Posts Tagged ‘US government’

Fidel Castro: Cuba sends doctors, not soldiers

January 26, 2010
Morning Star Online,  January 25, 2010

Fidel Castro

Two days after the catastrophe in Haiti which destroyed that neighbouring sister nation, I wrote: “In the area of health care and others the Haitian people has received the co-operation of Cuba, even though this is a small and blockaded country.

“Approximately 400 doctors and health-care workers are helping the Haitian people free of charge. Our doctors are working every day at 227 of the 237 communes of that country. On the other hand, no less than 400 young Haitians have graduated as medical doctors in our country.

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United States: Liberty Has Been Lost

January 7, 2010

Paul Craig Roberts, Information Clearing House, Jan 7, 2010

I had just finished reading the uncensored edition of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s book, In The First Circle (Harper Perennial, 2009), when I came across Chris Hedges article, “One Day We’ll All Be Terrorists”. In Hedges’ description of the US government’s treatment of American citizen Syed Fahad Hashmi, I recognized the Stalinist legal system as portrayed by Solzhenitsyn.

Hashmi has been held in solitary confinement going on three years. Guantanamo’s practices have migrated to the Metropolitan Correction Center in Manhattan where Hashmi is held in the Special Housing Unit. His access to attorneys, family, and other prisoners is prevented or severely curtailed. He must clean himself and use toilet facilities on camera. He is let out of solitary for one hour every 24 hours to exercise in a cage.

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Obama’s Outreach to Muslim World Teetering

November 4, 2009

Analysis by Jim Lobe, Inter Press Service, Nov 3, 2009

WASHINGTON, Nov 3 (IPS) – U.S. President Barack Obama’s extraordinary efforts since his first days in office to reassure Muslims in the Greater Middle East about U.S. intentions in the region have suffered a series of setbacks that threaten to reverse whatever gains he has made over the past 10 months in restoring Washington’s badly battered image and influence there.

From Pakistan – where Secretary of State Hillary Clinton got an earful of growing anti-U.S. sentiment last week – to the West Bank and East Jerusalem – where Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has successfully defied Washington’s demands that he freeze Jewish settlement activity – events appear to have strayed far from the president’s original game plan.

As for the vast territory that lies between, the badly tarnished election victory claimed by Afghan President Hamid Karzai raises new questions over the viability of what Obama himself called as recently as August “a war of necessity”, while Iran’s failure so far to accept a U.S.-backed plan to export most of its low-enriched uranium (LEU) for reprocessing looks increasingly likely to foil his hopes for détente on that front.

Meanwhile, a series of devastating bombings in recent weeks has raised the spectre of renewed ethnic and sectarian violence in Iraq, while the widely anticipated U.S. rapprochement with Syria – as well as the resolution of the protracted political impasse in Lebanon – appears to have stalled.

Few analysts here blame Obama alone for the lack of substantial progress on these fronts. In a number of cases, unanticipated events, like the rapid deterioration in security in Afghanistan – and forces over which the administration exercises little or no control, such as the hard-line governments and domestic politics of Israel and Iran – have sabotaged his hopes.

But disappointment is clearly on the rise among those here and in the region who believed that Obama’s realist foreign policy strategy of “engaging” foes, and his oft-repeated determination to achieve a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict “from day one” of his presidency promised rapid improvement in Washington’s standing after eight years of catastrophic decline under George W. Bush.

“There is a general concern now, especially in the Arab world, that the administration is not delivering with respect to any issues in the region,” said Chas Freeman, a former ambassador to Saudi Arabia who withdrew his appointment to chair the National Intelligence Council (NIC) earlier this year in the face of a media campaign by neo-conservative critics close to Israel’s Likud Party.

“I think there’s been quite a difference between how Obama as a person is perceived and how the U.S. government as an institution is perceived,” he added. “I think what may be happening is that Obama is sinking into the generally negative view of the U.S. government in the region rather than transcending it as he once did.”

“He started really well, particularly in his speeches in Istanbul [in April] and in Cairo [in June], in changing how the region perceives America and in setting forth a vision of the kinds of relationships he wanted,” said Steven Clemons, director of the American Strategy Project at the New America Foundation.

“But those words have not been followed up by the kind of deep restructuring of policy vis-à-vis Afghanistan, Iran, Syria, and the Palestinians that [former President Richard] Nixon implemented toward China,” he added. “If he had done so, the trend lines we’re seeing in the region might not be as negative as they appear at the moment.”

Of all the problems he faces the region, Afghanistan is the most urgent and time-consuming. Obama has been considering a recommendation from his military commanders to add some 44,000 U.S. troops to the 68,000 already deployed there in order to repel Taliban advances and gain time for Washington and its NATO allies to build national and local governance capacity and the Afghan Army so it can hold its own.

The request comes just eight months after the same military institution told Obama that a total of only 75,000 U.S. troops were needed to achieve the same goal. In the intervening period, not only has the Taliban made greater far greater strides – and killed more U.S. and NATO forces – than anticipated, but the discredited election, combined with the Karzai government’s notorious corruption, is virtually certain to make a U.S.-led counter-insurgency campaign that much more difficult.

