Aletho News


Cholera outbreak kills 138 in Haiti

Press TV – October 22, 2010

At least 138 people have died after suffering acute fever, vomiting and diarrhea in Haiti. Many more with similar symptoms have been admitted to hospitals north of Port-au-Prince. A health official said on Thursday that an outbreak of cholera was to blame for the deaths in recent days, reported AFP.

“The first results from the lab tests show that there is cholera, but we don’t know which type”, said an official from the public health ministry.

The outbreak was centralized on the northern half of Haiti, said Jessica Du Plessis of the UN humanitarian affairs agency.

According to Du Plessis, there were about 300 people suffering from Cholera-like symptoms in hospitals in the town of Saint-Marc, about 100km (60 miles) north of the country’s capital. However, according to the U.N.’s humanitarian spokesperson in Haiti, Imogen Wall, Haitian health authorities have informed the World Health Organization of 1,526 cases so far in the outbreak area, Reuters reports.

This latest incident comes as Haiti continues its struggle to recover from the aftermath of January’s earthquake which killed some 250,000 people and left more than 1.5 million others homeless.

There were fears of a cholera outbreak in the aftermath of the earthquake when many survivors were forced into makeshift camps under unsanitary conditions and modest access to clean drinking water, but no outbreaks materialized. Cholera is transmitted by water and food that has been in contact with unclean water, contaminated with bacterium Vibrio Cholerae.

Serious diarrhea and vomiting, leading to dehydration, are the main symptoms associated with Cholera. As the disease has a short incubation period, it can be fatal if not treated on time by re-hydrating and administering antibiotics.

October 21, 2010 Posted by | Aletho News | Comments Off on Cholera outbreak kills 138 in Haiti

Judith Miller’s Lies About Ahmadinejad in Lebanon

By Marc J. Sirois | Lobe Log | October 20th, 2010

Beiruit – The run-up to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s recent visit to Lebanon called forth a barrage of comment from neoconservative circles. Unlike the savvy campaign for war in Iraq, however, they now tend to make straightforward claims that are self-evidently at odds with reality.

In other words, they’re not even telling very good lies any more.

A case in point was Iraq War propagandist Judith Miller’s Fox News article, whose central complaint seems to be that Ahmadinejad’s trip came at the behest of a single party, the Shia party/militia Hezbollah, rather than in response to an official invitation from the Lebanese government; “Who Invited You?” her headline indignantly blared.

Two problems undermined this approach. The first was that then-Foreign Minister Fawzi Salloukh quite publicly relayed just such an invitation to Ahmadinejad from his Lebanese counterpart, Michel Sleiman, in July 2008. The other was that Sleiman travelled to the Islamic Republic in November of that same year, making a reciprocal visit by Ahmadinejad what should have been a foregone conclusion.

That likelihood was placed in considerable doubt by the U.S. government’s having presumed the right to draw up Lebanon’s diplomatic schedule. While Miller rightly reported that Washington viewed the visit as “provocative,” she neglected to mention that heavy American pressure was applied on Beirut to cancel the visit. The U.S. demand was made in the name of Lebanese sovereignty (yes, really), which is rather ironic coming from a country that has supplied the tools for Israel’s occupation and violation of Lebanese territory, airspace and maritime boundaries for decades.

Undaunted by the untruths at the core of her position, Miller proceeds to expand on it. She asserts that other than the Iran’s close allies, Hezbollah, “Lebanon’s other political leaders … undoubtedly don’t share the love” for Ahmadinejad. Another falsehood: by any genuinely democratic standard, Lebanon’s most important political leaders do share that love. The parties that represent Lebanon’s largest sectarian community – its Shia population — are Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah’s Hezbollah and Speaker Nabih Berri’s AMAL, both of which enthusiastically welcomed Ahmadinejad. In addition, the Christian politician with the strongest bloc in Parliament, former Army Commander Michel Aoun, also supported the visit. Together, these parties and their allies received well over 50 percent of the vote in the last parliamentary elections.

