Thursday, August 31, 2006

War Lies

"As anyone who studies the behavior of the U.S. empire during the last century discovers a common factor; every time the US are going to attack someone, they don’t do it right away, they start by preparing the terrain of their internal public opinion, one of the things that worries them the most....That way, when they launch the attack, they obtain the support of a big part of their internal public opinion. Almost all media in the country support them... they look for allies in Europe, from the U.N., they start preparing the terrain..."

Hugo Chavez, President of Venezuela
February 20, 2005

The war on Iran has already begun. Although no shots (that we know of) have yet been fired make no mistake, the United States and it's dwindling number of allies are once again on the warpath. Stage one, the propaganda phase, the "preparing the terrain" phase, is well underway.

The long trail of lies and deceptions that led us into Iraq is already well-documented and beyond dispute. Today we are again being subjected to this kind of PR campaign on Iran. The war plotters dare not use the term "WMD" in their pitch this time around, but its the same campaign nevertheless. For instance, earlier this year the following argument appeared in an article on the pages of The Independent newspaper in London:

By far the most alarming acquisition from Pakistan, according to western intelligence assessments, is the P2 centrifuge, the highly sophisticated device necessary for enriching uranium to weapons grade.

In order to reach the advanced stage needed for building an atomic weapon, it is necessary to connect a number of centrifuges so that they form a

When they were finally allowed to visit Natanz two years ago, IAEA inspectors were alarmed to discover that the Iranians had managed to construct a cascade. This comprises
164 centrifuges, which are based on Pakistan's P2 design.

Any doubts about the effectiveness of the devices were banished when soil samples taken from the site by IAEA inspectors showed traces of weapons-grade uranium.

If the nuclear programme were genuinely aimed at developing nuclear power, there would be no need to process weapons-grade uranium.

Asked to explain the soil samples, the Iranians provided the rather
lame excuse that the traces had inadvertently been imported from an unidentified foreign power - believed to be Pakistan - when the centrifuges were purchased.

Now, stripping this passage of all it's innuendo and concentrated solely on nominal facts presented leaves us with the following assertions about Iran's gas centrifuge uranium enrichment program:

  • centrifuges are used to produce weapons-grade uraniam.
  • the process requires that the centrifuges be arranged in a "cascade"
  • Iran procured centrifuges from the nuclear armed nation of Pakistan
  • Iran has 164 centrifuges arranged in a cascade
  • The IAEA found trace elements of weapons-grade uranium at the site
  • The Iranians claimed that the traces found were attributable their having been previously used by a nuclear-armed nation.

To my knowledge, all of these assertions are actually true. So what's the problem then? The problem is a key fact that was omitted from the article, an omission that conveniently allows the author to advance his conclusion that Iran was producing weapons-grade uranium. What's missing here is the fact that the enrichment of uranium to weapons grade requires a cascade of several thousand centrifuges. Iran can no more produce weaponized uranium with 164 centrifuges than I could make a H2 Hummer out of a Hot Wheel. It's analogous to accusing someone of causing a tsunami with his garden hose. With this fact in mind, suddenly Iran's "lame excuse" sounds quite plausible. So the intentional deception inherent in such an argument is clear.

We see this technique repeated over and over again. Just this past week a Republican panel in the US House of Representatives issued a report excoriating the US intelligence community for failing to provide enough sexed-up, war-friendly intel on Iran and it's nuclear program - I ask that you ignore for now the question of how these congressmen know that Iran is so capable if they admit, as they seem to be, that they've been given no proof of it. I'll deal with that later.

Juan Cole at Informed Comment examines the text of the report:

On page 9, the report alleges that "Iran is currently enriching uranium to weapons grade using a 164-machine centrifuge cascade at this facility in Natanz."

This is an outright
lie. Enriching to weapons grade would require at least 80% enrichment. Iran claims . . . 2.5 percent. See how that isn't the same thing? See how you can't blow up anything with 2.5 percent?

The claim is not only flat wrong, but it is misleading in another way. You need
16,000 centrifuges, hooked up so that they cascade, to make enough enriched uranium for a bomb in any realistic time fame, even if you know how to get the 80 percent! Iran has . . . 164. See how that isn't the same?

See the full text of the report (view only on an empty stomach) in Adobe PDF format.

Once again the American public and the world is being buttered up by an an organized, premeditated media onslaught, a PR campaign, a large 24-hour war commercial, to "prepare the terrain" for another unnecessary war of choice against a middle-eastern nation that, only "coincidentally" we are told, sits on a sea of oil. We as a nation have fallen for this routine once before. We've received instructions how to deal with a second instance. Listen to the man again...

UPDATE #1, 9/14/2006: Commenter Brian raised concerns over my citation of Juan Cole in this post, arguing that Iran is indeed enriching uranium to weapons grade with their 164 centrifuges and, with their target of 3,000 centrifuges, could produce enough highly enriched uranium for a weapon within 2/3 of a year.

My response was two-fold. First, I conceded that I could not find anything online that directly corroborated Juan Cole's figure, which is firmly on the high end of figures I did find, though I do have recollection of reading a similar figure (10,000) in a nuclear technology page I stumbled upon a while ago (which I'm frustrated to say I cannot find now). I intend to e-mail Cole directly with this and hope to get a response, which I'll be glad to post here.

Secondly, I pointed out that the figures Brian quoted seem to be correct with regard to the P-2 model of centrifuge, which has accelerated capacity, but Iran's program is not based on this model. The Iranians are using the P-1 centrifuge which, according to the Federation of American Scientists estimations (for assumptions please see the comments here) could not produce enough weapons-grade uranium in anywhere near that time frame without a conservative estimate of at least 5,000 centrifuges in it's initial cascade. FAS is quick to point out that the estimates generated by their calculator model are generous with regard to capability, as they assume, rather unrealistically, maximum efficiency, productivity and flawless implementation for the sake of mathematical workability. For every instance where Iran falls short of perfection this number increases.

This all goes without making note of the fact that, by the same FAS calculations, it would take Iran 4 years to do so with the paltry 164 P-1 centrifuges it now has, even if everything went perfectly for them (which it most certainly has not). The next update should dispell any doubt about that.

UPDATE #2, 9/14/2006: Here's the latest on the GOP congressional report referenced in this post:

US Iran report branded dishonest

The UN nuclear watchdog has protested to the US government over a report on Iran's nuclear programme, calling it "erroneous" and "misleading".

In a leaked letter, the IAEA said a congressional report contained serious distortions of the agency's own findings on Iran's nuclear activity...


Signed by a senior director at the International Atomic Energy Agency, Vilmos Cserveny, the letter raises objections over the committee's report released on 23 August.

It says the report was wrong to say that Iran had enriched uranium to weapons-grade level when the IAEA had only found small quantities of enrichment at far lower levels...


A Western diplomat called it
"deja vu of the pre-Iraq war period".

Yes, it does sound eerily familiar, doesn't it? Can't get fooled again, folks.


