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‘Mad as Hell’ in Madison

By Ralph Nader | February 25, 2011

The large demonstrations at the state Capitol in Madison, Wisconsin are driven by a middle class awakening to the spectre of its destruction by the corporate reactionaries and their toady Governor Scott Walker.

For years the middle class has watched the plutocrats stomp on the poor while listening to the two parties regale the great middle class, but never mentioning the tens of millions of poor Americans. And for years, the middle class was shrinking due significantly to corporate globalization shipping good-paying jobs overseas to repressive dictatorships like China. It took Governor Walker’s legislative proposal to do away with most collective bargaining rights for most public employee unions to jolt people to hit the streets.

Republicans take rigged elections awash in corporatist campaign cash seriously. When they win, they aggressively move their corporate agenda, unlike the wishy-washy Democrats who flutter weakly after a victory. Republicans mean business. A ram rod wins against a straw all the time.

Governor Walker won his election, along with other Republicans in Wisconsin, on mass-media driven Tea Party rhetoric. His platform was deceitful enough to get the endorsement of the police, and firefighters unions, which the latter have now indignantly withdrawn.

These unions should have known better. The Walker Republicans were following the Reagan playbook. The air traffic controllers union endorsed Reagan in 1980. The next year he fired 12,000 of them during a labor dispute. (This made flying unnecessarily dangerous.)

Then Reagan pushed for tax cuts—primarily for the wealthy—which led to larger deficits to turn the screws on programs benefiting the people. Reagan, though years earlier opposed to corporate welfare, not only maintained these taxpayer subsidies but created a government deficit, over eight years, that was double that of all the accumulated deficits from George Washington to Jimmy Carter.

Maybe the unions that endorsed Walker will soon realize that not even being a “Reagan Democrat” will save them from being losers under the boot of the corporate supremacists.

The rumble of the people in Madison illustrates the following:

1. There is an ideological plan driving these corporatists. They create “useful crisis” and then hammer the unorganized people to benefit the wealthy classes. Governor Walker last year gave $140 million in tax breaks to corporations which produced the $137 million deficit for this fiscal year. Note this oft-repeated dynamic. President Obama caved to the Minority party Republicans in Congress last December by going along with the deficit-deepening extension of the huge dollar volume tax cuts for the rich. Now the Republicans want drastic cuts in programs that help the poor.

2. Whatever non-union or private union workers, who are giving ground or losing jobs, think of the sometimes better pay and benefits of unionized public employees, they need to close ranks without giving up their opposition to government waste. For corporate lobbyists and their corporate governments are going after all collective bargaining rights for all workers and they want to further weaken The National Labor Relations Board.

3. Whenever corporations and government want to cut workers’ incomes, the corporate tax abatements, bloated contracts, handouts and bailouts should be pulled into the public debate. What should go first?

4. For the public university students in these rallies, they might ponder their own tuition bills and high interest loans, compared to students in Western Europe, and question why they have to bear the burden of massive corporate welfare payouts—foodstamps for the rich. What should go first?

5. The bigger picture should be part of the more localized dispute. Governor Walker also wants weaker safety and environmental regulations, bargain-basement sell-outs of state public power plants and other taxpayer assets.

6. The mega-billionaire Koch brothers are in the news. They are bankrolling politicians and rump advocacy groups and funding media campaigns in Wisconsin and all over the country. Koch Industries designs and builds facilities for the natural gas industry. Neither the company nor the brothers like the publicity they deserve to get every time their role is exposed. Always put the spotlight on the backroom boys.

7. Focusing on the larger struggle between the people and the plutocracy should be part and parcel of every march, demonstration or any other kind of mass mobilization. The signs at the Madison rallies make the point, to wit—“2/3 of Wisconsin Corporations Pay No Taxes,” “Why Should Public Workers Pay For Wall Street’s Mess?”, “Corporate Greed Did the Deed.”

8. Look how little energy it took for these tens of thousands of people to sound the national alarm for hard-pressed Americans. Just showing up is democracy’s barn raiser. This should persuade people that a big start for a better America can begin with a little effort and a well-attended rally. Imagine what even more civic energy could produce!

Showing up lets people feel their potential power to subordinate corporatism to the sovereignty of the people. After all, the Constitution’s preamble begins with “We the People,” not “We the Corporations.” In fact, the founders never put the word “corporation” or “company” in our constitution which was designed for real people.

As for Governor Walker’s projected two-year $3.6 billion deficit, read what Jon Peacock of the respected nonprofit Wisconsin Budget Project writes at: http://www.wisconsinbudgetproject.org about how to handle the state budget without adopting the draconian measures now before the legislature.

February 25, 2011 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Solidarity and Activism | Comments Off on ‘Mad as Hell’ in Madison

‘Libya is not Egypt’

By Ahmed Moor | Mondoweiss | February 25, 2011

Like virtually every other sentient creature in the galaxy, I’ve been following the Arab revolutions closely. But unlike the “serious people who know better,” it hasn’t occurred to me that “Libya isn’t Egypt.”

At the outset of the revolutionary wave, several writers – most notably Stephen Walt – made the commonsense and sobering argument that revolutions are impossibly difficult to predict. And because cases of contagious revolutions are historically difficult to come by, there was no reason to believe that Tunisia would precipitate unrest in Egypt.

History has since deviated from its script and most of us have learned something new.

But not all of us. Today, Western talking-heads continue to belch the stale and meaningless trope that “Egypt isn’t Tunisia.” They shoot off this hackneyed, fragmented bit of cautionary “wisdom” into the world without taking a moment to seriously consider what it is they’re saying.

The triteness of much of the Western pundit class is annoying, but more importantly, it belies a deep ignorance of the Arab world and a willful denial of what the pundits themselves have witnessed firsthand.

The analytical framework through which many of us viewed the MENA region was transformed in the space of several weeks. Now we know that Tunisia is Egypt. And Tunisia is Libya. And if the citizens of those countries choose to make it so, Yemen will be Tunisia and so will Bahrain.

So why do the pundits in the West insist on pretending that the Saudi monarchy is not at least as vulnerable as Hosni Mubarak? Why do Western pundits refuse to adjust their analytical superstructures (never mind the analysis itself) to reality – and now – history? To be honest, I don’t know.