Next we are treated to a brazen description of Ahmadinejad as “the man whose country is indirectly responsible for having killed [current Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s] father, former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.” Until the recent thaw between the top suspect — Syria — and the Hariri family’s benefactors in the Saudi royal family, no serious analyst even mentioned Hezbollah as a possible participant in the 2005 assassination. Now, in the absence of charges or hard public evidence, we are to presume Hezbollah’s guilt – and, by association, Iran’s – as established fact.

We are then told that the Hariri killing “sparked massive protests throughout Lebanon. This so-called ‘Cedar Revolution’ succeeded in forcing Syria, Iran’s neighbor and main Sunni Muslim ally, to withdraw the 14,000 ‘peace-keeping’ forces it had been keeping in Lebanon since the end of that country’s bloody civil war in 1990.” A few more problems. There were huge demonstrations (both for and against Syria), but all of the protests of any notable size took place in Beirut. Also, the term “Cedar Revolution” was coined by someone at the U.S. State Department. Would someone please tell American journalists to stop using it? In addition, unless someone has radically altered the map of the region (again), Syria and Iran do not share a border — they are neighbors in the same way that Iran and Lebanon are. And one more thing: Syria sent about 25,000 troops into Lebanon in 1976not 1990 – at the request of the latter’s president and with an Arab League mandate to foster stability amid the raging civil war.

Next, Hariri the younger is dismissed as “turning out to be anything but his father’s son.” In support, Miller trots out an Israeli journalist, Smadar Perry, to belittle Saad for having met with “Nasrallah (his father’s executioner)” and the “mastermind,” Syrian President Bashar Assad. Neither the American nor the Israeli, apparently, knows anything about the late Rafik Hariri, who made a career out of seeking and reaching accommodations with and among all the powerbrokers – both foreign and domestic, including, for years, the Syrians – in Lebanon’s cramped and chaotic political arena.

At this point we are apprised of the role of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL), which is supposed to look into the assassination. It is described, however, as a “UN panel,” which it is not: instead, the STL is a hybrid court whose judges will include Lebanese jurists and whose legality under the UN Charter is highly debatable owing to several factors — not least its having been created without the acquiescence of Lebanon’s Parliament.

Then another unabashedly pro-Israeli source — a report from the AIPAC-formed Washington Institute for Near East Policy — is put forth to assert that Ahmadinejad’s trip is intended to apply pressure on Saad Hariri “and his Lebanese and Western allies” to cancel Lebanon’s support for the court, “which Lebanon has been financing.” Actually, Lebanon is responsible for just 49% of the bill – and not a few Lebanese question the value of the investment because the court is widely viewed as a political tool of the pro-Western camp.

Next we are treated to a quote attributed to Nasrallah by yet another rabidly pro-Israeli actor, MEMRI, which tries to smear the cleric by tying him to a favorite American bogeyman, the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. Not very artful, and even less relevant given that the date of its alleged provenance was more than two decades ago.

Then Miller hauls out a fellow neoconservative journalist, Lee Smith, who is used to a) make the point that Hezbollah’s real targets are Israeli and Arab public opinion; b) dredge up the familiar lie that Ahmadinejad has threatened to ‘wipe Israel off the map’; and c) reduce Nasrallah (leader of Hezbollah since 1992) to a “creation” of Ahmadinejad.

Finally, near the end of this avalanche of error, another point from Lee Smith is then applied which almost (however inadvertently) recovers the whole article: “By continuing to fight to liberate Jerusalem,” he is quoted as telling us, Tehran has “picked up the banner of Arab nationalism [sic] that the Sunni Arab regimes had tossed by the wayside. Here was another reason for the Arab masses to despise their cruel and now obviously cowardly rulers – and admire a Shia and Persian power they might otherwise fear and detest.” Some of those Arab regimes never took up the banner of Arab nationalism in the first place, and Iran’s emphasis is on Islamic solidarity, but the point is the same – by all but the most warped definitions of international law, at least half of Jerusalem is an occupied city, a fact which plenty of Arabs and other Muslims regard as unacceptable.

