Archive | December 24th, 2013

Zio-Nazi strikes Gaza TODAY

NOVANEWS

1 Haaretz Tuesday, Christmas Eve December 24, 2013

Escalation on the border ||  Israel strikes Gaza after Defense Ministry employee killed in border shooting

3-year-old Palestinian killed as IDF attacks six targets in Gaza; Defense Minister: Gaza won’t be quiet as long as Israel isn’t quiet; IDF shoots Palestinian near security fence.

By Gili Cohen , Shirly Seidler, Chaim Levinson     and Reuters  |  Dec. 24, 2013

The Israel Defense Forces struck targets in the Gaza Strip on Tuesday afternoon, hours after a contract worker employed by Israel’s Defense Ministry was shot and killed Tuesday by gunfire originating from the coastal territory.

The Israel Air Force attacked six separate sites across the territory linked to Hamas and the Islamic Jihad. Palestinians said that a 3-year-old girl was killed in one of the attacks on the Al-Maghazi refugee camp, and that her mother and brother were wounded.  The Associated Press said a total of 10 people were wounded in the attacks.

The IDF said in a statement that the Israel Air Force, tanks as well as infantry corps soldiers attacked two sites in the southern Strip, though ground forces did not enter the territory. The IDF said that one of the targets was a weapons building site and defined the second as a “terror infrastructure” site. The IDF also struck two additional sites in the central Gaza Strip and another “terror infrastructure” sites in the north as well.

“The IDF responded with a wave of attacks and are currently considering our next steps,” a senior IDF officer said. He added that while the army wants to avoid an escalation, soldiers in the Gaza Division were on high alert “in case the situation deteriorates.”

Hamas told Israel’s Ch. 10 following the attacks that it was not interested in an escalation with Gaza.

The Palestinian group Popular Resistance Committees (PRC) took responsibility for the morning shooting at Kibbutz Nahal Oz that killed Defense Ministry employee Salah Abu Latif, 22. He was the first Israeli to be killed from Gaza fire since Operation Pillar of Defense in November 2012.

“One of our snipers hit an Israeli officer, who is in the Engineering Forces of the Israeli army, and seriously wounded him, near the borders between eastern Gaza Strip and Israel,” the PRC said.

Israeli army officials said that the victim, a resident of the predominantly Bedouin town of Rahat in southern Israel, was hit by a single gunshot, leading them to believe a sniper perpetrated the attack. There was no exchange of gunfire during the incident.

The victim, a civilian who had been helping repair a part of the security fence that was damaged by the extreme winter weather last week, was airlifted to Soroka Medical Center in Be’er Sheva for treatment. He was initially listed in serious condition, but later succumbed to his wounds.

He is the second Israeli to be killed this month and the sixth since September.

In a separate incident Tuesday afternoon, IDF soldiers shot a Palestinian man who approached the security fence in the northern Gaza Strip. Soldiers said the man was hit in the lower torso and was evacuated for medical treatment by members of the International Committee of the Red Cross.

Defense Minister: If there’s no quiet in Israel, there will be no quiet in Gaza

Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon rejected speculations that the terror attacks in the last few days were linked to the shooting on the border, but said that Israel was treating each of the incidents with “utter severity.”

He added that the Defense Ministry holds Hamas responsible for the shooting and for the rocket attacks. “We will not let life in the south be disrupted, and we will respond aggressively and painfully to any attack on our authority and against our civilians and soldiers. I suggest Hamas not test our patience and use its authority in the territory. If there is no quiet in Israel, there will be no quiet in Gaza.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the attack at Nahal Oz “an extremely grave incident” adding that woul “not ignore it. Our policy until now has been to thwart and to respond forcefully – and this is how we will act in this case as well.” Netanyahu was visiting the southern town of Sderot, about a kilometer (half a mile) from the Gaza border, at the time of the shooting.

The victim’s employer said he has been working for him for about a year. “He was a young man, and extremely diligent,” he said. He added that the Gaza border has felt calm in recent months, but that in light of Tuesday’s incident, they would likely stop working along the border fence.

“We worked for there for a long time and nothing happened, and then suddenly everything started. We got used to wandering around the area freely, but after what happened I don’t think we’ll go back there. It’s scary.”

IDF soldiers from the Gaza Division have been sweeping the border area in recent days in efforts to locate underground smuggling tunnels. Army officials surmised that the stormy weather last week could help uncover the tunnels infiltrating into Israel.

The shooting near Kibbutz Nahal Oz comes after a spate of terror-related incidents and rocket fire in recent days. A police officer helping to direct traffic outside Ramallah was stabbed in the back on Monday, while his Palestinian assailant fled the scene. Israeli security forces opened fire at the attacker, but missed.

On Monday, what could have been a deadly bus bombing in Bat Yam was averted when an alert passenger notified the driver about a suspicious bag on the bus. The driver ordered all passengers to disembark after which a police bomb squad arrived at the site and began inspecting the suspicious object. The bomb exploded, shattering all the bus windows and charring the sides of the vehicle.

Also on Monday, police found the remains of the Qassam rocket near a bus stop for transporting children in the Hof Ashkelon Regional Council. The bus stop was only slightly damaged.

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Is South Sudan a Failed State?

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Marching Towards Failure

South Sudan Malaria Map

by SUFYAN bin UZAYR

Back in July 2011,after a long civil war, South Sudan split from Sudan to become an independent country. However, even though statehood was achieved and a new country was born, the efforts to transform South Sudan into a proper nation-state seem to have come to a standstill.

Is South Sudan a failed state? Even worse, is the country almost on the brink of collapse? In this article, I shall attempt to answer these questions.

