Nasr Ibrahim Alean was a 23 year old farmer from Beit Lahia. He was murdered on November 3, 2011. He was picking strawberries in his field when he was shot in the leg by the Israeli army. He called his friend Muhammad Abu Helmeyyah, 22 years old, to help him. Muhammed tried to take him to safety, but they were both killed by a missile from an Apache helicopter. Nasr was not the first farmer in Gaza murdered by the IDF, and he will probably not be the last.
When Nasr was killed he was working in a field 500 meters from the border. Outside of the Israeli imposed “buffer zone” which is in reality a 300 meter zone of death that surrounds Gaza. This isn’t uncommon; the high risk area around the border extends as far as one or two kilometers according to the UN. Nasr knew that he risked his life when he went to work, but he had no choice. He needed money to get married, and working on the land was the only work that he could find. Gaza is under siege, and unemployment is rife. Not only are many imports banned, but most exports are banned as well.
We sat in the mourning tent talking with Nasr’s family, hearing their stories, seeing their pictures of Nasser. A cousin showed us a video of them picking up the body. There was a giant hole in his head. They tell us that Israel did not allow the Red Cross to pick up the body immediately; it sat for several hours, until finally the ambulances came. Too late, Nasr was already dead. Muhammad was already dead. They told us worse stories, of bodies that no one was allowed to pick up, bodies that the IDF left to rot, everyone forbidden to claim them.
Nasr’s brother was getting married in two days. One of his aunts heard the story as she had her eyebrows done in preparation for the wedding. She says of him, “He wasn’t in the resistance, he was just trying to work,” and continues “They don’t even want us to work. If it wasn’t for the United Nations, I don’t know what we would do.” His uncle tells us about how he used to work in Israel. He worked as a driver. One day a woman got in with her young child. She abused him in front of the child. He asks, “How can people who abuse you in front of their children teach their children about peace?” He doesn’t seem to have much hope. They talk of going to human rights organizations to complain about Nasr’s murder, but they do not really believe that they will help. Nasr hadn’t given up though, he went to pick strawberries on Thursday because he wanted to live, because he wanted to get married and have children and a house of his own.
November 19 and 20
- March from Liberty Plaza to WTC 7 at noon each day.
- Occupy the park in front of WTC 7 until nightfall.
- General Assemblies will be held at 2pm each day to discuss the direction and continuation of the Occupy Building 7 occupation after 11/20.
To all those who continue to fight for the truth about 9/11 to be revealed:
It is time for us to occupy.
The Occupy Wall Street movement is a much needed response to decades of growing inequality, financial deregulation, and zero accountability for the crimes that brought about our current economic crisis. Millions throughout the nation and across globe who feel they have no voice in our political system have come to embrace “Occupy” as an expression of their anger, frustration and hope.
Ten years later, it is time for us to give voice to our own growing frustration by aligning firmly with the Occupy movement and making 9/11 one of the key issues the Occupy movement stands for.
On Saturday November 19 and Sunday November 20, we will march from Liberty Plaza to Building 7 and occupy the park in front of Building 7 until nightfall. We hope this will mark the beginning of a sustained Occupy Building 7 movement that will grow and finally bring meaningful attention to the obvious demolition of World Trade Center Building 7 and the dire need for a new 9/11 investigation. At 2pm each day we will hold a General Assembly to discuss the direction and continuation of the Occupy Building 7 occupation after November 20.
Go to OccupyBuilding7.org to learn more and to start following #OccupyBuilding7 on Twitter. On the website you will find fliers that you can print and hand out at Liberty Plaza as well as web banners that you can post on your website to help spread the word.
We are attempting to get Occupy Building 7 on the official Occupy Wall Street calendar, and we anticipate being joined by hundreds of Occupy Wall Street protesters. Most of the protesters at Liberty Plaza are keenly aware of 9/11. A lot of them already knew about it; others have been educated over the last several weeks thanks to the 9/11 activists who have given their time and energy to be there. Let us hope that by the time November 19 rolls around, there will be hundreds, if not thousands of Occupy activists eager to help us make Occupy Building 7 a part of the broader Occupy movement.
