Archive | December 17th, 2014

NUSRA FALLS LIKE FLIES IN LATAKIA

 NOVANEWS

SYRIAN ARMY SLAMS TURK-AIDED DEGENERATE CRIMINALS

Syrian army forces on a road near the town of Al-Jbaileh on the outskirts of Aleppo.AFP

LATAKIA:

Birnaas Village and Al-Kirt: The SAA executed a superbly planned operation catching the slimy rodent Turk-assisted rats of Nusra completely unawares.  During the fighting which lasted 2 hours, the SAA came upon a large warehouse in Birnaas containing over 90 GRAD missiles and 43 LAO Zionist-manufactured rockets along with 3 pickups all rigged with 23mm Doschkas, a huge number of ammunition boxes.  The number of Nusra vermin killed was 58:

Ma`moon Al-Mas’oodi (PAKISTANI PORK GRINDER AND BACON SMOKER FROM PESHAWAR. A/k/a “Abu Buraaq Al-Khurasaani.  I guess he was a horse’s ass!)

Abu Laylaa Al-Sheeshaani (CHECHEN CHIMPANZEE CHANCRE and leader of Jaysh Al-Mujaahideen)

Abu Maryam Al-Kazakhstaani (KAZAKH MUCOUS BALL)

Muhsin ‘Ali Islaam (PAKISTAANI PUS MERCHANT)

Ma’roof ‘Abdullah

‘Aarif Al-‘Umari

Faarooq Majdalaani

Mundhir Al-Dahmaan

Taamir Al-Saba’

Abdul-Rahmaan Al-Shaaweesh

Nijmeddeen Makar

Ahmad Mustafaa

‘Umar Al-Haaj-As’ad

Kareem ‘Abdul-`Aati

Ra’ad Ahmad Sattoof

‘Umar Al-Shaykh-Bakri

Waleed Muhammad

Raslaan Hamooda

I received no other names.  33 were taken prisoner and are warbling in various languages.  May they all burn in Hell.

Other fighting reported in Al-Farz and Al-Mareej in the area of the Biraadoon Dam on the Great River 60kms from the city.  It’s not really a great river.

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The Dead End of Post-Oslo Diplomacy: What Next?

NOVANEWS

Posted bt: Sammi Ibrahem, Sr

 

by Dr Richard Falk

(Prefatory Note: A much modified version of this post was published in AlJazeera America, Dec. 13, 2014)

The Latest Diplomatic Gambit

There are reports that the Palestinian Authority will seek a vote in the Security Council on a resolution mandating Israel’s military withdrawal from Occupied Palestine no later than November 2016. Such a resolution has been condemned by the Israeli Prime Minister as bringing ‘terrorism’ to the outskirts of Tel Aviv, and this will never be allowed to happen. The United States is, as usual, maneuvering in such a way as to avoid seeming an outlier by vetoing such a resolution, even if it has less stringent language, and asks the PA to postpone the vote until after the Israeli elections scheduled for March 17, 2015. Supposedly, the delay is justified so that Netanyahu, seen as an obstacle by the American White House, would not be strengthened by any display of adverse pressure on Israel coming from outside, especially from the UN.

Embedded in this initiative are various diversionary moves to put the dying Oslo Approach (direct negotiations between Israel and the PA, with the U.S. as the intermediary). The French are promoting a resolution that includes a revival of these currently defunct negotiations, with a mandated goal of achieving a permanent peace within a period of two years based on the establishment of a Palestinian state, immediate full membership of Palestine in the UN, and language objecting to settlement activity as an obstruction to peace. Overall, European governments are exerting pressure to resume direct negotiations, exhibiting their concern about a deteriorating situation on the ground along with a growing hostility to Israeli behavior that has reached new heights since the merciless 51-day onslaught mounted by Israel against Gaza last summer. This seems to me to be ‘a politics of gesture’ as there is no indication of why resumed negotiations would enjoy any better prospect of success than the several past failed efforts, and would only give Israel additional time to move toward its increasingly obvious end game of imposed unilateralism.

 

A Post-Oslo Meditation

The horrendous events of the last several months in Jerusalem and Gaza have exhibited both the depths of enmity and tension between Jews and Palestinians and the utter irrelevance of American-led diplomacy as the path to a sustainable peace. This is not a time for people of good will, the UN, and governments to turn their backs on what seems on its surface either irreconcilable or on the verge of an Israeli victory. The challenge for all is to consider anew how these two peoples can manage to live together within the space of historic Palestine. We need fresh thinking that gets away from the sterile binary of one state/two states, and dares to ponder the future with fresh eyes that accept the guidance of a rights based approach shaped by international law. Israel will resist such an approach as long as it can, understanding that it has gained the upper hand by relying on its military prowess and realizing that if international law was allowed to play a role in demarcating the contours of a fair solution it would lose out on such crucial issues as borders, refugees, Jerusalem, settlements, and water.

A necessary step toward a sustainable peace is to overcome Washington’s blinkered conception of the conflict. There is no better sign that the Israel-Palestine peace process over which the United States has long presided is unraveling than the absurd brouhaha that followed the magazine article written by Jeffrey Goldberg in The Atlantic [“The Crisis in U.S.-Israel Relations is Officially Here,” Oct. 28, 2014] that referenced an unnamed senior White House official who called the Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, ‘chickenshit’ because of his obstinate refusal to take risks for ‘peace.’ Supposedly, this refusal put Washington’s dogged adherence to the Oslo Approach of direct negotiations under American diplomatic supervision beneath a darkening sky, but since there is no alternative way to maintain the U.S. central role in the interaction between the governing elites of the two parties, there is an eyes closed resolve to keep the worse than futile process on ‘life support.’ It is worse than futile because Israeli land grabbing on the West Bank in relation to the settlements, the settler only roads, and the separation wall continuously deteriorate Palestinian territorial prospects.

