“Despite media reports of Libyan aircraft attacking rebel areas, the Pentagon has not confirmed any air attacks.” – Adm. Mike Mullen
It’s good to see that the Pentagon is unenthusiastic about military intervention in Libya. But that hasn’t stopped armchair generals such as Sen. John Kerry from pushing for a no-fly zone over that country.
Kerry thinks he can make his plan more appealing by couching it in internationalist terms, but we know the American people would bear the brunt of the burden. Kerry is joined by Sens. Joe Lieberman and John McCain, the Senate’s two most obnoxious militarists. Regarding the military’s reluctance to take on another country, McCain said, “[They] always seem to find reasons why you can’t do something rather than why you can.”
Maybe the Pentagon is acknowledging something that McCain, Kerry, and Lieberman seem to ignore: They are calling for war on a country that has not attacked the United States. U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates criticized the discussion about a no-fly zone as “loose talk.” He added, “Let’s just call a spade a spade. A no-fly zone begins with an attack on Libya. That’s the way you do a no-fly zone. And then you can fly planes around the country and not worry about our guys being shot down.”
Gates’s cautionary language is welcome after Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s and President Obama’s press secretary had referred to U.S. action as a live option. In typical Clinton fashion, the secretary said, “We are taking no option off the table so long as the Libyan government continues to turn its guns on its own people.” Really? No option? Does that include a full-scale invasion? How about tactical nuclear weapons? Drones armed with Hellfire missiles have been particularly effective at killing innocent people in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Are they on the table too?
Gates was not alone in his warning. Gen. James Mattis, commander of U.S. Central Command, and other officials said that taking out Libya’s air and missile defenses would be no small operation; hundreds of airplanes would be needed. Gates said he was advised that a no-fly zone “requires more airplanes than you would find on a single aircraft carrier.” It would be, he said, a “big operation in a big country.”
None of that stopped the Senate from unanimously passing a resolution prodding the UN Security Council to take up the question of a no-fly zone. And two U.S. amphibious warships were headed to Libya through the Suez Canal, supposedly for humanitarian purposes. But they aren’t called “warships” for nothing.
For all the bluster about a no-fly zone, it’s not quite clear what difference it would make. Libya’s Col. Muammar Qaddafi is using ground forces primarily to battle rebels trying to drive him from power. According to the Associated Press, “Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that despite media reports of Libyan aircraft attacking rebel areas, the Pentagon had not confirmed any air attacks.”
So a no-fly zone would be little more than symbolic. But it could be a costly symbol. Mullen cautioned against underestimating Libya’s air defenses. Moreover, establishing a no-fly zone would be an act of war, with consequences no one can foresee. Haven’t we had enough of American politicians, sitting safely in their seats of power, sending young people off to war?
The case against U.S. intervention in Libya, however, goes beyond the prudential. There is no doubt that Qaddafi is a brutal and now desperate dictator willing to send mercenaries to mow down civilians seeking freedom from his iron grip. But that does not justify U.S. intervention, which would require the taxpayers to finance yet another open-ended military operation in the Arab and Muslim world. Regardless of how Obama and Clinton would intend the operation, the rest of the world would see it in the context of the long U.S. imperial record in the Middle East.
American presidents have sought to police the globe for generations. What has it gotten us? Endless war abroad, and big government and economic hardship at home. Instead of being a beacon of liberty, the country is a symbol of militarism and death. Obama, the fraudulent peace advocate, has followed the same interventionist course. He should not be allowed to extend it to Libya.
The number of cancer patients has been climbing in Gaza due to the use of depleted uranium by the Israeli military during its onslaught on the impoverished enclave two years ago, medical sources say.
After the war, cancer cases have reportedly increased by about 30 percent in Gaza, Press TV correspondent reported on Thursday.
“We have seen a sharp increase in blood cancer and other types of the diseases. Many patients come from the areas that were attacked by Israeli fighter jets using banned chemical weapons,” Oncologist Mohammed Atteya said.
Shifa hospital, Gaza’s major health provider, has witnessed a sharp rise recently in the number of cancer patients.