Wednesday, August 30, 2006

360-Degrees - Shia Militias Clash With Iraqi Government

In the first post in this "360-Degrees" series reference was made to the interesting circle that has is being created by Bush administration policy in the middle-east whereby the US:

  1. Partners with a Shiite majority to maintain control of Iraq via the new government there.
  2. Then supports Israel in it's offensive against the Shiite organization, Hezbollah, in Lebanon.
  3. Thereby angering the Shia in Iraq whose militia tend to support and draw inspiration from Hezbollah
  4. Resulting in the US, via "Iraqi forces", fighting the Shia militias, particularly those loyal to Shia cleric Muqtada Al-Sadr back in Iraq

Things were only at the protest stage at the time. That's all changed now:

A total of 34 bodies, including seven civilians and 25 Iraqi government soldiers, were brought into the central hospital in the town of Diwaniyah, 80 miles south of Baghdad, after fighting between government forces and gunmen of the Mehdi Army, a Shia militia loyal to the radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. Fifty militiamen were also killed in the gunfight, according to the Iraqi defence ministry.


The intense fighting in Diwaniyah will be of particular concern to British forces stationed in the Shia-dominated south of Iraq. Reports suggested that militiamen had driven government forces out of the city and had set up checkpoints in the suburbs. If the Mehdi Army has pushed the government out of the Shia-dominated city it will be a major snub to Mr Maliki, who has promised to rid Iraq of militias.

Confronting Mr Sadr's Shia militias was never going to be an easy task. His movement holds 30 parliamentary seats and five cabinet posts, and his militiamen are well-armed and dedicated. The cleric is also undeniably popular among Iraq's Shia majority, particularly the poorer classes.

In 2004, Mr Sadr led an uprising against the American-led coalition which threatened to draw the post-Saddam government and US military into a bitter conflict with Iraq's Shia while simultaneously trying to subdue what was then an emerging Sunni insurgency. The fighting was only stopped when the head of Iraq's Shia community, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, ordered the Mehdi Army fighters to lay down their arms.

See also: 23 killed in clashes between Shiite militia and Iraqi army in southern Iraq


Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Katrina Capitalism

This Katrina anniversary edition would be remiss without the inclusion of Naomi Klein's work on the big-business end of the story. The Bush administration's response to the human dimension of the disaster may have been sorely lacking but it's big-business relief program was swift and sure. We all know how quickly the president suspended prevailing wage requirements in the disaster zone, ensuring that the reconstruction jobs created went, not to local workers displaced from their homes and jobs, but to illegal and migrant workers imported from far and wide to be abused in this deregulated-by-fiat workplace.

That's only one example of how, while citizens drowned in the rising filth that flooded the 9th ward, the big business bailout went off instantly without a hitch. But there so much more. It's all part of the third-worldization of the American workforce disguised as the "free market".

This is all made politically possible by the self-supporting delusion that our anti-government, privatization-crazed leaders have constructed in defense of their policies. Now that they have control of the government, anytime the government does something well (or at least has an excuse to say it did) they claim it as a victory for thier privatization policies and proof that we need even more of them. If the government fails (and fails badly, as with Katrina) they claim it as proof that government solutions are not the answer, therefore it is a victory for their privatization policies and proof that we need even more of them. It is this self-perpetuating loop of lunacy that led us to the disaster we all witnessed on this day last year.

Pay To Be Saved: The Future of Disaster Response

by Naomi Klein

The Red Cross has just announced a new disaster-response partnership with Wal-Mart. When the next hurricane hits, it will be a co-production of Big Aid and Big Box.

This, apparently, is the lesson learned from the government's calamitous response to Hurricane Katrina: Businesses do disaster better.

"It's all going to be private enterprise before it's over," Billy Wagner, emergency management chief for the Florida Keys, currently under hurricane watch for Tropical Storm Ernesto, said in April. "They've got the expertise. They've got the resources."

But before this new consensus goes any further, perhaps it's time to take a look at where the privatization of disaster began, and where it will inevitably lead.

The first step was the government's abdication of its core responsibility to protect the population from disasters. Under the Bush administration, whole sectors of the government, most notably the Department of Homeland Security, have been turned into glorified temp agencies, with essential functions contracted out to private companies. The theory is that entrepreneurs, driven by the profit motive, are always more efficient (please suspend hysterical laughter).


But here's the catch: The U.S. government is going broke, in no small part thanks to this kind of loony spending. The national debt is $8-trillion; the federal budget deficit is at least $260-billion. That means that sooner rather than later, the contracts are going to dry up. And no one knows this better than the companies themselves. Ralph Sheridan, chief executive of Good Harbor Partners, one of hundreds of new counter-terrorism companies, explains that "expenditures by governments are episodic and come in bubbles." Insiders call it the "homeland security bubble."

When it bursts, firms such as Bechtel, Fluor and Blackwater will lose their primary revenue stream. They will still have all their high-tech gear giving them the ability to respond to disasters -- while the government will have let that precious skill whither away -- but now they will rent back the tax-funded infrastructure at whatever price they choose.

Here's a snapshot of what could be in store in the not-too-distant future: helicopter rides off of rooftops in flooded cities ($5,000 a pop, $7,000 for families, pets included), bottled water and "meals ready to eat" ($50 per person, steep, but that's supply and demand) and a cot in a shelter with a portable shower (show us your biometric ID -- developed on a lucrative Homeland Security contract -- and we'll track you down later with the bill. Don't worry, we have ways: spying has been outsourced too)...

This article is actually a long-awated follow-up to Klein's excellent piece, written last year before Katrina hit but after the tsunami in Indonesia, "The Rise of Disaster Capitalism". Prescient it was, a highly recommended read. I ought to add to my "Web Gems" list.

Addendum, 8/30/2006: See also: "Report: Rampant 'Disaster Profiteering' Abuses Needlessly Slowing Rebuilding of New Orleans, Gulf Coast After Katrina"

While "disaster profiteers" -- including Halliburton's Kellogg, Brown & Root (KBR) and Bechtel Group Inc. -- double dip to add to their profits from the also troubled reconstruction of Iraq, local companies and laborers in New Orleans and the rest of the Katrina-devastated Gulf Coast region are systematically getting the short end of the stick, according to a major new report from the nonprofit CorpWatch.

A CorpWatch analysis of FEMA's records shows that "fully 90 percent of the first wave of (the post-Katrina reconstruction) contracts awarded -- including some of the biggest no-bid contracts to date -- went to companies from outside the three worst-affected states. As of July 2006, after months of controversy and Congressional hearings, companies from Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama had increased their share of the total contracts to a combined 16.6 percent." The CorpWatch analysis shows that more federal reconstruction contracts have gone to Virginia and Indiana -- usually large, politically connected corporations -- than to any of the three Katrina-devastated states.

Titled "Big, Easy Money: Disaster Profiteering on the American Gulf Coast," the CorpWatch report also exposes abusive "contracting charge pyramids" where the companies doing the actual reconstruction work often get only a tiny (and insufficient) fraction of the taxpayer money awarded for projects and widespread non-payment of local companies and laborers, including what has been alleged to be the deliberate and systematic exploitation of immigrant workers, including undocumented individuals.

CorpWatch Director Pratap Chatterjee said: "One year after disaster struck, the slow-motion rebuilding of the Gulf Coast region looks identical to what has happened to date in Afghanistan and Iraq. We see a pattern of profiteering, waste and failure -- due to the same flawed contracting system and even many of the same 'players.' The process of getting Katrina- stricken areas back on their feet is needlessly behind schedule, in part, due to the shunning of local business people in favor of politically connected corporations from elsewhere in the U.S. that have used their clout to win lucrative no-bid contracts with little or no accountability and who have done little or no work while ripping off the taxpayer."

