Archive for June, 2007

Dick Cheney, the Almighty Vice President

June 30, 2007

Source: Salon (6-28-07)

The imperial vice presidency

By Sidney Blumenthal

When Huey P. Long left the governorship of Louisiana in 1932 to become a U.S. senator, he filled the position with a childhood friend named Oscar Kelly Allen, known as O.K., who gave the OK to whatever the Kingfish wished. The story is still told, perhaps apocryphal, that one day a leaf wafted through an open window and landed on O.K.’s desk and, without hesitation, he signed it.

Two months after 9/11, on the day of the fall of Kabul, Afghanistan, Nov. 13, 2001, Vice President Dick Cheney appeared in the Oval Office with a four-page executive order designating terrorism suspects as enemy combatants to be held indefinitely, with no right to have their detention reviewed by any court except newly created military commissions, where they would not be permitted to learn the accusations or evidence against them, or be represented by counsel, or even know that their case had been heard and decided.

The secretary of state and the national security advisor were deliberately kept uninformed as the White House staff secretary prepared the order for signature. According to a four-part series published this week in the Washington Post on the extraordinary power of the vice president, “When it [the order] returned to the Oval Office, in a blue portfolio embossed with the presidential seal, Bush pulled a felt-tip pen from his pocket and signed without sitting down. Almost no one else had seen the text.” Colin Powell was stunned when he learned of the fait accompli. “What the hell just happened?” he asked. Condoleezza Rice was described as “incensed.” But neither of them, then or later, effectively challenged Cheney’s usurpation of executive authority. And, as can be gathered inferentially, Bush never bothered to ask Cheney about their opinions on the executive order or to call them; nor did he seem to care.

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Juan Cole: Bush Turns Iraq into Israel/Palestine

June 30, 2007

Source: Informed Comment (Blog) (6-29-07)

[Mr. Cole is Professor of Modern Middle Eastern and South Asian History at the University of Michigan. His website is http://www.juancole.com/.%5D

Bush said in a speech on Thursday that he hopes Iraq will be like Israel, a democracy that faces terrorist violence but manages to retain its democratic character:

In Israel, Bush said, ‘terrorists have taken innocent human life for years in suicide attacks. The difference is that Israel is a functioning democracy and it’s not prevented from carrying out its responsibilities. And that’s a good indicator of success that we’re looking for in Iraq.’

These words may be the stupidest ones ever uttered by a US president. Given their likely impact on the US war effort in the Middle East, they are downright criminal.

The US political elite just doesn’t get it. Israel is not popular in the Middle East, and it isn’t because Middle Easterners are bigots. It is because Israel is coded as the last European colonial presence in the region, an heir to French Algeria, British Egypt, and Dutch Indonesia– and because the Israelis pugnaciously continue to try to colonize neighboring bits of territory. (This enmity is not inevitable or eternal; in 2002 the Arab League offered full recognition of Israel in return for its going back to 1967 borders, but the Israeli government turned down the offer.) But for the purposes of this analysis it does not really matter why Israel is unpopular. Let us just stipulate that it is. Why would you associate American Iraq with such an unpopular project, if you were trying to do public diplomacy in the region? Bush had just announced a new push to get the American message out to the Muslim world, the day before.

Let’s just take the analogy seriously for a moment. Israel proper is a democracy of sorts, though its 1 million Arab citizens are in a second class position. But it rules over several million stateless Palestinians who lack even the pretence of self-rule. It is hard to characterize a country as a democracy when it has millions of disenfranchised subjects. Bush manages to only think about Jewish Israelis in the above analogy, wiping out millions of other residents of geographical Palestine who don’t get to participate in ‘democracy’ or exercise popular sovereignty.

It is true that the Israelis managed to blunt the terror attacks of Islamic Jihad, the Qassam Brigades, and the al-Aqsa Martyrs brigades over the years after the eruption of the 2nd Intifada. But there are still attacks, including by rocket. The reason for those attacks is that the Palestinians had mostly been driven from their homes and off their land, and were militarily, politically and economically subjected to the Israelis. The Israelis reduced the terror attacks by essentially imprisoning millions of stateless Palestinians in the territories, further restricting their movements, destroying their trade and livelihoods. The Israeli government continues to grab Palestinian land and put more colonists on it, even as we speak.

Israel-Palestine is among the world’s hottest trouble spots, and the conflict has poisoned politics throughout the Middle East. It was among the motives for Bin Laden’s attack on the US on September 11, so it has spilled over on America, too. A second one of those would be a good thing?

So who would play the Palestinians in Bush’s analogy? Obviously, it would be the Sunni Arabs, who apparently are meant to be cordoned off from the rest of Iraqis and put behind massive walls and barbed wire, and deprived of political power. That is not a desirable outcome and is not politically or militarily tenable in the long run.

And, let’s just stop and think. Even if it were true that an Israel-Palestine sort of denouement were in Bush’s mind for Iraq, was it wise for him to make it public?