Doctors say that most cancer patients reside in areas that were heavily bombed during Israel’s onslaught on Gaza in the winter of 2008-2009.
The war left about 1,400 Palestinians dead and thousands injured; the majority of victims were civilians.
At the time, Norwegian doctors volunteering in Gaza hospitals said some victims had traces of depleted uranium in their bodies.
Environmental damage and pollution is another unfortunate byproduct of the war.
Post-war measurements suggest some areas in the enclave are 1,000 times more radioactive than natural levels, and cancer cases have begun to emerge on a daily basis.
“The number of cancer patients has gone up significantly. Israel used depleted, white phosphorous against the city. The city became a testing ground for all these banned weapons,” environmental expert Zekra Ajour.
A common denominator among cancer patients is that they lived in areas that were badly bombed.
The majority of high tech weapons today contain depleted uranium and/or other Heavy Metals.
The residue of a depleted uranium weapon can be spread by the wind, infecting residents in the immediate vicinity and contaminating the food chain.
According to medical and environmental experts, the Gaza strip’s environment and population will suffer the grave consequences of Israel’s use of internationally banned weapons during the war.
April 26, 2011 will mark the 25th Annivesary of the Chernobyl catastrophe, and for more than 50 years, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) have abided by an agreement that in essence, covers each other’s back – sometimes at the expense of public health. It’s a delicate balance between cooperation and collusion.
Signed on May 28, 1959 at the 12th World Health Assembly, the agreement states:
“Whenever either organization proposes to initiate a programme or activity on a subject in which the other organization has or may have a substantial interest, the first party shall consult the other with a view to adjusting the matter by mutual agreement,” and continues: The IAEA and the WHO “recognize that they may find it necessary to apply certain limitations for the safeguarding of confidential information furnished to them. They therefore agree that nothing in this agreement shall be construed as requiring either of them to furnish such information as would, in the judgment of the other party possessing the information to interfere with the orderly conduct of its operation.”
The WHO mandate is to look after the health on our planet, while the IAEA is to promote nuclear energy. In light of recent industrial failures involving nuclear power plants, many prominent scientists and public health officials have criticized WHO’s non-competing relationship with IEAE that has stymied efforts to address effects and disseminate information about the 1986 Chernobyl accident, so that current harm may be documented and future harm prevented.
On the 20th Anniversary of Chernobyl WHO and the IAEA published the Chernobyl Forum Report, mentioning only 350 sources, mainly from the English literature while in reality there are more than 30,000 publications and up to 170,000 sources that address the consequences of Chernobyl.
After waiting two decades for the findings of Chernobyl to be recognized by the United Nations, three scientists, Alexey Yablokov from Russia, and Vasily Nesterenko and Alexey Nesterenko from Belarus undertook the task to collect, abstract and translate some 5000 articles reported by multiple scientists, who observed first-hand the effects from the fallout. These had been published largely in Slavic languages and not previously available in translation. The result was Chernobyl – Consequences of the Catastrophe for People and the Environment, published by the New York Academy of Sciences in 2009.
The greatest amount of radioactivity fell outside of Belarus, Ukraine and European Russia, extending across the northern hemisphere as far away as Asia, North Africa, and North America, while the greatest concentrations continue to affect the 13 million living in Belarus, Ukraine, and European Russia.
Immediately after the catastrophe, release of information was limited, and there was a delay in collecting data. WHO, supported by governments worldwide could have been pro-active and led the way to provide readily accessible information, but did not. These omissions resulted in several effects: limited monitoring of fallout levels, delays in getting stable potassium iodide to people, lack of care for many, and delay in prevention of contamination of the food supply.
The number of victims is one of the most contentious issue between scientists who collected data first-hand and WHO/IAEA that estimated only 9000 deaths.
The most detailed estimate of additional deaths was done in Russia by comparing rates in six highly contaminated territories with overall Russian averages and with those of six lesser-contaminated areas, maintaining similar geographical and socioeconomic parameters. There were over 7 million people in each area, providing for robust analysis. Thus data from multiple scientists estimate the overall mortality from the Chernobyl catastrophe, for the period from April 1986 to the end of 2004, to be 985,000, a hundred times more than the WHO/IAEA estimate.
