The White House is reportedly wrestling over how to interpret a ban on “cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment” ahead of a meeting in Geneva next month concerning the United Nations charter on torture.
According to the New York Times, the Obama administration remains divided over what stance a Washington delegation will officially take at the UN-sponsored Committee Against Torture panel early next month in the Swiss city.
Although Barack Obama said before and after being elected to the White House that United States officials should never engage in torturous activity, Times national security journalist Charlie Savage reported on Sunday this week that administration officials might formally adopt another stance — one on par with the policies of Obama’s predecessor, George W. Bush — when the panel convenes in a couple of weeks.
The Times reported that the attorneys who answer to the president are conflicted over whether or not the White House should revisit the Bush administration’s interpretation of a UN treaty, the likes of which authorized the use of enhanced interrogation tactics, like waterboarding and sleep deprivation, on individuals detained by military and intelligence agencies in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks at facilities such as the Guantanamo Bay detention center and CIA so-called “black sites.”
The upcoming meeting will be the first one of Obama’s presidency, Savage acknowledged, presenting the commander-in-chief with a rare opportunity to speak of the UN Convention Against Torture, a treaty that since the 1980s has aimed to ensure prisoners the world over aren’t subjected to inhumane conditions.
In Sunday’s report, Savage wrote that Obama, then a US senator, spoke out adamantly against Pres. Bush when it was revealed in 2005 that his administration had been interpreting the UN treaty in a manner that they argued made it acceptable for CIA and Pentagon officials to disregard the prohibitions against torture if they weren’t on American soil.
Obama the president later condemned that reasoning with an executive order “ensuring lawful interrogations,” Savage added, although next month’s meeting may change that.
“But the Obama administration has never officially declared its position on the treaty, and now, President Obama’s legal team is debating whether to back away from his earlier view,” Savage wrote. “It is considering reaffirming the Bush administration’s position that the treaty imposes no legal obligation on the United States to bar cruelty outside its borders, according to officials who discussed the deliberations on the condition of anonymity.”
“State Department lawyers are said to be pushing to officially abandon the Bush-era interpretation,” Savage added, which would simply continue to let the 2009 Obama-signed executive order stand as Washington’s official word and further ensure that American officials are obligated to adhere to the torture treaty regardless of where in the world they are located.
Other attorneys, he added, have a different idea of what to do at next month’s meeting, however. “But military and intelligence lawyers are said to oppose accepting that the treaty imposes legal obligations on the United States’ actions abroad,” Savage wrote. “They say they need more time to study whether it would have operational impacts. They have also raised concerns that current or future wartime detainees abroad might invoke the treaty to sue American officials with claims of torture, although courts have repeatedly thrown out lawsuits brought by detainees held as terrorism suspects.”
Should those arguing on the latter side provoke, then the current administration could soon find itself agreeing with past policies that continue to be controversial nearly a decade after the Bush White House’s use of torture started to surface.
“Many foreign political leaders and non-governmental organizations have called for members of the Bush administration, including Bush himself, to face prosecution for allowing the abuse of detainees in US custody during the course of the US campaign against Islamic militant groups spurred by the 9/11 attacks,” Mark Hanrahan wrote for the International Business Times on Sunday. “The Bush administration, which launched the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, had to contend with a number of allegations it allowed US officials to use torture against detainees during the course of its campaigns,” including the infamous Abu Ghraib prison scandal in Iraq.
If the Pentagon and CIA attorneys prevail, then Washington could once again interpret the UN treaty in a manner that allows those same torturous practices to be performed on detainees once against, as long as any such instances occur abroad.
Last week, McClatchy news service reported that a classified $40 million probe launched by the Senate to investigate the CIA’s Bush-era detention and interrogation program concludes without holding any administration officials responsible for the scandals at Abu Ghraib and other facilities that to this day remain a major scar on the presidency.
“This report is not about the White House. It’s not about the president. It’s not about criminal liability. It’s about the CIA’s actions or inactions,” a person familiar with the report told McClatchy. “It does not look at the Bush administration’s lawyers to see if they were trying to literally do an end run around justice and the law.”
The Ukrainian Defense Ministry rejected a report by Germany’s foreign intelligence agency that E. Ukraine militia shot down flight MH17 with a BUK missile captured from a Ukrainian base. The report also accused Kiev of falsifying intelligence.
“The Command of the Air Force of Ukraine officially states that information about the capture of anti-aircraft missile system Buk-M1 from a military unit of the Air Force of Ukraine by militia is not true,” the country’s Defense Ministry said in a statement.
The ministry has responded to a recent report published by the German daily Der Spiegel. It revealed that on Oct. 8 BND President Gerhard Schindler announced at a secret meeting that there is “ample evidence” that militia in Donetsk captured BUK defense missile system from a Ukrainian base and fired a rocket from it. The alleged launch on July 17 resulted in deadly crash of civilian MH17 flight by Malaysian Airlines, with 298 passengers and crew on board, the report claims.
The Ukrainian Ministry insists that the BND’s finding cannot be true because “personnel, military equipment and armament stationed in the Donetsk region” was “quickly” relocated on June 29, more than two weeks before the tragedy.
“At the time when rebels entered the territory of that military base, only old and unusable vehicles were left there,” the Ministry said.
In its report the German intelligence agency has also accused Kiev of providing false information on the crash, saying that “this can be explained in detail.”
However, no “evidence” has been presented by the BND yet, which claims that it based its conclusions on “satellite images and diverse photo evidence.” It has not made any official statements on the matter.
Germany has officially refused to comment on the report, saying that the BND “collects data that are reported to the Audit Committee of the Bundestag, reported to the government.”
“But this is all secret information,” Chancellor Angela Merkel’s deputy spokesman, Georg Streiter, told reporters as he was asked to comment on the news.
The Head of Russia’s Federal Air Transport Agency has said that Moscow “does not understand this position, the conclusions reached by German intelligence.”
“First of all, it is hard to speak about any information presented by German intelligence, because now everybody is discussing [only] what was published in this magazine,” Aleksander Neradko said.
He said that from the very beginning Russia has been calling on everyone to report only facts and hard information to the investigation committee.
“The Russian side, for example, did so: all facts we had we passed to the investigation committee. Thus, we are adherents of the principle of transparent, comprehensive, open and objective investigation. Therefore, we do not understand this position, these findings of German intelligence.”
