Archive for June, 2008

War threats against Iran overshadow US elections

Posted in World Affairs on June 24, 2008 by albasheer
War threats against Iran overshadow US elections
By Bill Van Auken
24 June 2008

The US election campaign, rather than offering the American people any real opportunity to vote for an end to the war and occupation in Iraq, is increasingly overshadowed by threats of new acts of military aggression against Iran.

This is the significance of a series of provocative actions and statements coming out of both Washington and Tel Aviv in recent days.

Speculation about the likelihood of imminent air strikes against Iranian nuclear facilities were heightened by a report published last Friday in the New York Times detailing a long-range exercise staged over the Mediterranean earlier this month involving over 100 Israeli F-15 and F-16 fighter jets, refueling planes and rescue helicopters. Citing unnamed Pentagon sources, the Times reported that the operation was a dry run for an attack on Iran.

“Israel carried out a major military exercise earlier this month that American officials say appeared to be a rehearsal for a potential bombing attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities,” the Times reported.

Responding to this military threat, Mohamed ElBaradei, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, the United Nations organization charged with oversight of the Iranian nuclear program, said it was not justified by any “current, grave or urgent danger” and threatened to quit his post in response to any such an attack.

Air strikes against Iran, he warned, would “turn the region into a fireball” and cause Iran to “launch a crash course to build nuclear weapons with the blessing of all Iranians.”

The report was widely seen as a deliberate leak by Washington and Israel aimed at ratcheting up pressure on Teheran to abandon its uranium enrichment program. The Iranian government has rejected Western demands that it halt these efforts, insisting that they are dedicated exclusively to the development of domestic nuclear energy and are not in violation of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

The Times report came less than a week after a trip to Iran by EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana, who offered the Iranian government a package of economic and political incentives in exchange for Teheran bowing to demands that it halt its enrichment program. As of early this week, the Iranian government had yet to respond officially to the offer.

Meanwhile, the European Union Monday adopted a resolution imposing new sanctions against Iran, banning the country’s largest bank, Bank Melli, from operating in Europe.

The Israeli press presented the published report of a supposed dress rehearsal of air strikes on Iran as part of an orchestrated pressure campaign.

“When the diplomacy of economic and political pressure fails to produce results, a shift is made to gunboat diplomacy,” wrote Alex Fishman, the military affairs columnist for Israel’s largest newspaper, Yedioth Ahronoth.

“As the Iranian regime discusses the European Union representative’s most recent offer to halt its nuclear programme in exchange for extensive benefits, the Americans opted to add a bit more pressure in the shape of Israel’s air force,” he wrote.

An unnamed Israeli official quoted in the Times of London Sunday put the matter somewhat more bluntly. Iran, he said, should “read the writing on the wall.” He continued: “This was a dress rehearsal, and the Iranians should read the script before they continue with their program for nuclear weapons. If diplomacy does not yield results, Israel will take military steps to halt Tehran’s production of bomb-grade uranium.”

Citing an unnamed US military official, the Wall Street Journal reported that “US policy makers were divided over reasons for the exercise. Some viewed the maneuver as an actual practice run for a future strike on Iran, while others see it mainly as a show of force designed to remind both Tehran and Washington of Israel’s concern.”

Such an exercise—and the publicity about it in the US media—has another and crucial objective. It is aimed at preparing the American public for being dragged into another war of aggression.

Military analysts agree that the Israeli air force by itself lacks the strategic capacity to carry out any attack on Iran that would even have the possibility of destroying its nuclear program, much of which is housed in fortified underground bunkers. The only viable purpose for such threats is either as part of a joint campaign with the US or to draw Washington into such an attack.

There is an important constituency for such a course of action among influential elements of the Republican right, who are openly expressing support for a US-Israeli attack on Iran—as well as their frustration with Washington for not moving more rapidly to carry one out.

This was clearly the message of an editorial published Monday in the Wall Street Journal, among the most consistent mouthpieces for the right-wing layers that have dominated the current administration. Entitled “Israel on the Iran Brink” the editorial states:

“Israelis surely don’t welcome a war in which they will suffer. Yet they have no choice but to defend themselves against an enemy that vows to obliterate them if Iran acquires the weapon to do so. The tragic paradox of the past six years is that the diplomatic and intelligence evasions offered in the name of avoiding war with Iran have done the most to bring us close to this brink. Appeasement that ends in war is a familiar theme of history.”

Meanwhile, two prominent supporters of the administration—who played significant roles in promoting the war against Iraq six years ago based on the same pretexts of weapons of mass destruction and terrorist ties—spoke over the weekend in chilling terms about the timing and political calculations concerning an attack on Iran.

Speaking on the television interview show “Fox News Sunday,” Bill Kristol, the publisher of the right-wing Weekly Standard, warned that President Bush could be driven to launch a war against Iran by the prospect of a victory for Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama in the November election.

“If the president thought John McCain was going to be the next president, he would think it more appropriate to let the next president make that decision than do it on his way out,” said Kristol.

However, he warned, “if President Bush thinks Senator Obama’s going to win, does he somehow think—does he worry that Obama won’t follow through on that policy.”

Asked by Fox’s Chris Wallace whether he was saying that Bush could “launch a military strike” either in the run-up to or aftermath of the election, Kristol replied: “I don’t know. I mean, I think he would worry about it. On the other hand, you can’t—it’s hard to make foreign policy based on guesses of election results. I think Israel is worried though. I mean, what is, what signal goes to Ahmadinejad if Obama wins on a platform of unconditional negotiations and with an obvious reluctance to even talk about using military force.”

Meanwhile, also appearing Sunday on Fox, the right-wing network owned by Rupert Murdoch, former US ambassador to the United Nations, John Bolton, gave a more precise prediction about an Israeli attack.

“I think if they are to do anything, the most likely period is after our elections and before the inauguration of the next president. I don’t think they will do anything before our election because they don’t want to affect it. And they’d have to make a judgement whether to go during the remainder of President Bush’s term in office or wait for his successor.”

Following up these remarks in an interview with the British Daily Telegraph, Bolton, a long-standing advocate of military action against Iran, repeated that the “optimal window” for an Israeli attack would be after the November 4 election and before the inauguration on January 20, 2009.

“The Israelis have one eye on the calendar because of the pace at which the Iranians are proceeding both to develop their nuclear weapons capability and to do things like increase their defences by buying new Russian anti-aircraft systems and further harden the nuclear installations,” he told the Telegraph.

“They’re also obviously looking at the American election calendar. My judgement is they would not want to do anything before our election because there’s no telling what impact it could have on the election.”

There has been ample speculation about an “October surprise,” i.e., a military action or terrorist attack on the eve of the election aimed at shocking the American public into rallying around the Republican administration. But as Bolton suggests, some of Bush’s closest supporters are less than confident that such an event would have the desired effect.

They have the example of the Spanish election of March 2004, when their right-wing ally Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar attempted to exploit and distort a terrorist attack for political advantage and instead provoked a popular backlash that swept him from office.