That sort of scenario is precisely the propaganda message broadcast by the Jihadi websites in Iraq and the Arab world! They say that the US military occupation of Iraq, in alliance with Shiites, has turned the Sunni Arabs into Palestinians! Bush could not have handed the guerrillas a better rhetorical gift. I do not think it is an exaggeration to say that DVD’s of Bush’s comments will be spread around as a recruiting tool for jihadis, and that US troops will certainly be killed as a result of this speech. You could say that the US military presence is already pretty unpopular in the Sunni Arab areas. But what of the progress in al-Anbar Province? Will Bush’s speech help or hurt Sunni Arabs who want to ally with the US against the foreign Salafi Jihadis? Hurt, obviously.

If Bush had said something like that in 2002, you could have written it off as inexperience and lack of knowledge of the Middle East. But he has been the sitting president for so many years, and has had so much to do with the Middle East that this faux pas is just inexcusable. I don’t know the man and can’t judge if he is just not very bright. I can confirm that he says things that are not very bright. And, worse, he says things that are guaranteed to put more US troops into the grave in Diyala, Baghdad, Salahuddin and al-Anbar Provinces.

I don’t know whether to sob in grief or tear my hair out in frustration. How much longer do we have to suffer?

Who speaks and decides for Palestine?

June 29, 2007

Counterpunch

Weekend Edition

Counterpunch

June 16 / 17, 2007

The Wages of Corruption and Occupation

Welcome to “Palestine”

By ROBERT FISK

How troublesome the Muslims of the Middle East are. First, we demand that the Palestinians embrace democracy and then they elect the wrong party – Hamas – and then Hamas wins a mini-civil war and presides over the Gaza Strip. And we Westerners still want to negotiate with the discredited President, Mahmoud Abbas. Today “Palestine” – and let’s keep those quotation marks in place – has two prime ministers. Welcome to the Middle East.

Who can we negotiate with? To whom do we talk? Well of course, we should have talked to Hamas months ago. But we didn’t like the democratically elected government of the Palestinian people. They were supposed to have voted for Fatah and its corrupt leadership. But they voted for Hamas, which declines to recognise Israel or abide by the totally discredited Oslo agreement.

No one asked – on our side – which particular Israel Hamas was supposed to recognise. The Israel of 1948? The Israel of the post-1967 borders? The Israel which builds – and goes on building – vast settlements for Jews and Jews only on Arab land, gobbling up even more of the 22 per cent of “Palestine” still left to negotiate over?

And so today, we are supposed to talk to our faithful policeman, Mr Abbas, the “moderate” (as the BBC, CNN and Fox News refer to him) Palestinian leader, a man who wrote a 600-page book about Oslo without once mentioning the word “occupation”, who always referred to Israeli “redeployment” rather than “withdrawal”, a “leader” we can trust because he wears a tie and goes to the White House and says all the right things. The Palestinians didn’t vote for Hamas because they wanted an Islamic republic – which is how Hamas’s bloody victory will be represented – but because they were tired of the corruption of Mr Abbas’s Fatah and the rotten nature of the “Palestinian Authority”.

I recall years ago being summoned to the home of a PA official whose walls had just been punctured by an Israeli tank shell. All true. But what struck me were the gold-plated taps in his bathroom. Those taps – or variations of them – were what cost Fatah its election. Palestinians wanted an end to corruption – the cancer of the Arab world – and so they voted for Hamas and thus we, the all-wise, all-good West, decided to sanction them and starve them and bully them for exercising their free vote. Maybe we should offer “Palestine” EU membership if it would be gracious enough to vote for the right people?

All over the Middle East, it is the same. We support Hamid Karzai in Afghanistan, even though he keeps warlords and drug barons in his government (and, by the way, we really are sorry about all those innocent Afghan civilians we are killing in our “war on terror” in the wastelands of Helmand province).

We love Hosni Mubarak of Egypt, whose torturers have not yet finished with the Muslim Brotherhood politicians recently arrested outside Cairo, whose presidency received the warm support of Mrs – yes Mrs – George W Bush – and whose succession will almost certainly pass to his son, Gamal.

We adore Muammar Gaddafi, the crazed dictator of Libya whose werewolves have murdered his opponents abroad, whose plot to murder King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia preceded Tony Blair’s recent visit to Tripoli – Colonel Gaddafi, it should be remembered, was called a “statesman” by Jack Straw for abandoning his non-existent nuclear ambitions – and whose “democracy” is perfectly acceptable to us because he is on our side in the “war on terror”.

Yes, and we love King Abdullah’s unconstitutional monarchy in Jordan, and all the princes and emirs of the Gulf, especially those who are paid such vast bribes by our arms companies that even Scotland Yard has to close down its investigations on the orders of our prime minister – and yes, I can indeed see why he doesn’t like our coverage of what he quaintly calls “the Middle East”. If only the Arabs – and the Iranians – would support our kings and shahs and princes whose sons and daughters are educated at Oxford and Harvard, how much easier the “Middle East” would be to control.

For that is what it is about – control – and that is why we hold out, and withdraw, favours from their leaders. Now Gaza belongs to Hamas, what will our own elected leaders do? Will our pontificators in the EU, the UN, Washington and Moscow now have to talk to these wretched, ungrateful people (fear not, for they will not be able to shake hands) or will they have to acknowledge the West Bank version of Palestine (Abbas, the safe pair of hands) while ignoring the elected, militarily successful Hamas in Gaza?

