According to Laura Rozen, a journalist specializing in foreign policy matters and writing in Politico (13 January 2011), the Obama administration is seeking “new ideas from outside experts on how to advance the peace process” in the Middle East. This is because the president and his counsellors are “utterly stuck” following the failure of last year’s efforts to strong-arm Mahmoud Abbas and bribe Binyamin Netanyahu into negotiations. Quoting an administration consultant, Rozen tells us “there is no pretence of progress. With the State of the Union coming up and the new GOP [Grand Old Party – the Republican Party] Congress, they [the administration] are taking a few weeks to regroup and solicit ideas to push forward and … to give a real jump-start” to the negotiation process”.
On the surface this would appear to be welcome news. The White House entourages having this revelation that their process, and that of their predecessors too, have all failed and so we need some new, progressive thinking about peace in the Holy Land. Maybe there should be a new approach that would play to the leverage the US can bring to bear on both parties (and not just the Palestinians). But then Rozen proceeds (in a completely dead pan style) to explain to us how the administration is going about its search for “new ideas from outside experts”.
Two separate efforts have been set up to brainstorm these new ideas:
1. “One task force has been convened by Sandy Berger and Stephen Hadley”. Who are they? Berger was national security adviser to Bill Clinton. He was a “prominent actor at the Camp David 2000 Summit”. What about Hadley? He was assistant to Undersecretary of Defence Paul Wolfowitz during George W. Bush’s first term of office and then national security adviser to the president during Bush’s second term. In these positions he worked closely and comfortably not only with Wolfowitz, but also with men like Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld.
2. “A second effort [is] led by Martin Indyk.” And who is Martin Indyk? Indyk served twice as US ambassador to Israel as well as being a member of the National Security Council (NSC) under Clinton. Before that he was deputy research director for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) and served eight years as the executive director of the pro-Israel Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP), which he helped co-found. WINEP is supported by AIPAC. According to Rozen’s report, one of the first things Indyk has done in his search for “new ideas” is to seek out, among others, “senior NSC Middle East/Iran adviser Dennis Ross”. And who is Dennis Ross? Ross was Bill Clinton’s Middle East envoy in the 1990s. Before that he was on Ronald Reagan’s NSC and, along with Indyk, helped co-found WINEP.
These are the people who the Obama administration is looking to for new thinking about the peace process. One is left simply amazed at this development. Almost, but not quite, speechless. For all these men – Berger, Hadley, Indyk and Ross – are strongly biased in favour of Israel, and among the folks who have been running the US side of the peace process at least since the 1980s. They are not “outside experts” at all. They are retreaded inside “experts” whose records, with very minor exceptions, in regard to the peace process, are ones of failure. Going to these people for “new ideas” that will “jump-start” peace talks in the Middle East is like going to Supreme Court Justice Anthony Scalia for a forward-looking and progressive take on the US Constitution. Such an effort is a standing contradiction. It is a rigged game designed to get you the opposite of what you claim to seek.
The unavoidable question is why is the Obama administration wasting its time and our money doing this? The answer has to be first and foremost domestic politics. Although Barack Obama would, understandably, still like to make a positive impact on the Palestinian-Israeli impasse, he is convinced that any effort in this regard must conform to the wishes of domestic political forces led by the Zionist lobby. For instance, what would happen if he decided that all those listed above were hopeless failures and, instead of going to back to them, he was going to turn to, say, Rashid Khalidi, the Edward Said Professor of Modern Arab Studies at Columbia University? Khalidi is undoubtedly an expert on the Middle East and the Palestinian-Israeli question. However, he is also very much in favour of justice for the Palestinians. If President Obama was to consult Khalidi there would be an immediate knee-jerk reaction in Congress consisting of quite literal screaming and yelling. AIPAC would call Obama a man seriously lacking in judgment and Khalidi a friend of terrorists. The president’s possibilities for re-election would, allegedly, recede dramatically. On the other hand, there is no doubt that he would get “new ideas” from an “outside expert”.
The political pragmatist might argue, what good are “new ideas” if they cannot be implemented? But this position accepts the same assumption noted above, that any US president must be tied down by the political power of the Zionist lobby. It is, in fact, an assumption that must be challenged if any future progress is to be made. Thus, the president should take a chance. He should consider making a new and forceful initiative and demand Israeli compliance like Eisenhower did at the end of the Sinai Crisis of 1956. He should go to the American people and explain what he is doing and why. He should use every presidential prerogative there is, including the negative ones, to assure Israeli cooperation, etc. Oh, this is political suicide, answers the political pragmatist; it will never work. But, as is obvious, nothing else has worked to date. We are spending enormous sums to subsidize Israeli obstinacy and, according to General David Petraeus, the man who leads the American effort in Afghanistan, doing so is helping to kill American soldiers. So, go ahead Mr President, take the bull by the horns already.
