Friday, September 28, 2012

When is a terrorist organization not a terrorist organization?

The answer to the question in the headline above is apparently ten years.

This because the United States has removed the People's Mujahedeen of Iran, an Iranian opposition group, from its blacklist of designated terror groups after years of intense lobbying.

Friday’s move came just days ahead of a US appeals court October 1 deadline forcing Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to decide the group's fate.

The State Department said the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq had not committed terrorism for more than a decade and credited its 3,000 members for nearly completing the peaceful departure from their paramilitary base near Iraq's Iranian border.

Effective immediately, any assets the MEK has in the United States are unblocked and Americans are permitted to do business with the organisation.

The MEK, whose leadership is based in Paris, has invested much money and years of intense lobbying to be taken off the list.

The cult-like leftwing group was founded in the 1960s to oppose the shah of Iran, and after the 1979 Islamic revolution that ousted him it took up arms against Iran's clerical rulers.

MEK leader Maryam Rajavi said in a statement from Paris that she "welcomed and appreciated" the decision to delist the movement.

"This has been the correct decision, albeit long overdue, in order to remove a major obstacle in the path of the Iranian people's efforts for democracy," she said in the statement.

The MEK says it has now laid down its arms and is working to overthrow the Islamic regime in Tehran through peaceful means. Al Jazeera

I have to question how this ruling applies to state sponsors of terror? If we look at the remnants of the Empire of Evil one has to question how often North Korea or Iran have attacked another state? Compare this to how ofter the United States of America have attacked soverign states.

As Coleen Rowley wrote 'There's ample evidence that Iranian MEK terrorists, "our new terrorists," are responsible for conducting assassinations of Iranian nuclear scientists. U.S. officials confirmed the charges leveled by Iran's leaders as well as the fact that the killings and bombings in Iran were financed, trained and armed by Israel's secret service. In an exclusive report, NBC reported that:'

The group, the People's Mujahedin of Iran, has long been designated as a terrorist group by the United States, accused of killing American servicemen and contractors in the 1970s and supporting the takeover of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran before breaking with the Iranian mullahs in 1980. The attacks, which have killed five Iranian nuclear scientists since 2007 and may have destroyed a missile research and development site, have been carried out in dramatic fashion, with motorcycle-borne assailants often attaching small magnetic bombs to the exterior of the victims' cars. -- From NBC Rock Center exclusive report February, 2012

Furthermore, Seymour Hersh reported in the New Yorker article "Our Men in Iran" that members of MEK were also being trained in Nevada by U.S. Joint Special Operation Command for covert actions to topple the Iranian government.

Rowley goes on to say "comments are from former U.S. security experts Flynt and Hillary Mann Leverett's excellent analysis of the highly politicized flip-flop, "By Delisting the MEK, the Obama Administration is taking the Moral and Strategic Bankruptcy of America's Iran Policy to a New Low".

In looking back at the United States of America's policies towards Iran dating back to the coup perpatrated by Kermit Roosevelt in 1953 one begins to see the politics of the Foreign Terrorist Organization. It also become apparent 'why they hate us'


Global support for Tibetan rights urged

Tibetan exiles from around the world have decided to boost efforts to gain global support for their struggle against China's rule over their homeland, and also urged their ethnic brethren in Tibet to stop giving up their lives in self-immolation protests.

The prime minister of Tibet's government-in-exile, addressing a meeting in the northern Indian hill town of Dharamsala, called on the international community to resist growing pressure from China and stand up for human rights in his homeland.

Lobsang Sangay, who last year took over political duties from the Buddhist spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, said that a spate of self-immolation protests were proof of severe Chinese repression in Tibet.

"Now I have more responsibilities, the Chinese government is raising pressure on the West," Sangay told 400 delegates from around the world who gathered for the meeting.

"We have to re-establish our strong contacts with these countries."

Dharmsala has been the headquarters of their spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, since he fled Tibet in 1950s.

Fatal protests

Sangay said Tibetan exiles were determined to highlight that authoritarian Chinese rule was triggering the scores of fatal protests.

"We send a strong message to China that we will not tolerate these repressive policies," he said.

"We seek and need support from the international community to push China to stop oppression in Tibet."

Sangay also said the efforts to win international support would focus on getting more support in India because of its strategic location and its stake in the region's geopolitics.

Penpa Tsering, speaker of the Tibetan exile parliament, said Tibetans should not give up their lives, and instead work toward solving the Tibetan issue with China.

"We Tibetans have a small population and each life is precious," he said at the end of the meeting.

The self-proclaimed Tibetan government-in-exile says 41 Tibetans have died from 51 attempts at self-immolation have been made since March 2009.

It considers them a sign of the suffering Tibetans feel under China's repressive policies. More


Judge throws out mass Occupy Chicago arrests as unconstitutional

The mass arrests of Occupy Chicago demonstrators that city leaders praised as a model for respecting protesters' rights were ruled unconstitutional Thursday by a Cook County judge who also declared that the city's overnight park curfew violates the First Amendment.

The city singled out the Occupy demonstrators for violating the park's 11 p.m. curfew on two consecutive weekends in October 2011, arresting hundreds of people, but made no arrests when 500,000 people stayed past the curfew at the 2008 election night rally for President Barack Obama "that electrified the world," Associate Judge Thomas M. Donnelly wrote.

That selective enforcement of the curfew, combined with the Chicago Police Department's harassment of the protesters in the days leading up to the arrests, supports "a finding that the city intended to discriminate against defendants based on their views," Donnelly wrote.

