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Iran’s enrichment program: “intransigence” or US stupidity?

By Cyrus Safdari | Iran Affairs | June 25, 2012

So as was expected, the Iran-bashers like Ray Takeyh are busy trying to blame the failure of the Moscow talks on “Iranian intransigence” — as if Iran’s completely legitimate expectation that the talks would proceed on the basis of the relevant international treaty AS PROMISED (which includes recognition of the right to enrich uranium) is somehow just too crazy and far out to be acknowledged. God forbid that the US should have to abide by international law, after all. Hey, remember this?

“We have agreed that the Non-Proliferation Treaty forms a key basis for what must be serious engagement to ensure all the obligations under the treaty are met by Iran while fully respecting Iran’s right to the peaceful use of nuclear energy,” EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said following the meeting with Iran’s top negotiator, Saeed Jalili.

LOL. Ashton baby, you’re such a good comedienne.

And naturally the media are busy repeating the standard talking points about how the negotiations fell apart because Iran was “intransigent” about giving up their 20% enrichment.

Apart from the lie about the talks proceeding on the basis of the NPT, what the media completely fail to mention, of course, is that the US would never have had to negotiate over the 20% enriched uranium in the first place had the US not interferred in Iran’s right to simply purchase the reactor fuel it needed for the Tehran Research Reactor — a reactor, by the way, which is not only NOT a nuclear weapons proliferation threat at all (the reactor operates under IAEA safeguards, and is also entirely too small to be a weapons threat) but is also used to make isotopes to treat Iran’s 800,000 cancer patients. In short, the US has shot itself in the foot by denying Iran’s right to buy the fuel, and now has to negotiate in the hopes to convince Iran to give up 20% enrichment. What a success! This is never even mentioned or considered in the media analyses. Instead the expectation that Iran should give up enrichment, and is “intransigent” for not doing so as the US demands, is simply taken for granted in the reports/analyses.

June 25, 2012 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , , | Comments Off on Iran’s enrichment program: “intransigence” or US stupidity?

China seeks free trade deal with Mercosur

Press TV – June 26, 2012

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao says China is interested in sealing a free trade agreement with the South American regional trade bloc Mercosur.

“We share ample common interests and we have great potential,” Wen said in Buenos Aires on Monday, while standing next to Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner in a videoconference that included the presidents of Brazil and Uruguay, AP reported.

In the videoconference, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff said strengthening relations between Chian and Mercosur could become a “strategy to keep the crisis contagion from reaching our markets and provoking unwanted consequences in employment and income that would hurt economic growth.”

In a meeting with the Argentine president, the Chinese premier signed deals on nuclear energy and the export of Argentine agricultural products.

Fernandez called the expansion of ties between China and Mercosur “a historic opportunity to add value to our raw materials and create jobs.”

The Mercosur bloc also includes Paraguay, which does not have diplomatic relations with Beijing because it recognizes Taiwan, which China, Mercosur’s second-biggest trade partner, considers a renegade province.

June 25, 2012 Posted by | Economics | , , , , | Comments Off on China seeks free trade deal with Mercosur

A Radioactive Conflict of Interest

Having the Energy Department manage radiation health research makes as much sense as giving tobacco companies the authority to see if smoking is safe

By Robert Alvarez | Other Words | June 25, 2012

The U.S. government is going out of its way to downplay radiation hazards in the aftermath of one of the world’s worst nuclear accidents.

Last month, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) heralded an Energy Department-funded study indicating that evacuation zones around nuclear power stations might not be needed after a major nuclear accident. The study, which exposed mice to radiation levels comparable to those near the Fukushima nuclear disaster, found no evidence of genetic harm. “There are no data that say that’s a dangerous level,” says Jacquelyn Yanch, a leader of the study.

“Current U.S. regulations require that residents of any area that reaches radiation levels eight times higher than background should be evacuated,” according to MIT’s press release. “However, the financial and emotional cost of such relocation may not be worthwhile, the researchers say.”

It’s quite a leap to claim that evacuation zones around nuclear power plants might not be needed based on the chromosomes of 112 irradiated mice.

In a devastating critique, blogger Ian Goddard points out that the MIT study excluded extensive evidence of genetic damage to humans living in a radiation-contaminated environment. Although doses in a peer-reviewed study of 19 groups of children living near Chernobyl were consistently lower than the MIT mouse study, most showed lasting genetic damage. “MIT’s presentation of its study as the first scientific examination of the genetic risks of living in a nuclear disaster zone is pure science fiction, not fact,” Goddard concludes.

Even more troubling, the Obama administration reduced emergency preparedness in case of a major nuclear accident in a quiet announcement made six months ago, right before Christmas — virtually guaranteeing minimal media attention. Given that the number of people living near nuclear stations has grown four-and-a-half times larger since 1980, a move in the opposite direction would make more sense.

What’s going on? The United States remains a major pillar of nuclear support here and around the world. About 70 percent of the Energy Department’s $26.3-billion budget covers nuclear activities — and that’s not including $18.5 billion in loan guarantees for new reactors that are slated for construction in South Carolina and Georgia. Japan’s failing nuclear industry is supposed to build them.

The Energy Department is also the main source of funding for radiation health research. That’s like having the tobacco industry determine if smoking is bad for your health. And this conflict of interest is nothing new. Several prominent scientists on the nuclear payroll in the 1950s and 60s vigorously claimed that radioactive fallout from atmospheric nuclear weapons tests was harmless. Some went so far as to claim that fallout might be beneficial because increased radiation-induced genetic mutations could weed out the weak.

This problem was not lost on congressional investigators over the past 35 years. They revealed the government’s suppression of incriminating data,  blacklisting of uncooperative researchers, unethical human experiments, and  submission of fraudulent research in federal court. By the late 1980s, the agency was forced to move funding for radiation research to public health agencies. This all changed a decade later, when the Republican-controlled Congress restored the Energy Department’s monopoly over radiation health research.

