Archive for November, 2009

The Meaning of Seattle: Truth Only Becomes True Through Action

November 30, 2009

By Walden Bello, ZNet, Nov 29, 2009
Source: YES! Magazine

Walden Bello’s ZSpace Page

WTO+10: Before 1999, the momentum of globalization seemed to sweep everything in front of it, including the truth. But in Seattle, ordinary women and men made truth real with collective action.

It is now generally accepted that globalization has been a failure in terms of delivering on its triple promise of lifting countries from stagnation, eliminating poverty, and reducing inequality. The current deep global downturn, which is rooted in corporate-driven globalization and financial liberalization and the ideology of neoliberalism that legitimized them, has driven the last nail into the coffin of globalization.

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Israeli War Criminal Olmert Welcomed in Australia

November 30, 2009
There is a danger that Australia could become a safe haven for Israeli war criminals.

By Sonja Karkar, The Palestine Chronicle, Nov 29, 2009

The news that former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was in Australia and was welcomed by the honourable members of our parliament came as somewhat of a shock. It is one thing to have allowed a man on corruption charges as well as facing war crimes indictments into Australia at all; it is another thing that he was listed as a distinguished guest in Hansard – the official record of parliamentary proceedings – and received a resounding “hear, hear” from our elected representatives.

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Matthew Hoh Speaks Grim Truth To Power

November 30, 2009

Roger Morris and George Kenney, The Huffington Post, Nov 27, 2009

The rare resignation on principle is always telling in American government. When Matthew Hoh recently left the State Department — a Marine Captain in Iraq who became a diplomat in Afghanistan — his act was significant far beyond the first reports.

Hoh speaks grim truth to power. His message is that to pursue the Afghan war policy in any guise — regardless of the troop level President Obama now chooses — will be utter folly, trapping America in an unwinnable civil war in the Hindu Kush, and only fueling terrorism.

An advisor in southern Afghanistan, Hoh knew the malignancy of want behind the war. Eight years after the U.S. invasion and a third of a trillion dollars spent, half the nation faces starvation on 45 cents a day, half the children die before five, and half the surviving young have no schools, part of a torment Afghans plead in poll after poll to be understood as the core of their conflict. He knew well the source of that scourge in the U.S.-installed Kabul regime, a kleptocracy of war- and drug-lords holed up amid American bodyguards in “poppy palaces,” while clan-based “security forces” loot the countryside, sodomize its sons, and swell insurgent ranks. “We’re propping up a government,” Hoh said last week, “that isn’t worth dying for.” So pervasive and profound is that corruption, so entwined with the private exploitation and official graft of the U.S. occupation regime — including kickbacks or extortion payments from both the American military and civilian aid programs to both the new Kabul plutocracy and the multi-layered Taliban — that the morass makes every other issue of policy moot.

The 36-year-old diplomat brings unique authority to public debate. An insider confirming outside critics dispels the myth that classified information redeems a failed policy. He also speaks to and for many in government, infusing honesty where folly feeds on wary quiet and fraudulent unanimity. “There are a lot of guys, not just in the Foreign Service but in the military, who are looking at this thing and they don’t understand what we are doing there,” he told one audience. “I get mails all the time from junior and mid-level officers telling me, ‘Keep it up. This makes no sense to us.'”

Whatever this protest says outwardly, its deeper meaning is devastating. The sheer contrast between Hoh and senior officials — seeing the same reality, the same reports — exposes some dirty little secrets of policy haunting the Obama presidency.

With the 8-year enormity of waste, venality and oppression since the invasion of 2001, ravages Hoh saw climaxed around him, went the knowing silence if not collusion of a succession of U.S. diplomats and officers responsible in the defiled occupation of Afghanistan. There is a troubling legacy, too, in the policy process. In the grip of experience irrelevant in Afghanistan, a generation of military commanders comes with a crudely recycled but promotion-rich creed of counter-insurgency, avenging what some as young officers in the 1970s saw as a false defeat if not home-front betrayal in Vietnam. They are allied with the lucrative in-and-out careerism of powerful if publicly faceless civilian Pentagon officials, what State Department rivals call the “COIN-heads” of counter-insurgency dogma. Those currents run like a murky subterranean river beneath the doomed policy Hoh silhouettes.

