.
But you know the shoe incident stole his whole show and made him mad when you see Bush sending his girl Friday to criticize journalists for making a big deal out of the video showing the Iraqi journalist almost hitting Bush twice. Condoleezza Rice was out there today asking why media were giving the attempted Bush beaning more space and time than Bush's Iraqi legacy trip during which he tried to claim that the Iraq War was "almost" won.
Most Iraqis I saw being interviewed for their response to the shoe incident were jubilant and supportive of the shoe thrower. And well they might be. Bush's invasion and unjustified war cost Iraqi society over 600,000 Iraqi lives in the five years since its start.
Sunday, December 14, 2008
An Iraqi journalist threw both shoes at George Bush today at an Iraqi news conference in Baghdad. Both shoes missed, but they came very close to hitting the American president.
Hitting someone with shoes is especially meaningful to Arabs. it signifies scorn and contempt.
In contrast to the obsequious treatment accorded Bush by Talibani and al Maliki, the shoe throwing signifies that many Iraqis hold George Bush in lowest regard. Many Americans can relate to this.
Saturday, December 13, 2008
The Senate Republicans clearly have an animus for workers in the automobile industry. The mean Republicans refused to go along with a House bill to aid the automotive industry and left hundreds of thousands of workers in jeopardy of losing their health care, pensions and jobs.
Compare the Republicans' put down of union workers with their largesse towards Wall Street Banks. They gave 700 billion to the banks without any conditions. But when it comes to labor and unions, they demand the most draconian conditions.
If the auto industry goes down, and if millions of middle income blue-collar workers are forced into unemployment, the Republicans will suffer a political backlash not seen in modern political history. They will be a volcano of resentment against Republicans especially in those states that have a large percentage of automobile suppliers and workers.
Friday, December 12, 2008
I commented in a previous post about the recent 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, approved by the General Assembly of the United Nations on December 10, 1948.
Yesterday, the Senate Intelligence Committee published its report on the barbaric practices of the Bush government in using torture and other degrading treatment of prisoners at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo.
Here are two conclusions of the Senate Armed Serice Committee:
Conclusion 1: On February 7, 2002, President George W. Bush made a written determination that Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions, which would have afforded minimum standards for humane treatment, did not apply to al Qaeda or Taliban detainees. Following the President’s determination, techniques such as waterboarding, nudity, and stress positions, used in SERE training to simulate tactics used by enemies that refuse to follow the Geneva Conventions, were authorized for use in interrogations of detainees in U.S. custody.
Conclusion 2: Members of the President’s Cabinet and other senior officials participated in meetings inside the White House in 2002 and 2003 where specific interrogation techniques were discussed. National Security Council Principals reviewed the CIA’s interrogation program during that period.
The Bush government used "techniques such as waterboarding, nudity, and stress positions . . ." Did any of these Bush officials know that the Universal Declaration's Article 5 specifically prohibits these treatments and punishments which it terms "degrading" and "cruel" and "inhuman?"
Here is the text of Article 5:
No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
Yet the Senate Committee gives evidence that Bush's cabinet as well as the National
Securities Council chaired by Condoleezza Rice knew and approved of these techniques. How could they go along? Were they all in the dark about the prohibition on torture and or cruel, harsh and inhuman methods of interrogation?
Water boarding has been used since time immemorial and has always been recognized as "torture." It was especially used during the years of the Inquisition, spanning several centuries, to elicit confessions from heretics and witches. Did Bush & gang really think it was effective then, so it must be effective now?
Let's have a truth commission haul these officials into a hearing room for testimony under oath. Let's hear their explanations of why they thought that the could justify torture and other cruel methods. Above all, let's try water boarding on them and see if they don't confess to witchcraft and/or conspiracy to commit terrorist acts. The point is anyone will confess to anything his interrogator wants when he is being tortured or water-boarded.
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
Today marks the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. On December 10th, 1948, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the text. Here is the text.
There are 30 Articles to the document. Here is Article 5:
No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
Perhaps Bush and Cheney have not heard of this prohibition on cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. I am sorry to say that it appears that neither has the CIA nor the U.S. Army. We can deduce this from the CIA's secret detention sites and the Army's establishment of Abu Ghraib.
Consider Article 10:
Everyone is entitled in full equality to a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal, in the determination of his rights and obligations and of any criminal charge against him.
Bush and Cheney have made fair and public hearings a joke. For example, some prisoners in Guantanamo have been there since 2002 without any trial or public hearing. Even here in the U.S., Bush made Padilla, a U.S. citizen, an enemy combatant not entitled to a trial, until the U.S. Supreme Court threatened to take up his case.
Bush and Cheney and their gang have no excuses. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights has been in existence long enough for anyone to claim that they were unaware of its provisions.
Tuesday, December 9, 2008
The BBC reports that Israel has temporarily allowed an easing of the blockade so that fuel and other essentials could be transported into Gaza.
The Palestinians living in Gaza, more than one million, have been punished by Israel for the rocket attacks threatening Israeli villages and towns that have emanated from Gaza. For the last several months, Israel has imposed a total blockade of medicines, food and fuel.
Israel must stop once and for all this cruel and destructive collective punishment. To deny food, medicine and other essentials of life to Palestinians just because some in Gaza have fired missiles cannot be justified as legal under international law. Israel's blockade offends basic human rights as outlined in the Declaration of Human Rights.
Monday, December 8, 2008
George Bush today tried to defend his "legacy" in the Middle East. He claims there has been progress.
The BBC reports:
"President George W Bush has defended his Middle East policies, but said his successor Barack Obama would inherit problems in the region.
He said his administration had been "ambitious in vision, bold in action and firm in purpose"."
Will this Bush spinning never stop? I prefer to say Bush has been blind in vision, reckless in action and stubborn in policy.
One of the most egregious of Bush's statements today has been on the Palestinians. Reports the BBC:
""On the most vexing problem in the region - the Israeli-Palestinian conflict - there is now greater international consensus than at any point in recent memory," he said.
"While the Israelis and Palestinians have not yet produced an agreement, they have made important progress," he said. "They have laid a new foundation of trust for the future.""
Please someone tell me evidence for "greater international consensus than at any point in recent memory." There has been no consensus. Surely Saudi Arabia disagrees with Bush's favoring of the Israelis and his ostracization of Hamas and all the Palestinians living in Gaza. And Russia and China cannot possibly go along with Bush's treatment of Hamas and Hezbollah as "terrorist organizations." If it were not for Hamas in Gaza and Hezbollah in Lebanon, there would be mass starvation and humanitarian catastrophes in those areas.
