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The Evil of U.S. Aggression against Iraq

By Jacob G. Hornberger | Future of Freedom Foundation | August 26, 2014

What better confirmation of the manifest failure of the philosophy of foreign interventionism than the renewed U.S. bombing of Iraq?

Just think: All those hundreds of thousands of dead, maimed, detained, and tortured Iraqis, along with those who lost their homes, businesses, and savings. They were all bombed and shot by U.S. troops for nothing. All those Iraqis suffered and died for nothing.

The same holds true, of course, for U.S. soldiers who died or came back maimed or all screwed up in the head. The ones who lost their lives died for nothing. The ones who came back physically handicapped or mentally disturbed are suffering for nothing.

How can anyone still be an interventionist after what has happened in Iraq?

But everyone is expected to continue playing the game. We’re supposed to just keep praising those brave troops who went to Iraq to defend our freedoms and to help the Iraqi people. Never mind that the results of their intervention have turned into a total failure and fiasco.

Let’s first keep in mind one central truth, a truth that interventionists don’t like talking about: In the Iraq War, the U.S. troops were the aggressors. It was Iraq that was the defending power.

A war of aggression, which the U.S. was waging on Iraq, was condemned as a war crime at Nuremberg.

Second, the U.S. government’s war on Iraq was also illegal under our form of constitutional government. President Bush was required by the law of the Constitution to secure a declaration of war from Congress before waging war on Iraq. He refused to do that and instead, on his own initiative, launched a war of aggression with his military and CIA forces.

Third, U.S. officials justified the killing of Iraqis by using a cost-benefit analysis. They said that by killing x number of Iraqis, U.S. forces would be bringing into existence a free and democratic Iraq for the survivors, which, it was said, would serve as a model for the rest of the Middle East.

Where is the morality in killing and maiming people based on a cost-benefit analysis?

Through it all, there was never one iota of genuine remorse for all the Iraqis that were being killed, maimed, tortured, or destroyed in the purported aim to bring the good society to Iraq.

Equally telling, neither the Pentagon nor the CIA ever put an upward limit on the number of Iraqis who could be killed in the quest to bring freedom and democracy to Iraq. Any number of Iraqi dead, no matter how high, would be considered “worth it.”

Interventionists are pointing out the evil nature of the Islamic State, the group that is threatening to oust the U.S.-installed regime in Bagdad from power. But simply because one group is evil doesn’t necessarily mean that the term cannot also be applied to what the U.S. government has done to Iraq, especially given it was the U.S. government’s war on Iraq, along with its other Middle East policies, that unleashed the furies that have given rise to the Islamic State.

How can an unlawful and unconstitutional war of aggression, a type of war condemned as a war crime at Nuremberg not be considered evil?

How can a war in which people are being killed and maimed based on a cost-benefit analysis not be considered evil?

Indeed, think back to the brutal sanctions that the U.S. government enforced against Iraq for more than ten years. When “Sixty Minutes” asked U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Madelyn Albright whether the deaths of half-a-million Iraqi children from the U.S. sanctions had been “worth it,” she responded that while the choice was a difficult one, the deaths were in fact worth it.

How can those deadly sanctions — indeed, how can such a horribly callous mindset — not be described as anything but evil?

Or think back to the Persian Gulf War, when the Pentagon ordered the destruction of Iraq’s water and sewage treatment plants, knowing that such destruction would bring infectious illnesses in its wake? And it did. That’s what helped kill all those children, given that the sanctions prevented Iraqi officials from repairing those water and sewage treatments plants that the Pentagon had destroyed.

How can such a thing not be described as evil?

The problem, of course, is that all too many Americans can easily see the evil in other people’s actions but are unable to see the evil in their own government’s actions. That’s because in their minds they’ve raised the federal government to the level of an idol, one that can do no wrong, especially since it operates through courageous American troops and CIA agents who are always defending our freedoms in whatever they do, including waging wars of aggression against Third World countries that have never attacked the United States, killing innocent children with brutal sanctions, or killing people in a cost-benefit analysis intended, supposedly, to bring the “good life” to the survivors of the onslaught.

If the Iraq fiasco has taught us anything, it is that evil means produce evil results. Just ask anyone who is now calling on the U.S. national-security state to drop more bombs on Iraq in order to combat evil.

August 27, 2014 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, Militarism, War Crimes | , | 2 Comments

Hey U.N. – show us your tipping points!

Pathetic handwaving double down from the UN

By Anthony Watts | Watts Up With That? | August 27, 2014

Eric Worrall writes: A number of MSM outlets are carrying news of a “leaked” UN document, which claims that global warming may be causing irreversible damage.

According to the Bloomberg version of the leak story;

“Global warming already is affecting “all continents and across the oceans,” and further pollution from heat-trapping gases will raise the likelihood of “severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts for people and ecosystems,”

The problem with this vapid handwaving nonsense is that it is so vague. I mean, in the good old days, alarmists made interesting predictions;

Snowfalls are now just a thing of the past

Al Gore’s ice free arctic (in 5 years!)

Rain will never fill Australian reservoirs again

The great thing about bold predictions is they are easily falsified – all you have to do is wait a few years, then point and laugh.

The survivors of that golden age of bold stupidity are far too timid – they issue vague predictions of calamity which won’t occur until long after we are all safely dead, and promises that if we wait a few decades we might see something worrying.

I mean, seriously folks, is this the best you can do? Can even the most rabid alarmists get enthused by such a pathetic effort?

August 27, 2014 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Science and Pseudo-Science | | 3 Comments

Police departments suspended for ‘losing’ US military-grade weaponry

RT | August 27, 2014

Close to 200 state and local police departments in the United States have been suspended for losing military-level equipment transferred to them by the Pentagon, a new investigation found.

According to the media outlet Fusion, its independent investigation into the Pentagon’s “1033 program,” which equips state and local police departments across the US with excess military equipment, turned up an alarming trend: Not only did many law enforcement agencies fail to comply with the program’s guidelines, they routinely lost dangerous weaponry.

