The media is, again, drumming up support for expansion of the war in Afghanistan by appealing to women’s rights. This was precisely the same strategy employed during the war in Iraq, when statistics about female kidnapping, honor killings and so on were massaged to argue that further American intervention in the area was needed, when, in point of fact, the opposite was true – it was the US intervention that had provoked the deterioration in the general economic picture and, as a consequence, the treatment of women. This is in keeping with the old colonial strategy described by post-colonial feminist critics – “White men rescuing brown women from brown men…”. Bretigne Shaffer has an excellent analysis:
“The Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission reported in March of 2008 that violence against women had nearly doubled from the previous year, and a 2009 Human Rights Watch report concludes that “(w)hereas the trend had clearly been positive for women’s rights from 2001–2005, the trend is now negative in many areas.” Other reports (including one from Amnesty International in May of 2005) call the first part of that statement into question:
Sonali Kolhatkar, co-director of the Afghan Women’s Mission, says “the attacks against women both external and within the family have gone up. Domestic violence has increased. (The current) judiciary is imprisoning more women than ever before in Afghanistan. And they are imprisoning them for running away from their homes, for refusing to marry the man that their family picked for them, for even being a victim of rape.”
Anand Gopal, Afghanistan correspondent for the Wall Street Journal, says “The situation for women in the Pashtun area is actually worse than it was during the Taliban time. …(U)nder the Taliban, women were kept in burqas and in their homes, away from education. Today, the same situation persists. They’re kept in burqas, in homes, away from education, but on top of that they are also living in a war zone.”
“Five years after the fall of the Taliban, and the liberation of women hailed by Laura Bush and Cherie Blair, thanks to the US and British invasion,” wrote The Independent’s Kim Sengupta in November of 2006, “such has been the alarming rise in suicide that a conference was held on the problem in the Afghan capital just a few days ago.”
The US military has made life worse for women in Afghanistan, not better. Is it possible that a US exit will result in their lives becoming even worse than they are now, as Bret Stephens and Time magazine fear? Of course it is possible. But what is certain is that the occupation has had a harmful effect on the lives of the vast majority of Afghan civilians – not a positive one as the promoters of war as a vehicle for social change assert. Also indisputable is that the Taliban has grown in strength since the occupation began, and it only continues to do so. This should come as no surprise to anyone who has looked closely at the motives for terrorism. Even US intelligence agencies have acknowledged that the US occupation of Iraq has strengthened Islamic fundamentalism and .”..made the overall terrorism problem worse.”
To call for even more certain death and destruction as a defense against imagined, possible worse bloodshed reveals a curious kind of moral reasoning. For let’s not forget what it is that Time magazine (despite its protestations to the contrary) and Stephens are defending: The indiscriminate killing of innocent men, women and children, in the pursuit of what they believe to be some greater good.”
Montreal – The Harper government is still withholding the details of Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) investigations that prompted CSIS Director Richard Fadden to comment on foreign influence on Canadian politicians. The media have been focusing on China as one source of inappropriate influence. However, Fadden indicated that at least five countries, including China and Middle East nations were involved. He did not specify which Middle Eastern countries. The government’s secrecy may indicate that Israel – to which the Harper government has given resolute uncritical support – is among the Middle Eastern countries that CSIS investigations reveal are unduly influencing Canada’s politicians.
In his comments, Fadden talked about foreign influence exercised through university and social clubs. He noted “You pay [for] their trips and … when an event is occurring that is of particular interest to country ‘X,’ you call up and you ask the person to take a particular view,” Fadden said. Currently, Hillel Clubs operate on most Canadian campuses, and their mandates explicitly include “Israel advocacy” and promoting Jewish students’ identification with Israel. Opportunities for all-expenses-paid two-week trips to Israel are also made available to students. A similar process occurs with federal MPs and provincial legislators. The Canada-Israel Committee has been subsidizing trips to Israel for MPs and provincial legislators for decades.
Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East is concerned about the influence that Israel and the Canada-Israel Committee exercise on federal politicians through travel subsidies and possibly other means. “We urge the government to disclose now which countries CSIS found exercising undue influence, and the means by which they do so,” says CJPME President Thomas Woodley. As pointed out by veteran CBC journalist Brian Stewart, trips subsidized by foreign governments are “carefully planned, often by the host nation’s intelligence arm.” CJPME believes that Canadian policy should be moulded by respect for international law, and is concerned that Canadian Middle East policy could be skewed through the type of influence Fadden described.
