Iraqi scientists and doctors are increasingly expressing alarm about threats to their lives as the numbers targeted in killings rise while a weak government seems unable to provide adequate security.
The latest victim in the spree of apparently targeted killings was Zaid Abdul Mun’im, head of research of the molecular department at al-Mustansiriya University in Baghdad. He died after a bomb went off in his car on April 3.
Prior to his death, Mohammed Alwan, a prominent Baghdadi surgeon and the dean of faculty of medicine of the same university, was assassinated on March 29.
Neither of the men had any known political affiliations.
“A government that cannot protect its people, does not deserve to be a government,” said Hikmat Jamil, head of the self-funded group International Society of Iraqi Scientists, and a professor of medicine at the Wayne State University in Michigan.
“We have sent letters to al-Mustansiriya University and the government condemning the assassination of Dr. Mun’im,” he told alarabiya.net.
The British newspaper The Independent placed the death toll of Iraqi academics at more than 470 by the end of 2006.
Reports from the Iraqi Physicians Union said that more than 500 of Iraq’s leading medical professionals have been assassinated and more than 7,000 have been forced to leave the country after receiving death threats.
Analysts have offered many theories as to why physicians and academics have been targeted, but nothing has been substantiated. Some point the finger at Israeli intelligence services. Others believe the U.S. is aware of the planned killings and silently endorses them.
“The [incidents of targeted killings] seem to be continuing since 2003, and I don’t think it will stop in the near future,” said Iyad al-Zamily, founder and editor-in-chief of the Iraqi cultural website, Kitabat.com, based in Germany.
“Some of the academics were forced to seek protection by militias and political parties and to change their political views to blend in, since the government is not capable of protecting them,” he added.
Mr. al-Zamily said he believes there are solutions to combat these target killings, but they get lost amid the political divisiveness which ends up exacerbating security problems.
While the Iraqi parliament is mulling laws to protect Iraqi physicians, them carrying a weapon being the latest, al-Zamily said “all Iraqis are entitled to protection, as everyone is [a target].”
Adil E. Shamoo, an Iraqi-American who is a senior analyst for the think tank Foreign Policy In Focus in Washington and author of Who Assassinated Iraqi Academics? said: “The evidence so far is sufficient to warrant a thorough investigation by an independent body. Iraqis, Americans, and the world need to know the truth.”
The six-member Gulf Cooperation Council, and the U.S. have called on the Obama Administration to “open a serious and transparent investigation” into possible “crimes against humanity.”
Before the 2003 toppling of its then-president Saddam Hussein, Iraq was known for its healthcare. Technologically, its facilities were more advanced than most other Middle East countries. Prior to the U.S.-led invasion, students in the region flocked to Baghdad’s universities and other educational institutions.
(Dina Al Shibeeb of Al Arabiya, can be reached via email at: firstname.lastname@example.org)
The world’s military spending has increased to a record high of $1.6 trillion in 2010, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) says.
The Swedish think-tank said on Monday that the global military spending rose 1.3 percent in 2010, indicating that budget constraints caused by the worldwide financial crisis has slowed the growth of military investment, Reuters reported.
The institute also announced that the top three arms investors are the US, China and Britain, underlining that South America was the region with the largest military spending growth of 5.8 percent.
The Unites States, with extravagant military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, increased the arms investment by 2.8 percent to $698 billion — about six times as much as China which is the world’s second-biggest spender followed by Britain, France and Russia.
The head of the institute’s military expenditure project, Sam Perlo-Freeman, said, “The United States has increased its military spending by 81 percent since 2001… At 4.8 percent of gross domestic product, US military spending in 2010 represents the largest economic burden outside the Middle East.”
China also increased its military expenditures by 3.8 percent in 2010 to $119 billion.
SIPRI said its figures include salaries, costs for operations, purchases of arms and equipment as well as research and development.
“When you’re criticized”, what should you do? asks Brian Martin, a scholar of non-violence. His answer: “Assess the way audiences are likely to perceive things.” That is, create the right impression.