Already, the investigation has found that police departments in Arizona, California, Mississippi, Missouri, Georgia, and others have lost or cannot account for various types of weapons. This list includes M14 and M16 assault rifles, .45-caliber pistols, shotguns, and even vehicles.

So far, 184 state and local departments have reportedly been suspended in a program that involves the participation of more than 8,000 agencies. Since 1990, the 1033 program has administered more than $4.3 billion worth of equipment and weapons.

In the wake of heavy police response to protests surrounding the death of unarmed teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, the topic of police militarization has emerged at the forefront of public debate in the US. Police employed heavily armored vehicles, sniper rifles, tear gas, and riot gear as they confronted demonstrators against excessive force, sparking widespread concern throughout the country, particularly over the Pentagon’s military equipment transfer program.

Although the Pentagon stated the program is meant to “enhance public safety and improve homeland security,” critics argue that the inability of police to keep track of their equipment adds another layer of doubt to the idea that security is being improved.

“The case for giving military weaponry to these small police departments was already thin in the beginning,” Tim Lynch of the CATO Institute’s project on criminal justice said to Fusion. “Now that we’re finding that there is insufficient accountability for tracking this equipment, then the case is beginning to fall apart.”

In at least two cases, Humvees were reported missing. In Georgia, the Humvee was reportedly sold somehow, only to be recovered later and moved to a different department. Another case in Arkansas involved a stolen Humvee that was not reported until a day later.

Firearms were routinely lost or misplaced. In Arizona alone, the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Department lost 11 or 12 weapons.

“[The program] is obviously very sloppy, and it’s another reason that Congress needs to revisit this promptly,” Lynch added. “We don’t know where these weapons are going, whether they are really lost, or whether there is corruption involved.”

As RT reported previously, questions over the Pentagon program have reached President Obama as well, as he recently ordered a review of the entire operation. The probe will determine whether or not police should actually be receiving the equipment they get, the way these weapons are being used, and whether officers are being trained properly.

August 27, 2014 Posted by | Corruption | , , , , | 1 Comment

Myth of ‘Limited’ US Airstrikes in Syria

RIA NOVOSTI | August 26, 2014

The US is once again on the warpath against Syria after the beheading of US citizen James Foley was released on the internet a week ago.

His execution is being used to justify a mixed anti-terror and ‘humanitarian’ intervention in northeastern Syria. An information offensive has now been launched to peddle the myth of ‘limited’ strikes against Islamic State (IS) targets, but in all actuality, such a campaign is impossible to contain within the strict limits US authorities are promising.

Obama has already authorized surveillance flights over Syrian territory, showing that an attack appears to be imminent. A quick exercise in scenario forecasting illustrates how any US intervention in Syria will most certainly evolve from a ‘limited anti-terror operation’ to a massive military offensive, complete with proxy occupations and a full-scale outbreak of chaos throughout the entire country.

Symbolism and Substance

Should the US make the decision to strike Syria, it will be carrying with it both symbolism and substance. The action would be symbolic due to it being in complete contravention of Syria’s sovereignty, a position which Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem reaffirmed earlier this week. Whether by drone or by jet, the US would be showing that it can and will violate Syrian sovereignty as it sees fit. This is enabled by the fact that IS’ turf is mostly removed from any of the Syrian Arab Army’s (SAA) air defense units, thereby allowing the US to attack with military impunity.

Secondly, the US’ strikes would surely carry with them prime substance, as the rhetoric being expressed by Washington guarantees nothing short of it. They would not be the token gestures evidenced in northern Iraq, but rather a full-fledged operation designed to achieve concrete military objectives. On the public front, this would be to decimate Islamic State and its leadership, but in fact, such an objective cannot be achieved by air strikes alone, especially in populated urban areas like Raqqa.

The Stepping Stone

This brings the US to the next probable stage of its military campaign – ground forces. It is extremely unlikely that the US will use its own conventional forces in the field, as its special forces are cheaper, more effective, and less of a political and physical liability. Another option, of course, is for the heavily armed and highly trained Kurdish Peshmerga to ‘chase’ IS into Syria from Iraq and carry out ground operations on behalf of the US. The precedent of joint military cooperation has already been set previously when both sides partook in a coordinated offensive against IS’ occupation of the Mosul Dam, with the US doing the bombing and the Kurds being the cannon fodder. The Iraqi Peshmerga’s military expansion into Syria would also achieve the dual purpose of expanding the fledgling (and de-facto recognized) Kurdish state, another major American strategic objective in the region.

Filling the Void

With all the hubbub and speculation about an American strike, few have actually put any public thought into what comes next. For example, IS could either be decimated or strategically driven like cattle away from the combat zone and closer to Damascus,(in the same fashion as they have been corralled into going from northern Iraq back into Syria), taking all of their heavy armaments with them along the way. No matter what happens, though, it remains indisputable that there will be a security void in their previously occupied territories, opening up the question of which entity should fill it.

It can be taken for granted that the US will never allow the SAA to liberate the territory after Washington’s tax-dollar funded bombs paved the way, since that would completely reverse the billions in dollars of funding and support that the US, EU, Turkey, and Gulf Kingdoms have placed in the anti-establishment forces fighting the Syrian government over the past three years. Thus, the US’ campaign will of course not be one of liberation, but rather of trading one occupier for another, in this case, the Kurds, a rejuvenated ‘Free Syrian Army (FSA), the Turks (with or without being an official NATO mission), or a combination thereof, with the public reasoning being that the failure to fill the resultant security void could create a breeding ground for an IS 2.0.