Furthermore, how and when did the Israelis and Palestinians make "important progress"? Oh, Bush must mean with Abu Mazen in the West Bank and his Fatah party, certainly not with Hamas and the million plus desperate Palestinians in Gaza.
But about the worst and most baseless claims are Bush's words trying to justify his immoral and reckless invasion of Iraq:
"Mr Bush admitted that the Iraq war had been "longer and more costly than expected," but said that his decision to invade had been justified.
""America had to decide whether we could tolerate a sworn enemy that acted belligerently, that supported terror and that intelligence agencies around the world believed had weapons of mass destruction," he said."
Saddam Hussein was a "sworn enemy"? He acted "belligerently"? He supported "terror"? Surely Bush must give some evidence to back up these far out claims. But there is no evidence, just Bush trying to gild his legacy in his last 45 days in office.
Funny how Bush tries to make himself the righteous hero in this disastrous story about Iraq. Also isn't strange how war mongers always try to demonize the "enemy," as if to say, "but we only attacked because he started it, it was all his fault, we started firing and bombing only because he provoked us."
But has Bush ever mentioned the 600,000 Iraqis killed since 2003? How about the 4,000 lives of American soldiers? How about all the Iraqi wives made widows by the invasion and their subsequent descent into abject poverty? How about Iraqi children maimed, killed or blinded by American cluster bombs left on the ground after American shock and awe bombing runs?
Iraq, as well as Bush's destructive policy towards the rest of the Middle East, has stained Bush and this lethal fiasco will never wash off his "legacy."
Saturday, December 6, 2008
Israel is still causing severe disruptions for the Palestinians in Gaza by maintaining a near total blockade of food and medicine and fuel. Israel says it will not stop the blockade of these essential elements of life until Hamas controls the people who are firing rockets from Palestine into Israeli towns and villages.
Someone please justify under human rights law what Israel is doing. Under international law and the charter of the United Nations, "collective punishment" such as what Israel is doing is explicitly prohibited as against human rights.
I realize ordinary Israelis want to stop the disturbing and horrific missile attacks, but Israel needs to come up with some way other than inflicting collective punishment on the million plus inhabitants of Gaza who just like we have a basic human right to food, clothing, fuel and shelter.
Friday, December 5, 2008
I heard a guest on CNBC's 2 PM ET program hosted by Melissa Lee taking joy in the fact that the economies of Russia, Venezuela and Iran are harmed by declining oil prices. Talk about schadenfreude! But this is more than mere gloating over another's misfortunes. We are talking about people in these countries depending on government subsidies for their own meager survival.
When Americans put down Russia or Iran or Venezuela for some perceived slight to George Bush (Venezuela's Hugo Chavez called Bush the devil), they forget about the millions of people living in these countries who are trying to make a living as much as the typical next-door American.
Why should any sensible thinking person take delight in the economic misery of Venezuelans or Iranians? Besides being mean and cruel, it is short-sighted in these days of global economic connectedness. Remembering the famous line from John Donne, when the bell tolls, if economies tank in these countries, it also means economic hardship and even disaster for the United States and many Americans.
Wednesday, December 3, 2008
Today's The New York Times carries an article by Mark Mazzetti and Scott Shane on president-elect Obama's future reorganization of the CIA.
When I first read Mazzetti and Shane's take on Obama shutting down the CIA's harsh interrogation methods (aka "torture"), I had misgivings about some Democrats like Diane Feinstein who refuse to give up the possibility of using these methods on high value prisoners.
Writes Mazzetti and Shane:
"In a speech last year, Mr. Obama cast the matter as a practical issue, as well as a moral one. “We cannot win a war unless we maintain the high ground and keep the people on our side,” he said. “But because the administration decided to take the low road, our troops have more enemies.”
"On Wednesday, a dozen retired generals and admirals are to meet with senior Obama advisers to urge him to stand firm against any deviation from the military’s noncoercive interrogation rules.
"But even some senior Democratic lawmakers who are vehement critics of the Bush administration’s interrogation policies seemed reluctant in recent interviews to commit the new administration to following the Army Field Manual in all cases.
"Senator Dianne Feinstein, the California Democrat who will take over as chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee in January, led the fight this year to force the C.I.A. to follow military interrogation rules. Her bill was passed by Congress but vetoed by President Bush.
"But in an interview on Tuesday, Mrs. Feinstein indicated that extreme cases might call for flexibility. “I think that you have to use the noncoercive standard to the greatest extent possible,” she said, raising the possibility that an imminent terrorist threat might require special measures."
What is Ms. Feinstein talking about, "Extreme cases might call for flexibility." This is Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld speak for "torture is okay if we get the information we want." This type of thinking allowed Bush to initiate water-boarding and other methods subjecting prisoners to severe mental and physical punishment.
Of course Obama will do away with allowing the CIA to get away with these un-American forms of torture. If the U.S. is to regain a position of moral leadership, this change must be first and foremost as soon as Obama takes office on January 20th.
Dan Froomkin blogs extensively today on the web site of The Washington Post on the meeting of retired military officers with Obama in which they will call for a definitive end to the Bush/Cheney acceptance of methods taken right from the Inquisition.
The BBC reports today that nations have begun signing the anti-cluster bomb treaty. More than 100 countries are going to sign on. Sadly, this number does not yet include the United States.
Reports the BBC:
"First developed during World War II, cluster bombs contain a number of smaller bomblets designed to cover a large area and deter an advancing army.
But campaigners, including some in the military, have long argued they are outmoded and immoral because of the dangers posed to civilians from bombs that do not explode and litter the ground like landmines."
With the new Obama administration there is the hope that the U.S. will sign on. It is shameful that a nation as rooted in democracy and civil liberty as the U.S. would continue to refuse to sign this treaty. How many thousands of innocent children have been killed or grievously wounded by picking up this cluster bombs thinking they were harmless toys.
Writes the BBC:
"As he opened the signing convention in Oslo, Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg said the treaty would make the world safer, but had been too long in coming.
""Too many people lost their lives and their limbs; too many futures were shattered," he said.
""The tragedy of their needless suffering is matched only by our joy today in being able to prevent more human misery in the future."
"Jakob Kellenberger, president of the International Red Cross, reminded the meeting of the deadly legacy of cluster bombs.
""The path to Oslo is also traced through the mountains and the rice paddies of south-east Asia where several hundred million sub-munitions were dropped and many tens of millions remain today," he said.
""This path runs through the lives of civilians in Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam who have lived with the threat of unexploded sub-munitions for four decades.""
Tuesday, December 2, 2008
The BBC reports that an Iraqi court has sentenced Chemical Ali to a second sentence of death.
