21st Century Statecraft: State Dept. and Google vs. Iran and other “evil” regimes
H/T Maidhc Ó Cathail
Defense lawyers for organizations on the U.S. government’s “terror list” are frustrated fighting the designation, and seizure of assets in many cases, because the government claims it is too tedious to give an explanation of the charges. “It would be extremely burdensome to give a list of charges,” said the government’s attorney, Douglas Letter, the Associated Press reported today:
Attorneys for the U.S. government told a federal appeals court Wednesday that informing each person and organization listed as a global terrorist of the reasons they are so designated would be too much work.
They made the argument in a case involving the government’s seizure of assets belonging to the U.S. chapter of Al Haramain Islamic Foundation Inc., a Saudi Arabia-based charity. The case is being heard by a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
Al Haramain attorney David Cole said outside court that representatives of Al Haramain were left in the dark after the organization was put on the global terrorist list. They continued to fight the designation without knowing what was driving it.
Cole said he and other attorneys could have provided a much more effective defense for the organization if they knew the reasons for the charges.
Organizations that are arbitrarily placed on the terror list who have their assets frozen are finding the burden of proof to be on them. Yet, they don’t even know what they are supposed to prove given the lack of detailed charges.
In a previous case, U.S. Judge, Gary Karr, ruled that freezing the assets of organizations suspected of terrorist ties has been done without due process by the Treasury Department. However, he also ruled that the “Treasury Department Office of Foreign Assets Control needed only a reasonable belief that the charity was a component of a larger organization that funds terrorism” to take action.
This erosion of due process and reversal of burden of proof, along with Obama’s recent Executive Order to detain suspected terrorists indefinitely, are troubling signs for the “Land of the Free.”
CAIRO – Attackers armed with knives and machetes on Wednesday waded into hundreds of pro-democracy activists in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, witnesses said, as insecurity raged in post-revolutionary Egypt.
Stone-throwing skirmishes were continuing as an AFP reporter arrived at the scene, and activists were gathering sticks and stockpiling rocks to defend themselves from the mob, supporters of ousted president Hosni Mubarak.
“A couple of hours ago the pro-Mubarak thugs attacked us and tried to come into Tahrir, but we were able to push them back, with sticks and stones. We fear they will return,” a young militant, Mouez Mohammed, said.
Tahrir Square was the symbolic heart of last month’s uprising that forced Mubarak from office, and hundreds of pro-democracy activists remain camped out there to maintain pressure on the military regime that replaced him.
“Hundreds of men carrying knives and swords entered Tahrir,” state television reported, as footage showed rocks being thrown and hundreds of activists scattering and diving for cover.
There were few signs of any security forces at the site, apart from two army tanks protecting the Egyptian Museum of Antiquities at the north end of the square, in the heart of the capital.
The clashes took place as the newly appointed cabinet met with the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces to propose a law criminalising incitement to hatred, which could lead to the death penalty, state TV said.
The military rulers were struggling to bring calm on several fronts, as clashes between Coptic Christians and Muslims in the working class area of Moqattam left 10 dead and scores wounded, the health ministry said.
Insecurity has been rife after police disappeared from the streets during protests that toppled Mubarak, who had ruled Egypt for 30 years under emergency law.
Earlier the Muslim Brotherhood, the country’s largest opposition group, blamed diehards of Mubarak’s regime for inciting violence — a view widely shared across the country.
By Lawrence Davidson | March 10, 2011
“Military men are just dumb stupid animals to be used as pawns in foreign policy.” – Henry Kissinger, quoted in “Kiss the Boys Goodbye: How the United States Betrayed Its Own POW’s in Vietnam”
May the gods protect us, Henry Kissinger is back!
Henry Kissinger was President Richard Nixon’s national security advisor and then secretary of state. He also held the latter position under President Gerald Ford. While it would be unfair to characterize him as someone who never gave a piece of good advice (he did encourage Nixon to engage in detente with the Soviet Union), his record weighs heavily on the side of unwise counsel. As we will see, he is back in exactly that role, plying bad advice that, in this case, could further erode America’s already messed up intelligence agencies.