Things have gotten so bad that the agency gave MIT a $1.7-million grant last month to research, among other things, the “difficulties in gaining the broad social acceptance” of nuclear power. MIT also receives millions of dollars from Tokyo Electric Power Co., the company responsible for the Fukushima nuclear disaster.

This conflict of interest has tragic dimensions. The government and nuclear industry still have yet to deal with the costly disposal of enormous amounts of radioactive waste and profoundly contaminated “sacrifice zones” at the Energy Department’s nuclear sites. Or to resolve the issue of the tens of thousands of sick nuclear workers, uranium miners, military veterans, experiment victims, and nuclear test “down-winders,” who are receiving billions of dollars in compensation after being put in harm’s way on behalf of splitting the atom.

~

Robert Alvarez, an Institute for Policy Studies senior scholar, served as a Senior Policy Advisor to the Secretary of Energy during the Clinton Administration. He authored the report Spent Nuclear Fuel Pools in the U.S.: Reducing the Deadly Risks of Storage.

June 25, 2012 Posted by | Deception, Nuclear Power, Science and Pseudo-Science | , , , , | Comments Off on A Radioactive Conflict of Interest

Defending Privacy at the Israeli Border: Information for Travelers Carrying Digital Devices

By Jillian C. York and Jonathan Klinger | EFF | June 25, 2012

As we’ve acknowledged before, our lives are increasingly contained on our digital devices, which makes travel—and the decisions we make about what to carry with us—increasingly complicated.

A recent case in which two young travelers to Israel were requested not simply to provide their laptops for arbitrary searches, but to log in to their e-mail accounts and allow Israeli officials to search through their e-mail for specific strings and correspondence highlights the increasing obstacles to privacy that travelers face, as well as the increasingly global nature of security theatre.

In that particular case, the two young women—both of Palestinian origin—complied with officials’ requests but were nonetheless detained overnight before being deported.  In another, similar case, a U.S. citizen who refused access to her email was told she was probably hiding something and was refused entry to the country.  Israeli security (Shin Bet) told a reporter that “the actions taken by the agents during questioning were within the organization’s authority according to Israeli law.”

Not unlike travelers to the U.S., travelers to Israel face serious privacy challenges at the border.  The government generally has broad authority to search through your personal possessions, including your laptop, for any reason at all. When you cross the border to Israel, the Israeli government retains the authority to question you and examine your belongings, which it interprets as also allowing it to go through your electronic devices and computer files. More recently, authorities have also been known to demand user passwords to online accounts.

As we state in our guide to U.S. border searches:

For doctors, lawyers, and many business professionals, these border searches can compromise the privacy of sensitive professional information, including trade secrets, attorney-client and doctor-patient communications, research and business strategies, some of which a traveler has legal and contractual obligations to protect. For the rest of us, searches that can reach our personal correspondence, health information, and financial records are reasonably viewed as an affront to privacy and dignity and inconsistent with the values of a free society.

EFF recently asked Jonathan Klinger, an Israeli attorney, for his thoughts on the law and government practices that apply to searches at the Israeli border, and here is his analysis.

The Situation at the Israeli Border

At the Israeli border, there are some limited legal protections against the search itself. Based on a collection of experiences, however, it seems that mentioning these protections to border officials can be considered antagonism, and can limit your ability to enter Israel. Those concerned about the security and privacy of the information on their devices at the border should therefore use technological measures in an effort to protect their data. They can also choose not to take private data across the border with them at all, and then use technical measures to retrieve it from abroad.

There is, however, little to prevent a scenario in which one’s email is searched, as refusal to allow the search may result in deportation.  With that in mind, concerned travelers should think ahead and review their online accounts before traveling.

Why Can My Devices Be Searched at the Border?

Article 7 of Israel’s Basic Statute of Human Dignity and Freedom1 states that every person is entitled to his privacy, and that his property may not be searched, apart from where it is required under legal authority. This generally means that the government has to show probable cause that a crime has been committed and get a warrant before it can search a location or item in which you have a reasonable expectation of privacy; moreover, a recent Supreme Court ruling stated that there is no such thing called consensual search,2 and where there is no probable cause, the state cannot rely on a person’s consent in order to search in his possessions. But searches at places where people enter or leave Israel are subject to different statutes. The two applicable statutes are the Aviation Act (Security in Civil Aviation), 19773and the General Security Service Act, 20024; the two acts altogether provide two different state authorities the right to search on a person’s body and in his property. However, they do not refer to computer searches at all.

The Aviation Act allows security personnel, police officers, soldiers and members of the civil defense forces to search at border crossings if “the search is required, in [the officer’s] opinion, to keep the public’s safety or if he suspects that the person unlawfully carries weapons or explosives, or that the vehicle, the plane or the goods has weapons or explosives.

Similarly, the General Security Service Act states that in order to prevent unlawful activities, secure persons or any other activity that the government authorized with the approval of the Knesset committee for the Shin Bet5 to perform, any employee of the Shin Bet (the service) may search a person’s body, property, baggage or other goods and collect information, as long as the person is present.

Only in extreme cases, where there is an object that needs to be seized for a vital role in the Shin Bet’s activity, can the Shin Bet also search without a person’s presence.

However, nothing in these acts authorizes computer searches. Recently, the Israeli Justice office proposed a new anti-terror bill,6 which is yet to pass through the legislative process. This Anti-Terror bill does request to correct the current General Security Service act to specifically state that computers may be searched.

How the Government Searches Devices at the Border

There are three government agencies primarily responsible for inspecting travelers and items entering Israel: the General Security Service (Shin Bet), The Customs Authority and the Immigration authority.

