An Israeli peace activist who has been protesting the continued encroachment of Israeli settlements on Palestinian land will be sentenced tomorrow by an Israeli court, probably to several months incarceration, writes Rory McCarthy for guardian.com.uk.
"A prominent Israeli peace activist is expected to be sentenced to several months in jail tomorrow in a high-profile prosecution which began after he tried to stop the demolition of Palestinian homes near a Jewish settlement in the occupied West Bank."
The activist is a plumber, Ezra Nawi, 50, who has been organizing protests against what he considers illegal seizure of Palestinian lands for Israeli settlements. He was arrested and charged for assaulting a policeman when the Israeli Army sent bulldozers to destroy Palestinian shacks on land that Israeli settlers wanted to expropriate.
"His trial has sparked a broad campaign of support from academics, musicians and artists. "You have here the whole misery and cruelty of the occupation in a nutshell," David Shulman, a Hebrew University professor and activist with the Israeli-Palestinian peace group Ta'ayush, wrote in the Ha'aretz newspaper.
""Inside the occupied Palestinian territories is a shadow state where the only real law is the law of the gun, where land is being taken away from its rightful owners every day, and where the very few who stand up to protest, without violence, like Ezra Nawi, are sent to prison."
"Another Hebrew University academic and peace activist, Amiel Vardi, who teaches classics, said: "I don't know of anyone as dedicated as Ezra." Vardi, too, said Nawi was different from most. "We are others. Even for those who work with us for years and perhaps understand more or less what we are doing, we are still others," he said. "Not Ezra. Ezra is accepted as a human being, meaning they both belong to the same group. He is not so much of an other.""
Tuesday, June 30, 2009
An Israeli peace activist who has been protesting the continued encroachment of Israeli settlements on Palestinian land will be sentenced tomorrow by an Israeli court, probably to several months incarceration, writes Rory McCarthy for guardian.com.uk.
Saturday, June 27, 2009
How long must Obama make the country wait until: the CIA releases its report on interrogation methods; the Justice Department releases its report on how lawyers at the Office of Legal Counsel could have written legal opinions justifying waterboarding; Obama makes public those photos of prisoner abuse; we get Bush and Cheney testimony on taking the U.S. into an unjustified war in Iraq?
Carrie Johnson writes in today's thewashingtonpost.com about the government seeking yet another delay in releasing the CIA report:
"Justice Department lawyers told a federal judge yesterday that the disclosure of a hotly anticipated 2004 report by the CIA inspector general on the Bush administration's interrogation program for terrorism suspects will be delayed until shortly before the July 4 holiday weekend."
Instead of maintaining Bush's policy of keeping everything a secret, when will Obama make the decision to reveal all "state secrets" (a euphemism for facts that embarrass people in government) once and for all?
Wednesday, June 24, 2009
The BBC has talked to 27 former inmates at the notorious U.S. military prison at Bagram, Afghanistan, and reports that most say that American soldiers inflicted periods of sleeplessness, forced standing, loud music and other wise inhumane and cruel treatment.
Ian Pannell reports for the BBC on this story:
"Many allegations of ill-treatment appear repeatedly in the interviews: physical abuse, the use of stress positions, excessive heat or cold, unbearably loud noise, being forced to remove clothes in front of female soldiers.
"In four cases detainees were threatened with death at gunpoint.
""They did things that you would not do against animals let alone to humans," said one inmate known as Dr Khandan.
""They poured cold water on you in winter and hot water in summer. They used dogs against us. They put a pistol or a gun to your head and threatened you with death," he said.
""They put some kind of medicine in the juice or water to make you sleepless and then they would interrogate you.""
So who is responsible for the operation of this prison and who made up these harsh interrogation methods and installed them as standard operating procedure? We know the answer to the two latter questions: it was George Bush and Dick Cheney who devised and then implemented these methods of torture, not some sergeant or specialist in the U.S. Army. But as to who is responsible - now it is Barack Obama and his Secretary of Defense Robert Gates. It is anyone's guess as to whether this awful treatment of Afghanis still continues. But if it does continue, it is up to Obama and Gates to shut it down without delay.
Furthermore, Obama has adopted the Bush line that prisoners in Afghanistan are not deserving of the protections of the U.S. constitution. This means that Obama is trying to deny to these prisoners basic human rights, such as receiving a fair trial, and asking for habeas relief from an independent court, such as that found in the Fourth Amendment that allows a court to consider whether a person is being held unjustly.
Obama's position against granting basic protections to these prisoners at Bagram is beyond comprehension. Americans voted for Obama as president because they believed that he would end the injustice and violations of human rights. Has he now dismissed the views of all those who voted for him?
Tuesday, June 23, 2009
Israel is planning a new settlement of 240 homes, thus showing its disagreement with the Obama call to end any and all new settlements.
Like most of Israel's recent settlements, this one is being built on Palestinian land.
Rory McCarthy writes for The Guardian:
"Construction at the outpost, known as Water Reservoir Hill, near the Talmon settlement, north of Ramallah, would "greatly damage" the freedom of movement of Palestinian farmers in the area, according to Bimkom, an Israeli planning rights group."
The Israeli government says that these new homes were approved a while ago and have been in the works. But the development is bound to antagonize both the Palestinians and those Americans who want the settlements to stop.
"The Israeli government insisted the homes were part of old proposals. "These houses have been completed, and there has been no approval given for new houses," one official said.
"The plan, which follows a pattern over many years of settlement growth, appears to challenge directly Barack Obama's administration, which has issued several clear calls for an end to the practice."
