Monday, June 30, 2008

U.S. Court Rebuffs Arar -- Rebuff??? Not the Word I'd Use

NEW YORK–A U.S. appeals court decision upholding the dismissal of a lawsuit from Canadian Maher Arar essentially enables the U.S. government to send foreigners to be tortured, a lawyer with a human rights group representing Arar said late today.

"It means that the U.S. can do to anyone what they did to Maher," said Maria LaHood, a senior attorney with the U.S.-based Centre for Constitutional Rights.

"They can do it to anyone, to any foreign citizen, and use the immigration process as a guise, basically, to send someone to be tortured."

Arar was labelled a member of Al Qaeda when he switched planes at New York's Kennedy Airport in 2002 as he returned to Canada from vacation.

He was eventually released without charges and he returned to Canada where a judicial inquiry cleared him of any terrorist links and Ottawa awarded him compensation of $10.5 million.

The U.S. Court of Appeals in New York ruled today that Arar's claims that it was a violation of due process to send him to Syria could not be heard in federal court. The court concluded that adjudicating the claims would interfere with sensitive matters of foreign policy and national security.

"It's a quite sweeping and reprehensible opinion," said LaHood. ``It's quite sweeping in how much deference it gives to the U.S. government."

LaHood spoke with Arar and said he is equally taken aback by the decision.

"He was not only disappointed too, but outraged," she said.

"He's rightfully angered that he cannot get justice, and that not only can he not get justice, but that his being sent to torture has now been in vain because he can't even stop the government from doing it to someone else."

The decision also said that Arar, as a foreigner who had not been formally admitted to the U.S., had no constitutional due process rights.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Scenes from an Iraki Childhood - Incident at Samra

This is Khalid Mohammed, he’s nine years old. The village he’s from is called Samra and it is 15 Kilometres north of Tikrit. Today Wednesday June 25th 2006 the Americans bombed his uncle’s house — those are the ruins you can see Khalid sitting on and crying. The American killed, Khalid’s uncle, his aunt, and four of their children who were aged between four and 11, 3 other children are seriously wounded.

The Americans are now trying to claim that there were no casualties from this attack. Oh really? Tell that to Khalid, tell it to his dead family members. And while you are at it explain to him why he and everyone else in the village were forced from their houses at gunpoint by American troops who, surprise, surprise, didn’t find their imaginary gunman from al-Qaeda in any of the houses. You can also explain to the survivors of the American bombing of their home why having killed their parents and siblings you prevented villagers from using their cars to evacuate the wounded to hospital.

Just another pack of lies, from the cowardly death squad in uniform that calls itself the American army.

http://gorillasguides.com/2008/06/25/scenes-from-an-iraki-childhood-incident-at-samra/

Hamas and Hezbollah Gain, Almost Hand in Hand

Pointing toward the idea that might (U.S. & Israel) does not make right.
Portion below; whole thing here:
http://www.ipsnews.net/news.asp?idnews=42973

"The two incidents vastly bolstered the popularity of both groups," said Hussein. "Meanwhile, their pro-western rivals -- Fatah and the Lebanese majority government -- were both badly weakened."

In the case of Beirut, the majority government immediately rescinded its earlier decisions against Hezbollah following the group's unexpected show of force. It also quickly accepted the terms of a Qatar-brokered agreement calling for the formation of a unity government.

The "Doha Agreement" was widely seen as a victory for Hezbollah and its allies, who, under the terms of the accord, will be given a "blocking third" of cabinet seats. This will allow the Shia resistance group to veto any future attempts by the government to disarm it.

"The seizure of Beirut pushed the government into accepting the Doha deal, which granted Hezbollah's chief demand: a veto right over government decision-making," said Hussein.

Likewise, Hamas's ability to hold on to power in Gaza -- despite the objections of both the U.S. and Israel -- has recently led to rare concessions from Israel.

In a development seen as a victory for Hamas, last week saw Israel accept the terms of an Egypt-brokered ceasefire agreement. Previously, Israeli officials had insisted that any ceasefire deal must also include the release of an Israeli soldier captured by resistance factions in 2006.

"For the last year, Hamas has shown the U.S. and Israel that it can't simply be dealt with by force," said Hussein. "This is confirmed by the fact that Israel agreed to the ceasefire -- even though the agreement is better for Hamas than for Israel."

Commentators also stress that both incidents represented serious setbacks to overall U.S.-Israeli designs for the region.

"Both events were major victories for the resistance and put more obstacles in the way of U.S. strategy in the region," said al-Husseini. "With the continuation of the resistance, U.S. policy will be forced to change course."

Ahmed Thabet, political science professor at Cairo University, agreed that the two episodes would force the U.S. and Israel to reconsider their approach to situations in both Palestine and Lebanon.

"Gaza and Beirut confirmed the failure of U.S. policy in the Middle East," Thabet told IPS. "Hamas and Hezbollah have proven themselves forces to be reckoned with -- extremely organised, militarily competent and enormously popular."

This opinion was supported in a Jun. 4 editorial by Palestinian-U.S. political analyst Ramzy Baroud.

"The failures of US/Israeli policies in Lebanon and Palestine seem to have brought an end -- for now -- to the chaos agenda once espoused with such enthusiasm," Baroud wrote in the Dubai-based Khaleej Times. "Lebanon has not completely succumbed to civil strife, and Palestinians in Gaza are still not willing to unconditionally submit to Israel's political diktats." (END/2008)

Republican Has Abbas' Number -- "Abbas' Time Has Passed"

Portion below; whole thing here:
http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article20178.htm
Mahmoud Abbas may have been able to delude himself into thinking that the so-called Road Map to Peace, pushed hard by the Bush administration, was something other than a final surrender of the Palestinian patrimony to a relentless and wel-funded Israeli plan to take over all of Palestine, but his people were not fooled. In January 2006 Abbas' Fatah Party was badly defeated in elections for the Palestine Legislative Council, winning only 45 seats to Hamas' 74.

Conventional wisdom holds that the Islamists of Hamas won the election because they were honest and able to provide welfare services that the Fatah Party had neglected. A more accurate conclusion would be that the Palestinians supported Hamas because Abbas has been unable to stop Israeli settlement growth and the destruction of the Palestinian economy. How could Abbas be expected to wring a viable Palestinian state from the Israelis if he was unable to convince them to remove any of the 400 roadblocks strangling economic and community life on the West Bank?

For the United States, Hamas' overwhelming election victory was anathema. Hamas is on the State Department's list of terrorist organizations and remains an advocate of armed resistance to the occupation. Further, Hamas refuses to recognize Israel and rejects all the damaging agreements that Arafat and Abbas signed that have corralled the Palestinians into the desperate situation in which they now find themselves.

In the wake of the Hamas victory, the pliable Abbas embraced Israeli and American policy ever more tightly in a desperate effort to cling to power. First, Abbas acquiesced to the Israeli seizure of the customs revenue it collects on behalf of the Palestinians and refused to share critical cabinet positions with Hamas. Second, Abbas was a party to the planning with Israel's longtime advocate on the U.S. National Security Council, Elliott Abrams, of a coup against the Hamas leadership in Gaza. Unfortunately for Abbas and Abrams, the coup, which was to employ Fatah security forces in Gaza loyal to Mohammed Dahlan, was the worst-kept secret and the most ill-conceived plot in recent diplomatic history. In June 2007 Hamas struck first and quickly disposed of Abbas' supporters in Gaza.

