Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Is Democracy Melting? -- Arundhati Roy

Ending paragraphs below; whole article (What Have We Done to Democracy) here:

Perhaps the story of the Siachen Glacier, the highest battlefield in the world, is the most appropriate metaphor for the insanity of our times. Thousands of Indian and Pakistani soldiers have been deployed there, enduring chill winds and temperatures that dip to minus 40 degrees Celsius. Of the hundreds who have died there, many have died just from the elements.

The glacier has become a garbage dump now, littered with the detritus of war -- thousands of empty artillery shells, empty fuel drums, ice axes, old boots, tents, and every other kind of waste that thousands of warring human beings generate. The garbage remains intact, perfectly preserved at those icy temperatures, a pristine monument to human folly.

While the Indian and Pakistani governments spend billions of dollars on weapons and the logistics of high-altitude warfare, the battlefield has begun to melt. Right now, it has shrunk to about half its size. The melting has less to do with the military standoff than with people far away, on the other side of the world, living the good life. They're good people who believe in peace, free speech, and in human rights. They live in thriving democracies whose governments sit on the U.N. Security Council and whose economies depend heavily on the export of war and the sale of weapons to countries like India and Pakistan. (And Rwanda, Sudan, Somalia, the Republic of Congo, Iraq, Afghanistan… it's a long list.)

The glacial melt will cause severe floods on the subcontinent, and eventually severe drought that will affect the lives of millions of people. That will give us even more reasons to fight. We'll need more weapons. Who knows? That sort of consumer confidence may be just what the world needs to get over the current recession. Then everyone in the thriving democracies will have an even better life -- and the glaciers will melt even faster.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Mobilization for Health Care for All

Be one of the 100!

Friday, September 25, 2009

America's Teacher -- Naomi Klein Interviews Michael Moore

Part of interview below; whole article here:

NK: All right. Let's talk about the film some more. I saw you on Leno, and I was struck that one of his first questions to you was this objection--that it's greed that's evil, not capitalism. And this is something that I hear a lot--this idea that greed or corruption is somehow an aberration from the logic of capitalism rather than the engine and the centerpiece of capitalism. And I think that that's probably something you're already hearing about the terrific sequence in the film about those corrupt Pennsylvania judges who were sending kids to private prison and getting kickbacks. I think people would say, That's not capitalism, that's corruption.

Why is it so hard to see the connection, and how are you responding to this?

MM: Well, people want to believe that it's not the economic system that's at the core of all this. You know, it's just a few bad eggs. But the fact of the matter is that, as I said to Jay [Leno], capitalism is the legalization of this greed.

Greed has been with human beings forever. We have a number of things in our species that you would call the dark side, and greed is one of them. If you don't put certain structures in place or restrictions on those parts of our being that come from that dark place, then it gets out of control. Capitalism does the opposite of that. It not only doesn't really put any structure or restriction on it. It encourages it, it rewards it.

I'm asked this question every day, because people are pretty stunned at the end of the movie to hear me say that it should just be eliminated altogether. And they're like, "Well, what's wrong with making money? Why can't I open a shoe store?"

And I realized that [because] we no longer teach economics in high school, they don't really understand what any of it means.

The point is that when you have capitalism, capitalism encourages you to think of ways to make money or to make more money. And the judges never could have gotten the kickbacks had the county not privatized the juvenile hall. But because there's been this big push in the past twenty or thirty years to privatize government services, take it out of our hands, put it in the hands of people whose only concern is their fiduciary responsibility to their shareholders or to their own pockets, it has messed everything up.

NK: The thing that I found most exciting in the film is that you make a very convincing pitch for democratically run workplaces as the alternative to this kind of loot-and-leave capitalism.

So I'm just wondering, as you're traveling around, are you seeing any momentum out there for this idea?

MM: People love this part of the film. I've been kind of surprised because I thought people aren't maybe going to understand this or it seems too hippie-dippy--but it really has resonated in the audiences that I've seen it with.

But, of course, I've pitched it as a patriotic thing to do. So if you believe in democracy, democracy can't be being able to vote every two or four years. It has to be every part of every day of your life.

We've changed relationships and institutions around quite considerably because we've decided democracy is a better way to do it. Two hundred years ago you had to ask a woman's father for permission to marry her, and then once the marriage happened, the man was calling all the shots. And legally, women couldn't own property and things like that.

Thanks to the women's movement of the '60s and '70s, this idea was introduced to that relationship--that both people are equal and both people should have a say. And I think we're better off as a result of introducing democracy into an institution like marriage.

But we spend eight to ten to twelve hours of our daily lives at work, where we have no say. I think when anthropologists dig us up 400 years from now--if we make it that far--they're going to say, "Look at these people back then. They thought they were free. They called themselves a democracy, but they spent ten hours of every day in a totalitarian situation and they allowed the richest 1 percent to have more financial wealth than the bottom 95 percent combined."

Truly they're going to laugh at us the way we laugh at people 150 years ago who put leeches on people's bodies to cure them.

"In Palestine" - Part II

"In Palestine" - Part I

"Tell me what a Police State Looks Like" by Cindy Sheehan

“Pittsburgh is what a police state looks like!”

I have been to dozens of protests, large and small, since my son was killed in Iraq, but I have never seen anything like today and the only term I can use is: Profound Overkill. There were easily two cops/soldiers for every one of us protesters"or maybe even 3 to 1.

About two thousand of us gathered in Arsenal Park in Pittsburgh to try and march downtown. We were all peaceful and had no weapons. We had only traveled a few blocks when cops dressed like they were in full combat with heavily armed opponents stopped us and blocked our way with a new weapon called “LRAD:” A new “crowd control” device. LRAD stands for: “Long Range Acoustical Device.” I was, unfortunately near it when the cops turned it on. It's painful.

The group dispersed and went in many different directions. Some of us got to a corner a few blocks up from where we were initially stopped and I am not kidding, at least 500 cops were stopped in formation at this intersection with their gas masks on and nightsticks at the ready to crack the head of anyone who actually tried to peacefully cross their lines"unarmed, of course.

I spoke to dozens of cops today and tried to explain to them that we peaceful protesters are only trying to exercise our 1st Amendment rights and the cops should be protecting us, members of their own class, and not suppressing our freedoms and actually physically hurting us.

There was absolutely no reason for the over-reaction of the police state to the protesters today. Do not believe the news propaganda that says the protesters were the cause of the violence"it was the cops. The thugs even dropped tear gas from helicopters. We're like ants trying to struggle against anteaters.

Seeing the National Guard troops, fresh from Iraq, broke my heart the hardest. I also talked to dozens of them, none had ever heard of posse commitatus, and asked them if my son, their brother, died in Iraq so they could steal the rights of his mother. Most of them wouldn't even look at me. The cops and soldiers should be ashamed of themselves for allowing their selves to be used as tools of the Robber Class “elites.”

“Just following orders” is not a defense.

The G20 will announce tomorrow that they will become the new “permanent council” for international economic cooperation. Who the hell do they think they are? Who voted for this? Who gives them the authority to have this power over our wellbeing and our very lives?

We do, that's who.

We allow the Robber Class complete, destructive control over our lives by not taking to the streets and outnumbering the thugs 10 to 1; 100 to 1; 1000 to 1"

There's so few of them and so many of us.

When we will learn?

From the G20 protests in Pittsburgh, PA...11:38 pm
Author's Bio: Cindy Sheehan is the mother of Spc. Casey Austin Sheehan, who was KIA in Iraq on 04/04/04. She is a co-founder and President of Gold Star Families for Peace and the author of two books: Not One More Mother's Child and Dear President Bush.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Free Mohammad Othman Now!

