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Attacking Iran: US options

By GWYNNE DYER | ARAB NEWS | August 5, 2010

When Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the highest-ranking American officer, was asked recently on NBC’s Meet The Press show whether the United States has a military plan for an attack on Iran, he replied simply: “We do.”

General staffs are supposed to plan for even the most unlikely future contingencies. Right down to the 1930s, for example, the United States maintained and annually updated plans for the invasion of Canada — and the Canadian military made plans to pre-empt the invasion. But what the planning process will have revealed, in this case, is that there is no way for the United States to win a nonnuclear war with Iran.

The US could “win” by dropping hundreds of nuclear weapons on Iran’s military bases, nuclear facilities and industrial centers (i.e. cities) and killing five to 10 million people, but short of that, nothing works. On this we have the word of Richard Clarke, counterterrorism adviser in the White House under three administrations.

In the early 1990s, Clarke revealed in an interview with the New York Times four years ago, the Clinton administration had seriously considered a bombing campaign against Iran, but the military professionals told them not to do it.

“After a long debate, the highest levels of the military could not forecast a way in which things would end favorably for the United States,” he said. The Pentagon’s planners have war-gamed an attack on Iran several times in the past 15 years, and they just can’t make it come out as a US victory.

It’s not the fear of Iranian nuclear weapons that makes the US Joint Chiefs of Staff so reluctant to get involved in a war with Iran. Those weapons don’t exist, and the whole justification for the war would be to make sure that they never do.

The problem is that there’s nothing the US can do to Iran, short of nuking the place, that would really force Tehran to kneel and beg for mercy.

It can bomb Iran’s nuclear sites and military installations to its heart’s content, but everything it destroys can be rebuilt in a few years. And there is no way that the United States could actually invade Iran.

There are some 80 million people in Iran, and although many of them don’t like the present regime they are almost all fervent patriots who would resist a foreign invasion. Iran is a mountainous country, and very big: Four times the size of Iraq. The Iranian Army currently numbers about 450,000 men, slightly smaller than the US Army — but unlike the US Army, it does not have its troops scattered across literally dozens of countries.

If the White House were to propose anything larger than minor military incursions along Iran’s south coast, senior American generals would resign in protest. Without the option of a land war, the only lever the United States would have on Iranian policy is the threat of yet more bombs — but if they aren’t nuclear, then they aren’t very persuasive. Whereas Iran would have lots of options for bringing pressure on the United States.

Just stopping Iran’s own oil exports would drive the oil price sky-high in a tight market: Iran accounts for around seven percent of internationally traded oil. But it could also block another 40 percent of global oil exports just by sinking tankers coming from Iraq, and the Arab Gulf states with its lethal Noor anti-ship missiles.

The Noor anti-ship missile is a locally built version of the Chinese YJ-82. It has a 200-km. (140-mile) range, enough to cover all the major choke points in the Gulf. It flies at twice the speed of sound just meters above the sea’s surface, and it has a tiny radar profile. Its single-shot kill probability has been put as high as 98 percent.

Iran’s mountainous coastline extends along the whole northern side of the Gulf, and these missiles have easily concealed mobile launchers. They would sink tankers with ease, and in a few days insurance rates for tankers planning to enter the Gulf would become prohibitive, effectively shutting down the region’s oil exports completely.

Meanwhile Iran would start supplying modern surface-to-air missiles to the Taleban in Afghanistan, and that would soon shut down the US military effort there. (It was the arrival of US-supplied Stinger missiles in Afghanistan in the late 1980s that drove Russian helicopters from the sky and ultimately doomed the whole Soviet intervention there.)

Iranian ballistic missiles would strike US bases on the southern side of the Gulf, and Iran’s Hezbollah allies in Beirut would start dropping missiles on Israel. The United States would have no options for escalation other than the nuclear one, and pressure on it to stop the war would mount by the day as the world’s industries and transport ground to a halt.

The end would be an embarrassing retreat by the United States, and the definitive establishment of Iran as the dominant power of the Gulf region.

That was the outcome of every war-game the Pentagon played, and Mike Mullen knows it. So there is a plan for an attack on Iran, but he would probably rather resign than put it into action. It is all bluff. It always was.