If you can make it to New York on November 19, please meet us at Liberty Plaza at noon, and let’s make history.
Writing in Foreign Policy, Joshua Keating asks, “Who first used the term Arab Spring?” As Keating points out:
It’s not well remembered at this point, but the term “Arab Spring” was originally used, primarily by U.S. conservative commentators, to refer to a short-lived flowering of Middle Eastern democracy movements in 2005.
The reference to “conservative commentators” is supported by a link to an article entitled “The Arab Spring of 2005″ by none other than Charles Krauthammer — a recipient in 2002 of the prestigious Guardian of Zion award, “an annual award given since 1997 to Jews who have been supportive of the State of Israel.” In that 2005 piece, the Guardian of Zion opined:
The democracy project is, of course, just beginning. We do not yet know whether the Middle East today is Europe 1989 or Europe 1848. 1989 saw the swift collapse of the Soviet empire. 1848 saw a flowering of liberal revolutions throughout Europe that, within a short time, were all suppressed.
Nonetheless, 1848 did presage the coming of the liberal idea throughout Europe. (By 1871, it had been restored to France, for example.) It marked a turning point from which there was no going back. The Arab Spring of 2005 will be noted by history as a similar turning point for the Arab world.
That year was indeed a “turning point” for Arab democracy, as AP reported on March 12:
The American democracy promotion campaign dates back to the 1980s, when Poland’s Solidarity movement was one beneficiary. But for Egypt, 2005 was the watershed year, when Campbell’s NDI opened a Cairo office and through Egyptian groups trained 5,500 election observers to monitor a referendum giving Mubarak another six-year term, his fifth.
From Egypt’s polling places that September, NDI-paid teams reported election violations via innovative cell-phone texting in code, deciphered by headquarters computers.
The report was immediate: Widespread manipulation of the polls, and a turnout of a mere 23 percent, shattering the myth of 90-percent landslides for the “popular” Mubarak.
“It had the effect of showing the emperor had no clothes,” Campbell said. “Egyptians could make a difference. They could change things.”
The government reacted, restricting NDI and IRI operations in Cairo, ordering host hotels to cancel training sessions, putting security men in institute offices.
But Mubarak couldn’t be too tough on the Americans, donors of $1.5 billion in annual military and economic aid. And the democracy promoters carried on, often sending Egyptian proteges abroad for sessions.
The recent phenomenon of land grab, as outlined in the extensive research of the Oakland Institute, has resulted in the sale of enormous portions of land throughout Africa. In 2009 alone, nearly 60 million hectares of land were purchased or leased throughout the continent for the production and export of food, cut flowers and agrofuel crops.
Land grab was in part spurred by the food and financial crisis of 2008 when international bodies, corporations, investment funds, wealthy individuals, and governments began to re-focus their attention on agriculture and food as a profitable commodity. As outlined in the reports, the consequences of land grab include increased food insecurity, environmental degradation, community repression and displacement, and increased reliance on aid.
MEET THE INVESTORS
While media coverage has focused on the role of countries like India and China in land deals, the Oakland Institute’s investigation reveals the role of Western firms, wealthy US and European individuals, and investment funds with ties to major banks such as Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan. Investors include alternative investment firms like the London-based Emergent that works to attract speculators, and various universities like Harvard, Spelman and Vanderbilt.
Several Texas-based interests are associated with a major 600,000 hectares South Sudan deal which involves Kinyeti Development LLC, an Austin, Texas-based ‘global business development partnership and holding company’ managed by Howard Eugene Douglas, a former United States Ambassador at Large and Coordinator for Refugee Affairs. A key player in the largest land deal in Tanzania is Iowa agribusiness entrepreneur and Republican Party stalwart, Bruce Rastetter.
