Posts Tagged ‘the Bush administration’

Siegman: Israel’s Lies

January 26, 2009

Henry Siegman | London Review of  Books, January 29, 2009

Western governments and most of the Western media have accepted a number of Israeli claims justifying the military assault on Gaza: that Hamas consistently violated the six-month truce that Israel observed and then refused to extend it; that Israel therefore had no choice but to destroy Hamas’s capacity to launch missiles into Israeli towns; that Hamas is a terrorist organisation, part of a global jihadi network; and that Israel has acted not only in its own defence but on behalf of an international struggle by Western democracies against this network.

I am not aware of a single major American newspaper, radio station or TV channel whose coverage of the assault on Gaza questions this version of events. Criticism of Israel’s actions, if any (and there has been none from the Bush administration), has focused instead on whether the IDF’s carnage is proportional to the threat it sought to counter, and whether it is taking adequate measures to prevent civilian casualties.

Middle East peacemaking has been smothered in deceptive euphemisms, so let me state bluntly that each of these claims is a lie. Israel, not Hamas, violated the truce: Hamas undertook to stop firing rockets into Israel; in return, Israel was to ease its throttlehold on Gaza. In fact, during the truce, it tightened it further. This was confirmed not only by every neutral international observer and NGO on the scene but by Brigadier General (Res.) Shmuel Zakai, a former commander of the IDF’s Gaza Division. In an interview in Ha’aretz on 22 December, he accused Israel’s government of having made a ‘central error’ during the tahdiyeh, the six-month period of relative truce, by failing ‘to take advantage of the calm to improve, rather than markedly worsen, the economic plight of the Palestinians of the Strip . . . When you create a tahdiyeh, and the economic pressure on the Strip continues,’ General Zakai said, ‘it is obvious that Hamas will try to reach an improved tahdiyeh, and that their way to achieve this is resumed Qassam fire . . . You cannot just land blows, leave the Palestinians in Gaza in the economic distress they’re in, and expect that Hamas will just sit around and do nothing.’

The truce, which began in June last year and was due for renewal in December, required both parties to refrain from violent action against the other. Hamas had to cease its rocket assaults and prevent the firing of rockets by other groups such as Islamic Jihad (even Israel’s intelligence agencies acknowledged this had been implemented with surprising effectiveness), and Israel had to put a stop to its targeted assassinations and military incursions. This understanding was seriously violated on 4 November, when the IDF entered Gaza and killed six members of Hamas. Hamas responded by launching Qassam rockets and Grad missiles. Even so, it offered to extend the truce, but only on condition that Israel ended its blockade. Israel refused. It could have met its obligation to protect its citizens by agreeing to ease the blockade, but it didn’t even try. It cannot be said that Israel launched its assault to protect its citizens from rockets. It did so to protect its right to continue the strangulation of Gaza’s population.

Everyone seems to have forgotten that Hamas declared an end to suicide bombings and rocket fire when it decided to join the Palestinian political process, and largely stuck to it for more than a year. Bush publicly welcomed that decision, citing it as an example of the success of his campaign for democracy in the Middle East. (He had no other success to point to.) When Hamas unexpectedly won the election, Israel and the US immediately sought to delegitimise the result and embraced Mahmoud Abbas, the head of Fatah, who until then had been dismissed by Israel’s leaders as a ‘plucked chicken’. They armed and trained his security forces to overthrow Hamas; and when Hamas – brutally, to be sure – pre-empted this violent attempt to reverse the result of the first honest democratic election in the modern Middle East, Israel and the Bush administration imposed the blockade.

Israel seeks to counter these indisputable facts by maintaining that in withdrawing Israeli settlements from Gaza in 2005, Ariel Sharon gave Hamas the chance to set out on the path to statehood, a chance it refused to take; instead, it transformed Gaza into a launching-pad for firing missiles at Israel’s civilian population. The charge is a lie twice over. First, for all its failings, Hamas brought to Gaza a level of law and order unknown in recent years, and did so without the large sums of money that donors showered on the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority. It eliminated the violent gangs and warlords who terrorised Gaza under Fatah’s rule. Non-observant Muslims, Christians and other minorities have more religious freedom under Hamas rule than they would have in Saudi Arabia, for example, or under many other Arab regimes.