Gwynne Dyer is a London-based independent journalist.

August 5, 2010 Posted by | Militarism, War Crimes, Wars for Israel | 5 Comments

Crazy Muslim conspiracy theories

By Glenn Greenwald | August 5, 2010
Crazy Muslim conspiracy theories
Rashad Hussain – Wikipedia

Politico‘s Laura Rozen points to this Times of India article, recounting how Rashad Hussain, the Obama administration’s envoy to the Muslim world, was angered and “shocked” yesterday when — as part of a tour of India to promote better relations with Muslims — “the head of a city-based Muslim institution [Akhtar Hasan Rizvi] slammed the US’ policies, not just in the Middle East, but towards Muslims everywhere”:

Rizvi held America responsible for many woes in the Muslim world. “You supplied arms to Iraq during the Iran-Iraq war, then invaded Iraq in the name of searching for weapons of mass destruction. You created the Taliban with the help of Pakistan. You have been backing Israel ever since its creation. First, right the wrongs that you have created if you want to establish peace in the world,” said Rizvi to applause from the students.

Shocked, Hussain who had earlier talked about the Obama administration’s resolve to partner with the Muslim world for winning hearts and minds, shot back: “I reject the conspiracy theories that are being floated” . . . . Hussain appeared so upset with Rizvi’s trenchant comments that he almost left the dais and wanted to walk out but the meeting’s conductor, Akhtar Chauhan, also director of the institute, requested him to stay back.

Are any of the accusations voiced by Rizvi actually “conspiracy theories,” or are they just all basic, undisputed facts?  It certainly appears to me to be the latter.  One of the favorite tactics of American political and media elites is to disparage the Muslim world as wallowing in “conspiracy theories” whenever they describe American actions in their part of the world.  While there are undoubtedly some such theories in that part of the world and every other, this episode highlights that, more often that not, that claim is made to obfuscate basic truths and to deter those who would point them out.

August 5, 2010 Posted by | Deception, Timeless or most popular | 2 Comments

No guns? They must be Terrorists

By Mark Steel | The Independent | 05. Aug, 2010

Somehow, the Chilcot Inquiry has become like Big Brother. About once a month it pops up as a small item in the news and you think: “Oh blimey, I didn’t realise that was still going on.” Before long, like Big Brother, they’ll come up with stunts to try and revive some interest. So they’ll reintroduce contestants from previous inquiries such as Martin McGuinness and Christine Keeler, or make some witnesses complete a task of finding hidden ping-pong balls in the room or they have to give evidence blindfold.

So it might seem these procedures are pointless, in which case it makes no difference that the Israelis have agreed to co-operate with a United Nations inquiry into the episode in which nine people died after the Israeli Defence Force went aboard the Mavi Marmara as it sailed towards Gaza.

But it seemed to matter to the Israelis, because until this week they insisted their own inquiry was sufficient, and that was already under way. One fact emerging from this process was that the victims, according to “Sgt S” who shot six of them, “were without a doubt terrorists”. And he produced evidence to back this up, which was: “I could see the murderous rage in their eyes”.

This matches the classic definition of a terrorist according to international law, as someone “with murderous rage in their eyes”, and shows the key witness in any terrorist trial isn’t the forensics expert or explosives analyst but an optician. If they’re trained well enough they can shine a light at the iris and tell whether you’re short-sighted, long-sighted, Hamas or Basque separatist.

But there was more. According to the Jersusalem Post the IDF told the inquiry that the group on the boat were “well-trained and likely ex-military” because “each squad of the mercenaries was equipped with a Motorola communication advice, so they could pass information to one another”. A Motorola communication advice? So these so-called peace-activists were armed with mobile phones! It’s a wonder the whole Middle East wasn’t set alight. And to think Motorola and other sinister arms dealers such as Nokia and Orange go round trading in this deadly merchandise quite openly.

If the IDF were asked to police a rock festival, at the moment when everyone used their mobiles to take a photo they’d open fire on the whole crowd. Then once 3,000 were dead, Sgt S would say: “Well done, boys, if we hadn’t been so careful that could have turned quite nasty.”