Free Mohammad Othman Now!

Yesterday, October 22, Mohammad Othman was detained and arrested by soldiers on the Allenby Bridge Crossing, the border from Jordan to Palestine. He was returning from a trip to Norway.

Mohammad, 33 years old, has dedicated the last ten years of his life to the defense of Palestinian human rights. His village, Jayyous, has lost most of its land to the Wall and the settlements. He has worked constantly to let the world know about the Israeli crimes against his people and has developed relations of international solidarity.

It is not the first time, Palestinian human rights defenders are arrested after trips abroad. Muhammad Srour, an eye witness to the killing of Arafat Khawaje, 22, and 20-year-old Mohammed Khawaje, who were both shot on a Gaza solidarity demonstration in Ni’lin on 28th December. He testified in front of the UN Fact Finding Mission on Gaza and, in a clear act of reprisal, he was arrested on his way back. This strategy of arrests complements the overall policy of isolation of the Palestinian people behind checkpoints, walls and razor wire.

We call on international solidarity and human rights organizations to act immediately to bring attention to this case and advocate for the release of Mohammad Othman by:

Recommended Actions:

  • Encourage others to join this campaign through petitions, demonstrations and / or letter writing / phone calling. Please provide them with contact information and details;
  • Urge your representatives at consular offices in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem/Ramallah to demand the immediate release of Mohammad Othman. (For your consular contacts, see:;
  • Let the Israeli Embassy in your country know that you are campaigning for Mohammad’s release and for a just and lasting peace based on international law.
  • Bring the case of Palestine’s first BDS prisoner of conscience to the attention of local and national media outlets;
  • Follow the blog and facebook to free Mohammad Othman to see the latest updates and action alerts.



Mohammad Othman, however, represents only one of the 11,000 Palestinians being held in Israeli prisons. More than 800 are being held in “administrative detention”, meaning that they are imprisoned (indefinitely) without charge. International solidarity has to hold Israel accountable and achieve an end to the large scale repression and mass imprisonment of Palestinians as part of their efforts to bring about an end to the occupation and the restoration of Palestinian rights.

Sample letter:

Dear x,

I am writing to you to express my deepest concern about the detainment of Mohammad Othman yesterday, September 22, at the border between Jordan and the West Bank. He was returning home after a visit in Norway.

I fear that the detainment of Mohammad Othman is a result of his peaceful criticism of violations of international law by Israeli authorities. The charges against him have not been made clear, but there is reason to believe that he is a prisoner of conscience, arrested solely for his human rights work through legal organizations. I therefore urge for the immediate and unconditional release of Mohammad Othman.

In the meantime, I ask that Mohammad Othman is protected from any form of torture or ill-treatment, and that his rights as a detainee are fully respected for as long as he remains in custody.

Thank you for your prompt attention to this urgent matter.

Save Gaza Vigil -- Saturday, Noon, Westlake Plaza

Saturday, September 26


Westlake Plaza, 4th & Pine

"Do you think you have seen it all?" Click here


Tuesday, September 22, 2009

UfSP at "Big Insurance -- Sick of It" Rally 9-22-09

Here we gather at People's Park at 3rd & Yesler with about 200 other healthcare advocates. While there were many public option signs available, lots of people snatched up our single payer ones.

Here's our "Single Payer = Healthcare for All" banner with
the new addition of a "" mini-banner along the bottom now.

We passed out many "truth about 3200" leaflets.

After the rally, everyone marched up to Cigna Insurance at 5th & Columbia.
"Sick of big insurance" was a theme we could ALL relate to.
"Cigna we know your name, what you're doing is a shame" was the chant if I'm remembering it correctly.

We got about 10 new people signed up for UfSP and let folks know single payer is ALIVE AND KICKING!!!! Lots of folks thanked us for being there.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Carlos Latuff on the US Response to Goldstone & Khalid Amayreh

Part of article below; whole thing:
Israel is unusually furious over the publication this week of the Goldstone commission report which accuses the apartheid regime of committing war crimes and crimes against humanity in the Gaza Strip during the bloody blitz against the coastal Palestinian territory nearly nine months ago.

Israeli officials and hasbara doctors have been railing against Goldstone, who is both Jewish and Zionist, to the extent of accusing him of “anti-Semitism,” an increasingly stale and ineffective weapon which Israel resorts to when all other propaganda tools don’t work.

Benyamin Netanyahu, the extremist Prime Minister of the Zionist regime has even asked US Special Envoy to the Middle East George Mitchell to assist Israel, especially at the American arena, in order to curb the fallout from the report.

Meanwhile, Israel is embarking on a frantic propaganda campaign to discredit the report. In the past, Israel succeeded in endearing itself to western public opinion by enlisting the often Jewish-controlled media which effectively helped disseminate the Zionist narrative. In so doing, that media often turned the black into white, and the big lie into a “virtual truth” glorified by millions of gullible westerners who wouldn’t overburden themselves with the task of finding out the “real truth.”

Now, Israel is facing an uphill task doing the same job successfully.

First of all, Goldstone has, by and large, done a professional job. His report is nearly completely devoid of rhetorical overindulgence and presents facts and as facts without any overly tendentious interpretation.

Hence, the anti-Semitic insinuations made by Israeli hasbara officials should be treated as no more than cheap diversionary tactics aimed at evading the facts. In fact, Goldstone’s own daughter has been quoted by the Israeli press as saying that had her father not been at the helm of the investigating commission, Israel would have been condemned much more harshly.

Second, nearly all credible human rights commissions, including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and even Israel’s own B’tselem had more or less reached the same conclusions about the December-January blitz, namely that Israel knowingly and deliberately targeted innocent civilians.

More to the point, numerous Israeli soldiers who participated in the virtually genocidal onslaught on the nearly completely unprotected enclave have testified that they had been instructed to shoot and kill innocent civilians, including people carrying white flags.

As an observer of Israeli behavior for many years, I have no doubt that Israeli leaders realize that they did commit war crimes and crimes against humanity. After all, many Israeli military and political officials are bona fide war criminals who would be thrown immediately behind bars in any country with even minimal adherence to the rules of justice and norms of civility and human decency.

However, these war criminals think, at least privately, that Jews shouldn’t be subject to the same rules of war that apply to other nations. Hence, they don’t view the deliberate collective murder of innocent civilians as “wrong.”

Indeed, a few days ago, an Israeli cabinet minister urged the international community to grant Israel special treatment concerning the conduct of war, presumably one that would allow the Israeli occupation army and paramilitary Jewish terrorists to murder with impunity.

I strongly believe that the international community must adopt a stringent and morally uncompromising stand against Israel. In the final analysis, war crimes and crimes against humanity can’t be treated as diabolic in places like Nazi Germany and the former Yugoslavia while ignored or dismissed as “controversial” when Israel is involved.

This is why, the Goldstone Commission report’s recommendations ought to be presented to the International Court of Justice in The Hague as soon as possible.

Friday, September 18, 2009

44,000 Americans Die Every Year from Lack of Health Insurance

More than 44,000 Americans die every year – 122 every day – due to lack of health insurance.

That’s the startling finding of a new study – Health Insurance and Mortality in U.S. Adults – that appears in the current issue of the American Journal of Public Health.

The 44,000 dead a year estimate is about two-and-a-half times higher than an estimate from the Institute of Medicine in 2002.