According to the federal ethics commissioner, the Canada-Israel Committee paid over $160,000 for various one-week trips by 14 MPs to Israel in 2009 alone. The Canada-Israel Committee subsidized a July 2010 trip by seven MPs: Conservative MPs John Duncan, Jeff Watson, Edward Fast and Brent Rathgeber, Liberal MPs Scott Simms and Anthony Rota and NDP MP Glenn Thibeault. No other Middle East nation has hosted so many MPs on such frequent and expensive trips.
On August 4, US State Department spokesman P. J. Crowley said that Lebanese armed forces firing on Israeli troops near the Israel-Lebanon border the previous day, which killed two Lebanese soldiers and one Lebanese journalist as well as one Israeli officer and seriously wounded another, was “totally unjustified and unwarranted.” Shortly before, Israeli Ambassador in Washington, Michel Oren, held talks with US senior officials to demand a harsh US response.
Some US congressmen warned Lebanon that the US could reassess its aid to the Lebanese Army. “To start shooting as they did -one person killed, one seriously injured– is a very serious move by the Lebanese army,” Florida Representative Ron Klein, who sits on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, told The Jerusalem Post.“It certainly is going to come up in our conversations in the Congress about the continued support of the Lebanese Army,” he said. Klein ignored the three Lebanese victims and the Israeli actions that provoked the incident.
The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), the main organization of the Zionist lobby, reportedly circulated a memorandum claiming that the Lebanese Army was cooperating with Hezbollah, and stating that unless this stops, “Washington must reevaluate its relationship with the Beirut government and the Lebanese Armed Forces – the recipient of significant American military aid.” A State Department representative declined to respond to a Jerusalem Post question about whether the incident could affect American aid to Lebanon.
According the Israeli daily Haaretz, in the past five years, the Lebanese Army has been the second largest recipient of US military assistance per capita after Israel. A State Department press release from late 2008 noted that between 2006 and 2008, the Lebanese Army received 10 million rounds of ammunition, Humvees, spare parts for attack helicopters, vehicles for its Internal Security Forces “and the same frontline weapons that US military troops are currently using, including assault rifles, automatic grenade launchers, advanced sniper systems, anti-tank weapons and the most modern urban warfare bunker weapons.”
Since 2006, the US has provided Lebanon some 500 million dollars in military assistance. Last year, the US approved 100 million dollars in assistance to the Lebanese military. The Obama administration has requested the same levels for 2011, with small increases for anti-terror and military training programs.
However, the border incident of August 3 highlighted the fact that the US Administration does not consider that its military aid should be used to protect Lebanon against its only real enemy: Israel. “We have no indication that US equipment played any role in this incident earlier this week,” Crowley said. “In any US-origin equipment that has been provided to Lebanon, we have very strong end-use monitoring to make sure it is used appropriately.”
“Used appropriately” means that US aid must only be used against other Lebanese parties, especially the Resistance. According to Lebanon’s As-Safir newspaper, in written testimony to Congress, Obama´s nominee to head the US Central Command, General James Matthis, claimed that the relationship between US Central Command and the Lebanese Army is focused on building the latter´s capabilities “to preserve internal stability”. US Assistant Secretary of Defense Alexander Vershbow, who has recently visited Beirut and the South of Lebanon, said that continued US aid and training to the Lebanese Army would allow it to “prevent militias and other nongovernmental organizations” from “undermining the government”.
One State Department spokesperson made the quid pro quo clearer: if the Lebanese Army hopes for equipment, even spare parts, it will have to first focus on “using its military to keep Hezbollah in check and to control southern Lebanon and Palestinian refugee camps in order to prevent them from being used as bases to attack Israel”. This point was underscored by US officials interviewed by International Crisis Group who “implied” that “the Lebanese must be trained and equipped to meet Hezbollah´s, not Israel´s, challenge.” Therefore, US military aid for Lebanon seeks to protect Israel, the real enemy of Lebanon, and the Lebanese Army should become a mercenary force to implement US and Israeli schemes in Lebanon and the Middle East. Significantly, the US has not given the Lebanese Army anti-aircraft, anti-tank or anti-ship missiles that could be used against Israel.
The second goal of US aid, according to the US Central Command, is to “protect borders”, which means to prevent the Resistance from receiving weapons from abroad in order to protect the country against the Israeli enemy. However, the Jerusalem Post complained, “the Lebanese Army has taken no actions to seal off that border from weapons transfers to Hezbollah” and has done “nothing while Syria and Iran have been arming Hezbollah´s army with tens of thousands of missiles.”
At a White House meeting in December 2009, President Barack Obama asked Lebanese President Michel Sleiman to stop the flow of weapons being allegedly sent to the south of Lebanon “that potentially serve as a threat to Israel”. He warned that a failure to do so could lead to another invasion by Israel. Vice President Joe Biden went further, telling Sleiman that Israel could invade Lebanon and go all the way to Beirut to destroy Hezbollah´s weapons if the government failed to rein in the organization.