It would appear that Netanyahu et al. have decided that Israel will not negotiate cessation of new settlements. Apparently, Netanyahu believes that Israel as divinely favored, has a right, nay a duty, to expropriate and develop all of the land that the Jews of old inhabited. Thus we see Israeli settlers flouting mundane law regarding ownership of property, especially that belonging to Palestinians. The fact that the Palestinians have legal title simply has no meaning when compared to the settlers' vision of a reconstituted Israel. This situation cannot bring peace to Israel.
"So far, Israel has resisted Washington's pressure for a halt to construction in settlements and the issue is fast becoming a test of wills between the two governments. In an interview yesterday Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, said arguing about settlement activity was a waste of time. Last week, the US secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, told Israel's foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, that Washington wanted "to see a stop to the settlements"."
Good news. Sir John Chilcot, head of the British inquiry on the causes and reasons for the Iraq War, has decided that evidence be taken in public. This means that former PM Tony Blair will give evidence in public regarding his decision to have the U.K. join Bush and the U.S. in the disastrous invasion of Iraq. I say "disastrous, because over 600,000 Iraqis lost their lives, not counting the lives of 4,600+ Americans and the 150+ British who were part of the military invasion and occupation.
Nicholas Watt reports the story for The Guardian today:
"In a setback for Brown, who had hoped the inquiry would be held in private, Sir John Chilcot has ruled that all witnesses will be expected to give evidence in public. This will apply across the board unless there are "compelling reasons" in a small number of cases for evidence to be heard in private. This would be if evidence could jeopardise national security or upset allies."
Originally, Gordon Brown had signaled that the inquiry would take evidence and testimony in private. Reportedly, Tony Blair wanted private hearings because he feared that opening them to the public would amount to a "show trial" of his own decisions in going along with Bush and Cheney.
"The prospect of public grillings for Brown and Blair shows how the prime minister's plans for the inquiry have been dramatically changed since it was established last week. On 15 June Brown told MPs that the inquiry would be modelled on the Franks inquiry into the 1982 Falklands war, which met in private. He said: "I believe that that will also ensure that evidence given by serving and former ministers, military officers and officials is as full and candid as possible.""
Still, the testimony from Tony Blair and others will not be under oath. This is indeed unfortunate, because we have seen how Bush and Cheney managed to avoid sworn testimony when talking to the 9/11 Commission.
Monday, June 22, 2009
There are reports that protesters and demonstrators in Teheran carry signs with a photo of Muhammad Mossadegh. Thanks to TalkingPointsMemo.com for pointing me to this story in The Guardian by Stephen Kinzer.
Recall that Mossadegh was elected prime minister in 1953. One of his first actions was to nationalize Anglo-Iranian Oil Company. This outraged the British, then the world's premier colonialists. The Shah, Mohamed Reza Pahlavi, allied with the British and Americans, tried to fire Mossadegh, but it was the Shah who was forced into exile. Then, like a deus ex machina, the American CIA engineered an overthrow of Mossadegh and, as a result, it was the U.S. government that brought back Mohamed Reza Shah, and helped re-install the Shah in Iran.
"In the summer of 1953 the CIA sent the intrepid agent Kermit Roosevelt – grandson of President Theodore Roosevelt, who believed Americans should "walk softly and carry a big stick" – to Tehran with orders to overthrow Mossadeq. He accomplished it in just three weeks. It was a vivid example of how easy it is for a rich and powerful country to throw a poor and weak one into chaos.
"With this covert operation, the world's proudest democracy put an end to democratic rule in Iran. Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi returned to the Peacock Throne and ruled with increasing repression for a quarter-century. His repression produced the explosion of 1979 that brought reactionary mullahs to power. Theirs is the regime that rules Iran today.
"Carrying a picture of Mossadeq today means two things: "We want democracy" and "No foreign intervention". These demands fit together in the minds of most Iranians. Desperate as they are for the political freedom their parents and grandparents enjoyed in the early 1950s, they have no illusion that foreigners can bring it to them. In fact, foreign intervention has brought them nothing but misery."
Is there any Iranian who does not bristle and recoil at the memory of U.S. foreign intervention in 1953 putsch?
So posters with Mossadegh are demonstrators' ways of telling the U.S. to keep out, to butt out, not to interfere with Iranian elections. Even though the demonstrators are looking for more democracy in the Islamic Republic of Iran, they most certainly don't want Americans telling them what to do.
"The US sowed the seeds of repression in Iran by deposing Mossadeq in 1953, and then helped bathe Iran in blood by giving Saddam Hussein generous military aid during the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s. Militants in Washington who now want the US to intervene on behalf of Iranian protesters either are unaware of this history or delude themselves into thinking that Iranians have forgotten it. Some of them, in fact, are the same people who were demanding just last year that the US bomb Iran – an act which would have killed many of the brave young protesters they now hold up as heroes.
"America's moral authority in Iran is all but non-existent. To the idea that the US should jump into the Tehran fray and help bring democracy to Iran, many Iranians would roll their eyes and say: "We had a democracy here until you came in and crushed it!""
Bottom line: Given the sordid history of U.S. interference in Iranian affairs, Barack Obama is most certainly right in being cautious and not taking sides in what is an internal struggle in Iran. This is the only U.S. policy that respects Iran and Iranians.
This Wednesday at Prime Minister's Questions, British MPs are going to debate the controversial order of PM Gordon Brown to conduct an closed-door inquiry into the intelligence and decisions that took Britain into war against Saddam Hussein and Iraq.
