Archive for the World Affairs Category

Editorial: A war and its innocent victims

Posted in World Affairs on August 11, 2008 by albasheer
Editorial: A war and its innocent victims
11 August 2008

THE case of Dr. Aafia Siddiqui, an award-winning Pakistani neuroscientist who grew up in the US and was a star student at top US universities including the Massachusetts Institute of Technology at Boston, is perhaps the most bizarre in the US war on terror. Siddiqui, 32 at the time, went missing with her three children five years ago in Karachi as she was visiting her parents. And earlier this week she was presented in a New York court on charges of assaulting FBI officials in Afghanistan.

The US officials claim she was picked up in Ghazni last month with a bag full of “suspicious liquids in glass containers.” Subsequently, we are told, Siddiqui attacked a team of US soldiers and FBI officials with a rifle conveniently placed next to her at an Afghan police station. Also, Siddiqui got herself shot when she attacked the US officials. As cock-and-bull stories go, this doubtless takes the cake. The Afghan and US officials peddling this incredible yarn could have at least employed more imagination and ingenuity. How do they expect the world to buy this bunkum? If Dr. Siddiqui is indeed an Al-Qaeda terrorist and has links to the top leadership of the outfit, why wasn’t she presented before a court of law all these years? And where was she hiding or hidden for five years with her children while her family was desperately looking for her, pleading with the Pakistani authorities for her whereabouts? Why were her parents and the Pak authorities not informed of her detention? And how did she turn up in distant Ghazni province in Afghanistan while she was supposed to be visiting her parents in Karachi? Also, where are her three young children today? Have they joined Al-Qaeda ranks too? (Many fear, no doubt with some justification, that they too have been consigned to the big black hole called the Guantanamo Bay.)

There are so many holes in the case against Dr. Siddiqui that it cannot stand in any court of law, if the so-called due process and rule of law prevails, or are allowed to prevail. This is yet another instance of how, in their zeal to fight terror, the US authorities are undermining the ideals and values that once inspired America’s Founding Fathers. More important, they are trampling on everything that the world has come to view as sacrosanct, from the rule of law to human rights to a fair trial, as enshrined in the UN Human Rights Charter and Geneva Conventions.

If the US and Afghan authorities have betrayed a shockingly casual attitude to human rights and the rule of law in this case, the Pakistani authorities are guilty of not doing enough to protect vulnerable citizens like Dr. Siddiqui. The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan says Dr. Siddiqui’s case is only the tip of the iceberg. It argues there are hundreds of such people in the US detention in Bagram airbase in Afghanistan and the Guantanamo Bay. It is time to let them go.

Terrorists need to be fought and defeated. But the fight should be in such a way that it does not play into the hands of terrorists by confirming the worst things they say about their enemies in general and the West in particular.

McCain, Anthrax & the Afghan Blunder

Posted in World Affairs on August 4, 2008 by albasheer
McCain, Anthrax & the Afghan Blunder
By Robert Parry
August 3, 2008

Not only has it been clear for many years that McCain’s speculation about Iraq’s role in the anthrax attacks was reckless – made even more apparent by the FBI now pinning the crime on dead U.S. bio-defense scientist Bruce Ivins – but McCain also told Letterman in that Oct. 18, 2001, interview that “the second phase is Iraq.”

In other words, barely a month after the 9/11 attacks and while the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan was still underway, McCain was already eying a war against Iraq.

McCain opened his appearance with the joke, “What is Osama bin Laden going to be for Halloween?” and then gave the punch line: “Dead.”

However, bin Laden managed to survive that Halloween – and apparently six others – in part because President George W. Bush didn’t commit enough U.S. ground forces to the battle of Tora Bora, allowing bin Laden and other key al-Qaeda leaders to escape.

Then, instead of staying focused on the challenge in Afghanistan and finishing the hunt for bin Laden, Bush heeded the advice of McCain and other neocons and shifted the attention of the CIA and the U.S. military toward Iraq.

Though federal investigators cast aside McCain’s suspicion of an Iraqi link to the anthrax attacks, McCain continued to pin other false charges on Saddam Hussein’s government, including allegations about illicit WMD and supposed operational ties to al-Qaeda.

For instance, on Feb. 2, 2002, McCain addressed the Munich Conference on Security Policy, giving a speech with the ambitious title, “From Crisis to Opportunity: American Internationalism and the New Atlantic Order.”

In it, McCain laid out the full neoconservative case for turning U.S. attention quickly toward Iraq.

“The next front is apparent, and we should not shirk from acknowledging it,” McCain said. “A terrorist resides in Baghdad, with the resources of an entire state at his disposal, flush with cash from illicit oil revenues and proud of a decade-long record of defying the international community’s demands that he come clean on his programs to develop weapons of mass destruction.

”A day of reckoning is approaching.”

On March 19, 2003, Bush fulfilled McCain’s dream by launching the invasion of Iraq, succeeding in ousting Hussein’s government in three weeks but then finding a large U.S. expeditionary force tied down by a stubborn insurgency for the next five-plus years.

