Archive for April, 2008

Try ‘Pakistan First’

April 30, 2008

Washington Post, Sunday, April 27, 2008

By Jim Hoagland

Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama offer the same beguiling Democratic version of the global war on terrorism: Get out of Iraq and put more U.S. forces into Afghanistan to win that conflict decisively. Republicans are also increasingly urging President Bush to adopt an Afghanistan-first policy.

“The basic failure in priorities” in Bush’s war on terrorism lies “in the fact that our monthly investment in Iraq is $10 billion a month and $2 billion a month in Afghanistan,” writes David Abshire, a GOP elder statesman, in “A Call to Greatness,” a new book intended to set the agenda for the next presidency. When a Republican White House loses a seasoned foreign policy thinker such as Abshire on a key issue, it has big problems.

So does the solution that is being pushed. A major shift in resources into Afghanistan may not significantly help in that battle in the near term. Decisions on drawing down forces in Iraq should be based on conditions there — as Gen. David Petraeus argued to Congress this month — and not on campaign-fostered illusions that troop numbers and money alone can turn the tide against terrorists in Afghanistan and elsewhere.

Bush’s decision last week to put Petraeus in charge of the Pentagon‘s Central Command and thus of the wars in both Iraq and Afghanistan will intensify this Iraq vs. Afghanistan argument on Capitol Hill. Critics see the Petraeus promotion as a Bush ploy to keep Iraq the “central front” in the war on terrorism and to continue to shirk the war in Afghanistan.

That sells Petraeus short and ignores the reality that the war in Afghanistan will not be won or lost in Afghanistan alone. It must also be won inside Pakistan, where things go from bad to worse for U.S. policy, which has been a set of forlorn wishes that seem to boomerang.

President Pervez Musharraf, after a breathtaking exercise in compulsively and systematically destroying his own rule, sits by silently while a civilian-led, democratically elected government takes charge in Islamabad and narrows U.S. options.

Continued . . .

Curse of the Clintons

April 30, 2008
By Thomas Palley
Speaking the truth is discouraged in Washington DC. For journalists there is the fear that truth telling will mean not being invited back for the next press conference or another exclusive interview. For political insiders the fear is that speaking up will injure their careers by costing them political appointment. This dynamic has helped keep the lid on the curse of the Clintons.

From the start of the 2008 primary campaign many political experts have believed Hillary Clinton would have difficulty winning the general election even if she sailed through the primaries. This is because polls have consistently shown she has exceptionally high negative ratings, which matters enormously as it is very difficult to win-over people holding negative views. The best that can be done is persuading them not to vote.

If winning were difficult before, current conditions make a Clinton general election win even less likely. Her slick assist in letting the race genie out of the bottle has alienated African-Americans, and without their turnout a Democratic win is almost impossible.

Equally importantly, should Senator Clinton manage to wrest the nomination from Senator Obama by insider dealings, she stands to alienate the young and independent voters that he has attracted. These voters will probably not vote for John McCain, but their enthusiastic support is also critical for a Democratic victory.

That begs the question of why Senator Clinton persists in running. One reason is hubris prevents her from acknowledging the political facts, so that she really believes she can win. A second more cynical reason is that Senator Clinton’s political ambition is best served by having a bruised and battered Senator Obama run in November, thereby facilitating a McCain victory. That would allow her to run again in 2012 on an “I told you so” platform.

Continued . . .

Consortiumnews.com, April 29, 2008

April 30, 2008

Consortiumnews.com, April 29, 2008

By Morgan Strong

An obscure academic dispute – over whether Israeli archeology sought to obscure the land’s last two millennia of history and promote a continual Jewish claim of ownership – has shown again how tensions in the Middle East can reverberate in unlikely ways in the United States.

The dispute centered on whether Barnard College should grant tenure to Nadia Abu El-Haj, an American-born scholar of anthropology who, in the 1990s, challenged the scientific integrity of what she saw as the Israeli use of archeology in a politically motivated way to justify Jewish settlements on territory that had belonged to Palestinians.
Although the controversy wasn’t new – it had been argued out within archeological circles in Israel for years – El-Haj became a lightning rod because she was the first academic of Palestinian descent to publicize the debate in a 2001 book, Facts on the Ground: Archeological Practice and Territorial Self-Fashioning in Israeli Society.
This academic debate boiled over the past two years when El-Haj – who had been a professor at Barnard College since 2002 – applied for tenure in 2006 and became a target of neoconservative attack groups determined to punish her for undermining Israel’s claims to the Holy Land.

Continued . . .

Cheney lawyer claims Congress has no authority over vice-president

April 29, 2008

The Guardian, April 29, 2008
By Elana Schor

The lawyer for US vice-president Dick Cheney claimed today that the Congress lacks any authority to examine his behaviour on the job.

The exception claimed by Cheney’s counsel came in response to requests from congressional Democrats that David Addington, the vice-president’s chief of staff, testify about his involvement in the approval of interrogation tactics used at Guantanamo Bay.