US companies are often below the radar, using subsidiaries registered in other countries, like Petrotech-ffn Agro Mali which is a subsidiary of Petrotech-ffn USA. Many European countries are also involved, often with support provided by their governments and embassies in African countries. For instance, Swedish and German firms have interests in the production of biofuels in Tanzanian. Addax Bioenergy from Switzerland and Quifel International Holdings (QIH) from Portugal are major investors in Sierra Leone. Sierra Leone Agriculture (SLA) is actually a subsidiary of the UK based Crad-1 (CAPARO Renewable Agriculture Developments Ltd.), associated with the Tony Blair African Governance Initiative.
As the media has reported, Indian firms are involved in land grab with relation to Ethiopia in particular. Food insecure nations like those of the gulf region are also participating in these land deals for the purpose of food production for their home countries.
A major argument by governments and investors is that these investments will lead to economic development for the home countries. The Oakland Institute reports reveal, however, that the land transactions are either for free (in the case of Mali) or very cheap (in the cases of Ethiopia and Sierra Leone). These transactions are largely unregulated with no stipulation or guarantees that they will help the local populations or create infrastructure. While land grab actors focus their rhetoric on foreign direct investment, there is no evidence to show that foreign direct investment will come into the countries in any substantial amount.
Most of these deals come with huge tax breaks and other investment incentives which is a great deal for the investors, but means less money coming into the country that could possibly go to infrastructure or social services. For instance, Sierra Leone allows 100 percent foreign ownership; there are no restrictions on foreign exchange, full repatriation of profits, dividends and royalties and no limits on expatriate employees.
Another justification for the land deals includes the idea that they will increase employment in the areas involved. Again, the lack of stipulation and on-the-ground research reveals that this is overstated at best and completely untrue at worst. The Emvest Matuba investment project summary and staff at Emergent and Emvest promise job creation with majority employment from the local community. A recent head count provided by Emergent reveals that currently only 17 permanent positions are in security (36 staff). In Mali, the area targeted by recent large land deals which could easily sustain 112,537 farm families (over half a million people, 686,478) is instead in the hands of 22 investors and will create at best a few thousand jobs.
To make matters worse, the limited employment created by these land deals is low wage, seasonal and primarily benefits the investors with cheap labour to compliment cheap land.
While those involved firmly contend that communities are not being forcibly removed from their lands and those that are asked to move are being compensated, the opposite proves true. Ethiopian government officials, for instance, have stated that the lands being leased are unused or abandoned. Meanwhile, there is a villagisation process that has relocated 700,000 indigenous people who lived in a land that was targeted for investment.
In 2010 in Samana Dugu, Mali, bulldozers came in to clear the land and when the community protested, they were met by police forces who beat and arrested them. In Tanzania, the land investments of AgriSol Energy are focused on Katumba and Mishamo refugee settlements. The MOU between AgriSol Energy and the local government stipulates that these settlements, which house 162,000 refugees that fled Burundi in 1972 and have been farming the land for 40 years, have to be closed. In June 2009, Amnesty International reported refugees being pressured to leave camps. Some of them lost their homes to a fire set by individuals acting under the instructions of the Tanzanian authorities to get them to vacate the camp. Refugee leaders who have attempted to organize affected refugees have been arrested and detained.
Investment sites in various African countries visited by the Oakland Institute revealed a loss of local farmland where the lands held a variety of different uses and social/ecological value. Some of the lands that are claimed to be unused are those where the communities practice shifting cultivation (where plots of land are left idle after periods of cultivation in order to re-vegetate), pastoralism, and those considered communally used areas.
Forests and national reserves that are home to vital animal, fish and plant species and are a place where communities have found alternative sustenance in times of food scarcity have been burned and cleared out. These lands are being destroyed without an understanding of their significance and without assessments to determine how this will affect local communities.
Many of the communities interviewed stated that there was no prior notification of the land investments. They only realized what was happening when the bulldozers arrived in their communities.
While most of the countries and regions targeted suffer from food insecurity, these land deals focus on producing export commodities, including food, biofuels and cut flowers for foreign consumption. In Mali, half of the investors with large land holdings in the Office du Niger intend to grow plants used to produce agrofuels such as sugarcane, jatropha or other oleaginous crops. In Mozambique, most of the investments concern timber industry and agrofuels rather than food crops. Food crops represented only 32,000 hectares of the 433,000 hectares that were approved for agricultural investments between 2007 and 2009.
