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Blood on the Streets of Bahrain

Days of Rage; Decades of Oppression

By RANNIE AMIRI | CounterPunch | February 18, 2011

Bahrain has one of the most advanced medical systems in the Middle East, the best ICT sector in the region and the fastest growing economy in the Arab world.

But despite all these accomplishments, the country seems to be missing just one little thing: a doctor who can identify signs of torture.

– Benjamin Joffe-Walt writing for Change.org, 12 November 2010

February 14th was Bahrain’s turn for its “day of rage” against the striking social, political and economic inequities found in the tiny island kingdom. For those familiar with its modern history, however, they know there was no need to dub it such; Bahrainis have long raged against policies of exclusion, marginalization and sectarianism embodied in al-Khalifa family rule.

To fully appreciate Bahrain’s inherent volatility, it is important to understand both its demographics and political structure. These have been detailed in past essays which new readers can review. Briefly, of 1.2 million people in the Persian Gulf nation, only about 530,000 are Bahraini nationals. Of these, at least 70 percent are Shia Muslims. The king, Sheikh Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa, and the al-Khalifa dynasty that has ruled Bahrain for two centuries, are Sunni Muslims.

If meaningful, representative, democratic institutions were present in the country, the sectarian incongruity would be a mere footnote. Unfortunately, that is far from the case. The civil, political and human rights of Shia citizens have been trampled on for decades by the monarchy. This wholly belies the claim that Bahrain is a beacon of democracy and reform among Persian Gulf nations (a notion likewise promulgated by its stalwart ally, the United States).

The notorious citizenship laws—giving non-Bahraini Sunnis expedited citizenship and voting rights in a backdoor attempt to alter the state’s confessional makeup—is one of many examples of how the monarchy has long bred resentment and anger among the majority population.

The disenfranchised, poverty-stricken Shia hold no significant positions in government. Although they comprise 80 percent of the labor force, they are absent from the public sector. They are completely unrepresented in the security services: of the 1,000 employed in the National Security Apparatus, more than two-thirds are non-Bahraini (Jordanians, Egyptians, Pakistanis etc.) and overwhelmingly Sunni. Bahraini Shias constitute less than five percent of the NSA and occupy only low-level positions or act as paid informants.

The paramilitary Special Security Forces operates under the supervision of the NSA and numbers 20,000—90 percent of whom are non-Bahraini. The SSF does not include a single Bahraini Shia officer.

These security forces, housed in Manama’s upscale neighborhoods of course, are routinely unleashed on Bahraini Shia protesting their lot—imported henchmen serving to oppress the king’s subjects.

Last summer, the government rounded up dozens of human rights workers, religious leaders and opposition figures who demanded an end to the regime’s habitual use of torture. Twenty-five were charged with “contacting foreign organizations and providing them with false and misleading information about the kingdom.” Half were charged with attempting to stage a coup. . In total, 450 have been arrested, including the well-known pro-democracy blogger Ali Abdulemam.

Claiming they were tortured by security forces before being put on trial, the government’s expert medical examiner concluded the bruises, wounds, cuts and burns found on detainees’ bodied were not the result of torture.

Indeed, its specter looms over all those who oppose al-Khalifa rule.

In February 2010, Human Rights Watch released a landmark report titled “Torture Redux: The Revival of Physical Coercion during Interrogations in Bahrain.” It chronicles the routine use of torture and degrading treatment for the purpose of extracting confessions from political opponents. The organization’s 2011 World Report reaffirms the practice continues. Even more disturbing, Bahraini children have not been spared physical and sexual abuse at the hands of the secret police.

But choosing Feb. 14 as Bahrain’s day of rage was not done randomly. It marked the tenth anniversary of the referendum on the National Action Charter, which Sheikh Hamad promised would transform the Kingdom into a constitutional monarchy, and the ninth anniversary of the 2002 constitution purportedly enacting it.

It was all for show. Despite Bahrain’s elected parliament, real power lies with the upper house Shura Council. The Shura Council has the authority to approve or rescind any legislation passed by the lower house Council of Representatives. Shura members, unsurprisingly, are directly appointed by the king.

Monday’s protestors, who acted peacefully by all accounts, were met by riot police using live ammunition. Scores were injured. The uprising’s first martyr, 27-year-old Ali Abdul Hadi Mushaima, was killed by a gunshot wound to the back. At his funeral procession Tuesday, security forces fatally shot Fadel Salman al-Matrouk, 31, a mourner who had gathered with others in front of the hospital where Mushaima died.

Sensing the potential for unrest, the king granted each Bahraini family $2,650 in cash before protests even began. After Mushaima and al-Matrook’s deaths, he went on television to express his regret and promise an investigation into their deaths. As in Egypt, the regime’s actions woefully lagged behind events on the ground.

Thousands of Bahrainis occupied Manama’s Pearl Roundabout Tuesday and Wednesday, with the youth at the helm. They chanted, “No Shiites, no Sunnis, only Bahrainis.”  Tents were set up and preparations were made for a long peaceful encampment.

Early Thursday morning, while protestors slept, the situation took an ugly, violent turn. Riot police stormed through the camp, killing four and injuring 100. Sixty people are reported missing (numbers at the time of this writing, all likely to increase). Tanks were out in full force as hundreds flooded into hospitals. Manama is now in lock-down.

Statements of those present come from an AP report:

“They were beating me so hard I could no longer see. There was so much blood running from my head … I was yelling, ‘I’m a doctor. I’m a doctor.’ But they didn’t stop.”

“We yelled, ‘We are peaceful! Peaceful!’ The women and children were attacked just like the rest of us … They moved in as soon as the media left us. They knew what they’re doing.”

“Then all of a sudden the square was filled with tear gas clouds. Our women were screaming. … What kind of ruler does this to his people? There were women and children with us!”

Bahrainis’ demands are clear: the resignation of Prime Minister Khalifa bin Salman al-Khalifa—who has governed since 1971—to be replaced by an elected premier, the release of all political prisoners, a new constitution, an end to the systematic discrimination against Shias and all forms of sectarianism, repeal of the citizenship laws, fairness in distribution of jobs and housing, freedom of the press and religion, and an end to torture.

The al-Khalifa monarchy and its imported mercenaries are at a crossroads. The protestors’ demands are reasonable and legitimate. The king would be wise to accede to them before overthrow of the entire regime becomes their only acceptable alternative. After Thursday’s violent crackdown against unarmed civilians, there may now be no other option.

~

Rannie Amiri is an independent Middle East commentator.

February 18, 2011 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Solidarity and Activism | 3 Comments

Omar Barghouti kept from entering the U.S. for BDS speaking tour

February 18, 2011

The following press release was just issued by the publisher of Omar Barghouti’s upcoming book:

Effectively canceling a planned speaking tour, the U.S. consulate in Jerusalem has inexplicably delayed the granting of a visa for Omar Barghouti, founding member of the Palestinian Civil Society Boycott, Divestment, Sanction (BDS) campaign, due to tour the United States this April for the release of his new book, Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions: The Global Struggle for Palestinian Rights.

Nobel Peace Laureate, Archbishop Desmond Tutu called the book “lucid and morally compelling… perfectly timed to make a major contribution to this urgently needed global campaign for justice, freedom and peace.” Former President of the UN General Assembly, Father Miguel d’’Escoto Brockmann called it “timely and responsibly written by a man who understands that creative nonviolence is the only way out of the dire situation in Palestine.””

In recent years, numerous foreign scholars and experts have been subject to visa delays and denials that have prohibited them from speaking and teaching in the U.S.—a process the American Civil Liberties Union describes as “Ideological Exclusion,” which they say violates Americans’ First Amendment right to hear constitutionally protected speech by denying foreign scholars, artists, politicians and others entry to the United States.  Foreign nationals who have recently been denied visas include Fulbright scholar Marixa Lasso; Iraqi doctor Riyadh Lafta, who disputed the official Iraqi civilian death numbers in the respected British medical journal The Lancet; respected South African scholar and vocal Iraq War critic Dr. Adam Habib, and Oxford’s Tariq Ramadan, who have both recently received visas to speak in the United States after many years of delays and denials.

For the release of Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions, Barghouti has standing invitations for events in New York City, Harvard, Yale, Brown, Brandeis University, Washington DC, and Philadelphia. Barghouti studied, lived and worked in the United States for 11 years before permanently relocating to Jerusalem. He attended Columbia University, receiving both Bachelors and Masters degrees from the school. His U.S. born child, whom he needs a visa to visit, currently attends college in Indiana. Between 2005-2010, Barghouti visited the U.S. extensively without incident, on a 5 year visa, which only recently expired.

Barghouti’s publisher, Anthony Arnove of Haymarket Books, stated that “It’s essential authors be able to travel to promote their books and ideas, and as publishers we believe the free exchange of ideas is vital to a democratic culture. We find it frustrating that Omar’s visa is being delayed and potentially denied for political reasons and hope the Consulate will grant his visa immediately.”

Barghouti tour sponsors are calling on supporters to contact the U.S. Consulate in Jerusalem and the Department of State to ask them to fulfill the promise from the Obama Administration of “promoting the global marketplace of ideas” and grant Barghouti’s visa immediately.