The collapse of the Kerry talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority in April were unquestionably a negative watershed for the Obama presidency so far as its insistence that the Oslo Approach was the only viable roadmap that could resolve the conflict. Ever since the Oslo Declaration of Principles was sanctified by the infamous Rabin-Arafat handshake on the White House lawn in 1993, the U.S. Government has contended that only this diplomatic framework can end the conflict, and to this day it objects to any moves by governments to take steps on their own. [During the presidency of George W. Bush there was an interval during which ‘the roadmap’ was adopted as an elaboration of the Oslo approach in which a commitment to the idea of an independent Palestinian state was explicitly confirmed by Bush in a speech on June 24, 2002, and then formalized in a proposal made public on April 30, 2003; in this same period ‘the quartet’ was created at a Madrid Conference in 2002 that seemed to broaden diplomatic participation by adding the Russia, the EU, and the UN to the U.S., but in fact the quartet has been completely marginalized for the past decade] The Oslo Approach consists of direct negotiations between the parties and designated the United States, despite its undisguised partisan role, as the exclusive and permanent intermediary and go between. Without the slightest deference to Palestinian sensitivities, U.S. presidents have appointed as special envoys to these negotiations only officials with AIPAC credentials such as Dennis Ross and Martin Indyk, and have proceeded as if their blatant partisanship was not a problem. Evidently Israel would have it no other way, and the Palestinian Authority has meekly gone along either out of weakness or naiveté.

Not only was the Oslo framework itself flawed because it leaned so far to one side, but it was an unseemly tacit assumption of the process that the Palestinians would be willing to carry on negotiations without reserving a right to complain about the relevance of ongoing Israeli violations of international law, most conspicuously the continued unlawful settlement activity. When on several occasions the Palestinians complained that this settlement activity was incompatible with good faith negotiations, they were immediately slapped down, informed that such objections interfered with the peace process, and that issues pertaining to the settlements would be deferred until the ‘final status’ stage of the negotiations. The Palestinians were assured that these issues would be addressed at the very end of the peace process after the main elements of a solution had been agreed upon. This was very detrimental to Palestine’s bargaining position as their only advantage in relation to Israel was to have international law in their favor in relation to most of the outstanding issues. Besides to allow Israel to continue with settlement expansion, rather than freezing the status quo, was obviously disadvantageous to Palestine. If legal objections were excluded it is not surprising that diplomatic bargaining would tend to reflect ‘facts on the ground,’ which were completely in Israel’s favor, and would continue to accumulate month by month. Despite this, Israel at no point seemed responsive to proposals for accommodation in accordance with the stated objective of establishing an independent sovereign Palestinian state.

After more than 20 years of futility Washington’s continuing public stand that only by way of the Oslo Approach will a solution be found is beginning to fall on deaf ears, and new directions of approach are beginning to be articulated. Israel itself is moving ineluctably toward a unilaterally imposed one-state solution that incorporates the West Bank in whole or in large part. It has recently seized 1000 acres of strategically placed land to facilitate the largest spatial enlargement of a settlement since the early 1990s and it has given approval for 2,600 additional housing units to be built in various West Bank and East Jerusalem settlements that already have more 650,000 settlers. In addition, the current Israeli president, Reuven Rivlin, elected by the Knesset a few months ago is an avowed advocate of the maximalist version of the Zionist project involving the extension of Israel’s borders to encompass the whole of Palestine as delimited in the British mandate. Rivlin couples this rejection of any Palestinian right of self-determination with proposals for equality of treatment for both peoples within this enlarged Israel, offering the Palestinians human rights, the rule of law, and unrestricted economic and political opportunity within Israel in exchange for renouncing their political ambitions for either a state of their own or a power-sharing arrangement on the basis of equality with Israel. There is no prospect that the Palestinian people, or even their compromised leaders, would accept such a Faustian Bargain.

The Palestinians have their own version of a unilateral solution, although it is far more modest, and seems more fantasy than political project. It is essentially establishing a state of their own within 1967 borders, taking an ambiguous posture toward the settlement blocs and even East Jerusalem, and relying on political pressures to coerce an Israeli withdrawal. Such a state claims 22% or less of historic Palestine, and includes the somewhat confusing contention that Palestine is already a state in the eyes of the international community, having been recognized as such by 134 states and in a resolution of the General Assembly on 29 November 2012. It is currently reinforcing this position with this draft resolution that Jordan will submit on its behalf at some point to the Security Council proposing a resumed period of direct negotiations for a further nine months (accompanied by a freeze on settlement construction), followed by Israel’s mandatory withdrawal from the West Bank. On balance, this Palestinian approach seems ill-considered for a number of reasons. It appears to reduce the parameters of the conflict to the occupation of the West Bank, and leaves to one side the fate of Gaza and East Jerusalem, as well as what is to happen to the several million Palestinians living in refugee camps in neighboring countries or in exile. It also overlooks the structure of discrimination embedded in Israeli nationality laws that reduces the 20% Palestinian minority in Israel to a second class status in the self-proclaimed Jewish state.