The greater lie is that Sharon’s withdrawal from Gaza was intended as a prelude to further withdrawals and a peace agreement. This is how Sharon’s senior adviser Dov Weisglass, who was also his chief negotiator with the Americans, described the withdrawal from Gaza, in an interview with Ha’aretz in August 2004:

What I effectively agreed to with the Americans was that part of the settlements [i.e. the major settlement blocks on the West Bank] would not be dealt with at all, and the rest will not be dealt with until the Palestinians turn into Finns . . . The significance [of the agreement with the US] is the freezing of the political process. And when you freeze that process, you prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state and you prevent a discussion about the refugees, the borders and Jerusalem. Effectively, this whole package that is called the Palestinian state, with all that it entails, has been removed from our agenda indefinitely. And all this with [President Bush’s] authority and permission . . . and the ratification of both houses of Congress.

Do the Israelis and Americans think that Palestinians don’t read the Israeli papers, or that when they saw what was happening on the West Bank they couldn’t figure out for themselves what Sharon was up to?

Israel’s government would like the world to believe that Hamas launched its Qassam rockets because that is what terrorists do and Hamas is a generic terrorist group. In fact, Hamas is no more a ‘terror organisation’ (Israel’s preferred term) than the Zionist movement was during its struggle for a Jewish homeland. In the late 1930s and 1940s, parties within the Zionist movement resorted to terrorist activities for strategic reasons. According to Benny Morris, it was the Irgun that first targeted civilians. He writes in Righteous Victims that an upsurge of Arab terrorism in 1937 ‘triggered a wave of Irgun bombings against Arab crowds and buses, introducing a new dimension to the conflict’. He also documents atrocities committed during the 1948-49 war by the IDF, admitting in a 2004 interview, published in Ha’aretz, that material released by Israel’s Ministry of Defence showed that ‘there were far more Israeli acts of massacre than I had previously thought . . . In the months of April-May 1948, units of the Haganah were given operational orders that stated explicitly that they were to uproot the villagers, expel them, and destroy the villages themselves.’ In a number of Palestinian villages and towns the IDF carried out organised executions of civilians. Asked by Ha’aretz whether he condemned the ethnic cleansing, Morris replied that he did not:

A Jewish state would not have come into being without the uprooting of 700,000 Palestinians. Therefore it was necessary to uproot them. There was no choice but to expel that population. It was necessary to cleanse the hinterland and cleanse the border areas and cleanse the main roads. It was necessary to cleanse the villages from which our convoys and our settlements were fired on.

In other words, when Jews target and kill innocent civilians to advance their national struggle, they are patriots. When their adversaries do so, they are terrorists.

It is too easy to describe Hamas simply as a ‘terror organisation’. It is a religious nationalist movement that resorts to terrorism, as the Zionist movement did during its struggle for statehood, in the mistaken belief that it is the only way to end an oppressive occupation and bring about a Palestinian state. While Hamas’s ideology formally calls for that state to be established on the ruins of the state of Israel, this doesn’t determine Hamas’s actual policies today any more than the same declaration in the PLO charter determined Fatah’s actions.

These are not the conclusions of an apologist for Hamas but the opinions of the former head of Mossad and Sharon’s national security adviser, Ephraim Halevy. The Hamas leadership has undergone a change ‘right under our very noses’, Halevy wrote recently in Yedioth Ahronoth, by recognising that ‘its ideological goal is not attainable and will not be in the foreseeable future.’ It is now ready and willing to see the establishment of a Palestinian state within the temporary borders of 1967. Halevy noted that while Hamas has not said how ‘temporary’ those borders would be, ‘they know that the moment a Palestinian state is established with their co-operation, they will be obligated to change the rules of the game: they will have to adopt a path that could lead them far from their original ideological goals.’ In an earlier article, Halevy also pointed out the absurdity of linking Hamas to al-Qaida.

In the eyes of al-Qaida, the members of Hamas are perceived as heretics due to their stated desire to participate, even indirectly, in processes of any understandings or agreements with Israel. [The Hamas political bureau chief, Khaled] Mashal’s declaration diametrically contradicts al-Qaida’s approach, and provides Israel with an opportunity, perhaps a historic one, to leverage it for the better.

Why then are Israel’s leaders so determined to destroy Hamas? Because they believe that its leadership, unlike that of Fatah, cannot be intimidated into accepting a peace accord that establishes a Palestinian ‘state’ made up of territorially disconnected entities over which Israel would be able to retain permanent control. Control of the West Bank has been the unwavering objective of Israel’s military, intelligence and political elites since the end of the Six-Day War.[*] They believe that Hamas would not permit such a cantonisation of Palestinian territory, no matter how long the occupation continues. They may be wrong about Abbas and his superannuated cohorts, but they are entirely right about Hamas.