The immediate impact was to throw out the arrests of 92 Occupy protesters on charges related to violating the curfew. But the judge went beyond that in staking out his opinion that the city is violating the public's right to free assembly under the state and U.S. constitutions by restricting late-night access to Chicago's most famous lakefront park, which he called "the quintessential public forum."

Noting the park's long history of political rallies going back to Abraham Lincoln, the judge quoted early city leaders who resolved in 1835 that the land that would become Grant Park "should be reserved for all time to come for a public square, accessible at all times to the people." Because parks are a critical forum for free speech and free assembly, local ordinances restricting access to them must be "narrowly tailored" to serve a specific "government interest," such as park maintenance, Donnelly wrote.

"We're incredibly pleased by Judge Donnelly's ruling. This is a significant First Amendment ruling for the Occupy protesters, and all Chicagoans," said lawyer Thomas A. Durkin, who represented 12 University of Chicago students who were among the 92 arrested.

City lawyers plan to appeal and do not think the judge's ruling affects the 11 p.m.-to-6 a.m. curfew in Grant Park or other city parks, said Law Department spokesman Roderick Drew. More


How the BBC denies Israel's Occupation

There is international law, and there is the world as Israel and the BBC see it. And if Israel claims the whole of Jerusalem as its territory, contrary to international law, then it is not for the BBC to dispute this — or so its coverage would have us believe.

In its country profile for Israel, the BBC’s website lists statistics including Israel’s size in square meters, its major languages and its main exports. Shying away from giving a capital, as it does for all other recognized countries featured in such profiles, the BBC’s online editors have opted instead to give Israel a “seat of government” (“Israel profile,” 11 September 2012).

And this seat of government, according to the BBC, is Jerusalem. All of it. This is despite the fact that international law is quite clear that East Jerusalem is Palestinian territory, illegally occupied and annexed by Israel. Israel, however, refuses to accept UN resolutions on Jerusalem and continues to claim it all, undivided, as its own. The BBC, it would appear, is backing Israel up on this.

This is how Israel’s claim to Jerusalem is presented on the BBC website: “Israel profile. Seat of government: Jerusalem, though most foreign embassies are in Tel Aviv.”

The Israeli government does not recognize Tel Aviv as Israel’s capital, and so the BBC obligingly does not give a capital for Israel in its country profile — noting, instead, in its specially-created “seat of government” category, that “most foreign embassies are in Tel Aviv.”

The website also runs a profile for “Palestinian territories” and this gives an “intended seat of government.” Under this category, BBC editors have written “Intended seat of government: East Jerusalem. Ramallah serves as administrative capital” (“Palestinian territories profile,” 31 August 2012).

Concealing the truth

There are no difficulties here for the BBC in making a distinction between East and West Jerusalem. Rather, the difficulty for the BBC lies in admitting that Israel occupies the “Palestinian territories.” Nowhere in the profile is the occupation mentioned, and the land is not referred to as the “occupied Palestinian Territories” — the wording used by the United Nations — but simply as Palestinian territories. And of course there is nothing to inform the reader of the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from Jerusalem from 1947 onwards, and how the division of the city came about.

The UK-based Palestine Solidarity Campaign challenged the supposedly impartial BBC on its assertion that the whole of Jerusalem is Israeli territory, a falsehood which Israel is keen to propagate in its attempts to create facts on the ground.

The PSC pointed out over a series of email correspondences since July that it would be simple enough for the BBC to add the word “West” to let its audience know that Israel’s seat of government is not in Jerusalem, but in the western half of a divided city. This would also guarantee 100 percent accuracy, surely a priority for a major news organization.

Richard Hutt, complaints director at the BBC, sent a detailed email on 18 September to say: “It seems to me that the current content on the page for Israel acknowledges the Israeli view, but contextualizes it so that it is clear to readers that this is disputed.”

With no hint of irony, Hutt goes on to say, about a page that is subtitled “Facts”: “Although more information would have been helpful, I do not believe that the content would mislead readers as to the basic facts.” More


Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Jordanian monarch tells UN that transgressions against Al-Aqsa are unacceptable

King Abdullah II: 'Any attempt to erase the Arab, Muslim or Christian identity of Jerusalem, will not be tolerated.'

In his speech to the UN General Assembly on Tuesday, King Abdullah II of Jordan warned Israel about its "religious transgressions" against Al-Aqsa Mosque. He stressed that attempts to erase the Arab, Muslim or Christian identity of Jerusalem "will not be tolerated".

The King reminded the General Assembly that Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Noble sanctuary - Al-Haram Al-Sharif - in East Jerusalem is under his kingdom's custodianship and is protected by international law as occupied territory. Al-Aqsa is Islam's third holiest site and it is important to 1.7 billion Muslims, one quarter of the world's population. It is similar in importance to the Ka'aba in Makkah and the Prophet's Mosque in Madinah.

"Let me be absolutely clear, any invasion or division of the site of Al-Aqsa Mosque would be viewed not only as a breach of Israel's obligations [as the occupying power], but also as profound religious transgression," said King Abdullah. "The international community must send a clear message that such transgressions, or any attempt to erase the Arab, Muslim or Christian identity of Jerusalem, will not be tolerated."

Referring to the ongoing changes in the Arab world, the King pointed out that while we deal with these challenges, we must never lose focus on the crisis at the heart of the region. "For almost sixty-five years, the Palestinian people have been the exception to the UN promise of shelter under international law and human rights - not yet; all nations had the dignity of living in freedom and security except the Palestinians not yet; all nations had the right to self-determination except the Palestinians not yet; now is the time to say, 'Enough!'"

