Friday, July 31, 2009


I want to commend Speaker Nancy Pelosi for objecting to Sen. Mitch Mc Connell's silly but low arguments against the Democrats' health care reform bill.

James Rowley and Lorraine Woellert write in today's Bloomberg web page:

"House Speaker Nancy Pelosi ridiculed criticism by Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell of Democrats’ health-care plans, saying he’s echoing an insurance industry which makes “exorbitant profits” at the expense of Americans’ well being.

"The speaker said McConnell’s comment yesterday that the Democrats’ plan “means sticking it to seniors with cuts to Medicare” isn’t true."

It's really amazing to see what the Republicans like McConnell will do or say in their effort to stop a health care reform bill.

But remember, the Republicans have been trying to thwart important social legislation for at least the last 80 years. The Republicans called Social Security retirement income "socialistic," they said that Medicare was "socialized medicine," and now the Republicans call the health care reform bill that tries to extend health insurance to the 40+ million uninsured Americans an example of "socialism."

Thursday, July 30, 2009


I have a suggestion regarding the constant put-down on CNBC of the public option for health care reform. Take away the health insurance of Larry Kudlow, Joe Kernen, Maria Bartiromo, Michelle Cabruso Cabrera and Dennis Kneale. Have I forgotten any of the CNBC Republican zealots and ideologues?

Then let's see their reaction if and when they get sick. Let's see how Kudlow deals with his doctor when he is asked about insurance. Let's observe what Bartiromo does when she needs to be admitted to the hospital. Let's watch at Dennis Kneale if he needs prescriptions filled at his local pharmacy but he does not have insurance. All these CNBC smart guys and ladies without insurance will surely change their stingy argument against the public option and universal health care.

Joe Kernen is especially obnoxious in his denunciations of the Democratic bill for health care reform. Kernen says the country "cannot afford it." Take away his insurance and see what he does and how he behaves and whether he then thinks that the U.S. can afford universal coverage.

There are some forty million + Americans without health insurance who hope and pray that they never become sick. When some do, they are forced to demean themselves and become beggars at their local hospital's emergency room. No one should have to endure the humiliation and the debasement entailed.

We need a public option and we need universal health care. The meanies like Cabruso and Kneale at CNBC huff and puff right now against the plan because they have CNBC's health coverage. But this might not last, their jobs may disappear, they may become unemployed and thus uncovered by any plan. But don't feel sorry for them, they feel no pity for their fellow citizens who live from day to day right now without insurance.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009


I can't believe that the Democratic congressman from the Second District in Utah is going to vote against Pres. Obama's health reform bill. Jim Matheson calls himself a Blue Dog, but does that mean that Matheson should side with mean Republicans on health care reform? Does Matheson have any idea of the plight of the 40+ million Americans without any health insurance coverage?

But Matheson has always voted against the interest of the little guy. Over the past eight years, Matheson voted for Bush's tax cuts, for the war in Iraq, for the Defense of Marriage Act, for the onerous bankruptcy reform bill. against bringing U.S. troops out of Iraq, and many more similar mean and harsh bills.

Matheson is not really a Democrat, he is a mean Republican, a person who thinks that George W. Bush did the right things and that Barack Obama is doing the wrong things. We in Utah need someone more responsive to the people's needs than out-of-the-loop Matheson.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009


The six Republican senators who voted against Sonia Sotomayor can kiss off any support from the Latino community. Sotomayor is Puerto Rican but even Latinos here in the U.S. from other countries like Mexico will not look kindly on the rejection of the first Latina to be nominated to become a Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.

Republicans like John Cornyn, Orrin Hatch, John Kyl and Jeff Sessions practically reek disdain for a lady who represents the Spanish heritage and culture in the New World. This is the reason why they so strongly objected to Sotomayor's reasonable claim that she would hope a wise Latina judge would get decisions correct more often that white anglo men who had no experience in the Latin culture. Can there be any better example of anti-multi-culturalism? The Republicans illustrate a disdain and animus for anyone whose skin is darker than their lily white complexions or who speak another language, especially Spanish.

But these racist anti-feminists and anti-Latin Republicans will reap the results come next election. One thing is certain, Latinos will not forget the Republicans' condescending and dismissive behavior towards Judge Sonia Sotomayor.

Monday, July 27, 2009


What is the mindset of the Israeli leaders currently warning that the Israeli government may order an attack on Iran?

Greg Jaffe writes in today's website of The Washington Post:

"Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates on Monday stressed engagement and economic sanctions to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon, prompting his Israeli counterpart to insist that "no options" should be ruled out if diplomacy fails.

"Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak, in a short news conference with Gates, who was visiting here, twice raised the possibility that military action might be needed to stop Iran's nuclear program.

""We clearly believe that no options should be removed from the table," Barak said. "This is our policy. We mean it. We recommend others to take the same position, but we do not dictate to anyone.""

Israel seems intent on bombing Iranian nuclear sites and thus starting a war with Iran. Why not attack Saudi Arabia or Iraq? The majority of Arabs in those countries have nothing but hatred for Israel's policies.

Is it because of Iranian president Ahmadinejad and his foolish comments about the non-existence of the Holocaust? But how can Israel start a war that would kill tens of thousands of people over mere words?

It must be because Iran supports financially Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza. The connection between the Iranian government and Hezbollah is easy to explain: Hezbollah's members are Shiites as are a majority of Iranians. Iran's donations to Hezbollah are prompted by sharing a common view of Islam. As far as Hamas, every time Israel attacks Hamas as it did egregiously in the three-week bombardment this past January, Israel prompts its detractors including Iran to pony up more contributions for the suffering Palestinians.

