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Wednesday, June 30, 2010


 

The 60-year "exit strategy"


It's been a few years since I wrote about the (then) 57-year-and-counting "exit strategy" in Korea, as it pertains to the supposed "exit strategies" in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Now we learn that that "exit strategy" in Korea just got postponed another 5 years, as a preview of what we can look forward to in Iraq and Afghanistan:

In 2007 President Bush set up what was supposed to be the timetable for finally completing the handover, pledging to transfer war time control of operations for South Korea’s military to South Korea’s government in April 2012...President Obama has decided that the handover will be delayed until at least late 2017. Officials are saying that the move is a result of rising tensions with North Korea.
Substitute "Iran" for "North Korea" in that last sentence and you'll have a preview of why "we" just "can't leave" Iraq or Afghanistan in 2011 (or 2012 or 2013 or ...).


Thursday, June 24, 2010


 

American hikers arrested in Iraq, not Iran?


The Nation is out with a well-publicized report today that the three American hikers were not in fact in Iran when they were arrested by Iranian police, but were in fact in Iraq. Of course it's possible, but color me highly skeptical. To begin with, that these witnesses suddenly materialize nearly a full year after the incident? Questionable.

Then there's this from the article:

"Part of the mountain lies in Iraq and part in Iran, but except for a few watchtowers and occasional signposts, the border here is largely unmarked, although local residents are familiar with its boundaries.

"The witnesses, who followed the Western-looking hikers out of curiosity, say that around 2 pm on July 31, as the hikers descended the mountain, uniformed guards from NAJA, Iran's national police force, waved the hikers toward the Iranian side using "threatening" and "menacing" gestures. When their calls were ignored, one officer fired a round into the air. As the hikers continued to hesitate, the guards walked a few yards into Iraqi territory, where they lack jurisdiction, and apprehended them."
So the border is "largely unmarked" (and as far as we can tell is unmarked at this point, or else why mention that fact to begin with?), yet these witnesses, from some unspecified distance away from the hikers, can judge the location of the border with an accuracy of a few yards? Again, color me highly skeptical.


Monday, June 21, 2010


 

Historic day in Oakland: Israeli ship blocked from unloading


In an unprecedented action yesterday at the Port of Oakland, hundreds of activists succeeded in preventing the offloading of an Israeli cargo ship for 24-hours, in protest against the massacre of participants of the Freedom Flotilla and the blockade of Gaza in general. This was the first time such an action had been carried out against an Israeli ship in the United States, and the first time in the world such an action had occurred since the Freedom Flotilla massacre. In coming days, other actions, these initiated by unions, will occur in Norway, Sweden, and South Africa.

At 5:00 a.m., somewhere between 800 and 1000 activists began a spirited 5-hour picket in front of the four different gates of Berth 58 of the Port of Oakland. Workers of the ILWU who were expecting to offload the Israeli ship that day refused to cross the picket line, and at 9:00 an arbitrator ruled in favor of the union that attempting to cross the picket line would be unsafe for union members. Because the workers had been called in to work by the company, the workers were paid even though they did not work, and it is reported that this cost the company $20,000.

As a result, the company did not call the workers back in for the afternoon/evening shift, fearing a repetition. Approximately 300 activists returned (or, like myself, came for the first time) at 4 p.m. to begin a second picket of the four gates. Information had it that the company could still call the workers back in as late as 7 p.m., so the picket continued until that time, at which point complete victory in the 24-hour shutdown was declared. Richard Becker of the ANSWER Coalition, Jess Ghannam of the Free Palestine Alliance, Michael Eisensher of U.S. Labor Against the War, and Clarence Thomas of the ILWU addressed a short but spirited rally to close the days events.

Two statements read to the rally showed the international impact of the event. One, sent by the Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions said, "Your action today is a milestone in international solidarity from honest and brave U.S. workers and trade unionists. Greetings to you from the trade unionists and workers of Palestine … from the trade unionists and workers trapped in Gaza."

The second, from the Central of Cuban Workers (CTC), read "Our people have lived for 50 years of an unjust and abominable blockade by the U.S. government, so we understand very well how the Palestinian people feel and we will always be in solidarity with their just cause. Today we send you our most sincere support. Long live the solidarity of the working class! End the Blockade of Gaza! Respect and justice for the people of Palestine!"