Here, then, is the real reason why America and Israel fret over the likes of Ahmadinejad: their policy has always been to divide and control (Arab vs. Persian, Sunni vs. Shia, oil producer vs. consumer, monarchist vs. republican, etc.) and anyone who even speaks about uniting these elements – regardless of how unsuccessful he is likely to be – threatens to expose the glaring weakness at the heart of their position.

Marc J. Sirois is an independent analyst based in Beirut, where he was managing editor of The Daily Star newspaper from 2000-2003 and 2006-2009.

October 21, 2010 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | 1 Comment

Walter Russell Mead’s Faulty Logic: Israel policy is broadly rooted in the will of the American people

Daniel Luban | Lobe Log | October 20, 2010

Walter Russell Mead has a new piece in which he reiterates the argument that he’s been making for some time: namely, that U.S. policy towards Israel is not the product of special interests or lobbies, and in fact has little to do with the political views of American Jews at all. Rather, argues Mead, the U.S.’s deference to Israel is simply an expression of the views of the U.S. Christian majority. The upshot — although Mead is understandably hesitant to say so explicitly — seems to be that there’s no point attempting to change U.S. policy towards Israel, since this policy is broadly rooted in the will of the American people. I’ve already suggested some of my problems with Mead’s thesis, but it’s worth spelling out more fully just where Mead goes wrong.

To begin with, his entire argument is built around a strawman. He attributes to AIPAC’s critics the view that “the Jews” control U.S. foreign policy, calling such critics “theorists of occult Jewish power” who spin conspiracy theories about the “allegedly awesome mindbending power of Jews in the media and the allegedly irresistible power of Jewish money.” He then goes on to note, quite rightly, both that the Israel lobby relies heavily on Christians (particularly evangelical Christian Zionists) and that the views of AIPAC and other lobby organizations skew well to the right of U.S. Jews as a whole.

The problem is that no mainstream critics of the lobby (and certainly not John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt, who are clearly the implicit if unmentioned targets here) ever claimed that the lobby was synonymous with “the Jews”. This latter notion was primarily attributed to them by attackers who were eager to conflate such criticism with the language of traditional anti-Semitism. But on the contrary, most critics of the lobby have always been explicit both about the role of Christian Zionists and about the dovish views of American Jews. In fact, these have been among the chief complaints about the lobby: that it relies on large numbers of people who espouse a messianic Greater Israel ideology that is certain to end in disaster, and that organizations like the Conference of Presidents and the ADL skew far to the right of the Jewish community that they claim to represent. Thus Mead’s strategy is to attribute to the lobby’s critics a view that few if any of them have ever espoused, to use this nonexistent view as evidence for their basic anti-Semitism, and then to patronizingly lecture them in support of precisely the view that they actually hold.

As noted, Mead is surely correct to note that U.S. policy toward Israel does not reflect the views of the American Jewish community as a whole. However, he then goes to the opposite extreme by denying that Jews have anything to do with the power of AIPAC and the lobby. He notes that Jews make up only a small part of the electorate and that polls show broadly positive attitudes toward Israel on the part of the U.S. Christian population; for him, this demonstrates that Christian support is the key factor (indeed, virtually the only one) accounting for U.S. deference to Israel. However, this argument has several major flaws.

First, it rests on a rather naive and uncritical view of how policy is made, as if U.S. foreign policy simply flowed unproblematically from the Will Of The American People. If this were actually the case, of course, our foreign policy would look very different (we wouldn’t be in Afghanistan, to take one obvious example). But this suggests that simply to point at poll findings as a sufficient explanation for U.S. policy is inadequate, and I doubt if Mead would resort to such a simplistic explanation to explain our policy towards any country other than Israel.

