Posts Tagged ‘Obama administration’

Israel Is Boss

March 19, 2010

Margaret Kimberley, Black Agenda Report, March 19, 2010

bibi and hillary
Corporate media pretend U.S.-Israeli relations are in “crisis,” just as they have many times in the past. It’s all a charade, a play for national and international audiences. In real crises, relationships are called into question. But there has never been any question about who is in charge of this “partnership”: Israel. And don’t you dare forget it.

Freedom Rider: Israel Is Boss
by BAR editor and senior columnist Margaret Kimberley

The Obama administration, like every other presidential administration in the last sixty years, does what Israel wants it to do.”
The United States may invade and occupy Iraq, undermine elected presidents in Haiti and throw its weight around in numerous ways in numerous parts of the world. Yet there is one country it does not dare to confront. Of course, the nation in question is Israel.
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Exit Strategies for Afghanistan and Iraq

March 10, 2010

By Tom Hayden, ZNet, March 10, 2010

Source: The Nation

Tom Hayden’s ZSpace Page

It’s been a long winter for the peace movement. Waiting for Obama has proved fruitless. The Great Recession has strengthened Wall Street and diverted attention from the wars. The debate over healthcare still won’t go away and has demoralized progressive advocates. Given a chance to exit from Afghanistan when the Karzai election proved to be stolen, President Obama escalated anyway, but also promised to “begin” exiting almost before an opposition could mobilize at home.

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Authors of Bush torture memos to be cleared of misconduct

February 1, 2010
By Raw Story
Saturday, January 30th, 2010 — 7:15 pm

johnyoo Authors of Bush torture memos to be cleared of misconduct

The men who advised former President Bush to waterboard detainees and deprive them of sleep will be cleared of charges of professional misconduct by a Justice Department ethics report.

The report, which has yet to be released, states that Jay Bybee, now a federal appellate court judge, and John Yoo, now a law professor, showed “poor judgment,” but will not face legal action for their advocacy of harsh interrogation tactics.

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Robert Fisk: Why does the US turn a blind eye to Israeli bulldozers?

January 31, 2010

Most of the West Bank is under rule which amounts to apartheid by paper

Robert Fisk, The Independent/UK, January 30, 2010

“Palestine” is no more. Call it a “peace process” or a “road map”; blame it on Barack Obama’s weakness, his pathetic, childish admission – like an optimistic doctor returning a sick child to its parents without hope of recovery – that a Middle East peace was “more difficult” to reach than he imagined.

But the dream of a “two-state” Israeli-Palestinian solution, a security-drenched but noble settlement to decades of warfare between Israelis and Palestinians is as good as dead.

Both the United States and Europe now stand idly by while the Israeli government effectively destroys any hope of a Palestinian state; even as you read these words, Israel’s bulldozers and demolition orders are destroying the last chance of peace; not only in the symbolic centre of Jerusalem itself but – strategically, far more important – in 60 per cent of the vast, biblical lands of the occupied West Bank, in that largest sector in which Jews now outnumber Muslims two to one.

This majority of the West Bank – known under the defunct Oslo Agreement’s sinister sobriquet as “Area C” – has already fallen under an Israeli rule which amounts to apartheid by paper: a set of Israeli laws which prohibit almost all Palestinian building or village improvements, which shamelessly smash down Palestinian homes for which permits are impossible to obtain, ordering the destruction of even restored Palestinian sewage systems. Israeli colonists have no such problems; which is why 300,000 Israelis now live – in 220 settlements which are all internationally illegal – in the richest and most fertile of the Palestinian occupied lands.

When Obama’s elderly envoy George Mitchell headed home in humiliation this week, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu celebrated his departure by planting trees in two of the three largest Israeli colonies around Jerusalem. With these trees at Gush Etzion and Ma’aleh Adumim, he said, he was sending “a clear message that we are here. We will stay here. We are planning and we are building.” These two huge settlements, along with that of Ariel to the north of Jerusalem, were an “indisputable part of Israel forever.”

It was Netanyahu’s victory celebration over the upstart American President who had dared to challenge Israel’s power not only in the Middle East but in America itself. And while the world this week listened to Netanyahu in the Holocaust memorial commemoration for the genocide of six million Jews, abusing Iran as the new Nazi Germany – Iran’s loony president supposedly as evil as Hitler – the hopes of a future “Palestine” continued to dribble away. President Ahmadinejad of Iran is no more Adolf Hitler than the Israelis are Nazis. But the “threat” of Iran is distracting the world. So is Tony Blair yesterday, trying to wriggle out of his bloody responsibility for the Iraq disaster. The real catastrophe, however, continues just outside Jerusalem, amid the fields, stony hills and ancient caves of most of the West Bank.

Torture Never Stopped Under Obama

January 28, 2010

By Shamus Cooke, ZNet, Jan 27, 2010

Shamus Cooke’s ZSpace Page

“A year on, the [Obama] administration continues to look the other way when it comes to full disclosure of and remedy for human rights violations perpetrated by the U.S.A. in the name of countering terrorism.”