Despite the Republican drumbeat about Obama and the Democrats being unreliable in terms of their attitude towards Iran, the policies of militarism and the provocation clearly enjoy bipartisan support.

Democrats in Congress are pushing through a resolution that calls for Washington to mount a blockade against Iran—an act of war—as a means of tightening pressure over the nuclear issue. Sponsored by Representative Gary Ackerman (Democrat, New York) in the House and Senator Evan Bayh (Democrat, Indiana) in the Senate, “demands that the President initiate an international effort to immediately and dramatically increase the economic, political, and diplomatic pressure on Iran,” including by “imposing stringent inspection requirements on all persons, vehicles, ships, planes, trains, and cargo entering or departing Iran.”

Such a unilateral action is an act of war under international law and could well provoke a military confrontation between the US and Iran.

For his part, Obama was asked at a press conference in Florida last Friday whether he believed Israel was right to carry out such a threatening military exercise. He responded:

“There is no doubt that Iran poses an extraordinary threat to Israel and Israel is always justified in making decisions that will provide for its security.”

One can only assume from such a remark that an Israeli air strike on Iraq, dragging the US into a conflagration that would eclipse the war in Iraq would, in the view of the Democratic presidential candidate, be justified as well.

See Also:
More talk of war as Iran delays response to demand it end uranium enrichment
[20 June 2008]
On “farewell tour” of Europe: Bush steps up threats against Iran
[11 June 2008]
US threats against Iran—the specter of nuclear barbarism
[13 April 2006]
The political issues behind the Iranian nuclear confrontation
[21 January 2006]

US to carry on military trials at Gitmo despite ruling

Posted in World Affairs on June 24, 2008 by albasheer
US to carry on military trials at Gitmo despite ruling

Hearings for terrorism suspects before US military tribunals in Guantanamo Bay are going ahead despite a Supreme Court ruling that affirmed the detainees have a right to challenge their detention in a civilian court.

Legal experts had described the high court’s decision as the death knell of the special tribunals created by President George W Bush and his Republican allies in Congress to try “war on terror” suspects.

But Justice Department chief Michael Mukasey said the controversial tribunals at the US naval base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, would continue their work and last week, two preliminary hearings were held as scheduled.

The hearings focused on Omar Khadr and Mohammed Jawad, a Canadian and Afghan both detained in Afghanistan for having allegedly thrown grenades when they were still teenagers.

The new judge overseeing the Canadian’s case, Colonel Patrick Parrish, who replaced another military judge who was forced to step down, announced that the trial for Khadr would start on October 8.

Jawad reportedly used his hearing to denounce his treatment, alleging during a two-week period US guards changed his cell every two hours to prevent him from sleeping, a technique dubbed the “frequent flyer program.”

Meanwhile a three-judge panel in federal court on Friday declined to intervene in the Khadr case in an appeal that focused on a procedural dispute.

The decision though does not preclude federal judges from wading directly into the tribunal trials in Guantanamo in the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s ruling, which rejected the government’s assertion that the detainees lack habeas corpus rights.

The US Court of Appeals for the US capital on Monday ruled that Chinese prisoner Huzaifa Parhat, of the Chinese Muslim Uighur minority, is not an enemy combatant and has the right to seek his release from custody at Guantanamo.

Parhat’s release, however, was not expected any time soon since the appeals court said the Pentagon could hold a new tribunal on his status, which observers deemed likely.

Details of the decision were not immediately available because it involved classified information, according to the appeals court statement.

‘More to come’

Although no trial has begun in earnest at the Guantanamo naval base, 19 detainees have been charged and “there will be more coming in the not too distant future,” said Joe DellaVedova of the office of military commissions.

“The military commissions process continues to move forward, in a fair, open and transparent manner,” he said.

Among those already charged are several suspects who allegedly planned the September 11 attacks, as well as Al Qaeda militants accused of having fired rockets in the vicinity of US troops in Afghanistan or having undergone training in the use of explosives.

The first tribunal trial is scheduled to start on July 21 in a newly set up “portable” courtroom to try Salim Hamdan, a Yemeni who worked as a driver and bodyguard for Osama bin Laden.

The judge in the case, Captain Keith Allred, has scheduled a hearing for July 14 that will likely offer a chance to assess the consequences of the landmark Supreme Court ruling for the tribunals.

The fallout from the high court’s ruling is still unclear.

The justices concluded that the naval base in Guantanamo Bay, officially on Cuban territory, can be treated as US territory where rights enshrined in the US Constitution must be respected.

But it remains an open question if inmates enjoy all rights named in the constitution or only certain fundamental rights.


The New York Times ‘Covers’ the Susan Lindauer Hearing

Posted in World Affairs on June 24, 2008 by albasheer
The New York Times ‘Covers’ the Susan Lindauer Hearing
Michael Collins

Scoop” Independent News Washington, DC

The New York Times disgraced itself and betrayed the citizens of the United States when it repeatedly headlined misleading stories by reporter Judith Miller that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction (WMD). The paper issued a meandering apology well after the 2003 prompted by the inaccurate reporting of Miller, the self-styled “Miss Run Amok” reporter, and others. But it was too little and too late to correct the damage. And it seems the Times is still running amok at the expense of what’s in the public interest.

One has to wonder if the New York Times and the White House coordinated efforts on the WMD matter. They certainly worked very well together, propping up in tandem the fear-based prophecy of a menacing Saddam who would deliver his nuclear filled hate to our shores. This was total nonsense, to put it kindly.

We know that the Bush administration and the New York Times editor, William Keller, communicated about a very sensitive matter before the 2004 election. New York Times reporters James Risen and Eric Lichtblau had discovered that the Bush administration had been illegally wiretapping citizens since Sept. 11, 2001. “Internal discussions about drafts of the article had been ‘dragging on for weeks’ before the Nov. 2 election, Mr. Keller acknowledged,” according to an article by Times public editor Byron Calme Instead of publishing the story, Times editor Keller killed and barred the story from public release until December 16, 2006, 13 months after the 2004 election.

Was this a coincidence? Not at all. Bush requested the story be killed for “national security” reasons. Forgetting the paper’s shining moment when it released the Pentagon Papers, Keller willingly complied.

This was the election that would determine if Mr. Bush would have another four years to work the magic that’s brought the nation to its current state of peril. When the story finally broke, it created a wave of negative reaction across the political spectrum.

Thanks to the New York Times’ deliberate delay, we’ll never know how the public would have responded just weeks before the 2004 vote. Based on the public response when the story was released, it may well have created enough of a shift to render the dirty tricks of Ohio and elsewhere meaningless.

The false WMD reports represented propaganda of the most frightening type. It came from reporter Miller who had relied largely on one source, Ahmad Chalabi. He was on the Defense Department payroll at the time that reporter Miller gained the WMD information from him. Without any doubt, the New York Times was a major enabler of the Iraq invasion and occupation.

