Archive | May 6th, 2015

I$RAHELL Zio-Wahhabi war on Yemen a failure

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Saudi war on Yemen a failure: Nasrallah
Saudi war on Yemen a failure: Nasrallah
Seyyed Hassan Nasrallah, the secretary general of Lebanon’s Hezbollah resistance movement, says the Al Saud regime has failed to achieve its goals in the brutal military aggression against the Yemeni nation.

“Tell me about a single objective that has been achieved. Has Saudi Arabia restored the so-called legitimacy in Yemen? Has it managed to prevent the expansion of the Yemeni army and popular committees? Has it confiscated the arms of Ansarullah? Has it been able to return Mansour Hadi to his country?” Nasrallah asked in a televised address on the latest developments in the regionon Tuesday.

The Hezbollah chief rejected as lies Zio-Wahhabi regime’s claims of victory in the war on Yemen, asking, “Do Arab citizens accept such deception and misinformation? As an Arab citizen I want information about the objectives that were allegedly realized.”

He further said the Saudi kingdom seeks to gain dominance over Yemen by launching a bloody war on the neighboring nation, saying, “Have they managed to achieve their real objective by restoring their hegemony over Yemen?”

“We are before a clear and obvious Saudi failure and a clear Yemeni victory. This is the result of the firmness and steadfastness of the Yemenis,” the Hezbollah chief said.

On April 21, Zio-Wahhabi regime announced the end of the first phase of its military operation, but airstrikes have continued with I$RAHELL Zio-Wahhabi bombers targeting different areas across the country in a new phase.

Zio-Wahhabi claim the airstrikes only target military positions. However, reports show civilians and infrastructure in civilian areas are being attacked. Recent reports also show Zio-Wahhabi regime have used cluster munitions in the northern province of Sa’ada.

I$RAHELL Zio-Wahhabi attacks have so far killed over 1,200 Yemenis, including many women and children, and injured thousands of others.

Posted in Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, YemenComments Off on I$RAHELL Zio-Wahhabi war on Yemen a failure

2.2 Million Iraqis, 7.6 Million Syrian Displaced by Saudi Zio-Wahhabi ISIS

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2.2 Million Iraqis, 7.6 Million Syrian Displaced by ISIS
2.2 Million Iraqis, 7.6 Million Syrian Displaced by Saudi Zio-Wahhabi ISIS
Norwegian humanitarian group says a record 38 million people have been internally displaced in their countries worldwide, with 2.2 million Iraqis alone forced to flee from their homes in 2014 after Zio-Wahhabi ISIS overran their areas.

The study by the Norwegian Refugee Council’s Internal Displacement Monitoring Center was released Wednesday, AP reports.

It says 11 million were newly displaced last year – mostly because of conflicts in Syria, Iraq, South Sudan, Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of Congo, accounting for 60 percent of the new displacement.

The group says at least 1.1 million Syrians also fled their homes last year.

Syria has the highest number of internally displaced, with 7.6 million dislodged because of Saudi Zio-Wahhabi war, now in its fifth year. That’s at least 35 percent of the population.

Posted in Iraq, SyriaComments Off on 2.2 Million Iraqis, 7.6 Million Syrian Displaced by Saudi Zio-Wahhabi ISIS

Who is Four Head US pay $20 million?

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After Texas attack, US announces $20 million for 4 ISIS heads
Who is the 4 head us pay for them $20 million?
Who is the 4 head us pay for them $20 million?
U.S. government announces Bounties totaling $20million for the heads of four ISIS chiefs.

The US State Department accused the group of overseeing widespread human rights abuses including mass executions and rape across Iraq and Syria.They were added to the ‘Rewards for Justice’ program yesterday as America sought to ratchet up pressure on the terror group after it claimed responsibility for an attack in Texas on Sunday.

The militant with the largest bounty – $7million is Zio-Wahhabni Abdel Rahman Mustafa al-Qaduli, who was designated a global terrorist for the purpose of U.S. Treasury sanctions in May last year.

The State Department alleged that he had been a deputy to the late leader of Al-Qaeda’s Iraqi faction, Zio-Wahhabni Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, and had travelled to Syria to join ISIS in 2012 after he was freed from an Iraqi jail.

The U.S. Treasury lists Qaduli as an Iraqi, born in either 1957 or 1959 in the city of Mosul.

A Syrian Zio-Wahhabi Abu Mohammed al-Adnani, whose birth name is Taha Sobhi Falaha and who is around 38 years old, is subject to a $5million reward for information leading to his death or capture.

The statement describes him as an Zio-Wahhabi ISIS spokesman who has repeatedly called for attacks on the United States.

Zio-Wahhabi Tarkhan Batirashvili, better known under his Arabic nom de guerre as Omar al-Shishani, is also under a $5million reward.

The 29-year-old Georgian is accused of overseeing a prison outside the Zio-Wahhabi ISIS stronghold of Raqqa where several foreign hostages were held.

There is a $3million bounty on the head of Zio-Wahhabi Tariq bin al-Tahar bin al-Falih al-Awni al-Harzi, a 33-year-old Tunisian.

He is accused of acting as an Zio-Wahhabi ISIS fundraiser in the Persian Gulf states and later as a field commander in Syria and as head of a unit of suicide bombers.

The Iraqi leader of the Zio-Wahhabi ISIS group, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, was already the subject of a $10million reward under the program.

Most wanted on the list – with a $25million bounty – is Zio-Wahhabi Ayman al-Zawahiri who became leader of Al Qaeda after Osama bin Laden was shot dead in 2011.

Zio-Wahhabi ISIS has seized a wide stretch of eastern Syria and northern Iraq and declared it a caliphate, within which it has enslaved female captives, carried out sectarian massacres and murdered hostages.

They also appear to have spread their influence to American soil.

Posted in Iraq, SyriaComments Off on Who is Four Head US pay $20 million?

Americans Supporting Massacre of Yemeni People;“Shameless”

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Americans Supporting Massacre of Yemeni People,“Shameless”: Leader
Americans Supporting Massacre of Yemeni People,“Shameless”: Leader
Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei has called Zio-Wahhabi ongoing aggression against Yemen as unjustifiable, saying that the United States is “shamelessly” backing the atrocities of Zio-Wahhabi against its impoverished southern neighbor.

Leader Warns Aggressors of Harsh Consequences of Encounter with Iran, Also.Supreme Leader  reaffirmed on Wednesday that the Iranian nation will not let any possible act of aggression against the country go unanswered.

“The Americans are supporting the massacre of the Yemeni people without any shame, but they accuse Iran”

“The Saudi government is busy killing innocent people and women and children in Yemen without any justification and only under the pretext that the Yemeni people do not accept a so-and-so person as the president, and the Americans are also supporting this monstrous crime” Ayatollah Khamenei said Wednesday while addressing a gathering of teachers in Tehran.

Ayatollah Khamenei further described the US government as the most “disgraced government in the world,” adding that one reason for this loss of honor is the explicit US support for  Zio-Wahhabi aggression against Yemen.

“The Americans are supporting the massacre of the Yemeni people without any shame, but they accuse Iran, which is after (sending) medical aid and food to the Yemeni people, of interfering in this country and sending weapons,” the Leader said.

“Ayatollah Khamenei said that Iran does not approve of “negotiations under the shadow of threat.””

Ayatollah Khamenei said the Yemenis do not need weapons from Iran because they have control of all military bases in their country, adding that the most urgent need of the Yemeni people is humanitarian aid of which they have been denied due to the blockade imposed on the country.

‘No nuclear talks under threat’

Pointing to the nuclear talks between Iran and the Group 5+1 (Russia, China, the US, Britain, France and Germany), Ayatollah Khamenei said, “It is unacceptable that the other side would continuously issue threats while the negotiations are underway.”

Ayatollah Khamenei said that Iran does not approve of “negotiations under the shadow of threat.”

The Leader dismissed the recent US military threats against Iran, saying that the Islamic Republic will not leave any acts of aggression unanswered.

The Leader said he has already made it clear, even in the tenure of former US president, that “the era of hit and run has ended”, and that the Iranian nation will chase aggressors.

Ayatollah Khamenei further described as “unacceptable” the use of threats concurrent with the negotiations which is underway between Iran and international powers.

The comments came after US Secretary of State John Kerry and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey said military option is still on the table regarding Iran.

Ayatollah Khamenei added that Washington’s need for nuclear talks is not less than Tehran’s, if not more, adding that Iran wants the nuclear talks to bear fruit and the sanctions be removed.

The Leader, however, emphasized that Iran’s participation in the negotiations does not mean that the country would be unable to run its affairs if the sanctions continue.

“We want the negotiations to yield results and the sanctions to be lifted, but it does not mean that if the sanctions are not removed, we will not be able to manage the country,” the Leader stated.

The Leader also cautioned the Iranian negotiators to observe the country’s red lines in the course of the talks.