Martin has written an article soon to be published in the Journal of Scholarly Publishing about how to respond to criticism, but it seems he also offers a guide to scholars on how to talk to non-scholars in popular forums – particularly those who have been criticized.
Martin may have been inspired to write his article because he has been criticized here and elsewhere for belonging to a dodgy organization that does openly what the CIA used to do covertly, namely, help people in country’s abroad overthrow their governments. That might not be such a bad thing were the successor regimes leftwing and advanced human progress but they’re invariably rightwing and keen to open their doors to US military bases and exploitation by Western capital.
What’s interesting about the advice that Martin delivers is that he seems to be telling scholars to shed their cloaks of dispassionate scholarly contemplation, in favour of a style of attack suited to persuading non-scholars. His advice: Ignore obscure critics who have no profile (otherwise you’ll give them credibility) and reply only to those who can command an audience. And then to do so with short, clear, punchy replies. Few people will read long, detailed, counter-arguments. Brevity and clarity are important.
If your aim is to win as many people to your side as you can, as opposed to say, thrashing out the issues in scholarly debate to arrive at the truth, there could be no better advice. Which makes you wonder why a scholar is recommending tactics more familiar to those who practice the cut and thrust of sharp political debate, than a battle of evidence and reasoned argument. Could it be that he’s a politician at heart?
I think so. The International Center for Nonviolent Conflict, the outfit Martin belongs to as an academic adviser, is an advocacy organization for non-violent direct action, or what is sometimes deceptively called “peace scholarship.” Peace scholars are not at all interested in peace as you and I understand it (say, avoiding unnecessary conflict). Instead, peace studies amount to figuring out how to win in a political conflict without using insurrectionary violence (because it is often ineffective against modern militaries) or traditional military methods (because it is often impractical). Seizing political power through the use of strikes, demonstrations, boycotts and non-violent sabotage – what used to be called destabilization – is what non-violent conflict is all about, according to the ICNC’s principals. Not surprisingly, militaries take a keen interest in peace scholarship. After all, it’s concerned with what militaries have traditionally existed to do, namely, guard political power at home and take it abroad. It’s not by accident that peace scholars sometimes refer to their discipline as the study of non-violent warfare.
Ah, but the phrase “peace scholarship” makes seizing power through destabilization sound leftwing and gosh, peaceful. It couldn’t possibly be a CIA-style thing, right?
Think again. It’s implicitly understood that when peace scholars talk about seizing political power that this is to happen in other countries, and not, God forbid, the United States, where the ICNC’s chiefs are firmly ensconced in the US establishment leading very comfortable lives, thank-you very much. They would hardly want to carry out a people power revolution close to ICNC headquarters.
The outfit’s founder, Peter Ackerman, is an immensely wealthy investor who engineered the KKR leveraged buy-out of RJR Nabisco and hobnobs with other members of the US establishment on the influential Council on Foreign Relations and various other think-tanks and foundations. Not too long ago he sat on a task force headed by former U.S. National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski and former CIA Director and current U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates. And he once headed the far right Freedom House, which Noam Chomsky and Edward Herman described in their Manufacturing Consent as being interlocked with the CIA.
The ICNC’s defenders say that Ackerman’s connections are irrelevant, and that bringing them up amounts to assigning guilt by association. They have charged one of the ICNC’s most vigorous critics, Michael Barker, with trying to discredit sincere peace activists through a line of attack that amounts to singling out people because “they may have once been in a room with someone who may or may not have worked for the CIA.”
The rhetoric is clear, brief, punchy and memorable – exactly what, one suspects, Martin would recommend. The only problem is that it’s wrong.
Consider Ackerman. Wall Street background. Bags of money. Council on Foreign Relations membership. Task forces with the US foreign policy elite. Former Freedom House supremo. Holds seminars on how to destabilize governments for foreign activists sent his way by the US State Department. Hardly the model of a leftist peace activist. Or consider Lester Kurtz, one of Martin’s ICNC colleagues and another of Ackerman’s scholars. He has admitted to – indeed, was proud to acknowledge on his CV – that he has given advice to the CIA.
