Archive for May, 2013

Afghanistan: Is It Really the End Game?

May 29, 2013

conn-hallinan-afghanistan-withdrawal-timeline-2014-negotiations-taliban

Gunmen in Pakistan on Monday set ablaze five trucks carrying NATO equipment out of Afghanistan as the international military alliance winds down it combat mission there, officials said.

—Agence-France Presse, 3/1/13

There is nothing that better sums up the utter failure of America’s longest war than international forces getting ambushed as they try to get the hell out of the county. And yet the April 1 debacle in Baluchistan was in many ways a metaphor for a looming crisis that NATO and the United States seem totally unprepared for: with the clock ticking down on removing most combat troops by 2014, there are no official negotiations going on, nor does there seem to be any strategy for how to bring them about.

“I still cannot understand how we, the international community and the Afghan government have managed to arrive at a situation in which everything is coming together in 2014—elections, new president, economic transition, military transition—and negotiations for the peace process have not really started,” as Bernard Bajolet, the former French ambassador to Kabul and current head of France’s foreign intelligence service, told the New York Times.

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Pat Buchanan: The Unraveling of Sykes-Picot

May 29, 2013

800px-Austrian_troops_marching_up_Mt._Zion,_1916
The thrice-promised land it has been called.

It is that land north of Mecca and Medina and south of Anatolia, between the Mediterranean Sea and the Persian Gulf.

In 1915 — that year of Gallipoli, which forced the resignation of First Lord of the Admiralty Winston Churchill — Britain, to win Arab support for its war against the Ottoman Turks, committed, in the McMahon Agreement, to the independence of these lands under Arab rule.

It was for this that Lawrence of Arabia and the Arabs fought.

In November 1917, however, one month before Gen. Allenby led his army into Jerusalem, Lord Balfour, in a letter to Baron Rothschild, declared that His Majesty’s government now looked with favor up on the creation on these same lands of a national homeland for the Jewish people.

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Medea Benjamin: Why I Spoke Out at Obama’s Foreign Policy Speech

May 25, 2013

On why Obama’s policies themselves, not those who speak out against them, are rude

Medea Benjamin, co-founder of the political activist group Code Pink, is removed by security after speaking out against President Barack Obama during his foreign policy speech Thursday. (Photo: Kevin Dietsch /UPI)

Having worked for years on the issues of drones and Guantanamo, I was delighted to get a pass (the source will remain anonymous) to attend President Obama’s speech at the National Defense University. I had read many press reports anticipating what the President might say. There was much talk about major policy shifts that would include transparency with the public, new guidelines for the use of drones, taking lethal drones out of the purview of the CIA, and in the case of Guantanamo, invoking the “waiver system” to begin the transfer of prisoners already cleared for release.

Sitting at the back of the auditorium, I hung on every word the President said. I kept waiting to hear an announcement about changes that would represent a significant shift in policy. Unfortunately, I heard nice words, not the resetting of failed policies.

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Oded Yinon: A Strategy for Israel in the Nineteen Eighties

May 24, 2013
by Oded Yinon, 1982

This essay originally appeared in Hebrew in KIVUNIM (Directions), A Journal for Judaism and Zionism; Issue No, 14–Winter, 5742, February 1982, Editor: Yoram Beck. Editorial Committee: Eli Eyal, Yoram Beck, Amnon Hadari, Yohanan Manor, Elieser Schweid. Published by the Department of Publicity/The World Zionist Organization,  Jerusalem.

At the outset of the nineteen eighties the State of Israel is in need of a new perspective as to its place, its aims and national targets, at home and abroad. This need has become even more vital due to a number of central processes which the country, the region and the world are undergoing. We are living today in the early stages of a new epoch in human history which is not at all similar to its predecessor, and its characteristics are totally different from what we have hitherto known. That is why we need an understanding of the central processes which typify this historical epoch on the one hand, and on the other hand we need a world outlook and an operational strategy in accordance with the new conditions. The existence, prosperity and steadfastness of the Jewish state will depend upon its ability to adopt a new framework for its domestic and foreign affairs.