U.S. Consulate:
Consul General Daniel Rubinstein
U.S. Consulate General, Jerusalem
18 Agron Road, Jerusalem 94190
Tel.: +972.2.622.7230, Fax: +972.2.625.9270
jerusalemvisa@state.gov
UsConGenJerusalem@state.gov

Department of State:
Visa Services
Public Inquiries Division
202-663-1225
usvisa@state.gov

*

On Facebook: Join the group “Let Omar Barghouti Be Heard” and invite your friends



February 18, 2011 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance, Progressive Hypocrite, Wars for Israel | 2 Comments

Obama Requests Funding For Venezuelan Opposition in 2012 Budget

BY EVA GOLINGER | February 17, 2011

This week, US President Barack Obama presented Congress with a $3.7 trillion dollar budget for 2012, the most expensive budget in United States history. Within his massive request, which proposes cuts in important social programs and federal jobs throughout the country, is a partition for special funding for anti-Chavez groups in Venezuela.

Included in the whopping $3.7 trillion request is over $670 billion for the Pentagon’s ever-increasing annual budget, nearly $75 billion for the intelligence community and $55.7 billion for the State Department and the US Agency for International Development (USAID).

For the first time in recent history, the Foreign Operations Budget (State Department) openly details direct funding of at least $5 million to anti-Chavez groups in Venezuela. Specifically, the budget justification document states, “These funds will help strengthen and support a Venezuelan civil society that will protect democratic space and seek to serve the interests and needs of the Venezuelan people. Funding will enhance citizens’ access to objective information, facilitate peaceful debate on key issues, provide support to democratic institutions and processes, promote citizen participation and encourage democratic leadership”.

While the descriptive language justifying the diversion of millions in US taxpayers dollars to fund political groups in a foreign nation may sound “pretty”, this type of funding has been a principal source of promoting subversion and destabilization in Venezuela against the democratic and majority-supported government of Hugo Chavez during the past eight years. According to public documents, just between the years 2008 to 2011, the US State Department channeled more than $40 million to the Venezuelan opposition, primarily directing those funds to electoral campaigns against President Chavez and propaganda slated to influence Venezuelan public opinion.

The funding requested in Obama’s 2012 budget for anti-Chavez groups in Venezuela comes from a State Department division titled “Economic Support Fund” (ESF), which per State spokesman Philip Crowley, is used to fund NGOs and other non-governmental groups in “key strategic and important countries” for Washington. On top of the ESF funds for the Venezuelan opposition, additional multimillion-dollar financing for political campaigns, media propaganda and other destabilization activities in the South American nation is channeled through the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), International Republican Institute (IRI), National Democratic Institute (NDI) and various other US and international agencies that support groups around the world who promote US agenda.

ILLEGAL FUNDING

The State Department’s public disclosure of 2012 funding for the Venezuelan opposition comes just after the Venezuelan National Assembly passed a law prohibiting foreign funding for political activities in late December 2010. The Law in Defense of Political Sovereignty and National Self-Determination clearly renders all foreign funding for political campaigns, parties and organizations, including NGOs, that engage in political activities, illegal. How exactly does Washington propose to channel those $5 million to Venezuelan groups, when such financing clearly constitutes a violation of Venezuelan law?

In previous years, the Foreign Operations Budget never explicitly detailed direct State funding to political groups in Venezuela. Since 2002, Washington has used an office of USAID, the Office for Transition Initiatives (OTI), to filter its multimillion-dollar funding to its Venezuelan counterparts. The OTI office, which was run like a clandestine operation in Caracas and never had authorization from the Venezuelan government to set up shop in the country, abruptly closed its doors at the end of 2010 and transferred its activities to Washington, and Miami. It was the longest running OTI operation in US history.

Clearly, funding and political support for the Venezuelan opposition has now been given a top priority and will be handled directly by the State Department.

The funds requested in the State Department’s budget for 2012 most likely will be directed towards political campaigns, since Venezuela has both key presidential and regional elections that year.

The State Department budget also requests $20 million in funding for anti-Castro groups in Miami and elsewhere to continue efforts to undermine the Cuban Revolution.

Do US taxpayers know their hard-earned dollars are going to fund political activities in other nations instead of being invested in jobs, healthcare and social programs in their own country?

February 18, 2011 Posted by | Progressive Hypocrite | 15 Comments

WikiLeaks and Latin America

By Nil Nikandrov | Tiwy.com | December 13, 2010

The collection of US diplomatic cables published by WikiLeaks includes some 20,000 documents pertaining to Latin America. Roughly 13,000 of them came to the US Department of State from the US embassies in Mexico, Brasilia, Buenos Aires, Lima, Santiago de Chile, and Bogota, while the remaining 7,000 originated from Caracas, Quito, La Paz, and Managua. Dates on the majority of the documents fit into the last decade.

It is hard to say at the moment what led WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to dump the archive to Spain’s notoriously rightist El País, chances being that the decision was not entirely up to him. El País is a part of Grupo Prisa, a media holding with close business links to the right and conservative US and Latin American media. It is an open secret that El País is heavily influenced by the Miami-based anti-Castro mafia and its satellites from the ranks of the radical immigrants from Venezuela, Ecuador, Nicaragua, and Bolivia. El País permanently floats media campaigns aimed at destabilizing the political regimes in the above countries, and the materials contributed by WikiLeaks will likely be put to use accordingly.

Currently the WikiLeaks information is disseminated in a redacted form via the channels operated by El País and other Western media companies. They carefully avoid calling into question the reliability of the reporting by the US embassies and the Department of State regardless of the methods employed by the US agencies. Some of the cables do mention the financial support provided by various US foundations to NGOs, human rights groups, and political opposition which also happen to be the sources from which the US typically draws information on the corresponding countries. Effectively, this is the same as buying information.

US ambassador to Nicaragua Paul A. Trivelli resorted to the assistance of anti-Sandinista political forces to collect information for his reports alleging that president Daniel Ortega regularly sent his government’s ministers to solicit petro-dollars from Chavez. According to Trivelli’s accounts, roughly half a billion dollars were delivered in suitcases from Caracas to Managua to be spent on bribing the Nicaraguan constituency. The mythical suitcases then served as evidence of Chavez’s plan to turn Nicaragua into a country run by a “Cuban-style dictatorship”.

Trivelli’s successor Robert Callahan supplies the US Department of State with similarly generated data. He seems to enjoy alarming Washington by churning out reports that – in breach of the Nicaraguan constitution – Ortega is going to seek reelection in 2011 and therefore takes a keen interest in Chavez’s experience of the kind. Callahan’s reports are also saturated with claims that Iran is gaining ever stronger positions in Managua and using Nicaragua as the starting point for its subversive expansion across Central America and for reaching the US territory via Mexico. Clearly under the impression left by one of Callahan’s papers, H. Clinton expressed concern in May, 2009 that Iran was building the single largest embassy in Nicaragua, as if the embassy could pose a threat like some missile launchpad. Truly speaking, the single largest embassy in Nicaragua is the US one, which is a heavily fortified compound built to survive anything short of a nuclear strike and overloaded with advanced surveillance devices. Such fortress-style embassies were built by the US over the past decade in the majority of Latin American countries, leaving the impression that Washington is bracing for a global catastrophe. Shall we assume the perceived threat is the end of the world which the Mayan priests anticipate in 2012?

US diplomats in Latin America seem convinced that constant invocations of the Iranian theme are the best way to demonstrate their awareness of what is going on in the intelligence field. The vigilant watchers spotted Iranians on the Caribbean islands and in the region’s every part from Mexico to the south of Chile. The materials which saw the light of day thanks to WikiLeaks reflect the US paranoid worries that Iran struck a secret deal with Hugo Chavez and Evo Morales and is already mining uranium in Venezuela and Bolivia. The lie has been broadcast by the US propaganda machine over the recent years. For example, the US diplomats attempted to portray an Iranian bicycle factory built in Venezuela as a secret uranium facility. In response, Chavez appeared in a TV program riding a bike and promised to present “a nuclear bike” to G. Bush, adding that the device was at least equipped with brakes.

One of the US Department of State documents exposed by WikiLeaks happens to be H. Clinton’s request sent to the US embassy in Buenos Aires containing questions about president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner’s way of fighting stress and the medications she was taking. Implicitly, the cable cast doubts over the Argentinian leader’s mental health. US department of State cables also describe Cristina Fernández de Kirchner and her husband Nestor Kirchner as individuals obsessed with lust for power, an unpleasant couple, and talentless politicians. The explanation behind the view is that both never bowed to the US pressure and befriended Chavez. Eventually, H. Clinton was forced to apologize, but her sincerity is hard to trust.

Overall, US diplomats never seem to stop monitoring the health condition of Latin American leaders. Predictably, the focus is on Chavez. US diplomats arrived at the conclusion that he acted inadequately and spread a markedly provocative psychological portrait of the Venezuelan leader put together by CIA psychiatrists which depicted him as an insane, primitive, and uncontrollable individual. The US Department of State was excited to learn from the US embassy in Brazil that Evo Morales was diagnosed with a tumor and seriously disappointed later when it became known that he underwent a successful surgery. When the electoral campaign in Paraguay was in process, the US Department of State asked for information on the health condition of all of the country’s presidential candidates. The incumbent Fernando Lugo’s cancer for which he had to endure exhausting chemotherapy could be a logical consequence of the request.

Simply browsing the WikiLeaks publications is enough to realize that in many cases they are identical to propaganda pieces featured by various newspapers and journals. Allegations are made that Mexican president Felipe Calderon’s popularity is evaporating and that he is losing the war against drug cartels, that Cuban intelligence operatives have direct access to Chavez and enjoy full freedom of activity in the Venezuelan army, and that in Nicaragua the rating of president Ortega sank so low that even elderly nuns pray for his being killed the sooner the better.