One possible difficulty in proving the optically murderous gang’s intent could be that none of them had guns. But the IDF dealt with that by saying the “mercenaries” preferred to use “bats, metal bars and knives, since opening fire would have made it blatantly clear they were terrorists and not peace activists”. So this was another cunning trick of the terrorists, to disguise the fact they were terrorists by not doing anything terrorist. My neighbour’s much the same; disguising her terrorism by being 74 and spending all day peacefully doing the garden without ever shooting anyone, the evil witch.

Even more blatantly, the inquiry was told the group did have guns on board, but “the mercenaries threw their weapons overboard after the commandos took control of the vessel”. Because that’s classic guerrilla training, to carry guns right up until the moment when the enemy arrives, and then throw them away. This is the strategy of all great military thinkers. That’s why Nelson, at the Battle of Trafalgar said: “Men, I see the French, and so let every Englishmen do his duty, and chuck all our weapons in the sea. That’ll teach the bastards.”

On and on this goes, with Prime Minister Netanyahu making it clear he agrees with it, himself calling the victims “mercenaries”. Because these mercenaries were trying to get goods such as medicine to an area that’s under a blockade, which is typical mercenary behaviour, except instead of gun-running, they were inhaler-running.

But bit by bit Israel is finding it has to answer for itself publicly, and the old excuses are not so easily accepted. From now on they’ll have to put a bit more thought into their bollocks, which has got to be for the good.

August 5, 2010 Posted by | Deception | Comments Off on No guns? They must be Terrorists

Visit Abu Dis– site of the future Palestinian capital?

By Tom Suarez on August 5, 2010


Philip Weiss writes: In order to be taken seriously in U.S. Establishment discourse, you must swear that you believe in two states existing side-by-side. This proposition (which has been held out to the stateless Palestinians for many decades now in one form or another without any consequence but further dispossesssion) today involves a Palestinian capital in the village of Abu Dis, which is just east of Israel’s expanded Jerusalem border

I’ve never been to Abu Dis, but lately I was reading Tom Suarez’s striking book of essays and photos of Palestine, Palestine Sixty Years Later, when I came on the photo above of the Dome of the Rock as viewed from the village of Abu Dis. The whole reason for a Palestinian capital in East Jerusalem is the connection to this holy site and the Old City, which means not only the religious connection but the commercial/tourist benefits. What kind of connection exists between Abu Dis and the Old City far beyond the separation wall?

Suarez sent me two other photographs of Abu Dis from his book, and I asked him what he thinks of the idea of Abu Dis as a capital:

When in 1990 Saddam Hussein invaded and occupied Kuwait, the West raced to Kuwait’s defense and punished the Iraqi people with crippling sanctions for their leader’s aggression. But in response to Israel’s equally illegal and more brutal 1967 invasion and occupation of East Jerusalem, the West amplified its policy of rewarding Israel, punishing the Palestinians, and blocking any attempt to hold Israel to UN Resolutions and international law.

Although East Jerusalem is no more part of Israel than is Paris or Tahiti, in 1980 Israel “annexed” East Jerusalem and claimed an “undivided” Jerusalem as the country’s capital. The UN responded by reaffirming that East Jerusalem is illegally occupied Palestinian territory and that Tel Aviv is Israel’s capital. Israel simply defied international law, as it has done with every UN resolution addressing the Palestinian issue since 1948.

But Palestinians have long envisioned East Jerusalem as the capital of their as yet unrealized nation, and so Israel had to dampen the appearance that their illegal seizure of East Jerusalem was an impediment to peace. The answer was to propose a nearby West Bank village as the future capital of a Palestinian state. At the same time, Israel strangled that very same village by dissecting it into two with the apartheid Wall, annexing the area on the west of the wall into its illegal “greater Jerusalem,” and suffocating what was left with ever-growing Israeli settlements. Thus Israel is not only accelerating its ethnic cleansing of East Jerusalem, but also crippling the very town it claims should be the capital of the Palestinian state it never allows to exist. Welcome to Abu Dis.


