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ΑΛΗΘΩΣ Crosses the Line

By Kelley B. Vlahos, April 20, 2010

Anyone paying attention to veterans’ issues on Capitol Hill these days has no doubt heard of

During the Bush administration, this group was a thorn in the side of the Republican pro-war agenda that put millions of servicemen and women through the meat grinder in Iraq and Afghanistan. It exposed and derided scandalous weaknesses in the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) mental health care system, called for the closing of Gitmo, and fought for the modernization of the GI Bill so that vets could actually go to college as Uncle Sam promised.

So today we are forced to ask one simple question of VoteVets: what’s up with you?

Though technically it is a non-partisan 401(c)(4) organization (that’s Washington-speak for a political non-profit), VoteVets also has a political action committee (PAC) dedicated to electing veterans to Congress. The group’s preferred candidates happen to be Democrats who subscribe to a “progressive” agenda, particularly on issues of national security and foreign policy. The millions of dollars VoteVets has spent in the last two election cycles also paid for negative campaign ads against Republicans in tight races, including the 2008 presidential contest. Fine. Over the last several years, that mission has seemed almost necessary in terms of providing pushback against the influential neoconservative-dominated national security establishment in Washington.

But then comes this new advertising campaign, and for the first time, looks less like a veterans’ lobby than a full-fledged water-carrier for Democratic interests on Capitol Hill. Not only that, is employing the same dirty rhetorical tricks that neoconservative hawks invoked to get us into Iraq and Afghanistan – and now possibly Iran:

There are so many things wrong with this advertisement that one wonders if the smartypants at the American Enterprise Institute put it out themselves and slapped the logo on it. Indeed, the minute it hit the airways back in March, you could almost hear Michael Ledeen and Frank Gaffney giggling gleefully from either side of the Potomac. Liz Cheney might as well have canceled an ad buy in her own Keep America Safe campaign to save some money.

All joking aside, it is troubling to see a group that has been forthright about taking care of the grunts in the field and veterans in our communities indulging in stale neoconservative tropes to appeal to Americans’ base prejudices and fears, all to win a debate over climate-change legislation that the American public has yet to see, much less absorb and weigh in on.

It’s just another example of how seductive Washington politics can be, and how off-putting it is to see veterans exploited, once again, for political gain.

Fellow columnist and intelligence expert Phil Giraldi had this to say about the ad: “I don’t have any problem with supporting clean energy, though I wonder what that has to do with VoteVets, unless it is a lobbying effort to get groups behind Obama’s next domestic program, which might be the intention of this promotion.”

That seems to be how it’s shaping up, given that the ads are part of a $3 million campaign to promote clean energy legislation favored by progressive Democrats in Congress. The group is also targeting a “bipartisan” package being crafted by Senators John Kerry (D), Lindsey Graham (R), and Joe Lieberman (I), which VoteVets say is too stacked in favor of Big Oil and takes the federal government out of regulating greenhouse gases. No doubt that is why it is running these emotionally stoked and muscular energy ads in swing districts across the country.

“Three years ago, VoteVets would have never used the word ‘enemy’ in an ad like this,” pointed out Inter Press News Service correspondent Gareth Porter. Now we know why. Making a vote against Big Oil a patriotic act against the “Iranian menace” might prove useful in shaming members who do not agree with the planks in their preferred energy agenda.

Is Energy a Veterans’ Issue? chairman John Soltz, who as an Iraq vet has been an effective critic of the war overseas (indeed, VoteVets opposed the current surge of 30,000 troops into Afghanistan), recently repeated his group’s cock-eyed brief on MSNBC. “We have states like Iran who are then earning money off our demand and passing that off to terrorist organizations across the Middle East,” he told liberal host Ed Schultz, who flashed a graphic of a poll commissioned by [.pdf] that conveniently found 73 percent of veterans in favor of “clean energy legislation.”

Come again?

Simply put, the liberal-leaning VoteVets hired Lake Research Partners, a Democratic polling firm, to gin up this issue as a priority for American veterans. But is it really? The question that elicited the 73 percent positive response was this: “Do you favor or oppose a comprehensive clean energy and climate bill that invests in clean, renewable energy sources in America and limits carbon pollution in the atmosphere?”

Sure, a majority of Democrats, Republicans, and independents favor it, according to the poll, but it tells us virtually nothing about what the respondents want specifically, much less that a plan by progressive Democrats in Washington is at all preferred. We all know veterans are not a monolithic group, and while most would agree they want their VA benefits on time and a GI Bill that works, to suggest they all support federal regulation of greenhouse gases and so-called “cap and trade” measures is quite presumptuous.

Liberal Backlash

Despite the campaign’s progressive goals, the ad itself has certainly left the group’s loyal liberal supporters scratching their heads. Wrote pundit Taylor Marsh in March:

“Well, if you wanted to give Sarah Palin’s bomb, bomb, bomb Iran team a freebie, the new Vote Vets ad is it. However, it’s supposed to be about Congress getting us off oil and on to clean energy in order to keep us out of real life energy wars. Instead it serves up powerful visuals and a narrative that promotes going straight at Iran. …

“[T]he ad is a cynical appeal using fear about Iran, specifically, through EFPs [explosively formed penetrators] to get the job done. Vote Vets could have begun the ad the way you ended it, immediately making the oil-clean energy connection, but didn’t. You purposefully chose to focus on the fear card and the Iran boogieman, complete with a picture of Ahmadinejad, before making your clean energy pitch, because you thought that would get the attention. … But they got the emotional appeal exactly backwards, stressing Iranian dangers instead of energy dependence and they did it deliberately.”