By calling the conflict against the Taliban a “war of necessity” and subsequently ruling out any drawdown of U.S. forces, most analysts believe that Obama will approve if not all, then at least half of the military’s request.

But some experts are worried that any escalation in the U.S. troop presence could prove counterproductive, not only in Afghanistan, where they risk being seen as enforcers of a corrupt regime’s writ, but also in neighbouring Pakistan where Washington’s pressure to bend the government and army to its will has clearly spurred widespread resentment of the kind Clinton ran into last week.

“The more that a war is seen to be Americanised and a matter of American occupation, the more we [risk] unit[ing] the disparate elements that we place under the label of the Taliban and bring[ing] into the fight [against the U.S.] many people who have no sympathy whatsoever for the Taliban,” noted Paul Pillar, a retired top CIA analyst who served as National Intelligence Officer for the Near East and South Asia between 2000 and 2005, at a RAND Corporation conference here last week.

Meanwhile, events in the rest of the Middle East also appear to be conspiring against Obama.

The renewed bombing campaign in Iraq, combined with rising tensions between Kurds and Arabs over the fate of Kirkuk, could yet force a slowdown in the planned withdrawal of U.S. troops there, if not an unravelling of the relative stability achieved over the past two years.

At the same time, continued stalling by Iran over implementation of the LEU export plan agreed in principle last month is making it increasingly difficult for the administration to resist intense and growing pressure from the so-called “Israel Lobby” and its Republican and Democratic allies in Congress to adopt what Clinton has called “crippling sanctions” against Tehran, even before the end of this year.

Not only would such a quick return to “sticks” risk nipping Obama’s engagement efforts in the bud, but it would also sharply escalate tensions between the two hard-line governments in Tehran and Jerusalem, renewing speculation about whether Israel intends to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities and how the U.S. would react.

But perhaps the most serious cause for the growing scepticism surrounding Obama’s policy trajectory lies with his handling of the Israel-Palestine conflict, which his national security adviser, Gen. James Jones, just last week identified as the “epicentre” of U.S. challenges in the region and beyond.

Not only has the administration retreated from its early demand – voiced most bluntly by Clinton last May – that Israel freeze all settlement expansion. But it also praised – through Clinton herself during a visit to Israel this week – as “unprecedented” Netanyahu’s offer to “restrain” settlement growth for up to a year in order to help launch new peace talks.

At the same time, she publicly scolded Palestine Authority President Mahmoud Abbas – who had joined the administration’s demand for a total settlement freeze earlier this year – for making it a pre-condition for Palestinian participation in the talks, thus further undermining his position less than a month after initially bowing to U.S. pressure to shelve the Goldstone Report that documented war crimes allegedly committed by Israel during its Gaza campaign.

Calling her remarks a “slap in the face”, Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa said Washington appears to be moving backwards.

“[W]e are once again the same vicious circle we were in in the 1990s,” he said, while other Arab commentators argued that it was difficult at this point to distinguish between Obama’s policy and the Annapolis process pursued by Bush in his last year in office.

“There had been growing scepticism in the region, and I suspect this apparent capitulation to Netanyahu and the Likud will turn scepticism into suspicion,” Freeman told IPS.

*Jim Lobe’s blog on U.S. foreign policy can be read at http://www.ips.org/blog/jimlobe/.

‘Prisoner abuse’ photographs surface as Barack Obama prepares to block publication

May 16, 2009

Graphic photographs of alleged prisoner abuse, thought to be among up to 2,000 images Barack Obama is trying to prevent from being released, have emerged.
Images emerged from Australia yesterday where they were originally obtained by the channel SBS in 2006 in the wake of the Abu Ghraib scandal.

Images emerged from Australia yesterday where they were originally obtained by the channel SBS in 2006 in the wake of the Abu Ghraib scandal.

Shocking images of inmates in Iraq are the kind of images whose release the president has now vowed to fight in court.

They risk provoking renewed hostility in the Middle East as Mr Obama attempts to build bridges with the Islamic world.

He is scheduled to make a major speech in Cairo on June 4 when he will launch his version of a plan to bring peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians.

One picture showed a prisoner hung up upside down while another showed a naked man smeared in excrement standing in a corridor with a guard standing menacingly in front of him. Another prisoner is handcuffed to the window frame of his cell with underpants pulled over his head.

Others yet to be released reportedly show military guards threatening to sexually assault a detainee with a broomstick and hooded prisoners on transport planes with Playboy magazines opened to pictures of nude women on their laps.

The images emerged from Australia where they were originally obtained by the channel SBS in 2006 in the wake of the Abu Ghraib scandal. They were not distributed around the world at the time but are now believed to be among those the president is trying to block.

Mr Obama previously committed to allowing thousands of images to be published but changed his mind after senior generals warned that their publication could place US troops serving in Iraq and Afghanistan in greater danger.