The key question is why Brown has ordered the inquiry and hearing to be closed to the public. Obviously, Brown desires to keep the truth from the British public. This reminds me of Pres. Obama's current attempt to conceal photos of prisoners being subjected to the harsh interrogation methods approved by George Bush and Dick Cheney. There is no legitimate reason why Brown should want the hearings closed other than to prevent the world from seeing Blair's fawning acceptance of Bush's crazed and illegal policies.
Toby Helm and Gaby Hinsliff write in yesterday's The Guardian:
"Tony Blair urged Gordon Brown to hold the independent inquiry into the Iraq war in secret because he feared that he would be subjected to a "show trial" if it were opened to the public, the Observer can reveal.
"The revelation that the former prime minister - who led Britain to war in March 2003 - had intervened will fuel the anger of MPs, peers, military leaders and former civil servants, who were appalled by Brown's decision last week to order the investigation to be conducted behind closed doors."
I don't think the British public is going to allow Gordon Brown to proceed behind closed doors. There is too much awareness in Britain that Tony Blair was George Bush's poodle, that he let himself be led around on Bush's leash, and that he was overwhelmed by the prospect of disagreeing with the then U.S. administration.
Friday, June 19, 2009
Here is an amazing article in The Guardian by Mohsen Makhmalbaf speaking on behalf of Mir Hussein Moussavi.
"The world views us as a terrorist nation on the lookout for war. When Khatami was president of Iran, Bush was president of the US. Now the Americans have Obama and we have our version of Bush. We need an Obama who can find solutions for Iran's problems."
Moussavi, according to Makhmalbaf, has changed from being a revolutionary to a leader who is looking not to confront other nations but to integrate Iran into the world community:
"Previously, he was revolutionary, because everyone inside the system was a revolutionary. But now he's a reformer. Now he knows Gandhi – before he knew only Che Guevara. If we gain power through aggression we would have to keep it through aggression. That is why we're having a green revolution, defined by peace and democracy."
Think Progress reports on the resolution adopted by the House supporting the Iranian protesters who support Mir Hussein Moussavi.
Why must the House go on record as supporting the demonstrators in Iran? Iranians are not holding up signs asking for American "help." The resolution of the House is a good pretext for the Ahmadi forces to quell the peaceful demonstration with force. If it can be shown that Americans are "for" the anti-Ahmadi candidate, Moussavi, then I, if I were Iranian, would switch sides and support Ahmadinejad.
WOLFOWITZ, NEO-CON ARCHITECT OF WAR IN IRAQ, OBJECTS TO OBAMA'S POLICY OF NOT MEDDLING IN IRANIAN ELECTIONS
Paul Wolfowitz, one of the architects of the War in Iraq, writes an op-ed in today's The Washington Post, criticizing Barack Obama for his policy of purposely not meddling in the Iranian elections.
"It would be a cruel irony if, in an effort to avoid imposing democracy, the United States were to tip the scale toward dictators who impose their will on people struggling for freedom. And if we appear so desperate for negotiations that we will abandon those who support our principles, we weaken our own negotiating hand."
First of all, it would be a huge mistake for Obama to wade in with his support of the demonstrators. For the last 100 years or more, the United States has continuously butted into Iran's affairs. At the beginning of the 20th Century, it was to seize control of Iran's mineral resources. Then in 1953, the U.S. engineered an overthrow of Iran's democratically elected government, this time, in the name of controlling Iran's oil deposits. It was the CIA which helped the Shah regain despotic control over Iranians. Because of the U.S. interference, Iranians are very wary of further American attempts at influence. Wolwowitz seems to have little awareness of Iranian suspicions.
If Obama and the U.S. followed Wolfie's advice, it very well could lead to another confrontation with an Islamic state. Remember what happened with Wolfowitz's advice about invading Iraq. A failed policy that still handcuffs the United States to keeping 100,000+ soldiers there. Now Wolfie wants Obama to take sides in the Iranian elections.
Consider that no Iranian protester holds a sign that says, "We want the U.S. to intervene and help us." No, Iranians of all persuasions would recoil from any meddling by Obama. Any insertion of American views or preferences by the U.S. would turn even the protesting Iranians against the U.S. and possibly make them commit to the other side.
Wolfie's advice is again short-sighted and shallow on a matter affecting U.S. foreign policy towards an Islamic nation. How did this guy ever become Asst. Sec. DOD?
Thursday, June 18, 2009
I call upon Pres. Barack Obama to halt all drone missile attacks against Pakistani villagers. Today, BBC reports that the U.S. fired another missile killing nine people.
Reports the BBC:
"At least nine people have been killed in an airstrike on suspected militant targets in Pakistan's tribal region of South Waziristan, local officials say.
"Pilotless US drone aircraft are thought to have carried out the attack in which missiles were fired at a house near the town of Wana on the Afghan border."
Obama is wrong if he thinks that firing missiles at Pakistani insurgents or at Taliban members is going to "win hearts and minds" of ordinary Paksitanis.
If I was a Pakistani, I would be outraged at the intrusion of foreign drones from the United States attacking villages in my sovereign Pakistan. I don't care how pure the American motives against "terrorists," I would totally resist the violation of my country's national territory.
Obama and Gates say that they will attack Al Qaeda whereever it exists. This too is foolhardy and unworthy of Barack Obama. Al Qaeda is not some living monster. It consists of farmers, teenagers, villagers, who are consumed with religious fundamentalism that thinks it is doing God's will to attack the West. There is no way that Obama's missiles are going to defeat unsophisticated and poorly educated religious fundamentalists.
I say, stop this killing of ordinary rural Pakistanis from the sky by the Americans.
