Posts Tagged ‘Condoleezza Rice’

Blum: USrael and Iran

August 5, 2010

William Blum, Foreign Policy Journal, August 5, 2010

If and when the United States and Israel bomb Iran (marking the sixth country so blessed by Barack Obama) and this sad old world has a new daily horror show to look at on their TV sets, and we then discover that Iran was not actually building nuclear weapons after all, the American mainstream media and the benighted American mind will ask: “Why didn’t they tell us that? Did they want us to bomb them?”

The same questions were asked about Iraq following the discovery that Saddam Hussein didn’t in fact have any weapons of mass destruction. However, in actuality, before the US invasion Iraqi officials had stated clearly on repeated occasions that they had no such weapons. I’m reminded of this by the recent news report about Hans Blix, former chief United Nations weapons inspector, who led a doomed hunt for WMD in Iraq. Last week he told the British inquiry into the March 2003 invasion that those who were “100 percent certain there were weapons of mass destruction” in Iraq turned out to have “less than zero percent knowledge” of where the purported hidden caches might be. He testified that he had warned British Prime Minister Tony Blair in a February 2003 meeting — as well as US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in separate talks — that Hussein might have no weapons of mass destruction.[1]

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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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Obama bows to Republican right and military on torture photos

May 14, 2009
By Bill Van Auken | WSWS, 14 May 2009

The Obama administration’s decision Wednesday to renege on its promise to comply with a court order and release photographs of US personnel torturing detainees in Iraq and Afghanistan represents another capitulation by his administration to mounting pressure from the right and the military-intelligence apparatus.

Speaking briefly to reporters Wednesday afternoon, Obama said that the photographs would “further inflame anti-American opinion and put our troops in greater danger.”

He claimed that the images are “not particularly sensational” and “would not add any additional benefit to our understanding of what was carried out in the past by a small number of individuals.” Obama failed to explain what makes the US president the arbiter of what is of “benefit to our understanding.”

The Pentagon, with Obama’s declared support, announced last month that it would release a “substantial number” of photos of US personnel abusing detainees at several prisons in Iraq and Afghanistan. The decision was taken in compliance with a decision last September by a three-judge panel of the US Court of Appeals upholding a lower court victory for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which had sought the photographs in a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit. The full appeals court refused to rehear the case.

The photographs, reportedly 44 in all, were set to have been released May 28.

The Bush administration had argued that the release of the photos would generate international outrage and violate the rights of the detainees under the Geneva Conventions, rights that the administration had explicitly claimed had no application to detainees, who were classified as “enemy combatants.”

Apparently, the Obama administration is preparing to repackage the arguments made under George W. Bush, claiming that the release of the photos would threaten national security and, as the president asserted unconvincingly Wednesday, would have a “chilling effect on future investigations of detainee abuse.”

In making its “national security” case for suppressing the photographs, the Obama administration would likely be compelled to go to the US Supreme Court.

Amplifying on Obama’s statements, an administration spokesman told the media, “The president would be the last to excuse the actions depicted in these photos. That is why the Department of Defense investigated these cases and why individuals have been punished through prison sentences, discharges, and a range of other punitive measures.”

Nothing could more clearly sum up the criminal character of the Obama administration’s decision to prevent the release of these photos. Those subjected to “punitive measures” have consisted of a handful of junior enlisted men, such as those individuals punished in connection with the photographs uncovered in 2004 depicting the horrific treatment of detainees held at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.

The entire point of exposing the photographs of similar abuse from a half dozen other prisons in Iraq and Afghanistan was that they prove that the torture of detainees was not the work of a few “bad apples” or psychopaths in uniform, but was systemic. The photographs showing prisoners at Abu Ghraib being beaten, threatened with attack dogs, piled naked in pyramids, smeared with feces, hanging from shackles and dragged on leashes did not represent an aberration. Rather these odious practices and worse were carried out on orders that came from the White House to the Pentagon and down the military chain of command.

The ACLU’s Executive Director Anthony D. Romero denounced the about-face by the White House. “The Obama administration’s adoption of the stonewalling tactics and opaque policies of the Bush administration flies in the face of the president’s stated desire to restore the rule of law, to revive our moral standing in the world and to lead a transparent government,” he said in a statement Wednesday. “This decision is particularly disturbing given the Justice Department’s failure to initiate a criminal investigation of torture crimes under the Bush administration.

Romero continued, “It is true that these photos would be disturbing; the day we are no longer disturbed by such repugnant acts would be a sad one. In America, every fact and document gets known—whether now or years from now. And when these photos do see the light of day, the outrage will focus not only on the commission of torture by the Bush administration but on the Obama administration’s complicity in covering them up. Any outrage related to these photos should be due not to their release but to the very crimes depicted in them. Only by looking squarely in the mirror, acknowledging the crimes of the past and achieving accountability can we move forward and ensure that these atrocities are not repeated.”