An international probe led by Dutch experts is still ongoing. A preliminary report issued in September confirmed that the plane crashed as a result of structural damage caused by a “large number of high-energy objects” that struck from outside. The investigation has not yet established who was behind the fatal launch.
Shortly after the plane’s downing, Ukrainian side blamed the crash on anti-Kiev rebels in eastern Ukraine. Officials claimed that militia targeted MH17 with a BUK system provided by Russia. This view was echoed by the international community, but no evidence proving that has ever been presented.
The United States has withheld assurances from Germany that the Ebola virus – among other related diseases – would not be weaponized in the event of Germany exporting it to the US Army Medical Research Institute for Infectious Diseases.
German MFA Deputy Head of Division for Export Control Markus Klinger provided a paper to the US consulate’s Economics Office (Econoff), “seeking additional assurances related to a proposed export of extremely dangerous pathogens.”
Germany subsequently made two follow-up requests and clarifications to the Army, according to the unclassified Wikileaks cable.
“This matter concerns the complete genome of viruses such as the Zaire Ebola virus, the Lake Victoria Marburg virus, the Machupo virus and the Lassa virus, which are absolutely among the most dangerous pathogens in the world,” the request notes.
The Zaire Ebola virus was the same strain of Ebola virus which has been rampaging through West Africa in recent months.
“The delivery would place the recipient in the position of being able to create replicating recombinant infectious species of these viruses,” the cable notes.
However, it also points out that Germany has in place an “exceptionally restrictive policy,” adding that approval would not be granted to the export until US assurance was provided.
“A decision about the export has not yet been made. Given the foregoing, we would appreciate confirmation that the end use certificate really is from the Department of the Army and of the accuracy of the data contained therein,” the document stated.
There is no follow-up document available to confirm whether the US Army eventually provided Germany with the necessary guarantees.
Bioweapons were outlawed in the Biological Weapons Convention of 1972 and was signed and ratified by 179 signatories, including Germany, the US and Russia.
It dictates that signatories, “under all circumstances the use of bacteriological (biological) and toxin weapons is effectively prohibited by the Convention” and “the determination of States parties to condemn any use of biological agents or toxins other than for peaceful purposes, by anyone at any time.”
Mount Horeb, Wisconsin — Bonnie Block, Jim Murphy, Lars and Patty Prip, Mary Beth Schlagheck, and I were at Rest Area 10 along I- 90/94, about 5 miles south of Mauston, from 10:00 am – noon on Thursday October 9, 2014. We had a model drone and a stack of flyers “6 Things You Should Know About Drones” to help us in reaching the public and so they can learn more about what is going on just up the road at Volk Field Air National Guard Base. We were there in solidarity with others around the country as part of “Keep Space for Peace Week” and global days of actions against drones sponsored by Code Pink, Know Drones, and other groups.
We chose to leaflet at this particular rest area because it is the closest one to Volk Field Air National Guard Base, about 20 miles south of the base. We, as Wisconsin Coalition to Ground the Drones and End the Wars, have been vigiling outside the gates of Volk Field for almost three years, protesting the training there of pilots who operate the Shadow Drones. We are at the base with our signs every 4th Tuesday of the month from 3:30-4:30. At 4:00 pm around 100 cars leave the base and drive right past us and so we have a lot of exposure.
Jim has been urging us to try leafleting at the rest area for a couple of years and it turned out to be an excellent opportunity for public education. We were able to connect with a real cross-section of middle America and we had a chance to hand out our leaflets and talk to people about what is going on at Volk Field, as well as in the drone wars overseas. A fair number of people were very supportive and engaged with us. Quite a few seemed like they did not have a lot of feelings about drone warfare one way or the other. There were a small number of people who were very unhappy to see us there and let loose with some pretty unfriendly language.
Shortly after we arrived at the rest area and began setting up the drone, the manager of the rest area came out and told us we would have to pack up and leave. We said we were on public property and that we planned to stay there until noon. We also told her that we would not block anyone or act threatening, and we gave her a flyer. She became upset and angry when we told her this and she said that if we didn’t leave she would have to call the State Patrol and she didn’t think that we would want it to go that far. We responded that we would like her to call the State Patrol because we knew we had the right to be there. She left in a huff.
It was 15 minutes or so before a plain clothes officer dressed in a suit with a neat crew cut and a badge around his neck approached us. He said that he had been told there was a disturbance, and he asked us if there was a disturbance. Jim responded by asking if it looked like there was a disturbance. The officer angrily replied that he would be asking the questions and we would answer.
We explained to him what we were doing, that we were on public property and it was our constitutional right to be there. We told him we were not blocking anyone and if they didn’t want a flyer we didn’t push it.
At that point a uniformed State Patrol officer arrived at the scene. The officer we were talking to said that the uniformed officer would be taking over. After the two of them talked for several minutes, the uniformed officer came over and we told him what we were doing. He told us that some people might not appreciate our position, and he said that if they started saying things we didn’t like we should turn the other cheek. We told him we practice nonviolence and are good at de-escalating those kinds of situations. He told us to have a good day and walked away. It felt like this was a small win for us. It is not often that the police are called and they end up telling us to go ahead and keep doing what we are doing.
Several minutes later a Juneau County Sheriff car pulled into the rest area and parked. He didn’t talk to us, but spent several minutes talking to someone in an unmarked police car before they both drove away. Citizen activism seemed to have won out for the day.
I want to relate a story about one man I talked to. As I handed him a leaflet, he said he was supportive of what we are doing. But, he said, his grandson was in the military and operated a camera for the drones and he didn’t kill children. (One of our signs said “Drones Kill Children”.) I replied that there are many innocent people, including many children, who are being killed by drone attacks in countries overseas. He said again that his grandson didn’t kill children. I told him that we had a list of names of many of the children who have been killed. He said again that his grandson was a family man with four children and he wouldn’t kill children. He added that he had been a nurse assisting in surgery with children for many years and he knew what it was like for traumatized children and his grandson would not kill children.