Middle East observers wonder whether Israel’s assault on Hamas will succeed in destroying the organisation or expelling it from Gaza. This is an irrelevant question. If Israel plans to keep control over any future Palestinian entity, it will never find a Palestinian partner, and even if it succeeds in dismantling Hamas, the movement will in time be replaced by a far more radical Palestinian opposition.

If Barack Obama picks a seasoned Middle East envoy who clings to the idea that outsiders should not present their own proposals for a just and sustainable peace agreement, much less press the parties to accept it, but instead leave them to work out their differences, he will assure a future Palestinian resistance far more extreme than Hamas – one likely to be allied with al-Qaida. For the US, Europe and most of the rest of the world, this would be the worst possible outcome. Perhaps some Israelis, including the settler leadership, believe it would serve their purposes, since it would provide the government with a compelling pretext to hold on to all of Palestine. But this is a delusion that would bring about the end of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state.

Anthony Cordesman, one of the most reliable military analysts of the Middle East, and a friend of Israel, argued in a 9 January report for the Center for Strategic and International Studies that the tactical advantages of continuing the operation in Gaza were outweighed by the strategic cost – and were probably no greater than any gains Israel may have made early in the war in selective strikes on key Hamas facilities. ‘Has Israel somehow blundered into a steadily escalating war without a clear strategic goal, or at least one it can credibly achieve?’ he asks. ‘Will Israel end in empowering an enemy in political terms that it defeated in tactical terms? Will Israel’s actions seriously damage the US position in the region, any hope of peace, as well as moderate Arab regimes and voices in the process? To be blunt, the answer so far seems to be yes.’ Cordesman concludes that ‘any leader can take a tough stand and claim that tactical gains are a meaningful victory. If this is all that Olmert, Livni and Barak have for an answer, then they have disgraced themselves and damaged their country and their friends.’

15 January

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US-Iraq: A Pact With The Devil

November 18, 2008


By Pepe Escobar | Asia Times, Nov 17, 2008

WASHINGTON – The big bang is not that Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki’s majority Shi’ite/Kurdish 37-member cabinet in Baghdad has approved the draft of a security pact with the George W Bush (and Barack Obama) administrations allowing the US military to stay in Iraq for three more years; it’s that the 30-strong Sadrist bloc will move heaven and Earth – including massive nationwide protests – to bloc the pact in the Iraqi National Assembly.

The proposed Status of Forces Agreement not only sets a date for American troop withdrawal – 2011 – but also puts new restrictions on US combat operations in Iraq starting on January 1 and requires a military pullback from urban areas by June 30. The pact goes before parliament in a week or so.

Sadrist spokesman Ahmed al-Masoudi stressed this Sunday that the pact “did not mean anything” and “hands Iraq over on a golden platter and for an indefinite period”.

Masoudi is right on the money when he says the overwhelming majority of popular opinion is against it and the Sadrists and many Sunni parties insist a popular referendum to approve it is essential.

Shi’ite leader Muqtada al-Sadr’s position is and has always been “end the occupation now”. That happens to be the same view from Tehran: the pact further extends Iraq’s agony as an American colony. But Iranian state TV has been spinning it as a victory for the Maliki government – stressing the US was forced to make concessions (in fact Maliki did not extract all the concessions he wanted in terms of prosecuting US troops for crimes in Iraq).

Last week, a spokesman for the Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani in Iraq said he would “directly intervene” if he felt the pact was against Iraqi sovereignty. In this case, he’d better start intervening this week – when a debate about the pact starts ahead of a vote on November 24. Parliament can vote for or against it, but cannot make any changes to the text.

As for how much of the 275-member parliament in Baghdad is against the pact depends on how much they are in the US pocket – like Maliki’s Interior and Defense ministries. As much as US General Ray Odierno, the top commander in Iraq, has charged that Iran has been bribing parliamentarians to reject the pact, the reverse also applies.

Muqtada, make your move
This version of the pact was basically supported by Maliki’s Defense, Interior, Foreign Affairs and Finance ministries, by the Kurdistan Alliance and by the Sunni Iraqi Accord Front, led by former US intelligence asset and former interim prime minister, Iyad Allawi. So the backbone of support is Kurdish and “establishment” Shi’ite. That does not account for the crucial leader of the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council (SIIC), Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, very close to Iran, who recently has been less critical of the pact. The SIIC in the end caved in.

In theory, all US troops should be out of Iraq on January 1, 2012. For all practical purposes, this is the new timeline for the end of the occupation – way longer than Obama’s 16 months.

