Archive | December 9th, 2014

U.K. synagogue bars controversial Jewish Zio-Nazi academic speaker

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Nazi Mordechai Kedar of Bar Ilan University is associated with anti-Islam activist Pamela Geller, who was banned from Britain last year.

Mordechai Kedar

Nazi Mordechai Kedar
A leading London synagogue has cancelled a talk by an Jewish Nazi academic who said earlier this year that the only way to deter terrorists is by raping their female relatives.
Jewish Nazi Mordechai Kedar, of Bar-Ilan University, was due to speak at the Finchley United Synagogue on Monday night as part of a speaking tour in the United Kingdom organized by the local Zionist Federation, the Jewish Chronicle reported.Finchley congregants were notified that Kedar’s appearance had been cancelled, but no explanation was given.

The federation had previously called off scheduled talks at three Jewish schools after complaints about his links with American anti-Islamist activist Pamela Geller, who was banned from Britain last year.

Jewish Nazi Kedar told Zionist Radio in July that “the only thing that can deter terrorists… is the knowledge that their sister or their mother will be raped.”

Jewish Nazi Kedar and Bar Ilan University subsequently issued a statement that the rape statement was hyperbolic and Kedar was not recommending committing “such despicable acts”.

In 2013 comments to Zionist news site Ynet, Nazi Kedar maintained that without “an end to immigration, we will soon be hearing the death throes of the [European] continent as we know it.”

Reacting to the cancellation of Kedar’s talk in Finchley, federation chairman Paul Charney said that there had been “a concerted effort to smear the reputation” of Kedar, who was an “expert in the Islamic and Arabic worlds”.

But political scientist Michael Pinto-Duschinsky said that Kedar’s presence in the UK would be “toxic for interfaith relations”.

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Man stabbed at Chabad headquarters in Brooklyn

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Suspect dies after being shot by police; Chabad spokesman cites witnesses as stating attacker was heard saying ‘Kill the Jews.”

Levi Rosenblat from Beitar Illit injured in upper body; police shoot assailant after tense standoff caught on tape; attacker dies of his wounds

BY MARISSA NEWMAN
The suspected assailant, right, exchanging words with a Jewish man inside the Chabad headquarters in New York on December 9, 2014. (Screen capture: YouTube)

The suspected assailant, right, exchanging words with a Jewish man inside the Chabad headquarters in New York on December 9, 2014. (Screen capture: YouTube

An Israeli man was stabbed early Tuesday morning by an assailant at Chabad-Lubavitch headquarters in New York.

The attacker, a black male later named as Calvin Peters, entered the Hasidic movement’s headquarters in Brooklyn’s Crown Heights neighborhood and stabbed the 22-year-old several times in the upper body.

The victim, an ultra-Orthodox Israeli named Levi Rosenblat, was lightly to moderately injured in the attack. The Yeshiva World News website reported that he was conscious and had spoken to a relative on the phone.

A 9-inch (23-centimeter) knife, with a 4.5-inch (11.5-centimeter) blade, was recovered at the scene, police said.

The attacker, who appears in a video speaking English with a heavy accent, was shot by police who arrived at the scene, after he refused to put down his weapon.

He was evacuated to a hospital under arrest, and was pronounced dead at Kings County Hospital, police told local New York media.

A witness told the New York Daily News that the suspect, who was reportedly a homeless man with a criminal record, entered the complex screaming: “I will kill the Jew, I want to kill the Jew.”

A Chabad spokesperson said the attack was most likely not terror-related.

“There is a 98% chance that this wasn’t a hate incident or a nationalistically motivated incident,” he told Army Radio.

Crime scene tape is wrapped around a pole in front of Chabad-Lubavitch Hasidic headquarters, Tuesday, Dec. 9, 2014, in New York. A knife-wielding man stabbed an Israeli student there before being fatally shot by police after he refused to drop the knife. The student, Levi Rosenblatt, is in stable condition. (photo credit: AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

The spokesperson said that many “borderline homeless” people visited the Jewish center late at night, hoping to enter to warm up. He said that there was most likely “an unpleasant exchange” between attacker and victim, after which “the stabber took out a kitchen knife and screamed at the Jewish youth that he would kill him.”

The spokesman said Rosenblat was stabbed repeatedly in the neck area, and once in the abdomen.

Rosenblat is a resident of Beitar Illit, according to Yeshiva World News.

A video posted online showed the confrontation between the attacker, police and members of the Chabad sect inside the iconic 770 Eastern Parkway building.

In the video, the man with a knife threatens a Jewish man while a police officer instructs the attacker repeatedly to put down his weapon.

At the same time, a Jewish man attempts to calm the situation, asking the officer not to shoot.

The assailant at first puts down his knife, but then picks it up again and appears to lunge forward toward a cop.

After about a minute, the attacker is shot and crumples to the floor.

Witnesses on the scene told the Ynet news outlet the victim “had tried to run away and lost a lot of blood. Meanwhile, a policeman came and fired one shot at the attacker’s abdomen.”

NYPD officers closed off the surrounding area and launched an investigation.

The Crown Heights neighborhood was the site of several days of deadly riots in 1991 after a car in the motorcade of Chabad grand rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson struck and killed a 7-year-old black boy.

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I$raHell calls Amnesty report on Gaza war crimes ‘decontextualized’

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NGO calls for independent, impartial investigation; IsraHell embassy: report disregards key factors.
By  and DPA
Rafah after an Israeli strike, August 2, 2014.