Notably, WikiLeaks released nothing about the Mission of the US Interests Section in Havana, the torture experiments staged in Guantanamo, or the creation of US bases in Costa Rica and Columbia. The Wikileaks materials shed light in minimal quantities on the preparations for the coup in Honduras and the police mutiny in Ecuador. Nor does WikiLeaks find much to tell about the US intelligence activity in Latin America. Such omissions add up to a fairly long list.

Currently efforts are made to replicate the WikiLeaks success. The OpenLeaks outlet is being put on track to widen the audience of shocking revelations. Will it go so far as to bring to the surface the operational materials of the CIA, the US Defense Intelligence Agency, etc.?

February 18, 2011 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Great Texas Wind Hoax

By Sam Pakan | PPJ Gazette | February 17, 2011

The eastern Texas Panhandle, a land of rolling sand hills, tree-lined creek beds and tall grass vistas, may seem a desolate place to outsiders. Still, it has its beauty, especially to the cattle ranchers and wheat farmers who work and live on it. But not for long.

Much of this land, the fragile habitat of the Lesser Prairie Chicken and the Whooping Crane, is scheduled to become industrialized if the Texas PUC, the DOE and FERC have their way. Incongruously, the demolition of this mostly native grassland is being proposed in the name of green energy.

The Competitive Renewable Energy Zone (CREZ), a name not without irony, was initiated by a 10 million dollar grant from the Department of Energy (DOE). In December of 2009, plans were expanded when Secretary Chu joined Jon Wellinghoff of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) in a Memorandum of Understanding to coordinate efforts to interconnect several transmission lines. The CREZ line, part of the larger Electrical Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) system, is to help supply the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex with wind-generated electricity from the northern Texas Panhandle.

There are problems, however. Protests from disgruntled landowners have been met with staunch resistance from Cross Texas Transmission, the developer of the Gray to Tesla and Gray to White Deer lines. In an escalation of that resistance, landowners were sent a “Access Consent Form” the day before Thanksgiving insisting their lands be made available for survey. With the long weekend, landowners had only two working days to find representation and prepare a response and still meet CTT’s deadline. CTT, acting under the auspices of the Public Utilities Commission, has been given the power of eminent domain. With that looming over their heads, most landowners signed but added wording insisting Cross Texas Transmission follow established environmental laws, the same wording and the same laws now required on state-owned lands. Cross Texas responded to their request by issuing restraining orders and suing for entry without restraint.

The action was not surprising. Since having been awarded the contract to construct, operate and maintain these lines in October of 2009, Cross Texas has consistently reminded landowners that they have no options and has refused to address any of the economic or environmental problems created by the transmission lines.

The Economic Problems

According to the Texas Public Policy Foundation, wind energy in Texas will have in excess of 28 billion dollars in subsidies, federal and state, poured into its development by 2025. When tax breaks, market disruptions, increased production and ancillary costs are added in, the taxpayer’s bill could top 60 billion dollars. In spite of the massive funds being thrown its way, wind-generated electricity remains far more expensive for consumers than that produced from coal, gas or from nuclear facilities. It’s also proven far too intermittent. As a result, continued expansion of wind fields could raise rates paid by consumers by as much as 50 percent, even with the massive federal and state subsidies. The impact to small businesses and to those on fixed incomes could be devastating. Moreover, many experts believe that, due to the intermittent flow and low energy flux, wind generated electricity can never be competitive.

Science and Technology writer Gregory Murphy compared the energy flux density of the Comanche Peak nuclear plant south of Dallas to a hypothetical wind installation. The nuclear plant has two units capable of generating 2,500 megawatts and sits on only 4,000 acres which includes a man-made cooling lake that is open to the public and is used for recreation. Taking into account that the average wind turbine has a capacity of only 25 percent of its nameplate rated output, it would take 6,668 1.5 megawatt wind turbines to equal the output of the Comanche Peak station.

Spacing wind turbines at 5 per section of land, a rate somewhat higher than the density landowners were promised by wind farm developers, a wind installation equaling the output of the Comanche Peak plant would require well over 13,000 sections of land or 8.6 million acres. That is an area roughly 1/20th the size of Texas. All this land, plus the lands decimated by the transmission lines carrying electricity to major metropolitan areas, would have reduced productivity, severely increased erosion and drastically reduced property values—certainly no boon for landowners.

“Wind works only 25 percent of the time,” said Jeff Haley, rancher and Commissioner in Gray County, Texas. “And the CREZ line alone will cost 4.9 billion dollars. That’s a projected cost in 2008 dollars. It will almost certainly be more, but whatever it turns out to be, it will have to be paid for.”

“Don’t kid yourself,” said David Hall, another Gray County rancher. “The consumers will pay for much of this, and we’ll all pay for the rest with our tax dollars. It’s not just that I don’t want them on my land. It’s that this kind of government boondoggle is wrong. The politicians supporting these things don’t understand them. They’re being advised that this or that is the right thing to do, and they’re not informed enough to make the right decisions.”

“We’re dealing with Soviet-style technocrats,” Haley added.

The metaphor isn’t without basis. Cross Texas Transmission is a wholly owned subsidiary of J. L. Power Group, a Delaware shell corporation with no board of directors and only a few employees. SEC filings list Mikhail Segal, a one-time official in the Ministry of Energy in the former Soviet Union and Michael Liebellson as founders. From the outset, landowners say, Cross Texas Transmission has acted every bit the oligarch and used the PUC’s power of eminent domain as a weapon.

“These technocrats understand how to maneuver through the technicalities of the law.” Haley said. “It’s their job. They do it every day. How can we run our businesses and spend the time this is requiring to stand up to this kind of abuse?”

One of the maneuvers he is referring to is the Texas PUC hearings held last August. Three routes had been selected for the proposed Gray to Tesla line with one listed as the “preferred route.” Multiple landowners and attorneys were present to defend their properties from damage along this route. Without discussion, the Public Utilities Commission chose an alternate route automatically subjecting those properties not represented to eminent domain. The landowners on the route selected had received a notice that their lands could, at some point, be affected, but all assumed that only the preferred route would be considered at the hearing. None realized they would not have an opportunity to intervene specifically for their properties should the preferred route be rejected.

In addition to the issues of land spoilage and the usurpation of private property rights, the issue of viability is very much at the forefront. A number of wind power companies are currently being sued by utilities companies and municipalities for not being able to deliver the electricity they promised. In Texas, three wind farms owned by NextEra Energy Resources LLC agreed to sell specified amounts of power annually to Luminant Energy Company beginning in 2002. When they failed to deliver the contracted amount, Luminant sued for $29 million in liquidated damages and won. A similar case occurred years earlier in Washington state, and observers of the wind industry are predicting a deluge of such cases in the future.

The Waxman-Markey Cap-and-Trade Bill may be momentarily dead, but there are persistent rumors of its resurrection. Even without it, proposals are floating through the halls of Congress which would offer billions more to wind developers and demand that as much as 20% of our electricity be generated from renewable sources. While these proposals are being discussed, three wind farms are cluttering the landscape of Hawaii, monuments in rust to the government’s imposition of a technology that simply does not work.

A similar situation exists in California. In the December 13th, 2010 edition of The American Thinker, Andrew Walden discusses what was once the largest collection of wind farms in the world. “In the best wind spots on earth,” he writes, “14,000 wind turbines were simply abandoned. Spinning, post-industrial junk which generates nothing but bird kills.”

If and when federal funds cease to be shoveled into the wind projects now underway in Texas, most industry observers believe they will also be abandoned leaving the once swaying prairie an industrial junkyard of concrete, steel and fiberglass.

Meanwhile, the green jobs pledged by the Obama Administration seem to be suffering the same fate as the birds. Almost 12 percent of the President’s original $814 billion stimulus package, enacted early in 2009, went to renewable energy projects. The White House estimates that the stimulus created 190,700 green jobs. The Department of Energy, however, reports only 82,000 jobs actually resulted from the bill and as many as 80 percent of those went to firms in China, Spain and South Korea. Further, the National Center for Policy Analysis reports that, because of the expense, renewable energy is in reality costing more jobs than it is creating.

The Enviromental Problems

… While pro-wind energy groups maintain that less than one percent of land is removed from actual production by turbines and transmission lines, many experts argue otherwise. First, the towers create large dry spots at their base that, in a semi-arid environment like the Texas Panhandle, simply won’t support a vegetative cover. The resulting “blow spots” grow with each wind storm and can, in short order, consume many acres. Further, roads must be built to service turbines and transmission towers. In sandy areas like most of the Gray to Tesla line, the surfaces must be paved or coated to prevent blowing. These roads prevent normal moisture absorption and interfere with animal migration, and the damage to wildlife by the existence of tall structures is far greater than that from technologies dependent on fossil fuels. Tall grasses and wildlife are also damaged by the turbines’ prodigious oil leaks, plus, in an area already plagued by major grass fires often started by downed power lines, lines of the magnitude proposed are not welcome.

Heavy equipment used to install and service these lines and turbines compacts the turf and churns the surface, destroying vegetation. Then, during the frequent winter and spring winds, the barren spots grow larger. Once productive sandy loam becomes what Panhandle ranchers call “blow sand,” soil leached of organic material by the wind, unable to sustain a vegetative cover.