Given that thyroid diseases caused such a toll, Chernobyl has shown that nuclear societies – notable Japan, France, India, China, the United States, and Germany – must distribute stable potassium iodide (KI) before an accident, because it must be used within the first 24 hours.
Key to understanding effects from nuclear fallout is the difference between external and internal radiation. While external radiation, as from x-rays, neutron, gamma and cosmic rays can harm and kill, internal radiation (alpha and beta particles) when absorbed by ingestion and inhalation become embedded in tissues and releases damaging energy in direct contact with tissues and cells, often for the lifetime of the person, animal or plant.
To date, not every living system has been studied, but of those that have – animals, birds, fish, amphibians, invertebrates, insects, trees, plants, bacteria, viruses and humans – many with genetic instability across generations, all sustained changes, some permanent, and some fatal. Wild and domestic animals and birds developed abnormalities and diseases similar to those found in humans.
It takes ten decades for an isotope to completely decay, thus the approximately 30 year half-lives for Sr-90 and Cs-137 will take nearly three centuries before they have decayed, a mere blink of the eye when compared to Pu-239 with a half-life of 24,100 years.
The human and economic costs are enormous: in the first 25 years the direct economic damage to Belarus, Ukraine, and Russia has exceeded $500 billion. Belarus spends about 20% of its national annual budget, Ukraine up to 6%, and Russia up to 1% to partially mitigate some of the consequences.
When a radiation release occurs we do not know in advance the part of the biosphere it will contaminate, the animals, plants, and people that will be affected, nor the amount or duration of harm. In many cases, damage is random, depending upon the health, age, and status of development and the amount, kind, and variety of radioactive contamination that reaches humans, animals and plants. For this reason, international support of research on the consequences of Chernobyl must continue in order to mitigate the ongoing and increasing damage. Access to information must be transparent and open to all, across all borders. The WHO must assume independent responsibility in support of international health.
Janette D. Sherman, M. D. is the author of Life’s Delicate Balance: Causes and Prevention of Breast Cancer and Chemical Exposure and Disease, and is a specialist in internal medicine and toxicology. She edited the book Chernobyl: Consequences of the Catastrophe for People and Nature, written by A. V. Yablokov, V. B., Nesterenko and A. V. Nesterenko, published by the New York Academy of Sciences in 2009. Her primary interest is the prevention of illness through public education. She can be reached at: email@example.com and www.janettesherman.com
Shooting Children, One After Another
Recent polls suggest that while a majority of U.S. people disapprove of the war in Afghanistan, many on grounds of its horrible economic cost, only 3% took the war into account when voting in the 2010 midterm elections. The issue of the economy weighed heavily on voters, but the war and its cost, though clear to them and clearly related to the economy in their thinking, was a far less pressing concern.
U.S. people, if they do read or hear of it, may be shocked at the apparent unconcern of the crews of two U.S. helicopter gunships, which attacked and killed nine children on a mountainside in Afghanistan’s Kumar province, shooting them “one after another” this past Tuesday March 1st. (“The helicopters hovered over us, scanned us and we saw a green flash from the helicopters. Then they flew back high up, and in a second round they hovered over us and started shooting.” (NYT 3/2/11)).
Four of the boys were seven years old; three were eight, one was nine and the oldest was twelve. “The children were gathering wood under a tree in the mountains near a village in the district,” said Noorullah Noori, a member of the local development council in Manogai district. “I myself was involved in the burial,” Noori said. “Yesterday we buried them.” (AP, March 2, 2011) General Petraeus has acknowledged, and apologized for, the tragedy.
He has had many tragedies to apologize for just counting Kunar province alone. Last August 26th, in the Manogai district, Afghan authorities accused international forces of killing six children during an air assault on Taliban positions. Provincial police chief Khalilullah Ziayee said a group of children were collecting scrap metal on the mountain when NATO aircraft dropped bombs to disperse Taliban fighters attacking a nearby base. “In the bombardment six children, aged six to 12, were killed,” the police commander said. “Another child was injured.”