The Harvard-based researchers found that uninsured, working-age Americans have a 40 percent higher risk of death than their privately insured counterparts, up from a 25 percent excess death rate found in 1993.

“The uninsured have a higher risk of death when compared to the privately insured, even after taking into account socioeconomics, health behaviors and baseline health,” said lead author Dr. Andrew Wilper. “We doctors have many new ways to prevent deaths from hypertension, diabetes and heart disease – but only if patients can get into our offices and afford their medications.”

“Historically, every other developed nation has achieved universal health care through some form of nonprofit national health insurance,” said study co-author Dr. Steffie Woolhandler, a professor of medicine at Harvard and a primary care physician in Cambridge, Massachusetts. “Our failure to do so means that all Americans pay higher health care costs, and 45,000 pay with their lives.”

“Even the most liberal version of the House bill would leave 17 million people uninsured,” Woolhandler said. “The whittled down version that Senator Max Baucus is proposing would leave 25 million uninsured. That translates into about 25,000 deaths annually from lack of health insurance. Absent the $400 billion in savings you could get from a single payer system, universal coverage is unaffordable. Politicians in Washington are protecting insurance industry profits while sacrificing American lives.”

The study, which analyzed data from national surveys carried out by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), assessed death rates after taking education, income and many other factors including smoking, drinking and obesity into account.

It estimated that lack of health insurance causes 44,789 excess deaths annually.

Previous estimates from the Institute of Medicine and others had put that figure near 18,000.

The methods used in the Harvard were similar to those employed by the Institute of Medicine in 2002, which in turn were based on a pioneering 1993 study of health insurance and mortality.

Deaths associated with lack of health insurance now exceed those caused by many common killers such as kidney disease.

An increase in the number of uninsured and an eroding medical safety net for the disadvantaged likely explain the substantial increase in the number of deaths associated with lack of insurance.

The uninsured are more likely to go without needed care.

Another factor contributing to the widening gap in the risk of death between those who have insurance and those who don’t is the improved quality of care for those who can get it.

The research, carried out at the Cambridge Health Alliance and Harvard Medical School, analyzed U.S. adults under age 65 who participated in the annual National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys (NHANES) between 1986 and 1994.

Respondents first answered detailed questions about their socioeconomic status and health and were then examined by physicians.

The CDC tracked study participants to see who died by 2000.

The study found a 40 percent increased risk of death among the uninsured. As expected, death rates were also higher for males (37 percent increase), current or former smokers (102 percent and 42 percent increases), people who said that their health was fair or poor (126 percent increase), and those that examining physicians said were in fair or poor health (222 percent increase).

“The Institute of Medicine, using older studies, estimated that one American dies every 30 minutes from lack of health insurance,” said study co-author Dr. David Himmelstein. “Even this grim figure is an underestimate – now one dies every 12 minutes.”

The authors broke down the 44,840 deaths by state.

California leads the nation with 5,302 deaths due to lack of health insurance per year.

Texas follows closely behind with 4,675 deaths due to lack of health insurance per year.

Texas also had the highest rate (in 2005) of uninsured citizens — 29.7 percent.

5 Members of UN Security Council Sell Over 85% of Worlds Arms

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Universal Health Care Message To Americans, Dos Equis, Two X's From Canada

Laila Al-Arian in Seattle, Sept. 20th, 6-9 p.m.

6 - 9 pm,
University Friends Meeting House, 4001 9th Ave NE

The Arab American Community Coalition, National Lawyers Guild Seattle, the Middle Eastern Legal Association of Washington (MELAW), and AFSC present:

Journalist Laila Al-Arian who will discuss her book "Collateral Damage: AMERICA'S WAR AGAINST IRAQI CIVILIANS" coauthored with Chris Hedges. She will also speak about the status of the U.S. government's political prosecution of her father, Dr. Sami Al Arian. Laila Al-Arian is a writer and producer for Al Jazeera English in Washington. Collateral Damage is based on 2007 Nation investigative reporting and was selected as one of Project Censored's 25 most important undercover news stories of 2008.

Talk with sweets, tea, and coffee. info Rita Zawaideh 206-634-9001 or Bernice Funk 206-723 6339

ALSO: MON SEPT 21, 5 pm, at Elliot Bay Bookstore, 101 S Main St, Seattle

British Trade Union Congress Votes to Boycott Israel

Congress condemns the Government of Israel’s January offensive in Gaza resulting in 1,450 Palestinians deaths and 5,000 injured and the massive destruction of infrastructure.

Congress further condemns the ongoing blockade that is in contravention of International Law.

Congress calls on the General Council to:

i) use its influence with the British Government to make appropriate representations to the international community to secure support for a negotiated settlement based on justice for the Palestinians

ii) build solidarity with the Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions.

Congress condemns the Histadrut statement of 13 January 2009 in which it backed the attacks on Gaza and calls on the General Council to carry out a review of the TUC’s relationship with Histadrut.

Congress calls on the General Council to pressure the Government to:

a) condemn the Israeli military aggression and end the blockade on Gaza

b) end all arms trading with Israel

c) impose a ban on the importing of goods produced in the illegal Israeli settlements in the Occupied Territories

d) support moves to suspend the EU-Israel Association Agreement.

Congress further calls on the General Council to encourage affiliation to the Palestine Solidarity Campaign and to develop an effective Boycott, Disinvestment and Sanctions campaign by working closely with the PSC to:

1) raise greater awareness on the issues

2) promote a targeted consumer-led boycott

3) encourage trade unionists to boycott Israeli goods, especially agricultural products that have been produced in the illegal settlements

4) encourage campaigns of disinvestment from companies associated with the occupation.

Gideon Levy: "Disgrace in The Hague"
September 17, 2009 "Haaretz" -- There's a name on every bullet, and there's someone responsible for every crime. The Teflon cloak Israel has wrapped around itself since Operation Cast Lead has been ripped off, once and for all, and now the difficult questions must be faced. It has become superfluous to ask whether war crimes were committed in Gaza, because authoritative and clear-cut answers have already been given. So the follow-up question has to be addressed: Who's to blame? If war crimes were committed in Gaza, it follows that there are war criminals at large among us. They must be held accountable and punished. This is the harsh conclusion to be drawn from the detailed United Nations report.

For almost a year, Israel has been trying to argue that the blood spilled in Gaza was merely water. One report followed the other, with horrifyingly identical results: siege, white phosphorous, harm of innocent civilians, infrastructure destroyed - war crimes in each and every report. Now, after the publication of the most important and damning report of all, compiled by the commission led by Judge Richard Goldstone, Israel's attempts to discredit them look ludicrous, and the empty bluster of its spokespersons sound pathetic.

So far they have focused on the messengers, not their messages: the researcher for Human Rights Watch collects Nazi memorabilia, Breaking the Silence is a business and Amnesty International is anti-Semitic. All cheap propaganda. This time, though, the messenger is propaganda-proof. No one can seriously claim that Goldstone, an active and ardent Zionist, with deep links to Israel, is an anti-Semite. It would be ridiculous.

Although there were some propagandists who actually tried to use the anti-Semitism weapon against him, even they knew this was farcical. One had to hear the moving interview that Goldstone's daughter Nicole gave to Razi Barkai on Army Radio Wednesday, to understand that he is in fact a lover of Israel and its true friend. She spoke, in Hebrew, of the mental anguish her father experienced and of his conviction that, had he not been there, the report would have been much worse. All he wants is an Israel that is more just, she explained.