The law gives the Shin Bet and other officials a great deal of discretion to inspect items coming into the country. There is no official policy published in respect to border search of electronic devices and accounts. And when recently requested to comment, the Shin Bet stated that its acts are “according to law.”

Recently, the Israeli Foreign Ministry admitted that it used Facebook in order to create a blacklist of activists who were then—along with a number of uninvolved and mistakenly identified individuals—banned entry to the country amidst the Flytilla events. If you are active on one or more social networks and express opinions about Israel, you carry a greater risk of being profiled and selected for search.

Keep in mind that the Shin Bet can keep your computer or copies of your data for “the time required for the seizure.”  There is no specific consideration regarding forensic practices and the ways that your computer files may be copied during the seizure. This is unlike the Israeli Criminal Procedure Order (Arrest and Search), 1969,7 which deals specifically with the forensic procedures of copying computer materials and requires two witnesses for any file duplication.

The Israeli Customs Authority, under Article 184,8 allows any customs official to search every person for contraband or drugs given probable cause. Moreover, the customs official may also request urine, blood or saliva samples and request persons to undress. However, nothing in the law allows them to search through computer materials.

In short, border agents have a lot of latitude to search electronic devices at the border or take them elsewhere for further inspection for a short period of time, whether or not they suspect a traveler has done anything wrong.

We do not have the exact numbers or methods of how such searches are handled, and the Shin Bet is exempt from the Israeli Freedom of Information Act.9; However, the frequency of technology-oriented searches at the border may increase in the future. Researchers and vendors are creating tools to make forensic analysis faster and more effective, and, over time, forensic analysis will require less skill and training. Law enforcement agencies may be tempted to use these tools more often and in more circumstances as their use becomes easier.

Travelers should consider taking the same precautions outlined in EFF’s guide to carrying digital devices across the United States border.

June 25, 2012 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance, Solidarity and Activism, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Obama’s Killer Drones

By MARJORIE COHN and JEANNE MIRER | CounterPunch | June 25, 2012

The Bush administration detained and tortured suspected militants; the Obama administration assassinates them. Both practices not only visit more hatred upon the United States; they are also illegal.  Our laws and treaties prohibit torture. The Constitution forbids the government from depriving any person of life without due process of law; that is, arrest and fair trial. Yet President Obama has approved the killing of people, many of whom were not even identified before the kill order was given.

Jo Becker and Scott Shane reported in the New York Times that Obama maintains a “kill list.” After consulting with his counterterrorism adviser John O. Brennan, Obama personally makes the decision to have individuals executed. Brennan was closely identified with torture, secret prisons, and extraordinary rendition during the Bush administration. The Times story, based on interviews with three dozen current and former Obama advisers, reports that “Mr. Obama has avoided the complications of detention by deciding, in effect, to take no prisoners alive. While scores of suspects have been killed under Mr. Obama, only one has been taken into U.S. custody” because he doesn’t want to add new prisoners to Guantanamo.

The leak of the kill list angered Republicans, evidently because they believe it demonstrates Obama’s “strength” in foreign policy. Some progressives who do not fully understand the profound illegality of drone attacks find them preferable to the United States’ all out invasions of more countries.  We all need to understand that the unlawful precedent the United States is setting with its use of killer drones not only undermines the rule of law; it also will prevent the United States from reasonably objecting when other countries that obtain drone technology develop “kill lists” of persons those countries believe represent threats to them.

On June 15, for the first time, Obama publicly acknowledged that his administration is engaging in “direct action” in Yemen and Somalia. Although the United States is not at war with either country, George W. Bush’s “War on Terror” has morphed into Obama’s “War on Al Qaeda.” Obama’s “war” has been used as an excuse to assassinate anyone anywhere in the world whenever the President gives the order.

But “there is not a distinct entity called Al Qaeda that provides a sound basis for defining and delimiting an authorized use of force,” according to Paul P. Pillar, deputy director of the CIA’s Counterterrorist Center from 1997 to 1999. The United States is not at war with Yemen and Somalia.   Even if Obama identifies certain people living in Yemen or Somalia as members of Al-Qaeda who are desirous of committing acts of terror against the people of the United States, there is no basis in law for our government to declare war on individuals it considers a threat. The United States has legal means to indict and extradite, both under U.S. and international law.

Since 2004, some 300 drone strikes have been launched in Pakistan. Twenty percent of the resulting deaths are believed to have been civilians. The Pakistan Human Rights Commission says U.S. drone strikes were responsible for at least 957 deaths in Pakistan in 2010.

In the three and one-half years since Obama took office, between 282 and 585 civilians have been killed, including more than 60 children. “The CIA’s drone campaign has killed dozens of civilians who had gone to rescue victims or who were attending funerals,” a new report by the London-based Bureau of Investigative Journalism found.

But, according to the Times article, Obama has developed a creative way to count civilian casualties. All military-age men killed in a drone strike zone are considered to be combatants, “unless there is explicit intelligence posthumously proving them innocent.” As a result, Brennan reported last year that not one civilian had been killed during one year of strikes. An administration official recently claimed that the number of civilians killed by drone strikes in Pakistan was in the “single digits.” Three former senior intelligence officials told the Times that they couldn’t believe the number could be so low.

Obama, who has been targeting “suspected militants” (called “personality strikes”) in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia, even killing U.S. citizens, has authorized expanded drone attacks – whenever there are suspicious “patterns of behavior” at sites controlled by a terrorist group.  These are known as “signature strikes.” That means bombs are being dropped on un-identified people who are in an area where suspicious activity has taken place. This goes beyond the illegal practice of “targeted killing.” People are being killed without even being an identified target.

