Aletho News


US violates UN law by threatening Iran

Press TV – April 12, 2010

Iran’s envoy to the UN nuclear watchdog says the US nuclear policy which allows the use of nuclear arms against Tehran is a clear violation of the UN Charter.

Speaking on Monday, Ali-Asghar Soltanieh called on the UN Security Council (UNSC) to deal with the US violations.

The US Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) purportedly restricts the use of its nuclear arms against most non-atomic states, except Iran and North Korea, which are accused by the US of seeking nuclear weapons.

Soltanieh also said the outcome of the upcoming Nuclear Security Summit in Washington is not binding as only a limited number of countries have been invited.

Unlike North Korea, Iran is a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). Tehran has stressed that its nuclear program is only for the civilian applications of the technology.

The UN nuclear watchdog has, in many reports, declared that there is no evidence of military objectives in Iran’s nuclear program.

“According to international laws, any threat to use nuclear weapons against other countries … is against the UN Charter, the [International Atomic Energy] Agency’s regulations and international laws,” ISNA quoted Soltanieh as saying.

“The UN Security Council should act swiftly and deal with the US violations in this regard.”

Later on Monday, US President Barack Obama was to open the nuclear security summit which is being attended by the leaders of 46 other countries. Iran is not represented at the conference.

“The outcome of the Washington conference is already known. Any decision taken at the meeting is not binding on those countries which are not represented at the conference,” Soltanieh said.

The Iranian envoy said the NPR proves Washington’s unreliability on the nuclear arms issue, adding that the new US policy shows that the nuclear-armed power is in fact a big threat to international peace.

April 12, 2010 Posted by | Militarism, Progressive Hypocrite | 8 Comments

US diktat on Iran pipeline not to be entertained

By Baqir Sajjad Syed | 11 Apr, 2010

Last month the US counseled Pakistan against entering into a deal with Iran for building a multi-billion-dollar gas pipeline. “We do not think it is the right time for doing this kind of transaction with Iran,” US Assistant Secretary of State Robert Blake said recently.

ISLAMABAD: The Foreign Office said on Saturday Islamabad would not entertain pressure by Washington on its decision to have cooperation with Iran in the energy sector.

“We would like to have cooperation with Iran in all areas. If there are opportunities, Pakistan will pursue those. We have concluded the IP gas pipeline project with Iran. … This is our sovereign decision and the government of Pakistan will take decisions only in consonance with its own national interests,” Foreign Office spokesman Abdul Basit said at a media briefing.

The remarks came on the eve of Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani’s meeting with President Obama. The meeting precedes a nuclear security summit scheduled for April 12 and 13 in Washington.

The meeting is a follow-up to last month’s strategic dialogue and part of efforts to transform the transactional nature of Pakistan-US relationship to a partnership.

Last month the US counseled Pakistan against entering into a deal with Iran for building a multi-billion-dollar gas pipeline. “We do not think it is the right time for doing this kind of transaction with Iran,” US Assistant Secretary of State Robert Blake said recently.

He said Pakistan had been asked to seek alternatives because of a dispute over Iran’s nuclear programme.

The situation poses a complex test for Pakistan’s diplomacy as the country aspires to have a civilian nuclear energy package from the US while pursuing the gas pipeline project with Iran.

“Our country is facing energy deficit. We are exploring all possible avenues to overcome our energy problem,” the spokesman said.

In an attempt to strike a delicate balance in its relations with the US and Iran, Pakistan has decided to attend the international disarmament conference convened by Tehran on April 17 and 18 — shortly after the nuclear summit and a fortnight before the nuclear non-proliferation treaty review.

The decision to attend the rival conference, albeit at a junior level with the country’s ambassador in Vienna representing Pakistan, is being seen in diplomatic circles as very significant because Tehran has convened the conference in a bid to counter the hardline attitude of the US-led international community towards its nuclear programme.

Moreover, it is interesting to note that Pakistan does not expect Iran to be censured at the US nuclear summit.