Both the turbines and the lines interfere with bird migration as well. The tall structures inhibit the breeding of the Lesser Prairie Chicken, and their presence will put the fate of the Whooping Crane very much into question. Further fragmentation of the LPC nesting grounds will almost certainly put it on the Endangered Species list and subject land owners to close federal scrutiny creating even more unwanted intrusion.

Richard Peet, Gray County Judge, wrote in a letter to Assistant Attorney General Moreno and Tom Clark of the Natural Resources Division on December 9, 2010, that prior to allowing Cross Texas Transmission to circumvent the law that requires an environmental impact study, U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service agents themselves pointed out that the currently proposed positioning of the Gray to Tesla line would “most assuredly” put the LPC on the endangered species list. At the very least, it was expected that the Fish and Wildlife Service would step in and insist that the route be studied for impact to wildlife. But the Service said there was no federal action that triggered a proper Environmental Impact Statement and that no permit would be required of CTT. However, a field coordinator for the Service told one landowner, if a permit is required, more than likely they will just pay mitigation and all resistance would end.

The Problems of Quasi-Capitalism

“Wind power is an open trough of government subsidies, tax credits and state mandates. Taken together, it’s a massive corporate welfare effort that means big money for the wind power developers and big costs for the rest of us.” Loren Steffy, the Houston Chronicle.

In a free market, goods and services are offered for gain. So long as it is mutually advantageous to buyer and seller, it works. When products fail to meet requirements, the buyer finds better, cheaper or more desirable products elsewhere. When the producer fails to make a profit, he generally seeks another market. Or another product

The role of government in such a system is limited. If the producer fails to deliver promised goods or delivers something other than what was promised, or if the buyer refuses to pay the agreed-upon price, the government steps in through the criminal courts system, demands remediation and applies appropriate penalties. But what happens when the government itself exerts influence in the decision-making process or even dictates the outcome of the transaction?

In that case, competitively priced goods or services cease to be the primary concern of the producer. Courting government agencies and influencing laws becomes the chief goal. Government-backed or government-created corporations become an extension of political might, and a symbiotic relationship develops between lawmakers and corporations facilitated by laws that, in many instances, they helped write.

Intermittent sources of power, especially those that require backup from coal or gas, cannot compete in the open marketplace. Equipping corporate welfare recipients with one of the most easily abused powers of the state in an attempt to force the populace to accept an unreliable source of energy at a tremendously inflated price is both unwise and dangerous. Such policies come at great cost, and landowners may only be the first to be asked to pay.

“The government is using corporations as its arm. They’re not just destroying my land; they’re destroying my heritage,” said Mark Cadra, a Wheeler County rancher whose land lies along the route selected by the Texas PUC. “I was taught for as long as I can remember to be a good steward of the land. Now the government has given this company the right to take what they want and do whatever they want with it. Believe me, what they want will damage my land forever. It makes me feel helpless.”

~

Sam Pakan is a rancher and writer in Wheeler County, Texas. He is currently producing beef for the health market while writing a series of historical novels set in WWII.  He also edits books for selected novelists.

Copyright © 2011 by Sam Pakan. All Rights Reserved.

February 18, 2011 Posted by | Corruption, Economics, Environmentalism, Timeless or most popular | 1 Comment

Families forced out as army occupies Jerusalem rooftop

By Jillian Kestler-D’Amours, The Electronic Intifada, 18 February 2011

The sound of heavy boots stomping up five flights of stairs resonated throughout the entire apartment building on a recent night as the Israeli military headed towards their post on a roof in the embattled neighborhood of Silwan in occupied East Jerusalem.

“There may be clashes [between Palestinian youth and Israeli soldiers], but it doesn’t mean the army has a right to take over the house,” said Abid Abu Ramuz, a Palestinian father of four, as his children quickly moved towards their front door to catch a glimpse of the soldiers.

Dressed head-to-toe in combat gear — including face coverings, thick helmets and gloves — and wielding machine guns, two Israeli soldiers kept their heads down as they made their way to the locked door leading out onto the roof.

“If we want to do laundry, we have to do it in the stairway. Only a technician can go up [to the roof] now, and only with a permit from the police,” Abu Ramuz explained.

For at least five months, Israeli military has been stationed on the roof of Abu Ramuz’s building — which houses a total of 69 persons from seven separate families, as well as a mosque — in the heart of Silwan’s Baten al-Hawa neighborhood.

One month ago, Abu Ramuz said, the soldiers invited him to a Jerusalem area police station and offered him two options: they would either “pay [him] for renting the roof, or they would go to court and [get a permit to] use it for free.”

He told them to go to the court. And, as of 7 February, the Israeli military received permission from the Israeli Ministry of Defense in Tel Aviv to use the building’s rooftop as their lookout base until August 2012.

“The Israeli people don’t know where they are sending their children. Their children are behaving in bad ways,” said Abu Ramuz, as a loud bang resounded from overhead.

“Every day,” he said, sighing, as he pointed his index finger up towards the roof.

The residents of the building are presently appealing the ministry’s decision to grant the soldiers unlimited access to their roof. In the meantime, however, the constant harassment and attacks continue unabated.

“Everything is hard. My daughter is going through her [high school final] exams at school and the soldiers are playing all night [on the roof]. She can’t sleep,” Abu Ramuz told The Electronic Intifada.

“I filed a complaint today because yesterday they were playing with a stone until 4am. I’ve complained many times. But the soldiers tell me that I can move if I don’t like the situation.”

Daily clashes and military harassment in Silwan

The Israeli military says it has justified its takeover of the roof of Abu Ramuz’s building because of regular clashes that occur between Palestinian youth and Israeli soldiers, police and settler security guards in the area — and because it offers them a unobstructed view of most of Silwan.

Abu Ramuz explained that at least three Israeli soldiers are on the roof of the building at all times, day and night, and that they are constantly making noise, cutting off residents’ access to electricity and water and sometimes even throwing dirty water or urine onto people walking in the street below.

“It’s winter so the children are staying inside. During the summer it will be more difficult because the children will be outside and they will have nowhere to play. It’s going to be a disaster here in the summer,” the 43-year-old said.

At least four windows in Abu Ramuz’s home remain broken as a result, he said, of Israeli soldiers shooting tear gas canisters and rubber bullets at his home from the street below.

“The broken windows are all from gas and rubber bullets. I’m not getting new windows because I know they’re just going to break it again,” Abu Ramuz said.

Sitting just outside Jerusalem’s Old City walls, the Palestinian village of Silwan is at the foot of the third holiest site in Islam, the Haram al-Sharif, or Noble Sanctuary, which is known to Jews as the Temple Mount.

In recent years, the neighborhood has undergone a large-scale takeover by far-right Israeli organizations that are largely supported by the Israeli government and Jerusalem municipality.

A seven-floor illegal Israeli settlement called Beit Yonatan — which was built in 2004 by extreme right-wing settler group Ateret Cohanim, and which even the Israeli state prosecutor has said needs to be vacated as soon as possible — is also only a few meters away from where Abu Ramuz and his neighbors live.

Intense clashes erupted in the Baten al-Hawa area shortly after resident Samer Sarhan was shot and killed by an Israeli settler security guard last September. Since then, Israeli police and soldiers have routinely arrested residents — especially children — on the suspicion of throwing stones.

The situation deteriorated even further in early January 2011, when an Israeli soldier on the Baten al-Hawa rooftop urinated in front of a Palestinian woman who was trying to hang her laundry there.

During the clashes between Palestinians and Israeli soldiers that ensued, the military forgot a crate of tear gas grenades and other ammunition on the rooftop, and it ended up in the possession of Palestinian youth.

Palestinian residents quickly returned the weapons, yet police and other Israeli security forces conducted nighttime raids and arrests in response to the embarrassing misstep.

From this point on, residents of the building have been banned from accessing the roof.

Children traumatized by military presence

According to building residents that agreed to speak to The Electronic Intifada, children living in the building have exhibited signs of trauma as a result of these sustained attacks, including bed-wetting, loss of interest in school and even a fear of leaving their homes.

“My children are afraid to leave the house. [My four-year-old daughter] is afraid to go to school,” explained Muhammadeia, a mother of six children between the ages of 1 and 13, from her living room.

“It’s very, very hard. My children are always shouting, crying and choking when the soldiers shoot tear gas. I have to close the windows all the time,” she added.

Nasrine Fakouri, a Palestinian mother of five children who lives on the third floor of the building, echoed that sentiment.

“My children used to get perfect grades and they started failing. They’re not even going to school,” explained Fakouri, adding that she was forced to quit her job as a secretary at a local hospital in order to take care of her children, who are now too afraid to leave the house even to go play outside.

Fakouri’s 13-year-old son Hamzi missed the past week of school because he had to undergo surgery as a result of a sound grenade that exploded too close to him.

“They’re not willing to let us live like normal kids,” Hamzi said quietly, on the couch in his living room. “I tell [my siblings] not to be afraid and to keep their heads high.”

Fakouri added that the most difficult aspect of the situation is having tear gas thrown into her home.

“The gas is killing us here. The soldiers even throw gas down the stairwell. I tell [the children] to hide, to use onions on their face to relieve the stinging, and to be very careful,” she said. “Why do the [Israeli] settlers have so many guards while we don’t have anyone? No one is protecting our children.”