‘Finishing the Job’

After the removal of IS from their bastions in northeast Syria (whether by destruction or driving them towards Damascus) and their replacement with Kurdish/FSA/Turkish forces, the US and its ‘coalition of the willing’ will be pressured to ‘finish the job’ one way or another. In the first scenario branch, if IS is somehow destroyed and no longer a threat, then the US may want to seize the strategic initiative and make a drive towards Damascus to finally overthrow the government. After all, they would already be on the offensive and actively engaged in the war zone as it is, and Damascus is definitely within striking range of US aircraft or drones already bombing Syria. The new occupying forces of northern Syria could then carry their offensive south, break the security crescent linking Damascus with the coast, and go in for the paralyzing kill.

The second scenario branch is very similar, but instead of pursuing naked regime change, it strategically pushes IS towards Damascus by using airstrikes in the same manner as a shepherd uses a staff to herd sheep. This accomplishes two important goals; first, it pushes the world’s most deadly and militarily efficient non-state actor all the way through the country and towards the capital, sowing destruction in its wake; and secondly, it provides the US and its proxy allies with the justification for continuing their campaign all the way to the capital and de-facto carrying out regime change under an anti-terror guise.

Without a doubt, the regime change objective can be sped up or publicly ‘justified’ if Syria defends its airspace and fires on American jets or drones. If the beheading of a single citizen by a rogue terrorist group can be a casus belli against an entire state per the US’ reasoning, then it goes without saying how it would respond to missiles being launched against its military vehicles, especially those engaged in an ‘anti-terrorist’ mission. More than likely, Syria will then be painted as a terrorist-supporting state (there is already false information in the Western media that Syria cooperates with IS) and the entire government will then be officially targeted for elimination.

Concluding Thoughts

After having accomplished its soft coup in Iraq against Maliki, the US now feels emboldened enough to aggressively press forward with its long-held regime change dreams against Syria, feverishly seeking to exploit any opportunity to justifiably do so. This barbarically includes using a dead man’s decapitated head as a rallying cry in an effort to strike at the primordial emotions of every human being and manipulate them into supporting a ‘vengeful’ war. To appease the domestic and international audience, the US government is only talking about ‘limited’ airstrikes against IS targets in Syria, but when placed under a simple analysis, these are demonstrated to be anything but. Not only will they be used to justify regime change via various arguments, but they will also result in the replacement of one occupier of Syrian territory with another, which in turn can eventually make the de-facto partitioning of the country de-jure. This means that the Syrian Crisis is precipitously teetering on the brink of becoming a full-scale international war, one which places the very existence of secular Syria and its resistance identity into jeopardy.

August 27, 2014 Posted by | Militarism, Progressive Hypocrite, War Crimes | , , , | Leave a comment

Coroner says man fatally shot himself in the chest while handcuffed behind his back

RT | August 26, 2014

​The release of an autopsy report in Louisiana is raising new questions about the unusual shooting death of a 22-year-old black male who died earlier this year in a police car while his hands were cuffed behind his back.

RT reported earlier this year that police in Iberia Parish, LA said Victor White III died in early March after he fatally shot himself while handcuffed in the back of a squad car. White had reportedly been apprehended for possession of drugs, and was searched no fewer than two times before being cuffed and placed in the backseat of a police vehicle. According to the police report from the time, White uncovered a gun while in the car and shot himself in the back.

According to a coroner’s report just recently obtained by NBC News, however, White died from a gunshot wound that entered his body in the chest. Nevertheless, Dr. Carl Ditch wrote in the report that White was capable of firing the shot while cuffed “due to his body habitus” and has agreed to rule the death a suicide.

Hannah Rappleye, a reporter for NBC, compared the coroner’s story with the official police report from March in an article published by the outlet this week.

“White was shot in the front, not the back. The bullet entered his right chest and exited under his left armpit. White was left-handed, according to family members. According to the report, the forensic pathologist found gunshot residue in the wound, but not the sort of stippling that a close-range shot can sometimes produce. He also found abrasions on White’s face,” she wrote. “And yet, despite the contradictions – and even though White’s hands were never tested for gunpowder residue – the Iberia Parish coroner still supported the central contention of the initial police statement issued back in March.”

“Although the decedent was handcuffed at the time with his hands to his back, due to his body habitus, the pathologist and investigators agree that he would have been able to manipulate the weapon to the point where the contact entrance wound was found,” Ditch wrote.

The deceased’s father, Rev. Victor White II, told NBC that he had his doubts about the coroner’s report.

“You can’t make me understand,” he said. “You can’t make me understand how my son took his left hand, when he was handcuffed behind the back, and shot himself. I don’t believe a thing they’re saying at this point.”

According to the coroner, however, White was indeed capable of causing his own death.

“As Coroner of lberia Parish it is my duty to rule on cause and manner of death in all such cases as Mr. White’s to the best of my ability and without bias. Based on the forensic evidence and information gained from the ongoing State Police investigation, I have determined the cause of death is a single contact gunshot wound to the right lateral chest, and the manner of death is suicide,” he wrote.

Meanwhile, though, the Louisiana State Police remain in the midst of an investigation launched nearly nine months ago into the shooting death. Writing for NBC, Rappleye wrote that that probe has so far failed to reveal any new information about the tragic death.

“Due to the pending investigation, records normally considered public are not available. The State Police will not yet release dash cam footage, or the number of or names of any officers present during White’s death. They will not give any timeframe as to when they expect the investigation to conclude,” she wrote.

“You always want to make sure in the end you did whatever you could do possible, that in whatever case you put forward, is the right case, and the outcome is the right outcome,” Trooper Brooks David, public information officer for the Louisiana State Police, told NBC. “So if it takes us eight months, or two months, you always want to make sure that you do the right thing.”

According to Rev. White, however, legal action might be the next step if the eventual release of the Louisiana State Police’s report raises more doubts about his son’s death.

“I don’t’ think anything is going to be different from what they already said,” he told NBC. “It’s difficult to see that anything else would bring us back what we need. The only thing we want back is our son.”