“We have been actively involved in the preparatory process of the nuclear security summit and I can tell you that its outcome will not be country specific,” Mr Basit said.

He said Pakistan believed all countries had the right to access nuclear technology for peaceful purposes. However, he said, countries should adhere to their international obligations and if there were differences and disputes these should be resolved through peaceful means and negotiations.

April 12, 2010 Posted by | Wars for Israel | 1 Comment

French-Style Nuclear Reprocessing Will Not Solve U.S. Nuclear Waste Problems

Institute for Energy and Environmental Research | Press Release

Contrary to some prevailing opinion, reprocessing would not eliminate the need for a deep geologic disposal program to replace Yucca Mountain. It aggravates waste, proliferation, and cost problems. The volume of waste to be disposed of in deep geologic repository is increased about six times on a life-cycle basis in the French approach compared to the once-through no-reprocessing approach of the United States.

A new report by the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research (IEER), a nonprofit scientific research group, shows that France uses less than 1 percent of the natural uranium resource, contrary to an impression among some policy makers. The report has several recommendations for President Obama’s Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future, which was created to address U.S. nuclear waste issues after the administration’s cancellation of the Yucca Mountain program.

IEER President Dr. Arjun Makhijani, the author of the report: “In recent years, a ‘French fever’ has gripped the promoters of nuclear power in the United States. Praise of France’s management of spent fuel by reprocessing, including its use of the extracted plutonium as fuel in its nuclear power reactors, is now routinely heard. But it is a fantasy on the scale of the 1950s “too cheap to meter” mythology about nuclear power to imagine that 90 or 95 percent of the “energy value” of U.S. spent fuel can be extracted by reprocessing.”

Key IEER report findings include the following:

  --  On a life-cycle basis, French-style reprocessing and recycling increases
      the volume of waste that would have to be disposed of in a geologic
      repository. Reprocessing results in high-level radioactive waste and
      large volumes of Greater than Class C waste, both of which must be
      managed by deep geologic disposal. Their combined volume on a
      life-cycle basis is estimated to be about six times more than the
      no-reprocessing approach that is current U.S. policy, according to
      Department of Energy estimates. Low-level waste volume and waste
      transportation shipments are also estimated to increase several-fold.
  --  France spends about two cents per kilowatt-hour more for electricity
      generated from reprocessed plutonium compared to that generated from
      fresh uranium fuel.
  --  Attempting to combine reprocessing with breeder reactors to convert
      uranium in U.S. spent fuel in plutonium will create intolerable costs
      and risks. Reprocessing plus breeder reactors are much more expensive
      than light water reactors today, which are themselves expensive. Such
      a system is required to convert most of the uranium in spent fuel into
      a reactor fuel. Even a single penny in excess generation cost per
      kilowatt-hour in a breeder reactor-reprocessing system would lead to
      an added $8 trillion in costs to convert nearly all of the uranium in
      the 100,000 metric tons of U.S. spent into usable fuel. It would take
      hundreds of years to accomplish the task and require separation of
      tens of thousands of bombs equivalent of fissile material each year.
      The proliferation risks will be far greater than today.
  --  Adoption of a French-style reprocessing program would not eliminate the
      need for a deep geologic repository. Even complete fissioning of all
      actinides - an unrealistic proposition - will leave behind large
      amounts of very long-lived fission and activation products like
      iodine-129, cesium-135, and chlorine-36 that will pose risks far into
      the future -- much beyond the 24,100-year half-life of plutonium-239.
      In fact, France needs a geologic repository and opposition to one has
      been intense there. The French appear to dislike nuclear waste in
      their backyards as much as people in the United States.
  --  Proliferation risks are inherently part of the French (and any other)
      approach to reprocessing. Even advanced reprocessing technologies will
      not significantly reduce proliferation risks. For instance a study
      authored by scientists from DOE laboratories, including Los Alamos and
      Sandia, concluded that it would take only a few days or a few weeks
      for a proliferant country to make material for nuclear bombs once it had
      reprocessing plants. It found that new technologies, including
      electrometallurgical processing, resulted in "only a modest
      improvement in reducing proliferation risk over existing PUREX
      technologies and these modest improvements apply primarily for
      non-state actors." The IEER report concluded that electrometallurgical
      increases risks in other ways. For instance, it is far less difficult
      to conceal a plant than the present PUREX technology.