Neither can anyone doubt his legal credentials, as a top-level international jurist with an impeccable reputation. The man who found out the truth about Rwanda and Yugoslavia has now done the same regarding Gaza. The former chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court in The Hague is not only a legal authority, he is also a moral authority; therefore complaints about the judge won't hold water. Instead, it is time to look closer at the accused. Those responsible are first and foremost Ehud Olmert, Ehud Barak and Gabi Ashkenazi. So far, incredibly, none of them has paid any price for their misdeeds.

Cast Lead was an unrestrained assault on a besieged, totally unprotected civilian population which showed almost no signs of resistance during this operation. It should have raised an immediate furor in Israel. It was a Sabra and Chatila, this time carried out by us. But there was a storm of protest in this country following Sabra and Chatila, whereas after Cast Lead mere citations were dished out.

It should have been enough just to look at the horrendous disparity in casualties - 100 Palestinians killed for every Israeli - to shake the whole of Israeli society. There was no need to wait for Goldstone to understand that a terrible thing had occurred between the Palestinian David and the Israeli Goliath. But the Israelis preferred to look away, or stand with their children on the hills around Gaza and cheer on the carnage-causing bombs.

Under the cover of the committed media, and criminally-biased analysts and experts - all of whom kept information from coming out - and with brainwashed and complacent public opinion, Israel behaved as if nothing had happened. Goldstone has put an end to that, for which we should thank him. After his job is done, the obvious practical steps will be taken.

It would be better for Israel to summon up the courage to change course while there is still time, investigating the matter genuinely and not by means of the Israel Defense Forces' grotesque inquiries, without waiting for Goldstone. Olmert and Tzipi Livni must be brought to pay for their scandalous decision not to cooperate with Goldstone, although at this point that is spilled milk. Now that the report is on its way to the ICC and arrest warrants could soon be issued, all that remains to be done is to immediately set up a state inquiry commission in order to avert disgrace in The Hague.

Perhaps next time we set out to wage another vain and miserable war, we will take into account not only the number of fatalities we are likely to sustain, but also the heavy political damage such wars cause.

On the eve of the Jewish New Year, Israel, deservedly, is becoming an outcast and detested country. We must not forget it for a minute.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

"A turning point for the US solidarity movement" -- Nada Elia

Part of article below; whole article here:
This weekend at the eighth annual US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation national organizers' conference held in Chicago, delegates from the approximately 300 member groups that make up the US Campaign voted in favor of an academic and cultural boycott of Israel. The vote came on the heels of a presentation by Omar Barghouti and myself on behalf of the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel and the US Campaign for an Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel.

The proposal that "the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation should endorse the principle of cultural and academic boycotts" passed by a landslide with one abstention and not a single objection. The quasi-unanimous vote, and the deep collective breath of relief that followed, will go down in history as the moment US-based Palestine solidarity activists overcame tactical differences that had long hindered us, to finally come together to confront Israeli apartheid.

The history of the Palestinian struggle for self-determination, independence and human rights is sadly one of missed opportunities. Historically, Palestinian aspirations have not been achieved due to a corrupt and feckless leadership and petty internal divisions.

But we have also learned that change will not come from above. It will and must come from the grassroots, the people, those who have nothing to lose but their prison walls, the daily humiliation of life as a refugee, a second- or third-class citizen, or a non-citizen. Representing the broadest coalition of Palestinian society, from various parts of historic Palestine as well as the global Diaspora, these Palestinians are the ones who jointly issued the call for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS), modeled off of the same call that helped bring apartheid in South Africa to an end, giving direction to a global movement in support of this boycott call.

Mirroring the limits of the Palestinian leadership, the history of solidarity activism is blemished by opportunities missed because of fragmentation and discord, where there should have been a shared vision for the good of the Palestinian people. However, as the participants of this weekend's conference voted in favor of heeding the Palestinian call to join the global BDS movement, they finally set this country on the path to justice. Citizens, organizations and even government officials the world over, from Bangladesh to South Africa to Norway, have already responded to this Palestinian-led movement.

After resistance to comprehensive BDS measures at previous conferences meetings these organizers with the US Campaign have now responded with an overwhelming "yes," indicating that the tide has shifted in the US. This time around, these activists are not returning to their communities to tell them that the moment to heed the Palestinian boycott call is not yet right. The complicity of silence, of unwarranted self-censorship, has finally ended, and the US can join the global chorus clamoring: "no more!"

Indeed, it is past time for those in the US concerned with justice for Palestine to learn from history and acknowledge and challenge Israeli apartheid. Apartheid in South Africa was abolished through a successful global BDS campaign, and a successful BDS campaign can put an end to Israeli apartheid. Anyone who fears that ending apartheid in Israel would "destroy" that country probably believes, or logically should believe, that South Africa was "destroyed" in 1994.

This struggle will neither be quick nor easy. While the South African call for BDS was issued from a small basement apartment in London by a handful of Black South African students in 1959, apartheid wasn't officially abolished until 1994. As the title of Nelson Mandela's autobiography declared: a long walk to freedom. But history is on our side, as more and more activists are now responding to the Palestinian call.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

NYTimes Puts Misleading Headline on Devastating UN Report on Israel's Gaza War Crimes

Portion of NYTimes article below; whole article here:Link

The report, the bulk of which focused on the Israeli violations, said that during the war, Israeli forces engaged in a deliberate policy of collective punishment in furtherance of “an overall and continuing policy aimed at punishing the Gaza population” through blockades and the destruction of food, water and sanitation systems of its people.

In one case, armored bulldozers of the Israeli forces systematically flattened the chicken coops of a farm that reportedly supplied 10 percent of the Gazan egg market, killing all 31,000 chickens inside. In another, the forces carried out a strike on a sewage plant wall, sending 200,000 cubic meters of raw sewage into neighboring farmland, the report said. The panel did not find a justifiable reason for the Israelis’ actions in either case.

It also found that the Israeli forces used disproportionate force against the Palestinian civilian population. In a number of cases, it said, Israeli forces launched “direct attacks against civilians with lethal outcome,” even when the facts indicated no justifiable military objective. Based on the available evidence, some of those incidents, the report concluded, amounted to war crimes.

One such event took place in the Samouni neighborhood in Gaza City, when Israel soldiers shelled a house where soldiers had forced Palestinian civilians to gather. In seven cases, the report found, “civilians were shot while they were trying to leave their homes to walk to a safer place, waving white flags and in some cases, following an injunction from the Israeli forces to do so.”

Israeli forces also intentionally attacked civilians in aiming a missile strike at a mosque during the early evening prayer, killing 15 people, and in firing antipersonnel flechette munitions, which release thousands of metal darts, on a crowd of family members and neighbors at a condolence tent, killing 5.

Israeli forces twice shelled civilian hospitals in Gaza, but in neither case was the attack justified, the report found. In the attack on Al Quds Hospital, the shelling of the building and an adjacent ambulance facility with white phosphorus shells caused fires that took a day to extinguish, and at no point was any warning given of an imminent strike, the report said. The panel found no evidence of the enemy fire that the Israeli military cited as rationale for its attack.

“These incidents indicate that the instructions given to the Israeli forces moving into Gaza provided for a low threshold for the use of lethal fire against the civilian population,” the report said. The conduct of the Israeli armed forces in these instances, it said, “constitute grave breaches of the Fourth Geneva Convention” and as such, “give rise to individual criminal responsibility.”