The apartheid Wall severed Abu Dis’s historic link with Jerusalem and crippled much of the little economic life that had thus far survived the Occupation. Not only was the social fiber of the village torn in two, but indeed families were broken up, family members permanently separated by the Wall. In some cases even fathers and mothers were torn apart, their ID cards placing them on opposite sides of the Wall. Shepherds and their flocks were completely cut off from thier grazing land, farmers from their fields. And further exacerbating the population squeeze, Bedouin whose villages Israel had razed in the Jordan Valley were brought to Abu Dis and left there.

Palestinian leaders — including Abbas, who commonly rubber-stamps whatever the West dictates — have refused to accept Abu Dis as a future capital.

August 5, 2010 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation | Comments Off on Visit Abu Dis– site of the future Palestinian capital?

International solidarity under attack

Mike Marqusee, The Electronic Intifada, 5 August 2010

From small beginnings and with few resources, the international movement in solidarity with the Palestinians has grown into a force that Israel perceives as a major threat. The assault on the Gaza aid flotilla was a lethal escalation in what has become an increasingly bitter campaign against that movement, whose constituents now range from dockworkers in South Africa refusing to offload Israeli goods to students at Berkeley demanding divestment.

The brutality of the flotilla attack was a measure of the extent to which the Israeli polity has grown to fear and loathe this global grassroots movement. In a way, the violence was a perverse tribute to a band of voluntary campaigners who are massively outstripped by Israel in money, institutional resources and access to the media, but who nonetheless have put more pressure on Israel than the world’s most powerful governments. Indeed, it’s the long-term collusion of those governments with Israel that has prompted the growth of citizen’s initiatives, such as the Freedom Flotilla, to redress the balance. People from very differing societies have come to the politics of international solidarity with Palestine via many routes. Nearly always, their commitment to the cause, the commitment that led the passengers on the boats to take such risks and suffer such punishment, is an expression of a wider aspiration for social justice, and above all a belief that this justice must be global in nature if it is to mean anything. One of the primary objects of the Israeli media barrage that followed the assault was to discredit and divide this movement. In particular, it sought to isolate and demonize an “Islamist” or “jihadi” element among the activists. (This was presaged by the especially vicious treatment meted out to those passengers identified by Israeli armed forces as Muslims.) The “Turkish boat” was said be the source of all the trouble. At one point it was claimed that an “al-Qaeda” team had been on board. The Turkish charity Isani Yardim Vakfi or IHH was traduced. People in the West with sympathies for the Palestinians were being warned: there was a type of person involved here with whom they would never want to make common cause.

Unfortunately, in France, a section of the left, driven by a misconceived interpretation of secularism, seemed to agree. They refused to join a protest against the assault on the flotilla on the grounds that other participants would include Muslim clerics. Under the guise of a dedication to universal values, this refusal was actually a restriction of those values: the expression of human solidarity was subjected to ideological conditions. Elsewhere the movement has prospered by its embrace of pluralism. This pluralism has been forged not by making a special case for the Palestinians but by universalizing their struggle: founding it on a commitment to human rights and common standards of justice. Far from “singling out Israel,” as is routinely claimed, the movement has begun, at long last, to expose how Israel singles itself out, demanding (and receiving) exemptions from those standards.

The diversity of the passengers on the flotilla was always its greatest strength. It meant that a much wider circle of people felt some kind of connection with the events in the Mediterranean, and also that they would have access to sources of information not trammeled by the Israeli state line. Transcending the boundaries of nation, religion and language, the passengers represented a growing global public that feels itself compelled to act because its governments will not. Like the motley delegation of foreigners who pledged their support for the French Revolution to the National Assembly in 1790, they were “ambassadors of the human race.” Of course, far from deterring Israel, this status made them a threat which had to be countered with a show of extreme violence.

True to form, Israeli spokespersons described the killings on board the Mavi Marmara as “self-defense” by Israeli soldiers threatened with “lynching.” The ensuing arguments about “violence” and who was responsible for it recapitulated a long history in which Israel has identified every denial of Palestinian rights or annihilation of Palestinian life as “self-defense.” Conversely, every assertion of those rights and every attempt to preserve those lives is deemed illegitimate, denounced as “aggression” or “terrorism.”