And that’s where Martin seems to have taken a wrong turn in his upcoming article. He seems more concerned with impression-making – of the kind that turns a wealthy establishment figure who works at overthrowing the bad boys on the State Department hit list into a left-leaning peacenik — and less with truth-telling. It’s like he’s saying to scholars: “Okay, now let me tell you how successful politicians and PR executives cover up embarrassing revelations.”
Well, one thing politicians, PR experts and other bamboozlers do is to prey on the weaknesses of people’s cognitive heuristics: that is, the ways they deal with complexity and too much information.
How do you tell whether the advice you’re receiving is sound? One way is to evaluate the credentials of the person offering it. For example, who are you going to believe about how you ought to deal with your troubling hernia — a licensed physician, or the local health food fanatic with a certificate in reflexology who peddles hot stone massage and flax seed oil? Evaluating statements about, say nuclear physics or hernia operations, by examining the credentials of the source is a good idea, if you know nothing about nuclear physics or hernias. Cognitive heuristics (that is, mental short-cuts) often work, but sometimes they can lead you astray, especially when unscrupulous people use them to lead you by the hand down the garden path.
One example of using peoples’ mental short-cuts to trip them up is a woman who not too long ago created a huge profile for herself by dispensing tough-love advice to troubled people on the radio. She called herself Dr., lending the impression that she was a psychiatrist or counselling psychologist – a person with credentials to deal with troubled individuals. She was neither. She was, instead, a Ph. D. in physiology. It’s as if your dentist, Dr. Hackensack, masquerades as a physician.
Another example would be a scholar writing a book which he prefaces with a short article by a well-known person who knows nothing about his book. He then presents the book as My Big Ideas, by Dr. X, with a forward by a well-known and admired person. This creates the impression that the well-known person endorses the book, and that the book – and its ideas — must therefore be worth paying attention to. Has this actually happened? Perhaps. Listen to this interview with journalist and science writer Fred Jerome, beginning at the 40 minute mark.
Stephen Zunes, the chief ICNC scholar, makes a habit of letting people know he is a professor with a Ph. D. He often refers to his docent, Ackerman, as Dr. Ackerman, but never as junk bond king Michael Milken’s former right-hand man or “the sniff” as he was known by his colleagues, for plumbing Milken’s proctological depths. Zunes, the sniff’s sniff, also makes sure to refer to critics as Mr. or Ms. even when he hasn’t the slightest idea whether they’re also Ph.D.s, who happen to shun honorific titles and therefore don’t make a big display of their educational attainments. Peacock-like credential displays, with the added intimation that your critics haven’t any, says: “I’m an expert; my critics aren’t. Who are you going to believe?”
Gravitas is related. Noam Chomsky’s gravitas is based on his reputation as a high profile linguist, his connection to MIT, and his prolific book-writing. A short-cut to evaluating whether what he says makes sense is to refer to his credentials. Wow, a guy like this must know what he’s talking about. Astonishingly, someone recently wrote a Z-Net article making a case whose support was largely that his position was based on what Chomsky told him. He was hoping to earn instant credibility by exploiting the cognitive heuristic that makes you deem anything Chomsky says as probably true (or probably wrong if you dislike him) without actually having to do the leg-work to figure it out yourself.
Many people hope that gravitas will unburden them of actually having to produce evidence for what they claim and it appears the hope is not always in vain. They can then make all manner of bold statements and expect to be believed, because, well…they have gravitas. That’s not to say Chomsky does this. But others do.
Here’s an interesting exercise. Read through one of Stephen Zunes’ articles and notice how many statements he makes with complete certitude about matters he couldn’t possibly know to be true. For example, in a recent article he said: “What has been remarkable about the successful civil uprisings against the Tunisian and Egyptian dictatorships, the serious popular challenges to the Yemeni and Bahraini dictatorships and the smaller-scale protests sweeping the region, is that they were completely indigenous and not sullied by foreign intervention.”