Palestinian armed groups, the group found, fired repeated rockets and mortars into southern Israel. By failing to distinguish between military targets and the civilian population, those actions also “constitute war crimes and may amount to crimes against humanity,” the report said.

Responding to Israeli allegations that Palestinian fighters used civilians as human shields, the panel found that Palestinian armed groups did launch rockets from urban areas in Gaza, and that Palestinian armed groups “were not always dressed in a way that distinguished them from civilians.”

However, the mission found no evidence that Palestinian combatants “mingled with the civilian population with the intention of shielding themselves from attack,” the report said, nor did it find evidence to suggest that Palestinian armed groups “either directed civilians to areas where attacks were being launched or forced civilians to remain within the vicinity of the attacks.”

Muntader Free!! Tortured in Prison, Will Identify Torturers

“I saw the chance and I seized it,” he said. “If those who blamed me knew how many destroyed houses I walked over with those shoes that I threw; and how many times those shoes mixed with the blood of the innocent; and how many times those shoes went into homes where the honor of those who lived there was disgraced, then it was probably the proper response.”

BAGHDAD — Hours after his release from prison, the Iraqi journalist who hurled his shoes at former President George W. Bush said that he had been tortured while in jail, and his family said that he would flee Iraq, fearing for his life.

“Here I am free, and my country is still captured,” said the journalist, Muntader al-Zaidi, during a news conference Tuesday at the television station where he had worked.

He said that he was beaten with pipes and steel cables, and that he received electric shocks while in custody. He added that there were many who would like to see him dead, including members of unidentified American intelligence agencies.

Mr. Zaidi did not take questions after his brief remarks, but family members said he would travel to Greece, where he would receive medical and psychological care.

“He is going to flee,” said his brother, Uday al-Zaidi. Part of the reason he fears for his life, his brother said, is that he plans to identify the people who played a role in his mistreatment, including high-ranking security officials.

Mr. Zaidi said that after he was arrested after hurling his shoes at Mr. Bush at a December news conference, he was shackled, soaked in water and kept in a place with no heat in the cold night.

Ali al-Mosawi, an adviser to Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, said that the accusations should be viewed skeptically, since Mr. Zaidi had just been released from prison. He did not address the specific charges.

In a room packed with reporters and family members, Mr. Zaidi described the anger and helplessness he experienced after the American invasion in 2003, the suffering of widows and orphans he witnessed and why he felt compelled to wage a protest.

“I saw the chance and I seized it,” he said. “If those who blamed me knew how many destroyed houses I walked over with those shoes that I threw; and how many times those shoes mixed with the blood of the innocent; and how many times those shoes went into homes where the honor of those who lived there was disgraced, then it was probably the proper response.”

Security was tight around the television studio where Mr. Zaidi spoke, with dozens of police officers and other armed escorts cordoning off much of the neighborhood. On the streets, supporters banged drums, chanted his name and slaughtered sheep in his honor. Inside, family members wept with joy, even though they knew that Mr. Zaidi might not be able to return to Iraq in the near future.

The Iraqi government, which was acutely embarrassed by the shoe-throwing episode, played down Mr. Zaidi’s release, barring the family from meeting him at the prison gates and quietly escorting him to his family’s residence in the capital. Given Mr. Zaidi’s cult hero status, his charges that he was mistreated could resonate widely.

Mr. Zaidi, 30, was originally sentenced to three years in prison, but this spring that was reduced to a one-year jail term. He was released after nine months for good behavior, court officials said.

Mr. Zaidi was a journalist for an independent Iraqi television station, Al Baghdadiya, when he attended the news conference with Mr. Bush on the president’s final visit to Iraq during his administration.

As stunned members of the traveling White House press corps and other Iraqi journalists looked on, Mr. Zaidi rose from his seat and shouted in Arabic, “This is a gift from the Iraqis; this is the farewell kiss, you dog!”

He then whipped one of his shoes straight at Mr. Bush’s head, narrowly missing him as the former president quickly ducked.

Before anyone could react, Mr. Zaidi, only 12 feet from Mr. Bush, had his other shoe in hand and shouted once again, “This is from the widows, the orphans and those who were killed in Iraq!”

Prime Minister Maliki, standing at a lectern next to Mr. Bush, stuck a hand in front of the president’s face to help shield him and, once again, Mr. Bush ducked and was not struck.

Mr. Zaidi was then wrestled to the ground and hustled out of the room.

On Tuesday, he said he was severely beaten by Iraqi security officers even as the news conference continued inside.

Mr. Bush first joked that he could report that the shoe was a size ten. Then he played down the episode, saying it was a sign of democracy.

“That’s what people do in a free society, draw attention to themselves,” he said.

Mr. Zaidi described what happened over the next few hours. “At the time the prime minister went on a satellite television station, saying that he did not go to sleep until he made sure that I found a comfortable bed and a cover, at the very same moment he was talking, I was being tortured,” he said. He added that his treatment in custody included “electric shocks and being beaten by electric cables and steel rods.”

Mr. Zaidi offered no proof and looked in fine physical condition at his news conference, but he was missing a front tooth.

The incident, which was shown repeatedly on television programs across the globe, seemed to crystallize for many the deep anger felt toward the United States over its invasion and occupation of Iraq.

From Libya, where he was awarded a Medal of Freedom, to Syria, where banners of praise were unfurled on street corners and his photo was shown on state television all day, Mr. Zaidi has been lionized.

There was even an offer from a wealthy Saudi citizen to buy one of the shoes for $10 million. It is unclear where the shoes actually are at the moment, but an Iraqi security official said he believed they are still being held by the government.

Mr. Maliki initially said that he believed Mr. Zaidi had been put up to the act by a “head cutter,” apparently referring to Sunni insurgents tied to Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, which frequently beheaded their enemies.

Mr. Zaidi said that he had no ties to political groups and that he was acting purely out of rage at what the American occupation had cost Iraq.

Even after nine months in jail, Mr. Zaidi did not back down from his denunciation of Mr. Bush and the war.

“I was roaming throughout the past years of the war in our scorched land and I was seeing with my own eyes the pains of the victims and hearing the weeping of the grieving women and orphans,” he said. “Shame was chasing me, like an ugly name for my helplessness.”

Through clenched teeth, he promised himself that if the chance came he would avenge those victims.

“The chance came,” he said. “And I did not miss it. “

Israel's blockade causes water crisis in Gaza - 14 Sept 09

Monday, September 14, 2009

Desperate, Desperate: Gaza Ramadan day 23

*Hamsa al Bateran, outside his one-room home, April 2009
Yesterday Hamsa called me. It’s been a while since I’ve seen him, though I did visit his family two weeks ago –he was out, looking for work.

Hamsa has never directly asked for any help. It has been due to my suggestions and the financing of outside supporters, that Hamsa accepted the small donations offered. His initial reaction was evident disgust at the notion of being helped by someone. I made clear that the donations being offered were in solidarity, were not intended to be a permanent reality rendering Hamsa aid-dependent.

Rather, we acknowledged that his donkey had been killed in the Israeli war on Gaza, that his means of an income –however paltry –had been destroyed.

With reluctance, Hamsa accepted a few donations. With some money, he bought chickens, to produce eggs for his wife and he and possibly to sell them. With a larger donation we bought a horse to replace his donkey. He began scouring the streets again for recyclable plastics, creating work for himself. Periodically, he would be asked to move things with his horse and cart, for a fee.

His horse got ill. This was problematic as he could no longer work with it and he was spending precious money on vet fees and medicine for the horse.

Then Hamsa’s newborn son, Ali, got ill.

