Wednesday, January 30, 2008
Saturday, January 26, 2008
Republicans always talk about "fiscal responsibility." They blame Dems for "government spending". Never mind that historically, in the last century or so, Republicans are always gutting the economy and wasting money on profligate wars. Now they've saddled us with a war that is essentially a farce and a lie - written in blood and bleeding dollars - I mean, hemorrhaging dollars - by the hour. Here's a little news to chew on:
The Iraq war may not dominate U.S. news reports as the carnage drops, but a new report underscores the financial burden of persistent combat that is helping run up the government's credit card.
"Funding for U.S. operations in Iraq and Afghanistan and other activities in the war on terrorism expanded significantly in 2007," the Congressional Budget Office said in a report released on Wednesday.
War funding, which averaged about $93 billion a year from 2003 through 2005, rose to $120 billion in 2006 and $171 billion in 2007 and President George W. Bush has asked for $193 billion in 2008, the nonpartisan office wrote.
"It keeps going up, up and away," Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad said of the money spent in Iraq since U.S. troops invaded in 2003.
"We're seeing the war costs continue to spiral upward. It is the additional troops plus additional costs per troop plus the over-reliance on private contractors, which also explodes the costs," said Conrad, a North Dakota Democrat who opposed the war.
Since the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States, Congress has written checks for $691 billion to pay for wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and such related activities as Iraq reconstruction, the CBO said.
There are around 158,000 U.S. troops in Iraq and 27,000 in Afghanistan.
$11 Billion a Month
Of the total, the CBO estimated that $440 billion had been spent on fighting in Iraq launched with the goal of ousting President Saddam Hussein from power and securing weapons of mass destruction that were never found.
All of the Iraq and Afghanistan war money - about $11 billion a month - is effectively being put on a government credit card at a time when U.S. government debt has skyrocketed to more than $9 trillion, up from around $5.6 trillion when Bush took office in January 2001.
They say they'll "cut taxes". Does this mean "borrow the money from China instead"?And does anyone give a damn what those taxes are being spent on? On "security" and "anti-terror" done by creating killing fields overseas that will blowback some time soon ... maybe December 21, 2012 or so...
Friday, January 25, 2008
On Monday, January 28th, Joanne Anderson, Ozone Bhaguan, Le Anne Clausen, Elizabeth Klancher, Art Landis, Ed Lewinson, Chris Lieberman, Diane Lopez Hughes, Tiel Rainelli, Gus Roddy and Stephen Schweitzer will face federal criminal trial for trespass - punishable up to six months in federal prison.
These eleven human rights activists are part of the faith-based group SOA Watch which stages annual protests and vigils calling for the School of the Americas to be closed down on the amply documented grounds that its alumni--Latin American soldiers from various US allies--are responsible for some of the worst human rights abuses in Central and South America.
Click here to learn more about SOA Watch, click here to make a contribution to support the group's efforts, click here if you'd like to join SOA Watch's Research Working Group and click here if you'd like to volunteer on one of the organization's campaigns.
Wednesday, January 23, 2008
The neglect and mistreatment of the 1.5 million Palestinians trapped in the
Gaza Strip is a disgrace, and a very dangerous one. They are pawns in the
struggle among Hamas, which controls Gaza and uses the territory to
bombard Israel daily; its rivals in the Fatah movement that run the
Palestinian Authority and the West Bank; and Israel.
Oops editors! You mentioned Israel twice, presumably because NYT readers might have missed it the first time. Anyway, as I was saying, after the NYT staff gets past this necessary bit of humanitarian-sounding jive, they get to the meat:
Hamas has turned a deaf ear to the Gazans’ plight, refusing to negotiate peace
or accept Israel’s right to exist.
Oh, those nasty Hamas guys! They "refused" to negotiate peace? Or refused to accept the terms of humiliation, not terms of endearment, that were offered as "peace" - or shall we say, force-fed? And for those who are force-fed propaganda, Hamas actually is willing to accept Israel's right to exist - but not as Fatah-defined and Annapolis-defined "Jewish state", because that opens the way, in their understanding, for Israel to expel thousands of Palestinians from their now-free-to-be Jewish-only state, causing even more refugees, misery, etc. The line that Jews would not be welcome in a Palestinian state (Wow, and I'll bet they feel real bad about this possibility) has been more or less quashed by the brave Daniel Barenboim's acceptance of Palestinian citizenship - before a state even exists...
Arab states, who for years have pleaded the Palestinian case and have
thrown their support behind the Annapolis peace process, must use their
influence (and their oil profits) to pressure Hamas’s leaders to halt rocket
attacks, renounce terrorism and align with Fatah in pursuit of a peace deal.
Egypt, whose stature as a peacemaker has withered under President Hosni
Mubarak, should take immediate, robust steps to shut down the tunnels that allow
arms and money to flow to militants in Gaza.
So it's the Arabs again who have to bear the brunt of responsibility because, as we all know, Israelis are innocent occupiers, pure as the driven snow, and totally incapable of acting any way other than as militant, robotic occupiers, being pure as aforementioned, and therefore it's the Arabs who have to do the dirty work of taking "robust steps". And since when have Arabs been noted to take "robust steps" except in the path of securing some petty dictator his little immutable world? And who is Hosny Mubarak except a petty dictator who takes very, very robust steps - or should I say "stomps" - in the path of securing his little immutable world? Which world is located in Sharm el-Sheikh, far, far from the madding crowds of Cairo and those other dust-ridden dirty enclaves of seething humanity.