August 27, 2014 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Corruption, Deception | , , , | 1 Comment

Ghosts of Olavarría: Human Rights Trial in Argentina Seeks Justice for Victims of Military Dictatorship

By Nick MacWilliam | Upside Down World | August 26, 2014

The central quarter of the Argentine city of Olavarría, with its leafy main square, whitewashed church, and historical architecture, merits its National Heritage status. Thanks to mineral extraction of the rock on which it stands, Olavarría is a prosperous and tranquil place, and home to the social science and engineering schools of the University of Buenos Aires Province. Now, however, this seemingly pleasant city has become the latest battleground in Argentina’s ongoing struggle to bring justice to those guilty of crimes during the military dictatorship of 1976–1983.

Olavarría, a city of around 100,000 inhabitants, is the setting for the upcoming trial of several ex-army officials accused of human rights abuses during the dictatorship. A high level of public interest surrounds the proceedings, due to one of the defendants’ alleged involvement in a case which has dominated national media in recent weeks.

arg mil dictIn early August, the human rights organization Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo announced that the long-lost grandson of its president Estela de Carlotto had been identified and was living in Olavarría under a different name. Guido Montoya Carlotto had been taken from his detained mother in 1978 when just a few hours old, one of hundreds of babies born in captivity and then raised by families linked to the military authorities. In most cases, their biological parents were murdered by the military. The Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo have campaigned since the 1970s to reunite the stolen babies with their natural families and to expose the guilty parties.

Estela de Carlotto The recent news, a welcome dose of positivity on front pages of the country’s newspapers, has received intense media interest. Estela de Carlotto is highly-respected within Argentine society for her tireless campaigning as president of the famous headscarf-wearing Grandmothers. But, as the story has moved on from its initial feel-good element, there are now many questions over who was responsible for taking Guido from his mother, Estela’s 22-year-old daughter Laura Carlotto, who was killed soon after giving birth. The father, Walmir Montoya, abducted alongside his pregnant partner, had been murdered several months earlier.

The spotlight has shifted to Olavarría, location of the impending trial and the city in which Guido Montoya had lived until recently as Ignacio Hurbán. Although the trial date was set several months ago, it is now alleged that one of the accused participated in the transfer of Laura Carlotto’s baby to an adoptive family. Laura, who was handcuffed to a stretcher throughout the entire labor and birthing process, spent only a few hours with her newborn before being returned to her cell at the La Cacha detention center in La Plata.

On September 22, a court will begin listening to evidence against a number of ex-military officials charged with crimes against humanity, including kidnapping, torture and murder, committed at the Monte Peloni detention center in Olavarría. The officials on trial are: the local commander, Ignacio Verdura; Chief of Intelligence, Walter Grosse; Officer Horacio Leites; and Sub-Officer Omar Ferreyra. All of them are currently serving sentences for earlier convictions. While the trial is not directly connected to the removal of the Montoya Carlotto baby, it is suspected that Verdura was involved in the appropriation of babies.

For the last few years, the Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo have claimed that an Olavarría businessman, Carlos Francisco Aguilar, acted as an intermediary between the military and adoptive families. Aguilar, who died earlier this year, owned the land on which Guido Montoya’s adoptive parents worked and was known to have strong links to the armed forces and the church. As a wealthy landowner, he moved in the same social circles as high-ranking military figures, such as Ignacio Verdura, the then-chief of the regional 2nd Tank Regiment.

Throughout the 1970s, Olavarría was a site of left-wing militant activity, which brought the city to the military’s attention. State repression began with worker organizations before targeting the lawyers representing them, and later moving on to the student movement. Those who felt the heavy hand of the state included striking workers at the Loma Negra (Black Hill) cement company. The company’s response to the strike was to call in the military to end the dispute with detentions and other suppressive tactics.

Carlos Moreno was a lawyer who represented the Loma Negra workers. He was detained in Olavarría and tortured before being killed in May 1977. A trial in 2012 exposed links between the military and civilians who had allowed their property to be used for detaining prisoners. The trial also ordered an investigation into the role of Loma Negra, whose president was Amalia Lacroze de Fortabat, one of the world’s wealthiest women until her death two years ago at the age of 90.

Speaking to the Página 12 newspaper, Moreno’s son Matías said companies such as Loma Negra reaped the benefits of military rule.

“Before the dictatorship, Loma Negra was suffering losses, but its profits tripled under the dictatorship. The abduction of my father was intended as a disciplinary measure, after which there was a fall in labor costs,” said Matías. This was the aim of all the abductions.”

He also revealed that Commander Verdura lived next-door to the Moreno family. Any neighborly recognition, however, was irrelevant when it came to the military eliminating its opponents.

The Monte Peloni detention centerThe Monte Peloni detention center, where the majority of those detained in the zone were held, was a farmhouse in the countryside near Olavarría. Several prisoners, many of whom remain disappeared, passed through the center, which was administrated by the 2nd Tank Regiment of Ignacio Verdura.

Among the crimes that Verdura and his cohorts stand accused of are the disappearance of a young couple, Isabel Gutiérrez and Juan Carlos Ledesma, the detention of Isabel’s father Francisco Gutiérrez, and the murders of Jorge Oscar Fernández and Alfredo Serafín Maccarini. The latter was a prison guard whose rumored empathy for political prisoners made him a target for the military. Another ex-prisoner, Lidia Araceli Gutiérrez, who was raped and tortured in Monte Peloni, is to give evidence at the trial.

The Olavarría trial is the latest step in the legal battle to hold those involved in the abuses of the dictatorship accountable. As many as 2,000 people connected to the dictatorship have been accused of complicity in abuses, as, according to Human Rights Watch, Argentina has made “significant progress in prosecuting military and police personnel for enforced disappearances, killings and torture during the country’s ‘Dirty War.’” Yet the fact remains that a great many of those who willingly participated in dictatorship abuses have yet to answer for their crimes.