He didn’t even call me then to ask for help.

He sold the horse, spent much of the money on Ali’s hospital bills and Ali improved.

Now, his 3 month old is in good health, he swears. And his wife Iman’s health is also fine.

But Hamsa has no source of income yet again, and his legs are giving him trouble.

After his first donkey was killed, Hamsa collected the plastics using his bike to get around. He made many trips and earned a bare minimum, below the bare minimum for most of us.

But he’d say, “we’re living, we’re getting by,” when I asked.

When I visited Hamsa first, I saw the hole they live in. I know that a great many Palestinian in Gaza are cramped in similar hovels. Yet when you get to know the individuals living in such conditions, the shock of their situation hits home.

Hamsa and Iman live in what must be 4m by 4m concrete brick room with asbestos tiling. Everything about it is wrong, bad for their health, difficult. In summer it boils, no breeze enters the single window, and the smell of the toilet adjacent (no door) belches into their living/dining/cooking/sleeping room.

In winter it will be frigid, freezing.

They cook over kerosene, or sometimes fire when they scavenge wood. Their diet is substandard, like the majority in Gaza, relying heavily on bread, cucumbers, tomatoes. Potatoes enrich it somewhat.

The chickens have gone, their income is gone, the days are still hot, Iman breastfeeds Ali but her own nutrition is poor.

Today Hamsa called me again, desperate.

“Where are you? Can you visit?”

On the sea at the time, I went to him some hours later, asking him to meet me in between the port and his home, in Saha market.

He continues to age quickly, the stress of worrying about existing adding lines to his face. He’d looked more youthful even 5 months ago.

Walla the life is so hard now. So hard. I don’t know what to do. I don’t know how we’re going to survive this.”

He had never complained before, not when his horse was ill, not when Iman was near delivery and they didn’t have money for the hospital and doctor fees.

"Join Us at the White House to Act Against the Afghanistan War!"

Join us October 5th when we visit the White House, and you can sign the petition to President Obama... HERE!

If you plan on being a part of the October 5th mobilization in Washington, please fill out this online form.

We will be gathering at McPherson Square (15th and I Streets NW) at 10 a.m. on Monday, October 5th and then silently processing (two and a half blocks) to the White House to deliver a letter to Obama and request a meeting. The gathering will feature Liz McAlister as a speaker.

In front of the White House we will be joined by various affinity groups, such as the Atlantic Life Community, Witness Against Torture, Veterans for Peace, World Can't Wait, and Activist Response Team. Other groups fully endorsing the action and participating are Peace Action, Code Pink, the War Resisters' League, and Student Peace Action Network. During this action we will all be following the Nonviolence Guidelines listed on this site.

For those actively participating, we ask that either a "We Will Not Be Silent" t-shirt, or a simple black shirt be worn.

We are calling for withdrawal of all U.S. troops from Afghanistan, ending the illegal bombing with US drones, including neighboring Pakistan, and the closing of the Bagram prison and ending indefinite detention and torture. We are calling for an end to these wars and occupations, including that of Iraq, so that our resources can be used for life-sustaining actions including the funding and the rebuilding of Afghanistan̢۪s and Iraq's infrastructure and medical assistance to Afghans and Iraqis, in addition to poverty reduction programs in the United States and world wide. We are calling for accountability for those who have committed war crimes.

If you wish to join us in DC on the Monday of the same week our nation will be entering its 9th year of War in Afghanistan, contact the NCNR Co-Conveners! We will meet on Sunday, Oct. 4th, 2-5 p.m. at the Festival Center located at 1640 Columbia Road NW.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Al Quds-Jerusalem: Ethnic Cleansing

Al Quds Jerusalem: Ethnic cleansing and denial of the Palestinian identity.

Al Quds, Jerusalem is the main target of the ethnic cleansing: Palestinian families evicted, house demolitions, Arab neighbourhoods totally besieged by Jewish settlements, construction of the tramway of Apartheid, excavations under the Al Aqsa mosque...
Video: 10 min, produced in support of the BDS campaign (boycott, disinvestment, sanctions)
Production: Mireille Court and Chris Den Hond
Filmed in April 2009.

Mr. Fish: Barack Obama Commemorating the 9/11 Anniversary...

Palestinian Pundit

Glenn Greenwald in "Oh Bummer" -- Preview of Obama's Preventive Detention Plan

By all accounts, the White House is going to unveil its proposal for indefinite detention within the next four to eight weeks, and it has begun dispatching proponents of that scheme to lay the rhetorical groundwork. In The Washington Post today, one of the proposal's architects -- Law Professor Robert Chesney, a member of Obama's Detention Policy Task Force -- showcased the trite and manipulative tactics that will be used by advocates of indefinite detention to win support for their radical program [anyone doubting that detention without trials is radical should recall that Obama's own White House counsel Greg Craig told Jane Mayer back in February that it's "hard to imagine Barack Obama as the first President of the United States to introduce a preventive-detention law"; New York Times reporter William Glaberson wrote that "Obama's detention policy "would be a departure from the way this country sees itself"; Sen. Russ Feingold warned that it "violates basic American values," "is likely unconstitutional," and "is a hallmark of abusive systems that we have historically criticized around the world"; The New York Times' Bob Herbert said that "Americans should recoil as one against the idea of preventive detention"; and the Obama policy's most vigorous Congressional proponents are Tom Coburn and Lindsey Graham].

According to Chesney, though, the real extremists are those "on the left" who oppose preventive detention; those who believe that radical liberties such as criminal charges, trials and due process are necessary before the state can put someone in a cage for life; those who agree with Thomas Jefferson that trial by jury is "the only anchor ever yet imagined by man, by which a government can be held to the principles of its constitution." Chesney insists that such people (these "leftists") are (as always) the mirror images of the extremists on the Right, who "carelessly depict civil-liberties advocates as weak-kneed fools who are putting American lives at risk." These two equally partisan, radical, extremist sides (i.e., those who believe in due process and trials and those who oppose them) are -- sadly -- "shrink[ing] the political space within which reasonable, sustainable policies [i.e., Chesney's preventive detention scheme] might be crafted with bipartisan support."

This is how political debates are typically carried out in Washington by the Serious Centrists and Responsible Adults. Chesney writes an entire Op-Ed defending the soon-to-be-unveiled preventive detention policy without describing a single aspect of it. To Serious people, the substance of the policy is irrelevant. What matters is that anyone who opposes it is a radical, partisan, shrill extremist. Conversely, as long as the Obama administration stays somewhere in the middle of the two sides -- between Tom Coburn and Russ Feingold -- then it proves they are being sensible, moderate and responsible, regardless of how extreme and dangerous their proposal actually is, and regardless of how close to Coburn and as far from Feingold as they end up. That's the manipulative formula that always passes for "debate" in Washington and it's what is meant by "centrism" and "bipartisanship."

* * * * *

Chesney's Op-Ed -- a template for how the Obama White House intends to advocate for its detention program -- is nothing more than a cascade of banal Beltway adjectives designed to demonize those who oppose their preventive detention scheme ("polarized" -- "misleading" -- "rancor" -- "vivid and provocative" -- "easy to convey in sound bites, attack ads, blog entries" -- "self-reinforcing particularly for those who confine their news consumption ... to partisan sources" -- "binary choice between black-and-white alternatives, with apocalyptic stakes" -- "distrust and polarization"). Wow -- those who think it's wrong to imprison people without trials, who harbor "distrust in the executive branch," and who believe in due process sure are disruptive, unpleasant, irresponsible, shrill and hysterical: exactly like those on the Right who want to deny trials to people. By contrast, Chesney showers himself and his fellow advocates of preventive detention with the standard Beltway Seriousness praise ("a realistic and sophisticated understanding of what each of the tools can offer" -- "sustainable" -- "effective" -- "nuanced, practical solutions" -- "shun the spirit of polarization and politicization that has come to plague detention policy from both ends of the political spectrum").