The one-day action lead the local news. Video coverage from two different stations can be seen here and here, and the action received print coverage from the San Francisco Chronicle and San Jose Mercury News; coverage from participants can be read here and here.

Although the news coverage was generally decent, the media proved once again that there is no lower bound other than zero beyond which the corporate media won't give extended coverage to the opposition (presumably the "pro-massacre" viewpoint). In the afternon, when most media showed up, there were 300 pro-Palestinian activists and exactly two people across the street waving Israeli and U.S. flags. Nevertheless, all the media dutifully interviewed them and included their voices. The Mercury News carried two photos, one of each group (the one of the main rally carefully taken to show only a small group, so as not to emphasize the disparity). The Chronicle has a slideshow of 11 photos, 2 of which, including the first one which shows up beside the story on the web, show the pro-Israeli "demonstration".

Nevertheless, a huge victory, symbolic perhaps but still very real, for the movement for justice for the Palestinian people.


Tuesday, June 15, 2010


 

Talk about justice delayed


In 1972, 27 protesters in Derry, Northern Ireland were shot by British soldiers in what is known as the Bloody Sunday massacre (the subject of the U2 song "Sunday, Bloody Sunday"). 13 of them died.

26 years later, in 1998, the British Government ordered an investigation into the massacre.

Today, 12 more years later, the British Government released the results of that investigation, which finally acknowledges that the attack was "unjustified and unjustifiable," that the 13 dead were entirely innocent, and that British soldiers had fired first and even killed injured protesters trying to flee.

Perhaps in 2048 we can look forward to an Israeli government report acknowledging similar conclusions about their massacre of nine unarmed, innocent people about the Mavi Marmara (and the casualties inflicted upon dozens of others).


Monday, June 14, 2010


 

Massive mineral deposits in Afghanistan


A very interesting take on the latest revelations:
Did a 2007 report of massive mineral deposits in Afghanistan affect President Obama's 2009 decision to widen the scope of the Afghan war?

Is a recent New York Times article omitting that possibility?

...

Why the story broke in the NYT on Sunday could be linked to a desire by the Pentagon to create a reason why US troops might want to stick around in Afghanistan for some time to come. Things are not going very well on the ground and the promise of vast mineral riches would sound enticing.
Update: Just heard Ali Velshi on CNN say that the money from this discovery might be enough to pay for their war [emphasis added, and in case it's not clear, the "their" referred to Afghanistan, not the U.S. ruling class].


Sunday, June 13, 2010


 

The forgotten side of the blockade of Gaza


In a rarely seen example of reporting, AP gives its readers an actual description of the blockade of Gaza. The first sentence describes what most people are hopefully familiar with. The second, not so much:
As part of the border blockade, Israel restricts imports to Gaza, only permitting a few dozen types of foods and medicines, while barring raw materials, including construction supplies. Virtually all exports are banned.
Yet in the very same article, we can read the usual boilerplate: "Israel says the blockade is necessary to stop weapons reaching Hamas." How AP could write that with a "straight face" while simultaneously noting that the blockade bans exports is hard to comprehend.

Meanwhile, the ICRC has come out with a report on the effects of the blockade, and called for its end. One does have to wonder what took this humanitarian organization so long.


Thursday, June 10, 2010


 

Stephen Colbert: "No greater friend of Israel than yours truly"


Not once, not twice, but on three separate occasions Stephen Colbert had to utter that phrase on last night's show, along with two "repudiations" of "everything Helen [Thomas] said." The entire segment was framed around what the event has done to Israel, not around what it did to the (former) lives of nine people (and the continuing lives of their families), not to mention what the blockade is doing to the lives of a million and a half people of Gaza. "This attack handed Israel's enemies video footage they can use to try to make Jews look like bad guys in the eyes of the world," said Colbert, as well as "People died, and that is just bad for Israel."'

In that context, he admitted he didn't agree "100%" with what Israel had done (what percent do you agree, Stephen?) and then segued to the worst part of all - a softball interview with Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Michael Oren. Since I don't believe that transcripts exist of this show, I went ahead and made one. The interview is so full of slime I can barely bring myself to comment on it - I think (and hope) it speaks for itself:

Stephen Colbert: I just want to say that there is no greater friend of Israel than yours truly. I even have a cup to prove it (Cup reads: World's Greatest Friend of Israel). Now sir, did Israel have to do this? It seems like this was bad for Israel.

Michael Oren: Israel had to do it.