Maybe the cynical defeatism latent in the tired statement that “Libya isn’t Egypt” commands the most respect in the West. Sober minds know enough about the way the world works to sip gin with crossed legs while watching the rest of us wizen up…

In any case, I’m glad that the people who are fighting and dying in the Arab street – oops, streets – don’t really believe that Yemen isn’t Egypt. That’s been another lesson of the Arab revolutions: that while the Americans and Europeans don’t know a whole lot about the Middle East, it doesn’t matter because people here ignore them anyway.

All of this relates to Palestine as well. Those of us who insist on the one-state solution as the only way forward have grown accustomed to hearing that Palestine is not South Africa. The Israelis will never relinquish their racial privilege in the country because, you know, the Middle East is a tough neighborhood… and so on.

Well, we know that Palestine is not South Africa… but only just until it is.

February 25, 2011 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | 1 Comment

Biofuels, Soaring Food Prices and Iowa

By ROBERT BRYCE | CounterPunch | February 25, 2011

When the chairman of the world’s largest food company says that using  food crops to make biofuels is “absolute madness,” sensible people should take heed.

Alas, President Obama, along with a Congress that is dominated by Big Ag interests, just doesn’t seem to care that Peter Brabeck, the chairman of the Swiss food giant, Nestle, made that very declaration last month. And that blithe ignorance of the madness of biofuels is resulting in some truly horrifying results. Here are the numbers: This year, the US corn ethanol sector will consume 40 percent of all US corn – that’s about 15 percent of global corn production or 5 percent of all global grain – in order to produce a volume of motor fuel with the energy equivalent of about 0.6 percent of global oil needs.

Congress not only lavishes subsidies on the corn ethanol scam, it has mandated the use of corn ethanol, and provided tariff protections to an industry that is helping push global food prices to all-time highs and shrink grain reserves at the very same time that global grain production is faltering and protests over food prices are commonplace.

The quantity of grain to be consumed this year for US ethanol production – 4.9 billion bushels – boggles the mind. That’s more than twice as much as all the corn produced in Brazil and more than six times as much as is grown in India. Put another way, that’s more corn than the output of the European Union, Mexico, Argentina, and India combined.

Despite these facts, last month, President Obama, in his State of the Union speech, said “we can break our dependence on oil with biofuels.” Meanwhile, the Iowa Caucus, the nation’s first presidential primary is now less than one year away. And Newt Gingrich, the former speaker of the US House, who’s dearly hoping that he can be a viable candidate for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination, was recently in Iowa cravenly wooing the ethanol producers and slamming “big city” critics of the ethanol industry. Alas, there’s little reason to expect much bravery out of Gingrich’s fellow Republicans on Capitol Hill. Speaker of the House John Boehner recently told reporters not to expect cuts to the ethanol subsidies because they are “not in the discretionary spending pot.”

While Obama prevaricates and Congress dithers, ethanol boosters are once again claiming that their sector has negligible effect on grain prices. Instead, they blame surging grain prices on, well, everything but their industry. To be sure, bad weather in Russia and Australia has cut grain harvest in those countries. In addition, rising demand for grain in the developing world is affecting prices.

But the events of the last few weeks — corn futures at near-record highs and social unrest related to food prices – are nearly identical to the mayhem that occurred in 2007 and 2008. Back then, at least 15 studies, including ones by Purdue University, the World Bank and the Congressional Research Service, exposed the link between increasing ethanol production and higher food prices. Soaring food prices led to violent protests in Egypt, Cameroon, Ivory Coast, Haiti, Mauritania, Ethiopia, Madagascar, the Philippines and Indonesia. And worries about adequate food stocks led several countries to ban food exports.

New studies are, once again, finding a direct link between the corn ethanol scam and higher food prices. In December, a study by two US agriculture economists, Thomas Elam and Steve Meyer, found that corn prices are being pushed dramatically higher by demand from the ethanol sector. Elam and Meyer, who have done consulting work for the meat industry, found that without the ethanol mandates, the average price of corn would now be lower by more than $2 per bushel. And they conclude that “biofuels policy has caused significant cost increases for all users of feedgrains.”

There are many unfortunate aspects to America’s corn ethanol insanity. But among the most unfortunate is that US policymakers were warned, and they were warned by the Rand Corporation, one of the most conservative defense-oriented think tanks in America. In May 2008, Rand Corporation issued a report which said that diverting corn to the ethanol sector was not only bad economics, but a security threat: “Using corn for ethanol is economically inefficient and has harmed US national security. Diverting corn from food to ethanol production has pushed up world market prices for grains and other foods, which, in 2008, resulted in riots in a number of developing countries.”

In recent weeks, we’ve seen food-price hikes and protests that are reminiscent of 2008. There have been food riots in Algeria and Mozambique. Last month, some 8,000 Jordanians protested in the streets of Amman and other cities to protest rising food prices. In Egypt, the world’s biggest wheat importer, wheat prices are up by 30 percent over the past 12 months. This week, protesters took to the streets in India to protest surging food costs.

The surging price of wheat is being stoked by rising corn prices, which have doubled over the past six months and are now at about $7 per bushel. “Higher corn prices always means higher wheat prices,” says Bill Lapp, president of Advanced Economic Solutions, an Omaha-based commodity consulting firm.

David Orden, a senior research fellow at the International Food Policy Research Institute in Washington, told me that surging corn prices is “a continuation of what happened in 2008.” The push for biofuels, he said, “has clearly tightened up agricultural commodity markets. That’s good for farmers, but it is not good for poor people around the world.”

Many of those poor live in the US. Some 43.6 million Americans, about 14 percent of the population, are now receiving federal food stamps. Since October 2008, the number of Americans relying on food stamps jumped by 41.5 percent and enrollment in the program has increased for 26 consecutive months. And thanks to the ethanol scam, those many millions are being priced out of the meat aisle. Over the past year, beef prices have risen more than 6 percent and pork prices are up 11 percent. Economists are expecting overall grocery prices in the US to rise by about 5 percent this year.

But the real – and likely more dangerous – food-price increases will happen  outside the US. Last year, the OECD projected that global grain prices are likely to be as much as 40 percent higher by 2020,  and a London-based non-profit entity, ActionAid, predicted that some 600 million more people could be left hungry by 2020 due to increased production of biofuels.

Brabeck, the chairman of Nestle, the world’s biggest food company, has rightly put the spotlight on the biofuels madness. As the head of a company with $100 billion in annual food-related revenues, Brabeck clearly has a keen understanding of the global food industry. And last month during the World Economic Forum in Davos, he identified the stunningly obvious solution to the ongoing insanity. “No food for fuel,” he said.

