Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania
On a day which had earlier been foggy but was now clear and calm, some passengers aboard the Lusitania stood on deck and watched the ‘dead wake’ of a German U-boat torpedo heading towards the bow of the ship. It was 7th May 1915; Europe was engulfed in war while the USA was desperately maintaining its position of neutrality. Larson tells the story of the last voyage of the Lusitania, its passengers and crew, and the wider political situation that gave rise to the circumstances in which the ship was left unprotected in waters in which it was known U-boats were operating.
Larson starts with a prologue about the evening before the attack. Before she sailed from New York, the Germans had threatened they would attack the Lusitania, but the passengers weren’t particularly anxious. The Lusitania had been built for speed, the fastest ship of its time. Captain William Turner was confident she could outrun any U-boat. Anyway, given the threat and the knowledge that U-boats were operating around the coasts of Britain and Ireland, there was a general confidence that the Royal Navy would be on hand to escort them for the last dangerous stage of the journey.
Larson uses four main strands to tell the full story of what happened. We learn about the codebreakers of the British Admiralty who had obtained the German codes and were, therefore, able to track U-boat movements with a fair degree of accuracy. Eerily reminiscent of the Bletchley codebreakers of WW2, there was the same dilemma as to how often to act on information obtained – too often and the Germans would work out that their codes had been cracked, and change them. So some ships were left unprotected, sacrifices, almost, to the greater war effort. Churchill was First Lord of the Admiralty at the time and was desperate to draw the US into the war on the British side. There appears to be little doubt that he felt that if German U-boats sank ships with American citizens aboard, this might be a decisive factor.
Secondly, Larson takes us aboard U-20, the U-boat that would fire the fatal torpedo, and introduces us to its Captain, Walther Schwieger. By using Schwieger’s logs amongst other sources, Larson creates an absorbing and authentic-feeling depiction of life aboard the ship, including a lot of fascinating detail about how U-boats actually worked – the logistical difficulties of diving, with the weight constantly changing as the amount of fuel aboard decreased; and how the crew would have to run from place to place to keep the boat level when manoeuvring. Larson widens this out to tell of some of the dangers for these early submarines, and some of the horrific accidents that had happened to them. And he takes us further, into the ever-changing policy of the German government with regards to the sinking of passenger and merchant ships.
The third aspect revolves around President Wilson and America’s lengthy vacillations before finally committing to war. Politically hoping to sit it out while Britain bore the brunt, Wilson was also suffering personally from the loss of his much-loved wife, closely followed by what sounds like a rather adolescent rush of passion for another woman. It appears that he spent as much time a-wooing as a-Presidenting, and his desire to spend his life taking his new love out for romantic drives meant that he seemed almost infinitely capable of overlooking Germany’s constant breaches of the rules regarding neutral nations. (I should say the harshness of this interpretation is mine – Larson gives the facts but doesn’t draw the conclusions quite as brutally as I have done. Perhaps because he’s American and I’m British. But he leaves plenty of space for the reader to draw her own conclusions.)
The fourth section, and the one that humanizes the story is the voyage of the Lusitania itself. Larson introduces us to many of the passengers, telling us a little of their lives before the voyage so that we come to care about them. There were many children aboard, including young infants. Some people were bringing irreplaceable art and literary objects across in the way of business. There were pregnant women, and nannies and servants, and of course the crew. Larson explains that the crew was relatively inexperienced as so many sailors had been absorbed into the war effort. While they carried out regular drills, logistics meant they couldn’t actually lower all the lifeboats during them, so that when the disaster actually happened this lack of experience fed into the resulting loss of life. But he also shows the heroism of many of the crew and some of the passengers, turning their backs on their own safety to assist others. Even so, the loss of life was massive, and by telling the personal stories of some who died and others who survived but lost children or parents or lovers, Larson brings home the intimate tragedies that sometimes get lost in the bigger picture.
And finally, Larson tells of the aftermath, both personal for some of the survivors or grieving relatives of the dead; and political, in terms of the subsequent investigations in Britain into what went wrong, and Wilson’s attempts to ensure that even a direct attack on US citizens wouldn’t drag his country into war.