The president’s change of heart brought bitter criticism from the left wingers and the American Civil Liberties Union, which had brought a freedom of information case against the US government applying to see the pictures.

Pledging to fight the case all the way to the Supreme Court, the ACLU accused him of betraying his principles of open government and “complicity in covering up” the “commission of torture by the Bush administration”.

“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,” said Anthony Romero, executive director.

“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.”

The White House legal team was yesterday preparing for a June 9 deadline to present its case that it would be against the interests of national security to make the pictures public.

The controversy came as it was revealed that the administration is considering detaining terror suspects from Guantanamo Bay indefinitely and without trial on US soil.

Lindsey Graham, a Republican senator, said after meeting White House lawyers that terror suspects deemed too dangerous to release could be jailed permanently by a new national security court.

Other options include revising the Bush administration’s military commissions for senior al-Qaeda suspects that have been criticised for relying too heavily on hearsay and uncontestable intelligence information.

When he took office on Jan 20 Mr Obama ordered that the prison at a US naval base on Cuba be closed within a year.

What is the Unites States preparing in Pakistan?

May 5, 2009
Keith Jones | WSWS, 5 May 2009

Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari will undoubtedly come under renewed pressure to allow US military forces to wage war within Pakistan when he visits Washington this week for a trilateral summit meeting with President Obama and Afghanistan’s Hamid Karzai.

For weeks, the US political and military establishment and the American media have been mounting an increasingly shrill campaign to bully Islamabad into fully complying with US diktats in what Washington has redefined as the AfPak (Afghanistan-Pakistan) war theater.

At the US’s behest, the Pakistani military has for the past 10 days been mounting a bloody offensive—including strafing by warplanes and heavy artillery—against Pakistani Taliban militia in the North West Frontier Province (NWFP). The offensive has caused large numbers of civilian casualties and forced tens of thousands of poor villagers to flee.

Between 600,000 and a million Pakistanis have been turned into refugees by the Pakistani state’s drive to pacify the NWFP and the country’s traditionally autonomous Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), so as to bolster the US occupation of Afghanistan.

The US ruling elite has welcomed the latest round of bloodletting, but it is far from satisfied. The flurry of threats, implicit and explicit, against Pakistan, its people and government has continued unabated in the run-up to Zardari’s Washington visit.

At an April 29th press conference, Obama described Pakistan’s civilian government as “very fragile” and not having “the capacity to deliver basic services” to its people, or to gain their “support and loyalty.” But he praised the Pakistani military and the “strong” US-Pakistani “military consultation and cooperation.”

Given Washington’s pivotal role in sustaining a succession of military dictatorships in Islamabad, Obama’s statement was widely interpreted both in Pakistan and within the US political establishment as signaling that Washington is considering sponsoring a military coup.

This was underscored by reports citing the chief of the US Central Command, General David Petraeus, as saying that if the Zardari government did not demonstrate over the next two weeks that it can crush the Taliban insurgency in the country’s northwest, the US will have to determine its “next course of action.” Petraeus went on to declare Pakistan’s military “superior” to the country’s civilian government.

Such was the outcry in Pakistan that State Department spokesman Robert Wood was forced to deny Friday that Islamabad faces a two-week “time frame.” Nonetheless, he bluntly asserted that Washington expects Pakistan to make a “110 percent effort” in the fight against the Taliban, and not for “two days, two weeks, two months,” but for the foreseeable future.

Obama’s special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, Richard Holbrooke, denounced the apprehensions voiced in the Pakistani press that less than nine months after the last US-backed dictator, General Pervez Musharraf, was forced to relinquish the Pakistani presidency, Washington is considering supporting a military-led government. “This is journalistic garbage … journalistic gobbledygook,” declared Holbrooke.

The evidence that the Obama administration is preparing some new crime in Pakistan so as to ratchet up its war in Central Asia is overwhelming.

With the transparent aim of intensifying the pressure on Zardari, the Obama administration, according to high-level administration officials cited last week in the Wall Street Journal and New York Times, is now courting his arch-rival, former prime minister and Pakistan Muslim League (N) leader Nawaz Sharif.

Obama, at his press conference last week, claimed that the US wants to respect Pakistani sovereignty. “But,” he added, “we also recognize that we have huge strategic interests, huge national security interests in making sure Pakistan is stable.”

In other words, the US will violate Pakistan’s sovereignty at will. Since last August, the US has mounted dozens of missile strikes within Pakistan and one Special Forces ground attack.

Last week, Defense Secretary Robert Gates announced that the Obama administration is asking the US Congress to give the Pentagon the same powers in relation to military aid to Pakistan that it has in respect to military assistance to the puppet governments in Iraq and Afghanistan. Under this “unique” arrangement, military aid to Pakistan would no longer flow through the State Department or be subject to Foreign Assistance Act restrictions, but rather be entirely controlled by the Pentagon.

