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Afghanistan’s Mineral “Riches”: A scheme to sell us on another decade of occupation?

The story came from the Pentagon

By Steve Hynd | June 14, 2010

Last night, the New York Times’ James Risen “broke” what the mainstream media are insisting is a blockbuster story about Afghanistan’s untapped mineral wealth – not just iron and copper but strategically significant minerals like lithium and all told valued at around $1 trillion.

Wow!

Only…not wow. When the NYT published Risen’s story to the web last night, I tweeted “What a convenient time to find $1 trillion, eh?” and “Just as McChrystal’s in big trouble, liberal thinktanks starting to shift anti-war, Pentagon publicizes $1 trillion Afghan treasure trove,” because this is a zombie story, resurrected yet again for political purposes.

Afghanistan’s mineral riches were well known to the Soviets in 1985 and a US government Country Study in 2002 went into detail about their knowledge. By 2005 the US Geological Service was being publicly exuberant in its assessment of Afghanistan’s mineral resources (PDF). It published other public reports about the “Significant Potential for Undiscovered Resources in Afghanistan” in 2007, one of which focussed on non-fuel minerals. In 2008, it was Afghan reserves of oil and gas that was making the news and in 2009, as Reuters was reporting on Afghanistan’s vast mineral wealth and McLatchy was noting China’s interest, rights to the vast iron deposits were already up for tender.

Blake Hounshell is just as skeptical as I am, writing last night:

the findings on which the story was based are online and have been since 2007, courtesy of the U.S. Geological Survey. More information is available on the Afghan mining ministry’s website, including a report by the British Geological Survey (and there’s more here). You can also take a look at the USGS’s documentation of the airborne part of the survey here, including the full set of aerial photographs.

Nowhere have I found that $1 trillion figure mentioned, which Risen suggests was generated by a Pentagon task force seeking to help the Afghan government develop its resources (looking at the chart accompanying the article, though, it appears to be a straightforward tabulation of the total reserve figures for each mineral times current the current market price). According to Risen, that task force has begun prepping the mining ministry to start soliciting bids for mineral rights in the fall.

Don’t get me wrong. This could be a great thing for Afghanistan, which certainly deserves a lucky break after the hell it’s been through over the last three decades.

But I’m (a) skeptical of that $1 trillion figure; (b) skeptical of the timing of this story, given the bad news cycle, and (c) skeptical that Afghanistan can really figure out a way to develop these resources in a useful way. It’s also worth noting, as Risen does, that it will take years to get any of this stuff out of the ground, not to mention enormous capital investment.

Exactly. These reserves are very real but they don’t help Afghanistan right now one bit and they’re unlikely to really help Afghanistan down the line since the evidence says that corrupt societies that suddenly find themselves in possession of mineral wealth only get more corrupt. So, unless you’re willing to encompass the conspiracy theory that the US invaded Afghanistan, at a cost of $1 trillion and rising fast, so that one day some corporations might make a few billions (and some will) we have to ask what was the point of resurrecting this zombie and painting it up so fine for Mardi Gras?

Well, although Risen’s lede says the news came from “senior American government officials” it’s easy to see which agency wants us reading about massive strategic reserves in Afghanistan right now. The story came from the Pentagon. Risen quotes extensively from Paul A. Brinkley, “deputy undersecretary of defense for business and leader of the Pentagon team that discovered the deposits” and has General Petraeus saying that “There is stunning potential here…I think potentially it is hugely significant.” … Full article

June 14, 2010 Posted by | Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Militarism | 3 Comments

Ex-Muslim preacher exposed as fake

Press TV – June 14, 2010

A prominent Christian preacher that reportedly converted to Christianity from Islam has come under fire for making suspicious claims about his Muslim past.

Ergun Caner, the dean of Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary in Lynchburg, Virginia, claims that he was a radical Muslim teenager before immigrating to the US from Turkey and discovering Jesus Christ at a church in the US state of Ohio.

Soon after the September 11, 2001 attacks in New York and Washington, DC, Caner and his brother, Emir, published a book labeled Unveiling Islam: An Insider’s Look at Muslim Life and Beliefs.

In the book, Caner portrays himself as a one-time extremist who received terrorist trainings in Turkey.

The publication of the book quickly propelled this unknown Baptist minister to the heights of fame, and in 2005 granted him his current post as the dean of Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary in Lynchburg, Virginia.

Since then, Caner has established himself as a leading Christian critic of Islam using his stature as the dean of one of the most prominent Evangelical theology schools.

However, Caner’s contradictory stories and remarks have cast doubt on his past.

Recent reports show that he and his family had moved to Ohio when he was just a child — before being able to receive terrorist training — and that some “Arabic” phrases he had uttered in some of his speeches were actual gibberish.

Following the revelations, Liberty University Chancellor Jerry Falwell Jr. has initiated a probe into Caner’s behavior, with results due later this month, the Associated Press reported recently.

Jerry Falwell Sr., the founder and former chancellor of the Liberty University who died in 2007, was an outspoken rhetorical critic of Islam that lacked little scholarly knowledge of the religion. On numerous occasions he had made offensive remarks regarding the Prophet of Islam (PBUH).

Many critics regard Caner to be just an opportunist who has sowed tension between the world’s two largest faiths.

“He’s done enormous harm … To listen to someone like Caner, you’d think house meetings to decide what to blow up next are daily fare for all Muslims,” said Charles Kimball, director of religious studies at the University of Oklahoma.