Other key findings include the following:

  --  Six decades of sodium cooled breeder reactor development has so far
      resulted in failure. Historical experience indicates no learning curve
      for the sodium cooled fast breeder reactor, which is the breeder
      technology that has received the most development. In fact, the two
      most recent large scale demonstration reactors, Superphénix in France
      and Monju in Japan, have been failures. Superphénix had a cumulative
      capacity factor of less than 8 percent before it was shut. Monju has
      been closed for almost 15 years, following a sodium fire, and has not
      generated a significant amount of electricity. Sodium cooled breeder
      reactors are not commercial today despite global expenditures on the
      order of $100 billion over six decades. They face a host of safety,
      proliferation and cost hurdles to overcome, some arising from the fact
      that they use liquid sodium for cooling. They are unlikely to be
      commercial in the near future. For instance, Japan's estimated date
      for commercialization of the sodium cooled fast breeder is 2050.
  --  Storage of liquid high-level wastes creates some risk of catastrophic
      releases of radioactivity. For instance, the Norwegian Radiation
      Protection Authority has estimated that a severe accident at the
      liquid waste storage facility in Sellafield, Britain, could result in
      cesium-137 contamination between 10 percent and 5,000 percent of that
      created in Norway by the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear reactor accident,
      which is the worst commercial accident to date, by far. A catastrophic
      release of radioactivity from a military high-level waste tank
      occurred in the Soviet Union in 1957.
  --  Using more than 1 percent of the uranium resource in a light water
      reactor system is technically impossible even with reprocessing and
      re-enrichment. In light water reactor systems, almost all the uranium
      resource winds up as depleted uranium or in spent fuel. Even with
      repeated reprocessing and re-enrichment, use of the natural uranium
      resource cannot be increased to more than 1 percent in such a system.
      A corollary is that the use of 90 to 95 percent of the uranium
      resource or of the material in the spent fuel is impossible in a light
      water reactor system even with reprocessing.

These are physical constraints that go with the system and also apply to France’s system.

The IEER report also sets out a number of recommendations for the Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future appointed by Energy Secretary Steven Chu:

  --  Spent fuel from existing reactors should be slated for direct geologic
      disposal without reprocessing of any kind; a suitable path for a
      scientifically sound program should be set forth.
  --  In the interim, spent fuel should be stored on site as safely as
      possible - in low density configurations while in pools and in
      hardened storage when moved to dry casks.
  --  Breeder reactors and reprocessing are not commercial after six decades
      of development of sodium cooled breeder reactors, and enormous
      expenditures. Given the long time frame for commercialization
      estimated even by some promoters, the proliferation risks, and efforts
      already made, it does not appear to be a good investment to spend more
      R&D money in that direction. Rather energy supply R&D resources should
      be focused on development and deployment of renewable energy
      technologies and energy efficiency.
  --  The Commission should request the French company AREVA and/or the
      French government to supply it with data on the present use of the
      natural uranium resource purchased for French nuclear reactors,
      including, specifically, the increases in fission fraction that have
      actually been achieved by reprocessing and recycling.
  --  The Commission should also request official data on Greater than Class
      C waste equivalent expected to be generated on a life-cycle basis in
      France, and the total volumes and heat generation of packaged waste
      expected to be disposed of in a deep geologic repository, including
      estimates of decommissioning waste.
  --  The Commission should investigate the public support or lack thereof
      for repository programs in France and Britain, the countries with the
      longest history of commercial spent fuel reprocessing.
  --  The Commission should make the same requests regarding the British
      reprocessing program.
  --  Official analyses of the mechanisms, probability, and consequences of
      large accidental releases of radioactivity to the atmosphere from
      liquid high-level waste storage in tanks should be requested from the
      French and British governments.