Of course, massive US military aid to Israel, which includes all kind of weapons, including the most advanced ones in the US arsenal, is something normal and nobody has the right to question it. However, when Syria, Iran or Lebanon acquire any kind of weapons adequate to protect their countries against US or Israeli attacks or threats this becomes a universal scandal.
The US aid is not supposed be used to protect Lebanon from Israeli spies either. Recently, Los Angeles Times complained that the US-supported Lebanese Internal Security Forces had used US signals equipment to help Hezbollah “ferret out Israeli agents.” According to the Times, “a strengthening Lebanese government is helping Hezbollah bust alleged spy cells, sometimes using tools and tradecraft acquired from Western nations eager to build up Lebanon´s security forces as a counterweight to the Shiite group.” Once again, Hezbollah was the target, not Israel.
In this way, US and Israeli outrage is easy to understand. The Lebanese have not used US weapons to crush Hezbollah but to defend Lebanon and this is an unbearable reality for Israelis and pro-Zionist circles in Washington. For Washington and Tel Aviv, the truth is simple: the Lebanese Army is not supposed to protect Lebanon from Israeli violations of the Lebanese sovereignty and, thus, it shot at whom did not have to.
More and more Lebanese are now questioning the value of US aid that can only used in an internal conflict. Agriculture Minister Hussein al-Hajj Hasan has called for preventing the US from controlling the army through its ill-intentioned support, the National News Agency said. He claims that American military and security assistance does not benefit Lebanon.
SUPPORT FOR ISRAELI WARS ON LEBANON
Lebanese people also remember that the US role has gone much beyond trying to turn the Lebanese Army into an internally oppressive security force. Washington has been an accessory to all Israeli attacks and aggressions against Lebanon. For example, a great portion of the American equipment stored in Israel was used for combat in the 2006 July war in Lebanon. Moreover, the US sent Israel all kinds of weapons and ammunition during the conflict.
Moreover, Washington politically supported the Israeli assault and blocked all efforts for an immediate halt to a war that killed more than 1,300 Lebanese, wounded more than 4,000 and drove 900,000 from their homes. A third of the Lebanese dead were children under the age of 12.
This US stance outraged the Lebanese population. “We did not use to be against the Americans, but now we are. They are against us,” said Fatima Haider, a Lebanese who lived in the district of Ein el-Mreiseh in Beirut, to Reuters at that time. Her home was destroyed by US-made Israeli bombs. “It is clear America´s support for Israel during the 34 days of bombing will not be forgotten,” said Fawaz Gerges, a professor at Sarah Lawrence College in New York, to ABC News.
As the Lebanese newspaper Daily Star said: “American complicity in these (Israeli) plans is clear: the Lebanese middle class has witnessed the carnage and destruction of their country with US approval, and the killing of innocent women and children with advanced American weaponry that mutilated their bodies into pieces.” Even naïve Lebanese that had believed for a moment that the US Administration could have a sincere interest in promoting democracy in its country got indignant about American support for the Israeli aggression.
Confessions made by Omar Khadr, who was captured by US troops when 15, can be used as evidence in trial despite claims they were obtained through torture.
Khadr, who was charged with war crimes based on the allegation that he threw a grenade that killed an American soldier in Afghanistan in 2002, has been held in US custody with out a trial since then.
The Canadian-born captive is set to be tried before a military tribunal on Tuesday.
He reportedly confessed to the crime while in a US prison at Bagram airbase in Afghanistan, 8 years ago, but later pleaded not guilty. His lawyer has argued that his confessions should be ruled as inadmissible because he was forced to confess due to torture and threats of death and rape.
A military judge at Guantanamo Bay, where Khadr is currently held, denied that request on Monday.
“He suffered 142 separate interrogations at Bagram,” Alfred Lambremont Webre, a war crimes lawyer, told Press TV.
“Bagram interrogators threatened him to be raped, he was not allowed to use the bathroom, and he was forced to urinate on himself. They were shoving bright lights up against his face and his eyes would tear and tear and tear.”
“This is torture; it is prohibited by international conventions,” Webre said.
Khadr has reportedly been beaten, subjected to long periods in solitary confinement, doused in freezing water, spat on, chained in painful positions, terrorized by barking dogs and subjected to sleep deprivation in the three months he was imprisoned in Bagram.
“He is protected by the conventions on the rights of the child. And he is protected as a prisoner of war by the Third Geneva Convention and he is protected by the Convention against torture and other cruel or inhumane treatments,” Webre said.
The now 23-year-old is the youngest, among the 176 captives held without charge, in the US notorious detention center.