Imam Khamenei explained that the settlement of the country’s economic woes does not hinge upon the termination of sanctions alone, noting, “The economic problems should be resolved through our own prudence, will and capabilities, with or without sanctions.”

Iran and the Group 5+1 (also known as the P5+1 or E3+3) are in talks to hammer out a lasting accord that would end more than a decade of impasse over Tehran’s peaceful nuclear program.

On April 2, the two sides reached a framework nuclear agreement in Lausanne, Switzerland, with both sides committed to push for a final deal until the end of June.

Diplomats from Iran and the EU wrapped up the latest round of negotiations in New York on Tuesday and are slated to resume the talks in Vienna on May 12 to press on with the task of drafting the comprehensive deal.

Posted in USA, Iran, Saudi Arabia, YemenComments Off on Americans Supporting Massacre of Yemeni People;“Shameless”

Erdogan is a “Butcher”: President Bashar al-Assad Says

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Erdogan is a “butcher”: Syrian President Bashar al-Assad
Erdogan is a “butcher”: Syrian President Bashar al-Assad
Erdogan is a “butcher” whose brutality should be compared to Ahmed Djemal Pasha, the Ottoman ruler who ordered the 1916 executions, the incident which is commemorated on the May 6,Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad says a series of setbacks against the terrorists does not mean the Arab country has lost its war on terror, calling for more confidence in the government in its military campaign.

“Today we are fighting a war, not a battle. War is not one battle, but a series of many battles,” Assad said Wednesday in an address to a ceremony held to commemorate Syria’s Martyrs’ Day in the capital Damascus.

Assad’s comments were his first after a string of advances by terrorist groups in the northwestern Idlib Province, where the city of Jisr al-Shughur recently fell into the hands of the militants.

Assad said such setbacks are normal and part of the nature of the war against terrorists.

“We are not talking about tens or hundreds but thousands of battles and… it is the nature of battles for there to be advances and retreats, victories and losses, ups and downs,” Assad said, urging the Syrian people to be more vigilant against “the spread of a spirit of frustration or despair at a loss here or there.”

The Syrian president called on his people to remain confident in the country’s armed forces in the face of the defeats, saying, “In battles… anything can change except for faith in the fighter and the fighter’s faith in victory… So when there are setbacks, we must do our duty as a society and give the army morale and not wait for it to give us morale.”

Assad also paid tribute to those fighters and army soldiers trapped in a hospital building in Jisr al-Shughur, promising that the armed forces will soon rush to save them.

“The army will arrive soon to these heroes trapped in the Jisr al-Shughur hospital,” Assad said.

Elsewhere in his remarks, Assad used the opportunity of the Martyrs’ Day to lash out at Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan for his continued support for the armed militants in Syria. He said Erdogan is a “butcher” whose brutality should be compared to Ahmed Djemal Pasha, the Ottoman ruler who ordered the 1916 executions, the incident which is commemorated on the May 6 event.

More than 220,000 people have been killed in Syria since a foreign-backed militancy broke out against Assad government in 2011.

 

Posted in Syria, TurkeyComments Off on Erdogan is a “Butcher”: President Bashar al-Assad Says

BNP candidate Reverend Robert West told pupils Muslims ‘worship devil’

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Reverend Robert West in Dagenham in April 2010

Reverend Robert West, seen here campaigning for the BNP in 2010, denied the allegations against him

teacher standing as a British National Party (BNP) candidate told pupils “Muslims worship the devil”, a disciplinary panel has heard.

Reverend Robert West, 59, who is the party’s parliamentary candidate for Boston and Skegness, made the comments during a history lesson.

The National College for Teaching and Leadership (NCTL) said his conduct fell short of the profession’s standards.

A BNP spokesman said the party would comment once sanctions are decided.

Mr West has no connection to the Church of England. In 2006, he set up his own church, based in a house in Holbeach, to preach “traditional bible beliefs”.

He said the comments had been made in the context of a lesson about the Crusades, was found guilty of unacceptable professional conduct.

‘Worshipping the devil’

The NCTL panel found he made inappropriate comments to students while working as a supply teacher at Walton Girls High School, Grantham, on 8 November 2013.

He stated that he was “allergic to Mohammedans” and when asked by a year 12 pupil whether there was there anything wrong with being a Muslim he said “yes, because we are fighting them”, the panel said.

During another lesson on 14 November 2013, the hearing was told he said “any non-Christian god is demonic” and “Muslims worship the devil”.

It was also claimed he said: “Well there is one God, and if you are not worshipping him, then you are worshipping the devil”.

Mr West told the BBC he did make the comments but was trying to show pupils differing points of view. The comments did not represent his own views, he added.

The NCTL panel said it was satisfied Mr West’s conduct fell short of expected standards, and found him guilty of unacceptable professional conduct.

It will now decide whether Mr West should be banned from the profession. The BNP said it would not comment until a decision on Mr West’s future as a teacher was reached.

Walton Girls High School and Sixth Form, in Grantham, said it followed its complaints process promptly when the concerns were raised, and referred the issue appropriately.

Posted in UKComments Off on BNP candidate Reverend Robert West told pupils Muslims ‘worship devil’

May 1945: Nazi Germany Surrenders, But… on May 7, 8, or 9?

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Global Research
germansurrender

After the Casablanca Conference of January 1943, the Americans, British, and Soviets had agreed that there would be no separate negotiations with Nazi Germany with respect to its capitulation, and that the Germander surrender would have to be unconditional. In the early spring of 1945, Germany was as good as defeated and the Allies were getting ready to receive its capitulation. The expected unconditional German capitulation vis-à-vis all three Allies would have to be concluded somewhere, but where – on the Eastern Front, or on the Western Front? 

I f only for reasons of prestige, the Western Allies preferred that this would happen on the Western Front. Secret talks with the Germans, which the British and Americans were holding at that time (i.e. in March 1945) in neutral Switzerland, code-named Operation Sunrise, were useful in that context, not only with an eye on a German surrender in Italy, which had actually led to the talks, but also in view of the coming general and supposedly unconditional German capitulation, of which intriguing details – such as the venue of the ceremony – might possibly be determined in advance and without input from the the Soviets. There were many possibilities in this respect, because the Germans themselves kept approaching the Americans and the British in the hope of concluding a separate armistice with the Western powers or, if that would prove impossible, of steering as many Wehrmacht units as possible into American or British captivity by means of “individual” or “local” surrenders, i.e. surrenders of larger or smaller units of the German army in restricted areas of the front.

The Great War of 1914-1918 had ended with a clear and unequivocal armistice, namely in the form of an unconditional German surrender, which everybody knows went into effect on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of 1918. The Second World War, on the other hand, was to grind to a halt, in Europe at least, amidst intrigue and confusion, so that even today there are many misconceptions regarding the time and place of the German capitulation. The Second World War was to end in the European theatre not with one, but with an entire string of German capitulations, with a veritable orgy of surrenders.

It started in Italy on April 29, 1945, with the capitulation of the combined German armies in southwestern Europe to the Allied forces led by Alexander, the British field marshal. Signatories on the German side included SS General Karl Wolff, who had conducted the negotiations with American secret agents in Switzerland about sensitive issues such as the neutralization of the kind of Italian anti-fascists for whom there was no room in the American-British post-war plans for their country. Stalin had expressed misgivings about the arrangement that was being worked out between the Western Allies and the Germans in Italy, but in the end he gave his blessing to this capitulation after all.

Many people in Great Britain firmly believe even today that the war against Germany ended with a German surrender in the headquarters of another British field marshal, namely Montgomery, on the Luneburg Heath in northern Germany. Yet this ceremony took place on May 4, 1945, that is, at least five days before the guns finally fell silent in Europe, and this capitulation applied only to German troops that had hitherto been battling Montgomery’s British-Canadian 21st Army Group in the Netherlands and in Northwest Germany. Just to be on the safe side, the Canadians actually accepted the capitulation of all German troops in Holland the next day, May 5, during a ceremony in the town of Wageningen, a town in the eastern Dutch province of Gelderland.[1]           In America and also in Western Europe the event on the Luneburg Heath is rightly viewed as a strictly local capitulation, even though it is recognized that it served as a kind of prelude to the definitive German capitulation and resulting ceasefire. As far as the Americans, French, Belgians, and others are concerned, this definitive German surrender took place in the headquarters of General Eisenhower, the supreme commander of all Allied forces on the Western Front, in a shabby school building in the city of Reims on May 7, 1945, in the early morning. But this armistice was to go into effect only on the next day, May 8, and only at 11:01 p.m. It is for this reason that even now, commemoration ceremonies in the United States and in Western Europe take place on May 8.