Most telling may be the disparity between Hoh — the serious student of Afghan culture — and Washington’s decision-makers. To deal with one of the most complex settings on earth, the Obama administration relies on key figures — Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Af-Pak Special envoy Richard Holbrooke and NSC Advisor James Jones — whose careers in politics or the bureaucracy (like those commanding generals David Petraeus and Stanley McChrystal) are bereft of any substantive knowledge of a people they are supposed to master. It leaves them all dangerously dependent on staff, and prey to the absence of dissenters like Hoh among aides whose credentials are hardly more impressive than their own.

That intellectual vacuum, a mirror of Vietnam decision-making, explains the shock and hostility that greeted recent cables of US Ambassador Karl Eikenberry opposing added U.S. troops backing an irredeemable regime. As Hoh exemplifies, actual knowledge of Afghanistan is rare — and the lack scarcely recognized — in a war council prone to flippant lines like Clinton’s recent “There are warlords and there are warlords,” or Holbrooke’s definition of success, “We’ll know it when we see it.”

At the heart of Washington’s decision-making dysfunction, of course, is always a president in thrall to the hoary fears and myths of national security, the most important realm he governs and in which most take power least prepared. For Barack Obama, only historic courage and insight can surmount the multiple corruptions of policy he is heir to.

Hoh embodies that bravery. Implored by Eikenberry to stay, he chose to forgo a prized career to speak out. We know that agony. There is no easy course ahead in Afghanistan. US policies a half century before 2001 account for much of the politics now so deplored in Kabul, a breakdown inflicted as well as inherent, and a blood debt added to the toll of occupation and war.

The gruesome truth of that history is that our sacrifices so far have been largely in vain. It is Matthew Hoh’s heroism to try to stop the inseparable casualties of lives and truth.

Roger Morris and George Kenney are both Foreign Service Officers who resigned on principle — Morris at the 1970 invasion of Cambodia, Kenney in 1991 over policy in the Balkans — both writers are award-winning authors. Morris’s Between the Graves: America, Afghanistan and the Politics of Intervention, will be published by Knopf in 2010. Kenney produces and hosts a podcast at electricpolitics.com while on the Board of Editors at In These Times.

The truth of UK’s guilt over Iraq

November 30, 2009

Until Chilcot hears UN weapons inspectors’ testimony, the fiction of Britain honestly seeking a WMD smoking gun prevails

Scott Ritter, The Guardian/UK, Nov27, 2009

With its troops no longer engaged in military operations inside Iraq, Great Britain has been liberated politically to conduct a postmortem of that conflict, including the sensitive issue of the primary justification used by then Prime Minister Tony Blair for going to war, namely Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, or WMD.

The failure to find any WMD in Iraq following the March 2003 invasion and subsequent occupation of that country by US and British troops continues to haunt those who were involved in making the decision for war. The issue of Iraqi WMD, and the role it played in influencing the decision for war, is at the centre of the ongoing Iraq war inquiry being conducted by Sir John Chilcot.

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Iraq Inquiry bombshell: Secret letter to reveal new Blair war lies

November 29, 2009

By Simon Walters, Mail on Sunday Political Editor
Mail Online/UK, 29th November 2009

Blair and Bush in April 2002

Resolve: Blair and Bush in April 2002, when they secretly agreed on ‘regime change’ in Iraq

An explosive secret letter that exposes how Tony Blair lied over the legality of the Iraq War can be revealed.

The Chilcot Inquiry into the war will interrogate the former Prime Minister over the devastating ‘smoking gun’ memo, which warned him in the starkest terms the war was illegal.

The Mail on Sunday can disclose that Attorney General Lord Goldsmith wrote the letter to Mr Blair in July 2002 – a full eight months before the war – telling him that deposing Saddam Hussein was a blatant breach of international law.

It was intended to make Mr Blair call off the invasion, but he ignored it. Instead, a panicking Mr Blair issued instructions to gag Lord Goldsmith, banned him from attending Cabinet meetings and ordered a cover-up to stop the public finding out.