On March 24, 2010, IEER held a news conference to release documents acquired under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) showing that the outgoing Bush Administration inked 11th-hour agreements with more than a dozen utilities involving 21 proposed nuclear reactors. As IEER noted, between the output of existing commercial nuclear reactors and the 21 proposed nuclear reactors covered by the agreements quietly signed by the outgoing Bush Administration, the U.S. already has agreed to store enough spent (used) reactor fuel to fill the equivalent of not one, but two, Yucca Mountain high-level radioactive waste repositories. For more information on the March 24th news event, go to

The Institute for Energy and Environmental Research provides policy-makers, journalists, and the public with understandable and accurate scientific and technical information on energy and environmental issues. IEER’s aim is to bring scientific excellence to public policy issues in order to promote the democratization of science and a safer, healthier environment.

Source: Institute for Energy and Environmental Research, Takoma Park, MD

April 12, 2010 Posted by | Nuclear Power | Comments Off on French-Style Nuclear Reprocessing Will Not Solve U.S. Nuclear Waste Problems

Netanyahu Worried about ‘World Silence on Iran’

Al-Manar TV,  12/04/2010

Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu chided the international community for what he called “the relative silence in the face of Iranian threats” to destroy Israel, and the Islamic regime’s “race towards nuclear weapons.”
“Iran’s leaders are rushing to develop nuclear weapons as they freely announce their desire to destroy Israel,” Netanyahu said Sunday. “But in the face of these calls to erase the Jewish State from the face of the earth time and time again, we see at best mild protests, and these too seem to be fading,” he added.
“We don’t hear the forceful protests that are required, we don’t hear strong denouncement, or the angry voice,” he said. “But as usual, there are those who direct their criticisms against us, against Israel.” Netanyahu was speaking as he marked the so called Holocaust.

Speaking before the prime minister, President Shimon Peres also addressed the Iranian threat, stressing that the world could not display apathy.
“It is our right and duty to demand of the nations of the world not to repeat their indifference, which has cost millions of human lives, including theirs. The United Nations must be attentive to the threats of annihilation coming from one of its members, against another member state,” Peres said.

April 12, 2010 Posted by | Wars for Israel | 2 Comments

Talking Palestine to power

Sonja Karkar, The Electronic Intifada, 12 April 2010
Israel claims exceptionalism no matter how extreme its crimes. (Hatem Omar/MaanImages)

Today, there is no excuse for not knowing the truth about Palestine, especially what is happening in Gaza. Even taking into account the disinformation spread in mainstream media, there are enough glimpses one gets of a ravaged Gaza and a brutalized people that should compel us to ask questions. There are enough websites and blogs easily available for anyone to learn more, even if it requires sifting through and evaluating the available information. Certainly, the alarm bells should be ringing when our political leaders declare undying fealty to Israel or cavalierly wear it as a badge of honor, despite the documented reports of Israel’s war crimes by human rights groups and official enquiries.

But the world lacks courage from government leaders, acquiescent mainstream media, nongovernmental organizations dependent on government support, academics looking for tenure and populations too long fed on a diet of Zionist myths. People are terrified of being labelled anti-Semitic, a mendacious charge against anyone criticizing Israel. Palestinians too, afraid of being further shunned and disadvantaged in countries that give them refuge, so often remain silent. Not only do people fear repercussions, but speaking the truth or even just hearing it has a way of taking people out of their comfort zones. They fear their troubled consciences may require them to act and so they bury their heads deeper into the sand where they hope even the sounds of silence might be extinguished.

This then is the challenge for advocates the world over. How does one talk Palestine to power if one cannot even talk Palestine to the people who are in fear of the powerful?

In the face of media saturation with Zionist viewpoints and the new “Brand Israel” campaigns, many wanting to advocate for Palestine might feel defeated, but time and again we see that the power of one can be enormously effective.