Captured al-Qaeda documents make clear that bin Laden and his inner circle viewed the U.S. attack on Iraq as a welcome gift, a chance for them to rebuild their organization inside Pakistan, a nuclear-armed country where al-Qaeda had old allies in the tribal regions and historic ties to Pakistan’s shadowy intelligence agency, the ISI.

Al-Qaeda’s Iraq strategy was summed up in a letter that a senior al-Qaeda leader, known as “Atiyah,” sent to Jordanian terrorist Musab al-Zarqawi in December 2005, urging Zarqawi, who was leading the “al-Qaeda in Iraq” contingent, to tone down his aggressiveness and take more time because “prolonging the war is in our interest.”

[To view this excerpt in a translation published by the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point, click here. To read the entire letter, click here. ]

During Campaign 2008, McCain has sought to focus public attention on the supposed success of Bush’s “surge” strategy, which began in 2007 with the addition of about 30,000 more U.S. troops in Iraq.

Aided by the superficiality of the U.S. news media, McCain so far has been able to escape any significant criticism for his role in the central blunder of the “war on terror,” the premature pivot from Afghanistan to Iraq.

Besides playing into bin Laden’s hands, the U.S. concentration of forces in Iraq also enabled the Taliban to regroup and turn Afghanistan into an increasingly lethal front for American and NATO soldiers.

Recent U.S. intelligence also suggests that al-Qaeda is now preparing new terrorist attacks from its base camps inside Pakistan and is redirecting Islamic jihadists from Iraq to the Afghan-Pakistani theater, which always appears to have been al-Qaeda’s main concern even as Bush tried to sell the American people on the idea that the “central front” was Iraq.

Having not dealt decisively with the Taliban/al-Qaeda threat in 2001-02, the U.S. military now anticipates many more bloody years battling for Afghanistan and may have to conduct more cross-border aerial attacks inside Pakistan, possibly destabilizing that nuclear-armed country.

In many ways, this worsening Afghan fiasco can be traced back to McCain’s loose speculation about anthrax and his neoconservative pronouncements of almost seven years ago.

Has America become Fascist?

Posted in World Affairs on August 3, 2008 by albasheer
Has America become Fascist?
Sherwood Ross

If it hasn’t gone the way of Mussolini’s Italy and Hitler’s Germany, it sure is teetering on the brink. America is a nation in deepening crisis, a nation whose leaders repeatedly plunge their citizens into, and make them pay for, serial wars abroad, while stealing their liberties at home. USA has become a country that trashes its citizens (New Orleans), tortures its enemies(Abu Ghraib), threatens other nations with nuclear fire (Iran), flouts international treaties (UN Charter re Iraq), and spies on (FISA), and intimidates, its critics(No Fly). Americans that can clearly see the totalitarian machinations of Vladimir Putin in Russia and Hu Jintao in China are blind to the fascism threatening to envelop them as well.

Webster’s defines fascism as “a totalitarian governmental system led by a dictator and emphasizing an aggressive nationalism, militarism, and often racism.” A comparison of 20th century fascist and communist regimes with President Bush’s USA indicates the machinery for a full-blown totalitarian takeover is now in place, even if no coup has occurred. As Naomi Wolf writes in “The End of America”(Chelsea Green) the 2007 Defense Authorization Bill’s Section 333 allows the president “to declare martial law and take charge of the National Guard troops without the permission of a governor when ‘public order’ has been lost…” and to “send the guard into our streets during a public health emergency, terrorist attack or ‘other condition.’”

The enabling crowbar was the Military Commissions Act of 2006. It gives the president authority to set up his own system for bringing alien combatants to trial while denying them protection of the Geneva Conventions. “The president and his lawyers now claim the authority to designate any American citizen he chooses as being an ‘enemy combatant,’” Wolf writes of power usurpation that characterized the post-World War One epoch in Europe and Asia.

Thus, Congress has empowered Bush just as Germany’s Reichstag empowered Hitler, Wolf writes, recalling Hitler’s boast, “Democracy will be overthrown with the tools of democracy.” Hitler’s Interior Minister issued Clause 2 that gave police the power to hold people in custody indefinitely and without a court order, powers the U.S. Congress today has conferred upon “The Decider” in the White House. Mussolini’s used the less grandiose “Il Duce” or “The Leader.”

According to Michael Ratner, director of the Center For Constitutional Rights, New York, “the president can…designate people enemy combatants and detain them for whatever reason he wants…there are no charges and prisoners have no lawyers, no family visits, no court reviews, no rights to anything, and no right to release until the mythical end to the ‘war on terror.’”