Reports the BBC:
"An Iraqi court has sentenced to death Ali Hassan al-Majid, also known as Chemical Ali, for his role in crushing a Shia uprising in 1991.
"It is the second death sentence passed on Majid, a cousin of Saddam Hussein."
Just as in the United States, when a state sentences someone to death, the state is shown as barbaric, cruel, medieval.
I don't care what Ali did, the extent of his crimes, or how many people he himself killed. He should be punished by a jail sentence, but a state, in this case, Iraq, should not take a person's life. The state is all too powerful. A state goes over the line of humanity, what is acceptable in an enlightened society, when it condemns and inflicts the death penalty.
Stop the death penalty where ever it is imposed. Stop the death penalty in Iraq.
Sunday, November 30, 2008
I am against Michael Bloomberg's quest for a third term as Mayor of New York City just as I was against Rudy Giuliani's attempt to portray himself as indispensable to the safety of New Yorkers after September 11, 2001.
For the same reason I am totally against Vladimir Putin trying to re-install himself as president of Russia. And I am against Alvaro Uribe's similar tactics to change the Colombian constitution so that he can run for a third six-year term.
I heard today on BBC Radio News that Hugo Chavez is pursuing a similar change to Venezuela's constitution. I am disappointed. Citizens of their respective countries should not allow any of these guys to make an end run around term limitations prescribed by the various national or state constitutions.
Saturday, November 29, 2008
The Washington Post has a story today by Juliet Eilperin reporting that the Bush government is rushing ahead with conducting oil and gas leases on some of the most scenic land in Utah.
"Places such as Utah offer huge potential for energy producers, but development there has triggered controversy because of its proximity to some of the nation's most scenic parks and natural monuments. After Park Service officials on Monday identified 93 proposed auction parcels where leasing could jeopardize "air quality, water resources and natural sound," BLM officials announced late the next day that they would defer action on two dozen of those parcels as well as portions of four more, while pressing ahead with more than 210 parcels encompassing 313,000 acres.
"Environmental activists said oil and gas drilling on the 210 remaining parcels could jeopardize air quality and other natural features of some of the country's most treasured national parks, such as Arches, Canyonlands and Capitol Reef, along with the Grand Staircase-Escalante and Dinosaur national monuments."
Republicans must be cheering, including Sarah Palin, whose dumb ridiculous slogan was, "Drill, baby,drill." Is this what Republicans want? Oil wells and oil exploration next to Arches National Park? Or drillers trampling over Kodachrome Basin?
Bush's latest move must be stopped. As I have said before, this guy is dangerous right up to the very last day he and Cheney occupy national office. Bush still can do a lot of damage, not only in messing up foreign policy but also, as we see here, in ruining America's environmental treasures.
""The Bush administration started its energy policy in back rooms with oil lobbyists, and it's fitting that's how they want to end it," said Bobby McEnaney, a public lands expert at the Natural Resources Defense Council, an advocacy group. "They're destroying the whole process that is designed to protect these lands. Once you get rid of wilderness, you can't get it back."
"David Garbett, a staff attorney for the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, said that in the last month, the administration also finalized six "resource management plans" that will allow the bureau to auction off other parts of these areas in the future.
""These plans will govern management of these lands for likely the next 20 years, and these plans have made areas like this available for leasing," Garbett said. "It's a final attempt by the administration to set in stone guidance for these lands for the long term, in a way that will not protect resources.""
Friday, November 28, 2008
The tragedy is still not over in Mumbai. It appears that some of the shooters are young Muslim Pakistanis. Why they committed these atrocities is not clear, but a few observations are in order.
If the group is all from Pakistan, the suspicion arises that they are taking revenge for the injustices they perceive committed against certain Muslims in Pakistan. I suspect that the Bush/Cheney policy of shooting missiles into Muslim villages in Waziristan and other Pakistani tribal areas is implicated.
Bush/Cheney & Co. think it is permissible to drop bombs and fire missiles if they can kill a few "terrorists." But to the uneducated villagers, the Americans are slaughtering innocent women, children and farmers. Imagine what your feelings would be towards the Americans if your children were incinerated in one of the many missile attacks over the last few months.
The Bush/Cheney policy of dropping bombs and missiles does more harm than good. It may kill a few on the wanted list, but it also kills innocent bystanders and ordinary Pakistani peasants. Survivors surely will hate anything to do with America and western civilization that treats their lives of no value. They will look to revenge the killings.
Could this dreadful attack in Mumbai be the first of many acts of revenge?
Lost in the sad news of the attacks in Mumbai is the visit of Dmitry Medvedev, Russia's president, to Latin America. He has met with Lula da Silva of Brazil, Hugo Chavez of Venezuela and today with Raul Castro of Cuba.
The BBC reports on Medvedev's Latin excursion:
"Mr Medvedev's visit was part of a Latin American tour aimed at boosting both Russia's presence and trade ties in a region traditionally of strategic importance to the US.
"Boosting bilateral trade between Russia and Latin America, which could reach $15bn (£9.9bn) this year, is another priority for the Russian president during his talks.
"The Russian leader travelled to Venezuela from Brazil, where he and President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva held talks on boosting trade and technical co-operation."
Medvedev shows how Obama should treat Latin America. For one thing, Medvedev has no qualms in talking to other cultures and visiting far-off countries. He treats each leader with respect, and that includes Castro, Chavez and Lula. Medvedev takes the initiative, unlike Bush, who wants to be courted and fawned over by leaders he thinks are beneath him. Obama in his campaign said he would sit down and talk with everyone, and here is Medvedev doing just that.
Thursday, November 27, 2008
Happy Thanksgiving 2008 to all.
I remember Thanksgiving holidays when I was a child. We used to dress up in old raggedy clothes and go around and beg, "Anything for Thanksgiving."
At that time, the Halloween custom of making the rounds asking for candies and other treats did not exist, at least in Queens and Brooklyn, where we grew up.
There is a letter to the editor in today's The New York Times by George H. La Porte 3rd on this very practice of Thanksgiving begging.
Writes La Porte:
"My brother and I were Thanksgiving "ragamuffins" in what is now called the Midwood section of Brooklyn -- we called it simply Flatbush then -- beginning in the early 1930's and continuing until our personal vanity led us to retire. We were "too big" to appear in public in the guise of urchins.
"We had it on excellent authority -- our parents' -- that Thanksgiving begging dated to well before World War I. They had, in fact, participated themselves in the Fort Greene section of Brooklyn.
"Halloween activity was confined to the "tricks" and Thanksgiving to the "treats" before the conflation when, instead of two autumn opportunities to taunt our neighbors, we were left with only one, Halloween, which soon was appropriated by the adult establishment for its own aims.