To this, I have three replies. First, how could Zunes, or anyone else, possibly know this? Second, what evidence of this does he offer? Answer: Not a speck. And third, if completely indigenous uprisings unsullied by foreign intervention are remarkable, it must be that uprisings that aren’t indigenous and are sullied by foreign intervention are the norm, otherwise how would the indigenous ones be so remarkable? And yet Zunes is always prattling on about how the uprisings in which Uncle Sam and the ICNC have had an obvious hand (e.g., Serbia, Georgia, Ukraine, and attempts in Belarus and Iran) were completely or largely indigenous. It seems Zunes just makes it up as he goes.
Through what magic does he get away with it? The answer is in Martin’s upcoming article. Assess the way the audience is likely to perceive things. And then prey on their mental shortcuts. When you’re short on evidence—or the truth is embarrassing–it’s the only way to go.
The Palestinian village of Deir Yassin was one of five Palestinian villages to the west of Jerusalem that were completely cleansed and destroyed during the ethnic cleansing of 1948 (the other four are Qalunia, Sarris, Beit Surek and Biddou), during the creation of the state of Israel.
Original buildings from the Palestinian village of Deir Yassin are now used by the Kfar Shaul Mental Health Centre, constructed on remains of the village
The village is now best known for the massacre that was committed by the Zionist underground paramilitary groups Irgun and Lehi on 9 April1948, during which around 200 Palestinians were assassinated in cold blood by shooting or hand grenades thrown at their homes.
Deir Yassin was located on the western outskirts of Jerusalem. Most of the village remains have since been destroyed. The area is currently known as Givat Shaoul, and is a largely orthodox Jewish neighborhood. It is also home to Kfar Shaul Mental Health Center, Jerusalem’s largest psychiatric facility, which uses some of the remaining village homes in the hospital compound.
At present, the Venezuelan Jewish community is building a luxury apartment complex on the site of the village. The Jerusalem Municipality, upon approving the Venezuelan development, said that it hopes the surrounding neighbourhood will absorb the Venezuelan immigrants into Jerusalem.
The complex has been named Pninat Har Nof. In addition to the luxury apartments, the Pninat Har Nof complex will have a park for children and a common space building that will house a gym, spa, sauna, squash, and a party room, according to the website.
“As long as the $1.2-trillion annual budget for the military-security complex is off limits (to cutting), nothing can be done about the US budget deficit except to renege on obligations to the elderly, confiscate private assets or print enough money to inflate away all debts,” Paul Craig Roberts, former Assistant Treasury Secretary under President Reagan warns.
In an article titled “Stealing from Social Security to Pay for Wars and Bailouts,” published in the April issue of the “Rock Creek Free Press” of Washington, D.C., Roberts says that Republicans are calling Social Security and Medicare “entitlements”—making them sound like welfare—when, in fact, workers over their lifetimes have contributed 15 percent of all their earnings to the payroll tax that funds these benefits and have every right to them.
And far from Social Security being in the red, between 1984 and 2009, Roberts writes, “the American people contributed $2-trillion…more to Social Security and Medicare in payroll taxes than was paid out in benefits” but “the government stole” that sum to fund wars and pork-barrel projects!
What’s more, under one realistic estimate, far from crashing into the red, “Social Security(OASDI) will have produced surplus revenues of $31.6-trillion by 2085, Roberts says.
Americans, apparently, are unaware of how the federal government’s illegal, foreign wars sap the economy and rob every household. The Iraq war cost alone is 20 percent of the size of last year’s entire U.S. economy. Instead of investing that sum at home, “which would have produced income and jobs growth and solvency for state and local governments, the US government wasted the equivalent of 20% of the economy in 2010 in blowing up infrastructure and people in foreign lands,” Roberts says.