Ruling out voluntary cooperation by Addington, Cheney lawyer Kathryn Wheelbarger said Cheney’s conduct is “not within the [congressional] committee’s power of inquiry”.

“Congress lacks the constitutional power to regulate by law what a vice-president communicates in the performance of the vice president’s official duties, or what a vice president recommends that a president communicate,” Wheelbarger wrote to senior aides on Capitol Hill.

The exception claimed by Cheney’s office recalls his attempt last year to evade rules for classified documents by deeming the vice-president’s office a hybrid branch of government – both executive and legislative.

The Democratic congressman who is investigating the legal framework for the violent interrogation of terrorist suspects, John Conyers, has asked Addington and several other top Bush administration lawyers to testify. Thus far all have claimed their deliberations are privileged.

Continued . . .

Carter was Right But Bush, Media Ignore Hamas’ Overtures Towards Peace

April 29, 2008

By Ira Chernus, AlterNet. Posted April 28, 2008.

If the U.S. or Israel were to accept Hamas’ willingness to negotiate, they would tacitly acknowledge that Hamas is a player in the game.

Here is some recent news from Israeli and Arab sources that you might have missed:

Haaretz reported that “Hamas’ political leader Khaled Meshal said Hamas would accept a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip along Israel’s pre-1967 borders, and would grant Israel a 10-year hudna, or truce, as an implicit proof of recognition if Israel withdraws from those areas.”

According to Gulf News, “Former US president Jimmy Carter said that exiled Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal had told him the movement would accept a peace deal if it was approved in a Palestinian vote. … Hamas will accept a ceasefire that is limited to the Gaza Strip, dropping its long-standing demand that the West Bank be included in any halt in fighting with Israel, senior representatives of the group said.”

Haaretz also noted that “the most significant change in Hamas’ stance in the talks over a calm is that it gave up on its demand that the calm extend to both Gaza and the West Bank. This may lead to a breakthrough, but if Israel refuses this offer, Hamas will continue its policy of the past few weeks ¬ escalating the violence and rocket fire.”

Israel did refuse this offer, in such a quiet low-key way that it seemed Israel simply ignored the it, along with other olive branches tentatively offered by Hamas in the wake of Jimmy Carter’s talks with Hamas leaders. The U.S. government and our mainstream media did much the same (though the New York Times belatedly let Carter publish an op-ed column). What could have been heralded as a new opening toward peace in the Middle East has instead been expunged from the discourse, flushed down the memory hole into the oblivion of official nonexistence.

Continued . . .

Mother and her four children killed during Israeli incursion

April 29, 2008

Rory McCarthy in Jerusalem
The Guardian, Tuesday April 29 2008

A Palestinian mother and her four children were killed yesterday as they ate breakfast at home during an Israeli military attack in the Gaza Strip.

The violence came despite efforts led by the Egyptians to arrange a ceasefire between Israel and the militant groups in Hamas-controlled Gaza.

Shortly after 8am yesterday, Meyasar Abu Me’tiq was in her home in the eastern town of Beit Hanoun with her six children. Israeli military vehicles had crossed into Gaza on one of their now frequent incursions and there were reports of heavy gunfire in the area. The Israeli military said it launched an air strike against two men who it said were gunmen approaching the Israeli soldiers.

Shrapnel from the attack appears to have severely damaged the Abu Me’tiq house, and particularly the front door. Four of the children were killed immediately, according to the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights: Saleh, five, Rudeina, four, Hana, three and one-year-old Mes’id. The children’s mother, Meyasar, 40, was severely injured and died later. The two other children and 10 others who were nearby were also injured.

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Pariah Diplomacy

April 28, 2008

By JIMMY CARTER

The New York Times |  April 28, 2008

A COUNTERPRODUCTIVE Washington policy in recent years has been to boycott and punish political factions or governments that refuse to accept United States mandates. This policy makes difficult the possibility that such leaders might moderate their policies.Two notable examples are in Nepal and the Middle East. About 12 years ago, Maoist guerrillas took up arms in an effort to overthrow the monarchy and change the nation’s political and social life. Although the United States declared the revolutionaries to be terrorists, the Carter Center agreed to help mediate among the three major factions: the royal family, the old-line political parties and the Maoists.

In 2006, six months after the oppressive monarch was stripped of his powers, a cease-fire was signed. Maoist combatants laid down their arms and Nepalese troops agreed to remain in their barracks. Our center continued its involvement and nations — though not the United States — and international organizations began working with all parties to reconcile the dispute and organize elections.

The Maoists are succeeding in achieving their major goals: abolishing the monarchy, establishing a democratic republic and ending discrimination against untouchables and others whose citizenship rights were historically abridged. After a surprising victory in the April 10 election, Maoists will play a major role in writing a constitution and governing for about two years. To the United States, they are still terrorists.