The King was emboldened when he connected the Arab Spring to the Palestine-Israel issue. "As the Arab Spring demanded dignity for all, so it demanded the end of exceptionalism," he told the General Assembly. "No single issue causes greater anger than to tell an entire people that when it comes to global justice, they don't count."

There must be a just peace, he continued, before the "Arab Summer" can bear its full fruit: "A just peace with a Palestinian state living side by side with a secure Israel at peace with the entire region."

King Abdullah clearly blamed the Israelis for spoiling the chance of a resumption of negotiations. "Earlier this year, in Amman, we succeeded in getting both sides back to the table for exploratory talks," he explained. "Then positive traction stopped again. Illegal settlement-building and unilateral actions continue, constituting direct threats to a negotiated peace."

A rare opportunity for resolving the conflict, the King believes, will present itself after the US presidential election. "There may be a rare window of opportunity, later this year, to achieve what both sides so urgently need: two states, at peace, Palestine and Israel - both secure, both free to look forward - on the basis of a just, comprehensive, and final settlement. This has always been and will remain a foremost priority for Jordan." More

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Those [drone] strikes are a war crime

A new Stanford-NYU report, "Living Under Drones," details the devastation to civilians - and possible war crimes - resulting from US drone strikes in Pakistan.

On the morning of March 17, 2011, Ahmed Jan joined over 40 other people at a bus station in Datta Khel, North Waziristan in Pakistan to settle a community issue in a large meeting, or jirga. The group split up into two circles, about 12 feet apart from each other, and despite the drones buzzing overhead, those present later described feeling "secure and isolated" from the drones. It was a sanctioned meeting and Pakistani authorities had been made aware of it.

Jan was sitting in one of those circles when he heard a "hissing sound." An instant later a drone-fired missile struck the middle of his group, sending his body flying and killing everyone around him.

At least one more missile was fired, hitting the second group. Another witness, Idris Farid, said, "Everything was devastated. There were pieces - body pieces - lying around. There was lots of flesh and blood."

As UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions Christof Heyns observed, "[I]f civilian 'rescuers' are indeed being intentionally targeted, there is no doubt about the law: Those strikes are a war crime...."

At least 42 people were killed that day, many of them civilians. The Obama administration claims, to this day, that all those killed were insurgents.

This information comes from a new report jointly released by human rights attorneys from Stanford and New York University (NYU) that details with disturbing clarity the horror that it is to live in a drone-patrolled region. More


UNHRC: “Israel Fails To Prosecute Soldiers, Settlers, Who Attack Palestinians”

A report prepared and published by the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) accused the state of Israel of failing to prosecute Israeli soldiers and settlers who commit crimes against the Palestinian people in the occupied territories, the Arabs48 News Website reported.

The report said that there is a serious increase in attacks carried out by settlers and soldiers against the unarmed Palestinian civilians in the occupied West Bank, including in occupied East Jerusalem.

The report was submitted to the Human Rights Council during its Monday session in Geneva, and states that “Israel has failed to conduct the needed legal measures against Israeli soldiers and settlers who practice violence against the Palestinians and their property”.

The report also revealed that an Israeli soldier, who was questioned by Israel for killing a Palestinian mother and her daughter, never faced charges until this moment, and said that three Israeli young settlers were placed under house arrest for five days for attacking a Palestinian family with firebombs leading to serious injuries.

The Human Rights Council said that “such attacks are frequent, and escalating in many cases, and target Palestinian civilians and their property”.

It stressed on the fact that Israel is obliged to protect the Palestinians, and when violence is practiced against them, Israel, as the occupying country, is obliged to prosecute the assailants.

The Council also stated that Jewish settlers, and soldiers, cut and uprooted more than 500 Olive trees since the beginning of last month, an issue that deprived Palestinian families from their main source of livelihood. More


In disturbing video, Israeli children’s words echo indoctrination

How did it feel to imagine killing Arabs? “I felt happy” one girl answers.

She was one of several children who spoke about committing acts of violence in this video shot at the Israeli army museum by Israeli satirical filmmaker Itamar Rose.

But the children’s answers – in Hebrew and subtitled in English – are serious. As they climb all over tanks, sit at machine-guns positions, or explain how to use a hand-grenade, Rose asks them their views.

Without hesitation, the children express their readiness to kill. Asked what he imagined when he was sitting in a tank, one boy answers, “I picture a dead Arab.”

Of course, these children are no more ready to kill than any other children, nor can they be any more capable of understanding the import of their words, at least not yet.

The children in Rose’s film bring to mind the notorious image of Israeli schoogirls writing messages on artillery shells about to be fired into Lebanon during Israel’s 2006 assault that killed more than 1,200 Lebanese civilians and devastated much of the country. More


Even Dumb Ideas Have Consequences - Andrew Bacevich

It came and went in a flash and now it’s long forgotten, buried in the rubble heap of history. But maybe, given recent events, a little excavation is in order. After all, as the author ofConstantine’s Sword, James Carroll, wrote in 2004, looking back on the 9/11 moment, “A few days after the assault... [s]peaking spontaneously, without the aid of advisers or speechwriters, [George W. Bush] put a word on the new American purpose that both shaped it and gave it meaning. ‘This crusade,’ he said, ‘this war on terrorism.’"