See the full report.


Hurricane Katrina Rhetorical Year In Review

Can you feel the hate?

Exactly one year ago today Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast region and devastated communities in Louisiana and Mississippi. To mark this anniversary there will be more than enough retrospective news pieces brought to us via television, radio and print recounting the strength of the storm, the deaths, the millions of dollars in damage and the aftermath.

But there's an added twist as well. This anniversary coincides with mid-term election season. So in addition to the usual fare we will also have plenty of opportunities to see our elected officials, more interested in the reconstruction of their political fortunes than that of the Gulf Coast, once again descend upon the scene of the tragedy to practice a little damage control. With an eye on this coming wave of cynical, PR-driven insults to our collective intelligence let us take this first anniversary as an opportunity to cross-check what is surely to be said today against past commentary on the subject, be it from the Bush Administration, the Republican Party in general or the conservative movement as a whole.

After Katrina's assault the nation's "3rd Coast" was hit a second time by windstorm of a different kind, the sound of which differed noticeably from what we'll hear over the next few days. The victims of Katrina were routinely dismissed and insulted by the Bush administration, its supporters in congress and the right-wing media in a disturbing orgy of victim-blaming and demonization.

What follows is a quick, partial collection of what I consider to be some of the most infamous Hurricane Katrina quotes from the right wing over the last year. Your results may vary. While compiling this list I came to realize that there are so many examples of right-wing hate-speech directed at the victims of this tragedy that I could never do them justice in a single blog post. So, I ask that any egregious omissions the reader may notice here be added in the comments section via the link below. The best will be used as an update to this post (with thanks, of course). Until then, without any further adieu, I humbly present the Hurricane Katrina Rhetorical Year in Review:

August 31, 2005: Just 2 days after Katrina hit, while people were still languishing and dying in the aftermath, the Republican Speaker of the House, Dennis Hastert suggested that lawmakers think about whether it's worth the effort to rebuild New Orleans saying: "It doesn't make sense to me," and "It looks like that place could be bulldozed."

September 1, 2005: Homeland Security Chief Michael Chertoff speaking NBC's Today show: "The critical thing was to get people out of there before the disaster... Some people chose not to obey that order. That was a mistake on their part."

September 4, 2005: Again, while people are still dying in the aftermath, the GOP's #3 man in the Senate, Rick Santorum (R-PA) , is quoted on WTAE-TV in Pittsburgh, PA saying, "I mean, you have people who don't heed those warnings and then put people at risk as a result of not heeding those warnings. There may be a need to look at tougher penalties on those who decide to ride it out and understand that there are consequences to not leaving."

September 5, 2005: Former First Lady and current First Mom, Barbara Bush, speaking on the flood of displaced Katrina victims seeking shelter in Texas: "What I’m hearing which is sort of scary is they all want to stay in Texas. Everyone is so overwhelmed by the hospitality... And so many of the people in the arena here, you know, were underprivileged anyway, so this--this (she chuckles slightly) is working very well for them."

Yeah, they're really getting over, the lucky duckies.

September 6, 2005: Columnist Karen H. Pittman of Renew America, a vehicle of the perennial GOP candidate for something or another, Alan Keyes, writes this about Katrina's victims: "I can't help it, but I have an inherent antipathy towards that certain sub-species of human animal that is now commandeering the streets of that fetid city, truly now a razed City of the Dead. I haven't the sufficiently impoverished vernacular to express just how thoroughly revolted I am by these mack daddies and gangstars and brazen bitches-with-FATitudes(-in-these-lowlife-latitudes) when I hear them squawking on-camera about how "ain't nobody did nuthin' fa us" — when they were told to leave!... "I say let the gangsters drown in their toxic soup. If they aren't killed by Guardsmen, and they aren't rescued, they will soon be dead of typhoid. So be it. They chose."

Speaks for itself.

September 9, 2005: The Wall Street Journal reports that Republican State Representative from Baton Rouge, Richard H. Baker, was overheard saying, "We finally cleaned up public housing in New Orleans. We couldn't do it, but God did."

Again, it speaks for itself.

September 9, 2005: Former aide to President Nixon, convicted Watergate felon and one of the leading lights of the so-called "Christian" right, Charles Colson, speaking on the Trinity Broadcast Network said, "God allowed Katrina to happen to bring attention to lack of preparation for terrorist attack."

September 13, 2005: Fox News' Bill O'Reilly blames the victims. As documented by Media Matters for America, defending the miserable response of the Bush administration to the disaster on his radio program O'Reilly claimed that "many, many, many" of Katrina's victims were "drug-addicted", "thugs" who "can't carry on a conversation", "will never, ever be able to fend for themselves and make a living" and "spend all their entitlement money on drugs and alchohol."

September 17, 2005: Speaking on Fox News' Newsday, conservative columnist Jim Pinkerton accused Katrina's victims of "whining all the time on TV to get more federal money."

October 17, 2005: Reverend Jesse Lee Peterson, founder and president of Brotherhood Organization of a New Destiny (BOND) and prominent figure in the faux-black group, Project 21 had this to say about the victims in New Orleans: "75 percent of New Orleans residents had left the city, it was primarily immoral, welfare-pampered blacks that stayed behind and waited for the government to bail them out."

October 24, 2005: Conservative talk show host, Neil Boortz, speaking about a female victim of Hurricane Katrina, recommends she take up prostitution in lieu of receiving federal aid: "Rolanda is worried about being evicted from the hotel. She says, 'We have a place to stay. We have food. The only worry is how long it will last.'" That's all she's worried about, the only worry. And it goes through the whole article here talking about how fed up Rolanda is with FEMA [Federal Emergency Management Agency] and how she spends all this time on a computer looking for more free housing. Not one mention in the entire story anywhere about the "W" word, W-O-R-K, work, job. I dare say she could walk out of that hotel and walk 100 yards in either direction on Fulton Industrial Boulevard [the street on which the hotel is located] here in Atlanta and have a job. What's that? Well, no, no, no... If that's the only way she can take care of herself, it sure beats the hell out of sucking off the taxpayers."

June 6, 2006: Conservative radio talk show host, Neil Boortz again: "I love talking to you about these Katrina refugees. I mean, so many of them have turned out to be complete bums, just debris. Debris that Hurricane Katrina washed across the country."

July 6, 2006: The Sheriff of Bigotry, St. Tamany Parish, LA Sheriff Jack Strain made this "law and order" statement to a local TV station in New Orleans about displaced Katrina victims who may pass through his jurisdiction: "Now I don’t get into calling people names and all that fact, but if you’re gonna walk the streets of St. Tammany Parish with dreadlocks and "Chee Wee" hairstyles, then you can expect to be getting a visit from a sheriff’s deputy."

Yes, even as this disaster was still unfolding there were some among us who could not resist the urge to dance on the victims' graves . On this solemn anniversary, as we reflect on the loss of a unique piece of American history and culture -- a whole American city -- and, of course, the thousands of fellow Americans who were lost or disposessed, do also take a moment to also remember what was said about them and by whom.

...And don't miss the rebroadcast of Spike Lee's, When the Levees Broke tonight @ 8PM EDT on HBO.