History

Undivided Sudan was Africa’s largest country. It surely had its share of issues, such as famines in the Darfur region, but overall, its primarily agrarian economy was doing well. Around 1999, Sudan also started exporting oil, thereby adding to its GDP.

The civil war lasted for nearly 23 years, and it ended in 2005 when a peace deal was signed between the Sudanese state and the southern rebels. However, the separation occurred in 2011, when South Sudan decided to break away from Sudan and form a separate country. This also had a negative impact on the economy of both the nations: most of the oil-rich regions are now in South Sudan, whereas almost all the refineries are in Sudan.

Oil is not among the easiest commodities to live without, and coupled with issues such as border disputes, the tensions between the two countries knew no limits. It was only in September 2012 that the leaders of both Sudan and South Sudan reached an agreement about oil trade and security matters after their meeting in Ethiopia. And then, in March 2013, Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir suggested measures such as resuming oil production, withdrawal of troops from the borders as well as a possible official visit to South Sudan.

South Sudan: A Dismal Picture

While reconciliation between Sudan and South Sudan might be a possibility, resolution of South Sudan’s internal instability seems highly unlikely at the moment. Ever since its formation in 2011, South Sudan has been trying hard to find its feet, with extremely disappointing results.

To begin with, in spite of the oil resources, South Sudan’s economy is nothing to be proud of. Financially, the country is shattered and one blow short of collapse. Additionally, services such as public health and progress are unheard of. Even more importantly, South Sudan currently suffers from deep-rooted corruption which makes growth unlikely and worsens the matters for its residents.

Since South Sudan is barely two years old, it needs support from the international community. However, owing to South Sudan’s internal tensions, most countries are having a hard time trying to justify their association with this Central African nation. Britain, for example, has advised its citizens not to travel to Juba.

Sadly, gun battles have become common in South Sudan. Due to such unrest, hundreds have been killed, whereas thousands have been forced to seek refuge in bases established by the United Nations.

Digging Deeper

The two major groups at the heart of this violence are both former rebels who once fought together for the independence of South Sudan.

President Salva Kiir, who comes from the powerful ethnic group named Dinka, sacked Vice President Riek Machar in July 2013, accusing him of organizing coups against his government. Machar, a member of the Nuer tribe (the second largest ethnic group after Dinka), in turn accused Kiir of trying to establish his dictatorial control over the entire country.

It is indeed true that ever since coming to power, Kiir has not been very kind with his political rivals. However, Machar himself does not seem to be someone sans ambition — he has often publicly claimed that he is aiming to be the next President, and even called on Kiir to step down and offer him the chair.

What began in July as a conflict of political ambitions has now led to country-wide unrest. The South Sudanese military too seems to be taking sides: one section remains loyal to Kiir, whereas the other group has pledged allegiance to Machar. Bentiu, an important city and a provincial capital, was captured by army units loyal to Riek Machar, thereby implying that unrest has transformed into full-fledged civil war. It is worth noting that Bentiu also happens to be the country’s most oil-rich region.

Machar’s forces are claiming that they are just 200kms from reaching the country’s capital, whereas Kiir’s troops are stating that they have eliminated all possible rebels from Juba (though the latter has acknowledged that Bentiu has been lost). Here is Toby Lanzer, UN Assistant Secretary-General, currently stationed in Juba, offering a live account of events.

International Response

Almost all the foreign governments, especially USA, Britain, Uganda and Kenya, have organized special evacuation flights to pull out their nationals from the war-torn South Sudan. There have been appeals to end violence, and USA has made it clear that it will not side with a government that grabs power by the use of military might, as noted byAl Jazeera: “Any effort to seize power through the use of military force will result in the end of support from the United States and the international community.”

Conclusion

The fighting in South Sudan does not seem to be ending anytime soon. This conflict between Machar and Kiir has both political and ethnic dimensions, and with the military being involved in the fray, chances of peace are highly unlikely.

South Sudan was formed by partitioning Africa’s largest country, and this partition was justified by being termed as a recognition of the mutual aspirations of the South Sudanese people and their right to prosper without any hindrances. Apparently, those in favor of South Sudan have now been silenced in the harshest manner possible.

The country is marching towards failure, and there seems to be no cure. A military power grab, or a motion in favor of Machar (who has hinted at the formation of a military government), kills all possibilities of a democratic setup in the country, whereas a nod to Kiir results in additional unrest due to his vicious execution of political opposition.

Ironically, the resultant northern state of Sudan was described as a potential doomed country by supporters of South Sudan. While Sudan now hardly has any oil resources and is being forced to rely on its agrarian economy, it has managed to prevent its broken house from crumbling into pieces. South Sudan does not have Darfur famine in its resume: instead, the tagline describes it as a failed state that could not remain peaceful for even two years.

At this junction, one is forced to question: was breaking up Sudan really a wise thing to do? As far as I get it, an undivided Sudan would have been better off. Attempts should have been made to quell the southern rebels and bring prosperity to the entire undivided Sudanese country as a whole. Sadly, we decided for the rather questionable choice of creating two countries, and the outcome is far from praiseworthy, because the newer nation of South Sudan has not impressed anyone.

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The Goldman Sachs 2013 Christmas Story

NOVANEWS

Live from Bethlehem

by BILL QUIGLEY

Swaddled in Baby Gap, little Jesus appears to be crying.  Mary tries to gently rock him in her hands, certainly a great moment to remind viewers that you are in good hands with Allstate.    The carpenter Joseph is trying to protect Mary and Jesus, he could certainly use the system he just won from our sponsor ADT.  The cow you see behind them is brought to you by ConAgra, the donkey by Halliburton.  The angels on high in the sky, magnificent 3D computer generated imagery, are from Pixar.  Walt Disney has remixed the angel songs so they sing praise to the shopping opportunities this event has created.