Palestinians look for their belongings in the rubble of houses destroyed in an Israeli strike, Rafah, southern Gaza Strip, August 2, 2014 Photo by AP.

Israeli air strikes on multi-story buildings in the Gaza Strip during the latter days of the summer hostilities amount to war crimes, Amnesty International said in a report on Tuesday, calling for an independent and impartial investigation.

“Both the facts on the ground and statements made by Israeli military spokespeople at the time indicate that the attacks were a collective punishment against the people of Gaza and were designed to destroy their already precarious livelihoods,” said Philip Luther, director of the Middle East and North Africa Program at Amnesty International.

The Israeli Embassy in London called Amnesty’s report a “decontextualized description of events,” focused on the monetary losses suffered by Palestinian civilians rather than an investigation into Palestinian militants’ rocket fire against Israeli civilians.

“Amnesty in its latest report on this summer’s conflict between Israel and Hamas, chooses to focus on monetary losses to Palestinian civilians, rather than investigate the systematic and deliberate firing of rockets and mortars at Israel’s civilian population by an internationally-recognized Jihadist terror group,” the embassy said in a statement.

“The report offers a decontextualized description of events, while relying heavily on testimonies gathered by unnamed local ‘fieldworkers,’ who are not identified and whose credibility is never questioned,” adds the statement.

Amnesty’s report refers to the Israeli strikes against four buildings in Rafah, to the south of the Strip. According to the report, a shopping mall, a garage, several offices and a medical clinic were completely reduced in the air strikes.

The report adds that whie the Israeli military warned the residents of the buildings to leave before they destroyed them, scores of people from nearby buildings were wounded and hundreds lost their homes, businesses and belongings.

The Amnesty report said that Israel’s reasons for attacking the buildings, namely that one of them housed a Hamas command center and another was also said to be linked to militants, were not enough.

“Even if the Israeli authorities had good reason to believe that a part of a building was being used for military purposes, they had an obligation to choose means and methods of attack that would minimize harm to civilians and their property,” says Philip Luther. “The Israeli army have previously conducted air strikes on specific apartments in high-rise buildings without their complete destruction.”

In its response, Israel welcomed Amnesty’s referral to its warning procedures and the measures it took to avoid civilian casualities, but says the report then “goes on to make unfounded allegations concerning the conduct of the IDF, disregarding key factors:”

“First, the IDF does not intentionally target civilians or civilian property; its activity is dictated by international law, is directed against military objectives, and abides by the principle of proportionality.

“Second, Amnesty ignores that in some cases, releasing information that would disclose in detail the target of military strikes might jeopardize classified information and intelligence sources.

“Third, and most blatantly, Amnesty ignores the clear evidence that Hamas systematically and deliberately used civilian infrastructure for military purposes.”

“We welcome Amnesty’s stated intention of publishing reports regarding Hamas human rights violations in Gaza,” the embassy said in its response. “The absence of reports on Hamas, coupled with outrageous public statements by Amnesty officials recently, comparing Israel to the terror group ISIL, cast serious doubt as to Amnesty’s capacity to play a constructive role in covering this issue.”

Posted in Palestine Affairs, ZIO-NAZI, GazaComments Off on I$raHell calls Amnesty report on Gaza war crimes ‘decontextualized’

Required Reading: Prequels to the Torture Report

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Despite attempts to keep the White House-approved and CIA-executed torture program secret, details of it came out, bit by bit, in documents released over the years. (Image: ACLU)

As early as tomorrow, the long-awaited Senate torture report will finally see the light of day. If all goes as planned, the Senate Intelligence Committee will release the roughly 500-page executive summary of its 6,000-page report concerning the CIA’s “rendition, detention, and interrogation” program. The report is said to be highly critical of the program.

Former President Bush came out over the weekend to defend the CIA against the report’s conclusions. That’s not surprising, considering his own responsibility for the CIA’s brutal policies.

Related: The Torture Architects [Interactive Infographic]

Despite attempts to keep the program secret, details of it came out, bit by bit, in documents released over the years. Some, but not all, of the most shocking documents – including the memos comprising the legal infrastructure of the program – are listed below. Hopefully by tomorrow, the story they tell will be more complete.

The memos

In 2002 and 2003, Justice Department lawyers issued a series of legal memos that laid the foundation for the Bush administration’s torture program. Two of the most famous are the twin August 2002 memos authored by Deputy Assistant Attorney General John Yoo and signed by Assistant Attorney General Jay S. Bybee.

One of those memos twisted the definition of torture, concluding that in order to violate the law prohibiting torture, the resulting pain “must be equivalent in intensity to the pain accompanying serious physical injury, such as organ failure, impairment of bodily function, or even death.” It also concluded that prosecution under the law might be barred as an infringement on the president’s war authority.

The other memo approved the CIA’s use of torture techniques including waterboarding, cramped confinement, and sleep deprivation on Abu Zubaydah who was being held at a secret prison in Thailand. He would eventually be waterboarded 83 times.

Revelations of torture at Guantanamo Bay

In 2005, TIME magazine published a previously secret interrogation log describing brutal 20-hour interrogation sessions of Mohammed al-Qahtani at Guantánamo from November 23, 2002, to January 11, 2003. On December 2, 2002, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld approved the application of harsher interrogation techniques on Mr. al-Qahtani. Among other things, the log describes sleep deprivation, forced shaving, use of the “Invasion of Space by a Female” technique, and in one incident, interrogators forcing Mr. al-Qahtani to bark like a dog.