To which representative Richard Allen Smith immediately responded on Marsh’s Web site, “Being that we also created, if we’re trying to convince anyone the US should invade Iran, we’re doing a pretty terrible job.”

Sadly, when you click onto on the Web site, there’s nothing to see. Not sure what that is all about. Smith also wrote: “What is dishonest in the ad? Point to one assertion that is untrue.”

Is the ad untrue? Depends on whom you ask. Dishonest? Certainly. I reached out to media relations man Eric Schmeltzer over the weekend to get some background on the assertion that for every $1 increase in oil on the global market, the government of Iran gets another $1.5 billion in annual revenue, and moreover, that any increase in oil revenue goes directly to the Iranian manufacture of EFPs used against U.S. forces in Iraq or, by extension, Afghanistan.

He said he’d get back to me on the first part of the question but added that the “claim about EFPs is consistent, it says they were created in Iran, which they were. Now, most insurgents have the ability to make them. But the originals came from Iran.”

Schmeltzer might have been suggesting that VoteVets never claimed Iran was directly supplying weapons to hurt our troops, but the ad certainly insinuates that linkage. Soltz also made the charge more directly on his MSNBC appearance on April 8.

I am going to assume then, that in part, the basic premise of the advertisement was culled from this August 2009 report [.pdf] by the Center for American Progress, which is displayed prominently on the Web site as an accompanying resource in the clean-energy campaign:

“America’s oil dependence has other indirect but no less serious impacts on U.S. interests. For example, high rates of American consumption drive up global demand for oil, which fuels lofty prices and helps to fund and to sustain undemocratic and corrupt regimes. Because of this anti-Western nations such as Iran – with whom the United States by law cannot trade or buy oil – benefit regardless of who the end buyer of the fuel is. …

“Reducing U.S. oil demand in the world market would be a big financial hit to Iran and other unfriendly petrostates.”

The Iranian Connection

Giraldi called this linking of the production and deployment of IEDs to U.S. consumption of oil “largely baloney.”

“The IED technology is simple and has been adapted everywhere from Northern Ireland (where it originated) to today’s Afghanistan. There is no evidence whatsoever that money used to buy oil goes to terrorists (we are funding them directly through bribes paid to move our equipment and supplies in AfPak) and that Iran is profiting thereby and killing our soldiers. What a load of nonsense!”

“There has never been any proof that the Iranian government has any connection with EFPs or other militarized activity in Iraq or Afghanistan. Zero. Nada,” complained war correspondent Dahr Jamail in an e-mail exchange. “It seems funny they are resurrecting a long-since defunct Bush propaganda tactic … seems to me like they could use a new PR person – someone a little more savvy.”

The military of course has been trying to establish such a link for years. In 2008, the U.S. captured several Iranian agents associated with the so-called Iranian “Special Groups” in Iraq. Also in 2008, military officials said they had evidence that sources within Iran were supplying rogue Shia militias with EFPs, while in 2007, President George W. Bush charged that the Iranian Quds Force, a unit of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, was causing unrest and supporting the insurgency in Iraq.

Many of the broader linkages have been maintained and promulgated to this day through neoconservative think-tanks and publications such as the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, The Long War Journal, and The Weekly Standard.

However, a report this March [.pdf] by the Congressional Research Service found that while Iran maintained a high and complicated level of political influence in Iraq, the charges regarding its connection to militant activity over the border were simmering down.

Meanwhile, links between Iran and EFP attacks against Westerners in Afghanistan are tenuous. In fact, despite reports about Iranian-made weapons in the hands of the Taliban, Gen. Stanley McChrystal was forced to tell reporters just four days ago that he has no evidence the Iranian government is channeling weapons or fighters into Afghanistan.

But back to the VoteVets advertisement.

It is so hard to stomach because not only does it indicate the group’s willingness to compromise its standards of truth in order to win over votes in a problematic legislative battle, but it is cynically using our feelings about veterans and our fears of war to do it.

Which is disappointing, since Soltz was one of the first people with Iraq credentials to weigh in publicly on the unexpected resignation of Navy Adm. William Fallon in 2008. Fallon, who was considered one of the military’s most important bulwarks against a neoconservative drive toward war with Iran, said he felt he had to resign after his views were showcased in an April 2008 article in Esquire.

This is what Soltz had to say at the time:

“Let’s call a spade a spade here. Admiral Fallon has not so quietly had severe disagreements with the White House on our Iraq policy, how it impacts the region and global war on terror, for which he is largely responsible, and warning against war with Iran.

“Just one year into his tenure as CENTCOM commander, Fallon resigned today, and you can read into it nothing more than a resignation in protest. …

“Another voice of reason bites the dust.”

Please, Soltz, don’t let be yet another voice of reason to bite the dust. Continue to elect Democratic veterans to Congress if you must. Keep fighting for energy independence, for sure. But leave the neoconservative appeals and the gratuitous use of veterans out of it. As Gareth Porter said so succinctly, it may be “the politically clever thing to do, but never make hash out of the truth – it’ll come back to bite you.”

