Aletho News


9/11 revisited: 21 problems in official narrative

By Paul Balles | Gulf Daily News | February 26, 2011

In March 2004, publication of David Ray Griffin’s book The New Pearl Harbor, challenging the official story of 9/11, sparked widely different reactions.

Then in 2008, Griffin published The New Pearl Harbor Revisited, an update of his original study in which he said: “The expose of what happened on 9/11 has shown virtually every dimension of the official account of 9/11 to be false beyond a reasonable doubt.”

Forget about conspiracy theories. How can we allow falsifications lapse into history without demanding the truth?

It’s past time to demand honest answers to the questions generated by the official story.

Based on his continuing studies, Griffin compiled 21 reasons to question the official story about the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

Here I have summarized his 21 points that challenge the official stories:

1. The official story has Osama Bin Laden behind the attacks. However, the FBI “has no hard evidence connecting him to 9/11”

2. Alleged hijackers who regularly drank heavily, went to strip clubs, and paid for sex could hardly be devout Muslims

3. Claims that passengers on airlines made mobile phone calls to relatives have been contradicted by the FBI

4. The FBI also contradicted Ted Olson’s claim that his wife phoned him twice from American Airlines flight 77.

5. Reported evidence for Muslim hijackers shows clear signs of having been fabricated.

6. The story that incriminating evidence was found in alleged hijacker Mohammed Atta’s luggage was a revision of the original story.

7. Planes showing signs of in-flight emergencies are normally intercepted within about 10 minutes. The military’s failure implies something prevented this standard procedure.

8. Then Vice-President Dick Cheney, while in the bunker under the White House, apparently confirmed a stand-down order prior to the strike on the Pentagon.

9. The 9/11 Commission removed a report from video records of its hearings about when he entered the shelter conference room.

10. The commission’s time-line for Cheney contradicts what he told “Meet the Press”.

11. Hani Hanjour, who could not safely fly even a single-engine plane, could not possibly have executed the trajectory reportedly taken by American Flight 77 hitting Wedge 1 of the Pentagon.

12. Wedge 1 would have been the least likely part of the Pentagon to be targeted by foreign terrorists.

13. Claims by Pentagon officials that they did not have the premises evacuated because they had no way of knowing an aircraft was approaching it were false.

14. Why would the Secret Service allow President Bush to remain in a Florida classroom for 30 minutes after news of attack?

15. On the first anniversary of 9/11, the White House started lying about Bush immediately leaving the classroom.

16. The official explanation of the destruction of the Twin Towers and WTC 7 (a nearby building that also collapsed) contradicts all prior history: steel-frame high-rise buildings have never collapsed except when brought down by controlled demolition.

17. Firemen, emergency medical workers, police officers, city officials, WTC employees and TV and print journalists reported explosions going off in the towers and WTC 7.

18. The destruction of the towers can only be explained in terms of powerful explosives. The fires could not have come within 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit needed to melt steel.

19. Then New York mayor Rudy Guliani allegedly falsified stories about knowing the WTC buildings were going to collapse. His fire chiefs didn’t expect them to come down.

20. The National Institute of Standards and Technology has repeatedly postponed its report into the collapse of WTC 7.

21. The official story about 9/11 is rejected by growing numbers of professors, physicists, architects, engineers, pilots, former military officers and former intelligence officials.

February 26, 2011 Posted by | Deception, False Flag Terrorism | 13 Comments

IAEA reaffirms peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear program

Press TV – February 26, 2011

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has once again confirmed the peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear energy program.

In an IAEA report issued on Friday, the agency reaffirmed that Iran’s nuclear program has never been diverted to nuclear weapons production, the Press TV correspondent in Vienna reported.

But the report still says Tehran must halt its uranium enrichment activities, as demanded by four United Nations Security Council resolutions.

Iran’s ambassador to the IAEA, Ali Asghar Soltanieh, stated that the demand is politically motivated, saying, “When all nuclear activities are accounted for and there is no diversion to military purposes… then what is the justification for referring to an old obsolete request of suspension.”

The report also claimed that Iran has not been abiding by some of its obligations, an allegation Iran strongly rejects.

Soltanieh told Press TV that all nuclear activities in Iran are under the full-scope safeguards of the IAEA and that Tehran has been cooperating with the agency far beyond its legal obligations.

