Saturday, January 03, 2009

[Anna in Palestine] Gaza Massacres; The Time is Now

[Anna in Palestine] Gaza Massacres; The Time is Now

Gaza Massacres; The Time is Now by Anna Baltzer

Please, everyone, stop what you're doing. This is not just any report
from Palestine, but the worst in my lifetime, the worst in 40 years.
At this moment, Israel is raining bombs down on Gaza, an enclosed tiny
area that is home to 1.5 million men, women, and children, most of
them innocent civilians. This space is tightly sealed by Israel, which
constantly denies Gazans electricity, food, medicine, and the ability
to leave. Gaza is one big prison being bombed from above. The death
toll is up to 428 in the past 7 days. That's more than the number of
Israelis killed in the last 7 years. This is what I would call a massacre.

Yes, more Palestinians killed in 7 days than Israelis in 7 years, and
yet no comments from President Bush or President-elect Obama.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice places blame solely on Hamas for
holding Gazans "hostage," as if Israel's actions were beyond judgment.
Would Rice ever respond to a Palestinian attack on Israelis by blaming
the Israeli government for holding its citizens hostage with their
army's violence?

I am writing you from Jordan. I arrived the day after the attacks
began. The day before they began, my friend and colleague Hannah had
asked me to deliver a book of poetry to her friend Summer in Gaza,
hoping I'd manage to make it on a Free Gaza boat. Since then, these
boats bringing unarmed witnesses to Gaza ( have been
attacked in international waters, and Summer's house has been blown to
pieces, her brother almost died under the rubble, and her father
desperately needs an operation but the hospitals are overflowing. In
every home or shop I enter in Jordan, people are huddled watching the
stories unfold: a family killed in their home, a university destroyed,
a pharmacy blown to pieces, countless bloody babies screaming or
worse, silent.

I wonder if people in the US are also seeing the bodies and faces or,
as I fear, only some rubble and angry Gazans. The day after attacks
began, Israel's largest newspaper Yediot Aharonot covered almost the
entire front page with the words, "500,000 Israelis Under Attack!" In
smaller font, one could learn that in addition to 1 Israeli, 225
Palestinians had also been killed. It was surreal. Consider where you
are getting your news, and what is not being told to you.

For example, the stated purpose of the attack is to drive out Hamas,
i.e. to kill anyone in Hamas and scare the rest into turning against
Hamas. Not only does this tactic not work (brutality fosters
violence), but it clearly fits the definition of terrorism: unlawful
violence intended to frighten or coerce a people or government in
order to achieve a political or ideological agenda. Israel is
operating as a terrorist state in the true sense of the word.

Hamas is also a terrorist organization by this definition, so it would
be easy to simplify the conflict as "an endless cycle of violence"
were there no historical context. But there is a context, and there
are alternatives: Let us remember that Hamas was elected after an
intentional shift away from violence towards a mainstream political
agenda. Hamas stopped its attacks and began offering the Palestinian
people an alternative to the corruption of Fatah. Hamas was
democratically elected and immediately strangled by a US-led boycott,
preventing the government from functioning. Hamas continued to hold to
its one-sided ceasefire (totaling almost 2 years), meanwhile the US
and Israel began to train and arm the opposition government, Fatah,
which they preferred. In response to plans for a coup in Gaza
(anti-democratic takeover by the US-supported opposition government),
Hamas secured its control (again, democratically-elected whether or
not we like them) over Gaza, and continues to offer Israel an
indefinite ceasefire--no more violent attacks, period--if Israel
simply complies with international law. The Arab League (comprised of
22 Arab nation members) has offered the same. These offers are
dismissed by Israel and silenced in the US media. Israel says it has
tried everything else, but it has not tried the most obvious:
complying with international law and accepting repeated offers for a
peaceful resolution.

As events unfold in Gaza neither the media nor the people are silent
here in Jordan, where people refuse to go on as if nothing were
happening to their brothers and sisters (sometimes literally--more
than 60% of Jordan's population is Palestinian refugees). Just one day
after attacks began, the king of Jordan gave blood to send to Gaza and
inspired hundreds of others to do the same (meanwhile President Bush
was on vacation in Texas). Spontaneous demonstrations have erupted at
least twice here in the capitol today, and thousands are protesting in
various major cities around the Middle East and around the world.

Please, wherever you are, do something. Write a letter to the editor.
Get a large group to inundate your congressperson at once. Protest!
There are demonstrations being organized around the US. If there isn't
one happening near you, then do what I would do: buy a poster-board
and large marker and write something on it ("Gazans Are People Too,"
"Massacre in Gaza: Silence is Complicity," "Our Weapons Are Killing
Palestinian Children," or anything you can think of). Go outside and
stand on a busy corner with it. Force others to confront the reality.
Talk to people, invite them to join you. People around the world are
empowered enough to take to the streets; we have no excuse not to. The
time is now.


Attacks Condemned as Supplies Dwindle

Attacks Condemned as Supplies Dwindle and Deaths Rise
by Michael Jansen
Published on Friday, January 2, 2009 by the Irish Times

Deposed Palestinian prime minister and Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh yesterday called for an immediate halt to the Israeli attack on Gaza, lifting of the siege and opening of all crossings.

"This war does not target just Hamas and the government, it is targeting Palestinians and their cause," he stated in a televised address as Gaza's death toll rose to 417.

Some 2,070 Gazans have been wounded since Israel's offensive began on Saturday. Among the latest targets were the Palestinian legislative council building and a complex housing the ministries of health, education and transport, all facilities belonging to the Palestinian National Authority and built with donations from Europe and elsewhere.