This story really illustrates the disconnect and denial going on in our society, about how much we want to believe that we are the good guys, that we wouldn’t hurt others. Yet, people are dying all around the world as a result of our government’s policies. It seems like there are not enough people speaking out against what is going on because so many people refuse to really look at the death and destruction our military is leaving all around the globe. It is so much easier to close our eyes. I think this was a genuinely good man that I talked to, and there are so many good people like him. How do we get these good people to wake up and join the fight, to be able to admit to and take responsibility for the horrors that our government, and we, are perpetrating around the world?
All six of us who were there felt like it was a successful venture and we all agreed that we need to go back to the rest area where we can reach people who would otherwise not be reached. It is impossible to know what kind of impact we may have had, but we are hopeful that we touched a few people.
Please consider rest areas near you as a possible place for demonstrations. We no longer have town squares. It is illegal, at least in Wisconsin, to protest at shopping malls because they are privately owned. It is not always easy to find a public space where there are a lot people, but this was a good test today and we discovered that the police will not try to prevent us from demonstrating at a rest area in Wisconsin. But then again, who knows what may happen the next time. All I know for sure is that we will be back.
US war plans against North Korea recently included the option of a nuclear strike, former CIA Director and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta revealed in his memoirs, triggering major controversy.
Panetta described a 2010 briefing in Seoul by General Walter L. ‘Skip’ Sharp, the commander of US forces in South Korea, where it was made clear that the nuclear option was on the table if North Korean forces crossed into the demilitarized zone (DMZ) between the North and the South.
“If North Korea moved across the border, our war plans called for the senior American general on the peninsula to take command of all US and South Korea forces and defend South Korea— including by the use of nuclear weapons, if necessary,” Panetta wrote in ‘Worthy Fights: A Memoir of Leadership in War and Peace’.
Panetta added that he left the briefing with “the powerful sense that war in that region was neither hypothetical nor remote.”
Panetta’s revelations sparked various responses, ranging from surprise to indignation.
“Typical wooden-headedness on the part of a US official,” a former top CIA expert on Korea told Newsweek. “How in the world do we think South Koreans will react to the news that the US is prepared to use nuclear weapons on the peninsula? It doesn’t reassure them, only makes them think having the US bull in their china shop is maybe not such a good idea.”
Others said Panetta did not write anything unexpected. A ‘Joint Vision’ statement signed between US-South Korea in 2009 “references extended deterrence to include the nuclear umbrella … in many respects, the information is not new,” Korea expert at the Naval War College Terence Roehrig said. “The United States has long had a position that South Korea was under the US nuclear umbrella.”
The US sent over tactical nuclear weapons to the Korean Peninsula in 1958, but their deployment was only revealed in mid-1970s.
The Korean War took place in 1950-1953, with no peace deal ever signed between North and South Korea. Thus the two countries remain technically at war.
High-level military talks
Meanwhile, the relationship between the North and the South remain tense. On Wednesday senior-level military talks were held between them to resolve a series of recent live-fire incidents in South Korea and maritime borders, AFP quoted Seoul’s Defense Ministry as saying.
The meeting was referred to as the highest-level military exchange in seven years. It lasted for five hours and included officers up to the rank of general.
The main focus of the talks was Friday’s incident involving an exchange of gunfire after North Korea’s military shot at balloons launched by anti-Pyongyang activists. Tuesday’s fire exchange between North and South Korean naval patrol boats near the disputed Yellow Sea border was also discussed.
“Our side clarified our position that North Korea should respect (the maritime boundary) … and that as a democratic nation, we cannot regulate balloon launches by civilian groups,” South Korean Defense Ministry spokesman Kim Min-seok said.
There are all sorts of varieties of insane extremists among the settlers. By “insane” I don’t mean that they’re aberrations from the Israeli norm. Just that in polite western society (not Israel, of course) these people would be viewed as nutcases and ignored. Only in Israel (and perhaps this happens in other religious extremist societies as well) are such people turned into prophets, prime ministers, and even esteemed academics.
Such a one is Prof. Hillel Weiss, who teaches not Hebrew literature, mind you, a term he banned from his department–but rather the literature of the Jewish people. You see Hebrew is the language and literature of the Jewish people. There is no other. Yiddish? Feh, jargon. Jewish literature in English? Derivative, degenerate and a mark of the bankruptcy of galut.
Professor Weiss teaches, where else, at Bar Ilan University. That’s also the home of such other wunder-mensches as Mordechai Kedar, who advocates raping Palestinian women as a deterrent to terrorism; and Gerald Steinberg, that convicted libelist who runs the fraudulent NGO known as NGO Monitor.
Here is what Weiss posted on his Facebook page:
Listen, Abu Mazen: you aren’t a people and therefore there can be no genocide [against Palestinians]. To exterminate you like a simple rabble is a mitzvah and it will be fulfilled finally despite the fact that the government of Israel still doesn’t accept its responsibility for raising mendacious international recognition of you [Palestine]. [This process] started with Begin ended with Gal-On. It contributed to the deception of the entire world and [increased] the popularity of these monsters [Palestinians] who rose up due to our weakness and lack of faith.
The quicker you [Abu Mazen] can concede that you are not a people and that your place is nowhere within the borders of the land of Israel, the better off you will be… as long as you evacuate the country of your own volition.
Weiss concludes his scholarly lecture with a reference to Deuteronomy 32:21, 43, which originally was meant as a curse against the pagan peoples who surrounded the ancient Israelites. But in the context in which Weiss invokes the verse, it’s deeply Islamophobic, essentially calling Islam a pagan, “villanous” religion. This is eliminationism of the purest sort:
They have roused Me to jealousy with a no-god; they have provoked Me with their vanities; and I will rouse them to jealousy with a no-people; I will provoke them with a villanous nation…
Nations, celebrate His people; for He avenges the blood of His servants, and returns vengeance upon His enemies, and atones for the land of His people.
Prof. Weiss is also one of those blessed Judeans who’s planning to revive the Sanhedrin, so we can return to stoning Sodomites and adulterers like in the old days. He can also count himself among the Chosen who hope to raze the Dome of the Rock and replace it with the Third Temple, “God willing.”
I swear if anyone tries to claim that this guy is a fruitcake who represents no more than a fringe of a fringe, I may be sick. You know that his views are embraced by almost the entire ruling coalition and that they’re being implemented by the government in every way it can. Hillel Weiss is the beating heart of both Israeli settlerism and Israel itself. What the good professor shouts from the mountain top and on Facebook is beating inside Bibi’s heart. They are one.