Wolf writes that dictators justify their usurpation of domestic liberties by raising the alarm of “terrorist” threats. Stalin, for example, used this very term in 1934 when he warned his public of a world-wide conspiracy by capitalists to overthrow the Soviet state. If there have been no mass arrests of native-born Americans it is only because the president has not chosen to exercise this authority. If you think it can’t happen to you, recall that in September of 2003 the Army arrested 36-year-old American-born Muslim chaplain James Yee, a West Point graduate, allegedly for “espionage and possibly treason”—but more likely for calling for better conditions for Gitmo inmates. Wolf wrote:

“He was blindfolded; his ears were blocked; he was manacled and then put into solitary confinement for 76 days; forbidden mail, television, or anything to read except the Koran. His family was not allowed to visit him. …His lawyers were told he would face execution. (But)Within six months, the U.S. government had dropped all criminal charges against Yee.” Yes, just as it has dropped charges against hundreds of Guantanamo prisoners earlier, men labeled by former Defense Secretary Rumsfeld as “the worst of the worst” but against the overwhelming majority of whom the Bush regime apparently had no case whatever!

The treatment Yee got is typical of those who run afoul of the Bush regime: torture first, trial after…if there is a trial. And since his release, Yee has been denied his free speech right to discuss his ordeal—gagged by the Pentagon. Perhaps most incredible, even if a Guantanamo prisoner should be found innocent, the Pentagon says he might not be released anyway. This echoes Stalin’s practice of re-arresting Gulag prisoners after they had done their time. At one point, Stalin had eight million souls behind bars, even exceeding President Bush, currently the world’s Incarcerator-In-Chief.

Author Wolf says another danger flag is the creation of paramilitary groups, “aggressive men who have no clear, accountable relationship to the government or the party seeking power…” Mussolini had the blackshirts; Hitler the brownshirts; but whatever their dress, they were thugs. Wolf says that Moycock, N.C.-based Blackwater Worldwide stands ready “to deploy its unaccountable private army (35,000 men) in the U.S.—in the aftermath of natural disasters, and also in cases of ‘national emergency.’” With at least a half billion dollars in government contracts, “Blackwater is the world’s largest private security force, works closely with Halliburton, and is available for action outside the scrutiny of Congress,” Wolf writes. The outfit raked in $73 million for patrolling the streets of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. And Blackwater subcontractor Red Tactica, recruits former Chilean commandos,” men described by one Chilean sociologist that are “valued for their expertise in kidnapping, torturing and killing defenseless civilians,” Wolf wrote.

Besides creating such “security” forces, dictators create secret prisons, as Bush has done, ranging from prison ships in the Indian Ocean to dungeons in Poland, where they can hide them from Red Cross scrutiny, as the CIA has done. “We should worry about the men held at Guantanamo because history shows that stripping prisoners of their rights is intoxicating not only to leaders but to functionaries at every level of society,” Wolf writes. “Gitmo” is also an interrogation camp, an operation “that is completely and flatly illegal” and outlawed by the Geneva Conventions in 1949, she points out. Stalin also employed torture and in 1937 actually legalized its use in Soviet prisons. When he received his infamous “albums” with the names of those to be executed and imprisoned, next to some names he often wrote: “Beat! Beat! Beat!” And only months after taking power, Hitler “established a network of illegitimate prisons where torture took place” and where guards could murder inmates with “no chance of being punished,” Wolf said. And like Stalin, The Decider has signaled his henchmen beatings are now the American Way.

Dictators hold power by instilling fear in their citizens. Since 2000, Wolf writes there has been “a sharp increase in U.S. citizen groups that are being harassed and infiltrated by police and federal agents, often in illegal ways.” She pointed to a 2006 ACLU report that California police had infiltrated antiwar protests, political rallies, and other constitutionally protected gatherings and were secretly investigating them, even though the California state constitution forbids this. And prior to the 2004 Republican convention in New York, police department detectives infiltrated groups planning peaceful demonstrations. At the Federal level, Bush’s apparatchiks are compiling dossiers on law-abiding citizens. The Defense Department’s Talon program has created a database about peaceful antiwar and other groups and activists. As Jen Nessel of the Center for Constitutional Rights says, “We have absolutely moved over into a preventive detention model—you look like you could do something bad, you might do something bad, so we’re going to hold you.”

Bush regime actions’ today recall how the Gestapo, NKVD, Stasi (East German secret police) and Red China’s Politburo “all requisitioned private data such as medical, banking, and library records,” Wolf writes, because access to such private data “breaks down citizens’ sense of being able to act freely against those in power.” And although the Department of Homeland Security’s TIPS scheme to get letter carriers and meter readers, etc., to report suspicious activities was met with derision and never funded, the ACLU noted it was merely absorbed in the Pentagon’s “black budget.”

Privacy in America today as guaranteed by the Constitution is fast becoming a memory. The New York Times reported the government in 2005 was monitoring your e-mail and telephone talk without legal warrants and the following year the newspaper disclosed U.S. treasury officials, with CIA help, “were reviewing millions of private bank transactions without individual court-ordered warrants or subpoenas,” Wolf pointed out.