SC: Why did they have to?

MO: Israel had to do it because Gaza is under the control of Hamas. Hamas is not your friendly neighborhood organization. Hamas is a terrorist organization that has sworn to destroy the state of Israel. As you said, it's fired thousands of rockets into Israel, it's kidnapped our young soldier Gilad Shalit and held him four years in solitary confinement. We don't want to have this blockade, but if we let in the lettuce, what's going to get in is more rockets, machine guns. We try to give the lettuce from the boats...

SC: Wait a second. It goes lettuce, rockets, machine guns?

MO: Exactly.

SC: This is why I don't eat salads. But why, why can't you actually let in...today, the Israeli government announced that it was easing the blockade to allow in snack food like potato chips and soft drinks into Gaza. What made them suddenly less dangerous? Because if you look at America, it seems pretty grim what snack food has done to us.

MO: It's true. Listen. Gaza is a hostile entity. Alright. The government of Gaza has sworn to destroy us. We led in 100 truckloads of food and medicine every day. We don't feel particularly obliged to provide them with snack food. We did today, and Hamas rejected our snack food. Our pretzels were not good enough for Hamas.

SC: Now why not support an international investigation into this incident? Why does Israel have to do it themselves? Why not international observers?

MO: Just like American soldiers would not like the Libyans or the North Koreans judging their actions in Afghanistan and Iraq, our people don't want Libyans and North Koreans judging out acts.

SC: But this is different. Civilians were killed here.

MO: Civilians unfortunately can get killed everywhere but here...

SC: But Americans don't kill civilians. We have smart bombs. They arrive at someone's house, ring the doorbell, ask for I.D., then if the terrorist identifies themselves, we get the women and children out of the house, we pack up all the breakables, allow the person to make peace with their God, and then explode, then everyone else is resettled someplace pretty.

MO: The people on this particular boat were 70 hired thugs from a radical Islamic organization that had sworn to destroy the state of Israel.

SC: But were the women and children also thugs?

MO: But they were not killed.

SC: But they could have been killed.

MO: We have encountered many flotillas trying to get through, including five of the six ships in this flotilla, were all taken without incident, without any casualties whatsoever. It was only on this one ship which had been taken over by this radical organization where our guys, who came on board expecting to encounter peace activists, encountered these people armed with clubs, knives, and apparently guns as well. They were shot, some of our boys, and they had to defend themselves.

SC: How then, given the situation right now, do you think there is a chance for peace?

MO: I think there is a great chance for peace, and we're willing to take the risk for peace, but as you talked about before, the landmines, when we go down that path to peace, we make sure it's not a path lined with landmines.

SC: Now before we go, I just want to say that I repudiate when Helen said. She's a friend, but I repudiate everything she said. "Go back to Poland, go back to Germany." That's ridiculous. Israel is for Israelis. If anything, the Palestinians should go back to where they came from. Do you agree?

MO: I do not agree.

SC: Do you agree sir, it's time to get them back to wherever that was?

MO: I don't agree. I think there's room for both of us to share this homeland. Palestinians living in their homeland, Israelis living in their homeland, in a position of permanent and legitimate peace.
As I said, for those of you (everyone, I hope) who has read any of the legitimate (i.e., not sourced to the Israeli military or government) accounts of what happened, you know what a load of rubbish almost every word coming out of Oren's mouth is, and you can judge for yourself Colbert's "hard-hitting" cross-examination. But there is one very subtle thing in this interview you might miss - this: "We don't feel particularly obliged to provide them with snack food."

Now there are two things about that statement worth noting. First, of course, is that it was the Freedom Flotilla that was bringing supplies to Israel, Israel wasn't "providing them" with anything. But second, we in the pro-Palestinian movement often argue that Gaza is the "world's largest open-air prison." And of course Israel's supporters would pooh-pooh that. But what else can you call it when the Israeli Ambassador openly admits that they get to decide what food the people of Gaza can eat? Isn't that exactly what happens in a prison? (Actually, prisons are more lenient, since outside visitors like the Flotilla can bring in foods the prison itself doesn't serve)

Some will be thrilled that Colbert actually alluded to the "right to return." He did, but I'm guessing the allusion went right over the heads of 95% of his audience, who have never even heard the words, much less a discussion of the subject. As for Michael Oren, he might want to acquaint himself with a little history to learn exactly where the "homeland" of the Palestinians is.