Analysts say that Caner’s climb to fame, however, illustrates how important Muslim conversion stories are among American Christian communities today.

It also brings back to mind the longstanding fascination of the American society — dating back to the colonial period — with tales of Muslims converting to Christianity.

June 14, 2010 Posted by | Deception, Islamophobia | 11 Comments

Going After the Wrong People

From Julian Assange to Helen Thomas

By DAVE LINDORFF | June 14, 2010

What does it say about the the American government, its president, and its military today, that the the largest military/intelligence organization in the history of mankind has launched a global manhunt for Julian Assange, head of the Wikileaks organization? And what does it say about corporate American journalists that they attack the only real journalist in the White House press corps, when she alone has shown the guts to speak truth?

The Hunt for Julian Assange

Consider first the case of Wikileaks founder Assange, whom Daniel Ellsberg, the man who leaked the Pentagon Papers, warns is in danger, if found, of being snuffed by the Pentagon’s search teams. First of all, let’s be clear here: he is “guilty” of no crime, but only of doing what American journalists should have done long ago: exposing the crimes of the US government. His Wikileaks famously leaked the military video showing that the crew of a helicopter gunship in Iraq in 2007 had shot up and killed a group of innocent Iraqi civilians, including two Reuters journalists, and laughed and mocked the victims as they were slaughtered. Now the same whistleblower website threatens to release hundreds of thousands of State Department cables that, among other things, reportedly include embarrassing comments by US officials about foreign leaders.

How is it, mainstream journalists ought to be asking but aren’t, that the Pentagon can unleash its vast intelligence resources to hunt down the Australian-born Assange, but cannot bring itself to devote those same resources and commitment to hunting down Osama Bin Laden, the man they claim is behind not only the attacks on the World Trade Center towers and the Pentagon itself, but also the resistance to US forces in Iraq and Afghanistan?

I’m not sure which is the bigger scandal here: the Pentagon’s grotesque misallocation of resources, or the media’s unwillingness to point it out.

There is no indication or claim by the government that Wikileaks has paid anyone anything to reveal US secrets–in fact the government claims it isn’t even interested in arresting Asange, just in “trying to convince him” not to release those cables. (Sure. I believe that like I believe the government wants fair hearings at its secret military tribunals in Guantanamo.) The secrets he has disclosed have been volunteered to Wikileaks by government and military whistleblowers, one of whom, Army intelligence specialist Bradley Manning, is now under arrest in Kuwait, a US client state where there are no protections against torture. Note that even what Manning did should not be considered a crime in any just, open society. He didn’t endanger US security as claimed; rather, he revealed a possible crime–the killing of civilians by US forces–that the government itself was covering up and refusing to investigate. (He says he tried to pursue justice within the military chain of command and was ignored, which is why he turned to Wikileaks.)

In any event, one thing is obvious. The Obama administration is becoming downright Nixonian in its efforts to silence internal dissent, and this time, what is left of a mainstream corporate media no longer have any interest in standing up to this kind of incipient fascism.

It remains to the likes of brave souls like Assange and to the independent and alternative media journalists who stand with him, to resist. Here’s hoping Assange keeps safe and well hidden, and that he and his Wikileaks compatriots continue to expose the ugly secrets of the American Empire.

The Attack on Helen Thomas

And then we have the sorry case of veteran senior White House correspondent Helen Thomas, who was just kneecapped by her own colleagues.

The truth is that when Thomas was ambushed by David Nesenoff, the Zionist rabbi with the camera, and asked for her opinion “about Israel,” she said nothing wrong. Her reply, in which she said the people occupying Palestine should “get out” and “go home,” was clearly a reference not to Israel, but to the Palestinian occupied territories, and that makes a world of difference.

Note that Rabbi Nesenoff’s question was, “Any comments about Israel?” and Thomas’s response was, “Tell them (Israel) to get out of Palestine.” She’s referring to Israel getting out of Palestinian territory. How do we know this? Because subsequently, she says, “Remember, these people are occupied and it’s their land.”

The people of Israel–Israelis and Israeli Palestinians–are clearly not “occupied.” Israel is many things, but it is not an occupied country. Who is occupied? The people of Gaza and the West Bank. So what Thomas is doing here is what most people do, including even many Israelis, which is referring to the Palestinian occupied territories by the shorthand of the term “Palestine.” (I do this myself all the time in discussions of the issue.) It’s true that some hard-core anti-Zionists refer to the whole of Israel and Palestine as “occupied Palestine,” just as some hard-core Zionists refer to the whole of the occupied territoris as Eretz Israel or Greater Israel– in the same way that some Native Americans refer to all of America as stolen land–but there has never been any evidence that Thomas is in that camp.

And once this is understood, what Thomas says could not be construed by any honest person as being anti-semitic. She is saying they (Israel, or Israelis living in the Palestinian territories) should “go home,”, and she is saying those “occupiers” should “go home” to “Poland, Germany and America and everywhere else.”

In fact, that’s quite a valid opinion (and one that I and even many Israelis who are sick of living in a perpetual state of war share). Many of the settlers who have been stealing Palestinian land under the protection of a brutal Israeli Defense Force and with the encouragement of a hard-line Zionist government, in fact do hail from outside Israel. They are immigrants from Brooklyn and other parts of the US, from Russia, and from other European countries, and Israel has actually been encouraging them to immigrate to Israel and then settle in the occupied territories. They have no legal or moral right to be in the occupied territories, and their presence there is intended by the Israeli government to create “facts on the ground” that make a Palestinian state impossible and any peace settlement with Palestinians impossible.