In the Bamiyan province of Afghanistan, Zekirullah, a young Afghan friend of mine, age 15, rises at 2:00 a.m. several mornings each week and rides his donkey for six hours through the pre-dawn to reach a mountainside where he can collect scrub brush and twigs which he loads on the donkey in baskets. Then he heads home and stacks the wood – on top of his family’s home – to be taken down later and burned for heat. They don’t have electrical appliances to heat the home, and even if they did the villagers only get electricity for two hours a day, generally between 1:00 a.m. – 3:00 a.m. Families rely on their children to collect fuel for heat during the harsh winters and for cooking year round. Young laborers, wanting to help their families survive, mean no harm to the United States. They’re not surging at us: they’re not insurgents. They’re not doing anything to threaten us. They are children, and children anywhere are like children everywhere: they’re children like our own.
Sadly, more and more of us in America are getting used to the idea of child poverty – and even child labor – as our own economy sinks further under the burden of our latest nine years of war, of two billion dollars per week we spend creating poverty abroad that we can then emulate at home. Things are getting bad here, but in Afghanistan, children are bombed. Their bodies are casually dismembered and strewn by machines already lost in the horizon as the limbs settle. They lie in pools of blood until family members realize, one by one, that their children are not late in returning home but in fact never will.
In October and again in December of 2010, our small delegation of Voices for Creative Nonviolence activists met with a large family living in a wretched refugee camp. They had fled their homes in the San Gin district of the Helmand Province after a drone attack killed a mother there and her five children. The woman’s husband showed us photos of his children’s bloodied corpses. His niece, Juma Gul, age 9, had survived the attack. She and I huddled next to each other inside a hut made of mud on a chilly December morning. Juma Gul’s father stooped in front of us and gently unzipped her jacket, showing me that his daughter’s arm had been amputated by shrapnel when the U.S. missile hit their home in San Gin.
Next to Juma Gul was her brother, whose leg had been mangled in the attack. He apparently has no access to adequate medical care and experiences constant pain. The pilot of the attacking drone, perhaps controlling it from as far away as Creech Air Force Base here in the United States, knows nothing of this family or of the pain that he or she helped inflict. Nor do the commanders, the people who set up the base, the people who pay for it with their taxes, and the people who persist in electing candidates intent on indefinitely prolonging the war.
But sometimes the war is like it was this past Tuesday March 1st. Sometimes the issue is right in front of us – as it was to those helicopter crews – it’s up close so there can be no mistake as to what we are doing. According to the election polls we see the cost of war, dimly, but, as with the helicopter crews, it doesn’t affect – or prevent – our decisions. Afterward we deplore the tragedy; we make a pretense of acknowledging the cost of war, but it is incalculable. We can’t hope to count it. We actually, finally, have to stop making people like the nine children who died on March 1st, pay it.
Kathy Kelly co-coordinates Voices for Creative Nonviolence and has worked closely with the Afghan Youth Peace Volunteers. She is the author of Other Lives, Other Dreams published by CounterPunch / AK Press. She can be reached at: Kathy@vcnv.org
Al-Araqib was the last village I visited before my arrest. Al-Araqib is not just a village, but the very heart of a nation and a people. On 5 May 2010, I was there under the tent of Sheikh Sayah, a local leader. There was a big crowd after the destruction and the reconstruction of the village. We met there until late at night, taking advantage of the desert darkness.
Al-Araqib is a small village in the southern part of historic Palestine known as al-Naqab but which Israel calls the “Negev.” Since mid-2010, Israel has bulldozed the village more than a dozen times.
We had come at the request of Sheikh Raed Salah but especially in answer to the call of our duty and our responsibility as a nation. Before the evening gathering of the activists in al-Araqib, we had visited the village of Houra where we met activist Nouri al-Uqbi, then Liqyeh and activist Alayan Sane. Our delegation from the Popular Committee for the Defense of Political Freedoms, in the framework of the High Follow up Committee for the Arab Citizens of Israel, included Abdel Hakim Moufid, Raja Aghbariyeh, Qadri Abu Wassel, lawyer Abd al-Raouf Mouassi and myself. Forgive me if I have left anyone out.