Don't the Israelis see that the Arabs are just like them? The sheikhs in their crystal-pure palaces in Dubai and Saudi Arabia like to look at those messy, uncouth crowds as much as Israelis in their European-style luxuries like to get down with Palestinians. But all that uppity-ness and wealth has a price, the price of disconnect.
And the fate of Gaza is the responsibility of that irresponsible, floating decimal point-dream Israel, and that means Gaza's people's fate should be on Israel's conscience.
They do have a conscience ... don't they?
Those "activists" can be found on this website for "combatants for peace", and their agenda and activities are worth checking out. As Gaza becomes a symbol of Israeli cruelty and unconscionable callousness towards Palestinian families and residents, there remains signs that genuine humanity still exists in Israel, in the form of people with hearts.
The following is the interview, not in "blockquote" format because that tends to mess up the copy:
The United Nations is accusing Israel of collectively punishing the Palestinian population in Gaza by cutting off fuel supplies as part of a blockade of the Gaza Strip. In the midst of the deepening crisis, we speak with Israeli and Palestinian peace activists Yonatan Shapira and Bassam Aramin. They are from a group called Combatants for Peace that is made up of former fighters from both Israel and the Occupied Territories. Shapira is a former captain in the Israeli Air Force and Black Hawk pilot squadron. Aramin was an armed member of Fatah and spent seven years in an Israeli prison. His ten-year-old daughter Abir was shot dead by an Israeli soldier last year.
Yonatan Shapira, Former Captain in the Israeli Air Force and Black Hawk pilot squadron. In 2003 he authored “The Pilots’ Letter,” refusing to participate in attacks in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.
Bassam Aramin, Former Fatah fighter, now a peace activist with Combatants for Peace. Spent seven years in an Israeli prison. His ten-year-old daughter Abir was killed on January 16, 2007, when an Israeli Border Police jeep fired rubber bullets in a school zone. He is also the head of the Al Quds Association for Democracy and Dialogue.
AMY GOODMAN: Following widespread international criticism, Israel has agreed to allow some food, medicine and fuel into the besieged Gaza Strip that depends on Israel for fuel and electricity. The move comes after three days of air strikes last week that killed thirty Palestinians and four days of total closure and almost no electricity. Hamas official Sami Abu Zuhri said the temporary easing of restrictions is not a long-term solution.
SAMI ABU ZUHRI: [translated] The Israeli announcement of supplying Gaza with more fuel does not mean solving the crisis in Gaza. The real crisis of our Palestinian people is the continuation of siege on the Gaza Strip.
AMY GOODMAN: Israeli officials agreed to temporarily lift the blockade after protests around the world and censure from the European Union. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert addressed his party on Monday and denied exacerbating the humanitarian crisis in Gaza.
PRIME MINISTER EHUD OLMERT: [translated] We will not allow a humanitarian crisis in Gaza, but we have no intention of making their lives easy. As long as these hardships are greater, providing there are no humanitarian blows, not in hospitals, not in clinics, not with young children, not with helpless people, we will not allow it. But in no way will we let them live comfortable and pleasant lives. As far as I’m concerned, all the residents of Gaza can go on foot and have no fuel for cars, because they have a murderous terrorist regime that doesn’t allow people in the south of Israel to live in peace.
AMY GOODMAN: In the midst of this deepening crisis, I spoke to an Israeli and Palestinian peace activist: Yonatan Shapira and Bassam Aramin. They are from a group called Combatants for Peace that’s made up of former fighters from both Israel and Palestine. Bassam Aramin spent seven years in an Israeli prison, was an armed member of Fatah, the Palestinian political faction once led by Yasser Arafat. Bassam’s ten-year-old daughter Abir died one year ago after being shot by Israeli soldiers while she was on her way home from school. Yonatan Shapira is a captain in the Israeli Air Force and Black Hawk pilot squadron—well, he was. In 2003, he authored the “Pilots’ Letter,” refusing to participate in attacks against Palestinians.
I spoke to the two former fighters on Thursday about their efforts for peace and their thoughts on attacks in Gaza. I started by asking Yonatan Shapira how he went from being a pilot in the Israeli military to a peace activist.
YONATAN SHAPIRA: I was a captain in the Israeli Air Force and flew Black Hawk, which is mostly rescue helicopter in the Israeli Air Force. And after a long, long process of becoming aware of the world they live in and mostly the occupation and the war crimes that my government and my army is part of, I decided to refuse to be part of this circle of revenge. The reason for that were many. I think especially the assassinations that started to happen during the Sharon government, especially one assassination that caused the loss of many innocents, fifteen innocent, including nine children and babies, that led me and many of my friends—
AMY GOODMAN: What was your involvement in that?
YONATAN SHAPIRA: Oh, I was not involved in any shooting directly on anyone, because I flew rescue missions and I landed commando forces. But I felt that it doesn’t matter. If you shoot yourself or you land soldiers that are shooting someone or your friend in the other squadron is dropping bombs on innocents, once you are part of it, once you are part of a society even, once you are part of the world, you have responsibility, especially if you’re part of an air force that is being sent on a daily basis to kill. And most of the people who died there are innocents, just like happened in the last days.