After Hamas' takeover of Gaza, the Israelis, with the approval of Abbas, began to arrest Hamas legislators on the West Bank, ultimately jailing 45 of them. Abbas, now utterly without a legitimate mandate of any sort, appointed a new cabinet and began to rule by decree. Meanwhile, the Israeli army tightened its control of West Bank cities to keep Abbas' supporters in power and started to detain Hamas activists.

In Gaza itself conditions went from bad to desperate. The Israeli government severely restricted supplies, with the exception of limited amounts of food and fuel. As Israeli official Dov Weisglass heartlessly put it, "It's like a meeting with a dietitian. We need to make the Palestinians lose weight, but not to starve to death." For lack of raw materials all industry in the Strip collapsed, unemployment soared, and everyday life became a struggle. But while 1.5 million Palestinians were on the brink of starvation in Gaza, Abbas continued to talk with Israel and the United States about the so-called peace process.

Despite having to cope with the collective punishment of a million and a half residents of Gaza, Hamas has been able to move forward with its political objectives. Gaza security forces were entirely rebuilt with emphasis on loyalty to the Hamas political leadership. With the United States doing its utmost to deprive Gaza of financial aid from the West, assistance from the Gulf region and Iran went directly to the Hamas leadership and served to strengthen the party's political control. And resistance to Israel continued, albeit in a rather desultory manner in which crude rockets were fired at Israeli towns close to Gaza. Damage in Israel was limited, and Gazans suffered perhaps 50 casualties for every one inflicted on the Israelis.

And now, a severe body blow for Abbas and his rump regime: de facto Israeli recognition of Hamas as Israel and Hamas agree to a cease-fire without preconditions. In return for an end to the firing of rockets, Israel promises to increase the range and quantity of goods allowed into Gaza.

Whether the cease-fire will hold and the economy of Gaza will revive is uncertain, but the Israelis apparently decided trying to starve Hamas out of power was not going to work. So Mahmoud Abbas' policy of shunning the rejectionists of Hamas, dictated by the United States and Israel, has been undercut by the Israelis themselves, undoubtedly hastening the day Abbas ceases to be president of the Palestinian Authority and becomes a resident of one of the little Arab towns the Israelis maintain for the protection of Palestinian collaborators whose usefulness is at an end.

John Taylor received an A.B. in Near Eastern Languages from the University of Chicago, a B.A. and an M.A. in Oriental studies from Cambridge University, and an MBA from Columbia University. He served two years active duty in the United States Army, reaching the grade of sergeant, and spent six years in the reserves. Before making his career in the oil and gas business in Texas, he worked in the Middle East as an archaeologist, banker, and civil servant. Taylor is a life-long Republican.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

They Call This Progress for Women?????

An Iraqi young girl looks on as a female police officer participates in a house to house search operation with Iragi soldiers in Karbala, 50 miles south of Baghdad, Iraq, on Wednesday, during her first mission after she graduated the police Academy. Some 115 police woman graduated Wednesday from Karbala's police academy.

(June 25, 2008)

Associated Press

U.S. Airstrike Murders Iraqi Family

An Iraqi man is seen inside a big crater after a U.S forces air strike, 10 miles north of Tikrit, 80 miles north of Baghdad, Iraq, on Wednesday. Six members of a family including four children were killed early Wednesday when a U.S. jet destroyed their house the police said. The U.S. military said troops received small arms fire while conducting operations in the area. They called in an air strike after seeing an armed man move into a nearby group of buildings.

(June 25, 2008)

Associated Press

The Pentagon's Stealth Corporations -- Nick Turse on Tom Dispatch

End portion below; whole thing (via cursor.org) here:
http://www.tomdispatch.com/post/174948

Under the Radar

All told, these five stealth corporations [listed earlier in article] from the military-corporate complex received more than $8.9 billion in taxpayer dollars in 2007. To put this into perspective, that sum is almost $2 billion more than the Bush administration's proposed 2009 budget for the Environmental Protection Agency. Put another way, it's about nine times what one-sixth of the world's population spent on food last year.

Tens of thousands of defense contractors -- from well-known "civilian" corporations (like Coca-Cola, Kraft, and Dell) to tiny companies -- have fattened up on the Pentagon and its wars. Most of the time, large or small, they fly under the radar and are seldom identified as defense contractors at all. So it's hardly surprising that firms like Harris and Evergreen, without name recognition outside their own worlds, can take in billions in taxpayer dollars without notice or comment in our increasingly militarized civilian economy.

When the history of the Iraq War is finally written, chances are that these five billion-dollar babies, and most of the other defense contractors involved in making the U.S. occupation possible, will be left out. Until we begin coming to grips with the role of such corporations in creating the material basis for an imperial foreign policy, we'll never be able to grasp fully how the Pentagon works and why we so regularly make war in, and carry out occupations of, distant lands.

Poll: 44% of Americans Favor Torture for Terrorist Suspects

Portion below; whole thing here: http://rawstory.com/news08/2008/06/24/poll-44-of-americans-favor-torture-for-terrorist-suspects/
A new poll of citizens’ attitudes about torture in 19 nations finds Americans among the most accepting of the practice. Although a slight majority say torture should be universally prohibited, 44 percent think torture of terrorist suspects should be allowed, and more than one in 10 think torture should generally be allowed.
Another item found on Angry Arab Newservice:

Seventy-four percent of [American] people believe in heaven, while 59 percent believe in hell -- in contrast to past generations in which people either believed in both or none.

Twenty-one percent of self-identified [American] atheists said they believed in God. Ten percent believe in hell.

http://www.courier-journal.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080624/NEWS01/806240426/1008/NEWS01

LINDA COMMENTS (can't get formatting to quit using quote margins): I'm sure neither one of us (Angry or myself) is saying these two things are related, but it does make you wonder. All this religion and all this torture. Not to mention all this stupidity (atheists saying they believe in god???????).

Occupation by Bureaucracy -- Saree Makdisi

Portion below; whole thing here:
http://www.iht.com/articles/2008/06/24/opinion/edmakdisi.php

In fact, 90 percent of the Palestinian territory Israel claimed to have annexed to Jerusalem after 1967 is today off-limits to Palestinian development because the land is either already built on by exclusively Jewish settlements or being reserved for their future expansion.

Denied permits, many Palestinians in Jerusalem build without them, but at considerable risk: Israel routinely demolishes Palestinian homes built without a permit. This includes over 300 homes in East Jerusalem demolished between 2004 and 2007 and 18,000 Palestinian homes in the occupied territories demolished since 1967.

One alternative has been to move to the West Bank suburbs and commute to Jerusalem. The wall cutting off East Jerusalem from the West Bank and thereby separating tens of thousands of Jerusalem Palestinians from the city of their birth has made that much more difficult.

And it too has its risks: Palestinians who cannot prove to Israel's satisfaction that Jerusalem has continuously been their "center of life" have been stripped of their Jerusalem residency papers. Without those papers, they will be expelled from Jerusalem, and confined to one of the walled-in reservoirs - of which Gaza is merely the largest example - that Israel has allocated as holding pens for the non-Jewish population of the holy land.

The expulsion of half of Palestine's Muslim and Christian population in what Palestinians call the nakba (catastrophe) of 1948 was undertaken by Israel's founders in order to clear space in which to create a Jewish state.