“The report is on the implementation of safeguards in Iran and therefore those parts referring to other things, like the Security Council or the Additional Protocol, are beyond the mandate of such a report,” the Iranian envoy said.

The report also maintains that Iran’s nuclear facilities have not been affected by the Stuxnet computer virus since the country’s production of low-enriched uranium is higher than it was last fall.

In July 2010, media reports claimed that Stuxnet had targeted industrial computers around the globe, with Iran being the main target of the attack. They said the Bushehr nuclear power plant was at the center of the cyber attack.

The document, prepared by IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano, is a prelude to the upcoming IAEA Board of Governors meeting, which opens on March 7.

On June 9, 2010, the UN ratified a US-engineered resolution imposing new sanctions on Iran over the allegations that Tehran is concealing a clandestine nuclear weapons program.

Tehran has vehemently rejected the allegations of diversion, saying it needs nuclear energy to meet its growing domestic demand for electricity and to provide fuel for the Tehran research reactor, which produces medical isotopes for cancer treatment.

Iran is a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and thus has the right to enrich uranium to produce fuel.

February 26, 2011 Posted by | Aletho News | 1 Comment

Fresh airstrike targets Gaza home

Ma’an – 26/02/2011

GAZA CITY — Israeli F16 fighter jets launched the sixth air strike of the day on Gaza on Saturday afternoon, witnesses said.

The most recent strike hit Ahmad Abu Shareb’s home, east of Al-Bureij refugee camp in the central Gaza Strip. Abu Shareb told Ma’an the Israeli army told him to evacuate his home prior to the shelling. No injuries were reported.

Earlier Saturday afternoon, warplanes struck three targets in the southern Gaza Strip leaving at least two Palestinians injured.

The first hit an open space between Rafah and Khan Younis, a Ma’an correspondent said.

Gaza medical official Adham Abu Salmiya said two people were injured, but the extent of their injuries was not immediately clear.

Two more airstrikes came minutes after the first targeting two security sites belonging to the Hamas-run government in Rafah, which is near the Egyptian border.

A family of four, including an 18-month-old girl, were lightly wounded, after their vehicle was hit by shrapnel as they were driving by one of the targets, Abu Salmiya told AFP.

A third air strike hit an Islamic Jihad facility west of Khan Younis, witnesses said.

The raids came after pre-dawn strikes against two other training camps of the hardline Islamic Jihad group.

Several missiles hit an Islamic Jihad military base in Khan Younis. Islamic Jihad has refused to observe a calm in attacks against Israel agreed by Gaza’s Hamas rulers and other groups.

The military said that during the weekend its planes shelled “several terror activity sites in the Gaza Strip as a response to the baragging of rocket fire at the Israeli home front.”

In a statement, the army said the pre-dawn raids “targeted a number of sites in the central Gaza Strip,” and the afternoon strikes “targeted a terror tunnel and two terror activity sites in the southern Gaza Strip.”

The air raids came after tensions rose along the Israel-Gaza border this week following clashes and a rocket attack on the Israeli city of Beersheba that hit a house but caused no casualties. … Full article

February 26, 2011 Posted by | Subjugation - Torture, War Crimes | Comments Off on Fresh airstrike targets Gaza home

Libya: Is Washington Pushing for Civil War to Justify a US-NATO Military Intervention?

By Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya | Global Research | February 25, 2011

One should be opposed to dictatorship, but one should not forget the issue of foreign domination.

Is Tripoli being set up for a civil war to justify U.S. and NATO military intervention in oil-rich Libya?

Is “manufactured destruction” or “creative destruction” at work?

If Qaddafi is not ousted, are the talks about sanctions a prelude to an Iraq-like intervention?

Something is Rotten in the so-called “Jamahiriya” of Libya

There is no question that Colonel Muammar Al-Gaddafi (Al-Qaddafi) is a dictator. He has been the dictator and so-called “qaid” of Libya for about 42 years. (“UK Hague: some information that Qaddafi on way to Venezuela,” Reuters, February 21, 2011) Yet, it appears that tensions are being ratcheted up and the flames of revolt are being fanned inside Libya. This includes earlier statements by the British Foreign Secretary William Hague that Colonel Qaddafi had fled Libya to Venezuela. This statement served to electrify the revolt against Qaddafi and his regime in Libya.