And I found other people in the air force that agree with me and were willing to sign the letter that I authored saying that we are no longer willing to follow illegal and immoral orders. That was called the “Pilots’ Letter." We published it in September 2003.
AMY GOODMAN: And how unusual was that letter?
YONATAN SHAPIRA: We were not the first Israeli refusers. We were not the first Israelis to say we are not going to be part of these war crimes anymore. But it’s the first time that a pilot organized and did something like that. And in Israel, which, as you know, it’s a very militaristic society, when the pilots are saying something like that, it broke a lot of—people were pissed off. People saw it as a rebellion. That was more than four years ago.
Later on, we decided that it’s important to refuse, but just refusing to be part of something illegal and immoral and just refusing to be part of war crimes is not enough. You have to try to fix the wrongdoing that you were part of. And then, with many other people who refused to military service and to be part of the occupation in the Israeli side and Palestinian ex-fighters in the Palestinian side, people who were many years in Israeli prisons, we formed this group, which we called “Combatants for Peace.” In Arabic, it’s [Arabic translation]; and in Hebrew, [Hebrew translation]. I know the name is a bit militaristic itself, but the idea is that we are going to have a joint struggle this time. And, in a way, the Israelis who woke up, the ex-fighters, are joining the Palestinian nonviolent struggle for liberation. And this is something that didn’t happen before. We have a lot of organizations of Israelis and Palestinians that are struggling together against the occupation, but not as former fighters.
AMY GOODMAN: Bassam Aramin, talk about how you came to Combatants for Peace. You were in Israeli prison for seven years. Talk about your family and how it has dealt with the occupation, your daughter.
BASSAM ARAMIN: Well, actually, I arrested in 1985 for seven years in the Israeli jails.
AMY GOODMAN: As a Fatah fighter.
BASSAM ARAMIN: As a Fatah member, yeah.
AMY GOODMAN: How old were you?
BASSAM ARAMIN: I was seventeen years.
AMY GOODMAN: Where did you live?
BASSAM ARAMIN: In Hebron, Sayer village, with a group of six children. Then, after the jail, briefly, we start to think that we are more than sixty years fighting one each other, and no result. Israel is not safe, and Palestine is not free. And the majority from the both sides know that the final solution could be two states. And the big question is, why we are dying now if we know the solution even.
We must be very courage when we take our weapons, to be courage also to speak loudly what we believe. We know that this conflict cannot be solved in a military solution. It means we must find another way to fight against the occupation. We will never accept the occupation anyway. The Israelis must be responsible for their occupation. From this point came the idea of Combatants for Peace. We established this organization in 2005 by four Palestinians and seven Israelis. Now we are around 400 ex-combatants from both sides.
Personally, I paid the price for one year exactly, the 16th of January. Abir, this day, must be alive. One Israeli soldier shot and killed her in Anata in her school—in front of her school. She was—
AMY GOODMAN: What is your daughter’s name?
BASSAM ARAMIN: She was ten years old, Abir.
AMY GOODMAN: Abir.
BASSAM ARAMIN: Abir means the smell of the flower. Abir, she wasn’t a fighter. She don’t belong to Fatah or Hamas. She was just a child. And all the times our message that in Combatants for Peace, we want to protect our children.
AMY GOODMAN: And what happened?
BASSAM ARAMIN: It was a normal day. When Israeli soldier came, Israeli [inaudible] and shoot her from a distance of fifteen meters in her head without any demonstrations. It’s a quiet day. And they look at her when she fell down and still going without any help or—
AMY GOODMAN: Was in the morning or afternoon?
BASSAM ARAMIN: Yes, it’s in the morning, 9:30, after she finished her examination with her sister and two friends, after she bought a candy. Yeah, very [inaudible].
AMY GOODMAN: Where were you at the time?
BASSAM ARAMIN: I was on my way to work in Ramallah. And her school told me that Abir was fell down, they want her mom. They don’t told me that someone shot her. And when I asked the—called home back to tell her mom to go to the school, I found her sister Arin crying and shouting, and her sister—her friend also told me that Abir was shot in her head by an Israeli soldier. And this is by—it was a shock. And when I called back the school, they told me that they bring her to the Palestinian hospital in East Jerusalem. She spent two days in Israeli—I bring her to Hadassah Hospital in Israel. After two days, she died. And I still continue asking myself forever why, and there is no answer.
AMY GOODMAN: Has this case been investigated?
BASSAM ARAMIN: Actually, yeah. To be honest, they opened an investigation after three days, and they closed it after three weeks, because they haven’t any evidence that they are involved in this incident. And before they declared that they closed the file, I have interview with Israeli Channel Two. I told them that they will close the file, like the 971 Palestinian kids which have been killed since 2000. It’s not a unique case. But because it’s my life aim, I will bring this killer to the justice. It’s not political. My daughter go to school, and someone came to kill her and escaped. I want the criminal to stand in front of the justice.
AMY GOODMAN: Bassam Aramin is a former Fatah fighter, spent seven years in an Israeli prison. Yonatan Shapira, former captain in the Israel Air Force and Black Hawk pilot. This is Democracy Now! We’ll come back to this conversation, then we’ll be joined in Detroit by Grace Lee Boggs. Stay with us.