The nakba did not end 60 years ago, however: It continues to this very day, albeit on a smaller scale. Yet even ones and twos eventually add up. Virtually every day, another Palestinian joins the ranks of the millions removed from their native land and denied the right of return.

Their long wait will end - and this conflict will come to a lasting resolution - only when the futile attempt to maintain an exclusively Jewish state in what had previously been a vibrantly multi-religious land is abandoned.

Separation will always require threats or actual violence; a genuine peace will come not with more separation, but with the right to return to a land in which all can live as equals. Only a single democratic, secular and multicultural state offers that hope to Israelis and Palestinians, to Muslims, Jews and Christians alike.

Miles to Go -- Nader Profile from Washington Post Front Page

Interesting article. Mentions that his Cambridge audience was mainly young people.
Portion below; whole thing here:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/06/24/AR2008062401619.html?hpid=artslot

Nader likes to describe his independent candidacy as a tugboat. He's nudging the major candidates toward his issues, he says, on the strength of the movement he's building. Implicit is the admission that he has no hope of winning. No matter: "Every reform movement starts small," he says. " 'Don't vote for the [abolitionist] Liberty Party, it's never going to win.' 'Don't vote for the [suffragist National Woman's Party], it's never going to win.' 'Don't vote for the Farmer-Labor parties, they're never going to win.' " Yet votes for these parties, he says, eventually made profound social reforms politically tolerable.

Nader says he'll need about 5 percent of the vote in November for his movement to be taken seriously. He's encouraged by a recent Associated Press poll that showed him drawing 6 percent in a nationwide race. Six percent, he repeats. A real difference. He suggests that even 15 percent is conceivable.

Conceivable. But achievable is another question.

* * *

The odd thing about Nader is how a man who has been in and out of the public eye for so long -- making headlines since Lyndon Johnson was president -- can remain an enigma. Even people who've known and worked with him for years don't know much about him beyond his prodigious capacity for work.

For decades, media accounts have depicted Nader as an ascetic policy wonk, a man married to his many crusades. For the most part, that seems accurate. Michael Richardson, who has worked on Nader's campaigns, says Nader works "12 to 14 hours a day, seven days a week, 52 weeks a year." Nader says he occasionally sees a movie (a recent selection, "Michael Clayton," is about a compromised corporate lawyer) and likes watching sports. But "downtime" is an alien concept to him; Nader rarely is seen at social events or anything unrelated to his work.

Outside of a fleeting rumor, Nader -- a lifelong bachelor -- has never been romantically linked to anyone. Justin Martin, a Nader biographer, says in the 2006 documentary "An Unreasonable Man" that he searched for evidence of Nader's personal life and came up with nothing. Paul Krugman, the New York Times columnist, called Nader "a rebel without a life."

Even close associates were surprised in 2000 when Nader filed financial disclosure forms revealing that he conservatively estimated his net worth at $3.9 million, thanks primarily to savvy investments in tech stocks. He also disclosed that he had made $512,000 in speaking fees during the preceding 16 months.

Nader deflects questions about his finances today by saying he donates much of his income to advocacy groups and charities. He says he receives speaking fees -- charging $1,000 to $15,000, depending on the group -- although he adds that the invitations don't come "all that often anymore."

Matthew Zawisky, a campaign aide who has traveled with Nader since 2001, says he's never seen him drive a car or use a computer (aides print out relevant documents for him). "He's purely an Underwood typewriter guy," says Zawisky, a bit amused. Nader makes copies of his work using carbon paper. "I think he foresaw the computer revolution and stocked up on it," Zawisky says.

Joan Claybrook, who has known Nader since 1966 and worked with him on his pioneering auto-safety crusade against General Motors, says he reads 10 books a week and speaks seven languages (Chinese, Portuguese, Italian and Arabic among them) well enough to converse with native speakers.

Nader seems able to talk about anything and at length. Before sitting for a newspaper interview at his sparsely furnished campaign offices on the riverfront in Georgetown, he had to finish a radio interview. His subject: the NBA refereeing scandal.

"Ralph is really a charming guy," says Claybrook, who heads the advocacy group Public Citizen. "He has a great sense of humor. If the public knew him really well, they would be enthralled with him."

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

"Really, Obama, It's the Money" -- Dan K. Thomasson

Portion below; whole thing here:
http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/opinion/368221_thomassononline25.html

The real reason for opting out of the public financing was that his network of supporters that helped him win the nomination would contribute far more than the $85 million public fund limit for each candidate, prompting one reporter to suggest that he was for public financing in 2006 before his candidacy and will be for it again in 2009 after the race. Recent estimates are that he will raise and spend some $300 million before the voters go to the polls in November even though his May numbers were only a few thousand dollars more than McCain's. Both have raised $22 million plus.

Obama's decision could have a sizable impact in an atmosphere where money has increasingly become the fuel of a successful campaign. McCain urged him to reconsider and honor his commitment to accept public funding. But the ability to spend huge amounts on television advertising early and sustain that through the next four months is extremely important and obviously too tempting to ignore given his ability to raise funds. Obama ads began running in Washington and elsewhere over the weekend, and he plans an extended and costly 50-state strategy.

Arcane matters of campaign finance normally bring a big yawn from voters interested in other issues like the economy and war. That probably would be true in this case except that it seems to be the first crack in Obama's superior, at times almost holier than thou, presentation. If he can break a pledge with such ease, can he be trusted to keep his promises in other areas?

The fact is that both candidates, on the issues at least, have made and will continue to make promises they can't possibly keep and if they could would further bankrupt the country. That's just the way of American politics where pledging to bring about wholesale change is just standard procedure. Most voters accept that. Failures can be explained away as the pledges having been a good idea at the time.

But Obama's quick switch in this case and the unbelievable explanations are pretty easily defined as disingenuous. Far better that he had just said from the beginning that, "it's the money." It leaves the impression that perhaps Obama is not quite the renaissance politician he and his supporters claim he is. That might not have been the case had he said from the start that he was going to press every advantage he could find. Earl Long once said that in politics, "We use everything we can get our hands on."

Culture of Fear -- Seth Freedman

Very sensible article. Portion below; whole thing here:
http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2008/jun/22/israelandthepalestinians.fear

Given the volte face that I've performed since moving to Israel four years ago, I was asked to describe my most influential experience thus far, in terms of providing a catalyst to the political journey upon which I've embarked.

Without hesitation, I replied that it had been my illicit trip to Bethlehem during a weekend furlough from the army. Our unit was serving in the city at the time, and – until then – I had been conditioned to see the residents as potential terrorists who had to be dealt with accordingly in order to avert a deadly threat to our safety.

With no M16 by my side or grenade in my pack, I passed through the checkpoint and took my first tentative steps on so-called enemy terrain. In jeans and a T-shirt, I walked the same streets of the Aida refugee camp that a day earlier I'd been patrolling armed to the teeth and with five other soldiers backing me up.

I gazed casually at the same windows and doors at which I'd previously had to stare, hawk-like, in case a gunman or bomber should burst out and attack our squad. I looked calmly at the same gangs of youths who, when I was in uniform, I'd had to judge in an instant – whether they were benignly intentioned or baying for my blood.