Among the problems with these reactions to the breakdown of Oslo are the contradictory expectations. What the Netanyahu unilateralism is seeking is utterly inconsistent with any kind of viable Palestinian state constructed within the 1967 borders, and those opposition forces to his right are seeking an even more defiant unilateralism. Equally, what the Palestinian Authority is proposing would seem to require the elimination of most Israeli settlements, the dismantling of the security wall, and the abandonment of the Israeli-only network of roads, while ignoring those Palestinian grievances not directly associated with territorial issues. Each of these versions of a post-Oslo solution is doomed to failure as it proceeds as if the behavior of others need not be taken into account. The Israeli failure to do this is far more unacceptable as its claims are far more excessive than those of the Palestinians, which is really just a matter of wishing away the pattern of Israel’s unlawful encroachment on what is a minimalist Palestinian vision of a solution that it and the UN had long ago accepted in Security Council Resolution 242.

There is an evident unfortunate reluctance on the part of all sides to let go of the two-state conception of a solution. It is what Washington and even Tel Aviv and Ramallah continue to say they seek, although Netanyahu has been telling Israeli audiences that after its experience with Hamas rockets last July and August, it will never agree to allow the emergence of a neighboring Palestinian state in the West Bank that would bring Palestinian threats much closer to the Israeli heartland. Ever since the 1988 decision of the Palestinian National Council, the PLO has agreed to a solution framed in relation to a state within of its own within the 1967 borders, and even Hamas has signed on since 2006 to the extent of accepting a 50 year plan for peaceful coexistence with Israel providing it ends the occupation of Palestinian territories, and lifts the Gaza blockade. These are big concessions from the Palestinian side considering that the UN Partition Plan of 1947 awarded 45% of historic Palestine to the Palestinians and proposed the internationalization of the entire city of Jerusalem. The 2002 Arab Peace Initiative is built along the same lines as the PLO proposal, and includes a commitment to establish full diplomatic and economic relations with Israel on the part of the entire Islamic world. This proposal of the Arab League by a 56-0 vote of the Islamic Conference, with only Iran abstaining, and a year ago as a result of American pressure was modified to make it even more appealing to Israel by its acknowledgement of Israeli security concerns.

Most recently, a letter to Netanyahu by 106 high ranking retired Israeli military and security officials strongly urged this same two-state solution, implicitly condemning Israeli unilateralism and Zionist maximalism as leading to a future for Israel of periodic warfare of the sort that occurred this past summer in Gaza. These members of the Israeli security establishment argue that these expansionist policies are weakening security for the entire Israeli population. The letter emphasized Israel’s moral decline associated with keeping millions of Palestinians under prolonged occupation, which they argue is unnecessary from the perspective of security. Again there is a lack of clarity about whether such encouragement assumes that the settlements can be retained, the rights of Palestinian refugees can be ignored, and Jerusalem can be kept under unified Israel control. But what the initiative does express is this emergent consensus that Oslo style negotiations have consistently failed and something else must be tried. The letter appears to propose a unilateral partial withdrawal described as “an alternative option for resolving the conflict not based solely on bilateral negotiations with the Palestinians, which have failed time and again.”

Europe has also, at last, exhibited a limited unwillingness to accept any longer the Oslo Approach that keeps the United States alone in the driver’s seat. I interpret the recent Swedish recognition of Palestinian statehood, the House of Commons vote urging that the British government take a similar move, as well as similar moves by several other European countries as expressing both a loss of confidence in the Oslo Approach and a criticism of the manner in which Israel and the United States have dealt with the conflict. This is a desirable development in these respects, but it is coupled with some regressive features. Such initiatives are coupled with renewed faith in the two-state approach as the only solution, and call with a sense of urgency for a renewal of negotiations without giving the slightest indication as to why a further round of talks would yield any different results than past attempts. Such a prognosis seems more true at present than in the past given Israel’s moves toward a unilateral solution, which Netanyahu somewhat disguises so as not to affront the United States and Europe. It should be obvious to all who wish to look that Israel has created irreversible conditions that have all but ruled out the establishment of a viable Palestinian sovereign state.

 

The Way Forward

The expected controversy surrounding the PA initiative in the Security Council is a sideshow without any serious consequences however it is resolved. There needs to be a clear recognition by the PA that direct negotiations are pointless under present conditions, and a general understanding that unless Israel changes behavior and outlook there is no hope to resolve the conflict by a reliance on diplomacy. This will make recourse to nonviolent militancy via BDS, and such other tactics as blocking the unloading of Israeli cargo vessels, the best option for those seeking a just peace. [“Protesters Block Israel-Owned Ship from Unloading Cargo at Port of Oakland,” CBS St Bay Area, Aug. 18, 2014]

I believe the Oslo Approach is discredited, and of no present interest to the political leadership in Israel, which plays along with Washington by not openly repudiating direct negotiations. The European governments that have shown some initiative by advocating recognition of Palestine should be encouraged to take the further step of rejecting calls for resumed negotiations unless Israel demonstrates its sincerity by freezing settlement activity and affirming its readiness to withdraw to 1967 borders.

The best, and in my view, only realistic hope is to forget traditional interstate diplomacy for the present, and understand that the Palestinian future depends on a robust mobilization of global civil society in solidarity with the Palestinian national movement. The current BDS campaign is gaining momentum by the day, and is coupled with a sense that its political program is more in keeping with the wishes of the Palestinian people than are the proposals put forth by the formal representations of either the Palestinian Authority or Hamas. When neither governmental diplomacy nor the UN can produce a satisfactory solution to a conflict that has caused decades of suffering and dispossession, it is past time to endorse a people-oriented approach. This is the kind of populist politics that helped end apartheid in South Africa and win many anti-colonial struggles. We have reached a stage in global history in which it is people, not weapons nor international institutions, that have the resilience and patience to win the legitimacy struggle involving law and morality, and on such a basis eventually prevail in the political struggle despite being inferior militarily.