Dr Ziad Abu Amr, an independent legislator from Gaza, said he and colleagues had made fruit- less protests against the "total destruction" of Gaza but there is international "complicity" with Israel. He said these institutions will have to be rebuilt before governance can be restored.

A doctor who lives in Gaza city asserted, "We have never, never, never heard such explosions." His family survives by staying home. They eat rice and vegetables. Meat cannot be stored because there is no electricity: "I managed to get a small bag of bread because the lady [at the bakery] had promised me a few loaves."

His specialised clinic does not have equipment to treat wounded. "They all go to the [government] Shifa hospital. But it does not have the means to deal with all the casualties . . . Many doctors and nurses cannot reach the hospital because of the bombing," he said.

He planned to walk to his clinic to conduct emergency surgery, although he was uncertain whether anaesthetic was available.

Dr Mads Gilbert, a Norwegian physician who reached Gaza on Wednesday, said Gaza is a "complete man-made disaster. It's cold, there's no food, no fuel. At the main hospital [Shifa] all the windows have been blown out."

At the Rafah crossing between Egypt and Gaza, he saw two field hospitals and 30 tonnes of medical supplies waiting to enter Gaza. He said the Israelis are using outlawed fuel air bombs and depleted uranium warheads. Many bodies are shredded and burnt.

While women and children comprise 25 per cent of the fatalities, they make up 40 per cent of the wounded. "Civilians are the targets, they are the victims," said Dr Gilbert.

Although the UN yesterday opened ration distribution centres for refugees for the first time in two weeks, humanitarian co-ordinator Maxwell Gaylard warned, "Without the violence stopping, it is extremely difficult to get food to people who need it. We cannot assess where the most urgent needs are. And it is too dangerous for civilians to leave their homes to seek urgent medical treatment, buy supplies and assist people in distress."

Israel has to open goods crossings for wheat, grain and other basic foods to feed the 1.1 million civilians dependent on food aid and to allow fuel to flow.

"Gaza's hospitals are facing their largest-ever trauma caseloads . . . They must have reliable power."

© 2009

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Murder Party

Party to Murder
by Chris Hedges

Editor’s note: In light of the recent fighting in Gaza, Truthdig asked Chris Hedges, who covered the Mideast for The New York Times for seven years, to update a previous column on Gaza.

Can anyone who is following the Israeli air attacks on Gaza—the buildings blown to rubble, the children killed on their way to school, the long rows of mutilated corpses, the wailing mothers and wives, the crowds of terrified Palestinians not knowing where to flee, the hospitals so overburdened and out of supplies they cannot treat the wounded, and our studied, callous indifference to this widespread human suffering—wonder why we are hated?

Our self-righteous celebration of ourselves and our supposed virtue is as false as that of Israel. We have become monsters, militarized bullies, heartless and savage. We are a party to human slaughter, a flagrant war crime, and do nothing. We forget that the innocents who suffer and die in Gaza are a reflection of ourselves, of how we might have been should fate and time and geography have made the circumstances of our birth different. We forget that we are all absurd and vulnerable creatures. We all have the capacity to fear and hate and love. “Expose thyself to what wretches feel,” King Lear said, entering the mud and straw hovel of Poor Tom, “and show the heavens more just.”

Privilege and power, especially military power, is a dangerous narcotic. Violence destroys those who bear the brunt of its force, but also those who try to use it to become gods. Over 350 Palestinians have been killed, many of them civilians, and over 1,000 have been wounded since the air attacks began on Saturday. Ehud Barak, Israel’s defense minister, said Israel is engaged in a “war to the bitter end” against Hamas in Gaza. A war? Israel uses sophisticated attack jets and naval vessels to bomb densely crowded refugee camps and slums, to attack a population that has no air force, no air defense, no navy, no heavy weapons, no artillery units, no mechanized armor, no command and control, no army, and calls it a war. It is not a war. It is murder.

The U.N. special rapporteur for human rights in the occupied Palestinian territory, former Princeton University law professor Richard Falk, has labeled what Israel is doing to the 1.5 million Palestinians in Gaza “a crime against humanity.” Falk, who is Jewish, has condemned the collective punishment of the Palestinians in Gaza as “a flagrant and massive violation of international humanitarian law as laid down in Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention.” He has asked for “the International Criminal Court to investigate the situation, and determine whether the Israeli civilian leaders and military commanders responsible for the Gaza siege should be indicted and prosecuted for violations of international criminal law.”

Falk’s unflinching honesty has enraged Israel. He was banned from entering the country on Dec. 14 during his attempt to visit Gaza and the West Bank.

“After being denied entry I was put in a holding room with about 20 others experiencing entry problems,” he said. “At this point I was treated not as a U.N. representative, but as some sort of security threat, subjected to an inch-by-inch body search, and the most meticulous luggage inspection I have ever witnessed. I was separated from my two U.N. companions, who were allowed to enter Israel. At this point I was taken to the airport detention facility a mile or so away, required to put all my bags and cell phone in a room, taken to a locked, tiny room that had five other detainees, smelled of urine and filth, and was an unwelcome invitation to claustrophobia. I spent the next 15 hours so confined, which amounted to a cram course on the miseries of prison life, including dirty sheets, inedible food, and either lights that were too bright or darkness controlled from the guard office.”

The foreign press has been, like Falk, barred by Israel from entering Gaza to report on the destruction.

Israel’s stated aim of halting homemade rockets fired from Gaza into Israel remains unfulfilled. Gaza militants have fired more than 100 rockets and mortars into Israel, killing four people and wounding nearly two dozen more, since Israel unleashed its air assault. Israel has threatened to launch a ground assault and has called up 6,500 army reservists. It has massed tanks on the Gaza border and declared the area a closed military zone.