Then there is the extraordinary lead article in yesterday’s New York Times, headlined “Pakistan Strife Raises US Doubts on Nuclear Arms.” Written by the newspaper’s White House correspondent, David Sanger, the article has all the markings of a CIA or Pentagon put-up job, concocted with the aim of manipulating public opinion and justifying a major escalation of the US political and military intervention in Pakistan.

The article is based entirely on the statements of unnamed “senior American officials.” It claims, notwithstanding Obama’s statement of last week affirming confidence in the Pakistani military’s control of the country’s nuclear arsenal, that there is a real and growing threat that Taliban or Al Qaeda operatives could snatch a Pakistani nuclear weapon or infiltrate its nuclear facilities.

To explain how the Islamicists could circumvent the elaborate controls the Pakistani military, with US assistance, has placed over its nuclear arsenal, the article advances a thriller-type scenario. Islamicists would first trigger a confrontation between India and Pakistan, then seize a weapon when Pakistan seeks to move it closer to the border with its eastern neighbor.

The Times, it should be recalled, played a major role in seeking to mobilize US public opinion behind the invasion of Iraq. Front and center in this campaign was the lie that the Iraqi government was in league with Al Qaeda and might give them access to nuclear weapons Saddam Hussein was supposedly developing.

That the Times’s article was part of a coordinated campaign was underscored by an interview given to the BBC by Obama’s national security adviser, Gen. James Jones, on Monday, the same day that the Times article appeared.

Jones singled out as the top US concern the safety of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal, and made a thinly veiled threat against the Pakistani government, saying, “If Pakistan doesn’t continue in the direction that it presently is, and we’re not successful there, then, obviously, the nuclear question comes into view.”

He went on to say that Pakistan’s nuclear weapons falling into the hands of the Taliban would be “the very, very worst case scenario” and added, choosing his words carefully but pointedly, “We’re going to do anything we can within the construct of our bilateral relations and multilateral relations to make sure that doesn’t happen.”

The Obama administration and the Pentagon are clearly weighing their options in respect to Pakistan and its role in the US thrust for geo-political advantage in oil-rich Central Asia. One thing is certain: What they are preparing will lead to greater violence and suffering for the people of the region and will further subvert the democratic will and aspirations of the Pakistani people.

UN Race Conference Undermined by Western Withdrawals

April 20, 2009

US, Other Governments Cannot Take ‘Yes’ for an Answer

Human Rights Watch, April 19, 2009

“The sad truth is that countries professing to want to avoid a reprise of the contentious 2001 racism conference are now the ones triggering the collapse of a global consensus on the fight against racism. As these Western governments demanded, the negotiated text for the review conference upholds freedom of expression and avoids singling out Israel.

Juliette de Rivero, Geneva advocacy director

(Geneva) – The announcement by the US government that it would not participate in the upcoming UN Review Conference on Racism, followed by the decision of the Netherlands, New Zealand, and Australia to pull out and Germany to attend as an observer, strikes a blow at UN efforts to fight racism, Human Rights Watch said today. There is no justification for the decision because the draft declaration to be adopted at the conference on April 20-24, 2009, fully incorporates the legitimate concerns of EU and other Western governments.

“The sad truth is that countries professing to want to avoid a reprise of the contentious 2001 racism conference are now the ones triggering the collapse of a global consensus on the fight against racism,” said Juliette de Rivero, Geneva advocacy director at Human Rights Watch. “As these Western governments demanded, the negotiated text for the review conference upholds freedom of expression and avoids singling out Israel. But these governments couldn’t take ‘yes’ for an answer and are boycotting the conference anyway.”

The draft document, adopted after preparatory negotiations, contains no reference to Israel or the Middle East and rejects the dangerous concept that religions, as opposed to individuals, could be defamed or have their rights violated. It also reaffirms the singular tragedy of the Holocaust and condemns anti-Semitism. In addition, it fully protects the right to freedom of expression as defined under international law, affirms and strengthens the call for the protection of migrants’ rights, and acknowledges multiple and aggravated forms of discrimination.

Some governments have argued against the document because it reaffirms the 2001 Declaration and Program of Action. However, with the exception of the US, the Western governments now planning to boycott the conference endorsed the prior declaration in 2001. Although the US government boycotted the 2001 conference, and had concerns about language in the proposed text regarding incitement, its concerns could easily have been met through reservations or parallel statements rather than a wholesale boycott of the conference and its important race agenda.

“Governments boycotting the conference have decided to put the concerns of victims last,” de Rivero said. “Instead of isolating radical voices, governments have capitulated to them.”

The review conference taking place in Geneva represented a chance to move beyond the controversy that surrounded the race conference in 2001. The 2009 review should set a positive and constructive vision for the fight against racism. Instead, the boycott decisions took place despite US officials’ acknowledgement that the vast majority of their “red lines” had not been crossed. The Netherlands, New Zealand, Germany, and Australia pulled out of the conference a day before it is due to begin, although the final text produced on April 18 met the remaining demands of the EU states on protecting freedom of expression.