By withholding a most devastating indictment of the lawless regime in power, namely illegal wiretapping of U.S. citizens, the New York Times denied citizens the option of a fully informed choice in 2004 and it played a major role in returning Bush-Cheney to power.

Four thousand U.S. deaths, tens of thousands of life long injuries to U.S. troops, 1.2 million dead Iraqis due to civil strife triggered by the war, 5 million Iraqi orphans, and the loss of United States’ prestige on a massive scale: this is the shared legacy of the New York Times coverage leading up to the Iraq invasion. A nation on the verge of bankruptcy, foreclosures at epidemic rates, national debt so out of control it is difficult to even measure and a deep recession with possibly worse down the road: this is just a part of the legacy of the New York Times’ coverage of the 2004 election.

How low will they sink?

Even on a smaller scale, their depths are without limits, it would seem.

The most recent example is the New York Times’ coverage of the competency hearing on June 17, 2008 in the Susan Lindauer versus the United States in the Federal District Court, Southern District of New York, in lower Manhattan. Antiwar Activist Returns to Court for Iraq Spy Case, Alan Feuer, New York Times, June 18, 2008.

The headline betrays the first major problem with the New York Times coverage. Susan Lindauer has claimed all along that she was an anti-war and anti-sanctions activist as well as a U.S. asset. However, no one who has read the indictment or the informed coverage would refer to Lindauer as an accused “spy.” She is charged with being an “unregistered foreign agent.” The “high water mark” of the indictment, as Judge Mukasey called it, is the charge that Lindauer attempted to influence U.S. policy on behalf of pre-war Iraq through the delivery of this January 2003 letter to Andrew Card, then chief of staff for President Bush, and Colin Powell, then secretary of state.

The New York Times story opens with this curious statement:

“She rolled her eyes. She stuck her tongue out at the prosecutor. It was decidedly not the usual courtroom demeanor. Then again, it was not the usual federal case.” New York Times, June 18, 2008 (NYT)

I attended the hearing and sat in the front row of the courtroom. Of all the spectators, I had one of the best views of defendant Susan Lindauer and the witnesses. With regard to “rolling her eyes,” that was simply not visible from the public seating since Lindauer faced the judge showing spectators only her back except when she turned and was visible in profile. As for “sticking out her tongue,” I saw no such behavior and Lindauer denies the reporter’s claim vigorously. The alleged gesture was not reported by the New York Daily News, Associated Press, and New York Metro. Nor did I report it in this article on the hearing.

Why would the reporter begin a news story with such an inflammatory unverified charge?

If we skip to the end of the article, we might find an answer. The reporter closed the story with this statement by Lindauer from her post hearing press conference in the hall just outside Judge Loretta Preska’s courtroom.

“She angrily contested an accusation in her indictment that she had illegally lunched with Iraqi intelligence operatives.

“You want to send me to prison because I had a cheeseburger,” she said, “even though I’m not the person who actually ate the cheeseburger.” NYT

The reporter plucked out of context a random remark about cheeseburgers to characterize Lindauer’s denial of serious charges as weak and less than serious.

Lindauer was arguing that the indictment was both flawed and incorrect. She denied these charges, pointed out that she had not been in the city on the dates alleged, and asserted that she can prove it. Then she illustrated what she clearly believed to be the absurdity of the charges with the cheeseburger remark. By lifting this quotation out of context, an entirely different meaning is implied.

The New York Times reporting on the facts of the case is also notably wanting. The reporter echoed the prosecutors claim that “a half-dozen doctors claimed Lindauer suffered from paranoia and delusions of grandeur.” Lindauer, the subject of these professionals, questioned the accuracy of the prosecutor’s statement.

The story leaves out the psychiatrist who examined Lindauer just after her arrest and found no such thing. It fails to mention the two psychotherapists who saw Lindauer over a period of months and failed to report any of this. Observation and interaction over an extended period are powerful tools for diagnosis.

The reporter also failed to note the completed report submitted to the court by a distinguished Washington, D.C. area psychiatrist and academic which reportedly says that Lindauer is competent to stand trial. The psychiatrist is scheduled to appear on Lindauer’s behalf at the next hearing before Judge Preska on July 7, 2008. But discovering this would require that the reporter actually talk to the defendant.

This was, after all, a competency hearing on the mental capacity of Lindauer to stand trial. Wouldn’t you expect the New York Times to cover both sides of the story?

The New York Times described the last hearing of former judge, now U.S. Attorney General Mukasey, on the prosecution’s request to have Lindauer forcibly drugged. He said that “Judge Mukasey declined to rule on the request, saying that the case would be assigned to a new judge — which turned out to be Loretta A. Preska — and that she would eventually have to decide.” NYT

That’s entirely incorrect. In his “Opinion and Order” of Sept. 6, 2006, Mukasey wrote: “Based on the evidence presented at a Sell hearing on May 4 and May 9, 2006, for the reasons explained below, the government has failed to carry this burden — “Accordingly, the motion is denied.” (Author’s emphasis)

The New York Times article referred to the defense witnesses’ testimony as “suggestively odd.” Why would the Times make that inference?

The first witness, Kelly O’Meara, was a former reporter for the Washington Times and Insight Magazine and a senior congressional staffer for over two decades. She established a strong connection between Lindauer and an individual reported to be a part of U.S. intelligence, a relationship that endured over time.

The second witness, Dr. Parke Godfrey, was deliberate and thoughtful. He is a long time associate of Lindauer’s and a PhD level associate professor of computer science with a solid academic record. He told of Lindauer’s anti-war activism and also of her warnings about 911.

“Appearing for the defense, Dr. Godfrey testified under oath that Lindauer told him of her specific concerns about an attack on the United States. She told him that a “massive” attack would occur in the southern part of Manhattan, involving airplanes and possibly a nuclear weapon. The witness said that she mentioned this in the year 2000, which coincided with the Lockerbie trial. And then in 2001, Lindauer also mentioned the anticipated attack in the spring, 2001 and then August 2001. Godfrey said, at that time, Lindauer thought an attack was “imminent” and that it would complete what was started in the 1993 bombing (the original World Trade Center bombing).” “Scoop” Independent News, Michael Collins, June 18, 2008

The Associated Press covered the 9/11 portion of the testimony but not the New York Times.

The New York Times coverage of this story opens with an inflammatory personal attack verified only by the reporter – the claim that Lindauer stuck her tongue out. It ends with a quotation clearly out of context leading to a negative view of Lindauer’s coherence. Combined, the two inflammatory aspersions have the effect of presenting an unstable individual. Is the reporter qualified to make this assessment from the gallery? Is this some new form of remote diagnosis?

The story erred by ignoring Mukasey’s highly significant “opinion and order” that denied the government the ability to physically force drugs on the defendant. The reporter jettisoned the facts by claiming that Mukasey simply passed that issue along to Lindauer’s current judge, a factually incorrect statement.

The story ignored mental health reports that are the crux of the competency issue and favorable to Lindauer’s claim, instead relying solely on the prosecutor’s characterization of the government’s evidence.