One method of intimidation is to limit a citizen’s right to travel freely. The Bush regime has created “watch”(75,000 names) and “no fly”(45,000 names) lists that restrict individuals’ air travel–and those searched and/or stopped from flying can complain all they like because it won’t do them any good. Robert Johnson, an American citizen, Wolf reports, described the humiliation factor of being strip searched when he attempted to board an airplane: “I had to take off my pants. I had to take off my sneakers, then I had to take off my socks. I was treated like a criminal.” This has now become a commonplace ordeal for thousands of Americans. Even at the height of World War Two, such invasions of personal rights would have been unthinkable.

Going back to Webster’s definition of fascism, USA today is the world’s runaway leader in “militarism.” Forty-three percent of all U.S. tax dollars in 2007 went to feed the war machine, as the Pentagon believes security depends on operating more than 700 military bases in 130 countries overseas in addition to 1,000 at home. Bush has escalated its budget so that USA now spends nearly as much on arms as all the rest of the world combined. Uncle Sam is also the No. 1 private arms peddler to the world. By contrast, Iran, portrayed by the White House as a menace to the Middle East, has an annual military budget that is 1/100th of the Pentagon’s outlay.

Perhaps it would be a good exercise for Americans to read how Hitler emphasized nationalism and militarism. As he wrote in “Mein Kampf”: “Instead of everlasting struggle the world preaches cowardly pacifism, and everlasting peace…There is only one right in this world and this right is one’s own strength.” As for “reconciliation, understanding, world peace, the League of Nations, and international solidarity—we destroy these ideas.” Hitler called for delivering Germans “from the hopeless confusion of international convictions” and educating them “consciously and systematically to fanatical nationalism.” Armed with such views the fascist state thinks nothing of starting an aggressive war based on lies. In 1939, Hitler claimed he was attacked by Poland, igniting World War Two. Bush claimed that Iraq had nuclear and biological weapons to destroy America when, in fact, it was the United States that possessed those very weapons and it was Iraq that had none.

Bush nonetheless started a seemingly endless war that has by some estimates to date killed more than 1 million Iraqis, wounded perhaps 2 million more, forced a like number from their homes, ravished their country and its economy, touched off a civil war, forced 1 million Iraqis into foreign exile, and killed and wounded 35,000 American troops. Former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan called the Iraq war “illegal” but Bush, like Hitler, cares nothing for international treaties, even if those the U.S. has signed under our Constitution are the supreme law of the land. He has made a mockery to the anti-nuclear treaty, causing former President Carter to charge his own country has become the leader in nuclear proliferation. What’s more, Bush has spent about $50 billion on germ warfare “defense” with no known significant foreign threat to USA.

Americans may think that Webster’s view that fascism is often accompanied by racism doesn’t fit them. Indeed, USA’s strides to eliminate racism based on color in the last century are a societal marvel. But racism against African Americans has largely been replaced with the foolhardy notion that Americans are better than everybody else in the world and have the authority to set right any ruler they believe is in error. This view of their own superiority echoes Hitler’s “master race” view of the German people or the Tokyo militarists’ view in 1940 that a superior Japan was destined to rule “the eight corners of the world.” In this sense, America is very “racist” indeed and the “aggressive nationalism” highlighted by Webster’s is apparent in the rhetoric of its public officials and the conduct of its foreign affairs.

Yet another characteristic of the fascist state is its leader’s use of arbitrary power. Note how Bush evades the will of Congress by tacking on “signing statements” to laws he doesn’t like, thus refusing to enforce them, putting himself above the will of Congress and the American people. Note how his aides refuse to respond to Congressional subpoenas to testify. Yet another example is how the Justice Department’s own internal investigators found Bush’s appointees filled nonpolitical posts with party hacks and then lied about what they had done. “Civil Service Laws Were Breached in Filling Nonpolitical Jobs” said a New York Times reported July 29th. It should be remembered Hitler followed a like policy when he purged Jews from their government posts. When tyrants rule, merit is ever subservient to loyalty.

Of course, Bush has not flung thousands of Americans into prison to torture and murder them as Hitler, Mussolini, and Stalin did, but he has the power to do so, making the latter half of 2008 a time of danger for Americans. Wolf writes, “At a point in both Mussolini’s and Hitler’s takeovers, citizens witnessed a stunning series of quickly escalating pronunciamentos or faits accomplis. After each leader made his bids for power beyond what the Italian parliament and the German Reichstag allowed him, each abruptly started to claim all kinds of new rights that were extra-parliamentary; the right unilaterally to go to war, to annex territory, to veto existing laws, or to overrule the judiciary,” etc.

To repeat the question, “Is America fascist?” the answer is that the machinery is in place for a totalitarian takeover at the direction of a tyrant. While it is true that the U.S. is not a one-party state (some will dispute this owing to the many similarities of the two major parties) like fascist Italy and Germany, and it does have free elections, for the first time in its history in 2000 and 2004 an ominous cloud of doubt has hung over the authenticity of the popular vote and a vast segment of the voting public today does not trust the election machinery to record their vote as they intend. There are no mass arrests and executions in the thousands and millions that typified the regimes of Hitler and Stalin (Stalin had 681,000 people executed in 1937-8 “Great Terror” alone); free speech still exists (under Stalin, a person could be imprisoned for making a Stalin joke); and the government has not put its leaden hand on business as Putin has done although crony capitalism in the selection of defense contractors is rampant. These vital distinctions set America apart from the totalitarian society. Yet, with each passing day in its “War on Terror” the Bush regime tightens its hold on the machinery to establish totalitarian rule here.