In Ethiopia, much of large scale land deals have focused on food production for a foreign market. Because land grab throughout Ethiopia has led to the clearing of communal lands and plots used for shifting cultivation as well as forests, the communities’ primary source of sustenance along with their buffer systems are threatened. Additionally, commercial farming on these lands will affect fish habitats and other wildlife hunted in times of food scarcity and the loss and degradation of grazing lands will further increase food insecurity.
Water is of a particular concern as runoff from commercial farms will lead to the contamination and reduction of water supplies. Dam construction in investment site areas like the proposed Alwero River dam spark additional concern of the consequential uncertainty of access to water for local and downstream communities. No clause has been found in the lease agreements that discusses water use and there is no evidence that water use from commercial agriculture is managed, monitored or regulated.
In Ethiopia, not only is there no clause in any of the lease agreements that require investors to improve local food security conditions or make food available for the local populations, the federal government has actually provided incentives for those investors that grow cash crops for a foreign market. Abera Deressa, federal minister for agriculture stated that, ‘If we get money we can buy food anywhere. Then we can solve the food problem.’ A major concern of the communities interviewed is that they believe the government is intentionally creating a situation where communities must rely solely on the government for their food, in an attempt to marginalize and disempower them.
THE ENVIRONMENTAL FACTOR
Environmental degradation is a major concern in these land deals that have limited transparency and regulations in terms of their environmental impact. Forests have many uses for the local communities including as food, medicine, fuel wood and building materials. Forests also retain cultural and historical significance. Expected outcomes of clearing the lands and forests include loss and degradation of wetlands, decrease in wildlife populations and habitat, proliferation of invasive species and loss of biodiversity.
These environmental concerns are exemplified in Ethiopia’s Gambela National Park where the Ethiopian Wildlife Conservation Authority (EWCA) estimates that 438,000 hectares of land have been leased in the vicinity of the park. While the park boundaries are not set, lands that the local population considers a part of the park have been cleared by large-scale investors, including Karuturi and Saudi Star. Wetlands have been altered and forests have been cleared. According to recent surveys, the Gambela National Park is home to 69 mammal species, valuable wetland habitat, hundreds of bird species and 92 fish species.
To compound matters, the practice of industrial agriculture will lead to increased toxicity, disruption of nature’s system of pest control, creation of new weeds or virus strains, loss of biodiversity, and the spread of genetically-engineered genes to indigenous plants. [...]
Instead of supporting small farmers, these land deals support industrial agriculture while displacing and disempowering the very people that have the ability to shift their communities from insecure to sustainable populations and environments. Land grab puts these countries on a path that will surely lead to increased food insecurity, environmental degradation, increased reliance on aid and the marginalisation of farming and pastoralist communities. With regards to food, the issue at stake is not only one of increased food insecurity, but an attack on food sovereignty or peoples’ right to produce their own food.
Land grab is irrational at best and violent at worst. It’s a violent act to take away peoples’ right to food, access to their ancestral land, their social and historical ties, and their overall right for human dignity. It’s a violent act to strip them of their future and the land of its fertility.
While land deals are going on behind closed doors, communities are resisting. The 2008 food uprisings, the revolt in Madagascar against land grab, and the recent protests in Guinea, all show communities who are standing up for their right for food sovereignty. In fact, in all of the countries visited, the land deals were met by community organising. Knowing what we know, resisting these land deals on all fronts and working towards investments in sustainable agriculture and empowering local populations points to the only rational and humane way forward.
The take over of the Tahrir and the Saoirse was violent and dangerous. Despite very clear protests from the occupants of the two boats that they did not want to be taken to Israel, they were forcibly removed from the boats in a violent manner. The whole take over took about 3 hours. Many of those on the Canadian boat were beaten.