The New York Times blithely extended the personal attack on Lindauer to her witnesses by calling their testimony “suggestively odd.” Both witnesses presented calm, considered demeanors, described relevant information, and gave every appearance, in my opinion, of being open and cooperative with the hearing process.

What is the New York Times up to? Was this just the product of a bad day by a reporter who preferred to be somewhere else? Is the New York Times entering a new realm of coverage that includes highly subjective personal attacks? Are we seeing the birth of a new deductive journalism in which the facts are tailored to create a story that the paper prefers?

These are the people who brought us Judith Miller’s fatal distortions and covered up George Bush’s illegal surveillance activities from consideration in the 2004 election.

They continued that tradition in the article on the Lindauer competency hearing by inflammatory claims that would lead uninformed readers to a significant bias against the defendant and factual errors about the history of the case that are less than helpful.

The reporter from the New York Times characterized Lindauer in a derisive and mocking tone. If he truly believed the prosecutor’s experts with regard to Lindauer’s mental state, he would be guilty of behavior that is simply not acceptable in almost any circle. Let’s give him the benefit of the doubt and presume that he had another motive for his characterizations.

Stories like this are not only unbalanced and biased. They promote injustice to citizens who deserve an opportunity to achieve justice through a fair trial.


Acknowledgements to Susannah Pitt and K. Stone for their very helpful assistance.

June 24, 2008 By Michael Collins. This material may be reproduced in whole or part with attribution of authorship, a link to this article, and acknowledgment of image use information.

A totally lawless regime

Posted in World Affairs on June 24, 2008 by albasheer
A totally lawless regime
By Paul Craig Roberts
Online Journal Contributing Writer

Think about this question: In the 21st century what regime is more lawless than the Bush Regime?

Everyone is entitled to his own answer. The only answer I can come up with is the Zimbabwe regime of Robert Mugabe. Voted out of power in the last election, the great man hasn’t left. Zimbabweans are going to have to vote again, and the great man has said that any vote that is not for him will be cancelled by a bullet.

Does anyone remember how determined the British and the Americans and everyone else was to turn Rhodesia over to Mugabe in order to save Rhodesia from the evil Ian Smith? What a fool everyone was.

But before we laugh at those fools, we had best laugh at ourselves, or cry.

It is now an incontrovertible fact, known all over the world, that George W. Bush and his regime’s operatives lied through their teeth in order to launch wars of aggression against Afghanistan and Iraq, and that the Bush regime is doing the same thing again in hopes of launching an attack on Iran.

There have been a number of memoirs from high-ranking Bush appointees who cannot stand all the lies. Bush’s first secretary of the treasury, Paul O’Neill, told us that an invasion of Iraq was on the agenda prior to 9/11. There is the leaked Downing Street Memo in which the head of British intelligence told the British prime minister and his cabinet that the Americans have decided to attack Iraq and are creating the “intelligence” to justify the attack.

And now we have the White House’s own spokesman from 2003-2006, Scott McClellan, ratifying what we already knew: that President Bush deceived us and led us into war based entirely on lies and fabrications, and that he, Scott McClellan, was deceived into issuing a false public denial that top Cheney aide Scooter Libby and White House operative Karl Rove were involved in committing a felony under US law by revealing the identity of a covert CIA operative, Valerie Plame.

As a consequence of Bush’s lies, there are a million dead Iraqis, mostly women and children, 4 million displaced Iraqis, 4,100 dead American soldiers and tens of thousands of seriously wounded. No one knows how many dead in Afghanistan. And there is the ongoing Israeli slaughter of Palestinians and Lebanese that has fallen under the rubric of the “war on terror.”

The only ones pleased with these wars are the American neoconservatives, the Israeli right wing, the US corporate military-security complex, and Osama bin Laden.

The Bush regime has created enormous hatred and disrespect for the United States. A recent worldwide poll found that George W. Bush ranks at the bottom of world leaders as one of the least trusted, along with US Pakistani puppet Musharraf and the Iranian president, Ahmadinejad, who has the disadvantage of being the victim of demonization by the US and European corporate-controlled media, which serve as ministries of propaganda for the governments that control their broadcast licenses. The American and European media lie for their living.

The two leaders with the highest approval rating are UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon and former Russian President Vladimir Putin.

So, the old adversary, Russia, now has a more respected leader than the “leader” of the Great Free Nation, a Great Free Nation that has sat on its hands while its “leader” destroyed America’s civil liberties, America’s reputation, the jobs of Americans, and committed the US to a course of war crimes punishable by the International Criminal Court at the Hague.

A number of readers took issue with my recent column, Obama and the Fall into Tyranny. Echoing former Alabama Governor George Wallace, readers said Obama would make no difference. But that is what I wrote.

My point was not that Obama would make any difference, as he has put himself and his administration into the hands of Wall Street and the Israel Lobby. I said that the American people could make a difference by rejecting the Republicans, as it was the only accountability that the Republicans were likely to suffer.

If Americans return a Republican regime, Americans will validate the right of the president to violate with impunity US and international law. Americans will validate the use by the president of the United States of deception and lies in order to initiate wars of aggression, aggression that is a war crime under the Nuremburg standard established by the US. Americans will validate the infringement of US civil liberties in the name of “safety” and “national security.” Americans will disembowel the US Constitution and leave themselves at the total mercy of the government.

Reelecting Republicans means the end of the United States as a land of liberty.

I am sympathetic to the argument that we, as a country of liberty, are near our end regardless. Look at the Democrats. Last Friday, the House of Representatives, which the voters gave to the Democrats in the 2006 congressional elections in order to end the pointless barbarity that the US has brought to Iraq, voted the largest war-spending bill ever. The “antiwar” Democrats completely collapsed, giving the warmonger Brownshirt Republican regime everything it wanted.

The House Democrats, led by “impeachment-is-off-the-table” Nancy Pelosi, added to the Democratic Party’s shame by passing a bill that shields from punishment the criminal Bush regime and the telecommunications corporations that the Bush regime coerced into committing felonies under US law by cooperating in Bush’s illegal spying on American citizens.

The great hope of the Founding Fathers, the people’s house, the House of Representatives, has passed an unconstitutional retroactive law making acts legal which were illegal when they were committed.

If a Democratic House of Representatives will pass a retroactive law in order to legalize the criminal violations of a Republican regime, the same House will pass a retroactive law making illegal what you did legally yesterday. No one is any longer safe in America. By abandoning the US Constitution, Republicans and Democrats have made America as potentially unsafe as Zimbabwe for anyone who takes exception to the government.

The total collapse of the Democratic Party and the House of Representatives signals the end of liberty and democracy in America. Henceforth, led by the Republican Federalist Society, we will gravitate toward the beautiful regime of “energy in the executive” that has been achieved in Zimbabwe by Robert Mugabe.