Larson balances the political and personal just about perfectly in the book, I feel. His excellent writing style creates the kind of tension normally associated with a novel rather than a factual book, and his careful characterisation of many of the people involved gives a human dimension that is often missing from straight histories. He doesn’t shy away from the politics, though, and each of the governments, British, German and American, come in for their fair share of harsh criticism, including some of the individuals within them. An excellent book, thoroughly researched and well told – highly recommended.
The United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) warned last week that 20 million people are in danger of starvation because of conflicts and drought.
If you missed this shocking and very important news, then it’s no surprise, as it didn’t receive too many headlines – certainly not in the West. Those have been dominated instead by expressions of faux-outrage from the pro-war political and media Establishment over footage of children in Syria who appeared to have been the victims of a suspected chemical weapons attack, which the US and its allies were very quick to blame, without firm evidence, on Syrian President Bashar Assad.
How do we know that the Establishment concern we saw about child victims of war was insincere? It’s easy. True humanitarians care about all victims equally. The concern of phony humanitarians is only for those who have been killed, or who appear to have been killed, by an ‘Official Enemy’ of the Western elites – like Assad. This ‘outrage’ has to be expressed strongly, and very publicly, in order to build support for the bombing of the ‘Official Enemy’ country, and further the case for regime-change, which helps the arms industry and the 1% get even richer. However, if it’s an ally of the West or Western powers themselves responsible for the atrocities, it’s a very different story. Then it’s a case of: “Don’t mention the war!” Let’s change the subject as quickly as we can! Bellicose ‘liberal interventionists’ become as quiet as church mice.
What made the double standards even more glaring this week is the fact that a large proportion of those facing starvation, as identified by the UNHCR, are in Yemen, which has been bombed by staunch Western ally Saudi Arabia for two years now.
“In Yemen, which is experiencing the world’s largest humanitarian crisis with almost 19 million people in need of humanitarian help, around 17 million people are food insecure,” UNHCR spokesperson Adrian Edwards said.
The very same countries who are directly responsible for the “world’s largest humanitarian crisis” in 2017 are – surprise, surprise! – the ones who have sought to take the moral high ground over Syria. The same neocons and ‘liberal interventionists’ who screech “Something must be done about Assad!” on social media from 6 o’clock in the morning until 11 o’clock at night are quite happy for absolutely nothing to be done to stop the suffering in Yemen.
One man who did try to end the slaughter in the country was Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn- a consistent target of the Endless War lobby. Last October Labour put forward a motion in the British Parliament calling for the UK to suspend its support to Saudi Arabia. The resolution failed because over 100 Labour MPs either didn‘t turn up- or abstained. One of them was Corbyn’s deputy Tom Watson. ‘How can Labour ‘humanitarians’ support Saudi Arabia’? asked Stop the War’s Lindsey German.
Last week Watson broke with Corbyn yet again to issue a statement in favour of Trump’s illegal cruise missile strikes on Syria- saying, without any sense of irony, that they were a ‘a response to a clear violation of international law by the Syrian regime.’
When it comes to humanitarian humbug there’s no difference between right-wing Labour, the Lib Dems and the Tories. Or, in America, between Democrats and Republicans. Vicar’s daughter Theresa May has spent most of the last few days robotically denouncing ‘the Assad regime’-which is battling ISIS and al-Qaeda and protects Syria’s Christian community from religious persecution. Yet just ten days ago the British Prime Minister was defending UK ties to Saudi Arabia on a trip to Riyadh. For all the moral grand-standing by May and Johnson and Trump and Tillerson, the bloodshed and chaos unleashed by the west and its allies in recent decades dwarfs any crimes that could be laid at Assad’s door. In 2015, it was revealed that at least 1.3m people, the vast majority of them Muslims, lost their lives in the US‘s so-called ‘War on Terror’ in just three countries; Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan- between 2001 and the end of 2013.
The Body Count death toll as I pointed out in my earlier OpEdge does not include deaths among the 3m refugees from Iraq subjected to privations, nor those killed in Libya and Yemen. But in spite of the mind-boggling numbers involved the victims of US-led military interventions are ’un-people’ who have been airbrushed out of western history.