By the way, we should give credit where it’s due to Arab-American oil man, Jamal Daniel and the folks at Al Monitor, who see fit to publish the similarly inchoate messianic ramblings of Yuval Avivi, who regularly covers this garbage in its pages. That a publication funded by an Arab-American would present such inflammatory drivel is mystifying to me.
In August 1980, Ronald Reagan spoke as a candidate for president before the Veterans of Foreign Wars. During his speech he attacked what had come to be called “Vietnam Syndrome,” which was understood to mean a hesitancy on the part of the people of the U.S. to again become involved in the hideous debacle of wars, such as Vietnam. He continued distorting the reality of the brutality and immorality of the war against the people of Vietnam when he said: “It is time we recognized that ours was, in truth, a noble cause.” Of course, Reagan, as vicious a warmonger as has ever lived, was simply using hyperbole to whip the electorate and general public into a frenzy so that he would be able to wage additional immoral wars in Central America and the Caribbean, and especially against the people of Nicaragua and their freely elected government. While an Orwellian dystopian at heart, Reagan was not very different from many of the presidents who would follow him and initiate indiscriminate and grossly lethal forays into other parts of the world, most notably the Middle East and Southwest Asia, either through proxies or through the direct use of U.S. military force.
Now, Reagan’s rewriting of history has come back 50 years later in the Pentagon’s attempt to whitewash the horror of what was done to the people of Vietnam in a website marking the commemoration of the Vietnam War. The website claims that it will “provide the American public with historically accurate materials,” but in reality the accuracy of those materials is as lacking as the U.S. justification for entering that war against a nation that was not a threat to the U.S., and had done nothing to provoke a war that would end by killing millions of innocent people (“Paying Respects, Pentagon Revives Vietnam, and War Over Truth,” The New York Times, October 9, 2014).
Missing from the website are the voices of protest against the war, the war’s many U.S. atrocities, the lying of political leaders and generals, and the debate over the war in the U.S. The My Lai massacre is called the “My Lai incident” at the website, and even the words spoken in front of the Senate Fulbright hearings on Vietnam by John Kerry, then a disaffected Vietnam veteran, and now secretary of state, are omitted from this whitewashed history.
I was a war resister during the Vietnam War. I risked a safe place in the Reserves to make a statement against the insanity of that war that cost me years of my life in terms of the turmoil that resulted from taking on the power of the U.S. government. I learned much about countering distortions of history that this government pedals. That experience benefited me greatly. I never looked back.
Five years ago I met a Vietnam veteran by chance and we sat and spoke at length about the Vietnam War. I told him that I was a Vietnam era veteran, but not about my resistance to the war. He had suffered for years with the physical complications, including cancer, that were the direct result of his exposure to Agent Orange, a defoliant used to deforest the tropical jungles of Vietnam in order to make the so-called enemy more visible to U.S. forces. He had also fought the government for many years before his symptoms and suffering were recognized and treated by the Veterans Administration. The Vietnamese victims of that same poison have never been compensated for their suffering.
I asked the veteran with whom I spoke what he thought so many decades later about those who resisted the war and the motivation for the U.S. involvement in that war. He said that he would have liked to have stood on the U.S.-Canadian border and taken shots at those who resisted the war and sought sanctuary in Canada, but through years of reading widely about the war he had come to see that the resistance to the war had merit.
The government seeks young recruits because they believe that through various kinds of propaganda and relentless military training, the universal admonition against killing can be countered. As can be seen from veteran suicides and post-traumatic stress disorder, the rules of war relating to the killing of civilians in wartime and the admonition against killing in general are not easily or entirely erased from the human mind.
Much of the propaganda that has emerged since the Vietnam War has focused on the Vietnam veteran as victim of the war, and to a degree veterans are also the victims of war and shoddy treatment by the Veterans Administration. This theme has been repeated in popular culture with films such as Platoon (1986) and The Deer Hunter (1978). Almost never are the most obvious victims of that war, the people of Vietnam and the people of Southeast Asia, portrayed as real people. Reagan, in a way, left the rest of us as heirs to his erroneous portrayal of the war by making it easier for U.S. presidents, Congress, and the military to embark on a series of endless wars following Vietnam.
What the veteran with whom I spoke had learned over the decades that followed the disaster that was the Vietnam War, the Pentagon has not learned as the commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the war soon begins (The U.S. actually had thousands of so-called boots on the ground many years before the Gulf of Tonkin incident that launched the official U.S. entry into the war in 1964.). The Pentagon seeks to rewrite history in the Orwellian tradition and shove the actual history of that war into a rubbish heap much as Orwell’s character Winston does at the Ministry of Truth in the novel Nineteen Eighty-Four.
Howard Lisnoff is a freelance writer.
The ICC Charges Kenyatta Instead of Netanyahu; and Operation Protective Edge Is Forgotten
As a consequence of the corporate mass media’s blackout of the news about Israeli crimes against humanity; as a consequence of the International Criminal Court’s cowardly disregard of crimes committed by Israeli leaders while instead charging Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta with crimes against humanity; and as a consequence of the West’s Israeli orchestrated preoccupation with the necessity to wage war against ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) — which came into being with covert encouragement and assistance from the real axis of evil of the U.S., Israel, and Saudi Arabia — Israel’s latest barbaric assault euphemistically codenamed Operation Protective Edge but in reality intended to ethnically cleanse the Palestinian people, has been quietly and quickly forgotten.
Collective corporate mass media amnesia comes as no surprise considering that in the U.S. alone 90% of what Americans read, watch and listen to is controlled by just six corporations whose combined revenue in 2010 was $275.9 billion. Furthermore, all six of those corporations like for example Rupert Murdoch’s [not the actual] News Corp (Fox News, Wall Street Journal, and New York Post) have Israeli aligned global news tentacles that distort, mislead, and even suppress the true facts. Mass media bias towards Israel is even prevalent at the supposedly dispassionate and honest taxpayer funded BBC where coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict requires finding “a balance” that is in actual fact strongly tilted towards Israel.
