Archive | September 7th, 2011

Palestinians Right of Return is not Debatable: UN Resolution 194 In Force and Enforceable

NOVANEWS

 by Marivel Guzman

Continuing Relevance of International Law:

Right of Return

UN Resolution 273 of 11 May 1949, welcoming Israel into the UN, established that the new state’s entry was based on Israel’s representations regarding its ability and willingness to implement 194.

International law regarding Palestinian refugees was essentially abandoned during the Camp David talks. After the 1948 war, the UN passed General Assembly Resolution (UNGA) 194, which mandated compensation for the Palestinian refugees and assured their right to return home. The UN made Israel’s own membership in the world body contingent on Israeli acceptance of 194 and the rights it granted to the Palestinians. UN Resolution 273 of 11 May 1949, welcoming Israel into the UN, established that the new state’s entry was based on Israel’s representations regarding its ability and willingness to implement 194.

The Palestinians’ right to return to their homes, despite a 52-year delay in realizing that right, is no less enforceable, no less compelling, than the same right of the Albanian Kosovars, in whose name the United States led NATO into war. It is no less than the right of Rwandans returning home from the Congo, or East Timorese going home from Indonesian refugee camps.

In fact, as law professor Susan Akram and others have noted, the Palestinian right of return has an even stronger legal basis. United Nations Resolution 194 was consciously designed to provide privileged protections for Palestinian refugees, with the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and its 1967 Protocol serving as a safety net. Those special rights were not granted to other refugees, whose rights are determined solely by broader international laws.

25 August 2000-Considering that most observers of the Camp David negotiations called the contention over the Palestinian right of return “irresolvable,” it was no surprise that this issue was one of the summit’s deal breakers. Yet what most left out was the explanation of why this issue was a sticking point: Palestinian rights and international law have been overshadowed by Israel’s power.

Israel controls the land of the 530 Palestinian villages destroyed during and after the 1948 war, from which hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were expelled or fled more than 50 years ago. The Palestinians have few cards to put on the table. Instead of power, they have only their roughly five million exiles; most of them are stateless. Meanwhile, the United States accepts this vast disparity of power between Israel and the Palestinians, as if Camp David were a level playing field on which an honest broker could referee a fair game.

Continuing Relevance of International Law:

International law regarding Palestinian refugees was essentially abandoned during the Camp David talks. After the 1948 war, the UN passed General Assembly Resolution (UNGA) 194, which mandated compensation for the Palestinian refugees and assured their right to return home. The UN made Israel’s own membership in the world body contingent on Israeli acceptance of 194 and the rights it granted to the Palestinians. UN Resolution 273 of 11 May 1949, welcoming Israel into the UN, established that the new state’s entry was based on Israel’s representations regarding its ability and willingness to implement 194.

The Palestinians’ right to return to their homes, despite a 52-year delay in realizing that right, is no less enforceable, no less compelling, than the same right of the Albanian Kosovars, in whose name the United States led NATO into war. It is no less than the right of Rwandans returning home from the Congo, or East Timorese going home from Indonesian refugee camps.

In fact, as law professor Susan Akram and others have noted, the Palestinian right of return has an even stronger legal basis. United Nations Resolution 194 was consciously designed to provide privileged protections for Palestinian refugees, with the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and its 1967 Protocol serving as a safety net. Those special rights were not granted to other refugees, whose rights are determined solely by broader international laws.

Demographics:

Despite the requirements of international law, Israel specifically rejects the “right” of return, maintaining that allowing the Palestinian refugees to come home would alter the demographic balance of the Jewish state. The claim is accurate: it would more than double the number of Palestinians in Israel, which now comprises about 20 percent of Israel’s population. However, concern regarding the ethnic composition of the country is not an acceptable basis for rejecting international law. The equivalent would be a post-war Rwandan government refusing-with U.S. support-to recognize the right of indigenous refugees to return home because of fears that it would somehow change the Hutu-Tutsi demographics.

Israel apparently offered a “humanitarian compromise” at Camp David which would allow a small percentage of Palestinians to return home based on Israeli-regulated family reunification. Yet Israel continued to reject UN 194, the Palestinian right of return, and any Israeli legal or moral responsibility for the plight of the refugees. At most, one rumor held that Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak’s team offered a passive-voice recognition that “pain was caused” to the Palestinians.

Third Generation Refugee Movement:

After the 1948 war, the families who lost their homes-many still holding their house keys in the expectation of a quick return-clung tightly to their memories. Their children grew up on the romantic vision of Palestine as a paradise where everyone was rich, everything was beautiful, everyone was happy. That second refugee generation created the intifada 40 years later, fighting for a new state in the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem; the unlikely possibility of actually returning to their parents’ idealized vision of Palestine inside the Green Line was not at the top of their agenda.

Now, the third generation is growing up in the fetid refugee camps of the still-occupied territories and in surrounding Arab countries. This Oslo generation, these young refugees now in their teens and early twenties, are bringing a new passion and a new realism to their right of return.

On a recent visit inside Israel, teenagers from the Ibda’ Cultural Center of the Dheisha refugee camp traveled to the villages their families had left behind in 1947 or 1948. At that time, Israeli forces ransacked many Palestinian villages, leaving most completely destroyed, with fast-growing pine trees planted over the ruined foundations. Only the rows of cactus that once marked property lines are still visible. A few walls and minarets were damaged but left standing. In most, only the ancient olive trees remain.

As part of an extraordinary oral history project, the Dheisha children have interviewed their grandparents who were expelled in 1948, and then studied the culture, architecture, and history of the villages, as well as where their residents ended up. Now, traveling to the destroyed villages, the children themselves proudly explain to visitors where the school was, where the mosque stood, how the residents made their living, where their own grandparents’ houses were located.

This third generation of children is preparing for a real, not romantic or idealized, return. They discuss what kind of houses they will build, how they will get water, from where their homes might get electricity. They debate whether and how they can live with the Israeli families who have built new houses on and around some of their land.

Compromise:

Is compromise possible? Absolutely. But only if it is based on a recognition of return as a real, fundamental right. The kind of compromise that will not work includes Israel’s proposal for a “humanitarian” family reunification program that would benefit only a few tens of thousands of the millions of stateless Palestinians. Another sure-to-fail “compromise” is the proposal being quietly banded about in the corridors of U.S. and Middle Eastern capitals. This plan envisions a quid pro quo in which Baghdad would settle most of the Palestinian refugees now living in Lebanon-with or without their consent-in Kurdish areas of Iraq from which equally unwilling Kurds are already being expelled, in exchange for a lifting of the crippling economic sanctions against Iraq.

Real compromise might be possible in determining how, not whether, the right of return will be implemented. The Palestinians’ return could be organized to minimize the effects on existing Israeli lives in the area. Palestinian refugees might agree to return to their lands and villages but leave negotiable which plots of land will be reclaimed. Returning refugees may work with Israeli officials to insure an orderly repossession. Certainly not all Palestinian refugees will ultimately opt to return at all. But the right to return is absolute, and cannot be compromised away.

Refugee Involvement in Decision-Making:

The question of who decides is fundamental. Palestinian refugees must be allowed to make their own decisions, accept or reject their own compromises. Current camp dwellers must themselves be represented on the negotiating teams. The starting point of any agreement must be Israeli acknowledgement of the binding legal commitment their government made in 1949 to implement Resolution 194, and to recognize the absolute right of Palestinian return.

In the destroyed village of Zakhariya, as Ibda’ children picked lemons from the prolific trees scattered across what was once their families’ land, one of the adult coordinators who was himself born in Dheisha camp said quietly, “I can close my eyes and see it, see the people coming to the mosque, to the market. They cannot play with this history.”

Phyllis Bennis is a fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies. The above text may be used without permission but with proper attribution to the author and to the Palestine Center. This Information Brief does not necessarily reflect the views of the Palestine Center or The Jerusalem Fund.

This information first appeared in Information Brief No. 45, 25 August 2000.

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This is Nazi IsraHell

NOVANEWS

Rahat man videotapes children burning dogs alive

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Resident of southern town warns of alarming phenomenon: Kids abusing dogs, cutting off their legs.

Haaretz

During recent months, children in the southern town of Rahat, near Be’er Sheva, have taken up a new and cruel pastime – burning dogs alive.

A resident of the predominantly Bedouin city, Salam al-Huzeil, recently filed a complained with the police over the new phenomenon, but said that they did not heed his complaint due to lack of proof.

Al-Huzeil decided to provide the police with proof, and videotaped some children burning a dog alive on his digital camera.