April 19, 2010 Posted by | Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Wars for Israel | Comments Off on Crosses the Line

Israel Support Letter Unsupported by Reality

By Jay Barr, April 20, 2010

The Boxer-Isakson “Israel Support Letter” [.pdf] addressed to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and currently signed by 76 senators [.pdf] answers a question no one needed to ask: Does the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) have the support of the United States Senate? However, unlike the proverbial napkin former AIPAC bigwig Steven Rosen boasted that he could have signed by 70 senators within 24 hours, this particular piece of paper contains a slew of Likud talking points, few of which are supported by reality. Some read an implicit rebuke of the Obama administration in the letter for the administration’s alleged spat with Israel, though despite the new conventional wisdom that there’s a major schism between the two, it would be hard to point to on-the-record words or actions taken by the Obama administration that translate into substantive criticism of Israeli policies.

The letter states, “Despite your [Clinton’s] best efforts, Israeli-Palestinian negotiations have been frozen for over a year.” If Clinton were truly making her best efforts to restart the peace process, she would wield the considerable U.S. leverage of aid to tiny Israel in order to rein in their increasingly extreme activities that violate even their own lukewarm prior commitments. One commitment, the so-called settlement freeze, involves the seemingly self-evident notion that if you are serious about good-faith negotiations over borders you do not continue to expand your territory into the ever shrinking piece that is well-established as belonging to the other side. Instead, Clinton bragged at her recent speech to AIPAC about the increase in U.S. aid to Israel in 2010 and the planned increase for 2011.

Several paragraphs later, the letter goes on: “Israel continues to be the one true democracy in the Middle East that brings stability to a region where it is in short supply.” How much of a “true democracy” Israel actually is is debatable, especially given restrictions on free speech, discrimination against Arab Israelis based solely on ethnicity, the disproportionate influence of the radical “settler” minority, and the apartheid system and blockade forced on Palestinians in the occupied territories. However, the real whopper in the sentence is the notion that Israel brings any sort of stability to the Middle East. Without a doubt the two most destabilizing forces in the Middle East are the tag team of the United States and Israel, which has a combined resumé that in the past four years includes full-scale wars waged on Iraq, Lebanon, and Gaza; missile and bomb strikes on Syria and Yemen; assassination in the United Arab Emirates; and countless credible threats against Iran. Israel’s undeclared nuclear arsenal and refusal to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty also undermine regional stability, especially given Israel’s penchant for disproportionate escalations of force against its neighbors.

Seventy-six senators want the secretary of state to remember that “Israel has been a consistent, reliable ally and friend and has helped to advance American interests. … We must never forget the depth and breadth of our alliance and always do our utmost to reinforce a relationship that has benefited both nations for more than six decades.” While it is very kind of the senators to at least pay lip service to the interests of the people they were elected to represent, unsurprisingly there are no specifics on exactly what Israel has ever done that “benefited both nations” or “advance[d] American interests.” Support for Israel has certainly exacted a heavy toll, though; from the 1983 Beirut barracks bombing to both World Trade Center attacks, most animosity toward the United States emanating from the Middle East is a result of unconditional support, supply, and diplomatic sheltering of Israel despite its constant deviation from international norms and standards of justice. The cost is also financial, with billions from the insolvent U.S. going to a nation that can even afford to provide universal health care. Furthermore, most people could safely expect a “consistent, reliable ally and friend” not to spy on them repeatedly or attack and kill them as in the 1967 U.S.S. Liberty murders.

Despite all the glaring errors and omissions in this latest statement of support, the senators are not completely incorrect; there is nothing wrong with the people of the United States and the people of Israel supporting each other if it truly benefits both nations (though George Washington warned in his farewell address against “passionate attachment” for an ally). However, in recent years the positions taken by Olmert/Netanyahu and Bush/Obama are desirable to no one but the “settlers” in Israel and the evangelical Rapture-seekers in the United States. If the United States Senate truly wants to express its support for the Israeli people, it will stay out of the way of the peace process and stop prolonging the unacceptable status quo with a steady stream of assistance to their intransigent government.

April 19, 2010 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | 5 Comments

Missing Heat Hides From Climate Scientists

By Doug L. Hoffman on 04/18/2010

Climate scientists have decided that as much as half of the heat energy, believed to have built up on Earth in recent years, is hiding somewhere it can’t be found.

By measuring the radiative energy input at the top of Earth’s atmosphere, scientists have a pretty good idea of how much energy is entering the planetary environment—the problem is figuring out where it goes. The most likely place is in the deep ocean, whose waters form a huge potential storage place for heat. Because energy is exchanged between the atmosphere and the ocean, this heat can resurface at a later time to affect weather and climate on a global scale. It has been suggested that last year’s rapidly occurring El Niño may be one way the “missing” solar energy has reappeared—the implication being more sudden El Niño events may be on the way.

Oceans contain around 80% of the climate system’s total energy, so ocean heat is a good measure of what is happening with Earth’s climate. According to a Perspectives article in the April 16, 2010, issue of Science, “Tracking Earth’s Energy,” science has been unable to properly track energy within Earth’s environmental system. Kevin E. Trenberth and John T. Fasullo , both scientists at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), warn in the new study that satellite sensors, ocean floats, and other instruments are inadequate to track this “missing” heat. They fear that it may be building up in the deep oceans or elsewhere in the climate system. “The heat will come back to haunt us sooner or later,” says Trenberth, the lead author. “The reprieve we’ve had from warming temperatures in the last few years will not continue. It is critical to track the build-up of energy in our climate system so we can understand what is happening and predict our future climate.”