Forced out of Silwan

Fakouri said that after months of living in a near-permanent state of fear, her family now has no choice but to leave their home.

“I don’t think I will be able to come back to Silwan. Never,” she said, sitting next to nine packed cardboard boxes that were stacked in front of her livingroom window. “I don’t want to come back. Nobody should live here. It’s horrible.”

Fakouri explained that her family would soon be moving to Jabel Mukaber, a neighborhood in the southern part of East Jerusalem in the direction of Bethlehem. She said that she is afraid that the Israeli military or police will take over the apartment once they leave, however.

She added that she lost a child during her fifth month of pregnancy last year because of what she said was the overwhelming stress incurred by constant Israeli military harassment.

“I’m pregnant again and I don’t want the same thing to happen,” Fakouri said. “We want to leave but we also feel sad about the neighbors that have to stay and deal with it. We just want a peaceful and quiet life and to be able to raise our children.”

Abid Abu Ramuz, for his part, said that despite owning his apartment, he and his family would also likely be forced out because of the Israeli military.

“I don’t want to leave the house, but if the situation continues, I might have to for the sake of my children,” he said. “I’ll have to leave. This is what they want. They want everybody to just leave.”

“I hope [this interview] will get to everybody in the world and that people will start doing something about it,” Abu Ramuz added. “This would not be allowed anywhere else in the world. This is a crime.”

~

Originally from Montreal, Jillian Kestler-D’Amours is a reporter and documentary filmmaker based in occupied East Jerusalem. More of her work can be found at http://jilldamours.wordpress.com.

February 18, 2011 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation, Timeless or most popular | Comments Off on Families forced out as army occupies Jerusalem rooftop

Anatomy of Egypt’s Revolution (Part Two)

By ESAM AL-AMIN | CounterPunch | February 18, 2011

“What do we mean by the Revolution? The war? That was no part of the revolution; it was only an effect and consequence of it. The revolution was in the minds of the people.”

— John Adams in an 1815 letter to Thomas Jefferson

Historians and political scientists study revolutions and analyze their impact, not only on their societies, where the political, economic, and social order is fundamentally transformed, but also on neighboring countries and beyond.

The Egyptian revolution, though still in its infancy, promises to be such a phenomenon. Admitting its historic nature was none other than the U.S. President, Barack Obama, who lauded the Egyptians as having “inspired us,” and praised their revolution, which he said represented a “moral force that bent the arc of history toward justice.”

He further added, “The word Tahrir means liberation. It’s a word that speaks to that something in our souls that cries out for freedom.” He went on to describe the momentous event and its impact on the world, saying, “And forever more it will remind us of the Egyptian people-of what they did, of the things that they stood for, and how they changed their country, and in doing so changed the world.”

Like similar great historical events, the triumph of the Egyptian revolution will have direct and significant consequences on the country, the region, and the world. Unsurprisingly some of the conditions that factored considerably in the success of the revolution have now become facts on the ground, such as the larger role of youth and women in politics and public life. Thus they are discussed here as well. Here are some of the most important consequences of Egypt’s revolution.

The role of the people: For many decades, the Egyptian people have been marginalized and their interests ignored. Since 1981, the deposed president had ruled the country based on the state of emergency law, which virtually suspended most of the people’s civil rights and political freedoms.

It had built an enormous security apparatus using a convoluted, multilayered system that included uniformed, riot, and secret police, as well as intelligence officers and the dreaded state security personnel, consisting of well over one million people nationwide. The regime ruled by fear and intimidation, employing wide use of brutal tactics including torture and summary military trials that sentenced opponents to long years of hard labor based on political beliefs.

Dr. Ahmad Okasha, president of the Egyptian Psychological Society explained that throughout the Mubarak years “the collective psyche of the Egyptian people was damaged.” Furthermore, he added, “the majority of the people were in a deep state of depression.” They felt insulted and abused by the authorities, powerless to change anything in society, literally strangers in their own country.

So what the revolution offered the people was the opportunity to restore their sense of self-esteem, honor and dignity. Once the fear barrier was knocked down, they acquired a new sense of pride and empowerment that not only challenged the state monopoly on violence but also defeated it using solely peaceful means. With each passing day they became more determined to fight for their rights and quite willing to tender the sacrifices needed to gain their freedom.

Hence, once the people realized their enormous collective power and what they are capable of achieving, they never looked back and would not be disregarded again.

The role of the youth: By sucking the air out of the political space, the deposed regime employed all of its resources to divert the attention of the youth and channel their energies into non-threatening matters such as sports competitions (recall the Algerian-Egyptian conflict that consumed the country last year, lasting for months because of a soccer game) or exhaust people by encouraging mass consumerism.

But since the youth have played a significant role in setting off and sustaining the revolution, their role in society will never be the same. Egyptian youth under 35 represent over 60 per cent of society, yet before the revolution they were not taken seriously nor given much credit.

Now, not only are they part of the most significant event in their modern history but they will also have a seat at the table to determine their country’s future. Already they are a major part of every organization, coalition, and committee appointed or elected to determine the next state of affairs in the country. The ruling military council has already met with their representatives several times. All opposition groups have welcomed them in their parties, offering them leadership positions.

The role of women: Similarly, the women of Egypt have played a major role in this revolution. They demonstrated in large numbers, and were essential organizers, leaders, and spokespersons during all phases of the revolution, including during the most difficult times when they came under physical attack by the security forces and thugs of the ruling party.

They posted the calls for mobilization and uploaded their video blogs on the internet. They distributed leaflets and urged their neighborhoods to protest. They were subsequently beaten, injured, and some even sacrificed their lives. They chanted and led demonstrations against the regime.

Some were doctors, working side by side with their male counterparts treating thousands of the injured in the streets. They were part of the protection and security committees, patting down female protesters to ensure their safety. In short, they were part of every important function of the revolution. The women of Egypt have found their voices and will never return to the margins of society again.

The rejection of sectarianism: One of the most tried and successful techniques of authoritarian regimes is to exploit the major fault lines in society, sparking religious, ethnic, and racial tensions. The deposed regime has often played up and sometimes even instigated the Muslim-Coptic tension in Egypt.

The former regime is even implicated in an incident earlier this year. Egypt’s state prosecutor is currently investigating the role of the Interior Minister and the state security apparatus in last month’s bombing of a Coptic church in Alexandria that killed dozens of people. The attack exacerbated the religious divide and threatened social cohesiveness.

However, the revolution has demonstrated in no uncertain terms the popular rejection of sectarianism, as Muslim and Christian communities joined together as fellow citizens protesting the repression and corruption of the regime that has afflicted them all. They marched, sang, chanted, and prayed together. They shared meals and defended each other. Millions of Egyptians witnessed a Muslim imam and a Coptic priest speaking together on the importance of national unity in Tahrir Square.

Ahmad Ragab, a prominent columnist and political cartoonist, observed that when he saw in Tahrir Square a Christian woman pouring water to help a Muslim man make ablution in preparation for prayer, he knew then that the revolution was to succeed.

Prominent Muslim Brotherhood (MB) leaders praised and defended the Copts while Coptic leaders hailed them in return for their cooperation and sacrifices. Egyptians now believe a new dawn of Muslim-Coptic relations has emerged based on mutual respect and shared citizenship.

The revival of a value-based moral system: Throughout the eighteen days of protests people who were interviewed at Tahrir Square and elsewhere kept referring to a new atmosphere and new attitudes by the people. They talked with pride about the civilized behavior displayed by the demonstrators.

People genuinely cared for and respected one another. They shared their meals and helped each other without expecting any compensation. They felt like they were part of one family. Although millions of people were in the square, there were no reports of fights or robberies. Young women spoke about how young men shielded them from the batons or the rubber bullets of the security forces, or the stones and Molotov cocktails from the goons of the ruling party.

The organizers took pride in the fact that all decisions of the activities of the revolution were based on mutual consultation and democratic principles. Every organizer and group was given the opportunity to voice his or her opinion and vote.

Thus, a new code, dubbed the “revolutionary ethical code,” was established and recognized by all. It encompasses values such as freedom, justice, equality, democracy, participation, solidarity, honesty, transparency, responsibility, and sacrifice- values, which many people had abandoned before the revolution upon feeling that they had no stake in a society ruled by bullies, thieves, and crooks.

The end of dictatorship: The downfall of Hosni Mubarak is not just the ouster of a dictator, but the end of an era that was marked by authoritarianism and cronyism. Egyptians believe strongly that this era is over and can never return.

They have learned that their strength was demonstrated in the streets and they no longer fear any threats by the security forces. If need be, they are willing to go back to the streets by the millions to stand up to the repression of the state. They believe that if they were able to topple Mubarak in eighteen days, they could bring down any future dictator. But they have pledged not to allow any future leader to become one in the first place.

The appreciation of freedom: Millions of Egyptians celebrated and cried with joy when Mubarak resigned on the night of February 11. As reporters from all over the world interviewed countless people dancing in the streets one word came out of their mouths: “we are free.” There is nothing more precious in life than gaining one’s freedom after being shackled by a repressive system or enslaved by a brutal dictator.

The power of this revolution is that it freed the people of Egypt from the yoke of tyranny. Once people taste freedom, it is next to impossible to deny them that exhilarating feeling.

Spreading a culture of democracy: An important consequence of the Egyptian revolution is that, unlike earlier uprisings or protests in Egypt such as the ones in 1968 or 1977, the people’s priority from the inception of this revolution has not only been to topple the regime but also to replace it with a democratic system and a strong civil society.

