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Monday, July 31, 2006


So much to read, so little time

You can't spend all your time reading; if you did, it wouldn't leave any time to act. But here's a must-read article on the Qana massacre and more by Israeli writer Jonathan Cook. Among the many points he makes, there's at least one I was meaning to write about today. News reports all excuse the Israeli atrocities by referring to how Israel has "ordered" Lebanese to leave the villages of southern Lebanon. And the question you don't hear asked is, "who the hell gave Israel the right to 'order' the Lebanese people to do anything?"

Update: On a different, but certainly not unrelated, subject, over lunch I listened to part of an interview between a FOX News anchor and Joseph Cirincione of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. As with literally all such discussions on American TV (and in the corporate print media), when the subject turned to Iran, the question was not whether Iran was pursuing nuclear weapons, but when they would have them. I then happened on Iran's Ambassador to the UN Mohammad Javad Zarif on CNN, speaking to the Security Council this morning against the resolution demanding that Iran cease enriching nuclear fuel. It was a very interesting and informative speech, which as Iran has done on previous occasions, categorically denied that Iran has any intention of developing nuclear weapons. Zarif skewers the hypocrisy of the Council, highlights the aggressive behavior of nuclear-armed Israel, discusses the Iran-Iraq war, and much more, all in a very reasoned tone (which of course got him nowhere; the resolution was subsequently passed, 14-1). All but the very end is online here and here.

Sunday, July 30, 2006


Once again, in case you forgot:

The "other front" of Israeli aggression:
The Israel Defense Forces has killed 97 people in the Gaza Strip since the fighting began in Lebanon. Most of them were armed, and the rest were civilians - children, women, men, the elderly. The large number of fatalities suggests the IDF is engaged in indiscriminate killing under the cover of the war in the north.
That last sentence, by the way, isn't one you'll read in an American newspaper or hear on an American network. This is from an article in Ha'aretz, and it's a news article, not a column.


The latest chutzpah

I don't see it online anywhere, but CNN is now dutifully reporting Israel's explanation of its "mistake" in this week's murder of four U.N. observers: you see, they were using "old maps." Never mind that the U.N. post had been in the same place since 1978.

As for all those phone calls the U.N. observers made to Israel to tell them to stop the shelling and bombing? I guess they must have called a wrong number or something. CNN didn't ask the question. Of course, this is the same CNN who was also telling its viewers that the Qana massacre represented a "PR offensive" by Hizbollah rather than a war crime, with the strong implication that Hizbollah fighters had deliberately lured Israel into killing 60+ civilians in order to exploit their deaths. An implication which, while not quite as reprehensible as the actual act itself, is well up there.



I'm not given to the usual silly name-calling found on a lot of other blogs, but for years I've made an exception for one person - U.S. Secretary of State CondoLIEzza Rice. And here's why:
"In the wake of the tragedy that the people and the government of Lebanon are dealing with today, I have decided to postpone my discussions in Beirut," Rice said.
Oh, "you've decided," have you, Condi?
Coming at a particularly sensitive point in negotiations to end the conflict, the attack on the village threw the painstaking process of building toward an agreement into turmoil. Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora said he would not hold talks with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice until a ceasefire is called.

"There is no place on this sad morning for any discussion other than an immediate and unconditional ceasefire as well as an international investigation into the Israeli massacres in Lebanon now," Siniora told a news conference in Beirut.



CNN's "title" for their news coverage of events in Lebanon and Gaza is "Crisis in the Middle East." I flipped past FOX News this morning and they're talking about "how to reduce tensions" in the Middle East. When are these people going to acknowledge that what's happening isn't a "crisis" or "tensions"? It's a fucking war. People aren't killed by "crises" or "tensions."

These are, by the way, the same people who have no problem referring to a "war on terror."


Qana II, revisited

Earlier this week I likened the Israeli murder of four UN workers in Qana to the Qana massacre committed by Israel in 1996 (106 killed), and just yesterday I talked about a Guernica happening every single day. In both cases I did say that that was only true qualitatively, not quantitatively.

Unfortunately, it appears that Israel has now nearly erased that distinction, at least with respect to Qana:

At least 54 Lebanese citizens were killed, at least 37 of them children, in the IAF strike on a building early Sunday, Lebanese police said. Dozens of others were reportedly trapped in the rubble. Several houses collapsed and a three-story building where about 100 civilians were sheltering was destroyed, witnesses and rescue workers said.
The Lebanese know that many parties are to blame:
Protesters angry over an Israeli air strike in Qana that killed up to 50 refugees broke into the main UN building in the Lebanese capital Sunday, burning UN and American flags.

Outside, demonstrators chanted slogans against Israel and the United States and denounced Arab governments for not doing enough to stop Israel's 19-day bombardment of Lebanon.
The British response is just so...British:
"It's absolutely dreadful, it's quite appalling. Undoubtedly today's events will make things worse at least in the short term," [British Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett] told Sky News. "We have repeatedly urged Israel to act proportionately."
What do you suppose would be "proportionate"? Maybe if they only killed five people in Qana, not 50?

Hugo Chavez, meanwhile, used slightly different language:

"Israel is perpetrating the same acts against the Lebanese that Hitler perpetrated against the Jews - it is killing children and hundreds of innocent civilians."
Of note is that he made those remarks while visiting Iran.

Meanwhile, the U.S. continues to pour weapons into Israel, just to make sure no one can miss its role in this war (not to mention the junior role of the UK):

Two US cargo aircraft carrying weapons for Israel are due to make stop-overs at a Scottish airport over the weekend with the approval of the British government, airport authorities said Saturday.
Killing civilians is a crime! Iraq -- Lebanon -- Palestine!

Saturday, July 29, 2006


What's happening in Lebanon is not just a war

It's Guernica. Every single day.

Israeli warplanes blasted bridges and demolished houses, killing seven people, including a woman and her five children.

The woman and her children were crushed in their home by a strike outside the market town of Nabatiyeh, which also killed a man in a nearby house, Lebanese security officials said. In another southern town, six bodies were dug from the rubble of a house destroyed by a strike Friday.
Maybe not quantitatively. But definitely qualitatively.

And the U.N., where Picasso's famous picture hangs, does nothing. On one of the trails I run, a house which backs up to the trail has for years had a banner on the fence facing the trail: "U.S. out of the U.N." It's an old (and still current, I suppose) right-wing demand. I'm beginning to come around to that way of thinking. Maybe the U.N. could actually accomplish something if the U.S. (and their junior partners, a.k.a. "Yo Blair") weren't part of it.


Destroying the village in order to save it

It's more than a cliche. It's official U.S. and British policy:
President Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair on Friday rejected calls for an immediate cease-fire in Lebanon, saying that today's violence will lead to a better future for the Middle East.
I love the headline on the article:
Bush, Blair stand behind Israel
Yeah, just like they stand behind the troops in Iraq. Way behind.


More Israeli mindset

Dion Nissenbaum interviews a soldier on the Israel-Lebanon border:
Rafael Ezra's artillery is pounding unseen targets miles away with blast after deafening blast. But the 21-year-old Israeli soldier isn't too concerned about whether the shells are killing civilians or Hezbollah fighters.

"Most of the people killed in Lebanon lived in Hezbollah neighborhoods," Ezra said while getting his hair shaved and listening to Arabic music as shells soared over a nearby hillside. "So I think they need to choose better where they live. People should know better."
There's one statement in the article I consider strange:
The latest conflict with Hezbollah has united Israel in a way that the fight against Palestinian militants never has. After two weeks of battles that have killed 33 Israeli soldiers, public support for the military action remains above 80 percent.
United Israel? Two weeks into a shooting war that most people believe was started by Hizbollah and that has killed some Israeli civilians and one-fifth of the country does not support the military action? I'd call that remarkable. I haven't seen any polls, but I wouldn't be surprised if the number of Americans who oppose what Israel is doing is lower than that. Of course, like the chickenhawks sending American soldiers off to die in Iraq, it's easy to support a war when someone else is doing the dying. Maybe that's why the people in the post below this one are out demonstrating; they understand that they might be the next ones sent off to die in a war against the people of Lebanon.


Demonstrating against the Israeli/U.S. wars

Some 200 left-wing activists marched outside the house of IDF Chief of Staff Dan Halutz at the Tzahala neighborhood in Tel Aviv Saturday evening, to protest the killing of civilians in Gaza on Friday.

The demonstrators chanted slogans such as "Tzahala residents, there's a murderer in your neighborhood," and raised signs calling on the government to "put a stop to the murder of civilians" and stating, "Halutz is a killer, the intifada shall prevail." Activists also shouted, "neighbors, ask Halutz why he's killing children and how many."