The Israeli government has termed Iran the major support for "terrorists organizations," meaning Iran contributes to Hamas and Hezbollah. But suppose those groups are not "terrorists," but merely insurgents fighting Israel's harsh policies and its refusal to stop building settlements on Palestinian land captured in the 1967 War. What then? Israel would then have to confront its miserable and counterproductive strategy towards repressing Palestinian rights.

Sunday, July 26, 2009


Some commentators are insisting that Pres. Barack Obama actually come out and say "I apologize" for saying that the Cambridge Police Department's arrest of Prof. Henry Louis Gates Jr. showed "stupidity." As if the police are always on the side of the angels.

I have a different take on the Gates/Crowley affair than those who think that the police are always in the right.

Black men have always been persecuted by white police officers, right from the time that the English bought and brought black slaves from Africa. Even after the emancipation and the passing of the Thirteenth Amendment in 1865, blacks were still kept in servitude especially in the South by virtue of the Black Codes.

As to Sgt. James Crowley's actions, I think it was a bad policing mistake to arrest someone in his own house, after the officer ascertained that there was no burglary in progress. Furthermore, police officers should always be willing to give their name and badge number upon request.

Knissah Thompson and Cheryl W. Thompson write in today's The Washington Post:

"Merritt Harrison, a 75-year-old white man who lives around the corner from Gates, said that he understands why the police feel defensive, but that he probably would have had the same reaction as Gates if a police officer had showed up at his home and suspected him of being a burglar.

""I'm white, so I probably wouldn't have been arrested," said the part-time Episcopalian pastor, real-estate agent and counselor who has called the community home for 25 years. "I don't know. Was it racial profiling? I don't think anyone will ever know. But plenty of people think it was. The thing to do is to use it as an occasion to look at the issue. People need to talk.""

I am sorry that Obama used the word "stupidity" to describe the Cambridge police department because it exposes him to charges from his political opponents of being against police officers and police work, but I do agree that Crowley acted unprofessionally and without cause in arresting Gates in his own home. Perhaps Obama could have better responded by using the word "unfortunate" instead.


The foreign affairs committee of the British parliament has concluded that failure to talk with Hamas is achieving nothing in the pursuit of a stable peace between Israel and the Palestinians.

An article from the Press Association in today's The Guardian writes that the committee concludes that Hamas must be included in future talks and negotiations.

"The government refuses to talk to Hamas until it accepts the principles of the international Quartet - the United Nations, the United States, the European Union and Russia - of non-violence and acceptance of the existence of the state of Israel.

""There continues to be few signs that the current policy of non-engagement is achieving the Quartet's stated objectives," the committee said.

""We further conclude that the credible peace process for which the Quartet hopes, as part of its strategy for undercutting Hamas, is likely to be difficult to achieve without greater co-operation from Hamas itself. We are concerned that the Quartet is continuing to fail to provide Hamas with greater incentives to change its position.""

The Bush policy of refusing to talk with Hamas leaders because Hamas was a "terrorist organization" makes no sense. The Palestinians in Gaza in 2006 democratically elected Hamas to represent them. Notwithstanding Bush's stated goal of bringing democracy to the nations of the world, he and Condoleeza Rice and Dick Cheney refused to open a dialog with Hamas until it "recognized" Israel, in retrospect a silly and foolish conditioning of peace negotiations on mere words, an excellent example of form over substance.

The conclusion of the MP's foreign affairs committee is long overdue and represents realism over stubbornness. Now we need Barack Obama to come out and announce the same opinion.

Saturday, July 25, 2009


This is my third post in as many days on the strange sayings of VP Biden. This time, Biden talks about Russia, how its leaders are mired in the past. Of course, the Russian government reacted angrily to these assertions, and all this within 15 days of Pres. Barack Obama's cordial visit to Moscow to meet the Russian leaders including President Medvedev and Prime Minister Putin.

Andrew E. Kramer writes in today's The New York Times:

"Just weeks after a summit meeting intended to show a thawing in relations between the United States and Russia, Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. made blistering references to Russia’s failing economy, loss of face and a leadership that is “clinging to something in the past,” in an interview published on Saturday.

"Speaking on the heels of his trip to Georgia and Ukraine, Mr. Biden said flatly that the Obama administration would make no deals and accept no compromises with the Kremlin in exchange for better relations.

"Russia itself, he said, should find it in its own interest to repair relations."

Biden's comments make an observer wonder whose foreign policy is being followed. Is this Obama's policy and Biden is just the mouthpiece? Or is this Joe Biden going out on his own and expressing his own opinions and prejudices?

Writes Kramer:

"Calling the criticism “perplexing” in light of the diplomatic overtures initiated by the United States and described as “pressing the reset button,” the chief foreign policy adviser to President Dmitri A. Medvedev told the Interfax news agency, “The question is: who is shaping the U.S. foreign policy, the president or respectable members of his team?”

"The adviser, Sergei Prikhodko, said the atmosphere between the countries had improved since Mr. Obama’s visit early this month.

"“If some members of Obama’s team and government do not like this atmosphere, why don’t they say so?” Interfax reported him as saying. “If they disagree with the course of their president, we just need to know this.”"

Biden's comments complicate the approach that Obama took when he was in Russia. Avoid the put-downs and the insults. Instead concentrate on negotiation, discussion and diplomacy. Making Russian leaders mad appears counter-productive and destructive to the gains Obama seems to have made with Medvedev and Putin.