“The boycott plays into the hands of those who want the conference to fail,” de Rivero said. “The only ones celebrating will be those who want to undermine efforts to defeat racism and protect rights.”

ISRAEL-PALESTINE: One-State Supporters Make a Comeback

April 11, 2009

Analysis by Helena Cobban | Inter Press Service News

WASHINGTON, Apr 10 (IPS) – President Barack Obama has spoken out forcefully – including this week, in Ankara, Turkey – in favour of building an independent Palestinian state alongside a still robust Israel. However, many Palestinians have noted that President George W. Bush also, in recent years, expressed a commitment to Palestinian statehood. But, they note, Bush never took the actions necessary to achieve such a state – and neither, until now, has Obama.

Meanwhile, the U.S. government continues to give very generous support to Israel – where successive governments have built Jewish-only colonies in the occupied West Bank and taken other actions that make a viable Palestinian state increasingly hard to achieve.Israel, Jewish colonies in the

Many Palestinians and some important voices in what remains of Israel’s now-battered peace camp have concluded that it is now impossible to win the ‘two-state solution’ envisaged by Bush and Obama. This has led to the re-emergence in both communities of an old idea: that of a single bi- national state between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean, in which both Hebrew-speaking Jewish Israelis and Arabic-speaking Palestinians would have equal rights as citizens, and find themselves equally at home.

That goal was advocated most eloquently in the 1930s and early 1940s by Judah Magnes, Martin Buber, and other intellectuals at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. However, most Israelis moved away from it after Israel was established as a specifically Jewish state in 1948.

Later, in 1968, the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) articulated a somewhat similar goal: that of building a ‘secular democratic state’, which comprises both pre-1967 Israel and the West Bank and Gaza – which Israel brought under military occupation in 1967.

However, the PLO leaders could never agree on which of the numerous Jewish immigrants brought into Israel before and after 1948 to include in their project. A few years later, in 1974, most PLO supporters – but not all – moved decisively away from the ‘one-state’ model. They started working instead for the two-state model: an independent Palestinian state in just the West Bank (including East Jerusalem) and Gaza, alongside the Israel state.

For 26 years after 1974, Israel’s governments remained deeply opposed to an independent Palestinian state. All those governments made lavish investments in the project – illegal under international law – of implanting their own citizens as settlers in the occupied West Bank. They annexed East Jerusalem. When pressed on the Palestinians’ future, they said they hoped Palestinians could exercise their rights in Egypt or Jordan – just not inside historic Palestine. This idea has been making a comeback recently – including among advisers to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

In 1993, Israel finally recognized the PLO, and concluded the Oslo Accord with it. Under Oslo, the two sides created a new body called the Palestinian Authority (PA), designed to administer some aspects of daily life in parts of the occupied territories – though not, crucially, in occupied East Jerusalem.

Even after Oslo, Israeli officials made clear that they had not promised the PLO a full Palestinian state. They also said, correctly, that their rights and responsibilities as a military occupying power would remain in place. The final disposition of the occupied areas would await conclusion of a final peace agreement.

Oslo specified that that agreement should be completed by 1999. Ten years later, that deadline has still not been met – a final peace treaty still seems fairly distant. Meanwhile, Israel has used the 16 years since Oslo to increase both the number of settlers it has in the West Bank and the degree of control it exercises over the economies of both Gaza and the West Bank.

Palestinian-American political scientist Leila Farsakh describes Israel’s policies toward the economies of both areas as “the engineering of pauperisation.” She notes that despite the large amounts of international aid poured into the West Bank, poverty rates there have risen. Most West Bank areas outside the territory’s glitzy ‘capital’, Ramallah, are poor and increasingly aid-dependent. Lavish new settlements housing 480,000 settlers crowd much of the West Bank’s best land, and guzzle its water, Farsakh explains.

In an Israeli population of just 7.2 million, those settlers now form a formidable voting bloc. Attempts to move them out look almost impossible. In the latest round of peace negotiations that Israel and the PA/PLO pursued from 2000 until recently, participants discussed ways to reduce the number of settlers required to move by annexing the big settlement areas to Israel in return for a land exchange. But those boundary modifications look complex, and quite possibly unworkable.

Meanwhile, the negotiation over a small Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza has sidelined the concerns and rights of three important Palestinian constituencies. The 1.2 million Palestinians who are citizens of Israel would remain as an embattled minority within an Israeli state still ideologically committed to the immigration of additional Jews. The 270,000 Palestinians of Jerusalem might also still be surrounded and vulnerable. And the five million Palestinians who still – 61 years after they and their forbearers fled homes in what became Israel in 1948 – would have their long-pursued right to return laid down forever.

From 1982 – the year the PLO’s leaders and guerrilla forces were expelled from Lebanon – until recently, the main dynamo of Palestinian nationalism has been located in the Palestinian communities of the occupied West Bank and Gaza. But in recent years, those communities have been severely weakened. They are administratively atomised, politically divided, and live under a palpable sense of physical threat.