However, even the important event in Reims was not the final surrender ceremony. With the permission of Hitler’s successor, Admiral Dönitz, German spokesmen had come knocking on Eisenhower’s door in order to try once again to conclude an armistice only with the Western Allies or, failing that, to try to rescue more Wehrmacht units from the clutches of the Soviets by means of local surrenders on the Western Front. Eisenhower was personally no longer willing to consent to further local surrenders, let alone a general German capitulation to the Western Allies only. But he appreciated the potential advantages that would accrue to the Western side if somehow the bulk of the Wehrmacht would end up in British-American rather than Soviet captivity. And he also realized that this was a unique opportunity to induce the desperate Germans to sign in his headquarters the general and unconditional capitulation in the form of a document that would conform to inter-Allied agreements; this detail would obviously do much to enhance the prestige of the United States.

In Reims it thus came to a byzantine scenario. First, from Paris an obscure Soviet liaison officer, Major General Ivan Susloparov, was brought over in order to save the appearance of the required Allied collegiality. Second, while it was made clear to the Germans that there could be no question of a separate capitulation on the Western Front, a concession was made to them in the form of an agreement that the armistice would only go into effect after a delay of forty-five hours. This was done to accommodate the new German leaders’ desire to give as many Wehrmacht units as possible a last chance to surrender to the Americans or the British. This interval gave the Germans the opportunity to transfer troops from the East, where heavy fighting continued unabatedly, to the West, where after the signing rituals in Luneburg and then Reims hardly any shots were being fired anymore. The Germans, whose delegation was headed by General Jodl, signed the capitulation document at Eisenhower’s headquarters on May 7 at 2:41 a.m.; but as mentioned earlier, the guns were to fall silent only on May 8 at 11:01 p.m. Local American commanders would cease to allow fleeing Germans to escape behind their lines only after the German capitulation actually went into effect. It can be argued, then, that the deal concluded in the Champagne city did not constitute a totally unconditional capitulation.[2]

The document signed in Reims ( see image left) gave the Americans precisely what they wanted, namely, the prestige of a general German surrender on the Western Front in Eisenhower’s headquarters. The Germans also achieved the best they could hope for, since their dream of a capitulation to the Western Allies alone appeared to be out of the question: a “postponement of execution,” so to speak, of almost two days. During this time, the fighting continued virtually only on the Eastern Front, and countless German soldiers took advantage of this opportunity to disappear behind the British-American lines.[3]

However, the text of the surrender in Reims did not conform entirely to the wording of a general German capitulation agreed upon previously by the Americans and the British as well as the Soviets. It was also questionable whether the representative of the USSR, Susloparov, was really qualified to co-sign the document. Furthermore, it is understandable that the Soviets were far from pleased that the Germans were afforded the possibility to continue to battle the Red Army for almost two more days while on the Western Front the fighting had virtually come to an end. The impression was thus created that what had been signed in Reims was in fact a German surrender on the Western Front only, an arrangement that violated the inter-Allied agreements. In order to clear the air, it was decided to organize an ultimate capitulation ceremony, so that the German surrender in Reims retroactively revealed itself as a sort of prelude to the final surrender and/or as a purely military surrender, even though the Americans and the Western Europeans would continue to commemorate it as the true end to the war in Europe.[4]

General Keitel signs Germany’s unconditional surrender in Berlin (right)

It was in Berlin, in the headquarters of Marshal Zhukov, that the final and general, political as well as military, German capitulation was signed on May 8, 1945 or, put differently, that the German capitulation of the day before in Reims was properly ratified by all the Allies. The signatories for Germany, acting on the instructions of Admiral Dönitz, were the generals Keitel, von Friedeburg (who had also been present in Reims) and Stumpf. Since Zhukov had a lower military rank than Eisenhower, the latter had a perfect excuse for not attending the ceremony in the rubble of the German capital. He sent his rather low-profile British deputy, Marshal Tedder, to sign, and this of course took some luster away from the ceremony in Berlin in favour of the one in Reims.[5]

As far as the Soviets and the majority of Eastern Europeans were concerned, the Second World War in Europe ended with the ceremony in Berlin on May 8, 1945, which resulted in the arms being laid down the next day, on May 9. For the Americans, and for most Western Europeans, “the real thing” was and remains the surrender in Reims, signed on May 7 and effective on May 8. While the former always commemorate the end of the war on May 9, the latter invariably do so on May 8. (But the Dutch celebrate on May 5.) That one of the greatest dramas of world history could have such a confusing and unworthy end in Europe was a consequence, as Gabriel Kolko writes, of the way in which the Americans and the British sought to achieve all sorts of big and small advantages for themselves – to the disadvantage of the Soviets – from the inevitable German capitulation.[6]

The First World War had ended de facto with the armistice of November 11, 1918, and de jure with the signing of the Treaty of Versailles on June 28, 1919. The Second World War came to an end with an entire string of surrenders, but it never did come to a peace treaty à la versaillaise, at least not with respect to Germany. (Peace treaties were in due course concluded with Japan, Italy, and so on.) The reason for this is that the victors – the Western Allies on the one side and the Soviets on the other side – were unable to come to an agreement about Germany’s fate. Consequently, a few years after the war two German states emerged, which virtually precluded the possibility of a peace treaty reflecting an agreement acceptable to all parties involved. And so a peace treaty with Germany, that is, a final settlement of all issues that remained unresolved after the war, such as the question of Germany’s eastern border, became feasible only when the reunification of the two Germanies became a realistic proposition, namely, after the fall of the Berlin Wall.

That made the “Two-plus-Four” negotiations of the summer and fall of 1990 possible, negotiations whereby on the one hand the two German states found ways to reunify Germany, and whereby on the other hand the four great victors of the Second World War – the United States, Great Britain, France, and the Soviet Union – imposed their conditions on the German reunification and cleared up the status of the newly reunited country, taking into account not only their own interests but also the interests of other concerned European states such as Poland. The result of these negotiations was a convention that was signed in Moscow on September 12, 1990, and which, faute de mieux, can be viewed as the peace treaty that put an official end to the Second World War, at least with respect to Germany.[7]

Notes

[1] German surrenders in Italy and on Lüneburg Heath: Germany Surrenders 1945, Washington, DC, 1976, pp. 2-3.

[2] Germans want separate surrender or at least gain time: Herbert Kraus, “Karl Dönitz und das Ende des Dritten Reiches”»,in Hans-Erich Volkmann (ed.), Ende des Dritten Reiches- Ende des Zweiten Weltkriegs: Eine perspektivische Rückschau, Munich and Zürich, 1995, pp. 4-5, 12; Germany Surrenders 1945, p. 6; Klaus-Dietmar Henke, Die Amerikanische Besetzung Deutschlands, Munich, 1995, pp. 687, 965-67; Helene Keyssar and Vladimir Pozner, Remembering War: A U.S.-Soviet Dialogue, New York and Oxford, 1990, p. 233.

[3] Germans profit from delay: Henke, op. cit., pp. 967-68.

[4] Questionable procedures in Reims: Gabriel Kolko, The Politics of War: The World and United States Foreign Policy, 1943-1945, New York, 1968, p. 387; Germany Surrenders 1945, p. 8.

[5] Ceremony in Berlin: Germany Surrenders 1945, pp. 8-9.

[6] Kolko-quotation: Kolko, op. Cit., p. 388.

[7] “2+4 negotiations”: Ulrich Albrecht, Die Abwicklung der DDR: Die «2+4 Verhandlungen »: Ein Insider-Bericht, Opladen, 1991.

Posted in GermanyComments Off on May 1945: Nazi Germany Surrenders, But… on May 7, 8, or 9?

The Fraud of War

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U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan have stolen tens of millions through bribery, theft, and rigged contracts.
Global Research
us-military

U.S. Army Specialist Stephanie Charboneau sat at the center of a complex trucking network in Forward Operating Base Fenty near the Afghanistan-Pakistan border that distributed daily tens of thousands of gallons of what troops called “liquid gold”: the refined petroleum that fueled the international coalition’s vehicles, planes, and generators.

A prominent sign in the base read: “The Army Won’t Go If The Fuel Don’t Flow.” But Charboneau, 31, a mother of two from Washington state, felt alienated after a supervisor’s harsh rebuke. Her work was a dreary routine of recording fuel deliveries in a computer and escorting trucks past a gate. But it was soon to take a dark turn into high-value crime.

She began an affair with a civilian, Jonathan Hightower, who worked for a Pentagon contractor that distributed fuel from Fenty, and one day in March 2010 he told her about “this thing going on” at other U.S. military bases around Afghanistan, she recalled in a recent telephone interview.

Troops were selling the U.S. military’s fuel to Afghan locals on the side, and pocketing the proceeds. When Hightower suggested they start doing the same, Charboneau said, she agreed.

In so doing, Charboneau contributed to thefts by U.S. military personnel of at least $15 million worth of fuel since the start of the U.S. war in Afghanistan. And eventually she became one of at least 115 enlisted personnel and military officers convicted since 2005 of committing theft, bribery, and contract-rigging crimes valued at $52 million during their deployments in Afghanistan and Iraq, according to a comprehensive tally of court records by the Center for Public Integrity.