It’s easy, of course, to call down a curse on both their houses. But that’s what we say about the whole Middle East. If only Bashar al-Assad wasn’t President of Syria (heaven knows what the alternative would be) or if the cracked President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad wasn’t in control of Iran (even if he doesn’t actually know one end of a nuclear missile from the other).

If only Lebanon was a home-grown democracy like our own little back-lawn countries – Belgium, for example, or Luxembourg. But no, those pesky Middle Easterners vote for the wrong people, support the wrong people, love the wrong people, don’t behave like us civilised Westerners.

So what will we do? Support the reoccupation of Gaza perhaps? Certainly we will not criticise Israel. And we shall go on giving our affection to the kings and princes and unlovely presidents of the Middle East until the whole place blows up in our faces and then we shall say – as we are already saying of the Iraqis – that they don’t deserve our sacrifice and our love.

How do we deal with a coup d’état by an elected government?

Robert Fisk writes for the Independent.

A caller for peace or a war criminal?

June 29, 2007

Al Quds Al-Arabi

On June 28, the Palestinian-owned Al Quds Al Arabi carried the following opinion piece by Chief Editor Abdel-Beri Atwan:

“Choosing former British PM Tony Blair as the peace envoy
of the international quartet committee to the Middle East
confirms once again the insistence of the western states
and the US in particular on provoking the feelings of the
Arabs and Muslims and continuing to adopt wrong policies
which led to the current state of bloody chaos in the
Middle East. Blair, whom President Georges Bush wanted to
reward for blindly following his administration, completely
lost his credibility and is considered the most hated
person by Arabs and Muslims after President Bush.

“His name was linked to wars, lies, deceit and bias toward
the Israelis, their aggressions and their massacres against
the Palestinian people. The Arab and Islamic people can’t
forget how Blair promoted the war on Iraq and fabricated
lies before the British parliament to mobilize public
opinion and get it to support his decision and send British
troops to partake in it… The person lied to his people
and misled them. He was the most eager among his peers to
engage in an unfair, illegal and illegitimate war. He can’t
be a peace envoy in the same region that was afflicted by
his lies and their destructive outcome in Iraq, Afghanistan
and Palestine.

“This man should not be rewarded but rather tried before a
tribunal as a war criminal, for he has not assumed his
responsibility for the deaths of over 200 British troops
and over a million Iraqis along with President George Bush
and all of the gang of the neoconservatives… Some might
argue that Blair has a lot of experience in defusing
conflicts, one which he has acquired while handling the
Northern Ireland case… Some might also argue he was also
the most eager to find a solution to the Arab-Israeli
conflict and pledged more than once to work for the
establishment of a viable and independent Palestinian
state…

“Northern Ireland is not Palestine and Blair’s role in the
first is completely different from his role in the second.
When he decided to knock on the doors of peace in Belfast,
he was prime minister and the British people were pushing
in that direction after the explosions reached the heart of
London. In the New Middle East, his role will be nothing
more than a mailman delivering messages and positions and
organizing meetings and conferences without enjoying any
real prerogatives. Blair remained in power for ten years
without ever giving the Arabs and Muslims anything
beneficial especially at the level of the Palestinian
cause.

“More importantly, he appointed Lord Levy – a British Jew
known for his strong relations with the Hebrew state – as
his envoy in the Arab region… During the Israeli massacre
in Jennin, I was a member of a Palestinian delegation of
four people which visited the headquarters of the
Ministers’ Council (10 Downing Street) to meet with Blair
as a representative of the Diaspora to urge him to
interfere and use his influence to stop the massacre. I
remember saying to him after he avoided condemning Israel
and its crimes: “Mr. Blair, are you human like us? Do you
feel like us? Does blood run in your veins like it runs in
ours?… Don’t you know that you the British are the reason
behind our ordeal?”…

“Blair answered me with his usual British coldness and a
yellow smile: “I can’t do anything. America is the only one
capable of doing anything. I am going to Washington in one
week and I will use my influence on President Bush to solve
the Palestinian issue”. Blair indeed visited President Bush
and didn’t do anything for the Palestinians as usual but,
instead, to the Iraqis, since he sent them more bombs,
missiles, death squads, security mayhem and a dreadful
sectarian conflict… The Israelis warmly welcomed Blair’s
appointment in his new position and the fact that occupied
Jerusalem was chosen as [the quartet’s] headquarters while
most of the Arabs states remained silent.

“Both reactions summarize the meaning of this step and its
repercussions. The man started on a mission to sabotage the
region and spread destruction and chaos when he was in
power and now he wants to continue that mission after
leaving power. This is where the disaster lies. The quartet
which Blair will represent did not do anything useful to
the Arabs and Muslims throughout the last four years
because it was never formed to be successful…, but rather
to give the Arabs and Muslims the impression that the
American administration is determined to solve the
Palestinian problem as it was spitting its fires over Iraq
and its people…

“The Arab and Muslim people should raise their voice and
oppose Blair whom Bush wants to turn from a war criminal to
a caller for peace, thinking that these people are stupid
and have short-term memories. The only reception befitting
of Blair is with rotten eggs and tomatoes on his first
visit to occupied Jerusalem or any other Arab capital.”
-Al Quds Al Arabi, United Kingdom

Blair’s new job: Success or failure?