Many ‘occupied’ Palestinians are returning to the key defensive ideas of steadfastness and “just hanging on” to their land. But new energy for leadership is now emerging between two other key groups of Palestinians: those in the diaspora, and those who are citizens of Israel. The contribution those groups can make to nationwide organising has been considerably strengthened by new technologies – and crucially, neither of them has much interest in a two-state outcome.

Not surprisingly, therefore, discussions about the nature of a one-state outcome – and how to achieve it – have become more frequent, and much richer in intellectual content, in recent years.

Palestinian-Israeli professor Nadim Rouhanna, now teaching at Tufts University in Massachusetts, is a leader in the new thinking. “The challenge is how to achieve the liberation of both societies from being oppressed and being oppressors,” he told a recent conference in Washington, DC. “Palestinians have to… reassure the Israeli Jews that their culture and vitality will remain. We need to go further than seeing them only as ‘Jews-by- religion’ in a future Palestinian society.”

Like many advocates of the one-state outcome, Rouhanna referred enthusiastically to the exuberant multiculturalism and full political equality that have been embraced by post-apartheid South Africa.

Progressive Jewish Israelis like Ben Gurion University geographer Oren Yiftachel are also part of the new movement. Yiftachel’s most recent work has examined at the Israeli authorities’ decades-long campaign to expropriate the lands of the ethnically Palestinian Bedouin who live in southern Israel – and are citizens of Israel. “The expropriation continues – there and inside the West Bank, and in East Jerusalem,” Yiftachel said, explaining that he did not see the existence of “the Green Line” that supposedly separates Israel from the occupied territory as an analytically or politically relevant concept.

“Af-Pak: Obama’s War”

April 3, 2009

by Immanuel Wallerstein ,  commentary No. 254, April 1, 2009

Af-Pak is the new acronym the U.S. government has invented for Afghanistan-Pakistan. Its meaning is that there is a geopolitical concern of the United States in which the strategy that the United States wishes to pursue involves both countries simultaneously and they cannot be considered separately. The United States has emphasized this policy by appointing a single Special Representative to the two countries, Richard Holbrooke.

It was George W. Bush who sent U.S. troops into Afghanistan. And it was George W. Bush who initiated the policy of using U.S. drones to bomb sites in Pakistan. But, now that Barack Obama, after a “careful policy review,” has embraced both policies, it has become Barack Obama’s war. This comes as no enormous surprise since, during the presidential campaign, Obama indicated that he would do these things. Still, now he has done it.

This decision is likely to be seen in retrospect as Obama’s single biggest decision concerning U.S. foreign policy, one that will be noticed by future historians as imprinting its stamp on his reputation. And it is likely to be seen as well as his single biggest mistake. For, as Vice-President Biden apparently warned in the inner policy debate on the issue, it is likely to be a quagmire from which it will be as easy to disengage as the Vietnam war.

There are therefore two questions. Why did he do it? And what are likely to be the consequences during his term of office?

Let us begin with his own explanation of why he did it. He said that “the situation is increasingly perilous,” that “the future of Afghanistan is inextricably linked to the future of its neighbor, Pakistan,” and that “for the American people, [Pakistan’s] border region [with Afghanistan] has become the most dangerous place in the world.”

And why is it so dangerous? Quite simply, it is because it is a safe haven for al-Qaeda to “train terrorists” and to “plot attacks” – not only against Afghanistan and the United States but everywhere in the world. The fight against al-Qaeda is no longer called the “war on terrorism” but is hard to see the difference. Obama claims that the Bush administration had lost its “focus” and that he has now installed a “comprehensive, new strategy.” In short, Obama is going to do this better than Bush.

What then are the new elements? The United States will send more troops to Afghanistan – 17,000 combat troops and 4000 trainers of the Afghan forces. It will send more money. It proposes to give Pakistan $1.5 billion a year for five years to “build schools and roads and hospitals.” It proposes to send “agricultural specialists and educators, engineers and lawyers” to Afghanistan to “develop an economy that isn’t dominated by illicit drugs.” In short, Obama says that he believes that “a campaign against extremism will not succeed with bullets or bombs alone.”

However, implicitly unlike Bush, this will not be a “blank check” to the two governments. “Pakistan must demonstrate its commitment to rooting out al Qaeda and the violent extremists within its borders.” As for Afghanistan, the United States “will seek a new compact with the Afghan government that cracks down on corrupt behavior.” The Afghan and Pakistani governments are pleased to be getting the new resources. They haven’t said that they will meet Obama’s conditions. And Obama hasn’t said what he will do if the two governments don’t meet his conditions.

As for the way forward, Obama asserts that “there will be no peace without reconciliation with former enemies.” Reconciliation? Well, not with the “uncompromising core of the Taliban,” or with al-Qaeda, but with those Taliban “who’ve taken up arms because of coercion, or simply for a price.” To do this, Obama wants assistance. He proposes to create a new Contact Group that will include not only “our NATO allies” but also “the Central Asian states, the Gulf nations and Iran, Russia, India and China.”

