Archive for April, 2010

Jerusalem Post: “Israel Has No Intention To Dismantle Illegal Outposts”

April 30, 2010
author Thursday April 29, 2010 11:54author by Saed Bannoura – IMEMC & Agencies Report post

Israeli paper, Jerusalem Post, reported that Israel has no intention to dismantle any of the 23 illegal settlement outposts in the occupied West Bank in the foreseeable future.

settlement_netanyahu_likud.jpg

The paper said that those outposts were illegally installed in the West Bank after March 2001, and were named in the Road Map Peace Plan of 2002.

But consecutive Israeli leaders, including the current Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, have no intention to dismantle any of the illegal outposts in the near future although Israel vowed to the former U.S administration to dismantle the outpost.

Yet, the Bush administration provided direct support to settlement construct and expansion in the occupied West Bank and claimed that the support is meant to settlements that “will always be part of Israel under any peace deal”.

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OPEN LETTER TO EGYPTIAN LABOR PROTESTERS

April 30, 2010

from the Campaign for Peace and Democracy, New York City

We are writing to extend our heartfelt solidarity and support to you, Egyptian workers, who in recent months have been courageously demanding that your government address your desperate economic conditions. The American press has been shamefully muted about the grim economic and political realities of life for people in Egypt, a key strategic U.S. ally in the Middle East. But in an eye-opening article in The New York Times of April 28, 2010, “Labor Protests Test Egypt’s Government,” by Michael Slackman, the curtain was lifted, for a moment at least. The article says,

CAIRO — Day after day, hundreds of workers from all over Egypt have staged demonstrations and sit-ins outside Parliament, turning sidewalks in the heart of the capital into makeshift camps and confounding government efforts to bring an end to the protests.

Nearly every day since February, protesters have chanted demands outside Parliament during daylight and laid out bedrolls along the pavement at night. The government and its allies have been unable to silence the workers, who are angry about a range of issues, including low salaries.

Using an emergency law that allows arrest without charge and restricts the ability to organize, the Egyptian government and the ruling National Democratic Party have for decades blocked development of an effective opposition while monopolizing the levers of power. The open question — one that analysts say the government fears — is whether the workers will connect their economic woes with virtual one-party rule and organize into a political force.

This week, with blankets stacked neatly behind them, at least four different groups were banging pots, pans and empty bottles and chanting slogans. There were factory workers, government workers, employees of a telephone company and handicapped men and women. The group of handicapped people said they had been there for 47 days, demanding jobs and housing….

The government has tried to define workers’ complaints as pocketbook issues, analysts said, hoping that if specific demands are met, workers will disband without blaming those in charge and without adding political change to their list of priorities.

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/29/world/middleeast/29egypt.html?ref=global-home

Try as the Egyptian government might to define your complaints as simply narrow “pocketbook issues,” divorced from democratic rights to protest, assemble, and assert labor’s interests in the political arena, the distinction won’t hold. They are inextricably linked, and this is true today in Egypt, Iran, China, the Philippines and everywhere else. Egyptian workers must have the right to freely assemble, protest and strike, and to form independent trade unions and political parties.

As Americans, we repudiate the hypocritical policy of the United States, our own government, which turns a blind eye to human rights abuses on the part of its allies, such as Egypt, while decrying such transgressions by governments that defy U.S. power. The Campaign for Peace and Democracy firmly believes that a just and peaceful world must be based on respect for human rights.

We salute you in your brave struggle. We understand that the Mubarak government, which heads a de facto one-party state, is contemplating a crackdown on labor protesters. We will do all in our power to mobilize here in the United States and in countries around the world to prevent this from happening.

In peace and solidarity,
Joanne Landy and Thomas Harrison
Co-Directors, Campaign for Peace and Democracy
New York City
Web: www.cpdweb.org Email: cpd@igc.org

Chomsky: What’s At Stake in the Issue of Iran

April 30, 2010

Pravda.Ru, April 28, 2010

In an interview with the German publication, Freitag, Noam Chomsky talks about U.S. pressure on Israel and Iran and its geopolitical significance. “Iran is perceived as a threat because they did not obey the orders of the United States. Militarily this threat is irrelevant. This country has not behaved aggressively beyond its borders for centuries. Israel invaded Lebanon with the blessing and help of the U.S. five times in thirty years. Iran has not done anything like this,” he says.´

Barak Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2009 while sending more troops to Afghanistan. What happened to the “change” that was promised?