Kramer reports:

"Mr. Biden rejected recent Russian assertions of a restored sphere of privileged interests in the former Soviet Union, made after the war in Georgia. He said he understood that the Russians would not embrace the American stance, but added, “I do expect them to understand we don’t accept” the Russian claims.

"“It’s a very difficult thing to deal with, loss of empire,” he said at another point."

I can only imagine what Secretary of State Hillary Clinton must think of Biden's comments. Why is he shooting off his mouth about relations between the U.S. and Russia given that these things are clearly part of her portfolio? And I cannot fathom how Biden's views represent the Obama foreign policy so centered on diplomacy. Someone please explain what is going on in the mind of VP Joe Biden.

Friday, July 24, 2009


I just watched and heard Dina Temple Raskin from NPR being interviewed by Margaret Warneron The News Hour about the corruption charges being leveled against assorted New Jersey politicians as well as four rabbis. Temple Raskin gave the impression that she has no understanding of what is going down. Her answers amounted to saying, "I don't know . . .," "This is complicated . . .," and similar statements.

Compared to the article in today's The New York Times written by David M. Halbfinger, Temple Raskin was embarrassing in her lack of information and preparation.

Furthermore, Temple Raskin gave the impression that everyone was guilty as charged, notwithstanding that the accused are far off from having their day in court. The "bribes" were smaller than usual; the kidney selling was "outrageous;" the charges were very similar to previous ones filed against other New Jersey politicians where "corruption" was endemic. What a hatchet job on people at this point who have not pled guilty or been convicted.


When I hear people on CNBC like Joe Kernen, Larry Kudlow, Dennis Kneale and Michellle Cabruso Cabrera rail against Obama's health plan, I wonder if they have any idea of what it is like to exist without any health insurance. They seem to think everything is rosy and bright. Sure, the Republicans in Congress and their supporters on CNBC already have health insurance provided by their employers.

Obama talks about empathy. No wonder it drives these Republicans bonkers as this is one quality lacking to their psyches. They have no sympathy whatsoever for people less forturnate financially than themselves.

Thursday, July 23, 2009


Why must VP Joe Biden stir up the pot all over again about Georgia, Russia, NATO and Georgian Pres. Saakashvili?

Luke Harding writes for The Guardian's web page today:

"Biden has made a point during his visit of reaffirming Washington's strong support for Georgia's territorial integrity and its attempts to join Nato. "We, the United States stand by you on your journey to a secure, free, democratic and once again united Georgia," he said, adding that the US would not recognise Georgia's Moscow-backed rebel republics."

Recall that it was last August that Georgia and Saakashvili launched a barrage of artillery shells at South Ossetia, home to many who favor Russia over Georgia. Saakashvili tried to say that it was Russia which started the war but there is no evidence for that, all the evidence showing that it was Georgia that initiated the fighting.

Writes Harding:

"The US administration is currently holding talks with Russia over a new nuclear strategic arms reduction pact following Barack Obama's visit to Moscow two weeks ago. It is also seeking the Kremlin's cooperation on Iran, and logistical assistance for US troops in Afghanistan.

"Today, however, the US vice-president made clear that any strategic accommodation with Moscow would not take place at the expense of Georgia, or other pro-western allies such as Ukraine. He also rejected Moscow's doctrine that it has "privileged interests" in post-Soviet states."


Why is it that so many Washington insiders think that American wars are "justified" and "worth" the casualties? All this sounds so much like Bush-speak. Now we have VP Biden saying the same rubbish about the war in Afghanistan.

Mark Tran writes on The Guardian's web page today:

"Speaking in the deadliest month for British troops since the US-led invasion in 2001, Biden insisted that the current offensive against the Taliban in Helmand province was worth the effort and was a "prerequisite" to get the country ready for presidential elections next month.

"In an interview with BBC Radio 4's Today programme Biden said: "In terms of the national interests of Great Britain and the national interests of the United States and Europe, it is worth the effort we are making and the sacrifice that is being felt and more will come.""

No war is worth the lives of any soldiers or of any civilians. This applies to the war in Afghanistan. There is no such thing as a "justified" war. Soldiers never solve anything because, at the root of all wars, is a political problem that statesmen just don't want to solve diplomatically.

Biden is in effect saying that U.S. and British soldiers must first kill the Taliban in order to get Afghanistan ready for elections. This is outrageous bull and pure sophistry. The Taliban are Afghanis, they know their own country, they have their own social system. Foreign armies of the U.S. and Britain are never going to defeat them or make them change their views. So Biden would have Afghani villagers killed, members of the Pashtun tribe eliminated, women and children bombed, all in the cause of preparing for Karzai's re-election.

Reports Tran:

"With the British government under increasing political pressure as casualties mount, Biden restated the case for Nato's presence in Afghanistan.

""This is the place from which the attacks of 9/11 and all those attacks in Europe that came from al-Qaida have flowed – between Afghanistan and Pakistan … It is a place that, if it doesn't get straightened out, will continue to wreak havoc on Europe and the United States.""

Biden wants to straighten out 20-year Afghani villagers who think they are waging a holy jihad in trying to kill American and British troops. Frankly, I don't see members of the Taliban boarding an airplane in Kabul and flying to London or New York to carry out some mayhem or havoc on Europe or the U.S.