According to Al-Huzeil, the children habitually pour gasoline or another accelerant on the dog’s fur and then set them on fire. He adds that the hobby does not end with burning the dogs’ fur, but that in some cases the children tie the dogs up to a pole and cut off their legs, leaving them crippled.

“This is a terrible thing, a really ugly phenomenon,” said al-Huzeil. “How can you set a dog on fire while it’s still alive? These children’s behavior is really disgusting. It cannot be that everyone turns a blind eye and no one does anything about it.”

Al-Huzeil added that he complained with the Rahat police, but that so far nothing has been done to stop the phenomenon

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Naziyahu ‘kills’ ex-PM Sharon

NOVANEWS

Speaking at minister’s family event, prime minister says ‘Ariel Sharon, may he rest in peace’

Zio-Nazi Naziyahu makes faux pas: Prime Minister Benjamin Naziyahu mistakenly “buried” former Zio-Nazi PM Ariel Sharon during a family event held by the daughter of Interior Minister Zio-Nazi Eli Yishai Monday to celebrate her marriage.

Speaking at the function, Naziyahu said “Ariel Sharon, may he rest in peace,” but immediately regained his composure and apologized, wishing the former prime minister a long life.

During the event, Naziyahu spoke about Minister Yishai’s work and about the housing crisis. At one point, the serving PM noted that his recent housing reform includes changes that have “not been undertaken for 50 years, with the exception of one case – by Ariel Sharon, may he rest in peace.”

Nazi Sharon served as IsraHell’s prime minister in 2001-2006. In January of 2006 he suffered a stroke and has been in a coma ever since. After several years of treatment at the Sheba medical center near Tel Aviv, Sharon was moved back to his home in the Negev’s Sycamore Ranch last year.

Since suffering the stroke, Nazi Sharon has not been able to communicate with those around him and has not been seen in public.

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Robert Gates: IsraHell an ungrateful ally

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Former US secretary of defense says Prime Minister Netanyahu’s policies isolating Israel on a global level

WASHINGTON – Former US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates blasted Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, saying that his policies were ungrateful towards the US and were isolating Israel on a global level.

Gates’ harsh words were said during a meeting of the National Security Council Principals Committee, Bloomberg’s Jeffrey Goldber reported Tuesday.

Gates believes Netanyahu’s government has offered the Obama administration “nothing in return” for its generous security aid, which includes access to top-quality weapons, assistance in developing missile-defense systems and high-level intelligence sharing.

The former defense secretary said that not only is Netanyahu ungrateful, but his polices were “endangering his country by refusing to grapple with Israel’s growing isolation and with the demographic challenges it faces if it keeps control of the West Bank.”

Bloomberg added that Gates’s analysis met with no resistance from other committee members.

This was not the first time Gates had expressed his frustration with Netanyahu’s government: In 2010, when Israel announced new building plans for east Jerusalem during Vice President Joe Biden’s visit to Israel, Gates said that Netanyahu should “call Obama when he was serious about negotiations.”

The former defense chief was also irked by incessant squabbling with the prime minister over US arms sales to its Arab allies.

According to both Israeli and American sources, Netanyahu and Gates met in March, when the latter was visiting Israel. The PM reportedly lectured Gates at length on the possible dangers Israel may face following such arms deals.

According to the report, Gates resented Netanyahu’s tone and reminded him that the “sales were organized in consultation with Israel and pro-Israel members of Congress.”

Washington’s frustration with Israel is growing, the report hedged, and such feelings are becoming more poignant as the US is once again gearing to go to the mat for Israel – this time to thwart the Palestinian Authority’s nearing bid for recognition by the UN General Assembly.

The US has voiced its objection to the PA’s unilateral move, which Washington believes would undermine the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, and is likely to veto it in the Security Council.

Bloomberg’s analyst believes that the US vote in the UN will be in spite of Netanyahu – not to help him.

Sources close to Netanyahu said Tuesday that Netanyahu’s first concern is to look out for Israel’s interests, adding he will continue to do so relentlessly.

“The prime minister has been calling for direct negotiations since he took office, and he’s sure such talks could lead to a solution. Netanyahu insisted upon Israel’s security needs and the demand to recognize it as a Jewish state,” a Jerusalem source said.

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Lest We Forget–IsraHell Firm Odigo says workers were warned of 9/11 attacks

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Haaretz

Odigo, the instant messaging service, says that two of its workers received messages two hours before the Twin Towers attack on September 11 predicting the attack would happen, and the company has been cooperating with Israeli and American law enforcement, including the FBI, in trying to find the original sender of the message predicting the attack.

Odigo, the instant messaging service, says that two of its workers received messages two hours before the Twin Towers attack on September 11 predicting the attack would happen, and the company has been cooperating with Israeli and American law enforcement, including the FBI, in trying to find the original sender of the message predicting the attack.

Micha Macover, CEO of the company, said the two workers received the messages and immediately after the terror attack informed the company’s management, which immediately contacted the Israeli security services, which brought in the FBI.

“I have no idea why the message was sent to these two workers, who don’t know the sender. It may just have been someone who was joking and turned out they accidentally got it right. And I don’t know if our information was useful in any of the arrests the FBI has made,” said Macover. Odigo is a U.S.-based company whose headquarters are in New York, with offices in Herzliya.

As an instant messaging service, Odigo users are not limited to sending messages only to people on their “buddy” list, as is the case with ICQ, the other well-known Israeli instant messaging application.

Odigo usually zealously protects the privacy of its registered users, said Macover, but in this case the company took the initiative to provide the law enforcement services with the originating Internet Presence address of the message, so the FBI could track down the Internet Service Provider, and the actual sender of the original message.

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Life in Syria’s Capital Remains Barely Touched by Rebellion

NOVANEWS

DAMASCUS, Syria — As protests broke out across a restive Syria on a recent Sunday, and crowds were dispersed yet again by gunfire that left many dead, the conversation in the capital dwelled not on the uprising but rather on nails, along with the choice of polish and hair color and the latest in makeup trends.

“I want either fuchsia or orange to match my dress,” a woman in her 50s said as she rummaged through a box of nail polish in an upscale beauty salon in Damascus. “Either one.”       

It does not take long to realize that there is a disconnect between Damascus and the rest of Syria. With a mix of denial and fear, and occasionally even satisfaction at the government’s determination to stanch dissent, many Damascenes insist on another reality.       

Sometimes jarring, sometimes reassuring, the detachment appears to have only deepened as the country plunges into some of its starkest international isolation since the Assad family took power in 1970 and as cities fall victim, one by one, to a ferocious crackdown by a government seemingly without direction.       

Syria’s uprising has entered its sixth month, and protesters continue to defy the heavy-handed security forces that have, by the United Nations’ count, killed more than 2,200 people since mid-March. Sanctions have mounted, and once-friendly nations have criticized President Bashar al-Assad, urging him to reform and declaring that they have lost patience with his government’s attacks on its own people. Others have called on him to step down.       

But Damascus, be it at the beauty salon, in its somnolent neighborhoods or in its fear-stricken mosques, remains the linchpin, a reality that even activists acknowledge. Until protests reach this capital, their thinking goes, Syria’s leadership will avoid the fate of its ossified equivalents in places like Egypt and Tunisia. And so far, Damascus — along with Aleppo, the nation’s second-largest city — has stayed firmly on the margins, as anger builds toward both cities from Syrians bearing the brunt of the uprising. “Trust me, everything is normal,” insisted a manicurist at the salon.       

The salon, whose clientele includes the wives of the “rich and famous,” as one hairdresser described them, is just one of many examples that indicate how well Damascus has managed to shield itself during months of violence across the country. “At the beginning, there were some guys demonstrating for freedoms and rights, but it later turned out they were only trying to create a sectarian war,” the manicurist said. “The security forces are hunting them down, one by one. And they are almost done with them.”       

Her version of events is one that is repeated daily by Syrian state news media and television channels close to the government: that the country is facing a foreign conspiracy to divide it and that security forces are battling armed Islamist extremists who are terrorizing residents and have killed 500 police officers and soldiers so far.       

Even in neighborhoods where activists and protesters have reported demonstrations, life quickly returns to normal, as the government tries to rewrite what just happened, residents say. As early as dawn, they say, city employees clear the scenes, cleaning up bloodstains on the ground and painting over antigovernment graffiti.       

So it went in Kfar Susseh, a wealthy neighborhood in Damascus where security forces wounded several protesters last week. According to residents, peaceful worshipers emerging from the Rifai mosque came under fire as they chanted a slogan calling for the fall of the government, a slogan uttered from Tunisia to Bahrain. They were chased through the neighborhood, caught and severely beaten as residents standing on their balconies pleaded with security forces to show them mercy. The protesters were later taken in military buses to detention centers.       