Paul Craig Roberts [email him] was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury during President Reagan’s first term. He was Associate Editor of the Wall Street Journal. He has held numerous academic appointments, including the William E. Simon Chair, Center for Strategic and International Studies, Georgetown University, and Senior Research Fellow, Hoover Institution, Stanford University. He was awarded the Legion of Honor by French President Francois Mitterrand. He is the author of Supply-Side Revolution : An Insider’s Account of Policymaking in Washington; Alienation and the Soviet Economy and Meltdown: Inside the Soviet Economy, and is the co-author with Lawrence M. Stratton of The Tyranny of Good Intentions : How Prosecutors and Bureaucrats Are Trampling the Constitution in the Name of Justice. Click here for Peter Brimelow’s Forbes Magazine interview with Roberts about the recent epidemic of prosecutorial misconduct.

The Supreme Court, Habeas, John Yoo and Murdoch’s Wall Street Journal

Posted in World Affairs on June 23, 2008 by albasheer
The Supreme Court, Habeas, John Yoo and Murdoch’s Wall Street Journal
Stephen Lendman

Rupert Murdoch has a corrosive effect on whatever he touches, and this writer once tangled with him in an article called Lies, Damn Lies and the Murdoch Empire. Former Chicago columnist Mike Royko also did and remarked that “no self-respecting fish would (want to be) wrapped in a Murdock paper….His goal (isn’t) quality journalism (it’s) vast power, political power.”

Even Murdoch’s private joke is that “God doesn’t trust (him) in the dark.” Nor should anyone ever, including Wall Street Journal readers. They’ve seen the paper’s quality deteriorate since he took over, cleaned house, installed his own people in key positions, and now runs it like his other enterprises. He’s boss, what he says goes, including on editorial policy after he promised its former owner he’d keep hands off.

It shows more than ever on the Journal’s opinion page, yet after Murdoch bought Dow Jones last August, Time magazine asked “Is the Wall Street Journal’s editorial page really ‘right-wing?’ ” It stated that “an editorial page should have a strong point of view (and) for years (and presumably now it’s) been one of the Journal page’s great strengths.” No disagreement from its hard right faithful who want their views expressed, never mind truth and accuracy, let alone honor and respect for the law.

It showed up on June 17 in a John Yoo op-ed feature. He’s a tenured UC Berkeley professor (since 1999) teaching aspiring lawyers constitutional law at the Boalt Hall School of Law on campus. To the university’s embarrassment and shame, some, with good reason, call him “the torture professor,” and at least since fall 2005 have denounced him, demanded he be fired, protested inside and outside his classroom, and were arrested as a result.

Yoo is a neocon ideologue and a member of the hard right Federalist Society that espouses views any despot would love. It’s for rolling back civil liberties; ending New Deal social policies; denying women reproductive choice; quashing government regulations, labor rights, and environmental protections; subverting justice in defense of privilege; and for former Deputy Assistant Attorney General Yoo (from 2001 – 2003) even more. He believes presidential war powers grant the executive:

— unlimited authority to ignore international and constitutional law;

— the right to torture and assault “enemy combatant”

— deny them habeas, due process, and consign them to “Stalinist show trial” justice in what law professor Francis Boyle calls “Gitmo Kargaroo Courts;”

— dismiss the fact that doing so violates international law; is a war crime under the Laws of War, Geneva, the Army’s own Field Manual 27-10 and other statutes;

— bypass Congress and the courts in the process;

— deceive them along with the public; and

— justify virtually anything (including “unilateral presidential warmaking”) to defend “national security,” as so stated in his 2005 book, The Powers of War and Peace and in (at least two) memos dated August 2, 2002 and March 18, 2003; he, David Addington (Cheney’s legal counsel), and then-White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales wrote them; Jay Bybee, now a Bush-appointed federal judge, also signed them making him equally culpable.

On April 1, Yoo’s infamous (81 page) 2003 one was made public. Days later, the National Lawyers Guild (NLG) and Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) urged UC Berkeley to fire him. They also called for his disbarment and prosecution for war crimes. Hundreds of others in the country and around the world share similar views about a man who shames UC Berkeley, has no business teaching constitutional or any other law, and is guilty of high crimes, misdemeanors, and other abuses of the rule of law he disdains.

NLG President Marjorie Cohn, international law expert Francis Boyle, CCR President Michael Ratner and others point out that officials like Yoo are guilty of grievous war and other crimes under:

— the US Constitution;

— US War Crimes Act;

— Geneva Conventions;

— UN Charter;

— UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment;

— Nuremberg Principles; and

— various other statutes that were (and still are) repeatedly violated with impunity by Yoo (earlier) and many other past and present Bush administration officials.

Yet there was Yoo on June 17 given prime, near-half page space on the Journal’s opinion page to state his views on the important June 12 Supreme Court’s harsh rebuke of administration policy. It was in its Boumediene v. Bush (No. 06-1195) 5-4 ruling that Guantanamo detainees (most of whom have never been charged and are innocent) may challenge their detention in US courts in defiance of the 2006 Military Commissions Act – an unconstitutional October 2006 law empowering the administration and Pentagon (in military tribunals) to deny habeas, due process, and act as accuser, trial judge and executioner with no right of appeal and no chance for judicial fairness.

Yoo objected in his piece titled “The Supreme Court Goes to War,” in which he rails against the rule of law the way he did as Deputy Assistant Attorney General and likely does in his classroom. He called the Court ruling “judicial imperialism of the highest order,” and stated: “The only hope for reigning in the judiciary is the November election (when) the next president will be in a position to appoint a new Court that can reverse the damage done to the nation’s security” – by which he means replacing retiring Justices with more extremist ones.

He continued saying “out the window went precedent… Until Boumediene, the Supreme Court had never allowed an alien who was captured fighting against the US….to challenge his detention (in US courts).” Unmentioned is that nearly all detainees fall outside this classification. They were lawlessly and randomly seized; turned in for bounty; nearly all are innocent victims; yet have been isolated, imprisoned, denied counsel or an inadequate amount of it, and tortured in violation of international and domestic law. Some have died, been killed or committed suicide as a result.

Granting them habeas rights is their best chance for justice long denied, and it can’t come a moment too soon. Calling Guantanamo detainees “al Qaeda terrorists” has no basis in fact. Most have been held for years without charge, under the dubious Geneva-superceded category of “unlawful enemy combatant.” They’re denied their human rights and humanity, and had little chance until now for judicial fairness. Yoo played a major role in the process. He insists it be continued, and got prominent op-ed space for his views – outlandish ones against the rule of law but championed by the likes of Murdoch.

He goes on saying: “Boumediene….also ignored the Constitution’s structure (granting) all war decisions to the president and Congress.” It twice before (in 2004 and 2006) “extend(ed) its reach to (unproved) ‘al Qaeda terrorists’ at Guantanamo….” Each time Congress “overruled (it to establish) its own procedures for the appeal of detentions. Incredibly….five Justices have defied the ‘considered judgment’ of the president and Congress for a third time (to grant) ‘al Qaeda terrorists’ the exact same rights as American citizens to a day in civilian court.”