Everything that Biden said about justifying this foolish war seems wrong and short-sighted. And this is a guy who opposed Bush's bellicose foreign policy. Now he himself has come under the spell of defending a misguided war.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009


Time is running out. I don't approve of the delay asked by the Blue Dogs and the meanie Republicans on the Democrats' health care reform bill. The Republicans were against Social Security retirement income back in 1936. Imagine the devastating effect on retirees and older people if the Congress had not passed that bill back then. The Republicans were against Medicare in 1965. Again without Medicare seniors would have no health insurance and thus be deprived of health care. Today, the U.S. is facing an even more important and critical question: do we want to see every American, man, woman, child, covered by adequate health insurance? The Republicans obviously oppose the program as "too costly." But if we left it to the Republicans, there would be no Social Security, no Medicare, and no universal health insurance coverage.


Instead of warning North Korea and Iran of sanctions and other penalties, reminding one of the spirit of George W. Bush, how about Hillary Clinton trying negotiation and diplomacy? With this lady as Secretary of State, we risk heading to the precipice of war with both countries.

Mark Landler writes in today's The New York Times web page:

"Stiffening the American line against two nuclear-minded countries, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton warned Wednesday that the United States would not offer North Korea any sweeteners to return to talks and would consider extending a “defense umbrella” over the Middle East if Iran does not heed calls to halt its nuclear weapons program."

Remember this is the same Hillary Clinton who threatened to "obliterate" Iran if it attacked Israel with nuclear weapons. With this one word, Clinton showed herself willing to kill men, women and children, all in the cause of trying to protect Israel from a future attack for which there is no evidence or reasonable basis to think would indeed happen.

So what is an ordinary Iranian to think of Hillary Clinton's threats? Israel has nuclear weapons, Pakistan and India have nuclear weapons; so does North Korea. Why not nuclear weapons for Iran as a means to protect its people from another George W. Bush coming on the scene and invading Iran? Clinton's threats seem to embody American animus towards Iran and all Iranians.

Let the U.S. and Barack Obama sit down with the Iranian government and hear their concerns in an atmosphere of mutual respect. We don't need any other American official talking down to Iranians or threatening their country with obliteration or a nuclear umbrella.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009


Why must The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer shown tonight on PBS stations insist on trying to be "neutral" when it comes to health care reform? There are some 40+ million people here in the U.S. who have no health insurance, and thus who remain subject to financial ruin in the event of serious illness. The U.S. faces this enormous health crisis with millions uninsured, and Jim Lehrer abetted by Judy Woodruff decide to extend to the Republicans equal treatment on the program tonight, the same Republicans and Blue Dogs who would deny health coverage to the uninsured.


The Republicans seem like they are going all out to defeat Obama's reform of health care. They want to delay, amend, discuss, procrastinate, all with the aim of killing the first serious attempt to extend health care coverage to everyone, including the 40+ million Americans without any health insurance.

Think Progress reports today in a story written by Ben Ambruster that the Huffington Post obtained a secret memo put out by the Republican National Committee:

"After following GOP pollster Frank Luntz’s advice to demonize President Obama’s health care plan by distorting it, many conservatives have recently embraced a new obstructionist tactic: delay any reform measure going through Congress for as long as possible. The Republican National Committee is giving the strategy its official stamp of approval. In a 12-page memo obtained by the Huffington Post, the RNC urges Republicans to “engage in every activity we can to slow down” health care reform:

"In particular, the 12-page memo makes the case that it is a Republican priority to slow down the consideration of health care reform before it can become codified.

"“The Republican National Committee will engage in every activity we can to slow down this mad rush while promoting sensible alternatives that address health care costs and preserve quality,” the memo affirmatively declares."

The Republicans hated Social Security Retirement Income when that was passed in 1936; they hated Medicare in 1966; now they hate extending health insurance coverage to the uninsured. The Republicans call it "socialized medicine" when we Democrats insist that everyone has a right to full and competent health care. They would rather keep the 40+ million Americans without health insurance than have the country commit to make sure that everyone is insured.

Monday, July 20, 2009


This is getting ridiculous. The Netanyahu government in Israel is accusing the Palestinians of talking with "extreme enemies of peace" because a Palestinian official met with the Iranian Foreign Minister.

The BBC reports:

"Israel has accused a senior Palestinian official of meeting "the extreme enemies of peace" after he held talks with Iran's foreign minister."

Israel's response follows the classic treatment of "enemies." First demonize them, then attack them.

Israel's government seems to have the George W. Bush sickness: refuse to talk or have any dialog with those countries that have insulted you or said bad things about the Holocaust.

Just as Bush would not have diplomatic relations with Hugo Chavez and Venezuela because Chavez called him the devil, so it seems that Israel will have nothing to do with Iran or even establish talks with the Iranian government because Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad called the holocaust a figment of the imagination or that the government of Israel should be wiped off the map.

Because of these words, however harsh and intemperate not to say foolish, Israel now deems Iran an "extreme enemy of peace."

George Bush attacked Iraq because he claimed Iraq was a threat to world peace. It turned out that it was Bush who was the genuine threat. I would argue that it is the same with Israel. It terms Iran an extreme enemy of peace but I see Israel as the great destabilizer in the Middle East when it comes to peace. Just look at the Israeli three-week war against Gaza this past January, or the cruel Israeli month-long military campaign against Lebanon several years ago that left a thirty-mile swath in southern Lebanon filled with unexploded cluster bombs.


I recently urged the Taliban to release the American soldier Bowe Bergdahl captured in Afghanistan. But at the same time I called for the release of the prisoners held by the U.S. at Bagram Air Force base.