Dana Olmert, the daughter of Israel's Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, also took part in the demonstration.
I don't quite understand why they weren't protesting the killing of civilians in Lebanon as well. Chances are they were and the article is inaccurate. I was at a demonstration against the wars (emphasis on the plural) yesterday afternoon in San Jose. I hope you all are doing the same, and are planning to participate in (or organize) bigger ones on Aug. 12.

Here are two chants from yesterday for you to use, should you need them:

Occupation is a crime
Iraq -- Lebanon -- Palestine!
Killing civilians is a crime
Iraq -- Lebanon -- Palestine!

U.S. planes! U.S. bombs! Israel [or US] out of Lebanon!
"Halutz is a killer, the intifada shall prevail" might not work as well. Maybe it rhymes in Hebrew. :-)

Friday, July 28, 2006


Police infiltration

From the story, it's a little unclear if we're talking about agents provocateur, but definitely agents:
Two Oakland police officers working undercover at an anti-war protest in May 2003 got themselves elected to leadership positions in an effort to influence the demonstration, documents released Thursday show.

The extent of the officers' involvement in the subsequent march May 12, 2003, led by Direct Action to Stop the War and others, is unclear. But in a deposition related to a lawsuit filed by protesters, Deputy Police Chief Howard Jordan said activists had elected the undercover officers to "plan the route of the march and decide I guess where it would end up and some of the places that it would go."
This is a rather bizarre story:
Undercover Officers Nobuko Biechler and Mark Turpin had been elected to be leaders in the May 12 demonstration an hour after meeting protesters that day.


How to fight anti-Semitism

A lot of the people who unquestioningly defend anything Israel does, do so because they think in doing so they are somehow fighting anti-Semitism. The truth as, as I wrote recently, it is Israel's behavior which is probably doing the most to sustain and increase anti-Semitism in the world, as this tragic event demonstrates:
A man walked into a Jewish organization Friday afternoon and opened fire, killing one person and injuring at least five others before he was arrested, officials said.

Staff members said they overheard him saying "'I am a Muslim American, angry at Israel,' before opening fire on everyone."
Did this man have anti-Semitic attitudes before the most recent Israeli actions? I have no idea. But there can be no question that Israel's actions have immeasurably increased the liklihood of people acting on anti-Semitic attitudes in such a horrible way.

It might also be argued that it is the repeated insistence of Israel's defenders that criticism of Israel is anti-Semitism that caused this man to act not against Israel, but against Jews (I am assuming the people working at the Jewish Federation were Jewish; that generally seems to be the way these things go). For all we know, these particular Jews may well have been critical of Israel. But since Israel's defenders have repeatedly told the world that Israel=Jews and Jews=Israel, this man may be excused for thinking that was so.


The Israeli mindset

A very interesting view into the mindset of the Israeli military, from Ha'aretz. Here's an excerpt:
If there are doubts in the IDF regarding the necessity of the war, they are not being harbored by the base commander or the squadron commander, Lieutenant Colonel K. Hezbollah wants to throw us into the sea, they say, Hezbollah fires from places where there are civilians, and the IDF that is fighting it is "the most moral army in the world." It's as simple as that.

Every case of civilian deaths - "the uninvolved" is the preferred label today in the IDF - has an explanation. Civilians who were killed in the bomb shelter of their home were attacked because their home was found to be a "terror target," civilians who were killed on the highway while fleeing the villages near the border with Israel were killed because their car was "incriminated" for some reason or other. And besides, sometimes there are mistakes. As in the case of Marwahin.

Marwahin is an important case. Twenty-three civilians were killed there, including about 18 children, when they fled from the village near Israel's border, after leaflets calling on the residents to leave their homes were dropped there. Colonel A. says that in that case it was simply a mistake. The pilot was told to hit a certain target, and he made a mistake.

Foreign journalists have reported many cases in which entire families were killed while trying to flee after receiving IDF warnings. A Western official who visited Lebanon recently says that the phenomenon of aerial attacks on the highways is very common. Only UN or Red Cross vehicles can move on the highways in relative security, and even that only after coordination with the IDF at least 12 hours in advance.

The villagers, of course, do not have this option. "The villagers who want to leave their homes are completely defenseless," says the official. "They are in danger of an attack on the highway. Nothing helps. Not a white flag, nothing. That's why many stay behind. They're afraid to stay but even more afraid to travel."

Colonel A. is not familiar with the problem. "The only vehicles that are attacked are vehicles that open fire. I am not familiar with refugee vehicles being targeted."

The only vehicles that are attacked are those that open fire?

Lieutenant Colonel K: "The army does not attack vehicles that we know are civilian vehicles. On the other hand, every vehicle that is attacked undergoes a process of incrimination. Sometimes there is circumstantial evidence that incriminates the vehicle, certain criteria that this vehicle meets and that cause the person making decisions to decide that this vehicle is an incriminated vehicle."
Well worth reading the whole thing.


Floyd Landis

Since I've written twice in recent weeks about Floyd Landis, I have to break from the war news to write about him once again, while he's under attack in the media for alleged "doping." The rush to judgment in his case has been incredible; evidently "innocent until proven guilty" isn't just an outmoded standard for Lebanese, Palestinian, Iraqi, and Afghan victims of U.S./British/Israeli imperialism (there -- I got the required political tie-in!). Even without the release of a second ("B") test which is required for proof according to international cycling rules (the question of why the initial results were released to be the public before that was done is certainly an interesting one), I have heard multiple pundits on TV pronouncing him guilty, not to mention a front-page column by the main sports columnist of the San Jose Mercury News today, plus the lead editorial in the paper doing the same.

Let me start by repeating two comments I made last night on First Draft:

These kind of ratio tests, based on arbitrary "normal" ratios (as if anyone who could win the Tour de France or even race in it belongs in the "normal" part of the bell curve), are complete bullshit. Mary Decker Slaney was the victim of the same nonsense a few years back.

And the idea that Landis could fail such a test on ONE day, and not have similar levels on other days, is absurd.

And the way it's played in the news, which tends toward the "tested positive in a drug test" as if he were found with some banned drug in his bloodstream, are equally bullshit.

To elaborate on my point above, I think the closest (not perfect) analogy would be banning players over 7'3" from the NBA on the grounds that, since they are so much outside the "normal" range of heights, they must have been taking growth hormones even though there's no proof whatsoever they were.
Now a bit more elaboration on that first point from VeloNews:
The basis of the urine test is the T/E ratio, a balance between testosterone and epitestosterone in the body. Most adults have a range between 1:1 to 2:1, but the UCI has set the threshold at 4:1 to allow for riders with naturally occurring high testosterone levels.

The T/E ratio can vary widely within individuals, and in some cases the T/E ratio may be above the 4:1 ratio without doping while others can stay below the threshold despite cheating. The ratio tends to be constant over time, but wild swings may indicate doping. Other factors can cause swings in the ratio, such as dehydration, fatigue and even alcohol.
Not to mention riding an incredibly hard 5 1/2 hour, 200 kilometer race at the limit of your capabilities. Can anyone believe that blood (or urine) levels of various substances after such an effort can in any way be compared to the results of "most adults"? What an absurd idea. Not to mention the absurdity of overlooking the way steroids work, which is not to cause some miraculous overnight transformation but only to work over the course of weeks; other tests on Landis before and after the stage in question were within the limit, which doesn't just suggest but strongly suggests that the results on stage 17 were the result of natural processes.

Landis is holding a press conference which is being broadcast on CNN, which despite his clear explanations, insists on putting up on-screen labels claiming "Landis tested positive for abnormally high levels of testosterone." He did not. He tested positive for a high ratio of testosterone to epitestosterone; indeed, I have "heard" (but can't seem to find written proof) that the actual level of testosterone was low, not high, and that the T/E ratio was over the limit not because of high levels of T, but low levels of E.

I'm done ranting. Your turn.


Israeli chutzpah continues along with Israeli war crimes

First there was Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni with this preposterous assertion:
"There is no commander in the army who would deliberately direct fire at civilians or UN soldiers."
Now we have one commander contradicting that, sort of:
A top Israeli general said for the first time that the military had deliberately -- but accidentally -- hit a United Nations outpost Tuesday. The attack killed four unarmed peacekeepers.

Brig. Gen. Shuki Shahar, the deputy chief of the military's Northern Command, said soldiers in the field had accidentally called in the coordinates of the U.N. base and that the airstrike had been approved up the chain of command.
Of course this is nonsense. When you fire precision-guided missiles, as the Israelis did in this case, you fire them at known targets, like a U.N. building in this case; you don't fire them at some Hizballah fighters standing in an orchard. How did they "accidentally call in the coordinates of the U.N. base"? Did they perhaps transpose two digits in the coordinate reading? If they did (improbable, but let's suppose), what was the purpose of "approving up the chain of command"? Doesn't anyone "up the chain of command" check to verify what they are being asked to approve bombing?