All opposition parties, including the MB, but especially the movements dominated by the youth, have pledged to honor and practice the rules of a democratic system.  They have displayed extraordinary examples of adhering to a culture of democracy as diverse groups came together, united in their political goals but quite different in their tactics. Despite their many differences, they were able to maintain discipline and unity. Majority rule prevailed.

Examining the demands of the revolution, it is clear that spreading a culture of democratic governance was at the center of most of them. Some examples include: a political system based on checks and balances, an independent judiciary, freedom of the press, freedom of expression, guarantee of individual freedoms, human and civil rights, free elections, peaceful transfer of power, right to form political parties, transparency in governance, and equal economic opportunity.

Asserting Independence: Since at least the late 1970s, the U.S. has declared that Egypt was its “strategic partner.” This was a euphemism for Egypt becoming a client state for the U.S. in exchange for $64 billion in direct aid over three decades, and another $18 billion in debt relief. Most of this aid did not directly help the Egyptian people but was for the benefit of the military as well as the regime’s cronies.

Egyptians saw in horror how their country’s foreign policy was subjugated to U.S. interests to the detriment of Egyptian interests or their Arab obligations. They were frustrated throughout this period to see the stature and influence of their proud country dwindle, as Egypt became a tool of American foreign policy.

In all issues, such as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Palestinian infighting, Gaza, Iraq, Afghanistan, counter-terrorism, Lebanon, Iran, Libya, or Sudan, Mubarak’s Egypt was sure to act as the enabler of U.S. foreign policy at the expense of its own national security.

For instance, it was Mubarak who led the efforts to block all Arab peace initiatives to end the crisis in the first Gulf war and thus enabled the U.S. to wage war against a fellow Arab country with devastating consequences. Similarly, it was the capitulation of Mubarak on nuclear non-proliferation in the Middle East in order to please the U.S. that allowed Israel to maintain its nuclear arsenals cost free. He was a full partner with the U.S. and Israel in the siege on Gaza depriving 1.5 million Palestinians from basic livelihood.

In all likelihood, revolutionary Egypt will not be a U.S. client state. Once a civilian democratic and transparent government is in place, Egypt will resort to its historic role of being a leader of the Arab world as well as in Africa, the Muslim world, and the lesser-developed countries more broadly.

Once Egypt’s independence is asserted by its new democratically elected officials, unjust and biased U.S. or Western policies would be challenged. No longer will the wishes of the Egyptian people be ignored for the benefit of one person, or stifled for the interest of a foreign power.

Supporting the Palestinian Cause: Clearly, the 1979 Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty has been one between the leaders, not the peoples. The reason the experts consider it a “cold peace” is because the Egyptian people never believed that Israel wanted or promoted peace. They believe that the Zionist state sought to neutralize Egypt from the conflict so as to annex more Arab territory, especially in the West Bank, Jerusalem, and the Golan Heights.

Throughout three decades Israel felt secure enough from its southern flank that it twice crushed the Palestinian uprisings in the occupied territories (1987-1991 and 2000-2003). Moreover, it invaded or bombed several Arab countries and capitals including Iraq (1981), Lebanon (1982, 2006), Tunisia (1988), Syria (2007), and Gaza (2008-09). Thousands of fellow Arab civilians, especially in the Palestinian occupied territories and Lebanon were massacred without the people of Egypt even having the ability to protest in the streets.

Egyptians were not even allowed to object to Egypt’s sovereignty in the Sinai being stripped under the 1979 treaty.  Despite a court order in 2007, they could not stop Egypt’s natural gas from being shipped and sold to Israel with a huge subsidy at a seventy per hcent discount. Meanwhile, in 2009 their government was building an underground iron barrier, financed by the U.S, to seal the border with Gaza, while closing the Rafah crossing to maintain the illegal siege against the people of Gaza.

According to a recent Jerusalem Post report, the Egyptian April 6 youth movement, which played a major role in the revolution, said that if “the military doesn’t meet our demands, we’ll be on the street again.” Among the group’s demands was “the halting of natural gas shipments to Israel.”

The Israeli prime minster is right to worry about Egypt’s foreign policy after Mubarak. His long honeymoon (and Palestinian nightmare) is most probably over. Most of the Egyptian opposition groups strongly support Palestinian rights and detest the Israeli government’s policies.

For example, when the Egyptian Coalition for Change was formed in April 2009, the members of the coalition included the April 6 movement, the Kifaya movement, al-Karama, al-Wasat, and individual members of the Muslim Brotherhood. This coalition was the nucleus of the January 25 revolution. One of their planks was the annulment of the Camp David Accords.

This may not happen overnight though. But if Israel continues to maintain its occupation, apartheid regime, and aggressive policies against the Palestinians, it might come to pass, slowly but surely. Once formed, the new democratic government in Egypt will no longer be relied upon to do Israel’s bidding, nor will it be susceptible to the pressure of the Israel lobby via the U.S. government.

Furthermore, Israel’s underlings within the Palestinian Authority are certain to be severely weakened, as they can no longer depend on Egypt’s support against other Palestinian factions. Israel can no longer announce an invasion against Gaza from Cairo like it did in December 2008.

In short, a major shift in the strategic equation of the Arab-Israeli conflict and the entire Middle East has just taken place as a direct consequence of the Egyptian revolution.

Influencing the Arab World and the region: Undoubtedly, the success of Egypt’s revolution in the aftermath of Tunisia’s has already had a tremendous influence not only on the rest of the Arab World, but also on the entire world especially, Muslim countries.

To date, similar protests have swept Yemen, Jordan, Bahrain, Algeria, Libya, and Iraq. Other countries are also threatened, including Syria, Morocco, Mauritania, and the Sudan. The common refrain in all of these protests is Egypt’s common chant “The people demand the fall of the regime.” Pro-Western groups in Lebanon have lost their power as Saad Hariri’s government was dissolved. Hezbollah and its coalition partners have now assumed the upper hand in forming a new government.

Yet if some regimes survive the massive protests underway through repressive measures or far-reaching reforms, the Arab World will still never be the same. Because of Egypt’s tremendous influence in the region, most Arab governments would have to move toward more freedom, democratic governance, and transparency over the coming months and years.

These changes might result in either a major shift in U.S. and Western foreign policy especially with regard to the Palestinian cause, or lead to a serious rift between the West and the people of the region to the detriment of the interests of the former.

The role of the military and security forces: One of the major consequences of the revolution is the redefining of the role of the security forces in Egyptian society and the consolidation of the military’s function.

By maintaining a state of fear for decades, the security forces have already lost their credibility and effectiveness with the people. Justifiably, the revolutionary powers are demanding to reconstitute these forces on the basis of a new social contract within a democratic society.

Under instruction from the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, the Interior Ministry has already pledged to re-train its officers, and re-orient its mission to the “Police is in the Service of the Public,” rather than the security of the regime. Still a huge demonstration by many deserters of the security officers took place demanding the arrest and trial of the former Interior Minister, blaming him for much of the violence and repressive policies of the past.

But regardless of whether these expressions of remorse are genuine or not, the relationship between the people and the security apparatus will never resort back to its prior master-slave relationship.

As for the military, it has maintained its historic position of not attacking or shooting at its citizens. It is now well established that during his waning days Mubarak wanted the army to intervene on behalf of the regime to suppress the protests as the security forces were being pushed back. But the military, to its credit, refused and remained neutral, even pledging to defend the protesters.

If the military were to fulfill its pledge to transfer power to a civilian rule within six months after democratic elections, it will then have solidified its reputation with the Egyptian people as the last protector of their rights and freedoms.

Undeniably, the Egyptian revolution, with its peaceful, disciplined, and civilized attitudes, has become an inspiration to people around the globe. As Martin Luther King Jr. once observed “A true revolution of values will lay hands on the world.”

Egypt’s revolution is not only destined to touch the world, it has already been embraced by it.

~

Part One can be found here.

Esam Al-Amin can be reached at alamin1919@gmail.com

February 18, 2011 Posted by | Civil Liberties, False Flag Terrorism, Solidarity and Activism, Timeless or most popular | , , | 1 Comment

Curveball and the Trucks

By Malcom Lagauche | February 17, 2011

The recent news that the person nicknamed “Curveball” lied to German authorities before the March 2003 invasion of Iraq is making headlines. The media make this sound like it is Earth-shattering. Even some CIA officials expressed shock and dismay at his current confession. How disingenuous. At the time of his revelations, even a nitwit could tell he was lying. Here is a chapter from my book The Mother of All Battles: The Endless U.S.-Iraq War that was released in October 2008. Currently, Powell is on a speaking tour of the US in which he tells how to become successful and rich. If one uses his formula, it is quite uncomplicated: lie and kill a few million people.

A couple of 15-year-old vehicles made world headlines in 2002. At first, the U.S. and British administrations heralded them as conclusive proof of Iraq concealing biological weapons. We all heard of the Iraqi “mobile germ factories” that traveled the highways of the country to keep from getting discovered. Dick Cheney said that inside these vehicles the most devastating germs were being manufactured and the Iraqis were going to pelt the east coast of the U.S. with a deadly brew that would kill millions. Cheney maintained that these germ weapons would be carried by secret drone aircraft that Iraq was developing.