Even though the pact allows Iraq limited authority to try US soldiers and the Bush administration-enabled army of defense contractors (only in the case of serious crimes committed off-duty and off-base), and formally forbids the Pentagon to use Iraq as a base to attack Syria or Iran, the pact does make a mockery of Iraq’s “sovereignty”. For the first time, occupying US troops will have a clear mandate straight from Iraq’s elected leadership, instead of a United Nations Security Council resolution enacted after Bush invaded Iraq in 2003.

The US has to end all patrols of Iraqi streets by June 2009 – five months into the Obama presidency – and has to fully withdraw by the end of 2011, unless the Iraqi government miraculously asks the US to stay.

From an anti-imperial point of view, the only good thing about the pact is that it does not allow the establishment of permanent US military bases in Iraq – a point that has been stressed ad infinitum by Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari. Inter Press Service correspondent Gareth Porter, among others, has stressed this is the final nail in the coffin of the neo-conservative, neo-imperial dream of having Iraq at the Middle East center of an empire of bases. In a quirky historical twist, Maliki knocks out US Vice President Dick Cheney.

The Sadrists anyway are not convinced. Last month, Muqtada said, “If they tell you that the agreement ends the presence of the occupation, let me tell you that the occupier will retain its bases. And whoever tells you that it gives us sovereignty is a liar.”

So what will the Sadrists do in practice? Before the approval Muqtada, in a statement read out by his spokesman Salah al-Ubaidi at the Kufa mosque, said, “If the American forces remain, I will reinforce the resisters, especially the brigades subsumed under the banner of the Judgment Day,” Muqtada rallied all these “Bands of the Eternal Truth” to “enlist behind this mujahid banner”. This Sadrist version of special forces would only attack American forces, and not the Iraqi military (controlled by the Maliki government).

Muqtada is in a difficult position. He has to confront the problem that strategically Tehran subscribes to not attacking US troops as the best way for the Americans to eventually leave. And Muqtada at the moment is studying in Qom, the spiritual capital of Iran – he could hardly afford to antagonize his hosts. To top it all, the Sadrist movement had been adopting a Hezbollah approach and reconverting from militia activities to being firmly embedded in the Iraqi political landscape. Maliki has made his move. Now it’s time for Muqtada’s.

Pepe Escobar is the author of Globalistan: How the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid War (Nimble Books, 2007) and Red Zone Blues: a snapshot of Baghdad during the surge. He may be reached at pepeasia@yahoo.com.

George W Bush could pardon spies involved in torture

November 16, 2008

George W Bush is considering issuing pardons for US spies embroiled in allegations of torture just before he leaves the White House.

By Tim Shipman in Washington  | Telegraph.co.uk

Senior intelligence officers are lobbying the outgoing president to look after the men and women who could face charges for following his orders in the war on terrorism.

Many fear that Barack Obama, who has pledged to close the Guantanamo Bay detention camp and put an end to the policy of extraordinary rendition, could launch a legal witch hunt against those who oversaw the policies after he is sworn in on Jan 20.

Most vulnerable are US intelligence officers who took part in intensive interrogations against terrorist suspects, using techniques including water boarding, which many believe crossed the line into torture.

A former CIA officer familiar with the backstage lobbying for pardons, said: “These are the people President Bush asked to fight the war on terror for him. He gave them the green light to fight tough. The view of many in the intelligence community is that he should not leave them vulnerable to legal censure when he leaves.

“An effort is under way to get pre-emptive pardons. The White House has indicated that the matter is under consideration.”

In addition to frontline CIA and military officers, others at risk could include David Addington, Dick Cheney’s former counsel, and William Haynes, the former Pentagon general counsel who helped draw up the regulations governing enhanced interrogations.

Many in the Democratic party and human rights groups are calling on President-Elect Obama to tear up Mr Bush’s executive orders licensing intensive interrogations on his first day in the Oval Office. They also want an immediate end to rendition, whereby suspects are flown to countries that practise torture.

But some in the intelligence community fear that an overhaul of the justice department could embolden those who would like a full-blown investigation of what went on at Guantanamo Bay, with charges to follow for those involved.

Presidents can issue pardons at their discretion and those granted the immunity of a pardon do not need to have been previously charged with a crime.

Granting pardons to spies who allegedly used torture would complicate the politics surrounding Mr Obama’s moves to end aspects of the war on terror that are blamed for tarnishing America’s international reputation.

In meetings over the last two weeks, Mr Obama has been briefed by US intelligence chiefs on the extreme danger posed by some terrorist suspects in the Guantanamo Bay camp. His advisers last week floated the idea that, while some will be released and some put on trial in normal courts, a third category of legal status may have to be created for the most dangerous – a move that met with howls of protest from civil liberties groups.