AMY GOODMAN: We go back to the discussion with Yonatan Shapira, former captain in the Israeli Air Force and Blacks Hawk pilot squadron, author of the “Pilots’ Letter." Bassam Aramin is a former Fatah fighter, spent seven years in an Israeli jail. Last year, his daughter Abir was killed by the Israeli Defense Forces. I asked Bassam to talk about how Palestinians respond to his now working with the Israelis.
BASSAM ARAMIN: You know, there is some difficults. Palestinian people, under the military direct occupation—and just the other day, they killed more than twenty-four Palestinian innocent. But we try to convince the people that there is no choice. We must, in spite of our patterns of pain, we must talk together. We must fight together against the occupation, Israelis and Palestinians. This is the only way that we can create peace for our kids.
AMY GOODMAN: Yonatan Shapira, with the latest news—and every day something else is breaking—as we record this interview, Israel continuing the latest assault on the Gaza Strip, while Palestinian militants intensify rocket fire, three Palestinian civilians, including a thirteen-year-old, were killed Wednesday when an Israeli missile hit their car. Israel called the attack an “error.” The killings came one day after nineteen Palestinians lost their lives, the highest single-day Palestinian death toll in more than a year.
YONATAN SHAPIRA: You know, now they use more drones and unmanned planes to do these crimes. They don’t need anymore to convince the pilots to shoot in Gaza, although there are many attacks by attack helicopters like Apache and stuff like that. But I think that many of the missions are done by the commander, that he can sit far away in a closed room in a commander ship in Tel Aviv or something like that and just press a button, and people are getting killed. And this distance between the decision to the result is what I think in the history calls the most horrible crimes ever. And—
AMY GOODMAN: You’re saying that the drones release the missiles, the bombs.
YONATAN SHAPIRA: I don’t know in that specific case, but in many cases now and during the last years, they use drones, yeah. At the beginning, they tried to collaborate, and it was kind of a secret. But now anyone—everyone knows. And Israel is selling these drones to other countries. It’s one of our top products in the military industry that is blooming in a way. You know, the occupation is not so bad for some people in my society and in your society. It’s actually benefiting many people.
AMY GOODMAN: You mean the military contractors?
YONATAN SHAPIRA: Exactly, and the weapons industry. And I don’t think that you have to be a military expert or have a Ph.D. in political science and to be one of these fancy scholars in Washington institutions to know that the results of this scientific experiment that we have in Gaza, for example, locking millions of people—million-and-a-half people without food, electricity, medicine—no one can go out, no one can go in—that’s a military—you don’t have to know anything about history. It’s obvious that you’re going to have people that are going to resist. And I grew up, you know, learning the history of my people and how they resisted in Warsaw Ghetto, where they didn’t have any choice.
AMY GOODMAN: In the Warsaw Ghetto in World War II in Poland.
YONATAN SHAPIRA: Yeah, they knew that they are going to be killed sooner or later.
AMY GOODMAN: By the Nazis.
YONATAN SHAPIRA: And the last thing that they could do is to fight back. And I’m against what the Hamas is doing. I’m completely against the Kassam rocket. And people are getting killed sometime and harmed in the Israeli side. I’m aware of that, and I’m against that. And all of us in our group, in our organization, are against that. But what can you expect from people when you treat them like that, in such a brutal occupation, such a brutal situation? What do you want them to do?
AMY GOODMAN: Bassam, what do you tell other teenagers who, like you at seventeen, took up arms against Israel, see that only as the answer, see a lot of people in their community, young people, being killed and injured? How do you say to them, “The answer is not what I did”?
BASSAM ARAMIN: Actually, I was their age, and I know how they are thinking. If you give them hope or another direction, they will have something to choose. But in our case, there is nothing to choose, just to resist. The create from us fighters, in spite we are children. We start to make like education, peace education or nonviolence education with all these teenagers, that they must to learn now, to complete their education, to give them an alternative way with the Israelis. We started to make groups from young people with the Israelis to know something about the other side.
AMY GOODMAN: Bassam Aramin, former Fatah fighter, Yonatan Shapira, former captain in the Israeli Air Force, they are both part of a group called Combatants for Peace. We will link to their website at democracynow.org.
Monday, January 21, 2008
Heathlander's great post on this subject (from whence this image also is derived) needs to be read by all who are interested in achieving a lasting peace in the Middle East. Obviously, Israel is going to have to change their policies and attitudes, or peace will never be achievable. All that will be achievable is oppression and chaos.
“The killing of some 40 Palestinians in Gaza in the past week, the targeting of
a Government office near a wedding party venue with what must have been foreseen
loss of life and injury to many civilians, and the closure of all crossings into
Gaza raise very serious questions about Israel’s respect for international law
and its commitment to the peace process…
Recent action violates the strict
prohibition on collective punishment contained in the Fourth Geneva Convention.
It also violates one of the basic principles of international humanitarian law
that military action must distinguish between military targets and civilian
Those responsible for such cowardly action are guilty of serious war
crimes and should be prosecuted and punished for their crimes.”
Dugard, UN special rapporteur for human rights in the occupied Palestinian
territories, speaking on Saturday.
Saturday, January 19, 2008
A training manual for Canadian diplomats lists the United States among
countries that potentially torture or abuse prisoners.