All of those imprisoned by the U.S. have never received legal counsel, have never had access to an impartial court, have never been given any of the legal protections commonplace in the civilized world. A person could have nothing to do with Al Qaeda, but be sold into American captivity by people who for one reason or another have a grudge or dispute against him. Most of the prisoners at Bagram are rural Afghani farmers, with little schooling and little resources.

So I am happy to see in today's The New York Times a report by Eric Schmitt that Admiral Mike Mullen is calling for a reexamination of the harsh U.S. policy towards prisoners especially those being held at Bagram.

Writes Schmitt:

"The prison at this air base north of Kabul has become an ominous symbol for Afghans — a place where harsh interrogation methods and sleep deprivation were used routinely in its early years, and where two Afghan detainees died in 2002 after being beaten by American soldiers and hung by their arms from the ceiling of isolation cells."

How is it that the U.S. government and military set up Bagram as a "dark hole" in the first place? Here we have Americans, while claiming and bragging that the U.S. is the home of the brave and the land of the free, who then impose draconian and cruel conditions of imprisonment on other people, not giving a care about their individual rights or injustices meted out to them.

Reports Schmitt:

"“Throughout Afghanistan, Afghans are arbitrarily detained by police, prosecutors, judges and detention center officials with alarming regularity,” the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan said in a report in January.

"To help address these problems, Maj. Gen. Douglas M. Stone of the Marines, credited with successfully revamping American detention practices in Iraq, was assigned to review all detention issues in Afghanistan."

The prison situation in Afghanistan shows that even American soldiers and officers when left unchecked will set up systems that are inhumane and barbaric.

Schmitt reports:

"The problems at the existing American-run prison, the Bagram Theater Internment Facility, have been well documented.

"The prison is a converted aircraft hangar that still holds some of the decrepit aircraft-repair machinery left by the Soviet troops who occupied the country in the 1980s.

"Military personnel who know Bagram and the prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, describe the Afghan site as tougher and more spartan.

"The prisoners have fewer privileges and virtually no access to lawyers or the judicial process. Many are still held communally in big cages.

"In the past two weeks, prisoners have refused to leave their cells to protest their indefinite imprisonment."

Saturday, July 18, 2009


Yet another government is claiming that its security position could be harmed if there is an investigation into claims of torture of suspected terrorists. Haven't we heard this all before from Dick Cheney, Michael Chertoff, Michael Mukasey et al.? What they mean is that investigations into government-sanctioned torture will embarrass the higher-ups of government.

Jenny Percival reports in The Guardian on the use of this tired argument, this time put forth by the Home Secretary of the British government.

"Scotland Yard said last week it was launching an investigation, at the request of Lady Scotland, the attorney general, into claims of torture made by former Guantánamo Bay detainee Binyam Mohamed."

But Alan Johnson, the Home Secretary (equivalent to Homeland Security), claimed that such an investigation would harm Britain's security services.

Writes Percival:

""Alan Johnson, the home secretary, has said Britain's security could be put at risk by a police investigation into allegations that MI5 agents colluded in torture.

"Johnson said he had "nothing but admiration" for the work of the security service and believed it operated "to the highest ethical and professional standards". He suggested that Britain's interests would be at risk if the service's counter-terrorism capabilities were "diminished and diluted"."

This is just as much rubbish and bull as was the American argument. In fact, worse damage will be done if the events and practices charged are covered up and not shown the light of day. For then the security services will have gotten away with horrendous crimes committed against individuals without any need to explain or justify their crimes. And surely they will think that they can operate with impunity, no matter what the criminal law says or prohibits.

Johnson sounds like Leon Panetta who has counselled Obama not to release photos or conduct an investigation into American waterboarding. Praise the culprits and perpetrators as being British (or American) patriots, say that you have great admiration for their work, add that whatever they did was in the service of the country.

Here's Johnson's version, as reported by Percival:

"Johnson, who took on responsibility for MI5 when he became home secretary last month, told the Daily Telegraph: "I haven't sat around the last six weeks not looking into these things. I have looked very closely at them and I just say this: we have one of the best counter-terrorism capabilities in the world and we diminish and dilute it at our peril."

"He added: "In my six weeks in this job I am so reassured and so amazed at the work that is going on, on our behalf, by people who do not have a voice, who are not able to express their views, who work in the most difficult and dangerous circumstances.

""I have nothing but admiration for them. As I am in effect their voice I will defend them and defend what they do, and it does worry me.""

Thursday, July 16, 2009


The BBC reports today that Colombia is finalizing an agreement with the United States to allow U.S. forces the use of three Colombian airfields.

Writes the BBC:

"Colombia's government says it is close to sealing an agreement with Washington to make Colombia a hub for US anti-drug operations in South America.

"The deal would give the US access to air bases in Colombia to gather intelligence and support operations against drugs production and terrorism."

This agreement is troubling. Why must the United States have a central base in Colombia? So it can attack its "enemies" like Hugo Chavez who called Bush the "great Satan"? All the Latin countries are going to be hating this. And where is Obama's policy towards Latin America in all of this? This is gunboat diplomacy all over again.

The BBC reports that Rafael Correa, President of neighboring Ecuador, would die rather than allowing the U.S. similar access:

"Ecuador's left-wing president Rafael Correa, a political ally of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, has said he would rather "cut off his arm" than allow the Americans to stay on at Manta."

And why are the Colombians putting up with this? This agreement practically cedes Colombian sovereignty to the U.S. military. Is Colombia and its president Alvaro Uribe that backward looking that they welcome and even invite the U.S. to establish military hegemony?