"Based upon our first-hand information, we believe the custom of Thanksgiving begging started not later than the beginning of the century, at least in Brooklyn, where most good things began anyway."
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
Today's The New York Times carries a story by Olesya Vartanyan and Ellen Barry reporting that a former Saakashvili associate caused a near riot with his testimony yesterday that people in the Georgian government told him last April that Saakashvili planned to start a war in Abkhazia. It turned out that Saakashvili changed his plans and actually attacked pro-Russian-leaning civilians in South Ossetia.
Write Vartanyan and Barry:
"A parliamentary hearing on the origins of the war between Georgia and Russia in August ended in a furor on Tuesday after a former Georgian diplomat testified that Georgian authorities were responsible for starting the conflict.
Erosi Kitsmarishvili, Tbilisi’s former ambassador to Moscow, testified for three hours before he was shouted down by members of Parliament.
A former confidant of President Mikheil Saakashvili, Mr. Kitsmarishvili said Georgian officials told him in April that they planned to start a war in Abkhazia, one of two breakaway regions at issue in the war, and had received a green light from the United States government to do so. He said the Georgian government later decided to start the war in South Ossetia, the other region, and continue into Abkhazia.
He would not name the officials who he said had told him about planned actions in Abkhazia, saying that identifying them would endanger their lives."
The BBC reports on the same story today on its web page.
""Russia was ready for this war, but the Georgian leadership started the military action first," Mr Kitsmarishvili told the commission on Tuesday.
He said he had this information "from high-ranking Georgian officials". However, he said he believed Georgia had been provoked into war by Russia.
Mr Kitsmarishvili has been an outspoken critic of the Georgian president since being replaced as ambassador to Moscow, the BBC's Tom Esslemont in Tbilisi says.
On Tuesday, the former envoy also claimed that Mr Saakashvili told him in March of plans to use force to retake Abkhazia - another Georgia's rebel region.
He said the president had also told him he would move the Georgian capital to Abkhazia's capital, Sukhumi, in August.
Several members of the bi-partisan commission and Georgian government officials described Mr Kitsmarishvili's comments as "shameless" and "irresponsible"."
Remember not too long ago when John McCain saw the Georgian/Russian conflict in stark black and white without any shades of grey in between? And how all the Republicans including Bush rushed to condemn Russia for being the "aggressor" and threatening its former satellites. And do you remember how Cheney and Rice each visited Saakashvili to commit American support and protection?
How much more evidence do those guys need to see that their support for Saakashvili is support for a hot head who would start a war for domestic political reasons, so that he could defuse those Georgian critics who accused him of trampling over civil liberties and human rights in Georgia.
Saakashvili is no more than a thug. It is a shame that the U.S. government is blind to that reality and continues to support him with millions in military aid.
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
Politico reports today that Robert Gates will remain as Defense Secretary under Barack Obama.
Writes Mike Allen for Politco:
"Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates has agreed to stay on under President-elect Obama, according to officials in both parties. Obama plans to announce a national-security team early next week that includes Gates at the Pentagon and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) as secretary of State, officials said."
Some may think Gates is acceptable but I don't. First. Gates supports increasing U.S. forces in Afghanistan. As I written here on several occasions, Afghanistan is the black hole for foreign forces. Not since Alexander the Great has a foreign army successfully invaded and occupied and conquered the Afghan people. Since then Afghanistan has chewed up and spit out foreign invaders. The same thing lies ahead for the Americans.
Second. Gates as DefSec believes military power is effective in pursuing U.S. interests. I disagree totally with the premise. Shooting and killing foreigners does nothing to advance U.S. interests anywhere in the world.
As for Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State, Obama seems to have forgotten what Clinton said about the Iranians, how she would "obliterate" them in the event of a war with Israel. If you were Iranian, I am sure you would judge Clinton to be another crazed militaristic American intent on conquering the world through bombs and missiles and tanks. Someone who even considers obliterating another people or another nation is not suited to be the chief diplomat of the United States.
I wrote yesterday about the truly unfortunate conviction of the five officers of the Holy Land Foundation, a charity designed to assist Gazans who find themselves in subsistence poverty because of Israel's implacable oppression. Each of the five could be sentenced to hundreds of years in prison.
Gretal Kovack writes in today's The New York Times:
"The five defendants, all leaders of the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development, based in Richardson, a Dallas suburb, were convicted on all 108 criminal counts against them, including support of terrorism, money laundering and tax fraud. The group was accused of funneling millions of dollars to the Palestinian militant group Hamas, an Islamist organization the government declared to be a terrorist group in 1995."
Think about what this conviction will do to other charitable organizations that want to assist Palestinians. They will immediately be suspect. Their donations will dry up. Their assistance to Palestinians will cease. That means more children will go without food, schools in Gaza will shut down, and families will become even more desperate than they are today.
Bush and Cheney will no doubt portray the verdict as a victory in their "war against terror." However, it really is a defeat for humanitarianism and generosity towards those who no fault of their own are in dire and parlous condition.
Monday, November 24, 2008
Israel continues its illegal and inhumane and unjust blockade of Gaza. Today, the BBC reports that Israel did let in 40 truck-loads of food and some fuel but that just highlights the true nature of the blockade. Forty trucks of food for over a million Gazans reveals the awful nature of the collective punishment that Israel continues to inflict.
Israel says it will not open the borders for the necessities of life until insurgents stop firing missiles and rockets into Israeli towns. But how can Israel justify the punishment of an entire population on account of the very few who are firing the rockets? I thought war-crimes trials after WWII demonstrated the illegal and indefensible nature of collective punishment.
It is a travesty that a federal jury in Texas has convicted the largest Islamic charity of aiding a terrorist organization. Paul Weber writes for the AP on The Washington Post web site that a jury in Texas has convicted five charity leaders of each one of 108 counts. The five convicted men could be sentenced to prison for the rest of their lives.
Federal juries can be notorious for their tendency to convict, especially if the accused have Latino or even worse Islamic/Arabic names.
"Ghassan Elashi, Holy Land's former chairman, and Shukri Abu-Baker, the chief executive, were convicted of a combined 69 counts, including supporting a specially designated terrorist, money laundering and tax fraud.
"Mufid Abdulqader and Abdulrahman Odeh were convicted of three counts of conspiracy, and Mohammed El-Mezain was convicted of one count of conspiracy to support a terrorist organization. Holy Land itself was convicted of all 32 counts.
""I feel heartbroken that a group of my fellow Americans fell for the prosecution's fear-mongering theory," Elashi's daughter, Noor, said outside the courthouse late Monday. "This is truly a low point for the United States of America, but this is not over.""