Kissinger was originally an academic. His doctoral dissertation was on the diplomacy of two early 19th century statesmen, Britain’s Viscount Robert Castlereagh and Austria’s Prince Klemens von Metternich. These men were major players at the great Congress of Vienna that took place after the final defeat of Napoleon in 1815. At that meeting Metternich argued for returning Europe to its pre-French Revolution political status. Pursuing that impossible end, he backed repressive policies and regimes.
One gets the impression that the history of Kissinger’s public service was, at least in part, an effort to achieve the stature of a Metternich. Toward this end Kissinger would pursue realpolitik which, more often than not in its American manifestation, entailed the backing of repressive policies and regimes.
Here are some of the things Kissinger espoused: the bombing of North Vietnam in order to achieve “peace with honour”; support for the murderous, fascist regime of Augusto Pinochet in Chile, and the equally bloody military dictatorship in Argentina; acquiescence in the annexation of East Timor by the Indonesian dictator Suharto, which was followed by genocidal massacres; acquiescence in the Serb and Croat wars against the Bosnian Muslims; support for the 2003 invasion of Iraq; and last but certainly not least, active lobbying for the admittance into the US of the ailing Shah of Iran (yet another American-supported dictator) which led immediately to the hostage taking of US diplomats in 1979 and the continuing animosity and tension between America and Iran.
I saved this piece of bad judgment till last because it is of a piece with Kissinger’s latest excursion into playing the great statesman by pushing folly.
Advocate for Israel’s spy
So what would Dr Kissinger have us do now? Well, according to a report in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, Kissinger has sent a letter to President Obama “urging him to commute the prison term of Jonathan Pollard, who is serving life term for spying for Israel”. Kissinger claims that he has consulted with others such as former Defence Secretary Weinberger, former Secretary of State George Schultz and former CIA Director Woolsey (all of whom are supporters of Israel) and found their “unanimous support for clemency compelling”.
Kissinger’s letter follows on a lobbying effort by Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu who has made an official request to Obama for the same granting of clemency. Here is what Netanyahu had to say, “Both Mr Pollard and the government of Israel have repeatedly expressed remorse for these actions [of spying], and Israel will continue to abide by its commitment that such wrongful actions will never be repeated.”
There is something almost childish in this approach. Caught with Israel’s hand in the cookie jar, the spies and their handlers say: “Oh I’m sorry. If you commute the punishment we promise to be good from now on.”
Actually, in the world of espionage, such promises aren’t worth the paper they are written on. Thus, in 2004 the FBI caught another government employee, spying for Israel and using the Zionist American lobby AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee) as the conduit through which to pass the stolen information. So much for promises of future good behaviour.
Mass resignation threat
What Kissinger and the rest of Pollard’s supporters seem not to find compelling, or even noteworthy, is the fact that ever since the 1987 trial that sent Pollard away for life, the career officers in the American intelligence services have quietly threatened mass resignation if this Zionist spy went free. Keep in mind that ever since George W. Bush and his neo-conservatives wrecked havoc with the CIA in the lead up to the invasion of Iraq, the one Kissinger so obligingly supported, the intelligence agencies of this country have found their morale at the sub-basement level. If Obama commutes Pollard’s sentence it will be yet another blow to their professional well-being.
But what does Dr. Kissinger care about a bunch of government employees? In his realpolitik version of reality neither government servants nor ordinary citizens are worth much. Here are a couple of Kissinger quotes to show what I mean.
Having helped condemn the Chilean people to16 years under the murderous rule of Augusto Pinochet, Kissinger rationalized the decision this way: “I don’t see why we need to stand by and watch a country go communist due to the irresponsibility of its people. The issues are much too important for the Chilean voters to be left to decide for themselves.”
And, as to the career analysts in the various intelligence agencies, most of whom really are experts in the countries they study, Kissinger just dismisses that expertise as inconsequential. “Most foreign policies that history has marked highly,” he tells us, “have been originated by leaders who were opposed by experts.” Well, that is all the “experts” except Dr Kissinger.
The real Henry Kissinger, who implausably received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1973, borders on being a war criminal. That should tell us what his advice is really worth. President Obama would be a fool to listen to a man whose blood stained career should have long ago come to an ignoble end.