He even concealed the bombshell information from his own Cabinet, fearing it would spark an anti-war revolt. The only people he told were a handful of cronies who were sworn to secrecy.

Lord Goldsmith was so furious at his treatment he threatened to resign – and lost three stone as Mr Blair and his cronies bullied him into backing down.

Sources close to the peer say he was ‘more or less pinned to the wall’ in a Downing Street showdown with two of Mr Blair’s most loyal aides, Lord Falconer and Baroness Morgan.

The revelations follow a series of testimonies by key figures at the Chilcot Inquiry who have questioned Mr Blair’s judgment and honesty, and the legality of the war.

The Mail on Sunday has learned that the inquiry has been given Lord Goldsmith’s explosive letter, and that Mr Blair and the peer are likely to be interrogated about it when they give evidence in the New Year.

More…

Lord Goldsmith gave qualified legal backing to the conflict days before the war broke out in March 2003 in a brief, carefully drafted statement. As The Mail on Sunday disclosed three years ago, even that was a distortion as Lord Goldsmith had told Mr Blair a week earlier he could be breaking international law.

But today’s revelations show that Lord Goldsmith told Mr Blair at the outset, and in writing, that military action against Iraq was totally illegal.

Lord Goldsmith leaves No10 in March 2003 after talks with BlairPressured: Lord Goldsmith leaves No10 in March 2003 after talks with Blair

 

The disclosures deal a massive blow to Mr Blair’s hopes of proving he acted in good faith when he and George Bush declared war on Iraq. And they are likely to fuel further calls for Mr Blair to be charged with war crimes.

Lord Goldsmith’s ‘smoking gun’ letter came six days after a Cabinet meeting on July 23, 2002, at which Ministers were secretly told that the US and UK were set on ‘regime change’ in Iraq.

The peer, who attended the meeting, was horrified. On July 29, he wrote to Mr Blair on a single side of A4 headed notepaper from his office.

Friends say it was no easy thing for him to do. He was a close friend of Mr Blair, who gave him his peerage and Cabinet post. The typed letter was addressed by hand, ‘Dear Tony’, and signed by hand, ‘Yours, Peter’.

In it, Lord Goldsmith set out in uncompromising terms why he believed war was illegal. He pointed out that:

  • War could not be justified purely on the grounds of ‘regime change’.
  • Although United Nations rules permitted ‘military intervention on the basis of self-defence’, they did not apply in this case because Britain was not under threat from Iraq.
  • While the UN allowed ‘humanitarian intervention’ in certain instances, that too was not relevant to Iraq.
  • It would be very hard to rely on earlier UN resolutions in the Nineties approving the use of force against Saddam.

Lord Goldsmith ended his letter by saying ‘the situation might change’ – although in legal terms, it never did.

The letter caused pandemonium in Downing Street. Mr Blair was furious. No10 told Lord Goldsmith he should never have put his views on paper, and he was not to do so again unless told to by Mr Blair.

The reason was simple: if it became public, Lord Goldsmith’s letter could make it impossible for Mr Blair to fulfil his secret pledge to back Mr Bush in any circumstances. More importantly, it could never be expunged from the record as copies were stored in No10 and in the Attorney General’s office.

Although Lord Goldsmith had Cabinet status, he attended meetings only when asked. After his letter, he barely attended another meeting until the eve of the war. Mr Blair kept him out to reduce the chance of him blurting out his views to other Ministers.

When Mr Blair is quizzed by the Chilcot Inquiry, he will be asked why he never admitted he was told from the start that the war was illegal.

Equally ominously for Mr Blair, a defiant Lord Goldsmith is ready to defend the letter when he appears before the inquiry. Friends of the peer, widely derided for his role in the Iraq War, believe it will vindicate him.

A source close to Lord Goldsmith said: ‘He assumed, perhaps naively, that Blair wanted a proper legal assessment. No10 went berserk because they knew that once he had put it in writing, it could not be unsaid.

‘They liked to do things with no note-takers, and often no officials, present. That way, there was no record. Everything could be denied.

Baroness Sally Morgan
Lord Falconer

Heavy-handed: Baroness Morgan and Lord Falconer are said to have ‘more or less pinned Lord Goldsmith to the wall and told him what Blair wanted’

‘Goldsmith threatened to resign at least once. He lost three stone in that period. He is an honourable man and it was a terribly stressful experience.’