The challenge of living together on the basis of equality seems to be the only template that offers the parties a vision of sustainable peace. Concretely, this would seem to require Israel to all ethnocratic claims that Israel is a Jewish state as distinct from being a Jewish homeland. Israel’s leaders would also have to renounce the present unrestricted right of return for Jews throughout the world or create some equivalent right of return for the Palestinians, and possibly for the Druse minority. How such a conception of a sustainable peace is given concrete form is necessarily a subject for diplomacy by suitable representative of both sides and carried on under neutral auspices and by authentic representatives of the two peoples. We cannot foretell how much further suffering and bloodshed will occur before this kind of vision, seemingly a remote prospect at present, can be converted into a practical project, but do know that nothing that falls short of this deserves to be considered ‘a solution’ given the realities of the situation.

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IDLIB: SYRIAN ARMY SOLDIERS HUNTING DOWN NUSRA AROUND ABU AL-DHUHOOR AB

NOVANEWS

الجيش السوري يوسع دائرة عملياته في محيط مطار دير الزور

I was not able to post about the situation in Idlib decause of the amount of time it took to translate the post concerning remarks made to a Palestinian delegation to Damascus and the meeting with Dr. Assad.  I can now give you a detailed report about the battle conditions at both Abu Dhuhoor and Al-Haamidiyya Airbases.   I want to advise all of you to expect an inordinate amount of lying by the western stooge media, especially the ones controlled by MI6 like the BBC and SOHR.  The situation is much better than you think.

On Monday, the SAA launched a massive counter-attack at the Abu-Dhuhoor base killing a confirmed 63 Nusra rodents, their carcasses still strewn about the perimeter of the base.  The counter-attack was remarkable for the number of missiles fired by the SAA.  This is normally not done unless there are identifiable concentrations of rats.

On Monday, the SAA defended all positions around the Al-Haamidiyya military base killing 45 Ahraar Al-Shaam vultures.

The attack on the 2 bases involved 2,300 rodents in mechanized units armed with American-supplied TOW anti-tank launchers and rockets.  These were evidently taken from an almost-liquidated group called the Syrian Revolutionaries’ Front led by Jamaal Ma’roof who is now comfortably watching the events in Erdoghan’s Turkey and Harakat Hazm, another Al-Qaeda off-shoot called “moderate” by the ignorant Zionist-controlled Americans.

The Abu-Dhuhoor AB was evacuated after intelligence was evaluated and a decision taken by the MoD that it would be too costly in lives and materiel to try to hold out in the face of the large Nusra attacking force.  The decision was made to redeploy the troops at the nearby Al-Haamidiyya base.  IT IS AN OUTRIGHT LIE SPREAD BY THE RODENT PROPAGANDA MACHINE THAT BOTH BASES WERE OVERRUN BY THE TERRORISTS.

sana

As I write to you now, there is heavy fighting in the Abu Dhuhoor area and north of Tal Salmu.  It appears the SAA is determined to oust the American and Turk supported rodents.  I am pleased also to tell you that the base contains no usable aircraft which has been the case for over a year.

Fighting also in these areas: Al-Samaka Village, Khaan Shaykhoon, North Al-Majaas (near the base), Bayyaa’a, Ma’r Hattaat, East Raabiyat Al-Khabaayaa, North Humaymaat (near the base), Kafr Nibbul (huge losses).

عمليات-الجيش-العربي-السوري-1

Ma’arrat Al-Nu’maan:  A major missile strike devastated the Nusra rodents around this town which is the birthplace of one of history’s greatest poets and freethinkers, Abu Al-‘Alaa` Al-Ma’rri.  The rats have admitted to “huge” losses here as a torrent of missiles crashed down on them when they were not expecting it.  A C&C center was completely vaporized with 14 leaders inside:

Abu Bilaal (Id pending. LEBANTEEZIAN REPTILE VOMIT. Leader of Nusra in Haarim)

Khayreddeen Al-Sarraaf

Mahmoud ‘Aadil Haaroon

Haazim Al-Sa’daawi

The rest were not named.  According to Ba’ath sources, the rat field hospitals are overflowing with dead carcasses and injured rodents.

Kaneesat Nakhla  and Lower Al-Kastan in the Jisr Al-Shughoor area:  horrific losses to Ahraar Al-Shaam after SAA hurls scores of missiles at them.  No details, yet.

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Advocates of CIA Torture Victims Demand: ‘Charge Them, Or Let Them Go’

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‘It is the use of torture against these men, rather than any danger that they might pose, which is going to condemn them to a life in prison,’ says Vijay Prashad

Following release of U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee Torture Report, attorneys now asking for justice for uncharged detainees.

In the wake of the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee’s bombshell report last week, advocates for those who were victims of the CIA’s brutal torture program have taken up a renewed call: “Charge them or let them go.”

In a piece published on Monday, Helen Duffy, attorney for Abu Zubaydah, who was held and tortured at a CIA black site in Poland and is now imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay, argues that since the rendition and torture of detainees has now been brought to light, it’s time for “truth, justice, and accountability.”

“It is time for victims of rendition such as Abu Zubaydah to be brought within the legal framework, to be either tried or released, to have the wrongs again them redressed, and for those responsible to be held to account,” Duffy writes.

According to Duffy, there are over 1,000 references to Zubaydah in the so-called torture report and, as the “first victim of the CIA’s detention program,” he is “the only prisoner known to have been subject to all” of the CIA’s torture techniques.

And despite having allegations of being “the third or fourth man in al-Qaeda” now publicly dismissed, Zubaydah continues to be held with no criminal charges, no trial, and no plan for trial. Instead, the CIA, as noted in the report, asked that he “remain incommunicado for the remainder of his life.”