Earlier, there were reports of shepherds in the area but ICE agents stopped and frisked them and are now herding them on your right into the Fox News freedom of expression fenced off area.  Some appear to be singing a protest song about peace on earth.  Over on the left, a panel of MSNBC experts are talking about the shepherds and talking about the shepherds and talking about the shepherds.

In front of us you can see the Republicans, decked out in Brooks Brothers, who have brought gifts of big cutbacks in food stamps to make this couple and others like them more independent and self-reliant.  Democrats, clad in casual elegance from Ralph Lauren, are doing their part tonight by firing drones all over the Middle East and Africa and snooping on the private communications of the family all the while assuring the family this is for their own protection.

Oh look, here come representatives of the rich and powerful!  Both Republicans and Democrats are bowing down to them.  They promise the next time Jesus is born they will provide a better site in Davos, Switzerland so he can get his message out to those who really matter.

Finally, the church people arrive, clerics from Christianity, Judaism, and Islam decked out in fine clothing.   They quickly start arguing among themselves over the importance of the event and who is more closely related to the family.  UN Peacekeepers pry them apart and send them to separate parts of the country so they can pray in their own separate peace.

All the while, representatives from Apple are pushing Iphones on the lovely parents.  Microsoft assures Jesus he can be happy with his own Xbox.   Amazon mini-drones hover with books, groceries, clothing, and jewelry.  While Walmart and Costco assure everyone they have all the same stuff at guaranteed lower prices.

Wait.  Mary and Joseph have picked up baby Jesus and are stepping over the piles of presents.  They are leaving the spotlights and the microphones and the piles of presents.  Where on earth are they going?  What is wrong with them?

Well, that is all for Christmas 2013.  Tonight’s good cheer brought to you by Budweiser.

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The Last Chance for Peace in Syria?

NOVANEWS
by SHAMUS COOKE

The war in Syria grinds on, an endless wreckage of shattered limbs and lives. The blood flows across borders, fueling the religious sectarian killing across the Middle East that is the life-blood of the Syrian conflict.

Hopes rose in Syria after Obama’s last minute decision not to “punish Assad” with a missile attack. Then came the U.S.-Iran nuclear peace deal, and it was hoped that peace in Syria was part of the broader shift in U.S. policy, “pivoting” away from the Middle East towards China.

The “Geneva II” Syrian peace talks have been discussed for months, but there always seems to be an endlessly complicated barrier. Contrary to what the media and politicians say, stopping the mass carnage is sadly easy. And it could be done relatively quickly, if the power brokers behind the conflict actually wanted it stopped.

Peace talks are not advanced calculus, but basic addition. You bring together those outside nations who are fueling the conflict — directly or indirectly — you add the groups inside Syria who have power on the ground, and out of negotiations equals a settlement.

If groups on the ground in Syria refuse to negotiate, the outside powers are then expected to exert their leverage on their proxies, with the threat of being cut off politically and financially. Through this process an agreement can be forged.

Of course, an x factor often emerges: whether parties are actually willing to negotiate, and whether or not they do so honestly, with the intention of pursuing peace, rather then using the talks to wage a better-timed war.

Obama seems conflicted about wanting peace in Syria. One of the key actors in the Syrian drama is Iran, and Obama is blocking Iran from participating. The UN understands that Iran’s involvement in the peace talks is crucial, but Obama is exploiting U.S. power to pick and choose who participates, sabotaging the talks in the process.

Why does Obama want Iran out of the picture? Because the U.S. wants to control the outcome of the talks, and Obama insists that Iran agree that the peace talks be conditional, the condition being that the goals of the talks be limited to creating a “transitional government,” i.e., the removal of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Obama is essentially attempting to achieve via talks what he couldn’t achieve through a proxy war.

Of course, any pre-condition to peace talks is a great way to abort any chance of peace, though there has been much chatter that Obama is reconsidering his “Assad must go” pre-condition, since it is so obviously destructive to peace talks.

But Obama continues to encourage war in Syria by refusing to muzzle his attack dog, Saudi Arabia, which continues to openly funnel money, weapons, and jihadists into Syria, supporting Islamic extremist rebel groups that refuse to participate in peace talks.

Recently the Saudi ambassador to Britain wrote an op-ed for The New York Times, where he defiantly declared that Saudi Arabia will “go it alone” to continue to fuel the Syrian sociocide.

The article was a masterstroke of hypocrisy; Saudi Arabia remains the motor force of religious extremism in the Middle East and a prime contributor to sectarian atrocities committed in Syria. The ambassador shamelessly writes: 

“The way to prevent the rise of extremism in Syria — and elsewhere — is to support the champions of moderation: financially, materially and yes, militarily, if necessary.”

Of course, in Syria there are zero “moderate” rebel forces with any shred of power. This long-known fact was made explicit recently when a large group of rebels — some of them former “moderates” under the Free Syrian Army — realigned themselves under the banner of the Islamic Front, which shares a fundamentalist Sunni Islam ideology similar to al Qaeda — the other dominant power among the Syrian opposition. What was Obama’s response to the implosion of his Free Syrian Army and the rise of the Islamic Front?

Obama’s U.S. State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf casually commented:

“We wouldn’t rule out the possibility of meeting with the Islamic Front … We can engage with the Islamic Front, of course, because they’re not designated terrorists … We’re always open to meeting with a wide range of opposition groups.”

There you go. Taliban-style extremists aren’t designated as “terrorists,” so it’s OK to support them. Obama is forced to support these groups because without doing so, the U.S. would have zero influence on the ground in the Syrian conflict. And without power on the ground the U.S. has no influence to steer peace talks in a direction favorable to U.S. interests.