“No food for fuel” should be the rallying cry on Capitol Hill and at the United Nations. It should be a required oath for all of the candidates (and Gingrich in particular) who are planning to campaign in Iowa for the 2012 presidential contest. As the biggest ethanol-producing state, Iowa has long had a stranglehold on America’s presidential selection process because it holds the first primary. And because it holds the first primary, the state’s powerful agriculture interests have, for decades, prevented viable candidates from speaking out against the corn ethanol madness.

It’s time – no, it’s long past time — to heed Brabeck’s advice. Stop the madness.

February 25, 2011 Posted by | Economics, Malthusian Ideology, Phony Scarcity, Progressive Hypocrite | 1 Comment

Murdered Jerusalem man subjected to racism even in death

Jillian Kestler-D’Amours, The Electronic Intifada, 25 February 2011
Hussain Rwidy speaking at a demonstration in Sheikh Jarrah two weeks after the murder of his son, Hussam. (Jillian Kestler-D’Amours)

All Hussain Hassan Rwidy wanted was to bury his son.

“They took me to see the investigator who worked on the case. He called me inside [his office], alone, and asked me, ‘Are you strong?'” I said to him, ‘I want my son,'” Rwidy told The Electronic Intifada.

“He said directly to me, ‘Your son died …'” Rwidy paused, then continued. “‘Your son died, and there are two people arrested.'”

Twenty-four-year-old Hussam Rwidy was killed in the early morning hours of Friday, 11 February, on Hillel Street in West Jerusalem as he and a friend, Murad Khader Joulani, were walking to their car to drive home from work.

According to the Rwidy family, who live in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Kufr Akab, everything began when a group of extremist Israeli Jews heard Hussam and Murad speaking Arabic to each other, and shouted “Death to the Arabs.”

“My son started to walk [away],” said Hussam’s father, from a mourning tent set up to remember Hussam in the occupied East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan, where the family is originally from, last Saturday.

“They came from behind with a knife and jumped on him. After they cut his throat, four more people came and started to beat them with punches and kicks,” he explained.

While Hussam died of his injuries when he reached the hospital, Joulani survived the attack with a deep knife wound visible on the back of his neck. According to an account Joulani gave to the Wadi Hilweh Information Center, a resident-run information and media center in Silwan, Joulani managed to pull Rwidy to a nearby restaurant where he called for help.

“None of the Israeli customers assisted the two men, except for one who handed Joulani a paper napkin to remove the blood from Rwidy’s face. Joulani was then himself able to call the police, who then commenced investigation into the incident,” the Wadi Hilweh Information Center article states (“The final moments of the martyred Husam Rwidy,” 20 February 2011).

The Israeli police originally arrested two suspects for the crime, but placed a gag order on the details of the criminal case. The Israeli media, however, quickly presented the attack as a drunken brawl between the two groups, an account the Rwidy family vehemently denies.

“If the government or police lie and say that [Hussam] started this, I will never believe that. He was handsome, a gentleman,” Hussam’s uncle, Bassam Maswadi, told The Electronic Intifada.

The gag order on Rwidy’s case was lifted earlier this week, and the Israeli media reported that four Israeli teenagers — two from Jerusalem and two from illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank — were arrested for his murder. The Israeli daily newspaper Haaretz reported that “police suspect that the stabbing had nationalistic motives and the prosecution decided to put them on trial for manslaughter” (“Four teens suspected of stabbing Arab youth to death in Jerusalem,” 23 February 2011).

“After praying in the mosque on Friday [11 February], I was on the bus and my wife called me to tell me [what happened]. I was shocked,” Maswadi said. “I started crying, like he was my son.”

Family’s suffering prolonged by “security threat”

The Rwidy family’s turmoil didn’t end with Hussam’s death, however, as they were forced to wait five days before the Israeli authorities would release Hussam’s body for burial.

The family wanted to hold his funeral in a graveyard adjacent to the Haram al-Sharif, or Noble Sanctuary, which is known to Jews as the Temple Mount and is the third holiest site in Islam.

“They said to me that Sunday at 11am, everything is okay and [I] can come and take [my] son. When I went on Sunday, they said to me the security situation didn’t allow that,” Hussain Rwidy said.

The Israeli authorities argued that they had secret evidence proving that if Hussam’s funeral was to be held in the vicinity of the Temple Mount, a riot would break out, similar to what happened when an Israeli settler security guard shot and killed Silwan resident Samer Sarhan in September 2010.

Therefore, the Israeli police forced a set of rules upon the Rwidy family, which needed to be agreed upon before his body was released. Israel said only forty persons could be present at the burial, that it could only take place after 8pm and that the family couldn’t hold the ceremony near the al-Aqsa mosque.

“But at 1pm on Sunday, the police called me and said that everything [in the agreement] is cancelled,” Rwidy said. He explained that the Israeli authorities told the family that they would only be allowed to pick up Hussam’s body at the Qalandiya checkpoint — which separates East Jerusalem from the rest of the West Bank — and that he could only be buried in the West Bank, not Jerusalem.

This outrageous condition, Rwidy explained, forced the family to submit a petition to the Israeli high court to get Hussam’s body back. They finally reached an agreement, and at 12:30am on Wednesday, 16 February, were able to prepare Hussam for burial.

That night, Hussam’s body was taken to a mosque in Ras al-Amud, a neighborhood of East Jerusalem near Silwan, and was buried in a cemetery there.

Only twenty men and fifteen women were allowed to be present while the body was being prepared for burial, and no more than fifty men could be at the funeral ceremony itself. The family was not allowed to visit al-Aqsa, either, which is a customary practice for Jerusalem-area Muslim families.

Attack reflects rising tide of Israeli racism

Palestinian citizens of Israel and residents of East Jerusalem have been the target of increasingly discriminatory and hostile rhetoric in recent months on the part of Israeli politicians, religious leaders and members of settler-related organizations.

In Jerusalem, this inciting rhetoric has translated into more than a dozen separate incidents since the summer of 2010 in which Palestinians have been attacked, beaten or killed by groups of Jewish Israelis.

Last November, it was reported that groups of Israelis were stalking Independence Park in central West Jerusalem, looking for Palestinians to attack. The rising wave of violence received international attention when a middle-aged Chilean tourist was mistaken for a Palestinian and was sent to a hospital after he was jumped and beaten near the park (“Fundamentalists Attack Chilean Tourist After ‘Suspecting’ He Is Arab,” International Middle East Media Center, 8 November 2010).