The rocket attacks by Hamas are, as Falk points out, also criminal violations of international law. But as Falk notes, “... such Palestinian behavior does not legalize Israel’s imposition of a collective punishment of a life- and health-threatening character on the people of Gaza, and should not distract the U.N. or international society from discharging their fundamental moral and legal duty to render protection to the Palestinian people.”

“It is an unfolding humanitarian catastrophe that each day poses the entire 1.5 million Gazans to an unspeakable ordeal, to a struggle to survive in terms of their health,” Falk has said of the ongoing Israeli blockade of Gaza. “This is an increasingly precarious condition. A recent study reports that 46 percent of all Gazan children suffer from acute anemia. There are reports that the sonic booms associated with Israeli overflights have caused widespread deafness, especially among children. Gazan children need thousands of hearing aids. Malnutrition is extremely high in a number of different dimensions and affects 75 percent of Gazans. There are widespread mental disorders, especially among young people without the will to live. Over 50 percent of Gazan children under the age of 12 have been found to have no will to live.”

Before the air assaults, Gaza spent 12 hours a day without power, which can be a death sentence to the severely ill in hospitals. Most of Gaza is now without power. There are few drugs and little medicine, including no cancer or cystic fibrosis medication. Hospitals have generators but often lack fuel. Medical equipment, including one of Gaza’s three CT scanners, has been destroyed by power surges and fluctuations. Medical staff cannot control the temperature of incubators for newborns. And Israel has revoked most exit visas, meaning some of those who need specialized care, including cancer patients and those in need of kidney dialysis, have died. Of the 230 Gazans estimated to have died last year because they were denied proper medical care, several spent their final hours at Israeli crossing points where they were refused entry into Israel. The statistics gathered on children—half of Gaza’s population is under the age of 17—are increasingly grim. About 45 percent of children in Gaza have iron deficiency from a lack of fruit and vegetables, and 18 percent have stunted growth.

“It is macabre,” Falk said of the blockade. “I don’t know of anything that exactly fits this situation. People have been referring to the Warsaw ghetto as the nearest analog in modern times.”

“There is no structure of an occupation that endured for decades and involved this kind of oppressive circumstances,” the rapporteur added. “The magnitude, the deliberateness, the violations of international humanitarian law, the impact on the health, lives and survival and the overall conditions warrant the characterization of a crime against humanity. This occupation is the direct intention by the Israeli military and civilian authorities. They are responsible and should be held accountable.”

The point of the Israeli attack, ostensibly, is to break Hamas, the radical Islamic group that was elected to power in 2007. But Hamas has repeatedly proposed long-term truces with Israel and offered to negotiate a permanent truce. During the last cease-fire, established through Egyptian intermediaries in July, Hamas upheld the truce although Israel refused to ease the blockade. It was Israel that, on Nov. 4, initiated an armed attack that violated the truce and killed six Palestinians. It was only then that Hamas resumed firing rockets at Israel.

“This is a crime of survival,” Falk said of the rocket attacks by Palestinians. “Israel has put the Gazans in a set of circumstances where they either have to accept whatever is imposed on them or resist in any way available to them. That is a horrible dilemma to impose upon a people. This does not alleviate the Palestinians, and Gazans in particular, for accountability for doing these acts involving rocket fire, but it also imposes some responsibility on Israel for creating these circumstances.”

Israel seeks to break the will of the Palestinians to resist. The Israeli government has demonstrated little interest in diplomacy or a peaceful solution. The rapid expansion of Jewish settlements on the West Bank is an effort to thwart the possibility of a two-state solution by gobbling up vast tracts of Palestinian real estate. Israel also appears to want to thrust the impoverished Gaza Strip onto Egypt. Dozens of tunnels had been the principal means for food and goods, connecting Gaza to Egypt. Israel had permitted the tunnels to operate, most likely as part of an effort to further cut Gaza off from Israel. This ended, however, on Sunday when Israeli fighter jets bombed over 40 tunnels along Gaza’s border with Egypt. The Israeli military said that the tunnels, on the Gaza side of the border, were used for smuggling weapons, explosives and fugitives. Egypt has sealed its border and refused to let distraught Palestinians enter its territory.

“Israel, all along, has not been prepared to enter into diplomatic process that gives the Palestinians a viable state,” Falk said. “They [the Israelis] feel time is on their side. They feel they can create enough facts on the ground so people will come to the conclusion a viable state cannot emerge.”

The use of terror and hunger to break a hostile population is one of the oldest forms of warfare. I watched the Bosnian Serbs employ the same tactic in Sarajevo. Those who orchestrate such sieges do not grasp the terrible rage born of long humiliation, indiscriminate violence and abuse. A father or a mother whose child dies because of a lack of vaccines or proper medical care does not forget. A boy whose ill grandmother dies while detained at an Israel checkpoint does not forget. A family that loses a child in an airstrike does not forget. All who endure humiliation, abuse and the murder of family members do not forget. This rage becomes a virus within those who, eventually, stumble out into the daylight. Is it any wonder that 71 percent of children interviewed at a school in Gaza recently said they wanted to be a “martyr”?

The Israelis in Gaza, like the American forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, are foolishly breeding the next generation of militants and Islamic radicals. Jihadists, enraged by the injustices done by Israel and the United States, seek to carry out reciprocal acts of savagery, even at the cost of their own lives. The violence unleashed on Palestinian children will, one day, be the violence unleashed on Israeli children. This is the tragedy of Gaza. This is the tragedy of Israel.