It began with Israeli forces hosing down the boats with high pressure hoses and pointing guns at the passengers through the windows. Fintan Lane, on the Saoirse, was hosed down the stairs of the boat. Windows where smashed and the bridge of that boat nearly caught fire. The boats were corralled to such an extent that the two boats, the Saoirse and the Tahrir collided with each and were damaged, with most of the damage happening to the MV Saoirse. The boats nearly sunk, the method used in the take over was very dangerous.
The Israeli forces initially wanted to leave the boats at sea but the abductees demanded that they not be left to float unmanned at sea, for they would have been lost and possibly sunk. David Heap, a Canadian delegate, was tasered and beaten. All belongings of the passengers were taken off them and crew and they still do not know if and what they will get back. 6 prisoners were released-both of the Greek Captains, 2 of the journalists and 2 delegates. The passengers remain in Givon detention center and many, including Kit Kittredge of the U.S., have not been able to make phone calls.
Those remaining are being asked to sign deportation papers which state that they came into Israel illegally and that they will not attempt another effort to break the Gaza blockade. If they sign they will not be allowed into Palestine, through Israel, for 10 years. Obviously their goal was to go to Gaza not Israel, and a signature could validate Israel’s right to blockade Gaza, so they refuse to sign. This will mean longer detention. Their continued detention is designed to force them to agree to abandon their legal rights and has nothing to do with the security of Israeli civilians – just like the blockade of Gaza’s civilians is clearly punitive and has nothing to do with the security of Israeli civilians
Our State Department has not been an advocate for its citizens. They would rather join Israel in stating that we are terrorists. Obama on Thursday said the passengers on these boats are defying Israeli and American law. He must have been confused. It’s the other way around. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said the U.S. was renewing its call to Americans “not to involve themselves in this activity,” and warned of possible consequences.
WE NEED ALL OF YOU TO GET ON THE PHONE TODAY AND CALL:
U.S. Emergency Consular Services 202-647-4000
and the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv 011-972-3-519-7575
Tell them you want them to insist Israel free the prisoners immediately and end its siege of Gaza.
Just a few phone calls can make a difference.
I write to you from cell 9, block 59 Givon Prison near Ramla in Occupied Palestine. Although I was tasered during the assault on the Tahrir, and bruised during forcible removal dockside (I am limping slightly as a result) I am basically ok. We, Ehab, Michael, Karen from Tahrir, as well as Karen, Kit (US) and Jihan who we saw briefly this morning. We are most concerned about our Tahrir shipmate, Palestinian Majd Kayyal from Haifa, last seen by us at Ashdod being photographed and put in a police car.*
Although Michael and I (among others) were transported in handcuffs and leg shackles, let me stress that we are neither criminals nor illegal immigrants but rather political prisoners of the apartheid state of Israel. Four from the Tahrir are imprisoned with 12 Irish comrades from the Saoirse, who have more experience with such issues. The four of us, Ehab and I (Cdn), Michael (Aus) and Hassan (UK) have joined with the Irish in their political prisoners’ committee in order to press our collective demands:
- association in the block – i.e. open cells
- adequate writing and reading material
- free communication with outside world – i.e. regular phone calls
- information about shipmate women held at same prison
We add one Tahrir-specific demand: that Israeli state recognize the professional status of Democracy Now journalist Jihan Hafiz in accordance with her credentials from the US government. All political incarceration is unjust but let me stress that in duration and conditions, our situation pales in comparison to the plight of thousands of Palestinian political prisoners and to the open air prison of Gaza.
If you have energy to devote to solidarity actions in the coming days, please concentrate on them. We must get Tahrir back and hope Freedom Waves continue.
Free Majd Kayyal! Free all political prisoners! Free Gaza! Free Palestine!
Anishnabe-debuewin, restons humaine, stay human, in love and struggle,
* Majd Kayyal was released, but it appears David the other political prisoners weren’t told where he was taken.
Topple Their Debts
The Popular Campaign to Drop Egypt’s Debts was launched at the Journalists’ Union 31 October, with a colourful panel of speakers, including Al-Ahram Centre for Political & Strategic Studies Editor-in-Chief Ahmed Al-Naggar, Independent Trade Union head Kamal Abbas, legendary anti-corruption crusader Khaled Ali, and the head of the Tunisia twin campaign Dr Fathi Chamkhi.