- Amnesty International

What is Torture?  It can be physical or psychological, quick or unhurried.  It implies lasting trauma unbefitting a human.  The U.N. defines torture as:

” …any act by which severe pain or suffering, physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him, or a third person, information or a confession…” (U.N. Convention Against Torture).

By this definition the U.S. continues to practice torture. Yes, Obama outlawed some especially shocking forms of torture — water boarding, for example — but other types of torture were not labelled “torture” and thus continue.

Surprisingly, this fact was recently discussed at length in The New York Times, under an Op-Ed piece appropriately entitled Torture’s Loopholes.  In it, an ex-interrogator explains some of the more glaring examples of how the U.S. currently tortures and argues for the practices to end.  In reference to Obama’s vow to end the systematic, obscene torture under Bush, the article states:

“…the changes were not as drastic as most Americans think, and elements of our interrogation policy continue to be both inhumane and counterproductive.”

The author says bluntly, “If I were to return to one of the war zones today… I would still be allowed to abuse [torture] prisoners.”

The article also explains how the U.S. “legally” continues a practice that thousands of people in the U.S. prison system already know to be psychological torture:

“…extended solitary confinement is torture, as confirmed by many scientific studies. Even the initial 30 days of isolation could be considered abuse [torture].”

Other forms of torture commonly practiced — since they are part of the Military’s updated Field Manual — are “…stress positions [shackling prisoners in painful positions for extended periods of time], putting detainees into close confinement or environmental manipulation [hot or frigid rooms]…”

Also mentioned as torture is sleep deprivation, a tactic used in combination with 20-hour interrogation sessions. The author concludes that these practices do “not meet the minimum standard of humane treatment, either in terms of American law or simple human decency.”  (January 20, 2010).

Unmentioned by the article are other forms of torture institutionalized under the Obama administration.  One is “sensory deprivation,” a deeply traumatizing psychological torture described in detail in Naomi Klein’s Shock Doctrine. The new Army Field Manual says that the tactic — though not called “sensory deprivation” — should be used to “prolong the shock of capture,” and should include “goggles or blindfolds and earmuffs” that completely disconnects the senses from the outside world, where the captive is able to experience only the thoughts in their head.

Yet another blatant form of torture that Obama refused to stop practicing is “extraordinary rendition,” or what critics call “outsourcing torture.”  This is the practice of flying a prisoner to a country where torture is routinely practiced, so that the prisoner can be interrogated.  As reported by The New York Times:

“The Obama administration will continue the Bush administration’s practice of sending terrorism suspects to third countries for detention and interrogation, but pledges to closely monitor their treatment to ensure that they are not tortured, administration officials said Monday.” (August 24, 2009).

Human rights groups instantly called Obama’s bluff:  why transport terrorism suspects to other countries at all? If not for the fact that torture and other “harsh interrogation methods” are routinely practiced there? No justifiable answer has been given to these questions.

Another common way the U.S. continues to outsource torture is performed in the Afghanistan and Iraq wars.  There, the U.S. military often arrests suspects and hands over the interrogation duties to Iraqi or Afghan security forces, knowing full well that they regularly torture (this was also the strategy in the Vietnam war).  Unfortunately, handing over someone to be tortured means you are also guilty of the crime.

A less obvious form of torture is the concept of “indefinite detention” — holding someone in prison indefinitely without a trial.  The terrible experience of hopelessness that a victim of this crime experiences, over years, is a profound form of psychological torture.  This is one of the reasons why the American Constitution guarantees due process, a legal detail that the Obama administration continues to ignore.

In connection, The Washington Post recently announced that the Obama administration will detain 50 Guantanamo inmates “indefinitely,” without any legal charges or chance of a trial.  This act is consistent with earlier statements made by Obama, when he stated that “some detainees are too dangerous, to be released.”  Of course, there does not exist any evidence to prove that these detainees are dangerous, otherwise they would be prosecuted in a legal court.  The article reports that these detainees are “un-prosecutable because officials fear trials…could challenge evidence obtained through coercion [torture].” (January 22, 2010).

The Washington Post article also reports that 35 additional Guantanamo inmates will be tried in Federal or Military courts.  In the latter court, far less evidence — if any — is needed, and the military jury can be handpicked to deliver the preferred outcome.

Obama, like Bush, has sought to undermine the legal rights of those detained and the victims of torture who seek accountability.  Obama continues to refuse to release pictures (evidence) of detainee abuse, preventing Americans from really understanding what their government is guilty of.  Obama has also refused detainees in so-called “black sites” (U.S. Bagram Air Base, for example) access to attorneys or courts. Finally, by not prosecuting anyone for torture crimes in the Bush administration, Obama is guaranteeing that the worst forms of torture will continue, since institutionalized behavior rarely stops unless rewards or punishments are implemented.

In the end, the act of torture is impossible to separate from war in general.  The “rules of war” are always ignored by both sides, who implement the most barbaric acts to terrorize their opponents into submission.

Obama’s wars, like Bush’s, are wars of conquest. U.S. corporations want the oil and other raw materials in the region.  They also want to privatize the conquered state-owned companies, and to sell U.S. products in the new markets the war has opened them.  Many corporations benefit from the act of war itself (arms manufacturers and corporate-employed mercenaries), or from the reconstruction opportunities the destruction creates.