Further proof that Livni and Shahar (and many others) are lying, as if any is needed, comes from the record:

Israeli fire has hit U.N. observation posts in southern Lebanon at least 10 times. The day before the fatal attack, Israeli shelling wounded four Ghanaian soldiers with the U.N. force, said Farhan Haq, an Annan representative. Earlier, another U.N. observer was missing and presumed dead after Israeli shells struck an observation post in the village of Hosh.

U.N. officials said they had tried to prevent an airstrike by making repeated calls to Israeli officials Tuesday as the military hit the outpost where the observers were killed with artillery.
The truth is that Israel doesn't want U.N. observers around to observe the crimes against humanity it is committing in Lebanon, and that these attacks against the U.N., like the attacks against ambulances, are quite deliberate, not "accidental." The precise locations of U.N. posts are perfectly well-known to the Israeli military, just as the precise location of the al Jazeerah offices in Kabul and Baghdad were known to the U.S. military.


The worse the better

Last year I explained why, in general, the rap against leftists that they (we) believe "the worse the better" (the idea that worsening conditions are to be welcomed because they hasten the revolution) isn't true, but I added:
But, as was discussed in a comments thread a while back about John Bolton's nomination, there certainly are cases where things that liberals might view as "the worse" I view exactly the opposite.
And here is what I had written in that comment:
As far as I'm concerned, if Bolton is a jerk who bullies people, the less likely he is to get cooperation from other countries at the U.N. and the better off the world's people will be. I have absolutely no desire to see some Colin Powell-type smoothie at the U.N. who will be able to give speeches filled with lies that everyone believes because he's such a "nice guy". The bigger the asshole, the better, as far as I'm concerned.
What brings this back to the fore is, of course, the hearings going on the confirm Bolton as the permanent U.S. Ambassador to the U.N., and this post I just read at Firedoglake entitled "Best Reason to Vote Against Bolton":
"My objection isn’t that he’s been a bully, but that he’s been an ineffective bully," said Sen. Christopher Dodd, a Connecticut Democrat.
Good enough for me.
And here's what I wrote in the comments:
“Ineffective” is precisely the reason to support Bolton. U.S. foreign policy, and the U.S. desire to use the U.N. in support of that policy in Iraq, Iran, North Korea, Lebanon, Gaza, and elsewhere, is thoroughly reactionary. The less “effective” it is, the better.
Support the confirmation of John Bolton!

Update: Reinforcing my point:

If Bolton's style were less divisive, [Senate Democrats] said, he might have achieved more reforms at the United Nations and tougher sanctions against Hezbollah and North Korea.
Quoting Firedoglake, "Good enough for me."


The "Christian" nation

Both Las Vegas and Orlando have banned the feeding of the homeless in their parks.

They don't feed the homeless in Cuba either. That's because, for all intents and purposes, there aren't any.

There are an estimated 3.5 million people who are homeless during any given year in the United States, about 842,000 on any given day.

Thursday, July 27, 2006


Hidden deaths

Following a week of 100+ degree heat, nearly a hundred confirmed and suspected heat-related deaths have now been reported in what many would consider the most technologically advanced state in the most technologically advanced country in the world -- California, USA (both points are arguable, but suffice it to say this is assuredly a first-world country). There haven't even been any power failures to blame.

In Gaza, Lebanon, and Iraq, temperatures are in the same range. But all three countries are suffering from power shortages, either because of Israeli bombing of power stations (Gaza and Lebanon) or U.S. bombing of power stations (and failure to reconstruct them after 3+ years of occupation) in the case of Iraq. And, just as critically, power shortages means water pumps don't work, so it often means water shortages as well, and water is the one thing you absolutely cannot live without. Particularly in the case of Lebanon with its bombed roads limiting traffic and bombed ambulances intimidating health care workers, a shortage of available health care is also a critical issue at this time.

So...how many people have died, scratch that, been killed, in Gaza, Lebanon, and Iraq, not with bombs or bullets fired at them personally, but because they, like the 100 Californians, have died in the heat because they didn't have a fan, didn't have water, or didn't have access to a doctor? I wouldn't even care to guess. I will make one guess though. I'll guess you won't be hearing anyone else even raising the question.


Psychopathic headline of the day

Greater Determination, Less Sensitivity

- Headline in Israeli mass circulation newspaper Ma'ariv, as reported in the Times of London
"Sensitivity," is that what they're calling it? Don't they mean "less morality"? Or "less legality" (not that there could be less than none)? Or would "more barbarism" fit even better?

This is the "determination" they want to increase: 400 dead have now been received in Lebanese hospitals, with 200 more suspected in the rubble. Personally I suspect many more than that; many of the villages in southern Lebanon are basically isolated, unreachable by any Red Cross workers, government officials, or media.


Israel's war on Lebanon

I mentioned below the misleading graphics that appear in American newspapers, which make it appear that Israel is barely attacking Lebanon. From Lebanon Updates (via Lenin's Tomb), this is what a map showing the extent of Israel's war on the Lebanese people should look like (click for a larger view):

Every Israeli spokesperson swears up and down that they don't target civilians. Well, not every one:

"This is a terrorist institution, a terrorist organization that has to be debilitated and crippled as much as possible and that means its infrastructure, that means its television, its institutions," Army spokesman Capt. Jacob Dallal, told The Associated Press in Jerusalem.

"In the war on terror in general, it's not just about hitting an army base, which they don't have, or a bunker. It is also about undermining their ability to operate ... That ranges from incitement on television and radio, financial institutions and, of course, other grass-roots institutions that breed more followers, more terrorists, training bases, obviously, schools."
Heck, why not the hospitals too; new potential "terrorists" are being born there every day. I don't know if any hospitals have been directly hit yet (certainly we know that ambulances have), but here's a sampling of some of how Israel is "undermining [Hizballah's] ability to operate":
Shiite cleric Adel Akash, his wife and 10 children were asleep when an Israeli warplane fired a missile into their house on July 13. They were all killed.

A week later, an Israeli airstrike leveled the Shiite seminary where Akash taught. Only the dome of its mosque escaped damage and now sits atop a pile of rubble in the coastal city of Sidon.

Other non-military targets include a Hezbollah orphanage in the eastern city of Baalbek, offices that issue interest-free loans near Sidon, a school in the town of Nabatiyeh to the south and charity offices in the Dahiyah district south of Beirut.
I guess those are all those "not-quite-civilians" who Alan Dershowitz thinks it's fine to kill.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006


Fidel to Bush: C'mon down!

You can't say he holds a grudge:
Cuban leader Fidel Castro celebrated the 53rd anniversary of the start of his revolution with an invitation Wednesday: President Bush should visit his communist island and see for himself what a real national health care plan looks like.

Castro also mocked the Bush administration's recently released Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba report, which offered infusions of health, education and vaccination programs for a democratic Cuba.

Citing an endless list of accomplishments - including the number of TV sets available in one province's schools - Castro also said his nemesis up north shouldn't worry: he doesn't plan on remaining in power until he's 100.
He undoubtedly won't, but I'll guarantee this: his legacy will live on. As will the memory of one of the greatest leaders the world has ever known.


News from Gaza you might have missed

[First posted 8:27 a.m., 7/26; updated and bumped]

Ma'an News reports:

As a result of the ongoing Israeli aggression on the Gaza Strip, sixteen Palestinians lost their lives on Wednesday. The Palestinian death toll rose when an Israeli reconnaissance plane fired a deadly rocket at Mahmoud Al Barsh in Beit Lahiya in the northern Gaza Strip.

Earlier in the day, Israeli shelling of the At Tuffah neighborhood in east Gaza City killed Hani Hijlah, a Palestinian man in his 20s. At least 65 were reported to have been injured, with at least five of them suffering from critical injuries.

The Israeli forces also bombed a group of resistance fighters in the Abu Safiyya area, east of Jabalia refugee camp in the north of the Gaza Strip, allegedly killing one member of the Hamas-affiliated Al Qassam Brigades.

Israeli tanks also targeted a crowd of Palestinian civilians in the Ash Shuja'iyya district in eastern Gaza City. Medical sources said that three of the victims were from one single family. Two remained anonymous and the third was named as 18-year-old Salih Hassanein.

In addition, Israeli tanks killed a three-year-old girl, Su'ad Nasir Habib, and Muhammad Salah Al Bahiti, 22.