Reports the BBC:

"Colombian officials have rejected accusations that the deal would infringe the country's sovereignty.

"Colombia is the biggest recipient of US military aid in the Americas.

"The US was forced to look for a new centre for regional operations after Ecuador refused to renew the lease on its military base of Manta."

The BBC writes:

"Final details of the Colombian plan are still being worked out but the US may use at least three air bases, including Malambo in the north, and Palanquero and Apiay in the central region.

"A maximum of 800 US military personnel and 600 civilian defence contractors would be based in Colombia.

"They would operate the US aircraft that maintain 24-hour monitoring of the region, intercepting communications and coordinating with spy satellites to protect US interests."

The whole agreement reeks of yanqui imperialism and domination. Has Barack Obama signed off on this? Does he realize the bad impression this deal will carry in the eyes of Latinos in every country and hamlet in South and Central America? After making such a good impression with Latin leaders at the last America summit, Obama squanders it all by allowing the U.S. military to make this unnecessary and ill-timed agreement.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009


The BBC reports today on a group of 26 Israeli soldiers who claim that the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) committed war crimes against civilians in Gaza during Israel's three-week offensive last January.

Writes the BBC on its web site:

"The troops said they had been urged to fire on any building or person that seemed suspicious and said Palestinians were sometimes used as human shields."

Of course, the IDF denies the plausibility of the charges, saying that the accusers are anonymous and that their claims are "hearsay."

The BBC writes:

"Reacting to the report, Israeli military spokeswoman Lt Col Avital Leibovich said:

""The IDF [Israel Defence Forces] regrets the fact that another human rights organisation has come out with a report based on anonymous and general testimony - without investigating their credibility."

"She dismissed the document as "hearsay and word of mouth"."

The testimonies of the 26 soldiers was taken by Breaking the Silence, an Israeli group dedicated to exposing the cruel policies of the IDF towards Palestinians.

Reports Paul Wood, Middle East correspondent of the BBC:

"Until now, Israel always had a ready answer to allegations of war crimes in Gaza. Claims were, they said, Palestinian propaganda. Now the accusations of abuse are being made by Israeli soldiers.

"The common thread in the testimonies is that orders were given to prevent Israeli casualties whatever the cost in Palestinian lives.

"The Israeli military says past allegations of wrong-doing in Gaza were the result of soldiers recycling rumours.

"But Breaking the Silence has a long - and to many, credible - record in getting soldiers to talk about experiences which might not reflect well on the army."

The BBC quotes the report on soldiers' experiences in Gaza vis-a-vis the Palestinian population. Writes the BBC:

"The report says testimonies show "the massive and unprecedented blow to the infrastructure and civilians" was a result of Israeli military policy, articulated by the rules of engagement, and encouraged by a belief "the reality of war requires them to shoot and not to ask questions".

"One soldier is quoted saying: "The soldiers were made to understand that their lives were the most important, and that there was no way our soldiers would get killed for the sake of leaving civilians the benefit of the doubt.""

Here's the BBC on the testimony of another soldier:

""People were not instructed to shoot at everyone they see, but they were told that from a certain distance when they approach a house, no matter who it is - even an old woman - take them down.""

How then can Israel and the IDF escape the tarnish of these reports? It will take more than claiming that the reports hold no validity or that they are merely hearsay to make the world change its opinion that Israel went into Gaza last January with the clear intention of showing Hamas and the Palestinians that the whole population would pay in lives and blood for its opposition to Israel and its harsh policies.

Sunday, July 12, 2009


John McCain opposes an investigation (and prosecution) of the torturers. He claims revealing all the dirty little secrets "will aid the terrorists." Oh, yeah! They will all go and be waterboarded 83 times and try to extend their endurance beyond 10 seconds. Here's the link to the AP story.

And to think that this guy McCain could have been elected president.

Saturday, July 11, 2009


John F. Burns writes in today's The New York Times web page on the growing casualties suffered by British troops over the last week in Afghanistan.

Reports Burns:

"Just as President Obama’s plan to nearly double American troop strength in Afghanistan gets into high gear, Britain’s involvement in the war has come under the fiercest criticism yet at home as a result of a steep increase in British casualties, including the deaths of 15 soldiers in the past 10 days.

"The latest losses are the heaviest British forces have suffered in any comparable period since the 1982 Falklands war. With the Defense Ministry’s announcement of eight soldiers’ deaths on Friday, Britain’s toll in Afghanistan is now 184 killed, five more than its total losses in Iraq, where Britain’s combat commitment ended this spring."

Why the U.K. has sent troops to fight in Afghanistan must be reexamined. I would argue that no one, not Gordon Brown, not Barack Obama, not Angela Merkel, has come up with a reasonable and cogent answer to this question. And the more time that foreign troops including those of the U.S. and the U.K. are stationed there, the more loss of life and the more maiming injuries, not only of American and British troops but of ordinary Afghanis.

Burns writes:

"The deaths have generated grim images that have led the nightly television news, of slate-gray transport aircraft carrying coffins landing at a military air base in Wiltshire and being driven slowly in hearses past crowds lining the high street in Wootton Bassett, a nearby town. When five coffins passed down the street on Friday, on their way to a mortuary in Oxford, women wailed.

"Britain’s casualties are far lower than those suffered by American forces, who have lost 732 troops in Afghanistan and 4,322 in Iraq, according to, a Web site that monitors the military losses in both wars. But with Britain’s far smaller population and troop deployments, the latest deaths — from a force of 9,000 that makes Britain’s the second-largest troop presence in Afghanistan after the United States’ — have been as much of a shock here as the heavy American troop losses in Iraq at the height of that conflict were in the United States."