Unmentioned is Jose Padilla’s ordeal – a US citizen unlawfully held for nearly four years in military and civilian confinement as an “enemy combatant.” Charges against him were bogus and unjustifiable, yet he was denied due process, tortured, brutalized and dehumanized in solitary confinement. They destroyed him by turning his mind to mush, but it wasn’t enough. Last January, he was sentenced to 17 years, four months in a police state show trial for his “role” in a “conspiracy” to help “Islamic jihadists” – a concocted scheme to imprison and destroy him further on the pretext of protecting “national security.” Chalk up another win for injustice along with all the many others besides.

But it’s not how Yoo sees it in his op-ed comments. In an astonishing inversion of truth, he claims “Congress gave Guantanamo (detainees) more rights than any prisoners of war (which they’re not), in any war, ever.” And he continues by accusing the Justices of “intrud(ing) into the conduct of war….jury-rig(ing) a process (that) second-guesses our soldiers and intelligence agents in the field (and may force them to give ‘prisoners’) some kind of Miranda-style warning upon capture.”

There’s more. Boumediene “is only a hop, skip and a jump from judges second-guessing whether someone is an enemy to second-guessing whether a soldier should have aimed and fired at him.” He goes on, but you get the point. Yoo calls Boumediene a “brazen power grab (with Justices) act(ing) like we are no longer at war.” Like we’re back to the “business-as-usual attitude that characterized US antiterrorism policy up to September 10, 2001.”

It was never kind and gentle, but consider its post-9/11 harshness from what Lawrence Wilkerson told a June 18 House Subcommittee on Civil Rights hearing on torture. He’s Colin Powell’s former Chief of Staff (2001-2005), and his testimony was damning. He told Subcommittee Chairman Jerrold Nadler that 108 detainees died in US custody, around 27 were declared homicides, and it “start(ed) as early as December 2001 in Afghanistan.”

And that’s besides the February 2006 Human Rights First report of hundreds of deaths in US custody, around 34 confirmed or suspected homicides, including at least eight from torture and likely more. Because of command responsibility cover-up, lax investigation, poor record keeping, and little attempt to treat these crimes seriously, few prosecutions occurred, and the stiffest penalty for any was five months in jail. None of this was in Yoo’s piece nor any sense of remorse, and in his judgment they likely got what was they deserved.

Others share Yoo’s views and get ample mainstream space and air time to present them. Yoo as well in his classroom, and imagine how young minds are harmed. Instead of teaching constitutional law, he renounces it. So do others with clout, and that’s the problem.

What’s ahead is anyone’s guess. Repressive laws won’t be repealed. Illegal wars won’t end, and extremist judges still dominate the federal bench, one favorable High Court decision notwithstanding. Deserving detainees are still denied justice. Their ordeal continues because influential war criminals are featured daily on major opinion pages where truth and righteousness lose out to hateful viciousness, and the nation slips closer to tyranny – thanks to men like Yoo and Murdoch.


Posted on: June 23, 2008. Stephen Lendman is a Research Associate of the Centre for Research on Globalization. He lives in Chicago and can be reached at: Visit his blog site at, and listen to The Global Research News Hour Mondays on from 11AM – 1PM US Central time for cutting-edge discussions of world and national topics with distinguished guests. All programs are archived for easy listening.

In Their Own Words: Admissions from the people who wrote the 9/11 Commission Report that it was compromised

Posted in World Affairs on June 23, 2008 by albasheer
In Their Own Words: Admissions from the people who wrote the 9/11 Commission Report that it was compromised
Quotations from Without Precedent: The Inside Story of the 911 Commission, by Thomas Kean and Lee Hamilton

“We were set up to fail” (14).

“The chief obstacle was the White House, which argued that the congressional inquiry was continuing, and that an independent investigation would distract the government from waging the ongoing war on terrorism” (17).

“The two sides decided to split the difference, allowing eighteen months for the inquiry—a period of time that proved insufficient” (20).

“The White House also suggested some candidates for executive director for our staff. The importance of this position cannot be overstated” (22).

“…we seriously only considered one candidate: Philip Zelikow…. Zelikow was a controversial choice. In the 1990s, as an academic, he had co-authored, with Condoleezza Rice, a book about German unification, and he later assisted Stephen Hadley in running the National Security Council transition for the incoming Bush administration in 2000-2001” (28).

“…our office space and employees had to be cleared by the FBI and CIA to handle top-secret information…” (34)

“After Philip Zelikow came on board as executive director, he began recruiting and interviewing candidates…. Zelikow was selected with little consultation with the rest of the committee, but several commissioners had concerns about the kind of inquiry he would lead” (35)

“…Zelikow drove and organized the staff’s work…” (38)

“The House Republican caucus and Speaker Dennis Hastert’s office remained the most difficult obstacles. Throughout the life of the commission, and indeed through the passage of intelligence reform legislation based upon our recommendations, the strongest congressional wariness came from House Republicans” (45)

“We had to decide: How deep and how far do the roots of 9/11 run? That is a difficult question to answer…. In a way, we would define what information was relevant to 9/11 by asking for it” (58)

“We soon encountered problems, both in obtaining information and with the laborious conditions placed on our access to some information” (63)

“We decided against an aggressive use of subpoenas for several reasons…. Furthermore, we knew that many of the most important documents we sought were potentially the subject of an executive privilege claim—meaning that the president might not be legally compelled to share that material with another branch of government, even with a subpoena” (64)

“We were supposed to be independent, not necessarily confrontational. We were investigating a national catastrophe, not a White House transgression; this was 9/11, not Watergate” (65)

“When the Joint Inquiry report was released, there were twenty-eight blank pages where information had been ‘redacted’ from public view…. By being secretive, the government opened the door to cynicism and conspiracy theories…. The core of the problem is the fact that people in government can get in trouble for revealing something that is secret, but they cannot get in trouble for stamping SECRET on a document. Thus the default rule becomes: when in doubt, classify. Particularly in our early days, the 9/11 Commission faced this problem” (69)

“The White House wanted strict limitations on both of these fronts—limiting staff with access to White House documents to just two or three people, limiting the commissioners with access to certain materials to just the chair and vice-chair, and restricting the amount of notes the staff could bring back to the 9/11 Commission’s office” (72)

“…the FAA had turned over to us the distilled product of their own internal investigation into 9/11, but had failed to turn over the extensive raw materials that had gone into that investigation, even though that is precisely what our staff had asked for” (83)

“There were also discrepancies between things NORAD was telling us about their performance on the morning of September 11—things that the agency had stated publicly after 9/11—and the story told by the limited tapes and documents the commission had received…. These were puzzling and disturbing developments, and they account in part for some of the more bizarre and inaccurate conspiracy theories about 9/11.”
“Farmer believed that NORAD was delivering incomplete records with the knowledge that the commission had a fixed end date that could be waited out” (86)

“Many interviews were recorded, though we were not permitted to record those conducted with current officials from the Executive Office of the President” (98)