On the way home from monitoring the Nepalese election, I, my wife and my son went to Israel. My goal was to learn as much as possible to assist in the faltering peace initiative endorsed by President Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. Although I knew that official United States policy was to boycott the government of Syria and leaders of Hamas, I did not receive any negative or cautionary messages about the trip, except that it might be dangerous to visit Gaza.

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The neoconning of a nation

April 28, 2008

Vice-President, shilling troupe of retired generals, deliver fantastic tales for their cause

By ERIC MARGOLIS | Toronto Sun, April 27, 2008

PARIS — U.S. intelligence released a dramatic video last Thursday, supposedly taken by an Israeli spy, that purportedly showed North Korean technicians helping build a nuclear reactor in Syria.

The reactor was destroyed seven months ago by Israeli warplanes.

Until now Israel and the U.S. have remained silent about the attack. Syria claimed a warehouse was hit, but curiously said nothing more about what was an act of war. Washington offered no proof the reactor, if it was one, would have produced weapons rather than electric power. U.S. and Israeli intelligence have long stated Syria had no nuclear weapons capabilities.

Vice-President Dick Cheney and fellow neocons forced the CIA to release the James Bondish video in an effort to sabotage an impending six-nation agreement to end North Korea’s nuclear program. They bitterly oppose the deal for being too soft on Pyongyang. Neocons long have worried the possibility of North Korea selling nuclear technology to Arab states posed a potential threat to Israel.

This mysterious imbroglio also is being used by Israel’s rightwing Likud Party, a close ally of U.S. neocons, to attack political rival Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and his Kadima Party.

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Islamic Finance

April 28, 2008

By Loretta Napoleoni | Information Clearing House, April 4, 2008

Islamic finance has become the fastest-growing, most dynamic sector of global finance. Every Western-style financial product has its sharia, i.e. Islamic law, compliant instrument: microfinance, mortgages, oil and gas exploration, bridge building, even sponsorship of sporting events. Islamic finance is innovative, flexible, and potentially very profitable. “Operating in 70 countries with about $500bn in assets, it is poised to expand geometrically.” With more than one billion Muslims eager to support it, analysts project that this system will soon manage approximately 4 percent of the world economy, equivalent to $1 trillion in assets. Such figures explain the eagerness of Western banks to tap into sharia financial services. Citigroup, along with many other Western banking retailers, have opened Islamic branches in Muslim countries.

At the end of 2004, the Islamic Bank of Britain, the first bank catering to a European Muslim client base, floated its shares on the London Stock Exchange. Ironically, Western capitalism’s three major global economic crises – the 1970s oil shocks, the late 1990s Asian crisis, and 9/11 – paved the way to the ascent of Islamic finance. Unlike market economics, Islamic finance centers on the religious tenets of Islam and operates in a way to keep Muslims compliant with sharia, the religious law that comes directly from the Koran. Islamic activists, intellectuals, writers, and religious leaders have always upheld the prohibition of riba, the interest charged by moneylenders, and denounced gharar, which refers to any type of speculation. Under this belief, money must not become a commodity in itself to create more money. Islamic finance thus shuns hedge funds and private equities, because they simply multiply cash by stripping assets. Money serves as a means or instrument of productivity as originally envisioned by Adam Smith and David Ricardo. This principle is embodied in the sukuks, Islamic bonds. Sukuks always link to real investments – for example, to pay for the construction of a toll highway – and never for speculative purposes. This principle springs from the sharia’s ban on gambling as well as on the prohibition of any forms of debt and activities that trade risk.

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Syrian ambassador says CIA fabricated photos

April 28, 2008

RINF, Saturday, April 26th, 2008

nr.jpgReuters | Syria’s ambassador to the United States said Friday that the CIA fabricated pictures allegedly taken inside a secret Syrian nuclear reactor and predicted that in coming weeks the U.S. story about the site would implode from within.

“The photos presented to me yesterday were ludicrous, laughable,” Ambassador Imad Moustapha told reporters at his Washington residence.

He refused to say what the building in the remote eastern desert of Syria was used for before Israeli jets bombed it in September 2007.

Senior U.S. intelligence officials said Thursday they believe it was a secret nuclear reactor meant to produce plutonium, which can be used to make high-yield nuclear weapons. They alleged that North Korea aided in the design, construction and outfitting of the building.

Syria bulldozed the building’s ruins a month after it was bombed and
constructed a new, larger building in its place, leaving little or no evidence of what had been on the site.

Moustapha would not explain the purpose of the new building. But he said the lack of military checkpoints, air defenses or barbed wire fences around either building should show that it was not a sensitive facility.

So far, Syria has not allowed the International Atomic Energy Agency to
inspect the area.

Syria’s ambassador to the United Nations, Bashar Ja’afari, pledged on Friday to cooperate with the IAEA and suggested that the main target of the American CIA allegations against Syria is to justify the Israeli attack against the Syrian side.

In a message to employees, CIA Director Michael Hayden praised the agency’s outstanding work, calling it a case study in rigorous analytic tradecraft, skillful human and technical collection.

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