Thomas was clearly not referring to Israel as an “occupied territory.” She is an experienced reporter on international affairs and knows that such a definition of the Israeli state would make no sense to anyone but the most irredentist Arabist. Moreover, a woman who has Jewish friends and colleagues, she is well aware that many Israeli Jews are native to the Middle East, and even trace their ancestry to the pre-Israel Palestine, while many more are second, third or fourth-generation natives of the nation founded in 1948. As such they have as much right to be stay where they are and to call it home as do the whites living in South Africa on stolen Africans’ land, or white Americans living today on stolen Indian land. Thomas was certainly not saying that those people should “go back” to countries like Poland or America, where they never lived, though that’s what her critics are claiming.

And Thomas is absolutely correct in saying that the Israeli Jews living in those territories must “go back” to wherever they came from, if there is ever to be peace in the Middle East. Look, I know a Palestinian green card holder in the US. He told me how when he was a child, his home was stolen by Israelis and is now occupied by an Israeli settler family. He says his father kept the deed to his stolen home framed on the wall. Now, here in the US, following his father’s death, he has the deed hung prominently on his own wall, and he says his oldest son will someday have that same deed framed on his wall. As long as this kind of injustice survives–an injustice no different from the Nazi thefts of Jewish property, which Jewish families today, here and in Israel, are still trying to win compensation for from German and Austrian governments–how can there be any peace in Israel and Palestine?

Clearly such a view falls outside the narrow band of acceptable discourse that is permitted in our corporate media, and it certainly is not a position taken by any but a handful of our national politicians, in thrall as they all seem to be to the Zionist lobby and the money doled out by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.

Thomas’s “colleagues” in the White House press corps, who have been so quick to drum out an 89-year-old woman from their club (and Zionists like Bush-era White House flak Ari Fleischer), should be ashamed of themselves. They know she is no anti-semite, and know she was doing what they all do from time to time: using the term Palestine in a shorthand way to refer to the occupied territories. The haste with which they exiled her from their fraternity has nothing to do with their feigned outrage, and everything to do with her feisty insistence on doing what they should all have been doing but haven’t done for years: actually ask challenging, embarrassing questions about domestic and international policy of the president and the his press secretary.

Ashamed too, should be those on the left who have defended Thomas so half-heartedly, saying she should be “forgiven,” but predicating their lame defense by saying she was “stupid” or “clumsy” or “wrong” to have made what they claim was a “hurtful” or even “bigoted” statement.

Thomas should never have apologized for her statement. She should have stuck to it.

Dave Lindorff is a Philadelphia-based journalist and columnist at www.thiscantbehappening.net.

June 14, 2010 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance | 5 Comments

The U.S. wins the right to abduct innocent people with impunity

By Glenn Greenwald| June 14, 2010

The Supreme Court today denied a petition of review from Maher Arar, the Canadian and Syrian citizen who was abducted by the U.S. Government at a stopover at JFK Airport when returning to Canada in 2002, held incommunicado for two weeks, and then rendered to Syria, where he spent the next 10 months being tortured, even though — as everyone acknowledges — he was guilty of absolutely nothing.  Arar sued the U.S. Government for what was done to him, and last November, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the dismissal of his lawsuit on the ground that courts have no right to interfere in these decisions of the Executive Branch.  That was the decision which the U.S. Supreme Court let stand today, ending Arar’s attempt to be compensated for what was done to him.

I’ve written in detail several times about Arar’s case, including in November when the appellate court upheld dismissal of his lawsuit; see here for how extreme his treatment has been at the hands of the U.S. Government, which was most responsible for his harrowing nightmare and then spent years fighting to deny him any remedy for what was done.  I won’t reiterate those points here, as everything I have to say about the Supreme Court’s actions today was said in that November post (read the last part of that post, where I excerpted the court’s description of what was done to Arar).  But I do want to highlight one aspect of this episode:

Just compare how the American and Canadian Governments responded to what everyone agrees was this horrific injustice.  The Canadians, who cooperated with the U.S. in Arar’s abduction, conducted a sweeping investigation of what happened, and then publicly “issued a scathing report that faulted Canada and the United States for his deportation four years ago to Syria, where he was imprisoned and tortured,” and made clear he had done absolutely nothing wrong.  Then, Canada’s Prime Minister personally and publicly apologized to Arar, and announced that Canada would compensate him with a payment of $ 8.5 million.

By stark contrast, the U.S. Government, which played a far more active role in his abduction and rendition to Syria, has never apologized to Arar (though individual members of Congress have).  It has never clearly acknowledged wrongdoing (the only time it even hinted at this was when Condoleezza Rice called U.S. conduct in this case “imperfect” — you think? — and generously added: “We do not think this case was handled as it should have been”).  In fact, it continuously did the opposite of providing accountability:  in response to Arar’s efforts to seek damages from the U.S. Government, the U.S. raised — under two successive administrations — a slew of technical arguments to persuade American courts not to hear his case at all, including the argument that what was done to Arar involved “state secrets” that prevented a judicial adjudication of his claims.  The U.S. even continued to ban Arar from entering the U.S. long after it was acknowledged that he had done nothing wrong, thus preventing him for years from appearing before Congress or in the U.S. to talk about what was done to him.  Indeed, after the Bush administration spent years arguing that courts were barred from hearing Arar’s case on the ground of “state secrets,” the Obama administration embraced those same arguments and then urged the Supreme Court not to hear his appeal.