The administration justifies its use of armed drones with reference to the Authorization for the Use of Military Force that Congress passed just days after the September 11 attacks. In the AUMF, Congress authorized force against groups and countries that had supported the terrorist strikes. But Congress rejected the Bush administration’s request for open-ended military authority “to deter and preempt any future acts of terrorism or aggression against the United States.” Deterrence and preemption are exactly what Obama is trying to accomplish by sending robots to kill “suspected militants” or those who happen to be present in an area where suspicious activity has taken place.

Moreover, in the National Defense Authorization Act of 2012, Congress specifically declared, “Nothing in this section is intended to . . . expand the authority of the President or the scope of the Authorization for the Use of Military Force [of September 2001].”

Drone attacks also violate well-established principles of international law. A targeted killing is defined as the “intentional, premeditated, and deliberate use of lethal force . . . against a specific individual who is not in the physical custody of the perpetrator,” according to Philip Alston, former UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary, or Arbitrary Executions. Targeted or political assassinations – sometimes known as extra-judicial executions – run afoul of the Geneva Conventions, which include willful killing as a grave breach.  Grave breaches of Geneva are punishable as war crimes under the U.S. War Crimes Act.

Christof Heyns, the current UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary, or Arbitrary Executions, expressed grave concern about the targeted killings, saying they may constitute war crimes. He called on the Obama administration to explain how its drone strikes comport with international law, specify the bases for decisions to kill rather than capture particular individuals, and whether the State in which the killing takes place has given consent. Heyns further asked for specification of the procedural safeguards in place, if any, to ensure in advance of drone killings that they comply with international law. He also wanted to know what measures the U.S. government takes after any such killing to ensure that its legal and factual analysis was accurate and, if not, the remedial measures it would take, including justice and reparations for victims and their families. Although Heyns’ predecessor made similar requests, Heyns said the United States has not provided a satisfactory response.

Heyns also called on the U.S. government to make public the number of civilians collaterally killed as a result of drone attacks, and the measures in place to prevent such casualties. Once again, Heyns said the United States has not satisfactorily responded to a prior query for such information.

Likewise, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay recently declared that U.S. drone attacks in Pakistan violate the international law principles of proportionality and distinction. Proportionality means that an attack cannot be excessive in relation to the anticipated military advantage sought.  Distinction requires that the attack be directed only at a legitimate military target.

The United States has ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The ICCPR states: “Every human being has the inherent right to life. This right shall be protected by law. No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his life.” The Covenant also guarantees those accused of a crime the right to be presumed innocent and to a fair trial by an impartial tribunal. Targeted killings abrogate these rights.

Self defense under Article 51 of the United Nations Charter is a narrow exception to the Charter’s prohibition of the use of force or the threat of force to settle international disputes.  Countries may engage in individual or collective self-defense only in the face of an armed attack.  To the extent the United States claims the right to kill suspected terrorists or their allies before they act, there must exist “a necessity of self-defence, instant, overwhelming, leaving no choice of means, and no moment for deliberation,” under the well-established Caroline Case. Obama’s drone attacks do not meet this standard.

The United States’ resort to ever increasing targeted killings is a direct result of the “War on Terror” the Bush administration declared after 9/11.  Bush declared a perpetual war on a tactic and claimed all Al-Qaeda and Taliban are terrorists who may be preemptively killed as a form of self defense, rather than being arrested and tried for criminal acts. Although he does not use the phrase “War on Terror,” Obama has continued and even extended this policy. It is the product of a powerful military industrial complex in the United States which sees the use of force as the first step to resolving disputes rather than a last resort, notwithstanding the strictures of the UN Charter.

This practice sets a dangerous precedent. Heyns opined that “any Government could, under the cover of counter-terrorism imperatives, decide to target and kill an individual on the territory of any State if it considers that said individual constitutes a threat.” Heyns also cited information that indicates “the attacks increasingly fuel protests among the population.” Heyns said the “lack of transparency” and “dangerous precedent” that drone attacks represent “remain of grave concern.”

Drone strikes are also counterproductive. They breed increased resentment against the United States and lead to the recruitment of more terrorists. “Drones have replaced Guantanamo as the recruiting tool of choice for militants,” Becker and Shane wrote in the Times article. They quoted Faisal Shahzad, who, while pleading guilty to trying to detonate a bomb in Times Square, told the judge, “When the drones hit, they don’t see children.” Pakistani ambassador Zamir Akram told the Geneva Forum last week that the drone attacks are illegal and violate the sovereignty of Pakistan, “not to mention being counter-productive.” He added, “thousands of innocent people, including women and children, have been murdered in these indiscriminate attacks.”

Becker and Shane noted, “[Obama’s] focus on strikes has made it impossible to forge, for now, the new relationship with the Muslim world that he had envisioned. Both Pakistan and Yemen are arguably less stable and more hostile to the United States than when Mr. Obama became president. Justly or not, drones have become a provocative symbol of American power, running roughshod over national sovereignty and killing innocents.”

Ibrahim Mothana, who wrote an op-ed in the Times titled “How Drones Help Al Qaeda,” agrees. “Drone strikes are causing more and more Yemenis to hate America and join radical militants; they are not driven by ideology but rather by a sense of revenge and despair,” Mothana observed.

It is time to halt this dangerous and illegal practice.

Marjorie Cohn is a professor at Thomas Jefferson School of Law and past president of the National Lawyers Guild. Her most recent book is The United States and Torture: Interrogation, Incarceration, and Abuse.

June 25, 2012 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Militarism, Progressive Hypocrite, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Tragic Week in Paraguay

Written by Javiera Manuela Rulli and Reto Sonderegger* | Grupo de Reflexión Rural | 24 June 2012

Paraguayan President Fernando Lugo has just been removed from office by Congress through political impeachment, an express trial that lasted only 24 hours. This manoeuvre must be seen as a coup to the democratic process started in 2008. Social movements are protesting in front of Congress as well as in various parts of the country.This plot by the major Paraguayan political parties has to be interpreted as the last step of a process of political destabilization in the country started with the massacre of Curuguaty last June 15th.