In another incident reported in late December by the Wadi Hilweh Information Center, a 28-year-old resident of Jerusalem’s Old City was severely beaten in a bar on Jaffa Street in West Jerusalem after a group of Jewish youth shouted racist, anti-Arab remarks at him (“Racist attacks on Palestinians,” 23 December 2010).

“These attacks in the last two years I would say are not just one person or two persons, [but] it’s actually quite organized. You can see an organization going on in especially the suburbs of Jerusalem, in the settlement suburbs like Pisgat Zeev, Givat Zeev,” explained Yossi Bartal, a long-time Israeli activist and community organizer based in Jerusalem.

“Young kids that come from these neighborhoods that are very much influenced by right-wing politicians, by rabbis, go to the city center and try to use violence and show their right-wing ideology by attacking Arabs or anyone else they don’t like,” he said.

The Jerusalem Post reported in December 2010 that a group of nine Jewish Israeli youth from the Jerusalem area had been taken in for questioning on the suspicion that they were involved in a string of attacks on Palestinians in the city (“Nine member J’lem gang arrested for attacks on Arabs,” 21 December 2010).

“The youths, most of whom are aged 14 to 19 and are residents of Jerusalem or the surrounding suburbs, are accused of gathering on Thursday nights, identifying Arabs and attacking them with stones, glass bottles and pepper spray,” the article reports.

According to Bartal, while the Israeli police have made some arrests, they aren’t taking these racist attacks seriously enough and most importantly, have failed to define much of the violence as being racially-motivated.

“The way the police tries to define these things as just normal fights is very political,” Bartal said. “They are actually stating the obvious: that they don’t want to fight racism by not defining these attacks as racist attacks.”

The pressure on the Israeli police and government, therefore, needs to come from Israeli society itself if individuals and groups are to be held accountable for their role in the wave of violence, Bartal said.

“There is a law in Israel against racist incitement. This law that actually defines, in a very problematic way, what is racist incitement should be used against these rabbis and against these politicians who call very clearly to use violence against minorities inside Israel.”

Hussam Rwidy remembered

More than a hundred persons gathered in Silwan last Saturday to mourn the loss of Hussam Rwidy and condemn the vicious attack that ended his life.

“People need to open their eyes and see what’s going on. All of us are human beings. We can live together. We need to respect each other,” said Bassam Maswadi, Hussam’s uncle.

Maswadi explained that Hussam worked two jobs — as a Coca-Cola salesman during the day, and making deliveries from the Mahane Yehuda market in West Jerusalem at night — in an effort to save money and start a family. The eldest of three children, Hussam planned on getting engaged next summer.

“Anyone who needed help, he would help. Lots of people respected him. He was just great. He was like one of my sons,” Maswadi added.

According to Hani Baidoun, a Silwan resident and friend of the Rwidy family, the Israeli government and police and security forces play a large role in perpetrating the violence toward Palestinians in Jerusalem.

“Previously we used to hear them saying that a good Arab is a dead one. Today, neither a live or dead Arab is good for Israel. They want to evacuate Jerusalem from Arabs as much and as quickly as possible. They are pushing them to think openly about leaving Jerusalem for the West Bank and even abroad,” Baidoun said.

“The Israeli policy and government encourages such beliefs and such acts against Arabs, Palestinian youth and the Jerusalemites in particular,” he added.

Maswadi agreed.

“[The Israeli authorities] have a responsibility,” Maswadi said. “We will be afraid to go in the streets at night now. We live together. This is not a life.”

~

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 25, 2011 Posted by | Aletho News | Comments Off on Murdered Jerusalem man subjected to racism even in death

Bahrain and the “Freedom Contagion”

By RANNIE AMIRI | CounterPunch | February 25, 2011

“Saudi Arabia did not build a causeway to Bahrain just so that Saudis could party on weekends. It was designed for moments like this, for keeping Bahrain under control.”

– Dr. Toby Jones, expert on Saudi Arabia at Rutgers University

If Saudi Arabia was rattled by the fall of former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, they will be in convulsions should Bahrain’s monarchy collapse. By all indications, the five other member nations of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) (Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates) will go to all lengths to prevent it.

The Arab world’s “freedom contagion” is rapidly spreading. Bahrain’s revolt is being spearheaded by the country’s poor, disenfranchised Shia Muslim majority. Although Mubarak was deposed by a nation of 80 million, unrest in the tiny island kingdom of only 530,000 citizens poses a greater ostensible threat to the GCC, particularly Saudi Arabia and its own sizable, restive Shia minority.

While many turned to the Qatar-based Al-Jazeera television network for coverage of the Tunisian, Egyptian—and now Libyan—revolutions, scant coverage was accorded to Bahrain, even when unarmed, peaceful protestors were being gunned down on the streets of the capital just a day after sleeping protestors in Pearl Square were savagely attacked by the regime’s security forces.

Should other Shia, like those in Saudi Arabia’s oil-rich Eastern Province (where they form a majority), become “infected” with the idea of taking to the streets to peacefully demand political reforms and representation, civil rights, and freedom of religion and assembly, other citizens might do likewise.

This explains why King Abdullah, who returned from Morocco on Wednesday after a prolonged 3-month convalescence from back surgery, announced he will lavish $37 billion in benefits on Saudis in the form of pay raises, unemployment benefits, debt forgiveness and housing subsidies.

Among those who first greeted Abdullah upon his arrival was the very one counting on the aging Saudi monarch for the survival of his regime—Bahrain’s king, Sheikh Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa. In a bid to placate Bahraini Shias, Sheikh Hamad released 100 political prisoners from Manama’s prisons prior to leaving for Riyadh, including the 25 activists charged last year with plotting against the state.

Saudi Arabia has sustained resource-poor Bahrain with a steady cash inflow for years and it wasted no time in issuing a statement saying it would stand by the monarchy “with all capabilities.” It had always justified doing so by framing Bahrain as an alleged bulwark against perceived encroaching Iranian influence, but today it is to help insulate Saudi Arabia from experiencing similar events along its eastern border and beyond. The emir of Kuwait added that “the security of Bahrain is the security of the region.” Last Tuesday, as tanks were rolling into Pearl Square, GCC foreign ministers met in Manama to reaffirm their solidarity with al-Khalifa rule.