Actually, there were a few drones being manufactured in Iraq and the Iraqis showed them to the world. They were made of balsa wood, had a range of about 25 miles and were used for mapping purposes. The east coast of the U.S. was a few thousand miles out of their range.

The actual importance of the two vehicles, alleged to be biological weapons factories, is minuscule, but their use for propaganda and the subsequent discovery that they were only used to pump hydrogen into weather balloons, put them on center-stage in world affairs.

The April 12, 2006 edition of the Washington Post ran a feature article, “Lacking Biolabs, Trailers Carried Case for War,” that brought back the subject the administration would rather the world forget. According to the article:

On May 29, 2003, 50 days after the fall of Baghdad, President Bush proclaimed a fresh victory for his administration in Iraq: Two small trailers captured by U.S. troops had turned out to be long-sought mobile “biological laboratories.” He declared, “We have found the weapons of mass destruction.”

The claim, repeated by top administration officials for months afterward, was hailed at the time as a vindication of the decision to go to war. But even as Bush spoke, U.S. intelligence officials possessed powerful evidence that it was not true.

A secret fact-finding mission to Iraq — not made public until now — had already concluded that the trailers had nothing to do with biological weapons. Leaders of the Pentagon-sponsored mission transmitted their unanimous findings to Washington in a field report on May 27, 2003, two days before the president’s statement.

The administration wasted no time in turning the issue around. At a hastily-called press conference, presidential spokesman Scott McClellan accused the media of unfair reporting. He did not answer questions about whether Bush knew of the results of the team of experts. If Bush did not know the information, McClellan would have quickly come forth with a reply. In this instance, silence seemed to be damning.

In addition to not being forthright with the issue, McClellan demanded an apology from the press for running the article. According to the Associated Press article “White House Defends Stand on Iraqi Trailers:”

McClellan dismissed the Post article and a report based on it that aired on ABC News Wednesday morning as irresponsible. He said ABC News should apologize and took issue with the way the Post story was written.

In 2002, these trucks took on a life of their own. They became dastardly vehicles to be used to cause a cataclysmic event in the U.S. that would be unprecedented in history. During this time, the Iraqi government had publicly stated that the trucks were used to fill weather balloons with hydrogen, but the U.S. public was told that you can’t trust the Iraqis because they lie and the U.S. doesn’t.

By November 2002, reports of these trucks, fueled by White House propaganda, began appearing in newspapers and magazines. Even the UCLA School of Public Health jumped on the bandwagon to create paranoia. On November 17, 2002, it ran an article from the Los Angeles Times called “Inspectors to Scour Iraq for Mobile Weapons Labs.” It was published in the “Bioterrorism” section of its website. Here are a few gems from the article:

* Rumbling along Iraq’s highways or threading their way through crowded streets, these mobile weapons labs may look like ice cream trucks, motor homes or 18-wheeler tractor trailer trucks, officials and experts say. But their cargo is believed to be germ agents such as anthrax, botulinum toxin and aflatoxin that theoretically could kill hundreds of thousands in an attack.

* Dubbed “Winnebagos of death,” the anonymous vehicles are hard to locate, even with sophisticated sensors.

* If the labs evade detection, U.S. intelligence analysts fear, the officers or scientists who operate them might try to use germ agents in a desperate counterattack or spirit the materials away to sell to terrorists or foreign governments.

* If such materials fall into the hands of a group such as Al Qaeda, that would turn the military campaign into what “could be the greatest proliferation disaster in history,” said Daniel Benjamin, a former National Security Council official and co-author of The Age of Secret Terror.

* The British and German governments, and the CIA and Pentagon, have all asserted the existence of the mobile labs in separate reports this year.

Here’s what Colin Powell said of the two trucks in his infamous deluge of lies he told the world in February 2003 at the U.N.:

* Iraq’s mobile BW program began in the mid-1990s — this is reportedly when the units were being designed.

* The source was an eyewitness, an Iraqi chemical engineer who supervised one of these facilities.

* Iraq manufactured mobile trailers and railcars to produce biological agents, which were designed to evade U.N. weapons inspectors. Agent production reportedly occurred Thursday night through Friday when the U.N. did not conduct inspections in observance of the Moslem holy day.

* An accident occurred in 1998 during a production run, which killed 12 technicians — an indication that Iraq was producing a BW agent at that time.

The CIA issued a report on May 28, 2003, without the knowledge of the secret team’s assessment of the truth behind the trucks, that smacked of the same preposterous allegations made by almost every pro-war reporter or politician in the Western world. Here is the overview of the report titled “Iraqi Mobile Biological Warfare Agent Production Plants:”

Coalition forces have uncovered the strongest evidence to date that Iraq was hiding a biological warfare program.

The design, equipment, and layout of the trailer found in late April is strikingly similar to descriptions provided by a source who was a chemical engineer that managed one of the mobile plants. Secretary of State Powell’s description of the mobile plants in his speech in February 2003 to the United Nations was based primarily on reporting from this source.

Both Powell and the CIA cite an Iraqi chemical engineer who supposedly worked on the trucks and also told of 12 deaths. This source was discredited long before either Powell or the CIA used his bogus testimony.

An Iraqi who defected to Germany in 1999 was the originator of these falsehoods. His given nickname was “Curveball,” a designation of his slippery and swerving testimony. After the Germans heard the lies, they contacted the CIA with the information, but told the U.S. intelligence organization that he could not be trusted and said they would not give any credence to his information. The Germans described Curveball as a person not living in Iraq and as an “out of control” and mentally deranged alcoholic. One CIA report stated that Curveball was “a con artist who drove a taxi in Iraq.” This description was not seen by many because the neocon Office of Special Plans overrode CIA information when it deemed it necessary to keep the war plans on schedule.

Curveball was a drunken liar who was paid to say things that the U.S. wanted to hear. He gained an easy payday for a while and then was taken off the payroll when it was discovered he was a fraud. The U.S. failed to listen to the Germans about Curveball’s dubious character.

On June 15, 2003, British newspapers wrote the truth about the two trucks and caused great embarrassment to Tony Blair because he went along with the U.S. script on the use of the vehicles. According to the Observer, in an article titled “Iraqi Mobile Labs Nothing To Do With Germ Warfare, Report Finds:”

An official British investigation into two trailers found in northern Iraq has concluded they are not mobile germ warfare labs, as was claimed by Tony Blair and President George Bush, but were for the production of hydrogen to fill artillery balloons, as the Iraqis continued to insist.

A British scientist and biological weapons expert, who has examined the trailers in Iraq, told the Observer last week, “They are not mobile germ warfare laboratories. You could not use them for making biological weapons. They do not even look like them. They are exactly what the Iraqis said they were — facilities for the production of hydrogen gas to fill balloons.”

Never have two old beaten up trucks gained the mythical status of the two Iraqi vehicles used for producing hydrogen. Millions and millions of dollars were spent on propaganda that elevated their standing to that of world-threatening devices that could kill millions of people instantly. An unknown Iraqi drunkard had his 15 minutes of fame and improved his finances immensely because of the trucks. More than a million Iraqi lives were lost because of the lies used to describe them.

On March 13, 2007, ABC News ran a story about Curveball. Despite people knowing of his real identity and calling for caution in 2003 about his testimony, the ABC report shocked much of the U.S. population because they had never heard of Curveball.

Powell got much mileage from Curveball’s lies at the U.N. in February 2003 when he told the world of the dastardly Iraqi mobile biological weapons factories. During the March 13, 2007 ABC News report, the commentator mentioned Powell’s assessment of the old story turned new. According to ABC News, “Powell said he is furious with what happened and his former chief of staff says he feels deceived.”

The perpetrator became the victim. Powell could have refused to bring up the mobile biological weapons factories (years later, he said he was not convinced with the information), but he put on an Academy Award performance in front of the world. That presentation led to the destruction of a country and the deaths of more than a million Iraqis and thousands of U.S. military personnel. These facts did not bother him as he worried only about his image and legacy.

While speaking to the U.N. in February 2003, Colin Powell told the world that Iraq’s mobile BW program began in the mid-1990s and that was the time the trucks were being designed. In reality, they were sold to the Iraqi army by the British firm Marconi Command and Control in 1987 as trucks to carry and fill weather balloons.

Depiction of Iraqi mobile biological weapons trucks as described by Colin Powell in February 2003.

According to his testimony, each truck had two accompanying vehicles to help produce the lethal agents.

February 18, 2011 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , | Comments Off on Curveball and the Trucks

Obama’s 2012 Budget, A Tool for Class War

By PAUL CRAIG ROBERTS | CounterPunch | February 18, 2011

Obama’s new budget is a continuation of Wall Street’s class war against the poor and middle class.  Wall Street wasn’t through with us when the banksters sold their fraudulent derivatives into our pension funds, wrecked Americans’ job prospects and retirement plans, secured a $700 billion bailout at taxpayers’ expense while foreclosing on the homes of millions of Americans, and loaded up the Federal Reserve’s balance sheet with several trillion dollars of junk financial paper in exchange for newly created money to shore up the banks’ balance sheets.  The effect of the Federal Reserve’s “quantitative easing” on inflation, interest rates, and the dollar’s foreign exchange value are yet to hit.  When they do, Americans will get a lesson in poverty.