During a visit two days after the unrest, the neighborhood was buzzing. Save for a sign declaring that the mosque was closed, there was no evidence of trouble. Unlike Homs and Hama, where the uprising has managed to knock down the wall of fear and allowed people to say what they want to say, no one here seemed to broach politics in the streets.

Pedestrians walked by, rarely glancing at the mosque, as if a long look would draw the kind of attention so long feared in a country notorious for its security apparatus. A woman leaned against the mosque’s iron fence. Across the street from her a sign read, “I am with Syria.” It, too, seemed too sensitive to stare at.

The poster was one of many on the streets here that are part of a campaign aimed at raising loyalty to the government. Not far away, another sign warned, “Be aware of those who are trying to instigate strife and attack them.”

At the salon, curiosity is subversive. The entrance of any new customer jolts the conversation back to orthodoxy; the choice of nail polish returns as a topic.

But in less-guarded moments, even here in a bastion of unreality, the reverberations of the uprising are felt. Terms once taboo in public in Syria come up in casual back-and-forth: opposition, sectarianism, demonstrations and the very word “uprising.” Behind closed doors, the idea that nothing is different gives way to fears that something has changed.

One manicurist said she was shocked when she accidentally learned that one of her closest friends opposed President Assad, who inherited power from his father in 2000. The manicurist and her friend are Christians, and, like other minority groups, they fear that a change of leadership would usher in a more conservative administration, perhaps delivering the country to Islamists bent on enforcing a tyranny of the Sunni Muslim majority. Christians often point to Iraq — where their very existence as a community is imperiled — to offer a notion of what can happen in times of violence and chaos.

As the rest of the country has become more conservative, Damascus, with its veneer of modernity and consumerism of the past decade, has become less so, they said.

“Ten years, 20 years ago, we never dared walk on streets wearing sleeveless shirts without being harassed,” the manicurist said. “Now, no one dares look at us.”

Though she declared herself to be one of Mr. Assad’s biggest fans, she acknowledged that reform has come too slowly and corruption has become too common. Her complaint was directed at no one in particular, least of all Mr. Assad, whose intentions she refused to question.

Across from her, a bride-to-be in her mid-20s said that she had not turned on the television for days. She did not want to stress herself out with the news of the uprising, she said, as activists here and elsewhere tried to spread the unrest to Damascus.

On the day before her wedding, several relatives called to ask about the situation in her neighborhood. “Everything was quiet,” she kept repeating to them. Curious, she finally relented and turned on the news to find out that Arabic-language satellite channels were reporting demonstrations in her street. There were none, she insisted.

“Everything is normal, just don’t watch Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya,” one of the manicurists said. “They are spreading lies. Watch only Syrian channels to learn the truth.” And off she went to discuss nail polish.

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Endless War and the culture of unrestrained power

NOVANEWS
GLENN GREENWALD

http://www.salon.com/news/opinion/glenn_greenwald/2011/09/06/war/index.html

The Washington Post woke up a few days ago and realized that despite everything that has happened since 9/11 — no successful Terrorist attacks on the Homeland in 10 years, a country mired in debt and imposing “austerity” on ordinary Americans, and the election of a wonderfully sophisticated, urbane, progressive multinationalist from the storied anti-war Democratic Party — we are still smack in the middle of “the American era of endless war” with no end in sight. 

Citing the Pentagon’s most recent assessment of global threats, the Post notes that in contrast to prior decades — when “the military and the American public viewed war as an aberration and peace as the norm” (a dubious perception) — it is now clear, pursuant to official doctrine, that “America’s wars are unending and any talk of peace is quixotic or naive,” all as part of “America’s embrace of endless war in the 10 years since Sept. 11, 2001.”

We are now enduring a parade of wistful, contemplative, self-regarding pundit-meditations on The Meaning of 9/11 Ten Years Later or, far worse, self-righteous moralizing screeds about the nature of “evil” from war zealots with oceans of blood of their unrepentant hands (if I could impose one media rule, it would be that following every column or TV segment featuring American political commentators dramatically unloading their Where-I-Was-on-9/11-and-how-I-felt tales, there would be similar recollections offered from parents in the Muslim world talking about how their children died from the pre-9/11 acts of the U.S. and its client states or from post-9/11 American bombs, drones, checkpoint shootings and night raids:  just for the sake of “balance,” which media outlets claim to crave).  Notwithstanding this somber, collective 9/11 anniversary ritual descending upon us, the reality is that the nation’s political and media elite learned no lessons from that attack.

The mere utterance of the word Terrorism (which now means little more than: violence or extremism by Muslims in opposition to American or Israeli actions and interests) is — at least for America’s political and media class — as potent in justifying wars, civil liberties assaults, and massive military spending as it was in the immediate aftermath of 9/11.  And worship of the American military and all that it does — and a corresponding taboo on speaking ill of it except for tactical critiques (it would be better if they purchased this other weapon system or fought this war a bit differently) — is the closest thing America has to a national religion.

But it’s not merely the existence of ongoing Endless War that is so destructive — both to the nation perpetrating it on the world and to its victims.  Far worse is what is being done to prosecute that war, the transformation of government institutions and their relationship to the citizenry to sustain it, and, most enduringly of all, the mentality that it has spawned and entrenched.  Yesterday, The New Yorker’s Amy Davidson examined recently emerged evidence that the U.S. and Britain purposely sent detainees to be tortured by their good friend (now known as The New Hitler) Moammar Gadaffi, but it is her last paragraph that really captures the true State of Things — now more than ever — in post-9/11 America:

Its dealings in Libya are not the C.I.A.’s only problem; nor is the C.I.A. the only problem. The Washington Post has two new pieces in its “Top Secret America” series that one should read. The first, by Julie Tate and Greg Miller, is on the C.I.A.’s shift away from learning things and toward killing people considered dangerous (and who makes that call?), with analysts becoming “targeters.” The other, by Dana Priest and William Arkin, is about the Pentagon’s Joint Special Operations Command, which has held some thousand prisoners “in jails that it alone controls in Iraq and Afghanistan.” (“We’re the dark matter. We’re the force that orders the universe but can’t be seen,” a SEAL told the Post.) The “C.I.A.” binder in Tripoli included “a list of 89 questions for the Libyans to ask a suspect,” the Times said. We should have at least that many — many more — for our own government.

That bolded quote from the Navy SEAL (a member of the most sacred and revered religious order) is quite redolent of this infamous Bush-era proclamation, conveyed by Ron Suskind, that became the symbol of the warped neoconservative mind:

The [Bush] aide said that guys like me were ”in what we call the reality-based community,” which he defined as people who ”believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.” I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. ”That’s not the way the world really works anymore,” he continued. ”We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality — judiciously, as you will — we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.”

Those who wield true political authority as part of an empire are vested with immense power over other people, but those who exercise that authority as part of wars are more powerful still.  That kind of power not only attracts warped authoritarians and sociopaths like moths to light, but it also converts — degrades — otherwise normal people who come to possess it.  That’s not a new development, but rather as old as political power itself.  Those bolded quotes are a pure expression of a demented, amoral God complex.  That’s the mentality that produces Endless War, and Endless War, in turn, breeds that mentality.

This is why there is nothing more dangerous — nothing — than allowing this type of power to be exercised without accountability: no oversight, no transparency, no consequences for serious wrongdoing: exactly the state of affairs that prevails in the United States.  It’s also why there are few things more deeply irresponsible, vapid and destructive than demanding that citizens, activists, and journalists retreat into Permanent Election Mode: transform themselves into partisan cheerleaders who refrain from aggressively criticizing the party that is slightly less awful out of fear that the other party might win an election 14 months away, even when their own party is the one in power.  Renouncing the duty of holding accountable political leaders who exercise vast power makes one directly responsible for the abuses they commit.  To see the results of that mindset, re-read that paragraph from Davidson about what the U.S. is doing not in 2004, but now more than ever, in the name of Endless War.

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9/11 One – the 1973 coup in Chile, and 9/11 Two, its meaning and consequences.

NOVANEWS

http://www.truth-out.org/was-there-alternative-looking-back-911-decade-later/1315317854

Noam Chomsky: Was There an Alternative? Looking Back on 9/11 a Decade Later

 

We are approaching the 10th anniversary of the horrendous atrocities of September 11, 2001, which, it is commonly held, changed the world. On May 1st, the presumed mastermind of the crime, Osama bin Laden, was assassinated in Pakistan by a team of elite US commandos, Navy SEALs, after he was captured, unarmed and undefended, in Operation Geronimo.