The Senate report acknowledges that the CIA knew of “at least 26” CIA prisoners who were “wrongfully held,” including an “intellectually challenged man whose CIA detention was used solely as leverage.” And “due to poor CIA record keeping,” the report notes, “all full accounting of how many specific CIA detainees were held and how they were specifically treated while in custody may never be known.”

Advocates for Guantanamo detainee and torture victim Shaker Aamer on Monday published an open letter in the Daily Mail calling for the British resident, who was one of the 55 prisoners cleared for release by an earlier Obama task force, to be freed.

Aamer, who was first imprisoned at Bagram Air Base and now Guantanamo, has been in U.S. custody since 2001. He has been a “regular victim of brutal force-feedings, and he has been beaten by the ‘forcible cell extraction’ team more than 300 times,” as noted by Clive Stafford Smith, founder of the UK-based rights group Reprieve.

However, as Indian historian and journalist Vijay Prashad argued in a piece published last week, the torture that these men experienced will likely only further hinder their chances of being freed.

The U.S., Prashad writes, “is stuck with a serious problem.” What to do with people, such as Zubaydah and Aamer, who had been tortured at CIA “black sites” for years?

“There was no way to move Abu Zubaydah into the ‘normal’ U.S. judicial system, since most of the evidence against him had been gleaned by torture,” said Prashad. “It is the use of torture against these men, rather than any danger that they might pose, which is going to condemn them to a life in prison— either Guantánamo or else in a US maximum security prison.”

On Friday, Army Colonel James L. Pohl, who is overseeing the September 11th mass murder trial, ordered prosecutors to reexamine evidence sealed up in the court record to assess what the public can now see in light of revelations in the Senate torture report.

The Miami Herald‘s Carol Rosenberg reports: “Defense lawyers want details of what was done to the men — and for the public to see it along with the military jury—in order to challenge case evidence. Also, if the accused terrorists are convicted, they want to use the details to argue against their military execution.”

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US feels the heat on Palestine vote at UN

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US imprisoned by Israel

By Jonathan Cook in Nazareth

The floodgates have begun to open across Europe on recognition of Palestinian statehood. On 12 December the Portuguese parliament became the latest European legislature to call on its government to back statehood, joining Sweden, Britain, Ireland, France and Spain.

In coming days similar moves are expected in Denmark and from the European Parliament. The Swiss government will join the fray too this week, inviting states that have signed the Fourth Geneva Convention to an extraordinary meeting to discuss human rights violations in the occupied territories. Israel has threatened retaliation.

But while Europe is tentatively finding a voice in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, silence reigns across the Atlantic. The White House appears paralysed, afraid to appear out of sync with world opinion but more afraid still of upsetting Israel and its powerful allies in the US Congress.

Now there is an additional complicating factor. The Israeli public, due to elect a new Israeli government in three months’ time, increasingly regards the US role as toxic. A poll this month found that 52 per cent viewed President Barack Obama’s diplomatic policy as “bad”, and 37 per cent thought he had a negative attitude towards their country – more than double the figure two years ago.

The White House appears paralysed, afraid to appear out of sync with world opinion but more afraid still of upsetting Israel and its powerful allies in the US Congress.

US Secretary of State John Kerry alluded to the White House’s difficulties this month when he addressed the Saban Forum, an annual gathering of US policy elites to discuss the Middle East. He promised that Washington would not interfere in Israel’s elections.

According to the Israeli media, he was responding to pressure from Tzipi Livni, sacked this month from Binyamin Netanyahu’s government, triggering the forthcoming election, and opposition leader Yitzhak Herzog, of the centre-left Labour party.

The pair recently made a pact in an effort to oust Netanyahu. Their electoral success – improbable at the moment – offers the White House its best hope of an Israeli government that will at least pay lip service to a renewal of peace negotiations, which collapsed last April. They have warned, however, that any sign of backing from the Obama administration would be the kiss of death at the polls.

US officials would like to see Netanyahu gone, not least because he has been the biggest obstacle to reviving a peace process that for two decades successfully allayed international pressure to create a Palestinian state. But any visible strategy against Netanyahu is almost certain to backfire.

Washington’s difficulties are only underscored by the Palestinians’ threat to bring a draft resolution before the UN Security Council as soon as this week, demanding Israel’s withdrawal by late 2016 to the 1967 lines.

Given the current climate, the Palestinians are hopeful of winning the backing of European states, especially the three key ones in the Security Council – Britain, France and Germany – and thereby isolating the US. Arab foreign ministers met Kerry on 16 December in an effort to persuade Washington not to exercise its veto.

US officials would like to see Netanyahu gone, not least because he has been the biggest obstacle to reviving a peace process that for two decades successfully allayed international pressure to create a Palestinian state.

The US, meanwhile, is desperately trying to postpone a vote, fearful that casting its veto might further discredit it in the eyes of the world while also suggesting to Israeli voters that Netanyahu has the White House in his pocket.

But indulging the Israeli right also has risks, bolstering it by default. That danger was driven home during another session of the Saban Forum, addressed by settler leader Naftali Bennett. He is currently riding high in the polls and will likely be the backbone of the next coalition government.

Bennett says clearly what Netanyahu only implies: that most of the West Bank should be annexed, with the Palestinians given demilitarised islands of territory that lack sovereignty. The model, called “autonomy”, is of the Palestinians ruling over a series of local councils.

The Washington audience was further shocked by Bennett’s disrespectful treatment of his interviewer, Martin Indyk, who served as Obama’s representative at the last round of peace talks. He accused Indyk of not living in the real world, dismissively calling him part of the “peace industry”.

Bennett’s goal, according to analysts, was to prove to Israeli voters that he is not afraid to stand up to the Americans.

