The final chapter is now being written for Tawargha, as reported by Sam Dagher of the Wall Street Journal
Mahmoud Jibril, the NTC prime minister, rubber-stamped the wiping of the town off the map at the Misrata town hall:
“Regarding Tawergha, my own viewpoint is that nobody has the right to interfere in this matter except the people of Misrata.”
“This matter can’t be tackled through theories and textbook examples of national reconciliation like those in South Africa, Ireland and Eastern Europe,” he added as the crowd cheered with chants of “Allahu Akbar,” or “God is greatest.”
The WSJ goes on to report:
Now, rebels have been torching homes in the abandoned city 25 miles to the south. Since Thursday, The Wall Street Journal has witnessed the burning of more than a dozen homes in the city Col. Gadhafi once lavished with money and investment. On the gates of many vandalized homes in the country’s only coastal city dominated by dark-skinned people, light-skinned rebels scrawled the words “slaves” and “negroes.”
“We are setting it on fire to prevent anyone from living here again,” said one rebel fighter as flames engulfed several loyalist homes.
For the former residents this is still not the end of the story, as reported recently by human rights workers in Tripoli, male inhabitants of the town who fled are being tracked down and rounded up in Tripoli and sent to Misrata to face the tender mercies of the mob there.
The UN Palmer Report, which largely exonerated Israel for murdering nine unarmed Turkish civilians in international waters on May 31, 2010, seemed in some ways like the last straw. Prior to its publication, the camel’s back had already mostly broken, and a collapse in Turkish-Israeli ties was looming.
Turkey’s sin was seeking an apology for the killing of its citizens – on their way to deliver essential, life-saving supplies to malnourished and besieged Palestinians in Gaza – at the hand of Israeli army commandos.
If the civilians had been Israelis, and the commandos part of a Turkish force, all hell would have broken loose. Israel and the US would have declared Turkey a pariah state. Turkey, however, merely demanded an apology, and it was affronted further for doing so.
Of course, this is not the first time that Israel deliberately provoked and tested Turkish patience. Israel has attempted to infiltrate Turkey’s own political spaces by supporting its regional opponents and arming various rebel groups with the aim of destabilizing Turkey.
Instead of acknowledging the country’s rising significance and accommodating to the rules of the ‘new Middle East’ political game, Israel resorted to intimidation and insults. It repeatedly placed Turkey – a thriving democracy and a proud regional power of 80 million – in a very sensitive standing.
However, the anti-Turkish attitude in Israel was not an outcome of the Mavi Marmara incident last year. “The height of humiliation” is how an Israeli newspaper described a scene in which Israel’s Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon summoned Turkish ambassador, Ahmet Oguz, last January to humiliate him before Israeli media. Oguz was reprimanded over a fictional Turkish TV show that was critical of Israel. To ensure that the point has been successfully made, Ayalon “urged journalists to make clear that the ambassador was seated on a low sofa, while the Israeli officials were in much higher chairs,” according to the BBC (January 13, 2010). Ayalon noted that is “there is only one flag here” – the Israeli flag – and “we are not smiling”.
How did Turkey respond? A statement issued by the foreign ministry ‘invited’ their counterparts in “Israeli foreign ministry to respect the rules of diplomatic courtesy.” Hardly outrageous. The gist of the Turkish message that followed the murder of the Turkish humanitarian activists a few months later was not much different. It basically asked for an apology.
Turkey was shunned for the seemingly unreasonable demand. An unnamed senior Israeli official explained the Israeli logic to Ynet news on September 2, following Turkey’s decision to downgrade ties with Israel. “Turkey is an important country in the Middle East, but an apology is a very strategic precedent for Israel in this region,” he said. That is true, Israel’s diplomacy is predicated on unfair trade, violent storming of humanitarian boats, subservient activities, espionage and much more. Indeed, an apology for the murder of Turkish’s civilians would be a precedent.
Even after the recent publishing of Palmer Report – a contradictory and obvious attempt at exonerating the Israeli army while implicating Turkish humanitarian activists – Turkey acted responsibly. But it also acted with the poise and dignity that is expected of a democratic country expressing the wishes of the vast majority of its people. It downgraded military, trade and other ties with Israel. Why should Turkey share military intelligence with a country that murders Turks, humiliates its diplomats and refuses to apologize?
Still, from Israel’s point of view, Turkey has crossed all the limits of acceptable behavior. “Turkish warships will escort any Turkish aid vessels to Palestinians in the Gaza Strip,” said Turkish Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in an interview with Al Jazeera (as quoted in the Guardian, September 8). At the same time, Turkish diplomacy continued to offer a window of opportunity to detain further escalation. “Our embassy in Israel is open, and the Israeli embassy in Ankara is open. The relations would return to the old days if Israel apologizes and accepts to pay compensation,” said Huseyin Celik, Deputy Chairman of the ruling Justice and Development party (according to the Guardian, September 8.)