I have tried mightily to find a way to contact the Colbert Report to issue my "demands" that they have on Paul Larudee or Huwaida Arraf or someone who can provide the truth to Oren's lies, but have been utterly unsuccessful. If anyone has any information, please share it in the comments.

Update: Add in today's "news shocker" from McClatchy - official Israeli government document admits the blockade is an illegal act of collective punishment. OK, the document doesn't use the word "illegal."


Wednesday, June 09, 2010


 

The Israeli blockade of Gaza


In case anyone needs more proof that Israel's blockade of Gaza was (and still is) first and foremost about imposing collective punishment on the people: "Israel is easing its Gaza embargo to allow snack food and beverages into the Palestinian enclave. As of next week, Israel will allow a wider variety of food, such as potato crisps, biscuits, canned fruit and packaged humous, as well as soft drinks and juice, into the Gaza Strip."

And if you needed more proof that in enforcing the blockade, Israel committed countless acts of armed robbery, listen to two Australian journalists describe on Democracy Now! how Israeli commandos stole ("confiscated") $60-$80,000 worth of electronic equipment from them while commandeering the ship they were on, whose passengers, like those on all ships except the Mavi Marmara, provided only passive, not active, resistance to the takeover. Also note their observations that the Israelis A) knew exactly who they were; and B) had as their first priority shutting down communication and photography, rather than searching for alleged weapons or even taking control of the ship itself.


Monday, June 07, 2010


 

Israeli lies


There have been a number of well-publicized (ok, strike that, "well-publicized everywhere but the corporate media) incidents of out-and-out lies and fabrications being propagated by the Israeli military and government in their attempt to sway things their way (these are lies over and above the "basic" ones about Israel "defending" itself or their commando assault forces being "ambushed" and "lynched"). Claims that people on the ship repeatedly shouted "Go back to Auschwitz" based on crudely doctored audio tapes, claims that there were 40 "terrorists" on board, etc., have all been retracted, but all had their effect in both whipping up sentiment within Israel and providing "ammunition" for U.S. media and politicians to defend the indefensible.

But on going over some papers that came while I was away, I found the one that perhaps takes the cake. It's from an AP story that appeared in my local paper on May 31, the morning after the event, headlined "Report: Israeli ship attacks activists/At least two killed in flotilla headed to Gaza." And what do we read in this article, after first reading about the reports sourced to Turkish TV and Al Jazeera? This: "The Israeli military denied today that its forces attacked the boats."

Now why, you may ask, would they do that, when it is completely obvious that the truth would be known within hours? Because they are habitual liars? Well, they are, but they don't just lie for lying sake. They lie for a reason. We can guess that in this case, they hoped to delay the international outcry and pressure on them for a few hours, enough to get complete control of the situation and have the boats being towed to Israel.

With completely obvious lies like this being fed to the press, why would the press ever give the slightest credibility to anything coming out of the mouths of the Israeli military (or government)? You know the answer. It's the same reason that they continue to print everything the U.S. military and government have to say.


 

Justice delayed AND Justice denied


[Catching up on a story that happened while I was away and preoccupied with other things]

The New York Times reports:

The American military on Saturday released a scathing report on the deaths of 23 Afghan civilians, saying that “inaccurate and unprofessional” reporting by Predator drone operators helped lead to an airstrike in February on a group of innocent men, women and children.
The U.S. government and its agents killed 23 innocent people. There is a "scathing" report assigning blame. So of course, there are real consequences, right? Oh, right: "four American officers, including a brigade and battalion commander, had been reprimanded, and that two junior officers had also been disciplined." "Disciplined." Probably sent to bed without dessert or something.


Saturday, June 05, 2010


 

Shock


I'm a long time leftist, critic of capitalism and imperialism. It takes a lot to shock me. But I have to say in the last week I have been shocked. Not by the actions of the Israeli government (yes, the government, who planned and authorized this operation, not some rogue commander or commando unit). Virtually nothing, possibly with the exception of using nuclear weapons, would shock me about Israel's actions. But what has shocked me is the American reaction, specifically American ruling class reaction, politicians and media alike. I've been to one spirited demo in Washington, D.C. already, and am headed to another in San Francisco today, and I'm well aware that activists (including myself of course) are outraged, but I really have no way to judge the reaction of the general public. But the widespread not just acceptance, but aggressive defense of Israel's actions, on the part of the ruling class, that I must say does shock me.