The facts from Curuguaty seem to show a high-level plot and operation by the opposition. The massacre that occurred in a camp of the landless peasants during a police operation left a toll of 17 dead, 11 peasants and 6 police officers, and 80 wounded. There are 54 people arrested facing very serious charges.

We will try to explain now the chain of events that have shaken the country from the Curuguaty deaths to Lugo’s overthrow today.

Background to the Curuguaty events

The Canindeyú department in the northeast part of Paraguay is a border region with Brazil with a high concentration of land in the hands of soy agribusinesses, marijuana cultivation and drugs and weapons smuggling.

Blas N. Riquelme is one of the richest people in the country, former Colorado Senator, large landowner with supermarket chains and many other food companies. Blas N. Riquelme was fraudulently given 50 thousand hectares of land, which were meant for poor peasants of the agrarian reform, during the Stroessner Dictatorship in 1969. This case of ill-gotten land was reported in the Report of the Truth and Justice Commission in 2008.

Since the fall of the Dictatorship in 1989, local peasants have been fighting to get these lands back. Two months ago a group of 60 landless peasants occupied two thousand hectares of the lands in an area called Marina Cue. These people did not belong to any specific peasant organization.

The Curuguaty massacre

On Friday June 15, two groups of law enforcement officers, the GEO Special forces and the police, entered Marina Cue with only a search warrant. The first group went to the camp to talk with the peasants. The police group suspiciously positioned itself behind. Surprisingly, in a confused event, long distance shots were fired. The first persons to fall were the chief and the deputy chief of the GEO forces.

During the ensuing battle, helicopters with reinforcements from the Special Operations Forces arrived and dispersed the peasants with flamethrowers and tear gas. The result of the battle was 11 peasants and 6 policemen dead.

In the first 24 hours after these events, police and soldiers surrounded and closed the area not letting anybody in. A first group of human rights advocates from Asuncion was detained by the police for several hours. In the Capital peasant leaders remained on alert, and in Curuguaty locals complained of law enforcement hunting down all survivors of the gunfight and any peasant activists in the area. Police burned the camp, erasing all evidence. During this period no prosecutors entered the area to observe what happened and collect evidence. It is assumed that during this time the police removed dead bodies and destroyed any proof.

Injured people, who went to health centers, were detained and placed in isolation cells in police stations. Some relatives and local people, who went to the health centers or to the police stations in order to get information on the victims, were also arrested. Lawyers and human rights organizations were not allowed access.

On Saturday, 16 family members, activists and media members crossed the police cordon and entered the peasant camp to search for survivors and wounded who might still be hiding. Indigenous people from the area helped with the search operation. Throughout the weekend there was heavy rain which made the operation almost impossible; regardless, they found 2 peasant bodies. According to information provided by human rights and peasant organizations: “these bodies were moved from where they were killed because there was no blood in the vicinity. They were also dressed as alleged guerilla-snipers and showed signs of recent torture and execution, with fresh blood and bullet wounds in the head and neck, and the weapons that are beside them are shotguns that could not have been used, since they are short distance weapons that shoot pellets, that do not match the long-distance wounds of the dead policemen.”

The search committee found traces of weapons of war, weapons which are not used by peasants. The suspicion is that, besides the landless peasant group, there was another infiltrated group which ambushed and killed the police. Peasant witnesses confirm this information, reporting that another group of men had camped nearby during the previous days, carrying heavy weapons and that these were the shooters. Their actions do not correspond to the methods used by peasants in their struggle for land. Questions arise about who these people might be: Could they be thugs tied to Blas Riquelme, border mafia, paramilitaries, or guerrillas? What seems to be clear is that they are not among those killed, detained or charged. Much of the evidence that could have helped identify them has also been eliminated.

Meanwhile, the prosecution presents charges against 54 people. Most are members of peasant organizations and relatives of the deceased who were not in the peasant camp at the time of the massacre. The charges are every serious, such as aggravated homicide and intentional murder, in addition to charges of invasion of private property, which carry sentences of up to 30 years in prison.

Only 12 people are currently arrested and charged, several of them are in jail. There are several minors, including a 16-year-old wounded girl and her infant child. The detainees have signs of torture, and several were arrested when they went to the police inquiring on friends and relatives. The situation of helplessness and defenselessness makes the locals dare not leave their homes. There is a non-declared state of siege in Curuguaty.

The prisoners are kidnapped by the police

On Sunday June 17th, Presidential Cabinet Secretary Miguel Angel Lopez Perito and Health Minister Esperanza Martinez went to Curuguaty to personally evaluate the matter. Previously, the police moved the detainees out of the police stations to other detention centers, so that the two Ministers could not see them. The detainees were literally kidnapped by the police.

Assembly meetings are held between civil servants (funcionarios?), family and social movements where they present their demands, which are:

1. End to the persecution and release of all prisoners;

2. Compensation for the families of the victims,

3. Recovery of ill-gotten lands of Marina Cue for the creation of a model peasant settlement

At a conference on June 19th, Emilio Camacho, auditor of the Paraguayan Land Institute (INDERT), confirmed that Blas Riquelme did not have the title to the 2,000 hectares; the ongoing ownership trial is still unresolved. This makes evident the irregularity and partiality (to landed interests) of the Paraguayan judiciary system: search warrants and eviction orders are signed without land titles.

Lugo hands over the repressive apparatus to the Colorados

Because of what happened in Curuguaty, Lugo replaced Interior Minister Carlos Filizzola naming as his replacement the former Attorney General, Candia Amarilla. During his tenure as State Prosecutor, Amarilla was characterized by his persecution and criminalization of social sectors.