Although all three have dictatorship in common, Qaddafi’s Libya is quite different from Ben Ali’s Tunisia or Mubarak’s Egypt. The Libyan leadership is not outright subservient to the United States and the European Union. Unlike the cases of Tunisia and Egypt, the relationship that exists between Qaddafi and both the U.S. and E.U. is a modus vivendi. Simply put, Qaddafi is an independent Arab dictator and not a “managed dictator” like Ben Ali and Mubarak.

In Tunisia and Egypt the status quo prevails, the military machine and neo-liberalism remain intact; this works for the interests of the United States and the European Union. In Libya, however, upsetting the established order is a U.S. and E.U. objective.

The U.S. and the E.U. now seek to capitalize on the revolt against Qaddafi and his dictatorship with the hopes of building a far stronger position in Libya than ever before. Weapons are also being brought into Libya from its southern borders to promote revolt. The destabilization of Libya would also have significant implications for North Africa, West Africa, and global energy reserves.

Colonel Qaddafi in Brief Summary

Qaddafi’s rise to power started as a Libyan captain amongst a group of military officers who carried out a coup d’état. The 1969 coup was against the young Libyan monarchy of King Idris Al-Sanusi. Under the monarchy Libya was widely seen as being acquiescent to U.S. and Western European interests.

Although he has no official state or government position, Qaddafi has nurtured and deeply rooted a political culture of cronyism, corruption, and privilege in Libya since the 1969 coup. Added to this is the backdrop of the “cult of personality” that he has also enforced in Libya.

Qaddafi has done everything to portray himself as a hero to the masses, specifically the Arabs and Africans. His military adventures in Chad were also tied to leaving his mark in history and creating a client state by carving up Chad. Qaddafi’s so-called “Green Book” has been forcefully portrayed and venerated as being a great feat in political thought and philosophy. Numerous intellectuals have been forced or bribed to praise it.

Over the years, Colonel Qaddafi has tried to cultivate a romantic figure of himself as a simple man of the people. This includes pretending to live in a tent. He has done everything to make himself stand out. His reprimanding of other Arab dictators, such as King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, at Arab League meetings have made headlines and have been welcomed by many Arabs. While on state visits he has deliberately surrounded himself with an entourage of female body guards with the intent of getting heads to turn. Moreover, he has also presented himself as a so-called imam or leader of the Muslims and a man of God, lecturing about Islam in and outside of Libya.

Libya is run by a government under Qaddafi’s edicts. Fear and cronyism have been the keys to keeping so-called “order” in Libya amongst officials and citizens alike. Libyans and foreigners alike have been killed and have gone missing for over four decades. The case of Lebanon’s Musa Al-Sadr, the founder of the Amal Movement, is one of the most famous of these cases and has always been a hindrance to Lebanese-Libyan relations. Qaddafi has had a very negative effect in creating and conditioning an entire hierarchy of corrupt officials in Tripoli. Each one looks out for their own interests at the expense of the Libyan people.

Fractions and Tensions inside the Hierarchy of Qaddafi’s Regime

Because of the nature of Qaddafi’s regime in Tripoli, there are a lot of internal tensions in Libya and within the regime structure itself. One of these sets of tensions is between Saif Al-Islam Gaddafi and his father’s circle of older ministers. Libyan ministers are generally divided amongst those that gather around Saif Al-Islam and those that are part of the “old guard.”

There are even tensions between Qaddafi and his sons. In 1999, Mutassim Al-Qaddafi tried to ouster his father while Colonel Qaddafi was outside of Libya. Mutassim Qaddafi holds a Libyan cabinet portfolio as a national security advisor. He is also famously known amongst Libyans for being a playboy who has spent much of his time in Europe and abroad. There is also Khames Gaddafi who runs his own militia of thugs, which are called the Khames militia. He has always been thought of as possible contender for succession too against his other brothers.

There have always been fears in Libya about the issue of succession after Colonel Qaddafi is gone. Over the years, Qaddafi has thoroughly purged Libya of any form of organized opposition to him or prevented anyone else, outside his family, from amassing enough power to challenge his authority.

The Issue of Loyalty and Defection in Libya

Undoubtedly, little loyalty is felt for Qaddafi and his family. It has been fear that has kept Libyans in line. At the level of the Libyan government and the Libyan military it has been both fear and self-interest that has kept officials, good and corrupt alike, in line. That mantle of fear has now been dispelled. Statements and declarations of denunciation against Gaddafi’s regime are being heard from officials, towns, and military barracks across Libya.