Since an apology is a ‘precedent’, Israel responded in the only way it knows how. An accusatory campaign was launched against Turkey with outlandish insinuations and direct threats.
“This is part of the Islamization spreading there, and we must recognize it,” said the senior official to Ynet. The leading Israeli news source also published a column by one Ron Ben-Yishai, calling the Turkish Prime Minister a “short-tempered thug.” In ‘Turkey no great power,’ Yishai accused the country of failing on most fronts. “Turkey under Erdogan’s leadership is neither a reliable ally nor a credible rival,” he charged.
These views are hardly marginal, and were matched by specific threats by Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman. “We’ll exact a price from Erdogan that will prove to him that messing with Israel doesn’t pay off,” Lieberman reportedly said. More specifically, he “urge(d) all Israeli military veterans to refrain from traveling to Turkey and facilitate cooperation with the Armenians — Turkey’s historic rivals.” He said he also plans to meet with the Turkish rebel group PKK to “cooperate with them and boost them in every possible area,” according to UPI, September 9.
Per this logic, demanding an apology for murder equals a thuggish act, while stirring regional instability and admitting to supporting armed militias is an acceptable diplomatic maneuver.
Turkey had no other option but to escalate before an obstinate ‘ally.’ And considering the latter’s existing isolation in the region – and the growing anti-Israeli sentiment in Egypt and elsewhere – it is likely that Israel, not Turkey, will lose out in this political tussle.
Even the US, Israel’s ‘unconditional’ ally, seems to recognize the dangerous game being played by Israel and its rightwing government of Benjamin Netanyahu. Recently revealed comments made by then US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates indicate that Americans are simply fed up with supporting Israel’s ‘dangerous’ policies, while ‘receive(ing) nothing in return’ (Bloomberg, September 5).
It is these very dangerous policies that guide Israel’s brewing conflict with Turkey amid complete lack of political wisdom in Tel Aviv. But if extreme militancy was not enough to intimidate or weaken the resolve of a tiny and besieged place like Gaza, why should it work against a great and rising power like Turkey?
Rational thinking in Netanyahu’s government might also be an acceptable precedent.
Ramzy Baroud (www.ramzybaroud.net) is an internationally-syndicated columnist and the editor of PalestineChronicle.com. His latest book is My Father Was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza’s Untold Story (Pluto Press, London), available on Amazon.com.
A State of Permanent War
The American people are told, again and again, that 9/11 “changed everything.” Is this really true?
The answer is both yes, and no.
Yes, because 9/11 prompted policies of regime change, preemptive strike, and humanitarian intervention, which, in turn, triggered the wars and military interventions in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Yemen and Libya. At home, it provided justification for the institution of the Patriot Act, Homeland Security, outsourcing of torture, restriction of personal/civil liberties and the ballooning of the Pentagon budget.
And no, because the militaristic policies and security measures that were thus put into effect in the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 attacks had been in the making for nearly a dozen years before the attacks took place.
There is overwhelming evidence that the US policies of preemptive strike and regime change started not with the collapse of the World Trade Center in 2001 but with the collapse of the Berlin Wall in 1989. Beneficiaries of war dividends, that is, the military-industrial-security complex, were alarmed by the demise of the Soviet Union, by the end of the “communist threat” as the ready-made justifier of continued escalation of the Pentagon budget, and by the demands for “peace dividends.” “What we were afraid of was people who would say . . . ‘Let’s bring all of the troops home, and let’s abandon our position in Europe,’” acknowledged Paul D. Wolfowitz, Undersecretary of Defense under President Bush Sr. “It’s hard to imagine just how uncertain the world looked after the end of the Cold War.”
Not surprisingly, in the immediate aftermath of the Cold War, and in the face of widespread demands for “peace dividends,” the powerful interests vested in the military-security capital moved swiftly to fend off such demands by successfully inventing all kinds of “new threats to the national interests of the United States.” Instead of the Soviet Union, the “menace of rogue states, global terrorism, and militant Islam” would have to do as new enemies. Having thus effectively substituted “new sources of threat” for the “communist threat” of the Cold War era, powerful beneficiaries of military spending (working through the Pentagon and a number of militaristic think tanks like the Project for the New American Century, Center for Security Policy, Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs and National Institute for Public Policy) managed not only to maintain but, in fact, expand the Pentagon budget beyond the Cold War years.
The 9/11 attacks, Osama bin Laden, global terrorism, and US military aggressions in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Yemen, Libya and elsewhere in the Muslim-Arab world can be better understood against this background: the systemic or internal dynamics of the military-industrial-security complex as an existentially-driven juggernaut to war and militarism that, in the aftermath of the Cold War era, needed all kinds of enemies and boogiemen in order to justify its continued usurpation of the lion’s share of the public finance, or the US treasury.