It was the presidential equivalent of a Freudian slip, the sort that reveals one’s deepest preconceptions. After all, there was only one set of “crusades” and Medieval Christendom launched them against Islamic "infidels" of the Middle East. There has been no such presidential slip since.

When, in January 2002, for example, George W. Bush gave his State of the Union address, his speechwriter David Frum, who liked to speak of the “stinking bowl” of the Arab world, ditched the very thought that there might be a crusade against Islam in America. Instead, he and an associate came up with a phrase that hinted at a more ecumenical set of enemies. In imitation of Germany, Japan, and Italy, the “Axis powers” of World War II, he puffed up three rickety regional regimes -- Iraq, Iran, and North Korea -- into a looming “axis of evil.” (“Seeking weapons of mass destruction, these regimes pose a grave and growing danger.”) It may have been farfetched to compare Iraq’s megalomanic autocrat Saddam Hussein, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, and North Korea’s “Dear Leader” Kim Jong-Il to Hitler, Mussolini, and Tojo, but it proved adequate for the needs of that moment.

How, after all, could the United States be “at war with Islam,” when the distinctly non-Muslim North Korea was on board the SS Axis of Evil? Still, when you look back on the fate of that “axis,” something strange should jump out at you. After all, the Bush administration knocked off Saddam over a non-existent Iraqi nuclear and WMD program which, in the pre-invasion months, its officials insisted might put mushroom clouds over American cities and leave Iraqi drones spraying chemical and biological poisons over East Coast cities. Since then, in conjunction with Israel, both the Bush and Obama administrations have gone after Iran’s nuclear program, including rounds of cyber warfare, a massive build-up of forces in the Persian Gulf region, threats of war, sanctions, Israeli assassinations of nuclear scientists, and so on, and yet Iran, too, has no nuclear weapon and no one claims it does, nor do mostexperts think it's even close.

As it turned out, only the one non-Islamic country in that axis of evil actually built and testeda perfectly real nuclear weapon in those years. And the response seems curiously instructive: though it announced its first successful test in 2006 and the actual building of a bomb in 2009, no war threats ensued, no invasion occurred, no cyber-attacks were launched, no giant military build up in the region occurred. In the end, next to nothing happened. In fact, when you think about it, since 2001, just about every war-like act by Washington, whether in Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Pakistan, Libya, Somalia, Yemen, the Philippines, or elsewhere, has been directed at a Muslim country or at Muslims in a county. More


Sunday, September 23, 2012

Two pipes for two peoples: The politics of water in the West Bank

The 's Civil Administration is preventing the Palestinian Authority from laying a water pipe that would alleviate the acute water shortage for more than 600,000 Palestinians in the West Bank.

The reason given for preventing the pipe's construction is that a section of less than two kilometers of it, laid on the margins of Route 50, would disrupt passenger traffic on the road.

The annual water amount provided to the district is about 20 million cubic meters - some 90 liters per capita per day. A considerable part of the water is lost on the way due to leaks and faulty connections.

The district needs an additional 13 million cubic meters a year for domestic use, apart from farming. From May to October the water to the Palestinians in the area is severely rationed. Some neighborhoods have water for a few hours once a week, others twice a month or less.

Banal functions such as house cleaning and laundry all depend on the water supply. Every day some 400 tankers transfer water from central depots to hospitals, factories, schools and other public facilities in the region.

About half the water amount to the district comes from springs and wells. The PA buys the other half from the Israeli water company . Some 10,000 cubic meters a day - more than a third of the amount bought from - are funneled from the Dir Sha'ar (Etzion junction ) pumping depot in an 11 kilometer pipe.

About half the water is lost on the way, Mekorot's monthly invoices show. The Palestinians pay the amount registered at the depot, minus the water the pipe provides the Carmei Zur settlement (about 100 cubic meters a day ). The water meters in the Palestinian neighborhoods show that the amount actually supplied to the Palestinians is much smaller.

The PA has been planning to replace the pipe since 2008, with the financing of the United states Agency for International Development.

The pipe, built by in 1972, loses 45-50 percent of the water flowing in it due to deterioration, illegal connections, bad construction and faulty installation, the American construction company MWH wrote in its project description.

Much of the water flowing in the pipe, which passes under residential and farming areas, is stolen, especially for farming. The water quality is unsafe, the company wrote.

The Palestinian water authority and MWH planned a new route alongside the road, to prevent hooking up to the pipe illegally. A new, wider pipe would reduce leaks and ensure the water's quality, they said. Mekorot agreed to increase the water amount to the Hebron district by 5,000 cubic meters a day.

Palestinian water tanks destroyed by settlers in Hebron
The project was approved by the joint Israeli-Palestinian water committee in August 2010, as required by the Oslo agreement.

The Civil Administration had to approve the route, located in Area C. Finally it was agreed to lay nine kilometers of the pipe alongside an existing farm route, leaving 1.9 kilometers of pipe along Route 60. "This is necessary to avoid destroying two houses and fatally damaging vineyards," an engineer said.

But the Civil Administration refused "because the construction would disrupt the Jewish drivers' traffic," the Palestinian engineer said.

"When they do maintenance work on other roads in the West Bank, don't they disrupt the traffic?" he asked.

Like all Hebron neighborhoods, Jabar, located in Area H2 (in Israeli jurisdiction ) has water only once every few weeks. Some of the residents' front doors and windows have been sealed and the alleys in the neighborhood are blocked. Only Israeli vehicles to and from the Jewish homes in ancient Hebron and the Cave of the Patriarchs are allowed to travel there. Water tankers to the Palestinian houses are not allowed and the residents use water holes. More


Saturday, September 22, 2012

Drone Warfare's Deadly Civilian Toll: A British Drone Pilot Speaks Out

I find myself caught between the need to follow the drone debate and the need to avoid unpleasant memories it stirs. I used drones – unmanned aerial vehicles – during the nadir of my military career that was an operational tour in Afghanistan.