Amarilla was trained in Colombia and is one of the promoters of the implementation of Plan Colombia in Paraguay. He is also a member of the Colorado Party. To make matters worse, Lugo replaced the National Director of Police and put in his place the chief who was in charge of the police operation in Curuguaty, the Commissioner Moran Arnaldo Sanabria. Both officials are publicly rejected by the social movements and several political sectors. Amarilla announced the end of the “protocol” in eviction operations, implemented by the previous Minister, consisting of dialogue with civil society organizations prior to operations. Amarilla states that his mandate will be the enforcement of the law with a strong arm.

With these two appointments, Lugo hands over the repressive apparatus into the hands of the Colorado Party. It is evident that he negotiated these nominations to avoid political impeachment. However, by doing this, he got the Liberal Party against him, which in turn negotiated with the Colorado Party and the Oviedistas to carry out the political impeachment.

On Thursday June 21st, a popular mobilization was called in front of the lands of Marina Cue. Over a thousand people were present with the objective of re-occupying the property until the detained people are freed and the land of Marine Cue returned to its rightful owners, landless peasants.

That same morning, the Colorado and Liberal parties suddenly agreed with the Oviedistas to impeach Lugo. In a few hours the impeachment process was set in motion by both houses, giving the president two hours on Friday to defend himself.

On Thursday, social movements called for mass mobilization in front of the Congress. Thursday night, 2000 people slept in the square in front of the Congress and people from all over the country started arriving in Asuncion. In several parts of the country, peasant organizations blocked roads.

On Friday afternoon, after an absurd and circus-like session in the Senate, Lugo is impeached. Paraguayan parliamentarians finally destroyed the democratization process that started with the electoral victory of Lugo. Upon hearing the verdict the first wave of repression started in the square outside the Congress. It marks only the beginning of what is being orchestrated against social movements and especially the peasant movement.

International solidarity can play a crucial role in the defense of Human Rights of the popular sectors in Paraguay. We call on all social organizations to be on alert to the situation in this country.

* Translation Lilian Joensen

June 25, 2012 Posted by | Deception, False Flag Terrorism | , , , , , , | Comments Off on Tragic Week in Paraguay

Al-Qaeda a tool for West’s political/military adventures

Habilian Foundation | 23 June 2012

In an interview with Habilian Foundation (families of Iranian terror victims), Mark Glenn, co-founder of the Idaho-based Crescent and Cross Solidarity Movement, discussed the al-Qaeda’s role at the hands of the West and the US’s double standards on fighting against terrorism. What follows is the full transcript of the interview, which has also been published in Persian-language Rah Nama monthly magazine.

Habilian: How do you see al-Qaeda after the death of Bin Laden?

Glenn: well, the assumption is that ‘Al Qaeda’ is what it’s described being by Israel, America and the West. Millions of people in Iraq and Afghanistan have lost their lives in the various wars of aggression inflicted by America and other western countries, and yet we come to find out that these same western countries killing innocent people in Iraq and Afghanistan are arming, training and funding Al Qaeda militants in places such as Libya and Syria.

So my answer is that—given the West and Israel’s propensity for lying and manufacturing certain situations in order to justify some pre-arranged political/military adventure, we don’t really know what Al Qaeda is, other than a very convenient enemy when America needs to go to war against someone.

Habilian: Is al-Qaeda still a terrorist group posing a threat to different western countries namely American people?

Glenn: A very good question. Well, the math for such a statement-that Al Qaeda poses a threat to America–certainly does not add up. The attacks of 9/11 were almost 11 years ago and yet in that time period there have been NO attacks on America, despite her being a very easy target. After all, we are told that Al Qaeda wants to see America destroyed. Where are the daily attacks then? America’s borders are very porous. Access to explosives, firearms and every other destructive device in America is very easy. And yet, in the almost 4,000 days that have passed since 9/11, there have been no attacks of any kind. What this suggests is that either Al Qaeda is not very dangerous or else is not very smart.

Habilian: What do you think of its interference in Iraq and Syria? Isn’t the Ayman al-Zawahiri’s leadership in al-Qaeda in line with the US warmongering policies in the Middle East?

Glenn: Yes, a very good point, and again I think it speaks to the fact that ‘Al Qaeda’, whatever that is, is basically a tool that is used by America, the West and Israel whenever they need to push-start a pre-arranged political/military adventure somewhere. It is similar in some respects to a man who has a business where he repairs dents in cars and has on his payroll someone who goes out in the dark of night and puts dents in cars as a means of generating business.

Habilian: How would you evaluate the US-Taliban bilateral talks? Isn’t it a kind of retreat?

Glenn: at this point I don’t know exactly how to evaluate these talks, other than that they are an indicator that the US finds itself in very messy business in Afghanistan, which was visible from a mile away before the war even began. But then, the entire fiasco in the Middle East as pertains the West is very much like a Greek tragedy where the hubris and arrogance of the main protagonist leads directly to his own downfall, something which the government of Iran through the person of her president, Dr. Mahmoud Ahmadinejhad has said on many occasions.

Habilian: What is your estimation of the Obama Administration’s policies towards the issue of fighting terrorism?

Glenn: The US is not and never has been interested in ‘fighting terrorism’. If it were, they would immediately cut off all funding and support for the world’s largest terrorist organization, meaning the Jewish state. Obama’s role as elected (selected) President is to hunt down and destroy Israel’s enemies, but neither he nor any other elected official in the US can say this openly, so they mask their true intent by calling resistance to Israel’s brutality and aggression ‘terrorism’.

Israel was the beginning of terrorism in the 20th century and remains so in the 21st. If the people of the world want a return to peace and prosperity, they must begin by attacking the problem at its source, which is the Jewish state and its various tentacles spread around the world.