Lord Goldsmith’s wife Joy, a prominent figure in New Labour dining circles, played a crucial role in talking him out of quitting.

‘Joy was always very ambitious on Peter’s behalf and did not want to see him throw it all away,’ said a source.

Lord Goldsmith’s letter contradicts Mr Blair’s repeated statements, before, during and after the war on its legality.

In April 2005, the BBC’s Jeremy Paxman repeatedly asked him if he had seen confidential Foreign Office advice that the war would be illegal without specific UN support.

Mr Blair said: ‘No. I had the Attorney General’s advice to guide me.’ At best, it was dissembling. At worst, it was a blatant lie.

Mr Blair knew all along that Lord Goldsmith had told him the war was illegal, and that when the peer finally gave it his cautious backing, he did so only under extreme duress.

The Mail on Sunday has also obtained new evidence about the way Lord Goldsmith was bullied into backing the war at the 11th hour.

He was summoned to a No10 meeting with Lord Chancellor Lord Falconer and Baroness Sally Morgan, Mr Blair’s senior Labour ‘fixer’ in Downing Street. No officials were present.

A source said: ‘Falconer and Morgan performed a pincer movement on Goldsmith. They more or less pinned him up against the wall and told him to do what Blair wanted.’

After the meeting, Lord Goldsmith issued his brief statement stating the war was lawful.

Lord Falconer said in response to the latest revelations: ‘This version of events is totally false. The meeting was Lord Goldsmith’s suggestion and he told us what his view was.’

Baroness Morgan has also denied trying to pressure Lord Goldsmith.

The legal row came to a head days before the war, when the UN refused to approve military action. Stranded, Mr Blair had to win Lord Goldsmith’s legal backing, not least because British military chiefs refused to send troops into action without it.

On March 17, three days before the conflict started, Lord Goldsmith said the war was legal on the basis of previous UN resolutions threatening action against Saddam – even though in his secret letter of July 2002, he had ruled out this argument.

A spokesman for Lord Goldsmith said: ‘This letter is probably in the bundle that has been supplied to the inquiry by the Attorney General’s department. It is presumed they will want to discuss it with him. If so, Lord Goldsmith is content to do so.

‘His focus is on the legality of the war, its morality is for others.’

A spokesman for the Chilcot Inquiry said: ‘We are content we have obtained all the relevant documents.’

A spokesman for Mr Blair refused to say why the former Prime Minister had not disclosed Lord Goldsmith’s July 2002 letter.

‘The Attorney General set out the legal basis for action in Iraq in March 2003,’ he said. ‘Beyond that, we are not getting into a running commentary before Mr Blair appears in front of the Chilcot committee.’

Leading international human rights lawyer Philippe Sands said: ‘The Chilcot Inquiry must make Lord Goldsmith’s note of 29 July, 2002, publicly available to restore public confidence in the Government.’

Diary of deceit … and how the Attorney General lost three stone

2002

April 6: Blair meets Bush at Crawford, Texas. They secretly agree ‘regime change’ war against Iraq.

July 23: Blair tells secret Cabinet meeting of war plan. Goldsmith is asked to check legal position.

July 24: Blair tells MPs: ‘We have not got to the stage of military action…or point of decision.’

Lord Goldsmith JULY 19, 2002JULY 19, 2002: Lord Goldsmith photographed ten days before he tells Blair war is illegal

 

Lord Goldsmith MARCH 20, 2003MARCH 20, 2003: Haggard Goldsmith arrives for War Cabinet on day Iraq is invaded

 

July 29: Goldsmith secretly writes to Blair to tell him war is illegal.

July 30: No10 rebukes Goldsmith. He is excluded from most War Cabinet meetings.

November 8: UN urges Saddam to disarm, but stops short of backing war.
2003

March 7: Despite duress from No10, Goldsmith tells Blair war could be unlawful.

March 13: Goldsmith is allegedly ‘pinned against wall’ by Blair cronies Charlie Falconer and Sally Morgan.

March 17: UN rules out backing war.