Monday, December 29, 2008

Refinery Expansion Plans for Great Lakes

More on Massive Refinery Expansion Plans for Great Lakes Region (US/Canada)
Tarsands Infrastructure: South/ East [US] Climate Change / Emissions Economics Energy Health Social Impacts Water
Superior refinery expansion at center of Great Lakes debate
By Dan Egan/Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Superior Telegram
Published Friday, December 26, 2008

SUPERIOR — There is indeed a growing awareness of just how precious the Great Lakes are — and will be — in a century in which many are predicting fresh water will become more coveted than oil.

The significance of this can’t be underestimated for a system of linked lakes that hold 20 percent of the world’s fresh surface water and 90 percent of the nation’s.

Recognizing the lakes’ ecological and economic value, President George W. Bush this fall signed the Great Lakes Compact, which prohibits most water diversions outside the Great Lakes basin. Bush signed the measure after the compact received overwhelming bipartisan support from the eight Great Lakes state legislatures, as well as the U.S. House and Senate.

Its passage is the latest example of the region becoming increasingly protective of the lakes.

President-elect Barack Obama promised in his campaign to push for $5 billion to help restore the lakes — money he said would be generated by increased taxes on oil and gas companies.

And it was probably no coincidence he pitted the health of the Great Lakes against Big Oil.

The BP fight

In summer 2007, Great Lakes advocates launched a ferocious fight over BP’s plans to increase its daily pollution discharges into Lake Michigan as part of its $3.8 billion Indiana refinery retrofit.

Democratic U.S. Rep. Rahm Emanuel, Obama’s incoming chief of staff, wrote a resolution decrying the company’s plans to increase discharges of ammonia and suspended solids, saying, “Congress simply will not stand by while our lakes are treated as a dumping zone.”

Picketers popped up at BP filling stations. Conservationists mocked the company’s “Beyond Petroleum” slogan; Illinois Republican Congressman Mark Kirk took to the House floor and proclaimed that BP actually stood for “Bad Polluter.”

Yet the outrage at BP probably overstated the threat.

Headlines said the permit allowed 54 percent more ammonia discharges. That’s about 100 gallons per day. Scientists call that an insignificant amount for a water body the size of Lake Michigan.

The company also was given the green light to increase its discharge of suspended solids from about 3,600 pounds per day to 5,000 pounds. That material, which escapes filtration, can contain everything from organic waste to flecks of dangerous metals. The Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District is allowed to discharge more than 11,000 pounds of suspended solids per day into Lake Michigan.

None of that mattered to refinery opponents. What mattered was the idea the Great Lakes were headed in the wrong direction by allowing a company to dump more pollution. It didn’t matter that the refinery was adding capacity, or processing the dirtier bitumen.

BP ultimately backed off and agreed to pursue an expansion that would not lead to increased discharges into the lake. Whether it succeeds remains to be seen, but the victory emboldened Great Lakes advocates.

Addressing a group of conservationists in Chicago after BP backpedaled, Emanuel said 10 years ago things would have gone BP’s way.

“That’s our Grand Canyon. That’s our Yellowstone National Park,” Emanuel shouted, stabbing his finger toward Lake Michigan. “You touch it, you’d better know what the hell you are doing!”

The tough talk was echoed in a letter from a coalition of Great Lakes mayors to the Indiana regulators who had approved the higher BP discharges.

“We are gravely concerned the quality and environmental protection of the entire Great Lakes system has been placed in serious jeopardy by this decision,” the mayors wrote.

The mayors drew a hard line — a line that some might want to cross in the future.

One of the signatories was Superior Mayor Dave Ross.

Flowers and oil

“We expect controversy from this,” Jauch said of Murphy’s plans. “There are some very important issues that the company acknowledges.”

Perhaps the biggest is the fact that the area planned for expansion lies in wetlands that drain into Lake Superior. The wetlands have been designated as low quality by the state, Jauch said, and their loss can be compensated by restoring wetlands somewhere else.

“This entire community is all wetlands,” he said of Superior. “If you don’t mow it, cattails will grow.”

Retired DNR wetland expert Duane Lahti said he has walked the wetlands and they are far from pristine. “They have been altered throughout history through logging, agriculture and construction of street and utility corridors,” he said. “They do, however, have functions and values.”

The DNR reports the wetlands in this area, despite their degradation, harbor populations of rare plants and are habitat for many native animals. Conservationists say an environmental survey of the land should be done before anyone can say the area is expendable.

“Naturally, we’re concerned about the proposed destruction of more than a half square mile of biologically significant wetlands,” said Erin O’Brien of the Wisconsin Wetlands Association. “But the precedent that would be set if the permits are granted is an even greater concern.”

Murphy’s Kowitz calls the Superior refinery site a “wonderful spot” to process the tar sands bitumen.

“We have an existing refinery. We have access to electricity through Minnesota Power, access to water, access to crude,” he said. “We’re going to put in state-of-the-art equipment, and we’re going to do everything we can to safeguard the environment while providing jobs and petroleum products that people need.”

Jauch said his support for the expansion is contingent upon it being done in an environmentally friendly way.

“If the public outcry is too great, well, those things happen,” Kowitz said. “Someone will run the bitumen crude somewhere.”

Jauch predicts little opposition from those who live in the area.

“The local people aren’t fighting it,” agreed 81-year-old Everett Schaefer, who grumbled about the fuss people are making over the need to protect “swamp ground.”

The owner of a second-hand store and restaurant in Superior, Schaefer said his town is so desperate for the economic bump a new refinery would bring that he’s willing to pitch in to get it built.

“Heck,” he said, “I’d go out there and work for free.”