The fear instilled in me by the army all but dissipated once I was simply a tourist strolling through the town. Conversely, the more weaponry and protective gear I carried, the more terrifying the place became which, it dawned on me, was a distillation of Israel's core and eternal paradox – one that has dogged it since the moment the state was created.

For there to be a justification for Israel's existence, there first has to exist an existential threat to the Jewish people. Granted, history has handed us that fear of annihilation on a plate, but just because the fear exists, it doesn't necessarily follow that what is feared does too.

A prominent narrative of the Jewish tradition is that, in every generation, a manifestation of Amalek will attempt to wipe out the Jewish people, just as the original marauding Amalekites did during the Jews' exodus from Egypt. The Romans, Babylonians, Greeks, Soviets and Nazis have all, understandably, been christened modern-day Amalekites – and now Iran is being touted as the most recent member of the millennia-old dynasty.

Fear of extermination is the ace in the Jewish pack of emotions, and has been capitalised on in spades by the virulent strain of nationalism encapsulated in today's Zionism. Occupy an entire people and crush their hopes and dreams for 40 years? A necessary evil – if we don't then we're done for. Fly in the face of international law, basic morality, and even the central tenets of our own, ostensibly compassionate, religion? Sorry, but you have to understand that "they" all want us dead; it's us or them, from now until eternity.

It's almost irrelevant who "they" are. One day it's the Palestinians for daring to try to shake off the yoke of oppression; the next it's the European left for having the nerve to intercede on behalf of justice and decency. "They" can be a lone gunman, such as Norman Finkelstein or "they" can be a billion people, such as the world's entire Muslim population, conveniently repackaged as one homogenous group based on spurious racial profiling.

Concrete walls are built between "us" and "them"; orders are given banning Israelis from crossing the divide into PA territory – all under the banner of protecting the security of Israelis. In reality, however, they are merely an insidious attempt to hermetically seal Israel off from the outside world and convince the Israelis that it's an unavoidable measure to take.

Those of us who've come, seen, and conquered our preconceptions of the Palestinian street know full well that the canards being propagated are simply preposterous. Of course, there are some very angry, very violent militants among the Palestinian people, but so too are there similarly dangerous elements in Israeli society, as well as in every ethnic group around the world.

The Deputy Mustafa Barguti: The Assassinations in Nablus Aim to Demolish the Truce

http://imemc.org/article/55620

Ramallah- the General Secretary of the Palestinian National Initiative Dr. Mustafa Barghouti condemned the crime that the Israeli occupation committed in Nablus today 24-6-2008, which led to the killing of Iyad kanfar a fourth year student of Arts in Najah University and 23 year old Tariq Jom'a Abu Ghali.

barghouti.jpg

Barghouti stated, "Israel's actions aim to demolish the truce agreement through going back to using the policy of assassinations and what they have done in Nablus presents a serious escalation."

He also added that Israel does not want to calm down the situation and is provoking the Palestinian people to take action so that they can hold it against them.

He clarified that the necessity of the truce includes the West Bank as well as the Gaza Strip; as well as the reason that any previous truce agreements did not work out was the Israeli policy of assassinations.

Barghouti called upon the international community to put a stop to Israel's actions and calm down the situation in all the Palestinian occupied lands if there is any interest in keeping the truce.

IRAQ: Whoever Wins, They Lose -- By Ahmed Ali and Dahr Jamail

From Interpress Service via Dahr Jamail

Portion below; whole thing here: http://www.ipsnews.net/news.asp?idnews=42937

But Abdulla Hamid, a city resident, expressed deep concern over Obama's recent speech at the influential American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), the pro-Israel lobby in the U.S.

"What hope is there in a man who wears the Israeli flag and calls for a Jewish state with a unified Jerusalem," Hamid told IPS. " Obama clearly couldn't care less about the Palestinians and the Arabs."

Hamid referred to the fact that Obama appeared at the speech with a lapel pin comprised of both the U.S. and Israeli flags. In his speech, Obama's call for a unified Jerusalem omitted Palestinians' demands for their share of Jerusalem, which is a sacred city for them too.

Like most U.S. citizens, most Iraqis are not familiar with U.S. foreign policy. While Obama, the Democratic presidential hopeful, calls for a shift in the U.S. policy in Iraq, neither he nor his Republican rival, John McCain, talk about changing the National Security Strategy of the U.S., or the military document Joint Vision 2020, which calls for "full spectrum dominance" of the world by the U.S. military by the year 2020.

'Full spectrum dominance' means not just total control of land, air, and sea, but also of information and of space.

"The U.S. strategy is firm and unchanging," a political analyst at Diyala University told IPS on condition of anonymity, given widespread fear of U.S. forces. "It makes no difference whether one wins or the other. The general strategy is well established, and is never affected by the changing of the president."

"I do agree with this point of view," local merchant Abdul-Rahman told IPS. "During the nineties we wished that Bill Clinton would win in order to stop the economic sanctions that caused us so much suffering. When Clinton became president, sanctions remained as they were, and even worsened."

At that time, the majority of Iraqis had wished for Clinton to be president, but year after year of sanctions left them embittered.

Barak Obama has made public statements that he will withdraw U.S. forces from Iraq. But his advisors speak of plans to keep at least 60,000-90,000 troops in Iraq, and at least until 2013, the year his first term in office would end if he is elected.

Many Iraqis appear to be skeptical of the promises made by Obama.

"I'll believe the troops are gone from Iraq when they are no longer on our streets and their warplanes no longer bomb our homes," a local merchant told IPS. " All politicians are liars, even school children know this."

(*Ahmed, our correspondent in Iraq's Diyala province, works in close collaboration with Dahr Jamail, our U.S.-based specialist writer on Iraq who has reported extensively from Iraq and the Middle East).

From Palestine Think Tank -- Gaza

Palestine Think Tank

Monday, June 23, 2008

Haditha Victims' Kin Outraged as Marines Go Free

Portion below; whole thing here (w/video): http://www.mcclatchydc.com/227/story/41817.html

HADITHA, Iraq — Khadija Hassan still shrouds her body in black, nearly three years after the deaths of her four sons. They were killed on Nov. 19, 2005, along with 20 other people in the deadliest documented case of U.S. troops killing civilians since the Vietnam War.

Eight Marines were charged in the case, but in the intervening years, criminal charges have been dismissed against six. A seventh Marine was acquitted. The residents of Haditha, after being told they could depend on U.S. justice, feel betrayed.

"We put our hopes in the law and in the courts and one after another they are found innocent," said Yousef Aid Ahmed, the lone surviving brother in the family. "This is an organized crime."

No one disputes that Marines killed 24 men, women and children in this town in four separate shootings that morning. Relatives said the attack was a massacre of innocent civilians that followed a roadside bomb that killed one Marine and injured two. Marines say they came under fire following the bomb.

Nonetheless, military prosecutors filed charges that ranged from murder to covering up a crime. Three Marines were relieved of their duties then, and U.S. Rep. John Murtha, a former Marine, famously called the incident "murder" on television.

One by one, the cases fell apart. American and Iraqi witnesses provided conflicting accounts. The investigation began months after the incident, and many Iraqis who could have testified were unable to travel to the United States. Furthermore, several Marines were granted immunity.

Last week, a judge dismissed charges of dereliction of duty and failure to investigate filed against the highest ranking officer implicated, Lt. Col. Jeffrey Chessani. The Marine Corps plans to appeal.