Americans need to keep in mind that worse than anything President Bush has inflicted upon its own citizenry is what its wars of aggression have inflicted on innocent humanity abroad. A million dead Iraqis can’t give a damn by what terminology you describe the United States. If the American people allow their government to make criminal wars to deprive innocent foreigners of their lives and liberties they do not deserve to enjoy either at home.

———

Sherwood Ross is a Miami-based writer who has worked as a reporter for the Chicago Daily News, a columnist for wire services, a news director for a large civil rights organization, and as a publicist for colleges, labor unions and entrepreneurial start-ups. Reach him at sherwoodr1@yahoo.com The writer is indebted to Naomi Wolf for her book, “The End of America.” Ms. Wolf is cofounder of The Woodhull Institute for Ethical Leadership, New York, an organization that teaches young women how to assume leadership roles.)

British troops ‘made Muslim commander hear porn videos’

Posted in World Affairs on August 3, 2008 by albasheer
British troops ‘made Muslim commander hear porn videos’
Richard Norton-Taylor – The Guardian August 2, 2008

British soldiers forced a Shia militia commander to listen to pornographic videos, deprived him of sleep, repeatedly beat him, and kept him in solitary confinement for more than five months, according to fresh damning allegations against the conduct of UK troops in Basra.

A detailed account of the latest claims of unlawful treatment by British soldiers are contained in a 20-page witness statement, seen by the Guardian, of Ahmed Jawad al-Fartoosi, a leader of the radical Shia cleric Moqtada al Sadr’s militia, the Mahdi army. The Ministry of Defence said yesterday that the military police were investigating the allegations. Fartoosi was detained for more than two years, including nearly six months in solitary confinement. He was arrested in his Basra home in September 2005 and released late last year after British forces agreed to an Iraqi-sponsored deal with the militia.

He says he was beaten with rifle butts and blindfolded before he was put in a tank. For 12 hours he and his fellow detainees given no food and were prevented from going to the toilet.

He says he was taken to the British base at Shaibah, on the outskirts of Basra, where he spent 72 days in solitary confinement in a small cell with no ventilation, though he says he was provided with three cooked meals a day. On the third or fourth night, he says, soldiers brought a laptop and placed it on a window sill just outside his cell.

“After a short period of conversation in English it became clear to me that the DVD was showing porn. It was playing at the loudest possible volume. Thereafter for the next month the porn movies were played all night.” He says soldiers left porn magazines for him to see by the sinks and toilets. “It was very humiliating for me to be treated in this way by the British army. If they expected me to give in to my basic instincts they did not realise that I am not that kind of man … I was determined not be sexually aroused by this but it made me physically sick.”

Fartoosi says he was deprived of sleep. When he was taken to be interrogated, he says, a blanket was thrown over his head. He adds: “I was spun about for between 15-30 minutes to disorientate me.”

In April 2007 Fartoosi was driven to Basra airport, now the only British base in Basra. He says he was accused of killing a member of Basra council. He was repeatedly told he was being detained because he was “leader of the Mahdi army”, and that the evidence against him was secret.

He was eventually released, as a result of papers signed by the Iraqi prime minister, Nuri al-Maliki, he learned later. Now living in Lebanon, according to his lawyers, Fartoosi identifies a number of British soldiers, including a senior officer, in his witness statement.

Phil Shiner, of Public Interest Lawyers, has written to Des Browne, the defence secretary, saying Fartoosi is entitled to substantial damages for false imprisonment and human rights violations.

Shiner said yesterday: “The use of sensory bombardment and, in particular, the pornographic films to attempt to break down this male Muslim shows that the UK were doing exactly the same as the US, using coercive interrogation techniques developed in the 1960s and especially in Northern Ireland, and then refined to fit the so-called ‘war on terror’.”

The MoD said in a statement: “Mr Al-Fartoosi, who was a senior commander in the Jaish al-Mahdi militia in Basra, was interned for the protection of UK forces and Iraqi nationals. We are not aware of any allegations of abuse being made by him during his internment. Claims are now being investigated by the Special Investigation Branch of the Royal Military Police.”

http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2008/aug/02/military.iraq

PA torments Palestinians on Israel’s behalf

Posted in World Affairs on August 3, 2008 by albasheer
PA torments Palestinians on Israel’s behalf
Khalid Amayreh in the West Bank

In recent days, the American-backed Palestinian Authority (PA) carried out a shameful crackdown against non-conformist Palestinian intellectuals, journalists as well as civic and religious leaders all over the West Bank.

PA security agencies have also violently suppressed peaceful rallies by the pan-Islamic Liberation party commemorating the downfall of the Ottoman Caliphate. Eyewitnesses said undisciplined policemen beat participants using plastic truncheons.