Second, it rests on a similarly naive and blinkered role of political power. Mead’s entire argument for the claim that Jewish power is irrelevant to the lobby is that “[l]ess than two percent of the US population is Jewish, and Jews aren’t exactly swing voters.” Again, Mead is surely too smart to sincerely believe that political power is purely synonymous with the number of votes that a group commands. I realize that discussions of Jewish money or Jewish media influence conjure up all sorts of unsavory associations, but it is simply impossible to have a serious discussion of these issues if one does not recognize the basic fact that Jews punch above our weight in terms of political, intellectual, and financial influence. Contributions from Jews account for an enormous chunk of the donations received by the Democratic party (the exact number is difficult to ascertain), and incidents like last year’s Jane Harman scandal demonstrate the ways that this influence can be manifested in practice. Thus to simply write American Jewry out of the story when it comes to explaining the lobby’s success is fallacious; the highly mobilized hardliners within the Jewish community have been absolutely critical to this success.

Third, it rests on a simplistic and misleading reading of history. The allegedly deep, abiding, and everlasting love of the American people for Israel turns out on closer inspection to be far less than meets the eye. I suspect that most American Jews whose memories extend farther back than about 1950 would take issue with the notion that American culture is based around some inherent and eternal affection for Jews. Similarly, the attempt to portray some sort of proto-Zionism as a major force in American political culture “dating back to colonial times” requires a willful cherry-picking of the historical record. (A few months ago, Phil Weiss wrote a revealing investigation of Michael Oren’s attempts to portray Abraham Lincoln as a Zionist; following Oren’s footnote trail, Weiss found that the original sources suggest no such thing. It’s just one anecdote, but a revealing and perhaps symptomatic one.)

Mead writes that during the Cold War, “Americans gradually got into the habit of considering Israel one of our most valuable and reliable allies”. This formulation appears to be a euphemistic way of dealing with the fact that there is little evidence of Americans clamoring for an alliance with Israel prior to the 1967 war. In fact, strong support for Israel in the U.S. among Jews and non-Jews alike only came about post-1967, once the U.S. had already formed its strategic alliance with Israel. Far from the U.S.-Israel alliance springing from overwhelming popular sentiment, it would be more accurate (although still a bit simplistic) to argue on the contrary that the popular sentiment sprang out of the alliance.

Fourth, Mead’s argument overstates the importance of poll results. As I’ve written elsewhere, the fact that a majority of Americans claim to have “positive feelings” about Israel or to “support” Israel tells us very little about whether this support will manifest itself in any concrete action.

Thus Mead cites a poll finding that “53% of voters were more likely to vote for a candidate who was ‘pro-Israel’.” We should note, first, that this number is actually surprisingly low. Considering how broad the term “pro-Israel” is, it’s revealing that barely over half the voting population even considers “pro-Israel” views as a selling point in a candidate at all. But we should also note that this number tells us virtually nothing about how voters will actually behave. It suggests that a bare majority would prefer a candidate who is in some sense “pro-Israel,” all else being equal — but it says nothing about whether “pro-Israel” views are actually important enough for voters to prioritize them over other interests.

Finally, it’s worth noting that even if American public support for Israel were as overwhelming as Mead claims, this still would not by itself explain the extreme deference shown by the U.S. to its client even when Israel does things that cut against U.S. interests. To take a counterexample, think of the U.S. relationship with Britain in the 1950s. This was the very height of the Cold War special relationship; the two countries had shed enormous amounts of blood fighting alongside one another in two world wars, and the American public showed a level of goodwill toward the British that dwarfed that which they now show to Israel. (Even as late as 1997, a Harris poll showed that 63% of Americans considered the U.K. a “close ally,” compared with only 29% who felt the same about Israel.)

Yet this high level of public support for the special relationship did not prevent the U.S. from acting against the U.K. (not to mention Israel) during the 1956 Suez Crisis, when it felt that the U.K. was acting against its interests. This is one clear indication of how misleading it is to try to deduce U.S. foreign policy directly from broad indications of goodwill found in polling data. And it is a refutation of the claim that U.S. deference to Israel simply reflects standard practice between allies. Can anyone claim that a U.S. president would have the political fortitude to stand down Israel today the way that Eisenhower stood down the U.K. in 1956? The performance we’ve seen so far from the Obama administration indicates how far-fetched such a possibility is.