As the Center for Constitutional Rights pointed out today:

The Obama administration could have settled the case, recognizing the wrongs done to Mr. Arar as Canada has done. . . . Yet the Obama administration chose to come to the defense of Bush administration officials, arguing that even if they conspired to send Maher Arar to torture, they should not be held accountable by the judiciary.

So congratulations to the U.S. for winning the right to wrongfully abduct people and send them to their torture with total impunity.  What a ringing statement about our country’s willingness to right the wrongs it commits and to provide access to our courts to those whose lives we devastate with our behavior.  Andrew Sullivan today referred to “the cult of the inerrant leader”:  the inability and refusal of our political class to acknowledge wrongdoing, apologize for it, and be held accountable.  The Maher Arar case is a pathological illustration of that syndrome.

June 14, 2010 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Progressive Hypocrite | 9 Comments

Iran’s Presidential Election One Year Later

Why the Greens Failed

By ISMAEL HOSSEIN-ZADEH | June 14, 2010

One year after his feverishly contested reelection as the president of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad seems be to standing on firmer political ground than any other time of his presidency. Having withstood all the relentless destabilization plots, both from within and without, his government is now more confident at home and more respected abroad. On a broader scale, that is, beyond Ahmadinejad and his administration, one could also argue that today the Islamic Republic of Iran is in many ways stronger and more stable than ever before—notwithstanding the continued demonization of Ahmadinejad and/or Iran by the wicked forces of global domination and their angry and frustrated allies at home and abroad.

Even on economic ground, where relentless pressures of sanctions, sabotage and psychological warfare continue unabated, Iran has weathered those pressures much better than expected. In its May 2010 report on Iran, the IMF points out that while unemployment and inflation still remain high, they have stabilized and, in fact, begun declining. The report notes that, for example, “In the past two years . . . inflation stood at 25.4 and 10.3 [percent] respectively: however in 2010 this rate will fall to 8.5 percent for the first time.” The report further predicts that Iran’s foreign exchange reserves “will increase $5 billion and reach 88.5 in 2010.” This healthy accumulation of foreign exchange reserves stands in sharp contrast with the depleted reserves and huge debts of many countries around the world.

Iran has been quite successful in extending transportation, communication and electrification networks to the countryside; providing free education and healthcare services for the needy; and reducing poverty and inequality. As I have pointed out in an earlier article,

“Iran has also made considerable progress in scientific research and technological know-how. All the oppressive economic sanctions by US imperialism and its allies have not deterred Iran from forging ahead with its economic development and industrialization plans. Indeed, Iran has viewed imperialism’s economic sanctions and technological boycotts as a blessing in disguise: it has taken advantage of these sanctions and boycotts to become self-reliant in many technological areas.

“For example, Iran is now self-sufficient in producing many of its industrial products such as home and electric appliances (television sets, washers and dryers, refrigerators, washing machines, and the like), textiles, leather products, pharmaceuticals, and agricultural products and processed food and beverage products (including refined sugar and vegetable oil). The country has also made considerable progress in manufacturing steel, copper products, paper, rubber products, telecommunications equipment, cement, and industrial machinery. Iran has the largest operational stock of industrial robots in West Asia.

“Iran’s progress in automobile and other motor vehicle production has especially been impressive. Motor vehicles, including farming equipment, now count among Iran’s exports. . . . Most remarkable of Iran’s industrial progress, however, can be seen in the manufacture of various types of its armaments needs. Iran’s defense industry has taken great strides in the past 25 years, and now manufactures many types of arms and equipment. Since 1992, Iran’s Defense Industries Organization (DIO) has produced its own tanks, armored personnel carriers, guided missiles, radar systems, military vessels, submarines, and a fighter plane. . . . As of 2006, Iran had exported weapons to 57 countries, including NATO members” [1].

In the international arenas of geopolitical and diplomatic challenges, too, Iran has recently scored a number of important points, and won important new allies. While the recent Iran-Brazil-Turkey agreement on nuclear fuel exchange has proven Iran’s willingness to reduce international tensions, it has also shown the U.S. and its allies as being utterly unreasonable by callously dismissing this important agreement. Likewise, the U.S. opposition to international calls to hold Israel accountable for the atrocities committed against the Gaza aid flotilla has further exposed the arrogant attitude and unilateral foreign policies of the United States and its allies. As these events have, once again, exposed the U.S. as an international bully, they have also given further legitimacy and credibility to Iran’s arguments against the bully. Iran is perhaps the only country in the region that determines its own economic, political and military policies independently of foreign powers’ advisors, guidelines and dictates—something that many people in other countries in the region (and beyond) are envious of.

While the political standing of President Ahmadinejad, as well as the economic and geopolitical status of Iran, seem to have improved since his June 2009 reelection, the political fortunes of his major adversaries such as Mousavi, Rafsanjani, Karroubi and Khatami have significantly declined; and their “green movement” is in confusion and disintegration. Indeed, Mr. Rafsanjani, the Godfather of the Greens, is so discredited and politically weakened that he has been forced to swallow his purported pride of power and independence of yesteryear and, instead, pay homage to Ayatollah Khamenei as the undisputed leader. Mr. Mousavi, the main challenger of President Ahmadinejad, is also notably marginalized and his influence of a year ago evaporated. His banal and hollow political statements, occasionally posted on his Website, Kalemeh, are often ridiculed not only by the government/Ahmadinejad supporters but also by many of his former supporters, who have gradually abandoned him.