Wednesday, June 17, 2009
We need to respect Iranian society in this troubled time of charges about the fairness of the recent election. Obama is doing exactly the right thing, not interfering in an Iranian matter.
Americans who believe in "American exceptionalism" try to say that the U.S. has a responsibility to declare on the side of Moussavi and the Greens. But this presupposes that Americans are smarter than Iranians.
After having interfered with Iran and its society for the last 100 years or more, the U.S. should let Iranians handle this current problem, and trust in Iranians to do the right thing, instead of attempting to dictate to them what they should do.
Tuesday, June 16, 2009
Pres. Obama has urged strict sanctions against North Korea for its missile tests and its nuclear bomb production.
The BBC reports:
"Mr Obama said that he and his South Korean counterpart had agreed that a new UN resolution designed to halt North Korea's nuclear ambitions should be fully enforced.
"And he pledged to end a cycle of letting North Korea create a crisis in order to be rewarded with concessions from the international community."
But North Korea is a very poor county. Its people live in abject poverty, barely eking out existence. It needs food and charitable donations to keep its population from starving in the harsh Korean winter. So sanctions?
All sanctions do is to punish the people. As if punishing the population is going to make North Korean leaders change their policies.
No, the best thing Obama could do is to invite the North Korean leaders especially Kim Jong-il to the United States for an extended walk-around, going anywhere he pleases. I take this idea from Dana Milbank (?) or someone else at The Washington Post. At this point, I forget who was the source of this brilliant idea.
Let Kim discover American culture, freedom of speech, and freedom to go anywhere he wants. Then perhaps Obama could have a serious and productive dialogue with North Korea on ending its juvenile reliance on nuclear weapons.
Monday, June 15, 2009
Anita Ghazarian writes on Facebook:
"Obama is doing exactly THE RIGHT THING: KEEPING QUIET.
"The reason Iranians have had such negative feelings about Iran and England is because of a history of colonization/ neocolonization and meddling in their affairs, deposing their democratic gov in 1953 and installing a puppet Shah. Should the West take sides, they will be dooming those they wish to help by marking them as agents of foreign influence& mere puppets and they will try to unite the country against a treacherous outsider power mongering. WE MUST STAY OUT OF IT.
""Given Iran's well-known allergy to foreign meddling--and the hardliners' adept ability to justify their harsh repression by blaming alleged foreign plots--the Obama administration is doing exactly the right thing. Just as the absolute worst thing the US government could have done in the days leading up to the elections was impose new sanctions to "cripple" Iran's economy, the worst thing the administration could do now is take sides in the political infighting."
I fully agree with Anita Ghazarian's post today on the importance of not meddling in the latest developments in Iran. Iran has too long suffered from colonialist interference and meddling. Iranians are well able to take care of the problem by themselves without any interference by Obama, Brown, or the other "great powers."
Sunday, June 14, 2009
From the BBC, here is the essence of what Benjamin Netanyahu said about recognizing a Palestinian state:
"The key condition is that the Palestinians recognise in a clear and public manner that Israel is the state of the Jewish people. The heart of the conflict has always been the Arabs' refusal to accept the existence of the Jewish state.
"If we have guarantees on demilitarisation and if the Palestinians recognise Israel as a state of the Jewish people, then we arrive at a solution based on a demilitarised Palestinian state alongside Israel.
"Each will have its flag, each will have its anthem. The Palestinian territory will be without arms, will not control airspace, will not be able to have arms."
If I were a Palestinian, I would find the key condition to be unacceptable. Israel today is the home of thousands of Palestinian Israelis. Why must the Palestinians acquiesce to say that Israel is "a state of the Jewish people." It would be like forcing Italian Protestants to admit that Italy is the state of Roman Catholics. This requirement is totally unnecessary and contrary to the identity of any secular democracy.
As to Palestine being a "separate state," but not able to control its own airspace or possess armaments, this is also unreasonable. Netanyahu's implication here is that Israel will retain the right to send its war planes and bombers over Palestine any time it wants without asking Palestinian permission. Furthermore, if Israel has tanks and guns and warplanes, why not the Palestinian state?
We all know that Netanyahu has no expectations that the Palestinians will ever accept his harsh conditions. But then, Netanyahu does not really want a separate Palestinian state, nor does he want to ever accept peace with the Palestinians.
Friday, June 12, 2009
Charles Krauthammer writes in today's The Washington Post:
"That's the problem with Obama's transcultural evenhandedness. It gives the veneer of professorial sophistication to the most simple-minded observation: Of course there are rights and wrongs in all human affairs. Our species is a fallen one. But that doesn't mean that these rights and wrongs are of equal weight.
"A CIA rent-a-mob in a coup 56 years ago does not balance the hostage-takings, throat-slittings, terror bombings and wanton slaughters perpetrated for 30 years by a thug regime in Tehran (and its surrogates) that our own State Department calls the world's "most active state sponsor of terrorism.""
So it seems that together with Elliott Abrams in today's The New York Times the strategy of neo-cons like Abrams and Krauthammer is to bash both Obama and Iran. The one thing these guys could not stand is a genuine dialogue with Teheran securing peace between the U.S. and Iran, a development that both Abrams and Krauthammer and fellow American neo-cons would be against. Their whole game plan of demonizing Iranians and Iran would be halted and any opening for Israel to bomb Iranian cities would be eliminated.
Abrams tries to diminish the importance of today's Iranian elections. He calls them not democratic, not offering any real choice, doomed to fail.