As part of its “balance” the BBC’s director of television, Danny Cohen (surprise, surprise), has announced plans to air a series of special programs next year that will commemorate the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. The programs are to be broadcast around Holocaust industry Memorial Day on January 27, 2015 and will range from interviews with survivors of the infamous Auschwitz-Birkenau camp to a new drama about the 1961 trial in Israel of Holocaust mastermind Adolf Eichmann who was seized in Argentina by Israeli agents and smuggled back to Israel on an El Al airliner. Cohen’s announcement was welcomed with “We are delighted that the BBC will be ensuring that Holocaust Memorial Day is marked by the widest possible audience,” declared Olivia Marks-Woldman, chief executive of the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust. The question is have fine Jewish people of status like Olivia felt the slightest twinge of conscience over the recent horrific images coming from the Gaza Strip as a result Israel’s Operation Protective Edge: an operation that had Israeli Jews chanting “tomorrow there’s no school in Gaza, they don’t have any children left.”?
Such passionate racist hate can only beget hate from the victims and global condemnation form compassionate people. But are such reactions anti-Semitic or simply the consequence of Apartheid Israel’s incitement to genocide of the Palestinian people who — contrary to what Israeli Jews keep telling us — are human beings and not beasts; are a people in their own right; and do exist on their own land with an inalienable entitlement as follows:
Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. Furthermore, no distinction shall be made on the basis of the political, jurisdictional or international status of the country or territory to which a person belongs, whether it be independent, trust, non-self-governing or under any other limitation of sovereignty.
Article 2, Universal Declaration of Human Rights to which Israel is a signatory but from which it is apparently exempt from respecting because of the Holocaust.
Will BBC viewers be watching programs at any time in the near future that document the atrocities perpetrated against the Palestinians by an Apartheid Israeli war criminal state that fine people like Olivia Marks-Woldman unconditionally support? No doubt force-feeding “the widest possible audience” of gullible gentiles with memories of the genocide of Jews by the Nazis helps to offset current condemnation of the equally abhorrent genocide of Palestinians by Jews.
“Israelis and American Jews fully agree that the memory of the Holocaust is an indispensable weapon — one that must be used relentlessly against their common enemy … Jewish organisations and individuals thus labor continuously to remind the world of it. In America, the perpetuation of the Holocaust memory is now a $100-million-a-year enterprise, part of which is government funded.”
According to Israeli author Moshe Leshem, the expansion of Israeli power is commensurate with the expansion of the “Holocaust” propaganda.1
Last month the Russell Tribunal (comprised of international law experts) announced that Israel was guilty of “incitement to genocide,” and that Israel’s long-term collective punishment of Palestinians seemed to be designed to “inflict conditions of life calculated to bring about the incremental destruction of the Palestinians as a group.” Despite that announcement of what has been obvious for decades (not short-term occupation, but long-term extermination), the International Criminal Court has maintained its usual avoidance of pursuing the big fish — like Henry Kissinger, George Bush, Dick Cheney, Tony Blair, Barack Obama, and many others including equally indictable Israeli leaders such as Benjamin Netanyahu — while concentrating on minnows like Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta who became the first sitting head of state to appear before the ICC on charges of crimes against humanity for his alleged role in unleashing a wave of post-election violence during 2007-08.
Uhuru (Swahili for “freedom”) whose alleged guilt is far from being as obvious as that of Israeli leaders, is the son of Jomo Kenyatta “the founding father” who led Kenya from its independence in 1963 until his death in 1978. Independent Kenya, like most post-colonial nations, was also the beneficiary of colonialism’s main legacy of injustice and corruption of which Jomo had personal experience at his trial along with five others accused of managing the Mau Mau. The accused appeared before Mr. Justice Thacker, a man who practiced his profession in the same self-serving mould as that of Tony Blair, the war criminal “Middle East Peace Envoy.” Thacker accepted a bribe of £20,000 (a small fortune in those days) from the Governor of Kenya, Evelyn Baring, 1st Baron Howick of Glendale, who wanted to ensure that Thacker would find the accused guilty. Also according to Baring, “Every possible effort has been made to offer them [the witnesses] rewards and to protect them but no one can tell what will really happen when they are confronted in court by Kenyatta’s formidable personality …” One witness did in fact subsequently recant, admit he had been bribed, and was convicted of perjury.
After finding the accused guilty at the end of the trial, “Justice” Thacker — who had also unashamedly asked for an honour from the Queen but was refused — then fled the country on the first available flight. As an aside to this tale of unbridled corruption of justice, Ngina Kenyatta — widow of Jomo and mother of Uhuru — is the fourth richest woman in Africa with a net worth of $500 million while the majority of Kenyans exist in abject poverty. For most African people the only notable difference between colonial and post-colonial rule has been the colour change of their corrupt political exploiters from white to black.
The West’s current Israeli-inspired and U.S.-led fabricated necessity for waging war against ISIS is not a recent development but part of a long-established strategy promoted by Israeli sponsored U.S. neoconservatives who ensure the constant existence of Islamic enemies so as to justify costly and never ending wars that ultimately benefit Israel through the destruction of surrounding Arab neighbour infrastructures. The creation of ISIS arose from the necessity to replace the old Islamic ogre of Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda with a new one.
In March 2007, General Wesley Clark, a retired 4-star U.S. Army general and Supreme Allied Commander of NATO during the 1999 War on Yugoslavia, had the following to say in an interview with Amy Goodman of Democracy Now:
So I came back to see him a few weeks later, and by that time we were bombing in Afghanistan. I said, ‘Are we still going to war with Iraq?’ And he said, ‘Oh, it’s worse than that.’ He reached over on his desk. He picked up a piece of paper. And he said, ‘I just got this down from upstairs’ — meaning the Secretary of Defence’s office — ‘today.’ And he said, ‘This is a memo that describes how we’re going to take out seven countries in five years, starting with Iraq, and then Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and, finishing off, Iran.’ I said, ‘Is it classified?’ He said, ‘Yes, sir.’ I said, ‘Well, don’t show it to me.’ And I saw him a year or so ago, and I said, ‘You remember that?’ He said, ‘Sir, I didn’t show you that memo! I didn’t show it to you.’