Moderator Wael Gamal, a financial journalist, described how he and a core of revolutionaries after 25 January started the campaign with a facebook page DropEgyptsDebt. The IMF offer of a multi-billion dollar loan in June was like a red flag in front of a bull for Gamal, and their campaign really got underway after that, culminating in the formal launch this week, just as election fever is rising.
“Just servicing Egypt’s debt costs close to $3 billion a year, more than all the food subsidies that the IMF harps about, more than our health expenditures,” Gamal said angrily. “We are burdened with a $35 billion debt to foreign banks, mostly borrowed under the Hosni Mubarak regime, none of it to help the people.”
Ali explained the basis of the campaign, which does not call for wholesale cancellation of the debt, but for a line-by-line review of the loan terms and useage to determine: whether the loan was made with the consent of the people of Egypt, whether it serves the interests of the people, and to what extent it was wasted through corruption. He explained that the foreign lending institutions knew full well that Mubarak was a dictator conducting phoney elections and thus not reflecting the will of the people when they showered him with money, and they should face the consequences — not the Egyptian people.
These are the internationally accepted conditions behind the legitimate practice of repudiating “odious debt”, which were used by the US (though mutedly) in 2003 to tear up Iraq’s debt, and by Ecuador in 2009. “Ecuador had an uprising much like our revolution and after the next election the president formed an audit committee and managed to cancel two-thirds of the $13 billion debt,” noted Gamal, leaving the conferencees to ponder what a truly revolutionary government in Egypt could do for the health sector and for employment.
Al-Naggar told how the loans propped up the economy as it was being gutted under an IMF-supervised privatisation programme from 1990 on, allowing foreign companies and Mubarak cronies to pocket hundreds of millions of dollars and spirit them abroad. Meanwhile, what investment that trickled down from the loans went to financing prestige infrastructure projects like the Cairo airport expansion, which was riddled with corruption and serves only the Egyptian elite. Virtually all the loans from this period should be considered liable for writing off.
No government officials deigned — or dared — to come to the conference. On the contrary, Egypt’s Finance Minister Hazem Al-Biblawi told Al-Sharouk that it defames Egypt in the world’s eyes, saying, “like the proverb ‘It looks like a blessing on the outside, but is hell on the inside’.”
Both Gamal and Al-Naggar criticised Biblawi for distorting their intent, which is not to portray Egypt as bankrupt, like Greece, but to shift the burden of the bad loans to the guilty parties — the lenders, and thereby to help the revolution. “It is the counter-revolution that is discrediting Egypt. And they are the old regime that got the loans and misused them, and are now trying to discredit the revolution. The international community should willingly write off the odious loans if it wants the revolution to succeed,” exhorted Al-Naggar.
The enthusiasm and sense of purpose at the conference was infectious. Indeed, this campaign is arguably the key to whether or not the revolution succeeds. But it requires a political backbone that only an elected government can hope to muster. The fawning of Al-Bablawi — this week he hosted another IMF mission — looks like the performance of someone from the Mubarak era, not someone delegated to protect the revolution. He welcomed the delegation and “the possibility of their offering aid to Egypt”.
Al-Naggar pointed out that the purpose of the IMF is not to aid the Egyptian people, but to tie the government to international dictate. Rating agencies are part of this, downgrading Egypt’s credit rating after the revolution. Why? Because Egypt is less democratic? Or because it will be harder to ply Egypt with more loans to benefit Western corporations, and to keep the Egyptian government in line with the Western political agenda. “Silence is golden,” Al-Naggar advised Biblawi, meaning, “If you don’t have something good to say, don’t say anything.”
Chamkhi brought Tunisian warmth to the meeting, though he further incensed listeners as he explained how the Western debt scheming is directly the result of 19th century colonialism. He told how France colonised Tunisia, stole the best agricultural land, and then how the quasi-independent government in 1956 had to take out French loans to buy back the land that the French had stolen, thereby indenturing Tunisia yet again, in a new neocolonial guise. The foreign debt really exploded with Zine Al-Abidine Ben Ali’s kleptocracy, just as did Egypt’s under Mubarak. Shamati eloquently expressed how “debts are not for our development, but to make us poor. To create a dictatorship of debts.”