In Beit Jala, PA men beat four camera men who were filming police cars. And in Hebron, a Reuter cameraman, Yosri al Jamal, was assaulted and his camera broken.

The latest acts of violence took place under the watchful eyes of the Israeli occupation army without whose consent the PA can hardly function.

In Nablus and neighboring towns and villages, US-trained security personnel raided private homes, municipal buildings and public institutions, elected mayors, public figures, college professors, student leaders and prominent religious figures.

One of the people arrested was Professor Abdul al Sattar Qassem, a well-known author and political activist.

A former presidential candidate, Qassem is not affiliated with Hamas or any other political organization, but his daring writings seem to have proven too unbearable for a self-proclaimed “national” authority that claims to represent Palestinian aspirations for freedom and liberation.

In Dura, near Hebron in the southern West Bank, PA security forces arrested Awadh Rajoub, the West Bank correspondent of the Arabic service of al-Jazeera.net after raiding and thoroughly searching his press office and confiscating his PC.

Rajoub is still being detained at the Preventive Security headquarters in Hebron where he has been interrogated in connection with a report he had written on the mistreatment of prisoners in PA jails and lockups.

Four other journalists have also been arrested by the PA police recently, including Muhammed Halayka and Alaa al Titi of Hebron, Ausayd Amareneh of Bethlehem and Mustafa Sabri of Qalqilya.

PA spokespeople claim that the arrests are carried out in accordance with the rule of law.

However, it is amply clear that such claims carry very little weight if only because the “rule of law” doesn’t really exist in a police state (without a state), whose very existence and survival depend almost completely on the extent to which this entity meets the needs, obey the instructions and serves the interests of the Israeli occupation.

These are conspicuous facts that every Palestinian man, woman and child is aware of. Hence, it would be foolhardy to try to hide the obvious from one of the most politicized people on earth.

Interestingly, the stepped-up clampdown on freedom of expression by the PA coincides with the ghoulish escalation of Israeli criminality and ethnic cleansing throughout the West Bank.

During the past few days, trigger-happy Israeli soldiers murdered in cold blood two Palestinian minors, including a 10-year-old boy who was taking part in a peaceful protest against Israeli schemes to grab more Palestinian land under the pretext of building the so-called “separation wall.” (the Israeli Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi this week admitted that the route of the wall was decided by political, rather than security considerations as Israeli officials have been claiming)

Similarly, Israel has been demolishing Arab homes, including a multi-story building in East Jerusalem as Nazi-like Jewish settlers are given a free rein to take over Arab property and terrorize and savage Palestinian children in the southern Hebron hills for the purpose of driving their families away form their homes.

So, as if Zionist ethnic cleansing were not enough, the PA is finding it necessary to complement Israeli criminality by arresting, humiliating and tormenting patriotic Palestinians for criticizing the Ramallah regime for compromising Palestinian national interests and for throwing itself squarely into the lap of the Bush administration which itself is at Israel’s beck and call.

It is really difficult to make any sense of what is happening except that the PA is effectively becoming another layer of the Israeli occupation.

Otherwise, one is prompted to ask what national purpose does this wave of repression of Palestinians by Palestinians serve?

Does it strengthen Palestinian steadfastness in the face of the Israeli occupation?

Does it enhance the Palestinian ability to liberate the usurped homeland from the criminal Zionist hands?

There is no doubt that in light of its shameful behavior against the Palestinian people, the PA has effectively become a serious liability undermining the enduring Palestinian struggle for freedom and justice.

Indeed, a situation where Palestinians have to keep guessing if their children will be abducted by “the (Palestinian) authority” or “the (Israeli occupation) authorities” is unbearable, to say the least.

It is a stigma of shame that a time has come when Palestinian homes have to be raided in the quiet hours before dawn by Palestinian policemen in order to arrest young Palestinians activists.

Today, the PA has proven itself a moral, political, economic and security disaster for the Palestinians and their enduring just cause.

The Palestinian people had been dreaming of a “free authority” that would heal their wounds, sooth their afflictions and strengthen their steadfastness in the face of the Nazis of our time.

They never dreamt of a ‘Judenrat’ of quislings and collaborators that would arrest, torment, torture and even murder Palestinians in order to receive a certificate of good conduct from the occupiers of our country and their guardian-allies in Washington.

Hence, it is paramount, for the sake of our future and the future of our children that this outrageous PA apparatus, where pseudo-nationalists, money-grabbing careerists, hangers-on, opportunists and probably foreign agents as well hold sway, be dismantled as soon as possible.

In fact, one can go as far as saying that the dissolution of the PA is now a sine qua non for a successful Palestinian struggle for freedom from diabolical Zionism.