There are just 255 prisoners still held at the base on the island of Cuba, but they include the so-called “Dirty 30”, bodyguards to Osama bin Laden captured during the early stages of the war in Afghanistan.

The ex-CIA official said: “The Bush people are trying to be helpful but this is the one thing that they are pushing hard on. They’re saying, ‘Don’t rush into anything.’ It’s easy to say close the place, but what do you do with the detainees? There are some serious head cases in there.”

Some conservatives argue that if Mr Bush were to issue pardons to protect those who took part in his administration’s security regime, it would make it easier for the incoming administration to find out exactly what went on, the goal of many who want to prevent repetition of what they view as abuses.

The ex-CIA official said: “If you want people to tell the truth, the best way would be to give them legal guarantees. A pardon is not the only way you can do that, but if Bush does it, it will save Obama the political problem he would have if he offered people immunity later.”

But critics say such a move would be a disgrace. James Ross, legal and policy director for Human Rights Watch, said: “It would be the first pre-emptive pardon in US history for war crimes. Such a pardon might seek to protect low-level government officials who relied on legally dubious Justice Department memos on interrogations.

“But it would also provide blanket immunity to senior administration officials who bear criminal responsibility for their role in drafting, orchestrating and implementing a US government torture programme.”

Mr Bush has received around 3,000 requests for pardons and conservatives would like him to help Lewis “Scooter” Libby, Vice-President Dick Cheney’s former chief of staff. He was found guilty of obstruction of justice for his role in leaking the name of a CIA officer, Valerie Plame. Mr Bush has already commuted Mr Libby’s sentence.

Presidential pardons are always controversial, though Mr Bush has granted fewer than 200 so far, less than half of those handed out by Ronald Reagan. Bill Clinton issued 140 pardons on his last day in office alone. When Gerald Ford took over from Richard Nixon, he pardoned his predecessor, forgiving all federal crimes he may have committed during the Watergate scandal.

Andrew Johnson pardoned the soldiers of the Confederacy and Jimmy Carter did the same for Vietnam War draft dodgers.

Charging the Victim: Who Should Pay to Rebuild Iraq?

August 14, 2008

Our Congressional Representative James Walsh (R-NY) recently “lashed out at Iraq.” Walsh, now in his tenth term, said Iraq should use its oil windfall sales to repay some of the $48 billion the United States has spent “rebuilding” there.

“We have delivered democracy for them….The least they could do is step up to the plate and help out,” Walsh opined.

Let’s not look too closely at that “democracy” we’ve “delivered.” Let’s not ask to what extent bombed-out medical facilities have been restored. Nor to what extent Iraqis, after five years of beneficent occupation, now have electricity and potable water. Nor how many Iraqi jobs any U.S. reconstruction has generated. Nor how much of that $48 billion lined the capacious pockets of Halliburton et al. Nor how much of the “re-building” fund goes to building permanent U.S. military bases.

Nor need we ask who’s going to pay to clean up Iraq’s soil, air and water after their protracted exposure to depleted uranium — the toxic and radioactive substance used in the U.S. shells rained down on that liberated land. And let’s not open that other can of worms: How will we compensate Iraqi families for the unnumbered kin we have killed?

Instead let’s take a more legalistic approach. Let’s look at precedent. In 1990 when Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait, no one thought to hold that victim responsible for the damage. Nor did anyone claim that, because it had oil assets, Kuwait owed Iraq money.

No one – especially the UN Security Council — questioned that it was Iraq that had to reimburse losses and finance the rebuilding. Indeed, since its Gulf War defeat, Iraq keeps paying billions in reparations. But those billions are only a fraction of what Kuwait and the corporations doing business there still keep demanding.

Fast forward to the new century. Now it’s Iraq that’s been (illegally) invaded; it’s Iraq that’s been laid low. In a classic case of “charging the victim,” Mr. Walsh and some of his Congressional colleagues,* both Democrat and Republican, argue that Iraq must help pay for its own rebuilding. Both common sense and common decency wince.

It is the invader, not the invaded, who is both morally and legally obligated to pay to restore a war-torn land. And note: those billions Iraq has been paying Kuwait go to Kuwaitis and not to any Iraqi war profiteer. Given adequate reparations, Iraq — a land of builders and engineers — is quite capable of repairing itself. It needs no assist from the invader’s avid corporations.