Aref Sharif, the head of the Libyan Air Force, has renounced Qaddafi. Interior Minister Abdul Fatah Al-Yunis (Al-Younis), who is from Benghazi (Bengasi) and oversees a branch of the special operations work in Libya, has resigned. Yunis is reported to be Qaddafi’s “number two” or second in charge, but this is incorrect. Abdullah Sanusi, the head of Libyan Internal Intelligence and Qaddafi’s relative through marriage, is the closest thing to a “number two” within the structure of power in Tripoli.

Reports have been made about two Libyan pilots defecting to Malta and Libyan naval vessels refusing to attack Benghazi. Defections are snowballing amongst the military and government. Yet, there must be pause to analyze the situation.

The Libyan Opposition

At this point, however, it must be asked who is the “opposition” in Libya. The opposition is not a monolithic body. The common denominator is the opposition to the rule of Qaddafi and his family. It has to be said that “actions of opposition or resistance against an oppressor” and an “opposition movement” are also two different things. For the most part, the common people and corrupt Libyan officials, who harbour deep-seated hate towards Qaddafi and his family, are now in the same camp, but there are differences.

There is an authentic form of opposition, which is not organized, and a systematic form of opposition, which is either external or led by figures from within the Libyan regime itself. The authentic people’s internal opposition in Libya is not organized and the people’s “actions of opposition” have been spontaneous. Yet, opposition and revolt has been encouraged and prompted from outside Libya through social media networks, international news stations, and events in the rest of the Arab World.

The leadership of the internal opposition that is emerging in Libya is coming from within the regime itself. Corrupt officials that have rebelled against Gaddafi are not the champions of the people. These opposition figures are not opposed to tyranny; they are merely opposed to the rule of Colonel Qaddafi and his family. Aref Sharif and Al-Yunis are themselves Libyan regime figures.

It has to also be considered that some Libyan officials that have turned against Qaddafi are doing it to save themselves, while others in the future will work to retain or strengthen their positions. Abdel Moneim Al-Honi, the Libyan envoy to the Arab League in Cairo, can be looked at as an example. Al-Honi denounced Qaddafi, but it should be noted that he was one of the members of the group of Libyan officers who executed the coup in 1969 with Qaddafi and that later in 1975 he himself tried to take power in a failed coup. After the failed coup, he would flee Libya and only return in 1990 after Qaddafi pardoned him.

Al-Honi is not the only Libyan diplomat to resign. The Libyan ambassador to India has also done the same. There is an intention on the part of these officials to be members of the power structure in a Libya after the ouster of Qaddafi:

Libyan Ambassador to India Ali al-Essawi told the BBC that he was quitting, opposing his government’s violent crackdown on demonstrators.

Mr. Al-Essawi was reported to be a Minister in Tripoli and could be an important figure in an alternative government, in case Libyan President Muammar Qadhafi steps down.

The second Libyan diplomat to put in his papers was Tripoli’s Permanent Representative to the Arab League Abdel Moneim al-Honi, who said in Cairo that he had quit his job to “join the revolution” in his country.

“I have submitted my resignation in protest against the acts of repression and violence against demonstrators, and I am joining the ranks of the revolution,” said Mr. Al-Honi. The Second Secretary Hussein Sadiq al Musrati, announced his resignation from China, in an interview with Al-Jazeera, and called on the Army to intervene in the uprising. (“3 Libyan Diplomats resign,” The Hindu, February 22, 2011)

Again, these revolting officials, like Al-Yunis and Sharif, are from within the regime. They are not mere diplomats, but former ministers. There is also the possibility that these types of “opposition figures” could have or could make arrangements with external powers.

External Forces at Play in Libya

The governments of the U.S., Britain, France, Germany, and Italy all knew very well that Qaddafi was a despot, but this did not stop any of them from making lucrative deals with Tripoli. When the media covers the violence in Libya, they should also ask, where are the weapons being used coming from? The arms sales that the U.S. and the E.U. have made to Libya should be scrutinized. Is this a part of their democracy promotion programs?

Since rapprochement between the U.S. and Libya, the military forces of both countries have moved closer. (James Wolf, “U.S. eyes arms sales to Libya,” Reuters, March 6, 2009) Libya and the U.S. have had military transactions and since rapprochement Tripoli has been very interested in buying U.S. military hardware. In 2009, a Pentagon spokeswoman, Lieutenant-Colonel Hibner, affirmed this relationship best: “[The U.S.] will consider Libyan requests for defen[s]e equipment that enables [Libya] to build capabilities in areas that serve our mutual interest [or synchronized U.S. and Libyan interests].” The qualifier here is U.S. interests, meaning that the Pentagon will only arm Libya on the basis of U.S. interests.