Tunisia’s first democratic elections brought the Congress for the Republic, which supports the debt revision campaign, 30 seats. So far in Egypt, according to organiser Salmaa Hussein, Tagammu, the Nasserists and Karama support their efforts, along with presidential hopefuls Hamdeen Sabhi and Abdul Monem Abul Fotouh.
There is an international campaign dating from the 1990s, the 2000 Jubilee debt relief movement, and the Cairo conference heard a report from London about efforts on behalf of many third world countries — now including Egypt and Tunisia — by public-spirited Brits. The Arab Spring success stories now have a determined and politically savvy core of activists who know what the score is and will be pushing their respectively revolutionary governments to repudiate the debts from the corrupt regimes they overthrew at the cost of hundreds of lives. As the fiery Independent Trade Union head Abbas cried, adding an apt phrase to Egypt’s revolutionary slogan: “Topple the regime, topple their debts!”
I sometimes forget what happened to our country. But Belén Fernández has a new book out on Tom Friedman called The Imperial Messenger, and she reminds us of Friedman’s achievement, in an interview in the NY Times Examiner:
Friedman sells the Iraq war as “the most radical-liberal revolutionary war the U.S. has ever launched” despite making subsequent assessments such as “The neocon strategy may have been necessary to trigger reform in Iraq and the wider Arab world, but it will not be sufficient unless it is followed up by what I call a ‘geo-green’ strategy.” As I point out in my book, it is difficult to determine how many true “geo-greens” would advocate for the tactical contamination of the earth’s soil with depleted uranium munitions; why not introduce a doctrine of neoconservationism?
Fernández links to Tom Friedman cheerleading the Iraq war in 2003. Wow, I forgot about his stuff! Or thankfully never read it in the first place. The question arises, Did Tom Friedman make any difference with this kind of talk? And I say of course he did, he helped convince the liberal Establishment to go along with this foolish war. Friedman and Ken Pollack and Bill Keller and David Remnick– the pen is mightier than the sword.
[T]he Baathists and Arab dictators are opposing the U.S. in Iraq because — unlike many leftists — they understand exactly what this war is about. … They understand that this is the most radical-liberal revolutionary war the U.S. has ever launched — a war of choice to install some democracy in the heart of the Arab-Muslim world. [...]
Many liberals oppose this war because they can’t believe that someone as radically conservative as George W. Bush could be mounting such a radically liberal war.
Repeating the last piece of U.S. propaganda about a “nuclear Iran”, Haaretz lies about the history of IAEA inspections in Iran:
Iran is pursuing its nuclear weapons program at the Parchin military base about 30 kilometers from Tehran, diplomatic sources in Vienna say.
According to recent leaks, Iran has carried out experiments in the final, critical stage for developing nuclear weapons – weaponization. This includes explosions and computer simulations of explosions. The Associated Press and other media outlets have reported that satellite photos of the site reveal a bus-sized container for conducting experiments. Parchin serves as a base for research and development of missile weaponry and explosive material.
As far back as eight years ago, U.S. intelligence sources received information indicating that the bunkers would also be suitable to develop nuclear weapons.
The Iranians rejected an IAEA request to visit Parchin, saying that IAEA rules permitted the organization’s member states to deny such visits to military bases.
The last sentence is false and pure propaganda. Iran allowed two IAEA visit to Parchin in January 2005 and again in November 2005. The IAEA took environment samples there but found nothing that pointed to nuclear weapon research. Globalsecurity.org kept the records:
On 17 September 2004 IAEA head Muhammad El Baradei said his organization had found no sign of nuclear-related activity at the Parchin site in Iran, which several US officials had said might be tied to secret nuclear weapons research. “We are aware of this new site that has been referred to,” he said. “We do not have any indication that this site has any nuclear-related activities. However, we will continue to investigate this and other sites, we’ll continue to have a dialogue with Iran.” El Baradei also dismissed allegations that he had supressed information about Parchin in his latest report on inspections in Iran.On 5 January 2005 Mohamed El Baradei said “we expect to visit Parchin within the next days or a few weeks.” Iran allowed IAEA inspectors to visit the Parchin military site in January 2005 in the interests of transparency following the allegations of secret nuclear weapons related activity, but the visit was limited to only one of four areas identified as being of potential interest and to only five buildings in that area.