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War Crimes Then And Now

April 30, 2010

By Phyllis Bennis, ZNet, April 30, 2010
Source: HP Friday,
Phyllis Bennis’s ZSpace Page

In an earlier era, in an earlier war, the recent exposés from Iraq and Afghanistan – with their shocking images, appalling laughter, video-game ethos – would have ‘shocked the conscience of the nation.’ In an earlier era, in an earlier war, when My Lai was exposed, it shocked the conscience of a whole lot of people who hadn’t been thinking very much about the war till then.
My Lai was hardly the first, and probably was not the worst US massacre of civilians in Vietnam. Casualties in Vietnam were exponentially higher than in Afghanistan. Still, when the reports came out, they hit the front pages. But these days, in today’s wars, the exposés were mostly relegated to page 13 of the New York Times, and there’s no evidence so far that any consciences were particularly shocked. The Pentagon responded that all the helicopter pilots and all the gunners had all operated within the official rules of engagement. No rules were broken.

And the Pentagon officials are probably right. The rules of engagement probably were not violated. The bylaws and directives of this war allow US Army helicopter gunners to shoot at unarmed Reuters photographers, and military convoys to fire on busloads of civilians in Afghanistan, and US Special Forces to murder pregnant women and teenaged girls in Iraq.

Of course the official rules of engagement don’t actually say that’s okay. General Stanley McChrystal, commander of all the US and NATO forces in Afghanistan, has been talking a lot about his concern over killing civilians. He doesn’t talk much about the danger to the Afghan civilians themselves, he talks mostly about how dangerous killing civilians is to the U.S. mission in Afghanistan. He apologizes, over and over again, and admits that “We’ve shot an amazing number of people and killed a number and, to my knowledge, none has proven to have been a real threat to the force.” He’s apologizing a lot these days, because that “amazing number” is in fact a very large aggregate of people – Afghan civilians – who are being killed by U.S. troops. They’re mowed down in passenger buses on the road, they’re pregnant women and a teenaged girl killed by U.S. soldiers inside their own home, they’re attacked by US helicopter gunners quite certain that the guy with the big camera is a terrorist.

General McChrystal really is sorry. Protecting civilians really is our top priority. It’s the fog of war, the split-second decisions that our young soldiers have to make.

And you know, he’s partly right. Most of these young soldiers are from rural areas and small towns, drafted into the military by the lack-of-jobs draft, the lack-of-money-for-college draft, the lack-of-any-other-options draft. They are themselves victims of Bush’s, and now President Obama’s war, sent to kill and sometimes die in a war that will not make them or their families safer, a war that is impoverishing their own country even as it devastates the countries in which they fight. General McChrystal can apologize all he wants, but counter-insurgency and the U.S. “global war on terrorism” are all about sending U.S. and a few NATO troops to kill Afghans in their own country. No surprise that sometimes – often – they kill the “wrong” Afghans. The split-second decisions are dangerous and difficult and sometimes impossible. But why does the U.S. military get to decide who are the “right” Afghans to be killed in their own country, anyway?

Some of the recent exposés demonstrate that not every operation in Afghanistan or Iraq is shrouded in the “fog of war.” The pilots and gunners in the helicopter gunships hovering over the Reuters journalists and the crowd of Iraqi civilians around them in 2007 were eager, laughing, urging each other on to the kill. When a local van pulled up to help transport some of the dead and wounded, the gunners asked for and got permission to fire again; this time they wounded two children, but blamed the Iraqi victims because “it’s their fault for bringing their kids into a battle.” In the February 2010 incident, if the reports of the Afghan investigators are correct, the US Special Forces – among the most highly trained killers of the US military – killed two innocent men in their Gardez courtyard and three women inside their house, then approached the dead women and girl to remove incriminating evidence (presumably identifiably made-in-the-USA bullets) from their bodies.