As noted on the NCAR site, a Science Perspectives piece is not formally peer-reviewed, but is reviewed by editors of the journal. Science reportedly invited Trenberth to submit the article after an editor heard him discuss the research at a scientific conference. Trenberth and his co-author, Fasullo, focused on what they call a central mystery of climate change. Why, since 2003, have scientists been unable to determine where much heat energy Earth receives from the Sun is going. According to the NCAR site:

Satellite measurements indicate that the amount of greenhouse-trapped solar energy has risen over recent years while the increase in heat measured in the top 3,000 feet of the ocean has stalled. Although it is difficult to quantify the amount of solar energy with precision, Trenberth and Fasullo estimate that, based on satellite data, the amount of energy build-up appears to be about 1.0 watts per square meter or higher, while ocean instruments indicate a build-up of about 0.5 watts per square meter. That means about half the total amount of heat is unaccounted for.

Either the satellite observations are incorrect, says Trenberth, or large amounts of heat are penetrating to regions on Earth that are not adequately measured. One such place is the deepest parts of the oceans. Compounding the problem, Earth’s surface temperatures have largely leveled off in recent years. This inability to properly track energy has implications for understanding the way climate works and most definitely on predicting future climate. Obviously, if scientists are at a loss to identify the hiding place of the missing heat climate modelers are unable to include its possible future effects in their programs. With as much as half of the suspected heat energy buildup gone missing, it must be asked how well science understands Earth’s climate.

Where does the energy go?

El Niño, periodic events in which the upper ocean waters across much of the tropical Pacific Ocean become significantly warmer, are seen by many as a mechanism for dumping heat, stored in the ocean, back into space. Trenberth and Fasullo explain the relationship between the ENSO, the El Niño Southern Oscillation, and delayed release of ocean stored energy this way:

To understand how energy is taken up and later released by the climate system, consider the natural variability from El Niño Southern Oscillation. The cold sea surface temperatures in the equatorial Pacific present in normal or La Niña conditions create conditions favorable for fewer clouds and more sunshine and a build-up of heat in the ocean as a precursor of El Niño. The spread of warm waters across the Pacific, together with changing winds, in turn promotes evaporative cooling of the ocean, moistening the atmosphere and fueling tropical storms and convection over and around the anomalously warm waters. The changed atmospheric heating alters the jet streams and storm tracks and controls weather patterns for the duration of the El Niño event. The loss of heat can in turn lead to La Niña.

A strong La Niña event in 2007–2008 extended into the 2008–2009 northern winter, causing cooler than normal weather across much of the Northern Hemisphere. By June 2009, the situation had reversed as the next, comparatively moderate El Niño emerged. Multiple storms barreled into Southern California in January 2010, consistent with expectations from the El Niño. These storms also caused significant snowfall and precipitation across the American Southwest, South and up the Eastern Seaboard.

There seems to be a lot of confusion regarding ocean temperatures these days. Recently, new estimates of the past temperatures have been published. On in particular, that shows a sudden jump in the 2002-2003 time, prompted Real Climate to post a plot of ocean heat content. This is a contradiction of a 2009 paper by Craig Loehle in Energy & Environment that found global ocean cooling since 2003. The linear component of the model used showed a trend of -0.35 (±0.2) x 1022 Joules per year, shown in the plot below.

The Loehle study showed an unambiguous cooling trend.

“The model, fit to the smoothed data, gave an excellent fit (r = 0.922, R2 = 0.85) and showed clearly that there is an annual periodicity in the data, probably due to the north-south asymmetry in ocean area and the effect of orbital variations over the year,” the study states. The Loehle study was based on ocean heat content anomaly (OHCA) data compiled by Josh Willis et al. Indeed, it was the 2008 paper “Assessing the Globally Averaged Sea Level Budget on Seasonal and Interannual Time Scales,” by Willis, Chambers and Nerem, that prompted this comment by Roger Pielke Sr.:

Global warming, as diagnosed by upper ocean heat content has not been occurring since 2004. It is impossible to know if this lack of warming will continue but these observations are inconsistent with the predictions of long-term global climate predictions, such as reported in the 2007 IPCC report.

Since then, the debate over ocean heat and ocean levels has raged. Claims and counter claims, studies finding warming and studies finding cooling. Now it looks like the warming proponents are throwing in the towel on surface temperature increase (this is the temperature trend, not normal, cyclic variability). In a reply to questions from Dr. Pielke, Dr. Willis said:

There is still a good deal of uncertainty in observational estimates of ocean heat content during the 1990s and into the early part of the 2000s. This is because of known biases in the XBT data set, which are the dominant source of ocean temperature data up until 2003 or 2004. Numerous authors have attempted to correct these biases, but substantial difference remain in the “corrected” data. As a result, the period from 1993 to 2003 still has uncertainties that are probably larger than the natural or anthropogenic signals in ocean heat content that happen over a period of 1 to 3 years. However, the decadal trend of 10 to 15 years seems to be large enough to see despite the uncertainties.

So, despite the confusion caused by changing from XBT (Expendable Bathythermograph) measurements to measurements by the Argos satellite-based location and data collection system, it still looks like the upper portions of the ocean are cooling. Such data discontinuities when changing sensor types or measurement methods is not new, the same type of flap erupted over radiosonde data a decade ago. Even so, the debate about the missing ocean heat is far from over.

The new claim is the missing heat, that climate change supporters so desperately want to find, has gone deep. Dr Pielke has exchanged a series of comments with Dr. Trenberth over his recent paper on the Climate Science website:

Trenberth’s [and co-author, NCAR scientist John Fasullo], however, are grasping for an explanation other than the actual real world implication of the absence of this heat.