June 28, 2007

Aljazeera.com

June 28, 2007

Blair’s appointment as the quartet’s Middle East envoy “shows how the people behind this live in a rarefied atmosphere and have no concept of what is happening on the ground…”

By Emma Sabry

Tony Blair is facing a tough job in his new role as the quartet’s Middle East envoy. His task is exceptionally challenging because of the current Palestinian turmoil following Hamas’ seizure of the Gaza Strip.

The appointment, suggested by the U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, drew mixed reactions worldwide. The former British premier is seen as a “friend” in Israel, whose Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said he believes that “Blair can have a favourable impact.”

Perhaps Blair’s close relations with Israel could be traced back to his alliance with the United States; the main backer of Israel, something that could be seen as a major drawback in the Arab world, which has little faith that a close friend to President George W. Bush could bring peace after years of failed U.S. diplomacy.

Blair is also reviled in the Arab world because of his decision to join the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq and his support to Israel in its war against the Lebanese resistance group Hezbollah last summer. However, some analysts say Bair sees this task as his last chance to counter the criticism he has suffered over the Iraq War.

Despite these drawbacks, Blair is a European statesman with very good negotiating skills; consider his success in Northern Ireland. He is also more outspoken that Washington in stressing the need for resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and this could be seen as an advantage for him as a special Middle East envoy who will report to the so-called quartet – the U.S., the UN, the EU and Russia, according to an article on AFP.

“Tony Blair is distinguished from the United States in that respect,” said Reginald Dale, a scholar at the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies. “He is not going to be representing the United States but also the United Nations and the European Union particularly, which is much more likely to counterbalance the United States by being more sympathetic to the Palestinians,” said Dale, a senior fellow of the center’s European program.

The quartet announcement about Blair’s appointment Wednesday said he would support their efforts to promote an end to the Palestinian-Israel conflict, “in conformity with the road map,” whose key objective is a two-state solution for Palestinians and Israelis. According to the BBC, Blair’s mandate is to focus on helping the Palestinians, but it includes the right to “liaise with other countries… in support of the agreed Quartet objectives”. These include a final settlement.

During his last appearance in Parliament, Blair spoke about his high hopes.

“The only way of bringing stability and peace to the Middle East is the two-state solution, which means a state of Israel that is secure and confident of its security, and a Palestinian state that is not merely viable in terms of its territory, but in terms of its institutions and governance,” he said.

Despite Blair’s enthusiasm, it’s not hard to find critics about his new post. Reports said the EU and Russia were not too keen about this appointment but decided not to block it. Brussels sources say Javier Solana, EU foreign policy chief who has a long track-record in the region, is also unhappy.
Apparently, they are not alone.

“I am flabbergasted,” said Rosemary Hollis of the think-tank Chatham House in London, who is writing a book about Blair and the Middle East.

“It beggars belief on so many levels. It shows how the people behind this live in a rarefied atmosphere and have no concept of what is happening on the ground… It is not just the question of Iraq. There is a whole combination of factors. He had little enough influence as prime minister. How can he have more now?

“There might be an element of giving him the job simply because he wants it so badly but beyond that, the game plan, if there is one, might be to try to out-manoeuvre Hamas and build up President Abbas,” Hollis added.

It isn’t clear whether Blair, who will make his first working visit to Ramallah in the West Bank next month, will engage with Hamas, which now controls the Gaza Strip. Blair’s main point of contact with the Palestinians will be President Mahmoud Abbas and the new government formed without Hamas, which has been boycotted diplomatically and slapped by economic sanctions after it won the legislative elections last year, mainly because it refused to meet the quartet’s demands: recognize Israel, give up anti-Israeli attacks and accept past peace deals.

“The experience of our people with Blair was bad,” a Hamas spokesman said.

On the other hand, Abbas’ Fatah party welcomed Blair’s appointment.
“President Abbas welcomes the nomination of Blair as envoy of the Quartet…(and) has given the assurance that he will work with (him) to arrive at a peaceful solution on the basis of two states,” said chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat.

But normal Palestinians do not think that Blair would really make a difference. “Is he going to be listened to? Are his comments going to be respected? Can he really intervene?” asked Hanan Ashrawi, a Palestinian MP and former peace negotiator.

Stressing that the Palestinians don’t need help building up their institutions, she said: “We need third party involvement to achieve peace, to curb Israeli measures, to end the occupation and to build a state.”

What’s clear now is that Blair will not want to suffer the fate of the previous Quartet envoy, the former head of the World Bank James Wolfensohn, who left in frustration in 2006 after only a year.