Does anyone still need to ask “why do they hate us?” The only ones this war makes safer are the war profiteers pocketing billion-dollar contracts – and the politicians pocketing campaign contributions in return. This war does not make Afghan or Iraqi lives better, the cost is devastating our economy, and there is no military victory in our future. The sooner we acknowledge that, and start withdrawing all the troops and drones and planes and close the bases, the sooner we can begin to make good on our real debt – humanitarian, not military – to the peoples of Iraq and Afghanistan.

Phyllis Bennis is a Fellow of the Institute for Policy Studies and co-author of Ending the US War in Afghanistan: A Primer.

Hezbollah: Egyptian jailings ‘unjust and politicised’

April 29, 2010

BBC News, April 30, 2010

Hassan Nasrallah, pictured on 13 March 2009

The convictions were a “badge of honour” Mr Nasrallah said

The leader of the Lebanese Shia militia Hezbollah has strongly criticised the Egyptian courts for jailing men accused of working for the group.

Hassan Nasrallah said the judgement by the Security Court in Cairo was “unjust and politicised” in an interview with an Arabic TV station.

He said he would seek “political and diplomatic means” to get their release.

The 26 men were sentenced by the court for planning terrorist attacks on ships and tourist sites.

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Secret Iraqi government prison was ‘worse than Abu Ghraib’

April 29, 2010

Inmates at covert jail suffered routine electric shocks and sexual abuse

By Kim Sengupta, Diplomatic Correspondent, The Independent/UK, April 29, 2010

The torture of prisoners in Iraq jails was widespread under Saddam  Hussein's regime. Now human rights  activists claim that similar abuses  are taking place on government orders
The torture of prisoners in Iraq jails was widespread under Saddam Hussein’s regime. Now human rights activists claim that similar abuses are taking place on government orders

A secret Iraqi government prison, where detainees were subjected to horrific abuse and at least one died from his injuries, was described yesterday as being “worse than Abu Ghraib”.

Its prisoners, who were mainly Sunni Arabs, included a wheelchair-bound British national. Freed captives told the New York-based organisation Human Rights Watch that they were raped, tortured with electric shocks and suffocated.

All had been taken to the covert jail, at Muthanna airfield west of Baghdad, after being arrested by security forces and accused of involvement in the long-running insurgency. Following American pressure, the prison was hurriedly closed last week and its 431 inmates were transferred to the Iraqi capital as reports of torture emerged.

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Gaza Death Zone: Israelis and Egyptians Are Killing Palestinian Youth Who Challenge the Siege of Gaza

April 29, 2010

by Ann Wright, CommonDreams.org, April 30, 2010

The Palestinians in the Death Zone called Gaza are being slaughtered again as Israel and now Egypt kill and wound more innocent civilians who challenge their illegal siege, blockade and quarantine.

In the past four days, one young Palestinian man has been killed and two young women and a young man have been wounded by Israeli snipers as they protested the Israeli bulldozing of 300 meters of Palestinian land into an Israeli “buffer zone.”  Four young Palestinian tunnel workers have been killed by suffocation and 6 injured as Egypt sprayed a crowd disbursal gas into a tunnel.

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Hidden toll of US wars: 18 veterans commit suicide daily

April 29, 2010
By Bill Van Auken, wsws.com, April 28, 2010

An average of 18 US military veterans are taking their lives every day as the Obama administration and the Pentagon grow increasingly defensive about the epidemic of suicides driven by Washington’s wars of aggression.

The stunning figure was reported last week by the Army Times, citing officials in the US Veterans Affairs Department.

The department estimates that there are 950 suicide attempts every month by veterans who are receiving treatment from the department. Of these, 7 percent succeed in taking their own lives, while 11 percent try to kill themselves again within nine months.

The greatest growth in suicides has taken place among veterans returning from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, who accounted for 1,868 suicide attempts in fiscal 2009, which ended on September 30. Of these, nearly 100 succeeded in killing themselves.

The connection between the “surge” in military suicides and the ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is undeniable. The suicide rate within the military doubled between 2001 and 2006, even as it remained flat among the comparable (adjusted for age and gender) civilian population. And the numbers continue to rise steadily. In 2009, 160 active-duty military personnel killed themselves, compared to 140 in 2008 and 77 in 2003.