In what seems to have happened overnight, a whole new arsenal of U.S. military hardware has appeared in Libya. American-made F-16 jets, Apache helicopters, and ground vehicles are being used inside Libya by Qaddafi. This is a shocking revelation, if corroborated. There are no public records about some of this U.S. military hardware in the the arsenal of the Libyan military. In regards to the F-16s, Libyan jets are traditionally French-made Mirages and Russian-made MiGs.

Silvio Berlusconi and the Italian government have also been strong supporters of Qaddafi’s regime. There is information coming out of Libya that Italian pilots are also being used by the Libyan Air Force. Mercenaries from Chad, Sudan, Niger, and Nigeria are also being used. This has been verified through video evidence coming out of Libya. The Libyan regime is also considering contracting American or European security firms (mercenaries).

The Politics of Al Jazeera

The Libyan government has shut down the internet and phone lines and an information war is underway. Although one of the most professional news networks in the world, it has to be cautioned that Al Jazeera is not a neutral actor. It is subordinate to the Emir of Qatar and the Qatari government, which is also an autocracy. By picking and choosing what to report, Al Jazeera’s coverage of Libya is biased. This is evident when one studies Al Jazeera’s coverage of Bahrain, which has been restrained due to political ties between the leaders of Bahrain and Qatar.

Reports by Al Jazeera about Libyan jets firing on protesters in Tripoli and the major cities are unverified and questionable. Hereto, the reports that Libyan jets have been attacking people in the streets have not been verified. No visual evidence of the jet attacks has been shown, while visual confirmation about other events have been coming out of Libya.

Al Jazeera is not alone in its biased reporting from Libya. The Saudi media is also relishing the events in Libya. Asharq Al-Awsat is a Saudi-owned paper that is strictly aligned to U.S. interests in the Middle East-North Africa (MENA) region. Its editor-in-chief is now running editorials glorifying the Arab League for their decision to suspend Libya, because of the use of force by Tripoli against Libyans protesters – why were such steps not taken for Egypt, Tunisia, Bahrain, or Yemen? Inside and outside the Arab World, the mainstream media is now creating the conditions for some sort of intervention in Libya.

The Role of Foreign Interests in Libya

Qaddafi and his sons have run Libya like a private estate. They have squandered its wealth and natural resources. One of Gaddafi’s son’s is known to have paid the American singer Beyoncé Knowles a million or more U.S. dollars for a private music concert. (Marine Hyde, “Beyoncé and the $2m gig for Colonel Gaddafi’s son,” The Guardian (U.K.), January 8, 2010) Foreign corporations also play a role in this story.

The positions and actions of foreign corporations, the U.S., and the European Union in regards to Libya should not be ignored.

Questioning the role of foreign governments and corporations in Libya is very important. The Italian and U.S. governments should be questioned about the role that pilots of Italian nationality and newly bought U.S. weaponry are playing in Libya.

It is very clear that democracy is only used as a convenient pretext against dictators and governments that do not bow down and serve U.S. and E.U. interests. All one needs to do is to just look at the way Mutassim Qaddafi was welcomed with open arms in Washington on April 21, 2009 by Hillary Clinton and the Obama Administration. Upon their meeting, Secretary Clinton publicly said:

I am very pleased to welcome Minister Gaddafi to the State Department. We deeply value the relationship between the United States and Libya. We have many opportunities to deepen and broaden our cooperation and I am very much looking forward to building on this relationship. So Mr.Minister welcome so much here.

What the U.S. and the E.U. want to do now is maximize their gain in Libya. Civil war seems to be what Brussels and Washington have in mind.

The Balkanization of Libya and the Push to Civil War

Qaddafi’s son Saif Al-Islam has made statements on Libyan television about deviant Taliban-like faith-based organizations taking over Libya or attempting to take it over. Nothing is further from the truth. He has also warned of doom and civil war. This is part of the Qaddafi family’s efforts to retain power over Libya, but a path towards civil war is unfolding in Libya.