In fact, the history of Middle East envoys and mediators is a troubling one, although there have been some achievements. Top negotiator Henry Kissinger invented the concept of “shuttle diplomacy”, which eased tensions in the region after the 1973 war. President Jimmy Carter helped efforts to forge the Camp David accords between Egypt and Israel in 1978. Other negotiators have not been so fortunate. President Clinton thought he came close when brought Yasser Arafat and Ehud Barak to Camp David in 2000, but his efforts fizzled out.

More recently, the Peruvian diplomat Alvaro de Soto ended his time as the UN’s Middle East envoy (a post that, like that of the EU Middle East envoy, few people know exists) with a bitter report dismissing the Quartet as irrelevant and slamming the United States for bowing to Israeli pressure.

Now Bush, with 18 months to go before leaving the White House, is depending on Blair to realize a two-state solution, five years to the month after the U.S. President proposed an independent Palestinian state.

“Over the last six years, the United States has continued to champion the two-state solution in theory but to undermine it in practice,” said Nathan Brown of the Washington-based Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. “In sum, official U.S. statements reflect a deep disconnect from and a denial of the realities on the ground,” he said.

Although the State Department said that despite Blair’s appointment, Rice would continue to push ahead with Middle East peace talks, many analysts blamed the Bush administration’s abdication of leadership for the current mess in the region.

Citing the “endemic” violence and the “hardened” attitudes of the Israelis and Palestinians, among other factors, The New York Times said: “If Blair is prepared to speak these home truths to his good friend George Bush and insist on more consistent and even-handed American engagement, he could restore some of his luster and increase the chances for peace.”

Bush, Cheney and the Nixon Principle

June 28, 2007
OpedNews.comJune 27, 2007 at 12:34:59

by Randolph T. Holhut

 



DUMMERSTON, Vt. — Dictatorships thrive on secrecy. The ability to operate free of public scrutiny, oversight and accountability is the cornerstone of a totalitarian state.

Such is the case with the Bush administration. Everything it has done over the past six years — from unauthorized wiretapping of Americans, to the suspension of habeas corpus, to the detention of prisoners is the legal limbo that is Guantanamo — has been cloaked in secrecy and shielded from public oversight in the name of national security.

So it was hardly shocking to hear President Bush and Vice President Cheney declare late last week that the offices of both men are exempt from independent oversight.

Cheney got all the attention last week when he said that the vice president is not actually part of the executive branch, and thus does not have to comply with any rules or orders applying to the executive branch. But his statement is not nearly as outrageous as what the president did when no one was watching.

In March 2003, Bush issued an executive order requiring all government agencies that are part of the executive branch submit to the Independent Security Oversight Office — which is part of the National Archives — to monitor the handling of classified materials.

Cheney’s office filed the reports in 2001 and 2002. It stopped filing them in 2003. Not so coincidentally, that is about the time his office leaked the identity of undercover CIA operative Valerie Plame in order to intimidate her husband, Joseph Wilson, who was critical of the intelligence used to justify the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

According to the Los Angeles Times, Bush apparently hasn’t had a problem with Cheney not filing the reports because, according to a White House spokesman, Bush’s executive order wasn’t meant to apply to either his office or Cheney’s.

So, the two offices that have access to the most highly classified information in the federal government claim they are completely exempt from any independent monitoring on how that information is used.

Not only have both Bush and Cheney declined to cooperate with the Information Security Oversight Office, they have tried to eliminate it altogether. House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Henry Waxman, D-Calif., revealed that bit of information last week.

Even worse, who must the Information Security Oversight Office turn to in seeking resolution on the matter? The Justice Department, and Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. Any guesses on how he will rule in this dispute?

This whole affair is in keeping with the Bush administration’s pattern of avoiding accountability for their actions. And the Plame leak shows that the White House cannot be trusted with sensitive information, because they have more than demonstrated a pattern of putting political considerations ahead of national security.

Bigger than that, however, is what might be called the Nixon Principle. This comes from what Richard Nixon said to David Frost in 1977 during their now infamous interviews: “When the president does it, that means it is not illegal.”

Bush and Cheney have clearly operated under this principle. They don’t see the need to follow rules, and thus set the example for everyone else. If the president and vice president can ignore executive orders and subpoenas from Congress, why should anyone else follow the rules?

Bush and Cheney are dead wrong in their interpretation of the law. They are subject to the same laws as any other member of the executive branch. But it’s hard to get a band of lawless men to obey the Constitution, not when Congress and the courts will not effectively challenge them. And it’s even hard to rein in a band of lawless men when the American people are still snoozing fitfully, unaware of the damage that has been done.

It’s time to demand accountability and respect for the rule of law. Without it, this nation becomes nothing more than a land ruled by tin pot dictators.<

Randolph T. Holhut has been a journalist in New England for more than 25 years. He edited “The George Seldes Reader” (Barricade Books). He can be reached at randyholhut@yahoo.com.

Saving President Abbas

June 28, 2007

ZNet

June 27, 2007

By Uri Avnery

 
 

EHUD OLMERT is the opposite of Midas, King of Phrygia. Everything the king touched turned into gold, according to Greek legend. Everything Olmert touches turns into lead. And that is no legend. Now he is touching Mahmoud Abbas. He lauds him to high heaven. He promises to “strengthen” him. He is about to meet him.