General Clark’s allegation is amply substantiated by recent Israeli-inspired and U.S.-led conflicts in the Middle East and provides proof that plans for such conflicts were already in place long before the justification for them had even been fabricated. Such Middle East conflicts serve to benefit Israel in three ways: the first is to destabilise and fragment but preferably destroy surrounding Arab states; the second is to achieve the first by getting Western nations at their taxpayers expense to bear all the cost and do the fighting; and the third is to have such conflicts serve as a distraction from Zionist Apartheid Israel’s lying, cheating, stealing, double-crossing, and killing along with all its other barbaric violations of international law including human rights.
Concerned, decent, and responsible people everywhere must relentlessly demand honest and impartial media coverage of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict which must not be overlooked or forgotten until Palestinians receive justice and reparations for the decades of heinous crimes perpetrated against them by Israeli Jews; they must resolutely resist the Anglo-Zionist Political Corporate Military Industrial Empire’s voracious dependency on continual military conflict that maintains the status quo of almost half the world’s wealth belonging to just one percent of the population; and they must unconditionally insist that the ICC fully fulfils its charter as described in the Rome Statute’s Preamble by charging Israeli leaders with the crimes that everybody knows they have been guilty of committing.
Israeli Jews have every right to have a “world of their own” if they want, but not on ethnically cleansed Palestinian land and at the expense of goyim taxpayers.
- Balaam’s Curse: How Israel Lost its Way, and How it Can find it Again, Simon & Schuster, 1989.
There is a war going on and it long predates Israel’s summer Gaza onslaught. It is a war on water, and it runs deep. For the last decade, Israel has been carrying out a systemic and willful campaign to deny Palestinians access to clean water.
Though Israel’s campaign to restrict water access has yet to make the news, rights organizations are pushing the Palestinian Authority to take the issue to court, so the matter could well make headlines in the coming months. While the PA has been debating whether or not to accede to the International Criminal Court, increasing documentation of war crimes may push their hand.
Under international law, deliberate targeting of civilian infrastructure is a war crime, and as of 2010, water and sanitation were enshrined as basic human rights. Israel has blatantly and systemically been denying these rights.Through growing documentation and awareness, Israel’s systemic campaign against Palestinian water can be seen for what it is: a comprehensive violation of one of the most basic human rights. It consists of a two-pronged approach: the visible mass destruction of water and sanitation infrastructure, reinforced by invisible policies of closure and occupation, siege and confiscation that block the repair of infrastructure. Together, these tactics prevent the existence of sustainable Palestinian communities, driving people from their land, their homes, and communities.
The first tool of Israel’s water war has been well documented. It includes direct and extensive damage caused deliberately during large-scale military operations. In the latest Israeli military operation in Gaza this meant Israeli aircraft targeted the sewage pump station and F16s disabled pumps that sent 25,000 cubic meters of wastewater per day to Gaza’s main sewage treatment plant. Further Israeli shelling east of Gaza City hit a main water pipeline, disconnecting areas east of the city so that 450,000 were completely cut off from municipal services, and the more than 1.5 million residents of the strip suffered massively reduced access.
The losses in water infrastructure alone from this latest series of strikes have been estimated at $30 million. This is not taking into account the massive toll on health, with 100,000 cubic meters of untreated sewage flowing through the streets of Gaza and into the sea, causing widespread health problems. This meant over-burdened hospitals, without water themselves, were dealing with digestive ailments, skin allergies, water-borne and respiratory diseases.
UN investigations from the 2008-9 attacks on Gaza already affirmed that Israel’s targeting of water infrastructure was “deliberate and systematic.” The September meeting of the Russell Tribunal, charged with investigating rights violations from this summer’s atrocities, has reached similar conclusions.
And while arguments will no doubt be made about the fog of war or the targeting of water infrastructure as accidental or as collateral damage, this line of defense is weakened when such military attacks are seen as part of a longer-term systemic program. For example, in the 2001-2 invasion of Jenin, the same policy of intentional damage to water equipment during military assault was used. Invasions caused massive damage to water and wastewater infrastructure, cutting off water services to civilians for weeks.
Even more insidious has been the slow but deliberate damage to water infrastructure that has taken place as part of the day-to-day of occupation. This damage can be seen both in the West Bank, as well as in the agricultural lands of Gaza that have, since 2005, been declared as a border ‘buffer’ zone by the Israeli military.
Official documentation has catalogued demolition by Israeli forces of 173 different pieces of water, sanitation, or hygiene infrastructure in Area C of the West Bank between 2009 and 2011. This has included the confiscation of water tankers, which are used as an emergency measure when access to water is prohibited. In the Gaza border zone – which swallows up some 17 percent of Gaza’s landmass – 305 agricultural wells were destroyed between 2005 and 2013.
In addition, Jewish settlers in the illegal Jewish-only settlements in the West Bank regularly carry out acts of vandalism and destruction that specifically target Palestinian water sources, and frequently take over natural springs for their own recreational use.
These settlers are acting within a clear Israeli policy that sees targeting of water resources as an acceptable method of warfare.
The destruction of generations-old water infrastructure such as historic cisterns or springs not only deprives marginalized communities of water but destroys an important element of Palestinian history and the community’s organic relationship with natural resources. Further, by depriving farmers of water, Israeli policies drive them off their land. Loss of agricultural income resulting from de-developed water infrastructure is estimated at $1.44 billion annually.
Though Israel has total control over the building, development, or maintenance of water infrastructure in Area C – where permission is systemically denied – it also maintains indirect control in all areas of the West Bank, where it can – and often does – prohibit the building of water treatment, irrigation, or industrial facilities.
Evidence of water warfare, and deliberate efforts to use water as a weapon against Palestinian civilian populations, is being documented at all levels, and efforts continue to bring awareness to all those affected. Israel’s water war has continued with impunity for far too long and must be challenged before its effects are irreversible.
Not surprisingly, NPR’s ombudsman goes with the flow that will neither interfere with his current employment nor injure his future prospects in American journalism.
Following is an email to me from the Office of the Ombudsman, and my response to NPR:
Thank you for contacting the NPR Ombudsman. We appreciate your comments and your thoughts will be taken into consideration as we continue to monitor the reporting.