The great scholar and public intellectual Edward Said showed more than anyone else that individuals can make a difference in the public defense of Palestine. He particularly saw the intellectual’s voice as having “resonance.”

But one does not need to be an intellectual. Said’s words can just as aptly apply to any one of us. He said avoidance was “reprehensible” and in his 1994 book Representations of the Intellectual, described it as “that characteristic turning away from a difficult and principled position which you know to be the right one, but which you decide not to take. You do not want to appear too political; you are afraid of seeming too controversial; you need the approval of a boss or an authority figure; you want to keep a reputation for being balanced, objective, moderate; your hope is … to remain within the responsible mainstream … .”

In 1993 when almost everyone else thought the handshakes at the White House steps would seal the negotiated Oslo accords and at long last give the Palestinians their freedom and bring peace to the region, Edward Said saw that these accords would merely provide the cover for Israel to pursue its colonial expansionism and consolidate its occupation of Palestine. However, he knew to criticize Oslo meant in effect taking a position against “hope” and “peace.” His decision to do so flew in the face of the Palestinian revolutionary leadership that had bartered for statehood.

Although Said was denounced for his views, he was not prepared to buy into the deception that he knew would leave the Palestinians with neither hope nor peace. And just as he predicted, each fruitless year of peacemaking finally exposed the horrible reality of Oslo as Palestinians found themselves the victims of Israel’s matrix of control, a term first used to describe the situation by Israeli professor Jeff Halper in 1999. And this domination of one people over another without any intention of addressing the injustices against the Palestinians ethnically cleansed from their homeland, has undeniably reduced Israel to an apartheid state.

The Palestinians have nothing left worth calling a state and they are facing an existential threat on all fronts. Yet, some intellectuals are still talking about a two-state solution in lock step with politicians, a mantra that is repeated uncritically, even mendaciously, in the mainstream media.

This pandering to an idea for decades has been undermined by the furious sounds of drills and hammers reverberating in illegal settlements throughout the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the catastrophic societal ruptures engineered in Gaza. Now those sounds are muffled by the rhetoric of “economic peace,” “institution-building,” “democracy,” “internal security” and “statehood.” They are words that must be challenged at every opportunity, for they are not mere words, but dangerous concepts when isolated from truth on the ground.

It is no use talking about “economic peace” when industrial estates built for Palestinian workers are intended to provide Israel with slave labor and cheap goods. It is useless to support “institution-building” when Israel continues to undermine and obstruct those programs already struggling to service Palestinian society. It is a lie to speak of “democracy” when fair elections in 2006 had Israel and the “international community” denying Hamas the right to govern. It is a charade to accept “internal security” when arming and training Palestinians to police their own people covers for Israel’s and America’s divide-and-conquer scheme. It is hollow to speak of “statehood” when Israel keeps stealing land and building illegal settlements that deprive the Palestinians of their homes and livelihoods while herding them into isolated and walled-in ghettoes.

Edward Said was proven right. Now, it is our turn to speak the truth and act fearlessly, regardless of the censure we are likely to encounter. The German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer is believed to have said that truth passes through three stages: “first, it is ridiculed; second, it is violently opposed; third, it is accepted as being self-evident.” Today, we are at the third stage: the 11 million Palestinians living under occupation, apartheid and as stateless refugees are the living truth. That is Israel’s Achilles’ heel.

The Palestinians are no longer the humble shepherds and farmers that Zionist forces terrorized into fleeing to make way for the Jewish State of Israel. A new generation wants justice and it is demanding it eloquently, nonviolently and strategically. Their message: no normal relations with Israel while it oppresses Palestinians, denies their rights and violates international law. And boycott, divestment and sanctions have to be legitimate tools for challenging a state that claims exceptionalism no matter how extreme and criminal its actions.

The temptation of course is always to opt for the path of least resistance. Therefore, we must appeal to the individual, not even to sacrifice for others, but to recognize that no matter where we live in this global village, we are all vulnerable if we do not stand up for universal human rights and uphold the principles and application of international law.