Many of these crimes grew out of shortcomings in the military’s management of the deployments that experts say are still present: a heavy dependence on cash transactions, a hasty award process for high-value contracts, loose and harried oversight within the ranks, and a regional culture of corruption that proved seductive to the Americans troops transplanted there.

Charboneau, whose Facebook posts reveal a bright-eyed woman with a shoulder tattoo and a huge grin, snuggling with pets and celebrating the 2015 New Year with her children in Seattle Seahawks jerseys, now sits in Carswell federal prison in Fort Worth, Texas, serving a seven-year sentence for her crime.

How Obama Abandoned Iraq

Why the rise of ISIS and the fall of Iraq weren’t inevitable.

Additional crimes by military personnel are still under investigation, and some court records remain partly under seal. The magnitude of additional losses from fraud, waste, and abuse by contractors, civilians, and allied foreign troops in Afghanistan has never been tallied, but officials probing such crimes say the total is in the billions of dollars. And those who investigate and prosecute military wrongdoing say the convictions so far constitute a small portion of the crimes they think were committed by U.S. military personnel in the two countries.

Former Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction Stuart Bowen, who served as the principalwatchdog for wrongdoing in Iraq from 2004 to 2013, said he suspected “the fraud … among U.S. military personnel and contractors was much higher” than what he and his colleagues were able to prosecute. John F. Sopko, his contemporary counterpart in Afghanistan, said his agency has probably uncovered less than half of the fraud committed by members of the military in Afghanistan.

U.S. soldiers inspect damage to their armored vehicle after an near the village of Eber in Logar province, Afghanistan, on Sept. 26, 2009.U.S. soldiers inspect damage to their armored vehicle near the village of Eber in Logar province, Afghanistan, on Sept. 26, 2009. Photo by Nikola Solic/Reuters

As of February, he said he had 327 active investigations still under way, involving 31 members of the military. “You don’t appreciate how much money is being stolen in Afghanistan until you go over there,” said Sopko, who says price-fixing and other forms of financial corruption are rampant in Afghanistan.

These and other experts, as well as some of those who have pleaded guilty to criminal wrongdoing, point to some recurrent patterns in the corrupt activity, which in turn illustrate the special challenges created when a sizable military force is deployed abroad. Sometimes ill-trained military personnel were forced to handle or oversee large cash transactions, in a region where casual corruption in financial dealings—bribes, kickbacks, and petty theft—was commonplace. Commanding officers, they add, were typically so distracted by urgent war challenges that they could not carefully check for missing fuel or contractor kickbacks.

So far, officers account for approximately four-fifths of the value of the fraud committed by military personnel in Iraq, while in Afghanistan, the ratio was flipped, with enlistees accounting for roughly the same portion, according to the Center for Public Integrity’s tally. The reasons for the difference are unclear. But Sopko said he expects more officers to be investigated for misconduct in Afghanistan as the U.S. military mission there continues, so the ratio could change.

The U.S. Military Was No Match for Afghanistan’s Corruption

The Pentagon wasn’t just defeated by the country’s graft—the Pentagon made it worse.

Troops who had little or no prior criminal history, like Charboneau, say the circumstances of their deployments made stealing with impunity look easy, and so they made decisions that to their surprise eventually brought them prison sentences ranging from three months to more than 17 years. Many, like Charboneau, were savvy about the military’s way of doing things—her mother, her first husband, and her second husband were service members, according to a statement her lawyer, Dennis Hartley, filed on Jan. 30, 2014, before her sentencing.

They say that they knew of other military personnel who also broke the law, but without getting caught. Hightower convinced her to steal fuel from Fenty, Charboneau said, by pointing out that the troops at nearby bases “aren’t getting caught, so you shouldn’t have to worry about it.”

Retired Army Reserve Maj. Glenn MacDonald, editor-in-chief of the website MilitaryCorruption.com, said the volume and value of fraud committed by troops in Afghanistan and Iraq seem higher to him than what he recalled as a young soldier in Vietnam in the 1960s. “What you can make out of these [recent] wars is staggering. It’s an opportunity for anybody, even a noncommissioned officer, to become very rich overnight,” MacDonald said.

Many have probably been tempted, he said, because they saw others getting away with the theft of thousands or even millions of dollars.

Pocketing thousands in cash from illicit fuel sales

Military fuel in Iraq and Afghanistan has been a perennial target of theft during the past 14 years of war. In Afghanistan, fuel moved around the country in “jingle trucks,” tankers adorned with kaleidoscopic patterns and metal ornaments. At Fenty, for example, jingle trucks bearing fuel arrived every few days from suppliers in Pakistan, all driven by locals under contracts with the base. Officers at Fenty then distributed it to 32 nearby bases, with the largest ones using up to 2 million gallons of fuel a week.

A U.S. soldier sits in an MRAP vehicle as he prepares for an early morning mission at Forward Operating Base Fenty in Afghanistan on Dec. 19, 2014.
A U.S. soldier sits in an MRAP vehicle as he prepares for an early morning mission at Forward Operating Base Fenty in Afghanistan on Dec. 19, 2014. Photo by Lucas Jackson/Reuters

To describe the system as loosely controlled might be an understatement: Standard contracts allowed each driver to take seven days to bring the fuel to a destination that might be only a few hours away, according to Army Maj. Jonathan McDougal, who oversaw motor vehicle logistics in northeast Afghanistan in 2010 and 2011 from Bagram Airfield. “It was like they planned for something to go wrong with every convoy,” McDougal told the Center for Public Integrity.

Charboneau’s role in the Fenty fuel theft ring was simple. She ordered trucks to transport more fuel than needed, then filed fake records showing the extra fuel had been delivered to a base. After leaving Fenty in a convoy, the extra trucks diverted their loads to prearranged meeting spots, where buyers offloaded the fuel and paid in cash, with the proceeds divided later among Charboneau and her co-conspirators. The scheme worked—for a while—because the fuel storage amounts and truck delivery amounts matched (although of course the bases’ records of delivered fuel did not).

This represented, Charboneau said, “a big gap” in the fuel oversight system. And the rewards were enticing—about $5,000 in net profit from a single extra truckload.

One month after she joined the scheme, according to the government’s sentencing memo, filed on Jan. 15, 2014, in U.S. District Court in Colorado, her supervisor, Sgt. Christopher Weaver, jumped in. She described the widening of the conspiracy in instant messages intended for her sister in Colorado, sent using the screen name “dollface_kc”:

150504_POL_Dollface_KCAlthough prosecutor Mark Dubester said in the sentencing memo that Charboneau’s use of the term lmao (Internet slang for “laughing my ass off”) demonstrated that she “saw humor in the situation,” Charboneau said she did not. When she returned to Fenty, she said, Weaver pulled her aside and told her that he knew how everything worked, and while he had not made much money off of the scheme so far, it would be wise of her to keep her mouth shut.

“It was … one of those things that, ‘if you tell anybody, you’re probably going to be sorry,’” said Charboneau. “I was his subordinate. He was in charge.”

“Thereafter, the conspiracy continued with all three involved, and this is when the bulk of the thefts occurred,” according to the sentencing memo that Dubester submitted. Weaver met with Charboneau and Hightower each morning to decide which trucks would make legitimate deliveries and which trucks were “going to go get stolen,” Charboneau said in the interview.

If someone had simply asked more questions about the deliveries—such as “‘I need to know where you’re sending these 15 trucks. Oh, you don’t have a destination for these five?”—it would have been much harder to pull off the scheme, Charboneau said. She, Weaver, and Hightower were able to continue stealing as long as they did, she said, because they were the only three people entrusted with keeping track of where the fuel went when it left the base.

Digital monitoring could also have stopped theft at military bases, she said. Scanning the fingerprints of the drivers when they left Fenty and arrived at the destination bases, for instance, would have deterred them from selling it on the side, according to Charboneau.

Weaver pleaded guilty to counts of conspiracy and bribery on Oct. 10, 2012, and is now serving a sentence of three years and one month in a federal prison in South Dakota. His former attorney declined to speak on the record about the case. In a letter to Chief U.S. District Judge Marcia Krieger that Weaver filed with an October 2013 sentencing statement, Weaver wrote that he had originally taken the money to hire a lawyer because his “child’s mother was threatening to take my son away from me.”

“Of course, I took more than was needed,” he added. “I got greedy once I started.”

Hightower also pleaded guilty to conspiring to defraud the United States and was sentenced on Oct. 28, 2013, to two years and three months in prison. He is serving his term in a federal prison in San Antonio.

The thefts alone caused more than $1.5 million in losses to the United States, according to the plea agreement that Charboneau eventually signed on Sept. 5, 2013. Her attorney, Hartley, told the court that her crime had also humiliated her husband, whose own Army unit had learned about it.

Charboneau said she is now haunted by how “I was so proud to be in the military, [and then] doing what I did.” After seven years as a soldier, trained to respect and trust her supervisors completely, she said, it was “really hard” to find out that a superior was engaging in theft.