The people of Afghanistan know who was flying the two helicopter gunships that brutally hunted down and slaughtered, one by one, nine boys apparently as young as seven years old, as they gathered firewood on a hillside March 1. In angry demonstrations after the incident, they were shouting “Death to America.”
Americans are still blissfully unaware that their “heroes” in uniform are guilty of this obscene massacre. The ovine US corporate media has been reporting on this story based upon a gutless press release from the Pentagon which attributes the “mistake” to “NATO” helicopters.
The thing is, this terrible incident occurred in the Pech Valley in Afghanistan’s Kunar province, where US forces have for several years been battling Taliban forces, and from which region they are now in the process of withdrawing. Clearly then, it is US, and not “NATO” helicopters which have been responding to calls to attack “suspected Taliban forces.”
So why can’t the Pentagon say that? And if they won’t say that, why won’t American reporters either demand that they clearly state the nationality of whatever troops commit an atrocity, or exercise due diligence themselves and figure it out?
There is a second issue too. Most publications appear to have followed the lead of the highly compromised New York Times, and are going with the Pentagon line that the boys who were killed were aged 9-15. That’s bad enough. It’s hard to see how helicopter pilots with their high-resolution imaging equipment, cannot tell a 9-year-old boy when they see one, from a bearded Taliban fighter. But at least one news organization, the McClachy chain, is reporting that the ages of the boys who were murdered from the air were 7-13. If that latter range of ages is correct, then it is all the more outrageous that they were picked off one by one by helicopter gunners. No way could they have mistaken a 7-year-old for an adult.
No wonder even the famously corrupt Afghan President Hamid Karzai refused to accept an apology proffered for this killing by Afghan War commander Gen. David Petraeus.
Calls by this reporter to the Pentagon for an accurate report on whose troops were flying those two helicopters, and for an accurate accounting of the ages of the nine victims, have thus far gone unanswered. This, I have discovered, is fairly standard for the Defense Department. If it’s a story about some big victory, or a new eco-friendly plan for a military base’s heating system, you have to beat the Pentagon PR guys off with a stick, but if you call them about something embarrassing or negative, you get passed from Major Perrine to Lt. Col. Robbins to Commander Whozits, and nobody gives you an answer. Finally you’re given someone to email a question to, and that message goes into the Pentagon internet ether and never gets returned.
So let’s give an honest report here: Two US helicopter gunships, allegedly responding to a report of “insurgent” activity on a hillside in Kunar Province, came upon the scene of 10 young Afghan boys who were collecting brush for fuel for their families. The gunships, according to the account of a lone 11-year-old survivor who was hidden by a tree, systematically hunted down the other nine boys, hitting them with machine gun and rocket fire and killing them all–their bodies so badly damaged that their families had to hunt for the pieces in order to bury them.
This atrocity is being described as a “mistake,” but it was no mistake, clearly. The crews of the helicopters were shooting at fleeing human beings who made no attempt to return fire (obviously, because all the boys had were sticks, which they surely dropped when the first shots were fired).
They almost certainly saw that they were dealing with kids, because it would be hard to mistake even a nine year old for an adult, particularly in a country where young kids go around with their heads uncovered, and don’t have beards, while adult males generally wear head coverings, and have full beards. But killing kids is part of the deal in America’s war in Afghanistan. Even in Iraq, 12 year olds were being classified by the US military (in contravention of the Geneva Conventions) as being “combat age,” for example in the assault on the city of Fallujah.
Let’s also be clear that this slaughter of nine Afghan children is the ugly reality behind Gen. Petraeus’s supposed policy of “protecting civilians.” Here’s a number that tells the true story about that policy: since Gen. Petraeus assumed command after the ousting of Gen. Stanley McChrystal, US airstrikes in Afghanistan have gone up by 172%. That’s not counting attacks by remote-controlled, missile-firing drone aircraft, which are also up by a huge amount. Those air-strikes and drone attacks are notoriously deadly for civilians–far more so than ground attacks, but of course they have the advantage for our “heroes” in uniform of reducing the number of US casualties in this hugely one-sided conflict.