Rumsfeld okays the use of torture at Guantanamo

In this memo from 2002, Rumsfeld authorized the military to use harsh interrogation techniques including stress positions, nudity, forced grooming, use of phobias, pushing, and grabbing. He famously added a note next to his signature:

I stand for 8-10 hours a day. Why is standing limited to 4 hours?

At the time, Navy General Counsel Alberto Mora raised concerns that some of the methods authorized in the memo could rise to the level of torture. Mora later documented his persistent attempts to get the Defense Department to change course in a 22-page memo written in July 2004.

Yoo backs use of torture by military interrogators

A 2003 memo, written by Justice Department attorney John Yoo, gave the Defense Department expansive authority to torture and abuse detainees. It was premised on the same flawed analysis that Yoo had adopted in the 2002 memos provided to the CIA.

The CIA’s inspector general launches an investigation

In May 2004, CIA Inspector General John Helgerson issued a report of his internal investigation of possible illegal conduct in the CIA’s secret prisons. The report detailed the use of torture techniques that were never authorized by the Justice Department, including mock executions, “racking” a gun near a detainee’s head, revving a power drill while a detainee stood naked and hooded, and forcing detainees to inhale smoke until they vomited. The report also revealed that the CIA waterboarded Abu Zubaydah 83 times and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed 183 times. The report was released to the public in redacted form in 2009 as a result of the ACLU’s FOIA lawsuit.

Torture Excerpt: "In Kabul, the treatment got worse. I was punched and slapped in the face and on the back to the extent that I was bleeding. While having a rope tied round my neck and being tied to a pillar my head was banged against the pillar repeatedly."

FBI agents report abuses

In a series of emails released in an ACLU FOIA, FBI agents detailed the abuses they witnessed at Guantanamo Bay. In the most notorious of these, from August 2004, an FBI agent described detainees chained to the floor and left without water or food for 24 hours or more, who had urinated or defecated on themselves. One detainee was described as:

…almost unconscious on the floor, with a pile of hair next to him. He had apparently been literally pulling his own hair out throughout the night.

Torture in aggregate

In December 2004, the CIA provided a backgrounder to the Justice Department to use in drafting more legal memos authorizing torture. It describes step-by-step how the CIA carried out unlawful extraordinary renditions and interrogations. It also demonstrates that the CIA routinely applied a rapidly accelerating set of harsh interrogation techniques, including nudity, sleep deprivation, dietary manipulation, slaps, facial holds, and attention grasps to nearly every “high-value” detainees. Finally, it details other interrogations techniques in their arsenal including walling, water dousing, the use of stress positions, wall standing and cramped confinement. The “day-to-day look” at a sample interrogation starting on page 9 is particularly chilling.

“No torture here”

On May 10, 2005, Justice Department attorney Steven Bradbury concluded in a pair of memos that the use of each of the methods described in the CIA’s backgrounder – including waterboarding– did not violate the law against torture when used individually orin combination. He followed that up on May 30, 2005, with a legal opinion concluding that the CIA’s program also did not violate the prohibition on cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

The ICRC obtains access to detainees

On September 6, 2006, the Bush administration announced that 14 so-called “high-value” detainees had been transferred from CIA detention to Guantánamo Bay. That was the first public acknowledgment that the CIA’s secret detention program existed.

In October 2006, the International Committee of the Red Cross obtained access to the men for the first time. The ICRC’s confidential report to the CIA was leaked and published by the New York Review of Books in 2009. The report contains detailed descriptions of abuses meted out by the CIA and concludes that the interrogation techniques and treatment the men were subjected to “singly or in combination . . . amounted to torture and/or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.”

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Shoah: Hymn of the Soviet Union

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Posted by: Sammi Ibrahem, Sr

Joseph Stalin, leader of the Soviet Union in the mid-20th century, was born on 18 December 1878 to a Georgian cobbler in Gori, Georgia. After leaving school, he embraced Marxism and became an avid follower of Vladimir Lenin. He became a full-time revolutionary. He became one of the Bolsheviks‘ chief operatives in the Caucasus, organizing paramilitaries, spreading propaganda, raising money through bank robberies, He was captured and exiled to Siberia numerous times, but often escaped. He became one of Lenin’s closest associates, which helped him rise to the heights of power after the Russian Revolution

 

Posted in Russia1 Comment

Ahead of Senate Report, CIA and GOP Circle Wagons To Defend Bush-Era Torture

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‘Maintaining secrecy around a defunct torture program is the real liability as doing so denies us the right to debate what happened and make sure it is never repeated.’

Human rights activist Anna White, from Washington, lays a red rose and banner outside the White House in Washington, October 17, 2006. A 6,200-page report, detailing the findings of an investigation conducted by the U.S. Senate on “enhanced interrogation techniques” employed by the CIA, is scheduled to be released later this week. (Photo: Reuters/Jason Ree)

With a summary of what is expected to be a scathing report on the Bush administration’s CIA torture program scheduled for release this week, current Republican lawmakers have teamed up with former CIA and Bush-era officials to discredit the report and defend the brutal treatment inflicted on individuals in the years following the attacks of September 11, 2001.

“When this report is declassified, people will abhor what they read. They’re gonna be disgusted. They’re gonna be appalled. They’re gonna be shocked at what we did.”
—Sen. Mark UdallConducted by a special investigative team empowered by Democratic members of Senate Intelligence Committee, the report is expected to detail torture methods that go beyond what has previously been described and will also charge that CIA agents and officials repeatedly misinformed the White House and lawmakers charged with oversight about the scope and key details of the program.