The dismissals have deepened the victims' relatives' grief. Many say they feel deceived after having collaborated with U.S. investigators who came into their homes, collected evidence, took testimony, and ultimately failed to hold the Marines accountable.

"Right now I feel hatred that will not fade," said Ahmed. "It grows every day." Charges against two Marines who allegedly killed his brothers were dropped in August 2007.

All charges of murder in this case were dropped and at least seven Marines were given immunity to allow them to testify against Staff Sgt. Frank Wuterich, the squad leader. His charges now include voluntary manslaughter of at least nine people.

Wuterich has always maintained that he made the right decision, believing his Marines were under threat.

While other Marines' accounts have differed from his, Wuterich told the CBS News program 60 Minutes last year that he shot at five unarmed men outside a white car because he believed they were a threat when they started to move away from the car. At the first home they raided, where women and children were inside, he said he told his men to "shoot first and ask questions later", because he believed the Marines were coming under "sporadic" fire from the dwelling.

Wuterich said that he didn't consider killing 24 people a massacre and that he did what he did to protect his Marines from what he perceived to be a threat.

"I remember there may have been women in there, may have been children in there," he told 60 Minutes. "My responsibility as a squad leader is to make sure that none of the rest of my guys died ... and at that point we were still on the assault, so no, I don't believe [I should have stopped the attack]."

This is how the residents of Haditha recall that day: U.S. Marines were apparently bent on revenge after a roadside bomb killed one of their own. They killed four unarmed men and an unarmed taxi driver. Then they threw grenades and entered two homes. In the Younes' household, they killed eight people, including two toddlers, a 5-year-old and a mother recovering from an appendectomy.

In an adjacent home, they killed seven people, including a 4-year-old and two women, according to death certificates and one of the children who survived. Across the street, residents of two houses shared by a family were pulled out. The men were separated from the women as the Marines asked them about weapons.

Family members said they had one AK-47 in each house, which Iraqi law allows. The Marines forced the women and children into one house at gunpoint, then took four brothers to a back bedroom and executed them, the family said.

Yousef Aid Ahmed was not at home when the killing occurred. He is now the sole breadwinner for his mother and extended family.

His father became ill after the shootings, and later, the family said, went blind from grief. Ailing, he lingered in a small bedroom where his sons were killed. One was gunned down to the left of the bed, a second to the right. The third man's body wound up inside a closet and the fourth was propped against the wardrobe. Despite a fresh coat of paint, the ceiling still bears grey spots where the men's blood spattered. They were all shot in the head.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Palestine in the American Imagination -- Ramzy Baroud

Awhile ago I would have been shocked to see the quote below from Mark Twain. He had heretofore been one of my heroes for helping to found the Anti-Imperialist League during the U.S. invasion and occupation of the Philippines in the 1890s. But I hadn't seen the Martin Buber quote about religion okaying some "robbery" of land if it is for a religious reason. Ramzy Baroud's essay (portion below; whole thing here: http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article20151.htm) is excellent on the result of this "Onward Christian (insert your religion here) Soldiers" attitude. We have a big job to overcome this long-time prejudice. But I think we are getting there. L


Religion Meets Politics – Old and New

“They own the [Holy] land, just the mere land, and that's all they do own; but it was our folks, our Jews and Christians, that made it holy, and so they haven't any business to be there defiling it. It's a shame and we ought not to stand it a minute. We ought to march against them and take it away from them.” -- Mark Twain, Tom Sawyer Abroad, 1894.

Americans are commonly accepted for being more religious than their Western counterparts, whether in Canada or in Europe. After all, the American Dream was largely initiated by what is widely interpreted as a religious pilgrimage on board the Mayflower in 1620. The history of colonization of the American continent, of course, goes back to earlier years; nonetheless, it was that particular ‘pilgrimage’, in cultural consciousness, that defined the historic relationship between the immigrants from Europe and the so-called New World. One rather significant omission which often occurs is the recognition of the many nations in the new physical landscape, which in fact existed.

Although the Native Americans’ plight has received a somewhat fair share of deserved analysis, I mean to emphasize here an important component that makes their story most relevant to my argument. Native Americans were dismissed as non-existent, were seen as an obstacle to the harbingers of civilizations, and, when they were recognized as an entity, political or cultural, it was meant merely to juxtapose their backwardness, their irrelevance, their savageness, with the progressiveness, the relevance and the civility of the newcomers.

They too, the immaterial ‘Indians’ may have merely owned the land (although Native Americans didn’t believe in such a concept to start with), but it’s “our folks, our Jews and Christians, that made it holy.” The religious aspect of colonization is significant in the sense that it validates the cruelty of the physical uprooting, the massacring and the dismissal of entire races. “Where a command and a faith are present, in certain historical situations conquest need not be robbery,” Martin Buber wrote once. [3] If God, particularly the American God, justifies such acts, who are we, mere mortals, to defy His will? America was and remains in the minds of some, a Holy Land, with many of its towns bearing the name Salem, just like city of Jerusalem, occupied and illegally annexed by Israel. Such notions as legality and illegality might be relevant to the United Nations (itself rendered irrelevant once by US President George W. Bush himself) [4], but among large circles of American religious institutions, these notions are extraneous to the point of ridicule.

But there is more, of course, to the ‘special relationship’ that justified Israel’s robbery of Palestinian land in an American religious, political and intellectual landscape than their combined search for a holy land and their textual, often selective interpretations of the Old Testament.

In 1879, a scale model of the Holy Land known as the Palestine Park was constructed on Lake Chautauqua, New York by Reverend John Heyl Vincent. J. A. Miller explains, Palestine Park was a “visual aid for the legions of Sunday school teachers who flocked to the Chautauqua Institute to bone up on biblical history and geography.” It was the “first ever example of a theme park, a quintessential American construct.” [5] It featured: “…a life-size Tabernacle built to the specifications given in Exodus, a pyramid, a model of Jerusalem, and a small scale replica of the biblical Holy Land itself - complete with a ten-foot-long Dead Sea, a smaller Sea of Galilee, and markers for important biblical sites - landscaped into the rocky terrain of the shoreline …which serves as the Mediterranean Sea.” [6]

The Chautauqua Institute was established five years before the Park, and “spawned hundreds of ‘assemblies’, throughout America, their popularity lasting until radio and cinema decimated their customer base.” That customer base was not only large, but influential, for it included such luminaries as “Amelia Earhart, Helen Keller, Thomas Edison, George Gershwin and at least nine presidents. Ida Tarbell, famed muckraker of Standard Oil, happily recollected cavorting on Palestine Park’s Mount Hermon as a girl.” [7]

Miller argues, that although there were many smaller precursors on American church grounds, “Palestine Park is the iconic example of what geographer John Kirtland Wright called geopiety, ‘a deep religious devotion to a vision of the Holy Land concocted from a ‘curious mix of romantic imagination, historical rectitude, and attachment to physical space’.” [8] He proceeds, “Geopiety is a particularly Protestant obsession originating in England in the 16th century and culminating in the Balfour Declaration. Long before Herzl revved up the Jewish branch of geopiety, the Archbishop of York pugnaciously encapsulated the concept in 1875: “Our reason for turning to Palestine is that Palestine is our country. I have used that expression before and I refuse to adopt any other”. [9]

Palestinian Lawmaker says “Israel Is Punishing us for Refusing to Die”

Portion below; whole thing here:
http://tinyurl.com/5zw9tf
From Khalid Amayreh in Hebron

A Palestinian lawmaker recently released from Israeli captivity has accused Israel of “adopting Nazi tactics” and applying them to Palestinian prisoners.