-###-

August 3, 2008 By Khalid Amayreh in the West Bank

New actor on the same old stage

Posted in World Affairs on August 3, 2008 by albasheer
New actor on the same old stage
Robert Fisk – The Independent August 2, 2008

I was in the studios of al-Jazeera – the Qatar satellite channel so democratic in the eyes of Colin Powell that Bush later wanted to bomb it – while Barack Obama was performing his theatricals in the Middle East. “Theatre” is what I called it on air while the anchor desperately tried to suck some Arab hope out of the whole ridiculous fandango. No such luck, I told him. It isn’t going to make the slightest difference to the Arabs whether Obama or McCain wins.

Westerners believe that Obama appeals to the Arabs because of his middle name or because he’s black. Untrue. They like him – or liked him – because he grew up poor. Like them, he understood – or rather, they thought he understood – what oppression was about. But they quickly found out where they stood in the food chain. Forty-five minutes in Ramallah vs 24 hours in Israel was the Obama equation. Yes, I know the old saw. Every US presidential candidate has to make the pilgrimage to the Wailing Wall, to Yad Vashem, to some Israeli town or village that has taken casualties (albeit minuscule in comparison to those visited upon the Palestinians), to talk about Israel’s security, etc. That doesn’t mean, we are always told, that Israel is going to have it easy once the US president is elected. Wrong. Israel is going to have it easy. Because no sooner is he elected than he will be enmeshed in the Middle East tragedy and be forced to take sides – Israel’s, of course – and then it will be time for the next election, so the president’s hands will be tied again and he’ll be talking about Israel’s security (rather than Palestinian security) and we’ll be back on the same old itinerary.

It’s like the Lebanese, who keep believing that a Labour government is better than a Kadima or a Likud government in Israel; a clever idea, but – whoever runs Israel – the bombs keep falling on Lebanon. It’s not that US presidents shouldn’t understand the immensity of Jewish suffering during the Holocaust – it’s a pity the Arabs still won’t acknowledge it – but the Second World War is over and, right now, Israel continues to build colonies for Jews and Jews only on Arab land. Of course, Obama made the usual references to Jewish settlements not being helpful to peace, just as Gordon Brown did a few days earlier. And the Israelis showed what they thought of both men by announcing further colony-building within 24 hours of Obama’s departure.

But hasn’t anyone realised that Obama has chosen for his advisers two of the most lamentable failures of US Middle East policy-making? There, yet again, is Dennis Ross, a former prominent staff member of Aipac, the most powerful Israeli lobby in America – yup, the very same Aipac to which Obama grovelled last month – and the man who failed to make the Oslo agreement work. And there is Madeleine Albright who, as US ambassador to the UN, said that the price of half a million dead children under sanctions in Iraq was “worth it”, and who later announced that Israel was “under siege”. This must be the only time – ever – that a US politician thought Palestinian tanks were on the streets of Tel Aviv.

But this dreary old stage play doesn’t end there. No one follows the narrative any more because it is so repetitive. Take Nouri al-Maliki, the PMIGZ – Prime Minister of the Iraqi Green Zone – who’s suddenly gone from being the Democrats’ favourite target to being their election buddy-buddy, as Max Boot sagely noted in The Washington Post. Maliki suggested to Obama that Iraq will be ready to assume responsibility for its own security by 2010. Bingo. This chimes in perfectly with Obama’s promises.

But wait a minute. In May, 2006, Maliki announced that “our forces are capable of taking over the security in all Iraqi provinces within a year and a half”. Five months later, the PMIGZ said that it would be “only a matter of months” before Iraqi security forces “take over the security portfolio entirely and keep some (sic) multinational forces only in a supporting role”. Then in January, 2007, Maliki boasted that “within three to six months our need for the American troops will dramatically go down”.

Four months later, he was at it again, claiming that Iraqi forces would control all security “in every province” within eight months. Quite apart from the idea that there is a security “portfolio” in Iraq, his own military chums don’t agree with any of this bumph. The PMIGZ’s own defence minister claims his forces can’t assume responsibility until 2012, while the Iraqi commander in Basra wants US troops to stay until 2020!

Even if we ignore all this drivel, what does Obama want to do with his soldiers once he withdraws them from Iraq? He’s going to send the poor devils back to Afghanistan, that graveyard of foreign armies where the Taliban were so utterly defeated in 2001 that they are now stronger than ever. I would recommend that Obama glance through Appendix XXIV of the official British account of the 1878-80 Second Afghan War where he will find the British announcing victory over a massed Afghan force which included a fierce group of fighters known as “talibs”. These men would choose a particular soldier in the British ranks and make a suicidal attack to seize him and cut his throat in front of his comrades.

And I am “minded” (as Jack Straw used to say when he was showing off his English) of the bleak conversation I had with an adviser to the Taliban “elders” of Kandahar, a certain Mullah Abdullah, in the last days of the dark militia’s rule in 2001. “If our people return and take back this lost land, it’s a success,” he told me. “If we are killed trying to do so, we have received martyrdom and this will be a great success for us too… If we are thrown out of Kandahar, we will go to the mountains and start the guerrilla war as we did with the Russians.” The Taliban would fight on, he said. They would ambush the Americans in ever greater numbers. And so today Obama is also going to reinforce his soldiers to fight on in another Muslim country. If he wins.

http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/commentators/fisk/robert-fisk-new-actor-on-the-same-old-stage-883270.html

Israel’s ‘Right to Exist’

Posted in World Affairs on July 30, 2008 by albasheer
Israel’s ‘Right to Exist’
Phillip F. Tourney

I have heard it for the entirety of my 61 years of life–Israel’s ‘Right To Exist’. In fact, in recent memory I have heard this phrase more than I’ve heard ‘Happy Thanksgiving’ or ‘Merry Christmas’ or even ‘Have a Good 4th of July’.