Those who perpetrated the U.S. invasion, besides being tried in a Nurnberg-like tribunal, should make financial amends. Their shills — much of the U.S. mainstream media — also share responsibility. But sorting out who should pay what would take the wisdom of Solomon.

In the case of Kuwait, a UN commission plays Solomon. The case seemed simple enough: only Iraq invaded; it was then vanquished. Ergo, the Iraqi people — via their oil reserves — must be perpetually taxed to repair Saddam Hussein’s folly. Never mind that it was his western allies who helped militarize Saddam’s regime.

Yes, some Iraqis also collaborated with Saddam. But most were Saddam’s victims. Saddam frowned on dissent. Many of his soldiers were conscripts. Thousands of these — slaughtered from the air as they fled homeward — remain interred in desert sands.

Now, the U.S./Iraq case isn’t quite parallel. All too many U.S. people and our Congressional representatives enthusiastically supported “Shock and Awe” and the ensuing occupation.

Does it let us off the hook — at least a little — that Cheney/Bush and their shills persistently lied to us? Many U.S. Americans believed that our “pre-emptive” war had nothing to do with certain corporations cornering the world’s oil supply. Nor did it even occur to us that Saddam’s move to switch from dollars to euros for oil payments helped trigger the wrath. Wasn’t the war about WMD and about somehow — never mind how — defending our borders against “terror”?

Should U.S. wage earners be forced to pay for a war many might not have supported had they known the truth? Should they then also pay for what that war wrought? Maybe yes, maybe no. One thing is certain: it was the Pentagon that maniacally demolished Iraq.

No, Mr. Walsh, it isn’t the Iraqi people who should devote their national wealth to rebuilding their desolated country. Nor should the U.S. people, also variously victims and dupes of this war, be further taxed. By all rights, the rebuilding fund should come out of our own oiligarchy’s windfall profits and out of the Pentagon’s obscenely bloated budget.

* “Iraq Told to Pick Up the Tab: Congress Wants to Cut Reconstruction Aid,” by Anne Flaherty, Associated Press in the Syracuse Post-Standard, 15 Apr. 2008.

The author spent five months in Iraq in 2003 with the human rights group, Voices in the Wilderness. Reach him at edkinane@verizon.net.

Anti-Muslim racism leveled at Sami Al-Arian

August 13, 2008

Nicole Colson looks the government’s latest outrage against Dr. Sami Al-Arian, who has spent over five years in prison despite never having been convicted of a crime.

AN OVERZEALOUS federal prosecutor is proving that anti-Muslim racism is at the heart of the ongoing prosecution of Dr. Sami Al-Arian.

What you can do

On August 13, activists in Los Angeles are planning a “Free Dr. Sami Al-Arian” protest and vigil at 5 p.m. at the downtown Federal Building, 300 North Los Angeles St. Sponsors include Al-Awda, the American Friends Service Committee, the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, the International Socialist Organization and many others. Call 323-691-5283 for information.

Visit the Free Sami Al-Arian Web site to get regular updates about his case and learn more about what you can do to protest his continued imprisonment.

You can send donations to help the Al-Arian family defray the costs of more than five years of legal defense to: Liberty Defense Fund, P.O. Box 1211, 24525 E. Welches Road, Welches, OR 97067.

The documentary film USA v. Al-Arian can be viewed on the Internet at the LinkTV Web site.

Al-Arian is a former University of South Florida professor who has been imprisoned for the past five and a half years–despite never being convicted of a single crime–after the government accused him of using an Islamic think tank and a Muslim school and charity as a cover for raising funds to finance “terrorism.”

Though the Bush administration claimed that prosecuting Al-Arian was an essential part of the “war on terror” here at home, after a six-month trial that the government spent more than $50 million on, a Florida jury in 2006 refused to find Al-Arian guilty of a single count.

Facing the prospect of a lengthy retrial and further separation from his family, however, Al-Arian agreed to plead guilty to a single count of the least-serious charge against him in exchange for what was supposed to be a minor additional sentence and voluntary deportation.

Instead, Gordon Kromberg, the assistant U.S. attorney for the eastern district of Virginia, had Al-Arian moved to that state to try to force his testimony in an investigation of the International Institute of Islamic Thought (IIIT)–in defiance of an agreement with Florida prosecutors, recorded in court transcripts, that Al-Arian would be exempt from future testimony.

Sami Al-Arian continues to languish in prison after more than five years (usavsalarian.com)Sami Al-Arian continues to languish in prison after more than five years (usavsalarian.com)

Kromberg’s demand for Al-Arian’s testimony is a legal Catch 22. If he refuses to testify, say his lawyers and family, he faces continued contempt charges–but if he were to testify, it is likely that prosecutors would simply charge him with “perjury” and continue his imprisonment.