"Mr. Ahmadinejad’s defeat would probably be welcomed abroad as a sign that Iran is moving away from his policies, but Iran’s policies aren’t his — they are dictated by Ayatollah Khamenei and his supporters in the Revolutionary Guard and Basij paramilitary. In fact, a victory by Mr. Ahmadinejad’s main challenger, Mir Hussein Moussavi, is more likely to change Western policy toward Iran than to change Iran’s own conduct. If the delusion that a new president would surely mean new opportunities to negotiate away Iran’s nuclear program strikes Western leaders, solidarity might give way to pre-emptive concessions."
Both Abrams and Krauthammer resent that Obama has admitted U.S. complicity in the overthrow of a democratically elected Iranian government in 1953. For them, it calls into question American exceptionalism, the doctrine that the U.S. can do no wrong.
"Distorting history is not truth-telling but the telling of soft lies. Creating false equivalencies is not moral leadership but moral abdication. And hovering above it all, above country and history, is a sign not of transcendence but of a disturbing ambivalence toward one's own country."
From the above paragraph, the reader is left wondering in what psychological state Krauthammer finds himself. He accuses Obama of "disturbing ambivalence towards one's own country," as if overture to Iran and acceptance of Iran's elections as fair and democratic indicate ambivalence towards being an American. Someone help this poor guy with counselling.
Thursday, June 11, 2009
Supporters of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad ("Ahmadi") marched through the streets of Teheran two days ago supporting their candidate in this Friday's elections and shouting,"DEATH TO AMERICA."
People like John Bolton and Dick Cheney would interpret the chant as a casus belli, as proof that Iranians are evil and irrational. For Cheney and Bolton and people like them, Iran is the "enemy," and should be destroyed.
Just like there are those in Israel and elsewhere who think that Israel must attack Iran because Ahmadi has denied the Holocaust, the Iran demonizers in the U.S. would like nothing better than to bomb Iranian cities and nuclear power plants.
Have any of these people ever heard of freedom of speech? Just because someone insults you or says, "Death to America," that is no reason to kill him. Words, after all, are merely words. Everyone, including the Iranians, should be able to say anything he or she wants, without having to fear physical retaliation. So a kid in grade school can call your mother any number of disparaging names, and you don't have any right to beat him up.
Iran has shown no threat to the world and has invaded no other country in the last 100 years. It hasn't dropped a nuclear device on another country. It hasn't been the aggressor as has been the U.S. in wars every 10 years.
So let Iranians chant anything they want about the U.S. Let them yell, "Death to America." That is their political right. Neither the U.S. nor Israel has any right to say, as a result, that Iran is the "enemy," and therefore they can bomb Iranian cities and towns because of Iranian verbal insults.
How could the American Medical Association come out against a government-sponsored public plan in universal health coverage? Without a public plan, private insurance companies will still make health care unaffordable to millions. Does the AMA's opposition represent the views of most primary care givers?
Wednesday, June 10, 2009
Michael Gerson claims in his op-ed in today's The Washington Post that anti-Israel types in the Middle East deny the Holocaust so as to deny legitimacy to Israel itself. However, he himself repudiates this connection:
"This conception of Israel's history is itself a distortion. The Holocaust is important to Israeli identity; it is not identical to Israeli identity. Zionism existed well before the European genocide. The ties between Jews and the land of Israel reach back for millennia. Israel does not exist merely because of Holocaust guilt. It exists because of its own tenacity, sense of purpose and national success."
I agree with Gerson that Israel exists apart from the historical fact of the Holocaust. Six million Jews died in WWI, most at the hands of the Nazis and Soviets. But Israel would exist whether or not the Holocaust took place.
For this reason, I strongly disagree with those who would kill anyone who dares to utter the falsehood that the Holocaust was made up. So Ahmadinejad of Iran denies the Holocaust, let's bomb and kill Iranians. I object to this view, seemingly adopted by some Zionists such as Netanyahu and Avigdor Lieberman, and even by some of my friends and acquaintances.
Attacking and killing a person who denies the Holocaust is like beating up the kid who calls your mother a slut. How about some free speech? I don't care what someone SAYS, let him say it. Don't kill him because of it, no, not even if he denies the Holocaust.
Michael O'Hanlon writes today in The Washington Post that Obama is slashing defense spending and thus making a "significant mistake."
I say, this reduction in defense spending is a good thing, a very good thing. The more lethal weapons that the U.S. military has, the more the generals want to use them, resulting in more wars, more killings, more incinerations, more bloody conflicts.
"After three months of very impressive decisions regarding national security, President Obama made perhaps his first significant mistake. It concerns the defense budget, where his plans are insufficient to support the national security establishment over the next five years. Thankfully, this mistake can be fixed before it causes big harm -- either by Congress this year or the administration itself next year."
People like O'Hanlon who support U.S. militarism say that defense budget cuts threaten "national security." How come countries like Sweden and Latvia exist without hardly any funding for armies or war planes, yet no one attacks them?
We don't need the latest in military killing machines. We don't need "smart" weapons. We don't need guns and bullets.
Consider the destruction to life and property in Afghanistan from all of those obscene bombing raids by the U.S. Air Force. All the children destroyed by laser guided bombs. All the families, all the poor villagers, all the ordinary Afghanis killed by American planes.
Get rid of all U.S. weapons. This will be the best guarantor of "national security."
So yes, let's slash defense spending and use the money for universal health care, for eliminating malaria and AIDS, for building schools throughout the world.
Tuesday, June 9, 2009
Leon Panetta, former Democratic congressman from California, and now Barack Obama's CIA chief, is more and more a disappointment. Today, R. Jeffrey Smith reports in The Washington Post that Panetta has asked a federal court not to release details of interrogations of prisoners at Guantanamo and elsewhere. Panetta claims (without any evidence) that the release would aid Al Qaeda.