The manual appears to contradict the public stance of Canada’s
Conservative government, which accepts assurances from the United States that it
does not mistreat prisoners, including those at Guantánamo
One Canadian, Omar Khadr, is being held there; he was
captured in Afghanistan in 2002.
Of course, the U.S. "spokesperson" categorically denied that the U.S. tortures. This is in keeping with U.S. policy: if it looks bad, lie your way out of it.
The manual, in the form of a PowerPoint presentation, is used for training
diplomats in how to protect Canadians detained by foreign governments from
torture and how to handle suspicions that inmates are abused.
training program for diplomats was set up largely because of the case of Maher
Arar, a Syrian-born Canadian.
He was detained in 2002 by United States
officials, who sent him to Syria after reviewing erroneous information from
Canada suggesting that he was linked to terrorist activities.
inquiry concluded that Mr. Arar was tortured while in Syrian custody. Last year
the Canadian government paid Mr. Arar and his family 11.5 million Canadian
dollars in compensation.
Government positions are for public consumption and disinformation. Training manuals are for reality. Yes, even Canada knows, and has to be careful, that the U.S. does torture people - without trial, of course.
Wednesday, January 16, 2008
AMY GOODMAN: It has been six years since the US set up the prison at Guantanamo in the so-called “war on terror.” Over 800 men and boys, so-called "enemy combatants,” have been held without charge at Guantanamo since January 11, 2002. Not one of these prisoners has been put on trial. Hundreds have been released without charge after years in detention. Four prisoners have committed suicide; many others have tried to do so. Today, 275 people are still imprisoned at Guantanamo.
We turn now to the case of one of these prisoners. His name is Sami Al-Haj. He’s thirty-eight years old, an Al Jazeera cameraman, arrested in Pakistan, December 2001, while traveling to Afghanistan for work with Al Jazeera. He was transferred to US custody, flown to Bagram Air Base—six months later, flown to Guantanamo Bay. He’s been in prison there without charge ever since. Sami Al-Haj has been on hunger strike since January 7th of last year. He’s believed to be in deteriorating health.
ASIM AL-HAJ: [translated] Before I make my statement, I would like to say that Sami Al-Haj is a victim of a political operation against Al Jazeera, which Washington does not approve of. And as evidence of this is the fact that he was interrogated 130 times. And during these times, the interrogations were all about Al Jazeera and alleged relations between Al Jazeera and al-Qaeda.
They tried to induce him to work as a spy for American intelligence in return for US citizenship for him and for his family and to help him even write a book, on the condition that he would spy on his colleagues at Al Jazeera. For example, if you look at the allegation that he was involved in sales of rockets or missiles to Afghanistan, I mean, how could a reporter or a media person traveling to a country he’s never been to before carry this? Would he carry these in his luggage or what?
AMY GOODMAN: How does this make you feel about the United States, Asim?
ASIM AL-HAJ: [translated] We believe that what the American administration does is apart from what the American people do and feel. We feel that the American people are peaceful, good people, and we love them.
And what is happening now leads to or begs the question: how come he was never tried in a civil court? How come the evidence against him is not presented publicly? And why does the American administration insist on maintaining his detention, despite earlier promises of his release? And why is it that he is being kept in Guantanamo, while many other detainees, including leaders in al Taliban and people who had actually carried arms, are being released?
And if Sami dies, who will be responsible for this? And to who would we—if we were to file suit, that would be against whom? The most difficult thing for a human being is to be subject to injustice against which you cannot do anything, for yourself or for in support of others.
AMY GOODMAN: Asim, tell us about your brother. How is his health right now? How long has he been at Guantanamo?
ASIM AL-HAJ: [translated] Right now, Sami is suffering deteriorating health, both physically and mentally.
AMY GOODMAN: How do you know? How do you communicate with him in prison?
ASIM AL-HAJ: [translated] We have no means of communicating with him, except through very infrequent letters. So far, since his imprisonment, we have had about ten such letters. These letters contain very little, other than greetings and best wishes during the days of feasts, and all the rest is redacted.
We send most of our letters through the Red Cross, and sometimes we send some letters through his attorney, who visits with him every two or three months. And all the news that we have on information regarding his deteriorating health have come to us by way of his attorney. Every time he goes to visit, he comes back with worse news.
AMY GOODMAN: Is your brother—is Sami Al-Haj on hunger strike, and how long has it been?
ASIM AL-HAJ: [translated] On the 7th of January of this year, he has been on hunger strike for one year.
AMY GOODMAN: How can he survive?
ASIM AL-HAJ: [translated] According to his attorney, he is fed twice a day through a nasal gastric tube. He also drinks water. And we’re told that he is also given some pills.
AMY GOODMAN: Asim, I was talking to Clive Stafford Smith, his attorney. He says that he sent a letter to his seven-year-old son. Sami has sent a letter to Mohammed in the case of his death.
ASIM AL-HAJ: [translated] Are you asking about details of this letter?
AMY GOODMAN: Yes.
ASIM AL-HAJ: [translated] The letter reads, “My beloved son Mohammed, I ask you to listen to your mom and to do well in school.” And in this letter, he says, “If you’re asking about your father, your father is in chains in an island that is thousands of kilometers away.” And he also says, “I am full of hope that I will return to see you and to be with you when you start talking.”
AMY GOODMAN: Asim Al-Haj, do you think Al Jazeera is doing enough to try to free your brother?