If I might offer some advice to Abbas, I would call out to him: Run! Run for your precious life! One touch of Olmert’s hand will seal your fate!

CAN ABBAS be saved? I don’t know. Some of my Palestinian friends are in despair.

They grew up in Fatah, and Fatah is their home. They are secularists. They are nationalists. They definitely do not want a fanatical Islamic regime in their homeland.

But in the present conflict, their heart is with Hamas. Their mind is split. And that is not surprising.

They hear the words of President Bush, of Olmert and of the whole babbling choir of Israeli politicians and pundits. And they draw the inescapable conclusion: the Americans and the Israelis are working hard to turn Abbas into an agent of the occupation and the Fatah movement into a militia of the occupier.

Every word now emanating from Washington and Jerusalem confirms this suspicion. Every word widens the gap between the Palestinian street and the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank. The new “Emergency Government” in Ramallah is headed by a person who received 2% of the votes at the last elections, when the list of Abbas himself was soundly beaten by Hamas, not only in Gaza but in the West Bank, too.

No “easing the restrictions” and no “economic steps” will help. Not the return of the Palestinian tax money that was embezzled by the Israeli government. Not the flow of European and American aid. As early as 80 years ago, Vladimir Jabotinsky, the most extreme Zionist, made fun of the Zionist leaders who tried to buy off the Palestinian people by offering economic inducements. A people cannot be bought.

IF ABBAS can be saved at all, it is in one way only: by the immediate start of rapid and practical negotiations for achieving a peace settlement, with the declared aim of setting up a Palestinian state in all the occupied territories, with East Jerusalem as its capital. Nothing less.

But that is exactly what the government of Israel is not prepared to do. Not Olmert. Not Tzipi Livni. Not Ehud Barak.

If they had been ready to do this, they or their predecessors would have done so long ago. Barak could have arranged it with Yasser Arafat at Camp David. Ariel Sharon could have agreed it with Abbas, after Abbas was elected president with a huge majority. Olmert could have settled it with Abbas after Sharon left the scene. He could have done it with the unity Government that was set up under Saudi auspices.

They didn’t. Not because they were fools and not because they were weak. They did not do it simply because their aim was the exact opposite: annexation of a large part of the West Bank and the enlargement of the settlements. That’s why they did everything to weaken Abbas, who was designated by the Americans as the “partner for peace”. In the eyes of Sharon and his successors, Abbas was more dangerous than Hamas, which was defined by the Americans as a “terrorist organization”.

IT IS impossible to understand the latest developments without going back to the “separation plan”.

This week, some sensational disclosures were published in Israel. They confirm the suspicions that we had from the start: that the “separation” was nothing but a ploy, part of a program with a hidden agenda.

Sharon had a master plan with three main elements: (a) turning the Gaza Strip into a separate and isolated entity, led by Hamas, (b) turning the West Bank into an archipelago of isolated cantons led by Fatah, and (c) leaving both territories under the domination of the Israeli military.

This would explain Sharon’s insistence on a “unilateral” withdrawal. On the face of it, it seems illogical. Why not speak in advance with the Palestinian Authority? Why not ensure the orderly transfer of power to Mahmoud Abbas? Why not transfer to the Authority all the settlements intact, with their buildings and greenhouses? Why not open wide all the border crossings? Indeed, why not enable the Palestinians to open the Gaza airport and build the Gaza sea port?

If the aim had been to achieve a peace settlement, all this would have happened. But since the complete opposite was done, it can be assumed that Sharon wanted things to work out roughly as they did: the collapse of the Authority in Gaza, the take-over of the Strip by Hamas, the split between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.

For this end, he cut Gaza off from any land, sea and air contact with the world, kept the border passages closed almost continuously and turned Gaza into the “largest prison in the world”. The supply of food, medicines, water and electricity is completely dependent on the goodwill of Israel, as is the operation of the border crossing to Egypt (with the help of a European monitoring unit controlled by the Israeli army), all imports and exports, and even the registration of inhabitants.

IT MUST be clear: this is not a new policy. The cutting off of the Gaza strip from the West Bank has for many years been a military and political objective of Israeli governments.

Article IV of the 1993 Oslo Declaration of Principles states unequivocally: “The two sides view the West Bank and the Gaza Strip as a single territorial unit, whose integrity will be preserved during the interim period.” Without this, Arafat would not have accepted the agreement.

Later on, Shimon Peres invented the slogan “Gaza First”. The Palestinians adamantly refused. In the end, the Israeli government gave in and in 1994 signed the “Agreement Concerning the Gaza Strip and the Jericho Area”. The foothold thus given to the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank was to ensure the unity of the two territories.

In the same agreement, Israel undertook to open a “safe passage” between the Strip and the West Bank. And not only one, but four, which were marked on a map appended to the agreement. Immediately afterwards, road signs with the Arab inscription “to Gaza” were set up along West Bank roads.

But during the 13 years that have passed since then, the passage has not been opened even for one day. When Ehud Barak settled his frame in the Prime Minister’s chair, he fantasized about building the world’s longest bridge between the Gaza strip and the West Bank (about 40 km). Like many others of Barak’s brilliant flashes, this one died before birth and the passage remained hermetically closed.