  • First, if the heat was being sequestered deeper in the ocean (lower than about 700m), than we would have seen it transit through the upper ocean where the data coverage has been good since at least 2005. The other reservoirs where heat could be stored are closely monitored as well (e.g. continental ice) as well as being relatively small in comparison with the ocean.
  • Second, the melting of glaciers and continental ice can be only a very small component of the heat change (e.g. see Table 1 in Levitus et al 2001 “Anthropogenic warming of Earth’s climate system”. Science).

Thus, a large amount heat (measured as Joules) does not appear to be stored anywhere; it just is not there.

“I do not agree with your comments. We are well aware that there are well over a dozen estimates of ocean heat content and they are all different yet based on the same data,” said Dr. Trenberth in reply. “There are clearly problems in the analysis phase and I don’t believe any are correct.” Clear admission that climate scientists are groping in the dark here.

“I do not see how such large amounts of heat could have transited to depths below 700m since 2005 without being detected.,” responded Pielke, adding in a conciliatory way: “I am very supportive, however, of your recognition that it is heat in Joules that we should be monitoring as a primary metric to monitor global warming. Our research has shown significant biases in the use of the global average surface temperature for this purpose.”

Research done over the last several years has found that the return currents of the meridional overturning current (MOC) do not behave as previously thought (see “Conveyor Belt Model Broken”). More recently, it has been shown that the great ocean conveyor belt varies in ways unpredicted and previously unsuspected (see “Ocean Conveyor Belt Confounds Climate Science”). During the first 1-year period since new deep sea sensors became operational (measurements from March 2004 through March 2005) the strength of the MOC varied by more than a factor of 8. It still remains unclear how much the meridional overturning circulation varies from year to year, but the old model was clearly wrong.

New sensors reveal unsuspected behavior. Source CSIRO.

Now, the ocean is suspected of harboring hidden heat that scientists claim has gone missing. Some claim the heat is not there, while others, like Trenberth and Fasullo, fear that the missing heat will “come back to haunt us.” One thing is certain—those old claims of “settled science” and a “consensus among the world’s scientists” seem to have come back to haunt their originators. The overstatements made by the IPCC and its supporters in the past stand revealed for the empty lies they always were.

Trenberth and Fasullo state that it is imperative to get better measurements of the energy flowing through Earth’s climate system. Improved analysis of energy in the atmosphere and oceans might help researchers better understand and possibly even predict unusual weather patterns, such as the unexpectedly cold weather across much of the United States, Europe, and Asia over the past winter. But for now, no scientist can claim that we truly understand what is going on in Earth’s oceans—and that means climate science cannot claim to understand what is going to happen to Earth’s climate.

April 19, 2010 Posted by | Deception, Science and Pseudo-Science, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , | 10 Comments

Who’s behind the Gates memo leak?

By Paul Woodward on April 18, 2010

The New York Times reports on a “secret three-page memorandum” that Defense Secretary Robert Gates sent to National Security Adviser Gen James Jones in January, warning that “the United States does not have an effective long-range policy for dealing with Iran’s steady progress toward nuclear capability,” according to unnamed officials who leaked the information.

The narrative line here which is presumably the line which was being fed to the New York Times‘ ever-obliging reporters, was that the there are gaps in the US strategy for dealing with Iran’s nuclear ambitions. It’s far from clear that this was actually the thrust of Gates’ memo.

[I]n his memo, Mr. Gates wrote of a variety of concerns, including the absence of an effective strategy should Iran choose the course that many government and outside analysts consider likely: Iran could assemble all the major parts it needs for a nuclear weapon — fuel, designs and detonators — but stop just short of assembling a fully operational weapon.

In that case, Iran could remain a signatory of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty while becoming what strategists call a “virtual” nuclear weapons state.

To say that the US lacks a strategy here, is itself a statement so vague as to be meaningless. It lacks a strategy to prevent Iran becoming a virtual nuclear state? Or it lacks a strategy for dealing with Iran in such an eventuality? Or it lacks a strategy for dealing with the fact that it may not actually know whether Iran has acquired this form of nuclear capability?

There is no indication in this account that the New York Times reporters saw the memo (and it seems reasonable to infer that they did not), so as is so often the case, it’s likely that the most significant detail in this story is the one that will not be revealed: the identity of the senior official who is the primary source of the narrative.

Was it Dennis Ross? He’d certainly fit the profile of someone in the administration who probably feels like it’s time to change the subject and shift attention away from Israel and back to Iran. As another US official recently told Laura Rozen, “He [Ross] seems to be far more sensitive to Netanyahu’s coalition politics than to U.S. interests.”