But after hailing himself as the Guardian of Serious, Substantive Debate, Chesney goes on to disgustingly accuse certain, unnamed "politicians and "advocacy groups" -- those who "criticiz[e] Republicans for alleged abuses of executive power and civil liberties" and "promiscuously invoke the post-Sept. 11 version of the Imperial Presidency narrative" -- of not really believing what they say. Instead, preventive detention opponents are only raising civil liberties concerns "to rouse the base, generate donations and maintain prominence in the media."

So according to the President's Task Force Member, the ACLU (filled with lawyers who sacrifice greatly to litigate on behalf of the most despised and oppressed), and Russ Feingold (who, representing a Midwestern purple state, defends Constitutional liberties with no prospect of political gain), don't genuinely believe in those causes. They don't really think there's anything wrong with imprisoning people with no trials. They didn't really think the Constitution was threatened by Bush radicalism, and now by Obama's embrace of many of those same policies. They're just pretending they do -- exaggerating the threats those policies pose -- because they're hungry for money and attention. That is the sober, moderate, reflective, substantive, deeply Serious National Security discussion which only Chesney and his fellow adult travelers in the middle are capable of conducting, while those on the extremes rely on "provocative rancor."

Happy Birthday, Leonard! -- No More Birthdays in Prison!

Westlake Park at 5 p.m. on Friday, September 11th.

People gather to demand Leonard's release by President Obama.

Leaflets with Leonard's latest article were distributed.

Leonard's article ("I Am Barack Obama's Political Prisoner Now") can be found here:

Friday, September 11, 2009

Economy: Out of the Woods?


There once was a Bear
Who was lighter than Air
Who went for a walk by the Cliff

On escaping the Woods
He said “now it’s all Good.
I can fly, I can fly, it’s a Gift!”

But this very large Bear
Had been filled with Hot Air
To enable a brief Dead Cat Bump

The Bear woke with a Start
And let out a huge Fart
Then returned to the Earth with a Thump

from LeftBack (a commenter on the above site)

Thursday, September 10, 2009

"We're No. 37" -- An Anthem To Die For!

Here is a little song celebrating our position at #37 in the world in healthcare.

Peltier Vigil -- Friday, 9/11, Westlake Park, 5-6 p.m.

It's Leonard's birthday on Saturday, the 12th, so I'll bring a big sign saying something like "No More Birthdays in Prison -- Free Leonard Peltier" and we can send Leonard a picture of us holding it.

We'll take the picture at 6 p.m., so hopefully we'll have the most people then.

Please come in solidarity Leonard and all political prisoners. And forward this to anyone who may be interested.

Thanks, Linda J.

206.898.3349 (cell)

An Open letter to Mr. Jacob Zuma, President of South Africa -- By Dr. Haidar Eid - Gaza

Mid-portion of article below; whole article here:

Comrade Jacob, the word apartheid never appears once in your speech before the JBD [South African Jewish Board of Deputies]! A listener would never know that you were speaking to an audience who actively support apartheid in another country.

Did you know that racist laws used to forbid Black property ownership in white areas in apartheid South Africa are in force in apartheid Israel? Indigenous Palestinian citizens of Israel are not only prohibited from living on land owned by "Jewish institutions", but are also not allowed by force of "law" to reside in any areas designated "Jewish" either.

I, myself, Mr. President, a resident of Gaza, like so many Palestinians, have legal title to my parents' land in Israel, but have no "legal" right to it because my parents' property, like that of millions of other Palestinians', was taken away from us and given over to Jewish ownership. The facts are that Jews owned only 7% of Palestine before 1948; today 93% is considered "state land" and can only be owned by Jews or Israel.

This is only one example, Comrade Jacob, of the nature of the state your government deems "democratic"and "friendly" despite its past strategic ties with apartheid SA. In your presidential campaign, you were quoted singing "kill the Boer!" And yet, in your speech, you "unequivocally" condemn "all forms of violence from whatever quarter", particularly where civilians are targeted!

I fail to understand this contradiction. Is this a reflection of the difference between comrade Jacob and President Zuma? Do you, as president, think that Palestinians have no right to resist their occupation and dispossession? You even equate our resistance with the War Crimes and Crimes against Humanity committed by the Israeli Occupation forces in the West Bank and, in particular, in Gaza.

Is it too much, comrade Jacob, for us, representatives of Palestinian Civil Society organizations to ask your government to sever all diplomatic ties with apartheid Israel, and endorse... not to say lead the growing global Boycott Divestment and Sanctions campaign against Israel? Is that really too much to ask a democratic post-apartheid South Africa for?

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

"Sarah Palin, the Neocons & Howard Dean Love the War in Afghanistan" -- Jeremy Scahill

The neoconservative Project for a New American Century laid much of the groundwork for the foreign policy of the Bush administration. Its members received important postings in the White House, Department of Defense and other institutions. But what is seldom mentioned is that PNAC achieved its first great political victory during the Clinton administration when PNAC pushed Clinton to sign the Iraq Liberation Act of 1998. In January 1998, the group wrote to Clinton: “[Y]ou have an opportunity to chart a clear and determined course for meeting this threat. We urge you to seize that opportunity, and to enunciate a new strategy that would secure the interests of the U.S. and our friends and allies around the world. That strategy should aim, above all, at the removal of Saddam Hussein’s regime from power.” The Iraq Liberation Act, backed overwhelmingly by Democrats and Republicans and signed by Clinton, made regime change in Iraq official US policy and set the course for the eventual invasion and occupation.

PNAC recently re-branded itself under the new name of the Foreign Policy Initiative. The three major figures behind FPI are well-known neocons William Kristol, Robert Kagan and Dan Senor. “The United States remains the world’s indispensable nation,” the group’s mission statement reads—“indispensable to international peace, security, and stability, and indispensable to safe-guarding and advancing the ideals and principles we hold dear.”

On September 7, the FPI sent a letter to President Obama about Afghanistan, eerily similar to the one PNAC sent Clinton calling for regime change in Iraq in 1998. It praises Obama’s escalation in Afghanistan before calling on him to expand the war even further:
You’ve called Afghanistan an “international security challenge of the highest order, ” and stated that “the safety of people around the world is at stake.” Last month you told a convention of veterans, “Those who attacked America on 9/11 are plotting to do so again. If left unchecked, the Taliban insurgency will mean an even larger safe haven from which al Qaeda would plot to kill more Americans. So this is not only a war worth fighting. This is fundamental to the defense of our people.”

We fully agree with those sentiments. We congratulate you on the leadership you demonstrated earlier this year when you decided to deploy approximately 21,000 additional troops and several thousand civilian experts…

Since the announcement of your administration’s new strategy, we have been troubled by calls for a drawdown of American forces in Afghanistan and a growing sense of defeatism about the war… There is no middle course. Incrementally committing fewer troops than required would be a grave mistake and may well lead to American defeat. We will not support half-measures that repeat the errors of the past.