U.S. soldier prepares for a mission on Forward Operating Base Gamberi in the Laghman province of Afghanistan on Dec. 28, 2014.

U.S. soldiers prepare for a mission on Forward Operating Base Gamberi in Afghanistan on Dec. 28, 2014. Photo by Lucas Jackson/Reuters

Her advice to young troops deploying to Afghanistan today would be to “keep to themselves, learn the job that they need to learn,” and if confronted with a proposal similar to the one Hightower laid at her feet, just say no. “It wasn’t worth the forty-some-odd thousand dollars I made to be in prison for seven years, to be away from my … family,” she said.

Charboneau started serving her sentence in February, after a court-approved delay of five-and-a-half months, so she could briefly take care of her third child, Tate, who was born in July; all three of her children are now being looked after by her mother. In an email to the Center for Public Integrity, Charboneau wrote that she was adjusting all right to prison but missed her kids, especially her newborn. “[I]’m afraid most days he will forget me,” she wrote.

A tangle of emotions and crime

Court filings in more than 100 cases reviewed by the Center for Public Integrity show that many of the military personnel who wound up being convicted had earlier received honors and awards, and were well-regarded by their uniformed colleagues. Charboneau, for instance, won two medals for her service in the Fenty operations office. She received the first just months before she began stealing fuel with Hightower and Weaver.

So what makes such military personnel turn to crime?

The inspectors general for both war zones said criminal actions were provoked partly by the high volume of cash and resources flowing into the countries. “The more money you throw into a weak-rule-of-law situation, the more fraud you’ll see,” said Bowen.

Is America’s Longest War Really Over?

Even by the diminished standards of 21st-century warfare, the conclusion of combat operations in Afghanistan feels awfully anticlimactic.

Todd Conormon, a lawyer who served in Iraq in 2004 and now defends service members accused of wrongdoing, said that for some, the sheer pressure of combat “has a debilitating effect, and maybe makes it easier … to rationalize, ‘Well, I deserve this.’ ” Others grew used to seeing corruption all around them—like the widespread financial impropriety Sopko described—and convinced themselves that a little more wouldn’t interfere with the essential goals of the U.S. mission, Conormon said. For some, the urge to steal was wrapped up in other temptations, such as an illicit romance with another service member, according to court documents.

An Army captain from Tacoma, Washington, named Cedar Lanmon, who served in Iraq on two deployments from 2004 to 2007, accepted gifts worth tens of thousands of dollars in exchange for helping the Albanian owner of a company called “Just in Time Contracting” obtain a $250,000 contract from the U.S. military, according to a complaint filed against him on Nov. 15, 2007, by U.S. Army Criminal Investigative Division Special Agent Derek Lindbom. He wound up getting caught after his estranged wife—referred to by her first initial T in the complaint — called Lindbom’s agency to describe her husband’s misdeeds, financial and marital:

150504_POL_Lanmon

After Lanmon proposed that his wife join him and the new girlfriend in a “polygamous marriage,” according to the document, the couple “became estranged as husband and wife.” Lanmon served one year in federal prison and was released on Sept. 11, 2009. A Washington state phone number under his name had been disconnected when the Center for Public Integrity tried to reach him.

Other fraud schemes in Iraq and Afghanistan occurred with the full knowledge—and sometimes the complicity—of the service member’s spouse. U.S. Marine Corps Capt. Eric Schmidt and his wife, Janet, engaged in theft and contract fraud during his deployment as a contracting officer at Camp Fallujah in Iraq in 2008 and 2009. They netted a total of $1.69 million, according to the sentencing memo that Assistant U.S. Attorney Dorothy McLaughlin filed in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California on Feb. 3, 2011.

They were an efficient team. Eric Schmidt helped Iraqis pilfer equipment from the base, such as generators and air conditioners, and steered military reconstruction contracts to one local firm in particular, according to the sentencing memo.

Janet Schmidt arranged for U.S. companies to supply smaller quantities or substandard versions of the equipment that the chosen Iraqi firm was supposed to be producing, the sentencing memo said. When the products arrived in Iraq, Eric signed a Defense Department form stating that the shipments had been sent by the Iraqi firm. The firm then sent the U.S. government a bill Janet had prepared, and when it was paid, the firm shared the proceeds with the Schmidts.

150504_POL_Message0378

The scheme escaped notice during the year Eric Schmidt was deployed to Iraq, according to Daniel F. Willkens, a former head of investigations for Stuart Bowen. Schmidt even roped in two subordinate Marines to help him with the scheme, according to the sentencing memo. One of them, Staff Sgt. Eric Hamilton, received $124,000 from Schmidt and the Iraqi contractors for painting circles on generators in the military storage yard at Fallujah to show which ones they could take and then unlocking the gate when the contractors came to get them, according to charges filed in the U.S. District Court for South Carolina on July 27, 2011. Hamilton pleaded guilty to the charges on Aug. 10, 2011, according to his plea agreement.

Eric and Jane Schmidt were caught by chance. In 2009, five months after Eric Schmidt had returned to the United States and the couple had purchased costly property in California, Schmidt was arrested for assaulting his wife. While state police were inside the home, they noticed he had $10,000 in cash and that the bills were stamped with the imprint of an Iraqi bank.

Investigators from Bowen’s agency, the Pentagon, and the IRS were eventually able to confirm the money had come from Iraq and pieced together the rest of the story by examining the Schmidts’ financial transactions and correspondence. In the last report that Bowen’s agency submitted to Congress, in September 2013, the Schmidts’ case was described as the “biggest catch” of a special data mining team in his agency. In 2011, Eric Schmidt was sentenced to six years in prison while his wife was sentenced to one year of home confinement and two additional years of probation. The couple was ordered to pay the U.S. government $2.1 million in restitution, including income tax.

“Most of our cases were triggered by unexpected tips [revealed by] someone who had their conscience pricked and came forward,” said Bowen. Because the whistleblowers could be endangered by receiving public credit, they are rarely mentioned in court documents.

Sopko confirmed that most of the cases his agency successfully investigates come from tips, when service members call government corruption hotlines or when disgruntled representatives of military services companies come forward to complain that a rival seems to be getting all the prime contract awards. Charboneau’s scheme, for instance, was uncovered after Weaver talked about it with a sergeant with whom he was romantically involved, she said.

In Afghanistan, Sopko and his investigators typically use sources, undercover techniques, and firsthand testimony. Because recordkeeping in the country has been poor, he said, “we don’t just rely on paper.”

The contract fraud model

One exception was an elaborate contract-rigging scheme that culminated in the longest prison sentence given to any U.S. service member for fraud in Iraq or Afghanistan.

Then–Secretary of Defense Robert Gates conducts a town hall meeting with U.S. troops at the Forward Operating Base Bastion in  Afghanistan, on May 7, 2009.
Then–Secretary of Defense Robert Gates conducts a town hall meeting with U.S. troops at the Forward Operating Base Bastion in Afghanistan, on May 7, 2009. Photo by Jason Reed/Reuters

It began, according to court documents, as Army Maj. Eddie Pressley arrived at Camp Arifjan in Kuwait in October 2004 to work as a contracting specialist, ordering supplies for the base. Just before his arrival, he had received an Army Commendation Medal for exceptional service as a military recruiter.

His roommate at the base was another Army major, John Cockerham, who reviewed and awarded bids for Defense Department contracts to support the U.S. Army’s operations around the Middle East. By the time Pressley arrived, Cockerham had already been at the camp for three months—and had begun awarding contracts for goods such as bottled water in exchange for bribes, according to an indictment filed by a San Antonio grand jury against Cockerham on Aug. 22, 2007.

During a trial hearing on Dec. 12, 2009, Cockerham’s attorney, Jimmy Parks, said Cockerham agreed to participate in these schemes after a “lot of cajoling and convincing” by contractors, who told Cockerham that “our God requires that we bless you” for giving them “a chance to do business.” Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark Pletcher responded that the payments had not been blessings, “just bribes.”

We Never Should Have Left Iraq

A U.S. military presence could have mollified Sunnis and prevented the new civil war.

By March 2005, Pressley was likewise collecting bribes for awarding contracts and ordering extra goods under those contracts, according to the indictment that an Alabama grand jury filed against him on May 1, 2009. The men arranged for their wives to visit, collect the cash profits, and take the money home or send it to foreign bank accounts.

When an Army major and West Point graduate named James Momon arrived in the summer of 2005, Pressley and Cockerham took him for a ride in their jeep and described how their bribery scheme worked, according to descriptions of sealed testimony by Momon that federal prosecutor Peter Sprung and Pressley’s attorney, Clyde Riley, gave at February 2011 court hearings in Decatur, Alabama. According to Sprung, Momon said Cockerham and Pressley explained how they got the bribe money from the contractors, and how their wives and relatives helped move the illicit funds out of the country.