Who Is Dennis Ross? – Aletho News | March 8, 2009

April 19, 2010 Posted by | Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Wars for Israel | 1 Comment

Israel is debated at California Democratic convention, Harman walks out in huff

Marcy Winograd
By Philip Weiss on April 19, 2010

We often note the news that Democratic rank-and-file support for Israel is fading. Well, the California State Democratic Convention yesterday endorsed Congresswoman Jane Harman for reelection from a district around Los Angeles, but before it did so, Harman and her opponent, Marcy Winograd, both appeared before a progressive caucus at the convention, and argued Israel. The Fresno Bee calls the fight the “flashpoint” of the convention. Peggy McCormack, a delegate to the convention, says that the story will be covered today on Pacifica radio, KPFA, 10 am PST. Meantime, her report:

Jane Harman and Marcy Winograd managed to squeeze in a debate of sorts before a couple hundred Progressive Caucus delegates at the Democratic Convention. Marcy herself brought up Israel in order to distance herself from Harman. I never thought I’d hear a candidate talk about brutal occupation, lack of water, unnecessary continuous deaths and lack of democracy. Harman in response called Marcy an extremist who wants to get rid of Israel, and Marcy shot back with a democratic state from the Mediterranean to the Jordan River. This got a standing ovation. And, Harman stood up and said she did not go to the caucus to debate and strode out. Unbelievable. We collected enough signatures to get Marcy’s signature to the floor of the convention, whereupon the vote was done in a strange but legal way with party workers counting the people holding up cards, and of course Harman won. When we called for a recorded vote, John Burton, the party chair, snarled something or other about Marcy should organize better. Clearly Marcy won the standing vote (we all waved our delegate badges) but we had not done our homework to jump at the mike and call for a recorded vote. Doesn’t matter, the point will not be lost on the lobby.

April 19, 2010 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | 6 Comments

Venezuelan Consulate in Puerto Rico accused of financing political group

El Universal | April 16, 2010

Roberto Arango, a Senator for the New Progressive Party, accused on Thursday night the Venezuelan Consulate in San Juan of financing left-wing groups in Puerto Rico, specifically the Caribbean Bolivarian Coordinating Committee.

The conservative Senator told Efe that he has denounced the “irregular activities” of the Venezuelan diplomatic mission through letters sent to the US State Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI).

Arango stressed that he addressed a letter to Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez to inform him of the activities which, in his view, the Venezuelan diplomats are carrying out in the Puerto Rican capital.

The leader of the party that favors Puerto Rico’s integration to the US as the 51st state said that Chavez did not answer to his letter.

April 19, 2010 Posted by | Mainstream Media, Warmongering | 1 Comment

Israeli Leftist Groups May be Violating US Law

By Maayana Miskin | Israel National News | April 19, 2010

Two of Israel’s largest extreme-left organizations, B’Tselem and Peace Now, have been accused of potentially violating United States law by acting illegally as foreign agents. The U.S. Department of Justice has been informed of the accusations, and is looking into the matter.

The charges were raised by Attorney Lee Bender. Bender first notified the Department of Justice’s National Security Division of the potentially illegal status of Americans for Peace Now in November 2009. While awaiting the conclusions of the Justice Department, he developed concerns about B’Tselem as well and last week contacted the National Security Division to report in the group.

The Americans for Peace Now group is part of the Isreli left-wing movement that campaigns against a Jewish presence in all of the land restored to Israel in the Six-Day War in 1967. Its activists often support Arab incitement as part of the “resistance.” B’Tselem is a self-acclaimed human rights group that consistently has condemned Israel for counterrorist operations against Hamas and has blamed Israel for most Arab violence. Both organizations use the Israeli Supreme Court as venue for attempting to bring about home demolitions in Judea and Samaria communities and for attempts to indict Israeli civilians and soldiers for what they term unnecessary violence in the face of perceived terrorist threats.

Both organizations are suspected of violating the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA). The law, enacted in 1938, requires those acting as agents of foreign principles in a political or quasi-political capacity to disclose their relationship to the foreign principles and their activities.

B’Tselem and Peace Now both receive much of their funding from the European Union and individual European countries. As Bender wrote, “They have and continue to receive funds from European governments, and have an office in Washington D.C. that lobbies United States officials.”

If the two organizations are found to be foreign agents under FARA, they will need to report all contact with American officials, as well as for every political activity they organize.

In Israel, organizations funded by foreign governments are required to report the donations they receive to the Non-Profit Associations Registrar. Since 2008, such groups have been required to make their donations public via the Internet as well.

In 2009, MK Danny Danon revealed that he plans to criminalize the activities of Peace Now, B’Tselem and similar organizations by making it illegal for foreign-funded groups to engage in political activity inside Israel.

April 19, 2010 Posted by | Solidarity and Activism | 1 Comment

International activist arrested on false accusations in Sheikh Jarrah

Illegal colonist throws eggs in a separate incident
International Solidarity Movement | 19th April 2010

At approximately 11.30pm on the 18th April, a British ISM activist, Robin Brown, was arrested in Sheikh Jarrah having been falsely accused by Israeli settlers of attacking them with tear gas. Those present in the hours leading up to his arrest insist this cannot possibly be true. Brown was released from police custody at 3am on the 19th – recognition from the police that there was absolutely no evidence to support the settlers’ accusations.

Earlier in the evening, settlers had attempted to destroy a mural that was recently painted in the front garden of the Al Kurd home, half of which is occupied by settlers. Running past the wall, they threw cupfuls of white paint at the mural before fleeing down the street. Despite their later claims to police, there was no confrontation in the street between them and the Palestinian residents of the neighbourhood, or the international activists who were also present.

The previous night, Israeli settlers attacked local residents in the street, pepper spraying two of them. As the police say that, when called to the area on the night of the 18th, a settler did show signs of having been gassed, it seems possible that this was inflicted upon him by a fellow settler, still in possession of the pepper spray used the night before. The police who arrested and interrogated Brown found no traces of any kind of gas or spray on his hands, clothes or bag, proof that, if any gas was used, it did not come from him.