On 1 March 2005 Iran turned down a request by the IAEA to make a second visit to the Parchin military site, which has been linked in allegations to nuclear weapons testing. The IAEA was finally allowed access to the Parchin facility in November 2005. The IAEA reported in 2006 that they did not observe any unusual activities in the buildings visited at Parchin, and the results of the analysis of environmental samples did not indicate the presence of nuclear material at those locations. No further mention of Parchin as a suspected nuclear site had been made by the IAEA as of July 2008.
We can expect more such obvious lies in the coming weeks as the White House builds up its propaganda campaign for more sanctions on Iran.
Syria releases 553 prisoners detained during the eight-month long unrest in the country, in line with the Arab League (AL) proposal to end the violence gripping the nation.
The Syrian state news agency (SANA) reported that “553 detainees who were involved in the current events with no blood on their hands were released.”
SANA also said that another 119 prisoners had earlier been released.
Damascus accepted a peace plan proposed by the 22-member AL on Wednesday.
The plan calls for dialogue to take place between the government and the opposition and urges all parties to stop violence against Syrian citizens.
It also calls upon the government to both release those who were arrested during the unrest as well as to withdraw its military forces from residential areas. Syria has agreed to allow international journalists, human rights groups and AL representatives to observe the situation in the country.
On Friday, the Syrian interior ministry granted amnesty to those who would surrender their weapons from November 5 to 12, 2011. In addition, the military began pulling out its forces from urban areas.
Syria has been experiencing unrest since mid-March. Hundreds of Syrian security forces were killed.
Damascus blames the violence on outlaws, saboteurs and armed terrorist groups sponsored by foreign countries.
Wasn’t the Egyptian revolution supposed to be about getting rid of an American-backed dictator? Well, the Egyptians may have gotten rid of the dictator but the Americans appear to be there to stay. Writing in Foreign Policy , Josh Rogin confirms that the U.S. State Department is now schooling Mubarak’s would-be successors in the ways of liberal democracy:
U.S. assistance to Egypt is helping political parties of all ideologies prepare for the upcoming elections — even Islamic parties that may have anti-Western agendas.
“We don’t do party support. What we do is party training…. And we do it to whoever comes,” William Taylor, the State Department’s director of its new office for Middle East Transitions, said in a briefing with reporters today. “Sometimes, Islamist parties show up, sometimes they don’t. But it has been provided on a nonpartisan basis, not to individual parties.”
The programs, contracted through the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs (NDI) and the International Republican Institute (IRI), include helping political parties in Egypt conduct polling, provide constituent services, and prepare for election season. NDI’s chairwoman is former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. IRI’s chairman is Sen. John McCain (R-AZ).
This, of course, is not the first time that newly-liberated peoples have received such generous support from the National Endowment for Democracy to help them make the expected democratic transition:
Taylor led a similar office in the 1990s that coordinated policy in Eastern Europe after the fall of the Soviet Union. He is pressing for $2 billion in new aid to Egypt, half in loans and half in debt forgiveness, but acknowledged that the U.S. fiscal situation is not nearly as good now as it was then.
“This is a tight time on budgets here, as we all know. And when [State Department spokeswoman] Toria [Nuland] and I worked together earlier, we had a lot more money to put in to the former Soviet Union, Eastern Europe,” he said. “Now, that having been said, we recognize that there are other countries that are eager to provide support, and we support that.”
Victoria Nuland is the wife of Robert Kagan, the influential pro-Israeli hawk who, as a February 12 New York Times report noted, “long before the revolution helped assemble a nonpartisan group of policy experts to press for democratic change in Egypt.”
Plus ça change…