March 17: Goldsmith U-turn. In carefully worded brief ‘summary’, he says war is lawful.

March 20: War begins.
2005

April 21: Jeremy Paxman asks Blair if he saw Foreign Office advice saying war was illegal. Blair says: ‘No. I had Lord Goldsmith’s advice to guide me.’

April 24: Mail on Sunday reveals Goldsmith told Blair two weeks before war that it could be illegal.
2009

November 24: Chilcot Iraq War Inquiry begins.

Today: Mail on Sunday reveals Goldsmith’s ‘smoking gun’ letter to Blair in July 2002.

Blair ‘knew WMD claim was false’

By DAVID ROSE

David Rose

By the time Tony Blair led Britain to attack Iraq, he had stopped believing his own lurid claims about Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction, according to an unpublished interview with the late Robin Cook, the former Leader of the Commons who resigned from the Cabinet just before the invasion in March 2003.

In the interview, which Cook gave me in 2004, the year before his death, he described Blair’s actions as ‘a scandalous manipulation of the British constitution’, adding that if the then Prime Minister had revealed his doubts, they would have rendered the war illegal.

Cook, who was in almost daily contact with Blair in the months before his resignation, said that in September 2002, when the Government published its infamous dossier claiming Saddam had tried to buy uranium for nuclear weapons and could deploy WMDs within 45 minutes, Blair did believe these claims were true. But he added:

‘By February or March, he knew it was wrong. As far as I know, at no point after the end of 2002 did he ever repeat those claims.’

Tony Blair secures MPs' support for war on March 18, 2003, as Clare Short looks onTony Blair secures MPs’ support for war on March 18, 2003, as Clare Short looks on. But according to Robin Cook, the PM already knew WMD claims were untrue

 

On March 18, Blair had to face the Commons to ask it to vote for war but he knew, Cook added, ‘that if he now publicly withdrew the dossier’s claims, his position would be lost’.

Therefore Blair kept silent and so secured the war resolution, though 139 Labour MPs voted against him.

Cook added that if Blair had revealed his doubts, this would also have made it impossible for Lord Goldsmith to issue the fateful legal advice that Britain’s Service chiefs had been demanding: that war would be lawful.

‘What I’ve never seen satisfactorily defended by the Government is whether that opinion still stands up if the premise on which it was based – the claims in the dossier – turn out to be false,’ Cook said.

‘Tony didn’t focus on WMDs only for political reasons, but for legal reasons. He knew he was not going to get the Attorney General on side on any basis other than that Saddam had illegal weapons and could not be disarmed by any means other than war.’

Cook’s is not the only bombshell that remains unpublished. Last week, Sir Christopher Meyer, the former British Ambassador to Washington, told the Chilcot Inquiry that though Blair kept insisting almost to the end that ‘nothing was decided’ on Iraq, his decision to support the invasion actually went back to April 2002, when he visited President Bush’s Texas ranch.

However, both Meyer and other British and American officials told me in 2004 that Blair made up his mind even before April and that even then, Blair was saying in private that Britain would join the attack as long as Bush got UN backing. That meant proving Saddam had active WMDs, as the UN would not authorise an attack on any other basis.

Sir Christopher Meyer
Robin Cook

Revelations: Sir Christopher Meyer and the late Robin Cook

Meyer told me: ‘Some time during the first quarter of 2002, Blair had become resigned to war.’

Having committed himself to war, Blair believed he had to get military action approved by the UN to make the invasion legal, and to get the support of his own party back home. But leading figures close to Bush were deeply hostile to this idea, and would have much preferred to attack unilaterally.

Perhaps the most shocking disclosures concerned Blair’s propensity to bend the truth. For example, on July 26, 2002, Clare Short, then International Development Secretary, asked Blair whether war was looming.

His response was that she should go on holiday untroubled, because ‘nothing had been decided, and would not be over the summer’.

In fact, at that very moment, his adviser Sir David Manning was engaged in feverish diplomacy in Washington – because although Blair thought Bush had promised to go to the UN, he seemed to be changing his mind. Manning even had a personal audience with Bush.