This was my last visit before police and security forces raided my home and arrested me one hour after I arrived back in Haifa after midnight. I can no longer follow the evolution of events except for the biased information available here in prison.
At that meeting in al-Araqib, we knew that the eyes of the Israeli forces of uprooting were upon us under the convenient cover of the desert, hiding their criminal face and hands in its darkness. Just as the saying goes, that the “people of Mecca know their territory better than anyone else,” so the people of al-Araqib know their territory and its night-time environment better than anyone. However, the uprooters have usurped the friendly obscurity of the desert. They invade the land and the night, bringing with them injustice, blackness, uprooting, expulsion and forced exile. The Zionist project has cast this darkness throughout its history.
The darkness of the plan has cast its dark shadow over al-Araqib, the Naqab, the Galilee, the coast, the Triangle, Jerusalem, Gaza, West Bank and has travelled across the ocean, preventing the light of liberty from reaching Gaza, besieging it. The darkness has stretched out over those in exile in a vain attempt to hide the homeland, cut it off from light and hope, hidden from the option of return.
But the people in our homeland know what they are doing and know who is watching them. They know their right to their homeland as well as the rights due to them inside it.
Neither the Israeli eyes watching us nor the bulldozers of destruction and ethnic cleansing can change our minds. They have been active every minute for six decades. But we, the masses of the people inside, have been growing in strength every day since the Nakba — the ethnic cleansing of historic Palestine in 1947-48 — and during the ongoing Nakba. We have become stronger in our resistance to oppression and the system of ethnic cleansing, and our will has broken free.
At the meeting in al-Araqib, we prepared an emergency plan of action and confrontation to resist and hold our ground. We divided up the tasks and shared our concerns while planning how to face the imminent destruction with our bodies by mobilizing people backed by efficient local and international solidarity. We determined that every single house destroyed would be rebuilt and every single tent torn down set up again, no matter what the price. The reconstruction would take place immediately after such crimes of destruction. Our visit was not the beginning of our existential struggle. It was a planned additional step to gain momentum in the knowledge that it is a decisive battle, not a local problem, but a strategic stand. The battle for al-Araqib is a fundamental event in defense of the nation and what is left of the land in order to protect Arab existence in the Naqab and to recuperate as much stolen land as possible. This is a battle for our homeland, a test of our willpower and an expression of the direction our popular struggle has taken over several decades.
If we see this battle as just one more incident, we will deliver al-Araqib and all it represents into their hands. We cannot. Al-Araqib is an integral part of the nation at a key moment when national duty and the spirit of defiance and steadfastness call upon the people to resist, bearing in mind the initial battle for land and home, on 30 March 1976: Land Day.
On that day, Israeli forces killed six Palestinian citizens of Israel protesting against a government decision to confiscate thousands of dunams of their land in the Galilee. Palestinians everywhere annually commemorate Land Day as a protest against Israel’s discriminatory policies towards its 1.2 million Palestinian citizens and to underline their collective and individual rights.
Today, we face a plan for ethnic cleansing from the same system, of the same nature, but focusing on al-Araqib.
There is an intimate link between popular resistance in al-Araqib and in Sheikh Jarrah, Silwan, Nilin, Bilin, in the Triangle and in al-Rawha, the fight against house demolition and Judaization in the Galilee, the fight for Umm Sahali and all the struggles of The Association of the Forty of Ein Hod and the Regional Council of Unrecognized Villages in the Naqab, Nuri al-Uqbi’s fight for the defense of his land and his right to live on it, the Palestinian and international movement against the blockade of Gaza, the fight to preserve the Arab character of Jerusalem and its holy sites and other popular resistance movements.
The energy of these struggles, born of grassroots and local solidarity movements and taken up by international supporters, is growing every minute. This solidarity constitutes a powerful force of dissuasion against those invading al-Araqib and elsewhere and acts as a protection for the people of this country and its landowners whether living here at the moment or refugees from here.
It is important to realize that Israel has now understood that the Arab peoples are a strategic force of which, at this stage, the Palestinians are the best organized. They are able to defend their rights, their existence and all the rights due to their people. They are as capable of recuperating rights they have been denied, such as their national inheritance and their land, as they are of waging legal battles, where our position is much stronger than Israel’s. The system intent on uprooting al-Araqib, like the entire process of uprooting and expulsion, must be ever vigilant to justify its legitimacy, while we in turn need to question its legitimacy every day in order to put a halt to all its illegal actions.