Exactly one week later, Bahrain witnessed the largest anti-regime protests to be staged since the revolt began: 100,000 people strong—one-fifth of all nationals—turned out in massive, peaceful demonstrations along the highway leading into Pearl Square.

“This is the first time in the history of Bahrain that the majority of people, of Bahraini people, got together with one message: this regime must fall,” said one.

As the al-Khalifa regime’s brutality escalated, so did protestors’ demands. Initially it was for Khalifa bin Salman al-Khalifa, the king’s uncle and four-decade-old prime minister, to step down. Then came calls for Bahrain to transform itself into a legitimate constitutional monarchy. Now, many say the monarchy itself must be abolished.

So how influential has Bahrain’s uprising been?

Small protests have broken out in Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province. Saudi troops have already starting heading that way.

~

Rannie Amiri is an independent Middle East commentator.

February 25, 2011 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Solidarity and Activism | Comments Off on Bahrain and the “Freedom Contagion”

Iraq: Police Allow Gangs to Attack Protesters

Authorities Obliged to Protect Peaceful Protests

HRW | February 24, 2011

(New York) – Iraqi police allowed dozens of assailants to beat and stab peaceful protesters in Baghdad on February 21, 2011, Human Rights Watch said today. Security forces have an obligation to protect the right to assemble peacefully and to use only the minimum necessary force to protect lives if violence erupts, Human Rights Watch said.

In the early hours of February 21 dozens of men, some wielding knives and clubs, attacked about 50 protesters who had set up two tents in Baghdad’s Tahrir Square. The assailants stabbed and beat at least 20 of the protesters who were intending to camp in the square until February 25, when groups have called for national protests similar to the “Day of Anger” in Egypt. The attack came directly after the police had withdrawn from the square, and witnesses suggested the assailants were in discussion with the police before they attacked.

“Promises by Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki to allow protests are meaningless when we see vicious attacks like the one on February 21,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “Iraqi authorities should hold police who allowed this attack to happen accountable.”

Scores of demonstrations have taken place across the country since early February, mainly focused on the chronic lack of basic services and perceived widespread corruption. Since February 16, security forces have killed at least five protesters and injured more than 100 at demonstrations throughout Iraq. Armed men have also targeted opposition groups and media. In Sulaimaniya, assailants set fire to multiple buildings of the opposition Goran (“change”) party and the headquarters of a newly established TV and radio station that broadcast video of the protests.

Protests in Baghdad

Shortly after 1 a.m. on February 21 police vehicles on duty at Tahrir Square, in the center of Baghdad, suddenly vacated the area, a dozen witnesses told Human Rights Watch. Immediately afterward, four military Humvees parked on a distant side of the square, while several black SUVs pulled up and parked on an adjoining street. A standing curfew bans all civilian vehicular traffic on Baghdad’s roads between midnight and 5 a.m., and vehicles in the Tahrir Square area encounter numerous military checkpoints and patrols.

After the vehicles arrived, streetlights surrounding the square went out, and the people in the Humvees turned on floodlights attached to their vehicles. One protest organizer told Human Right Watch that dozens of men wearing civilian shirts, but all with similar dark-colored military-style pants, quickly approached the sleeping protesters, many brandishing knives, batons, and stun-guns, and fanned out around the tents. One asked the organizer if he had a permit for the demonstration, and began to interrogate him.

Another witness said a surprised policeman from a nearby checkpoint approached the square with his gun drawn, but when one of the armed men whispered something in his ear, the policeman quickly nodded and withdrew. “At that point, one of them gave a signal, and they all started beating us and running into the tents,” said the witness, who asked not to be named for safety reasons. “I heard people screaming in pain, so I yelled out for everyone to run.”

A protester bearing stab wounds, now in hiding, told Human Rights Watch: “I woke up with the pain of the knife sticking in me and everyone yelling. The man who stabbed me told me that I wasn’t supposed to be in the square, and that I had to leave, or he would stab me again. He then hit me in the head. I got up as best as I could, and other protesters helped me run away.”

Another protester with large bruises on his back and a long laceration on the side of his left leg told Human Rights Watch, “They were punching and stabbing us as we were trying to run from them.”

Other witnesses gave consistent accounts of the attack. They said they believed the violence was meant to frighten and disperse the protesters rather than to kill them, although they were all shocked at the brutality of the attack. Various protesters who had encountered police at checkpoints while fleeing into the alleys of the adjoining Betuine neighborhood said the police told them they “were not allowed to intervene.” One protester said a policeman told him they were powerless because the assailants were “from the Office of the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces.”

Human Rights Watch observed lacerations or bruises on seven protesters. Witnesses’ testimony was also consistent with video viewed by Human Rights Watch, shot at the scene in the hours before the attack, and then of wounded protesters the next morning.

At earlier protests in Tahrir Square, Human Rights Watch observed Iraqi security forces intimidating peaceful protesters by filming them and threatening to arrest them, and in one instance saying, “Now, we know who you are.” On February 11 and 13 security forces filmed the faces of participants who were chanting peacefully and told them they would be arrested. On February 23 Human Rights Watch also saw security forces preventing Iraqi journalists from filming or taking photos of the protests.

Protests in Kurdistan

Since February 17, clashes with security forces have killed three demonstrators in Sulaimaniya. Thousands of demonstrators have continued their protest against alleged corruption and the political dominance of the two ruling parties, the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK).

A 25-year-old resident of Sulaimaniya told Human Rights Watch that he visited the protest area in that city out of curiosity on February 17. Without warning, he said, KDP guards began firing into the crowd from the building’s roof. “I heard gunshots and started to run when a bullet hit the back of my right shoulder,” he said, adding that he spent three days in the hospital.

A protester who took part in the February 17 demonstration in Sulaimaniya told Human Rights Watch: “We threw some stones at the KDP office, but then they actually opened fire against us. I have never seen such scenes here since the end of the violent war between the KDP and PUK” in the 1990s.

Also on February 17 assailants ransacked or torched offices of the opposition Goran party in the Kurdistan Regional Government-administered cities of Erbil, Dohuk, and Soran. On the same day, Hawlati, an independent bi-weekly newspaper, evacuated its offices after receiving threats from uniformed security forces stationed at a nearby KDP office. On February 19 armed men stormed the headquarters of Nalia Television in Sulaimaniya, shooting up broadcasting equipment, wounding a guard, and burning the building down, according to staff of the station. Nalia Television had begun its first broadcast two days earlier with footage of the protests.