A number of analysts have observed that although bin Laden was finally killed, he won some major successes in his war against the U.S. “He repeatedly asserted that the only way to drive the U.S. from the Muslim world and defeat its satraps was by drawing Americans into a series of small but expensive wars that would ultimately bankrupt them,” Eric Margolis writes. “‘Bleeding the U.S.,’ in his words.” The United States, first under George W. Bush and then Barack Obama, rushed right into bin Laden’s trap… Grotesquely overblown military outlays and debt addiction… may be the most pernicious legacy of the man who thought he could defeat the United States” — particularly when the debt is being cynically exploited by the far right, with the collusion of the Democrat establishment, to undermine what remains of social programs, public education, unions, and, in general, remaining barriers to corporate tyranny.

That Washington was bent on fulfilling bin Laden’s fervent wishes was evident at once. As discussed in my book 9-11, written shortly after those attacks occurred, anyone with knowledge of the region could recognize “that a massive assault on a Muslim population would be the answer to the prayers of bin Laden and his associates, and would lead the U.S. and its allies into a ‘diabolical trap,’ as the French foreign minister put it.”

The senior CIA analyst responsible for tracking Osama bin Laden from 1996, Michael Scheuer, wrote shortly after that “bin Laden has been precise in telling America the reasons he is waging war on us. [He] is out to drastically alter U.S. and Western policies toward the Islamic world,” and largely succeeded: “U.S. forces and policies are completing the radicalization of the Islamic world, something Osama bin Laden has been trying to do with substantial but incomplete success since the early 1990s. As a result, I think it is fair to conclude that the United States of America remains bin Laden’s only indispensable ally.” And arguably remains so, even after his death.

The First 9/11

Was there an alternative? There is every likelihood that the Jihadi movement, much of it highly critical of bin Laden, could have been split and undermined after 9/11. The “crime against humanity,” as it was rightly called, could have been approached as a crime, with an international operation to apprehend the likely suspects. That was recognized at the time, but no such idea was even considered.

In 9-11, I quoted Robert Fisk’s conclusion that the “horrendous crime” of 9/11 was committed with “wickedness and awesome cruelty,” an accurate judgment. It is useful to bear in mind that the crimes could have been even worse. Suppose, for example, that the attack had gone as far as bombing the White House, killing the president, imposing a brutal military dictatorship that killed thousands and tortured tens of thousands while establishing an international terror center that helped impose similar torture-and-terror states elsewhere and carried out an international assassination campaign; and as an extra fillip, brought in a team of economists — call them “the Kandahar boys” — who quickly drove the economy into one of the worst depressions in its history. That, plainly, would have been a lot worse than 9/11.

Unfortunately, it is not a thought experiment. It happened. The only inaccuracy in this brief account is that the numbers should be multiplied by 25 to yield per capita equivalents, the appropriate measure. I am, of course, referring to what in Latin America is often called “the first 9/11”: September 11, 1973, when the U.S. succeeded in its intensive efforts to overthrow the democratic government of Salvador Allende in Chile with a military coup that placed General Pinochet’s brutal regime in office. The goal, in the words of the Nixon administration, was to kill the “virus” that might encourage all those “foreigners [who] are out to screw us” to take over their own resources and in other ways to pursue an intolerable policy of independent development. In the background was the conclusion of the National Security Council that, if the US could not control Latin America, it could not expect “to achieve a successful order elsewhere in the world.”

The first 9/11, unlike the second, did not change the world. It was “nothing of very great consequence,” as Henry Kissinger assured his boss a few days later.

These events of little consequence were not limited to the military coup that destroyed Chilean democracy and set in motion the horror story that followed. The first 9/11 was just one act in a drama which began in 1962, when John F. Kennedy shifted the mission of the Latin American military from “hemispheric defense” — an anachronistic holdover from World War II — to “internal security,” a concept with a chilling interpretation in U.S.-dominated Latin American circles.

In the recently published Cambridge University History of the Cold War, Latin American scholar John Coatsworth writes that from that time to “the Soviet collapse in 1990, the numbers of political prisoners, torture victims, and executions of non-violent political dissenters in Latin America vastly exceeded those in the Soviet Union and its East European satellites,” including many religious martyrs and mass slaughter as well, always supported or initiated in Washington. The last major violent act was the brutal murder of six leading Latin American intellectuals, Jesuit priests, a few days after the Berlin Wall fell. The perpetrators were an elite Salvadorean battalion, which had already left a shocking trail of blood, fresh from renewed training at the JFK School of Special Warfare, acting on direct orders of the high command of the U.S. client state.

The consequences of this hemispheric plague still, of course, reverberate.

From Kidnapping and Torture to Assassination

All of this, and much more like it, is dismissed as of little consequence, and forgotten. Those whose mission is to rule the world enjoy a more comforting picture, articulated well enough in the current issue of the prestigious (and valuable) journal of the Royal Institute of International Affairs in London. The lead article discusses “the visionary international order” of the “second half of the twentieth century” marked by “the universalization of an American vision of commercial prosperity.” There is something to that account, but it does not quite convey the perception of those at the wrong end of the guns.

The same is true of the assassination of Osama bin Laden, which brings to an end at least a phase in the “war on terror” re-declared by President George W. Bush on the second 9/11. Let us turn to a few thoughts on that event and its significance.

On May 1, 2011, Osama bin Laden was killed in his virtually unprotected compound by a raiding mission of 79 Navy SEALs, who entered Pakistan by helicopter. After many lurid stories were provided by the government and withdrawn, official reports made it increasingly clear that the operation was a planned assassination, multiply violating elementary norms of international law, beginning with the invasion itself.

There appears to have been no attempt to apprehend the unarmed victim, as presumably could have been done by 79 commandos facing no opposition — except, they report, from his wife, also unarmed, whom they shot in self-defense when she “lunged” at them, according to the White House.

A plausible reconstruction of the events is provided by veteran Middle East correspondent Yochi Dreazen and colleagues in the Atlantic. Dreazen, formerly the military correspondent for the Wall Street Journal, is senior correspondent for the National Journal Group covering military affairs and national security. According to their investigation, White House planning appears not to have considered the option of capturing bin Laden alive: “The administration had made clear to the military’s clandestine Joint Special Operations Command that it wanted bin Laden dead, according to a senior U.S. official with knowledge of the discussions. A high-ranking military officer briefed on the assault said the SEALs knew their mission was not to take him alive.”

The authors add: “For many at the Pentagon and the Central Intelligence Agency who had spent nearly a decade hunting bin Laden, killing the militant was a necessary and justified act of vengeance.” Furthermore, “capturing bin Laden alive would have also presented the administration with an array of nettlesome legal and political challenges.” Better, then, to assassinate him, dumping his body into the sea without the autopsy considered essential after a killing — an act that predictably provoked both anger and skepticism in much of the Muslim world.

As the Atlantic inquiry observes, “The decision to kill bin Laden outright was the clearest illustration to date of a little-noticed aspect of the Obama administration’s counterterror policy. The Bush administration captured thousands of suspected militants and sent them to detention camps in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Guantanamo Bay. The Obama administration, by contrast, has focused on eliminating individual terrorists rather than attempting to take them alive.” That is one significant difference between Bush and Obama. The authors quote former West German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt, who “told German TV that the U.S. raid was ‘quite clearly a violation of international law’ and that bin Laden should have been detained and put on trial,” contrasting Schmidt with U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, who “defended the decision to kill bin Laden although he didn’t pose an immediate threat to the Navy SEALs, telling a House panel… that the assault had been ‘lawful, legitimate and appropriate in every way.’”

The disposal of the body without autopsy was also criticized by allies. The highly regarded British barrister Geoffrey Robertson, who supported the intervention and opposed the execution largely on pragmatic grounds, nevertheless described Obama’s claim that “justice was done” as an “absurdity” that should have been obvious to a former professor of constitutional law. Pakistan law “requires a colonial inquest on violent death, and international human rights law insists that the ‘right to life’ mandates an inquiry whenever violent death occurs from government or police action. The U.S. is therefore under a duty to hold an inquiry that will satisfy the world as to the true circumstances of this killing.”

Robertson usefully reminds us that “[i]t was not always thus. When the time came to consider the fate of men much more steeped in wickedness than Osama bin Laden — the Nazi leadership — the British government wanted them hanged within six hours of capture. President Truman demurred, citing the conclusion of Justice Robert Jackson that summary execution ‘would not sit easily on the American conscience or be remembered by our children with pride… the only course is to determine the innocence or guilt of the accused after a hearing as dispassionate as the times will permit and upon a record that will leave our reasons and motives clear.’”