Here the Israelis tapped into a long-established bias in the Western media. A study by Arab Media Watch of the mainstream British press from January to June 2008 found that violent Israeli actions were almost always portrayed as “retaliating” to Palestinian aggression. Rocket attacks were represented as a “provocation” to Israel five times more often than the Gaza blockade was represented as a “provocation” to Palestinians. Forty years of occupation were portrayed as a provocation to Palestinians on only one occasion and settlement building twice. Where debate arises within the mainstream media, it tends to revolve around the “proportionality” of Israeli action, thus evading the underlying questions of Palestinian rights and Israeli domination.

Unlike the solidarity movements which grew up in response to the struggles in Vietnam or South Africa, the Palestine movement faces an opponent with its own international network, preaching its own form of solidarity (with Israel), very much a movement in its own right, however reliant on state support. Its rhetoric and tactics may be cynical in the extreme, but there’s no denying its emotional fervor. Building opposition to South African apartheid never involved the kind of on-the-ground contest with ideologically motivated, well-resourced opponents that pro-Palestinian activists routinely engage in. Just as the Palestinian cause is a global magnet for victims of discrimination and dispossession, so the cause of Israel is a magnet for the privileged, the entitled, the beneficiaries of Western and white supremacy. The rich and powerful see themselves as under siege from the poor and powerless and in Israel’s self-portrayal they recognize themselves. The gated communities of the world rally around the gated nation. The increasingly wealthy Indian elite — which has vigorously pursued governmental and business exchanges with Israel — sees in Israel not only an ally in a struggle against “Islamic terror” but a stepping stone to a closer relationship to the United States, and in a wider sense an entry into the exclusive club of the affluent and powerful.

Thus the highly particularist ideology of Zionism — which rests on the assertion of eternal ownership of a specified territory by a specified people — becomes a broader “civilizational” cause. This ideology underpins the ever-widening Israeli definition of “self-defense.” To those for whom the maintenance of a Jewish supremacist state in Palestine is the sine qua non of Jewish survival, any assertion of Palestinian rights is an “existential” threat — a negation that must itself be negated. As a state for all Jews, Israel embraces a global mission and enjoys special prerogatives. In the contemporary world only the US claims a wider remit of self-defense, insisting that it can strike anywhere to protect its perceived interests. Israeli exceptionalism finds a mirror and enabler in US exceptionalism, which in turn has its roots in the long history of Western colonialism, whose stock-in-trade was, for centuries, acts of piracy on the high seas. Through many years of grassroots education, agitation and organization, not to mention a steadfast defiance of intimidation, the solidarity movement has begun at last to have a real effect on the balance of power. But there is so much further to go. Governments around the world joined in the condemnation of the Israeli attack on the flotilla, but many of these same governments continue to provide essential means for Israel to pursue its destruction of the Palestinian people. In that context, those who consider themselves, in Thomas Paine’s words, “citizens of the world” are called upon to redouble their efforts to secure boycott, divestment and sanctions. If Israel continues to act with impunity, if Palestine instead of Israel is subject to isolation, then the powerful everywhere will have their options strengthened.

This essay is excerpted from Midnight on the Mavi Marmara, exclusively available from OR Books.

August 5, 2010 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Solidarity and Activism | 1 Comment

Venezuela and Labor

The Big Lie

By DANIEL KOVALIK | August 5, 2010

The biggest obstacle to the attempt first by the Bush Administration, and now by the Obama Administration, to achieve passage of the long-stalled Free Trade Agreement with Colombia is that country’s long-standing shameful reality as “the most dangerous country in the world for trade unionists,” to use the words of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), the largest union confederation in the world, representing 176 million workers in 156 countries and territories.

Since 1986, over 2800 unionists have been assassinated in Colombia. The clear and ever-present danger to organized labor in Colombia is the most salient and undeniable fact about the U.S.’ favorite nation in the region.

Incredibly, it appears that adherents of the FTA may have commenced an effort to smear Venezuela with the same “danger to labor” brush in order to advance the prospects of the Colombia agreement by using bare statistics without elaboration or explanation to suggest that Colombia is no different. Nothing could be further from the truth.