This is a bunch of bull and utter nonsense! Al Qaeda and the rest of the world already know that the CIA engages in torture, whether psychological or physical. Nothing that could be released is going to "aid" Al Qaeda any more beyond the actual despicable interrogation techniques ordered by Bush, Cheney, Rice, Addington, Gonzalez et al.
"The "disclosure of explicit details of specific interrogations" would provide al-Qaeda "with propaganda it could use to recruit and raise funds," Panetta said, describing the information at issue as "ready-made ammunition." He also submitted a classified statement to the court that he said explains why detainees could use the contents to evade questions in the future, even though Obama has promised that the United States will not use the harsh interrogation techniques again.
"Jameel Jaffer, director of the ACLU's national security program, said yesterday evening that it is "grim" and "troubling" for the Obama administration to say that information about purported abuses should be withheld because it might fuel anti-American propaganda. He said that amounts to an assertion that "the greater the abuse, the more important it is that it should remain secret." Jaffer said the ACLU is convinced that the public should have "access to the complete record of what took place in the CIA's prisons and on whose authority.""
Panetta has turned into another Cheney. Hide the truth because it will embarrass the CIA or those who actually ordered or performed the hideous techniques.
Today even Joe Lieberman and Lindsay Graham tried to add a provision to the spending bill to prohibit the release of photographs or other information. Ryan Powers reports for Think Progress on the Lieberman/Graham statement.
Shame on Panetta, Lieberman, Graham and all the others who want to conceal criminal actions on the part of the U.S. government and the CIA.
Monday, June 8, 2009
Tom Dispatch prints an analysis written by Alfred McCoy of torture techniques long used over the years by the CIA, centering on psychological methods. Why doesn't Obama repudiate these methods and initiate an investigation of these CIA policies? And why did Obama appoint Leon Panetta as head of the agency when he must have known that Panetta would try to quash any hearing or investigation of CIA dark practices?
Juan Cole in his blog Informed Comment has an incisive analysis of the results of the Lebanese election in which the March 14 Movement won 69 out of 70 seats in the Lebanese parliament. Cole says this shows good luck for Obama. I agree. A victory for Hezbollah, in my opinion, would have handed the hawks in Israel, such as Avigdor Lieberman and Benjamin Netanyahu, a reason to start another war in Lebanon.
Cole, however, points out that there were many U.S. officials visiting Lebanon in advance of the elections and warning that the U.S. would cut off all aid if Hezbollah won. How must this appear to the ordinary man in the street in Lebanon? The U.S. grossly interfering in the elections of another country, something that would be illegal if a foreign national tried to influence elections in the U.S.
Blaine Harden writes in today's The Washington Post on the conviction of two American journalists in North Korea on charges of illegally entering the country. This is indeed an unfortunate development, coming so soon after North Korea has tested an atomic device and fired off four missiles.
But there has been some evidence that a friend and mentor/supervisor of the two young journalists warned them ahead of time about the dangers of crossing into North Korea from China. Yet apparently they went ahead and did just that, in pursuit of their story on North Korean refugees fleeing across the border into China.
"In appearances last week on U.S. television, the families of the women broke months of silence and offered public apologies to the North Korean government for whatever acts the journalists may have committed.
""If at any point the girls went into North Korea, then we apologize on their behalf," said Lisa Ling, who noted that she had recently received a telephone call from her sister Laura in Pyongyang and that she sounded "extremely scared.""
So unfortunately, this story is more complex than merely an irrational act by a tyrant government against two innocent American journalists. Now the United States government finds itself in a position where there are no easy solutions.
I strongly disagree with Henry Kissinger when he writes in today's The Washington Post:
"The ultimate issue is not regional but concerns the prospects for world order, especially for a Pacific political structure along the lines put forward by the thoughtful Australian prime minister, Kevin Rudd. There could scarcely be an issue more suited to cooperation among the Great Powers than nonproliferation, especially with regard to North Korea, a regime that is run by fanatics; located on the borders of China, Russia and South Korea; and within missile range of Japan. Still, the major countries have been unable to galvanize themselves into action."
I disagree with Kissinger's implications between the lines which I understand as using military power to stop North Korea.
I don't want a world order where the United States considers military action to solve what it considers "bad behavior" on the part of other nations.
First. No country other than America has ever used nuclear weapons against another. Having nuclear weapons seems to be the ultimate constraint against using them, especially when many other countries possess them. So North Korea, for all its bluster, is tied up by its own nuclear bombs. There is no need to do anything drastic for "world order."
Second. The U.S. should keep its nose out of the Far East. North Korea is no realistic imminent threat to the U.S., nor has it fired any of its missiles or weapons at the U.S. It is about as much danger to the U.S. as it is towards Norway.
Third. The "world order" in the 21st Century that Kissinger talks about is one of his own making, an order where the U.S. exercises complete hegemony over the rest of the world. This vision is outdated and should be scuttled. In other words, American war planes and tanks and drone missiles are counter-productive, dated and political destructive for the U.S.
Sunday, June 7, 2009
The New York Times has its main story today a report by Sheryl Gay Stolberg on Obama's intentions to wade into the nuts and bolts of the Democrats' proposals on universal health insurance and push universal health insurance coverage. Many Democrats, including myself, want a universal single-payor health insurance plan run by the government. "Single payor" means that the government, after collecting premiums from enrollees, would negotiate rates and payments to all health providers, such as physicians and hospitals.