As I suggested at the beginning, the upshot of Mead’s piece is that critics of U.S. policy toward Israel/Palestine are wasting their time trying to change it, since the American people’s deep-seated love for Israel makes this policy inevitable. We have seen the ways in which this argument fails to hold water. Yet I suspect that Mead’s real belief is not that changing our policies toward Israel/Palestine would be impossible, but that it would be undesirable; I suspect, in other words, that his arguments about U.S. public opinion are ultimately rooted in his own support for a continuation of the status quo. And I suspect, finally, that it is precisely the difficulty of making a tenable argument in support of this status quo that has caused him to fall back on the pose of the disinterested observer, and to rely on these fallacious arguments about the status quo’s inevitability.

October 21, 2010 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , | 2 Comments

French Fury in the EU Cage

“Work Harder to Earn Less”

By DIANA JOHNSTONE | CounterPunch | October 21, 2010

The French are at it again – out on strike, blocking transport, raising hell in the streets, and all that merely because the government wants to raise the retirement age from 60 to 62.  They must be crazy.

That, I suppose, is the way the current mass movement in France is seen – or at least shown – in much of the world, and above all in the Anglo-Saxon world.

Perhaps the first thing that needs to be said about the current mass strikes in France is that they are not really about “raising the retirement age from 60 to 62”. This is rather like describing the capitalist free market as a sort of lemonade stand. A propaganda simplification of very complex issues.

It allows the commentators to go crashing through open doors.  After all, they observe sagely, people in other countries work until 65 or beyond, so why should the French balk at 62? The population is aging, and if the retirement age isn’t raised, the pension system will go broke paying out pensions to so many ancients.

However, the current protest movement is not about “raising the retirement age from 60 to 62”. It is about much more.

For one thing, this movement is an expression of exasperation with the government of Nicolas Sarkozy, which blatantly favors the super-rich over the majority of working people in this country.  He was elected on the slogan, “Work more to earn more”, and the reality turns out to be work harder to earn less.  The Labor Minister who introduced the reform, Eric Woerth, got a job for his wife on the office staff of the richest woman in France, Liliane Bettencourt, heir to the Oreal cosmetics giant, at the same time that, as budget minister, he was overlooking her massive tax evasions. While tax benefits for the rich help empty the public coffers, this government is doing what it can to tear down the whole social security system that emerged after World War II on the pretext that “we can’t afford it”.

The retirement issue is far more complex than “the age of retirement”.  The legal age of retirement means the age at which one may retire.  But the pension depends on the number of years worked, or to be more precise, on the number of cotisations (payments) into the joint pension scheme. On the grounds of “saving the system from bankruptcy”, the government is gradually raising the number of years of cotisations from 40 to 43 years, with indications that this will be stretched out further in the future.

As education is prolonged, and employment begins later, to get a full pension most people will have to work until 65 or 67.  A “full pension” comes to about 40 per cent of wages at the time of retirement.

But even so, that may not be possible.  Full time jobs are harder and harder to get, and employers do not necessarily want to retain older employees.  Or the enterprise goes out of business and the 58-year old employee finds himself permanently out of work.  It is becoming harder and harder to work full-time in a salaried job for over 40 years, however much one may want to.  Thus in practice, the Sarkozy-Woerth reform simply means reducing pensions.

That, in fact, is what the European Union has recommended to all member states as an economy measure, intended, as with most current reforms, to reduce social costs in the name of “competitivity” – meaning competition to attract investment capital.

Less qualified workers, who instead of pursuing studies may have entered the work force young, say at age eighteen, will have subscribed to the scheme for forty-two years at age 60 if indeed they manage to be employed all that time. Statistics show that their life expectancy is relatively short, so they need to leave early in order to enjoy any retirement at all.

The French system is based on solidarity between generations, in that the cotisations of  today’s workers go to pay today’s retired people’s pensions.  The government has subtly tried to pit one generation against another, by claiming that it is necessary to protect the future of today’s youth, who are paying for the “baby boom” pensioners. It is therefore extremely significant that this week, high school and university students massively began to enter the protest strike movement.  This solidarity between generations is a major blow to the government.