Sunday, August 27, 2006

Noteworthy Commentary on the Middle-East

A small collection of recommended reading for alternative views on the middle-east:

Jimmy Carter:

"I don't think that Israel has any legal or moral justification for their massive bombing of the entire nation of Lebanon. What happened is that Israel is holding almost 10,000 prisoners, so when the militants in Lebanon or in Gaza take one or two soldiers, Israel looks upon this as a justification for an attack on the civilian population of Lebanon and Gaza. I do not think that's justified, no."

- Interview with Der Speigel, August 15, 2006

Juan Cole:
"Here is what the professionals are saying about the Republican-dominated Subcommittee on Intelligence Policy report on Iran that slams US intelligence professionals for poor intelligence on Iran: The report demonstrates that these Republicans have poor intelligence . . . on Iran. What follows is summaries of things I've seen from other experts but I can't identify them without permission..."

- Taken from "Republican Congressional Report on Iran Riddled With Errors" at Informed Comment, August 25, 2006

Stephen Zunes:
"There is increasing evidence that Israel instigated a disastrous war on Lebanon largely at the behest of the United States... Israel was a willing partner. Although numerous Israeli press reports indicate that some Israeli officials, including top military officials, are furious at Bush for pushing Olmert into war, the Israeli government had been planning the attack since 2004."

- Taken from "How Washington Goaded Israel to Invade Lebanon" at CommonDreams.Org, August 19, 2006

Oren Ben-Dor:
"As its citizens are being killed, Israel is, yet again, inflicting death and destruction on Lebanon. It tries to portray this horror as necessary for its self-defense. Indeed, the casual observer might regard the rocket attacks on Israeli cities such as Haifa and my own home town, Nahariya, as justifying this claim."

"While states should defend their citizens, states which fail this duty should be questioned and, if necessary, reconfigured. Israel is a state which, instead of defending its citizens, puts all of them, Jews as well as non-Jews, in danger."

"What exactly is being defended by the violence in Gaza and Lebanon? Is it the citizens of Israel or the nature of the Israeli state? I suggest the latter. Israel's statehood is based on an unjust ideology which causes indignity and suffering for those who are classified as non-Jewish by either a religious or ethnic test. To hide this primordial immorality, Israel fosters an image of victimhood. Provoking violence, consciously or unconsciously, against which one must defend oneself is a key feature of the victim-mentality. By perpetuating such a tragic cycle, Israel is a terrorist state like no other."

- Taken from "Who Are the Real Terrorists in the Middle-East?", The Independent (UK), July 26, 2006

Bruce Dixon:
Imagine, if you will, a modern apartheid state with first, second and eleventh class citizens, all required to carry identification specifying their ethnic origin. First class citizens are obliged to serve in the armed forces, kept on ready reserve status until in their forties, and accorded an impressive array of housing, medical, social security, educational and related benefits denied all others.

Second class citizens are exempted from military service and from a number of the benefits accorded citizens of the first class. They are issued identity documents and license plates that allow them to be profiled by police at a distance. Second class citizens may not own land in much of the country and marriages between them and first class citizens are not recognized by the state. Second class citizens are sometimes arrested without trial and police torture, while frowned upon and occasionally apologized for, commonly occurs.

Citizens of the eleventh class, really not citizens at all, have no rights citizens of the first class or their government are bound to respect. Their residence is forbidden in nearly nine-tenths of the country, all of which they used to own. The areas left to them are cut up into smaller and smaller portions weekly, by high walls, free fire zones and hundreds of checkpoints manned by the army of the first class citizens, so that none can travel a dozen miles in any direction to work, school, shopping, a job, a farm, a business or a hospital without several long waits, humiliating searches and often arbitrary denials of the right to pass or to return. Posh residential settlements for the first class citizens with protecting gun towers and military bases are built with government funds and foreign aid on what used to be the villages and farms and pastures of the eleventh class citizens. The settlers are allotted generous additional housing and other subsidies, allowed to carry weapons and use deadly force with impunity against the former inhabitants, and are connected with the rest of first class territory by a network of of first-class citizen only roads.

Citizens of the eleventh class are routinely arrested, tortured, and held indefinitely without trial. Political activism among them is equated to “terrorism” and the state discourages such activity by means including but not limited to the kidnapping of suspects and relatives of suspects, demolition of their family homes, and extralegal assassination, sometimes at the hands of a death squad, or at others times by lobbing missiles or five hundred pound bombs into sleeping apartment blocks or noonday traffic. Passports are not issued to these citizens, and those who take advantage of scarce opportunities to study or work abroad are denied re-entry.

The apartheid state in question is, of course, Israel. Its first class citizens are Israeli Jews, the majority of them of European or sometimes American origin. The second class citizens are Israeli Arabs, who enjoy significant but limited rights under the law including token representation in the Knesset. The eleventh class citizens are not citizens at all. They are Palestinians.

- Taken from "Israeli Apartheid" at The Black Commentator, July 20, 2006

See also, B'Tselem: The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories.


Saturday, August 26, 2006

Give War a Chance: Israel to "Go it alone"?

The seemingly irreversible drive into a larger regional disaster continues. With all signs indicating the danger ahead, the huge cliff we're approaching now in plain view, the drivers of our metaphorical vehicle remain determined to "stay the course" and even put the pedal to the metal.

The following was published Thursday in the Jerusalem Post:

Israel is carefully watching the world's reaction to Iran's continued refusal to suspend uranium enrichment, with some high-level officials arguing it is now clear that when it comes to stopping Iran, Israel "may have to go it alone," The Jerusalem Post has learned.

One senior source said on Tuesday that Iran "flipped the world the bird" by not responding positively to the Western incentive plan to stop uranium enrichment. He expressed frustration that the Russians and Chinese were already saying that Iran's offer of a "new formula" and willingness to enter "serious negotiations" was an opening to keep on talking.

"The Iranians know the world will do nothing," he said. "This is similar to the world's attempts to appease Hitler in the 1930s - they are trying to feed the beast."

He said there was a need to understand that "when push comes to shove," Israel would have to be prepared to "slow down" the Iranian nuclear threat by itself.

Having said this,
he did not rule out the possibility of US military action, but said that if this were to take place, it would probably not occur until the spring or summer of 2008, a few months before President George W. Bush leaves the international stage. The US presidential elections, which Bush cannot contest because of term limits, are in November 2008.

Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, in a meeting in Paris with French Foreign Minister Phillippe Douste-Blazy Wednesday, said Iran "poses a global threat" and needed to be dealt with by the whole international community.

The first thing they need to do is stop the enrichment of uranium," Livni said. "Everyday that passes brings the Iranians closer to building a nuclear bomb. The world can't afford a nuclear Iran." She said the Iranian reply to the Western incentives was just an attempt to "gain time."

The possibility of Israel using this conflict as a pretext to acting alone has been discussed here before. Indeed this has been the plan all along. Far from reacting to the supposedly shocking intransigence of Hezbollah, Iranians or Syrians, our leaders in the US and in Israel carefully engineered this situation to bring us exactly to the point we've reached today. If Dick Cheney's foreshadowing of this development, uttered a more than a year and half before Hezbollah's cross-border raid of July 12th, is not evidence enough of premeditation on the part he US and Israel then the revelations published in the San Francisco Chronicle last month, detailing the extent of the pre-war preparation and coordination between the two governments provides another layer of evidence. And, of course, there was also the spectacle of our "War President" literally announcing to the world that this is all the result of "American policy" (I may have mentioned that here once or twice).