Jameel Jaffar, who argued the case for the ACLU called the decision “inconsistent with the promise of transparency that President Obama has repeated so many times.”

What is to account for the Obama administration’s sudden reversal?

The New York Times cited administration officials arguing that the photographs should be suppressed because “the missions in both Iraq and Afghanistan were entering risky, new phases. In Iraq, American combat forces are withdrawing from urban areas and are reducing their numbers nationwide. In Afghanistan, more than 20,000 new troops are flowing in to combat an insurgency that has grown in potency.”

Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell said Wednesday that Generals Raymond Odierno, the US commander in Iraq, David McKiernan, the recently sacked commander in Afghanistan, and David Petraeus, the chief of US Central Command, which oversees both wars, “have all voiced real concern about this.” He added, “Particularly in Afghanistan, this is the last thing they need.”

Defense Secretary Robert Gates, appearing before the House Armed Services Committee Wednesday, said that the generals had “expressed very serious reservations about this and their very, very great worry that release of the photographs will cost American lives. That was all it took for me.”

Obama informed Odierno of his decision at a White House meeting Tuesday, before announcing it to the public.

Thus, Obama bowed to the demands of Gates, Petraeus, Odierno and McKiernan, all of whom were placed in their present positions by the same Bush administration that instituted torture as a standard operation procedure for the military and the CIA.

Even more importantly, Obama’s U-turn on the question of the torture photos has been carried out in the face of a concerted campaign led by former Vice President Dick Cheney to defend torture and portray the new administration’s decision to repudiate “enhanced interrogation techniques” and to release Justice Department memos justifying torture methods as paving the way for new terrorist attacks.

This has been accompanied by an attempt to justify the crimes of the Bush administration in relation to torture by emphasizing the complicity of key Democrats, particularly House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who were briefed on the use of waterboarding and other acts of torture being carried out against detainees and voiced no objection.

This effort has apparently been spearheaded by the CIA itself, which leaked documents detailing the number of briefings provided to members of Congress on the ongoing torture of detainees beginning in 2002.

There is no doubt that Obama is retreating in the face of this offensive by the Republican right and the national security complex. More fundamentally, however, the administration has made it clear from the outset that it has no interest in seeing any serious investigation of the torture carried out under the Bush administration, much less in the prosecution of those who ordered these practices, from Bush, Cheney, Condoleezza Rice and other cabinet members on down.

Its aim is to preserve intact the police-state infrastructure erected by the Bush administration in its “global war on terror,” while continuing to wage the wars of aggression that the previous government began in Afghanistan and Iraq.

This policy of political cowardice and complicity has inevitably turned Obama himself into a defender of torture, using the same “national security” arguments as the Bush administration to cover up its crimes.

Stanford Anti-War Alumni, Students Call for Condi War Crimes Probe

May 7, 2009

Marjorie Cohn | CommonDreams.org, May 6, 2009

During the Vietnam War, Stanford students succeeded in banning secret military research from campus. Last weekend, 150 activist alumni and present Stanford students targeted Condoleezza Rice for authorizing torture and misleading Americans into the illegal Iraq War.

Veterans of the Stanford anti-Vietnam War movement had gathered for a 40th anniversary reunion during the weekend. The gathering featured panels on foreign policy, the economy, political and social movements, science and technology, media, energy and the environment, and strategies for aging activists.

On Sunday, surrounded by alumni and students, Lenny Siegel and I nailed a petition to the University President’s office door. The petition, circulated by Stanford Say No to War, reads:

“We the undersigned students, faculty, staff, alumni, and other concerned members of the Stanford community, believe that high officials of the U.S. Government, including our former Provost, current Political Science Professor, and Hoover Institution Senior Fellow, Condoleezza Rice, should be held accountable for any serious violations of the Law (included ratified treaties, statutes, and/or the U.S. Constitution) through investigation and, if the facts warrant, prosecution, by appropriate legal authorities.”

I stated, “By nailing this petition to the door of the President’s office, we are telling Stanford that the university should not have war criminals on its faculty. There is prima facie evidence that Rice approved torture and misled the country into the Iraq War. Stanford has an obligation to investigate those charges.”

After the petition nailing, I cited the law and evidence of Condoleezza Rice’s responsibility for war crimes – including torture – and for selling the illegal Iraq War:

As National Security Advisor, Rice authorized waterboarding in July 2002, according to a newly released report of the Senate Intelligence Committee. Less than two months later, she hyped the impending U.S. invasion of Iraq, saying, “We don’t want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud.” Her ominous warning was part of the Bush administration’s campaign to sell the Iraq war, in spite of the UN International Atomic Energy Agency’s assurances that Saddam Hussein did not possess nuclear weapons.