Flower shop owner Laura Laberdie sees only an upside to Murphy’s plans.

“If my customers are working full time, they’re more likely to buy flowers,” she said. “If the restaurants are busier, then they can afford to buy more flowers.”

Standing behind a counter in an outfitters’ store that sells $700 fishing rods, drinking from a Starbucks mug and sporting a baseball hat with a KUMD public radio logo on it, 61-year-old retired railroad engineer Larry Markley is a self-described liberal with a keen interest in the health of the 350-mile-long lake across the street.

He said he doesn’t like that the region is becoming inextricably hitched to the Alberta tar sands, but he isn’t sure what to do about it. Tar sands oil production is becoming increasingly controversial because of the amount of energy it takes to bring the stuff to the surface and the effect mining is having on Canada’s boreal forests.

“The process of procuring oil from that tar, I have a lot of problems with that, but what are my choices as a citizen?” he said. “Drill more around the U.S.? Or import from other countries besides Canada? Neither of those are very attractive.” Markley said too many jobs in town don’t pay a wage high enough for a family to buy a house and send their kids to college, and he’s willing to put up with a well-regulated refinery if it will help.

— Copyright © 2008, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel/Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services§ion=news

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Obama No Show on Gaza Massacre

How Can Anyone Believe There is 'Progress' in The Middle East?

A test of Obama’s gumption will come scarcely three months after his inauguration

By Robert Fisk

Saturday, 27 December 2008 "The Independent" -- If reporting is, as I suspect, a record of mankind's folly, then the end of 2008 is proving my point.

Let's kick off with the man who is not going to change the Middle East, Barack Obama, who last week, with infinite predictability, became Time's "person of the year". But buried in a long and immensely tedious interview inside the magazine, Obama devotes just one sentence to the Arab-Israeli conflict: "And seeing if we can build on some of the progress, at least in conversation, that's been made around the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will be a priority."

What is this man talking about? "Building on progress?" What progress? On the verge of another civil war between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority, with Benjamin Netanyahu a contender for Israeli prime minister, with Israel's monstrous wall and its Jewish colonies still taking more Arab land, and Palestinians still firing rockets at Sderot, and Obama thinks there's "progress" to build on?

I suspect this nonsensical language comes from the mental mists of his future Secretary of State. "At least in conversation" is pure Hillary Clinton – its meaning totally eludes me – and the giveaway phrase about progress being made "around" the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is even weirder. Of course if Obama had talked about an end to Jewish settlement building on Arab land – the only actual "building" that is going on in the conflict – relations with Hamas as well as the Palestinian Authority, justice for both sides in the conflict, along with security for Palestinians as well as Israelis, then he might actually effect a little change.

An interesting test of Obama's gumption is going to come scarcely three months after his inauguration when he will have a little promise to honour. Yup, it's that dratted 24 April commemoration of the Armenian genocide when Armenians remember the 1.5 million of their countrymen – citizens of the Ottoman empire slaughtered by the Turks – on the anniversary of the day in 1915 when the first Armenian professors, artists and others were taken off to execution by the Ottoman authorities.

Bill Clinton promised Armenians he'd call it a "genocide" if they helped to elect him to office. George Bush did the same. So did Obama. The first two broke their word and resorted to "tragedy" rather than "genocide" once they'd got the votes, because they were frightened of all those bellowing Turkish generals, not to mention – in Bush's case – the US military supply routes through Turkey, the "roads and so on" as Robert Gates called them in one of history's more gripping ironies, these being the same "roads and so on" upon which the Armenians were sent on their death marches in 1915. And Mr Gates will be there to remind Obama of this. So I bet you – I absolutely bet on the family cat – that Obama is going to find that "genocide" is "tragedy" by 24 April.

By chance, I browsed through Turkish Airlines' in-flight magazine while cruising into Istanbul earlier this month and found an article on the historical Turkish region of Harput. "Asia's natural garden", "a popular holiday resort", the article calls Harput, "where churches dedicated to the Virgin Mary rise next to tombs of the ancestors of Mehmet the Conqueror".

Odd, all those churches, isn't it? And you have to shake your head to remember that Harput was the centre of the Christian Armenian genocide, the city from which Leslie Davis, the brave American consul in Harput, sent back his devastating eyewitness dispatches of the thousands of butchered Armenian men and women whose corpses he saw with his own eyes. But I guess that all would spoil the "natural garden" effect. It's a bit like inviting tourists to the Polish town of Oswiecim – without mentioning that its German name is Auschwitz.

But these days, we can all rewrite history. Take Nicolas Sarkozy, France's cuddliest ever president, who not only toadies up to Bashar al-Assad of Syria but is now buttering up the sick and awful Algerian head of state Abdelaziz Bouteflika who's just been "modifying" the Algerian constitution to give himself a third term in office.

There was no parliamentary debate, just a show of hands – 500 out of 529 – and what was Sarko's response? "Better Bouteflika than the Taliban!" I always thought the Taliban operated a bit more to the east – in Afghanistan, where Sarko's lads are busy fighting them – but you never can tell. Not least when exiled former Algerian army officers revealed that undercover soldiers as well as the Algerian Islamists (Sarko's "Taliban") were involved in the brutal village massacres of the 1990s.

Talking of "undercover", I was amazed to learn of the training system adopted by the Met lads who put Jean Charles de Menezes to death on the Tube. According to former police commander Brian Paddick, the Met's secret rules for "dealing" with suicide bombers were drawn up "with the help of Israeli experts". What? Who were these so-called "experts" advising British policemen how to shoot civilians on the streets of London? The same men who assassinate wanted Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza and brazenly kill Palestinian civilians at the same time? The same people who outrageously talk about "targeted killings" when they murder their opponents? Were these the thugs who were advising Lady Cressida Dick and her boys?