I must reiterate, for Iran to enrich uranium is perfectly legal and within their sovereign rights. It violates no laws or treaties. Despite the insistence by our governments and news media on omitting this fact from their statements on this matter, it remains true.

But there is something else even more instructive as to what's really going on here. Doesn't this all sound eerily familiar? The comparisons of the new enemy to Nazi Germany? The alarmist rhetoric over a nuclear weapons threat for which no evidence whatsoever has ever been produced? The characterization of negotiations as a stalling tactic? Does any of this ring a bell? We fell for this scam once before. We will pay for that avoidable mistake well into the foreseeable future. If we fall for this again... how did the man put it?

"Fool me once, shame on.. shame on you. Fool me... (???) ... can't get fooled again".

For once we agree.


Hezbollah's Reconstruction of Lebanon

Yes, that's right. "Hezbollah's reconstruction of Lebanon".

Hizbollah has trumped both the UN army and the Lebanese government by pouring hundreds of millions of dollars - most of it almost certainly from Iran - into the wreckage of southern Lebanon and Beirut's destroyed southern suburbs.Its massive new reconstruction effort - free of charge to all those Lebanese whose homes were destroyed or damaged in Israel's ferocious five-week assault on the country - has won the loyalty of even the most disaffected members of the Shia community in Lebanon.

Hizbollah has made it clear that it has
no intention of disarming under the UN Security Council's 1701 ceasefire resolution and yesterday afternoon, Major-General Alain Pellegrini, the commander of the UN Interim Force in southern Lebanon - which the Americans and British are relying upon to seize the guerrilla army's weapons - personally confirmed to me at his headquarters in Naqoura that "the Israelis can't ask us to disarm Hizbollah". Describing the ceasefire as "very fragile" and "very dangerous", he stated that disarming Hizbollah "is not written in the mandate".

But for now - and in the total absence of the 8,000-strong foreign military force that is intended to join Unifil with a supposedly "robust" mandate - Hizbollah has already won the war for "hearts and minds". Most householders in the south have received - or are receiving - a minimum initial compensation payment of
$12,000 (£6,300), either for new furniture or to cover their family's rent while Hizbollah construction gangs rebuild their homes. The money is being paid in cash - almost all in crisp new $100 bills - to up to 15,000 families across Lebanon whose property was blitzed by the Israelis, a bill of $180m which is going to rise far higher when reconstruction and other compensation is paid.

More from Foreign Policy magazine (great title on this one, BTW):

Habitat for Hezbollah
By Melani Cammett

Israel’s intense bombing of Lebanon this summer was supposed to bring the organization to its knees. Instead, it gave Hezbollah a chance to display its prowess in caring for Lebanese civilians. Now that a cease-fire has been inked, Hezbollah is well positioned to deliver the social services that the Lebanese so desperately need.

After a month of war, Israel and Lebanon have finally agreed to hold their fire. With the dust settling, the reconstruction of Lebanon has begun and Hezbollah is positioning itself to become indispensable in the effort. Part military force, part political party, and part organized social movement, Hezbollah will now shift gears and capitalize on its nonmilitary skills. Whatever strength the movement lost during the fighting, it may recover quickly as Lebanon rebuilds.

Hezbollah, it should be recalled, emerged during Israel’s 1982 invasion of Lebanon and gained legitimacy not only through military feats but also through reconstruction and development work. It emerged as the premier advocate and provider for poor and middle class Shia in a society that had long marginalized them. Over time, the organization took on schooling, healthcare, loans, and other forms of social assistance. Since 1988,
Hezbollah has implemented more than 10,000 projects to promote agricultural development, build homes and businesses, and provide water, sewage, and electricity. Supporters and critics alike have long acknowledged that Hezbollah is the most effective welfare provider in Lebanon—far more effective than the state.


Israel’s attacks—ostensibly aimed at disbanding Hezbollah and inducing an anti-Hezbollah backlash in Lebanese society—have instead bolstered the organization’s domestic influence. The deaths of more than a thousand Lebanese civilians and Israel’s destruction of Lebanon’s new infrastructure, rebuilt at great expense in the 1990s after the civil war, have produced deep and lasting resentment against Israel in all of Lebanon’s communities. What’s more, Lebanon’s pro-Western elite feels abandoned by the United States and will struggle to maintain a pro-Western line.

So now we're seeing with our eyes exactly why, as predicted at the start, this ill-advised Israeli assault on Lebanon will succeed at nothing but strenghtening Hezbollah. This war policy, this American policy, has indeed served at a "Habitat for Hezbollah", giving it the air it breathes -- Israeli aggression. I promise, I'm not making this stuff up. To reiterate:

Hezbollah is much more than a just paramilitary or terrorist unit. They are a full-blown social and political movement. Yes, they have the militant wing we hear so much about, true enough. But they have a strong social services wing as well. They run schools. They run shelters. They run food banks. They run hospitals and clinics. On top of all of that, they are also an active, grass-roots political party with strong local support...


It just so happens that these multi-pronged activities Hezbollah provides in that community positions them uniquely to take advantage of any groundswell in anti-Israeli sentiments this bombardment may inspire. It gives them instant access to streams of disaffected, displaced and angry victims to whom they can provide shelter, nourishment, clothing and, most significantly, an immediate outlet for revenge.

I have some bad news for those among us who had their hearts set on that Lebanese backlash against Hezbollah we were promised would result from Israel's offensive. It was always absurd to assume that a people under aerial bombardment would rally in anger to the side of the bombers. Once again, strangely enough, it seems people don't like being bombed.

Personal update: I never intended for this to be such a foreign policy blog (there are already so many of them) but how could I even bother to blog without talking about the stupidity of the way the world is being set aflame around me? It begs for commentary, does it not?


Thursday, August 24, 2006

Give War a Chance: Iranian Offer Rejected

Things are moving along briskly now towards our next splendid little war or what Arthur Silber calls, "Our Date with Armageddon". Yes, our theme continues unabated as Dear Leader and his accomplices continue their intentionally tone-deaf "diplomacy".

Iran offers West 'serious' talks

Iran's chief nuclear negotiator, Ali Larijani, has said his country is ready to start "serious talks" with six world powers on Wednesday.

Iran has submitted a written response to the
demand by the five permanent UN Security Council members plus Germany to suspend uranium enrichment.

It has until the end of August to suspend enrichment in exchange for incentives, or risk possible sanctions.

Iran denies Western claims that it is developing a nuclear weapons programme.

Tehran has always maintained that it has a right to civilian nuclear technology, and Supreme leader Ali Khamenei made it clear on Monday that Iran would reject international pressure.

Although Mr Larijani has spoken of "serious talks", what the Security Council needs to know is whether Iran is willing to
suspend uranium enrichment by 31 August or not, says the BBC News website's world affairs correspondent, Paul Reynolds.

The passage above is best considered in the context of certain illuminating facts. First, Iran, is a signatory of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), the international agreement by which nations agree to limit the spread the of nuclear weapons technology and to disarm themselves of whatever capability the may already have. Contrast this to the standing of India, a nation that refuses to ratify the treaty yet is able to reach an agreement with the Bush administration to receive nuclear technology by the boatload in return for compliance to NPT-styled safeguards. Yet Iran, despite having already agreed to these same standards, is deemed unworthy of pursuing the same technology.