Now the ruling oligarchies have struck again, this time through the federal budget. The U.S. government has a huge military/security budget.  It is as large as the budgets of the rest of the world combined. The Pentagon, CIA, and Homeland Security budgets account for the $1.1 trillion federal deficit that the Obama administration forecasts for fiscal year 2012. This massive deficit spending serves only one purpose–the enrichment of the private companies that serve the military/security complex. These companies, along with those on Wall Street, are who elect the U.S. government.

The U.S. has no enemies except those that the U.S. creates by bombing and invading other countries and by overthrowing foreign leaders and installing American puppets in their place.

China does not conduct naval exercises off the California coast, but the U.S. conducts war games in the China Sea off China’s coast. Russia does not mass troops on Europe’s borders, but the U.S. places missiles on Russia’s borders. The U.S. is determined to create as many enemies as possible in order to continue its bleeding of the American population to feed the ravenous military/security complex.

The U.S. government actually spends $56 billion a year, that is, $56,000 million, in order that American air travelers can be porno-scanned and sexually groped so that firms represented by former Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff can make large profits selling the scanning equipment.

With a perpetual budget deficit driven by the military/security complex’s desire for profits, the real cause of America’s enormous budget deficit is off-limits for discussion.

The U.S. Secretary of War-Mongering, Robert Gates, declared: “We shrink from our global security responsibilities at our peril.” The military brass warns of cutting any of the billions of aid to Israel and Egypt, two functionaries for its Middle East “policy.”

But what are “our” global security responsibilities?  Where did they come from?  Why would America be at peril if America stopped bombing and invading other countries and interfering in their internal affairs?  The perils America faces are all self-created.

The answer to this question used to be that otherwise we would be murdered in our beds by “the worldwide communist conspiracy.”  Today the answer is that we will be murdered in our airplanes, train stations, and shopping centers by “Muslim terrorists” and by a newly created imaginary threat–”domestic extremists,” that is, war protesters and environmentalists.

The U.S. military/security complex is capable of creating any number of false flag events in order to make these threats seem real to a public whose intelligence is limited to TV, shopping mall experiences, and football games.

So Americans are stuck with enormous budget deficits that the Federal Reserve must finance by printing new money, money that sooner or later will destroy the purchasing power of the dollar and its role as world reserve currency.  When the dollar goes, American power goes.

For the ruling oligarchies, the question is: how to save their power.

Their answer is: make the people pay.

And that is what their latest puppet, President Obama, is doing.

With the U.S. in the worst recession since the Great Depression, a great recession that John Williams and Gerald Celente, along with myself, have said is deepening, the “Obama budget” takes aim at support programs for the poor and out-of-work.  The American elites are transforming themselves into idiots as they seek to replicate in America the conditions that have led to the overthrows of similarly corrupt elites in Tunisia and Egypt and mounting challenges to U.S. puppet governments elsewhere.

All we need is a few million more Americans with nothing to lose in order to bring the disturbances in the Middle East home to America. With the U.S. military bogged down in wars abroad, an American revolution would have the best chance of success.

American politicians have to fund Israel as the money returns in campaign contributions.

The U.S. government must fund the Egyptian military if there is to be any hope of turning the next Egyptian government into another American puppet that will serve Israel by continuing the blockade of the Palestinians herded into the Gaza ghetto.

These goals are far more important to the American elite than Pell Grants that enable poor Americans to obtain an education, or clean water, or community block grants, or the low income energy assistance program (cut by the amount that U.S. taxpayers are forced to give to Israel).

There are also $7,700 million of cuts in Medicaid and other health programs over the next five years.

Given the magnitude of the U.S. budget deficit, these sums are a pittance. The cuts will have no effect on U.S. Treasury financing needs.  They will put no brakes on the Federal Reserve’s need to print money in order to keep the U.S. government in operation.

These cuts serve one purpose: to further the Republican Party’s myth that America is in economic trouble because of the poor:  The poor are shiftless. They won’t work. The only reason unemployment is high is that the poor had rather be on welfare.

A new addition to the welfare myth is that recent middle class college graduates won’t take the jobs offered them, because their parents have too much money, and the kids like living at home without having to do anything. A spoiled generation, they come out of university refusing any job that doesn’t start out as CEO of a Fortune 500 company.  The reason that engineering graduates do not get job interviews is that they do not want them.

What all this leads to is an assault on “entitlements”, which means Social Security and Medicare. The elites have programmed, through their control of the media, a large part of the population, especially those who think of themselves as conservatives, to conflate  “entitlements” with welfare.  America is going to hell not because of foreign wars that serve no American purpose, but because people, who have paid 15 per cent  of their payroll all their lives for old age pensions and medical care, want “handouts” in their retirement years. Why do these selfish people think that working Americans should be forced through payroll taxes to pay for the pensions and medical care of the retirees?  Why didn’t the retirees consume less and prepare for their own retirement?

The elite’s line, and that of their hired spokespersons in “think tanks” and universities, is that America is in trouble because of its retirees.

Too many Americans have been brainwashed to believe that America is in trouble because of its poor and its retirees.  America is not in trouble because it coerces a dwindling number of taxpayers to support the military/security complex’s enormous profits, American puppet governments abroad, and Israel.

The American elite’s solution for America’s problems is not merely to foreclose on the homes of Americans whose jobs were sent offshore, but to add to the numbers of distressed Americans with nothing to lose the sick and the dispossessed retirees, and the university graduates who cannot find jobs that have been sent to Chine and India.

Of all the countries in the world, none need a revolution as bad as the United States, a country ruled by a handful of selfish oligarchs who have more income and wealth than can be spent in a lifetime.

~

Paul Craig Roberts was an editor of the Wall Street Journal and an Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Treasury.  His latest book, HOW THE ECONOMY WAS LOST, has just been published by CounterPunch/AK Press. He can be reached at: PaulCraigRoberts@yahoo.com

February 18, 2011 Posted by | Deception, Economics, Militarism, Progressive Hypocrite, Timeless or most popular, Wars for Israel | 1 Comment

Tens of thousands mourn Bahraini victims

Press TV – February 18, 2011

Tens of thousands of furious Bahrainis have participated in mass funerals for anti-government protesters killed by security forces on Thursday.

The funeral of two men killed by police began in the Shia village of Sitra, east of Manama, on Friday, Press TV correspondent reported.

The burial ceremonies of two others are to take place after the noon prayers.

The mourners chanted anti-government slogans and called for national unity against the government.

The state-funded BBC dubbed the demonstrations, “The biggest anti-government protests since last week.”

On Thursday, at least four protesters were killed, 67 have gone missing and about 230 others were reported injured after Bahraini security forces stormed a protest camp in Pearl Square in downtown Manama and fired tear gas and rubber bullets at demonstrators.

Medical sources believe that most of those missing are dead.

Bahraini protesters have renamed the square as Tahrir Square, after the square in Egypt that became the focal point of pro-democracy protests, leading to Hosni Mubarak’s ouster.

Later in the day, eighteen members of the Bahrain parliament resigned from their posts in a show of rage against the violent crackdown against pro-democracy demonstrators in the Persian Gulf kingdom.

However, after that, Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa praised the military for its nighttime crackdown on pro-democracy protesters.

The king paid a visit to the Defense Force General Command on Thursday and discussed the raid as well as his government’s ongoing strategy with Commander-in-Chief Marshal Shaikh Khalifa bin Ahmed Al Khalifa and top-ranking defense officials.

He later addressed troops and praised them for their “bravery and readiness to assume their national duties.”

The Bahraini army has warned protesters not to take to the streets. It has threatened to do whatever it takes to maintain security.

The government is trying to quell the protests, which have been inspired by the revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt.

The magnitude of the pro-democracy protests in Bahrain is unprecedented in the history of the kingdom and the authorities’ efforts to quell them have so far been ineffective.

The demonstrators are demanding a new constitution that would move the country toward democracy and limit the king’s powers.

Bahrain is ruled by a royal family that has been blamed for discrimination against the country’s majority Shia population — accounting for 70 percent of the total population.

Protesters have called on the Bahraini king to fire his uncle, Khalifa bin Salman al-Khalifa, who has been the country’s prime minister since 1971.

Meanwhile, foreign ministers from the (Persian) Gulf Cooperation Council held an emergency meeting in Manama on Thursday night to discuss the latest developments in Bahrain.

The US Department of Defense has refused to condemn the Bahraini government’s crackdown on protesters, saying Washington is monitoring the developments in Bahrain.

The US Navy’s Fifth Fleet is based in the kingdom of Bahrain.

.

Al-Jazeera:

February 18, 2011 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Solidarity and Activism, Video | Comments Off on Tens of thousands mourn Bahraini victims

Army demolishes mosque in the Jordan valley

By Saed Bannoura – IMEMC & Agencies – February 18, 2011

Israeli soldiers demolished a mosque located in Khirbit Yirza, near the West Bank city of Tubas on Thursday, and also removed 10 tents used by farmers and shepherds in the area.

Local sources reported that several Israeli military jeeps invaded the village and demolished the mosque for the second time in six months.

After demolishing the mosque and the tents, soldiers also handed orders for the demolition of three homes and animal sheds.

Also, army bulldozers demolished ten tin-houses in Bardala area, near Tubas. This is the second attack of its nature against the village.

The ten tin-houses were initially demolished by the army several weeks ago, and the residents rebuilt them.

The area in question is in the Jordan valley, a main target to the construction of Jewish settlements due to the fertile nature of the lands and the sensitive geographic location.

February 18, 2011 Posted by | Aletho News | Comments Off on Army demolishes mosque in the Jordan valley