"Mindful of the failures of former President Bill Clinton, whose intricate proposal for universal care collapsed on Capitol Hill 15 years ago, Mr. Obama until now had charted a different course, setting forth broad principles and concentrating on bringing disparate factions — doctors, insurers, hospitals, pharmaceutical companies, labor unions — to the negotiating table.
"But Mr. Obama has grown concerned that he is losing the debate over certain policy prescriptions he favors, like a government-run insurance plan to compete with the private sector, said one Democrat familiar with his thinking. With Congress beginning a burst of work on the measure, top advisers say, the president is determined to make certain the final bill bears his stamp."
It is about time. So far, Democratic Senator Max Baucus, head of the Senate Finance committee which is drawing up plans on health care, has refused to entertain a government-run plan featuring single-payor characteristics. Baucus has even ejected groups of physicians and nurses who have protested at senate hearings about the lack of consideration for such an option. There are some 40 million Americans without any health insurance. This is a huge political scandal in a country as rich and productive as the U.S. Many Republicans as well as insurance companies would be happy to leave the situation as it is, or as George Bush once said, allow these uninsured to receive their health needs in the emergency rooms of local hospitals. But this is a cruel and inhumane solution to the problem of health care. Obama needs to get involved and push health insurance coverage for all before it is too late.
Friday, June 5, 2009
Charles Krauthammer writes in today's The Washington Post that Obama is unfair to Israel when he calls for the cessation of new settlements. Writes Krauthammer:
"Obama says he came to Cairo to tell the truth. But he uttered not a word of that. Instead, among all the bromides and lofty sentiments, he issued but one concrete declaration of new American policy: "The United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements," thus reinforcing the myth that Palestinian misery and statelessness are the fault of Israel and the settlements."
Krauthammer mischaracterizes the truth of Obama's assertions: Israelis have built their settlements upon land owned by Palestinians and taken from them by force. This land grab is both illegal and immoral. It is akin to ethnic cleansing in Bosnia.
Some in the Israeli government, like Netanyahu and Avigdor Lieberman, support these encroachers and would rather take land than establish peace. For them, land is more important than the rule of law. No wonder there is Palestinian hatred for the settlers and the government of Israel.
Settlers think that the bible gives them free rein to take as much land as possible, no matter that it does not belong to them. They imagine they have a divine right. This is ridiculous and against all international law.
I stand with Obama: Israel must cease all new settlements.
Thursday, June 4, 2009
It is on occasions like this one today in Cairo that I take great joy in knowing that George W. Bush is back in Dallas and no longer at the White House. Obama's speech was a masterpiece in its message to both the Muslim world and Americans back home. I want to comment on several facets in this post.
First, Obama talked about the Israeli/Palestinian problem. He said that calling Jews vile names and denying Israel's right to exist was counter-productive:
"Around the world, the Jewish people were persecuted for centuries, and anti-Semitism in Europe culminated in an unprecedented Holocaust. Tomorrow, I will visit Buchenwald, which was part of a network of camps where Jews were enslaved, tortured, shot and gassed to death by the Third Reich. Six million Jews were killed - more than the entire Jewish population of Israel today. Denying that fact is baseless, ignorant, and hateful. Threatening Israel with destruction - or repeating vile stereotypes about Jews - is deeply wrong, and only serves to evoke in the minds of Israelis this most painful of memories while preventing the peace that the people of this region deserve."
Obviously the above was intended for Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad who has caused a lot of friction and talk of war by his imprudent and unhelpful comments about Israel and the Holocaust. But note that Obama did not take Ahmadinejad's words and use them as a threat of future war. Obama did not say that denying the Holocaust was a casus belli. Rather he put Ahmadinejad's comments in their proper place without sounding threatening or demeaning.
But Obama went on to talk about the plight of the Palestinians:
"On the other hand, it is also undeniable that the Palestinian people - Muslims and Christians - have suffered in pursuit of a homeland. For more than sixty years they have endured the pain of dislocation. Many wait in refugee camps in the West Bank, Gaza, and neighboring lands for a life of peace and security that they have never been able to lead. They endure the daily humiliations - large and small - that come with occupation. So let there be no doubt: the situation for the Palestinian people is intolerable. America will not turn our backs on the legitimate Palestinian aspiration for dignity, opportunity, and a state of their own."
There is no way that we would have heard these sentiments from Bush. And when was the last time that anyone has heard an American president acknowledge that the Palestinians have been homeless for more than 60 years? Never! The U.S. has continuously supported the Israeli side, looked the other way when they dropped bombs on Palestinians in Gaza, winked at Israeli building of illegal settlements on Palestinian land, termed Hamas, democratically elected by the Palestinians in Gaza, as a terrorist organization. So for Obama to admit the obvious about the plight of the Palestinians is indeed new realistic policy.
Obama went on to say that both Palestinians and Israelis must accept the right of the other to exist:
"At the same time, Israelis must acknowledge that just as Israel's right to exist cannot be denied, neither can Palestine's. The United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements. This construction violates previous agreements and undermines efforts to achieve peace. It is time for these settlements to stop."
Obama also noted the current devastation in Gaza where many Palestinians are living in make-do huts and shelters because Israel refuses to allow Palestinians to bring in building materials to re-build after the devastation caused by the Israeli attack this past January:
"Israel must also live up to its obligations to ensure that Palestinians can live, and work, and develop their society. And just as it devastates Palestinian families, the continuing humanitarian crisis in Gaza does not serve Israel's security; neither does the continuing lack of opportunity in the West Bank. Progress in the daily lives of the Palestinian people must be part of a road to peace, and Israel must take concrete steps to enable such progress."