The question is why? How do we explain the disintegration of the “green movement” and the tragic decline of the political fortunes of its leaders?

A widely-held explanation has been “government crackdown.” While government suppression is certainly a factor, it is not the only or even the main factor. The more important reasons behind the decline of the “green movement” and the ignominy of its leading architects lie elsewhere. What are some of these reasons?

To begin with, they ran a dishonest presidential campaign. Their candidate, Mr. Mousavi, ran for president but refused to submit to the will of the majority when it became clear that he had actually lost at the ballot box. This has led many observers to believe that his presidential campaign was more akin to a coup attempt—or, more accurately, coup light, versus traditional military coups—than a bona fide election campaign. It was modeled after the color-coded revolutions in a number of former Soviet republics such Georgia and Ukraine, a pattern that used election contexts as opportunities for destabilization and regime change.

This explains why Mr. Mousavi declared victory even before the polls were closed. It also explains why he claimed that the election was stolen the moment he learned that he had indeed lost at the polls.

Initially, many Iranians fell for this ruse, believing that Mr. Mousavi must have had evidence of “stolen election,” otherwise he would not have made such an outlandish claim. And that’s why in the immediate days following the election they heeded his instructions and took to the streets, outraged that their votes had been stolen. But as it turned out that the news of “stolen election” was false, most of them, including many of his levelheaded supporters, felt cheated and began to abandon him and his “green movement.”

Reflecting on these developments, Professor Mohammad Marandi of Tehran University, points out that when Mr. Mousavi

“effectively accepted the support of the Western funded Farsi media and the Western based opposition, through his silence, many more [Iranians] became disillusioned and even disgusted. . . . There is no doubt that today people are very angry with the foreign-backed Green movement and with the role that Western governments, through financial support and other forms of support have played in all this. . . . None of my colleagues, who had voted for Moussavi, would vote for him again after what he did following the election. That doesn’t mean that they support President Ahmadinejad or that Moussavi has no supporters at all, but only a small minority support him now” [2].

Perhaps Mr. Mousavi could have saved himself a modicum of integrity had he sincerely apologized for his bogus claim of stolen elections. Instead, he compounded that fault by cavalierly ignoring all the available evidence to the contrary, and stubbornly insisting that people’s votes must have been stolen, without providing any convincing or credible proof in support of his claim. Evidence refuting his claim of stolen election, however, is overwhelming. It includes not only detailed and specific official account of the voting results, but also a number of independent accounts provided by several prestigious polling organizations, including a few from the United States, that corroborate the authenticity of the official account [3].

Not only did Mr. Mousavi thus run a dishonest campaign, he also ran an unfair, unscrupulous and obfuscationist one: blaming Iran’s economic challenges and its chaotic diplomatic relations with Western powers largely on President Ahmadinejad, thereby overlooking the fact that the cruel economic, political and military pressures on Iran, ruthlessly inflicted by US imperialism and its allies, started not with Ahmadinejad’s presidency but with the 1979 revolution, which overthrew America’s darling regime of the Shah. Characterizing Ahmadinejad’s foreign policies as “adventurous” and “confrontational,” Mr. Mousavi and his campaign managers faulted them for hostile military and economic pressures from abroad. By the same token, they sought “understanding” and “accommodation” with the United States and its allies, presumably including Israel, in the hope of achieving political and economic stability.

Yet, as I pointed out in an earlier article on these issues,

“US imperialism showed its most venomous hostility toward Iran during the presidency of Muhammad Khatami (1997-2005), while he was vigorously pursuing a path of friendship with the United States. While Khatami was promoting his ‘dialogue of civilizations’ and taking conciliatory steps to befriend the US, including cooperation in the overthrow of the Taliban regime in the neighboring Afghanistan, George W. Bush labeled Iran as a member of the ‘axis of evil.’ This outrageous demonization was then used as a propaganda tool to justify calls for ‘regime change’ in Iran” [1].

In the face of President Khatami’s conciliatory gestures toward the United States, many Iranians were so outraged by its unfair and provocative attitude toward Iran that they began to question the wisdom of Khatami’s policy of trying to appease US imperialism. For the same reason, they also viewed Mr. Mousavi’s blaming of President Ahmadinejad for the cruel demonization of Iran as either naïve or unfair and disingenuous. Not surprisingly, most Iranians, including many of Mr. Mousavi’s former suporters and sympathizers, have come to question the honesty and integrity of his campaign.

An attractive feature of Mr. Mousavi’s initial campaign was his apparent promotion of democratic values and individual liberties. However, his purported advocacy of democracy sounded hollow as he cavalierly defied the will of the people by so brazenly disregarding the results of the majority vote in favor of Ahmadinejad. Furthermore, it was obvious that, in light of his Neoliberal economic agenda, Mr. Mousavi’s vague and abstract utterances about individual liberty and human rights did not include the right to basic human needs such as food and shelter, or the right to affordable healthcare and public education.

Mr. Mousavi’s abstract, narrow and, indeed, disingenuous promises of democratic rights resemble those of the leaders of other color-coded revolutions—for example, of Mikheil Saakashvili in Georgia and of Viktor Yushchenko in Ukraine. Had he succeeded in carrying out his “green revolution,” his promises of democracy would have proven as empty as those of his counterparts in Georgia and Ukraine—who, by the way, have by now been exposed by the Georgian and Ukrainian peoples for what they really stood for, and thrown out of office.