Eric Margolis comments that “Washington has never made public the evidence of its claim that Osama bin Laden was behind the 9/11 attacks,” presumably one reason why “polls show that fully a third of American respondents believe that the U.S. government and/or Israel were behind 9/11,” while in the Muslim world skepticism is much higher. “An open trial in the U.S. or at the Hague would have exposed these claims to the light of day,” he continues, a practical reason why Washington should have followed the law.

In societies that profess some respect for law, suspects are apprehended and brought to fair trial. I stress “suspects.” In June 2002, FBI head Robert Mueller, in what the Washington Post described as “among his most detailed public comments on the origins of the attacks,” could say only that “investigators believe the idea of the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon came from al Qaeda leaders in Afghanistan, the actual plotting was done in Germany, and the financing came through the United Arab Emirates from sources in Afghanistan.”

What the FBI believed and thought in June 2002 they didn’t know eight months earlier, when Washington dismissed tentative offers by the Taliban (how serious, we do not know) to permit a trial of bin Laden if they were presented with evidence. Thus, it is not true, as President Obama claimed in his White House statement after bin Laden’s death, that “[w]e quickly learned that the 9/11 attacks were carried out by al-Qaeda.”

There has never been any reason to doubt what the FBI believed in mid-2002, but that leaves us far from the proof of guilt required in civilized societies — and whatever the evidence might be, it does not warrant murdering a suspect who could, it seems, have been easily apprehended and brought to trial. Much the same is true of evidence provided since. Thus, the 9/11 Commission provided extensive circumstantial evidence of bin Laden’s role in 9/11, based primarily on what it had been told about confessions by prisoners in Guantanamo. It is doubtful that much of that would hold up in an independent court, considering the ways confessions were elicited. But in any event, the conclusions of a congressionally authorized investigation, however convincing one finds them, plainly fall short of a sentence by a credible court, which is what shifts the category of the accused from suspect to convicted.

There is much talk of bin Laden’s “confession,” but that was a boast, not a confession, with as much credibility as my “confession” that I won the Boston marathon. The boast tells us a lot about his character, but nothing about his responsibility for what he regarded as a great achievement, for which he wanted to take credit.

Again, all of this is, transparently, quite independent of one’s judgments about his responsibility, which seemed clear immediately, even before the FBI inquiry, and still does.

Crimes of Aggression

It is worth adding that bin Laden’s responsibility was recognized in much of the Muslim world, and condemned. One significant example is the distinguished Lebanese cleric Sheikh Fadlallah, greatly respected by Hizbollah and Shia groups generally, outside Lebanon as well. He had some experience with assassinations. He had been targeted for assassination: by a truck bomb outside a mosque, in a CIA-organized operation in 1985. He escaped, but 80 others were killed, mostly women and girls as they left the mosque — one of those innumerable crimes that do not enter the annals of terror because of the fallacy of “wrong agency.” Sheikh Fadlallah sharply condemned the 9/11 attacks.

One of the leading specialists on the Jihadi movement, Fawaz Gerges, suggests that the movement might have been split at that time had the U.S. exploited the opportunity instead of mobilizing the movement, particularly by the attack on Iraq, a great boon to bin Laden, which led to a sharp increase in terror, as intelligence agencies had anticipated. At the Chilcot hearings investigating the background to the invasion of Iraq, for example, the former head of Britain’s domestic intelligence agency MI5 testified that both British and U.S. intelligence were aware that Saddam posed no serious threat, that the invasion was likely to increase terror, and that the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan had radicalized parts of a generation of Muslims who saw the military actions as an “attack on Islam.” As is often the case, security was not a high priority for state action.

It might be instructive to ask ourselves how we would be reacting if Iraqi commandos had landed at George W. Bush’s compound, assassinated him, and dumped his body in the Atlantic (after proper burial rites, of course). Uncontroversially, he was not a “suspect” but the “decider” who gave the orders to invade Iraq — that is, to commit the “supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole” for which Nazi criminals were hanged: the hundreds of thousands of deaths, millions of refugees, destruction of much of the country and its national heritage, and the murderous sectarian conflict that has now spread to the rest of the region. Equally uncontroversially, these crimes vastly exceed anything attributed to bin Laden.

To say that all of this is uncontroversial, as it is, is not to imply that it is not denied. The existence of flat earthers does not change the fact that, uncontroversially, the earth is not flat. Similarly, it is uncontroversial that Stalin and Hitler were responsible for horrendous crimes, though loyalists deny it. All of this should, again, be too obvious for comment, and would be, except in an atmosphere of hysteria so extreme that it blocks rational thought.

Similarly, it is uncontroversial that Bush and associates did commit the “supreme international crime” — the crime of aggression. That crime was defined clearly enough by Justice Robert Jackson, Chief of Counsel for the United States at Nuremberg.  An “aggressor,” Jackson proposed to the Tribunal in his opening statement, is a state that is the first to commit such actions as “[i]nvasion of its armed forces, with or without a declaration of war, of the territory of another State ….” No one, even the most extreme supporter of the aggression, denies that Bush and associates did just that.

We might also do well to recall Jackson’s eloquent words at Nuremberg on the principle of universality: “If certain acts in violation of treaties are crimes, they are crimes whether the United States does them or whether Germany does them, and we are not prepared to lay down a rule of criminal conduct against others which we would not be willing to have invoked against us.”

It is also clear that announced intentions are irrelevant, even if they are truly believed. Internal records reveal that Japanese fascists apparently did believe that, by ravaging China, they were laboring to turn it into an “earthly paradise.” And although it may be difficult to imagine, it is conceivable that Bush and company believed they were protecting the world from destruction by Saddam’s nuclear weapons. All irrelevant, though ardent loyalists on all sides may try to convince themselves otherwise.

We are left with two choices: either Bush and associates are guilty of the “supreme international crime” including all the evils that follow, or else we declare that the Nuremberg proceedings were a farce and the allies were guilty of judicial murder.

The Imperial Mentality and 9/11

A few days before the bin Laden assassination, Orlando Bosch died peacefully in Florida, where he resided along with his accomplice Luis Posada Carriles and many other associates in international terrorism. After he was accused of dozens of terrorist crimes by the FBI, Bosch was granted a presidential pardon by Bush I over the objections of the Justice Department, which found the conclusion “inescapable that it would be prejudicial to the public interest for the United States to provide a safe haven for Bosch.” The coincidence of these deaths at once calls to mind the Bush II doctrine — “already… a de facto rule of international relations,” according to the noted Harvard international relations specialist Graham Allison — which revokes “the sovereignty of states that provide sanctuary to terrorists.”

Allison refers to the pronouncement of Bush II, directed at the Taliban, that “those who harbor terrorists are as guilty as the terrorists themselves.” Such states, therefore, have lost their sovereignty and are fit targets for bombing and terror — for example, the state that harbored Bosch and his associate. When Bush issued this new “de facto rule of international relations,” no one seemed to notice that he was calling for invasion and destruction of the U.S. and the murder of its criminal presidents.

None of this is problematic, of course, if we reject Justice Jackson’s principle of universality, and adopt instead the principle that the U.S. is self-immunized against international law and conventions — as, in fact, the government has frequently made very clear.

It is also worth thinking about the name given to the bin Laden operation: Operation Geronimo. The imperial mentality is so profound that few seem able to perceive that the White House is glorifying bin Laden by calling him “Geronimo” — the Apache Indian chief who led the courageous resistance to the invaders of Apache lands.

The casual choice of the name is reminiscent of the ease with which we name our murder weapons after victims of our crimes: Apache, Blackhawk… We might react differently if the Luftwaffe had called its fighter planes “Jew” and “Gypsy.”

The examples mentioned would fall under the category of “American exceptionalism,” were it not for the fact that easy suppression of one’s own crimes is virtually ubiquitous among powerful states, at least those that are not defeated and forced to acknowledge reality.

Perhaps the assassination was perceived by the administration as an “act of vengeance,” as Robertson concludes. And perhaps the rejection of the legal option of a trial reflects a difference between the moral culture of 1945 and today, as he suggests. Whatever the motive was, it could hardly have been security. As in the case of the “supreme international crime” in Iraq, the bin Laden assassination is another illustration of the important fact that security is often not a high priority for state action, contrary to received doctrine.

Posted in USAComments Off on 9/11 One – the 1973 coup in Chile, and 9/11 Two, its meaning and consequences.

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Post 9/11 MSM thinking; get somebody, anybody

Posted: 06 Sep 2011

As the 10th anniversary of 9/11 approaches, get ready for an orgy of self-justification (endless war is required because “they” still hate us).

This piece by Seamus Milne in the UK Guardian is fascinating because it reveals the mindset of so many elites to the terror attacks. It’s a handy reminder that fear-mongers and war-mongers became scared little boy and girls, calling for the blood of Muslims. Ten years on, those policies remain a disaster, with countless Western-led occupations continuing globally.