Major post-Cold War US military strategies such as regime change were formulated not after the 9/11 attacks, or under President Bush Jr., but under President Bush Sr., that is, soon after the demise of the Soviet Union. The early 1990s Pentagon architects of those strategies included the then Secretary of Defense Richard Cheney, Paul D. Wolfowitz, then Undersecretary of Defense, Zalmay Khalilzad, then a Wolfowitz aide, I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, then principal Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Strategy and Colin L. Powell, then chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Most of what the Pentagon team crafted in the immediate aftermath of the Cold War was published as a government document under Cheney’s name as America’s “Defense Strategy for the 1990s”—the document also came to be known as Defense Planning Guidance.
Almost all of the Pentagon’s post-Cold War aggressive military strategies such as preemptive strike, expansion of NATO, regime change, nation building, or humanitarian intervention can be traced back to the notorious Defense Planning Guidance of the early 1990s. As James Mann (of the Center for Strategic & International Studies) put it, “What the Pentagon officials had succeeded in doing, within months of the Soviet collapse, was to lay out the intellectual blueprint for a new world dominated—then, now and in the future—by U.S. military power.”
Although President Clinton did not officially embrace Cheney’s Defense Planning Guidance, he did not disclaim it either. And while he slightly slowed down the growth in the pentagon budget, he too had his own share of military operations abroad—in Somalia, Iraq, Haiti, and various provinces of the former Yugoslavia. The Federation of American Scientists has recorded a list of US foreign military engagements in the 1990s which shows that in the first decade after the collapse of the Berlin Wall, that is, under Presidents Bush Sr. and Bill Clinton, the United States engaged in 134 such operations. Here is a sample: Operation Eagle Eye (Kosovo), Operation Determined Effort (Bosnia-Herzegovina), Operation Quick Lift (Croatia), Operation Nomad Vigil (Albania), Operation Desert Thunder (Iraq), Operation Seva Verde (Columbia), Operation Constant Vigil (Bolivia), Operation Fundamental Response (Venezuela), Operation Infinite Reach (Sudan/Afghanistan), Operation Safe Border (Peru/Ecuador), Operation United Shield (Somalia), Operation Safe Haven/Safe Passage (Cuba), Operation Sea Signal (Haiti), Operation Safe Harbor (Haiti), Operation Desert Storm (Southwest Asia), and many more.
With the accession of George W. Bush to the presidency, all the Pentagon contributors to the notorious 1992 Defense Planning Guidance also returned to positions of power in the government. Cheney of course became Vice President, Powell became Secretary of State, Wolfowitz moved into the number two position at the Pentagon, as Donald Rumsfeld’s deputy, and Lewis “Scooter” Libby, became the Vice President’s chief of staff and national security adviser.
Although George W. Bush’s administration thus arrived in the White House with plans of “regime change” in the Arab-Muslim world, it could not carry out those plans without a pretext. The 9/11 attacks (regardless of who planned and carried them out) provided the needed pretext. The evidence thus clearly shows that, contrary to the claims of many critics, including some distinguished figures like Noam Chomsky, 9/11 served more as an excuse, or boogieman, than a “trap” laid by Osama bin Laden in order to bleed and disgrace the United States by prompting it to wage war and military aggression against the Arab-Muslim world.
The administration wasted no time manipulating the public’s fear of further terrorist attacks to rally support for the invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq. As the administration was preparing for the invasion of Iraq in early 2003, it also dusted off the Pentagon’s 1992 Defense Planning Guidance and promoted it as the “Bush Doctrine” for the new, post-9/11 world. The post-9/11 version of Defense Planning Guidance retains—indeed, strengthens—all the major elements of the 1992 version, although at times it uses slightly modified terminology.
That the U.S. military response to the collapse of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and its response to the collapse of the World Trade Center in 2001 were basically the same should not come as a surprise to anyone familiar with the dynamics and profit imperatives of the business of war: continued increase of the Pentagon budget and continued expansion of the sales markets for the war industry. The pretexts or tactics for pursuing higher war dividends may change (from the “threat of communism” to the “threat of rogue states, or global terrorism, or militant Islam”) but the objective or strategy remains the same—permanent war and, consequently, continuous escalation of the Pentagon budget and higher profits for the interests vested in military/security capital.
Ismael Hossein-Zadeh, author of The Political Economy of U.S. Militarism (Palgrave-Macmillan 2007), teaches economics at Drake University, Des Moines, Iowa.
US drone attacks have left at least 9 civilians dead and 30 others wounded in Somalia, Press TV reports.
Senior Al-Shabaab leaders said that the drone attacks were carried out early on Thursday in the outskirts of Kismayu town, killing nine women and children and wounding 30 others.
Kismayu, which is located 528 kilometers south of Mogadishu, is the largest Somali port controlled by al-Shabab.