This is why Obama continues to allow Saudi Arabia to fuel the conflict, as it has done — along with the other Gulf states — since the beginning. For example, the highest religious authority of Saudi Arabia gave his support to the widely popular Qatari-based Sheikh Youssef al-Qaradawi, after the Sheikh called for jihad against the Syrian government. 

The response to these calls for jihad has been predictable; a recent study estimates that as many as 11,000 foreign fighters have fought in Syria, although no one knows exactly.

In practice, a Sunni fundamentalist call for jihad equals the murder of Shia Muslims, Christians and by implication, the majority of Sunni Muslims who are not of the Saudi fundamentalist variety. These Saudi and Qatari for-profit Sheikh’s are up to their necks in Syrian blood.

Of course, if Obama wanted to address this issue, he would actually discuss it publicly, and then he would use his “bully pulpit” to push Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, and others into line towards a peace agreement, since these nations’ national and domestic security is completely dependent on the United States military and weapon industries.

Ultimately, religious sectarianism is just the surface gloss used to divide the Middle East into an orgy of violence. The real motor force of the conflict remains profit: regional domination for raw materials, markets, loans, military sales, client states, etc.

And this is the real x factor that Obama creates in the Syrian conflict: how best to manage a peace deal that leaves in place U.S. power in the region, as well as the power of U.S. allies, Turkey, Israel, Saudi Arabia, etc.

Consequently, the Syrian Kurds who’ve carved out their own autonomous zone — similar to the Kurds in Iraq — have thus far been ignored, since they pose an “existential threat” to Turkey and its large Kurdish population.

The battle for power and profit are the real complications in creating peace in Syria. Obama has had several prior chances to forge peace in Syria and has chosen not to. When Syria and Russia proposed peace last year, John Kerry openly mocked the prospect, so sure he was of his rebels taking power.

When Syria and Russia again asked for peace talks last summer, Obama’s rebels boycotted the talks and Obama’s silence equaled complicity.  Obama has sabotaged peace talks for over a year by attaching pre-conditions and demands — such as the removal of Bashar al-Assad– before peace talks could begin.

Now peace talks are again on the table, the situation in Syria is more dire than ever, and the world as a whole demands peace.

Obama’s actions will testify to his intent in Syria; he will either insist on a no conditions peace talk and pressure his allies to stop the bloodshed, or he will do the opposite and remain a driving force for senseless slaughter and the continued butchering of innocents.

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Mother Nature Intensifies the Gaza Siege

NOVANEWS
by FRANKLIN C. SPINNEY

Gaza was recently hit by a severe winter storm, and it lacks the electricity, water, and sewage infrastructure to deal with the crisis. Here, FYI, is report in Ma’an, a Palestinian news agency, describing the disastrous effects of this storm.  Among other things, the report explains how electricity, fuel shortages, and a break down of the sewage system have limited the capacity to drain the flooded areas with cold sewage-laden water.

Flooded Street in Gaza

Gaza’s flooded streets.  

Even before the rains, sewage was flooding into the streets, because of infrastructure-based pumping problems (e.g., shortages of electricity and fuel).  Also, salt water intrusion into the aquifer is steadily making drinking water unfit for human consumption, a factor compounded by the recent flooding.  The report argues that these problems are combination of “nature” and “nurture,” in that the natural disaster is made far worse by “nurturing” effects of Israel’s ongoing siege.

Obviously, the Ma’an report is written from a Palestinian perspective.  Some readers, especially those with a pro-Zionist bent, will inclined to dismiss this report as biased, because it focuses solely the effects of Israel’s blockade, and does not mention how the policies of Hamas and Egypt have contributed to the Gaza crisis.  To be sure, there is a very small kernel of truth in such a critique, particularly with respect to Egypt, which is a de factor partner in Israel’s siege of Gaza.  But it is absurd to blame the human tragedy in Gaza on the inmates of the ghetto.

The reality is that bulk of the crisis in Gaza is a direct result of Israel’s oppressive policies over the long term, made more acute by the current Siege of Gaza — i.e., blockade coupled to episodic bombing — that is now well into its seventh year.  In effect Israel’s policy is to pacify Gaza by enervating Gaza’s population via the simple expedient of making life miserable and hard for all Gazans  so that all their human energy is sapped by the desperate activities needed to scratch out a meager life of bare-bones survival.  Can there be any wonder that militant elements, like Hamas (the formation of which, it should be remembered, was encouraged by Israel in the late 1980s as an offset to the PLO), have emerged to resist such an inhuman policy.

Today almost 1.8 million Gazans are trapped inside the 360 square kilometer cage known since the end of the 1948 war as the Gaza Strip.  That strip is now the world’s largest and most densely populated ghetto. According to data in Wikipedia, the only semi/fully autonomous regions having a  greater population density are the rich urban statelets of Hong Kong, Singapore, Monaco, and Macau, rich enclaves with per capita incomes of $53,000, $61,000, and $77,000 respectively.

A necessary if not sufficient condition for the prosperity of these industrious urban economies is that their borders be open to the free flow of trade and money.  Like these statelets, Gaza is an urban economy.  Moreover, within the Arab culture, its Palestinians are relatively well educated and noted for their industriousness and entrepreneurial attitudes.  But unlike the rich trade-based city states, Gaza is exceedingly poor, and growing poorer by the day, with per capita GDP of only $3100.  More to the point, although Gaza will never be a Singapore, Gazans cannot even reverse their deteriorating lot in life, because they are hermetically sealed off from the rest of the world.