However, after an investigation that has lasted more than six years and a prolonged approval process to make certain portions of it available to the public (albeit in redacted form), now that the report’s summary is about to be released, Republicans and defenders of the CIA (including top officials at the agency and Bush himself) appear to be circling the wagons to insulate those at the center of the behavior which one Democratic member of the Senate Committee said will make the American people “disgusted” with what the agency did in the name of the American people.

As the New York Times reports on Monday:

Former intelligence officials, seeking allies against the potentially damaging report, have privately reassured the Bush team in recent days that they did not deceive them and have lobbied the former president’s advisers to speak out publicly on their behalf. The defense of the program has been organized by former C.I.A. leaders like George J. Tenet and Gen. Michael V. Hayden, two former directors, and John E. McLaughlin, a former deputy C.I.A. director who also served as acting director.

“Once the release occurs, we’ll have things to say and will be making some documents available that bear on the case,” Mr. McLaughlin said Sunday. Although he could not discuss details because of a nondisclosure agreement, in general he said the report “uses information selectively, often distorts to make its points, and as I recall contains no recommendations.”

General Hayden added that the former C.I.A. team objected to the Senate’s characterization of their efforts. “We’re not here to defend torture,” he said by email on Sunday. “We’re here to defend history.”

And the proof of this campaign was readily available on the Sunday news shows.

On Sunday, former president George W. Bush himself appeared on CNN and defended the CIA behavior during his two terms in office.

“We’re fortunate to have men and women who work hard at the CIA serving on our behalf,” Bush said. “These are patriots. Whatever the report says, if it diminishes their contribution to our country, it is way off base. I knew the directors, I knew the deputy directors, I knew a lot of the operators. These are good people, really good people, and we’re lucky as a nation to have them.”

Meanwhile, Rep. Mike Rogers, a Republican congressman from Michigan and chairperson of the House Intelligence Committee, also went on CNN and charged that the report would fuel anti-American violence abroad.

“I think this is a terrible idea,” Rogers said of report’s expected release. “Our foreign partners are telling us this will cause violence and deaths… Foreign leaders have approached the government and said, ‘You do this, this will cause violence and deaths.’ Our own intelligence community has assessed that this will cause violence and deaths.”

Also on Sunday, Hayden appeared on CBS’ Face The Nation where he was given unchallenged latitude by host Bob Scheiffer to defend the CIA’s torture of men in its custody. Hayden pushed back against how the Senate’s investigation was conducted and made an argument made by others that releasing the information about CIA torture would put lives overseas at risk because of the outrage the details of the human rights abuses would likely cause.

“First of all, the CIA workforce will feel as if it has been tried and convicted in absentia since the Senate Democrats and their staff didn’t talk to anyone actively involved in the program. Second, this will be used by our enemies to motivate people to attack Americans and American facilities overseas,” Hayden said.

It was reported on Friday that Secretary of State John Kerry had called Sen. Diane Feinstein, chair of the Intelligence Committee, and made similar warnings about the impact the report’s findings will have in places like North Africa, the Middle East, and Afghanistan and Pakistan. Feinstein did not speak publicly about the report over the weekend.

Speaking to the Times, however, Sarah Margon, the Washington director of Human Rights Watch, called that argument a “red herring” and said “possible negative repercussions for national security” are not reason to keep this look at the torture program in the dark any longer. “Maintaining secrecy around a defunct torture program is the real liability,” Margon said, “as doing so denies us the right to debate what happened and make sure it is never repeated.”

In an interview with Esquire magazine published on Friday, Senate Mark Udall (D-Colorado) said the American people will “be disgusted” when they read the report’s summary and repeated his commitment to do “everything in his power” to make the findings of the investigation public if he is unhappy about the way the report is ultimately released.

“The people who conducted these activities in the name of the CIA, in the name of the American people, have a right to be processed,” Udall said. “They don’t have a right to [pause] push under the rug what happened.”

He concluded, “When this report is declassified, people will abhor what they read. They’re gonna be disgusted. They’re gonna be appalled. They’re gonna be shocked at what we did. But it will lay a foundation whereby we don’t do this in the future. That’s been my goal. That’s been my mission.”

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Don’t fall for the Imperialist doublespeak on human rights!

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Imperialist Human Right

– AMBASSADOR: “THE IMPERIALIST MANOUEVRES TO ISOLATE AND STRANGLE THE DPRK ARE ON THE INCREASE” –

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A0p6EH5TEOU

Comrade Hyon Hak Bong, ambassador of the DPR Korea to Britain, addresses the CPGB-ML’s October revolution celebration on 8 November 2014.

“Human rights is really the genuine right of the people to lead their lives in political freedom. Is there political freedom in the United States and other capitalist countries? In socialist countries like DPR Korea and Cuba, all the government’s policies are oriented towards serving the people. But our enemies want to present a picture to the world as if the DPRK and Cuba are the ones where people have no rights.”

Watch the video now

 

– PUBLIC MEETING: DEFEND SOCIALIST KOREA –

Saturday 20 December, 1.45pm

274 Moseley Road, Birmingham, B12 0BS.

Map showing meeting hall

A public meeting to refute the spurious ‘human rights’ attacks against the DPR Korea, and to mark the third anniversary of the death of Comrade Kim Jong Il. The DPRK’s ambassador to Britain will be our guest.