ASIM AL-HAJ: [translated] In the beginning, it seemed as though Al Jazeera was not doing enough, and we were wondering why. Al Jazeera then informed us that they were trying to do their work sort of behind the scenes in as diplomatic a manner as possible in order not to complicate things. Then, when they failed to accomplish any results, then they started to try to get him freed in a public manner. And now we are very satisfied with their work. In fact, we’re very grateful for what they do.
AMY GOODMAN: What are they doing?
ASIM AL-HAJ: [translated] First of all, Al Jazeera supports his family, his wife and his son, in Doha, Qatar. And they are also waging a campaign both on the legal front and also in the media.
What we understand is that the American government has imposed some conditions to free Sami and the other eight Sudanese prisoners out of the original twelve, because three have been released. So they have given the Sudanese government a list of these conditions.
AMY GOODMAN: What are these conditions?
ASIM AL-HAJ: [translated] I have had no access to this document, but what I understand is, one of the worst things in it is that the Sudanese government must pledge that Sami and the other released detainees would not leave Sudan. And the other is that there would have to be a pledge that they would not be making declarations and statements about anything that they have suffered since their detention, and also some guarantees that American intelligence would have access to them at any time.
We reject these conditions. We consider this an assault on Sami’s rights and simply an extension of his detention just being in the Sudan.
Now, I would like to make my statement in English.
AMY GOODMAN: Go ahead, please.
ASIM AL-HAJ: I don’t simply want to appeal to people’s feelings. I want them to use their minds. Why is there an information and media cover-up on Guantanamo? Why has the world and its international institutions failed to press the United States to abide by international law? Show your proof. Try us or set us free. Open all prisons connected to the so-called “war on terror” for international investigation, or shut them down now. Keep media away from politics. Why Sami Al-Haj are being punished? Free Sami Al-Haj now!
AMY GOODMAN: Asim Al-Haj, the brother of Sami Al-Haj. He’s been imprisoned at Guantanamo for more than five years, imprisoned overall for close to six years. If you’d like to see the video images, the photographs of Sami Al-Haj and his family, you can go to our website at democracynow.org. Asim Al-Haj was speaking to us from Khartoum, Sudan. I spoke to him on Friday.
Monday, January 14, 2008
There are two ways to resolve conflict: attack, or communicate. Communication is always the most difficult of the two, and usually the most rewarding. It requires courage, free-thinking, and iron-clad optimism, sometimes called faith.
Daniel Barenboim, the world renowned Israeli pianist and conductor, in becoming a Palestinian citizen, has demonstrated both. Let's hope the rewards will extend beyond the music world.
According to reuters,
"It is a great honor to be offered a passport," he said late on Saturday after a Beethoven piano recital in Ramallah, the West Bank city where he has been active for some years in promoting contact between young Arab and Israeli musicians.
"I have also accepted it because I believe that the destinies of ... the Israeli people and the Palestinian people are inextricably linked," Barenboim said. "We are blessed -- or cursed -- to live with each other. And I prefer the first."
"The fact that an Israeli citizen can be awarded a Palestinian passport, can be a sign that it is actually possible."
As quoted by the New York Times:
“I hope that my new status will be an example of Israeli-Palestinian coexistence,” he said after a concert in the West Bank town of Ramallah on Saturday.
Barenboim also founded the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra in 1999 with the late Edward Said (who died in 2003), which he called "an orchestra against ignorance", consisting of Israeli and Arab musicians who share a passion for music. The orchestra played Carnegie Hall last December. He is also known for playing Wagner, the composer preferred by Nazis, whose work is banned in Israel - as he puts it, to look beyond the racist hatred of the man to the higher work of his music. Adding to the symbolism is the fact that the orchestra does its intensive practice in Spain, in the area of Andalusia, where notably Jews, Muslims and Christians once lived together in harmony.
Accepting the Palestinian passport is in obvious contradiction of the common Zionist line that if Palestinians had a viable homeland, there should be no "right of return" because Jews are not welcome in Palestine. Apparently, Palestine has welcomed its first Jew, who in turn has welcomed association with Palestine, envisioning the neighborhood "outside the box" of sectarian hatreds, seeking higher ground for mutual cooperation.
Let's follow this conductor's lead and work on symphony rather than non-stop belligerence and discord. Those with more power have more responsibility to lead the way. Not shaken by the warmongering tones of those calling for revocation of his passport (a real non-starter) and condemning his actions, Barenboim undoubtedly won over many former enemies by his daring and creative example for how peace could actually work.
Sunday, January 13, 2008
But what about Obama? For a man with a much more liberal record than Hillary, he gets more conservative kudos than her - or at least, visibly. And the Obama win in Iowa was nothing less than electrifying, thirst-quenching. It's a great relief to know that the people do have some power, and are not swayed by pundits touting "inevitability". But would Obama have better luck standing for the downtrodden? That's a hard call - no wonder elections are won on guts.
Saturday, January 12, 2008
"The Bush administration has maintained a low profile over the last month, as waves of indignation over the destruction of CIA videotapes showing the torture of two "high value" detainees have lapped ever closer to the White House. In the last few weeks, as coverage of the presidential primaries has consumed the media, both President Bush and Vice President Cheney must also have been hoping that they would be able to escape scrutiny on this bleak anniversary. It is, however, imperative that they are not allowed to do so. Despite its claims that it "does not torture," this is an administration drenched in torture, which must one day be made answerable for its crimes.