An important factor that has played a critical role in the decline of the “green movement” has been its class character, its inability to relate or attract the masses of the lower-middle, poor and working classes. It is no secret that the Greens hail largely, though not exclusively, from the better-off and better-educated circles of the Iranian society. Mr. Mousavi is obviously aware of this “problem” when he talks about the need to expand the ranks of his supporters beyond the middle and upper-middle classes. But class interests and alliances cannot readily be re-configured through simple wishes or words. They are indeed beyond Mr. Mousavi – the person. They shaped the character and the dynamics of his campaign and the “green movement.”

Having gone through thirty one years of continuous revolutionary atmosphere, the Iranian people have become very astute citizens in political affairs. They easily recognized the market-friendly, neoliberal nature of Mr. Mousavi’s economic agenda when they learned how (during his presidential campaign speeches) he condescendingly characterized the government spending on basic social needs as “handouts,” as “squandering” resources on gedaparvari (nurturing or promoting poverty/laziness).

This critique of Mr. Mousavi and other architects of the “green revolution” should not be viewed as a defense of President Ahmadinejad, or the Iranian government in general. Nor should it be perceived as an aversion to opposing political views, or to criticism as such. It is rather a critique of unscrupulous, opportunistic and disingenous politics, not of contrarian politics per se.

It is a truism that healthy and principled criticism is key to improvement, progress and perfection. It is also obvious that Mr. Ahmadinejad and the Islamic Republic of Iran have a lot to be criticized for. Mr. Mousavi and other Green leaders could have played an important role in furthering individual liberties and democratic ideals in Iran were they not committed to the base objective of destabilizing and overthrowing the people’s duly-elected government. By disrespecting the people’s votes, by fabricating a huge lie that the election was stolen, by resorting to violent means in pursuit of regime change, by remaining relatively aloof from the Iranian grassroots, by seeking or accepting support from dubious political forces abroad, and by blaming President Ahmadinejad for the imperialist-Zionist pressures on Iran, the Greens have lost the credibility needed to play a positive role as a constructive opposition force. More than anything else, it is this unsavory political record that explains the failure of the “green movement.”

Ismael Hossein-zadeh, author of The Political Economy of U.S. Militarism (Palgrave-Macmillan 2007), teaches economics at Drake University, Des Moines, Iowa.

Notes

[1] Ismael Hossein-zadeh, “Reflectinn on Iran’s Presidential Election,” Middle East Online, August 21, 2009.

[2] Seyed Mohammad Marandi, “Green Movement Defeated,” insideIRAN.org, February 15, 2010.

[3] Fro a disaggregated, province-by-province, city-by-city, and ballot box-by-ballot box account provided by the Interior Ministry of Iran see: <http://thomaslotze.com/iran/Mebane_Lotze_Iran_2009_polling.csv>; and for a number of expert analyses of the election result see, for example, (1) “Analysis of Multiple Polls Finds Little Evidence Iranian Public Sees Government as Illegitimate ,” a comprehensive survey report issued by World Public Opinion, an international collaborative polling project that is initiated and managed by the Program on International Policy Attitudes at the University of Maryland; (2) “Post-Election Poll in Iran Shows Little Change in Anti-Regime Minority,” by Alvin Richman; (3) “Did Mahmoud Ahmadinejad Steal the 2009 Iran Election?” By Eric Brill; (4) “Visualizations and Analysis of the 2009 Iranian Election,” By Thomas Lotze; (5) “A Rejoinder to the Chatham House Report on Iran’s 2009 Presidential Election Offering a New Analysis on the Result,” Reza Esfandiari, and Yousef Bozorgmehr.

June 14, 2010 Posted by | Aletho News, Deception | Comments Off on Iran’s Presidential Election One Year Later

ICRC: Gaza closure must be lifted

The hardship faced by Gaza’s 1.5 million people cannot be addressed by providing humanitarian aid. The only sustainable solution is to lift the closure.

ICRC News Release | June 14, 2010

The serious incidents that took place on 31 May between Israeli forces and activists on a flotilla heading for Gaza once again put the spotlight on the acute hardship faced by the population in the Gaza Strip.

As the ICRC has stressed repeatedly, the dire situation in Gaza cannot be resolved by providing humanitarian aid. The closure imposed on the Gaza Strip is about to enter its fourth year, choking off any real possibility of economic development. Gazans continue to suffer from unemployment, poverty and warfare, while the quality of Gaza’s health care system has reached an all-time low.

The whole of Gaza’s civilian population is being punished for acts for which they bear no responsibility. The closure therefore constitutes a collective punishment imposed in clear violation of Israel’s obligations under international humanitarian law.

“The closure is having a devastating impact on the 1.5 million people living in Gaza”, said Béatrice Mégevand-Roggo, the ICRC’s head of operations for the Middle East. “That is why we are urging Israel to put an end to this closure and call upon all those who have an influence on the situation, including Hamas, to do their utmost to help Gaza’s civilian population. Israel’s right to deal with its legitimate security concerns must be balanced against the Palestinians’ right to live normal, dignified lives.”

The international community has to do its part to ensure that repeated appeals by States and international organizations to lift the closure are finally heeded.

Under international humanitarian law, Israel must ensure that the basic needs of Gazans, including adequate health care, are met. The Palestinian authorities, for their part, must do everything within their power to provide proper health care, supply electricity and maintain infrastructure for Gaza’s people.

Furthermore, all States have an obligation to allow and facilitate rapid and unimpeded passage of all relief consignments, equipment and personnel.

Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit is about to enter his fifth year in captivity. Hamas has continued to rebuff the ICRC’s requests to let it visit Gilad Shalit. In violation of international humanitarian law, it has also refused to allow him to get in touch with his family. The ICRC again urges those detaining Gilad Shalit to grant him the regular contact with his family to which he is entitled. It also reiterates that those detaining him have an obligation to ensure that he is well treated and that his living conditions are humane and dignified. *

Ruined livelihoods

Although about 80 types of goods are now allowed into Gaza – twice as many as a year ago –over 4,000 items could be brought in prior to the closure. Generally, the price of goods has increased while their quality has dropped – this is one consequence of the largely unregulated trade conducted through the tunnels that have been dug under the Gaza-Egypt border to circumvent the closure.

Fertile farmland located close to the border fence has been turned into a wasteland by ongoing hostilities, affecting people’s livelihoods in many rural communities. The buffer zone imposed by Israel extends in practice over one kilometre into the Gaza Strip, covering a total area of about 50 square kilometres that is host to nearly a third of Gaza’s farmland and a large share of its livestock. Agricultural activities in the area are hampered by security conditions. Israel’s enforcement of the buffer zone and frequent hostilities have resulted not only in civilian casualties and the destruction of civilian property but also in the impoverishment and displacement of numerous families.

Gaza’s fishermen have been greatly affected by successive reductions imposed by Israel on the size of the fishing grounds they are allowed to exploit. The latest restriction to three nautical miles has cut down both the quantity and quality of the catch. As a result, nearly 90% of Gaza’s 4000 fishermen are now considered either poor (with a monthly income of between 100 and 190 US dollars) or very poor (earning less than 100 dollars a month), up from 50% in 2008. In their struggle to survive, the fishermen have little choice but to sail into no-go zones, at the risk of being shot by the Israeli navy.

“I have already been arrested and my boat has been confiscated several times,” said Nezar Ayyash, who heads Gaza’s fishermen’s union. “But this is our life here. We know that fishing can cost us our lives, but we have no other choice but to go out with our boats: we need to feed our families.”

No cure in sight for ailing health-care system

Gaza is suffering from an acute electricity crisis. The power supply in Gaza is interrupted for seven hours a day on average. The consequences for public services, especially the primary health-care system, are devastating. Hospitals rely on generators to cope with the daily blackouts.

The power cuts pose a serious risk to the treatment of patients – and to their very lives. It takes two to three minutes for a generator to begin operating, and during that time electronic devices do not function. As a result, artificial respirators must be reactivated manually, dialysis treatment is disrupted and surgery is suspended as operating theatres are plunged into darkness.

To make matters worse, fuel reserves for hospital generators keep drying up. Three times this year, fuel shortages have forced hospitals to cancel all elective surgery and accept emergency cases only. Gaza’s paediatric hospital had to transfer all its patients to another facility because it could no longer function. Laundry services have repeatedly shut down. With the prospect of increased electricity consumption during the hot summer months when air conditioning is required, the situation is likely to deteriorate further if hospitals do not receive ample fuel.

Fluctuations in the power supply can also damage essential medical equipment. Repairs are difficult owing to the closure, under which the transfer into Gaza of spare parts for medical equipment is subject to excessive delays of up to several months.

The transfer of disposable electrodes, which are used to monitor the heart rhythm of cardiac patients, has been delayed since August 2009. Without this equipment, patient lives are at risk, as heart problems may not be detected in time. Because of the restrictions in place, most heart monitors in Gaza will be unusable by the end of this month. The run-down state of equipment is one of the reasons for the high numbers of patients seeking treatment outside the Strip.

Stocks of essential medical supplies have reached an all-time low because of a standstill in cooperation between Palestinian authorities in Ramallah and Gaza. At the end of May 2010, 110 of 470 medicines considered essential, such as chemotherapy and haemophilia drugs, were unavailable in Gaza. When chemotherapy is interrupted, the chances of success drop dramatically, even if another painful round of treatment is initiated. Haemophilia patients face life-threatening haemorrhages when compounds such as Factor VIII and IX are not available.

More than 110 of the 700 disposable items that should be available are also out of stock. The only way to cope is to re-use such items as ventilator tubes or colostomy bags, even though doing so can lead to infections that endanger patients’ lives.

“The state of the health-care system in Gaza has never been worse,” said Eileen Daly, the ICRC’s health coordinator in the territory. “Health is being politicized: that is the main reason the system is failing. Unless something changes, things are only going to get even worse. Thousands of patients could go without treatment and the long-term outlook will be increasingly worrisome.”

The health-care system is further weakened by severe restrictions imposed on the movement of people into and out of Gaza. The restrictions prevent medical staff from leaving the Strip to get the training they need to update their skills, and technicians from entering to repair medical equipment.

Lack of sanitation hazardous for health and the environment

The lack of proper sanitation and certain agricultural practices are polluting Gaza’s aquifer. Only about 60% of the territory’s 1.4 million inhabitants are connected to a sewage collection system. Raw sewage discharged into the river Wadi Gaza, which snakes through urban areas, jeopardizes the health of the communities living on its banks.

Because the aquifer is over-exploited, drinking water in most of Gaza contains high levels of nitrate, chloride and salt. The water is unfit for consumption, and the risk of contracting an infectious disease is high.

Assembling enough suitable materials to carry out sanitation projects is a slow and haphazard process. Materials obtained through the tunnel trade can be of questionable quality, while some items, such as certain electro-mechanical pumps, cannot be found at all, which hobbles construction efforts.