Despite his own Zionist affiliations and loyalty to Israel, Justice Richard Goldstone saw the danger of tailoring his UN-backed report on war crimes in Gaza to exonerate Israel. He had the decency and courage to put the rule of law and humanity ahead of the savage condemnation he knew would come from talking truth to power.

The same can be said of Richard Falk, the Jewish professor emeritus from Princeton University and UN special rapporteur in the occupied Palestinian territories, who was denied entry into Israel because he described Israel’s siege on Gaza as a “Holocaust in the making” (“Israel deports American academic,” Guardian, 15 December 2008). Israel’s treatment was insulting enough, but now shamefully, the Palestinian Authority has asked the Human Rights Council to “postpone” his report on Gaza and, as Nadia Hijab reported, is asking him to resign (“PA’s betrayal of human rights defenders the unkindest cut,” Nadia Hijab, 14 March 2010).

These are honorable men, but we too can stand on principle in smaller ways, whether that is refusing to buy Israeli goods at our local store, boycotting an Israeli-government sponsored event or exposing and protesting the collusion between governments and corporations with Israel. That is what it means to become part of a worldwide civil movement that will do what our leaders will not: pressure Israel to dismantle the matrix of control on Palestine and make reparations for the decades of injustices it has perpetrated against its people.

It is indeed possible for all of us to “squeeze out of reality some of its potentialities,” the reality that University of Melbourne Professor Ghassan Hage has said is found in those utopic moments that come from challenging our own thoughts, fears and biases. In that space lies the untapped power we seek, to speak the truth without fear or favor. In that space lies the potential for political change. In that space, there will always be hope for Palestine.

A version of this essay was originally published on the website of Labour Friends of Palestine & the Middle East (UK)

Sonja Karkar is the founder and president of Women for Palestine and one of the founders and co-convener of Australians for Palestine in Melbourne, Australia. She is also the editor of and contributes articles on Palestine regularly to various publications. She can be contacted at sonjakarkar A T womenforpalestine D O T org.

April 12, 2010 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Solidarity and Activism | 1 Comment

They’ve Stolen Our Road!

By Peter Balaam | Palestine Monitor | 8 April 2010

We sat with Jamal and Susan and in their home in Shufa. Their seven children peeped in from time to time, daring each other to go and speak to the foreigners. Jamal explained how the road to their village has literally been stolen by some Israelis who live in a nearby illegal settlement.

We already knew about this, because our taxi-ride to Shufa had been interrupted by a huge earth mound and some concrete blocks in the road. We had to get out and walk the last mile up a steep hill.

This stretch of road is now solely for the use of the settlers, who use it to get to their settlement from the main road. The Israeli army will not allow Palestinians to use the road except on foot or on a donkey.

JPG - 403 kb

Photo: Peter Balaam

The road was built in 1950 by the Palestinians. In 1987, the Israelis built 40 houses on Palestinian land and started to share the road with the local villagers. The settlement expanded for some years, and then in 1995, the Israeli army suddenly built the earth mound and forbade the Palestinians to use the road. Now Jamal has to drive home from the school where he is the headteacher, park his car by the earth mound and walk the last mile uphill to his home. And he does this every day, in any weather, including temperatures in the 40s in summer.

“Why?” I asked Jamal. “Why can’t they share the road with you?” Jamal had no answer. For years they had shared the road with no problem. The Israeli answer is just “Security”, but they refuse to explain what they mean by this.

The only explanation that Jamal can think of is that the Israelis simply want to cause the Palestinians to suffer. Another explanation I have heard is that if someone wished to attack people in the settlement, the road would have provided an easy way of escape. But there has been no such attack in 23 years. Perhaps it’s just that the settlers feel nervous about sharing a road with people whose land they appropriated in order to build their settlement.