The Ombudsman is currently working on a blog post about this issue. You may be interested in this statement from our standards and practices editor:
David Brooks is primarily an opinion columnist for The New York Times. He appears on All Things Considered to offer his opinions, not as a reporter. His son’s service with the Israeli Defense Forces is no secret We agree with the Times‘ editorial page editor, Andrew Rosenthal, that Mr. Brooks’ long-standing views about Israel have been “formed by all kinds of things … [and] are not going to change whether or not his son is serving in the IDF, beyond his natural concerns as a father for his son’s safety and well-being.” We also agree with the Times‘ public editor, Margaret Sullivan, that Mr. Brooks should not be barred from commenting about Israel. She has recommended that he address the issue of his son’s service in the IDF in a future column. That strikes us as a reasonable suggestion. If a situation arises and we feel he should also mention it on our air, we still discuss that with Mr. Brooks at that time.
The only place the information about Brooks has appeared in print to date is a Hebrew version of an Israeli newspaper, and possibly the Los Angeles Jewish Journal. It has not appeared on any mainstream broadcast entity that I’m aware of.
2. While, as you state, Mr. Brooks is not a reporter, he must still abide by journalistic ethics. The National Society of Newspaper Columnists‘ code of ethics states that columnists’ potential conflicts of interest should be disclosed.
3. You rightly point out that Mr. Brooks has the “natural concerns as a father for his son’s safety and well-being.”
The obvious reality is that Mr. Brooks’ commentary about Israel does directly affect his son’s “safety and well-being.”
Commentary that defends Israel to the American public keeps American tax money ($8-10 million per day) and American diplomatic support for Israel flowing, both of which are extremely important for his son’s safety and well-being.
Commentary that pointed out the illegality and immorality of Israel’s recent killing and injuring of thousands of Gazan men, women, and children by the Israeli military in which his son is serving would quite likely interfere with his son’s well-being, as an increasing number of Americans would join those around the world calling for war crimes tribunals.
4. Your statement is illogical, unfounded, and ludicrous. But your well-compensated career in mainstream American journalism will continue unhindered.
In transmitting President Richard Nixon’s orders for a “massive” bombing of Cambodia in 1969, Henry Kissinger said, “Anything that flies on everything that moves”. As Barack Obama ignites his seventh war against the Muslim world since he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, the orchestrated hysteria and lies make one almost nostalgic for Kissinger’s murderous honesty.
As a witness to the human consequences of aerial savagery – including the beheading of victims, their parts festooning trees and fields – I am not surprised by the disregard of memory and history, yet again. A telling example is the rise to power of Pol Pot and his Khmer Rouge, who had much in common with today’s Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). They, too, were ruthless medievalists who began as a small sect. They, too, were the product of an American-made apocalypse, this time in Asia.
According to Pol Pot, his movement had consisted of “fewer than 5,000 poorly armed guerrillas uncertain about their strategy, tactics, loyalty and leaders”. Once Nixon’s and Kissinger’s B52 bombers had gone to work as part of “Operation Menu”, the west’s ultimate demon could not believe his luck.
The Americans dropped the equivalent of five Hiroshimas on rural Cambodia during 1969-73. They levelled village after village, returning to bomb the rubble and corpses. The craters left monstrous necklaces of carnage, still visible from the air. The terror was unimaginable. A former Khmer Rouge official described how the survivors “froze up and they would wander around mute for three or four days. Terrified and half-crazy, the people were ready to believe what they were told… That was what made it so easy for the Khmer Rouge to win the people over.”
A Finnish Government Commission of Enquiry estimated that 600,000 Cambodians died in the ensuing civil war and described the bombing as the “first stage in a decade of genocide”. What Nixon and Kissinger began, Pol Pot, their beneficiary, completed. Under their bombs, the Khmer Rouge grew to a formidable army of 200,000.
ISIS has a similar past and present. By most scholarly measure, Bush and Blair’s invasion of Iraq in 2003 led to the deaths of some 700,000 people – in a country that had no history of jihadism. The Kurds had done territorial and political deals; Sunni and Shia had class and sectarian differences, but they were at peace; intermarriage was common. Three years before the invasion, I drove the length of Iraq without fear. On the way I met people proud, above all, to be Iraqis, the heirs of a civilization that seemed, for them, a presence.
Bush and Blair blew all this to bits. Iraq is now a nest of jihadism. Al-Qaeda – like Pol Pot’s “jihadists” – seized the opportunity provided by the onslaught of Shock and Awe and the civil war that followed. “Rebel” Syria offered even greater rewards, with CIA and Gulf state ratlines of weapons, logistics and money running through Turkey. The arrival of foreign recruits was inevitable. A former British ambassador, Oliver Miles, wrote recently, “The [Cameron] government seems to be following the example of Tony Blair, who ignored consistent advice from the Foreign Office, MI5 and MI6 that our Middle East policy – and in particular our Middle East wars – had been a principal driver in the recruitment of Muslims in Britain for terrorism here.”
ISIS is the progeny of those in Washington and London who, in destroying Iraq as both a state and a society, conspired to commit an epic crime against humanity. Like Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge, ISIS are the mutations of a western state terror dispensed by a venal imperial elite undeterred by the consequences of actions taken at great remove in distance and culture. Their culpability is unmentionable in “our” societies.
It is 23 years since this holocaust enveloped Iraq, immediately after the first Gulf War, when the US and Britain hijacked the United Nations Security Council and imposed punitive “sanctions” on the Iraqi population – ironically, reinforcing the domestic authority of Saddam Hussein. It was like a medieval siege. Almost everything that sustained a modern state was, in the jargon, “blocked” – from chlorine for making the water supply safe to school pencils, parts for X-ray machines, common painkillers and drugs to combat previously unknown cancers carried in the dust from the southern battlefields contaminated with Depleted Uranium.
Just before Christmas 1999, the Department of Trade and Industry in London restricted the export of vaccines meant to protect Iraqi children against diphtheria and yellow fever. Kim Howells, parliamentary Under-Secretary of State in the Blair government, explained why. “The children’s vaccines”, he said, “were capable of being used in weapons of mass destruction”. The British Government could get away with such an outrage because media reporting of Iraq – much of it manipulated by the Foreign Office – blamed Saddam Hussein for everything.
Under a bogus “humanitarian” Oil for Food Programme, $100 was allotted for each Iraqi to live on for a year. This figure had to pay for the entire society’s infrastructure and essential services, such as power and water. “Imagine,” the UN Assistant Secretary General, Hans Von Sponeck, told me, “setting that pittance against the lack of clean water, and the fact that the majority of sick people cannot afford treatment, and the sheer trauma of getting from day to day, and you have a glimpse of the nightmare. And make no mistake, this is deliberate. I have not in the past wanted to use the word genocide, but now it is unavoidable.”