The stealing of babies from people who were subsequently killed continues to be a matter of great sensitivity, as the majority of stolen babies are now unidentified adults living normal lives in Argentine society. The Guido Montoya case was the 114th positive identification of a baby forcibly removed from its biological parents. However, it is estimated that there are hundreds of other citizens now approaching middle-age with little idea of their true identities. For families of the disappeared, the discovery of lost relatives can serve as an act of closure for their longstanding grief. Having spent decades dwelling on the past, they are finally able to look ahead.

In 2012, the dictator Rafael Videla, already serving a life sentence for human rights abuses, was given a further 50 years for his part in the systematic transfer of babies from prisoners to families linked to the military regime. Several other officials, including the country’s last military leader Reynaldo Bignone, have been convicted and imprisoned for their involvement in abuses. Bignone, who like Videla had already been found guilty of torture and murder in earlier trials, was said by the court to be complicit in “the crimes of theft, retention and hiding of minors, as well as replacing their identities.”

But the campaign of forced removal was perpetrated at all levels of the military hierarchy. As Guido Montoya Carlotto said in a recent interview with the newspaper El Popular de Olavarría, in his hometown “there are people who have to thoroughly explain themselves … I hope that people learn to question that which has been covered up, so that this not only represents my restitution but also the restitution for other people experiencing doubts.”

As Argentina continues to come to terms with the traumas of military rule, stories like the Carlottos’ provide inspiration for the justice movement to keep fighting. Yet, this is a journey that is unlikely to ever be fully resolved. The entrenched political system of brutality and repression was too widespread to hold all the guilty to account. But each small step signifies progress. Many will be closely watching the Olavarría trial in the hope that Argentina continues on its path toward redemption.

Nick MacWilliam is a British freelance writer and editor based in Buenos Aires.

August 27, 2014 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Subjugation - Torture, Timeless or most popular | , , | Leave a comment

Oakland activist: How we blockaded the Israeli ship

Green Left Weekly | August 23, 2014

In an action that has reverberated around the world and inspired pro-Palestinian activists, five days of pickets by activists prevented a ship from the Israeli shipping company Zim Integrated Shipping Services from unloading almost any of its cargo at the port of Oakland.

The blockade was organised as part of the global boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign targetting Israel called for by dozens of Palestinian civil society groups. It was the longest blockade yet of an Israeli ship anywhere in the world.

Below is the account of a participant in the blockade, Oakland-based activist Peter Turner.

* * *

I am one of the “autonomous activists” referred to in the press releases of the Arab Resource and Organizing Center (AROC). I am not affiliated with any of the groups listed as endorsers on the AROC website. I am an experienced waterfront activist who took part in every picket while the Zim Piraeus was in port.

The original call for a blockage of a Zim ship went out from AROC in late July, but that was quickly retracted and the August 16 date was substituted. We then watched the ship on tracking websites and it became clear it was delayed while the protest situation unfolded.

During that time, tactical differences emerged within the movement. AROC changed its call and instead advocated a march to Pier 57, where the ship was due to dock, on August 16 for a protest against the war on Gaza.

The march also raised the situation in Ferguson, Missouri (where there are ongoing protests against the police killing of an unarmed teenager), at least partly because the march was met by a contingent of Oakland police.

The march was energetic but peaceful, but the ship was still at sea. About 2000 people took part.

When the Zim Piraeus finally docked on August 17, it was met by pickets at Pier 57. We ascertained which gates would be used by trucks and longshoremen to enter work and posted pickets there. Our intention was to discourage any cargo operations in order to force the ship to leave port.

Trucks entered the gates, but the longshoremen honoured our pickets. The Oakland Police and Alameda County Sheriff Department created openings at the gates.

The picketers could be generally described as Occupy Oakland activists, mostly young; experienced left militants who abound in the San Francisco Bay Area; and those specifically concerned with the war on Gaza, many of them Palestinians.

Others might describe us differently, but I think this is a good description of most of us. The assumption that it was AROC or any other group that led the picket effort is inaccurate.

For four days, we met at the pier and succeeded. A small number of activists were arrested for civil disobedience, but the situation was peaceful. The longshoremen honoured our pickets and no cargo moved.

The union released statements saying they took no position on the political issues at hand, but felt the police presence created a safety hazard. This is connected to a 2003 anti-war demonstration at the port at which the police attacked peaceful demonstrators and longshoremen reporting to work. Some were shot.

Resentment over that continues. During the picket we were aware that few dispatches from the union hall took place.

Several times small groups of longshoremen approached or assembled nearby. We engaged them in conversation and relations were friendly.

The ranks shared the official union position, but went beyond it to express sympathy for our cause and resentment of the stevedoring companies.

Coincidentally, the union and stevedoring companies are in contentious contract negotiations. The International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) contract expired July 1, so the longshoremen are working without a contract.

As a result, longshoremen who honoured our pickets lost pay, a fact known by the picketers.

This added to the solidarity created between the picketers and longshoremen, something pre-existing because of the militant history of the ILWU and its tradition of honouring community pickets.

After four days the ship announced its intention to sail. No cargo had been moved, in spite of a public declaration by Israeli sources that it had.

AROC Executive Director Lara Kiswani appeared on the morning of the fourth day to announce a victory, praising the solidarity of the longshoremen.

The ship sailed without unloading its cargo, but then the ship’s pilot pulled a U-turn at the pilot station off the Golden Gate. The ship returned to dock at pier 22-24 and was quickly met by picketers who had monitored its movements.

Since the longshoremen had made it obvious that they would honour our pickets, the ILWU Local 10 Business Agent took longshoremen from other ships and moved them to the Zim Piraeus.

This was a violation of the dispatch rules and the solidarity felt by the ranks, so it was met with a reaction. I would politely call it a “lack of enthusiasm” for the work on the part of the rank and file, but the result was little cargo was offloaded, reportedly some perishables.

On the morning of August 20, the fifth day of the action, at about 6.30am, the ship departed after an hour of picketing.