We are governed by bigoted children.

Here’s Milne (who was the paper’s opinion editor on 9/11):

By the time the second plane hit the World Trade Centre, the battle to define the 9/11 attacks had already begun, on both sides of the Atlantic. In the US President Bush made the fateful call for a war on terror, as the media rallied to the flag. In Britain Tony Blair and his cheerleaders enthusiastically fell into line. Inevitably, they faced a bit more opposition to the absurd claim that the atrocities had come out of a clear blue sky, and the country must follow wherever the wounded hyperpower led.

But not a lot. Political and media reaction to anyone who linked what had happened in New York and Washington to US and western intervention in the Muslim world, or challenged the drive to war, was savage.

From September 11 2001 onwards, the Guardian (almost uniquely in the British press) nevertheless ensured that those voices would be unmistakably heard in a full-spectrum debate about why the attacks had taken place and how the US and wider western world should respond.

The backlash verged on the deranged. Bizarre as it seems a decade on, the fact that the Guardian allowed writers to connect the attacks with US policy in the rest of the world was treated as treasonous in its supposed “anti-Americanism”.

Michael Gove, now a Conservative cabinet minister, wrote in the Times that the Guardian had become a “Prada-Meinhof gang” of “fifth columnists”. The novelist Robert Harris, then still a Blair intimate, denounced us for hosting a “babble of idiots” unable to grasp that the world was now in a reprise of the war against Hitler.

The Telegraph ran a regular “useful idiots” column targeted at the Guardian, while Andrew Neil declared the newspaper should be renamed the “Daily Terrorist” and the Sun’s Richard Littlejohn lambasted us as the “anti-American propagandists of the fascist left press”.

Not that the Guardian published only articles joining the dots to US imperial policy or opposing the US-British onslaught on Afghanistan. Far from it: in first few days we ran pieces from James Rubin, a Clinton administration assistant secretary; the ex-Nato commander Wesley ClarkWilliam Shawcross (“We are all Americans now”); and the Washington Post columnist Jim Hoagland, calling for vengeance – among others backing military retaliation.

The problem for the Guardian’s critics was that we also gave space to those who were against it and realised the war on terror would fail, bringing horror and bloodshed to millions in the process. Its comment pages hosted the full range of views the bulk of the media blanked; in other words, the paper gave rein to the pluralism that most media gatekeepers claim to favour in principle, but struggle to put into practice. And we commissioned Arabs and Muslims, Afghans and Iraqis, routinely shut out of the western media.

So on the day after 9/11, the Guardian published the then Labour MP George Galloway on “reaping the whirlwind” of the US’s global role. Then the Arab writer Rana Kabbani warned that only a change of policy towards the rest of the world would bring Americans security (for which she was grotesquely denounced as a “terror tart” by the US journalist Greg Palast). The following day Jonathan Steele predicted (against the received wisdom of the time) that the US and its allies would fail to subdue Afghanistan.

Who would argue with that today, as the US death toll in Afghanistan reached a new peak in August? Or with those who warned of the dangers of ripping up civil rights, now we know about Guantánamo, Abu Ghraib and “extraordinary rendition”? Or that the war on terror would fuel and spread terrorism, including in Pakistan, or that an invasion of Iraq would be a blood-drenched disaster – as a string of Guardian writers did in the tense weeks after 9/11?

As the Guardian’s comment editor at the time, my column in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 was a particular target of hostility, especially among those who insisted the attacks had nothing to do with US intervention, or its support for occupation and dictatorship, in the Arab and Muslim world. Others felt it was too early to speak about such things when Americans had suffered horrific losses.

But it was precisely in those first days, when the US administration was setting a course for catastrophe, that it was most urgent to rebut Bush and Blair’s mendacious spin that this was an attack on “freedom” and our “way of life” – and nothing to do with what the US (and Britain) had imposed on the Middle East and elsewhere. And most of the 5,000 emails I received in response, including from US readers, agreed with that argument.

Three months later Kabul had fallen, and Downing Street issued a triumphant condemnation of those in the media who had opposed the invasion of Afghanistan (including myself and other Guardian writers) and had supposedly “proved to be wrong” about the war on terror. Rupert Murdoch’s Sun duly denounced us as “war weasels”.

Among these “weasels” was the Guardian’s Madeleine Bunting, who had raised the prospect that Afghanistan could become another Vietnam and the focus of “protracted guerrilla warfare” – when the former Liberal Democrat leader Paddy Ashdown (like the government) was insisting that the idea of a “long drawn-out guerrilla campaign” in Afghanistan was “fanciful“. A decade on, we know who “proved to be wrong”.

The most heartening response to the breadth of Guardian commentary after 9/11 came from the US itself, where debate about what had happened, and why, was as good as shut down in the mainstream media in the wake of the attacks. One byproduct of that official public silence was a dramatic increase in US readership of the Guardian’s website, as millions of Americans looked for a perspective and range of views they weren’t getting at home.

Traffic on the Guardian’s website doubled in the months after 9/11, driven from the US. Articles from the Guardian were taped in bookshop windows from Brooklyn to San Francisco. As Emily Bell, then editor of Guardian Unlimited and now digital director at Columbia’s Graduate School of Journalism, puts it, the post-9/11 debate was “totally transformative” for the Guardian, turning it into one of the two fastest growing news sites in the US – and creating the springboard for a US readership now larger by some measures than in Britain.

Which only goes to show how those who accused us of “anti-Americanism” in 2001 so utterly misjudged the society they claimed to champion.

Wikileaks has shown us a world we need to know

Posted: 06 Sep 2011

Wikileaks has its share of critics – the organisation is too centred around Julian Assange and a personality-type cult exists – but surely the vast bulk of information the group has released since 2006 makes it a major force for good (not least because it’s forced governments and many journalists on the defensive about their insider tactics):

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange blasted the Guardian on Tuesday, saying the British paper’s “negligence” in publishing an encryption key to uncensored files forced his organization’s hand in publishing the secret U.S. diplomatic memos.

It was Assange’s first public comments since WikiLeaks disclosed its entire archive of U.S. State Department cables last week. The United States has fiercely criticized the move, saying it could endanger the lives of the sources named in the cables, including opposition figures or human rights advocates.

Speaking via a video link, Assange told an audience at a Berlin technology trade fair that a Guardian journalist had published the password to the encrypted files in his book, creating a situation where some people got access to the uncensored files while others did not.

“We had a case where every intelligence agency has the material and the people who are mentioned do not have the material,” he said from a mansion about two hours’ drive from London, where he is under virtual house arrest pending extradition proceedings to Sweden on unrelated sexual assault allegations.

“So you have a race between the bad guys and the good guys and it was necessary for us to stand on the side of the good guys,” he said.

Assange gave the conference’s keynote address and answered questions from a monitor.

WikiLeaks on Friday posted the 251,287 cables on its website, making potentially sensitive diplomatic sources available to anyone.

A joint statement published that day on the Guardian’s website said it and its international media counterparts — The New York Times, France’s Le Monde, Germany’s Der Spiegel and Spain’s El Pais — “deplore the decision of WikiLeaks to publish the unredacted State Department cables, which may put sources at risk.”

Previously, international media outlets — and WikiLeaks itself — had redacted the names of potentially vulnerable sources, although the standard has varied and some experts warned that even people whose names had been kept out of the cables were still at risk.

But Assange specifically blamed the Guardian, pointing out that a sensitive password used to decrypt the files was published in a book by David Leigh, one of the paper’s investigative reporters and a collaborator-turned-critic of Assange.

He also blamed WikiLeaks defector Daniel Domscheit-Berg, though not by name, alleging he told media organizations where to find the encrypted files and how to use the password.

“An individual in Berlin had been spreading the location of a hidden encrypted file that had been encrypted with that password with selected media organizations in order to gain personal benefit,” Assange said.

With the information available to some people, Assange said he decided to make it available to everyone.

“It was necessary to give the information in an authenticated way to the general public, to journalists and to those people who might be mentioned in those materials to show that they were mentioned and what might have been said about them,” he said.

Who or what really caused the London riots?

Posted: 06 Sep 2011

Finally, hopefully, some answers:

The causes and consequences of the English riots last month, the most serious bout of civil unrest in a generation, will be examined in a study by the Guardian and the London School of Economics.

Researchers will interview hundreds of people who were involved, in the first empirical study into the widespread rioting and looting.

As well as surveys of those who took part in the disorder, the research will include interviews with residents, police and the judiciary, and an advanced analysis of more than 2.5m riot-related Twitter messages.