In a February 17 press statement, the president of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), Massoud Barzani, condemned the protesters’ behavior, but not that of the security forces who shot at them. At a news conference the following day, Fazil Mirani, head of the KDP politburo, blamed security forces for not protecting his party’s offices from the protesters’ rock-throwing. “Disrespecting our offices comes with a heavy price, and we will do whatever we can to cut the hands of those who are aggressive toward us.” he said.

“The reaction of the Kurdistan Regional Government’s officials to the protester violence is deplorable,” Stork said. “Instead of threatening protesters, officials need to rein in their security forces to prevent further violence.”

Upcoming Protest

Numerous internet groups have urged Iraqis to take to the streets on February 25, one month after a similar “Day of Anger” in Egypt that ultimately led to the ousting of Hosni Mubarak from the presidency.

On June 25, 2010, in response to thousands of Iraqis who took to the streets to protest a chronic lack of government services, the interior ministry issued regulations with onerous provisions that effectively impeded Iraqis from organizing lawful protests. The regulations required organizers to get “written approval of both the minister of interior and the provincial governor” before submitting an application to the relevant police department, not less than 72 hours before a planned event.

Iraq’s constitution guarantees “freedom of assembly and peaceful demonstration.”As a state party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Iraq is obligated to protect the rights to life and security of the person, and the rights to freedom of expression, association, and peaceful assembly. Iraq should also abide by the UN Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms, which state that lethal force may only be used when strictly unavoidable to protect life, and must be exercised with restraint and proportionality. The principles also require governments to “ensure that arbitrary or abusive use of force and firearms by law enforcement officials is punished as a criminal offense under their law.”

Human rights law on the right to life, including Article 6 of the ICCPR, requires an effective and transparent investigation when deaths may have been caused by state officials, leading to the identification and prosecution of the perpetrators of any crimes that took place.

February 25, 2011 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Subjugation - Torture | Comments Off on Iraq: Police Allow Gangs to Attack Protesters

Greek P.M.: Zionism and the IMF’s Last Best Friend

By James Petras | February 25, 2011

In the midst of the Arab uprisings throughout the Middle East, at a time when even the European (EU) has publicaly condemned Israel’s blockade of Gaza and its illegal land seizures in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou promised a visiting delegation of American Jewish leaders, that he would do everything possible to undermine EU opposition and promote Israeli economic, diplomatic and political interests in Europe.

US Zionists, recently returned from a visit to Athens described Papandreou as by far the most amenable (‘servile’) European leader they have met in recent memory. Papandreou’s slavish submission to Israeli interests includes his promise, to a delegation of U.S. Zionist notables, to use his influence to pressure the new Egyptian military junta to continue to uphold the Mubarak agreements with Israel (European Jewish Press 2/11/11). These include the continued blockade of Gaza and support of Israel’s military assaults on Lebanon, Syria and Palestinians. In other words Papandreou is openly supportive of Egypt’s past collaboration with Israeli clandestine assassinations and kidnapping of Arab militants.

Papandreou demonstrates a greater interest in promoting Israel’s exports to the European market, than the country he ostensibly represents. He promised a delegation from the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations “to integrate Israel into the European market” (European Jewish Press 2/11/11) while he shrinks the Greeks economy by 10% between 2009-11 and doubles unemployment from 8% to 16%. Papandreou’s gross servility to Israel and the American Zionist power structure is manifested in his cordial reception and recent agreements with Israel’s Prime Minister Netanyahu and his foreign minister, the notorious Zionist-fascist Avigdor Lieberman – the same Lieberman who advocates wholesale expulsion of Palestinians from the West Bank. No Greek Prime Minister, since the Zionist state was founded, has exhibited such a bizarre display of active collaboration with Israel’s colonial claims in the Middle East. No European leader has so eagerly anticipated and implemented the demands of American Zionist organizations with such zeal.

What is most striking about Papandreou’s servility to Israeli and American Zionist interests, is that it takes place when most of the rest of the world, from Europe, Turkey, Lebanon, Latin America, to North Africa (Egypt, Tunisia) and the vast majority of Arabs are moving toward isolating Israel. In other words, Papandreou is embracing a pro-Israel policy which is alienating Europe, isolating Greece from well over a hundred million Arabs and undermining Greek agricultural (citrus) exports to the EU market.

Papandreou’s perverse and highly prejudicial foreign policy is matched by his extraordinary adherence and enforcement of the debt payment policies dictated by the IMF and the bankers of the EU and the US. His behavior is particularly shameless at a time when the next Irish government is threatening to declare a debt default if payments are not reduced. In his eagerness to ingratiate himself with the overseas bankers, Papandreou has systematically extracted billions of euros via a 20% reduction in wages, salaries and pensions and transferred it to the coffers of the banks. In the process Papandreou’s policies have doubled the unemployment rate, shrank the economy and undermined any future growth for the next decade. Papandreou rejected the Argentine formula, which in the face of a similar crises in 2001-02 , defaulted rather than deepen poverty. Under President Kirchner, Argentina renegotiated its debt, shaving bond payments by 75% and imposing a moratorium. As a result, Argentina recovered from the crises and maintained a growth rate of 7% for over a decade while reducing unemployment from 22% to less than 6%.

If Papandreou acts as a submissive messenger boy for Israel and its Zionist fifth column in America, he features prominently as the eager and aggressive “bill collector” for the overseas banks. He will go down in historical infamy as a willing accomplice of Israeli war crimes, an upholder of its unequal treaties with Egypt in his foreign policy and the enforcer of financial predators who impoverish millions of Greeks at home.

Having decimated the Greek economy via transfers of billions abroad and undermined economic relations with the Arab countries, Papandreou offers to sell Greece’s most lucrative transport, ports, energy and communication companies to Chinese, Israeli and Wall Street investors and speculators. It is ironic that George Papandreou the son of former Prime Minister Andreas Papandreou should reverse each and every one of his father’s policies, especially with regard to the Middle East.

In 1981 after Andreas Papandreou was elected he invited me to Athens to discuss policies and programs of his future government. The first thing he told me was the importance of supporting the Palestinian struggle and how he had a successful meeting with Yasser Arafat, who regaled him with a prized pistol, which he displayed to me. A year later when I returned to Greece to direct and develop a research center, he invited me for a swim. We were accompanied by a dozen underwater security guards, patrolling offshore, against a potential assassination plot by Mossad, according to the prime minister, in reprisal for his solidarity with the Palestinians in Lebanon.