June 25, 2012 Posted by | Deception, False Flag Terrorism, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes, Wars for Israel | , , , , , | Comments Off on Al-Qaeda a tool for West’s political/military adventures

Samah Sabawi responds to Liberal Zionists

By Samah Sabwai | June 23, 2012

Leading Liberal Zionists have come out in impressive numbers calling for the boycott of settlements. But I have to warn you there is something to dread; they want you to buy Israeli products instead. They say they want to save Israel from a dangerous extremist threat. Namely: the Israeli gov’t and the BDS! Yes, they’ve lumped us together as two extreme versions calling for one state. Both? Extreme?

In other words, liberal Zionists are telling us that Palestinian resistance, boycott sanctions and divestments that calls for equality between Palestinians and Jews is as extreme as Netanyahu’s plan for erasing the green line and colonizing all of historic Palestine.

In such deranged twisted views, Palestinians demanding to be equal to Jews are perceived to be as extreme as the Jews who uproot olive trees, scorch Palestinian fields and demolish Palestinian homes forcing entire families to live in fear of being exiled.

In this absurd reality BDS’s call for equality is apparently as extreme as ethnic cleansing. In what world is this convincing?

They demand we, the Palestinians support a two state solution. Too little! Too late! Where were they for 45 years as their democratically elected governments destroyed any prospects of a Palestinian state? Where are they today as Palestinian prisoners fight for their lives as they try to end the policy of Administrative detention? Is it beyond their comprehension? They have never taken any decisive action because ending this dichotomy between oppressed and oppressor does not fall within their agenda of fulfilling their aspiration for a Jewish nation. This is their priority.

In their grand hypocrisy they want us to fortify the Green line that supposedly separates a Jewish state from a future Palestine but without ever supporting Palestinian resistance. Is it then a matter of a state of mind? If we think it, the settlements will go? What tools
can we use and where are these liberal Zionists when nonviolent protestors are shot in the face with gas canisters? They want us to be as delusional as they are. They want us to be docile. They want us to exonerate Israel of all its past crime or God forbid, we would be accused of clinging to victimhood.

They want us to march alongside the spin doctors and bleeding hearts and to chant ‘The settlers are to blame for the erosion of Israel’s democracy. The settlers are to blame! The settlers are to blame for the erosion of Israel’s democracy. ‘The settlers are to blame’ for the destruction of a Zionist fantasy! As if settlers exist in a vacuum. As if settlers have come from some far away planet, landed on a hill in the West Bank and without any help from congress, the Knesset or the senate, they began to build their colonies on our land.

‘The settlers are to blame’ as if Israel was not built on the ruins of Palestinian villages long before the settlers came to the West Bank. Long before the checkpoints and the wall, long before it all, long before there was an occupation, there was a total devastation, a ruthless destruction of an entire nation.

‘The settlers are to blame’ but as far back as 1948 villages were erased, Palestinians were massacred, to make way for the establishment of this state.

‘The settlers are to blame’ but go on and ask this soil you tread, whose ancestral flesh
has fed this earth for centuries? Whose blood runs in the sap of the olive trees? Whose stories are written between the cracks of these old stones?

‘The settlers are to blame’. Close your eyes and search your soul. Dig deep. Those nightmares in your sleep are the voices that once filled this Arab home you have occupied with laughter. Look beneath your bed. Did they leave their slippers when they ran barefoot down the street and into exile? Did they leave behind the tea-kettle warm on the kitchen table before they wore an eternal label ‘refugees’?

‘The settlers are to blame’ but who shoots the gas canisters and live bullets at the protestors in the West Bank? Who enables these settlers to steal Palestinian land?

‘The settlers are to blame’. Who is responsible for the death of thousands in Gaza?

Was it settlers riding on their F16 fighter jets who dropped the phosphorus bombs on schools, houses and mosques? Or was it a state army, your army, wearing a uniform that supposedly represents all of Israel that killed and maimed at will?

The best part is when Liberal Zionists like Beinart suggest calling the West Bank ‘undemocratic Israel’. ‘Undemocratic’ as opposed to what? The democratic Israel on the other side of the Green line where Palestinians who survived the Nakba and hold Israeli citizenships have dozens of laws that single them out and discriminate against them?

‘The settlers are to blame’ but how are the settlers alone responsible for the systematic racism of a state that defines all non-Jews as second-class citizens? And pray tell, who set the Eritrean migrants’ house on fire in Jerusalem and demanded the deportation of Africans seeking asylum? If we boycott settlements and buy Israeli goods will the Jews in Israel become more accepting of non-Jews in their neighborhoods?

Let’s put an end to this grand deviation. Settlers wouldn’t exist if not for the support of an ethnocentric nation, dedicated by any means necessary to driving out the indigenous population.

Yes, Boycott the settlements, but don’t stop at the green line because they did not.
Boycott the settlements but also boycott ethnic superiority. Boycott discrimination against Palestinians who are second-class citizens in their own country. Boycott Israel’s academic institutions for their complicity. Boycott Israel’s culture for its duplicity.

Boycott Israeli industries. Boycott Israeli institutions for supporting war crimes. Boycott Israel’s apartheid policies on both sides of the green line until all of this changes and we are all free, living together Palestinians and Jews in equality.

Boycott Israel and I promise you, this day will come.

June 25, 2012 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Solidarity and Activism, Timeless or most popular, Video | , , , | 1 Comment

Jordan Valley: Palestinian family’s water confiscated, internationals arrested

25 June 2012 | International Solidarity Movement, West Bank

On Thursday, June 21, Israeli forces confiscated a water tank from a Bedouin Palestinian family in the Jordan Valley, leaving them with no access to water. Three Swedish women were arrested for standing in solidarity with Palestinian women and children who peacefully protested by standing in between the Israeli military and the water tank at risk of theft.