There is no justifiable reason why British soldiers are fighting in Afghanistan. And whom are they fighting? Ordinary Afghan villagers and believers in jihad, people who think and really believe that they are doing God's work killing infidels.

So why does PM Gordon Brown continue to defend and support the enigmatic war that has caused such a large loss of life for British troops? Brown seems to be like George Bush who once the killings of American soldiers began to mount nevertheless stubbornly refused to reconsider his awful and erroneous decision.

John Burns writes:

"Speaking at the Group of 8 summit meeting in Italy on Friday, Mr. Brown said the increase in British casualties during an offensive in Helmand, where Taliban fighters have concentrated a summer offensive of their own, was part of a mission that aimed at breaking “a chain of terror” that ran from southern Afghanistan and Pakistan to the streets of Britain, and contributed to the transit bombings in London in 2005. “Britons today are safer because of the courageous sacrifice of British soldiers in Afghanistan,” he said.

"But his faltering voice as he predicted further casualties reflected a political reality he could not avoid. Although Mr. Brown voted for Britain’s involvement in Iraq in 2003, when he was chancellor of the exchequer, he made no secret in following years of his profound discomfort with the war, and he moved decisively after he succeeded Tony Blair as prime minister in 2007 to lay down a schedule for British withdrawal, which will be completed later this month.

"But like Mr. Obama, a vigorous opponent of the Iraq war during the Bush years who has become a proponent of a more vigorous American military commitment in Afghanistan, Mr. Brown has made the Afghan conflict his own. On Friday, as often before, he made an unequivocal commitment to staying the course. “We knew from the start that defeating the insurgency in Helmand would be a hard and dangerous job, but it’s a vital one,” he said."

Friday, July 10, 2009


The U.S. military has finally released five Iranian diplomats after more than two years in a military prison in Iraq. The U.S. never produced any evidence as to why they were held or what their alleged crime was. I maintain that the whole episode was just a ploy of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney to provoke the Iranian government into some action that Bush & Co. could claim was a casus belli and thus give the U.S. a chance to attack Iran.

Steven Lee Myers writes in today's The New York Times:

"The American military and a senior aide to President Obama offered few details about the release or its timing. A military spokesman here, Capt. Brad Kimberly, said in a statement that the release had come “at the request of the government of Iraq” and complied with the security agreement between the United States and Iraq which requires the eventual transfer of all detainees in American custody."

No matter what the U.S. military claims, until and unless it releases evidence showing the complicity of these five Iranians in illegal actions in Iraq, I will believe that they were arrested and imprisoned solely on the bias of the U.S. government against Iran and against the natural influence Iranians have in the neighboring country of Iraq.

Gen. Odierno tries to paint the Iranians as part of an effort to fund and train an anti-American insurgency.

Writes Myers:

"The American military has not detailed its evidence against the men, so the extent of their involvement in violence in Iraq, if any, may never be known.

"However, senior American military and diplomatic officials here continue to accuse Iran — or at least parts of its security forces and secret services — of supporting insurgent groups.

"At a news conference on June 30, the top American commander here, Gen. Ray Odierno, criticized Iran in blunt terms.

"“Iran is still supporting, funding, training surrogates who operate inside of Iraq — flat out,” he said. “They have not stopped. And I don’t think they will stop. I think they will continue to do that because they are also concerned, in my opinion, of where Iraq is headed. They want to try to gain influence here, and they will continue to do that. I think many of the attacks in Baghdad are from individuals that have been, in fact, funded or trained by the Iranians.”"

Note the words of Odierno. "Iran is . . . training surrogates who operate inside of Iraq . . . " [The Iranians] are . . . concerned . . . {about] where Iraq is headed." "They want to try to gain influence here." My reaction to all of this is, so what? I disagree with Steven Lee Myers that these are "blunt terms." I think rather they are fudging words trying to convey the impression without any evidence that Iranians are meddling. But is "meddling" a crime or an act of war? I don't think so.

Odierno also "thinks" that many of the attacks are from individuals that have been trained by the Iranians. But what does this mean?

Furthermore, Odierno thinks his assertions about the Iranians are true, but this word "thinks" surely implies that he does not know for sure. And even if Iraqi insurgents were funded or trained by Iranians, this statement still means nothing. Perhaps the individuals attended Islamic school in Iran to study the Quran or maybe they took language training and studied Farsi.

Odierno's statement is just fluff. But it is dangerous insofar as it tries to demonize Iran and the Iranians on the basis of conjecture and Odierno's own opinion which conceivably is riddled with conjecture.

Thursday, July 9, 2009


Common expectations would say that civilized countries like the United States and United Kingdom don't torture suspects. We all know about George W. Bush's sordid policy of waterboarding and other forms of torture for people suspected of terrorism. Now Ian Cobain reports for The Guardian that Britain outsourced its torture to the Pakistanis.

Writes Cobain:

"Researchers from the New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) say several Pakistani officials have corroborated accounts of torture given by several victims. The officials not only made clear that their counterparts in British intelligence were fully aware of the methods they were employing during interrogations but claim the British agents were "grateful" it was happening."

Of course, just as George Bush, Dick Cheney and the others always denied that the U.S. government used "torture," and that the "U.S. does not torture," so did officials of the British government, including Tony Blair and Jack Straw, insist over and over that the U.K. did not engage in torture.