This is the second go-around for these five. Their first trial ended in a hung jury. This time, they were not convicted of engaging in any terrorist plot but in providing funds for Hamas, the civic, social and militant organization that rules Gaza in Palestine. Imagine being convicted in a federal court because you collected and transmitted monies for the aid of Gazans who live day-to-day in abject misery and poverty.
The verdict is akin to finding that Colombianos sending money home are guilty of supporting "illegal" political organizations insofar as some of the money happens to find its way to members of the FARC.
This unfortunate verdict penalizes those who in good will support charities that care for people whom Israel and the U.S. don't like.
How did Barack Obama pick Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State?
Obama says he wants to use diplomacy and negotiation with all countries, especially those the Bush/Cheney gang tried to portray as enemies of the United States. That obviously means Iran.
But if Obama wants to cool tensions with Iran and begin a new phase of diplomacy and peaceful existence, how will Hillary Clinton fit in? Remember she is the one who threatened to "obliterate" Iran in the event of an Iranian nuclear attack.
Clinton's "obliterate" comment was not helpful. If you were an average Iranian, what would you think of it? Certainly you would have visions of Iranian cities going up in flames much the same as Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Thousands if not millions of men, women and children annihilated. Cities destroyed and left in ruins like Hamburg and Dresden.
So my question remains, what was Obama thinking in naming someone who has been so intemperate and reckless in her words the chief U.S. diplomat?
Saturday, November 22, 2008
I think one of the most informative new news broadcasts is World Focus with Martin Savidge. It comes on weekdays and is a serious rival to BBC World News. But World Focus does a substandard job with news about Iran and its purported nuclear program. So here is a letter I sent to World Focus and Martin Savidge, asking them to be more sceptical of unsubstantiated claims that Iran is trying to build a nuclear bomb.
Can't you guys be more suspicious of "experts" and guests on your news show who claim that Iran is close to building a nuclear bomb? You just take it as if it were the gospel truth.
Doesn't your gullibility on Iran remind you of what happened to reports about WMD in Iraq? Remember all those experts who said Iraq had chemical agents that could kill within 45 minutes? Looking back those guys cried wolf and lots of people even from the NYT believed them on faith. So how could you let this paradigm be repeated today with Iran.
A suggestion. Anyone who comes on and says Iran is a month away or that Iran wants to build a nuclear weapon or that Iran poses a danger, stop and ask them for the evidence. Don't just take it.
Second. Whenever you have a guest who is going to claim Iran is a danger, have an Iranian on to give his or her countervailing opinion. Someone like Shirn Ebadi, the Nobel prize winner. Certainly you could arrange for an interview with her or someone of her stature.
My argument is that there is NO evidence that Iran is doing what it said it has no desire to do as to nuclear weapons. So be sceptical of these guys, whether from the Council of Foreign Policy or wherever. Don't contribute to the demonizing of Iran and Iranians without so much as a peep. Demand proof and evidence.
Candace Rondeaux reports today on The Washington Post website that the U.S. has killed five more people in the eastern tribal areas of Pakistan by means of missiles fired from unmanned drones.
One of them appears to be an Al Qaeda type wanted in a conspiracy to blow up a British jetliner. But the identity of the others is uncertain. The question is, what if they were civilians, women, children, ordinary villagers? Would this U.S. incursion into Pakistan and the killings be justified under international or even American law?
My argument is that when any other civilians are killed, there is no proportionality. This means that I believe the attacks are unjustified. I don't care that the U.S. argues that its strike killed a dangerous Al Qaeda member. Such air strikes are bound to kill innocent people who just happen to be in the vicinity. I mean the wife and kids of the terrorist as well as neighbors. Whoever in the CIA pulled the trigger had to know that the missiles would annihilate standers by and innocent others. Given such knowledge, the attack cannot be justified.
I call upon president elect Obama to put an end to any strikes from the air, whether manned or unmanned. The act of firing a missile or dropping a bomb is reprehensible and inhumane because it does irreversible damage to the non-fighters.
Imagine what a fertile source of future insurgents from those who survive the attack and see the injustice perpetrated by the U.S. government in killing their friends and neighbors. This is why Pakistani authorities have strenuously complained to American authorities that these attacks should come to an end.
"The recent series of cross border drone attacks have also drawn criticism from Pakistan's top military officer, Gen. Ashfaq Pervez Kayani. Earlier this week, Kayani, who formerly headed the ISI, urged NATO officials to halt the missile strikes during a two-day visit to the military organization's headquarters in Brussels. Kayani and other top Pakistani officials have said that collateral damage and civilian deaths from the missile strikes could stir rising anti-American sentiment in Pakistan, a key ally in the U.S.-led war against Islamist insurgents in Afghanistan."
There are those in the Bush administration, such as Dana Perino as well as George Bush himself, who insist that the U.S. does not "torture." Harsh interrogation techniques, yes, torture no.
The most shocking thing is that it seems that the Republican faithful eat this up and willingly transmit this canard. You would think that Republicans could see through the charade and that they all would condemn these harsh interrogation techniques for what they are. But no, Republicans stand solidly behind Bush and Cheney in approving torture as an approved policy.
Andrew Sullivan has a must read post on his blog The Daily Dish for The Atlantic Monthly:
"This is the defining line of torture: not some arbitrary comic book technique, but a psychological and physical fact: pushing another human being to the point where choice becomes unavailable to him or her. You can do this in any number of ways; it can take three seconds of electrocution or it can take two months of sleep deprivation, hypothermia and darkness. But the line it eventually crosses is the same line. Throughout human history, human beings have known what that line is, and the West was constructed on a disavowal of ever crossing it again. Why? Because a society that endorses torture commits itself not to limiting, but to extinguishing human freedom. And a protection of human freedom in its most minimal form is what our entire civilization is premised on."
Sullivan goes on to describe some of the Bush/Cheney et al. approved techniques:
"Even the word "torture" can be too vague and abstract a term. So let us state in plain English how Bush, Cheney, Tenet, et al. actually got information. They did it by subjecting prisoners to repeated drowning, or freezing, or heating, or sadistically long sleeplessness, or shackling or crucifying them until the pain could be borne no longer, or beating them until they pleaded for mercy, or threatening to kill or torture their children or wife or parents. Or all of the above in combination, in isolation, and with no surety of ever seeing the light of day again, with no right to meaningful due process of any kind, sometimes sealed off from light and sound for months at a time, or bombarded with indescribable noise day and night in cells fro which there was no escape ever. This is what "under coercive conditions" actually means. It drove many of the victims into become mumbling, shaking, insane shells of human beings; it killed dozens; it drove others still to hunger strikes to try to kill themselves; and it terrified and scarred and "broke" the souls of many, many others."