Many have blamed the increasing number of suicides on the repeated combat deployments to which members of the all-volunteer US military are subjected, with the so-called “war on terrorism” approaching its 10th year and nearly 200,000 US troops deployed in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The effect of the repeated deployments is compounded by the shortness of so-called “dwell time”—the interlude at home bases between combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. Over most of the two wars, this has been limited to just one year because of personnel pressures. While it is now closer to two years, psychological research has indicated that at least three years are necessary to ameliorate the psychological stress inflicted by these deployments.

The military command has tried to obscure the connection. Last month, for example, the Army’s surgeon general, Lt. Gen. Eric Schoomaker, told a Senate committee that the most common factor in military suicides was “fractured relationships of some sort.” Clearly, however, the multiple deployments and the psychological impact that they have upon soldiers is the leading cause of broken marriages and mental health problems that lead to the breaking off of relationships.

Craig Bryan, a former Air Force officer and University of Texas psychologist who advises the Pentagon on suicides, linked the phenomenon to the training given by the military itself.

“We train our warriors to use controlled violence and aggression, to suppress strong emotional reactions in the face of adversity, to tolerate physical and emotional pain and to overcome the fear of injury and death,” he told Time magazine earlier this month. These qualities, designed to prepare soldiers to kill unquestioningly, “are also associated with increased risk for suicide,” he said. He added that these psychological traits cannot be altered “without negatively affecting the fighting capability of our military.” To put it bluntly, suicide, according to Bryan, is an occupational hazard. “Service members are, simply put, more capable of killing themselves by sheer consequence of their professional training,” he said.

The same training, combined with traumatic experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan, has created severe difficulties for many veterans of the two wars trying to re-integrate themselves into civilian society. While the suicides are the most glaring and tragic indicator of these problems, there are many others.

Last month, the jobless rate for veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan reached 14.7 percent, nearly 50 percent higher than the official nationwide unemployment rate in the US.

According to one recent Veterans Administration estimate, 154,000 US veterans are homeless on any given night, many of them living on the streets. Increasingly, the ranks of this homeless army are being swelled by those returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.

General Schoomaker, the Army’s surgeon general, was compelled to acknowledge on Monday that the military’s response to soldiers returning from combat with psychological problems has been one of “over-medication.”

“I can tell you that we are concerned about over-medication,” the general said, adding that “we’re very concerned about the panoply of drugs that are being used and the numbers of drugs that are being used.”

According to a report in the Military Times last month, one in six members of the US military is using some form of psychotropic drug, while 15 percent of soldiers admitted to abusing prescription drugs over the previous month.

Schoomaker’s comments came at a press conference called to respond to an article published in the New York Times Sunday exposing a so-called “warrior transition unit” at Fort Carson, Colorado. It referred to this facility and similar units as “’warehouses of despair, where damaged men and women are kept out of sight, fed a diet of prescription pills and treated harshly by noncommissioned officers.”

Soldiers interviewed in the article said that they were given pain pills to which they became addicted as well as sleeping pills and other medication, while alcohol and heroin were readily available in their barracks. Little or no therapy was on offer, however.

At least four soldiers sent to the unit at Fort Carson have committed suicide there since 2007.

On April 16, Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki, the former Army chief of staff, testified on Capitol Hill on veteran suicides, providing equally telling numbers. He reported that VA suicide hotlines were fielding 10,000 calls a month.

Shinseki told a congressional panel that he was haunted by two images of US military personnel. The first was that of new recruits who “outperform all of our expectations, great youngsters.”

The second is that of veterans who make up a “a disproportionate share of the nation’s homeless, jobless, mental health (problems), depressed patients, substance abusers, suicides.”

“Something happened” along the way, said Shinseki, “and that’s what we’re about is to try to figure this out.”

It is not a great mystery. These “great youngsters” are thrown into wars of aggression and colonial-style occupations where they are exposed to horrific violence and employed in the subjugation of entire populations, with the inevitable killing of civilian men, women and children. Those who acknowledge the mental and emotional trauma created by these conditions are treated as pariahs and weaklings

On the same day that Shinseki was testifying in Washington, 27-year-old Jesse Huff, an Iraq war veteran, killed himself outside a Veterans Administration medical facility in Dayton, Ohio, where he had been treated for post-traumatic stress disorder. Huff, who had been injured by a roadside bomb in Iraq, shot himself twice in the head with an assault rifle at the foot of a statue to the Union soldiers of the Civil War. A cousin told the Associated Press that he “hadn’t been the same” since returning from Iraq, while the father of a young man with whom he lived said that Huff was “really hurting.”