Israeli soldiers deal violently with a Palestinian woman peacefully protesting the theft of her water tank

The Jordan valley is a fertile area ideal for agricultural production. When Israel took control of the West Bank, it immediately took hold of water resources and began to target Palestinian communities and empty them from the Jordan Valley. The villages left are isolated from each other not only by distance but by Israeli checkpoints, closed military zones, and other restrictions on movement. The Israeli military performs military training in proximity to many communities, putting them at constant risk.

The illegal occupation of water resources has made water access an urgent problem. The United Nations declares water a basic human right. The World Health Organization has declared that each individual needs access to 100 litres of water per day,  but Palestinians use on average between 50 to 70 litres per day. Many Palestinians in the Jordan Valley however, receive as little as 10-20 litres per day. This is a figure lower than the absolute minimum daily consumption required to avoid ‘mass health epidemics.’ Families in the Jordan Valley are forced to buy water at incredibly inflated prices. Some households spend 40-50% of their income to buy water from Israeli companies.

“When we came to the Bedouin camp, children were crying and there were a lot of soldiers trying to drag them away from the tractor that they tried to block. There were no men, only women and children, and around 60 soldiers and policemen. The Bedouin men were scared to show any resistance because of the risk of administrative detention,” says Rosa Andersson, one of the women who was later arrested.
The Swedish women were released after 30 hours of arrest and they are now prohibited from being in the West Bank. No one, Palestinian or International, showed any violence. The Palestinian family dependent on the confiscated water tank now has no access to water as the driest season of the year has just begun.

June 25, 2012 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Solidarity and Activism, Subjugation - Torture | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Where are the Iran talks heading after Moscow?

By Peter Jenkins* | Lobelog | June 24th, 2012

To anyone trying to guess where this year’s re-engagement of Iran by the Obama administration is likely to lead, two things look clearer in the aftermath of the 18-19 June talks in Moscow.

First, the administration appears to have thought better of the idea of tolerating uranium enrichment, even at low levels, in Iran. The distinction President Obama drew earlier in the year between opposing the development of nuclear weapons (his position) and opposing the development of a nuclear weapons capability (the Israeli position), and the signal implied when the President authorised a resumption of talks with Iran even though Iran had failed to commit to suspending its enrichment activities–hitherto a pre-condition for such talks–have turned out to be misleading.

In Moscow, the US and its EU allies once more placed emphasis on the suspension of enrichment (a so-called “international obligation” which Iran must implement fully to secure a deal) and they declined to give Iran the assurance it wants that these talks will eventually result in the West tolerating enrichment.

Without that assurance Iran is unwilling to embark on the process of concession-making that is diplomatically termed “confidence-building”. Iran believes that it has a treaty right to master the nuclear fuel cycle provided it submits all nuclear material in its possession to International Atomic Energy Association (IAEA) inspection. It also considers the UN Security Council resolutions that the West has sponsored to override that treaty right to be illegal. (The resolutions are certainly not a proportionate response to Iran’s IAEA safeguards non-compliance.)

Second, neither the US nor its EU allies seem inclined to purchase Iranian confidence-building by granting Iran the other thing (apart from “recognition” of its Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) rights) that it craves: some measure of relief from the sanctions introduced by the US and EU (without UN authorisation) in the course of the past winter. Instead the West has sought to obtain concessions by offering what look like baubles for Iran’s negotiators.

On the face of it, therefore, re-engagement has been a failure. It has not sparked the give-and-take, the reciprocity that characterises almost all successful negotiations. It may have contributed to a pre-electorally useful drop in gas prices, but that drop is more likely due to a weakening global economic outlook. It has failed to deliver the Iranian capitulation that would complicate life for proponents of another war in the Gulf or regime change in Iran.

There is, however, an important difference between the 2009 version of engagement and the 2012 version. This time around neither side, it seems, is in a hurry to declare the process dead.

That this should be the case for the US and its allies is hardly surprising. In an electoral year the administration has every interest in heeding the American public’s preference for what Winston Churchill called “jaw-jaw” over “war-war”. And if diplomacy can contribute to lowering the cost of gas and make it harder for Israel to justify an aerial strike on Iranian nuclear facilities, so much the better.

What’s less obvious is what motivates Iran to help spin out talks that are going nowhere.

Iran does have an interest, of course, in making it harder for Israel to justify a strike. But Iran has never taken such Israeli threats very seriously and the opposition to a strike voiced by Israeli intelligence and military professionals earlier this year will have reinforced that inclination.

Iran has no interest in lower oil prices. But perhaps it reasons that bringing the Istanbul process to an end would not have much of an effect on prices, given the worsening economic outlook and the expansion of oil production under way in Gulf States allied to the US.

Perhaps, then, the answer is that Iran’s leaders are hoping that President Obama will be re-elected and that he will award them for their cooperation in keeping the show on the road until November by softening, early in his second term, the US position on enrichment and sanctions.

If so, will they be disappointed? At any time tolerating enrichment and removing or relieving sanctions will be politically costly for whoever occupies the White House, so widespread is Congress’ animosity towards Iran. The line of least resistance for an Obama II administration would be to back the judgement of those who claim that Iran will eventually capitulate under the weight of sanctions.

But it is not impossible that the President and his closest advisers have realised that a negotiated solution tends to be more durable than a solution imposed on a prostrate foe. That, after all, is a lesson that can be drawn from 19th and 20th century European history and from the 1783 Treaty of Paris between the US and Great Britain. Machiavelli once wrote: ”I believe that forced agreements will be kept neither by a prince nor by a republic”.

*Peter Jenkins was Britain’s permanent representative to the IAEA, 2001–06

June 25, 2012 Posted by | Militarism | , , , , | Comments Off on Where are the Iran talks heading after Moscow?