Not that our brave peace envoy, Lord Blair, would have much to say about it. He's the man, remember, whose only proposed trip to Gaza was called off when yet more "Israeli experts" advised him that his life might be in danger. Anyway, he'd still rather be president of Europe, something Sarko wants to award him. That, I suppose, is why Blair wrote such a fawning article in the same issue of Time which made Obama "person" of the year. "There are times when Nicolas Sarkozy resembles a force of nature," Blair grovels. It's all first names, of course. "Nicolas has the hallmark of any true leader"; "Nicolas has adopted..."; "Nicolas recognises"; "Nicolas reaching out...". In all, 15 "Nicolases". Is that the price of the Euro presidency? Or will Blair now tell us he's going to be involved in those "conversations" with Obama to "build on some of the progress" in the Middle East?

months of secret planning - then Israel moves

Six months of secret planning - then Israel moves against Hamas'Patience ran out' over repeated missile attacks in south of country but strategy risks creating fresh motives for revenge and hatred

Ian Black, middle east editor The Guardian,
Monday 29 December 2008

Even as Israel's F16s were aiming their first deadly salvoes at Hamas positions in the Gaza Strip on Saturday, questions were being asked at home and abroad, about what this "shock and awe" campaign was intended to achieve - and what Israel's exit strategy would be.


Unlike the confused and improvised Israeli response as the war against Hizbullah in Lebanon unfolded in 2006, Operation Cast Lead appears to have been carefully prepared over a long period.

Israeli media reports, by usually well-informed correspondents and analysts, alluded yesterday to six months of intelligence-gathering to pinpoint Hamas targets including bases, weapon silos, training camps and the homes of senior officials. The cabinet spent five hours discussing the plan in detail on December 19 and left the timing up to Ehud Olmert, the caretaker prime minister, and his defence minister Ehud Barak. Preparations involved disinformation and deception which kept Israel's media in the dark. According to Ha'aretz, that also lulled Hamas into a sense of false security and allowed the initial aerial onslaught to achieve tactical surprise - and kill many of the 290 victims counted so far.

Friday's decision to allow food, fuel and humanitarian supplies into besieged Gaza - ostensibly a gesture in the face of international pressure to relieve the ongoing blockade - was part of this. So was Thursday's visit to Cairo by Tzipi Livni, Israel's foreign minister, to brief Egyptian officials. The final decision was reportedly made on Friday morning.

Why now?

Barak said yesterday the timing of the operation was dictated by Israel's patience simply "having running out" in the face of renewed rocket and mortar attacks from Gaza into Israel when the shaky six-month ceasefire expired 10 days ago. "Any other sovereign nation would do the same," is the official Israeli refrain. Amid the storm of international criticism of Israel's hugely disproportionate response, it is easy to overlook the domestic pressure faced by the Israeli government over its handling of "Hamastan".

Homemade Qassam rockets and mortars rarely kill but they do terrify and have undermined Israel's deterrent power as well as keeping 250,000 residents of the south of the country in permanent danger.

But the context now is February's Israeli elections. The contest that matters is between Livni's centrist Kadima party and the rightwing Likud under Binyamin Netanyahu, who talks only of "economic peace" with the Palestinians and does not want an independent Palestinian state, as Livni does. Opinion polls show that it pays to talk tough: Livni's standing has improved in recent days. The US political timetable may be as significant. The three weeks before Barack Obama's inauguration were Israel's last chance to assume automatic diplomatic support from Washington, as it got from George Bush over both West Bank settlements and the Lebanon war.

It is hard to imagine an Israeli government testing Obama, whom it views with foreboding because of a sense he has more sympathy for the Palestinians, with a crisis of these dimensions during his first days or weeks in office.

Game plan

Livni and other Israeli officials have spoken openly of wishing to topple Hamas since the Islamist movement took over from the western-backed, Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority (PA) in June 2007. But this may be something less ambitious. "The realistic objective of any military operation is not the ousting of Hamas, but rather ... undermining its military effectiveness and weakening its rule," is the view of Yediot Aharonot analyst Alex Fishman. Ron Ben-Yishai, another military expert, called it an attempt to "change the rules of the game." This appears to be a case of "asymmetric warfare" in which the weaker party commands disproportionate force - by repeatedly firing crude rockets or using suicide bombers - and the more powerful one responds with a massive, disproportionate blow. "The objective of an Israeli military operation in Gaza must be to undermine Hamas' desire to keep fighting, and at that point agree on a ceasefire," said Fishman.

Israel is well-informed about what happens in Gaza. Its premise is that Hamas is unpopular and that by targeting its personnel it can encourage that trend. But not all the victims are from Hamas. Some are civilians and there are security officers who belong to Fatah. And nor, crucially, has the PA been able to deliver a peace agreement with Israel, or even end its settlement activity. Most significantly, the scale of the bloodshed - ranking in Palestinian history alongside the 1948 Deir Yassin killings or the Sabra and Shatila massacres (by Israel's Christian Lebanese allies) in 1982 means renewed motives for hatred and revenge.

What next?

Israel said yesterday that it is calling up thousands of reservists. There can be little doubt that it could reoccupy and hold the coastal strip - as it did from 1967 to 2005 - but tanks and infantry would be vulnerable in guerrilla warfare against lightly-armed but highly-motivated Hamas or Islamic Jihad fighters. Civilian casualties would grow with international pressure. The only reason to deploy ground forces would be to achieve something air power could not - searching for rocket production and storage facilities that have not yet been identified.