Secondly, it should be noted that Iran has every right to pursue a civilian nuclear program. This is not merely an assertion by the Iranian government as it is presented in the article above. It is a verifiable fact under the terms of the NPT. It is not uncommon for this fact to be treated this way, as if it were a debatable Iranian claim, by our news media (if it is mentioned at all) . It fits very nicely into our pre-established war narrative that way. But the fact remains that Iran does have that right under the NPT and there is no legal argument that supports demands that it refrain from exercising that right.

Even so, Iran acquiesced to the legally baseless demands of the US and Europe and suspended it's uranium enrichment program until intrusive inspections could assure that no NPT violations were taking place there. Since that time the IAEA inspections, which had already been taking place for two years, turned up no evidence at all of a nuclear weapons program, although it could not rule out the possibility that one exists (stop me if this sounds familiar).

So this all sounds pretty reasonable, doesn't it? Iran is acting legally and no evidence of prohibited activity was found. So how did the US react to that? Why, by continuing to refuse to negotiate with Iran, of course.

This seemed odd enough at the time because that refusal, coupled with a stream of not-so-veiled threats of military action, eventually caused Iran to balk and restart it's enrichment activities. But it seems even odder today with President Bush again refusing to negotiate until Iran -- can you believe it? -- suspends its uranium enrichment activities again.

Didn't they do that once already, sir? Couldn't we have already moved beyond this point two years ago?

And remember, this is all happening in the context of the previous offers Iran has made earlier in Bush's presidency to negotiate with the US, not only on its nuclear program but on everything, including its support of militant groups like Hezbollah, its recognition of Israel, normalizing relations between us and their annoying habit of calling us names like "the Great Satan".

Still it wasn't until just this May that Bush finally opened up to the idea of any talks under any condition at all. Even then some members of the administration admitted that this was done only as a last resort.

Think about that. Participating in a negotiation is a "last resort" to these people. They have to be pressured by allies to interrupt their war plans for a peace negotiation.

So now Iran has until the end of August to do again what it has already done once only to be rewarded with increased threats.

Last, but certainly not least is the question of who really has the better reason to feel threatened here. Just for a moment, free yourself of the oft-repeated, fear-mongering assumptions that permeate our media, and approach the issue on strictly pragmatic terms. Search your memory for a single instance in which Iran has invaded/attacked/bombed any nation since the Iranian Islamic Revolution of 1979.

If you can't think of any there's a simple reason for it. They've invaded no one in all that time. The infamous 7-year war with Iraq was initiated by Saddam Hussein acting as a proxy for the US government. The Iranians fought that war in self-defense so that doesn't count (sorry). Even extending the parameters beyond 1979 what do we come up with? Anything? Have they fought a war of aggression against anyone since they were called Persia?

Now, what happens when one asks the same question about the US? The mind races. Images of war flood your consciousness, there are so many from which to choose. For the sake of brevity, however, one need look no further than the two most recent for proper context. Right on Iran's western border is the world's most powerful military force laying waste to its neighbor, Iraq. That hasn't escaped the notice of Iranians. They are equally aware that before that invasion took place, President Bush named Iraq as a charter member of the mythical "Axis of Evil" in what I believe to be one of, if not the, most ridiculously stupid Presidential speeches ever given.

In that same speech Iran was also named as a member of this supposed "axis", an "axis in which none of the members are actually allies. It is in that context that they now see our huge military force based to their immediate west.

What's going to the east? Oh, there we are again! The US invaded it's eastern neighbor as well, peppering the whole of Afghanistan with a huge, made-for-TV aerial assault. To this day we also have a smaller force sitting right there.

Finally, are those American warships in the Persian Gulf I see? Isn't that immediately south of Iran?

Again, who should really feel threatened here?

The US has the largest nuclear arsenal in the world and has openly talked of using them against nations that pursue nuclear weapons. Is this not exactly what they're accusing Iran of doing now?

Meanwhile, the US has also stepped up it's threats against Iran by using the Israeli offensive in Lebanon as an additional pretext to its hostility. The American press is filled with right-wing commentary about the need to rain bombs on Iran with impunity and without mercy, all for the good of Israel, we are told. In our media such calls are left virutally unchallenged or even presented as conventional "wisdom".

So, if Iran looks scary to Americans, imagine how scary America must look to Iranians. We have the nuclear arsenal, they don't. We have a track record of aggressive, interventionist militarism, they don't. We have a force of nearly 150,000 servicemen on their their border, a force that just annihilated their two next-door neighbors, not the other way around. Now they see us refusing to negotiate on reasonable terms with them. Try to understand whose existence is truly at risk here.

We continue with the US response to Iran:

Iran nuclear offer 'falls short'

An Iranian offer to negotiate on its nuclear programme falls short of UN demands, the US has said.

Iran had offered "serious talks" in response to a package of incentives offered if it halted uranium enrichment by 31 August.

But the US said suspension of research was required first, echoing French comments. China and Russia said earlier that talks were the only way forward.

Iran could face sanctions, amid claims it is making a bomb - which it denies.

Surprised? You shouldn't be.

Understand this. There is nothing Iran can do that will derail the war plans. If we learn nothing else at all from the Iraq experience let us learn that. Again, the demand to suspend all research and enrichment has no basis in law or treaty. This is an important point to keep in the back of one's mind as you read or listen to these reports. The only reason this demand is insisted upon as the only condition by which punitive action can be averted is precisely because it is known to be wholly unacceptable to the Iranians. This is why the Iranians are now asking for "serious talks". They recognize that what's happened so far has not been a serious, good faith attempt to maintain the peace. The US side is trying sabotage the negotiations with unreasonable terms. When the Iranians reject those terms our leaders will tell us that diplomacy failed and they were left with "no choice" but to act militarily (stop me if that sounds familiar).
Coming again to your TV screen soon...

Bush Ensured Iran Offer Would Be Rejected
Analysis by Gareth Porter*

WASHINGTON, Aug 22 (IPS) - Even before Iran gave its formal counter-offer to ambassadors of the P5+1 countries (the U.S., Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China) Tuesday, the George W. Bush administration had already begun the process of organising sanctions against Iran.

Washington had already held a conference call on sanctions Sunday with French, German and British officials, the Washington Post reported.

Thus ends what appeared on the surface to be a genuine multilateral initiative for negotiations with Iran on the terms under which it would give up its nuclear programme.
But the history of that P5+1 proposal shows that the Bush administration was determined from the beginning that it would fail, so that could bring to a halt a multilateral diplomacy on Iran's nuclear programme that the hard-liners in the administration had always found a hindrance to their policy.

Britain, France and Germany, which had begun negotiations with Tehran on the nuclear issue in October 2003, had concluded very early on that
Iran's security concerns would have to be central to any agreement. It has been generally forgotten that the Nov. 14, 2004 Paris Agreement between the EU and Iran included an assurance by the three European states that the "long-term agreement" they pledged to reach would "provide...firm commitments on security issues."


The partners of the United States in the P5+1 made one more effort to convince Rice to reconsider the U.S. position at their final meeting in Vienna Jun. 1 to reach agreement on a proposal. As Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov revealed in a talk with Russian media the following day,
the issue of security guarantees for Iran was raised by the negotiating partners of the U.S. at that meeting.