There are so many aspects to this story that are disturbing, it’s hard to know what’s worse. Clearly we are deliberately murdering kids in Afghanistan, and this particular incident is just an example we know about. The men who did this will hopefully pay for their crimes by living with their guilt, but hopefully there will be an honest investigation and proper punishment too by military authorities (I’m not holding my breath). Petraeus and his boss, Commander in Chief Obama, should also be called to account and punished for implementing a war plan that calls for this kind of brutal slaughter of civilians.
But the US media are also guilty here. How can Americans reach proper conclusions about this obscene war against one of the poorest peoples in the world if our supposedly “fair and balanced” media simply perform the role of Pentagon propagandist, running Defense Department press releases as if they were news reports?
The blood of these poor Afghan kids is smeared not just on the hands of Obama and the generals, and the soldiers who pull the triggers and push the buttons that unleash death, but on the desks and keyboards of American newsrooms that cover up their crimes.
Debating the Goldstone Report last week, Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY) laid bare the depravity of Washington’s discourse on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. He asserted that there is no Israeli occupation in the West Bank, declared that settlements are only built inside Israel, and put Israel’s eastern border at the Jordan River. These contentions are, respectively, wrong, in blatant contravention of international law, and just to the right of Likud.
But one of his claims deserves more careful attention, because the misconception is more widespread: that the Gaza Strip is not occupied Palestinian territory. “Here’s a statement of fact: Gaza to this moment, and since 2005 has not been occupied by anyone. There’s not a single Israeli soldier in Gaza today,” Weiner said. Later in the debate, he hit on this point again in a heated exchange with former Rep. Brian Baird.
Indeed, there are no permanent Israeli military bases in Gaza. They were removed along with the Strip’s civilian settlements in Israel’s 2005 unilateral withdrawal. Since the withdrawal has resulted in increased rocket attacks from the besieged Strip into Israel, proponents of the status quo have treated the action as a top-shelf piece of hasbara to explain Israel’s intransigence and foot-dragging on a peace deal.
Since withdrawal, however, Israel has claimed a right to make military incursions into Gaza at any time and place of its choosing. One needs only glance at the latest book by Breaking the Silence (BtS), an Israeli NGO, to see this is the case. The 431-page volume, aptly titled “Occupation of the Territories“, covers Israeli soldiers’ accounts of both Gaza and the West Bank throughout the decade.
“The perception of most Israelis is that we left Gaza and that Gaza is not occupied anymore,” Mikhael Manekin, a co-director of BtS, told me in a recent interview. “That’s how the government and military present it even though there’s a very big gap between that and what happens on the ground.”
Manekin said in Israel it’s difficult to find a map that does not include Gaza and the West Bank as part of the Jewish state. “When you look at testimonies, it makes sense to put them on the same map.”
One BtS testimony by a soldier from the Givati Brigade describes the regularity and breadth of Israeli military operations in Gaza between Israel’s withdrawal and and the Gaza War of late 2008 and early 2009:
There was a template. It started with Operation Hot Winter [end of February – beginning of March 2008] because until then it was the largest operation ever, not the longest, but in scope and with the most achievements. Before that there was Operation ‘Fall Clouds’ sometime in 2006, … it was a 48-hour operation, and afterwards for five months it turned out that there was a battalion operation, the battalion plus a little less than a company.
During those five months, Israel made six battalion-scale incursions and executed a host of company-sized missions into the Strip.
In the context of such assaults, the lack of permanent Israeli military bases is a red herring.
Defending his statement that there is no military occupation in the West Bank, Weiner cited the absence of a permanent Israeli military presence in some cities like Ramallah and Nablus. But, as Manekin explained to me: “Since 2008, Israel understands that you don’t need to be in the cities. But as long as you can be in the cities when you need to be, it’s okay.” The same paradigm, of course, applies to a tiny piece of land like Gaza.
Most observers still consider the West Bank to be occupied territory despite the lack of a permanent IDF presence in two of its major cities. That they do so clearly weakens Weiner’s claims about Gaza. Manekin cited the freedom of Israeli forces to strike into cities in the West Bank as clear evidence of continuing occupation. “That’s why the Occupied Territories and Gaza are the same,” he said.