Indeed, unlike the Pentagon’s “anti-access” fantasies about the future military systems of China and Iran and their purported threats to the “global commons (see DoD’s most recent QDR and do word searches on ‘anti-access,’ ‘area denial,’ or ‘global commons’ ), Israel has put into place a real anti-access, area denial strategy as defined by the red lines in this map.

Gaza siege map

Gaza siege map.

Lock 1.8 million people inside the red lines, starve them, deny them water, bomb them, and you get the picture.

Note how the map shows that Gaza’s fisherman are now restricted to fishing within a 3 mile limit.  This is tantamount to a denial of fishing rights in the global commons for the inhabitants of a shallow enclave with a relatively long sea coast.  Also, given the possibilities of natural gas field further off Gaza’s shore, Israel’s anti-access policy insure the Gazans will never get a piece of the oil/gas action.    Having sailed in this region, I can assure readers that Israel’s much larger no-float zone (hinted at by the hashed lines in the map) is strictly enforced by aerial surveillance, backed up by high speed and heavily-armed gunboats, helicopters, and fighter aircraft.

It is not as if Gaza has a naval power projection capability: Here is a picture of the Gaza fishing fleet that is now constrained to the 3 mile limit.  Beneath it is an overhead photo of the Port of Gaza — note there is one small pier with docking space for one small ocean going coastal trader.  For a size appreciation, note that  the vessels around the periphery are the fishing boats in the picture.

Gaza fishing fleet

Gaza’s fishing fleet.

Port of Gaza-satellite photo

Port of Gaza. 

Interested readers who want to learn more about the Gaza Siege will find two recent UN reports (here and here) that summarize its effects, and more importantly,  the inevitability of an even greater disaster that siege portends for Gaza’s immediate future.

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A reminder of the misery UK government inaction perpetuates across the Holy Land

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 As the British government shuts down for the Christmas and New Year festivities, British writer Stuart Littlewood reminds it of the hypocrisy and double standards it rather brush under the carpet but which will not be forgotten by anyone with a modicum of decency.

He says, among other things:

“So this is Christmas/And what have you done?”

Hello, the holly-decked halls of Westminster. Be of good cheer, all you chaps in your little festive bubble. I thought you might enjoy this Christmas message from Lennon/Ono – my era but oh so relevant today.

At this important time who can forget how the British government, after its eager support for the Iraq war and its antics in Afghanistan…?

And who can forget the British government’s backing for Saddam in the Iran-Iraq war and, earlier, the economic ruin it inflicted on Iran’s fledgling democracy in order to reinstate the dictatorship of the Shah? It’s little wonder, as I was told in a recent letter from my Tory MP, that we live in a world where terrorists and other extremists are becoming ever more ruthless. Yessir, the Tory Party’s foreign policy, and indeed Labour’s, work like a charm when it comes to stoking up hatred around the globe.

And that suits the military-industrial complex just fine. It puts us all in harm’s way, of course, and does no favours for the innocent civilians of the countries we destabilize. We are bombarded with horrific images every day of the squalor, misery and massive injuries suffered by countless refugees and other displaced persons. But don’t let things like that worry your noble heads, ladies and gentlemen of Westminster. Prime Minister Cameron doesn’t. He rushes to South Africa and basks in the reflected glow of Mandela’s memory. It’s so much easier than actually trying to emulate the great man.

Nowhere is Britain’s foreign policy more misguided and cruel than in the Holy Land, where our political elite have pimped for the insane Zionists for nearly a hundred years. Instead of constantly reciting the mantra that US-supervised and Zionist–lobby–orchestrated negotiations are the only path to peace they ought to read what Richard Falk says in the interview Stealing Palestine”.

Please note Professor Falk’s remarks about the dreadful Christmas in store for the children of Gaza. Cameron insists that Israel’s enemies are our enemies. Does that include these poor kids and their families? If not, what have he and the rest of you done, as John Lennon asks in his Christmas song? Anything to protect them? No. And please do not repeat the tosh written by minister Hugh Robertson about “expressing concern”, “calling on Israel to ease restrictions” and “providing practical assistance”. We’ve heard it all before ad nauseam and, let me tell you frankly, it’s insulting.

The British government knows, or should know, that peace in the Middle East – and maybe worldwide – hinges on justice for the Palestinians. Everyone who has been paying attention also knows that the only language the despicable regime in Tel Aviv understands is sanctions and boycotts, appeals to reason having been contemptuously brushed aside.

Naturally, I wish our rulers at Westminster a peaceful and plenteous Christmas luxuriating in the snug safety of their leafy constituencies. But I wonder how many will lift their heads from the trough long enough to spare a thought for the misery their predecessors created in the Little Town of Bethlehem and all across Palestine, and which their own inaction now perpetuates.

Palestine’s president Mahmoud Abbas is not someone I normally look to for words of wisdom. But parts of his Christmas message this year are very moving and bear repeating here:

We celebrate Christmas in Bethlehem under occupation… This Christmas Eve, our hearts and prayers will be with the millions who are being denied their right to worship in their homeland. We are thinking of our people in Gaza, trapped under siege, and of those who are prevented from worshipping in Bethlehem. Our hearts and prayers are with the people of Al Dbayeh Refugee Camp in Beirut, along with all of our Palestinian refugees – Christians and Muslims uprooted from their hometowns in 1948 and who, since that time, have suffered the vicissitudes of a forced exile.

Our prayers are with the churches and mosques of Jerusalem which remind the world of the Arab identity of our occupied capital… On this occasion, we are reminded of the sad fact that more Bethlehemites will be lighting their candles in Santiago de Chile, Chicago, San Pedro de Sula, Melbourne and Toronto than those in Bethlehem. To them we say that Bethlehem is their town and Palestine is their country. We will continue working tirelessly to give them the freedom to decide where to spend Christmas.