Alas, he will not. And Rozen’s report is proof positive that the president will not do this. He is first and foremost a domestically-oriented politician cut out of a very standard mould. Politically, then, it has been judged safer to resurrect the dead in the form of Berger, Hadley, Indyk and Ross. So, there you have it. What is necessary for success in the peace process is always assumed to equal political failure at home. On the other hand, political success at home (which entails letting the Zionist lobby set the criteria for what is possible) equals continued failure of the peace process. It also equals ever increasing danger for US interests in the Middle East and the Muslim world. This latter equation is not based on an assumption. It is a historically demonstrated fact.
This is why we fail. No one wants to seriously test the old standing assumptions. Our political system is ossified. It is trapped in a lobby-driven, financially-corrupt rut. And until we find a way out of it we are doomed to go round in circles. That is what the administration’s pseudo effort at seeking “new ideas from outside experts” amounts to, going in a circle. Round and round and round and round.
Back in September 2010, a series of FBI raids were conducted in Minneapolis/St. Paul, Chicago and North Carolina. These raids were conducted under laws pertaining to US citizens providing “material aid to terrorists” and targeted members of antiwar, leftist, and solidarity organizations. Since the raids, various activists that were targeted have been subpoenaed to appear at a grand jury and have refused to do so. By refusing, those subpoenaed are risking arrest for contempt. However, as of this writing, none have been taken to jail yet. As I wrote in an article first published in CounterPunch on September 27, 2010: “These raids are a clear and vicious attempt to intimidate the antiwar movement.” and the grand jury “is a fishing expedition, as evidenced (for example) by the warrant asking for papers from no determined time.”
The reaction of those whose homes were raided and their supporters was quick and determined. The targeted activists, their attorneys, and local supporters held a couple of press conferences within days of the raids and original subpoenas and a national network organized protests at Federal Buildings in a number of US cities and towns. Resolutions attacking the raids and subpoenas and pledging support for the activists and the right to organize were introduced and passed by a number of city councils and antiwar and labor organizations. The office of the US Attorney for the Northern Illinois District under the direction of US Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald temporarily withdrew the subpoenas. However, they were reinstated in December, leading to the aforementioned refusal of those subpoenaed to appear in front of the grand jury. Several more subpoenas were served on other activists. In fact, nine more activists have been ordered to testify before the grand jury on January 25, 2011 in Chicago.
A sidebar regarding Patrick Fitzgerald might be beneficial here. If that name seems familiar, it is because he is associated with many high profile cases. He helped prosecute Scooter Libby in the case known as the Valerie Plame affair. For those who don’t remember this case, it involved members of the George Bush White House releasing the name of a CIA agent to the media–a federal offense. Although Libby was convicted of the crime, it has always been believed that others in the White House, including Vice President Cheney, were involved in its commission. This demands the question as to why no one else was prosecuted and how much the prosecutor (Fitzpatrick) was involved in limiting the prosecution to one individual, thereby sparing the White House from a criminal investigation. Patrick has also been involved in many other high profile cases, including the prosecution off Illinois governors Ryan and Blagojevich in separate corruption cases and a case involving torture by the Chicago police that resulted in the conviction of Chicago detective Jon Burge.
In another investigation targeting leftist, anarchist and antiwar political activists in the Twin Cities, several homes and offices were raided before and during the 2008 Republican National Convention in Minneapolis. If one recalls, that convention also saw the arrest of media members including Amy Goodman of Democracy Now, brutal attacks on protestors by police and private “contractors” working with police, and a lockdown against free speech activities in certain areas of the city. Several hundred people were arrested and many were beaten. Nine organizers were eventually charged with acts of terrorism. During their trial it became clear that the organizations these individuals were affiliated with had been infiltrated by government informers.
Similarly, last week the AntiWar Committee (one of the organizations targeted in the September raids) of the Twin Cities discovered that they too had had an informer in their midst since 2008. Going by the name Karen Sullivan, this woman claimed to be a single parent and a lesbian who did not get along with her child’s father. According to statements from members of the AntiWar Committee that appeared in the press, the group’s members were sympathetic to her cover story and, despite an initial concern by some members, accepted and befriended the woman. Also, since the AntiWar Committee (AWC) believed their meetings and activities to be covered by the first amendment and were always open to the public, there was little concern for secrecy.