According to the ITUC’s 2010 Annual Survey, of the 101 unionists assassinated in the world last year (2009), 48 (almost half) were Colombian. And, a recent, July 8, 2010 press release from the AFL-CI0 indicates that another 29 Colombian unionists were assassinated in the first half of 2010.

It is well-known that the assassination of unionists in Colombia is largely carried out by right-wing paramilitary groups linked to the Colombian government or by Colombian security forces themselves. Indeed, according to a 2007 report by Amnesty International on Colombia, “around 49 percent of human rights abuses against trade unionists were committed by paramilitaries [themselves linked to the Colombian state] and some 43 percent directly by the security forces.” And, the Colombian government up to its highest reaches, including President Alvaro Uribe himself, regularly (and quite falsely) stigmatizes unionists as “guerillas,” thereby knowingly setting up union leaders for paramilitary murder. Indeed, when I personally met with President Uribe as part of an AFL-CIO delegation in February 2008 at the Presidential Palace in Bogota and confronted him about this stigmatization, his proffered “defense” was that, when he was a student (presumably decades ago) his experience was that union leaders, student leaders and members of the press were in fact “guerillas.” In other words, in trying to fend off the claims that he stigmatized trade unionists, he merely repeated the stigmatization.

In light of all of this, the ITUC concluded in its 2010 Annual Survey that “[t]he historical and structural violence against the Colombian trade union movement remains firmly in place, manifesting itself in the form of systematic human and trade union rights violations. On average, men and women trade unionists in Colombia have been killed at the rate of one every three days over the last 23 years.”

This conclusion is in stark contrast to its conclusion about what is happening in Venezuela. Thus, while hardly uncritical of the situation confronting unionists in Venezuela, the ITUC, in its 2010 Annual Survey, concluded nonetheless that “[v]iolence linked to the fight for jobs continued to be the main reason behind the killing of trade unionists.” The ITUC explains this phenomenon in more detail in its 2009 Annual Survey. There, it states that “[a] delicate issue for the labour world in Venezuela is the persistent disputes over the right to work, which have cost the lives of at least 19 trade unionists and 10 other workers . . . . The situation is particularly acute in the construction and oil industries, where various interest groups and mafias have clashed over the negotiation and sale of jobs, which is affecting trade union activity per se.” The 2009 report goes on to note that “there has been a fall in the number of murders to the fight over jobs in comparison with the previous year (from 48 to 29 for the period from October 2007 to September 2008….”

In other words, the ITUC, which is recognized as the foremost authority on anti-union violence, views the killings of unionists in Colombia and Venezuela very differently – with the violence against unionists in Colombia being “structural” and “systematic,” almost invariably with government sanction; and the violence in Venezuela, on the other hand, stemming from mafia-like corruption largely within the union movement itself. This is a distinction with a huge difference. As the ITUC itself reported in 2008, the trade union movement in Colombia has been brought to the point of near extinction by violence specifically designed to wipe out the union movement as a whole, with only 4% of workers represented by unions; while in Venezuela, approximately 11% of workers are represented by unions – just under the rate of unionization in theUnited States (12.3%).

Now enters Juan Forero in the Washington Post (and in a condensed piece for NPR), who, in a very misleading and many times self-contradictory story, is claiming that Venezuela should now be considered “the most dangerous country in the world for trade unionists,” pushing Colombia out of the number one spot. This piece, which is getting a lot of attention, could not be better timed as far as policy-makers in the U.S. and Colombia are concerned. Thus, it came out just as Obama has announced a renewed interest in the Colombia Free Trade Agreement (despite his campaign pledge to oppose it based upon trade union considerations) as well as the recent attempt by Colombia to censure Venezuela at the OAS for allegedly harboring FARC guerillas on its territory.

In his July 15, 2010 Washington Post piece entitled, “Venezuelan union clashes are on the rise as Chavez fosters new unions at odds with older ones,” Forero first acknowledges the fact that Venezuela considers itself “the most labor-friendly government in Latin America,” having “repeatedly increased the minimum wage, turned over the management of some nationalized companies to workers and fostered the creation of new unions.” In regard to the latter, Forero explains later in his piece that there are now “4,000 new unions, up from 1,300 in 2001” – a fact supporting Venezuela’s claim of being labor friendly.