My view is a little skewed because I have been in the east for a few days and reading the New York Times. In three successive days the letters to the editor ran something like 5-2, 4-0, and 4-1 in defense of Israel. Now I'm not foolish enough to think that is the actual proportion of the letters they received, which is precisely my point. That, along with a similar skewing of op-eds (I think I only saw one that was mildly critical of Israel) shows me the ruling class circling the wagons.

After the Israeli invasion of Gaza in the winter of 2008-2009, Norman Finkelstein wrote a book entitled "This Time We Went Too Far." But it wasn't true. The other day I saw a similar headline about the latest atrocity - this time, said the headline, Israel has gone "too far." But it increasingly appears as if there literally is no bridge too far as far as the American ruling classes position on Israel goes.

Will these latest events bring about change? I actually believe they will, some loosing of the blockade of Gaza. Maybe they'll start to allow in chocolate, or toys. So maybe this has been a footbridge too far. But not a real bridge. That's going to take a lot more of us in the streets raising our voices in protest, so I'll sign off now so I can go be one of them.


 

Violence (and language)


An article in Al Jazeera unfortunately quotes an Israeli military statement, with no countervailing statement (a result, no doubt, of Israeli censorship, but still inexcusable) about the just-completed seizure of the Rachel Corrie aid ship:
"There was no violence or injuries amongst the soldiers or crew."
But this is false. It may (or may not) be true that none of the passengers were beaten, hit, or even pushed. But seizing a ship and its passengers and cargo at gunpoint is by itself an act of violence (regardless, by the way, of whether the robber intends to sell, keep, or even give away some or all of what was taken). In U.S. law, it would armed robbery, a felony. And holding people captive at gunpoint and taking them somewhere against their will is also an act of violence, known as kidnapping, another felony.

By the way, in case you haven't noticed, another statement from an Israeli government spokesperson confirms, not for the first time of course, that Israel is officially occupying Gaza, whether any Israelis are living within Gaza's borders or not:

"The people on board will be taken care off in accordance with Israeli law, as they have approached Israel illegally."
Of course they did no such thing. They were approaching Palestine, not Israel. Only if Gaza is Israeli-occupied territory does her statement make any sense whatsoever.


Thursday, June 03, 2010


 

A simple question


The headline reads: "Israel Rejects Calls for International Probe of Flotilla Raid". But this massacre occured in international waters. How on earth do they have any say whatsoever over an international probe of an event that occured in international waters?

Bonus question: three days after Iran, or North Korea, or some other target of the "West" had brutally (4 shots in the head for the one American victim) killed even one person, would the incident have vanished from the front page of Google news?


Tuesday, June 01, 2010


 

Outrage


If you aren't outraged enough at Israel's terrorist murder of 10-20 unarmed humanitarians on the high seas, try reading the lead editorial in the Washington Post today. First comes this:
We have no sympathy for the motives of the participants in the flotilla -- a motley collection that included European sympathizers with the Palestinian cause, Israeli Arab leaders and Turkish Islamic activists. Israel says that some of the organizers have ties to Hamas and al-Qaeda. What's plain is that the group's nominal purpose, delivering "humanitarian" supplies to Gaza, was secondary to the aim of provoking a confrontation.
How do I detest thee? Let me count the ways. "No sympathy" for people delivering aid to a blockaded people? Are you kidding me? And then quoting Israel, without the slightest proof, about ties not only to Hamas (which might be plausible) but to Al Qaeda no less? And, last but not least, putting "humanitarian" in quotes. As if even the "worst" thing they were bringing, concrete to rebuilt the thousands of houses destroyed by Israel, is not a humanitarian gesture.

But if that wasn't bad enough, try this on for size:

So far there's been no indication the boats carried missiles or other arms for Hamas.
So far!!! As if A) there was ever the slightest indication that such arms shipments were involved, especially considering the Free Gaza movement is led by pacifists; and B) if there were even a pea-shooter on board, as if Israel wouldn't be showing it off proudly to the world's media. Indeed, even Israel has admitted that the only two guns found in the possession of the activists were guns taken from Israeli commandos, that is, there were no guns on board before the Israelis brought them there.

Disgusting.

Update: And for an extra measure of outrage, try this: An American activist lost her eye in a demonstration in the West Bank yesterday, shot in the face with a tear gas canister.


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