Fomenting Armageddon: Jerusalem’s Colonization and Western Apathy

April 29, 2010

By Dr. Ahmad Yousef, Uruknet.info, April 28, 2010

7jerusalem_jews_dancing_yousef.jpg

The Israelis are instigating a Jewish holy war staged in Jerusalem; and they are playing a superb game of propaganda painting the Palestinians as the “real” fundamentalists, despite the fact that the Knesset has more active right-wing political parties than any state in the civilized world. It’s a strategy that has caught the West by surprise as they continue to react with template disappointment.

Successive governments have supported colonization for decades; yet Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu’s recent moves have all but dispelled the façade of a secular rationale. Unfettered, expedited settlement construction in Jerusalem, with images of soldiers traipsing through Islam’s third holiest site in army fatigues, mark a new low for the Israelis; yet equally indicate a new level of brazen physical and psychological aggression that will result in a new intifada.

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War propaganda from Afghanistan

April 29, 2010
By Glenn Greenwal, Salon.com, April 27, 2010

AP
In this April 26, photo, U.S. Army Lt. David Cummings, of Raleigh, N.C., talks on the radio with his platoon while patrolling areas in Kandahar.

The New York Times yesterday excitedly declared that the imminent Battle of Kandahar “has become the make-or-break offensive of the eight-and-half-year [Afghanistan] war” and is “the pivotal test of President Obama’s Afghanistan strategy.”  As Atrios suggests, there never is any such thing as “make-or-break” because we never leave no matter how completely our war and occupation efforts fail.  That’s what led to the countless Friedman Units of the Iraq War:  the endless proclamations that The Next Six Months will be Decisive, only to be repeated at the end of the six-month period of failure as though the prior one never happened.

Just consider what’s being said now about how the Kandahar offensive is the “make-or-break” battle of the war and the “pivotal test” for Obama’s war strategy by comparing it to what was said a mere two months ago about the now clearly failing assault on Marjah:

Times of London, February 13, 2010:

Allied troops launched a major offensive into Afghanistan’s most violent province last night, in a key part of President Obama’s push to seize control of the Taleban’s last big stronghold. . . . If it fails, many analysts believe that the war will be lost.

The Independent declared on February 9, 2010, that General McChrystal wants the Marjah offensive to “be one of the most significant in the country since the fall of the Taliban in 2001” and, of Obama’s war strategy, said that “Marjah looks like being its first major — and possibly decisive — test.”  The BBC quoted a NATO official who proclaimed that Marjah “was ‘probably the definitive operation’ of the counter-insurgency strategy” and “this operation could potentially define the tipping point, the crucial momentum aspect in the counter-insurgency.”  Time helpfully informed us that “U.S. officials believe it will mark a turning point in the war.”

Now that that “make-or-break decisive test” has failed (or, at best, has produced very muddled outcomes), did the Government and media follow through and declare the war effort broken and the strategy a failure?  No; they just pretend it never happened and declare the next, latest, glorious Battle the real “make-or-break decisive test” — until that one fails and the next one is portrayed that way, in an endless tidal wave of war propaganda intended to justify our staying for as long as we want, no matter how pointless and counter-productive it is.

* * * * *

Speaking of war propaganda, today is a very proud day for the U.S.:  the military commission ordered by Eric Holder begins for Omar Khadr, a Canadian-born, Afghanistan-residing detainee encaged at Guantanamo for seven years — since he was 15 years old — on “war crimes” and “terrorism” charges that he was involved in a firefight with American military forces who, revealingly enough, were using a former Soviet military base as their outpost.  Khadr was wounded in the battle, imprisoned at Bagram, then at Guantanamo, claims he was severely tortured into falsely confessing, and made worldwide news when a video of him weeping, begging for medical help, and crying for his mother during an interrogation was released.  Apparently, if the U.S. Army invades a foreign country, anyone who fights against that invading force — including a 15-year-old boy — is a “war criminal” and a “Terrorist,” even the Worst of The Worst, which is, of course, all that we’re currently holding at Guantanamo.  Now that’s some robust propaganda.