The most striking aspect of this major commitment is how little enthusiasm it has evoked around the world. In the United States, it has been applauded by the remnants of the neo-cons and McCain. So far, other politicians and the press have been reserved. Iran, Russia, India, and China have not exactly jumped on the bandwagon. They are particularly cool about the idea of reconciliation with so-called moderate Taliban. And both the Guardian and McClatchy report that the Taliban themselves have reacted by creating unity within their hitherto divided ranks – presumably the opposite of what Obama is trying to achieve.

So, where will we probably be six months from now? There will be more U.S. troops in Afghanistan, and the U.S. commanders will probably say that the 21,000 Obama is sending are not enough. There will be further withdrawals of NATO troops from there – a repeat of the Iraq scenario. There will be further, perhaps more extensive, bombings in Pakistan, and consequently even more intensive anti-American sentiments throughout the country. The Pakistani government will not be moving against the Taliban for at least three reasons. The still very influential ISI component of the Pakistani army actually supports the Taliban. The rest of the army is conflicted and in any case probably too weak to do the job. The government will not really press them to do more because it will only thereby strengthen its main rival party which opposes such action and the result may be another army coup.

In short, the “clear and focused goal” that Obama proposes – “to disrupt, dismantle and defeat al Qaeda in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and to prevent their return to either country in the future” – will probably be further than ever from accomplishment. The question is what can Obama do then? He can “stay the course” (shades of Rumsfeld in Iraq), constantly escalate the troop commitment, while changing the local political leadership (shades of Kennedy/Johnson and Ngo Dinh Diem in Vietnam), or he can turn tail and pull out (as the United States finally did in Vietnam). He is not going to be cheered for any of these choices.

I have the impression that Obama thinks that his speech left him some wiggle room. I think he will find out rather how few choices he will have that are palatable. I think therefore he made a big, probably irreparable, mistake.

U.S. Human Rights Abuses in the War on Terror

March 19, 2009

By Joanne Mariner |  Counterpunch, March 17

Since September 2001, the U.S. government has been directly responsible for a broad array of serious human rights violations in fighting terrorism, including torture, enforced disappearance, arbitrary detention, and unfair trials. In many instances, US abuses were carried out in collaboration other governments.

To cite one example—albeit a particularly notable one—Pakistan’s intelligence agencies worked closely with the CIA to “disappear” terrorist suspects, hold them in secret detention, and subject them to torture and other abuses.

With Barack Obama’s term as U.S. president, the U.S. approach to fighting terrorism has changed. The scope of the Obama administration’s reforms is not yet clear, but it is obvious that the new administration wants to rethink many of the policies that were instituted over the past eight years.

This change in the U.S. approach is long overdue. What is called for, however, is not only for the United States to reform its own abusive policies, but also for U.S. officials to try to counteract the negative influence of past policies worldwide. As a brief review of US counterterrorism efforts will suggest, the human rights impact of the US-led “war on terror” has been felt across the globe.

Collaboration and Assistance in U.S. “War on Terror” Operations

In carrying out post-9/11 “war on terror” operations—including the detention, interrogation, and transfer of terrorist suspects—the United States relied on the assistance of a broad array of countries, from close allies like Britain to pariah states like Syria.

A few states in this long list stand out. Among the leading partners of the United States in the “war on terror” were Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Jordan. Other countries that played a crucial role in facilitating abusive U.S. practices were Egypt, Thailand, Poland, and Romania.

Some governments carried out abuses at the behest of the United States, as a means of gaining U.S. favor or counterterrorism funding. More often, however, the collaboration was genuine, because the perceived interests of the two countries were aligned. Libya, for example, took custody of a number of Libyan nationals who were rendered to Libya by the CIA in 2004-2006. While the detention and interrogation of these men were deemed to serve U.S. interests, the Libyan authorities had independent reasons for wanting to hold them.

The forms of cooperation varied from intelligence sharing to prisoner transfers to allowing the U.S. to hold prisoners in secret detention on a country’s territory. It is worth noting that many of the countries that were most deeply implicated in abusive U.S. practices received millions of dollars in U.S. military and counterterrorism assistance.

Some governments adopted abusive practices in response to direct US pressure. Most notably, the US encouraged a number of countries to pass draconian counterterrorism laws, often laws that expand police powers, reduce due process guarantees, and set out vague and overbroad definitions of terrorism.

Leading by Negative Example

The negative global impact of US human rights abuses post-9/11 does not, however, end there. Besides direct collaboration and pressure, the US also led by example. Many governments latched onto the Bush administration’s “war on terror” arguments to justify their own abuses, particularly the notion that defeating terrorism trumps any countervailing human rights obligations.

As then-Justice Department official John Yoo expressed the idea in a March 2003 memo, abuses against suspected terrorists can be justified by reference to a “national and international version of the right to self-defense.” The torture of terrorist suspects, according to this rationale, may be deemed necessary and defensible because of the government’s overriding obligation “to protect the nation from attack.” When fighting terrorism, in other words, the stakes are so high that respect for human rights is optional.