Over the past few weeks, numerous US remote-controlled drones have crashed in Somalia.
Somalia is the sixth country where the US military has used pilotless aircraft to conduct deadly bombing strikes.
The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) condemns ongoing Israeli attacks targeting Palestinian fishermen in the Gaza Strip, and expresses grave concern regarding the escalation of these attacks in recent days
This escalation has resulted in the injury and arrest of a number of fishermen, and the confiscation of a number of fishing boats. Detained fishermen were questioned, pressured to provide security information and collaborate with Israeli forces, and subject to cruel and degrading treatment.
According to investigations conducted by PCHR, at approximately 06:15 on Sunday, 11 September 2011, two Israeli gunboats stationed opposite to al-Waha Resort, northwest of Beit Lahia in the northern Gaza Strip, surrounded two Palestinian boats.
There were eight fishermen, including two boys, on board the two boats. The gunboats opened fire on the two Palestinian boats. As a result, two fishermen were wounded by shrapnel. Israeli naval forces arrested the eight fishermen after forcing them to take their clothes off and jump into water, confiscated their boats and sailed to Ashdod Port in Israel.
Hassan Khader Hassan Baker, 53; and his sons Khader, 29; Ja’far, 27; and Mohammed, 21; and ‘Allam Naser Fadel Baker, 16, were on the first boat. Khalil Jawher Khalil Baker, 21; Mohammed Majed Fadel Baker, 19; and Mohammed Suheil Fadel Baker, 17 were on the second.
At approximately 18:00 on the same day, Israeli forces released ‘Allam Naser Baker; Mohammed Majed Baker; and Mohammed Suheil Baker, who was wounded by shrapnel in the right thigh during his arrest. They were released via Beit Hanoun (Erez) crossing.
Approximately 3 hours later, Israeli forces released Hassan Khader Baker, who was wounded by shrapnel in his left hand during his arrest, and his sons Ja’far, Mohammed and Khader; Khalil Jawhar Baker via Beit Hanoun (Erez) after they were questioned regarding their work. In his testimony to PCHR, a released fisherman stated that Israeli forces blindfolded the fishermen when transporting them to Ashdod Port and handcuffed them all with iron chains.
He added that after four hours of waiting under cruel conditions, they were subjected to questioning and that interrogators offered them money in order to collaborate with the Israeli Internal Security Service (Shin Bet).
At approximately 07:15, on 13 September 2011, Israeli gunboats sailing opposite to al-Sudaniya coast, west of Jabalia in the northern Gaza Strip, opened fire at Palestinian boats. The Palestinian fishermen were able to escape in great fear of being arrested or wounded.
The Israeli attacks against the Palestinian fishermen and their property have increased since the beginning of this year and there has been a dramatic rise in the number and form of attacks. Since the beginning of the year, PCHR has documented 61 attacks against fishermen at sea in the Gaza Strip.
PCHR has also documented 38 cases of shooting, including five that resulted in injury to eight fishermen; five cases involving chasing fishermen that resulted in arrest of 18 fishermen; and 19 cases that led to the confiscation and damage to boats and fishing tools.
It should be noted that Israeli forces have imposed more restrictions on the work of fishermen in the Gaza Strip.
Since 2000, fishermen have been prevented from exercising their right to sail and fish.. Israeli forces reduced the area of fishing from 20 nautical miles, which was agreed upon in the agreements signed between the Palestinian and Israeli sides, to six nautical miles in 2008.
Israeli forces have continued to prevent fishermen from going beyond three nautical miles since 2009. Hence fishermen are prevented from reaching areas beyond that distance where fish are abundant.
Sometimes, Israeli forces chase fishermen within three nautical miles. As a result, the Palestinian fishermen have lost 85% of their income because of limiting the fishing area.
In light of the above, PCHR:
1- Condemns the recurrence of violations recently committed by the Israeli naval forces against the Palestinian fishermen. PCHR believes that these violations are committed in the context of the escalation of collective punishment policies against civilians, and they are part of fighting the civilians in their means of subsistence, a matter that is prohibited under the international humanitarian law and international human rights law;
2- Calls upon Israeli forces to immediately stop the policy of chasing and arresting the Palestinian fishermen and to allow them to sail and fish freely;
3- Calls upon Israeli forces to return the confiscated boats to their owners immediately and compensate them for the damage of trapping the boats for a long time or for any other damage that might have incurred to them;
4- Calls for paying compensations to the victims of the Israeli violations for the physical and material damage caused to fishermen and their property;
5- Calls upon the international community, including the United Nations and its agencies, to assume their legal and moral responsibility through immediate and urgent intervention to stop all the Israeli violations, including the ongoing naval blockade imposed on the Gaza Strip and the deprival of fishermen of over 85% of their livelihood through limiting the fishing area to three nautical miles.