“Ms. Sullivan” involved herself in AWC activities and meetings, even chairing some of them. She was also one of three AWC members that traveled to Palestine. As soon as they reached Israel, the members were told they would be detained unless they turned back. Two chose to stay and were detained while “Sullivan” went back to the US. It turns out that the Israeli authorities had prior knowledge of the visit and the intention of the group to meet with Palestinian women. While no one in the group could figure out how this was so, it seems apparent now that the “Ms. Sullivan” had provided this information to her handler who had in turn provided it to US officials, who then passed it on to the Israeli government.
In the wake of the January 8, 2011 shooting in Tucson, Arizona there have been calls by a number of politicians, media commentators and others suggesting the need for new laws limiting political speech in the United States. Meanwhile, efforts are underway in Congress to renew sections of the PATRIOT Act that are due to expire soon. History tells us that when laws designed to curb political speech are enacted in the US, they are used primarily against groups and individuals on the left side of the political spectrum. There is no need for more laws. Instead, there is a need for more free speech. Laws like the PATRIOT Act and The Effective Death Penalty and Anti-Terrorism Act of 1996 and the subsequent interpretation of those laws by the courts have criminalized political activities that were previously legal. The investigation that led to the raids and grand juries discussed here are an example of this.
The intention of the government in this and other similar investigations is to intimidate people into keeping silent so they can carry on their business with a minimum amount of attention from the public. As the discovery of an informer in the AWC shows, they will stop at nothing in their attempt to silence protest against their imperial designs. It doesn’t matter if they get any convictions or even an indictment out of their fishing expedition. If they have intimidated those who oppose imperial war and support people around the world in their struggle against military occupation, they will have accomplished their goal. This is reason enough to support those currently targeted by the FBI in the investigations discussed here. It is more than enough reason to attend the protests against the grand jury on January 25, 2011 around the US.
Ron Jacobs is the author of The Way the Wind Blew: A History of the Weather Underground. Jacobs’ essay on Big Bill Broonzy is featured in CounterPunch’s collection on music, art and sex, Serpents in the Garden. His first novel, Short Order Frame Up, is published by Mainstay Press. His most recent book, titled Tripping Through the American Night is published as an ebook. Fomite (Burlington, VT.) is publishing his new novel, titled The Co-Conspirator’s Tale in Spring 2011 He can be reached at: email@example.com
Inspired by posts on The Passionate Attachment and America-Hijacked.com, argonium79 has produced a powerful short documentary on the inextricable relationship between Israel’s occupation of Palestine and America’s massive military budget. It’s the Occupation, Stupid features, in order of appearance, Eliot Spitzer, Ben Stein, Irving Kristol, Ron Paul, Michael Scheuer, Richard Curtiss, Eric Margolis, Loretta Alper, Scott Horton, Alison Weir, Glenn Greenwald, Paul Findley, Ilan Pappé, Osama bin Laden and George W. Bush. The narrator’s words are from Maidhc Ó Cathail’s “Ben Stein: America is an underarmed country!” and “Kristol Clear: The Source of America’s Wars.”
The Ships of Poison Cover-Up
By MICHAEL LEONARDI | January 21, 2011
While the global and Italian national media focuses on allegations of Berlusconi’s latest sexual exploits including reports of hedonistic orgies with teenage prostitutes at his luxurious villas, the much more devastating story of the intentional sinking of ships laden with radioactive and toxic materials into the Mediterranean Sea has quietly developed some new twists and turns in another of Italy’s notorious and grand cover-ups. Surely Berlusconi’s sexcapades make Bill Clinton’s impeachable blow job pale in comparison, but the the tabloid headlines could be replaced by the indignation of the Italian Media at least, with the intentional contamination of the beloved blue waters of the Mediterranean and the dismantling of the Italy’s social democracy rather than dedicating the entirety of their attention to prostitutes being paid to entertain one of our most sick and twisted world leaders.
We pick up this story in June of 2010 with the revelations that there is indeed what Italian state prosecutor Bruno Giordano called an “ecological bomb” in the valley of the Oliva river that flows down the mountains and past the towns of Aiello Calabro and Amantea on its way to the Tyrrhenian Sea. This is where it is believed that the cargo of the Jolly Rosso was intentionally dumped and buried. State agencies found the valley to be contaminated with thousands of cubic meters of industrial mud laced with very high levels of cobalt, nickel, mercury, lead, and other heavy metals. They found the presence of cesium 137, and they found more contaminated locations than previously anticipated, leading investigators to believe that not only was the cargo of the Jolly Rosso dumped here but that the area was then used as an illegal dumping grounds for years. There are no industries in this area that produce these materials so it is clear that they were produced and shipped in from other places. A formal request has been made to the minister of the environment Stefania Prestigiacomo to declare this zone an environmental disaster area and to begin cleaning it up. More than six months later there has been NO response.
