Posts Tagged ‘US and Iraq’

Massacre in slow motion

March 10, 2009

Socialist Worker, March 9, 2009

More than a month after Israel’s assault on Gaza ended, life for Gaza’s 1.5 million Palestinians continues to be a daily struggle. Israel maintains a suffocating siege that blocks the flow of basic staples, plunging the vast majority of residents into abject poverty.

But a ray of hope has emerged in the form of a growing international struggle–from Canada and the U.S., to Europe and South Africa–to hold Israel accountable for its violations of international law and Palestinian human rights. On March 21, justice for Palestine will be a main slogan at an antiwar demonstration in Washington, D.C. organized to mark the sixth anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

Haidar Eid, a professor of English, political commentator and longtime activist, is a resident of Gaza City and has provided an ongoing eyewitness account and analysis of Israel’s war for SocialistWorker.org. He spoke with Eric Ruder about Israel’s occupation and the Palestinian struggle for justice.

A young boy sits amid the rubble where buildings once stood in Jabalia, a town in the northern Gaza Strip (AFP)A young boy sits amid the rubble where buildings once stood in Jabalia, a town in the northern Gaza Strip (AFP)

THE SHOOTING part of Israel’s war is now over, according to the media. Yet Israel continues air strikes on targets in Gaza every few days. And in addition to the bombings, Israel’s siege remains firmly in place, stopping all manner of critical goods from getting into Gaza. Can you describe conditions now?

THE COURAGEOUS Israeli historian Ilan Pappe has talked about the hermetic siege of Gaza that has been in place for some three years now. Prior to the war, Pappe called this siege “slow-motion genocide,” and he was absolutely right.

Even before the war, more than 350 terminally ill people died because Israel refused to allow them to leave Gaza for essential medical treatment. Israel refused to issue them travel permits to be treated in Egyptian or Jordanian hospitals. I’m talking about people with kidney failure, heart problems, cancer.

The war transformed the slow-motion genocide into real genocide–I don’t know what else to call it. During the war, more 1,440 people were killed.

What else to read

Haidar Eid has written an article titled “Sharpeville 1960, Gaza 2009” that recounts his experiences during Israel’s war and adds his voice to call for an international movement to boycott, divest and sanction Israel, modeled on the anti-apartheid movement.

The One Democratic State Group has issued “A Call from Gaza” that asks activists and organizations to demand that their governments sever ties with Israel, and calls for Israel’s war criminals to be brought to justice.

Between the Lines: Readings on Israel, the Palestinians and the U.S. “War on Terror,” by Tikva Honig-Parnass and Toufic Haddad, documents the apartheid-like conditions that Palestinians live under today.

For background on Israel’s war and the Palestinian struggle for freedom, read The Struggle for Palestine, a collection of essays edited by Lance Selfa on the history of the occupation and Palestinian resistance.

We thought that the end of the war would also mean the end of the medieval siege imposed on Gaza. But unfortunately, that hasn’t happened since the end of the Gaza massacre–and I really don’t want to call it the end of the “war,” because the war has continued but in different forms.

Israel failed to achieve any of its three objectives that it declared at the beginning of the war–topping the government of Hamas, putting an end to the launching of rockets, and establishing a new security arrangement in Gaza.

Since they failed at this, they have been trying to achieve politically what they could not militarily–with the help of the U.S., even under the Obama administration, with the complicity of the European Union and with the help of some Arab regimes.

This is why all the proposals to reconstruct the Gaza Strip being discussed at the recent international donors conference at Sharm el Sheik all come with so many strings attached. In fact, these strings make reconstruction impossible.

So when Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visited Tel Aviv and Ramallah, she talked about conditions for reconstruction. Condition number one is for the Hamas government and the resistance groups in general to recognize the state of Israel. Number two is to recognize previously signed agreements between the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and Israel, which ultimately means recognizing the state of Israel also.

But there are some big questions that come along with this, which the U.S. and the mainstream media prefer to avoid. In particular, what Israel are the Palestinians supposed to recognize?

Israel is the only member of the UN that does not have recognized borders. Does the apartheid wall represent the border of the state of Israel? Or is it the 1967 border? Recognition of Israel under this situation allows for the ongoing expansion of Israel’s borders.