150504_POL_Ledger

Court records and published reports by Bowen’s agency do not detail how the investigation began, but in late December 2006, federal agents executed a search warrant on Cockerham’s San Antonio home and discovered what they said was a highly incriminating ledger.

Cockerham had a compulsion to write down “everything from his dreams to the amounts of money he took,” according to Willkens. He neatly listed the names of contracting companies that paid him bribes, along with the values of the bribes he had already received and those he expected to receive. Of the $15 million he eventually hoped to receive in bribes, Pletcher told the court in the 2009 hearing, Cockerham had designated 10 percent to be used for building a church.

In total, Cockerham, Pressley, and Momon collected at least $14 million in bribes, according to court documents detailing the conduct of which they were convicted. Cockerham ended up receiving 17½ years in prison, the longest sentence given to any service member convicted of fraud in the two countries. At least seven other troops in Iraq and Kuwait were convicted of participating in the conspiracy. A military-veteran-turned-contractor who investigators say played a pivotal role in the case, George Lee, pleaded guilty in February to paying a bribe to one of the lieutenants and is now in a Philadelphia jail.

The conspiracy—and the suicide of an Army officer who killed herself in 2006 after confessing to federal agents that she had accepted at least $225,000 in bribes from Lee—has garnered wide attention.

The challenges of bringing a successful case in the middle of war

Sopko and others warn that the steady flow of military reconstruction funds into the two countries will not soon subside, with the deployment of 10,000 U.S. forces in Afghanistan recently extended to 2016 and new aid and military personnel starting to return to Iraq.

But auditors working for Sopko’s agency face increasing restrictions in Afghanistan. Military officials have told Sopko’s agency that they would only provide civilian investigators access to areas within a one-hour round trip of an advanced medical facility so that the U.S. government can provide them “adequate security and rapid emergency medical support,” according to a report Sopko’s agency issued in 2013. As a result, in 2014, Sopko’s investigators were only able to access one-fifth of the country.

Moreover, because the U.S. embassy in Kabul is shrinking, Sopko has been instructed to cut his staff there by 40 percent, to just 25 positions, by mid-2016. Everyone in Afghanistan, including his on-the-ground investigators, Sopko wrote in his agency’s report, will struggle over the next few years “to continue providing the direct U.S. civilian oversight that is needed in Afghanistan.”

Investigators say that even now, some service members whom they strongly suspect of fraud wind up getting away without prosecution because investigators simply cannot muster the evidence to bring them to trial, or because they prefer to go after large cases while letting smaller ones go.

In Iraq, recalled Willkens, he and his fellow investigators were sure they had uncovered the culprits behind certain lucrative crimes, but were equally sure they would not be able to prove it because the proceeds were stashed in inaccessible overseas accounts.

Bowen and Willkens also complained that stiff penalties were not assessed as often as they wished. “I suspected that many of these guys that we caught were perfectly happy to go to prison for a few years,” because they had much more money stashed overseas in places with little banking regulation, such as Cyprus or Jordan, Bowen said. “Prison was the cost of doing business for them.”

Other oversight officials confirmed that the amounts of money the U.S. government receives from service members convicted of fraud is rarely commensurate with their crimes. Restitution or forfeiture are set at whatever levels the judge decides is deserved, within the sentencing guidelines. In bribery schemes, for example, it is “often difficult to define specifically the loss to the government,” according to Peter Carr, a U.S. Justice Department spokesman.

Part of the challenge, according to Willkens, is that fraud is seen as a white-collar, nonviolent crime. If the service members who stole millions from the U.S. government had taken the same amount during an armed robbery of a bank, he said, they would receive much higher penalties.

“Robbing the government is seen as a victimless crime,” Willkens added. “It’s not.”

Posted in USAComments Off on The Fraud of War

A Bold Proposal: Palestine Should Give Its Refugees Citizenship

NOVANEWS
Global Research
prison 3 Palestine

by Fateh Azzam

Palestine should confer citizenship on its stateless refugees and enter into bilateral agreements with other states to improve their situation – as citizens – wherever they reside. This proposal has pitfalls but it may be a powerful way to create facts on the road to freedom and rights.

Now that Palestine is recognized as a state, the next bold step for Palestine is to confer citizenship on its stateless refugees and enter into bilateral agreements with other states regarding the status of Palestinian citizens in each country. In making the case for such a move, Al-Shabaka Policy Advisor Fateh Azzam is well aware of the treacherous political waters that this proposal entails. However, he argues that it is worth considering from all its aspects, including the potential problems, as it could be a long over-due move to strengthen the legal status of Palestinian refugees – in particular the stateless refugees – and to improve their situation in their countries of current residence. It would also create facts on the ground, which may become the building blocks for national liberation.

 

 

Palestine’s Present Status and Authorities

Reports continue to circulate about a new effort to secure a UN Security Council resolution that would accord Palestine full UN membership and set out yet another road map for ending the Israeli occupation. While full membership of the UN is useful, it is not the only avenue open to Palestine to achieve the long-term aim of national liberation, freedom from occupation and a just and rights-based life of dignity for all Palestinians.

Palestine now enjoys a sufficient degree of recognition in the international community of states that it can take further steps towards strengthening its de facto and de jure existence and create new facts on the ground to enable solutions beyond the trap of the Oslo Accords. In fact, Mahmoud Abbas – acting on behalf of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) – began to go in this direction soon after the 2012 General Assembly vote to recognize Palestine as a non-member observer state, first by joining the UN Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), then by signing on to international human rights and other treaties, and, in the wake of the failed UN Security Council vote in December, by signing on to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.

It is important not to conflate the State of Palestine with the Palestinian Authority (PA), a mistake made possible by the Palestinian leadership’s own conflation of the two. In legal terms, the State of Palestine is a creation of the Palestine Liberation Organization, which the UN has recognized as the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian People. The PA is merely a construct of the Oslo Accords and has varying degrees of authority in parts of the West Bank and Gaza not including Arab Jerusalem.

In fact, Palestine is already a state, under both the declarative and constitutive approaches to state recognition in international practice. The PLO’s Declaration of Independence on November 15, 1988 in Algiers, as deposited with the UN, implied, ipso facto, acceptance of the pre-1967 armistice lines as borders, specifically encompassing Arab Jerusalem. As such, the entire territory of Palestine as declared in 1988 remains under Israeli occupation.

The Algiers Declaration further notes “The State of Palestine shall be for all Palestinians,” which is a straightforward designation, and it contains clear provisions for equality and non-discrimination on any basis. The Palestine National Council and the PLO’s Executive Committee are the Government of Palestine, which has been conducting relations with other states on an ongoing basis, including joining international organizations and acceding to treaties, as mentioned above.

The fact that Palestine gained overwhelming official recognition by a vote of the General Assembly in 2012 (138 votes in favor, 41 abstentions, 9 negative votes out of 193 member states) further supports is statehood status. Currently 135 countries formally recognize Palestine, mostly outside North America and the European Union (with the exception of Sweden and Iceland which do). Nevertheless, 17 European states actually voted for the General Assembly resolution. Many of them may soon recognize Palestine officially, as indicated by recent votes at the European Parliament, the French Parliament, and the UK Parliament, among others. This demonstrates that global support for an independent Palestine is reaching a critical mass that may be enough to get forward movement on other fronts as well.

What is proposed here is that the State of Palestine can begin conferring citizenship, in accordance with the Declaration of Independence, and in exercise of its sovereign right to do so as a state, albeit still under occupation and even though its citizens are unable yet to exercise their right to return to their homeland. Importantly, this would be the first act by the State of Palestine to give priority to its hitherto almost-forgotten constituency, the stateless refugees. There are of course benefits and risks.

The Palestinians’ Mosaic Legal Status

Palestinians live under diverse legal regimes depending on where they currently reside. In the territories of Palestine (West Bank, Gaza and Jerusalem), they are considered “permanent residents” by the Israeli occupation, which claims for itself the right to withdraw such residency at will – and does so on a regular basis. Palestinians have Israeli-issued identity documents on the basis of which, by virtue of the Oslo Accords, the PA provides them with “passports”. These are simply travel documents that replace Israeli-issued Laissez Passers; moreover, PA passports may not be issued to Jerusalem’s Arab residents. Jerusalemites and West Bankers may travel under Jordanian passports that have no Jordanian “national number”; these are similarly treated as travel documents.

None of these documents are representative of any citizenship anywhere, and Palestinians under Israeli occupation continue to be stateless persons under international law. This of course does not apply to the more than 1.5 million Palestinians that are citizens of the State of Israel and thus are not legally considered stateless or refugees. Interestingly, the PA has also issued their “passports” to some Palestinians in the Diaspora who use them for international travel except to occupied Palestine, where they are not recognized.

Most Palestinians in Jordan hold Jordanian citizenship, but are also refugees registered with the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA), except for approximately 100,000 stateless Palestinians from Gaza who are not. As such they are subject to subtle and not-so-subtle tests of “loyalty” and the scrutiny they live under sometimes results in the withdrawal of that citizenship, rendering them stateless.