Given its weakening hand – faced with an ever-more right wing Israeli public and a more assertive European one – Washington is looking towards an unlikely saviour. The hawkish foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, used to be its bete noire, but he has been carefully recalibrating his image.

Unlike other candidates, he has been aggressively promoting a “peace plan”. The US has barely bothered examining its contents, which are only a little more generous than Bennett’s annexation option, and involve forcibly stripping hundreds of thousands of Palestinians in Israel of their citizenship.

The Israeli election’s one certain outcome is that, whoever wins, the next coalition will, actively or passively, allow more of the same: a slow, creeping annexation of what is left of a possible Palestinian state…

Lieberman, however, has usefully created the impression that he is a willing partner to a peace process. At the weekend he even suggested he might join a centre coalition with Livni and Herzog.

Lieberman is cleverly trying to occupy a middle ground with Israeli voters, demonstrating that he can placate the Americans, while offering a plan so unfair to the Palestinians that there is no danger voters will consider him part of the “peace industry”.

That may fit the electoral mood: a recent poll showed 63 per cent of Israelis favour peace negotiations, but 70 per cent think they are doomed to fail. The Israeli public, like Lieberman, understands that the Palestinians will never agree to the kind of subjugation they are being offered.

The Israeli election’s one certain outcome is that, whoever wins, the next coalition will, actively or passively, allow more of the same: a slow, creeping annexation of what is left of a possible Palestinian state, as the US and Europe bicker.

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Calls for ‘Torture Team’ Prosecutions Persist

NOVANEWS

Cheney Brags “I’d Do It Again”

‘There is an almost criminal gang in our government’s security agencies which is not subject to democratic accountability of any kind.’

Former Vice President Dick Cheney says violence perpetrated against American citizens amounts to torture, but that torture approved by himself and former President George. W. Bush is not “morally” equivalent to that kind of violence and should be applauded, not prosecuted. Human rights experts strongly disagree. (Image: Meet The Press/Screenshot)

Former vice president of the United States Dick Cheney told NBC’s Chuck Todd on Sunday that he’d “do it again in a minute.”

And what about President Obama’s predecessor, George W. Bush? Said Cheney: “He authorized it. He Approved it.”

“It would be comforting to dismiss Cheney as a historical oddity, to picture him sitting in the dimly lit room of a motel, changing the pitch of his voice to pretend he wasn’t alone. But he’s got company, and it’s dangerous.” —journalist Amy DavidsonAnd what is the “it”? The torture of other human beings.

However, nearly a week after the partial release of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report on CIA torture—despite a full-court media press from Cheney and others defending how the U.S. government employed gross human rights violations in the name of national security—the new calls for prosecutions into these admitted crimes continue.

For its part, the ACLU has put forth a five-point plan for accountability which includes appointment of a special prosecutor.

In a new op-ed over the weekend, Jameel Jaffer, the ACLU’s deputy legal director said the case for prosecuting those behind the torture program, though long overdue, has never been better.

“The argument for the appointment of a special prosecutor is straightforward,” Jaffer argued. “The CIA adopted interrogation methods that have long been understood to constitute torture. Those methods were used against more than a hundred prisoners, including many – at least 29 – whom the CIA itself now recognizes should never have been detained at all.”

“If we don’t hold our officials accountable for having authorized such conduct, we become complicit in it.” —Jameel Jaffer, ACLUAs part of its renewed effort to push for prosecutions, the Center for Constitutional Rights has put forth apetition calling on Attorney General Eric Holder to prosecute the high-level government officials responsible for the torture. Appearing alongside social activist Frances Fox Piven on Melissa Harris-Perry’s weekend show on MSNBC, CCR’s executive director Vince Warren said we should not be having a conversation about whether torture “worked” or not, because torture—just like slavery and genocide—is among the “highest forms of crimes that people can commit against each other.”

“This is why we need to be thinking about prosecution,” Warren continued. “The only way to prevent torture and things like this from happening, is to prosecute the people who have done this. This isn’t a question of values. This is a question of criminality.”

From her perspective, Pivens said that torture is “morally reprehensible” but that there are also deeper issues at work when accountability is non-existent. “There is an almost criminal gang in our government’s security agencies which is not subject to democratic accountability of any kind,” she said. “And what they do has huge effects on the future of the United States and the future of the world. You can’t look at these horrific acts and not wonder, at least, whether the experience of this kind of behavior at the hands of American agents doesn’t have something to do with the rise of terrorist groups like ISIL.”

Following Cheney’s appearance on Meet The Press on Sunday, The New Yorker‘s Amy Davidson pilloried the former vice president, and other likes former CIA chief Michael Hayden, for continuing to parade about as though what they did to people in the name of the American people should be heralded. She wrote:

Basically, in Cheney’s world, nothing Americans do can be called torture, because we are not Al Qaeda and we are not the Japanese in the Second World War (whom we prosecuted for waterboarding) and we are not ISIS. “The way we did it,” as he said of waterboarding, was not torture. In other words, it was not really the Justice Department that “blessed,” or rather transubstantiated, torture; it was our American-ness. Is there an argument that could degrade that American identity more?

It would be comforting to dismiss Cheney as a historical oddity, to picture him sitting in the dimly lit room of a motel, changing the pitch of his voice to pretend he wasn’t alone. But he’s got company, and it’s dangerous. The way that many, including the present and former directors of the C.I.A., have responded to the Senate report has been shameless and sordid. (There have been exceptions, as Jane Mayer notes.) They have spent a lot of time complaining that the Agency hasn’t been sufficiently praised. The word “torture” upsets them.

Despite new admissions by Cheney and a televised press conference delivered by CIA director John Brennan last week, it remains unclear if the new demands for accountability, including criminal probes or charges, will actually result.