A week before the nailing of the petition, Rice made some Nixonian admissions in response to questions from Stanford students during a campus dinner designed to burnish Rice’s image on campus.

In October 1968, Stanford anti-war activists had nailed a document to the door of the trustees’ office which demanded that Stanford “halt all military and economic projects concerned with Southeast Asia.”

Marjorie Cohn is a professor at Thomas Jefferson School of Law and President of the National Lawyers Guild.  She is the author of Cowboy Republic: Six Ways the Bush Gang Has Defied the Law and co-author of Rules of Disengagement: The Politics and Honor of Military Dissent (with Kathleen Gilberd).  Her articles are archived at www.marjoriecohn.com

Straight to the Top

April 27, 2009

By Scott Horton | Harper’s Magazine, April 27, 2009

Correction, April 29, 2009:

This post requires correction in two respects. First, as already noted, Ed Whelan, former Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Legal Counsel, has categorically denied attending the July 2003 meeting mentioned there. Second, I wrongly described his writing at the National Review as “defenses of torture enablers.” This phrase is both vague and inaccurate, and I apologize for any misunderstanding it may have caused. Whelan has never written anything for the National Review in defense of torture or torture enablers.

The torture trail starts and ends in the White House. That is perhaps the most inescapable conclusion to be drawn from the flurry of documents released in the last week—first the OLC memoranda, then a newly declassified report of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and finally an amazing document that Attorney General Eric Holder released yesterday, which has still gained little attention. The Holder note presents a summary of CIA interaction with the White House in connection with the approval of the torture techniques that John Yoo calls the “Bush Program.” Holder’s memo refers to the participants by their job titles only, but John Sifton runs it through a decoder and gives us the actual names. Here’s a key passage:

“[The] CIA’s Office of General Counsel [this would include current Acting CIA General Counsel John Rizzo] met with the Attorney General [John Ashcroft], the National Security Adviser [Condoleezza Rice], the Deputy National Security Adviser [Stephen Hadley], the Legal Adviser to the National Security Council [John Bellinger], and the Counsel to the President [Alberto Gonzales] in mid-May 2002 to discuss the possible use of alternative interrogation methods [on Abu Zubaydah] that differed from the traditional methods used by the U.S. military and intelligence community. At this meeting, the CIA proposed particular alternative interrogation methods, including waterboarding.”

The report continues to implicate more Bush officials: “On July 13, 2002, according to CIA records, attorneys from the CIA’s Office of General Counsel [including Rizzo] met with the Legal Adviser to the National Security Council [Bellinger], a Deputy Assistant Attorney General from OLC [likely John Yoo], the head of the Criminal Division of the Department of Justice [Michael Chertoff], the chief of staff to the Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation [Kenneth Wainstein], and the Counsel to the President [Alberto Gonzales] to provide an overview of the proposed interrogation plan for Abu Zubaydah.”

It makes clear that sign-off for torture comes from Condoleezza Rice, acting with the advice of her ever-present lawyer, John Bellinger. Another figure making a key appearance is an Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Legal Counsel named M. Edward Whelan III–presumably the same Ed Whelan who is presently melting his keyboard with defenses of the torture-enablers (Update, April 29, 2009: See correction.) at National Review. (Update: Andrew Sullivan also reported on the appearance of Whelan in the memo, but Whelan responded with a categorical denial that he was involved. This suggests that the memo’s chronology is incorrect and requires some clarification.) The central role played by Rice and Bellinger helps explain the State Department’s abrupt about-face on international law issues related to torture immediately after Rice became Secretary of State and Bellinger became Legal Adviser. It also makes clear that Vice President Cheney and President Bush were fully informed of what has happened and approved.

Condi Rice and John Ashcroft reviewed, approved waterboarding in 2002

April 23, 2009

By R. Jeffrey Smith and Peter Finn
Washington Post Staff Writers
The Washington Post, Thursday, April 23, 2009

Condoleezza Rice, John D. Ashcroft and at least 10 other top Bush officials reviewed and approved as early as the summer of 2002 the CIA’s use of harsh interrogation methods on detainees at secret prisons, including waterboarding that Attorney General Eric H. Holder, Jr. has described as illegal torture, according to a detailed timeline furnished by Holder to the Senate Intelligence Committee.

At a moment when the Justice Department is deciding whether former officials who set interrogation policy or formulated the legal justifications for it should be investigated for committing crimes, the new timeline lists the members of the Bush administration who were present when the CIA’s director and its general counsel explained exactly which questioning methods were to be used and how those sessions proceeded.

Rice gave a key early approval, when, as Bush’s national security adviser, she met on July 17, 2002, with the CIA’s then-director, George J. Tenet, and “advised that the CIA could proceed with its proposed interrogation of Abu Zubaydah,” subject to approval by the Justice Department, according to the timeline. Rice and four other White House officials had been briefed two months earlier on “alternative interrogation methods, including waterboarding,” it states. Waterboarding is a technique that simulates drowning.