Thursday, November 20, 2008
I heard and saw Charles Gasparino today on CNBC make outrageous and baseless claims that the current Wall Street meltdown was caused by too much government regulation.
Of course, the actual cause was just the opposite - too little SEC regulation of hybrid instruments such as collateralized mortgage oblations and credit default swaps, to name just a few.
When Gasparino speaks of the securities industry being highly regulated, he has a point if he means the requirement for registration and licensing of brokers, dealers and registered reps. But he can't possibly mean over-regulation of these news mortgage-backed instruments and the gimmicky insurance contracts called arcanely "credit default swaps." Unbelievably these "securities" are not and were not required to be registered with the SEC nor did they come under the requirements of the Securities Act of 1933 which mandates registration of most new issues of securities with the SEC.
So when Gasparino claims over-regulation is the cause of the deep grief of today's markets, he is making this argument from whole cloth. But he can still do damage, if some of his viewers think he actually knows whereof he speaks.
I take interest in Ayman Al Zawahiri's characterization of Barack Obama as the "house slave." Some American media report this phrase in a much different sense, "house nigger." However, Juan Cole who is fluent in Arabic confirms the "house slave."
For me, "house slave" has a much "richer" meaning against the background of the Middle East and Islam. For anyone familiar with Montesquieu's Lettres Persanes, well-off Muslims at least through the 18th Century would establish their own harems or seraglios. The important connection is that the harems were guarded by "house slaves" or eunuchs, whose job it was to keep the women in almost absolute imprisonment and bondage as well as fight off competing males.
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
The stock market seems to have no bottom, with stock prices going down several hundred points per day. Today was no exception. The DJIA fell over 400 points. Thus this might be an appropriate time to describe some of the people who populate CNBC's market coverage.
1. Pete Najarian, a panelist on Fast Money - a loud-mouth who believes his points are stronger when he yells them. Pete always tries to recommend options. Of course, he and his brother John Najarian own and operate a retail options firm. Nice tie-in, right?
2. Joe Kernen, one of the hosts of Squawk on The Street - not too nice a person. Always takes the side against labor unions, Democrats, and against government intervention except when that intervention will safeguard the value of his own 401(k), as in the 700 billion+ bailout of Wall Street banks.
3. Michelle Cabruso Cabrera - a tough girl from NYC. She smiles too much. Her politics are suspect - she always seems to side with the Republican shills like CNBC's reporter Charlie Gasparino, The Wall Street Journal's Steve Moore and CNBC's house idiot Larry Kudlow.
4. Jim Cramer, host of Mad Money - about the only bright spot in today's blog lineup. Cramer frequently gets his stock picks bashed after he recommends them, but this might be the result of his enemies on the street shorting precisely those stocks he selects. But Cramer has been right on the general direction of this market - DOWN. Cramer has been urging his viewers over the past year to lighten up on their stock portfolios. And Cramer has been right to stress that without assistance for besieged homeowners in danger of foreclosure, the market will tank and everyone's 401(k) will be decimated.
More in later posts.
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
It is clear to all with the possible exception of American neo-cons and Israeli ultra nationalists that Israel's blockade of shipkents of food and medicine into Gaza is a violation of the most basic of human rights.
Navi Pillay, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights today condemns Israel for the blockade.
This from the U.N. web site:
"The top United Nations human rights official called today for an immediate end to the Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip, which she said contravened international law and had deprived those living there of their most basic human rights for months."
Israel seems to believe it can violate basic tenets of international law because a few members of Hamas are shooting missiles into and onto Israeli towns. What Hamas is doing is also a human rights crime, but that does not give Israel the right to respond with collective punishment. We have seen too much collective punishment with the Nazis in WWII where for every German soldier killed, the Nazis would kill 10 or even 100 innocent civilians. It is unbelievable that Israel, homeland to the Jews from all over the world, would even consider using collective punishment against the one million plus residents of Gaza, many of whom are children.
Reports the UN website:
"Ms. Pillay called on the Israeli authorities to facilitate the urgent passage of essential humanitarian goods into Gaza, including food, medical supplies and fuel, to allow the immediate restoration of electricity, water and other essential services, and to lift restrictions on the movement of civilians for medical, educational and religious purposes.
"“Decisive steps must be taken to preserve the dignity and basic welfare of the civilian population, more than half of which are children,” she said."
I strongly disagree with the editorial in today's The New York Times urging the passage of the free trade agreement with Colombia.
Writes the NYT:
"We don’t say it all that often, but President Bush is right: Congress should pass the Colombian free-trade agreement now.
"Mr. Bush signed the deal two years ago. The Democratic majority in Congress has refused to approve it out of a legitimate concern over the state of human rights in Colombia and less legitimate desires to pander to organized labor or deny Mr. Bush a foreign policy win.
"We believe that the trade pact would be good for America’s economy and workers. Rejecting it would send a dismal message to allies the world over that the United States is an unreliable partner and, despite all that it preaches, does not really believe in opening markets to trade. There is no more time to waste. If the lame-duck Congress does not approve the trade pact this year, prospects would dim considerably since it would lose the cover of the rule (formerly known as fast track) that provides for an up-or-down, no-amendment vote."
Colombia has long been a home to right wing death squads. These groups seem to have the backing of Colombia's ruling class and the Colombian army. Just recently a story has emerged how the Colombian military had a practice of kidnapping young men from poorer sections of Bogota to take to the jungle, kill them, and then proffer their bodies as successful head counts in the war against the FARC.
Furthermore, Colombia's president Alvaro Uribe is no friend of the rule of law or democracy. Uribe wanted Colombia's constitution changed so he could run for a third term. Furthermore, he ordered an attack of a FARC camp inside Ecuador, a clear violation of Ecuador's sovereignty and against international law.
And Uribe is a close ally of George W. Bush. That in itself should make Congress think twice before approving the trade agreement.
Instead of blindly giving Bush and Uribe what they want, Congress should wait until the new Obama administration comes on stage. Obama needs to do a thorough review of U.S. policy towards Latin America. In particular, he needs to change the current Bush policy of neglect and disinterest in Latin American events and politics.
Obama needs to cultivate Hugo Sanchez of Venezuela as well as Evo Morales of Bolivia and Rafael Correa of Ecuador. There is no reason why Obama should continue the failed Bush policy of trying to make these leaders and their states "enemies" of the United States. I am sure they all look forward to getting rid of the Bush administration and starting a new more peaceful era with Obama.