In the morning, an activist from the Islamic Jihad-affiliated Al Quds Brigades, Yaser Banat, was killed when a reconnaissance plane fired a rocket at him that destroyed his car as it traveled along Salah Addin Street in the southern Gaza Strip.

A member of the Palestinian ministry of interior's Executive Force, Muhammad Adas, was also killed and five others injured after the Israeli forces shelled the forces' headquarters in the north of Gaza.

The residential tower block of "An Nada Towers" was also bombed on Wednesday afternoon; one Palestinian sustained a head injury. The residential tower block has been targeted several times this week.
Why might you have missed this? The New York Times reports the news from Gaza in the 31st paragraph of its article on Lebanon:
Israel also hit in Gaza, with the air force bombing three buildings used for making and storing weapons, according to the Israeli military.

A Palestinian teenager was shot and killed by Israeli troops near Gaza’s border fence, Palestinian hospital officials said. The Israeli military said it fired at people who had planted a bomb.
They did beat the Washington Post; here's the 32nd paragraph of their coverage today:
[Israel on Wednesday sent tanks into Gaza and launched airstrikes, killing two fighters, from Hamas and Islamic Jihad, in Gaza City, the Reuters news agency reported, citing medics. Palestinian officials said a total of seven people were killed overnight.]
And no, the brackets aren't mine; they're in the original. I guess that's the Post's way of making it clear that the deaths of Palestinians in Gaza really are nothing more than an afterthought.

For those who are keeping score at home, that's 42% of a "9/11" today alone in Gaza.

Update: The latest numbers:

Israeli forces killed 23 Palestinians in fighting across the Gaza Strip on Wednesday, including at least 11 militants, three children and a handicapped man, medics and witnesses said.
Which brings us up to 60% of a 9/11 -- in one day. And actually, that percentage is calculated vs. the total Palestinian population in Gaza and the West Bank. Considering only Gaza, proportionally the number of Palestinians killed today was 176% of a 9/11 - nearly twice as large a percentage of the population as were killed in the United States on 9/11.



Israel, with its nose bloodied, is scaling back the aims of its "non-invasion." Here's what they claim is their current objective:
Israel said it intends to damage Hezbollah and establish a "security zone" that would be free of the guerrillas and extend 1.2 miles into Lebanon from the Israeli border. Such a zone would prevent Hezbollah from carrying out cross-border raids such as the one two weeks ago which triggered the Israeli military response.
OK readers, help me out here. Before this started, there was action at the border (I know there is some dispute over which side of the border we're talking about, but I'd rather not get into that here) which resulted in two Israeli soldiers captured and others killed. Now Israel wants to establish a "security zone." And if they accomplish that? Israeli soldiers and Hizballah fighters will still be facing off against one another across a "border," only now that border will be 1.2 miles into Lebanon.

Does this make any sense whatsoever? Of course it doesn't.


Breaking news: Maliki in Congress

[First posted 7/26, 8:23 a.m.; updated and bumped]

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's speech to the U.S. Congress was just interrupted (forcing him to stop) by a woman screaming repeatedly from the gallery, "Iraqis want U.S. troops to leave Iraq now!" Sure sounded like Medea Benjamin to me. How does she do it?

In non-breaking news, Maliki is spending his time spouting meaningless platitudes, while the Congress periodically rises to its feet to applaud. So far he hasn't mentioned Israel or Lebanon; if he does I may not be able to update this blog, since I'll probably have passed out from shock.

Update: The New York Times already has a story up, which does briefly mention the disruption:

Although Mr. Maliki was applauded from time to time, he was also heckled. A young woman wearing a T-shirt with the words “Troops Home Now” shouted during the address and was taken out by security guards.
However, the thing that most struck me about their article was this relatively prominent paragraph:
President Bush has often described the campaign in Iraq as a logical part of the United States’ response to the Sept. 11 carnage. His critics have accused Mr. Bush of disingenuously implying that the Iraq of Saddam Hussein was somehow involved in 9/11. Mr. Bush and his top aides have countered by insisting that the United States could not wait for another terrorist attack and went after a regime that was a known danger.
This paragraph comes after Maliki mentioned 9/11. But he didn't even hint at any connection between 9/11 and Iraq, so the fact that the New York Times uses this article to propagandize its readers with the Bush line here is completely unwarranted. And that fact that they attribute the lack of connection between Saddam Hussein and 9/11 to "Bush critics" rather than to the truth is simply outrageous.

Second update: You read it here first. Local news (KTVU) is reporting that it was indeed Medea Benjamin in the Congressional Gallery today.


Lies, damn lies, and misleading graphics

This graphic comes from today's New York Times online, but I've seen similar graphics in many places practically every day, including in the paper I read (the San Jose Mercury News), but they don't put the graphics online.

I'm sure the point I want to make is immediately obvious. Look at a graphic like this and you'll think that Hizballah is firing 50% more weaponry at Israel than Israel is firing at Lebanon. Of course this is complete nonsense.

On a related subject, a friend pointed out a phrase that hadn't penetrated my brain, but which is quite telling. Over and over we hear and read about Hizballah "raining down" rockets on Israel. Has anyone here ever heard (from any corporate source, anyway) anyone talk or write about Israel "raining down" missiles on Lebanon? I sure haven't.

Update: Just a little more on the statistics themselves. The New York Times reports this today: "Hezbollah continued to strike at Israel, firing nearly 100 rockets as of Tuesday night, the Israeli military said." The Washington Post says: "Hezbollah fighters fired more than 90 rockets" (no attribution in the Post, but obviously the source is the Israeli military). Now ask yourself this -- how many missiles and rockets and bombs did the Israelis fire yesterday? Surely the Israeli military knows that a lot more accurately than they know how many Hizballah rockets were fired, and since they are the source of the information for the American media, why isn't that being reported? Search the Times or the Post for that information. Your search will be in vain.


Political humor of the day

I don't know about you, but I need a laugh. Here's Greg Saunders from Tom Tomorrow's blog, commenting on the news that there is a new electronic version of Monopoly in which players pay with a debit card rather than cash:
If they want to modernize Monopoly, why stop there? They should make the properties increase in value quickly so that anyone who doesn’t purchase the property early rounds will never be able to afford anything. The richest player at any given point in the game will be be able to buy his/her way out of jail, while the poorest has to spend twice as long in jail as any other player. Get rid of Community Chest, Free Parking, and Luxury Tax, since they’re just outdated relics of an era in which people cared more for their society than their wallets. And the person who buys the utilities should be allowed to change the rules at any point during the game to ensure they always win. That’s how it seems to work in the real world.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006


TV: I take it all back

A few days ago I wrote "I think American corporate coverage of the Israeli assault on Lebanon has been far more balanced than could possibly have been expected based on the overwhelming imbalance of support for Israel in the U.S." Well, maybe so, but "far more balanced" is still so far from actually "balanced" that I can't take it any more. If I hear one more reference to the grotesquely named "Israeli Defense Forces" I think I'm going to throw up. Or one more reference to the "war between Israel and Hezbollah" when anyone with two eyes can see that the war Israel is waging is against Lebanon, not against Hizballah.

Tonight I heard several channels talking about the one Israeli girl killed in a missile strike today, and then immediately follow that with a mention that Israel had destroyed ten buildings in Beirut. And...? Was anyone killed there? I have no idea. Even suggesting so apparently doesn't fit with the idea that Hizballah is killing people, while Israel is just "hitting" inanimate objects (or, at worst, those non-persons known as "Hezbollah"). Is it even remotely credible that ten buildings in downtown Beirut were destroyed and not a single person was killed? Of course not, but you'd never know it listening to the corporate media.

Tonight I also heard a report about the 4 UN observers killed. CNN immediately rushed on their "military analyst," who explained how disgusting it was. Not that they had been killed, but that Kofi Annan had condemned it "without knowing all the facts." Apparently the analyst did, since he then proceeded to report on how the UN station had been "colocated" with Hizballah positions, which evidently justifies the killing.

Last night I heard a report about how Israel has been destroying banks where Hizballah has its money, complete with pornographic gun sight videos, and again without the slightest indication that any actual people had been killed in those attacks. It was just Hizballah's bank accounts, don't you know. The report ended with the fact that in addition to the banks, Israel had dropped a bomb on the house of the bank manager, a deed which the Israeli "counter-terrorism" chief interviewed described as "intended to send a message." Was the bank manager killed? His (or her) family? Perhaps a small child or two? The question wasn't even asked. Nor were the words "war crime" mentioned, as if you didn't know.

I simply can't take it any more.