Israel’s legal justification for its actions in both military and civil Palestinian affairs is based on the continuing state of hostilities between Israel and the Palestinians. Indeed, Israel used this justification in its attack on a Turkish flotilla of humanitarian aid bound for Gaza. When seven people aboard one of the ships were killed, including a U.S. citizen, Israel said it was carrying out its blockade — an act of war — against the Strip.
Under the Fourth Geneva Convention, forces engaged in hostilities or a resulting occupation may take reasonable precautions for both the security of their forces, and broader security needs. This is the legal basis on which Israel has defended its action in the flotilla incident.
“Israel has those ‘rights’ to do things in and to Gaza that it would not have in and to, for example, Egypt or Jordan,” said Helena Cobban, an analyst and journalist who has published widely on violations of humanitarian law and war crimes. ”But, by the same token, it has certain very well specified responsibilities for the well-being of Gaza’s residents.”
When Israel’s advocates insist that Gaza is not occupied, they are trying to justify its failure to fulfill its legal responsibilities to the people who live there. “(Israel) wants to have the ‘rights’ without the ‘responsibilities’,” said Cobban, a sometime IPS colleague.
But there are more essential qualities of occupation that can still apply to Israel’s actions within (incursions) and around (blockade) Gaza. “Occupation is about control,” said Mitchell Plitnick, the former U.S. director of B’tselem, an Israeli human rights organization. “Israel maintains control over all ingress and egress — with Egypt, in the south — as well as the coastline and the airspace. To the extent Israel maintains that control, it is still occupying Gaza.”
At the Goldstone debate, Weiner acknowledged that Israel can enter Gaza any time, “but they’re not in Gaza today. They are not in Gaza today.” Two days after the debate, Israel launched airstrikes against targets in Gaza. The Israeli army claims more than 60 rockets fired from Gaza have landed in Israel this year. Make no mistake: This is a hot war. And it’s the longest-running one in the world today.
But the point may be a moot one anyway: The lack of traditional occupation in Gaza — Israeli bases, settlements, and uninterrupted military presence – becomes irrelevant in the face of these active hostilities. “Israel’s military actions taken against Gaza do not constitute the launching of a new war of aggression,” said Cobban. “They are seen more as merely a continuation of the uninterrupted state of war that has existed for 43 years.”
The Fourth Geneva Convention, pertaining to treatment of civilians, distinguishes between occupation and active hostilities. But the document only does so in order to stipulate that the rules therein apply equally to both. “Occupation” has become such a buzzword in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that the focus lies there, while ignoring the fact that the central issues is actually more than four decades of ongoing military hostilities.
“Occupation” or, as Weiner said again and again, “war”? It’s a distinction without a difference. Israel’s responsibilities remain the same.
Benjamin Netanyahu’s advisers conceded last week that the Israeli prime minister is more downcast than they have ever seen him. The reason for his gloominess is to be found in Israel’s diplomatic and strategic standing, which some analysts suggest is at its lowest ebb in living memory.
Netanyahu’s concern was evident at a recent cabinet meeting, when he was reported to have angrily pounded the table. “We are in a very difficult international arena,” the Haaretz newspaper quoted him telling ministers who wanted to step up settlement-building. “I suggest we all be cautious.”
A global survery for Britain’s BBC published on Monday will have only reinforced that assessment: Israel was rated among the least popular countries, with just 21 per cent seeing it in a positive light.
A belated realisation by Netanyahu that he has exhausted international goodwill almost certainly explains — if mounting rumours from his office are to be believed — his mysterious change of tack on the peace process.
After refusing last year to continue a partial freeze on settlement-building, a Palestinian pre-requisite for talks, he is reportedly preparing to lay out an initiative for the phased creation of a Palestinian state.
Such a move would reflect the Israeli prime minister’s belated recognition that cook Israel is facing trouble on almost every front.
The most obvious is a rapidly deteriorating political and military environment in the region. As upheaval spreads across the Middle East, Israel is anxiously scouring the neighbourhood for potential allies.