JPG - 366.6 kb

Photo: Peter Balaam

The stolen road has all sorts of other consequences. Jamal and Susan cannot drive to see their family in Lower Shufa, which is the other side of the earth mound. Farmers’ profits are reduced because each time they take their produce to market in Tulkarem, they need fuel for a 25 km journey instead of 6 km.

The villagers of Shufa have learnt to live with the settlers. In the past, they have been attacked by settlers during the olive harvest and settlers have destroyed hundreds of their olive trees. But they do not face the daily threat of settler violence that other Palestinians face. Life is merely uncomfortable. And nothing changes the fact that their road has been stolen. They live with this reality every day – just one more quiet, unchanging injustice.

The article was written by Peter Balaam. He works for Quaker Peace and Social Witness as an Ecumenical Accompanier serving on the World Council of Churches’ Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI). The views contained in this article are personal and do not necessarily reflect those of QPSW or the WCC.

April 12, 2010 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation, Subjugation - Torture | 7 Comments

The ‘Obama doctrine’: kill, don’t detain

Asim Qureshi | | 11 April 2010

In 2001, Charles Krauthammer first coined the phrase “Bush Doctrine”, which would later become associated most significantly with the legal anomaly known as pre-emptive strike. Understanding the doctrine with hindsight could lead to a further understanding of the legacy that the former administration left – the choice to place concerns of national security over even the most entrenched norms of due process and the rule of law. It is, indeed, this doctrine that united people across the world in their condemnation of Guantánamo Bay.

The ambitious desire to close Guantánamo hailed the coming of a new era, a feeling implicitly recognised by the Nobel peace prize that President Obama received. Unfortunately, what we witnessed was a false dawn. The lawyers for the Guantánamo detainees with whom I am in touch in the US speak of their dismay as they prepare for Obama to do the one thing they never expected – to send the detainees back to the military commissions – a decision that will lose Obama all support he once had within the human rights community.

Worse still, a completely new trend has emerged that, in many ways, is more dangerous than the trends under Bush. Extrajudicial killings and targeted assassinations will soon become the main point of contention that Obama’s administration will need to justify. Although Bush was known for his support for such policies, the extensive use of drones under Obama have taken the death count well beyond anything that has been seen before.

Harold Koh, the legal adviser to the US state department, explained the justifications behind unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) when addressing the American Society of International Law’s annual meeting on 25 March 2010:

“[I]t is the considered view of this administration … that targeting practices, including lethal operations conducted with the use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), comply with all applicable law, including the laws of war … As recent events have shown, al-Qaida has not abandoned its intent to attack the United States, and indeed continues to attack us. Thus, in this ongoing armed conflict, the United States has the authority under international law, and the responsibility to its citizens, to use force, including lethal force, to defend itself, including by targeting persons such as high-level al Qaeda leaders who are planning attacks … [T]his administration has carefully reviewed the rules governing targeting operations to ensure that these operations are conducted consistently with law of war principles …
“[S]ome have argued that the use of lethal force against specific individuals fails to provide adequate process and thus constitutes unlawful extrajudicial killing. But a state that is engaged in armed conflict or in legitimate self-defense is not required to provide targets with legal process before the state may use lethal force. Our procedures and practices for identifying lawful targets are extremely robust, and advanced technologies have helped to make our targeting even more precise. In my experience, the principles of distinction and proportionality that the United States applies are not just recited at meeting. They are implemented rigorously throughout the planning and execution of lethal operations to ensure that such operations are conducted in accordance with all applicable law.”

The legal justifications put forward by Koh are reminiscent of the arguments that were used by John Yoo and others in their bid to lend legitimacy to unlawful practices such as rendition, arbitrary detention and torture. The main cause for concern from Koh’s statements is the implication that protective jurisdiction to which the US feels it is entitled in order to carry out operations anywhere in the world still continues under Obama. The laws of war do not allow for the targeting of individuals outside of the conflict zone, and yet we now find that extrajudicial killings are taking place in countries as far apart as Yemen, the Horn of Africa and Pakistan. From a legal and moral perspective, the rationale provided by the State Department is bankrupt and only reinforces the stereotype that the US has very little concern for its own principles.