Brown says, “It is clear that settlers have decided to try to find ways to get rid of the international activists who sit in solidarity with Sheikh Jarrah residents, and who document the violence and harassment that is inflicted upon them by the settlers. Settlers frequently make up lies in an attempt to get Palestinians arrested. It’s no surprise that they’re now doing the same to internationals”.

April 19, 2010 Posted by | Deception, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Solidarity and Activism | Comments Off on International activist arrested on false accusations in Sheikh Jarrah

Obama’s “Remainees”

Will not one but two Guantanamos define the American future?

By Karen J. Greenberg | April 19, 2010

On his first day in office, President Barack Obama promised that he would close the Bush-era prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, “as soon as practicable” and “no later than one year from the date of this order.” The announcement was met with relief, even joy, by those, like me, who had opposed the very existence of Guantanamo on the grounds that it represented a legal black hole where the distinction between guilt and innocence had been obliterated, respect for the rule of law was mocked, and the rights of prisoners were dismissed out of hand. We should have known better.

By now, it’s painfully obvious that the rejoicing, like the president’s can-do optimism, was wildly premature. To the dismay of many, that year milestone passed, barely noticed, months ago. As yet there is no sign that the notorious 8-year-old detention facility is close to a shut down. Worse yet, there is evidence that, when it finally is closed, it will be replaced by two Guantanamos – one in Illinois and the other in Afghanistan. With that, this president will have committed himself in a new way to the previous president’s “long war” and the illegal principles on which it floundered, especially the idea of “preventive detention.”

Guantanamo in Illinois

For those who have been following events at Guantanamo for years, perhaps this should have come as no surprise. We knew just how difficult it would be to walk the system backward toward extinction, as did many of the former lawyer-critics of Guantanamo who joined the Obama administration. The fact is: once a distorted system has been set in stone, the only way to correct it is to end the distortion that started it: indefinite detention.

As of today, here’s the Guantanamo situation and its obdurate math. One hundred eighty-three detainees remain incarcerated there. Perhaps we should call them “remainees.” According to the estimates of the Guantanamo Detainee Review Task Force set up by Attorney General Eric Holder, about half of them will be released sooner or later and returned to their homelands or handed over to other “host” countries. They will then join approximately 600 former Guantanamo inmates released from custody since 2002. Another 35 or so remainees will be put on trial, according to reports on the task force’s recommendations and, assumedly, convicted in either civilian courts or by military commissions. For the remaining 50 or so – those for whom evidence convincing enough for trial and conviction is absent, but who are nonetheless deemed by the president to constitute a threat to the nation – the legal future is dim, even if the threat assessment which keeps them behind bars has nothing to do with normal American legalities.

Some of these long-term remainees may, in fact, have been jihadists at the time they were rounded up. Given the years of incarceration and the conditions they experienced, many more of the remainees may have been radicalized in Guantanamo itself, and might now seek to harm the U.S. or its citizens. In addition, half of them originally came from Yemen, a country unstable enough that, on return, some might indeed be recruited by forces intent on doing the U.S. harm. Although, in defiance of the warnings of its right-wing critics, the Obama administration did return six remainees to Yemen at the end of 2009, the Christmas Day bombing attempt by Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab only ratcheted up concerns about possible radicalization and training there. There have been no further transfers to Yemen since then.

So what is an administration that has made a firm promise and encountered an obstacle-laden, politically charged reality to do? If you take seriously the plans that this administration has been floating, the answer is simple: close down Guantanamo by putting in play two other Guantanamos (lacking the poisonous name) – one on American soil and one in Afghanistan, one future-oriented and sure to prove problematic, the other reeking of past disasters.

At some future date, the Obama administration has announced plans to move those Guantanamo detainees who are neither tried nor released to the still-to-be-refurbished Thomson Correctional Facility in Thomson, Illinois – “Gitmo North,” as it’s been dubbed by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). Plans to relocate at least some detainees to a prison in the U.S. surfaced last summer. The idea has since encountered congressional resistance on the grounds of safety and security, heightened by outsized American fears that such prisoners have Lex Luthor-like powers and that al-Qaeda has the capability to attack any non-military prison holding them. The administration, however, is still pursuing the Thomson plan.

McConnell and other Republicans may be using the “Gitmo” label to stoke American fears of terrorism on our soil, but they are not wrong in another sense. A jail holding uncharged and untried remainees for the foreseeable future – or even a remainee who has been tried and acquitted – will indeed be “Gitmo,” whatever its official name and whatever happens to the prison in Cuba. In July 2009, in fact, the strikingly un-American idea of a presidentially imposed post-acquittal detention was first suggested by Jeh Johnson, the current general counsel for the Department of Defense, as one possible fate for a dangerous detainee whom a deluded jury (or a jury deprived of torture-induced confessions) might free. In this scenario, such a remainee, like those never brought to trial, would potentially remain under lock and key until the end of hostilities in the “long war,” itself imagined as at least a generational affair.

Guantanamo in Afghanistan

In other words, what’s being proposed is the moving of a (renamed) Guantanamo, body and soul, to the United States. That’s already a dismal prospect, but hardly the end of the line when it comes to post-Guantanamo thinking for this administration. In fact, a new idea has emerged recently. Last month, according to the Los Angeles Times, the White House hinted that the administration was contemplating using the already existing prison at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan as yet another replacement for Guantanamo – apparently for housing future prisoners in what is no longer officially termed the Global War on Terror.