Bassem al, Za’arir, 45, who lives in the town of Sammou, south west of Hebron, won a seat in the Palestinian Legislative Council elections in the January, 2006.

However, a few months later , Za’arir and dozens of other Islamic-oriented lawmakers, cabinet ministers, mayors and other elected officials, were violently abducted by undercover Israeli soldiers as part of a sweeping crackdown on Hamas supporters and sympathizers.

Israel said the abductions were in response to the capture by Palestinian freedom fighters of an Israeli occupation army soldier. However, Hamas maintains that Jewish enmity to Islam was the main motive behind the widespread crackdown which also witnessed the arrest of thousands of suspected Islamic activists as well as the closure and confiscation of numerous Islamic charitable and educational institutions.

Farcical justice system

Al-Za’arir described his 24-month detention as “an extended ordeal.”

“If my case had been handled by any other court in this wide world, I wouldn’t have stayed in jail for a single day. But Israel and Justice are a scandalous oxymoron, and I think the Israelis themselves are aware of this disgrace.”

The Palestinian lawmaker said the Israeli military attorney at one point mistook him for another person and wanted to punish for violations carried out by someone else.

“I don’t know how to describe the Israeli court system. Imagine they wanted to indict me for statements made on al-Jazeera TV by (Hamas’ Gaza leader) Mahmoud al Zahhar, as if I were responsible for every word uttered by people and leaders Israel doesn’t like.”

Al-Za’arir said he thought the main reason behind the collective incarceration of dozens of lawmakers, mayors and cabinet ministers was “to punish the Palestinian people for electing these people.”

“Their message was very clear, that we are above you and above your national will, and that Israel and Israel alone has the final say and that it is Israel, not the Palestinian people, who decides who represents the Palestinians.”

Al-Za’arir said the charges filed against nearly all the abductees were strikingly similar.

“I was charged with membership in an anti-Israeli organization and with acting against the interests of Israel and posing a threat to the safety and security of the region where we live.”



Saturday, June 21, 2008

The Russert Rule

Portions below; whole thing here: http://jonswift.blogspot.com/2008/06/russert-rule.html
Found on Marxmail
Universally acknowledged by Washington's elite to be one of the most important people who ever lived on Earth, if not the most important person, Meet the Press moderator Tim Russert was given a state funeral yesterday that rivaled the send-offs for such beloved and powerful men as Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan. The impact of Russert's death on humanity is only just beginning to be felt, but one of its most immediate and profound effects may be on the U.S. election.

*****

We don't know yet what the impact of Russert's death will be on the upcoming election. Can another journalist take his place and conduct a gotcha interview of Barack Obama or make John McCain seem articulate? That remains to be seen. It was clear that McCain was deeply saddened by the death of his friend and Obama, despite his hypocritical tribute, was greatly relieved. But Russert's death will have far-reaching impact on our planet that will extend beyond this election. For example, Rep. Darrell Issa pointed out yesterday that if Russert were still alive he would have revealed "the truth" about the offshore oil drilling ban if he were still alive and no doubt convinced the American people that ruining the environment is a small price to pay for making sure gas prices are low. This is just one of the ways in which the loss of Russert will be deeply felt. What will future administrations do when they have a war to sell or a political enemy to trash? Will Meet the Press still have the ability to shape the political discourse in a way that is favorable to those in power without Tim Russert at the helm? What will happen to his son, Luke Russert now that he doesn't have his father to plug his work? Will the Buffalo Bills ever have a winning season again now that their fan has died? Only future historians will be able to answer these and other burning questions.

It's hard to imagine what life on Earth will be like without Tim Russert. I'm sure Russert is in Heaven now asking God some tough questions: "In Leviticus You said…." No doubt their conversation is off the record.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Rays of Hope from the Gaza Ceasefire -- Ali Abunimah

Portion below; whole thing here:
http://electronicintifada.net/v2/article9636.shtml

After the unremitting hell that Israel has inflicted on Palestinians in Gaza, one can only feel relief and even joy at the ceasefire agreed between Hamas and the Jewish state that took effect this week. Its significance extends well beyond Gaza and opens new possibilities as the disastrous Bush Doctrine begins to lose influence.

Since the beginning of this year, Israeli occupation forces and settlers have killed over 400 Palestinians, including dozens of children and several babies, already exceeding the entire death toll for 2007. One hundred and fifty were killed during a few days of Israeli bombing of Gaza in early March. This year seven Israelis have been killed in conflict-related violence, including four by mortars or rockets fired from the Gaza Strip.

Some have sought to exclusively blame Hamas for the high Palestinian death toll, saying that the rockets resistance fighters were firing into Israel were "useless" and "toys," and gave Israel the excuse to "retaliate" implying that resistance itself was to blame for the occupier's violence. But the fallacy of this claim is exposed by the fact that the absence of rockets fired from the West Bank and the renunciation of resistance by the US-backed Palestinian Authority of Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah, has not spared Palestinian communities there from daily and escalating Israeli violence.

Israeli soldiers and settlers have killed dozens of Palestinians all over the West Bank and injured hundreds of others, including many civilians in their homes, or taking part in peaceful demonstrations against the ongoing destruction and seizure of their land. According to the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, up to mid-June, Israeli occupation forces had carried out over 827 military incursions into West Bank communities (an average of five per day) and had kidnapped or arrested 1,334 civilians since the start of the year. In addition to land confiscation and settlement construction, the Israeli army ransacked, destroyed or closed dozens of non-governmental organizations, radio stations, bakeries and other civic institutions and demolished many homes in the West Bank.

Abbas' appointed prime minister Salam Fayyad called on Israel to extend the truce to the West Bank, demanding "All those Israeli military operations in areas under our control must cease." Although Hamas has announced it will unilaterally observe the truce in the West Bank, Israel has not agreed to extend it there.

Israel's massacres in Gaza were never about stopping rocket fire; as Israeli leaders repeatedly stated, they were intended to break the will of the civilian population and force it to turn against the resistance factions and towards the US and Israeli-backed Ramallah Authority. If Israel had wanted to stop the rockets the easy way to do that would have been to accept any one of the truce offers repeatedly proffered by Hamas.

Instead, as Haaretz's Akiva Eldar put it, Hamas by refusing to buckle under, "once again proved that force is the only language Israel understands." Hamas has achieved a mutual ceasefire and negotiations with Israel are under way to reopen Gaza crossings and exchange prisoners.

The ceasefire also suggests that -- at least for now -- Hamas has managed to achieve some measure of tactical deterrence. Despite constant Israeli threats to wage an all-out war in Gaza, there is a pervasive sense among Israelis that "a lengthy presence, even partial, in the Gaza Strip could turn into a copy of the First Lebanon War, where our soldiers became sitting ducks, targets of roadside bombs and ambushes, for 18 years," as Haaretz military analyst Yoel Marcus put it.

The Israel-Hamas agreement underscores the failure of the policy of military terror, siege and starvation against Gaza supported by the US, the EU and some Arab states. But it also fits into a wider regional picture of the declining influence of the Bush Doctrine.