Al-Arian has so far continued to refuse to testify, leading Kromberg to file first civil, and now criminal, contempt charges against him—and extending his prison sentence well beyond his original release date. Criminal contempt is one of the few crimes that does not carry a set maximum sentence, meaning that if he is brought to trial and found guilty, and continues to refuse to testify, Al-Arian could conceivably be kept in prison indefinitely.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

KROMBERG’S BEHAVIOR during his involvement in the Al-Arian case has been reprehensible. At one point, he objected to defense attorney requests not to have Dr. Al-Arian moved during the Muslim religious holidays of Ramadan, reportedly saying that “If [Muslims] can kill each other during Ramadan, they can appear before the grand jury, all they can’t do is eat before sunset. I believe Mr. Al-Arian’s request is part of the attempted Islamization of the American Justice System.”

On August 8, at the most recent pre-trial hearing in the criminal contempt case, Judge Leonie Brinkema postponed the upcoming trial until a separate appeal by Al-Arian’s lawyers could be ruled on by the U.S. Supreme Court. In her ruling, Brinkema questioned whether prosecutors have been overzealous in filing additional charges against Al-Arian.

At the hearing Kromberg again showed off a vicious streak of anti-Muslim racism and sexism. As the Tampa Bay Coalition for Peace and Justice, which has mobilized support for Dr. Al-Arian, noted in a statement:

After Judge Brinkema ordered that Dr. Al-Arian be released on bail under the custodianship of his eldest daughter, Kromberg abruptly objected, claiming that, as an Muslim woman, Dr. Al-Arian’s daughter would be too weak and submissive to oppose any potential attempt by Dr. Al-Arian to flee, saying that “in this particular [Arab-Islamic] culture, she would not be able to stop him from leaving.”

Though Judge Brinkema struck down Kromberg’s objection, noting that it was “insulting,” Dr. Al-Arian still may not be released on bail–since the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has, in the past, taken custody of Al-Arian pursuant to a deportation order. Rather than actually deport Al-Arian, however, ICE seems willing to hold him in custody until federal prosecutors can drag him back into court.

Incredibly, Kromberg also attempted to play the victim during the latest hearing, complaining in court that Sen. Mike Gravel (D-Alaska) has called for activists to picket him in order to put pressure on him to free Dr. Al-Arian.

“Call him a racist in signs if you see him,” Gravel reportedly told a crowd in Washington, D.C., regarding Kromberg. “Call him an injustice. Call him whatever you want to call him, but in his face all the time.”

While Al-Arian’s lawyers and family have made it clear that they do not encourage people to target Kromberg or his family–and have publicly repudiated Gravel’s comments—it should be noted that that, due to being painted as a “terrorist,” Dr. Al-Arian and his family have faced continuous harassment by extremist Web sites, not to mention conservative media pundits like Bill O’Reilly. In addition, during his more than five years in prison, Dr. Al-Arian has been the victim of a campaign of abuse: from racist verbal and physical assaults, to punishing restrictions on visits with his family and phone calls, even to his attorneys.

As daughter Laila Al-Arian said in an interview in April,

After spending more than five years in 10 different prisons across the United States, and despite a six-month trial with 80 witnesses, including 21 from Israel, 12 average Americans stood firm and refused to convict innocent people of any count of over 100 charges leveled at them by the most powerful government in history.

No wonder people have been asking, “Where is justice?” Justice can’t be served when people are targeted because of their beliefs and politics…Justice can’t be served when those who are supposed to administer it abuse it in order to exact revenge. Justice can’t be served when employing fear mongering and fear tactics by exploiting a national tragedy to silence the voices of a vulnerable and weak minority in our society.

Amber Alert! Get ready for war

July 15, 2008
Antiwar.com, July 14, 2008

by Justin Raimondo

In spite of reassurances from the Washington talking heads and policy wonks that the U.S. is not about to launch an attack on Iran, or countenance an Israeli strike, the Sunday Times has the real scoop:

“President George W. Bush has told the Israeli government that he may be prepared to approve a future military strike on Iranian nuclear facilities if negotiations with Tehran break down, according to a senior Pentagon official.

“Despite the opposition of his own generals and widespread skepticism that America is ready to risk the military, political, and economic consequences of an airborne strike on Iran, the president has given an ‘amber light’ to an Israeli plan to attack Iran’s main nuclear sites with long-range bombing sorties, the official told The Sunday Times.