State secrets still cloak the investigation into the case of what the Italian’s call the Navi dei Veleni Ships of Poison. State secrets still mask the murders of key investigators into the network of international business men, the Italian military, SISMI (the Italian secret service), NATO and state governments as they worked together to create and hide a network of waste and arms trafficking traversing the high Seas from the major Italian port of La Spezia to Alessandria, Egypt, Beruit, Lebanon and onward to Africa and Mogadishu in Somalia. Key investigators into the story of the Ships of Poison, Naval Captain Natale de Grazia, journalist Ilaria Alpi and cameraman Miran Hrovatin lost their lives for what many believe was their discovering of key truths that could expose an international network involving the Italian government that traded military weapons for the disposal of hazardous industrial wastes. Alpi and Hrovatin were gunned down in Mogadishu on the 20th of March 1994 by a Somali commando unit. Captain Natale de Grazia died of sudden cardiac arrest on the 13th of December 1995 only days before he was to deliver his report on his investigation into the Ships of Poison.
Now fast forward to 2011 and several recent developments that should be grabbing headlines. Two Italian journalists, Andrea Palladino, journalist for the communist daily il Manifesto and Vincenzo Mulè, journalist for Terra (Earth) News, have reported on a secret document that has come to the surface in the Parliamentary Commission on the Cycle of Garbage in Italy. This document dated December 11th 1995 describes financing by the Italian government under Lamberto Dini to the Italian Secret Service for the management of trafficking in arms and nuclear waste. While parts of this document have been acknowledged by the parliamentary commission, it still remains state secret. This document became state secret in 1995 and state secrets in Italy are supposed to be bound by a statute of 15 years that should have been up in 2010, however, this document still remains a secret.
Just this week, in an unexpected move from the Parliamentary Commission on the Cycle of Garbage in Italy, the investigation into the murder of journalist Ilaria Alpi and her cameraman Miran Hrovatin was reopened after being closed since 2006. It is believed that Italians paid the Somalis with weapons in exchange for using their sea and land as dumping grounds for toxic and radioactive wastes and that Alpi and Hrovatin had discovered too much. They were gunned down just days after Alpi had interviewed the Sultan of Bosaso, her notes from this interview were never found. Many believe that Alpi was killed because of what she had discovered about the ties between the Italian military and corrupt elements of the Somali leadership. This was all taking place during the time of Blackhawk down and the U.S. led occupation. According to the mafia turncoat Francesco Fonti, they had seen an exchange involving the Italian military and were assassinated for this reason. Their case was reopened because of a note about their deaths that was found among the belongings of Italian businessman Giorgio Comerio by Captain Natale de Grazia’s investigation.
This shady Italian businessman named Giorgio Comerio plays heavily into the reopening of this investigation. Comerio had come up with an idea for disposing of hazardous and radioactive wastes by torpedoing these wastes into the Sea floors. He was notorious for the trafficking of waste and part of a network intent on collecting insurance for old ships that were in need of disposal. His name has been associated with the purchase of the Jolly Rosso, the ship that beached on the shores of Amantea from the Messina shipping company. Old ships it seems are difficult and expensive to dispose of so Comerio and some mafia bosses came up with the bright idea of sinking them and collecting on their insurance policies while at the same time disposing of industrial wastes. Comerio has testified that “disposal at Sea was the only viable option for disposing of radioactive wastes at that time, as sending them off in the space shuttle was too dangerous because of the possibility of an explosion in the Earth’s atmosphere.”
In Captain Natale de Grazia’s investigation he found a report about the killing of Alpi and Hrovatin in Comerio’s files. It has been stated that De Grazia also found a copy of Ilaria Alpi’s death certificate at Comerio’s house on Lago di Como, but that this document disappeared from case files that were in the offices of state prosecutor Francesco Neri in Reggio Calabria. Neri says he remembers this document in the files and that De Grazia’s investigation had discovered it a Comerio’s house but that it has mysteriously disappeared.