Therefore, in disagreement with the NYT, no agreement over trade with Colombia at this point. Wait till Obama comes in. Then perhaps the U.S. can establish free trade pacts not only with Colombia but also with all the other countries in the region, including Venezuela, Ecuador and Bolivia.
Monday, November 17, 2008
The medieval situation of daily living in Saudi Arabia for foreigners is graphically illuminated with a Saudi court sentencing an Egyptian medical doctor to 15 years in jail and 1500 lashes.
The "crime" apparently was driving alone with a woman passenger who was a member of the Saudi Royal Family. The coerced "confessed crime," however, was inducing the female patient to become a drug addict.
The BBC reports on its web site:
"Rauf Amin Mohammad al-Arabi, who had worked for the royal family for 20 years, was sentenced to 15 years in jail and 1,500 lashes.
He and Shawky Abd-Rabbu were convicted of prescribing morphine to a princess - who then became a drug addict."
I thought Saudi Arabia was a "friend" of the Bush/Cheney gang. Is this the conduct of "friends?"
The case of Rauf Amin Mohammad is a perfect example of no due process. It appears that Rauf Amin Mohammad had no access to any lawyers, had limited right to appeal, was forced to confess during the time he was hospitalized for surgery, was held for the last two years with limited rights to visits from his family.
And consider the penalty - 1500 lashes administered on a weekly basis of 50 lashes each. Who could survive the physical stress and pain? This really is a death sentence.
Reports the BBC:
"Seventy of the lashes were reportedly administered last week, with 70 next week.
"The doctors had denied the allegations, but were initially sentence to 750 lashes on charges of malpractice. They appealed but lost and the sentence was then doubled.
"Arabi's wife, Fathiya Shehata Hendawi, says the sentence will kill her husband. She has begged for leniency and is appealing to the Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to save his life.
""It's impossible that he will be able to handle 1,500 lashes. Maybe after the ninth or 10th one he will be killed. God forbid.
"Who benefits from this? Not his kids, their father is a victim of something he did not do. He is a victim of complete injustice," she said.
"The Saudi royal family has refused to comment but a number of Egyptian newspapers blame their own government, which they say suffers an inferiority complex when it comes to dealing with the oil rich Saudis, says our correspondent."
The case of Rauf Amin Mohammad shows life in Saudi Arabia to be backward and draconian. The whole world needs to understand the primitiveness of Saudi society and its stunted legal code.
Sunday, November 16, 2008
Here is text of an email I sent to Martin Savidge and World Focus, the new internationally centered news broadcast. I take objection to the seemingly biased attitude of World Focus towards Iran.
I watch World Focus almost every night and enjoy your international news. However, I find your treatment of stories about Iran to be biased in favor of the neo-con Bush/Cheney approach of solving all international problems by shooting missiles and dropping bombs.
Why did you need to ask your NYT guest the other night whether "all options are still on the table," implying that the US would be justified in starting a war with Iran?
How about giving Ahmadinejad some credit for establishing closer relationships with Bolivia and Venezuela?
Why not talk about Israel having nuclear weapons in violation of the NPT instead of implying that Iran wants to develop nuclear technology for purposes of developing nuclear bombs?
Friday, November 14, 2008
Israel still persists in cutting off food, medicine and fuel from the Palestinians in Gaza. Israel claims it is doing this because it must close all the border crossings for purposes of security because Palestinians have been firing rockets into Israeli towns.
Linda Gradstein writes for The Washington Post:
"The resulting Israeli blockade has disrupted a U.N. program that feeds about half of Gaza's population, said Ging. Food distributed through the United Nations Relief and Works Agency includes flour, oil, rice, sugar and canned meat, and is meant to provide 60 percent of daily caloric needs.
""Many of these families have been subsisting on this ration for years and they are living hand to mouth," Ging said angrily. "This is a disastrous situation and its getting worse and worse. Even during the cease-fire we were prohibited from building up our reserves which could have prevented the current crisis. This is shocking.""
This is outright collective punishment, a violation of international law. A few Palestinians fire rockets, therefore starve and punish the entire Palestinian people.
Israel, stop this illegal and inhumane practice of collective punishment!
Did you catch President Bush's self-serving speech yesterday to the conservative Manhattan Institute at the Federal Building on Broad and Wall? Dan Eggen reports the speech for today's The Washington Post:
"The president's remarks clearly sought to influence a debate that appears headed in a direction Bush and his aides do not favor, just two months before he leaves office. Many of the world's most influential world leaders, including French President Nicolas Sarkozy, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, have advocated bold reforms including, to use a Sarkozy example, restrictions on executive pay.
"The speech came as the Bush administration still struggles to implement the faltering federal bailout package, while fending off calls from President-elect Barack Obama and other Democrats for additional stimulus measures. Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson Jr. acknowledged Wednesday that the administration had abandoned its initial plan to buy distressed mortgage securities, focusing instead on offering aid to banks and other lenders to shore up credit markets."
Bush claims that the current financial melt-down stems not from the lax regulatory policy of his administration but has been building for decades, thus trying to cast the blame on Clinton and former administrations, including that of his father. Bush is so transparent. He wants so much to deflect blame and cast himself as the great leader capable of no wrong.
Bush claims that American capitalism can solve its own problems, thereby cutting off Sarkozy and Merkel's proposals for stricter financial markets regulation. What he is saying is that he refuses to help those homeowners who are now or in the immediate future risking foreclosure of their homes and mortgages. But he conveniently omits the 700 billion plus bail-out of the large Wall Street banks. So here is Bush's policy - help the banks and insurance companies who cannot meet their obligations but damn the poor sucker who cannot pay his or her mortgage.
"Bush also argued that "the crisis was not a failure of the free market system" and that leaders should "not try to reinvent that system." Rather, he said, global leaders need to "fix the problems we face, make the reforms we need, and move forward with the free-market principles that have delivered prosperity and hope to people around the world."
""If you seek economic growth, if you seek opportunity, if you seek social justice and human dignity, the free market system is the way to go," Bush said to another burst of applause. "And it would be a terrible mistake to allow a few months of crisis to undermine 60 years of success."
"But Grant Aldonas, a former senior trade official in the Bush administration now with the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said the tenor of the speech suggests Bush "does not understand his moment." He also said the administration has lost authority to argue against government intervention in the markets.
""The disabling of capitalism has already begun and he's the one who started it," Aldonas said. "It rings hollow for an awful lot of people, not only in the marketplace but for world leaders abroad. . . . They are the ones who are going to have the leverage at the table.""
Thursday, November 13, 2008
Yesterday, in a five-to-four split decision, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Navy over its use of sonar in the Pacific off California. A number of groups had tried to hold the Navy to compliance with the National Environmental Impact Act because of their fear that the Navy's anti-submarine exercises would harm marine life with its high powered sonar signals.