For some reason the media reported the cargo had been offloaded and the ship departed at 8.45am. That is inaccurate, as I drove home from the picket at pier 22-24 to view the ship from my house as it anchored off Hunter’s Point in San Francisco Bay about 8am. The ship was still fully loaded and had not backloaded any containers.

This entire action revealed several lessons. One is that concerted effort of dedicated militants together with the solidarity of the affected workers can bring serious economic and political pressure to bear.

Reciprocal solidarity will be forthcoming, a strong message to any employer seeking to weaken the ILWU. We all talked about it, with no dissent.

Also, we should never trust the word of the employer or the establishment press. They collude to undermine the majority and deceive the public in the interest of profit.

We also should be wary of the motives of entrenched union bureaucrats, too many of whom have instinctive sympathy with employers and will betray the interests of their members. The strength of the union is its rank and file, and democracy and consciousness are necessary for their interests to be furthered.

There are tactical differences within our movement, and we should tend to defer to the judgment of those who put in the commitment to take part and who make the connection with affected workers. Bureaucracy exists on the left as well as in unions, government, or any other institution.

We should show wisdom in our strategy and tactics, but not retreat in the face of adversity and have the courage to fight and win. Together, we can make a better world.

August 27, 2014 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Solidarity and Activism, Timeless or most popular | , | Leave a comment

Obama Schemes to Attack Syria, Under the Guise of Fighting ISIS

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by executive editor Glen Ford | August 27, 2014

President Obama is preparing to do something horrifically dangerous in Syria and Iraq. The rise of ISIS has crippled the empire’s decade’s old strategy of deploying Islamic fundamentalist fighters to do its dirty work in the Arab and Muslim world. ISIS, the Frankenstein birthed in the cauldron of America’s quest for regime change in Syria, has turned on its U.S., Saudi, Qatari and Turkish masters to establish its own caliphate, to which thousands of other Islamist fighters are flocking. Even U.S. corporate media now acknowledge that the so-called “moderate” Syrian rebels that Obama wants to shovel $500 million at, are virtually non-existent. They were always a mirage, creatures of western propaganda. The Islamists were the only force that could challenge the Syrian army on the battlefield, and now that they are rallying to ISIS, or running away, Obama does not know which way to turn.

Certainly, the U.S. can bomb ISIS positions in Syria, and is already making preparations to do so, but that is not the war Obama wanted to fight. Three years ago, when Obama launched his dirty war against Syria, the plan was for Muslim jihadists to shed their blood to overthrow President Assad. Once the filthy deed was done, the jihadists were expected to allow NATO and the corrupt kings of the Arabian peninsula to pick the next rulers of Syria. The CIA was playing Lawrence of Arabia, using the jihadists as cannon fodder, to be cast aside when it came time to split up the spoils.

Such was also the plan in Libya, where NATO and the same gang of royal Arabian thieves funded and armed the overthrow Muammar Gaddafi. The Libyan jihadists have also failed to cooperate with the empire’s scheme.

The global jihadist network that the Americans and Saudis created in the 1980s has declared its independence, and Washington has nothing to replace them. American boots on the ground are unacceptable to both the people of the region and the U.S. public. Obama and his minions say the U.S. and its allies will crush ISIS – but that will be like smothering one’s own child in its crib, and would remove all hope of the U.S. achieving its strategic goal of regime change in Syria.

Watch for the Big Switch

If Obama was serious about wanting to crush ISIS, the best and most logical ally would be Syrian President Assad, whose army has so far prevailed against every flavor of jihadist the U.S. has been able to throw at it, including ISIS in its previous incarnations. Nobody wants ISIS defeated more than Syria and its soldiers, more of whom have died in this U.S.-engineered war than any other group, civilian or rebels. If making the region safe from ISIS were the goal, Obama would coordinate his moves with the Syrian military. But he’s lying – just as the Bush administration lied to make the American people believe that Saddam Hussein was responsible for 9/11. The U.S. goal was not to avenge 9/11, but to invade Iraq. In the same way, Obama is compelled to respond to the defection of ISIS from western control, but his goal remains to overthrow President Assad. And, he will tell any lie, or combinations of lies, to somehow turn U.S. bombs on the Syrian government, under the guise of fighting ISIS. You can bet that the CIA is burning the midnight oil, seeking a pretext to turn this strategic U.S. defeat into an excuse to directly attack Syria. And that’s what makes this moment so dangerous.

Glen Ford can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com.

August 27, 2014 Posted by | Deception, Militarism, Progressive Hypocrite, War Crimes | , , | Leave a comment

Billionaires Make War on Iran

And the United States Government is Helping

By Philip Giraldi • Unz Review • August 26, 2014

There is a group of Jewish American billionaires who are apparently doing their best to make sure that negotiations with Iran go nowhere in the mistaken belief that they are doing what is best for Israel. And they would also appear to be assisted in their efforts by the White House, which is at the same time claiming that it wants the talks to be successful. The odd relationship is currently playing out in a Manhattan courtroom where the Justice Department is seeking to quash a lawsuit that it fears might expose the extent to which the government has hypocritically played fast and loose with classified information while simultaneously sending journalists and whistleblowers to jail over allegations that they have done the same.

The power and wealth of the anti-Iran groups as well as their unrivaled access to the United States government means that a policy of détente with Iran, which would be a no brainer based on both American and Iranian interests, only proceeds by fits and starts with the US Congress and much of the media lined up solidly to stop the effort. The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) and its affiliated educational foundation, which have focused on the “Iranian threat” over the past three years, have a combined budget of more than $90 million while AIPAC’s spin-off the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP) has $8.7 million.

The American Enterprise Institute’s (AEI) efforts are more diversified but uniformly hawkish when it comes to the Middle East. It has a budget of $45 million. Identified multi-million dollar donor/supporters of AIPAC, AEI, and WINEP include Sheldon Adelson of Las Vegas Sands, Paul Singer of Elliot Management hedge fund and Bernard Marcus of Home Depot.