Christians are not a minority here: they are an integral part of the Palestinian people. Orthodox, Catholics, Armenians, Assyrians, Lutherans, Anglicans, Copts, Melkites, Protestants and others are all part of the rich mosaic of this free, sovereign, democratic and pluralistic Palestine we aspire to…

On behalf of a people struggling for justice that will lead to peace, we remember the birth of Jesus Christ in a humble grotto in Bethlehem. His message, for us, as for millions around the world remains as pertinent as ever. “Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after justice: for they shall have their fill”.

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‘The Only Thing We Have to Fear…’ is the CIA

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President Truman’s true warning on the CIA

Fifty years ago, exactly one month after John Kennedy was killed, the Washington Post published an op-ed titled “Limit CIA Role to Intelligence.” The first sentence of that op-ed on Dec. 22, 1963, read, “I think it has become necessary to take another look at the purpose and operations of our Central Intelligence Agency.”

President Harry S. Truman.

It sounded like the intro to a bleat from some liberal professor or journalist. Not so. The writer was former President Harry S. Truman, who spearheaded the establishment of the CIA 66 years ago, right after World War II, to better coordinate U.S. intelligence gathering. But the spy agency had lurched off in what Truman thought were troubling directions.

Sadly, those concerns that Truman expressed in that op-ed — that he had inadvertently helped create a Frankenstein monster — are as valid today as they were 50 years ago, if not more so.

Truman began his article by underscoring “the original reason why I thought it necessary to organize this Agency … and what I expected it to do.” It would be “charged with the collection of all intelligence reports from every available source, and to have those reports reach me as President without Department ‘treatment’ or interpretations.”

Truman then moved quickly to one of the main things bothering him. He wrote “the most important thing was to guard against the chance of intelligence being used to influence or to lead the President into unwise decisions.”

It was not difficult to see this as a reference to how one of the agency’s early directors, Allen Dulles, tried to trick President Kennedy into sending U.S. forces to rescue the group of invaders who had landed on the beach at the Bay of Pigs, Cuba, in April 1961 with no chance of success, absent the speedy commitment of U.S. air and ground support.

Wallowing in the Bay of Pigs

Arch-Establishment figure Allen Dulles had been offended when young President Kennedy had the temerity to ask questions about CIA plans before the Bay of Pigs debacle, which had been set in motion under President Dwight Eisenhower. When Kennedy made it clear he would NOT approve the use of U.S. combat forces, Dulles set out, with supreme confidence, to mousetrap the President.

Coffee-stained notes handwritten by Allen Dulles were discovered after his death and reported by historian Lucien S. Vandenbroucke. They show how Dulles drew Kennedy into a plan that was virtually certain to require the use of U.S. combat forces. In his notes, Dulles explained that, “when the chips were down,” Kennedy would be forced by “the realities of the situation” to give whatever military support was necessary “rather than permit the enterprise to fail.”

The “enterprise” which Dulles said could not fail was, of course, the overthrow of Fidel Castro. After mounting several failed operations to assassinate him, this time Dulles meant to get his man, with little or no attention to how the Russians might react. The reckless Joint Chiefs of Staff, whom then-Deputy Secretary of State George Ball later described as a “sewer of deceit,” relished any chance to confront the Soviet Union and give it, at least, a black eye.

But Kennedy stuck to his guns, so to speak. He fired Dulles and his co-conspirators a few months after the abortive invasion, and told a friend that he wanted to “splinter the CIA into a thousand pieces and scatter it into the winds.” The outrage was very obviously mutual.

When Kennedy himself was assassinated on Nov. 22, 1963, it must have occurred to Truman – as it did to many others – that the disgraced Dulles and his unrepentant associates might not be above conspiring to get rid of a president they felt was soft on Communism and get even for their Bay of Pigs fiasco.

‘Cloak and Dagger’

While Truman saw CIA’s attempted mousetrapping of President Kennedy as a particular outrage, his more general complaint is seen in his broader lament that the CIA had become “so removed from its intended role … I never had any thought that when I set up the CIA that it would be injected into peacetime cloak and dagger operations. … It has become an operational and at times a policy-making arm of the government.” Not only shaping policy through its control of intelligence, but also “cloak and dagger” operations, presumably including assassinations.

Truman concluded the op-ed with an admonition that was as clear as the syntax was clumsy: “I would like to see the CIA restored to its original assignment as the intelligence arm of the President, and that whatever else it can properly perform in that special field – and that its operational duties be terminated or properly used elsewhere.” The importance and prescient nature of that admonition are even clearer today, a half-century later.

But Truman’s warning fell mostly on deaf ears, at least within Establishment circles. TheWashington Post published the op-ed in its early edition on Dec. 22, 1963, but immediately excised it from later editions. Other media ignored it. The long hand of the CIA?

In Truman’s view, misuse of the CIA began in February 1953, when his successor, Dwight Eisenhower, named Allen Dulles as CIA director. Dulles’s forte was overthrowing governments (in current parlance, “regime change”), and he was quite good at it. With coups in Iran (1953) and Guatemala (1954) under his belt, Dulles was riding high by the late Fifties and moved Cuba to the top of his to-do list.

The Truman Papers

Documents in the Truman Library show that nine days after Kennedy was assassinated, Truman sketched out in handwritten notes what he wanted to say in the op-ed. He noted, among other things, that the CIA had worked as he intended only “when I had control.”

Five days after the op-ed appeared, retired Admiral Sidney Souers, whom Truman had appointed to lead his first central intelligence group, sent a “Dear Boss” letter applauding Truman’s outspokenness and blaming Dulles for making the CIA “a different animal than the one I tried to set up for you.”