I remember cuing up a US Predator strike before deciding the computer screen wasn't depicting a Taliban insurgent burying an improvised explosive device in the road; rather, a child playing in the dirt.

After returning from Afghanistan at the end of 2009, I left the British army in 2010. I wanted to put as much distance as I could between myself and the UK, leaving to study in America (where I still reside). By doing so, I inadvertently placed myself in the country that is spearheading development in drone technology and use, highlighted by each report of a drone strike and the usual attendant civilian casualties.

Political theorist Hannah Arendt described the history of warfare in the 20th century as the growing incapacity of the army to fulfil its basic function: defending the civilian population. My experiences in Afghanistan brought this issue to a head, leaving me unable to avoid the realization that my role as a soldier had changed, in Arendt's words, from "that of protector into that of a belated and essentially futile avenger". Our collective actions in Iraq and Afghanistan after 9/11 were, and remain, futile vengeance – with drones the latest technological advance to empower that flawed strategy.

Drones are becoming the preferred instruments of vengeance, and their core purpose is analogous to the changing relationship between civil society and warfare, in which the latter is conducted remotely and at a safe distance so that implementing death and murder becomes increasingly palatable.

Hyperbole? But I was there. I sat in my camouflaged combats and I took the rules of engagement and ethical warfare classes. And frankly, I don't buy much, if any, of it now – especially concerning drones. Their effectiveness is without question, but there's terrible fallout from their rampant use.

Both Pakistan and Yemen are arguably less stable and more hostile to the west as a result of President Obama's increased reliance on drones. When surveying the poisoned legacy left to the Iraqi people, and what will be left to the Afghan people, it's beyond depressing to hear of the hawks circling around other theatres like Pakistan and Yemen, stoking the flames of interventionism.

I fear the folly in which I took part will never end, and society will be irreversibly enmeshed in what George Orwell's 1984 warned of: constant wars against the Other, in order to forge false unity and fealty to the state.

It's very easy to kill if you don't view the target as a person. When I went to Iraq as a tank commander in 2004, the fire orders I gave the gunner acknowledged some legitimacy of personhood: "Coax man, 100 meters front." Five years later in Afghanistan, the linguistic corruption that always attends war meant we'd refer to "hot spots", "multiple pax on the ground" and "prosecuting a target", or "maximising the kill chain".

The Pentagon operates about 7,000 drones and asked Congress for nearly $5bn for drones in the 2012 budget. Before retiring as air force chief of staff, General Norton Schwartz was reported as saying it "was 'conceivable' drone pilots in the air force would outnumber those in cockpits in the foreseeable future". That's not a brave new world, far from it.

The encroachment of drones into the civilian realm is also gaining momentum. President Obama signed a federal law on 14 February 2012, allowing drones for a variety of commercial uses and for police law enforcement. The skies above may never be the same. As with most of America's darker elements, such as its gun culture, there's profit to be made – the market for drones is already valued at $5.9bn and is expected to double in 10 years. More


Emmerson Calls for an end to Drone Strikes in Pakistan

In a surprising, yet positive, statement, the UN Rapporteur for Human Rights and Counter-terrorism, Ben Emmerson, called on the US to answer questions regarding the secrecy of its drone operations.

To many, the statement came as a shock as such a demand was not made on the international level in the past from the US, and coming as it did from the UN, a body supposedly favoring the US, surprised many. Emmerson has been vocal on questioning the legality of the drones and the global outrage resulting from the Predator strikes.Commenting on the issue, 20th August, he said:

“We can’t make a decision on whether it is lawful or unlawful if we do not have the data. If they (the drone technology users) do not establish a mechanism (of internal investigation), it will be my recommendation that the UN should put the mechanisms in place through the Human RightsCouncil, the General Assembly and the Office of the High Commissioner.”
Soon after taking over, Emmerson made sure that highlighting the illegal use of drones and its drastic consequences were among his top priorities. He is also in the process of preparing a comprehensive report for the next session of the UN Human Rights Council in March, where he will report on the spike in the use of drone technology by the Obama administration.

Primarily known as an accomplished lawyer in the United Kingdom, Emmerson is also working for the promotion of fair trials and compensation for innocent war victims. He is also trying to change the international narrative on terrorism and terrorists, where every war prisoner is tagged as a terrorist, with most of them not having the opportunity of a fair trial. But more importantly, his stance on drone attacks, and especially their rise in Pakistan, has started a serious debate in international circles over the morality and legality of the issue.

The recent pace of CIA-operated drone strikes increased in the month of August in Waziristan – Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) – Pakistan. In total, seven drone attacks took place in a month, the highest number in a single month for the current year. The first use of drone attacks was reported in a article in New York Times in 2008, and since then their use has been carried on unabated. A total of 32 drone strikes have hit FATA in 2012. To date, close to 340 drone strikes have killed more than 800 civilians and have caused approximately 3,300 casualties, which, for reasons of media prohibitions in the region, are also dubious as to whether the victims were militants or civilians. More


This must also apply to Yemen and Somalia where the United States, throught their military and the Central Intelligence Agemcy (CIA) is operating similar programs. Editor


Challenging the NDAA: We Won—For Now - Chris Hedges

In January I sued President Barack Obama over Section 1021(b)(2) of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which authorized the military to detain U.S. citizens indefinitely, strip them of due process and hold them in military facilities, including offshore penal colonies.