“The current situation is critical and may lead to an irreversible trend in the degradation of underground fresh water,” said Javier Cordoba, who oversees the ICRC’s water and sanitation activities in Gaza. “Large-scale projects, such as the construction of a desalination plant, must be undertaken to meet water-supply needs without further exposing the aquifer. The closure must be lifted so that the 4.5 billion US dollars pledged by donor countries over a year ago can be put to use.”

* Over 800 Gazan detainees in Israeli prisons have been prevented from meeting face-to-face with their loved ones since June 2007, when Israel suspended the ICRC’s family visit programme. To mitigate the effects of this measure, the ICRC has doubled its own visits to Gazan detainees and stepped up its efforts to maintain family links by delivering written and oral messages between detainees and their families.

June 14, 2010 Posted by | Solidarity and Activism, Subjugation - Torture, War Crimes | Comments Off on ICRC: Gaza closure must be lifted

Palestinian activist faces prison sentence

Amnesty International | 13 June 2010

Amnesty International has urged an Israeli military court not to convict a Palestinian non-violent activist who has been detained since last July, after he took part in a protest against the Israeli built fence/wall on Palestinian land.

Adeeb Abu Rahma has been charged with “being present in a declared military zone”, “incitement” and “activity against public order”. There is a real concern that the Ofer Military Court in the Israeli-occupied West Bank will convict him on Sunday.

“A guilty verdict would set a worrying precedent for other activists charged and awaiting trial, as Adeeb Abu Rahma would be the first activist against the fence/wall to be brought to a full evidential trial in a case of this kind,” said Amnesty International.

Many Palestinians who protest non-violently against the fence/wall are detained without charge or trial, others who are charged with offences such as stone-throwing will frequently enter plea bargains.

Adeeb Abu Rahma has denied all charges, other than stating that he was present on a number of different occasions in non-violent demonstrations against the fence/wall.

An initial charge made against him for inciting others to throw stones was withdrawn following arguments and evidence put forward by his legal defense.

The activist has repeatedly expressed his commitment to the principle of non-violence. Amnesty International said it is unaware of any credible evidence that he may have used or advocated violence.

“The broad scope of Israeli military orders mean that Adeeb Abu Rahma could be imprisoned solely for legitimately exercising his right to freedom of expression in opposing Israeli policies in the West Bank,” said Amnesty International.

“If this is the case, we would regard him as a prisoner of conscience who should be released immediately and unconditionally.”

Under military orders that are applied to Palestinians living under Israeli occupation in the West Bank someone convicted under “Acts of Incitement and Hostile Propaganda” can be subject to imprisonment of ten years or a fine or both. The charge of “Activity Against Public Order” can carry a prison sentence of five years.

Adeeb Abu Rahma, a taxi-driver and father of nine from the West Bank village of Bil’in, was arrested at around 1.30pm on 10 July 2009 while taking part in the weekly demonstration against the fence/wall near Bil’in.

Since March 2009, Adeeb Abu Rahma and his wife Fatima’s families have not been able to visit some 25 acres of their land to cultivate olive trees and cereals as they have been cut off by the fence/wall.

The villagers, together with Palestinian, Israeli and international supporters, have been holding weekly demonstrations for the last five years in protest against the fence/wall and the confiscation of their land by the Israeli authorities.

In March 2010, Israeli soldiers posted flyers in Bil’in declaring that the village and its surrounding area would be a closed military zone every Friday from 8am to 8pm, the day when the protests are held.

While the order applies to “Israeli citizens, foreigners and Palestinians who are not residents of the villages” it states that village residents will not be subject to it.

The arrests of three prominent activists against the fence/wall last year – Mohammed Othman, Abdallah Abu Rahma and Jamal Juma’ – indicated a crackdown on the legitimate expression of opposition to the construction of the fence/wall through the occupied West Bank.

Mohammed Othman and Jamal Juma’ were released without charge in January 2010 following international calls for the end of their detention.

Abdallah Abu Rahma head of the “Popular Committee Against the Wall” in Bil’in, who was arrested on 10 December 2009, is still in detention.

In the last two years, Israeli forces have killed eight people, including a ten-year old boy and two teenagers, at the sites of anti-wall demonstrations and injured scores more, some very seriously.

The Israeli authorities have failed to produce credible evidence that those killed posed a threat to the lives of the soldiers involved.

The Israeli 700-kilometer fence/wall runs from north to south of the West Bank, encircling Palestinian villages as well as whole neighborhoods in and around East Jerusalem.

The majority of the fence/wall is not built on the “Green Line” (the 1949 armistice line which separates the State of Israel from the occupied West Bank) but is located on Palestinian land inside the West Bank, separating Palestinian towns, villages, communities and families from each other and vital services, as well as cutting off Palestinian farmers from their land.

In June 2004 the International Court of Justice issued a unanimous advisory opinion which stated that the construction of the wall in the OPT is contrary to international law and that Israel was obliged to dismantled sections already built there and provide reparation to Palestinians affected by the construction. The Israeli government rejected these recommendations.

Furthermore, when Palestinians, together with Israeli and international supporters, have demonstrated against the fence/wall, Israeli forces have often used excessive force against them. Some demonstrations are conducted peacefully; in others, some protesters throw stones at the Israeli military or attempt to damage the fence/wall.

June 14, 2010 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Illegal Occupation, Solidarity and Activism | 1 Comment