Number two, Israel is also the only country on the face of the earth that has no constitution. Israel instead has Basic Laws. The first basic law defines Israel as the state of Jews all over the world. You have a theocratic state instead of a state of all of its citizens. This raises the question of what happens to 1.2 million Palestinians who are considered citizens of the state of Israel, but they are not Jews.

Also, what happens to more than 6 million Palestinian refugees living in the diaspora? Not a single agreement by the PLO and Israel, with America as a moderator, mentions the right of return, although UN Resolution 194 calls for the return of the Palestinian refugees to their homeland, to their villages, to the cities and towns from which they were expelled. And Resolution 194 calls for compensation for the injustices they have suffered.

But these are things that Israel wants the Palestinians to concede before talks even begin. As Marx said, history repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce. Now, we have seen the donors’ conference, and a visit from Hillary Clinton, during which she uttered not one word of sympathy for the plight of Palestinians. This is tragedy and farce.

Palestinians are paying a heavy price. This is the continuation of the genocidal war launched by Israel against Gaza and supported by the international community. And the talks that are supposed to reconstruct are merely further means to carry out Israel’s agenda.

THE U.S. and Israel also call on Hamas to “renounce violence,” but they never recognize the incredible hypocrisy of this demand. Israel consistently uses overwhelming violence against the Palestinians, and the U.S. supplies the weapons that allow Israel to do so.

ABSOLUTELY. WHAT kind of weapons does the resistance movement in Gaza have? Crude homemade rockets, and some Grad rockets smuggled through the tunnels connecting Egypt and Gaza. But now the tunnels can’t be used. Israel has repeatedly bombed them.

Because Israel has enforced its siege of Gaza, these tunnels have also been used to bring essential goods into the Strip. For example, I haven’t been able to drive my car since the war ended, because we can’t receive any gas from Egypt, which had to be smuggled through the tunnels.

We are talking about the fourth-strongest military in the world, with 250 nuclear warheads, F-16s and helicopters, against a largely defenseless population. We are not talking about two equal parties.

According to international law, Israel is illegally occupying the West Bank and Gaza. Israel is illegally prohibiting more than 6 million Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and towns.

What we are calling for–myself as part of Palestinian civil society, as an academic, as an activist–is simply the implementation of UN and Security Council resolutions and international law. Under international law, we are guaranteed a state and the right of return for refugees.

By signing the Oslo Accords in 1993, the official Palestinian leadership made an agreement that violates our rights and international law [by bargaining away these essential national rights]. It has now become a habit for Israel and the U.S. to expect the weaker party, the Palestinians, to give more and more concessions.

One of the biggest mistakes that the Palestinian leadership made was to assume that the U.S. was acting as a fair broker. But in fact, the U.S. has been entirely biased–because of the pro-Israel lobby in the U.S., and because I don’t think you can separate the interests of U.S. imperialism and Zionism in the Middle East.

The U.S. attacked and occupied Iraq and committed genocide against Iraq’s civilians. It killed more than 1.5 million Iraqis–because of oil, in pursuit of its interests in the region, and to protect the state of Israel.

The Americans have failed miserably in Iraq. Israel failed miserably in Lebanon in 2006. And then, they tried to target what they consider to be the weakest pocket of resistance in the Middle East, namely Gaza. Fortunately, that failed. Israel tried for 22 days to bring the resistance to its knees, but could not.

That is why they are trying to achieve politically what they failed to militarily.

Continued >>

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US and Iraq ‘agree on troops deal’

August 21, 2008
Al Jazeera, August 21, 2008

The White House has repeatedly resisted any timetable for withdrawing US troops [EPA]

The United States and Iraq have reportedly agreed to a draft deal to give US troops a legal basis to stay in Iraq after a United Nations mandate expires in December.

A senior US military official told The Associated Press that Washington had signed off on a draft agreement on reducing the American military presence in Iraq but that the deal was not final and was subject to approval by Iraqi leaders.

However, the US state department told Al Jazeera on Wednesday that any report of an agreement was “premature”.

The White House said that negotiations were still taking place.

“Discussions are ongoing with the Iraqis to finalise a bilateral agreement,” Gordon Johndroe, a White House spokesman, said.

“We are working to complete the agreement, but it is not final yet.”

Contentious issues

Al Jazeera’s Tom Ackerman said that with Iraqis facing provincial elections in the next few months, Nuri al-Maliki, the Iraqi prime minister, will be facing pressure at home not to concede anything that will affect Iraqi sovereignty and to ensure a firm end date for US troop withdrawal is set.