Unwisely, Israel has already sacrificed its long-standing friendship with Turkey. With the ousting of Hosni Mubarak, Netanyahu can probably no longer rely on Egyptian leaders for help in containing Hamas in Gaza. Israel’s nemesis in Lebanon, the Shia militia Hizbullah, has strengthened its grip on power. And given the popular mood, Jordan cannot afford to be seen aiding Israel.
Things are no better in the global arena. According to the Israeli media, Washington is squarely blaming Netanyahu for the recent collapse of peace talks with the Palestinians.
It is also holding him responsible for subsequent developments, particularly a Palestinian resolution presented to the United Nations Security Council last month condemning Israeli settlements. The White House was forced to eat its own words on the issue of settlements by vetoing the resolution.
The timing of the US veto could not have been more embarrassing for President Barack Obama. He was forced to side publicly with Israel against the Palestinians at a time when the US desperately wants to calm tensions in the Middle East.
Over the weekend, reports suggested that Netanyahu had been further warned by US officials that any peace plan he announces must be “dramatic”.
Then, there are the prime minister’s problems with Europe. Netanyahu was apparently shaken by the response of Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, when he called to chastise her for joining Britain and France in backing the Palestinian resolution at the UN. Instead of apologising, she is reported to have berated him for his intransigence in the peace process.
Traditionally, Germany has been Israel’s most accommodating European ally.
The loss of European support, combined with US anger, may signal difficulties ahead for Israel with the Quartet, the international group also comprising Russia and the United Nations that oversees the peace process.
The Quartet’s principals are due to hold a session next week. Netanyahu’s officials are said to be worried that, in the absence of progress, the Quartet may lean towards an existing peace plan along the lines of the Arab League’s long-standing proposal, based on Israel’s withdrawal to the 1967 borders.
In addition, Israel’s already strained relations with the Palestinian Authority are likely to deteriorate further in coming months. The PA has been trying to shore up its legitimacy since the so-called Palestine Papers were leaked in January, revealing that its negotiators agreed to large concessions in peace talks.
A first step in damage limitation was the resolution at the UN denouncing the settlements. More such moves are likely. Most ominous for Israel would be a PA decision to carry out its threat to declare statehood unilaterally at the UN in September. In that vein, Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, said on Saturday that he expected an independent Palestinian state to become a permanent member of the UN.
The other prospect facing the PA — of collapse or being swept away by street protests — would be even more disastrous. With the PA gone, Israel would be forced to directly reoccupy the West Bank at great financial cost and damage to its international image. Palestinians could be expected to launch a civil rights campaign demanding full rights, including the vote, alongside Israelis.
It is doubtless this scenario that prompted Netanyahu into uncharacteristic comments last week about the danger facing Israel of sharing a single “binational state” with the Palestinians, calling it “disastrous for Israel”. Such warnings have been the stock-in-trade not of the Greater Israel camp, of which Netanyahu is a leading member, but of his political opponents on the Zionist left as they justify pursuing variants of the two-state solution.
Netanyahu reportedly intends to unveil his peace plan during a visit to Washington, currently due in May. But on Monday Ehud Barak, his defence minister, added to the pressure by warning that May was too late. “This is the time to take risks in order to prevent international isolation,” he told Israel Radio.
But, assuming Netanyahu does offer a peace plan, will it be too little, too late?
Few Israeli analysts appear to believe that Netanyahu has had a real change of heart.
“At this point it’s all spin designed to fend off pressures,” Yossi Alpher, a former director of the Jaffee Centre for Strategic Studies at Tel Aviv University, wrote for the Israeli-Palestinian dialogue website Bitterlemons. “The object of the exercise is to gain a day, or a week, or a month, before having to come up with some sort of new spin.”
Indications are that Netanyahu will propose a miserly interim formula for a demilitarised Palestinian state in temporary borders. The Jerusalem Post reported that in talks with Abbas late last year Netanyahu demanded that Israel hold on to 40 per cent of the West Bank for the foreseeable future.
His comments on Tuesday that Israel’s “defence line” was the Jordan Valley, a large swath of the West Bank, that Israel could not afford to give up suggest he is not preparing to compromise on his hard-line positions.
His plan accords with a similar interim scheme put forward by Avigdor Lieberman, Netanyahu’s far-right foreign minister and chief political rival on the right.