The study – Reading the Riots – is supported by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation and the Open Society Foundations. The project, announced on the eve of the one-month anniversary of the outbreak of trouble in Tottenham, north London, will seek to better understand why riots then spread to other parts of the capital and cities across England.

Four consecutive nights of looting and arson in August left five people dead and more than 2,000 suspects arrested. Police anticipate that investigations to identify perpetrators of the disorder will last several years.

Reading the Riots is modelled on an acclaimed survey conducted in the aftermath of the Detroit riots in 1967. The findings of that study, the result of a groundbreaking collaboration between the Detroit Free Press newspaper and Michigan’s Institute for Social Research, challenged prevailing assumptions about the cause of the unrest.

Reading the Riots will bring together a team of leading academics and experts and combine quantitative and qualitattive research methods. At the heart of the project are two unique databases compiled by the Guardian over the last month.

The first is a database of more than 1,100 defendants who have appeared in court charged with riot-related offences. The list, compiled with the assistance of the Ministry of Justice, consists of more than 70% of those who have appeared in magistrate and crown courts. Many will be given the opportunity to take part in the research study in the coming weeks.

The second database contains 2.5m riot-related tweets. Executives at Twitter’s headquarters in California authorised the collation of tweets, pooled from hashtags relating to the riots and their aftermath, so they could form part of the study. A spokeman for the company said: “Twitter provided publicly available information that is accessible to researchers and others via its API.”

Wikileaks reveals Israeli company loving “war on terror” (aka targeting Muslims makes us good money)

Posted: 05 Sep 2011

9/11 happens. An already large privatised security industry massively expands. Israel is the supposed expert on such matters (being good at racial profiling and killing Arabs whilst damaging the security prospects and future of the state).

Wikileaks releases a document from March 2008 that highlights just one company looking to make a fortune from this bogus threat:

On March 7, Econoff received a briefing from senior executives at Hazard Threat Analysis, Ltd. (HTA), a private company specializing in internet-based counter-terrorism (CT) intelligence gathering. Founder and CEO Aviram Halevi explained that all of HTA’s research is based on open source material gathered by collectors from shared platforms and peer-to-peer programs on the internet and Web 2.0. Halevi clarified that the company does not collect business intelligence or use hackers. HTA has a staff of approximately 25 researchers, of whom twenty are language specialists, primarily in Farsi and Arabic. The researchers are often recently discharged members of Israeli Defense Intelligence’s (IDI) elite Unit 8200, which is well known in Israel as IDI’s signal intelligence unit. The young staff is employed by HTA to develop online identities (avatars) in discussion groups used by potential terrorists to actively solicit information useful to their clients. Some of these identities have been maintained for as long as two years. Halevi was quick to note that his employees are not involved in terrorist planning online, limiting themselves to observer status within the groups. A typical monthly report costs between USD 2500-4500.

¶2. (S) Halevi, a former Lt. Colonel in IDI, said that other companies and agencies engage in similar activities, but none with the skill or experience of his team. Discharged soldiers from IDI serve as a “bottomless well” of talent, said Halevi, and new personnel can always be hired depending on the needs of the client. Halevi explained that the researchers and analysts understand the CT context in which they are working from their army training, and their skills are such that not one false identity has ever been identified by other participants in discussion groups. Halevi noted that HTA has a competitive edge in this sort of technical analysis, and is currently providing similar reports to the Joint Task Force in Iraq (this has not been independently confirmed). In Halevi’s view, this ability to analyze technical capabilities is what differentiates HTA from others in the field, such as the American Rita Katz and her Site Institute. In a separate conversation, IDI Iran analyst Itai Yonat told Econoff that HTA analysts often claim responsibility for recent terrorist attacks as a means of establishing credibility in online groups, using technical knowledge of such events in the region. Yonat confessed that the GOI was generally unwilling to outsource intelligence work to HTA, but regularly made use of their information when provided for free.

¶3. (S) Mickey Segall, Head of Political Analysis, noted that HTA was different from traditional intelligence agencies in that there is no wall between collection and analysis. Instead, collectors and analysts work side-by-side to refine the final product and bring it to market as quickly as possible. This allows the staff to “reach across the aisle” and change priorities if the customer makes a specific request. Segall worked on Arab and Iranian issues for twenty years in IDI where he also reached the rank of Lt. Colonel, but said that when he joined HTA one year ago much of the company’s information was entirely new to him. It is surprising, said Segall, how many high-ranking people keep blogs, especially in Iran, which is a relatively techno-savvy country. He offered the example of the Central Bank of Iran, which maintains a public site where officials discuss the bank’s internal policies and comment on actions taken by the U.S. Department of the Treasury.

¶4. (S) Segall said that outsourcing to HTA does not replace traditional intelligence, but rather enhances it. “We can be there fast, with high quality information tailored to the customer,” said Segall. HTA can do both pinpoint research and broader situation reports, but is not able to provide the sort of “point-to-point” specific information available through more traditional intelligence gathering methods. Instead, said Segall, the researchers focus on early phases of CT when terrorists are often less cautious about their use of technology. Halevi said that this type of information could be particularly useful in tracking terrorism finance. HTA’s analysts often encounter fundraisers for terrorist groups, credit card numbers, pin codes, and other identifying information, but do not have any customers requesting this information. Halevi also believes that when it comes to Iran, there is considerable information that could be obtained on the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and other groups through the use of link analysis connecting individuals with support for terrorism and nuclear proliferation.<

¶5. (S) The company maintains a databank of private video and photographs posted on blogs and discussion groups from target countries. Halevi said that in many cases, the data is removed by government censors within minutes, but the footage remains accessible forever to HTA researchers. HTA analysts recently used video footage posted on Hamas internet chat groups to prepare a report for IDI Research on rocket capacity in Gaza. He added that gaining the confidence of U.S. clients is an arduous process, as HTA is not incorporated in the United States. HTA shares contracts with its sister company in the United Kingdom, Hazard Management Solutions Ltd, which was recently acquired by the Canadian company Allen-Vanguard.

Contracting in Afghanistan is turning that country into a deformed beast

Posted: 05 Sep 2011

My following investigation appears today in Crikey:

In the 10 years since 9/11, millions of people have been killed but countless firms have benefited from the explosion inWestern defence spending. Brian Michael Jenkins, senior adviser to the president at Rand Corporation, recently toldNational Defence that “the war on terrorism cost $3.8 trillion in the first 10 years”.

Much of this money has also been used in American theatres of war including Iraq and Afghanistan. A just-released reportby the US-based Commission on Wartime Contracting found that at least one out of every six dollars spent by the US on contractors in both countries in the past decade has been wasted or disappeared. That’s more than $30 billion.

A lawyer working on rule of law issues in Afghanistan exclusively tells Crikey from Kabul that nothing has changed on the contracting issue since Barack Obama assumed office and nor will it:

“People are tired of this war and it will be an issue in the forthcoming [2012] election. The news that the Obama administration is negotiating with Afghan President Hamid Karzai [to keep at least 25,000 troops in the country until 2024, according to media reports] would not be welcomed by American voters. Using [private] contractors is a great solution for Obama in terms of bringing the troops home while still maintaining a presence here.”

One of the key points of the Commission on Wartime Contracting is that America initiated wars after 9/11 without adequate planning, therefore relying on private contractors to fill the void. At times, more than 260,000 people in the contractor workforce has exceeded the number of US military forces in a conflict zone.

As The New Yorker revealed earlier this year, an army of largely invisible foreign workers populate American bases with little or no protection from exploitation.

America couldn’t fight its multiple wars without contractors.

The depth of the problem is shown by the presence of the controversial mercenary company Blackwater in Afghanistan, despite the Karzai government continually rejecting the presence of such forces.

Without them, however, the nation’s violence would spiral even further out of control, because the Afghan army isdeserting in massive numbers and remains incapable of fighting an insurgency that is only strengthening as long as foreign troops occupy the nation.

Such dismal figures also put into perspective the role of Australia in Uruzgan Province as we’re constantly told that our role is to train Afghan soldiers to defend the country on their own. The possible success of this mission is highly questionable. Confirmation that Australian forces are using drones to kill supposed enemies in southern Afghanistan will only increase the local hatred of Western forces.

Furthermore, this week’s important article in the Fairfax Media about Australian special forces using legally and morally suspect covert means to target insurgents missed one important element; the use of private companies to assist this process, something I revealed in Crikey in late 2010.

Various sources tell Crikey that Australian and American troops increasingly rely on private intelligence contractors to gain information on suspected insurgents. Tragically this information is often incorrect, causing the wrongful abduction or death of civilians.