This epoch is characterized by several traits which we can already diagnose, and which symbolize a genuine revolution in our present lifestyle. The dominant process is the breakdown of the rationalist, humanist outlook as the major cornerstone supporting the life and achievements of Western civilization since the Renaissance. The political, social and economic views which have emanated from this foundation have been based on several “truths” which are presently disappearing–for example, the view that man as an individual is the center of the universe and everything exists in order to fulfill his basic material needs. This position is being invalidated in the present when it has become clear that the amount of resources in the cosmos does not meet Man’s requirements, his economic needs or his demographic constraints. In a world in which there are four billion human beings and economic and energy resources which do not grow proportionally to meet the needs of mankind, it is unrealistic to expect to fulfill the main requirement of Western Society,1 i.e., the wish and aspiration for boundless consumption. . .

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Dispatches: Inside Britain’s Israel Lobby (youtube video)

May 21, 2013
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A Channel 4 (UK) documentary:  Inside Britain’s Israel Lobby
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Dispatches investigates one of the most powerful and influential political lobbies in Britain, which is working in support of the interests of the State of Israel.

Despite wielding great influence among the highest realms of British politics and media, little is known about the individuals and groups which collectively are known as the pro-Israel lobby.
Political commentator Peter Oborne sets out to establish who they are, how they are funded, how they work and what influence they have, from the key groups to the wealthy individuals who help bankroll the lobbying.He investigates how accountable, transparent and open to scrutiny the lobby is, particularly in regard to its funding and financial support of MPs.The pro-Israel lobby aims to shape the debate about Britain’s relationship with Israel and future foreign policies relating to it.Oborne examines how the lobby operates from within parliament and the tactics it employs behind the scenes when engaging with print and broadcast media.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0E70BwA7xgU

dispatches – inside Britain’s Israel Lobby

 

UK govt funds poll in Pakistan on US drone attacks

May 19, 2013

Business Standard, May 20, 2013

For the first time, Britain has admitted that it has been funding surveys in Pakistan’s restive tribal areas that reveal US drone strikes against al- Qaeda and Taliban militants are causing deep resentment among local people.

In an answer to a parliamentary question, the foreign minister, Alistair Burt, confirmed that the Foreign Office had “supported” surveys which showed the proportion of respondents in the tribal areas who believed the CIA-operated drone strikes were “never justified” had risen from 59 per cent in 2010 to 63 per cent in 2011.

It appears to be the first time that the government has revealed it has carried out opinion polls on the CIA drone campaign in Pakistan – a programme on which it has refused to comment publicly, The Guardian reported.

Previously British ministers have said: “Drone strikes are a matter for the United States and Pakistan.”

However, there have been claims that the British government has been complicit in the programme, sharing locational intelligence with US agencies to help them target the strikes, the report said.

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Lawrence Davidson: The Sad Lesson of Alan Hart

May 19, 2013
Consortiumnews.com, May 17, 2013

Sailing against a strong prevailing wind is not easy, certainly not like breezing along with the wind to your back. Author Alan Hart discovered that truth in criticizing Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians, but his acceptance of defeat should not stop others from advocating for truth and justice, says Lawrence Davidson.

By Lawrence Davidson

Alan Hart is an author and a journalist, the former Middle East Chief Correspondent for Britain’s Independent Television News and a former BBC Panorama presenter whose beat was the Middle East. He has written a number of books, including Arafat: Terrorist or Peacemaker? (1984) and the three-volume Zionism: The Real Enemy of the Jews (2009-2010).

He is also a longtime activist for various causes, particularly his three-decade struggle on behalf of justice for the Palestinian people.

Volume One of Alan Hart’s trilogy, “Zionism: The Real Enemy of the Jews.”

On April 25, Alan Hart literally turned in his resignation letter. In it he states, “I am withdrawing from the battlefield of the war for the truth of history as it relates to making and sustaining of the conflict in and over Palestine.” Why did he do this? In Hart’s opinion, the struggle for justice in Palestine is “mission impossible.” [See Consortiumnews.com’s “Pursuing Truth about Israel/Palestine.”]