Despite the legalities of what is being conducted, the actuality of extrajudicial killings, especially through UAVs is frightening. The recent revelations by WikiLeaks on the killing of civilians by US Apache helicopters in Iraq has strongly highlighted the opportunities for misuse surrounding targeting from the air. In the Iraq case, there were soldiers who were supposed to be using the equipment to identify so-called combatants, and yet they still managed to catastrophically target the wrong people. This situation is made even worse in the case of UAVs, where the operators are far removed from the reality of the conflict and rely on digital images to see what is taking place on the ground.

Conservative estimates from thinktanks such as the New American Foundation claim that civilian causalities from drone attacks are around one in three, although this figure is disputed by the Pakistani authorities. According to Pakistani official statistics, every month an average of 58 civilians were killed during 2009. Of the 44 Predator drone attacks that year, only five targets were correctly identified; the result was over 700 civilian casualties.

Regardless of the figures used, the case that extrajudicial killings are justified is extremely weak, and the number of civilian casualties is far too high to justify their continued use.

A further twist to the Obama Doctrine is the breaking of a taboo that the Bush administration balked at – the concept of treating US citizens outside of the US constitutional process. During the Bush era, the treatment of detainees such as John Walker Lindh, Yasser Hamdi and Jose Padilla showed reluctance by officials to treat their own nationals in the way it had all those of other nationalities (by, for instance, sending them to Guantánamo Bay and other secret prisons). The policy of discrimination reserved for US citizens showed that there was a line the US was not willing to cross.

At least, today, we can strike discrimination off the list of grievances against the current president. The National Security Council of the US has now given specific permission to the CIA to target certain US citizens as part of counter-terrorism operations. Specifically, Anwar al-Awlaki has been singled out for such treatment, as it has been claimed that he was directly involved in the planning of the Major Hasan Nidal killings and the Christmas Day bomber attacks. Indeed, it is claims such as this that bring the entire concept of targeted assassinations into question. The US would like us to believe that we should simply trust that they have the relevant evidence and information to justify such a killing, without bringing the individual to account before a court.

The assumption that trust should be extended to a government that has involved itself in innumerable unlawful and unconscionable practices since the start of the war on terror is too much to ask. Whatever goodwill the US government had after 9/11 was destroyed by the way in which it prosecuted its wars. Further, the hope that came with the election of Barack Obama has faded as his policies have indicated nothing more than a reconfiguration of the basic tenet of the Bush Doctrine – that the US’s national security interests supersede any consideration of due process or the rule of law. The only difference – witness the rising civilian body count from drone attacks – being that Obama’s doctrine is even more deadly.

April 12, 2010 Posted by | Progressive Hypocrite, War Crimes | Comments Off on The ‘Obama doctrine’: kill, don’t detain

Israeli occupation forces surround school

Ma’an – 2/04/2010
File Photo

Qalqiliya – Israeli forces surrounded the Yasser Arafat School in the west end of Azzun, a town east of Qalqiliya on Monday. Troops demanded children evacuate the school so boys accused of rock throwing could be detained.

The school’s principal, Majid Odwan, said three military vehicles were stationed outside the gates of the building. Soldiers started by calling out the the children with loudspeakers demanding that they empty the school so several boys could be detained, he said.

Odwan shouted back that he refused the request and would keep children inside the school compound for the duration of their lessons, he said.

Responding to the principal’s remarks, soldiers declared that they would remain stationed outside the school until classes finished and take the children then. Soldiers remained outside the school for more than an hour, reports said.

An Israeli military spokeswoman confirmed the incident, but said a boy threw a “firebomb at an Israeli vehicle” and proceeded to “escape to a nearby school to hide out.”

Soldiers arrived to detain the child, she said, but did not in the end make an arrest.

April 12, 2010 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, Subjugation - Torture | 2 Comments