Only Muslims killed by ‘Official Enemies’ are mourned- and splashed on the front pages of Establishment-friendly newspapers. When it comes to infanticide, the same grotesque double standards are on display. In a 1996 television interview about the impact of sanctions on Iraq, the US Secretary of State Madeline Albright was asked if the death of half a million Iraqi children was a price worth paying. She replied ‘I think this is a very hard choice, but we think the price is worth it’. Just imagine if Putin or Assad had said such a thing! In an interview with David Edwards of Media Lens, Denis Halliday, the former UN Assistant Secretary General- and the co-ordinator of the UN humanitarian oil for food programme – said that the shortage of food and medical supplies in Iraq was the direct responsibility of Washington and London. ’For the British government to say that the quantities involved for vaccinating kids are going to produce weapons of mass destruction, is just nonsense. That’s why I’ve deliberately used the word ‘genocide’ because this is a deliberate policy to destroy the people of Iraq’, Halliday said.
The genocide which preceded the Iraq war is a taboo subject in the west- like the genocide which came after it. Instead, we’re encouraged to focus solely on the ’heinous crimes’ of our ‘Official Enemies’. They- Assad, Gaddafi, Milosevic- are always ‘butchers’- ‘our’ leaders can never be called that- even if they kill millions more and illegally attack, or threaten to attack, different countries every few years.
Back to the UNHCR warning. In South Sudan, 100,00 people face starvation- and a further 1m are on the brink of famine. In northern Nigeria seven million people ‘are now struggling with food insecurity and need help’. The situation is perilous in Somalia too. Getting food supplies to these unfortunate people ought to be the number one priority for genuine humanitarians. But what was the top of the agenda for last week’s G7 meeting? How to get Russia to end its support for Assad!
This is the neocon agenda of the warmongering elites and not of those who really care about humanity. Next time you come across a ‘humanitarian’ saying that toppling Assad and ‘dealing’ with Putin is the most pressing issue, ask them why it’s more important than saving 20 million people close to starvation. They won’t have a satisfactory answer.
Defense Secretary Mattis welcomes Saudi Deputy Crown Prince and Defense Minister Mohammed bin Salman to the Pentagon, March 16, 2017. (DoD photo by Sgt. Amber I. Smith)
The Trump administration’s growing use of military force in Syria, Iraq, and Yemen has neoconservative hawks rooting for armed confrontation with what they view as the root of all evil in the Middle East: Iran.
Many of these armchair warriors recently cheered President Trump’s decision to take on the Assad regime — and Moscow — by firing 59 Tomahawk cruise missile at a Syrian air base alleged to be the source of a chemical weapons attack. But they urged him to do more.
Weekly Standard editor William Kristol tweeted, “Punishing Assad for use of chemical weapons is good. Regime change in Iran is the prize.”
Kristol co-founded the infamous Project on the New American Century in 1997 to promote American “global hegemony” and “challenge regimes hostile to our interests and values.” It began lobbying for the overthrow of Saddam Hussein as early as 1998, but always kept Iran in its sights as well.
With Saddam dead and Syria’s Assad stripped of much of his power, Iran is now at the center of neocon crosshairs. Kristol linked his recent tweet to a Washington Post column by two stalwart advocates of ousting the mullahs in Tehran: Reuel Gerecht and Ray Takeyh.
Titled “How Trump Can Help Cripple the Iranian Regime,” their article called for putting the nuclear arms deal with Iran at risk in order to “stoke the volcano under Tehran and to challenge the regime.” The centerpiece of their bizarre argument was that the Iranian people would gratefully welcome the United States imposing “crippling sanctions” to destroy their economy in the name of “human rights.”
The authors were vague as to the details, but suggested that Iran’s ruling clerics would quickly succumb to a “popular rebellion” by “Iranian dissidents,” particularly if the United States sent “more American troops [to] both Syria and Iraq” to reinforce its message.
Gerecht, a died-in-the-wool neocon, was a former director of the Project for a New American Century’s Middle East Initiative. In 2001, he wrote, “Only a war against Saddam Hussein will decisively restore the awe that protects American interests abroad and citizens at home.”
In 2002, he further touted a U.S. invasion of Iraq as a way to “provoke riots in Iran — simultaneous uprisings in major cities that would simply be beyond the scope of regime-loyal specialized riot-control units.” Instead, the subsequent U.S. invasion backfired by putting a pro-Iran regime into power in Baghdad.
Iran in the Crosshairs
Today Gerecht is a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a neocon think tank dedicated to waging war against “militant Islam,” with a focus on Iran. Heavily funded by gambling magnate Sheldon Adelson, the Foundation was originally created to promote the agenda of hardline Israeli hawks.
