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?

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.

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

DECEMBER 25, 2008

Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukah to all my readers on this 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.

Ellick reports:

"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.

Writes MacFarquhar:

"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.

MacFarquhar reports:

"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.