Qana II

It's not quantitatively the same as the Qana massacre (106 dead), but today's Israeli bombing has turned blood into tears in just the same way:
Five soldiers from the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) in south Lebanon were killed in Israeli shelling on Tuesday evening, Aljazeera correspondent reported.

However, agency reports quoted UN officials in south Lebanon and Lebanese security sources saying that four UN observers were killed in an Israeli bombing raid on Tuesday.
The Qana massacre brought an immediate end to Israel's "Operation Grapes of Wrath" in 1996. Would that we could expect the same here. We can't.

Update: From the BBC:

UN Secretary General Kofi Annan said he was "shocked" at the "apparently deliberate targeting" of the post.

The UN in Lebanon says the Israeli air force destroyed the observer post, in which four military observers were sheltering.
Israel and its apologists in the US will of course say that "Israel doesn't target civilians (or, presumably, UN soldiers)." However, that lie is belied by this inconvenient fact:
A rescue team was also shelled as it tried to clear the rubble.
Not to mention that the post was "shelled 14 times by Israeli artillery." Make no mistake about it. This was no accident.

Monday, July 24, 2006


My kingdom for an opposition party

Gosh wouldn't it be nice to have an actual opposition party in the United States?
The Liberal Democrat leader, Sir Menzies Campbell, called for a freeze on all arms export licences after government figures showed that British arms sales to Israel more than doubled last year to £22.5m.


Who is to blame for what is happening to Lebanon?

Tonight on Flashpoints, host Dennis Bernstein spent a half an hour interviewing a former KPFA programmer (that's as in music programmer, not software programmer), a Lebanese woman named Tina Naccache who now lives in Beirut and who, by the way, was part of a demonstration today outside Condoleezza Rice's visit (which actually made it onto some TV footage I saw). The majority of what Naccache had to say was an emotion-filled statement about how it wasn't Israelis she's mad at, and not even the American government, but at the American people, because of their inaction and inability to stop the outrages that are occuring. I don't agree with what she had to say (not that the American people don't bear some responsibility, but I think she underestimates the strength and desires of the American ruling class, and what it will take to stop them), but, because of who she is and where she is, what she has to say very much deserves a hearing. I strongly recommend that American readers (and others as well) listen to what she has to say. Her segment starts at 16:00 into the downloadable broadcast, although she's preceded by Bilal El-Amine, a Lebanese journalist (former editor of Left Turn Magazine who has returned to Lebanon to report on the war, and who is also worth listening to.

And, after listening to what Naccache has to say, hopefully you'll be motivated to do just a little bit more to help stop the carnage. Help build the demonstrations on August 12 in Washington, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Seattle, pull together a local demonstration anywhere, anytime, or do anything else you want to. But, as Naccache says, just being informed is not enough.


Time interviews Izzat al-Douri

A bonafide scoop at Time Magazine, who manages an interview with Izzat al-Douri, the most senior member of the Ba'ath Party that the American occupation hasn't yet killed or captured. Some of the interesting excerpts:
On those "working within the system":

I respect even some inside the government -- and they are not a few -- whose intention is, as they say, to reduce the damage done by the occupation to the citizens and to alleviate their sufferings, or to carry on the struggle for the liberation of Iraq from inside the political process, though this is a form of wishful thinking.

On Abu Musab al-Zarqawi (this part of the interview conducted before Zarqawi was killed):

I harbor great respect and appreciation for Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and I rejoice in his courage, the strength of his faith, and the sacrifices of his fighters, [but] I call on him and his fighters to direct their jihadist struggle against the enemy that has invaded the land of Arabdom and Islam. Let none of us be drawn into the occupying enemy's game of igniting hateful sectarianism. I also affirm that any exposure of citizens and their assets [to harm] will inevitably serve the occupation.

On the resistance:

It is the Iraqi army that today is in charge of the planning and supervision of more than 95% of patriotic resistance operations against the occupation.

And showing a bit of "wishful thinking" himself:

I had very high hopes of President Bush before his election, which I had hoped for -- unlike that of Clinton.
Time forgot to mention one subject in their questions or the accompanying article -- al-Douri's family. In November, 2003, the U.S. illegally arrested his wife and daughter, in contravention of the Geneva Conventions, in order to pressure al-Douri into surrendering. As late as June 2004 their detention continued, and I know of nothing to indicate that that has changed (although it may well have). Are his wife and daughter still in detention? How did he feel about the U.S. imprisoning them for at least a half year, if not for many years? We don't know the answer.


Cuban foreign aid...to the U.S.

I've written before about the Americans receiving free medical school training in Cuba. Yesterday's Washington Post has a fascinating (and lengthy) article profiling the two of them pictured here. I'll leave the interesting details of their lives to the article, for those who want to read it, but I do want to pick out a few sections which have some interesting general observations for this post.

Start with this:

Cuban doctors place a premium on basic skills -- interpreting breath sounds from a stethoscope, for instance -- that have been deemphasized in the high-tech world of U.S. medicine. Not long ago during rounds, Melissa's professor exploded at her when he asked for a diagnosis of a patient, and she replied that the lab results weren't back yet.

"Are you planning to become a doctor or a lab analyst?" he growled. "Tell me what you heard and felt and saw."
Then this:
Most U.S. medical students are both white and well-off. Only 6 percent of students entering medical school in 2000 were from families earning less than $50,000 a year; only 6 percent of doctors in the United States are black, Hispanic or Native American.
Things used to be a bit different before the era the media likes to describe as the "Reagan revolution." Some revolution:
The United States once had a successful program similar to the one being offered by Cuba: The National Health Service Corps Scholarship Program offered thousands of Americans free tuition and expenses in return for later practicing in areas that needed more doctors. Minorities relied heavily on the program: In 1980, one of every four black medical students had a corps scholarship.

But the Reagan administration began slashing the program each budget year. In 1981, the corps offered 6,159 scholarships. In 1982, the number was cut to 2,449. Last year, the corps awarded 90 new scholarships.
And why are these scholarships (the lack of them in the U.S., and the generous provision of them by Cuba) so critical? Here's why:
At her high school in Houston, Melissa loaded up on as many science courses as possible. She won a full scholarship to Howard, where she graduated as a premed student with a 3.2 grade-point average. She'd saved $1,600 from a part-time job at Howard to pay for the Medical College Admission Test and a prep course. The prep course turned out to be a study in disillusionment.

"They recommended we apply to no less than 14 schools, and each school application costs at least $200. I'd just spent two years saving the $1,600, and now I need another $2,800 just to apply to schools? Then, if you're lucky and a school calls you, you have to fly there and stay in a hotel. They even had the finite details about what to wear, and you'd have to buy a business suit, and everything was more money and more money and more money, and even then maybe you wouldn't get in."
Note that none of that even included the cost of medical school itself, just the cost of getting in to medical school.

One detail:

The walled compound was a naval base that Castro turned into a medical school to train students from all over Latin America.
I believe in the Bible that's called "swords into plowshares."

And what kind of doctor will these two, and their classmates, become when they finish? The Cuban kind:

During summers with her grandmother in Alabama, she's volunteered at a free medical clinic, where she says there's been real appreciation for the skills she's learned in Cuba. "I've gotten to know a doctor in Birmingham who has worked all over the world. He worked in West Africa on disaster relief, and American doctors were, like, 'I don't have this, I don't have that,' but the Cuban doctors just went to work," she says.

The doctor, Tom Ellison, a Birmingham cardiologist and epidemiologist, says Melissa has the makings of a great doctor. "On rides on our mobile clinic to an impoverished rural area outside Birmingham, I saw her dedication, her work ethic, her rapport with patients," Ellison says.
Update: For additional reading, today's online discussion of the article with the author and Melissa is here.


Quote of the Day

"Israel is defending the whole world. She's doing all the dirty work."

- 12-year-old Jonathan Sapir, an Israeli living in the U.S., at a pro-Israel rally in San Jose yesterday.
"Dirty work" indeed. Out of the mouths of babes.

Some of the other quotes from the article are equally interesting. Jonathan's mother Sima says this: "9/11 happened once here. But 9/11s happen almost every week, everywhere in Israel. We are not free." Well, let's see. Israel's population is 7 million people; even considering a "proportionality" of deaths compared to the US' 300 million, a "9/11 every week" would amount to 70 Israelis being killed every week. In the last six years, 1100 Israelis have been killed in conflicts with Palestinians and now Lebanese. That's 3.5 people a week, or 5% of a 9/11 every week.

Let's contrast that to Lebanon. With a population of 3.8 million (two weeks ago, anyway), a "9/11 every week" would amount to 38 people killed a week. Israel has been bombing Lebanon for 12 days now, and killed at least 380 people, or 221 people a week. That's nearly six "9/11's every week."