“The US government spent a huge sum of money committing war crimes, while millions of Americans were thrown out of their jobs and foreclosed out of their homes,” he added. Viewed another way, the Pentagon continues to expand and put people to work to modernize its 700-800 bases abroad in order to dominate every corner of the globe while public works and public employment in America are going into the toilet.
“When short-term and long-term discouraged workers are added …the US has an unemployment rate of 22%,” Robert says. A country with that large a percentage out of work “has a shrunken tax base and feeble consumer purchasing power.”
The U.S. media, he claims, is only reporting one-third of the real cost of the wars, leaving out the sums needed for “lifelong care for the wounded and maimed, the cost of lifelong military pensions of those who fought in the wars, the replacement costs of the destroyed equipment, the opportunity cost of the resources wasted in war, and other costs.”
President Obama’s budget, if passed, doesn’t reduce the deficit over the next 10 years by enough to cover the projected deficit in the fiscal year 2012 budget alone, the financial authority writes. “Indeed, the deficits are likely to be substantially larger than forecast,” as the military-industrial complex “is more powerful than ever and shows no inclination to halt the wars for US hegemony,” Roberts says.
Sherwood Ross heads a public relations firm “for good causes” and also runs the Anti-War News Service. Reach him at email@example.com
The Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, through a statement issued by the Foreign Affairs Ministry, reiterated to the United States its extradition request for the terrorist Luis Posada Carriles, who was recently declared not guilty of immigration crimes in a trial in a Texas court .
Posada Carriles is wanted by the Venezuelan justice system for his responsibility in blowing up a passenger airplane of Cubana de Aviacion in 1976, causing the deaths of 73 people.
The full statement follows:
The government of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, expressing the feeling of its people, strongly states its indignation for the farce staged in el Paso, Texas, for continuing to protect terrorist Luis Posada Carriles. He was accused and now declared innocent in the trial for the unusual criminal charges of obstruction of justice and illegal immigration, when in fact his guilt has to do with proven terrorist acts.
The U.S. Department of Justice, before the rejection and indignation brought about by this outrageous judicial farce, stated that it is “disappointed” with the sentence of the court. Nevertheless, over the last five years it has done nothing to allow the initiation of the extradition process requested by Venezuela, which is supported by the innumerable victims of the terrorist acts of Luis Posada Carriles. The U.S. government protection of Posada Carriles has become an emblematic case of U.S. double standards in the international fight against terrorism.
Before this verdict, the Bolivarian Government reiterates the extradition request of Posada Carriles -first presented to the U.S government in 2005- so he can be sent to the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, where he must be prosecuted for the criminal offense of qualified homicide, related to the terrorist attack in which 73 people were killed in the Cubana de Aviacion flight 455, on October 6, 1976.
In this regard, the Venezuelan Ministry of Foreign Affairs has called the Charge d’Affaires of the U.S. Embassy in Caracas on Monday, April 11, to deliver a diplomatic note reiterating the extradition request to Venezuela of Luis Posada Carriles and demanding the U.S. government immediately present the request before the U.S. judicial system, in compliance with the Extradition Treaty signed between Venezuela and the U.S..
Luis Posada Carriles is a terrorist, a fugitive of the Venezuelan justice system. The U.S. government has no other alternative than fulfilling its international obligations, since otherwise it would be once again responsible for abating terrorism.
Caracas, April 8, 2011
Voters in Iceland have rejected the latest plan to repay EUR 3.9 billion (USD 5.6 billion) worth of deposits in a failed online bank to The Netherlands and UK.
Partial results of a national poll show that 57 percent of Icelanders voted against the plan on Sunday. British and Dutch governments had compensated some 400,000 citizens who lost their savings when Iceland’s Landsbanki (Icesave) collapsed in 2008, AFP reported.
The Netherlands and Britain expressed dissatisfaction, and said they are prepared to bring the dispute to the European Free Trade Association court.
Icelandic lawmakers in February backed a repayment plan they had worked on for more than two years. It had been agreed upon by creditors, but the president refused to sign the bill, leading to the referendum.