Amongst the ranking members of the military, Mahdi Al-Arab, the deputy chief of Libya’s military staff, was said to have renounced Qaddafi. Al-Arab, however, has modified his position by saying that he does not want to see Libya spiral into a civil war that will allow foreign intervention and tutelage. This is why Al-Arab prevented the people of his city, Zawarah, from joining the revolt and going to nearby Tripoli.

The drive towards civil war in Libya is fuelled by two factors. One is the nature of Qaddafi’s regime. The other is an external desire to divide and weaken Libya.

Qaddafi has always worked to keep Libyans divided. For years there have been fears that Qaddafi’s sons would start a civil war amongst themselves or that some other high ranking officials could try to jockey for power once Qaddafi was gone. Civil war on the basis of ethnicity, regionalism, or tribalism is not a big threat. Tribes and regions could be co-opted or allied with, but the people that would spark a civil war are regime figures. The threats of civil war arise from the rivalries amongst regime officials themselves. Yet, it must be understood that these rivalries are deliberately being encouraged to divide Libya.

The flames of revolt are being fanned inside Libya. Chaos in the Arab World has been viewed as beneficial in many strategic circles in Washington, Tel Aviv, London, and NATO Headquarters. If Libya falls into a state of civil war or becomes balkanized this will benefit the U.S. and the E.U. in the long-term and will have serious geo-political implications.

All the neighbouring states in North Africa would be destabilized by the events in Libya. West Africa and Central Africa would also be destabilized. The tribal boundaries running in Libya and Chad extend into countries like Niger, Algeria, and Sudan. The chaos in Libya would also have a significant effect on Europe and global energy. Already the events in Libya are being used to validate the drive to control the Arctic Circle and its energy resources.

What Will Be Qaddafi’s End?

It is very likely that Qaddafi will not have as fortunate an exit from power as Ben Ali in Tunisia and Mubarak in Egypt. Finding refuge for Qaddafi will not be easy. In general, Qaddafi is considered a liability by other governments. Saudi Arabia, which can be portrayed as a refuge for Arab dictators, will most likely not give Qaddafi refuge. Libya and Saudi Arabia have bad relations. He is also wanted for investigation in Lebanon. Generally, Qaddafi’s relationship with the leaders of the Arab petro-sheikhdoms in the Persian Gulf is tense and negative. He will not be granted refuge anywhere in the Persian Gulf.

In general, Arab governments will also be afraid to host him. In his efforts to present himself as a champion of the people, he has insulted many of his fellow Arab dictators. There is something to be said, however, when Qaddafi’s statements at Arab League meetings or about Palestine and Iraq are far more popular or candid than the rest of the Arab dictators.

It is highly improbable that any Latin American, European, or ex-Soviet countries will give him refuge. A country in sub-Sahara(n) Africa is the mostly likely place Qaddafi could seek refuge.

His options are limited and he is determined to hold on to power. Civil War seems to be looming in the horizon. It is highly unlikely that he will leave Libya peacefully and the U.S. and its allies have no doubt examined this scenario. On February 23-24, 2010, he met with the leaders of the three biggest tribes in Libya (Werfala, Tarhouna, and Wershfana), to secure their support. His own tribe, Qaddafa is supporting him and it seems that the Madarha and Awlad Slieman tribes are also supporting him.

The Threats of NATO Intervention and U.S. and E.U. Control over Libya

Libya has been in the cross-hairs of the Pentagon for years. According to Wesley Clark, the retired general who was the supreme military commander of NATO, Libya was on a Pentagon list of nations to be invaded after Taliban-controlled Afghanistan. The list included Iraq, Somalia, Sudan, Lebanon, Syria, and lastly Iran. In Clark’s own words:

So I came back to see him [a high ranking military officer in the Pentagon] a few weeks later, and by that time we were bombing in Afghanistan. I said, “Are we still going to war with Iraq?” And he said, “Oh, it’s worse than that.” He reached over on his desk. He picked up a piece of paper. And he said, “I just got this down from upstairs” — meaning the Secretary of Defence’s office — “today.” And he said, “This is a memo that describes how we’re going to take out seven countries in five years, starting with Iraq, and then Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and, finishing off, Iran.” (“92 Street Y Exclusive Live Interview,” interview by Amy Goodman, Democracy Now, March 2, 2007)

In one way or another all the nations on the list have been attacked directly or indirectly and all of them, but Syria and Iran, have succumbed to the U.S. and its allies. Again, the only exceptions are Iran and its ally Syria. In Lebanon, the U.S. has made partial gains, but it is now receding with the decline of the Hariri-led March 14 Alliance.