A year later, in July 2003, the CIA briefed Rice, Vice President Richard B. Cheney, Attorney General Ashcroft, White House counsel Alberto R. Gonzales and National Security Council legal adviser John Bellinger on the use of waterboarding and other techniques, it states. They “reaffirmed that the CIA program was lawful and reflected administration policy.”

In early 2004, a comprehensive report by the CIA inspector general raised new questions about the program, including the waterboarding of three detainees. It said that the interrogations were not clearly legal under an international treaty the United States had signed, known as the Convention Against Torture, which bars cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment that falls short of torture.

A fresh legal review by the Justice Department prompted Ashcroft to inform the CIA in writing on July 22, 2004, that its interrogation methods – except waterboarding – were legal. The following month, the head of the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel added that even waterboarding would be legal if it were carried out with a series of safeguards according to CIA plans. By the following May, the department had completed two more reviews of the program that came to the same conclusion. These were among the memos released by President Obama this week.

After the leak in 2005 of a Justice Department memo that narrowly defined the type of activity that would constitute torture, Rice traveled to Europe in an effort to quell the international uproar. As her trip was getting underway, she said, “The United States government does not authorize or condone torture of detainees. Torture, and conspiracy to commit torture, are crimes under U.S. law, wherever they may occur in the world.”

Rice also said at the time that the administration’s policy “will be consistent” with the international convention prohibiting “cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment.”

Israel Asserting Middle East Supremacy: From Gaza to Tehran

February 2, 2009

“The Israeli Defense Force is the most moral army in the World!”
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert

By James Petras | Information Clearing House, February 2, 2009

Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany bombed, invaded and annexed countries and territories as a prelude to their quest for World Empire.  Israel’s drive for regional dominance has followed in their footsteps, imitating their style: Indiscriminate aerial bombings of civilian and military facilities, a savage blitzkrieg led by armored vehicles, disdain and repudiation of all criticism from international agencies was accompanied by an open, military buildup for a new and bigger war against Iran.  Like the Nazi leadership, who played on the ‘Bolshevik threat’, the Israeli high command has set in motion a vast world-wide propaganda campaign led by its world Zionist network, raising the specter of ‘Islamic terror’ to justify its preparations for a military assault on seventy-four million Iranians.  Just as Nazi Germany interpreted the passivity, sympathy and impotence of the West when confronted by ‘facts on the ground’ as license for aggression, the Israeli military machine receives a powerful impetus for new wars by the Western governments’ inaction and flaccid response to its invasion of Lebanon, the bombing of Syria and now its Nazi style blitz and conquest of Gaza.  For the Israeli high command, the impotence and complicity of the Western states, marks the way to bigger and bloodier wars to establish Israel’s supremacy and dominance of the Middle East, from the Red Sea to the Persian Gulf.

Gaza Blitz:  Dress Rehearsal for an Assault on Iran

Israel’s military victory in Gaza is a dress rehearsal for a full-scale military assault on Iran.  In the course of their Gaza extermination campaign, Israeli political and military strategists gained a great deal of vital information about: (1) the levels of complicity and impotence of European, North American and Arab states;  (2) the high degree and depth of material and political support obtainable from the United States government in pulverizing adversaries; (3) the high degree of internal support among the Jewish electorate for even the most brutal killing fields; (4) the massive unquestioning backing of an offensive war from all the biggest and most politically influential and wealthiest Jewish-Zionist organizations in the US and Western Europe; (5) the weakness and ineffectiveness of the United Nations and the incapacity of the entire range of humanitarian organizations to limit Israel’s extermination campaign directed at destroying the very existence of an entire people; (6) the unconditional backing of the entire mass media and news agencies in the US and most of the mass media in Europe and the rest of the world; (7) the willingness of the liberal critics to equally blame the victims of extermination and the exterminators for the ‘violence’, thus neutralizing any effective consequential condemnation of the Israeli state; and (8) the adaptation of practically all the journalists, writers, academics and politicians to the entire euphemistic vocabulary of the Israeli propaganda office.

For example, sustained total war is called an ‘incursion’.  Ten thousand aerial assaults by hundreds of Israeli helicopters and fighter-bombers are equated with sporadic harmless homemade rocket attacks as ‘violence’.  Israeli targeting of thousands of civilian homes, hospitals and basic infrastructure are labeled ‘terrorist’ targets.  Resistance fighters are labeled ‘Hamas terrorists’.  The bombing of the Red Cross, the United Nations relief facilities, hospitals, mosques are called ‘mistakes’ or justified as ‘launching sites for Hamas terrorists.