While the United States is not the first government to put forward such arguments, its post-9/11 iteration of these views had tremendous global resonance. The political and economic power of the United States, its historical reputation as a defender of human rights, and the vehemence with which it expressed its positions on the “war on terror” all amplified the negative global impact of these views.

Repressive governments, always seeking rhetorical cover for their violations, were quick to adopt the language of counterterrorism to help shield their abuses from critical scrutiny. In Egypt, for example, the government specifically cited the “war on terrorism” and new security laws passed in the United States and elsewhere to justify the 2003 renewal of long-standing emergency powers.

The Bush Legacy

By closing Guantanamo, shutting down CIA prisons, and condemning rather than justifying torture, the new administration will have made enormous strides. It should know, nonetheless, that the global legacy of the past eight years may not be quick to disappear.

The prisoners that the United States handed over to Libya and Syria will still be held without charge; the repressive laws that were passed will remain on the statute books, and the example of U.S. abuses will not be easily forgotten. Not only should the U.S. reform its own practices, it should remedy their impact on the rest of the world.

Joanne Mariner is a human rights lawyer living in Paris.

US: Criticize Israel and lose your job

March 9, 2009

US academic freedom in peril

Paul J. Balles | Redress, March 8, 2009


Paul J. Balles considers how Zionists in positions of authority at academic institutions in the United States are persecuting and defaming anyone who dares to criticize Israel or even mention Palestinian rights.

About the worst thing one can do in America or Europe is to criticize Israel. “Freedom” even in academia doesn’t allow critical comments about Israel or Zionism. Those who risk it can lose their jobs and be labelled anti-Semitic bigots.

Joel Kovel was terminated from Bard College after 20 years of service because of “differences between myself and the Bard administration on the issue of Zionism”. The president of Bard, Leon Botstein, didn’t consider Kovel’s critiques of Zionism to be protected academic freedom.

The worst of the critic bashers is Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz. He spearheaded a campaign against Norman Finkelstein’s tenure for writing Beyond Chutzpah, documenting in detail the falsifications in Dershowitz’s book The Case for Israel.

After being denied tenure, Finkelstein said: “I met the standards of tenure DePaul required, but it wasn’t enough to overcome the political opposition to my speaking out on the Israel-Palestine conflict.”

In his 2008 book, The Case Against Israel’s Enemies, Dershowitz defamed many who have been critical of Israel, calling them bigots or labelling them anti-Semitic. Dershowitz has led the pack attacking Israel’s critics.

On former President Jimmy Carter, Dershowitz wrote: “Whatever the reason or reasons for Jimmy Carter’s recent descent into the gutter of bigotry, history will not judge him kindly.”

Attacking University of Chicago Professor John J. Mearsheimer and Harvard University Professor Stephen M. Walt, who together authored The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy (2007), Dershowitz wrote: “They are hate-mongers who have given up on scholarly debate and the democratic process in order to become rock-star heroes of anti-Israel extremists.”

Writing about the British University and College Union (UCU) boycott of Israeli educators and academic institutions, Dershowitz explained how he and others “wrote an op-ed piece for the Times of London, in which we demonstrated parallels between this boycott and previous anti-Jewish boycotts that were undoubtedly motivated by anti-Semitism”.

On another front, Roosevelt University of Chicago at Illinois fired a philosophy and religion professor for allowing students in his class to ask questions about Judaism and Islam. The chair of the department, Susan Weininger, fired the professor, Douglas Giles, saying that students should not be allowed to ask whatever questions they want in class.

Weininger said that free discussion in world religions could “open up Judaism to criticism”. Any such material, she said, was not permissible to be mentioned in class discussion, textbooks or examinations. Further, she ordered Giles to forbid any and all discussion of the “Palestinian issue”, any mention of Palestinian rights, the Muslim belief in the holiness of Jerusalem, and Zionism. When Professor Giles refused to censor his students, Weininger fired him.

One of the worst types of Zionist harassment involves cases of Muslims generally and Palestinians in particular for speaking out on behalf of their favourite causes. The US government has often been complicit in these cases.

One such case involves Dr Sami Al-Aryan who taught computer engineering at the University of South Florida before his arrest in 2004. Al-Arian was charged with raising money and otherwise assisting Palestinian Islamic Jihad, a group the US government declared a terrorist organization in 1995. At trial in 2005, he was acquitted on eight of 17 counts, and the jury deadlocked on the other counts.

All counts were trumped up by Zionist prosecutors who wanted to silence Al-Aryan. If anything could vaguely approach justice in this case, the Israelis who have been slaughtering Palestinians for half a century would have been labelled terrorists and brought to trial for committing much worse deeds than Al-Aryan.

The gravest injustice allows Zionists to silence honest critics for violating the Zionist taboo.

Paul J. Balles is a retired American university professor and freelance writer who has lived in the Middle East for many years. For more information, see http://www.pballes.com.

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