However, the meat of Forero’s piece is to say that there is a sinister side to all of this – the killing of unionists, albeit by rival unions [as opposed to state or quazi-state forces as in the case of Colombia]. According to Forero, 75 unionists lost their lives in the past two years to such violence, 34 in the 12 months ending in May. Of course, in Colombia, 77 unionists have been killed in merely the past 1.5 years with 29 killed in the past 6 months, and this in the context of a country with much lower union density that Venezuela.

Still, Forero presses on, attempting to suggest that the killings in Venezuela are in fact politically motivated, and somehow the fault of the Chavez administration.

A close examination of Forero’s own piece, however, belies this claim. The most concrete example Forero gives of these “intra-union killings” is by way of an interview with Emilio Bastidas, a leader of the UNT, who talks of the murder of 8 union activists from the UNT in recent years. Bastidas himself is quoted in the story as saying that “We believe it is political to debilitate the UNT and cut us off from projecting ourselves.” While Forero explains that the UNT represents 80 unions, what he fails to tell the reader is that the UNT is a pro-Chavez union formed after the coup against Chavez in 2002. This is an incredible omission, for this obviously cuts against Forero’s premise that Chavez is somehow responsible for the violence. After all, why would Chavez want to interfere with the growth of a pro-Chavez labor federation?

From my own discussions with unionists in Venezuela, which I visited at the end of July and where I attended the third annual “Encuentro Sindical de Nuestra America” (Union Meeting of Our America) pro-Chavez unionists are much more often the target of the violence described in Forero’s piece than anti-Chavista unionists. As Jacobo Torres de Leon, Political Coordinator of the Fuerza Bolivariana de Trabajadores Dirrecion Nacional, responded to my questioning of him about the Forero piece, “there are no political killings like in Colombia.” Jacobo further emphasized that the unionists recently killed were his (pro-Chavez) comrades – a fact inconvenient to Forero’s well-publicized thesis. I should also note that President Chavez addressed the Union Meeting of Our America and was well received by the over 300 unionists in attendance from almost every country of the Western Hemisphere. At this meeting, Chavez called on workers to take control of the factories in which they work – good advice for us all.

There is an old saying, “Figures don’t lie, but liars figure.” It seems an appropriate prism through which to view this most current attempt to rescue the Colombia FTA from that nation’s own continuing and indisputable status as the number 1 country in the world for anti-union killings.

Daniel Kovalik is a graduate of the Columbia University School of Law and Senior Associate General Counsel of the United Steelworkers, AFL-CIO, where he has worked for over 17 years.

August 5, 2010 Posted by | Deception | Comments Off on Venezuela and Labor

Israel army escorts 300 settlers into Nablus

Ma’an – 05/08/2010

NABLUS: Residents of Nablus were told to stay indoors by Israeli troops patrolling the area just after midnight Thursday, ahead of a mass visit of Jewish worshipers to a tomb in the area.

Witnesses in the Balata refugee camp said 12 Israeli military vehicles entered the area on patrol, clearing the streets of residents. The troops reportedly entered the area from the east at the Beit Furik checkpoint.

Following the incursion, residents near the tomb said six buses pulled up to Joseph’s Tomb, believed to be the burial place of the patriarch and his two sons, and decamped alongside 20 military vehicles.

Palestinian security sources said an estimated 300 settlers made the trip, remaining in the area for four hours between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m.

Gaza minister fears tomb to be annexed

Minister of Waqf in the Gaza government Taleb Abu Sha’ar called the a “violation” and “provocative.”

Abu Sha’ar said the military measures and the forceful visit to the site was a “violation of the holy place” and took place on the “pretext that the area belongs only to them.”

Abu Sha’ar warned that the tomb could become the next target for designation as an Israeli national heritage site, following the spring declaration of the Ibrahimi Mosque, in the West Bank city of Hebron, as a national site. The declaration sparked outrage and concerns that the mosque would be cut off from civilian use.