Israeli political leaders have drawn the lesson from their dirty little ‘war’ that they can totally destroy a nation, decimate a society and murder and maim 7000 civilians with impunity.  Israeli leaders learned they can carry out an offensive genocidal war without suffering breaks in diplomatic relations (except Mauritania, Qatar, Bolivia and Venezuela).  The Israelis have successfully tested the loyalty and submissiveness of the major Arab regimes in the region and secured cooperation and acquiescence from Egypt, the ‘Palestinian Authority’, Jordan and Saudi Arabia.  Israeli civilian-military leaders calculate that with this high degree of governmental complicity, combined with support from all the major Zionist leaders and mass media moguls, they can dismiss even large-scale street protests, repeated calls for boycotts and United Nations denunciations.  Israeli leaders know that the criticism of major religious leaders and the growing number of Jewish dissidents, critical intellectuals and activists will have no consequential impact on Western governments nor lessen the fervor and loyalty of the major Jewish organizations.

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Israel’s deadly ceasefire

January 19, 2009

Eric Ruder reports that the number of Palestinian dead in Gaza will continue to rise despite Israel’s “ceasefire.”

The aftermath of Israel's assault on Gaza (Sameh A. Habeeb)

The aftermath of Israel’s assault on Gaza (Sameh A. Habeeb)

ISRAEL DECLARED a unilateral ceasefire Sunday after a 23-day onslaught on Gaza that left more than 1,250 Palestinians dead and more than 4,000 wounded. Among the dead are at least 280 children and 95 women, according to estimates by the Al Mezan Center for Human Rights, and there are 860 children and 488 women among the wounded.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert claimed that the Israel Defense Force (IDF) had waged an effective and successful campaign in Gaza.

“The conditions have been brought about that enable us to say that the aims of the operations have been reached,” said Olmert. He said Israel “will consider withdrawing completely from Gaza at a date that suits us,” on the condition that rockets are no longer fired from Gaza at southern Israel.

Olmert said the Hamas, the Islamist party that controls what exists of a government in Gaza, “has been dealt a very serious blow, both in terms of its military infrastructure and the infrastructure of its government. Many of its people have been killed. Its leaders are in hiding. The tunnels that armed them have been destroyed.

Twelve hours later, Hamas leaders declared their own ceasefire, but made full Israeli withdrawal from Gaza and the opening of Gaza’s border crossings a condition of a full end of hostilities.

“We stress our demand that Israel withdraw its forces within a week and then open the crossings to humanitarian aid and various types of merchandise,” read the statement from Hamas. Hamas spokesperson Fawzi Barhoum added, “A unilateral ceasefire does not mean ending the aggression and ending the siege…These constitute acts of war, so this won’t mean an end to resistance.”

As news of the ceasefire spread, Gazans who had fled the fighting returned to shocking scenes of destruction–overturned cars, torn-up streets, sewage running in the streets, leveled homes and still smoldering mosques and government buildings. Many bodies remain buried in homes flattened by Israeli tanks or strafed by air strikes.

In fact, the menacing sound of Israeli drones circling overhead, the churn of tank treads and the occasional crackle of gunfire were steady reminders that Israel’s “ceasefire” hadn’t ended the killing, and reports of Israeli attacks on civilians continued to pile up.

According to the BBC, “At least 1,600 people, displaced from their homes, were sheltering in a UN school in Gaza [Sunday] morning when it took a direct hit from an Israel shell. Two young brothers, aged five and seven, were killed.”

A press release issued by the Al Mezan Center confirmed similar acts of aggression throughout Gaza. “Shooting and shelling from artillery batteries, tanks and naval vessels have occurred in various areas throughout the day,” according to the release. “Israeli aircraft also launched raids on open areas. At 10:30 a.m. [Sunday], Israeli troops opened fire at civilians who were trying to reach their homes in Khuzaa village, east of Khan Younis. A man, 22-year-old Mahir Abu Irjila, was killed as a result. The victim and his family had evacuated their house and stayed in a UN shelter.”

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

ISRAEL ANNOUNCED that it would continue to occupy positions in Gaza until it could be certain that no more rockets would be launched at towns in southern Israel, and warned that any such fire would be met with “a massive, disproportionate assault,” according to Israel’s Ha’aretz newspaper.

But the announcement of the “ceasefire” was enough to draw praise from UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, who was meeting with European leaders at the Egyptian resort of Sharm al-Sheikh. “This should be the first step leading to the full withdrawal of Israeli troops from Gaza,” said the secretary general.

But the terms of what was agreed to at Sharm al-Sheikh betray the complicity of the international community in the barbarism inflicted on the residents of Gaza during the last three weeks.

Six European countries–Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the Czech Republic–agreed to supply soldiers and technological assistance as part of efforts, in alliance with Egypt and the U.S., to stop Hamas from transporting weapons into Gaza. No officials from these countries uttered a word of criticism of Israel’s blatant disregard for civilian life and infrastructure.