The lawyer in Kabul tells says that the nexus between huge amounts of foreign money, a corrupt Karzai regime and private contractors make the job of reform almost impossible.

“The Afghan government is not in a position to be serious about fighting corruption because President Karzai is holding together the most fragile of coalitions and he’s only able to do it by carving out gifts to everybody he needs support from,” she said. “Those gifts include high-ranking positions, opportunities to collect money through corruption, control of provinces and the narcotics trade. Karzai doesn’t really have the option to be sincere about fighting corruption. The Afghan anti-corruption institution is essentially a fake institution. It may well have been set up with clear marching orders to occupy that space without doing anything.”

This is the government with whom the West is betting its future in Afghanistan.

Contractors hired by NATO or the US military to provide supplies to the troops have to pay off the Taliban in order to be able to do their job. Enormous amounts of money are going from defence budgets into the pockets of the people the troops are being deployed to fight.

“The military has become a prep school that you have to get through and graduate to be a well paid mercenary,” the Kabul lawyer tells Crikey. “These [contracting] companies are publicly traded. They don’t have a philosophy or a set of values of their own; they have shareholders. Their only next goal is to get the next contract.”

A recent investigation in Caravan magazine explained how Indian aid money to the country was feeding the insurgency by bribing the warlords New Delhi says it wants to defeat.

One of the key reasons private contractors will remain in Afghanistan and countless other nations are because the war-making Western powers have no desire for it to stop. A war economy is thriving in Afghanistan due to ongoing occupation policies dictating a never-ending supply of security to insulate those implementing it. And since the occupation will continue for years to come, mercenaries will always be in demand.

I’ve seen the price list of Western contractors in Afghanistan who can charge a small fortune to protect individuals and these companies are only demanding what the market can sustain.

One human rights source in Kabul, who requested anonymity, tells Crikey that the occupying army in Afghanistan is fighting dual battles to establish any kind of peace and stability. Private contractors, without which the Americans and Australians couldn’t operate in the country, are relied upon despite a shocking human rights record.

For example, DynCorp is integral to the American war effort despite being accused of complicity in the illegal transfer of terror suspects through extraordinary rendition. This is the same company that a US government report recently found massively failed to deliver on its contractual agreement to train the Afghan National Police.

The Kabul source explains how the entire Western war machine is seemingly destined not to succeed, therefore requiring a foreign troop presence for the foreseeable future:

“The real issue with ISAF [International Security Assistance Force] is that everybody is on a six-month tour, including the people with desk jobs. I never forget a meeting I had with two ISAF people dedicated to fighting corruption. An American and a French man. One of them said to me, ‘Ma’am, ISAF understands that we aren’t going to be able to end corruption in Afghanistan in the next two years but ISAF’s goal is that within two years corruption will no longer be an obstacle between the people and the government with the people running into the arms of the insurgency’. I said that sounded ambitious. I said that you’re planning to be here for two years? He said, ‘No, ma’am, I’m here for six months’.”

*Antony Loewenstein is an independent journalist currently working on a book about disaster capitalism

Dishonest media continues lies over BDS to smear support for Palestine as anti-Semitic

Posted: 05 Sep 2011

The rot continues in Murdoch’s Australian.

After Greens Senator Lee Rhiannon defended her right to be pro-Palestinian and not anti-Semitic (a leap of logic only made by desperate Zionists and hack media), a flurry of letters ensued.

This was yesterday:

While those behind the boycott of Israeli products will claim that this is not anti-Semitic, the fact that it targets the only Jewish state, a democracy, while ignoring serial human rights-abusing nations, tells us that this is indeed anti-Semitic in intent and in effect.

This demonstrates how far “respectable anti-Semitism” has come. Clearly it has become acceptable to boycott and discriminate against Jews, as long as there is a thin veneer of anti-Zionism which purportedly covers the hateful act.

Bill Anderson, Surrey Hills, Vic

Lee Rhiannon (Letters, 2/9) has every right to criticise Israel’s policies, but the BDS boycott campaign that she champions, with its triumphalist slogans like “Palestine will be free from the (Jordan) river to the (Mediterranean) sea” is a thinly veiled attempt to destroy Israel as the national homeland of the Jewish people.

More than 190 nations provide self-determination for their peoples. Rhiannon champions the cause of people who have never had sovereignty of one square centimetre of land (and I wouldn’t deny her right to do so) but why deny the national aspirations of the Jewish people?

Steve Lieblich, Jewish Community Council, North Perth, WA

And a voice of reason today (which will clearly be seen as anti-Semitic because it’s written by a Palestinian and we all know Palestinians hate Jews, right?) followed by a typical Zionist voice that wants the world to focus on every human rights abuse except Israel and Palestine. The occupation is invisible to these people and yet they have the temerity to call themselves “friends” of Israel:

AT the risk of sounding like a cracked record, let us be clear, again, about what the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) call from Palestinian civil society is actually about.

It is about recognising the inalienable rights of the Palestinian refugees; about ending the illegal military occupation; and about ending the systematic discrimination of Palestinian citizens in Israel.

It also specifically renounces all forms of racism including anti-Semitism. How can it be that any criticism of Israel is automatically anti-Semitic? How can a legitimate BDS target, such as Max Brenner (the Israeli business with strong links to the Israeli Defence Force), be automatically anti-Jewish?

And since when did a BDS protest have anything to do with 9/11 as suggested by John Ferguson (“Unions’ anti-Israel campaign puts ACTU, Labor on the spot”, 3-4/9)?

Why is there a near singular narrative that continues to misrepresent the voice of Palestine in this debate?

Moammar Mashni, Australians for Palestine, Hawthorn, Vic

What are Greens senator Lee Rhiannon’s credentials for her claim that she regularly speaks out against human rights abuses (Letters, 2/9)?

Did she boycott any communist countries when they were committing some of the greatest atrocities of the 20th century? When the Soviet Union invaded Czechoslovakia to crush the Prague Spring, did Rhiannon boycott the Soviets? No, she joined the Socialist Party of Australia, a pro-Soviet grouping that split from the Communist Party of Australia after the CPA abhorred the Soviet actions.

Did she boycott the Soviet Union when it was administering psychiatric abuse such as electro-shocks to its dissidents? No, she led a delegation to Moscow. She even made an appearance in Soviet Woman.

Not even in the dying days of the Soviet dictatorship did she protest about human rights abuses.

Rhiannon leads a movement that singles out Israel for boycott. Yet Rhiannon never boycotted or distanced herself from the communist regime she supported for decades.

Douglas Kirsner, Caulfield North, Vic

Afghanistan may be at war but rest assured the vultures will come

Posted: 05 Sep 2011

A friend says that a link to this page appeared on Murdoch’s Australian today, just proving that exploitating the fears and conflict of a war-torn country is never beyond the remit of disaster capitalists:

U.S. geologists just found some $1 trillion of untapped mineral deposits in Afghanistan. What’s next for the war-torn country?

Overnight, Afghanistan has gone from being a political pariah to one of the richest countries on the globe.

But can the rocky, war-torn desert – known mostly for harboring terrorists and exporting opium – be reborn as a major commodities exporter?

Afghanistan’s mineral wealth includes large caches of iron, copper, gold and lithium that could turn the country into one of the most important mining centers in the world.

Think of Australia, Canada, and Latin America. They pale in comparison to the goldmine Afghanistan could be sitting on.

But, how will Afghanistan tap into these deposits? It is a country marked by ongoing warfare, lack of infrastructure and political corruption… Will they ever be able to overcome all that?

Sign up for Money Morning now to get the free report… You’ll find out exactly what it will take to mine these deposits… How long it might be before these minerals hit the commodities market…. And how to profit.

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Zionists Out of the Peace Movement

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Jews and Torture Update II

In my “Jews and Torture” post, back in 2007, I wrote:

Michael Mukasey’s nomination as US Attorney General was placed in apparent jeopardy when he refused to state in Senate confirmation hearings that the form of torture known as waterboarding was illegal under US law. His nomination was rescued by two Jewish Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee, Diane Feinstein and Charles Schumer, who joined with all nine Republicans in an 11-8 vote to send the nomination to the full Senate where they were joined by Joseph Lieberman, another Jew who voted against his caucus. Mukasey was confirmed by a 53-40 vote–“the narrowest margin to confirm an attorney general in more than 50 years.”

Recently I had occasion to look at the voting records of the three Jewish Senators who pulled Mukasey’s nomination out of the fire. They only highlight how remarkable it was for them to cross party lines to support Mukasey. According to theWashington Post’s database, during the 110th Congress, Feinstein voted with her caucus 94% of the time, Lieberman 87%, and Schumer 97%.

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