The Israeli government has undertaken again and again to fulfill this commitment, and recently gave Condoleezza Rice personally a specific and detailed pledge. Nothing happened.

Why? Why did our government take the risk of a manifest, clear-cut, unambiguous and continuous violation of such an important obligation? Why did they go so far as to spit in the eye of a friend like the good Condoleezza?

There is only one possible answer: the cutting off of the Gaza Strip from the West Bank is a major strategic aim of the government and the army, an important step in the historic effort to break the Palestinian resistance to occupation and annexation.

This week, it seemed that this aim had been achieved.

The official operation to “strengthen” Abbas is a part of this design. In Jerusalem, some feel that their dreams are coming true: the West Bank separated from the Gaza strip, divided into several enclaves cut off from each other and from the world, much like the Bantustans in South Africa in bygone times. Ramallah as the capital of Palestine, designed to make the Palestinians forget about Jerusalem. Abbas receiving arms and reinforcements in order to destroy Hamas in the West Bank. The Israeli army dominating the areas between the towns, and operating at will in the towns, too. The settlements growing without hindrance, the Jordan valley completely cut off from the rest of the West Bank, the Wall continuing to extend and gobble up more Palestinian land, and the Government’s promise to dismantle the settlement “outposts” remaining a long forgotten joke.

President Bush is satisfied with “the spread of democracy” in the Palestinian areas, and the US military subsidy to Israel is growing from year to year.

FROM THE point of view of Olmert, that is an ideal situation. Will it hold?

The answer is an unqualified NO!

Like all the actions of Bush and Olmert, as well as of their predecessors, it is based on contempt for the Arabs. This contempt has proven itself many times as a recipe for disaster.

The Israeli media, which have turned themselves into propaganda organs for Mahmoud Abbas and Mohammed Dahlan, are already gleefully describing how the hungry inhabitants of Gaza will look with green envy at the well-fed, flourishing inhabitants of the West Bank. They are going to rebel against the Hamas leadership, so that a Quisling in the service of Israel can be installed there. The people in the West Bank, growing fat on European and American aid money, will be happy to be rid of Gaza and its troubles.

That is pure fantasy. It is much more probable that the anger of the Gaza people will turn against the Israeli prison wardens who are starving them. And the people of the West Bank will not forsake their compatriots languishing in Gaza.

No Palestinian will agree to the separation of Gaza from the West Bank. A party that agreed to that would be shunned by the Palestinian public, and a leadership that accepted such a situation would be eliminated.

Israeli policy is torn between two conflicting desires: on the one side, to prevent the events in the Gaza Strip repeating themselves in the West Bank, where a Hamas takeover would be immensely more dangerous, and on the other side, to prevent Abbas from succeeding to such an extent that the Americans would oblige Olmert to negotiate seriously with him. As usual, the government is holding the stick by its two ends.

At present, all Olmert’s actions are endangering Abbas. His embrace is a bear’s embrace, and his kiss is the kiss of death.

Cheney’s Real Opinion of Democracy

June 27, 2007

 

 

 

By Firmin DeBrabander

I am forever amazed at the great irony that one of this nation’s most bullish proponents of spreading democracy abroad- especially in the Middle East- is one of the greatest opponents of democracy at home. The vice president’s antidemocratic streak was on display again this week when his office refused to hand over classified documents to the National Archives. This requirement applies to the executive branch of government, Cheney argued, but not to his office, which is not in fact part of the executive branch. Who knew?

Immediately, questions come to mind. Why is the vice presidency suddenly not part of the executive branch? Which branch of government is his office under, then? Why is this the first vice president to discover this constitutional loophole regarding government oversight of his office, if it is indeed authentic, and appeal to it? More importantly, why is he the first vice president to feel the need to appeal to this loophole in the first place? What does he have to hide?

No explanation has been given as of yet, which only sows greater suspicion among critics. But we all know what Cheney would or will eventually say, which has been his recurring theme through his many attempts to avoid political transparency and accountability: it is for the sake of national security. The war on terror is really most convenient for the executive branch of government. It is the ideal excuse for retaining secrets, curtailing constitutional rights, spying on the citizenry, bullying the press, disposing of trial by jury, etc. In other words, the war on terror is the ideal excuse for limiting the power of the people, and increasing that of the executive branch. This is Cheney’s real agenda. The vice president has long been in favor of making a ‘more robust’ executive office, in his words, capable of greater and swifter action. His attempt to elude the National Archives is a right, I suppose, he would expect to be vested in the president as well.

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New documents link Kissinger to two 1970s coups

June 27, 2007
The Raw Story

Larisa Alexandrovna and Muriel Kane
Published: Tuesday June 26, 2007

   

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Release of CIA’s ‘Family Jewels’ provides insight into political juggernaut and Bush Administration adviser

Former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger pushed for the 1974 Turkish invasion of Cyprus and allowed arms to be moved to Ankara for an attack on that island in reaction to a coup sponsored by the Greek junta, according to documents and intelligence officers with close knowledge of the event.