The list of signators to the FPI letter is a predictable cast of neocon characters who somehow make a living showing how little they know about so much. But there are some new names. Perhaps most comical among them: Sarah Palin, that famed foreign policy visionary. If Palin could see Russia from her backyard, she clearly missed the part where the Red Army got chased back to the Motherland after being defeated in Afghanistan.

With recent polls indicating that the American people are increasingly questioning the US presence in Afghanistan and leading conservatives like George Will saying it’s “time to get out of Afghanistan,” the White House is desperate to find support for its deteriorating war. What is emerging is a sort of neocon alliance with some partisan Democrats backing the White House. The Center for American Progress has teamed up with neocons at public forums supporting the war (and FPI has promoted these events) and has put out pro-war reports supporting the surge in Afghanistan. On Fox News Sunday—hosted by Dick Cheney’s little BFF, Chris Wallace—Howard Dean fumbled his way through a defense of Obama’s Afghan war policy (and went so low as to use neocon talking points about the war being for women’s rights) and found himself in agreement with a table of discredited right-wingers, including Newt Gingrich:

WALLACE: All right. Let me get into one more subject.

Governor Dean, the president will reportedly decide in the next few weeks whether or not to send more troops to Afghanistan. As a leader of the anti-war movement when it came to Iraq, will the liberal wing of the Democratic Party — will you — support the president if he deepens our commitment in that war?

DEAN: I’m not so sure I’m the liberal wing, but I guess I’m the — I’m appointed by you the head of the liberal wing or whatever. No, I — look, I’ve supported the president on this one. I think this is different than Iraq. I think there are people who mean the United States harm over there.

I think — I was very pleased to say the — hear the president a few months ago say, “Look, we can’t win this war militarily.” He gets what we have to do here. And it is true that American public opinion is not supportive of the war effort anymore.

I think this does have something to do with security to the United States. I do believe it has something to do with the role of women in these kinds of societies. I think we ought to be supportive of the role of women and their ability to get an education and things like that. I don’t think that’s the only reason we’re there.

But I’m supportive of the president, and I’m going to continue to be supportive of the president on Afghanistan.

WALLACE: Well, I’m glad we were able to reach these cross-party…

DEAN: Yeah.

WALLACE: … and intra-party divide.

DEAN: You see, it can work. It can work.

WALLACE: I brought — I helped bring you all together.

Our Gift of Silence -- By Ahmed Barqawi

The lack of subtlety in Israel's policy of aggression and land theft towards the Palestinians can only be attributed to our gift of silence, one for which the Israelis' are appreciative and fully exploitive of.

AFP -Agence France-Presse- reported last Monday that French President Nicolas Sarkozy had sent a letter to the family of Israeli captive Gilad Shalit on the occasion of the soldier’s twenty-third birthday which coincided late last month.

In his letter; Sarkozy vowed France's relentless efforts for the freedom of the Shalits’ son, expressing that his thoughts are with them and their son especially on his fourth birthday spent in captivity.

How heartwarming it must be for Gilad's parents, Aviva and Noam, to have on their side the unyielding support of the president of one of the most powerful countries in the world today, the chief resident of the Elysse palace himself, one can imagine the sort of comfort and consolation that they feel to have renowned world leaders carrying their son's "cause" around, campaigning for it on every possible international platform that there is, and why won’t they feel that way; their son garners a great deal of media attention (including Arabic ones), receiving honorary citizenships left and right from the cities of Paris, Rome and Miami, and his “problem” is actually talked about and discussed incessantly in the same hallways and corridors that hold talks of major international issues like the nuclear programs of Iran and North Korea.

Candle vigils are held for him all over the world, gatherings are routinely organized in Israel and in various parts of Europe, and extensive diplomatic efforts are tirelessly exerted all the time to figure out a way to bring one Israeli soldier back to his home (read military base) safe and sound notwithstanding the fact that he was captured during a hostile military operation, fully outfitted with his military uniform and artillery; and chances are had he not been captured; he would’ve probably been facing charges of war crimes right about now for shelling white phosphorous on civilian targets in Gaza.

And given all of that; you’d think with more than 11,000 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails including a number of elected members of parliament; several confirmed cases of torture, psychological abuse (and evidently organ theft) of adult as well as underage Palestinian detainees not to mention 1.5 million imprisoned in the huge solitary confinement that is Gaza with no food, proper medical care or in many cases; with no roofs on top of their heads; you'd think the whole world should be on fire; outraged and mobilized on all levels –political as well as civil- towards salvaging the waning remains of human rights and civil liberties in the occupied territories; but alas we stand in silence; turning our heads the other way as if everything there is as it should be and going according to the plan.

Does Gilad Shalit’s case seriously symbolize the absolute worst of the worst cases of injustice to befallen upon a human being and for which world leaders should reserve their compassion and concern?

Nonetheless, Sarkozy's stance towards resolving Shalit's issue is in a way quiet understandable; after all Gilad Shalit is a French citizen; but what's not comprehensible and even inexcusable; is the ruthless indifference that Arab regimes patently and systematically practice towards the plight of Palestinian people; our rich oil producers are conveniently sidetracked with bailing out western economies (and they're always dependable when it comes to that); while other countries are too busy supplying ridiculously exorbitant amounts of Gas to Tel Aviv; and for the Palestinians what do we have? Aid conferences of course to pacify the public with, the last of which was in Sharm Al-Shaikh following the catastrophic outcome of the December/January Operation Cast Lead in Gaza; and now five months later; we know for a fact that it was as much of a frivolous conference as it was deceitful, it merely acted as a band-aid for a fatal bullet wound, and I am mystified that some of these very same regimes even seem to think a "band-aid" is always more than enough when it comes to Palestine.

How completely desensitized and uncaring we have become to the sheer horrors the Palestinians face each and every day in Gaza, the West Bank and Jerusalem, the whole world literally sat and watched ever so idly -in the comfort of its own double standards- how two Palestinian families were forcibly driven out of their houses at gunpoint in Sheikh Jarrah Neighborhood in Jerusalem and into the streets in some sort of a public display of Israel’s colonialist agenda and expansionism policies notoriously for all the world to see.

And to that end; early last month; a group of cyclists were banned by Egyptian authorities from crossing the Rafah border into the Gaza Strip after what certainly has been a physically excruciating journey biking all the way from Ireland, these cyclists subjected their bodies to tremendous pain for a good cause in solidarity with Palestinians just for Egyptian authorities to dismiss their honorable mission on a whim without even the courtesy of a logical explanationg, and did that even make the news? Of course it didn't.

It seems that we have caved in to the indoctrination of the mainstream media when we’d only have the briefest of moments to sympathize before that now famous and fleeting timeline for our sympathy ends turning it into complete apathy and disregard for a continuous human tragedy that’s only worsening by the minute especially in Gaza; and most of us –as human beings- do not even realize that in doing so we immediately become a huge part of their incalculable measure of suffering, loss and daily torment, let's face it; we do inhabit an informative and over-communicative world today; thus our silence can only be construed as either consent or lack of interest, and I don't know which is worse.

The fact that we stand hushed and lulled is an overpowering indictment of our selves and it’s simply inhumane; that is why we don’t just owe it to the Palestinians -for whom we are certainly duty-bound to support-; but most importantly we owe it to our own moral integrity which constitutes the backbone of our humanity, but now and thanks to a methodical and well-organized indoctrination by the mainstream media, our moral integrity is thinning and it’s thinning fast and lest we shake the cobwebs of fear and ignorance off of our eyes and rise to the challenge, our own sense of humanity will completely erode soon, possibly even before Shalit’s next birthday.