The youth are even much more radical than the older trade unionists.  They are very aware of the increasing difficulty of building a career.  The trend is for qualified personnel to enter the work force later and later, having spent years getting an education.   With the difficulty of finding a stable, full-time job, many depend on their parents until age 30.  It is simple arithmetic to see that in this case, there will be no full retirement until after age 70.

Productivity and De-industrialization

As has become standard practice, the authors of the neo-liberal reforms present them not as a choice but as a necessity.  There is no alternative.  We must compete on the global market.  Do it our way or we go broke.  And this reform was essentially dictated by the European Union, in a 2003 report, concluding that making people work longer was necessary to cut pension costs.

These dictates prevent any discussion of the two basic factors underlying the pension problem: productivity and de-industrialization.

Jean-Luc Mélenchon, the former Socialist Party man who heads the relatively new Left Party, is about the only political leader to point out that even if there are fewer workers to contribute to pension schemes, the difference can be made up by the rise in productivity.  Indeed, French worker productivity is among the very highest in the world (higher than Germany, for example).  Moreover, although France has the second longest life expectancy in Europe, it also has the highest birth rate.  And even if jobholders are fewer, because of unemployment, the wealth they produce should be adequate to maintain pension levels.

Aha, but here’s the catch:  for decades, as productivity goes up, wages stagnate.  The profits from increased productivity are siphoned off into the financial sector.  The bloating of the financial sector and the stagnation of purchasing power has led to the financial crisis – and the government has preserved the imbalance by bailing out the profligate financiers.

So logically, preserving the pension system basically calls for raising wages to account for higher productivity – a very major policy change.

But there is another critical problem linked to the pension issue: de-industrialization.  In order to maintain the high profits drained by the financial sector, and avoid paying higher wages, one industry after another has moved its production to cheap labor countries.  Profitable enterprises shut down as capital goes looking for even higher profit.

Is this merely the inevitable result of the rise of new industrial powers in Asia?  Is a lowering of living standards in the West inevitable due to their rise in the East?

Perhaps.  However, if shifting industrial production to China ends up lowering purchasing power in the West, then Chinese exports will suffer. China itself is taking the first steps toward strengthening its own domestic market.  “Export-led growth” cannot be a strategy for everyone.  World prosperity actually depends on strengthening both domestic production and domestic markets.  But this requires the sort of deliberate industrial policy which is banned by the bureaucracies of globalization: the World Trade Organization and the European Union.  They operate on the dogmas of “comparative advantage” and “free competition”… The world economy is being treated as a big game, where following the “rules of the free market” are more important than the environment or the basic vital necessities of human beings.

Only the financiers can win this game.  And if they lose, well, they just get more chips for another game from servile governments.


Where will it all end?

It should end in something like a democratic revolution: a complete overhaul of economic policy.  But there are very strong reasons why this will not happen.

For one thing, there is no political leadership in France ready and able to lead a truly radical movement.  Mélenchon comes the closest, but his party is new and its base is still narrow.  The radical left is hamstrung by its chronic sectarianism.  And there is great confusion among people revolting without clear programs and leaders.

Labor leaders are well aware that employees lose a day’s pay for every day they go on strike, and they are in fact always anxious to find ways to end a strike.  Only the students do not suffer from that restraint. The trade unionists and Socialist Party leaders are demanding nothing more drastic than that the government open negotiations about details of the reform.  If Sarkozy weren’t so stubborn, this is a concession the government could make which might restore calm without changing very much.

It would take the miraculous emergence of new leaders to carry the movement forward.

But even if this should happen, there is a more formidable obstacle to basic change: the European Union.  The EU, built on popular dreams of peaceful and prosperous united Europe, has turned into a mechanism of economic and social control on behalf of capital, and especially of financial capital.  Moreover, it is linked to a powerful military alliance, NATO.

If left to its own devices, France might experiment in a more socially just economic system.  But the EU is there precisely to prevent such experiments.