“The FBI and CIA were fairly responsive; the Department of Defense was less so. But it was clear that the government’s interrogators were not asking the detainees the kinds of questions we wanted answered…. We also had no way of evaluating the credibility of detainee information…. In some cases, we could corroborate the truthfulness of what a detainee was reported to have said by comparing that information with other evidence. But in some cases we couldn’t; and in others, detainees offered contradicting accounts” (119)

“Where we could corroborate these detainee reports from other witnesses or evidence, we did. Where we could not, it was left to the reader to consider the credibility of the source—we had no opportunity to do so” (124)

“Senior officials from the FAA and NORAD—Jane Garvey and Craig McKinley—made statements about the timeline of 9/11 that were later proven to be inaccurate” (127)

“Staff statements also gave us a chance to work out a process for clearing material for publication by the White House. We were determined to avoid the fate of the Joint Inquiry and its redacted pages” (134)

“The evidence showed that some of the hijackers had been here unlawfully, and had not obeyed immigration laws in the United States. Two of the surviving passports had been doctored, and the other two had what our staff referred to as ‘suspicious indicators.’ Three hijackers had made false statements on visa applications that could have been detected—for instance, saying they had not previously applied for a U.S. visa when they had. Five hijackers had entered the United States more than once, and three of those five had violated immigration laws that could have led to their being barred from reentry, for instance, by entering the United States on a tourist visa and then enrolling in a flight school…. In total, at least six of the nineteen hijackers had violated immigration laws while in the United States” (136)

“The hijackers were nineteen for twenty in getting into the country; they were nineteen for nineteen in getting onto the four flights with lethal knives, box cutters, and—in some cases—probably Mace or pepper spray (which were banned items)” (138)

“Speaker Dennis Hastert continued his staunch opposition to any extension for the commission” (148)

“Then, on March 30, the White House surprised us by offering to have both President Bush and Vice-President Cheney meet with the full commission…. Another condition was that there could not be a recording or transcript of the meeting…. We were permitted one staff member—Philip Zelikow, our staff director—to attend as a note taker, and commissioners also took notes” (206-207)

“The point is terrorists exist in a shadowy world; contacts are made under ambiguous circumstances, for ambiguous reasons” (250)

“Throughout the course of our inquiry, the topic that invited the most skepticism—and thus the most conspiracy theorizing—was the performance of the FAA and NORAD on the day of September 11, 2001” (256)

“Fog of war could explain why some people were confused on the day of 9/11, but it could not explain why all of the after-action reports, accident investigations, and public testimony by FAA and NORAD officials advanced an account of 9/11 that was untrue” (261)

“General Myers asserted that the chain of command was in place, though there were gaps when Secretary Rumsfeld was in the Pentagon’s parking lot, and since the president was sometimes out of reach” (265)

“At the outset of our work, Philip Zelikow and Ernest May prepared an outline along these lines, and they presented it to the two of us in July 2003…. [May] and Zelikow had collaborated on books in the past and had a strong mutual regard…. His primary role was advising Zelikow and occasionally weighing in on debates within the staff” (270)

“…Zelikow had an overarching vision for how the report should flow…. Ultimately, the responsibility for final staff edits of the respective chapters was divided up among Zelikow, Kojm, and Marcus” (273)

The following quotations are from Ernest R. May, “When government writes history,” The New Republic, May 16, 2005.

“To some extent, the concept of the report as a narrative history influenced the recruitment of staff. Here were many other constraints. The urgent reporting deadline made it advantageous if a potential member of the staff already had high-level security clearances. (Zelikow had them as a member of the President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board. I had them as a member of the Intelligence Science Board.) That meant preference for people who could be detailed from national security agencies or who had been on the staff of one of the congressional intelligence oversight committees. Of the fifty-odd men and women who counted as professional rather than administrative staff, at least half had such backgrounds.”

“And no language appeared anywhere in the final text unless Zelikow or I or both of us—and all the commissioners—had accepted it.”

“A reader of the commission report should bear in mind that its documentary base was extraordinarily deep but also extraordinarily narrow”

“We never had full confidence in the interrogation reports as historical sources…. I think the commission could have successfully challenged the CIA on both access to detainees and release of names, but it chose not to fight these battles.”

“Third, and most troubling to me, the report is probably too balanced. Its harshest criticism is directed at institutions and procedures, particularly the CIA, the FBI, and communications links within the counterterrorist community. But many of the staff had worked in these or other national security agencies. They felt loyal to them and some of them expected to return to work there. Collective drafting led to the introduction of passages that offset criticism of an agency with words of praise. Not all these words were deserved.”

Frequently Asked Questions Regarding The Camp David Peace Proposal of July, 2000 and the so-called Barak’s Generous Offer.

Posted in World Affairs on June 22, 2008 by albasheer
Frequently Asked Questions Regarding The Camp David Peace Proposal of July, 2000 and the so-called Barak’s Generous Offer.

Why did the Palestinians reject the Camp David Peace Proposal?

For a true and lasting peace between the Israeli and Palestinian peoples, there must be two viable and independent states living as equal neighbors. Israel’s Camp David proposal, which was never set forth in writing, denied the Palestinian state viability and independence by dividing Palestinian territory into four separate cantons entirely surrounded, and therefore controlled, by Israel. The Camp David proposal also denied Palestinians control over their own borders, airspace and water resources while legitimizing and expanding illegal Israeli colonies in Palestinian territory. Israel’s Camp David proposal presented a ‘re-packaging’ of military occupation, not an end to military occupation.

Didn’t Israel’s proposal give the Palestinians almost all of the territories occupied by Israel in 1967?
No. Israel sought to annex almost 9 percent of the Occupied Palestinian Territories and in exchange offered only 1 percent of Israel’s own territory. In addition, Israel sought control over an additional 10 percent of the Occupied Palestinian Territories in the form of a “long-term lease”. However, the issue is not one of percentages—the issue is one of viability and independence. In a prison for example, 95 percent of the prison compound is ostensibly for the prisoners—cells, cafeterias, gym and medical facilities—but the remaining 5 percent is all that is needed for the prison guards to maintain control over the prisoner population.

Similarly, the Camp David proposal, while admittedly making Palestinian prison cells larger, failed to end Israeli control over the Palestinian population.

Did the Palestinians accept the idea of a land swap?

The Palestinians were (and are) prepared to consider any idea that is consistent with a fair peace based on international law and equality of the Israeli and Palestinian peoples. The Palestinians did consider the idea of a land swap but proposed that such land swap must be based on a one-to-one ratio, with land of equal value and in areas adjacent to the border with Palestine and in the same vicinity as the lands to be annexed by Israel. However, Israel’s Camp David proposal of a nine-to-one land swap (in Israel’s favor) was viewed as so unfair as to seriously undermine belief in Israel’s commitment to a fair territorial compromise.

How did Israel’s proposal envision the territory of a Palestinian state?