Thus, there was no rebuttal to Olmert, who was also present, when he stated, “We did not want to hurt them or their children…They are the victims of Hamas.”

Olmert and other Israeli leaders have regularly returned to this justification–that Hamas had it within its power to stop Israel’s attack, but failed to do so–for unleashing the world’s fourth most powerful military against the residents of Gaza, who lack even basic necessities, such as adequate food, medical supplies and electricity.

Three years ago, Israel unilaterally withdrew its military forces and settlers from Gaza, but remained in control of all traffic into and out of Gaza via land, sea and air–which is why many observers describe Gaza as the world’s largest prison colony, with 1.5 million residents eking out an appalling existence in squalid refugee camps.

If Israeli officials really believed that the civilian casualties were “victims of Hamas,” they wouldn’t have been so concerned with barring reporters and photographers to suppress reports of the carnage in Gaza from the military’s punishing assault.

Nevertheless, enough reports did leak out to spark massive protests–across the Middle East, and throughout Europe and the U.S. These protests were not only larger than previous demonstrations in support of the Palestinian struggle for self-determination, but they were also accompanied, especially in the U.S., by a significant increase in polls showing opposition to Israel’s attack.

It will be up to activists in the U.S. and elsewhere around the world to seize on the enormous outpouring of sympathy for Israel’s victims in Gaza to build a sustained movement against the apartheid conditions facing Palestinians.

In the words of Haidar Eid, a Gaza resident who helped to spearhead a call for an international movement to sanction, boycott and divest from Israel, Israel’s attack on Gaza could be “the Sharpeville Massacre in 1960, when 69 Blacks were killed by the white racist regime of apartheid South Africa.” As he said in an interview with SocialistWorker.org last week:

This massacre gave rise to the [divestment] campaign against apartheid South Africa, which ultimately led to the release of Nelson Mandela in 1990 and his election as the first Black president of multicultural, multiracial, secular, democratic South Africa as we know it now.

Gaza could be the spark that could initiate a different ‘new Middle East’ than what Condoleezza Rice talked about in 2006. She meant a ‘new Middle East’ characterized by American and Israeli hegemony. What I’m saying now is that I can see the birth pangs of a new Middle East characterized by the end of despotic, dictatorial pro-American regimes.

Torture Trail Seen Starting with Bush

December 14, 2008

Jason Leopold | Consortiumnews.com, December 12, 2008

A bipartisan congressional report traces the U.S. abuse of detainees at Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib to President George W. Bush’s Feb. 7, 2002, action memorandum that excluded “war on terror” suspects from Geneva Convention protections.

The Senate Armed Services Committee’s report said Bush’s memo opened the door to “considering aggressive techniques,” which were then developed with the complicity of then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Bush’s National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, and other senior officials.

Three months ago, Rice admitted that she led high-level discussions beginning in 2002 with other senior Bush administration officials about subjecting suspected al-Qaeda terrorists to the harsh interrogation technique known as waterboarding, according to documents released by Sen. Carl Levin, D-Michigan, committee chairman.

“The abuse of detainees in U.S. custody cannot simply be attributed to the actions of ‘a few bad apples’ acting on their own,” the committee report said. “The fact is that senior officials in the United States government solicited information on how to use aggressive techniques, redefined the law to create the appearance of their legality, and authorized their use against detainees.”

The Dec. 11 report also disputed the Bush administration’s rationale that the harsh interrogation methods were effective in extracting valuable intelligence and protecting the country from terrorist attacks.

Instead, the report said, “Those efforts damaged our ability to collect accurate intelligence that could save lives, strengthened the hand of our enemies, and compromised our moral authority.”

The findings, which were released by Sens. Levin and John McCain of Arizona, this year’s Republican presidential nominee, drew no dissent from the 12 Republicans on the 25-member committee.

The 19-page report is the final installment in the Armed Services Committee’s 18-month investigation, which generated 38,000 pages of documents and relied upon the testimony of 70 people.

The White House declined comment, but Keith Urbahn, an aide to Rumsfeld, told the Washington Post that the allegations were “unfounded” and called the committee report a “false narrative.”

The Narrative

The report’s narrative of the prisoner abuse begins in early 2002 when Rumsfeld’s Defense Department inquired about what limits should be placed on interrogations of terror suspects detained during the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan.

Those questions sparked an internal administration debate and led to Bush’s Feb. 7, 2002, memo stating that the Third Geneva Convention, which sets standards for treatment of prisoners from armed conflicts, “did not apply to the conflict with al-Qaeda and concluding that Taliban detainees were not entitled to prisoner of war status or the legal protections afforded by the Third Geneva Convention,” the report said.

“The President’s order closed off application of Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions, which would have afforded minimum standards for humane treatment, to al-Qaeda or Taliban detainees.