Israel seems to exist quite well. Her people have a very high living standard compared to the rest of the world. Israel has the most sophisticated armed forces in the Middle East, if indeed not the world. According to one of our former presidents, Israel is said to possess several hundred nuclear weapons and if we are to believe some of the things said by Israel’s leaders in recent years she is ready to destroy mankind if her leaders choose to do so.

Israeli’s live a very good life style, second to none. A swimming pool in every back yard on stolen land, plenty of food, jobs, stocks, cash, you name it. Their quality of life continues to grow and prosper every month of every year.

Now what I have a problem with is this–doesn’t the United States of America also have a ‘Right to Exist’?

Yes we do, but unfortunately that right is being taken away from us every second, every minute, every hour, every month and every year and all for the sake of Israel’s ‘Right To Exist’. What’s wrong with this story? Well, I’ll explain what’s wrong with it and believe me, its not that hard to figure out.

Israel’s ‘Right To Exist’ has virtually bankrupted the United States, and all of it off the backs of hard-working Americans for the last sixty years. We’ve given Israel untold billions of dollars NEVER TO BE REPAID, to say nothing of the military hardware in the billions we (I should say the United States) just flat-out gives them, including free training for their fighter pilots.

The United States continues to supply Israel with cash payments every day in the millions of dollars, and remember–THIS IS BORROWED MONEY. Do you understand this my fellow Americans? We borrow money for the sake of Israel but yet we do not barrow it for the sake and safety of our own citizens. This money must be paid back by us our children, their children and their children and this cycle will never be broken until the Untied States gives up its passionate attachment to the Jewish state.

Our sons and daughters are paying a very heavy price in Iraq. 4000+dead, tens of thousands wounded so badly that their lives will never be the same and who knows when it will end.

The United States is fighting this war in Iraq all for the sake of Israel. Americans getting killed, wounded and us spending billions of tax dollars we don’t have, and for what? Let me remind you, in case you have forgotten–FOR ISRAEL’S RIGHT TO EXIST.

The ugly truth is that the United States can’t take much more. It is bending to the very breaking point of no return, and now the war drums beat once again in Israel that we must attack Iran or they will. When Israel spouts this aggression the gas prices go up and up, along with the price of food and just about everything else we need so that America can exist. It is a heavy burden on the American people, Israel’s benefactors. Many in this country are losing their homes, their jobs and can’t even afford food and all because they gave everything they had for Israel’s ‘Right to Exist’.

This year the United States has gone through so many natural disasters it boggles the mind. One after the other–fire, floods, tornadoes, you name it and we’ve had it and up to our collective eyeballs. And through all of this, where has America’s greatest ally been? I haven’t seen Israel hand over a red cent to this country when it was in need. Israel could care less about us, their benefactors the USA. If we were broke and down to our last cent, you can bet the ranch that Israel would demand it go into her coffers and God help any politician who would vote against it.

But then, why do we even bother discussing such business as politicians voting in America’s best interest? It goes without saying that when Israel wants something she gets it, no strings attached from a subservient President and congress.

It’s time we cut this step child Israel lose and let her make it on their own. No more wars for Israel. No more money, no more nothing. If Israel wants money let her people earn it. If they want a war LET THEM FIGHT IT ON THEIR OWN. NO MORE AMERICAN BLOOD OR TREASURE SPENT ON ISRAEL’S ‘RIGHT TO EXIST’.

For those who think I am wet behind the ears on this one, think twice–I know all too well what Israel thinks about Americans, because 41 years ago I saw them murder my shipmates in cold blood with no remorse in their black hearts or in their vacant souls. Their entire war machine was bought and paid for– you guessed it–by you, the people of the United States and they used that to murder America’s sons.

History will repeat itself if the Government doesn’t wise up soon, and they won’t unless they hear from you, me and the rest of the American public as we demand no more free rides for any country, and especially not Israel. America has its own ‘Right to Exist’ and no one, not even the Jewish state, should come before our own family and friends.

Phillip F. Tourney

Survivor, USS Liberty June 8 1967

Co-Host of The Liberty Hour Radio Program

Saturdays 0900 MST RBN

tonktime5@yahoo.com

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© 2008 Phillip F. Tourney

SOURCE: http://ussliberty.wordpress.com/2008/07/29/israel’s-‘right-to-exist’/

URL: http://www.thepeoplesvoice.org/cgi-bin/blogs/voices.php/2008/07/29/israel_s_right_to_exist