Corbain reports:

"HRW said there was now a compelling case for a judicial inquiry into Britain's role in torture in Pakistan. Brad Adams, HRW's Asia director, said: "The prime minister, the foreign secretary, former prime minister Tony Blair and others have repeatedly said that the UK opposes torture. They repeatedly deny allegations that the UK has encouraged torture by Pakistan's intelligence agencies. But saying this over and over again doesn't make it true. There is now sufficient evidence in the public domain to warrant a judicial inquiry.""

Tuesday, July 7, 2009


Why must Israel continue to inflict pain and harm on the Palestinians in Gaza? Yesterday, Israel refused to allow a team of physicians organized by the French government entry into Gaza for medical and humanitarian purposes.

Vikram Dodd writes in today's The Guardian webpage:

"Israel was yesterday criticised after it refused to allow a group of doctors on a humanitarian mission organised by the French government to enter Gaza.

"The team, including three British medics, was turned back by Israeli border guards on Sunday and Monday. They say their mission is purely humanitarian, aimed to helping those in medical need, and some of whom were left injured and in need of surgery after Israel's attack on Gaza earlier this year."

The whole Israeli blockade of Gaza is itself a war crime, and specifically, when the Israeli government turns away medics looking to provide medical help and relief to Gaza's population. Israel refuses to allow in basic necessities of life, like medical assistance, as well as needed construction materials so that Gazans can rebuild their homes and apartments, destroyed by Israel in its incessant bombing this past January.

"One of the Britons refused entry to Gaza, Sonia Robbins, who is a reconstructive plastic surgeon, said: "I don't know why we are being refused permission to enter.

""The consequences are that patients will not be operated on, children will have to wait until next time for surgery, and that won't happen until six months time.

""I think it is unacceptable to refuse a humanitarian mission.""

I don't understand why Israelis are not demonstrating in the streets against this cruel and inhumane policy. Each time that Israel tries to tighten the screws by some unthought out policy like turning away physicians and surgeons, the whole world sees how mean and cruel it is towards its one million plus captives in Gaza.

Sunday, July 5, 2009


What in the world is VP Joe Biden up to when he says that the U.S. government will not object if Israel decides to attack Iran? Does he speak for Pres. Barack Obama? Is this the official government position? I hope not.

The BBC reports:

"Asked whether the US would stand in the way if the Israelis decided to launch a military attack against Iranian nuclear facilities, Mr Biden said Israel, like the US, had a right to "determine what is in its interests"."

My gripe is why Biden must come out and say these things. Israel under PM Netanyahu and Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman might take Biden's statements as a green light to bomb Iran. These guys are itching to pull the trigger on Tehran for Ahmadinejad's statements that deny the holocaust and wish that Israel be wiped off the map.

Now the wish that Israel cease existing certainly is a strong unpleasant statement, but it does not justify starting another world war. After all, words are merely words, they are not aggressive actions. Iran has not invaded another country in the last 50 years, nor were Iranians the aggressors in the Iran/Iraq War in the 1980s. Many Iranians shout, "Death to America," but that does not justify an attack by the U.S. on those Iranians. That's what freedom of speech means, you can say almost anything you wish, and not have to fear that the listener will beat you up, or worse, kill you.

So Biden should shut up on this issue and make sure that he is not the catalyst for a destructive new war in the Middle East that will set back world peace for the next 500 years at least.

Saturday, July 4, 2009


Juan Cole in his Informed Comment observes the absence of reaction by Americans to Israel's seizure of a ship carrying basic necessities of life to Palestinians in Gaza. Cole calls it "piracy," and I agree. Israel now has the American crew, including a former Congresswoman, in prison. And all of this on the Fourth of July.


From Michael Slackman's story in today's NYT on forcing confessions from Iranian protesters: "The government has made it a practice to publicize confessions from political prisoners held without charge or legal representation, often subjected to pressure tactics like sleep deprivation, solitary confinement and torture, according to human rights groups and former political prisoners." Sound familiar?

Friday, July 3, 2009


There has been another deadly U.S. drone strike along the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan. The BBC reports that the attack killed 10 people.

Writes the BBC:

""Three missiles hit the hideout of Taliban commander Noor Wali. Casualties are feared, but details are not immediately available," news agency AFP quoted a security official as saying.

"The attacks took place in Mochikhel, an area controlled by Noor Wali, who is part of Baitullah Mehsud's Tehrik-e-Taliban organisation.

"Mochikhel is near the key Servakai route, currently the scene of fighting between Pakistani security forces and Mehsud's militants.

"Any casualty figures could not be immediately confirmed but unnamed intelligence officials and residents said at least 10 militants were killed."

The government of Pakistan objects to these U.S. attacks from unseen drones as being counter-productive. Villagers living next to houses being destroyed and families being killed naturally resent the U.S. and Americans for these missile strikes. If rural Pakistanis liked Americans before, they now have nothing but hatred and resentment.

Reports the BBC:

"Pakistan has been publicly critical of drone attacks, arguing that they kill civilians and fuel support for the militants.

"The US military does not routinely confirm drone attacks but the armed forces and the Central Intelligence Agency operating in Afghanistan are believed to be the only forces capable of deploying drones in the region."

I still don't understand how Barack Obama could approve these strikes. Why? Because it denies the supreme worth of the individual, and it takes place outside of any domain of law. Of the 10 people killed in the strike reported by the BBC, how many were children, how many were civilians, and how many were "insurgents" acting in good faith? How can Obama's government decide on its own who deserves to die, who should be a target of the drone's missiles, who merits the death penalty solely on account of living with or next to an insurgent?