“While the President’s order stated that, as ‘a matter of policy, the United States Armed Forces shall continue to treat detainees humanely and, to the extent appropriate and consistent with military necessity, in a manner consistent with the principles of the Geneva Conventions,’ the decision to replace well established military doctrine, i.e., legal compliance with the Geneva Conventions, with a policy subject to interpretation, impacted the treatment of detainees in U.S. custody.”

What followed were senior-level meetings deciding which interrogation techniques could be used and which couldn’t.

“In the spring of 2002, CIA sought policy approval from the National Security Council (NSC) to begin an interrogation program for high-level al-Qaeda terrorists,” Rice said, according to the report. Rice is now Bush’s Secretary of State.

“Secretary Rice said that she asked Director of Central Intelligence George Tenet to brief NSC Principals on the program and asked the Attorney General John Ashcroft ‘personally to review and confirm the legal advice prepared by the Office of Legal Counsel.’ She also said that Rumsfeld participated in the NSC review of CIA’s program,” according to the report.

In July 2002, Rumsfeld and his legal counsel, William Haynes, solicited input from military psychologists about developing harsh methods that interrogators could use against detainees who were being held at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

“Mr. Haynes was not the only senior official considering new interrogation techniques for use against detainees,” the report said. “Members of the President’s Cabinet and other senior officials attended meetings in the White House where specific interrogation techniques were discussed.”

John B. Bellinger, Rice’s legal adviser at the State Department, said they recalled participating in meetings with Ashcroft and Rumsfeld in July 2002 about an Army and Air Force survival training program called Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape (SERE), which was meant to prepare U.S. soldiers for abuse they might suffer if captured by an outlaw regime.

“SERE training techniques were designed to give our troops a taste of what they might be subjected to if captured by a ruthless, lawless enemy so that they would be better prepared to resist,” Levin said Thursday. “The techniques were never intended to be used against detainees in U.S. custody.”

Last April, President Bush told an ABC News reporter during an interview that he approved meetings of the NSC’s Principals Committee to discuss specific interrogation techniques the CIA could use against detainees. The Principals Committee included Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of State Colin Powell, CIA Director George Tenet and Attorney General Ashcroft as well as Rumsfeld and Rice.

Spreading Abuse

On Dec. 2, 2002, Rumsfeld authorized “aggressive interrogation techniques,” leading to “interrogation policies and plans approved by senior military and civilian officials [that] conveyed the message that physical pressures and degradation were appropriate treatment for detainees in U.S. military custody,” the committee report said.

“What followed was an erosion in standards dictating that detainees be treated humanely.”

After the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 and amid the rising Iraqi insurgency against the American occupation in 2004, the harsh interrogation tactics, which had been used at Guantanamo, spread to the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.

Bush’s Feb. 7, 2002, memo prompted Lt. Gen. Ricardo S. Sanchez, who became the top commander in Iraq, to institute a “dozen interrogation methods beyond” the Army’s standard practice under the convention, according to a report by a panel headed by James Schlesinger on the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuses in 2004.

Sanchez said he based his decision on “the President’s Memorandum,” which he said had justified “additional, tougher measures” against detainees, the Schlesigner report said.

The abuse of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib exploded into an international scandal in 2004 when photos were leaked showing American prison guards parading detainees around naked and forcing them into mock sexual positions.

Bush, Rumsfeld and other senior administration officials expressed outrage over the Abu Ghraib photos and blamed the abuses on low-level soldiers acting on their own.

Eleven enlisted soldiers, who were guards at Abu Ghraib, subsequently were convicted in courts martial.

Cpl. Charles Graner Jr. received the harshest sentence – 10 years in prison – while Lynndie England, a 22-year-old single mother who was photographed holding an Iraqi on a leash and pointing at a detainee’s penis, was sentenced to three years in prison. Their superior officers either were cleared of wrongdoing or received mild reprimands.

The Bush administration’s handling of the Abu Ghraib scandal drew especially sharp criticism from the Armed Services Committee chairman.

“Attempts by senior officials to pass the buck to low-ranking soldiers while avoiding any responsibility for abuses are unconscionable,” Levin said. “The message from top officials was clear; it was acceptable to use degrading and abusive techniques against detainees.”

Regarding the prison abuse at Abu Ghraib, the committee’s report concluded that it “was not simply the result of a few soldiers acting on their own.” The report added: “Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld’s authorization of aggressive interrogation techniques for use at Guantanamo Bay was a direct cause of detainee abuse there.”

Continued . . .