Other right wing think tanks including Heritage and Hudson in Washington also support unrelenting pressure directed against Iran. Even the more centrist Brookings Institute is hard core when it comes to Middle Eastern politics by virtue of its Saban Institute funded by Israeli-American billionaire Haim Saban. And then there are the mainstream Jewish organizations to include the Anti Defamation League, the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations and the American Jewish Congress, all of which have vast resources and unparalleled access to the White House, Congress and the media.

All the pro-Israel anti-Iran groups engage in pressure tactics on Capitol Hill and have been effective in dominating the political debate. Of thirty-six outside witnesses brought in to testify at seven Senate hearings on Iran since 2012 only one might be characterized as sensitive to Iranian concerns. The enormous lobbying effort enables the anti-Iran groups to define the actual policies, move their drafts of legislation through congress, and eventually see their bills pass with overwhelming majorities in both the House and Senate. It is democracy in action if one accepts that popular rule ought to be guided by money and pressure groups rather than by national interests.

Less well known is United Against Nuclear Iran, which has a budget just shy of $2 million. UANI is involved in the New York lawsuit. The group, which has somehow obtained a 501[c]3 “educational” tax status that inter alia allows it to conceal its donors, has offices in Rockefeller Center in New York City. It is active on Capitol Hill providing “expert testimony” on Iran for congressional committees, to include “help” in drafting legislation. At a July Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on Iran all three outside witnesses were from UANI. It is also active in the media but is perhaps best known for its “name and shame” initiatives in which it exposes companies that it claims are doing business with Tehran in violation of US sanctions.

UANI is being sued by a Greek billionaire Victor Restis whom it had outed in 2013. Restis, claiming the exposure was fraudulent and carried out to damage his business, has filed suit demanding that UANI and billionaire Thomas Kaplan turn over documents and details of relationships regarding UANI donors who it is claimed are linked to the case. Kaplan, a New York City resident, made his initial fortune on energy exploration and development. More recently he has been involved in commodities trading in precious metals. His wife Daphne is Israeli and his involvement in various Jewish philanthropies both in the US and in Israel have invited comparison with controversial deceased commodities trader Marc Rich, who reportedly worked closely with the Israeli government on a number of projects.

The Justice department would like to the see the UANI lawsuit go away as it is aware that what is being described as “law enforcement” documents would include both privileged and classified Treasury Department work product relating to individuals and companies that it has investigated for sanctions busting. Passing either intelligence related or law enforcement documents to a private organization is illegal but the Justice Department’s only apparent concern is that the activity might be exposed. There is no indication that it would go after UANI for having acquired the information and it perhaps should be presumed that the source of the leak is the Treasury Department itself.

Who or what provided the documents to a private advocacy group that is also a tax exempt foundation supported by prominent businessmen with interests in the Middle East is consequently not completely clear but Restis is assuming that the truth will out if he can get hold of the evidence. The lawsuit claims that UANI intimidates its targets by defaming their business practices as well as by demanding both examination of their books and an audit carried out by one of its own accountants followed by review from an “independent counsel.”

Kaplan is named in the suit as he appears to be the gray eminence behind UANI. He once boasted “we’ve (UANI) done more to bring Iran to heel than any other private sector initiative.” Kaplan also employs as a director or officer in six of his companies the Executive Director of UANI Mark Wallace and reportedly arranged the awarding of the Executive Director position at Harvard’s Belfer Center to its President Gary Samore.

Kaplan is a business competitor to Restis, whose lawyers are apparently seeking to demonstrate two things: first, that the US government has been feeding sometimes only partially vetted information to UANI to help in its “name and shame” program and second, that UANI is itself supported by partisan business interests like Kaplan as well as by foreign sources, which apparently is meant to imply Israel. Or even the Israeli intelligence service Mossad. Meir Dagan, former head of Mossad, is on the UANI advisory board, which also includes ex-Senator Joseph Lieberman and former Senior Diplomat Dennis Ross, both of whom have frequently been accused of favoring Israeli interests and both of whom might well have easy access to US government generated information.

And then there is the Muhadedin-e-Khalq, the Iranian terrorist group that has assassinated at least six Americans and is now assisting the Israeli government in killing Iranian scientists, a prima facie definition of what constitutes terrorism. The group was on the State Department terrorist list from 1997 until 2012, when Secretary of State Hillary Clinton de-listed it in response to demands coming from friends of Israel in Congress as well as from a large group of ex government officials, many of whom were paid large honoraria by the group to serve as advocates. The paid American shills included former CIA Directors James Woolsey and Porter Goss, New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, former Vermont Governor Howard Dean, former Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation Louis Freeh and former United Nations Ambassador John Bolton. The promoters of MEK in congress and elsewhere claimed to be primarily motivated by MEK’s being an enemy of the current regime in Tehran, though its virulent anti-Americanism and terrorist history make it a somewhat unlikely poster child for the “Iranian resistance.”

Supporters of MEK also ignore the fact that the group is run like a cult, routinely executes internal dissidents, and has virtually no political support within Iran. But such are the ways of the corrupt Washington punditocracy, lionizing an organization that it should be shunning. MEK’s political arm is located in Paris and it has long been assumed that it is funded by the Israeli government and by at least some of the same gaggle of billionaires, possibly including their Israeli counterparts, who support the anti-Iranian agenda in the United States.

Iranian negotiators have accepted that their country should have only limited uranium enrichment capabilities coupled with a rigorous inspection regime but the talks in Geneva drag on and on as the United States continues to hesitate, raising new objections regularly in spite of claims that it operates in good faith and seeks a settlement. That an agreement is within reach is undoubtedly true and it would even be good for Israel as it would remove the regional nuclear option while making much less likely another pointless and devastating war. But the men who write the checks do not see it that way and, unfortunately, they are the ones who all too often both pay the piper and call the tune.