As the Associated Press reports Monday:

Department officials said they will not revisit their 2012 decision to close the investigation, citing among other challenges the passage of time and the difficulty of proving beyond a reasonable doubt that crimes were committed, especially in light of government memos that gave interrogators extraordinary latitude.

“Our inquiry was limited to a determination of whether prosecutable offenses were committed. Importantly, our investigation was not intended to answer the broader questions regarding the propriety of the examined conduct,” the department said in a statement after the report was released.

That conclusion followed an investigation led by special prosecutor John Durham that began in 2009 as an outgrowth of a probe into the destruction of videotapes of CIA interrogation tactics. The inquiry into interrogation tactics came amid the release of an internal CIA inspector general’s report that said CIA interrogators once threatened to kill the children of a Sept. 11 suspect and suggested that another suspected terrorist would be forced to watch his mother being sexually assaulted.

Durham specifically investigated potential crimes in the deaths of two detainees, including one who was shackled to a cold concrete wall in a secret CIA prison, while in custody in Iraq and Afghanistan. In closing the investigation, the department said it had “reviewed a tremendous volume of information” about detainees alleged to have been in U.S. custody but did not find enough evidence to convict anyone.

As the ACLU’s Jaffer argues, however, nothing about that investigation precludes a new and more aggressive attempt to achieve accountability for those who ordered, authorized, and carried out the program.

“If we don’t hold our officials accountable for having authorized such conduct, we become complicit in it,” he said. “The prisoners were tortured in our names. Now that the torture has been exposed in such detail, our failure to act would signify a kind of tacit approval. Our government routinely imprisons people for far lesser offenses. What justification could possibly be offered for exempting the high officials who authorized the severest crimes?”

He concluded, “For the last decade, officials who authorized torture have been shielded from accountability for their acts. The Senate report makes it clear – indeed, it could not make it any clearer – that impunity for torture must now come to an end.”

And as Davidson wrote, “if this past week has proved anything, it’s that the legacy of torture is not quiet repentance but impunity. [President Obama] has told his agents not to torture, and Brennan says he can work with that, while the C.I.A. waits for instructions from the next one.”

Posted in USAComments Off on Calls for ‘Torture Team’ Prosecutions Persist

The National Security State as a Criminal Enterprise

NOVANEWS

Former President George W. Bush emphasizing a point during remarks given from in the East Room of the White House on Sept. 6, 2006. (Photo: White House archive)

It came from the top and that’s never been a secret.  The president authorized the building of those CIA “black sites” and the use of what came to be known as “enhanced interrogation techniques” and has spoken of this with a certain pride. The president’s top officials essentially put in an order at the Department of Justice for “legal” justificationsthat would, miraculously, transform those “techniques” into something other than torture.  Its lawyers then pulled out their dictionaries and gave new meaning to tortured definitions of torture that could have come directly from the fused pens of Franz Kafka and George Orwell.  In the process, they even managed to leave the definition of torture to the torturer.  It was a performance for the ages.

Last week, former Vice President Dick Cheney, who only days after 9/11 claimed that the Bush administration was going to “work the dark side,” once again championed those techniques and the CIA agents who used them.  It was a handy reminder of just what a would-be crew of tough-guy torture instigators he and his cohorts were. The legal veneer spread thinly over the program they set in motion was meant to provide only the faintest legal cover for the “gloves” they bragged about taking off, while obscuring the issue for the American public.  After all, few in the rest of the world were likely to accept the idea that interrogation methods like waterboarding, or “the water torture” as it had once been known, were anything but torture.  Even in this country, it had been accepted as just that.  The Bush administration was, of course, helped in those years by a media that, when notcheerleading for torture, or actually lending the CIA a helpful hand, essentially banishedthe word from its vocabulary, unless it referred to heinously similar acts committed by countries we disliked.

All in all, it was an exercise in what the “last superpower,” the world’s “policeman,” could get away with in the backrooms of its police stations being jerry-built around the world.  And some of the techniques used with a particular brutality were evidently first demonstrated to top officials in the White House itself.

Then, of course, the CIA went out and applied those “enhanced techniques” to actual human beings with abandon, as the newly released (and somewhat redacted) executive summary of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s “torture report” indicates.  This was done even more severely than ordered (not that Cheney & Co. cared), including to a surprising number of captives that the CIA later decided were innocent of anything having to do with terror or al-Qaeda.  All of this happened, despite a law this country signed onto prohibitingthe use of torture abroad.

Although what I’ve just described is now generally considered The Torture Story here, it really was only part of it.  The other part, also a CIA operation authorized at the highest levels, was “rendition” or “extraordinary rendition” as it was sometimes known.  This was a global campaign of kidnappings, aided and abetted by 54 other countries, in which “terror suspects” (again often enough innocent people) were swept off the streets of major cities as well as the backlands of the planet and “rendered” to other countries, ranging from Libyaand Syria to Egypt and Uzbekistan, places with their own handy torture chambers and interrogators already much practiced in “enhanced” techniques of one sort or another.

Moreover, those techniques migrated like a virus from the CIA and its “black sites” elsewhere in the U.S. imperium, most notoriously via Guantanamo to Abu Ghraib, the American-run prison in Iraq, where images of torture and abuse of a distinctly enhanced variety then migrated home as screensavers.  What was done couldn’t have been more criminal in nature, whether judged by U.S. or international law.  In its wake, its perpetrators, both the torturers and the kidnappers, were protected in a major way.  Except for a few low-level figures at Abu Ghraib and one non-torturing CIA whistleblower who went to prison for releasing to a journalist the name of someone involved in the torture program, no American figure, not even those responsible for deaths at the Agency’s black sites, would be brought to court.  And of course, the men (and woman) most responsible would leave the government to write their memoirs for millions of dollars and defend what they did to the death (of others).