The Price of Hillary Clinton

November 26, 2008

by Srdja Trifkovic

Global Research, November 25, 2008

Chronicles – 2008-11-24

No secretary of state will come to that office with stronger pro-Israel credentials or closer ties to the Jewish community than Sen. Hillary Clinton, Douglas Bloomfield assures his readers in The Jerusalem Post. Good for them, and for Bosnia’s Muslims and Kosovo’s Albanians; but for the rest of us Mrs. Clinton’s appointment as the third woman U.S. Secretary of State is hugely problematic. It heralds “the end of the world as we know it” in some ways, although neither she nor her coterie necessarily know what they are doing.

At the technical level, Hillary Clinton is likely to deepen the chronic crisis of the once-venerable institution at Washington’s Foggy Bottom, to which her two female predecessors have contributed in two different ways.

Madeleine Albright was an activist who will be remembered for her hubris (“If we have to use force, it is because we are America. We are the indispensable nation. We stand tall. We see further into the future.”), coupled with studied callousness. Asked on “60 Minutes” about the death of a half-million Iraqi children due to sanctions, she promptly responded, “I think this is a very hard choice, but the price is worth it.” Her crowning glory was her premeditated 1999 war in the Balkans, prior to which she said that “the Serbs need a little bombing.” Her State Department contributed to the formulation, as well as execution, of Bill Clinton’s doctrine of “humanitarian intervention.”

Condoleezza Rice, less evil and more obtuse, will be remembered for nothing. She was an auxilliary tool of the Bush-Cheney team, with all key decisions made elsewhere.

Mrs. Clinton will try to rebuild the relative importance of the Department of State, which will become her personal fiefdom, but her labors will not be for the better. Her appointment, the most significant among several major figures from the Clinton era, belies Obama’s rhetoric of “change” when it comes to foreign affairs. There will be tectonic shifts, cultural and moral, at home. The established premises of an imperial presidency – which in world affairs inevitably translates into the quest for dominance and justification for global interventionism – will not be challenged, however.

Once it is accepted that Obama’s primary interest lies in an irreversible redistribution of power and money at home, it ceases to be surprising that he chose Hillary Clinton as his chief diplomat. Allowing her to indulge in some global grandstanding is acceptable to him, if that means the Clintons will not stand in the way of his domestic agenda. They are both revolutionaries, after all: that Mrs. Clinton is instinctively opposed to any traditional understanding of diplomacy became obvious during the primary campaign, when she accused Obama of “naivete” for saying he was willing to meet leaders of Iran, Syria and North Korea.

With Robert Gates staying at the Pentagon and Jim Jones as Obama’s national security adviser, there will be a lot of continuity in the U.S. foreign policy, not only with the 1990s but also with recent years. In Mrs. Clinton’s case there will be more lies, the hallmark of the family. During the primaries she listed a number of foreign policy accomplishments based on her husband’s legacy. She claimed that in 1999 she “negotiated open borders” in Macedonia to Albanian refugees from Kosovo, although the crossings were opened days before her arrival. She had repeatedly invoked her “dangerous” trip to Bosnia in 1996, including alleged snipers at Tuzla airport, whereas the Bosnian war had ended six months earlier and video footage shows smiling schoolchildren greeting her in Tuzla. (She later admitted “misspeaking” over sniper claims.)

In the same spirit Mrs. Clinton declared, in late 2002,

“Saddam Hussein has worked to rebuild his chemical and biological weapons stock, his missile-delivery capability and his nuclear program. He has also given aid, comfort and sanctuary to terrorists, including al-Qaida members. I want to insure that Saddam Hussein makes no mistake about our national unity and for our support for the president’s efforts to wage America’s war against terrorists and weapons of mass destruction.”

Hillary Clinton says that she has had second thoughts since that time, and a year ago she declared in Foreign Affairs magazine that “US troops should be brought home.” During the primary campaign, however, she was markedly less willing than Obama to commit to a withdrawal timetable. The woman who voted to authorize the Iraq war, and who parroted lies used to justify it, cannot be expected to clean up the mess created by that war. It is more likely that she will advocate a downsized, rebranded, and effectively open-ended U.S. occupation of Iraq for which the military has been preparing ever since the “Surge.”

In Afghanistan, far from disengaging, Mrs. Clinton will advocate greater troop deployments and an escalation of military activity. On Iran, during the primaries she sounded like John McCain: “I want the Iranians to know that if I’m the president, we will attack Iran” if it attacks Israel, she declared last April: “In the next 10 years, during which they might foolishly consider launching an attack on Israel, we would be able to totally obliterate them.” She will negotiate with the mullahs, however, if Tehran’s tacit support is considered necessary for the achievement of her major ambition: a breakthrough in the Middle East.

Bill Clinton came closer than any U.S. president to brokering Arab-Israeli peace in the final year of his presidency, and insiders say that Hillary will place this issue at the top of her agenda. She is a favourite of the pro-Israel lobby, however, and it is unclear what she can offer, or do, in 2009-2010 that was not offered or tried at Camp David a decade earlier.

Continued >>


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