In 1993 the mosque was partitioned, half was designated for Jewish use and the other half for Muslim use.

3 detained from Nablus area overnight

Israeli forces conducted patrols of several districts in the Nablus area overnight, detaining three men from the town of Asira Ash-Shamaliya, north of Nablus, and took them to unknown destination, Palestinian police officials said.

The men were identified as Fakher Azam Hasan Bara, 35, Muhammad Abdullah Yousif Sawalha, 37, and Usama Hamed Hamdana, 30.

Sources said the homes of the men were entered and searched before they were detained.

August 5, 2010 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation | 1 Comment

Restricting freedom of movement: an Israeli attempt to silence leaders of the popular struggle

International Solidarity Movement | August 5, 2010
Khatib during a speaking his speaking tour in Canada. Photo: Tadamon!

On August 4, 2010 about 1 PM, Mohammed Khatib from Bil’in was denied exit to Jordan via King Hussein Bridge. Khatib was on his way to Spain via Amman when Israeli border officials prevented him from crossing the border to Jordan. Denying the leaders of the non-violent Popular Struggle to go abroad is clearly an attempt to silence Palestinians who speak about human rights violations committed by Israel.

This is not the first time Israel has prevented leaders of the Popular Struggle from going abroad. Earlier this year Iyad Burnat, the leader of the Popular Committee in Bil’in was denied exit via King Hussein’s Bridge when on his way to Europe via Amman. Burnat and his 5 year old daughter were detained at the border, and after hours of waiting they were sent back to Bil’in. Later Burnat was given permission to travel abroad, on condition he did not speak about the situation in Bil’in. He is now threatened with arrest if he chooses to do so.

Both Khatib and Burnat had valid visas for their destinations, and had been planning their departure months in advance. Since Israel denies the vast majority of Palestinians entry to Jerusalem where the consulates are located, obtaining a visa is a time consuming process.

Crossing the border back to Israel after travelling abroad is also a complicated and potentially dangerous process. In 2009 Mohammed Othman was arrested at the Jordan border when returning from a speaking tour in Norway. Othman was held under administrative detention for months, without trial, allegedly considered a “security threat”.

Mohammed Khatib and other activists for the Popular Struggle can tell of frequent human rights violations: arrests and night raids carried out by the army, and theft of Palestinian land that makes life extremely difficult in their villages. As more and more people become aware of the situation in Palestine, Israel needs to find new strategies to silence those Palestinian voices speaking out – and denying Palestinians freedom of movement and freedom of speech is one tactic.

At 10 PM last night Mohammed Khatib returned to Bil’in. He reports that the reason Israeli border police gave for refusing to let him pass to Jordan was that the Israeli intelligence, Shebak, had given them instructions. The refusal came despite Khatib’s possession of a valid ruling by an Israeli court – issued on Tuesday – which allowed him to travel. This legal ruling was ignored by the border officials and proves once again that Israeli officials do not even follow their own legal system.

August 5, 2010 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance, Illegal Occupation | 1 Comment

US airstrikes ‘kill Afghan civilians’

Press TV – August 5, 2010

Dozens of civilians have been killed and several others injured in Afghanistan after US warplanes bombarded the country’s east, according to witnesses.

The American forces launched two airstrikes in Nangarhar province on Thursday morning, witnesses told Press TV.

One of the attacks left at least 30 people dead and injured. The other strike, which hit a funeral procession in a separate area, killed 13 civilians including two children.

Thursday’s incident came after another US airstrike killed at least 52 civilians, including several women and children, in the city of Sangin in southern Helmand province last month.

US-led forces in Afghanistan regularly launch attacks on alleged militant hideouts, but the strikes usually result in civilian casualties.

In a new statement, Commander of US and NATO forces in Afghanistan General David Petraeus emphasized on Wednesday that protecting the Afghan people was the top priority in the nine-year war.

“We must continue — indeed, redouble — our efforts to reduce the loss of innocent civilian life to an absolute minimum,” said Petraeus.

Despite a promise by the commander of international forces in Afghanistan to reduce civilian casualties, the civilian fatalities are on the rise.

August 5, 2010 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, War Crimes | 1 Comment