Working people have no interest in this type of war.  The hundreds of billions of dollars that Obama is using for destruction should be used to create jobs instead, or for health care, public education, social services, etc.   It is up to all working people to organize themselves — through their unions and community organizations — to broadcast this demand and make it a reality.

Shamus Cooke is a social service worker, trade unionist, and writer for Workers Action (www.workerscompass.org).  He can be reached at shamuscook@yahoo.com

Human rights policy under Obama

January 26, 2010

Stephen Zunes, Foreign Policy in Focus, Jan 26, 2010

The Obama administration’s record on human rights has been a major disappointment.

In part because the Bush administration abused the promotion of democracy and human rights to rationalize its militaristic policies in the Middle East and elsewhere, the Obama administration has at times been reluctant to be a forceful advocate for those struggling against oppression. For example, Obama was cautious in supporting the ongoing freedom struggle in Iran, in part because he believes that more overt advocacy could set back what he sees as the more critical issue of curbing Iran’s nuclear ambitions. He is also aware of how the history of U.S. interventionism in that country, overt threats of “regime change” by the previous administration, and the U.S. invasion of two neighboring countries in the name of promoting democracy could lead to a nationalist reaction to such grandstanding. (Despite this caution, however, the Iranian regime has falsely accused Obama of guiding the massive pro-democracy movement that is challenging the increasingly repressive rule in that country.)

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U.S. policy in Gaza remains unchanged

January 22, 2010

by Charles Fromm and Ellen Massey, Inter Press Service News

WASHINGTON, Jan 22, 2010 (IPS) – One year ago Thursday, the last Israeli tanks were lumbering out of the Gaza Strip, ending the 22-day Gaza War and leaving in their wake a decimated landscape and population.

A year later, the humanitarian and security situation in the devastated coastal enclave remains dire, yet the Barack Obama administration continues to overlook the crisis in Gaza, an approach which some experts say is an extension of the previous administration’s policy.

This policy has also done little to alleviate what human rights groups warn is a growing humanitarian crisis, plunging the Gaza Strip further into poverty and insecurity.

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Pakistan Anger Grows as Obama Steps Up Drone Strikes

January 15, 2010

UN Slams Secrecy Around Repeated Strikes

by Jason Ditz, Antiwar.com, January 14, 2010

Long something quietly tolerated by the Pakistani government and ignored by the international community, the Obama Administration’s repeated escalation of drone strikes into Pakistan’s tribal areas has gotten too big to ignore, with six separate strikes in the first 14 days of the new year killing scores of people.

The attacks and perhaps worse, the ever present drones flying overheard across North Waziristan threatening further attacks are sewing increasing resentment among tribesmen, even as the massive civilian toll of the strikes is sparking outcry across Pakistan and increasingly, abroad.

Even the United Nations seems willing to get involved, with UN human rights investigator Philip Alston that the US needed to show more transparency with the strikes, particularly as the intensity of the strikes increases.

“When we were dealing with isolated cases I raised it with the United States,” Alston noted, “not that it is systematically using drones, it is becoming increasingly important to get that clarification.”

In 2009 the CIA launched 44 strikes into North and South Waziristan, but managed to kill no more than a handful of notable militants. And while the Pakistani government initially labeled virtually everyone slain as a “suspect,” they are increasingly conceding that there is no evidence to back up that suspicion, and that around 700 people, the vast, vast majority of the victims, were likely innocent civilians.

The extralegal killings of hundreds of people without any accountability or in many cases even admission of responsibility is not only harming American credibility with the Pakistani people, it is even straining relations with the Pakistani government, which was willing to quietly support the strikes before the tolls started to soar. Now even they are growing alarmed at the rate with which American missiles are flying into their territory.

The True Face of Obama

January 14, 2010

After his first year, Obama shows his true face

By Nat Hentoff, Village Voice,  January 12, 2010

Pat Benic/Newscom

  • What a disappointment a year makes.
    What a disappointment a year makes.

Before President Obama, it was grimly accurate to write, as I often did in the Voice, that George W. Bush came into the presidency with no discernible background in constitutional civil liberties or any acquaintance with the Constitution itself. Accordingly, he turned the “war on terror” over to Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld—ardent believers that the Constitution presents grave obstacles in a time of global jihad.

But now, Bush’s successor—who actually taught constitutional law at the University of Chicago—is continuing much of the Bush-Cheney parallel government and, in some cases, is going much further in disregarding our laws and the international treaties we’ve signed.

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An American World of War. What to Watch for in 2010

January 5, 2010

by Tom Engelhardt & Nick Turse, TomDispatch.com, Jan 4, 2009

According to the Chinese calendar, 2010 is the Year of the Tiger.  We don’t name our years, but if we did, this one might prospectively be called the Year of the Assassin.

We, of course, think of ourselves as something like the peaceable kingdom.  After all, the shock of September 11, 2001 was that “war” came to “the homeland,” a mighty blow delivered against the very symbols of our economic, military, and — had Flight 93 not gone down in a field in Pennsylvania — political power.

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