But Mohammed al-Haj Hamoud, Iraq’s negotiator on the deal, told the Reuters news agency that the draft reportedly agreed to does not give a timetable for the withdrawal of US forces from Iraq nor say if US troops will be subject to Iraqi law.

At present around 144,000 US troops are stationed in Iraq, but Iraqi officials have said they would like any future deal to limit the US presence on Iraqi streets by mid-2009 and withdraw all troops by 2010 or 2011.

The US government has said repeatedly that it will not seek permanent bases in Iraq.

However, it has also resisted setting any timetable for the withdrawal of troops, although last month the US government began referring to “time horizons” and “aspirational goals” for such a withdrawal.

Issues such as a timeline for withdrawing troops, their immunity from Iraqi law and the status of prisoners held by US forces have all caused repeated delays to a deal.

In May this year scores of protests against any such deal erupted in the capital, Baghdad, led by Muqtada al-Sadr, the Iraqi Shia leader.

Alongside the possible draft deal is a parallel agreement, known as a strategic framework agreement, which covers a range of political, economic and security relationships between the US and Iraq, that The Associated Press said had also been agreed to.

U.S. Perpetuates Mass Killings In Iraq

July 21, 2008

The United States is directly responsible for over one million Iraqi deaths since the invasion five and half years ago. In a January 2008 report, a British polling group Opinion Research Business (ORB) reports that, “survey work confirms our earlier estimate that over 1,000,000 Iraqi citizens have died as a result of the conflict which started in 2003…. We now estimate that the death toll between March 2003 and August 2007 is likely to have been of the order of 1,033,000. If one takes into account the margin of error associated with survey data of this nature then the estimated range is between 946,000 and 1,120,000”.

The ORB report comes on the heels of two earlier studies conducted by Johns Hopkins University published in the Lancet medical journal that confirmed the continuing numbers of mass deaths in Iraq. A study done by Dr. Les Roberts from January 1, 2002 to March 18 2003 put the civilian deaths at that time at over 100,000. A second study published in the Lancet in October 2006 documented over 650,000 civilian deaths in Iraq since the start of the US invasion. The 2006 study confirms that US aerial bombing in civilian neighborhoods caused over a third of these deaths and that over half the deaths are directly attributable to US forces.

The now estimated 1.2 million dead, as of July 2008, includes children, parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, cab drivers, clerics, schoolteachers, factory workers, policemen, poets, healthcare workers, day care providers, construction workers, babysitters, musicians, bakers, restaurant workers and many more. All manner of ordinary people in Iraq have died because the United States decided to invade their country. These are deaths in excess of the normal civilian death rate under the prior government.

The magnitude of these deaths is undeniable. The continuing occupation by US forces guarantees a mass death rate in excess of 10,000 people per month with half that number dying at the hands of US forces — a carnage so severe and so concentrated at to equate it with the most heinous mass killings in world history. This act has not gone unnoticed.

Recently, Dennis Kucinich introduced a single impeachment article against George W. Bush for lying to Congress and the American people about the reasons for invading Iraq. On July 15, the House forwarded the resolution to the Judiciary Committee with a 238 to 180 vote. That Bush lied about weapons of mass destruction and Iraq’s threat to the US is now beyond doubt. Former US federal prosecutor Elizabeth De La Vega documents the lies most thoroughly in her book U.S. v. Bush, and numerous other researchers have verified Bush’s untrue statements.

The American people are faced with a serious moral dilemma. Murder and war crimes have been conducted in our name. We have allowed the war/occupation to continue in Iraq and offered ourselves little choice within the top two presidential candidates for immediate cessation of the mass killings. McCain would undoubtedly accept the deaths of another million Iraqi civilians in order to save face for America, and Obama’s 18-month timetable for withdrawal would likely result in another 250,000 civilian deaths or more.

We owe our children and ourselves a future without the shame of mass murder on our collective conscience. The only resolution of this dilemma is the immediate withdrawal of all US troops in Iraq and the prosecution and imprisonment of those responsible. Anything less creates a permanent original sin on the soul of the nation for that we will forever suffer.

Peter Phillips is a Professor of Sociology at Sonoma State University, and Director of Project Censored, a media research organization. Read other articles by Peter, or visit Peter’s website.


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