 

– LATEST KOREA STORIES IN PROLETARIAN –

Human rights: DPRK vs USA
The farcical sight of the world’s most brutal oppressors and warmongers taking a peaceful socialist country to task for ‘human rights abuses’ may yet backfire on the crazed authors of the latest UN resolution against people’s Korea. 

http://www.cpgb-ml.org/index.php?secName=proletarian&subName=display&art=1070

Art exhibition introduces socialist Korea to a British audience
Groundbreaking cultural exchange gives Londoners a glimpse of the real Korea that is missing from imperialist news media. 

http://www.cpgb-ml.org/index.php?secName=proletarian&subName=display&art=1075

Solidarity with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea
This congress calls upon US imperialism to lift all sanctions against the DPRK, to stop the practice of holding aggressive military exercises in the vicinity of the Korean peninsula, and to abandon its efforts at bringing about regime change in the DPRK. 

http://www.cpgb-ml.org/index.php?secName=proletarian&subName=display&art=1087

Anti-DPRK propaganda war — a cavalcade of comedy
People living in western Europe and North America are bombarded with stories about north Korea — often centred around rumour, mysterious ‘intelligence’ sources, or the south Korean and US governments. 

http://redyouthuk.wordpress.com/2014/08/01/dprk-propaganda-war-a-cavalcade-of-comedy/

 

:: MORE UPCOMING EVENTS ::

http://www.cpgb-ml.org/index.php?secName=events

 

Film show: ‘Palestine — What Hope Peace?’

Friday 19 December, 6.30pm at Friends Meeting House, 6 Mount Street, Manchester, M2 5NS.
Map showing meeting hall

This film tells the story of the Israel, and the Palestine, we never see. Independent journalist and author Kerry-Anne Mendoza travelled to Israel and Gaza during the height of the most recent Gaza massacre. Here she brings you stories from the heart of the matter. Kerry-Anne will be holding a live Q&A session after the screening.

 

Why did the Soviet Union fall?

Sunday 21 December, 2.00pm at Marchmont Centre, 62 Marchmont St, London WC1N 1AB.
Map showing meeting hall

Was socialism in the USSR really a failure? What does the Soviet experience mean for us today in the fight against capitalist imperialism? Presentation by Harpal Brar to the Stalin Society, followed by discussion.

 

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NATO Symbolically Lowers Flag in Afghanistan, But US War To March On

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Public declaration that combat is ending belies Obama administration’s quiet expansion of war

The ISAF color guard marches during the ISAF Joint Command (IJC) and XVIII Airborne Corps colors casing ceremony, Dec 8, 2014 at North Kabul Afghanistan International Airport, Afghanistan. (Photo: ISAF/Public Domain)

At a flag-lowering ceremony in Kabul on Monday, U.S. and NATO military commanders publicly declared that combat operations in Afghanistan are coming to a close.

While major media outlets quickly picked up and parroted this message, one problem remains: the U.S.-led war is not, in fact, ending.

Announcing the formal closure of joint U.S. and NATO headquarters for the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), General John Campbell, U.S. Army General and commander of ISAF, claimed on Monday that the joint command “will be subsumed into a coalition that is soon downsizing to about 3,000 personnel.” Campbell added, “You’ve done your job well so well that you’ve worked yourself out of a job.”

“ISAF is transitioning to the NATO-led Resolute Support (RS) mission which will focus on training, advising and assisting Afghan Security Institutions and ANSF at the ministerial, institutional, and operational levels,” reads a statement from ISAF about Monday’s ceremony. “The RS mission begins January 1st, 2015.”

The public display, however, comes as the Obama administration quietly moves to continue, and in some aspects expand, the war.

In November, President Obama signed a secret order authorizing a more expansive military mission in Afghanistan through 2015, the New York Times revealed late last month. The measure green-lights U.S. deployment of ground troops for military operations targeting the Taliban and other armed groups, as well as use of jets, bombers, and drones.

Furthermore, outgoing U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced Saturday that, into 2015, the United States will keep up to 1,000 more U.S. soldiers than the numbers previously outline in Obama’s May pledge to cut troop levels. This would bring the total number of U.S. troops to as many as 10,800 into next year, and the total number of foreign troops to 13,000, when the thousands of remaining NATO soldiers are taken into account. Troops that remain will engage in “combat enabler” roles, Hagel stated.

And then there is the Bilateral Security Agreement between the U.S. and Afghan governments, which was signed in September and locks in at least another decade of U.S. troops in the country, as well as training, funding, and arming of the Afghan military. The agreement also secures immunity for U.S. service members under Afghan law—a measure that is highly controversial in a country that has suffered massacres of civilians.

Furthermore, in late November, U.S.-backed Afghan president Ashraf Ghani removed the ban on unpopular night raids by special forces. Special Forces units from the Afghan Army are already preparing to resume the raids, in some cases with the participation of U.S. Special Operations.

People in Afghanistan, who live with the impacts of these policies, may shudder at the claim that ISAF “did its job well.”

report released in July by the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan notes that Afghan civilian deaths and wounds as a result of the fighting have steadily risen since 2012 and are overall higher than they were in 2009. Furthermore, a report released in November by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs finds that 7,965 civilians were killed and wounded by conflict between January and September 2014—22 percent of them children. During this time period, approximately 105,800 people were forced to flee their homes.