A few days later, Bush and Blair spoke by telephone. A senior White House official who read the transcript told me: ‘The way it read was that, come what may, they were going to take out the regime. I remember reading it and thinking, “OK, now I know what we’re going to be doing for the next year.”‘

Later, both leaders would state repeatedly that they had not decided to go to war. But the official said: ‘War was avoidable only if Saddam ceased to be president of Iraq. It was a done deal.’

Yet the hawkish neo-conservatives at the Pentagon were still fighting hard to avoid the UN route, which would require a narrowing of focus on to WMDs. The crunch came at a summit at Camp David on September 7, 2002, when, most unusually, not only Bush but the neo-con vice president Dick Cheney met Blair. Cheney’s role, Meyer said, was solely to try to persuade Bush not to go to the UN.

In desperation, Blair, according to another White House official, told Bush and Cheney that he could be ousted at the Labour conference later that month if Bush ignored the UN. Afterwards, the official said, he and his colleagues pored over the party’s constitution, discovering that it was most unlikely that this threat would materialise.

But by then it was too late: a week after the summit, Bush spoke at the UN General Assembly, and announced America would be seeking what became Resolution 1442 – the resolution that, in Lord Goldsmith’s eyes, allowed British soldiers to kill Iraqis without being prosecuted for murder.

But not all who once saw Blair as a friend have forgiven him. ‘Blair was absolutely the reason why we went to the UN, because it was believed that his political fortunes absolutely demanded it,’ said David Wurmser, formerly Cheney’s chief Middle East adviser. ‘It really was a political concession to Blair – and also a disastrous misjudgment.’

US imperialism, 9/11 and the Iraq war

November 28, 2009

Patrick Martin, wsws.org, Nov 28, 2009

While the American corporate media has given little attention to it, an official British inquiry into the war with Iraq has brought to light damning testimony about the Bush administration’s deliberate launching of an invasion to overthrow the regime of Saddam Hussein and subjugate Iraq to American domination.

Former British diplomats and security officials from the 2001-2003 period began testifying this week under oath before a panel headed by Sir John Chilcot, charged with examining the entire course of the war, from its origins to the final British pullout in June 2009.

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Pakistan corruption amnesty expires

November 28, 2009
Al Jazeera, Nov 28, 2009
Some experts say Zardari’s eligibility for
office could be called into question[AFP]

An amnesty on corruption cases protecting the Pakistani president and thousands of  government bureaucrats and politicians is set to expire, threatening to cause a major political crisis in the country.

The so-called National Reconciliation Ordinance could be extended by the parliament, but the government is seen as too weak to win an extension after Saturday’s deadline.

Last week, a minister of state published the names of 8,041 people who have benefited from the amnesty, including Asif Ali Zardari, the president, and four cabinet ministers.

The list is connected to 3,478 cases ranging from murder, embezzlement, abuse of power and write-offs of bank loans worth millions of dollars.

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PM Netanyahu’s three-card trick

November 27, 2009
John Haylet, Morning Star Online, November 27, 2009

Scarcely had Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu unveiled Israel’s latest fraudulent “far-reaching step towards peace” than US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton leapt forward to welcome it.

Netanyahu spouted the usual rhetoric about a “historic peace agreement to finally end the conflict,” knowing that his offer lacked honesty and integrity.

And Clinton gave it the White House seal of approval, aware that it had no chance of being acceptable to the Palestinian people’s negotiators and, equally, that it fell short of Barack Obama’s earlier demand that Israel freeze all construction projects on the occupied West Bank.

Since Netanyahu gave this demand the bum’s rush, Clinton has repackaged it as a vacuous call for “restraint.”

And, as if sharing a scriptwriter, Netanyahu passed off his 10-month partial halt to housing construction as evidence of Israeli government restraint.

As so often with heavily touted Israeli initiatives, there is a lot less to this offer than meets the eye.

First, it does not apply to east Jerusalem, which was captured in the 1967 war with the rest of the West Bank. Tel Aviv has unilaterally and illegally declared the annexation of east Jerusalem, together with several settlements to the east of the city, with the intention of designating a unified Jerusalem as Israel’s “eternal” capital.

Not even the most abject Palestinian supplicant could accept such a negotiating precondition.