The information/propaganda war between Zionists and those, such as himself, supporting the Palestinians (which, in any case, had always been “the most asymmetric of all information wars”) is lost. He notes that the Western media still follow a Zionist line and asserts that most of the Western populations remain either pro-Israel or indifferent to the Israeli-Palestinian struggle.

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Dr Richard Falk: On Political Preconditions

May 16, 2013

Richard Falk, May 15, 2013

 To the extent that diplomacy solves international problems it depends on the satisfaction of the political preconditions that must be met for negotiations between sovereign states to reach sustainable and benevolent results. To clarify the point, in situations where there is a clear winner and loser, political preconditions are irrelevant, as the winner can dictate the terms, either imposing them as was done after World War II in response to the unconditional surrender of Germany and Japan, or offering proposals on a ‘take it or leave it’ basis. This is what Israel has attempted to do over the course of the twenty years that the Oslo Framework, the Roadmap, and the Quartet, have provided the ground rules for diplomacy with respect to Israel/Palestine negotiations. Israel has performed as if the winner, and expected Palestine to act as if the loser, but so far this scenario has not produced the desired outcome, a ‘peace’ essentially framed in accordance with Israel’s priorities (retaining settlements by critical land swaps, annexing the whole of Jerusalem, maintaining access to West Bank aquifers, ignoring refugees, de-linking Gaza). Palestine although occupied, without a sympathetic intermediary, and despite many of its people living as refugees or in exile, has not given up the struggle for a fair outcome as defined by international law and international morality.

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Paul R. Pillar: Unleashing Dogs of Aggressive War

May 16, 2013

After World War II, U.S. prosecutors at the Nuremberg Tribunals deemed aggressive war the “supreme international crime” because it unpacked all the other evils of war. But Official Washington now treats U.S. invasions of “enemy” states as a topic for casual political discourse, as ex-CIA analyst Paul R. Pillar notes.

By Paul R. Pillar, consortiumnews.com, May 13, 2013

Amid much talk lately about “red lines” — to the point that the term would be a strong candidate for cliché of the year — we should reflect on the relative inattention, as Richard Falk points out in a recent commentary, to what used to be one of the most fundamental and important red lines of all.

The line in question, which Falk notes the United States once played a leading role in formulating, is “the prohibition of the use of international force by states other than in cases of self-defense against a prior armed attack.”

President George W. Bush announcing the start of his invasion of Iraq on March 19, 2003.

Falk has been around long enough to rile adversaries on many issues about which he has been outspoken (and I have disagreed with some of his past positions). It was nearly 40 years ago that I took a graduate course in international law from him, and he is now in his 80s. But he does speak some uncomfortable truths.

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Ronald Reagan: Accessory to Genocide

May 13, 2013

Exclusive: More than any recent U.S. president, Ronald Reagan has been lavished with honors, including his name attached to Washington’s National Airport. But the conviction of Reagan’s old ally, ex-Guatemalan dictator Rios Montt, for genocide means “Ronnie” must face history’s judgment as an accessory to the crime, reports Robert Parry.

By Robert Parry, Consortiumnews.com, May 11, 2013

The conviction of former Guatemalan dictator Efrain Rios Montt on charges of genocide against Mayan villagers in the 1980s has a special meaning for Americans who idolize Ronald Reagan. It means that their hero was an accessory to one of the most grievous crimes that can be committed against humanity.

The courage of the Guatemalan people and the integrity of their legal system to exact some accountability on a still-influential political figure also put U.S. democracy to shame. For decades now, Americans have tolerated human rights crimes by U.S. presidents who face little or no accountability. Usually, the history isn’t even compiled honestly.

President Ronald Reagan.

By contrast, a Guatemalan court on Friday found  Rios Montt guilty of genocide and crimes against humanity and sentenced the 86-year-old ex-dictator to 80 years in prison. After the ruling, when Rios Montt rose and tried to walk out of the courtroom, Judge Yasmin Barrios shouted at him to stay put and then had security officers take him into custody.

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