For years, the US has tried to divide the region into US-backed "moderates" (Jordan, Egypt, the Gulf states, Abbas' Palestinian Authority and the Fouad Siniora government in Lebanon) in an alliance anchored by Israel and Saudi Arabia, and arrayed against so-called "extremists" (including Hamas, Hizballah and Syria) whom the US alleged were mere pawns of Iran.

The US banned its clients from having any dealings with "extremists," even though this brought Palestine and Lebanon to the brink of civil war. Despite constant injunctions by US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice that talking to the "extremists" is useless, governments are doing it anyway. If not peace, then rapprochement has been breaking out all over the place: after tense confrontations and fighting in May, the Lebanese government and Hizballah-led opposition struck a power-sharing accord mediated by Qatar. Israel and Syria have been engaged in negotiations mediated by Turkey. The Gulf States have moved to patch up relations with Iran.

Gaza: Anything for a Bath, Anything for Fuel -- Mohammed Omer


GAZA CITY, JunE 18, 2008 (IPS) - The girl, about 16, is wandering about Jebaliya refugee camp, picking up anything she thinks can burn. She cannot find enough bits of wood, so she gathers plastic bags, old notebooks and even a pair of broken plastic sandals.

"I want to heat some water," she said. "I want a bath."

Not far away, Mohammed Abu Elenin, 23, exhaustion all over his face, prepares for a fourth night outside a gas station to refill his canister. His brother Nour has sat up with him. Earlier he could get half a fill. Now he doesn't know what may come, but waits.

"Some weeks ago, I managed to get a half cylinder of cooking gas," he says. "It lasted just one week. Now we have nothing to cook with."

His family, like others, have turned to cooking over makeshift fires. That fills houses with smoke, and it is dangerous. And now firewood too is scarce.

Umm Othman, 43, mother of nine, waits like the others. "It's become impossible for me to feed and take care of my children and my husband," she says. Her sons are not at home, she has sent them to queue for gas.

And amidst all this, come questions who is to blame, Hamas or Israel. "I can't stand it," says a woman sharing a crowded taxi on way from Rafah border crossing to Gaza City. "There is no gas, and there is no space to make a fire." "This is Palestinians' choice," says a man in the taxi. We voted for Hamas, and now we should take the consequences."

At once, several passengers turn against him. They accuse him of trying to turn people against the democratically elected Hamas. Another passenger, Mosbah Abu Dayiah, 43, speaks against Hamas. "If they can't manage, they should leave the government to others who can." The others turn now against him, and insist they will stand by Hamas.

Gaza is on the brink, and Israel is keeping it that way. Israel makes sure Gaza gets just a fraction of its needs of fuel, says Mahmoud al-Khozendar, vice-president of the Petrol Station Owners Association. And when it does come in, the priority is fishermen, bakeries and farmers.

But he finds this is doing Hamas little harm. "The fact that Israel has created the cooking gas and fuel shortage is actually helping Hamas maintain support," he says.

Following the visit by the UN fact-finding mission led by Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Israel has allowed a little more fuel in, says Khozendar. But shortages are being exacerbated now by a diversion of cooking gas to run cars.

One taxi driver began running his car on expensive olive oil. He asked his passengers therefore to pay more. And that led to arguments with passengers. "I also have a family to feed," he pleaded. He begged the passengers to consider also that his car will be ruined if he uses too much olive oil.

In home after home, in street after street, such struggles continue. Abu Dayiah doesn't see it getting any better. "The world doesn't care." (END/2008)

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Activists Turn to Blackwater over Darfur

Found on a nameless website -- nameless because they never publish my comments. Imagine!

http://www.ft.com/cms/s/4699eda6-3d65-11dd-bbb5-0000779fd2ac,dwp_uuid=a99ba554-4d15-11da-ba44-0000779e2340,print=yes.html

Mia Farrow, the actress and activist, has asked Blackwater, the US private security company active in Iraq, for help in Darfur after becoming frustrated by the stalled deployment of a United Nations peacekeeping force.

Ms Farrow said she had approached Erik Prince, founder and owner of Blackwater, to discuss whether a military role was either feasible or desirable.

She acknowledged that many people might have reservations about Blackwater being involved in Darfur – the company’s men were involved in the fatal shooting of 17 Iraqi civilians last September – but said the threat of violence to refugees meant all options had to be explored.

“The people in the camps would say ‘we don’t care whether it’s Blackwater, any-water, as long as they help us’,” she told the Financial Times.

Mr Prince has raised the possibility of a role in Darfur for security companies.

Ms Farrow, who represents Dream for Darfur, a human rights group, and other lobbyists this week lambasted the UN Security Council for its “shameful” failure to halt killings in the Sudanese province.

The criticism came on the eve of a report on Wednesday by diplomats of the 15-member council who visited Sudan this month, with some envoys acknowledging the structure of the UN-African Union Mission in Darfur (Unamid) force was flawed and that the Sudanese government was not interested in seeing an effective international force on the ground.

The activists, who claim China has used the threat of its Security Council veto to prevent tough sanctions on its ally, urged the UN to stand up to Khartoum in the deployment of a 26,000-strong force. They said the Sudanese government had abused its right to approve contingents in an effort to ensure only relatively poorly trained and equipped African troops were assigned.

“How long will you continue to allow the government of Sudan to manipulate this body?” Ms Farrow asked council members. “Did Adolf Hitler get to choose which troops should be deployed to end his genocide?”

Sudan and its militia allies are blamed for most of the violence in a conflict with rebels in Darfur, the western province where the UN estimates up to 300,000 have died in the past five years. Sudan disputes that figure.

Richard Williamson, US special envoy to Sudan, said that since Unamid took over from a small African Union force in January, only 585 more UN peacekeepers had been deployed and that the remaining two thirds of the planned force had been delayed by the Sudanese government and by a lack of equipment. “If we continue to do what we’ve done, the genocide in slow motion will continue,” he said.

"Good life" May Soon Be Redefined -- Jerry Large in the Seattle Times

We skipped Copper River salmon last week.

Eating the fish has become a tradition for my family, but it's just too expensive now.

For us in many small ways, and for this country in a big way, life is changing.

My family is making the kinds of adjustments typical of middle-class Americans. We're driving less ($55 to fill a tank), buying more frozen vegetables and fewer fresh ones, bringing lunch to work more often.

On Father's Day, we ate fish and chips at Gene Coulon Park rather than going to a more expensive restaurant.

The park is in Renton, which is determined to become the new Kirkland or Bellevue.

The economy looks bright from Coulon, which is ringed by new condos and apartments. It's on the edge of The Landing, a huge development still partially under construction.

This area has boomed in recent years, but we are now feeling some of the economic bumps plaguing the rest of the country.

Or, I should say, some of us have recently started feeling it more.

There are lots of people around here for whom Copper River salmon was never an option, and others for whom price is no object.

The ends of the economic spectrum are moving further apart and the middle class is hard pressed to avoid sliding backward. That's not how it was supposed to be.

Renton aspires to move up from blue-collar because that's the American expectation.

It certainly was my aspiration. I worked and followed the rules because I wanted part of the dream.

I got part of it, too.

But real wages started declining while I was in college. I didn't notice so much when I went to work because I was doing better than the previous generation of my family.

But the slide's effects mounted. Lots of people compensated by financing their dreams with debt.