Israeli commentators suggest the army has no appetite for a ground war, making comparisons with Lebanon in 2006, and pointing to the impending elections. Another key question for the military must be the fate of Gilad Shalit, the Israeli corporal held in Gaza since he was captured in 2006. It is hard to see negotiations on his release, and of Palestinian prisoners held by Israel, continuing in these circumstances.


The Gaza offensive has already fuelled anti-Israeli and anti-American feeling across the Arab world. Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, faces demands for an end to any talks with Israel. Hamas, calling for a "third intifada," accused Egypt and Jordan of colluding with the Gaza plan. If there is a silver lining in this dark cloud it is to have shown that working to achieve a lasting peace in the Middle East is still a desperately urgent task.

Yes We Can UnPardon War Criminals

Yes We Can UnPardon War Criminals
Submitted by dswanson on Sat, 2008-12-27 21:37. Impeachment
Dear President Elect Obama,

On his third day in office President Grant revoked two pardons that had been granted by President Andrew Johnson. President Nixon also undid a pardon that had been granted by President Lyndon Johnson. There may be other examples of this, as these two have somewhat accidentally come up in a discussion focused on numerous examples of presidents undoing pardons that they had themselves granted, something the current president did last week. (See ). In 2001, President George W. Bush's lawyers advised him that he could undo a pardon that President Clinton had granted.

Much of the discussion of this history of revoking pardons deals with the question of whether a pardon can still be revoked after actually reaching the hands of the pardonee, or after various other obscure lines are crossed in the process of issuing and enforcing of the pardon. If President Bush issues blanket pardons to dozens of criminals in his administration for crimes that he himself authorized, he will probably -- with the exception of Libby -- not even name them, much less initiate any processes through which they are each formally notified of the pardons. He will be pardoning people of crimes they have not yet been charged with, so the question of timing is something you are unlikely to have to worry about (except perhaps with Libby).

Virtually none of the discussion of these matters ever addresses the appropriateness or legitimacy of the pardons involved or of the revoking of them. The history would appear to establish that you will have the power to revoke Bush's pardons. I want to stress that you will also have a moral responsibility to do so and a legal requirement to do so. Morally and legally, you have no choice in this matter. When you take the oath of office, you will be promising to faithfully execute the laws of the land. Through Article VI of our Constitution, the Geneva Conventions and the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment are the supreme laws of this land. Those laws bind you to prosecute violations, including torture and other war crimes of which Bush, Cheney, and their subordinates are guilty and which Bush is likely to try to pardon.

Bush's pardons will not be like other past pardons. Even when his father pardoned the Iran-Contra criminals, he was pardoning crimes for which President Reagan, not he himself, held ultimate responsibility. Here we are facing the unprecedented outrage of a president pardoning crimes that he openly admits having authorized. The closest thing to this in U.S. history thus far has been Bush's commutation of Scooter Libby's sentence, to which he is expected to add a pardon. Libby was convicted of obstruction of justice in an investigation that was headed to the president. Evidence introduced in the trial, including a hand-written note by the vice president, implicated Bush, and former Press Secretary Scott McClellan has since testified that Bush authorized the exposure of an undercover agent, that being the crime that was under investigation.

The idea that the pardon power constitutionally includes such pardons ignores a thousand year tradition in which no man can sit in judgment of himself, and the fact that James Madison and George Mason argued that the reason we needed the impeachment power was that a president might some day try to pardon someone for a crime that he himself was involved in. If impeachment was created to handle the abuse of pardoning a crime the president was himself involved with, how can we imagine that the pardon power legitimizes such abuse, much less the pardoning of crimes authorized by the president, much less the pardoning of obstruction of an investigation into a crime committed by the president? In fact, all such pardons are themselves obstruction of justice, as well as violations of treaties requiring the president to prosecute the types of crimes involved.

The problem is not preemptive pardons of people not yet tried and convicted. The problem is not blanket pardons of unnamed masses of people. Both of those types of pardons have been issued in the past and have their appropriate place. The problem is the complete elimination of any semblance of the rule of law if Bush pardons his subordinates for crimes he instructed or authorized them to commit. We elected you to restore the rule of law, and you will soon have the opportunity to either do so or to place a final nail in its coffin. Bush is likely to attempt to pardon torture, warrantless spying, all sorts of war crimes, fraud and aggressive war, and the various abuses of the politicized Justice Department.

We will call on the courts to challenge these pardons and on Congress to reject them. We will demand that Congress reject any nominee for attorney general who accepts such pardons as legitimate. But we are also asking you for leadership. We've elected you for it. We strongly encourage you to uphold your oath of office and faithfully execute the laws, not the illegal decrees of your criminal predecessor. If you do this for us, if you help ensure that government of, by, and for the people does not indeed perish from the earth, we will commit to working with you in the years ahead as you advance the eternal project of improving our democracy.

In Solidarity,
David Swanson

dswanson's blog

GR 04-84

GR 04-84 101.9 FM 104.3 Cable ''
Monday December 29, 2008

5:00:00 3:00 Welcome to GR's year end round-up show. We'll depart the usual format and call on no guests, but Janine Bancroft will join us at the bottom of the hour to offer her assessment of the year past. Like its predecessor, 2008 was bloody, full of outrageous injustice both here at home and away in the lands under military occupation. But, it too possessed extraordinary moments and extraordinary people that gave us hope for a better 2009. Some examples of the former being the unprecedented shut-down of the Canadian parliament to avoid a non-confidence vote going through, and the not unprecedented shut down of the provincial legislature by the B.C. government which failed to see the value in sitting. And in the latter case, fantastic developments in alternative energy technologies, and the growing acceptance of the necessity for a new economic and social paradigm broke through. Over the next hour, I'll look back at some of the most significant occurrences over the last year, and try determine why they occurred, and what they portend for the coming year. But first, the last Christmas song of 2008 from the Putamayo World Christmas, Ini Kamozi and 'All I Really Want for Christmas.' Take it, Ini.