The most vulnerable refugees are in Syria and Lebanon, where they are registered with UNRWA, and are considered both refugees and stateless persons. They live under a mixed-bag set of rights and restrictions that are different in each of those countries. In Egypt, the Palestinian refugees also remain stateless, but they are registered with the government rather than UNRWA and are subject to many restrictions in terms of the right to work, residence, education and other rights. 1 Syria, Lebanon and Egypt may issue their stateless Palestinians travel documents subject to a variety of restrictions. The vulnerability of stateless Palestinian refugees in those countries and across the region, including Libya, Iraq, and the Gulf, has been abundantly discussed elsewhere and needs no repetition here. They should be accorded first priority for Palestinian citizenship.

Some Steps Toward Implementing Citizenship

Many legal, political and logistical complications arise in implementing the granting of citizenship in each of the countries where Palestinians live. These complications intersect and overlap and need to be thoroughly thought through before action is contemplated. Some starting points are suggested below that require more serious in-depth consideration.

A first step would be to establish a comprehensive registry of all individuals and their families who may lay claim to Palestinian citizenship, as Sam Bahour has suggested. This would be collated from UNRWA and governmental records throughout the region and internationally, and include such data as whether they are stateless, registered as refugees, or citizens of any country. It would be a mammoth project, but it is necessary given that no such comprehensive roster exists in one place at this time, and it would help to prioritize applications by stateless Palestinians in the implementation of a citizenship process.

However, before implementing a process of conferral of citizenship, Palestine must enter into specific bilateral agreements with each of the countries that have already recognized it as a state, on the assumption that they are willing to take their bilateral relations forward. To date, these relations have been little more than cosmetic, such as elevating PLO offices to embassies, flying flags and entering into some limited diplomatic relations.

Such bilateral agreements could establish reciprocal arrangements on very specific terms based on the recognition of Palestinians as nationals of a friendly state. They would be designed to mutually accord preferential treatment to citizens of both states. Countries such as Lebanon and Egypt, for example, do not allow Palestinian professionals to work because of a lack of reciprocal arrangements for their own syndicated and other professionals. A bilateral agreement could remove this restriction by including a commitment by Palestine to ensure such reciprocal treatment once it is liberated from occupation.

Such agreements could also open the way to the exercise of other rights, such as ownership of property or business, access to health care and a number of other rights and privileges that Palestinian refugee-citizens may enjoy as a result of their own state negotiating on their behalf. In other words, the full gamut of mutual benefits and obligations can be put into play in such bilateral agreements, including taxation and social insurance schemes for refugee-citizens that may be underwritten or made a joint venture by both states for the benefit of Palestinian citizens and the host states as well. The arrangements may also include consular protection and legal representation.

In its bilateral agreements with Jordan and other countries where Palestinians are citizens Palestine may include the provision of dual citizenship, which is a common practice across the globe. Hundreds of thousands of registered refugees have acquired citizenship in many countries, although exact numbers are not available. Palestine can enter into bilateral agreements with those countries to allow for dual citizenship and define mutual benefits and obligations as per standard international practice.

Dual citizenship within the Arab world is more problematic. Preliminary information shows that nearly all Arab states do not recognize dual citizenship, although many tacitly accept it. Interestingly, the three countries with the largest stateless Palestinian refugee populations do recognize dual citizenship: Jordan, Syria and Lebanon. For Jordan, the only country where most Palestinians are citizens, this facilitates the discussion on duality of citizenship with Palestine, provided there is political agreement to do so and the current status and rights of Jordanian citizens of Palestinian origin are not jeopardized. Notwithstanding the bilateral agreements, however, the choice to apply for Palestinian citizenship should be an individual choice.

The Arab League’s Resolution 1547 (9 March 1959) exhorts Arab states to support Palestinians’ “nationality” by not granting them citizenship. Palestine’s granting of Palestinian citizenship would actually be consistent with this resolution because it would strengthen and formalize Palestinian nationality. Another resolution, the 1965 Casablanca Protocol of the League of Arab States calls on member states to provide Palestinians with the right of employment, travel, and entry and exit “whilst retaining their Palestinian nationality.” It accords Palestinians “the same treatment as all other LAS state citizens, regarding visa, and residency applications.” Palestine – a full member of the League – could seek the Arab League’s recognition of Palestinian legal nationality after gaining the support of a sufficient number of member states.

Citizenship, Refugee Law and the Right to Return

One becomes a refugee as a result of being “unable or unwilling” to return to where they may face a “well-founded fear” of persecution or serious harm, as defined by the 1951 Refugees’ Convention. The Palestinian refugees are more than willing but are “unable” to return because of Israel’s refusal to allow them to do so. In international refugee law, however, the status and rights of Palestinian refugees differ from other refugees in several ways.

Also according to the Convention, a refugee who acquires the nationality of a host state upon resettlement loses refugee status. This is not the case for UNRWA-registered Palestinian refugees, who are in any event excluded from the application of the 1951 convention. Notwithstanding, what is being proposed here is actually the reverse. Stateless Palestinians would be acquiring the nationality of their home country, Palestine, not of any host or foreign state. They remain refugees because of being unable to return to Palestine, and their home state – under occupation – can advocate on their behalf with the host countries for the gamut of rights and privileges agreed upon bilaterally.

In fact, refugee status does not negate the nationality of the refugee: One does not lose one’s nationality or citizenship due to being a refugee. One remains a national of one’s home state – unless their legal status of “citizen” is actively withdrawn, which is a practice seriously frowned upon by international law as it creates statelessness. They may lose what is called “effective” nationality or citizenship, i.e., the active link of the citizen to his/her own state and the ability to rely on its protection or access its services, such as renewing passports. This, however, is a matter of functionality and practice not affecting the refugee’s right to that nationality.

Indeed, the demand for exercising the right to return becomes even stronger when return is to a homeland of which one is a citizen. The acquisition of Palestinian citizenship can only strengthen this demand, as it legally establishes the already clear historical and geographic links of Palestinians to Palestine.

Without prejudice to the collective political claim based on the right to self-determination, it is important to note that the right to return is an individual right. It is tied intricately to each individual and family’s claim to return to a homeland and to specific homes and properties that were lost due to conflict and ethnic cleansing. It would not be up to the State of Palestine to compromise or negotiate the right to return away on their behalf without their express agreement. Each individual refugee has the right to decide whether to return or to accept compensation, or both.

Article 11 of the UN General Assembly Resolution 194 referred to “the refugees wishing to return to their homes…” confirming it as an individual decision. It should be noted, however, that the right to return was not established by Resolution 194, as is often claimed. Rather, it only confirmed customary law, reaffirmed by Article 13 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as a right to leave one’s country and return to it, and by consequent treaties and state practice, most recently in the Balkans.

One effect of granting citizenship is that it would take away the “bargaining chip” aspect of the right to return – whether to the refugees’ original homes or to the State of Palestine defined by the PLO Declaration of Independence as the West Bank, Gaza and Arab Jerusalem. Palestinian citizens certainly should be able to go to any part of Palestine that is liberated from occupation as a matter of a right of citizenship, not as part of a “concession” by Israel in the context of any future peace treaty.

Furthermore, this should in no way diminish the struggle for a right to return to “original lands and homes” which would continue to be a point of contention between Palestine and Israel and between Israel and individual Palestinians. Any negotiated proposals should be referred back to Palestinian citizens through referenda or other formats should they affect any aspect of their individual claims to return to their original homes or to compensation or both.

Other Obstacles and Questions

As discussed above, there is sufficient legal basis to support the granting of Palestinian citizenship, but the political implications of a move by Palestine in this direction could be daunting in terms of Israeli, Palestinian and Arab reactions and willingness to consider the options. Israel and the U.S. would certainly react negatively and even take some measures in retaliation, but there would be nothing new in that. Threats of increasing settlements or cutting off of financial support are made – and often implemented – every time Palestine makes a move outside of the Oslo framework.

Each of the countries with which Palestine has relations would present significant complications in the political negotiations towards implementation of this proposal, especially in the Arab region. Jordan and Lebanon have particular sensitivities regarding the Palestinians in their midst, and Palestinian negotiators will have to work with those countries to arrive at mutually acceptable terms and recognitions. These would not be easy negotiations. For example, Egypt’s current, irrational sensitivities to Gaza Palestinians and to Hamas would have to be addressed and surmounted, and the current crisis in Syria will block any movement for some time to come. Ironically, it may be useful to start negotiating with supportive non-Arab countries to slowly build the international consensus necessary to create acceptance closer to home.