Natale de Grazia’s investigation was also focused on another Italian businessman linked to the waste trade from La Spezia. De Grazia was focusing on the major port of La Spezia where NATO operates its undersea research center NURC and where arms and waste shipments are a big business. Orazio Duvia was identified by De Grazia as a key figure in the trafficking of both arms and toxic and radioactive wastes. He was the owner and operator of a mega and quite possibly largest industrial hazardous waste dump in Italy, the landfill of Pittelli on one of the hills overlooking the gulf of La Spezia. According to the research of Andrea Palladino, the CIA looked to the corrupt and criminally operated Pittelli landfill as a model for industrial waste disposal. In May of 1995 De Grazia reported to a group of forest rangers that Duvia’s landfill was one of the logistical platforms for the shipping and sinking of wastes. In this presentation that he made under the code name “pinnochio” in order to protect his identity, he described the sinking of a ship called the Rigel said to be full of nuclear waste and sunk in the waters of the Ionian Sea off the coast of Calabria.
Captain Natale de Grazia was said to be in perfect health by his friends and family. He had however voiced concern about his investigation to his brother in law and had indicated that he may have been treading in dangerous waters as his discoveries led him to conclusions that would be highly uncomfortable for the entire Italian and possibly international power structure. His sudden cardiac arrest happened just days before he was to give his report.
All indicators point to a collusion of forces in this horrific saga of the Ships of Poison, a collusion between SISMI (the Italian secret service), the Italian government, big business, NATO and organized crime families from the Calabrian based crime syndicate l’ndrangheta. Many are now hoping that the reopening of the Ilaria Alpi/Miran Hrovatin case will finally bring the truth to light, but this is doubtful. The Parliamentary Commission on Italy’s Garbage Cycle is being led by a good friend and lawyer of Silvio Belusconi, Gaetano Pecorella. Pecorella began his political career as a radical communist but has moved sharply to the right over the years culminating in what is considered to be the legal mind of the Berlusconi phenomenon. Unless he’s being riddled by some kind of catholic guilt for a life of vile hypocrisy, things don’t bode well for a truly transparent investigation. Pecorella has also defended elements of the Neapolitan based mafia the Camorra noted for its traffic of garbage and creation of the continuing garbage crisis in Naples and surrounding areas.
Italy is at a very critical juncture and whether Berlusconi survives yet again or not is only part of the problem. The Italian economy is in turmoil, the public eduction system is being dismantled and the health care system is under attack while being wrought with corruption. Civil unrest over the past several months has led nowhere but to heightened tensions with an increasingly militarized police state. The country is divided and while a growing majority is crying out for change a large minority still supports the despicable leadership of the neo-fascists running the country. Only time will tell if the mass movement of the past months will bear the fruits of change toward a sustainable economy that are sorely needed. America’s military presence in Italy must be challenged and dismantled for any real change to happen and the center-left has traditionally rubber stamped America’s imperial presence on the peninsula.
Michael Leonardi is currently living in Toledo, Ohio and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Previous coverage of the Ships of Poison saga.
HEBRON — Soldiers at a flying checkpoint on Route 60 north of Hebron shot and critically wounded a Palestinian citizen of Israel on Thursday night.
The Israeli military said events around the shooting were unclear.
Security sources identified the man as 28-year-old Jalal Al-Masri, and said he sustained a bullet wound in his head.
Officials said the Israeli report was that Al-Masri disobeyed orders of checkpoint soldiers and was fired on.
According to reports by the Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth, the military is investigating the possibilities that the driver either did not notice the flying checkpoint, or that he intended to harm soldiers and sped toward it.
Hours earlier in the northern West Bank, the Ya’bad Mevo Dotan checkpoint was closed and eyewitnesses said the body of a Palestinian man remained lying in the car passage terminal after the Israeli military reported a man was shot in an exchange of gunfire.
The slain man, identified as Salem Omar As-Samudi, 24, from Yamoun in the Jenin district, was said by eyewitnesses to have opened fire on Israeli forces at the checkpoint, confirming Israeli military reports that a man approached checkpoint soldiers and opened fire.
Two others had been shot dead at checkpoints in the last three weeks. On January 8 Israeli troops stationed at Hamra checkpoint east of Nablus shot and killed a Palestinian man who onlookers identified as 25-year-old Khaldoun Sammoudi, of Al-Yamun village near Jenin.
An Israeli military spokesman said a man approached the checkpoint in a taxi, then got out of the vehicle and ran towards forces holding a suspicious object and shouting “Allahu Akbar.” He did not heed orders to stop and forces followed operational procedures and shot him, the army official said.
At the same checkpoint on January 1, soldiers shot and killed a 21-year-old Palestinian identified as Ahmad Maslamani, who a military spokeswoman said approached soldiers in an unauthorized lane carrying a glass bottle and did not heed orders to stop.
Witnesses said the victim approached the checkpoint carrying a coca-cola can, a female soldier shouted at him and two male soldiers immediately opened fire. Medics said Maslamani’s body was riddled with bullets.