Last week, round one in the battle to strike down the onerous provision, one that saw me joined by six other plaintiffs including Noam Chomsky and Daniel Ellsberg, ended in an unqualified victory for the public. U.S. District Judge Katherine Forrest, who accepted every one of our challenges to the law, made her temporary injunction of the section permanent. In short, she declared the law unconstitutional.

Almost immediately after Judge Forrest ruled, the Obama administration challenged the decision. Government prosecutors called the opinion “unprecedented” and said that “the government has compelling arguments that it should be reversed.” The government added that it was an “extraordinary injunction of worldwide scope.” Government lawyers asked late Friday for an immediate stay of Forrest’s ban on the use of the military in domestic policing and on the empowering of the government to strip U.S. citizens of due process.

The request for a stay was an attempt by the government to get the judge, pending appeal to a higher court, to grant it the right to continue to use the law. Forrest swiftly rejected the stay, setting in motion a fast-paced appeal to the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and possibly, if her ruling is upheld there, to the Supreme Court of the United States. The Justice Department sent a letter to Forrest and the 2nd Circuit late Friday night informing them that at 9 a.m. Monday the Obama administration would ask the 2nd Circuit for an emergency stay that would lift Forrest’s injunction. This would allow Obama to continue to operate with indefinite detention authority until a formal appeal was heard. The government’s decision has triggered a constitutional showdown between the president and the judiciary.

“This may be the most significant constitutional standoff since the Pentagon Papers case,” said Carl Mayer, co-lead counsel for the plaintiffs. More


Monday, September 17, 2012

After NATO Strike Kills 8 Afghan Women, Pundits Still Wonder: Why Do They Hate Us?

The protests and violence in Egypt, Libya and Yemen have caused a notable uptick in media discussions about, as Newsweek's cover puts it, "Muslim Rage."

A Washington Post headline illustrates which lives are more valuable.

Part of the corporate media's job is to make sure real political grievances are mostly kept out of the discussion. It's a lot easier to talk about angry mobs and their peculiar religion than it is to acknowledge that maybe some of the anger has little to do with religion at all.

Take the news out of Afghanistan yesterday: A NATO airstrike killed eight women in the eastern province of Laghman who were out collecting firewood. This has happened before. And attacks that kill a lot of Afghans–whether accidental or not–tend to be covered the same way–quietly, and with a focus not on the killing but on the ramifications.


One has to wonder whether, absent the deaths of U.S. troops, the airstrike would have made the news at all.

So yesterday if you logged into CommonDreams, you may have seen this headline:

NATO Airstrike in Afghanistan Kills 8 Women

Now look for the same news in the New York Times today (9/17/12). It's there–but the headline is this:

Karzai Denounces Coalition Over Airstrikes

The Times gave a clear sense of what was important: "Mr. Karzai’s condemnation was likely to rankle some Western officials…" the paper's Matthew Rosenberg explained, who went on to explain that

the confrontational tone of the statement was a sharp reminder of the acrimony that has often characterized relations between Mr. Karzai and his American benefactors.

In the Washington Post, the NATO airstrikes made the front page–sort of. Readers saw this headline at the website: More


Friday, September 14, 2012

Israeli army spokesperson’s inaccuracy exposed, as judge releases Palestinian detained in Hebron

Earlier this week, an Israeli military court judge ordered the release of a Palestinian whose violent arrest by non-uniformed Israeli soldiers a month ago was captured on video.

According to a press release from B’Tselem, the judge made his decision to free ‘Abd al-’Aziz Fakhouri “after watching two videos” of the incident: the first, published at the time, and a second, “recently uncovered” by the Israeli human rights group (also seen above).

The event occurred on the 14.08.2012 in Tel Rumeida in Hebron. A video filmed by a foreign citizen depicts soldiers from the Shaham battalion of the Nahal brigade, during a fitness exercise, violently dragging the young man into a stairwell near the checkpoint, with some of them even kicking him.

The second clip obtained by B’Tselem shows footage leading up to the incident, when an Israeli soldier falsely accuses Fakhouri “of having cursed him”, before the Palestinian young man is violently snatched.

Making his decision, the military judge said “it’s clear that the respondent was attacked by a soldier apparently in civilian dress, through no fault of his own, because he [the soldier] thought the respondent had spoken disparagingly to him”. He went on to call it

an example of unreasonable use of force by soldiers in civilian clothes, who it isn’t clear even had the authority to distance the respondent from the area and to arrest him.

Compare this to the response by the Israeli army spokesperson after the first video became public. In comments that appeared in Ha’aretz (and a similar response was given to +972), the Israeli military claimed:

The video does not display all of the incidents leading up to the event. Yesterday, during a routine security check in Hebron, the Palestinian refused to identify himself. The Palestinian man confronted the IDF force on scene, an incident not shown in the video, when the soldiers, who were there unintentionally, assisted the force in completing its mission.

There were additional anonymous remarks by “security sources”, included in a reportfor The Jerusalem Post by Tovah Lazaroff, that “during questioning the Palestinian man admitted that he physically resisted the inspection” and that “it turned out the Palestinian man was wanted for investigation.”