“‘Amber means get on with your preparations, stand by for immediate attack, and tell us when you’re ready,’ the official said. But the Israelis have also been told that they can expect no help from American forces and will not be able to use U.S. military bases in Iraq for logistical support.”

It seems, however, that the Israelis have already been using U.S. bases in Iraq to train for the coming attack. There have been denials all around – from the Iraqis, the Americans, and the Israelis – but both the Iraqi media and the Israeli media have reported, as the New York Post put it, that “Israeli warplanes have been flying over Iraq and landing at U.S. bases there in preparation for an attack on Iran.” The Iraqi Web site Nahrainet reported Israeli fighter jets have been in rehearsals, so to speak, for their much-anticipated strike at Iran, flying at night over Jordanian airspace and arriving at U.S. air bases in Nasiriyah in southern Iraq and near Haditha in western Anbar province.

The Israelis, in concert with their amen corner in the U.S., have been engaged in a propaganda blitz targeting Iran’s alleged nuclear weapons program, the whole point of which is not to pressure the Iranians into backing down, but to force the U.S. to take action in lieu of the Israelis going it alone. Why fight if your big brother is willing to wage the battle? To that end, the Israelis are taking aim at Washington, rather than Tehran, in a full-scale political assault that shows every sign of succeeding where it counts – in the Oval Office. The Times cites a top Pentagon official:

Continued . . .

Mukasey: Bush’s New ‘Mr. Cover-up’

July 14, 2008

Robert Parry | Consortiumnews.com, July 10, 2008

Even Sen. Charles Schumer, whose vote last year ensured Michael Mukasey’s confirmation as Attorney General, was left sputtering as Mukasey returned the favor by rebuffing Schumer’s concerns about the Bush administration’s political prosecutions.

At the end of his round of Senate Judiciary Committee questions, Schumer referred to allegations that White House political adviser Karl Rove had pressed for the selective prosecution of Alabama’s Democratic Gov. Don Siegelman, who was viewed as a threat to Republican dominance of the South.

“Do you think that someone in the Justice Department should ask Karl Rove whether he was involved, whether he did the things that are alleged – someone somewhere – or is there a possibility that no one should ever ask him?” the New York Democrat said, his voice rising.

Mukasey responded coolly that he would not endorse the questioning of Rove. In disgust, Schumer said, “I find these answers very disappointing.”

But Schumer was not alone. At the oversight hearings on July 9, the committee’s Democrats and the ranking Republican, Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, voiced varying levels of disappointment at Mukasey’s refusal to look back at the misconduct – including criminal acts – that had occurred earlier in the Bush administration.

Indeed, Mukasey’s evasive answers recalled the stonewalling of his predecessor, Alberto Gonzales. Mukasey’s vague and meandering responses made two things clear, however: George W. Bush’s hubris about what he sees as his unlimited presidential powers continues and Mukasey will serve as Bush’s rearguard protector during his final six months in office.

In a separate confrontation with two House committees, Mukasey has promulgated a novel legal theory justifying his refusal to release FBI reports on interviews with President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney about their roles in exposing the identity of CIA officer Valerie Plame.

Even though Bush has not asserted executive privilege regarding the FBI reports, Mukasey has refused to honor subpoenas from the House committees on the grounds that to do so would threaten “core Executive Branch confidentiality interests and fundamental separation of powers principles.”

Mukasey’s theory ignores a variety of precedents, including the public release of criminal-case testimony by Bush’s three predecessors (Bill Clinton on the Monica Lewinsky case, George H.W. Bush on the Passportgate affair and the Iran-Contra scandal, and Ronald Reagan on Iran-Contra.)

Nuremberg Defense

In his Senate testimony, Mukasey also left no doubt that the Justice Department would take no action against anyone in the administration who violated criminal statutes in the “war on terror” if they were following legal advice from superiors, a modern version of the so-called Nuremberg defense.

Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Illinois, urged Mukasey to “follow what I think is the clear standard of the law within your own department and initiate those investigations” into the Bush administration’s abuse of detainees, including the use of “waterboarding,” a form of simulated drowning.

Durbin noted that retired Major General Antonio Taguba, who was in charge of the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse probe, stated recently that “the Commander in Chief and those under him authorized a systematic regime of torture” and that “there is no longer any doubt about whether the current administration committed war crimes, the only question that remains is whether those who ordered the use of torture will be held accountable.”

Mukasey, however, responded that anyone who acted in “good faith” and relied on the Justice Department’s legal advice “cannot and should not be prosecuted.” The same protection should cover government lawyers who gave the advice, he said.

Continued . . .


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