This system will stop at no crime unless we challenge its every move. The dynamics of this confrontation prove that neither al-Araqib nor its population needs any recognition from its oppressors and uprooters since the land and its history acknowledges their presence: the nation knows its own people and their legitimacy derives from this unbreakable tie.
All honor to the High Follow up Committee for the Arab Citizens of Israel for making the correct connection between the Jerusalem/al-Quds and al-Aqsa uprisings in 2000 and the fight for al-Araqib and the defense of the homeland by calling for major action in the Naqab and on the land of al-Araqib in the Naqab on the eve of Land Day. They send a message to us and to the world that our cause is indivisible, that our people stand united for our cause.
Ameer Makhoul is a Palestinian civil society leader in Israel and currently in Gilboa prison. This edited essay was translated from Arabic to French by Rim al-Khatib and from French to English by Carol Scheller.
NABLUS — Settlers chopped down more than 500 olive trees owned by Palestinians in the West Bank district of Nablus on Friday, Palestinian Authority officials said.
Residents of the illegal Shvut Rachel settlement raided Qusra village and chopped down the trees, said Ghassan Doughlas, PA official for settlement affairs in the northern West Bank.
In a “day of rage” Thursday, right-wing Israelis and settlers blocked a road to Jerusalem and closed down train tracks to the country’s airport.
Settlers were protesting the demolition of several structures at an illegal outpost near Nablus by the Israeli government. They threatened to carry-out “price-tag” attacks against Palestinians in response to the government’s “anti-settler” activity.
In the past, the “price tag” has included arson, shootings, beatings, burning fields, uprooting trees and poisoning water wells belonging to Palestinians.
Following a recent surge in settler violence — including fire-bombing Palestinian homes, smashing shops and damaging cars — the Palestinian Authority on Wednesday urged the international community to intervene and stop the attacks.
Security forces stand guard as people protest in Baghdad over corruption, unemployment and poor public services.
Thousands of Iraqi protesters have taken to the streets in main cities across the country, demanding economic reform and better living conditions.
Protest rallies over corruption, unemployment and poor government services were held in Baghdad, Basra, Nineveh, Anbar and Salahuddin following the Friday Prayers.
Unlike other demonstrations sweeping the Arab world, Iraqi protesters are seeking reforms, but not regime change.
“We live in a country rich with oil, yet we don’t have jobs,” demonstrators said. “The oil [is] for the people and not for thieves.”
They also chanted “Liar, Liar, Nouri al-Maliki” while carrying banners reading, “Where has the people’s money gone?” and “Yes to democracy and the protection of freedom.”
In the capital, where several thousands of demonstrators have already gathered in the city’s Tahrir (Liberation) Square, authorities have banned traffic across the city, forcing protesters to walk several kilometers to the square.
Iraqi authorities have also deployed thousands of security forces to Baghdad streets and protesters were frisked three times before reaching the square.
There were no reports of clashes between protesters and security forces.
Some Iraqis have named Friday’s rallies as the “Day of Regret,” to mark one year since the parliamentary elections. It took politicians more than nine months to form a new government after the poll on March 7, 2010, and even now, several major positions, including the ministers of interior, defense and planning, are unfilled.
Last week, at least 20 people were killed and more than 130 others were injured after Iraqi security forces attacked protesters.
Four top Iraqi officials, three southern provincial governors and Baghdad’s mayor, resigned following mass protests on February 25.
In response to nationwide protests, Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki called an emergency cabinet meeting on Sunday and gave government ministers a 100-day ultimatum to deliver results and eliminate corruption or face dismissal.
“Mr. Maliki specified a 100-day period after which an assessment of the work of the government and ministries will be carried out to find out the level of their individual success or failure in performing their jobs,” AFP quoted the statement as saying.
The Iraqi premier has also introduced measures to combat graft, cut politician salaries and dedicate more money to providing food for the poor in an attempt to contain protests.