Libya started secret negotiations with Washington in 2001 that materialized into formal rapprochement after the fall of Baghdad to British and American troops in 2003. Yet, the U.S. and its allies have always wanted to expand their influence over the Libyan energy sector and to appropriate Libya’s vast wealth [proceeds of sales]. A civil war provides the best cover for this.

Libyans Must Be Aware of the Pretext of Humanitarian Intervention

The Libyan people should be on their high guards. It is clear that the U.S. and the E.U. are supporting both sides. The U.S. and the E.U. are not the allies of the people of the Arab World. In this regard, the U.S. supports Qaddafi on the ground through military hardware, while it also supports the “opposition.” If the so-called Western governments were serious about democracy, they would have cut their business ties to Libya, specifically in the energy sector, before 2011.

Both Washington and the powers in Brussels could co-opt opposition forces. They have supported Gaddafi, but they do not control him or his regime like they controlled Ben Ali in Tunisia and Mubarak in Egypt. Libya is a very different story. The objectives of Washington and Brussels will be to strengthen their control over Libya either through regime change or civil war.

“Actions of opposition to Gaddafi” are strong, but there is no strong organized “opposition movement.” The two are different. Nor is democracy guaranteed, because of the nature of the coalition opposed to Gaddafi, which includes corrupt regime officials.

There is now talk about a “humanitarian intervention” in Libya, similar to Yugoslavia and Iraq. A “no-fly zone” over Libya has been mentioned, as has NATO military intervention. The aims behind such statements are not humanitarian, but are intended to justify foreign interference, which could potentially lead to an invasion. Should this come to fruition, Libya would become an occupied country. Its resources would be plundered and its assets privatized and controlled by foreign corporations as in the case of Iraq [more to the point, as with Iraq, a steadfast source of support for Palestine would be neutralized].

Today, in Libya and the Arab World the ghosts of Omar Mukhtar and Saladin are still very much alive and active. Getting rid of Gaddafi and his sons alone is not the solution. The entire corrupt system of governance in Libya and the culture of political corruption must be dismantled. At the same time, however, foreign interference or domination should also not be allowed to take root in Libya. If the Libyan people are mobilized and steadfast, they can fight such schemes.

February 26, 2011 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Deception, Solidarity and Activism | Comments Off on Libya: Is Washington Pushing for Civil War to Justify a US-NATO Military Intervention?

America’s forests to be ground up for European biofuel mandates

By John Davis – February 23rd, 2011

An American maker of wood pellets has acquired a deep water port, and that should help the company receive, store and load more than 3 million tons of woody biomass for export each year.

Biomass Magazine reports that Enviva LP will expand its shipping capacity with the deep water port terminal in Chesapeake, Virginia:

The location is one of a few on the Eastern Seaboard suitable for the export of wood pellets and will serve as the shipment point for pellets manufactured at Enviva’s recently announced plant in nearby Ahoskie, N.C. The new plant will produce 330,000 tons of wood pellets annually from more than 600,000 tons of raw supplies, according to Enviva.

The Chesapeake port is Enviva’s second and the company will continue to ship pellets made at its Gulf region plants from its Mobile, Ala., port. The Virginia terminal was formerly owned by Giant Cement Co., which will continue to use a portion of it for cement sales. Expansion of the terminal will require 40 to 60 skilled workers and contractors during the initial phase of construction, and its permanent staff of 12 is expected to double by the third year of operation. Upgrades are expected to be complete in November, coinciding with pellet production at the new Ahoskie facility, according to Enviva.

“The Chesapeake region has for a long time been a key nexus of international trade in the United States,” said Enviva CEO John Keppler. “We are particularly excited to be one of the first green economy manufacturers to rebalance the flow of trade in favor of exports from this port in Virginia.” The company said the terminal purchase is a reflection of its commitment to ensuring the safety, reliability, sustainability and quality of its product. It also allows the company to better satisfy growing overseas demand for wood pellets.

The port will be able to handle ships with more than 44,000 tons of Enviva pellets on board. Most of Enviva’s customers are in Europe, but the company has been expanding its U.S. base.

February 26, 2011 Posted by | Environmentalism, Timeless or most popular | Comments Off on America’s forests to be ground up for European biofuel mandates

‘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: 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

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