Israel’s proposal divided Palestine into four separate cantons surrounded by Israel: the Northern West Bank, the Central West Bank, the Southern West Bank and Gaza. Going from any one area to another would require crossing Israeli sovereign territory and consequently subject movement of Palestinians within their own country to Israeli control. Not only would such restrictions apply to the movement of people, but also to the movement of goods, in effect subjecting the Palestinian economy to Israeli control. Lastly, the Camp David proposal would have left Israel in control over all Palestinian borders thereby allowing Israel to control not only internal movement of people and goods but international movement as well. Such a Palestinian state would have had less sovereignty and viability than the Bantustans created by the South African apartheid government.

How did Israel’s proposal address Palestinian East Jerusalem?

The Camp David Proposal required Palestinians to give up any claim to the occupied portion of Jerusalem. The proposal would have forced recognition of Israel’s annexation of all of Arab East Jerusalem. Talks after Camp David suggested that Israel was prepared to allow Palestinians sovereignty over isolated Palestinian neighborhoods in the heart of East Jerusalem, however such neighborhoods would remain surrounded by illegal Israeli colonies and separated not only from each other but also from the rest of the Palestinian state. In effect, such a proposal would create Palestinian ghettos in the heart of Jerusalem.

Why didn’t the Palestinians ever present a comprehensive permanent settlement proposal of their own in response to Barak’s proposals?

The comprehensive settlement to the conflict is embodied in United Nations Resolutions 242 and 338, as was accepted by both sides at the Madrid Summit in 1991 and later in the Oslo Accords of 1993. The purpose of the negotiations is to implement these UN resolutions (which call for an Israeli withdrawal from land occupied by force by Israel in 1967) and reach agreement on final status issues. On a number of occasions since Camp David—especially at the Taba talks—the Palestinian negotiating team presented its concept for the resolution of the key permanent status issues. It is important to keep in mind, however, that Israel and the Palestinians are differently situated.

Israel seeks broad concessions from the Palestinians: it wants to annex Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem; obtain rights to Palestinian water resources in the West Bank; maintain military locations on Palestinian soil; and deny the Palestinian refugees’ their right of return. Israel has not offered a single concession involving its own territory and rights. The Palestinians, on the other hand, seek to establish a viable, sovereign State on their own territory, to provide for the withdrawal of Israeli military forces and colonies (which are universally recognized as illegal), and to secure the right of Palestinian refugees to return to the homes they were forced to flee in 1948. Although Palestinian negotiators have been willing to accommodate legitimate Israeli needs within that context, particularly with respect to security and refugees, it is up to Israel to define these needs and to suggest the narrowest possible means of addressing them.

Why did the peace process fall apart just as it was making real progress toward a permanent agreement?

Palestinians entered the peace process on the understanding that (1) it would deliver concrete improvements to their lives during the interim period, (2) that the interim period would be relatively short in duration—i.e., five years, and (3) that a permanent agreement would implement United Nations Resolutions 242 and 338. But the peace process delivered none of these things. Instead, Palestinians suffered more burdensome restrictions on their movement and a serious decline in their economic situation. Israeli colonies expanded at an unprecedented pace and the West Bank and Gaza Strip became more fragmented with the construction of settler “by-pass” roads and the proliferation of Israeli military checkpoints. Deadlines were repeatedly missed in the implementation of agreements. In sum, Palestinians simply did not experience any “progress” in terms of their daily lives.

However, what decisively undermined Palestinian support for the peace process was the way Israel presented its proposal. Prior to entering into the first negotiations on permanent status issues, Prime Minister Barak publicly and repeatedly threatened Palestinians that his “offer” would be Israel’s best and final offer and if not accepted, Israel would seriously consider “unilateral separation” (a euphemism for imposing a settlement rather than negotiating one). Palestinians felt that they had been betrayed by Israel who had committed itself at the beginning of the Oslo process to ending its occupation of Palestinian lands in accordance with UN Resolutions 242 and 338.

Doesn’t the violence which erupted following Camp David prove that Palestinians do not really want to live in peace with Israel?

Palestinians recognized Israel’s right to exist in 1988 and re-iterated this recognition on several occasions including Madrid in 1991 and the Oslo Accords in September, 1993. Nevertheless, Israel has yet to explicitly and formally recognize Palestine’s right to exist. The Palestinian people waited patiently since the Madrid Conference in 1991 for their freedom and independence despite Israel’s incessant policy of creating facts on the ground by building colonies in occupied territory (Israeli housing units in Occupied Palestinian Territory—not including East Jerusalem—increased by 52 percent since the signing of the Oslo Accords and the settler population, including those in East Jerusalem, more than doubled). The Palestinians do indeed wish to live at peace with Israel but peace with Israel must be a fair peace—not an unfair peace imposed by a stronger party over a weaker party.

Doesn’t the failure of Camp David prove that the Palestinians are just not prepared to compromise?

The Palestinians have indeed compromised. In the Oslo Accords, the Palestinians recognized Israeli sovereignty over 78 percent of historic Palestine (23 percent more than Israel was granted pursuant to the 1947 UN partition plan) on the assumption that the Palestinians would be able to exercise sovereignty over the remaining 22 percent. The overwhelming majority of Palestinians accepted this compromise but this extremely generous compromise was ignored at Camp David and the Palestinians were asked to “compromise the compromise” and make further concessions in favor of Israel. Though the Palestinians can continue to make compromises, no people can be expected to compromise fundamental rights or the viability of their state.

Have the Palestinians abandoned the two-state solution and do they now insist on all of historic Palestine?

The current situation has undoubtedly hardened positions on both sides, with extremists in both Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories claiming all of historic Palestine. Nevertheless, there is no evidence that the PA or the majority of Palestinians have abandoned the two-state solution. The two-state solution however is most seriously threatened by the on-going construction of Israeli colonies and by-pass roads aimed at incorporating the Occupied Palestinian Territories into Israel. Without a halt to such construction, a two-state solution may simply be impossible to implement—already prompting a number of Palestinian academics and intellectuals to argue that Israel will never allow the Palestinians to have a viable state and Palestinians should instead focus their efforts on obtaining equal rights as Israeli citizens.

Isn’t it unreasonable for the Palestinians to demand the unlimited right of return to Israel of all Palestinian refugees?

The refugees were never seriously discussed at Camp David because Prime Minister Barak declared that Israel bore no responsibility for the refugee problem or its solution. Obviously, there can be no comprehensive solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict without resolving one of its key components: the plight of the Palestinian refugees. There is a clearly recognized right under international law that non-combatants who flee during a conflict have the right to return after the conflict is over. But an Israeli recognition of the Palestinian right of return does not mean that all refugees will exercise that right. What is needed in addition to such recognition is the concept of choice. Many refugees may opt for (i) resettlement in third countries, (ii) resettlement in a newly independent Palestine (though they originate from that part of Palestine which became Israel) or (iii) normalization of their legal status in the host country where they currently reside. In addition, the right of return may be implemented in phases so as to address Israel’s demographic concerns.

Source: The Palestine Liberation Organization’s Negotiations Affairs Department