Meanwhile, Israeli army spokesperson for “Judea and Samaria Division” Captain Barak Raz – who coincidentally was at a ceremony in Hebron at the time – had responded to me on Twitter with the following remarks:


Tuesday, September 11, 2012

We Are at War

Eleven years later, we are still at war. Bullets, mortars and drones are still extracting payment. Thousands, tens of thousands, millions have paid in full. Children and even those yet to be born will continue to pay for decades to come.

On a single day in Iraq last week there were 29 bombing attacks in 19 cities, killing 111 civilians and wounding another 235. On September 9th, reports indicate 88 people were killed and another 270 injured in 30 attacks all across the country. Iraq continues in a seemingly endless death spiral into chaos. In his acceptance speech for the Democratic nomination for President, Obama claimed he ended the war in Iraq. Well… not quite.

“We are at War. Somebody is Going to Pay.” —George W. Bush, Sept 11th, 2001.

The city of Fallujah remains under siege. Not from U.S. troops, but from a deluge of birth defects that have plagued families since the use of depleted uranium and white phosphorus by U.S. forces in 2004. No government studies have provided a direct link to the use of these weapons because no government studies have been undertaken, and none are contemplated.

Dr. Samira Alani, a pediatric specialist at Fallujah General Hospital, told Al Jazeera,

"We have all kinds of defects now, ranging from congenital heart disease to severe physical abnormalities, both in numbers you cannot imagine. There are not even medical terms to describe some of these conditions because we've never seen them until now."

The photographs are available online if you can bear to look at what we have wrought. George W. Bush will loudly proclaim his “Pro-life” bona fides, and he’ll tell you he believes “that every child, born and unborn, ought to be protected in law and welcomed into life.” Apparently, “every child” doesn’t apply to the children of Fallujah, and the “law” doesn’t apply to George W. Bush. More


Saturday, September 8, 2012

Is Palestine A Lost Cause?

A long version of the headline question would be something like this: Given that in the 46th year of Israel’s occupation of the West Bank Jewish settlers are continuing to consolidate their hold on the territory’s land and water resources by stealing more and more of both, thus demonstrating not only Zionism’s contempt for international law but, also, that the only peace Israel’s leaders are interested in is one that requires a complete Palestinian surrender to Zionism’s will, is there any real prospect, in any foreseeable future, of justice for the Palestinians?

It is probably still the case that, in the name of Arafat-like pragmatism, a majority of the oppressed Palestinians would regard the establishment of a state of their own on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip with East Jerusalem its capital as an acceptable minimum amount of justice.

They are, of course, fully aware that in such a scenario the right of return for those dispossessed of their land and their rights in 1948 and again in 1967 would have to be limited to return to the territory of the Palestinian mini state, which would mean, because of the lack of space, that only a relatively small number of the dispossessed Palestinians and their descendants would be able to return. (Arafat and his leadership colleagues calculated that initially not more than 100,000 would be able to return). The rest would have to settle for financial compensation.

Beyond that the Palestinians of a mini state would entertain the hope, as Arafat did when he persuaded the institutions of Palestinian decision-making to accept the need for unthinkable compromise with Israel (peace with it in return for only 22 percent of their land, thus legitimizing Israel’s occupation of the other 78 percent) that a genuine two-state solution could lead in one or two generations to one state by mutual consent. In that event there would be greater scope for more diaspora Palestinians to exercise their right of return.

But it isn’t going to happen. Though not yet buried, the two-state solution has long been dead, killed by Israel’s colonization with the complicity of the major powers and, by default, the regimes of an impotent Arab Order. As I document in detail in my book Zionism: The Real Enemy of the Jews, the Arab regimes never had any intention of fighting Israel to liberate Palestine or using the leverage they have to press the U.S. to require Israel to end its occupation of land grabbed in 1967. More


Friday, September 7, 2012

Delivered into enemy hands

The report 'Delivered Into Enemy Hands US-Led Abuse and Rendition of Opponents to Gaddafi’s Libya' released by Human Rights Watch reinforces the need for Wkikleaks.

This report is based on interviews conducted in Libya with 14 former detainees, most of whom belonged to an armed Islamist group that had worked to overthrow Gaddafi for 20 years. Many members of the group, the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG), joined the NATO-backed anti-Gaddafi rebels in the 2011 conflict. Some of those who were rendered and allegedly tortured in US custody now hold key leadership and political positions in the country.

Human Rights Watch accuses US of covering up extent of waterboarding

Human Rights Watch (HRW) has accused the US government of covering up the extent of waterboarding at secret CIA prisons, alleging that Libyan opponents of Muammar Gaddafi were subjected to the torture before being handed over to the former dictator's security police.

The New York-based human rights group has cast "serious doubt" on Washington's claim that only three people, all members of al-Qaida, were waterboarded in American custody, claiming in a new report to have fresh evidence that the CIA used the technique to simulate drowning on Libyans snatched from countries in Africa and Asia.

The report, Delivered into Enemy Hands: US-Led Abuse and Rendition of Opponents to Gaddafi's Libya, also says that the CIA, Britain's MI6 and other western intelligence services were responsible for "delivering Gaddafi his enemies on a silver platter" by sending the captured men to Tripoli for further abuse after the American interrogations.

The HRW report is based on documents seized at the Libyan intelligence headquarters after Gaddafi's fall, and interviews with 14 former detainees, mostly members of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG), which attempted for 20 years to overthrow the former regime in Tripoli. The group joined last year's revolution and some of those tortured by the US now hold leadership positions in the new Libyan administration. More


Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Unbiased" Levy Commission Only Serves to Reinforce Israel's Political Isolation

At the time of the Oslo accords, the mild-mannered Edward Said was intemperate in his denunciation of Yasser Arafat and the PLO for accepting the deal. I could see there were problems, but thought he was a bit over the top in his rhetoric. Within a year or so, however, it was clear that Said was entirely correct. The government of the Land of Milk and Honey maintained its reputation as the regime of fig leaves and phony diplomacy.