As recently as Saturday, ISAF troops killed two civilians in Southern Kandahar when they opened fire into their car, according to journalist Bashir Ahmad Naadem.

Critics charge that the real outcome of the U.S.-led war is death, social destabilization, poverty, and political dependency and corruption.

“In the past thirteen years, the U.S. and its allies have wasted tens of billions of dollars and turned this country into the center of global surveillance and mafia gangs and left it poor, corrupt, insecure, hungry, and crippled with tribal, linguistic, and sectarian divisions,” declared the Revolutionary Association of Women in Afghanistan in a statement released on the 13th anniversary of the U.S.-led invasion.

“Our people, tired of war, have been burning in the fire of oppression and plunder set by the occupiers and their stooges.”

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No Exit in Gaza: Broken Homes and Broken Lives

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2014: Kamal and his children on the rubble of their twice-destroyed home. (Photo: Jen Marlowe)

Rubble. That’s been the one constant for the Awajah family for as long as I’ve known them.

Four months ago, their home was demolished by the Israeli military — and it wasn’t the first time that Kamal, Wafaa, and their children had been through this.  For the last six years, the family has found itself trapped in a cycle of destruction and reconstruction; their home either a tangle of shattered concrete and twisted rebar or about to become one.

I first met the Awajah family in August 2009, in the tent where they were living. I filmed them as they told me what had happened to them eight months earlier during the military invasion that Israel called Operation Cast Lead and said was a response to rocket fire from the Gaza Strip.

I had no intention of making a film when I went to Gaza, but after hearing the family’s story, I knew I had to.  I returned again in 2012 and have continued to stay in touch in the years since, realizing that the plight of the Awajahs opened a window onto what an entire society was facing, onto what it’s like to live with an interminable war and constant fear.  The Awajahs’ story shines a spotlight on what Palestinians in Gaza have endured for years on end.

What stuck with me most, however, was the demand of the Awajah children regarding the reconstruction of their new home in 2012: they insisted that the house have two doors.

What The Awajahs Saw

In separate interviews in 2009, Wafaa and Kamal Awajah told me the same story, each breaking down in tears as they offered me their memories of the traumatic events that had taken place eight months earlier — a night when they lost far more than a home.  The next day, a still grief-stricken Wafaa walked me through her recollections of that night, pointing out the spot where each incident had taken place.

On January 4th, as Operation Cast Lead’s ground campaign began, the Awajah family was at home.  Wafaa’s eldest daughter, 12-year-old Omsiyat, woke her up at around 2 am.  “Mom,” said Omsiyat, “soldiers are at the door.”  Wafaa jumped out of bed to look. “There are no soldiers at the door, honey,” she reassured her daughter. When Omsiyat insisted, Wafaa looked again, and this time she spotted the soldiers and tanks. She lit candles in the window so that the Israeli troops would know that a family was inside.

Suddenly, the ceiling began to crumble.  Wafaa, Kamal, and their six children fled, as an Israeli military bulldozer razed their home. No sooner had they made it outside than the roof collapsed.  As tank after tank rolled by, the family huddled under an olive tree next to the house. When dawn finally broke, they could examine the ruins of their house.

Just as the Awajahs were trying to absorb their loss, Wafaa heard nine-year-old Ibrahim scream. He had been shot in the side.  As more gunfire rang out, Kamal scooped up the injured boy and ran for cover with the rest of the family. Wafaa was hit in both hips, but she and five of the children managed to take shelter behind a mud-brick wall. From there, she saw Kamal, also wounded, lying in the middle of the road, Ibrahim still in his arms.

Israeli soldiers approached her husband and son on foot, while Wafaa watched, and –according to what she and Kamal both told me — without warning, one of them shot Ibrahim at close range, killing him. He may have assumed that Kamal was already dead. Despite Wafaa and Kamal’s wounds, the family managed to get back to their wrecked home, where they hid under the collapsed roof for four days with no food or clean water, until a passing family with a donkey cart took them and Ibrahim’s body to a hospital in Gaza city.

As far as I know, the Israeli military never investigated the incident.  In fact, only a handful of possible war crimes during Operation Cast Lead were ever investigated by Israel.  Instead of an official inquiry, the Awajahs were left with a dead son, grievous physical wounds that eventually healed, psychological ones that never will, and a home reduced to pile of rubble.

(You may also click here to view the video on Vimeo if your browser is having trouble loading the video on this page.)

Life Goes On

When I met them eight months later, the Awajahs were struggling to rebuild their lives.  “What’s hardest is how to offer safety and security for my children,” Kamal told me. “Their behaviors are not the same as before.”

Wafaa pointed to three-year-old Diyaa. “This boy is traumatized since the war,” she said. “He sleeps with a loaf of bread in his arms. If you try to take it from him, he wakes up, hugs it, and says, ‘It’s mine.’”

“What you can’t remove or change is the fear in the children’s eyes,” Kamal continued.  “If Diyaa sees a bulldozer, he thinks it’s coming to destroy a house. If he sees a soldier, whether an Israeli or Arab soldier, he thinks the soldier wants to kill him. I try to keep them away from violence, but what he experienced forces him to release his fear with violence. When he kisses you, you can feel violence in his kiss. He kisses you and then pushes you away. He might punch or slap you. I am against violence and war in any form. I support peaceful ways. That’s how I live and raise my children. Of course, I try to keep my children from violence, and help them forget what happened to them, but I can’t erase it from their memory. The memories of fear are engraved in their blood.”