Souers specifically lambasted the attempt “to conduct a ‘war’ invading Cuba with a handful of men and without air cover.” He also lamented the fact that the agency’s “principal effort” had evolved into causing “revolutions in smaller countries around the globe,” and added: “With so much emphasis on operations, it would not surprise me to find that the matter of collecting and processing intelligence has suffered some.” (Again, as true today as it was 50 years ago.)

Clearly, the operational tail of the CIA was wagging its substantive dog — a serious problem that persists to this day.

Fox Guarding Hen House

After Kennedy was murdered in Dallas, the patrician, well-connected Dulles got himself appointed to the Warren Commission and took the lead in shaping the investigation of JFK’s assassination. Documents in the Truman Library show that Dulles also mounted a small domestic covert action of his own to neutralize any future airing of Truman’s and Souers’s warnings about covert action.

So important was this to Dulles that he invented a pretext to get himself invited to visit Truman in Independence, Missouri. On the afternoon of April 17, 1964, Dulles spent a half-hour one-on-one with the former president, trying to get him to retract what he had written in his op-ed. Hell No, said Harry.

Not a problem, Dulles decided. Four days later, in a formal memorandum of conversation for his old buddy Lawrence Houston, CIA general counsel from 1947 to 1973, Dulles fabricated a private retraction for Truman, claiming that Truman told him the Washington Post article was “all wrong,” and that Truman “seemed quite astounded at it.”

A fabricated retraction? It certainly seems so, because Truman did not change his tune. Far from it. In a June 10, 1964, letter to the managing editor of Look magazine, for example, Truman restated his critique of covert action, emphasizing that he never intended the CIA to get involved in “strange activities.”

Dulles and Dallas

Dulles could hardly have expected to get Truman to recant publicly. So why was it so important for Dulles to place in CIA files a fabricated retraction? I believe the answer lies in the fact that in early 1964 Dulles was feeling a lot of heat from many who were suggesting the CIA might have been involved somehow in the Kennedy assassination. Columnists were asking how the truth could ever be reached, with Allen Dulles as de facto head of the Warren Commission.

Dulles had good reason to fear that Truman’s limited-edition Washington Post op-ed of Dec. 22, 1963, might garner unwanted attention and raise troublesome questions about covert action, including assassination. He would have wanted to be in position to dig out of Larry Houston’s files the Truman “retraction,” in the hope that this would nip any serious questioning in the bud.

As the de facto head of the Warren Commission, Dulles was perfectly positioned to protect himself and his associates, were any commissioners or investigators — or journalists — tempted to question whether Dulles and the CIA played a role in killing Kennedy.

And so, the question: Did Allen Dulles and other “cloak-and-dagger” CIA operatives have a hand in John Kennedy’s assassination and in then covering it up? In my view, the best dissection of the evidence pertaining to the murder appeared in James Douglass’s 2008 book, JFK and the Unspeakable. After updating and arraying the abundant evidence, and conducting still more interviews, Douglass concludes that the answer is Yes.

Obama Intimidated?

The mainstream media had an allergic reaction to Douglass’s book and gave it almost no reviews. It is, nevertheless, still selling well. And, more important, it seems a safe bet that President Barack Obama knows what it says and maybe has even read it. This may go some way toward explaining why Obama has been so deferential to the CIA, NSA, FBI and the Pentagon.

Could this be at least part of the reason he felt he had to leave the Cheney/Bush-anointed torturers, kidnappers and black-prison wardens in place, instructing his first CIA chief Leon Panetta to become, in effect, the agency’s lawyer rather than leader.

Is this why the President feels he cannot fire his clumsily devious Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, who had to apologize to Congress for giving “clearly erroneous” testimony in March? Is this why he allows National Security Agency Director Keith Alexander and counterparts in the FBI to continue to mislead the American people, even though the intermittent snow showers from Snowden show our senior national security officials to have lied — and to have been out of control?

This may be small solace to President Obama, but there is no sign that the NSA documents that Snowden’s has released include the Senate Intelligence Committee’s 6,300-page report on CIA torture. Rather, that report, at least, seems sure to be under Obama’s and Senate Intelligence Committee chair Dianne Feinstein’s tight control.

But the timorous President has a big problem. He is acutely aware that, if released, the Senate committee report would create a firestorm – almost certainly implicating Obama’s CIA Director John Brennan and many other heavy-hitters of whom he appears to be afraid. And so Obama has allowed Brennan to play bureaucratic games, delaying release of the report for more than a year, even though its conclusions are said to closely resemble earlier findings of the CIA’s own Inspector General and the Constitution Project (see below).

Testimony of Ex-CIA General Counsel

Hat tip to the New Yorker’s Jane Mayer, who took the trouble to read the play-by-play of testimony to the Senate Intelligence Committee by former CIA General Counsel (2009-2013) Stephen W. Preston, nominated (and now confirmed) to be general counsel at the Department of Defense.

Under questioning by Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colorado, Preston admitted outright that, contrary to the CIA’s insistence that it did not actively impede congressional oversight of its detention and interrogation program, “briefings to the committee included inaccurate information related to aspects of the program of express interest to Members.”

That “inaccurate information” apparently is thoroughly documented in the Senate Intelligence Committee report which, largely because of the CIA’s imaginative foot-dragging, cost taxpayers $40 million. Udall has revealed that the report (which includes 35,000 footnotes) contains a very long section titled “C.I.A. Representations on the C.I.A. Interrogation Program and the Effectiveness of the C.I.A.’s Enhanced Interrogation Techniques to Congress.”

Preston also acknowledged that the CIA inadequately informed the Justice Department on interrogation and detention. He said, “CIA’s efforts fell well short of our current practices when it comes to providing information relevant to [the Office of Legal Counsel]’s legal analysis.”