Palestinians insist on a deal on permanent borders, saying Israel would use anything less as an opportunity to grab more land in the West Bank. At the weekend Abbas reiterated his refusal to accept a temporary arrangement.
Herb Keinon, an analyst for the right-wing Jerusalem Post, observed that there was “little expectation” from Netanyahu that the Palestinians would accept his deal. The government hoped instead, he said, that it would “pre-empt world recognition of a Palestinian state” inside the 1967 borders.
Jonathan Cook is a writer and journalist based in Nazareth, Israel. His latest books are “Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East” (Pluto Press) and “Disappearing Palestine: Israel’s Experiments in Human Despair” (Zed Books). His website is http://www.jkcook.net.
The number of Afghan boys gathering firewood killed by a March 1 U.S./NATO helicopter attack in Kunar Province: Nine.
The number of stories about the killing of the nine children on ABC, CBS or NBC morning or evening news shows (as of March 6): Two.
One was an 80-word report on NBC Nightly News (3/2/11), the other a brief ABC World News Sunday story (3/6/11) about Afghan president Hamid Karzai’s “harsh words for the U.S.” after the “mistaken killing of nine Afghan boys in an airstrike.”
On the PBS NewsHour? Two brief mentions (3/2/11, 3/7/11), both during the “other news of the day” segment.
On NPR? Nothing. On the”liberal” MSNBC? Zero. Fox News Channel? Zero.
CNN had several mentions of the killings. In one report (3/2/11), correspondent Michael Holmes remarked: “It does a lot of damage to the U.S. mission in Afghanistan. You don’t win hearts and minds that way.”
In the Washington Post (3/3/11), the children’s deaths were called “the latest irritant” in the relationship between U.S./NATO forces and the Afghan government. Civilian casualties are “a sore point,” and U.S. commander David Petraeus “has had to walk a fine line. Civilian casualties undermine NATO’s counterinsurgency mission here by angering Afghan civilians and bolstering the Taliban’s attempt to portray foreign troops as ruthless invaders.”
In contrast to the corporate media, Democracy Now! (3/3/11) talked about the attack as part of the larger story of civilian deaths in Afghanistan. “It was at least the third instance in two weeks in which the Afghan government accused NATO forces of killing large numbers of civilians in airstrikes,” host Juan Gonzalez noted in introducing a discussion. “An Afghan government panel is still investigating claims some 65 people, including 40 children, were killed in a U.S.-led attack last week.”
It is often said that Afghanistan is largely a forgotten war–a critique usually meant as a comment on the lack of attention paid to the hardships of U.S. military personnel. Far less consideration is granted to the Afghans who are suffering in far greater numbers.
BAGHDAD – A U.S. force conducted an air drop operation on a village in al-Huweija district and raided some houses, killed a physician and arrested his brother, according to an Iraqi legislator on Tuesday.
“U.S. special forces, in association with forces from Salah al-Din province, conducted an air drop operation on a village in Huweija, where they killed a physician and detained his brother on Sunday (March 6) night,” Omar al-Juburi, a member of parliament from al-Wasat (Centrist) Coalition, said during a parliamentary session Tuesday.
Juburi urged the parliament to “condemn this sinful incident and form a committee to investigate it.”
He also called for releasing the killed physician’s brother and that the U.S. forces pay compensation to his family.
Osama al-Nujeifi, the parliament speaker, asked the security & defense committee to investigate this incident, adding it represented a “clear violation of the status of forces agreement signed between Iraq and the United States.”
OCCUPIED JERUSALEM — The Israeli army has confiscated 480,000 sq. meters of land in the town of Abu Dis near Jerusalem to be used in completing the separation wall, the Abu Dis land defense committee said.
The construction will destroy the historically-recognized Jerusalem-Jericho path and turn large swaths of land over to Israel to be used to build the apartheid wall that would isolate the area from the rest of the West Bank.
According to the defense committee, the wall’s primary objective is not security, but rather to seize land and isolate the West Bank from Jerusalem and expand the settlements.
Board chairman Attorney Bassem Bahr said the wall will be erected to the east of Abu Dis, which would split the West Bank north and south and separate the two areas from the Jerusalem region.