There are also political landmines on the internal Palestinian front, particularly given the weakening national consensus on the broader issues facing Palestinians: Whether nominal sovereignty without control of the land is meaningful; the efficacy of international recognition of any sort given continued Israeli colonization; the very legitimacy of the Palestinian leadership, and the periodic calls for a retreat from Oslo, resignation of the Palestinian Authority and the handing over of occupied Palestine back to the Israeli occupation. The idea of granting citizenship is not intended to serve as a resolution of Palestinian political malaise, but only as a step to build on what now exists to achieve some limited progress in refugees’ lives.

In fact, it may very well be a helpful step as it might facilitate reform of the PLO through a reorganization of its capacity to represent all Palestinians, within and outside the recognized territories of the State. One may dare to imagine popular (not organizational or factional) elections to membership of the Palestine National Council, and a review of the selection/election of its Executive Committee, as well as a re-consideration of the relations between the PLO and the PA, all based on the right of each individual Palestinian citizen to choose his or her representatives.

The debates around Palestinians’ right to return also encompass many complications, and, to be clear, the granting of Palestinian citizenship to refugees does not resolve the issue and might even complicate its understanding. For example, would the demand for return be limited to the territories of Palestine accepted by the PLO only? As mentioned above, citizenship should not affect the individual claims that each Palestinian family has for its rights in 1948 Palestine, and it may even strengthen those claims. However, Israel may very well take the position that it has no obligation to accept a right of return to nationals of a “foreign” state. Yet this has been Israel’s position since 1948, and particularly since 1952 when it enacted its own citizenship law. This Israeli position has not diminished the Palestinian claim to the right of return, nor should it in future. One may even envision – in the wildest of possible dreams – dual citizenship with the State of Israel, provided that Israelis are willing to live at peace with their neighbors.

Additionally, there are logistical complications to enable the granting of citizenship. How would the process be organized and where would it be housed, centrally or within Palestinian embassies? Can the Palestinian Bureau of Statistics in Ramallah handle the initial population registry suggested above or would it have to be established elsewhere (and would it be safe from the next Israeli bombardment?) What are the modalities? Individual Palestinians and families would probably be expected to apply for citizenship, depositing papers and documents as proof of “belonging” to Palestine, but what level of scrutiny would be required? Where and how would documents, including identity cards and passports, be received and issued and by whom? How would it be overseen given the geographic spread? What about the financial requirements? These and many other questions arise.

Time to Create Palestinian Facts

The current political stalemate can only be broken by facts on the ground. Israel continues to create its own facts in settlements, house demolitions, land confiscation and many other policies that violate human rights. Palestine should also create facts, as it has been doing in the international arena – facts that may soon become part of the political and legal landscape of the struggle for national liberation.

State practice and inter-state relations form the backbone of international law, at the customary, treaty-based and UN Charter levels. New realities can be created through bilateral and multilateral arrangements that are taken within the parameters of established international norms. Palestine can create a new reality by granting citizenship depending on its success in negotiating its bilateral agreements with the countries that recognize it. Such a move may also strengthen the Palestinian position vis-à-vis the current political impasse. It does not necessarily create an alternative, but may help in consolidating international support and the critical mass necessary to support solutions beyond the Oslo quagmire.

The major and most important challenge is how to navigate the treacherous political waters within the region, and this requires full assessments of the advantages and risks of granting Palestinian citizenship. Regional and country studies and discussions are needed to unpack the detailed implications of granting citizenship by Palestine to the stateless refugees, eventually going beyond to all Palestinians.

Given the failures of Oslo, Palestinians now face a fundamental political question: Do we continue to struggle until we achieve national liberation, then put in place institutional structures and systems including citizenship rosters and the like? Or do we create facts on the ground, which then become the building blocks for national liberation? In the clear absence of political consensus on the first option, we may still be able to achieve something on the second, which is what this proposal suggests. It is hoped that it would at least merit careful and studied consideration and discussion.

The opinion of individual members of Al-Shabaka’s policy network do not necessarily reflect the views of the organization as a whole. 

Notes:

  1.  In 2004 and 2011, the Egyptian government amended nationality legislation to give citizenship to the children of Egyptian women married to Palestinians. 

 

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A 57 Billion Dollar Surplus for Canada’s Budget

NOVANEWS

The Government’s Massive Grab of Workers’ Money

Global Research
harper-jobs

Canada’s Finance Minister Joe Oliver delivered his budget in Ottawa on Tuesday April 21, and, as all budgets are political, this one not only sketched out the “major planks of the Tories’ fall campaign,” but its political nature is also characterized by what Prime Minister Harper has removed from it; a 57 billion dollar employment insurance surplus fund—as a result of a July 2014 Supreme Court of Canada ruling—thus allowing his government to circumvent the parliamentary system of budget scrutiny for such a large amount of money.

The July 2014 Supreme Court of Canada’s ruling between the Harper government and Quebec’s union Confédération des syndicats nationaux (CSN) was the result of the Harper government transferring $ 57 billion from the old Employment Insurance Account to the Prime Minister Office’s general revenues in 2010. Likewise, the CSN took up the battle on behalf of Canadians to prove that the Harper transfer was unconstitutional; however, the Supreme Court sided with the Harper administration, allowing Harper no less to decide what to do with the money at his own discretion, since the PMO’s budget is under no parliamentary scrutiny as is the annual budget of the government.

This circumventing of the parliamentary system of budget scrutiny by Harper has its roots in the late 1990s when Prime Minister Jean Chrétien increased premiums paid into the account while at the same time decreasing the amount paid out to workers. Chrétien’s decision led to a bloating surplus beyond what the Act called for, and this massive swelling alerted the then Auditor General Denis Desautels to go public. In a letter to Pierre Pettigrew, then Minister of Human Resources, dated July 23, 1999, Desautels stated, “I wish to draw to your attention that the surplus of the Employment Insurance Account has increased during the current year by $7.3 billion, to $21 billion.” However, nothing could stop the appetite of this government, and fortunately, Desautels did not give in. He eventually appealed to the Employment Insurance Commission for help.

After completing his ten years at the post (1991–2001), Desautels revealed more details about his request to the Commission in his “Summary of Audit Observations” March 31 2000. “In view of the size and the continued rate of growth of the accumulated surplus [by then 30 billion] in the Employment Insurance Account, it is important that the Commission clarify and disclose the way it interprets the Employment Insurance Act in setting premiums. Such clarification and disclosure are necessary to ensure that the intent of the Act has been observed.” Moreover, Desautels claimed the PMO had been notified earlier of this problem in his (Chapter 33) November 1999 Auditor General Report, but even with the help of the Commission, the Chrétien government refused to readdress the issue.

When Desautels was replaced by Sheila Fraser (2001-2011) Fraser took issue with the real “intent of the legislation.” In Fraser’s analysis, we find a more detailed history of when and why the amount began to escalate. In Chapter 11 of Fraser’s December 2002 Report, Fraser stated that the accumulated surplus, under Chrétien’s government, had grown “from $666 million in March 1996 to $40 Billion in March 2002.” In addition, we are informed that the Canada Employment Insurance Commission did attempt to hold Chrétien accountable by demanding a reduced rate of premium according to the spirit of the Act, especially Section 66, as Fraser notes. However, in May 2001, the law was amended by Chrétien’s government “to suspend section 66.” This suspension of section 66 later became an issue in a 2008 Supreme Court ruling.

Therefore, Chrétien not only ignored the spirit of the Act by giving birth to the monstrous amount in the Account, but when the Commission (and Fraser later) attempted to hold Chrétien accountable, according to Section 66, Chrétien just amended that too. This disregard is summarized succinctly in Fraser’s words, “Since 1996, the Employment Insurance Account has collected more revenues than the expenditures it had to pay […] In our (Fraser and her assistant, Barrados) view, it was Parliament’s intent that the Employment Insurance Program be run on a break-even basis over the course of a business cycle, while providing for relatively stable premium rates […] Therefore, we are unable to conclude that the intent of theEmployment Insurance Act has been observed [by the Chrétien’s government] in setting the premium rates for 2001 and 2002.”

It wasn’t until 2008 that the governments of Chrétien and Paul Martin were implicated in this massive grab of the worker’s money. The Supreme Court of Canada, according to the Canadian Press (May 02, 2013), ruled that the former Chrétien government “broke the law in revamping the employment insurance system [specifically with his amendment to section 66], transforming the EI premiums paid by workers and employers into a back-door, unconstitutional tax.”

However, there was no transfer of the $40 Billion to the PMO under the governments of either Chrétien or Martin. This transfer happened under the Harper administration in 2010, which sparked the legal battle between Harper and the CSN with the amount at $57 Billion dollars.

By excluding the $ 57 Billion in the current budget, for the first time in Canadian history a prime minister has been able to circumvent the parliamentary system of budget scrutiny for such a large amount of money.

What is Mr. Harper going to do with it? Will the PMO “Account” become his very own hedge fund? Or might Canadians pressure his government to finance an economic strategy to fight underemployment? The answers to these questions remain unclear at the moment, but one thing is very clear to me of what should be done; the money collected beyond what the law permitted should be returned to where it came from in the first place.

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