But the Bush administration again rebuffed the idea of offering positive security incentives to Iran. In the final text of the proposal, the European scheme for a regional security system was reduced to an anodyne reference to a "conference to promote dialogue and cooperation on regional security issues".

The Europeans, Russians and Chinese knew this outcome doomed the entire exercise to failure. In the end, only the United States could offer the incentives needed to make a bargain attractive to Iran. A European official who had been involved in the discussions was quoted in a Jun. 1 Reuters story as saying, "We have neither big enough carrots nor big enough sticks to persuade the Iranians, if they are open to persuasion at all."

Despite the desire of other members of the P5+1 for a genuine diplomatic offer to Iran that could possibly lead to an agreement on its nuclear programme, the Bush administration's intention was just the opposite.

Bush's objective was to free the administration of the constraint of multilateral diplomacy. The administration evidently reckoned that,
once the Iranians had rejected the formal offer from the P5+1, it would be free to take whatever actions it might choose, including a military strike against Iran. Thus the Jun. 5 proposal, with its implicit contempt for Iran's security interests, reflected the degree to which the administration has anchored its policy toward Iran in its option to use force.

As Washington now seeks to the clear the way for the next phase of its confrontation with Iran, Bush is framing the issue as one of Iranian defiance of the Security Council rather than U.S. refusal to deal seriously with a central issue in the negotiations.
"There must consequences if people thumb their noses at the United Nations Security Council," Bush said Monday.

There so much to comment on here but I'll try to wrap this up quickly (if it's not already too late for that). Lets just summarize what we've seen here.

First the US has demanded that all their objectives be secured before there can be any negotiation (i.e. "Buy the car, then we'll negotiate the price"). Iran must stop all it's perfectly legal nuclear activities before it can be allowed to negotiate on whether it should have to stop its perfectly legal nuclear activities. That's first and foremost.

Next, in return for giving up the entire farm before negotiations even begin Iran gets to give up on it's primary concern too, i.e. protection from the superpower massing at it's borders. So what the US is telling them in essence is this: "If you give in to all our demands immediately we'll be willing to discuss with you the manner in which we'll give you nothing in return. Oh, and I almost forgot, we might decide attack you after that anyway. Deal?"

Designed... to... fail.

More: Iran and the invention of a nuclear crisis

UPDATE 1/29/2006: I added a link to a recent BBC story on the White Houses refusal to entertain Iran's offer to suspend it's uranium enrichment activities. See "previous offers" link.


Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Give War a Chance: Israel Continues Blockade of Lebanon

As I mentioned in my last post on the Israeli/Lebanon conflict, impossible standards are being imposed as preconditions to full compliance with the UN's ceasefire via the withdrawal Israeli forces. But perhaps I shouldn't use the word "impossible" to describe Israel's' terms. It may be better to describe them as so unlikely to be met that one must as to call into question Israel's desire to resolve the matter amicably at all. But that's a little wordy, ergo my choice of the word "impossible". This news item from the Associated Press presents another opportunity to observe this tactic in real time:

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Tuesday that Israel has no plans to lift its air and sea blockade of Lebanon until an international peacekeeping force takes up positions along the Syrian border and at Beirut's airport.

Israeli officials said Olmert wasn't issuing an ultimatum. But the tough stance appeared to be an attempt to put pressure on the international community to send a powerful force willing to disarm Hezbollah, which fired thousands of rockets into northern Israel during 34 days of fighting.


Olmert laid down his position in a meeting with U.N. envoy Terje Roed-Larsen, who is in the region to discuss implementation of a U.N.-brokered cease-fire that ended the war between Israel and Hezbollah. Diplomats are still trying to hammer out final details, including the peacekeeping force's precise responsibilities.

"Olmert said deploying the force at border crossings to Syria and at the airport will allow the lifting of Israel's sea and air closure and contribute to the implementation" of the cease-fire, the prime minister's office said.


Israel says Syria is a main supplier of weapons to Hezbollah, and officials said Israel was seeking assurances that arms do not reach the group again. The cease-fire resolution calls for a
halt in arms transfers to the guerrillas, and a 2004 resolution requires the group to disarm.

disarmament of Hezbollah is our main objective. As long as it is not disarmed, we will defend ourselves against their being rearmed," said Miri Eisin, a senior Israeli government official. "To do so, we're going to stop all of the routes that allow the supplies to arrive to Hezbollah — sea, air and land."

There is some contradiction in Olmert's statements as they're presented here. On the one hand he says that simply deploying an international force to the Syrian border would allow them to withdraw -- which even on its own merits must be viewed in the context of their pickiness with regard to what constitutes an acceptable international force. But then he goes on to say that they wont end the blockade until Hezbollah is disarmed. That's a noteable departure. As highlighted above, the UN-brokered ceasefire calls for the halt of new arms transfers to Hezbollah. But Israel is unilaterally augmenting that requirement to include the disarmament of Hezbollah. This, once again, is a case of one side asking that all their demands be met before any talks can take place. The precondition for a ceasefire is total surrender by the other side. In a war where they clearly did not achieve their objectives nor weaken their enemy, this is ridiculous requirement for Israel to impose, seemingly designed to fail.

The full disarmament of Hezbollah was the stated goal of Israel's military campaign to begin with. Their inability to achieve this goal by force is the reason we have the ceasefire. Hezbollah, by their armed resistance to the campaign, has already demonstrated its unwillingness to disarm. Furthermore, after being attacked it has no logical reason to want to disarm. Tat is where the issue stands. That's the heart of the disagreement. For Israel to now argue that it cannot abide fully with the ceasefire until all it is given the victory it could not acheive by force is a non-starter, again, analogous to "Buy the car first,
then we'll negotiate the price."

It should be noted, as it is noted in the above-referenced story, that a previous UN resolution in 2004 required did Hezbollah to disarm. Israel could argue that it is justified in demanding such a precondition on that basis. But that argument is diminished by two facts. First, that resolution was drafted after Israel had largely withdrawn from Lebanon, a condition that no longer holds. Second are the dozens of UN resolutions with which Israel has failed to comply itself. Couldn't Hezbollah insist on the enforcement of those? Well, ask yourself how the world would react if Hezbollah insisted, for example, that Israel must withdraw from all the lands it has occupied since 1967 (as required by UN Resolution 242) before it would honor the ceasefire? I can only imagine the noteable difference we see.

Finally, at the risk of seeming tedious and redundant, I must make mention again of the fact that continually making an issue of Syria and Iran in this conflict keeps fresh the pre-packaged pretext for the larger war this whole affair is designed to spark.


Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Judge Dismisses Terror Charge in Padilla Case

As one big-time terror charge goes up, another one comes down. The case of the accused "dirty bomber" terror supporter, Jose Padilla, has taken yet another turn.

More than three years after being paraded before us as a big catch in the interminable "War on Terror", Padilla was finally charged this past November with crimes other than those mentioned in the hype surrounding his arrest. The move was widely regarded as a blatant attempt to avoid a potentially embarassing defeat on his appeal to the US Supreme Court.

The case made against Padilla was described as "light on facts" by the Judge in the case, U.S. District Judge Marcia Cooke, forshadowing what was to come.