And wages are so far down now that the expectations I left home with at 18 won't all hold true for the next batch of 18-year-olds.

They're seeing American consumers hunkering down and General Motors pouring its research dollars into electric cars.

People growing up with the new realities won't just have different spending patterns, they will have different values.

What will motivate future workers? It won't be an expectation of generous pensions and ever-increasing wages.

They'll think differently about work and life, which might be a blessing. Our notion of success, in which upward mobility is demonstrated by the acquisition of bigger houses, bigger cars and more stuff, is unsustainable.

People less driven by economics might have less stuff but more balanced lives. Certainly they'll have less impact on the environment.

Maybe a less competitive society will reduce some of our inequalities. I don't know.

Living in a time of such significant transition is like standing in a stream seeing the bottom clearly until someone takes a stick and stirs up the silt. Everything will be murky until the sand settles again.

People will still aspire to live the good life, but it'll be a more modest version.

Freed Guantanmo Captives Get No "Sorry"

WASHINGTON — To date, the U.S. government hasn't given any former detainee financial compensation or apologized for wrongfully imprisoning him, shipping him around the world and holding him without legal recourse.

The 38 former Guantánamo detainees found to be no longer enemy combatants by tribunal hearings were flown out of Cuba with nothing but the clothes on their backs and assorted items such as copies of the Quran and military-issue shampoo bottles.

"It's particularly deplorable that none of the 38 NLECs [no longer enemy combatants] have been compensated, since the U.S. has officially recognized that they weren't 'enemy combatants,' even under the broad U.S. definition," said Joanne Mariner, of Human Rights Watch.

Ian Seiderman, a senior legal adviser for Amnesty International, agreed. "The fact that [compensation] hasn't happened at all, even in a small number of cases, shows that this administration is more concerned with avoiding scrutiny and accountability than it is the rule of law," said Seiderman, who previously served as a legal adviser to the Geneva-based International Commission of Jurists and assistant to the special rapporteur on torture for the United Nations.

Seiderman cited two U.N. measures — including the 1966 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, for which the United States is a signatory — that he said call for compensation in cases such as those of many former Guantánamo detainees.

The former general counsel of the Defense Department, William Haynes, and the general counsel of the State Department, John Bellinger, declined interview requests, as did several other officials.

Human-rights advocates said they don't expect action from the U.S. government soon. The Bush administration has cut off most domestic legal channels, often claiming cases can't proceed, either because the evidence involved includes state secrets or because those who might be charged are immune from prosecution.

The administration also has refused to take part in foreign court proceedings in which international laws against cruel or unusual treatment of detainees could be enforced.

When Congress passed the Military Commissions Act of 2006, it included a section forbidding U.S. courts from hearing almost any detainee cases against the government or its representatives. The act blocks legal actions related to "any aspect of the detention, transfer, treatment, trial or conditions of confinement of an alien who is or was detained by the United States and has been determined by the United States to have been properly detained as an enemy combatant or is awaiting such determination."

In January, the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia dismissed a case filed by four former Guantánamo detainees who said their mistreatment amounted to physical torture and religious harassment.

The court agreed with the government that even if the former detainees, all British citizens, had been tortured, those who tortured them would be protected under the Federal Employees Liability Reform and Tort Compensation Act of 1988, which provides immunity in some cases to federal workers for actions done within the scope of their employment.

Ferry Worker John Norby Stands Up for Immigrants

"I ain't got no quarrel with no immigrants — legal or not," said Norby, a former sailor from Whidbey Island.

Portion below; whole thing here:
http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/localnews/2008005698_ferries19m.html

A Washington state ferry worker has denounced the Border Patrol for using a plainclothes agent to monitor activity at the Anacortes ferry terminal, the same location where the federal agency has been widely criticized for conducting security spot-checks of domestic ferry runs.

John Norby, who works at the terminal directing traffic, said a plainclothes Border Patrol officer approached him in April and asked him if he'd be interested in sharing "intelligence."

"This is a federal police force asking civilians to inform on civilians," Norby said this week.

But Border Patrol officials say having a plainclothes officer patrolling the terminal is standard procedure, part of their efforts to secure the terminal, and nothing out of the ordinary for a law-enforcement agency.

In late February, the Border Patrol started conducting unannounced ferry security checks of domestic ferry runs arriving in Anacortes from the nearby San Juan Islands, drawing ire from local government and sharp reactions from pro-immigrant and civil-liberties groups.

The spot checks also have struck fear among Hispanic residents of the islands, and many have not ventured off the islands for months.

The islands are in Northwest Washington's inland waters, a few miles from Canada's Vancouver Island, and lie close to the international-shipping routes used by huge cargo ships that call at Seattle and Tacoma.

The maze of islands, channels and coves has been used for decades by smugglers trafficking in everything from Prohibition-era booze to the potent British Columbia marijuana of today.

As of late May, the spot checks have produced 49 arrests — and 48 of those arrested were Latin American immigrants, according to Border Patrol figures. The people were arrested for being in the United States illegally and now face deportation.

For Norby, those statistics and the plainclothes agent — who is Hispanic — indicate the Border Patrol is targeting a selected group of people. He said the plainclothes agent essentially is spying on ferry passengers — and approaching state workers to do the same.

"I ain't got no quarrel with no immigrants — legal or not," said Norby, a former sailor from Whidbey Island.

But the Border Patrol has denied Norby's claim that the agency is trying to infiltrate the Hispanic community.

God Watches Cable--MSNBC

MSNBC kept repeating yesterday that a rainbow appeared mysteriously (and miraculously) over Washington, DC just after the service for Tim Russert. They implied that their God was involved somehow. I am sure that their God, taking time from his busy schedule of judging peoples and casting them to his Rotisserie-of-humans hell, watches American cable news all the time.

General Who Probed Abu Ghraib: Bush Officials Committed War Crimes

Found on Angry Arab Newservice
Portion below; whole thing here:

http://www.mcclatchydc.com/244/story/41514.html

WASHINGTON — The Army general who led the investigation into prisoner abuse at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison accused the Bush administration Wednesday of committing "war crimes" and called for those responsible to be held to account.

The remarks by Maj. Gen. Antonio Taguba, who's now retired, came in a new report that found that U.S. personnel tortured and abused detainees in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, using beatings, electrical shocks, sexual humiliation and other cruel practices.

"After years of disclosures by government investigations, media accounts and reports from human rights organizations, there is no longer any doubt as to whether the current administration has committed war crimes," Taguba wrote. "The only question that remains to be answered is whether those who ordered the use of torture will be held to account."

Taguba, whose 2004 investigation documented chilling abuses at Abu Ghraib, is thought to be the most senior official to have accused the administration of war crimes. "The commander in chief and those under him authorized a systematic regime of torture," he wrote.

A White House spokeswoman, Kate Starr, had no comment.

Taguba didn't respond to a request for further comment relayed via a spokesman.

The group Physicians for Human Rights, which compiled the new report, described it as the most in-depth medical and psychological examination of former detainees to date.

Doctors and mental health experts examined 11 detainees held for long periods in the prison system that President Bush established after the 9-11 terrorist attacks. All of them eventually were released without charges.

The doctors and experts determined that the men had been subject to cruelties that ranged from isolation, sleep deprivation and hooding to electric shocks, beating and, in one case, being forced to drink urine.

Bush has said repeatedly that the United States doesn't condone torture.