I thought about Kamal’s words as I filmed Diyaa and his five-year-old sister Hala scrambling onto the rubble of their destroyed home — their only playground — squealing with glee as they rolled bullet casings and shrapnel down the collapsed roof.

What moved me deeply was the determination of Kamal and Wafaa to create a future for their surviving children. “Yes, my home was destroyed, my life was destroyed, but this didn’t destroy what’s inside me,” Kamal said.  “It didn’t kill me as Kamal. It didn’t kill us as a family. We’re living. After all, we must continue living. It’s not the life we wanted, or had, but I try to provide for my children what I can.”

The Fragility of Hope

In 2012, I returned to Gaza and to the tent in which the Awajah family was still living. It was evident that the trauma of their experience in 2009 — along with the daily deprivation and lack of security and freedom that characterize Gaza under siege — had taken a toll. “I had thought that those were the most difficult days of my life,” Kamal said, “but I discovered afterwards that the days which followed were even more difficult.”

In 2009, Kamal told me that the war hadn’t fundamentally changed him. Now, he simply said, “I lost myself. The Kamal before the war does not exist today.”  He spoke of the screams of his children, waking regularly from nightmares.  “The war is still chasing them in their dreams.”

Most painful for Kamal was his inability to help his children heal. His despair and feelings of helplessness had grown to the point where he had become paralyzed with severe depression.  “I tried and I still try to get us out of the situation we are in — the social situation, the educational situation for the children, and the mental situation for me and my family.”  But their situation, he added, kept getting worse.

My 2012 visit, however, came during a rare moment of hope. After nearly four years, the Awajah family was finally rebuilding their home. Trucks were delivering bags of cement; gravel-filled wheelbarrows were being pushed onto skids; wooden planks were being hammered down. In 2009, I had filmed Diyaa and Hala playing on the rubble of their destroyed house.  In 2012, I filmed them climbing and jumping on the foundation of their new home.

“I am building a house. It is my right in life for my children to have a house,” Kamal said.  “I call it my dream house, because I dream that my children will go back to being themselves.  It will be the first step to shelter me and my children, away from the sun and the heat and tents, our homelessness.  The biggest hope and the biggest happiness I have is when I see my children smiling and comfortable… when they sleep without nightmares.”  Kamal added, “I can’t sleep because of my fear over them.”

For Wafaa, while the new home represented hope for their future, its construction also triggered flashbacks to that night of the bulldozer.  As she told me, “Bulldozers and trucks bringing construction material came at night, and, at that moment, it was war again. When I saw the bulldozers and the trucks approaching with big lights, my heart fell between my feet.  I was truly scared.”

Planning for the new house also provided Wafaa and Kamal with a poignant reminder of the fragility of hope in Gaza. “The children say to make two doors to the house,” Wafaa told me.  “One [regular] door and the other door so when the Israelis demolish the house, we can use it to escape.  We try to comfort them and tell them nothing like this will happen, but no, they insist on us making two doors.  ‘Two doors, Daddy, one here and one there, so that we can run away.’”

The Gaza War of 2014

After my 2012 visit, I periodically contacted the Awajah family. Construction was proceeding in fits and starts, Kamal told me, due to shortages of materials in Gaza and their lack of financial resources. Finally, however, in the middle of 2013 the home was completed and as the final step, glass for the windows was installed in February 2014.

Five months later, in July, the most recent Israeli assault on Gaza began. I called the Awajah family right away.

“The children are frightened but okay,” Wafaa told me.

The Israeli army had warned their neighborhood to evacuate and they were now renting a small apartment in Gaza City. During a humanitarian ceasefire, Kamal was able to return to their house: it had been demolished along with the entire neighborhood.

When I spoke to the Awajah family at the end of September, Kamal told me that rent money had run out.  Seeking shelter at a United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) school wasn’t a viable option, he said, because there were already so many families packed into each room. The Awajahs were back in a tent next to the rubble of their twice-destroyed home.

The family’s situation is far bleaker than in 2009.  Then they were able to tap into an electricity source and there was a communal outhouse for all the tent-dwelling families in the area. This time, Kamal said, the area near their house was entirely deserted: no water tank, electricity, outhouse, gas, or stove for cooking. Their only possessions were the few items of clothing they managed to take with them when they fled. They were sleeping on the ground, he said, no mattresses or blankets to ward off the cold, only the nylon of the tent beneath them. The children had been walking several kilometers to fill jugs with water until villagers who lived nearby made their wells available for a few hours a day.

Wafaa told me that she was cooking on an open fire, using scrap wood scavenged from the remnants of her house. For the first week, the children returned home from school every day and, surrounded by nothing but rubble, began to cry. Seventeen-year-old Omsiyat briefly took the phone. Her typically warm and open voice was completely flat, no affect whatsoever.

Worse yet, Kamal still owes $3,700 for the construction of their previous house.  Though the home no longer exists, the debt does.  “We are drowning,” Wafaa said.

 

(You may also click here to view the video on Vimeo if your browser is having trouble loading the video on this page.)

Drowning in Gaza

The Awajahs aren’t the only ones in Gaza who are drowning. The true horror of their repeated trauma lies in the extent to which it is widespread and shared. Nine-year-old Ibrahim Awajah was one of 872 children in Gaza killed in the 2009, 2012, and 2014 wars combined, according to statistics gathered by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and B’tselem, an Israeli human rights organization. (There was also one Israeli child killed by mortar fire in that period.)