Disgusted, Von Sponeck resigned as UN Humanitarian Co-ordinator in Iraq. His predecessor, Denis Halliday, an equally distinguished senior UN official, had also resigned. “I was instructed,” Halliday said, “to implement a policy that satisfies the definition of genocide: a deliberate policy that has effectively killed well over a million individuals, children and adults.”
A study by the United Nations Children’s Fund, Unicef, found that between 1991 and 1998, the height of the blockade, there were 500,000 “excess” deaths of Iraqi infants under the age of five. An American TV reporter put this to Madeleine Albright, US Ambassador to the United Nations, asking her, “Is the price worth it?” Albright replied, “We think the price is worth it.”
In 2007, the senior British official responsible for the sanctions, Carne Ross, known as “Mr. Iraq”, told a parliamentary selection committee, “[The US and UK governments] effectively denied the entire population a means to live.” When I interviewed Carne Ross three years later, he was consumed by regret and contrition. “I feel ashamed,” he said. He is today a rare truth-teller of how governments deceive and how a compliant media plays a critical role in disseminating and maintaining the deception. “We would feed [journalists] factoids of sanitised intelligence,” he said, “or we’d freeze them out.”
On 25 September, a headline in the Guardian read: “Faced with the horror of Isis we must act.” The “we must act” is a ghost risen, a warning of the suppression of informed memory, facts, lessons learned and regrets or shame. The author of the article was Peter Hain, the former Foreign Office minister responsible for Iraq under Blair. In 1998, when Denis Halliday revealed the extent of the suffering in Iraq for which the Blair Government shared primary responsibility, Hain abused him on the BBC’s Newsnight as an “apologist for Saddam”. In 2003, Hain backed Blair’s invasion of stricken Iraq on the basis of transparent lies. At a subsequent Labour Party conference, he dismissed the invasion as a “fringe issue”.
Now Hain is demanding “air strikes, drones, military equipment and other support” for those “facing genocide” in Iraq and Syria. This will further “the imperative of a political solution”. Obama has the same in mind as he lifts what he calls the “restrictions” on US bombing and drone attacks. This means that missiles and 500-pound bombs can smash the homes of peasant people, as they are doing without restriction in Yemen, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Somalia – as they did in Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos. On 23 September, a Tomahawk cruise missile hit a village in Idlib Province in Syria, killing as many as a dozen civilians, including women and children. None waved a black flag.
The day Hain’s article appeared, Denis Halliday and Hans Von Sponeck happened to be in London and came to visit me. They were not shocked by the lethal hypocrisy of a politician, but lamented the enduring, almost inexplicable absence of intelligent diplomacy in negotiating a semblance of truce. Across the world, from Northern Ireland to Nepal, those regarding each other as terrorists and heretics have faced each other across a table. Why not now in Iraq and Syria.
Like Ebola from West Africa, a bacteria called “perpetual war” has crossed the Atlantic. Lord Richards, until recently head of the British military, wants “boots on the ground” now. There is a vapid, almost sociopathic verboseness from Cameron, Obama and their “coalition of the willing” – notably Australia’s aggressively weird Tony Abbott – as they prescribe more violence delivered from 30,000 feet on places where the blood of previous adventures never dried. They have never seen bombing and they apparently love it so much they want it to overthrow their one potentially valuable ally, Syria. This is nothing new, as the following leaked UK-US intelligence file illustrates:
“In order to facilitate the action of liberative [sic] forces… a special effort should be made to eliminate certain key individuals [and] to proceed with internal disturbances in Syria. CIA is prepared, and SIS (MI6) will attempt to mount minor sabotage and coup de main [sic] incidents within Syria, working through contacts with individuals… a necessary degree of fear… frontier and [staged] border clashes [will] provide a pretext for intervention… the CIA and SIS should use… capabilities in both psychological and action fields to augment tension.”
That was written in 1957, though it could have been written yesterday. In the imperial world, nothing essentially changes. Last year, the former French Foreign Minister Roland Dumas revealed that “two years before the Arab spring”, he was told in London that a war on Syria was planned. “I am going to tell you something,” he said in an interview with the French TV channel LPC, “I was in England two years before the violence in Syria on other business. I met top British officials, who confessed to me that they were preparing something in Syria… Britain was organising an invasion of rebels into Syria. They even asked me, although I was no longer Minister for Foreign Affairs, if I would like to participate… This operation goes way back. It was prepared, preconceived and planned.”
The only effective opponents of ISIS are accredited demons of the west – Syria, Iran, Hezbollah. The obstacle is Turkey, an “ally” and a member of NATO, which has conspired with the CIA, MI6 and the Gulf medievalists to channel support to the Syrian “rebels”, including those now calling themselves ISIS. Supporting Turkey in its long-held ambition for regional dominance by overthrowing the Assad government beckons a major conventional war and the horrific dismemberment of the most ethnically diverse state in the Middle East.
A truce – however difficult to achieve – is the only way out of this imperial maze; otherwise, the beheadings will continue. That genuine negotiations with Syria should be seen as “morally questionable” (the Guardian ) suggests that the assumptions of moral superiority among those who supported the war criminal Blair remain not only absurd, but dangerous.
Together with a truce, there should be an immediate cessation of all shipments of war materials to Israel and recognition of the State of Palestine. The issue of Palestine is the region’s most festering open wound, and the oft-stated justification for the rise of Islamic extremism. Osama bin Laden made that clear. Palestine also offers hope. Give justice to the Palestinians and you begin to change the world around them.
More than 40 years ago, the Nixon-Kissinger bombing of Cambodia unleashed a torrent of suffering from which that country has never recovered. The same is true of the Blair-Bush crime in Iraq. With impeccable timing, Henry Kissinger’s latest self-serving tome has just been released with its satirical title, “World Order”. In one fawning review, Kissinger is described as a “key shaper of a world order that remained stable for a quarter of a century”. Tell that to the people of Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, Chile, East Timor and all the other victims of his “statecraft”. Only when “we” recognise the war criminals in our midst will the blood begin to dry.
Follow John Pilger on twitter @johnpilger