Nearly 700 pages of highly classified Central Intelligence Agency reports from the 1970’s, known collectively as the “Family Jewels,” are slated for public release today.

However, the National Security Archive had previously obtained four related documents through the Freedom of Information Act and made them public Friday.

“In all the world the things that hurt us the most are the CIA business and Turkey aid,” Kissinger declares in one of those documents, a White House memorandum of a conversation from Feb. 20, 1975. On the surface, the comment seems innocuous, but the context as well as the time period suggests Kissinger had abetted illegal financial aid and arms support to Turkey for its 1974 Cyprus invasion.

In July and August of 1974, Turkey staged a military invasion of the island nation of Cyprus, taking over nearly a third of the island and creating a divide between the south and north. Most historians consider that Kissinger – then Secretary of State and National Security Advisor to President Gerald Ford – not only knew about the planned attack on Cyprus, but encouraged it.

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CIA conspired with mafia to kill Castro

June 27, 2007

The GuardianWednesday June 27 , 2007

· Agency publishes secret documents detailing plot
· 702 pages reveal illegal activities up to 1973

Simon Tisdall in Washington

The Cuban president Fidel Castro, seen here in 1959
The Cuban president Fidel Castro, seen here in 1959. Photograph: Reuters

The CIA conspired with a Chicago gangster described as “the chieftain of the Cosa Nostra and the successor to Al Capone” in a bungled 1960 attempt to assassinate Fidel Castro, the leader of Cuba’s communist revolution, according to classified documents published by the agency yesterday.The disclosure is contained in a 702-page CIA dossier known as the “Family Jewels” compiled at the behest of then agency director James Schlesinger in 1973. According to a memo written at the time, the purpose of the dossier was to identify all current and past CIA activities that “conflict with the provisions of the National Security Act of 1947” – and were, in other words, illegal.

 


The dossier covers operations including domestic surveillance, kidnapping, infiltration of anti-war movements, and the bugging of leading journalists.But its detailed information on assassination attempts against foreign leaders is likely to attract most attention.The plot to kill Mr Castro, whom the US government at the time considered a threat to national security and a stooge of the Soviet Union, begins quietly and sinisterly in August 1960.The documents released yesterday describe how a CIA officer, Richard Bissell, approached the CIA’s Office of Security to establish whether it had “assets that may assist in a sensitive mission requiring gangster-type action. The mission target was Fidel Castro”.

The dossier continues: “Because of its extreme sensitivity, only a small group was made privy to the project. The DCI (Director of Central Intelligence Allen Welsh Dulles) was briefed and gave his approval.”

Following the meeting with the Office of Security, Bissell employed a go-between, Robert Maheu, and asked him to make contact with “gangster elements”. Maheu subsequently reported an approach to Johnny Roselli in Las Vegas. Roselli is described as “a high-ranking member of the ‘syndicate’ (who) controlled all the ice-making machines on the (Las Vegas) Strip and (who) undoubtedly had connections leading into the Cuban gambling interests”.

The CIA is careful to cover its tracks. According to the dossier, Maheu told Roselli that he (Maheu) has been retained by international businesses suffering “heavy financial losses in Cuba as a result of Castro’s action. They were convinced that Castro’s removal was the answer to their problem and were willing to pay the price of $150,000 (£75,000) for its successful accomplishment”.

Roselli was also told that the US government was not, and must not become aware of the operation.

Roselli in turn led the CIA to a friend, known as Sam Gold. In September 1960, Maheu was introduced to Gold and his associate, known as Joe. In a development that appears to underscore the amateurishness of the whole operation, Maheu subsequently accidentally spotted photographs of “Sam and Joe” in Parade magazine.

Gold was in fact Momo Salvatore Giancana, “the chieftain of Cosa Nostra (the mafia) and the successor to Al Capone”. Joe was actually Santos Trafficante, Cosa Nostra boss of Cuban operations.

At a meeting at the Fontainebleau Hotel in Miami Beach, Gold/Giancana suggested that rather than try to shoot or blow up Mr Castro, “some type of potent pill that could be placed in Castro’s food or drink would be much more effective”.

He said a corrupt Cuban official, named as Juan Orta, who was in debt to the syndicate and had access to the Cuban leader, would carry out the poisoning. The CIA subsequently obtained and supplied “six pills of high lethal content” to Orta but after several weeks of abortive attempts, Orta demanded “out” of the operation.

Another disaffected Cuban was recruited to do the job, but he demanded money up front. In the event, the dossier relates, “the project was cancelled shortly after the Bay of Pigs episode” (in April, 1961).

Yesterday’s document release under the Freedom of Information Act also reveals details of CIA bugging and surveillance operations and the handling of a Soviet defector and KGB agent, Yuri Ivanovich Nosenko, in 1965-67. Also made public are 147 pages of documents relating to CIA assessments of the Soviet and Chinese cold war leaderships.

“The CIA fully understands it has an obligation to protect the nation’s secrets, but it also has a responsibility to be as open as possible,” CIA director Michael Hayden said yesterday. “The declassification of historical documents is an important part of that effort.”

The documents are available at: www.foia.cia.gov/