A few days later over 50,000 Greeks led by Culture Minister Melina Mercuri marched in solidarity with the Palestinians and in repudiation of Israel’s role in the bloody massacre of 2000 women and children in Sabra and Shatila. The contrast of the two generations of Papandreou’s could not be more stark; while Andreas saw Greece as a bridge between Europe and the Arab East, George sees Greece acting as a pimp for Israeli business interests in Europe and as a lobbyist for its dominance in the Middle East. The Zionists have lost an old client in Mubarek and gained a new one in Papendreou.

Like Mubarak, George Papandreou combines servility to his imperial mentors with arrogance and brutality to his Greek subjects. As the Egyptians demonstrated it will take the Greek people more than marches and occasional strikes to bring down an entrenched client of the empire. But it can be done as was exemplified in Cairo!

February 25, 2011 Posted by | Corruption, Economics, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | 2 Comments

Intifada Beyond Palestine

By ISMAEL HOSSEIN-ZADEH | CounterPunch | February 25, 2011

Remember the neoconservatives’ plan of “domino effect” following the overthrow of the Taliban in Afghanistan and Saddam Hussein in Iraq? It was supposed to be followed by the toppling of other “unfriendly” heads of “rogue states” such as those ruling Iran and Syria who do not cater to the US-Israeli interests in the Middle East. It was not meant to threaten the “friendly” regimes that rule Egypt, Tunisia, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Bahrain and their cohorts that have been firmly aligned with the United States. Indeed, it was supposed to replace the former type of “noncompliant” regimes with the latter type of “client states” that would go along with the US-Israeli geopolitical designs in the region.

Barely a decade later, however, the political winds in the Middle East are shifting in the opposite direction: it is not the US-designated “rogue states” that are falling but the “moderate American friends” who are crumbling. How do we explain this truly historical twist of fortunes?

A number of important factors that are clearly contributing to the breathtaking social upheavals in the Arab/Muslim world are economic hardship, dictatorial rule and rampant corruption. While these relatively obvious factors are frequently cited as driving forces behind the upheaval, a number of equally important but less evident forces are often left out of this list of contributory influences. These rarely mentioned factors include: aspirations to national sovereignty, frustration with the brutal treatment of the Palestinian people, and outrage by the malicious smear campaign against the Arab/Muslim people’s religious and cultural values. In other words, the Arab/Muslim people are not just angry with government repression, corruption, and economic hardship; they are also angry with their rulers’ subordination to or collusion with imperialism, both US imperialism and the (mini) Israeli imperialism, as well as with the insidious offenses against their religious and cultural heritage.

The overwhelming majority of the Arab/Muslim people who are up in arms against the status quo harbor a strong sense of humiliation by the fact that they are ruled by tyrannical heads of state who subordinate their interests to the economic and geopolitical imperatives of foreign powers. Equally demeaning to this people is the brutal treatment of the Palestinian people. The creation of the colonial settler state of Israel through terrorization, ethnic cleansing and eviction of at least 750,000 Palestinians from their homes, and the continued violence perpetrated daily against this people is viewed by the Arab/Muslim people as a degrading violence against them all.

Corporate media and mainstream political pundits in the United States tend to deny or downgrade the galvanizing role that anti-imperialism/anti-Zionism plays in the uprising. For example, the New York Times columnist Thomas L. Friedman recently opined (in a February 16, 2011, column): “Egypt has now been awakened by its youth in a unique way – not to fight Israel, or America, but in a quest for personal empowerment, dignity and freedom.” Obviously, Mr. Friedman must have a very narrow and unusual definition of dignity and freedom—as if such universally-cherished values are unrelated to foreign domination of one’s government or country.

The fact remains, however, that aspirations to national sovereignty and sentiments of anti-imperialism play important roles in the uprising. They explain why the unrest cuts across a wide swath of society. Not only the economically hard-pressed poor and working classes but also the relatively well-off middle classes are joining the youth in the streets. Professional strata such as lawyers, doctors and teachers, as well as people from the arts and intellectual life are joining too.

Just as the thrust of the Palestinian Intifada (uprising) is to end the Zionist occupation of their land, so does the more widespread unrest in the Arab/Muslim world represent a broader intifada designed to end the imperialist domination of their governments. Indications of such sentiments were reflected in many views and slogans in Cairo’s Liberation Square, which were directed not only at Mubarak’s regime but also at the United States and Israel:

“We are not with America or any other government. We are able to help ourselves. . . . We are against the US interfering in Egypt’s establishment of a democratic government. We are against any foreign interference. . . . We are Egyptians and we can decide our fate on our own. . . . “I don’t think that Israel is a state. I don’t believe in it. Israel is just an occupation. I personally, as an Egyptian, do not acknowledge the existence of Israel. Any Arab government that deals with Israel or works under Israel I do not acknowledge it either” (source).

Such keen aspirations to independence from foreign influences led Graeme Bannerman, the former Middle East analyst on the US State Department Policy Planning Staff, to acknowledge (on National Public Radio, January 27, 2011) that “Popular opinion in the Middle East runs so against American policies that any change in any government in the Middle East that becomes more popular will have an anti-American and certainly less friendly direction towards the US which will be a serious political problem for us.”

An indication of how passionately the Arab street detests their leader’s catering to the US-Israeli interests, or how they resent the brutal treatment of Palestinians, is reflected in the fact that, according to a number of opinion polls, they have consistently expressed more respect for the Iranian leaders, who are neither Arab nor Sunni, than their Arab leaders—because, contrary to most Arab leaders, the Iranian leaders have (since the 1979 revolution) firmly stood their ground vis-à-vis the egotistical imperialist policies in the region.

Egyptian regimes of Hosni Mubarak and Anwar Sadat (before him) were especially despised for their subservience to the United States and Israel. From the time of its creation in 1948 until 1979 no Arab country recognized Israel as a legitimate state. In 1979, however, Egypt (under President Sadat) broke ranks with the rest of the Arab/Muslim world when he signed a “peace agreement” with Israel, which came to be known as the Camp David accord.