In a decision reminiscent of the shameful Korematsu case - the WWII case where the Supremes weakly went along with Roosevelt's plan to lock up all Japanese Americans in camps for the duration of the war on the basis that the Court had no business second guessing the arguments of military military officers, - Chief Justice Roberts based his decision on and gave extreme deference to testimony of Navy officers who claimed that sonar testing was necessary for the training and ability of Navy personnel to find, detect and destroy "enemy" submarines. Marine mammals might be harmed but the Navy's arguments, based on fear that a more serious harm would occur to national security unless it could resume its sonar exercises, won the day, at least with five of the nine justices.
The case is WINTER, SECRETARY OF THE NAVY, v NATURAL RESOURCES DEFENSE COUNCIL, INC., ET AL. Here is a link to the text of the case.
"The public interest in conducting training exercises with active sonar under realistic conditions plainly outweighs the interests advanced by the plaintiffs. Of course, military interests do not always trump other considerations,and we have not held that they do. In this case, however, the proper determination of where the public interest lies does not strike us as a close question. . . .
"President Theodore Roosevelt explained that "the only way in which a navy can ever be made efficient is by practice at sea, under all the conditions which would have to be met if war existed." President’s Annual Message, 42 Cong. Rec. 67, 81 (1907). We do not discount the importance of plaintiffs’ ecological, scientific, and recreational interests in marine mammals. Those interests, however, are plainly outweighed by the Navy’s need to conduct realistic training exercises to ensure that it is able to neutralize the threat posed by enemy submarines."
I disagree with Roberts. Why should preparation for war outweigh preserving whales and other sea life? Even though Roberts says, "military interests do not always trump other considerations, and we have not held that they do," I suspect that he and the other members of the Court who sided with him (Scalia, Alito, Thomas and Kennedy) would nearly always find the interests of the military outweigh and trump non-military interests. These justices are surely Republicans (other than Kennedy about whom I am not sure) and in my mind Republicans tend to be militaristic and try to solve problems with ships and tanks.
Roberts talks about "enemy submarines." The Navy has convinced him that there are forces of evil lurking and hiding in the deep seas ready to strike America. This is fanciful imagination at work in the halls of the Court. Bush-speak has invaded judicial chambers. America represents the good, the rest of the world forces of evil.
We don't need a Navy carrying out anti-submarine exercises off the coast of California. In the same way, we don't need an air force dropping bombs on villagers in some remote agrarian part of Pakistan.
Israel continues with its blockade of food, medicine and fuel to the Palestinians in Gaza. Can we have any better example of the shameful and despised practice of collective punishment? Some Hamas members shoot missiles into Israeli towns along the border, so Israel decides to punish the entire Gaza population by denying essentials of life. Israel is thereby saying that it is willing tokill the entire million people in Gaza for the actions of a handful.
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
Human Rights Watch released a report highly critical of both Egypt and Israel for their treatment of immigrants coming from Africa, principally from Sudan and Somalia. Over 30 immigrants have been shot as they tried cross from Egypt into Israel, all by Egyptian border patrol guards. Israel has rounded up immigrants and forced them back into Egypt where they can look forward to being deported back to their home countries.
The BBC reports on the Human Rights Watch study:
"An international human rights lobby group has called on Egypt to stop shooting African migrants as they cross the country's border into Israel.
"Egyptian border guards have shot dead at least 32 African refugees and migrants since June 2007, Human Rights Watch says in a new 90-page report."
However, Israel is also criticized in the study. Reports the BBC:
"Police in Israel have detained about 200 Africans in Tel Aviv following the announcement of tough measures against illegal immigrants.
"A police spokesman said the detainees - mainly from Sudan, Eritrea and the Ivory Coast - who do not have refugee status would be deported.
"Human rights activists have criticised the detentions."
Ehud Olmert has ordered the tightening of border controls, reports the BBC:
"Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Sunday instructed Israeli police to deport thousands of African asylum seekers who have entered Israel though the Egyptian border. He also ordered security officials to tighten control of the border with Egypt."
We see this wave of anti-immigration in Italy, Israel and, of course, in the United States. The whole question of immigration is based on individual human rights and dignity. Everyone should be able to go wherever he or she wants to improve or better one's economic position, provided that one is peaceful and does no bodily harm. But at its roots, the anti-immigrant movement distrusts the foreigner, his language and different skin color.
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
Jen Dimascio has an article on Politico today about anti-war Democrats urging Obama to dump Robert Gates as Defense Secretary. I agree.
Gates has been too gung-ho over beefing up the size of the U.S. presence in Afghanistan. This is a dead-end position for the United States. The U.S. will never win in Afghanistan on the basis of military force. It might prevail in helping that poor country build up its infrastructure, build sewer lines, string electric power lines, but it will never defeat Afghani insurgents and the Taliban militarily. Consider that the Afghanis have defeated every foreign invading force going back to Alexander the Great.
I admit Gates is a DefSec far superior to Donald Rumsfeld and the other neo-con hawks in the Bush/Cheney administration. For example, Gates reputedly has been one of the officials who have argued against striking Iran.
But Gates is still a believer in military might and the War in Iraq. Writes Dimascio:
"Arms control advocates and anti-war activists are ratcheting up pressure on President-elect Barack Obama to dump Defense Secretary Robert Gates and replace him with a more strident anti-war voice. . . ."
"Gates exacerbated the opposition to his retention with a recent speech at the Carnegie Foundation in which he staked out a position that made it hard for arms control advocates to back the notion of keeping him around.
"Congress last year pulled funding from studies to create a Reliable Replacement Warhead program, which would reduce and replace aging nuclear warheads in the nation’s arsenal. During the speech, Gates said the cut was misguided."
Today marks the 90th anniversary of the end of World War I, the Great War to end all wars. At the 11th hour on the 11th day of the 11th month, November 11, 1918 at 11 AM, the armistice was signed. It was only in 1954 that the United States changed the name to Veterans Day.
But still in Europe it is Armistice Day. Today European leaders commemorated the day, reflecting on the enormous total of millions dead, not only soldiers but many civilians.
The New York Times has an editorial commemorating the event, saying:
"What we are likely to have forgotten is the horror the Great War stirred in those who witnessed it. For many, the full horror dawned slowly, as they clung to a comfortable self-insulation."
The BBC reports on the words of Australian President Kevin Rudd at a memorial service at the War Memorial at Canberra:
"Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd used a speech at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra to issue a call for peace.
""We have all endured a most bloody century," he said.
"Let us resolve afresh at the dawn of this new century... that this might be a truly pacific peaceful century.""