How can Israel think it will secure peace by denying essentials of life to a million Palestinians in Gaza? This is what Obama is saying - Israel's cruel blockade is ultimately against its own self-interest in peace and security.
Obama goes on to address the low state of diplomatic relations between Iran and the United States:
"This issue has been a source of tension between the United States and the Islamic Republic of Iran. For many years, Iran has defined itself in part by its opposition to my country, and there is indeed a tumultuous history between us. In the middle of the Cold War, the United States played a role in the overthrow of a democratically- elected Iranian government. Since the Islamic Revolution, Iran has played a role in acts of hostage-taking and violence against U.S. troops and civilians. This history is well known. Rather than remain trapped in the past, I have made it clear to Iran's leaders and people that my country is prepared to move forward. The question, now, is not what Iran is against, but rather what future it wants to build.
"It will be hard to overcome decades of mistrust, but we will proceed with courage, rectitude and resolve. There will be many issues to discuss between our two countries, and we are willing to move forward without preconditions on the basis of mutual respect. But it is clear to all concerned that when it comes to nuclear weapons, we have reached a decisive point. This is not simply about America's interests. It is about preventing a nuclear arms race in the Middle East that could lead this region and the world down a hugely dangerous path.
"I understand those who protest that some countries have weapons that others do not. No single nation should pick and choose which nations hold nuclear weapons. That is why I strongly reaffirmed America's commitment to seek a world in which no nations hold nuclear weapons. And any nation - including Iran - should have the right to access peaceful nuclear power if it complies with its responsibilities under the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. That commitment is at the core of the Treaty, and it must be kept for all who fully abide by it. And I am hopeful that all countries in the region can share in this goal."
Note that Obama acknowledges the role of the U.S. in the overthrow of a democratically elected Iranian government led by Mossadegh in 1953. I personally would have like Obama's words to be stronger in their admission of American misdeeds than "In the middle of the Cold War, the United States played a role in the overthrow of a democratically- elected Iranian government." But at least Obama said what all Iranians think the U.S. should have said and admitted a long time ago. The American CIA wrongfully and illegally manipulated the overthrow of a government democratically elected by the people of Iran.
Note that Obama not only says that Iran having nuclear weapons would destabilize the Middle East but also admits that it is unfair that some countries possess nuclear weapons and others do not. So Obama reiterates that the U.S. government will work to rid the world of all nuclear weapons. By this Obama means not just the putative ones that some neo-cons say are in the hands of Iran but all weapons whether held by the U.S., Russia, or even by Israel.
This was an important speech that will have repercussions over the next days, weeks and months. It can and should be held up next to Obama's forthcoming actions as a checklist for what Obama does and what remains to be done.
Wednesday, June 3, 2009
The other mostly Latin nations in the Americas belonging to the OAS (Organization of American States) want Cuba to be admitted as a full member. Why must Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and the U.S. govt. stonewall admitting Cuba, thus opposing Cuba and the Cuban people? This is U.S. Yankee imperialism in action and at its worst.
Mark Landler writes in today's The New York Times web:
"One after another, the leaders stepped forward to demand that the 47-year-old suspension of Cuba’s membership be lifted immediately. Several condemned it as a relic of the cold war.
"“We cannot leave San Pedro Sula without correcting that other day that will live in infamy,” said President José Manuel Zelaya of Honduras, referring to the organization’s meeting in 1962 at which Cuba was banned.
"“Our brothers and sisters in Cuba,” Mr. Zelaya said, “have been suffering for so long as a result of the blockade that has been imposed by one of the most powerful economies in the world.”"
It has been 47 years since the U.S. drummed Cuba out of the OAS. And what has this gained the U.S.? What it has done is penalize and punish the Cuban people, all in the name of opposing Fidel Castro. This U.S. policy towards Cubans and Cuba has been a failure, a disaster, and disruptive of any meaningful U.S. policy towards Latin America. I say, stop it now, no conditions, no demands.
Tuesday, June 2, 2009
Robert Kagan writes today in The Washington Post on Obama's policy towards Israel and its settlements:
"Instead, by insisting that the Israeli government not only put a freeze on new settlements but also halt “natural growth” in existing settlements, the administration has set up an unavoidable and possibly unpleasant confrontation with Israel, precisely at the moment it is importuning a truculent Iran. This sets up quite an image: Unclench the fist at a government that daily calls us the Great Satan, while balling up a fist at a longtime ally."
That Iran calls America "The Great Satan" is no big deal. But that Israel continues to subjugate the Palestinians and build settlements on Palestinian land is of life-and-death consequence, because it will surely lead to another war in the Middle East, this time maybe turning into a world war.
It is about time that the U.S. government stood up to Israel and demanded an end to these unjust and illegal settlements. Israelis have no legal right to put up homes on land seized in the 1967 War, nor do they have any right to commandeer land rightfully owned by Palestinians so that Israelis can use it for their new outposts or for "natural growth."
Monday, June 1, 2009
Graham Allison writes an op-ed in today's The Washington Post on U.S. policy towards Iran.
Allison seems to forget that every nation signatory to the NPT (Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty) has the right to make use of nuclear power for peaceful purposes.
Allison by innuendo claims Iranians are interested in developing nuclear weapons.
"The brute fact is that Iran has crossed a threshold that is painful to acknowledge but impossible to ignore: It has lost its nuclear virginity."
However, there is absolutely no evidence that Iran is pursuing something it has repeatedly said that it is not doing and does not want to do. Allison's article is one more attempt to scare the American public, demonize Iran and Iranians, and prepare the citizenry into accepting an unjustified and illegal attack upon Tehran.