The flat affect in Omsiyat’s voice reflects the assessment of the United Nations Children’s Fund that nearly half of the children in Gaza are in urgent need of psychological help.  And Kamal’s desire not to move into a communal shelter is understandable, given that 53,869 displaced people still remain crowded into 18 UNWRA schools.  According to Shelter Cluster, an inter-agency committee that supports shelter needs for people affected by conflict and natural disaster, the Awajah family’s house is one of 18,080 homes in Gaza that were completely demolished or severely damaged in the 2014 war alone. A further 5,800 houses suffered significant damage, with 38,000 more sustaining some damage.

Shelter Cluster estimates that it will take 20 years for Gaza to be rebuilt — assuming that it does not face yet another devastating military operation. As the last six years indicate, however, unless there is meaningful political progress (namely, the ending of the Israeli siege and ongoing occupation), further hostilities are inevitable.  It is not enough that people in Gaza be able to rebuild their houses yet again.  They need the opportunity to rebuild their lives with dignity.

Kamal Awajah said as much. “I don’t ask anyone to build me a home for the sake of charity. That’s not the kind of help we want. We need the kind of help that raises our value as human beings. But how? That’s the question.”

There seem to be no serious efforts on the horizon to address Kamal’s question, which has at its core an insistence on recognizing the equal value of Palestinian humanity. As long as that question remains unanswered and the fundamental rights of Palestinians continue to be denied, the devastating impact of repeated war will continue for every family in Gaza and the terrifying threat of the next war will always loom.  The Awajah children have every reason to insist that their future home be constructed with two doors.

 

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2014: The Year of the Hypocrites

NOVANEWS

There are too many examples to possible count, but the Susan G. Komen foundation must take a special prize for accepting money from oil giant Baker Hughes and painting fracking drill bits pink in the name of fighting cancer.

There were countless candidates, from individuals to corporations to government officials, all of whom combine the capitalist sense of me-first entitlement with a disdain for the needs of others.

Individuals: The Public is Blocking My Freedom To Take from the Public 

AIG’s Hank Greenberg, who saved about $300 million when his high-risk insurance company was bailed out by our tax money, sued the federal government because he felt cheated by the bailout, even though without the bailout his stock would have dropped to zero.

Next is Cliven Bundy, who refused to pay grazing fees for the use of our public land, then turned around and blamed government for not maintaining the fences on the land when one of his cattle strayed onto the highway and caused an accident.

Finally we have Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson, who criticized fracking regulations for “holding back the American economic recovery,” and then protested when a fracking water tower was to be built near his home.

Corporations: Sure We Don’t Pay Our Taxes, But We Want Tax Relief Anyway 

Tax avoidance is reaching new levels of hypocrisy. Caterpillar, which complained that government failure to spend on infrastructure impedes its business, is recognized as a leading avoider of the federal taxes that could pay for infrastructure.

Pfizer had 40% of its 2013 sales in the U.S., but claimed all of its profits overseas.

Medtronic is one of the biggest names in the so-called inversions that allow companies to desert the country that provided decades of publicly funded research in technology and medicine.

As a further insult to the American taxpayer, much of the untaxed corporate foreign income is actually held in U.S. banks and stocks and other assets. Microsoft, for example, at one point held 93 percent of its offshore profits in U.S. assets.

Charter Schools: We’re Public Schools. No, We’re Not Public Schools 

In her quest for public space for her Success Academy charter schools, Eva Moskowitz argued: “We want educational justice. We want access to educational excellence and opportunity.”

But when the State of New York wanted to audit the school’s finances, Success Academy objected on the grounds that the State lacked the authority to do so, even though the state constitution authorizes audits of all public schools, including charters.

It’s easy to understand the charter school’s reluctance to open its books. The Wall Street Journal reported: “Lease documents show the city is paying almost $18,000 in rent for every student at the Success Academy that opened last month in Washington Heights, in the former Mother Cabrini High School…The rental fees come on top of $13,777 for every student that taxpayers provide to charters, which are publicly funded and independently operated.”

Eva Moskowitz makes $72 per student as CEO of the private Success Academy in New York City, while Carmen Farina makes 19 cents per student as Chancellor of New York City Public Schools.

Politicians: Of Course We’re Guided by Public Opinion — We Always Do the Opposite 

Despite the fact that Medicaid has slashed medical expenses among the poor, and despite the fact that Americans are strongly in favor of Medicaid expansion, and despite the fact that opting out of Medicaid leaves 5.7 million Americanswithout vital health insurance coverage…

…Despite all that, 24 states opted out of Medicaid this year.

A comprehensive political study found that “economic elites…have substantial independent impacts on U.S. government policy, while average citizens…have little or no independent influence.”

In other words, Congress passes laws that are desired by the rich, and skips on laws that are desired by the middle class.

Laughable If Not Sad: Suing Climate Change, and Beautifying Pollution 

In response to flooding claims, Farmers Insurance filed suit on behalf of its customers against Chicago-area communities for not recognizing the threat of global warming and fortifying local sewers.

Worse yet, with a note of irony, any success by Farmers to collect on the lawsuit (which was later dropped) would have meant that the insurance company’s own customers would be paying damages through their tax money.

And finally, the Susan G. Komen Foundation, the leading proponent of breast cancer awareness and thus presumably health conscious, accepted $100,000 from oil giant Baker Hughes, which will paint their fracking drill bits pink in honor of the foundation’s pink-ribbon logo. Hypocrisy on both sides.

And the year isn’t over yet.

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