Or let's contrast the Israeli deaths with Palestinians, of whom 4100 have been killed by Israel in the last six years, or 13 per week. There are 2.5 million Palestinians in the West Bank and 1.3 million in Gaza, or 3.8 million total. That works out to one-third of a 9/11 per week in Palestinian deaths for the last six years (and longer, that's just the statistic I have).

There's still one more quote from the article I need to pass on:

Calling herself a peace activist for more than 20 years, the Rev. Rebecca Kuiken of Willow Glen's Stone Church said she lamented the deaths of Lebanese civilians during this war, but reminded the crowd that innocent civilians have been held hostage by "these terrorists in concert with Syria and Iran."
Readers may remember past posts entitled "Why I'm not for 'Peace'." "Peace activist" Reverend Kuiken gives me just one more reason to hold to that position, with her "lamentation" for the deaths of Lebanese civilians, without any actual objection to those murders. And I'm sure I don't need to point out that Hamas and Hizballah are holding captured soldiers as hostage, not "innocent civilians."

Update: I revised the numbers from the original posting. That's because I thought the quote was a "9/11 per day", then when I realized it was "per week" I multiplied by 7. That wasn't correct.

Second update: An excellent analysis of the situation by Richard Becker opened my eyes to another statistic. We hear about 900,000 (numbers vary, of course, and increase daily) Lebanese refugees. Becker does the math and notes that that is 23% of the Lebanese population!. Remember Katrina? George Bush doesn't, but I'm sure you do. Several hundred thousand people evacuated from the area, which was a crisis of the first order. Those several hundred thousand people comprise one tenth of one percent of the American population (and less than seven percent of the population of Louisiana). Now consider the implications of 23% of a population being displaced from their homes.

Third update: More statistics. MSNBC reports that Israel has now bombed 80% of Lebanon's highways and 95% of Lebanon's bridges. They also report Israeli claims that 1/3 of Hizballah's weaponry is used up or destroyed, which is pretty remarkable since it's been several days since Israel was claiming a figure of 50%.

Fourth update: I just heard a Deputy Israeli Ambassador on BBC say that Hizbollah had used up 20% of its weapons. The figure keeps dropping!

Sunday, July 23, 2006


Today's quiz

Here's a question I have yet to see posed by anyone so I'll pose it to my readers:

Since Israel is busy bombing "Hizballah strongholds" all over Lebanon, isn't it more likely they are going to kill the two captured Israeli soldiers than they are to rescue them?

For extra credit, why have you not heard anyone else, particularly any politician or pundit, ask this question?


History repeats itself

Sometimes in a good way:

Floyd Landis pulls on the Yellow (ok, gold) Jersey at the Tour of California, February, 2006

Congratulations to Floyd Landis on his incredible comeback, victorious today in the Tour de France.

And sometimes in a very bad way:

The destruction of Beirut, July, 2006

The number of Lebanese murdered by the Israeli assault now stands "officially" at 380, with a third of them under the age of 12. "Officially" is in quotes because there are certainly dozens if not hundreds buried in the rubble of buildings like the ones in this picture.

Incidentally, speaking of history, here's one way it's not repeating itself. Whenever Israel fires missiles at cars in Gaza, it always claims there were "suspected militants" in the car. But now they've dispensed completely with those pretexts for murder:

Israeli warplanes struck a minibus carrying people fleeing the fighting Sunday in southern Lebanon, killing three people.
The minibus was, naturally, carrying civilians fleeing Southern Lebanon after being told to do so by Israeli leaflets (the full story was told on KPFA this morning (not online) by a journalist who spoke with the survivors).

On the question of pretext, note this sentence:

Strikes in Baalbek leveled an agricultural compound belonging to Hezbollah and also targeted a factory producing prefabricated houses near the highway to Damascus.
What difference does it make if the agricultural compound belonged to Hezbollah, and if it does make a difference, why don't they tell us that the factory did not belong to Hezbollah, and offer some other pretext for its destruction? Because there is none, of course.

Update: Back to the good news. Just picked this up from First Draft:

We pick it up as Landis' cell phone begins ringing:

.... Reporter: Is that Bush?

.... Landis (laughing): I doubt it. I'll hang up.
Tee-hee. I still haven't forgiven Lance Armstrong for not responding to my request for him to tell George Bush to talk to Cindy Sheehan when he joined Bush on a mountain bike ride.


Saddam Hussein on a feeding tube

Saddam Hussein is on the 17th day of a hunger strike and has just been taken to a hospital and put on a feeding tube. I remember when people were making fun of him because it was reported that his hunger strike had lasted for exactly one meal. But the reason I'm posting this isn't that, and isn't to report news which most of you will have heard or will hear. It's to point out the negative - that you (or I) haven't heard a word about this for the last two weeks. Which is an indication of just how much is going on in Iraq and Lebanon and Gaza and elsewhere, so much so that the fact that Saddam Hussein had been on a hunger strike for a week, or for 10 days, or for 14 days, wasn't even significant enough to make the news. And with 100 people a day being killed in Iraq, 50 or more a day in Lebanon, a dozen or so a day in Gaza, and a small number of Israelis, I don't even intend this as a criticism of the media, not a major one anyway.

Saturday, July 22, 2006


TV coverage of the war

Readers know I don't hold back when it comes to media criticism; indeed, the very subhead of this blog proclaims that fact. But I have to say that, for the most part, I think American corporate coverage of the Israeli assault on Lebanon has been far more balanced than could possibly have been expected based on the overwhelming imbalance of support for Israel in the U.S. (exemplified by the recent votes in Congress). Networks have had far more frequent segments from reporters in Gaza, for example, in the past few months than they ever did in years past. And despite the obvious dangers of reporting from Lebanon, there has been no shortage of reports directly from there, either. I've seen vastly more footage of the damage caused by the Israeli bombing of Lebanon in the last eleven days than I think I've seen in total in more than three years of comparable footage from Iraq. Just today I watched a CNN report from their Dr. Sanjay Gupta, reporting from a hospital in Beirut, showing the way they are coping by moving entire wards to underground locations, and discussing the dangers to the patients entailed by that. And this kind of coverage spans the networks. Yes, even FOX News.

One of the few areas where Israel is "winning" in the coverage, and this too spans the networks, is the P.R. war. For every one reprentative of the Lebanese government (or Hizballah or Syria or Iran), I've seen ten Israelis or American Jewish supporters of Israel. You can hardly watch TV for any length of time without seeing an Israeli ambassador, an Israeli military spokesperson, an Israeli Deputy Prime Minister, and so on. So I'm not suggesting that one actually sees balanced coverage. But I am saying that, with Israel committing so many war crimes, if TV broadcasts just 5% of those, and broadcasts 100% of what is happening in Israel, there still is an awful lot of the former and not that much of the latter. Indeed, so desparate are networks for coverage of bad things happening in Israel that today I actually watched footage of firefighters putting out a small brush fire that had been caused by a Hizballah rocket.

Tonight's ABC News broadcast was interesting as a demonstration of what I'm saying here. In addition to exended footage of the damage being done to Lebanon, they showed footage of today's demonstration in London, and today's mass burial in Tyre. But in some ways the most surprising part of the broadcast almost makes me eat my words from the post just below this one. ABC not only reported on the destruction on LBC TV towers, but described it as a "troubling development." Not exactly a condemnation, but definitely more than simple neutral reporting. But there was much more. After pointing out that the two stations affected (LBC and another one) were pro-US stations, they went on to talk about why Israel wanted the stations off the air - to suppress the flow of information about their war crimes (that's my term, not theirs) to the world. They then went on to talk about the 1996 Qana massacre, when Israel shelled a UN compound where refugees from fighting were taking shelter, killing 106 of them, and how the broadcasting of that massacre had forced Israel into a ceasefire because of the world outrage at the massacre. They then showed the mass grave in Tyre, and noted how those images might not have reached the world were it not for LBC.

Powerful stuff indeed. And indicative that blind support for Israel has its limits. Those limits are further suggested by the fate of one of my posts. I cross-posted the post below at Daily Kos, provocatively retitled "The U.S. is now a legitimate military target." My previous posts on the subject of Palestine have met a quick fate there, recommended by only handfuls of people, and have been met with the usual storm of pro-Israel responses. But the response to this one has been quite different. It has received several hundred "recommendations," more than 200 "tips" in the "tip jar," and stayed on the "Recommended Diary" list for almost the entire day. More than 550 comments have included the usual and the expected, but also have stimulated a much more balanced than usual discussion on the question of unquestioning support for Israel. Again illustrating, as I think the press coverage does, that the possibilities for discussion on this subject are very much opening up, thanks to Israel opening up people's eyes with the barbarity of their actions.