August 27, 2014 Posted by | Deception, Economics, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Progressive Hypocrite, Timeless or most popular, Wars for Israel | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

History shows Israel will again fail to implement its agreement with Hamas

By David Morrison | Friends of Lebanon | August 27, 2014

26 August 2014: Palestinian and Israeli leaders have finally agreed an Egyptian-brokered ceasefire to end the seven-week-old Gaza war.

It is appropriate to recall that Israel’s last military offensive against Gaza in November 2012 also ended with an agreement concerning Gaza brokered by Egypt [1].  Under it, both sides were required to cease hostilities and Israel undertook to take steps towards ending its blockade of Gaza.  The agreement seemed to have the backing of the US, since Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stood beside the Egyptian Foreign Minister, Mohamad Amr, when he announced it on 21 November 2012.

What happened to the November 2012 agreement?

So, what happened to this agreement?  Basically, Israel failed to fulfill its obligations under it, whereas Hamas fulfilled its obligations to the letter for more than eighteen months – and the international community turned a blind eye to Israel’s failure.

Specifically, in the agreement, Israel promised “to stop all hostilities on the Gaza Strip land, sea and air including incursions and targeting of individuals” and the “opening the crossings and facilitating the movement of people and transfer of goods, and refraining from restricting residents free movement”.  Israel didn’t fulfill either of these obligations – it continued to make regular incursions into Gaza (killing 20 Palestinians in Gaza in the following 15 months) and took no steps to lift its economic blockade.

The agreement required Hamas and other Palestinian groups to “stop all hostilities from the Gaza Strip against Israel, including rocket attacks, and attacks along the border”.  Hamas did so for more than eighteen months from 21 November 2012.  Speaking to a Knesset committee on 30 June 2014, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu acknowledged this, accusing Hamas “of involvement, for the first time since a Gaza war in 2012, in rocket attacks on Israel”, according to a Reuters report [2].

Other Palestinian groups did fire rockets into Israel, despite being restrained by Hamas.  But, according to Nathan Thrall of the International Crisis Group Middle East and North Africa Programme, in an article dated 1 August 2014 in the London Review of Books[3]:

“During the three months that followed the ceasefire [on 21 November 2012], Shin Bet recorded only a single attack: two mortar shells fired from Gaza in December 2012.  …

“[Hamas] set up a new police force tasked with arresting Palestinians who tried to launch rockets. In 2013, fewer were fired from Gaza than in any year since 2003, soon after the first primitive projectiles were shot across the border.”

Israel’s response to quiet along the border

How did Israel respond to this comparative quiet along the border?  In his London Review of Books article, Nathan Thrall writes:

“In the three months following the ceasefire, its forces made regular incursions into Gaza, strafed Palestinian farmers and those collecting scrap and rubble across the border, and fired at boats, preventing fishermen from accessing the majority of Gaza’s waters.

“The end of the closure never came. Crossings were repeatedly shut. So-called buffer zones – agricultural lands that Gazan farmers couldn’t enter without being fired on – were reinstated. Imports declined, exports were blocked, and fewer Gazans were given exit permits to Israel and the West Bank.

“Israel had committed [in the November 2012 agreement] to holding indirect negotiations with Hamas over the implementation of the ceasefire but repeatedly delayed them.  …  The talks never took place. The lesson for Hamas was clear. Even if an agreement was brokered by the US and Egypt, Israel could still fail to honour it.”

If Israel had fulfilled its obligations

Had Israel ceased military incursions into Gaza and taken steps to lift its economic blockade, as it was supposed to do under the agreement, it is virtually certain that Hamas would not have resumed rocket fire.  Hamas did resume on 7 July 2014, after Israel made an armed incursion into Gaza and killed seven Hamas members. And if progress was being made towards lifting the blockade, Hamas would have been in a much stronger position to stop other Palestinian groups from firing rockets and mortars into Israel.

So, had Israel fulfilled its obligations under the agreement, it is very likely that rocket and mortar firing into Israel could have been halted altogether without Israeli military action against Gaza.

June 2008 agreement

This is not the first time that Israel has failed to fulfill its obligations under an agreement with Hamas.  In June 2008, Egypt brokered an agreement which, like the November 2012 agreement, provided for a cessation of hostilities on both sides and steps by Israel towards ending its blockade [4].

Hamas fulfilled its obligations under this agreement to the letter and, as a result, southern Israel was almost entirely free from firing out of Gaza for four and a half months. But Israel did not ease its economic blockade, let alone lift it, and on the evening of 4 November 2008 (when the world was watching the election of Barack Obama) it made a military incursion into Gaza for the first time since the ceasefire began in June and killed seven members of Hamas. That was the end of that agreement.

A few weeks later Israel embarked on its first major offensive against Gaza, Operation Cast Lead, with the declared objective of suppressing rocket and mortar into Israel.

The lesson of history

The lesson from the above is that the international community will have to ensure that Israel fulfills its obligations in any future agreement with Hamas. Come to think of it, does another agreement need to be negotiated? In reality, all that is necessary is that Israel be persuaded to implement the November 2012 agreement.

References:

[1] http://www.upi.com/blog/2012/11/21/Read-the-Gaza-ceasefire-deal/7401353523034/

[2] uk.reuters.com/article/2014/06/30/uk-palestinian-israel-idUKKBN0F51CZ20140630

[3] http://www.lrb.co.uk/v36/n16/nathan-thrall/hamass-chances

[4] news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/7462554.stm

 

David Morrison is a Political Officer of Sadaka: The Ireland Palestine Alliance and co-author of A Dangerous Delusion: Why the West is Wrong about Nuclear Iran (April 2013).  Morrison can be reached at david@sadaka.ie.

For a virtual tour of the destruction of Gaza, see visual journalist Lewis Whyld’s gallery here.

August 27, 2014 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , | Leave a comment