The agreement would have allowed Iceland to gradually repay its debt at a 3.0 percent interest rate for the EUR 1.3 billion it owes to The Netherlands and the remainder at a 3.3 percent interest rate to Britain until the year 2046.
The amount to be repaid by the Icelandic citizens was calculated to be around EUR 12,000 per person before interest, for a nation with a population of 320,000.
Iceland’s Finance Minister Steingrimur Sigfusson said the voters’ decision would not affect the country’s existing debt repayments nor would it derail its efforts for membership in the European Union.
A previous repayment deal was also rejected by a 93 percent majority in another referendum last year.
At 8.30am yesterday morning around fifty settlers, some masked and armed with guns, descended from Yitzhar settlement onto the Palestinian village of Assira Al Qibliya. International observers from the UK and Ireland witnessed the settlers throwing rocks at homes and people on the outskirts of the village injuring one local, who is being treated in hospital.
Within thirty minutes an army jeep carrying Israeli soldiers arrived. They stood in front of the settlers on the hillside approximately one hundred metres from the Palestinian homes yet did nothing to prevent their attacks. The soldiers could be seen firing guns into the air and directly towards the Palestinians who had come out of their homes to witness and document this attack on their village.
During the attack four settlers broke away from the main group and made their way to a Palestinian quarry. Two armed with machine guns stood on a ledge while two descended onto the side of the road and set fire to a car used by the Palestinian workers.
The settlement of Yitzhar was originally established as a military outpost in 1983 but demilitarised and turned over to residential purposes a year later. Yitzhar is home to a Jewish orthodox community of over 100 who have in the past decade attacked the residents and properties of Assira Al Qibliya and neighbouring villages on numerous occasions using rocks, knives, guns and arson. These attacks often happen on Saturdays, the religious holiday of Shabbat.
Yitzhar is home to Rabbi Elitzur who published a book last November entitled “The Handbook for the Killing of Gentiles”, condoning the murder of non-Jewish babies, lest they grow to “be dangerous like their parents”. Rabbi Elitzur is vocal in his encouragement of “operations of reciprocal responsibility” such as the arson attack made on Yasuf mosque in December 2009
Despite the West Bank settlement’s status as illegal under international law, Yitzhar was included in the Israeli governments’ 2009 “national priority map” as one of the settlements earmarked for financial support. Yitzhar also receives significant funding from American donations, tax-deductible under U.S. government tax breaks for ‘charitable’ institutions.
Bullets and tear gas were fired upon Palestinians and internationals whilst they planted olive trees on the land legally owned by the village of Iraq Burin yesterday.
The popular committee asked for a group of internationals to assist them in planting olive trees on the village land which is close to an army out post and the illegal Israeli settlement of Bracha. The trees were successfully planted even under the aggressive presence of the Israeli Army.
As the trees where being planted one army jeep came close and was a looming presence as local people took the chance to go further into the land to pick “akoub” (a plant used for cooking.)
After some 20 minutes, another jeep turned up, and the heavily armed soldiers started moving towards the people. One of the soldiers was seen aiming his gun directly at one of the boys.
When one boy, who in a symbolic act of resistance, threw a stone towards the soldiers in the far distance, they responded by firing shots and tear gas directly at the people, who had to run and duck to avoid being hit. More shots where fired at the youth but it is not clear if they were live or rubber coated steel bullets. However, what was clear was the completely disproportionate use of weapons and force on people partaking in a peaceful act of planting trees.
Despite the dangerous aggression of the Israeli army all 50 olive trees were planted on the hillside and three in the local cemetery – one for each of the boys that were killed in the village in the last year. On 19th March 2010, 16-year-old Muhammed Qadus, together with his cousin Asaud Qadus were shot and killed by the Israeli Army during a peaceful demonstration. On the 27th January this year, 19-year-old Oday Maher Hamza Qadous was shot dead by a settler on the hilltop just outside the village.