Stand up! Speak out! We will stop this outrage! Plan now for major national demonstrations on August 12 in Washington, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Seattle, and of course continuous smaller local demonstrations everywhere until then (and afterwards).


First they came for...

...al-Manar TV. But no one objected because, after all, that was Hizballah's station. Then they came for LBC (which the Angry Arab says is the most pro-US, right-wing station in Lebanon), killing one journalist. But no one objected because...well, you know, if Israel did it it must have been part of their "defense." I'm guessing, because they haven't even bothered to offer a justification for this bombing, as they did with the previous one.

Not one journalist that I have seen reporting on either of these events has even blinked, much less expressed the slightest outrage at these actions. Both the right-wing Reporters without Borders and the more neutral Committee to Protect Journalists, whose entire existence is predicated on protecting press freedom, are, as of now, silent.

Update: This report (which is a bit undersourced; I'd like to see more) suggests that the last paragraph above is no longer true.


Reading recommendations

Lenin's Tomb has some excellent photos and videos from a demonstration today (!) in London where tens of thousands protested the Israeli assault on Lebanon.

And CounterPunch today has multiple important articles on the subject that are must-reads.

Update: CNN just aired (brief) footage from the London demo, along with demos in Sydney and Amsterdam, and mentioned a demo in Israel (Tel Aviv I think) as well.


Cracks in the U.S. blockade of Cuba

Venezuela joins MERCOSUR, and then this:
The Mercosur leaders also concluded a deal Friday to foster greater trade with Cuba, despite a 45-year-old U.S. embargo of the island. The accord, announced here, is intended to foster a greater exchange of goods between Mercosur nations and Cuba through tariff reductions and a promise that neither side will arbitrarily hike import fees or taxes.
And Brazil's President Lula says the U.S.' "Free Trade of the Americas" is history.

And of course, the star of the show was someone who attended merely as an observer: Fidel (who surely doesn't need a second name any more than Brazilian soccer stars do).

And for an added bonus, while Fidel is scoring diplomatic triumphs and being given a hero's welcome, chief U.S. "diplomat" Condoleezza Rice has to slink around the world:

She won't go to any Arab countries right away - Egypt reportedly balked at hosting a meeting because of public anger at the Israeli offensive - although diplomats held out the possibility that she would make stops in the Arab world at the end of the trip.
Update: And when I say Fidel was given a hero's welcome, I wasn't just referring to the other leaders present:
Residents of the small Argentine city [of Alta Gracia] packed the sidewalks, cheering as Castro and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez made their way through a middle-class neighborhood to the house, which is now a museum dedicated to "el Che."
George Bush can't even walk down a street in the United States, much less a street in another country.


The direct air war continues

While the U.S. plays the supporting role (albeit one without the entire effort would stop) in Israel's air assault on Lebanon, in Iraq its direct air war, the one which has caused me for more than a year to label the "exit strategy" a "sham," continues.

See if you can notice the euphemisms in this article:

Iraqi forces backed by a U.S. helicopter battled Sunni gunmen south of Baghdad on Friday, and at least 11 combatants died. U.S. troops killed five Iraqis -- including two women and a child -- in a separate exchange of fire.
Let's stick with the second part. Two women and a child died in an "exchange of fire" with U.S. troops, did they? Let's see.
The civilian deaths came in an early morning raid in Baquba, 35 miles northeast of Baghdad, where American troops were looking for associates of Al-Qaida in Iraq, the U.S. military said.

The Americans took fire from a rooftop and "several men were seen moving around," the military said in a statement. The troops ordered people to leave the building, but "these instructions were ignored," it said.

A U.S. aircraft fired on the building, and "a third attempt to call the occupants out of the buildings then failed before force was escalated," the statement said. "The troops secured the area using a combination of aerial and ground fire."
So they secured the area with a "combination" of aerial and ground fire, did they? Let's see how that turned out:
The bodies of two men, two women and a young girl were found in the rubble, the U.S. military said. They included two of the girl's aunts, an uncle and a grandfather, police said. They did not know about the child's parents.
When bodies are "found in the rubble," that's a pretty clear indication that it was aerial fire that "secured the area," and that the ground fire had nothing to do with it. And nothing in this article even indicates that the "several men who were seen moving around" were "exchanging fire" with American troops, much less the five family members who were killed when the U.S. once again bombed a building without either knowing or caring who might be inside.

Without air power, the U.S. forces in Iraq would be achieving far less "success" (success at achieving their goals of killing people), and, I note once again, the chances that the U.S. will be handing over that air power to the Iraqi government so that their forces can "stand up" are nil. It's up to the American people (and the Iraqi resistance) to force the U.S. out of Iraq, because they aren't leaving voluntarily.


Lebanon: the U.S. role widens

A few days ago I likened the U.S. role in blocking international efforts to achieve a cease-fire in Lebanon to the role of a cyclist in the Tour de France, blocking the pack from chasing while their teammate was up the road on a breakaway. But now we've had the U.S. rushing $210 million worth of aviation fuel to Israel, and today we learn of this obscenity:
The Bush administration is rushing a delivery of precision-guided bombs to Israel, which requested the expedited shipment last week after beginning its air campaign against Hezbollah targets in Lebanon, American officials said Friday.

The decision to quickly ship the weapons to Israel was made with relatively little debate within the Bush administration, the officials said. Its disclosure threatens to anger Arab governments and others because of the appearance that the United States is actively aiding the Israeli bombing campaign in a way that could be compared to Iran’s efforts to arm and resupply Hezbollah.
So now we've got the U.S. as the team manager, riding up next to the leader in the breakway and passing food and fuel out the window. Unfortunately that's not Power Bars and Gatorade it's handing out, it's instruments of death.

I included the second paragraph in that excerpt because of the almost comical use of the word "appearance" by the New York Times. Evidently to the Times, that famous picture of a Vietnamese policeman blowing out the brains of a captured Vietcong just gives the "appearance" of murder. And the picture at right, showing the mass grave of 72 87 [CNN update Saturday morning] of the victims of the massacre of Tyre, just gives the "appearance" of a massacre. More victims, by the way, likely remain in the rubble, but there isn't enough safety or enough people or equipment to find out. And yes, that word "massacre" is my addition; a special Left I award to anyone who can find it in the American corporate media. Don't waste too much time. But make no mistake about it -- a "massacre" it was (and is).

If the U.S. were just out blocking the passage of toothless U.N. ceasefire resolutions, you could ask the question "why do 'they' hate us?" But with the U.S. actively sending fuel and missiles to Israel in the midst of a shooting war, a war producing hundreds of victims like the ones in the picture at right, we've moved way beyond that. The United States is now a legitimate military target in that war. That includes factories making the missiles or any parts or materials that go into them, refineries making aviation fuel, and trucks and railroads and ports and ships and planes being used to transport any of those things, not to mention any of the people involved in those activities. The U.S. hasn't actually "declared war" for 50 years, but make no mistake about it -- it has now declared war against the people of Lebanon every bit as much as it did against the people of Iraq, Afghanistan, Yugoslavia, Vietnam, Palestine, and anyplace else they've been "personally" involved in bombing the population into submission.

Friday, July 21, 2006


Blaming Iran

Here's the lead sentence of an AP article today:
Iranian officials often say that places with the greatest troubles offer their country the best opportunities.
OK, if they "often" say that, we can expect at least one quote in the article which might back up that claim, can't we? If so, you'll be disappointed. Here are the sources for the article: "a professor of political studies at Tehran's Azadi University...Israel's U.N. ambassador...an expert on Hezbollah at the Georgetown Public Policy Institute in Washington...A hard-line [Iranian] parliament member...Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert...Tehran-based political analyst...A Hezbollah aid coordinator in Iran... an Iranian Hezbollah official." Not an "Iranian official" among them, not even quoted anonymously (all the sources above are named sources).

And of the sources above who aren't "Iranian officials," not one makes any statement that can be remotely interpreted as supporting the opening thesis. The "Iranian Hezbollah official," who might be the closest to an "Iranian official" in the list, merely says that "up to 2,000 fighters are ready to travel to Lebanon if asked by Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei."

Thursday, July 20, 2006


Headline of the Day

It's from a Prensa Latina article describing Israel's use of psychological warfare. Here's the headline:
Israel Launches Psycho War

Update: Long-time readers will hopefully have recognized that this post is not mean seriously. That is, I don't really think Israel's war is a "psycho" war. No, it's yet another manifestation of my classic "liberal vs. radical" definition: A liberal is someone who thinks that Israel's lashing out, demolishing hundreds of civilian targets, killing hundreds of civilians, and flagrantly defying international law is an irrational ("psycho") action in pursuit of a legitimate goal ("self-defense"). A radical is someone who realizes that it's a perfectly rational (albeit misguided and hopefully headed for failure) action in pursuit of a completely illegitimate goal (territorial expansion and the subjugation of the Arab people).