Oslo was not about peace with the Palestinians: it was about breaking Israeli isolation worldwide, and providing diplomatic camouflage for Israel and its supporters in Washington—which of course included the Clinton White House and Congress—to pretend that Israel was seeking peace. The doubling of the number of Jewish settlers while talking about negotiations based on an agreement which pledged that neither side would make any unilateral changes is an example of prestidigitatory diplomacy of a prize-winning kind. Just as the conjuror's patter is designed to lull the audience's attention so they do not focus on what his hands are doing, Israeli diplomatic practice is to keep on nagging and hectoring so that the U.S. can pretend it does not see what is happening on the ground.

But there are other aspects to Israel's continual chatter—above all its leadership's continual attempts to persuade itself that its behavior, despite violating almost every tenet of international law and of Jewish ethics, is really moral and legal.

That was epitomized with the recent commission which "found" that Israel's settlement policy was entirely legal. The commission, chaired by former Judge Edmond Levy, has caused controversy worldwide by finding that Israel is not an "occupier" in the West Bank and that all Jewish settlements are legal—including those even the Israeli government itself calls unauthorized.

We can tell what a responsible and objective body the commission was: it included former Israeli Ambassador to Canada Alan Baker, who lived in a settlement himself and whose law firm had been contracted to prove that very point before he joined the entirely unbiased investigatory committee! The committee was, of course, commissioned by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, whose views on settlements are obvious since he has refused all President Barack Obama's appeals to stop building them!

So the only purpose of the Levy commission is to reinforce Israel's incestuous political isolation, which is analogous to the prisoner in the dock telling the judge, jury and public that he knows the law better than they do. It will certainly have no persuasive effect outside the country. More


Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Be'er Sheva's mosquerade

This week, the Israeli city of Be'er Sheva (Beer el-Sabe) will hold a wine and beer festival in the courtyard of the city's former Great Mosque. The municipality's plans have provoked anger from the country's Palestinian citizens, including a legal challenge by minority rights group Adalah, as well as a protest tent and condemnation by community leaders and politicians.

This episode is a microcosm of Israel's hidden history, a country where town and country alike is strewn withreminders of the ongoing ethnic cleansing at the heart of the establishment of a "Jewish and democratic" state.

The Palestinian population of Be'er Sheva was expelled in 1948, with the operation order for the town's conquest calling for the "demolition of most of the town". Some residents ended up in refugee camps in the Gaza Strip.

The mosque had been built in 1906 and was used for prayer until the Nakba. Afterwards, it was initially used as a prison and then a courthouse, before being opened as a museum. A sign seen earlier this summer in the Negev Museum reads: "The toilet rooms are in the building formerly used as a mosque". Such a transformation is not without precedent: the mosque of ethnically cleansed Palestinian village Al-Khalisa is now the museum of Kiryat Shemona.

Palestinian citizens have long sought to restore Be'er Sheva's Great Mosque as a place of prayer and worship. Last year, and almost a decade after petitioners went to the High Court of Justice, the judges ruled that the building be used as an Islamic museum. Even this was better than the position of the Be'er Sheva municipality, who sought to open a "Museum of the Cultures of the Sons of Abraham", and have opposed the use of the mosque for prayer on the basis it will "create violence and disturb the public order".

The case was noted in the most recent US State Department International Religious Freedom report on Israel, which noted the "governmental and legal discrimination against non-Jews and non-Orthodox streams of Judaism".

The story of Be'er Sheva's mosque reminded me of a recent exchange I had with reporter for The Jerusalem PostLahav Harkov. Responding to her tweets about a visit to a winery in northern Israel, I reminded Harkov that the kibbutz in question stood on the land of the ethnically cleansed Palestinian village of Saliha (where Israeli forces killed 60 to 90 villagers gathered in a house).

Harkov subsequently tweeted that "it was a war" and "tragedies happened on both sides", saying "there are tourist sites on battlefields across the world. It's not that big of a deal IMHO". Revealingly, the journalist then added: "Also, I'm an unabashed Zionist & I think Israel rightfully & historically belongs 2 Jews."

Simply pointing out the history of 1948 provoked a series of justifications that resulted in a frank defence of ethno-religious privilege. As Gideon Levy wrote in Ha'aretz recently about Tel Aviv, a city "whose reputation for enlightenment and openness is world renowned, is built in part on ruined [Palestinian] villages, and it is unwilling to acknowledge it".

This refusal stems in part from the scale of the ethnic cleansing that took place in the Nakba. Around 90,000 immigrants were settled in Palestinian homes in Jaffa, downtown Haifa and Acre, and in 1954, more than one third of Israel's Jewish population lived on absentee property. 95 per cent of new Jewish settlements established 1948-53 were on absentee property. By 1951, the Jewish National Fund's "Naming Committee" had assigned 200 new names as part of the process of removing Palestinians from the map in more ways than one.

But this is not just "ancient history". In many cases, the Palestinians expelled from their homes and villages live just a few miles away in refugee camps across the border, forbidden from returning because they are not Jewish. Some are even citizens of the state, but despite this, are still stripped of their property by the systematically discriminatory land regime. More