Yesterday the judge dismissed one of the terror charges filed by the Attorney General's office, citing the redundancy of the charges and the comcomitant "double jeopardy" issues it raises.

U.S. District Judge Marcia Cooke threw out the first count in the indictment -- that the threesome conspired to murder, kidnap and maim persons in a foreign country -- saying it repeated the main alleged "conspiracy to advance violent jihad" in two other charges.

"There can be no question that the government has charged a single conspiracy offense multiple times, in separate counts, when in law and in fact, only one [alleged] crime has been committed," Cooke wrote in an eight-page ruling released to prosecutors and defense lawyers on Monday.

"The danger raised by a multiplicitous indictment is present in the instant indictment," she wrote, stressing that it violates the "double jeopardy" clause of the Fifth Amendment of the Constitution -- the prosecution or punishment of a defendant twice for the same offense.

The judge's ruling -- a major pretrial victory for defense attorneys Kenneth Swartz, Jeanne Baker, William Swor, Michael Caruso, Orlando do Campo, Anthony Natale and Andrew Patel -- was the latest blow to the government's case. The first count in the indictment carried a maximum penalty of life in prison.

Once again it all come back to the credibility of this "War on Terror".


Monday, August 21, 2006

Someone's Finally Been Charged

In my last post on this subject two days ago I wondered why no one had been charged in the London terror investigation 10 days after the arrests were announced. Today it has been reported by the Associated Press that 11 of the remaining 23 suspects in London have now been charged.

Police found martyrdom videos and bomb-making components during the investigation of the alleged plot to blow up U.S.-bound jetliners, prosecutors said Monday in announcing 11 people had been charged with terrorism offenses.

Officials confirmed for the first time that the plot involved the manufacture of explosives, which were to be used to assemble and detonate bombs inside as many as 10 airliners.
U.S. officials previously had said the plot appeared to involve mixing liquid-based chemicals to make explosives aboard the aircrafts.

One woman was released from custody Monday and police continued to interrogate 11 others who remain "under active investigation," lead prosecutor Susan Hemming said.


The briefing by police and prosecutors lasted less than eight minutes, but provided more information than had been released in the 11 days since the alleged plot was first disclosed and air travel out of Britain was thrown into turmoil.

They said investigators had found
bomb-making materials — including hydrogen peroxide and electrical components — and seized more than 400 computers and 200 cell phones in nearly 70 searches.

More than 8,000 items used for
data storage, such as compact discs, DVDs and memory sticks, were reported found. Maps of
, suicide notes from willing terrorists and books on explosives also were seized, officials said.

"We have also found a number of video recordings — these are sometimes referred to as
martyrdom videos," said Assistant Deputy Commissioner Peter Clarke, who heads the Metropolitan Police's anti-terrorism unit. "This has all given us a clearer picture of the alleged plot."

According to dates given by prosecutors, the plot could have begun last year.

OK, that's the most information we've received so far. But lets go over this terrorist's shopping list a bit:
  • Hydrogen Peroxide
  • "Electrical components"
  • Computers
  • Cell phones
  • CDs
  • DVDs
  • Memory sticks
  • Bringing the infidel to his knees... priceless
Uh-oh. I have all these things in my house (except maybe the infidel on his knees). Should I call an attorney? Oh, my gosh, should I have even said that!

The items listed that do seem worthy of notice are, of course, the "martyrdom videos", "suicide notes from willing terrorists" and the "books on explosives". You don't tend to find those in every house. But, once again, before I barricade myself in the basement I'd like to see these things for myself just to be sure. One man's martydom tape is another man's wedding video. For case in point, witness this chilling footage.


"When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts" Premiers Today

Just in time to commemorate the 1st anniversary of George Bush's broken promises, punctuated by his imperial "let them eat cake" flyover of the flood zone and the American right-wing media's blame-the-victims feeding frenzy that followed, Spike Lee's "When the Levees Broke" is set to premier tonight on HBO. By all accounts I've read and heard so far this one is on the money. It airs tonight and tomorrow, Monday & Tuesday, August 21st & 22nd at 9PM EDT.




"Undermining the Ceasefire" or "Give War A Chance"

I'm no legal expert by any means but I'm guessing this is probably a violation of the cease fire as well.

BEIRUT, Lebanon - Israeli warplanes roared over Lebanon's northern Mediterranean coast and along its border with Syria on Monday, after the Lebanese defense minister warned rogue Palestinian rocket teams against attacking Israel and provoking retaliation that could unravel an already shaky cease-fire.

Meanwhile, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said countries that don't have diplomatic relations with Israel should not be permitted to contribute troops to an international peacekeeping force for southern Lebanon. That would eliminate Indonesia, Malaysia and Bangladesh — among the only countries to have offered front-line troops for the expanded force.

Olmert also ruled out peace talks with Syria as long as it supports "terror organizations." Earlier Monday, a top government official suggested it was time to resume talks with Syria despite its support for Hezbollah.

Remember, this war has already been decided upon and Israel needs any pretext available in order to continue with it. Its real purpose is not yet fulfilled. So, to that end, they are now setting up an impossible standard as a precondition for withdrawal and/or peace negotiations.

First they announce that they simply cannot withdraw until an international force is there to take it's place. Now, as the international force is being assembled, they are finding reasons to deem it unacceptable.

Meanwhile, they are ruling out peace talks with Syria until it renounces, basically, Hezbollah. In this case they are, in essence, asking that all their demands be met before they will negotiate on their demands. This can rightfully be compared to a car dealer who tells you that he cannot negotiate the price of the car with you until you buy it.

This tactic has actually been the way of our world for quite some time now. Very recently, for example, Iran came forward and offered the Bush administration the opportunity to directly negotiate over it's concerns about Iran's nuclear program. What did our leaders do? They rebuffed the offer, setting as a precondition to any negotiation the suspension of Iran's nuclear program. Again, "Buy the car and then we can negotiate the price." Of course these terms were rejected.

That itself wasn't the first time Iran had made such an offer. Shortly after the Iraq war began Iran also came forward, sending Bush a letter, with Switzerland acting as an intermediary, offering to negotiate with the US over the full range of concerns with their regime, including it's support of militant groups, it's nuclear program and it's stance on Israel. They spoke of normalizing relations with the US. Coming on the heels of the Iraq invasion this would have been a great PR coup for the Bush administration, potentially allowing it to claim that its actions are indeed to leading to change in the middle-east. But not even that was good enough. Iran was a member of the mythical "Axis of Evil" and we'd already decided upon war even then. They no time or interest talks that might make military action unnecessary. So, instead of pursuing these talks, which would have seen them at the table with a much more moderate Iranian President than the one they must deal with now, our leaders in their infinite wisdom, rejected the offer outright, choosing instead to poo-poo Switzerland for unpardonable offense of delivering the letter. Per the Washington Post:

But top Bush administration officials, convinced the Iranian government was on the verge of collapse, belittled the initiative. Instead, they formally complained to the Swiss ambassador who had sent the fax with a cover letter certifying it as a genuine proposal supported by key power centers in Iran, former administration officials said.

This style of negotiation is designed to fail. With it's failure the war-planners are able to claim they've tried diplomacy and to declare diplomacy a failure (as they believe it always is, they understand only one thing). Just like Iraq before them, there is literally nothing that Syria or Iran could do to satisfy the war-makers and derail their war plans. They're dead set on it.