It's official: war is peace

Headline: "In Mideast Strife, Bush Sees a Step To Peace."

Others, including hundreds of Lebanese, dozens of Israelis, thousands of Palestinians, thousands of Americans, tens of thousands of Iraqis, and assorted others, see only a step toward the grave. The last step.



Two days ago, I watched Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Shimon Peres being interviewed on MSNBC, and denying categorically that Israel had any intention of entering Lebanon. The next day, Israeli troops crossed the border into Lebanon (albeit in a limited manner).

Yesterday, all over the news was the claim that Israel had dropped 23 tons of bombs on a "senior leadership bunker" in Beirut. Hizballah denied it, claiming that "the strike hit a building that was under construction for a mosque." Today CNN's Alessio Vinci, along with other reporters, visited the site, and reported that, as far as they could tell, the site was, you guessed it, a mosque under construction.

For credibility, though, not much could surpass this claim:

[Capt. Jacob] Dallal, an Israeli army spokesman] said Israel had hit "1,000 targets in the last eight days -- 20 percent were missile-launching sites and the rest were control and command centers, missiles and so forth."
That "and so forth" sure hides a lot of crimes, since we know that factories, roads, bridges, ports, fuel tanks, apartment buildings, partially build mosques, and a whole host of other things fall into that category that we're presumably supposed to believe were "legitimate" targets.

We report, you decide.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006


Crowd size - whose estimates?

There was a rally in Washington, D.C. today in support of Israel. Before I get to the main point of this post, just a brief sidetrack to examine the content of the demonstration:
Maryland Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R), U.S. Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.), Israeli Ambassador Daniel Ayalon and the Rev. John C. Hagee were among those who roused multiple rounds of applause by saying Israel's attacks against the Shiite Muslim group Hezbollah were blows against those who have killed civilians from Bali to Bombay to Moscow.
300 Lebanese have been killed by Israel's attacks; of those, 95% have been civilians. Declaring that a "blow against those who have killed civilians" is about as Orwellian as it gets. As far as has been reported, the Hezbollah death toll currently stands at less than five.

Back to crowd size. Here's how the Washington Post described it: "Some 1,500 people, according to organizers, stood in Freedom Plaza." Nor is the Post unique in allowing pro-Israel groups to estimate their own rally size. Yesterday there was a similar rally in New York; here's how the New York Times reported its size: "Organizers estimated the crowd at 10,000."

There was another rally yesterday you might have missed. It was a rally opposing the Israeli invasion, and it took place in Detroit (Dearborn to be specific). It wasn't mentioned by the Post or the Times, nor by any of the national broadcast media as far as I know. It was covered in the local Detroit Free Press, who used a more traditional method to report on the crowd size: "Police estimated the crowd in Dearborn at more than 10,000."

Needless to say, none of the corporate media as far as I know reported the "organizers' estimate" of the recent demonstration in Mexico City. Get tens of thousands to an antiwar rally and you'll be lucky if the media report on it at all. But get a few hundred, or a thousand, at a pro-Israel rally, and the media will not only report it, they'll even let you provide your own crowd estimate. What a deal.


Israel's targets

BBC World is generally significantly more balanced in its coverage than American networks, but it's far from perfect. On tonight's show, the reporter summed up events with this (quoting from memory, but close enough): "The death toll in Lebanon now stands at 300 after eight days of Israeli bombing of Hezbollah targets."

I'm sure I don't need to remind readers that those "Hezbollah" targets have included roads, bridges, airports, gas stations, apartment buildings, factories, Lebanese army barracks, vans of fleeing civilians, and more. And we know, based on the "gunsight porn" shots that are shown on TV of Israeli bombs hitting their targets, that, in their vast majority, the Israeli strikes have been intentional strikes, not missiles or bombs gone awry. And, in the face of all this, BBC (and certainly they're not alone in this) dares to suggest that Israel has spent eight days bombing "Hezbollah targets." The Israeli government P.R. department couldn't have said it better.

Update: Just some of today's "Hezbollah" targets:

In Srifa, a neighborhood was wiped out -- 15 houses flattened, 21 people killed, 30 wounded -- in an Israeli airstrike. The town’s mayor, Afif Najdi, called it a massacre.

Warplanes bombed a convoy escaping the town, killing several people and wounding many others.


Lest we forget

The slaughter continues in Gaza:
Fighting erupted between Israeli troops and militants in central Gaza after the army pushed into the strip, killing 10 Palestinians -- five militants and five civilians -- in air strikes and other attacks, medics said.

Israel has killed about 110 Palestinians, around half of them militants, in Gaza since the abduction.

In the West Bank, Israeli troops backed by armored vehicles surrounded a Palestinian security compound in the city of Nablus and killed three gunmen from moderate President Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah faction, medics said.

Two civilians were also killed, medics said. The army said troops had confronted civilians who had thrown stones at them as well as gunmen, but that soldiers had only fired at Palestinians who shot at them.
Note that, even in this "closer quarters" fighting, half of the Palestinians killed were civilians (not that the world is going to object to those deaths any more than the deaths of Lebanese civilians, nor the thousands of deaths of Palestinian civilians which preceded these). Note also that Reuters phrases that in the negative, writing "around half of them militants" which clearly de-emphasizes the civilian fatalities. Finally, note the very typical use of the word "gunmen," as if carrying a gun and resisting the invasion of your territory by troops from another country somehow legitimizes your death and makes it more acceptable than the death of an "innocent" civilian.


The bipartisan American foreign policy

...called "imperialism." To no one's surprise:
With Israel intensifying its air and artillery attacks on Lebanon and warning of a protracted war, the Senate yesterday unanimously passed a bipartisan resolution endorsing Israel's military campaign and condemning Hezbollah and its two backers, Iran and Syria. A few hours earlier, Senate Minority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) delivered his most strident defense of Israel since the conflict erupted a week ago. The House is expected to pass a similarly pro-Israel resolution today.
The Senate resolution is here. The House resolution (there are a couple, but I think this is the right one), is even worse, in that it includes this astonishing assertion in its "resolved" sections which is absent from the Senate version:
Resolved, That the House of Representatives--(4) recognizes Israel's longstanding commitment to minimizing civilian loss and welcomes Israel's continued efforts to prevent civilian casualties;
Amazingly enough, there are people, even after the last week of bombing in Lebanon (now up to 300 dead, with the percentage of civilians still more than 90%), who will defend this preposterous assertion. Of course there are people who think that U.S. foreign policy has nothing but benevolent impulses driving it, too.


"Diplomacy" in the Middle East

Here's a sub-head (not online) from the San Jose Mercury News coverage of the war in Lebanon:
Diplomacy: U.S. has limited leverage with Syria, Iran to rein in Hezbollah
Gee, there seems to be a country that the U.S. has considerable leverage with that got left out of that headline. Hmm, let me think who that might be...

Another article in the same paper is more on the mark. The New York Times, from whence the article originates, runs this headline:

U.S. Appears to Be Waiting to Act on Israeli Airstrikes
But the Mercury News (again, not online there, it appears the New York Times has new restrictions on such things) has it even more accurately:
U.S.-Israeli strategy: Target Hezbollah for another week
The Tour de France is in progress right now. One of the strategies in bike racing which you sometimes see in the Tour is the block -- one member of the team breaks away, and the rest of the team goes to the front of the pack and deliberately rides slowly, blocking the rest of the teams from chasing and allowing the breakaway to get further up the road.

And this is precisely what is happening now, with two members of the same "team" (the U.S. and Israel) working to break not just Hezbollah but the resistance of the Palestinian people and the Arab masses as a whole to U.S.-Israeli domination of the region. Indeed, this strategy is more or less openly acknowledged:

The outlines of an American-Israeli consensus began to emerge on Tuesday, in which Israel would continue to bombard Lebanon for another week or so to degrade the capabilities of the Hezbollah militia, officials of the two countries said.

Then, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice would go to the region and seek to establish a buffer zone in southern Lebanon, and perhaps an international force to monitor Lebanon’s borders and prevent Hezbollah from obtaining more rockets for bombarding Israel.

Beyond the desire to give Israel time to weaken Hezbollah militarily, administration officials said Ms. Rice should not go to the region until she can actually produce results.
Note that, in this scenario, Rice is not acting as some kind of neutral person practicing "diplomacy," but very much as a member of the U.S./Israeli "team" to accomplish that team's aims.

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