5:03:00 4:00 Music - Ini Kamozi (tape)
5:07:00 3:00 Script

Welcome back to GR's year-end review. As the weekend saw an unprecedentedly vicious bombing of Gaza, followed by yet another land invasion by the murderous Israeli regime, killing more than 200 men, women, and children we look back to January of this year when Palestinians broke down a portion of the wall surrounding embattled Gaza, breaking if only for a moment Isreal's ruthless siege of the occupied territories. An estimated 750,000 Gazans, nearly half the population of the strip of land illegally cut-off from the rest of the world streamed across the fallen wall into Egypt, buying up essential, and not so essential items, to take back to their families. Freelance photojournalist and long-time GR contributor, Jon Elmer explained the greatest jail break in the history of the world...

5:10:00 7:00 Elmer Clip: "I think that, basically the situation is..." out: "...dare I say, it was the Palestinians themselves that did this."

Jon Elmer from February of this year. Today, the body count of Palestinians killed in Israel's recently launched version of 'Shock and Awe' is approaching 300; with more to follow.

5:17:00 3:25 David Rovics - They're Building a Wall #5

5:21:00 3:00 Script

Welcome back to Gorilla Radio's year-end round up. As the murderous career of George W. Bush reaches its twilight, it's tempting to think the era of America's international criminality is coming too to an end; but sadly, there's little evidence that 2009 will be any more humane than bloody 2008. America's media is determined yet to instill in the population a pervasive and never-ending state of panic. Fear has come to define the modern Home of the Brave; fear of the other; fear of the economy; fear of the future. More than 75 years ago, another American president facing an economic disaster addressed a frightened nation and uttered the now iconic phrase: "There is nothing to fear, but fear itself." Today, as with much of the rest of the body politic, that sentiment has been turned on its head. Twenty-four hours a day, we hear there is everything to fear, and only the militarists and their corporate paymasters can help us; if only first we hand over our paycheques, our pensions, and all the other gains working slobs have gained since Franklin D. Roosevelt's fearless proclamation of the last century.

The great shining oratory of Barack Obama is no match for action. In the first month since his election to the American presidency, Barack Obama, and that same fawning media that trumpeted the Bush slaughters, has done everything they can to diminish hope and optimism for real change. What we have left it seems is a more eloquent weapon of mass destruction in the White House, preparing the public mind to accept through fear the continuance of the global holocaust.

5:24:00 5:45 Daniel Cioper - Home of the Brave #8
5:30:00 11:00 Janine Bandcroft
5:41:00 :45 Cart
5:42:45 3:00 Script

Welcome back to GR's year-ender. 2007 was a particlularly bloody year for the citizens of Afghanistan, and for the Canadian soldiers patrolling the occupation there. Throughout his tenure as minority-government leader, Stephen Harper has contended Canadian Forces' presence in that theatre of the now rarely referred to 'Global War on Terror' is due to the Canadian citizens killed at the World Trade Center on September 11th, 2001. That more than three times the number of our compatriots killed there have perished since in Afghanistan, or that the premise of his argument is patent nonsense is never mentioned by the "opposition" in parliament, or questioned by either the State or corporate media. Canada's power elite is on the same page as their counterparts in America, and throughout the countries comprising the coalition of willingly co-opted democracies. Their attitude toward those they dominate is exemplified by Stephen Harper's unprecedented closure of parliament rather than face a non-confidence vote he was sure to lose. In 2007, Stephen Harper drove the final spike into the heart of Canadian democracy, and it looks as though Michael Ignatieff, coronated by the Liberal party during the House closure, will serve too as handmaiden to the interests of a global elite whose wars and occupations he seldom questions. In 2008 we are as former Canadian Neil Young once sang, "finally on our own."

5:45:45 3:40 Daniel Cioper - I Don't Need No Democrat #9

5:48:30 4:00 Script

As both the year and our time here winds down, a brief look now at what the next year is likely to bring us: For Canadians; we are without representation for the first time in the nation's history and at next month's end, Stephen Harper's Conservatives will present their vision of our economic future. In the meantime, they'll try to scare the wits out of us all. They have already begun promising billions of the dollars earned by dint of the sweat and tears of the workers, to the auto industry. Tax collectors will thus be given orders to squeeze further blood from those true contributors to the wealth of the nation for the benefit of parasites. Programs will be cut, resulting in taxation without representation; the recipe for revolution in times past and places other.

Israel has shown already what the miserable, suffering under brutal military occupations can expect; and the Palestinian resistance has shown what the occupiers of Iraq and Afghanistan will likely receive for their efforts. In America, Barack Obama will refuse to prosecute the crimes and criminals that have over these last terrible years run roughshod over both the constitution, (that "damn piece of paper!") and international law. By this time next year, a hopeless Obama can expect the kind of popular support his predecessor now enjoys, as war and rumours of war continue, and the world economy lay in tatters. But hope will persist, because that is our nature, and nature will always prevail.

So, be of good cheer and have a Happy New Year; and remember, we are the only ones that can save the world!

5:52:30 4:50 Daniel Cioper - We Are the Ones #13
5:57:20 3:00 Upcoming, best wishes - Kinnie Starr - Rise # 2 - out (if necessary).
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