Six years ago, on January 11, 2002, the first of 778 prisoners – referred to as "detainees," and identified only by numbers – arrived at a hastily erected prison in the US naval base at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, where, ever since, they have been subjected to a disturbingly lawless experiment. ..."
Friday, January 11, 2008
Those arrested face a maximum penalty of 60 days in jail, a fine or both, for
violating an ordinance that prohibits demonstrations of any kind on the grounds
of the court. ...
Those arrested inside the building were
charged under a provision that makes it a crime to give "a harangue or oration"
in the supreme court building.
Earlier on Friday, a US court of appeal ruled that four former
Guantanamo prisoners from Britain have no right to sue top Pentagon officials
and military officers for torture, abuse and violations of their religious
The court cited a lack of jurisdiction over the claim and ruled that the
defendants qualified for immunity for acts taken within the scope of government
"The alleged wrongful conduct was incidental to the defendants' legitimate employment duties," Judge Karen Lecraft Henderson wrote in the ruling.
Eric Lewis, the lawyers who argued the case for the detainees, vowed to appeal to the US supreme court.
"It is an awful day for the rule of law and common decency when a court finds that torture is all in a days' work for the secretary of defence and senior generals," Lewis
More likely, the judge feared for her own future. Note lack of jurisdiction. Expect the Supreme Court will be even more afraid. After all, checks & balances are receding into the past...
Wednesday, January 2, 2008
For a year numbered 007, it had more than its fair share of the clandestine, the Republicans having the sleightest and most illusory of hands, especially Bush-Cheney-World, which operates in unprecedented secrecy. Some of the following were only discovered in '007, although the legerdemain itself occurred earlier. Some became scandals of a sort, but overall, the American public has remained steadfastly teflonized, preferring to be disinformed, cortisol-driven, and inflammatory.
10. Operation Disinformation.
The mainstream corporate media collaborated with the administration to provide us bait-n-switch news on unimportant events, while disastrous activities passed by under our very noses unnoticed. How many Americans were aware that Bush just signed Martial Law into legal possibility - up to his own sole discretion - while the Paris Hilton frenzy was hitting the airwaves a month ahead of her much-heralded future jail stint?
And media manipulation by Bush-leaning corporate heads is the greatest protection against crimes committed by those in high office.
As Sen. Conyers said on Democracy Now:
“There is a very stark reality that with the corporatization of the media, we could end up with turning people, who should be documented in history as making many profound errors and violating the Constitution, from villains into victims,” the Michigan Democrat said.
Or, according to Consortiumnews,
He’s probably right that the Washington press corps would hoot any serious
impeachment drive against Bush and Cheney off the political stage.
In my view, the above 2 opinions show marked cynicism and lack of hope in the power of dissidence and truth. Perhaps that's part of the success of corporate media:
"One of the intentions of corporate-controlled media is to instill in people a sense of disempowerment, of immobilization and paralysis. Its outcome is to turn you into good consumers. It is to keep people isolated, to feel that there is no possibility for social change."
(David Barsamian, journalist and publisher)
9. The Missing Torture Tapes.
What torture tapes? Did anybody have torture tapes? Do you mean Dick Cheney's stash? Don't tell me Nancy Pelosi saw it??? And said nothing? I guess everyone is getting blase about torture...
I suspect this will be #1 in '008...
8. Big Bro's Backdoor Break-In
Although this has been going on since 9-11 and the manic "Patriot" Act, spying on Americans involves not just the Bush administration, but telecom giants as well, in complicity with the neocon so-called "war on terror". Warrantless spying on Americans was introduced through the back door, so no one would know for sure.
When pressed about it, then-Justice Gonzales claimed it was authorized by the President, but
"I did not and could not address . . . any other classified intelligence activities." Which implied there was more than meets the press.
"It seems to me he is conceding that there are other NSA surveillance
programs ongoing that the president hasn't told anyone about," said Bruce Fein,
a government lawyer in the Nixon, Carter and Reagan administrations
This was just the tip of the iceberg - or shall we say, the spy network?
According to the WaPo, the very next day after this ambiguous testimony,
"the Senate voted 69 to 30 to end a filibuster of the proposed four-year extension of the USA Patriot Act, the sweeping anti-terrorism law enacted in 2001. The Senate plans today to approve the measure, which contains hotly debated modifications."
So much for government by the people.
7. The Petraeus Maneuver
We're hemhorraging from the solar plexus, Iraq is a hopeless quagmire, 90% of the Iraqi people want us out and consider this an unwanted invasion, a brazen oil grab, and a total disaster, and yet the Bushco folks trot out this "ass-licking little chickenshit" to convince the American people - or protoplasm, your choice - that the Surge Is Working, and We've Turned a Corner! Meanwhile, all military dissidents are slipped out the backdoor - presumably the same one the surveillance guys snuck in through - and silenced. Shhhhhhhh....