As Katherine Hawkins, the senior investigator for last April’s bipartisan, independent report by the Constitution Project’s Task Force on Detainee Treatment, noted in an Oct. 18, 2013 posting, the memos from acting OLC chief, Steven Bradbury, relied very heavily on now-discredited CIA claims that “enhanced interrogation” saved lives, and that the sessions were carefully monitored by medical and psychological personnel to ensure that detainees’ suffering would not rise to the level of torture.

According to Hawkins, Udall complained – and Preston admitted – that, in providing the materials requested by the committee, “the CIA removed several thousand CIA documents that the agency thought could be subjected to executive privilege claims by the President, without any decision by Obama to invoke the privilege.”

Worse still for the CIA, the Senate Intelligence Committee report apparently destroys the agency’s argument justifying torture on the grounds that there was no other way to acquire the needed information save through brutalization. In his answers to Udall, Preston concedes that, contrary to what the agency has argued, it can and has been established that legal methods of interrogation would have yielded the same intelligence.

Is anyone still wondering why our timid President is likely to sit on the Senate Intelligence Committee report for as long as he can? Or why he will let John Brennan redact it to a fare-thee-well, if he is eventually forced to release some of it by pressure from folks who care about things like torture?

It does appear that the newly taciturn CIA Director Brennan has inordinate influence over the President in such matters – not unlike the influence that both DNI Clapper and NSA Director Alexander seem able to exert. In this respect, Brennan joins the dubious company of the majority of his predecessor CIA directors, as they made abundantly clear when they went to inordinate lengths to prevent their torturer colleagues from being held accountable.

 

Posted in USAComments Off on ‘The Only Thing We Have to Fear…’ is the CIA

Time for Compassion? Aging Political Prisoners Suffer From Illness, Decades in Solitary Confinement

NOVANEWS

As people around the world mark the holiday season, often recognized as a time of compassion, we host a roundtable discussion about the growing number of aging political prisoners in the United States convicted in the 1960s and 1970s who are seeking compassionate release, clemency or a pardon. In some cases, they are simply asking to be released into general population after decades of solitary confinement. Many have poorly treated diseases such as diabetes, while at least one has terminal cancer.

We are joined by Soffiyah Elijah, an attorney who has represented many political prisoners and successfully won the release Marilyn Buck in 2010 so she could live her final weeks in freedom before she died from cancer. Elijah also has a separate career as the executive director of the Correctional Association of New York, which monitors conditions in state prisons. We also speak with Jihad Abdulmumit, national chairperson for the Jericho Movement; Juan Méndez, United Nations special rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment, who has found the use of solitary confinement in U.S. prisons can amount to cruel and unusual punishment; and Matt Meyer, longtime leader of the War Resisters League who previously served as coordinator of the international Nobel campaign for Puerto Rican political prisoners. He co-wrote the introduction to “Oscar López Rivera: Between Torture and Resistance” and is the editor of “Let Freedom Ring: A Collection of Documents from the Movements to Free U.S. Political Prisoners.”

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Unprecedented Refugee March Sweeps Tel Aviv

NOVANEWS

Thousands took to the streets after a week of hundreds of arrests of asylum seekers who marched from I$raHell’s new open-air prison

© 2013 The Real News Network

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Snowden Slams NSA Review as ‘Cosmetic’

NOVANEWS

“I will never exchange information for asylum and I don’t think the Brazilian government would do that either.”

– Lauren McCauley

(Screenshot from O Globo)The recommendations set forth by an internal government NSA review panel are nothing but “cosmetic changes” staged to “restore public confidence” in the U.S. government’s spying activities, charged NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden in an email exchange with Brazil’s O Globo news station.

Publicized Sunday during O Globo’s “Fantastico” program, Snowden reportedly corresponded with reporter Sonia Bridi through his attorney in an effort to prevent interception and disclosure of his location.

“Their job wasn’t to protect privacy or deter abuses, it was to restore public confidence in these spying activities. Many of the recommendations they made are cosmetic changes,”said Snowden.

“The biggest offense one could commit in the U.S. isn’t to damage the government, but rather to embarrass it,” he continued. “It’s clear that I could not possibly get a fair trial in my country.”

The comments followed the publication last week of an open letter by Snowden to the people of Brazil, of which a media blitz falsely reported that Snowden had offered NSA secrets in exchange for asylum in Brazil despite there being no indication of such a plea.

“The price for my speech was my passport, but I would pay it again: I will not be the one to ignore criminality for the sake of political comfort. I would rather be without a state than without a voice,” he wrote last week.

During the O Globo broadcast, reporters said Snowden had reiterated his vow saying, “I will never exchange information for asylum and I don’t think the Brazilian government would do that either. A grant of asylum should always be a purely humanitarian decision.”

Snowden added that U.S. law did not distinguish between a whistleblower revealing illegal programs “and a spy secretly selling documents to terrorists,” O Globo reported.

Snowden’s statement came as members of the Senate Judiciary Committee announced Sunday that a special session was set for January 14 during which the five members of the NSA review panel will discuss the 46 recommendations made by the panel. It will be the committee’s first hearing of 2014.

“Momentum is building for real reform,” said the committee’s Democratic chairman, Patrick Leahy (Vt.), in a statement announcing the hearing.

Echoing Leahy’s statement, appearing on ABC’s “This Week” Sunday, Senator Mark Udall (D-Colo.) said, “The arguments for the status quo fell apart this week in Washington.”

“It’s time now to have real reform, not a veneer of reform,” Udall said, and “to rebuild the American people’s trust in our intelligence community.”

Posted in USAComments Off on Snowden Slams NSA Review as ‘Cosmetic’

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