Were this to happen, it would be a squaring of the circle, a strange return to the origins of it all. Bagram was, notoriously enough, the place where, in 2001-2002, many of the prisoners who ended up at Guantanamo were first held (and often badly mistreated). Perhaps my mind has simply taken a cynical turn, but I can’t help wondering whether the administration might someday simply dump some of the Guantanamo remainees there as well. Then, we would be grimly back where George W. Bush’s Global War on Terror began. The “advantage” of Bagram, of course, is simple enough: prisoners on an American military base in distant Afghanistan might not be subject to the same levels of scrutiny or legal “meddling” (as the supporters of the Guantanamo process like to term it) as in Cuba or the United States – all those habeas challenges and challenges to military commissions that have, in eight years, convicted only three detainees (only one of whom still remains in custody), and all those human rights concerns.

There are indications that, in considering the reuse of Bagram as a parking lot for “the worst of the worst,” Obama administration officials remain remarkably blind to the history they are threatening to repeat. Evidently they don’t grasp the obvious parallels between Guantanamo and Bagram. Nevertheless, the language they are wielding has begun to sound eerily familiar. Last month, for instance, a senior Pentagon official was quoted saying that the idea of reinvigorating Bagram as a holding facility for such prisoners might not be the ideal solution, but was the “least bad” choice. How similar that sounds to the words former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld applied to Guantanamo Bay when he announced its opening in 2002. It was, he acknowledged almost apologetically, the “least worst place.”

If a two-prison solution were to go into effect, that would mean President Obama had fully accepted the Bush administration’s notion of a generational global battlefield against terror. After all, that’s what underlay Gitmo from the beginning, and that’s what would underlie a rejuvenated Bagram as well. In theory, there could be a workable solution lurking somewhere in all this murky planning, if it were undergirded with actual legal definitions; if, in the case of Thomson, the Illinois facility-to-be, the prisoners placed there were first charged, tried, and convicted; and if, in the case of Bagram, anyone placed there was declared a prisoner of war, or given some legally recognized status according to the laws of war or the Geneva Conventions. But as of now, it looks like both facilities will instead offer an endorsement of so-called preventive detention.

The administration’s disingenuousness on this point is overwhelming. On the one hand, we are told that the terms “war on terror” and “enemy combatants” are history and that Guantanamo will soon join them. But Guantanamo was never purely a place in Cuba. What made it so wrong was the system of indefinite detention that lay at its core and that continues to defy the rule of law as defined by the U.S. Constitution, U.S. military law, and the international conventions that this country has signed onto.

Closing Guantanamo does not simply mean emptying the prison cells at that naval base and throwing away the keys. It means ending the policy that has become synonymous with Guantanamo – of incarcerating individuals without the need to prove their guilt, and without a clear and recognizable process for determining the grounds for their detention.

Faced with opposition in Congress and in public sentiment generally, the Obama administration increasingly seems focused on ending not the conceptual nightmare we call Guantanamo, but the irritating problem that Guantanamo represents. Unfortunately, as this administration will learn to its regret, there is no closing Guantanamo if preventive detention continues.

In reality, a two-Guantanamo policy is likely to prove an unwieldy disaster and will hardly lead the country out of the quagmire of incarceration that the Bush administration mired us in. In the end, that quagmire is not legal (though the legal issues it raises are fundamental), nor political (though it may look that way from Capitol Hill); it’s psychological. And there is only one way to escape from it: end once and for all the notion of preventive detention by placing firm and unbending confidence in our military, our intelligence agencies, and our system of justice to identify enemies, prosecute those whom they can, and abide by the laws of war for prisoners of war.

Perhaps it’s also time for us to accept life in a world of imperfect security. It may sound harsh, but it’s not nearly as soul-defeating as the idea that not one, but two Guantanamos, will define the American future.

Karen J. Greenberg, the executive director of the Center on Law and Security at the NYU School of Law, is the author of The Least Worst Place: Guantanamo’s First 100 Days, among other works.

April 19, 2010 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Progressive Hypocrite | Comments Off on Obama’s “Remainees”

Barak: “The Only Way out of Iran Crises is a Bold Israeli Move”

Al-Manar TV – 19/04/2010

Israel Defense Minister Ehud Barak told Israel Radio on Monday that the only way out of the current “stalemate” with Iran is a bold Israeli move, adding that he felt that Iran did not pose an “immediate existential threat” to Israel.

Barak also responded to remarks by Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the U.S. military’s Joint Chiefs of Staff, who said Sunday that the military options available to Barack Obama would go “a long way” to delaying Iran’s nuclear progress but may not set the country back long-term. He called a military strike his “last option” right now.

Barak told Israel Radio that the time has come for sanctions with a specific deadline “in order to facilitate what Mullen’s remarks imply.”

“I prefer to refrain from speculation about the future,” Barak added. “Right now, Iran does not pose an existential threat to Israel. If Iran becomes nuclear, it will spark an arms race in the Middle East. This region is very sensitive because of the oil flow, the region is important to the entire world. The fact that Iran is not an immediate threat, but could evolve into one, means that we can’t let ourselves fall asleep.”

On Sunday, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates, releasing a statement about a secret memorandum he sent to the White House in January, said he identified “next steps in our defense planning process” that would be reviewed by decision makers in the coming weeks and months.

“There should be no confusion by our allies and adversaries that the United States is properly and energetically focused on this question and prepared to act across a broad range of contingencies in support of our interests,” Gates said in the statement, issued to refute characterizations of the memo in a New York Times report.

April 19, 2010 Posted by | Militarism, Wars for Israel | 10 Comments