Second, whereas most people might believe that halt equals stop, in Israel’s lexicon, halting construction signifies no such thing.

It means not starting any new projects over and above those dozens that have already been either begun or authorised.

Nor does it apply to the building of synagogues and schools, which are essential elements of Israel’s ethnic-cleansing strategy.

Despite the fraudulent nature of Netanyahu’s three-card trick, Clinton categorised it as helping to “move forward toward resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”

She also echoed Netanyahu’s reference to Israel’s racist goal of a “Jewish state,” which would put the current 20 per cent Arab minority in legal jeopardy.

Whatever the excitement in Washington, no Palestinian representative regards the Netanyahu plan as a starter.

Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat suggested that it had more to do with placating the US president, pointing out: “At the end of the day, Netanyahu needs to make peace with us, the Palestinians. He doesn’t need to make peace with Americans.”

Hamas dismissed it as a “cosmetic step,” designed to restart “pointless negotiations.”

Many Palestinians have been increasingly critical of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and his handpicked but never ratified prime minister, the US-educated economist and former senior World Bank official Salam Fayyad.

This, together with Obama’s failure to achieve a settlement freeze, has led the authority to call on West Bank residents to boycott large supermarket chains that stock Israeli products.

Palestinian Economy Minister Hassan abu Libdeh estimates that illegal Israeli settlements currently have a 15 per cent share of the Palestinian market and is determined to implement an already existing law that bans the sale of settlement produce.

According to Stop the Wall co-ordinator Jamal Juma, “if the Palestinian Authority insists on implementing this decision, it means the authority will participate in boycotting one-third of the Israeli products that come to the West Bank.

“The decision will allow Palestinians to say: ‘No to the occupation, we are not going to pay for the bulldozers that destroy our houses and for the bullets that kill our people’.”

And President Abbas is pressing all Arab countries to cancel their business ties with French companies Veolia and Alstom, which are involved in the construction of a Jerusalem-based light railway through the West Bank.

He announced this at a press conference organised by the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee, which is made up of several non-governmental organisations.

Abbas’s chief of staff Rafiq Husseini lambasted Arab countries, chief among them Saudi Arabia, that continue to work with the two companies, accusing them of “not fulfilling their duties” despite repeated requests by the Palestinians and from the Arab League.

Alstom has several Saudi contracts, including one to build a railway to Mecca.

It is illustrative that even Abbas, who has announced his impending retirement, is sufficiently disillusioned with the US administration and the road map to throw his weight behind the campaign for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS).

These developments give additional importance to next Saturday’s trade union conference, organised by colleges union UCU, for BDS supporters to discuss practical implementation in the light of the resolution carried at this year’s TUC annual conference in September.

With speakers of the calibre of Omar Barghouti of the Palestinian BDS committee, former South African intelligence minister Ronnie Kasrils, Congress of South African Trade Unions international secretary Bongani Masuku, Dr Ilan Pappe of Exeter University and Palestine Solidarity chairman Hugh Lanning, this conference could be vital in putting mass pressure on Israel.

Profiteering from the spoils of war

November 27, 2009
Morning Star Online, Thursday 26 November 2009
Solomon Hughes

The wheels are coming off the war on terror. Nobody expects the Chilcot Commission to pass judgement, but every day it sits, new details about the lies and incompetence behind the Iraq war dribble out.

Revelations about British involvement in torture in the “rendition” programme are also building. And dismal tales about British troops abusing and killing Iraqis are being told.

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Afghanistan: next test, last lesson

November 27, 2009

Paul Rogers OpenDemocracy, 26 November 2009

The war in Afghanistan may now be beyond the point where any military-centred United States strategy can work.

Barack Obama is after a lengthy period of consultation moving towards the announcement of a revised strategy towards the war in Afghanistan, now scheduled to take place in a live broadcast from the West Point military academy on 1 December 2009. It is highly likely that the United States president will order a substantially increased deployment of troop numbers to Afghanistan, probably over 30,000 if not as high as the upwards of 40,000 requested by the senior US general in the country, Stanley A McChrystal (see “Obama May Add 30,000 Troops in Afghanistan”, New York Times, 24 November 2009).

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