It’s one for the history books and, though it’s a good thing to have the Senate report made public, it wasn’t needed to know that, in the years after 9/11, when the U.S. government created an offshore Bermuda Triangle of injustice, it also essentially became a criminal enterprise.  Recently, Republican hawks in Washington protested loudly against the release of that Senate report, suggesting that it should be suppressed lest it “inflame” our enemies.  The real question isn’t, however, about them at all, it’s about us. Why won’t the release of this report inflame Americans, given what their government has done in their names?

And in case you think it’s all over but for the shouting, think again, as Rebecca Gordon, author of Mainstreaming Torture, writes today in “American Torture: Past, Present, and… Future?

Posted in USAComments Off on The National Security State as a Criminal Enterprise

Afghan Taliban condemn Peshawar school attack

NOVANEWS
— Reuters/File

KABUL: The Afghan Taliban have condemned a raid on a school in Peshawar that left 141 dead in the country’s bloodiest ever terror attack, saying killing innocent children was against Islam.

Survivors said militants gunned down children as young as 12 during the eight-hour onslaught in Peshawar, which the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) said was revenge for the ongoing North Waziristan operation.

“The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan has always condemned the killing of children and innocent people at every juncture,” the Afghan Taliban, which often target civilians, said in a statement released late Tuesday.

“The intentional killing of innocent people, women and children goes against the principles of Islam and every Islamic government and movement must adhere to this fundamental essence.”

“The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (the official name of the Taliban) expresses its condolences over the incident and mourns with the families of killed children.”

The Afghan Taliban are a jihadist group loosely affiliated to the Pakistan Taliban, with both pledging allegiance to Mullah Omar.

The Afghan Taliban often distance themselves from attacks that kill many civilians, but they also deliberately target non-combatants.

Last week they claimed responsibility for a suicide attack at a theatre show in the French cultural centre in Kabul that killed one person and injured 15.

The United Nations says the majority of civilian casualties in Afghanistan are caused by the Taliban and other armed groups.

Posted in Afghanistan, Pakistan & KashmirComments Off on Afghan Taliban condemn Peshawar school attack

Drone strike in Afghanistan kills 4 Pakistani Taliban, 7 others

NOVANEWS
A drone can be seen firing a missile in this photo. — AFP/File
A drone can be seen firing a missile in this photo. — AFP/File

KABUL: A US drone strike in eastern Afghanistan killed four Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) militants and seven other insurgents, a district official said Wednesday.

The drone’s missiles killed the militants on Tuesday afternoon as members of the TTP were attacking a school in the city of Peshawar, near the Afghan border, said Mahlem Mashuq, the governor of Sherzad district in Nangarhar province.

“Based on our findings, 11 insurgents, four of them Pakistani Taliban, were travelling in a pickup truck that was hit by a drone strike, killing all of them,” Mashuq said.

The Pakistani and Afghan branches of the hard-line Islamist Taliban are loosely allied and operate across the porous border between the countries.

Both are dedicated to overthrowing their countries’ governments and establishing rule by their strict interpretation of Islamic law.

The Afghan Taliban, however, issued a statement condemning Tuesday’s Pakistani Taliban attack on the school in Peshawar that killed 141 people.

Posted in Afghanistan, Pakistan & KashmirComments Off on Drone strike in Afghanistan kills 4 Pakistani Taliban, 7 others

66 journalists killed in past year

NOVANEWS

As attacks grow more barbaric  

Posted by: Sammi Ibrahem, Sr
Murders of reporters are more shocking and kidnappings are on the increase, says Reporters Without Borders. — Photo courtesy: RWB
Murders of reporters are more shocking and kidnappings are on the increase, says Reporters Without Borders. — Photo courtesy: RWB

PARIS: Attacks on journalists have grown more barbaric and kidnappings have soared, Reporters Without Borders said Tuesday, after a year when violence against the media took centre stage and 66 reporters were killed.

The beheading of James Foley and Steven Sotloff by the Islamic State group highlighted the extreme danger journalists’ face in covering modern conflicts.

“Rarely have reporters been murdered with such a barbaric sense of propaganda, shocking the entire world,” said Reporters Without Borders in their annual report released Tuesday.

There was a slight drop in the number of murdered journalists — down from 71 last year — thanks largely to fewer deaths in countries “at peace”. A total of 720 reporters have been killed since 2005.

But kidnappings soared to 119 — up 37 per cent on last year — thanks to the tactics of separatists in eastern Ukraine and militants operating in the Middle East and North Africa.

Of those kidnapped, 33 were in Ukraine, 29 in Libya and 27 in Syria. Forty are still being held.

“Local journalists pay the highest price, representing 90 per cent of those abducted,” the report emphasised.

“Of the 22 journalists currently being held by armed groups in Syria, 16 are Syrians. All of the eight journalists currently held hostage in Iraq are Iraqis.”

Reporters Without Borders highlighted several cases of journalists punished by their governments, including that of Raef Badawi, a Saudi citizen-journalist who won the charity’s Press Freedom Prize this year and was sentenced in September to 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes for “insulting Islam” with his views on the Liberal Saudi Network.

It also highlighted the case of Khadija Ismailova in Azerbaijan — “now Europe’s biggest prison for media personnel”.

Her work on government corruption has made her a target of smear campaigns, blackmail and spurious legal charges.

“Now she is being held on the absurd charge of ‘pushing’ a former colleague to attempt suicide, a charge that carries a possible sentence of three to seven years in jail,” the report said.

Posted in Campaigns, WorldComments Off on 66 journalists killed in past year

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