Anglo-Saxon Attitudes

On October 19, the French international TV channel France 24 ran a discussion of the strikes between four non-French observers.  The Portuguese woman and the Indian man seemed to be trying, with moderate success, to understand what was going on.  In contrast, the two Anglo-Americans (the Paris correspondent of Time magazine and Stephen Clarke, author of 1000 Years of Annoying the French) amused themselves demonstrating self-satisfied inability to understand the country they write about for a living.

Their quick and easy explanation: “The French are always going on strike for fun because they enjoy it.”

A little later in the program the moderator showed a brief interview with a lycée student who offered serious comments on pensions issue.  Did that give pause to the Anglo-Saxons?

The response was instantaneous.  How sad to see an 18-year-old thinking about pensions when he should be thinking about girls!

So whether they do it for fun, or whether they do it instead of having fun, the French are absurd to Anglo-Americans accustomed to telling the whole world what it should do.

Diana Johnstone is the author of Fools Crusade: Yugoslavia, NATO and Western Delusions. Write her for the French version of this article, or to comment, at

October 21, 2010 Posted by | Economics, Solidarity and Activism | 10 Comments

US gets Israel’s OK for Saudi arms sale

Press TV – Oct 21, 2010

The US says it has sought Israel’s approval before agreeing to a massive arms sale to Saudi Arabia which is to become the largest US arms deal in history.

The United States announced plans to sell the Arab kingdom up to USD 60 billion worth of arms, AFP quoted Andrew Shapiro, assistant secretary of defense for political-military affairs, as saying on Wednesday.

The package is to be delivered over 15 to 20 years and includes 84 F-15 jets, 70 Apache gunships, 72 Blackhawk helicopters, 36 light helicopters and thousands of laser-guided smart bombs.

The enormous package is said by the Pentagon to give Riyadh “a whole host of defensive” and “deterrence capabilities.” The US Defense Department has also made clear that the deal will not affect “Israel’s military upper-hand in the region.”

Tel Aviv and its sympathizers in Washington had earlier voiced concern on US arms sales to Saudi Arabia.

“Our assessment is that this (sale) would not diminish Israel’s qualitative military edge, and therefore we felt comfortable in going forward with the sale,” Shapiro said.

Alexander Vershbow, the US assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs, said Washington consulted Israel as the deal took shape.

The US government always consults the Israeli regime on any arms sales to Arab countries as a matter of policy intended to ensure that Israel maintains a military superiority in the Middle East region.

“There have been high-level discussions, as well as working-level discussions. And I think it’s fair to say that, based on what we’ve heard at the high levels, Israel does not object to this sale,” he said.

US President Barack Obama’s administration has reportedly notified Congress of its plans to make the deal and the Capitol now has the authority to amend or delay the agreement.

October 21, 2010 Posted by | Economics | 13 Comments

Settlers Escalate Attacks Against Olive Orchards. 2,500 Trees Torched In One Week

Ma’an Images
By Saed Bannoura – IMEMC & Agencies – October 21, 2010

On Wednesday afternoon, a group of extremist Jewish settlers from Bracha illegal settlement, near the northern West Bank city of Nablus, attacked Palestinian villagers, cut and burned trees and injured one farmer.

Local sources reported that one villager from Burin was wounded after being violently attacked by the settlers while attempting to prevent them from uprooting his trees. Moneer Qadous was stabbed with a sharp object and was moved to Rafidia Hospital in Nablus.

Also, dozens of settlers, marching in groups, attacked Palestinian olive-pickers near Burin, while Israeli soldiers kidnapped another villager for trying to defend his land.

The sources added that at least 2,500 olive trees belonging to Burin residents have been torched by the settlers since last Thursday. Such destruction creates a real disaster for the villagers as they depend on olives and olive oil as the main source of their livelihood.

Witnesses said that soldiers stood idle while the settlers were attacking the villagers and the orchards yet they prevented Palestinian firefighters from reaching the torched orchards under the pretext of waiting for proper security coordination, which leads to further losses as the fire continues to consume the trees.

October 21, 2010 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Subjugation - Torture | 1 Comment