6. The Emperor's New Coronation (And the People's New "Clothes" - ignorance and powerlessness)
Little known to the American public as a whole, George Bush has consolidated power in the Presidency through a series of signing statements, pocket vetoes, and Presidential Declarations. One such Directive (with a twisted, convoluted name) I call his coronation - It gives him, among other things, the right to retain sole executive unchecked power over the United States of America - sans Congress, sans Supreme Court oversight - simply based on his own determination that a "national emergency" exists. A sort of self-proclaimed martial law clause. Are we an empire yet? He was workin' on it - even crowned himself emperor - while the public was in a drunken media-soaked stupor over ... the earthshaking jail sentence of Paris ... the humanity-threatening meltdown of Lindsay...etc...
5. The Ashcroft Caper
When they needed to override dissent, there's always the old deathbed signover thing, especially when it comes to Cheney's pet project, "Robust Interrogations", otherwise known as torture. And so it was reported in May 2007 - when the "stunning" all-absorbing announcement of Paris Hilton's possible jail term was revealed with much media attention - that back in 2004,
On the night of March 10, 2004, as Attorney General John D. Ashcroft lay ill in an intensive-care unit, his deputy, James B. Comey, received an urgent call.
White House Counsel Alberto R. Gonzales and President Bush's chief of staff, Andrew H. Card Jr., were on their way to the hospital to persuade Ashcroft to reauthorize Bush's domestic surveillance program, which the Justice Department had just determined was illegal.
In vivid testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee yesterday, Comey said he alerted FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III and raced, sirens blaring, to join Ashcroft in his hospital room, arriving minutes before Gonzales and Card. Ashcroft,
summoning the strength to lift his head and speak, refused to sign the papers
they had brought. Gonzales and Card, who had never acknowledged Comey's presence in the room, turned and left. ...
The next day, as terrorist bombs killed more than 200 commuters on rail lines in Madrid, the White House approved the executive order without any signature from the Justice Department certifying its legality. Comey responded by drafting his letter of resignation, effective the next day, March 12.
The domestic spying by the National Security Agency continued for several weeks without Justice approval, he said...
It also marks the first public acknowledgment that the Justice Department found the original surveillance program illegal, more than two years after it began.
4. The Gonzales Eight
There is little doubt that Gonzales and his aides have sought to mislead Congress about the origins of the scandal.
3. Project Libby - The Switch
A spy is compromised, laws are broken, and the perps get what? They get lost, of course! And when the dust settles, all that's left is a dedicated front man/guy Friday for some unnamed Vice Presidential figure who goes by the name of Dick. Who in turn, wrote a little note implicating Bush W himself about which was said:
So Cheney was reflecting a presidential decision as to who was expendable and
who wasn’t? Bush wanted to save Rove by designating Libby the fall-guy. He asked
Libby to be the fall guy for Rove. (Cheney may not have been thrilled that he
had to lose his right-hand man to save the president’s.) Pure speculation, of
course. But it makes sense. And if true, it’s a fascinating glimpse into the
mafia-like code of loyalty that exists in Bush world.
And here: "The Post's Dana Milbank writes that Martin also discussed Dick Cheney's PR strategy, which included putting him on Meet the Press where he could "control [the] message" about the White House's handling of Iraqi nuclear plan evidence. Tactics also included burying bad news on the weekends and keeping Bush spokespeople in the dark about important matters."
Matters such as committing the treasonous, impeachable crime of blowing the cover of an American spy. Such as Valerie Plame. So to protect the impeachable, someone's gotta stand in the line of fire, obstructing justice. Thanks, Scooter, said Dick.
Suddenly, the news woke up one morning, perhaps after some Britney meltdown, and there in the margins, was this:
U.S. security contractor Blackwater has been involved in at least 195 shooting
incidents in Iraq since 2005 and, in eight of 10 cases, their forces fired
first, a leading U.S. lawmaker said on Monday, reported Reuters.
State Department contractor Blackwater is under investigation for the shooting deaths of 11 Iraqis on September 16, they will answer questions about that incident and its performance in Iraq at a Congressional hearing on Tuesday.
Now it appears that not only is the United States military overextended, it's hiring mercenaries who are above the law and killing Iraqi civilians.
And the US government is covering it up:
"It appears that the State Department's primary response was to ask Blackwater to make monetary payments to put the 'matter behind us' rather than to insist upon accountability or to investigate Blackwater personnel for potential criminal liability," said the (Waxman)memorandum.
Aside from being a scandal, Blackwatergate may be used by Bushco to further obfiscate the war scene in Iraq as suggested here:
Condemnation of Blackwater, however justified, can easily be siphoned into a
political whirlpool that demands a cleanup of the U.S. war effort -- as though a
relentless war of occupation based on lies could be redeemed by better
management -- as if the occupying troops in Army and Marine uniforms are
incarnations of restraint and accountability.
1. The Shadow Presidency
WaPo's expose on Dick Cheney revealed the ultimate caper: that the man in charge was not really the President after all: the previously ceremonial office of Vice President had been transformed, in a move of unprecedented wholesale legerdemain, to the status of uncrowned king.
"Angler," as the Secret Service code-named him, has approached the levers of
power obliquely, ... has found a ready patron in George W. Bush for
edge-of-the-envelope views on executive supremacy that previous presidents did
In roles that have gone largely undetected, Cheney has served as gatekeeper for
Supreme Court nominees, referee of Cabinet turf disputes, arbiter of budget
appeals, editor of tax proposals and regulator in chief of water flows in his
Now who really pulls the strings of power? The Angler? Or just ... 007?...