Although the accord was officially between Egypt and Israel, the United States was a key broker and the main partner. The US agreed to supply Egypt with substantial financial and military aid, amounting to nearly $2 billion a year, in return for its recognition of Israel and its compliance with the US-Israeli geopolitical and economic imperatives in the region. As Alison Weir, writer/reporter and the executive director of “If Americans Knew,” recently put it, by thus recognizing and normalizing its relation with Israel, “Egypt led the way for other nations to ‘normalize’ relations with the abnormal situation in Palestine.”

Since then Egypt has been a de facto ally of Israel, as well as bedrock of economic and geopolitical interests of the United States in the Middle East. It has opened its air, water and ground spaces to US armed forces. It has worked to coax or coerce governments and political forces in the region to comply with the US-Israeli interests. And it has served as a counter-balancing force against countries like Iran that defy the imperialist plans of the United States and Israeli in the region. As a “peace partner” with Israel, Egypt has also been complicit in Israel’s colonial policies of vicious oppression of the Palestinian people.

Although under the US-Israeli influence, Anwar Sadat was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize (along with Prime Minister Begin of Israel), for the Camp David “peace” accord, proponents of Egypt’s national sovereignty and defenders of the rights of the Palestinian people considered the accord as treason and capitulation to Zionist expansionism and US imperialism.

The outrage that the Camp David betrayal generated in Egypt and the broader Arab/Muslim world was epitomized by the tragic assassination of Anwar Sadat, presumably for having signed the giveaway “peace” accord with Israel. The following is one of many accounts that attribute Sadat’s assassination to the “peace” agreement:

“In the months leading up to his assassination, he was hugely unpopular in the Middle East for making peace with Israel, which was considered a ‘traitorous’ move against the Palestinians. There were several criticisms and death threats made against him and his family.

“It was no surprise to many that he was assassinated, but the circumstances under which he was assassinated are still peculiar. Many reports have claimed that Egyptian Security forces knew well in advance that an attempt on Sadat’s life would be made, but did little to stop it. Some even claimed that Egyptian Security forces helped train the would-be assassins. Some see this as a plausible scenario, since the assassins were able to bypass several layers of checks and inspections prior to the military parade in Cairo” (source).

While President Reagan lamented Sadat’s death when he bemoaned: “America has lost a great friend, the world has lost a great statesman, and mankind has lost a champion of peace,” Nabil Ramlawi, a Palestinian official at the time, stated: “We were expecting this end of President Sadat because we are sure he was against the interests of his people, the Arab nations and the Palestinian people” (source).

An often latent goal of the current uprising in the Middle East/North Africa is to end the suffering of the Palestinian people by restoring their geopolitical rights within the internationally agreed upon borders. In subtle or submerged ways, the atrocious injustice perpetrated against Palestinians seems to be the “mother” of all the Arab/Muslim grievances. Viewed in this light, the uprising in the Arab/Muslim world represents an expanded intifada beyond Palestine. Without a fair and just resolution of the plight of the Palestinian people, the political turbulence in the region is bound to continue, with potentially cataclysmic consequences.

Once source of hope in the face of this gloomy picture is that more of the Jewish people would come to the realization that the expansionist project of radical Zionism is untenable and, therefore, join many other Jewish individuals and organizations (such as Jews for Justice for Palestinians) that have already come to such an understanding, and are working toward a just and peaceful coexistence with their historical cousins in the region.

Radical Zionism pins its hope for the success of its project on the support from imperialist powers. As has been pointed out by the critics of Zionism, many of whom Jewish, this is a very dangerous expectation, or hope, since the support from imperial powers, which is ultimately based on their own nefarious geopolitical calculations and economic interests, can precipitously come to an end, or drastically withdrawn, as the geopolitical equations in the region change. As the renowned Jewish thinker Uri Avnery recently put it:

“Our future is not with Europe or America. Our future is in this region. . . . It’s not just our policies that must change, but our basic outlook, our geographical orientation. We must understand that we are not a bridgehead from somewhere distant, but a part of a region that is now – at long last – joining the human march toward freedom.”

To sum up, the long pent-up grievances of the Arab/Muslim world are exploding not just in the faces of local dictators such as Mubarak of Egypt or Ben Ali of Tunisia but, perhaps more importantly, against their neocolonial/imperial patrons abroad. As the astute foreign policy analyst Jason Ditz recently pointed out, “the resentment is spreading beyond Mubarak and his immediate underlings, and toward the United States and Israel.” This means that the uprising represents something bigger than the buzzwords of abstract, decontextualized personal freedoms, or the money-driven, carefully-scripted bogus elections – called democracy. It represents a growing culture of resistance to neocolonialism that started with the great Iranian revolution of 1979.

~

Ismael Hossein-Zadeh, author of The Political Economy of U.S. Militarism (Palgrave-Macmillan 2007), teaches economics at Drake University, Des Moines, Iowa.

February 25, 2011 Posted by | Aletho News | 1 Comment

US defends arms flow to Yemen

Press TV – February 25, 2011

US State Department Spokesman Philip Crowley has defended Washington’s military aid to Yemen despite the use of the American weaponry by Sana’a regime in brutal crushing of pro-democracy uprisings.

In response to a question by a Press TV reporter at a Thursday news briefing for the foreign press, Crowley defended continued lethal US military aid to Yemen’s autocratic government as a necessary measure to combat ‘terrorism.’

“That itself justifies the ongoing cooperation that we have,” he said.

Crowley said the US has no plans to sever its military ties to Yemen even though US military aid is being used to suppress the pro-democracy uprising there.

The majority of Yemenis are unhappy with the expanding US military ties with their despotic government, especially in view of its harsh crackdown on protesters in recent days.

This has led to an uneasy alliance between the two governments, facing an uncertain future.

In recent days, thousands of Yemeni protesters have taken to the streets across the country, calling for the ouster of President Abdullah Saleh.

The Yemeni president has described the pro-democracy protesters as “elements of a coup.”

Saleh, in power for 33 years, said that he would leave power after his term expires in 2013. He has also promised not to hand power to his son.

The Yemeni incumbent president has also pledged to raise wages of government employees and to provide 60,000 job opportunities for university graduates.

The Yemeni government crackdown on protesters, inspired by revolutions in Egypt and Tunisia, has so far left at least 24 people dead.

The US also occasionally carries out drone attacks in Yemen. Despite such extraordinary measures, the country has grown increasingly unstable.

February 25, 2011 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Militarism, Subjugation - Torture | Comments Off on US defends arms flow to Yemen