The Foundation fought bitterly against the Iran nuclear deal, lest it open the door to a rapprochement between Washington and Tehran. Gerecht in particular demanded that the United States attack Iran rather than pursue diplomacy. “I’ve written about 25,000 words about bombing Iran,” he boasted in 2010. “Even my mom thinks I’ve gone too far.”
Gerecht’s side-kick, Ray Tayekh, is a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and was (briefly) an Iran adviser to Dennis Ross in Hillary Clinton’s State Department. A fierce critic of the nuclear deal, Tayekh joined the Iran Task Force of the right-wing Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs, which considers itself “the most influential group on the issue of U.S.-Israel military relations.” Tayekh has advocated covert support to Iranian dissidents, as well as to “Kurdish, Baluch, Arab, and other opposition groups fighting the regime.”
Regime change in Iran is the open goal of Prime Minister Netanyahu and other Israeli rightists. That’s why they consistently rejected findings by Israel’s intelligence community about the benefits to Israel’s security from the nuclear deal with Iran. By stoking opposition to the deal among their supporters in Congress, they aimed to kill any chance of cooperation between the United States and Iran.
Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Arkansas, said candidly, “the goal of our policy must be clear: regime change in Iran.”
Today the hardline Israeli/neocon agenda is still being pursued by hawks in Congress, who have introduced bills in both houses to ratchet up economic sanctions against Iran and designate a major branch of the country’s armed forces as a terrorist organization. If enacted — against the wishes of other signatories to the Iran nuclear deal — such measures could put the United States and Iran on a war footing.
Trump’s Team of Hawks
President Trump is unlikely to stand in their way. Ignoring the role of major Arab states in supporting such terrorist groups as al-Qaeda and ISIS, Trump named Iran “the number one terrorist state” and warned during his campaign that if Iranian patrol boats in the Persian Gulf continue to “make gestures that our people — that they shouldn’t be allowed to make, they will be shot out of the water.”
Trump has surrounded himself with anti-Iran hardliners who may be only too eager to give war a chance. His first national security adviser, retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, co-authored a 2016 book with Michael Ledeen, a confidant of Israeli hawks and colleague of Gerecht at the Foundation for Defense of Democracy, on “How We Can Win the Global War Against Radical Islam and Its Allies.” Iran, of course, was their enemy number one.
Even with Flynn’s ouster, plenty of hawks remain. In recent congressional testimony, Army Gen. Joseph Votel, Commander of the U.S. Central Command, called Iran “the greatest long-term threat to stability” in the Middle East. He declared, “We need to look at opportunities where we can disrupt [Iran] through military means or other means their activities.”
Defense Secretary General James Mattis told a conference at the conservative Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington last year, “Iran is not a nation-state; it’s a revolutionary cause devoted to mayhem.” The New York Times reported that Mattis “was so hawkish on Iran as head of United States Central Command from 2010 to 2013 that the Obama administration cut short his tour.”
Mattis reportedly came close to ordering an act of war against Iran in early February — the boarding of an Iranian ship to look for weapons headed for Houthi rebels in Yemen. Such an incident could escalate rapidly out of control if Iran chose to retaliate against U.S. vessels in the Persian Gulf.
Alternatives to Conflict
The United States has better policy options than continuing to treat Iran as part of the Axis of Evil. A report issued last fall by the National Iranian American Council recommended that Washington build on the success of the Iran nuclear deal by drawing Iran into regional peace settlements, deescalating our military presence in the Persian Gulf, and encouraging Iran and Saudi Arabia to resolve their differences without superpower intervention.
The report echoed the advice of a prominent neocon heretic, Zalmay Khalilzad, former U.S. ambassador to both Afghanistan and Iraq.
“As someone who has negotiated with Iran over the years perhaps more than any other U.S. diplomat,” he observed last year, “I disagree with those who argue that talks with Iran are akin to capitulation. I have seen little evidence that isolation has or will alter Tehran’s behavior in the right direction. Nor do I share the view that it is impossible to negotiate win-win deals with the Iranians.”
Noting Iran’s cooperation with the United States against Al Qaeda after 9/11, and its help brokering political compromises in Afghanistan and Iraq until the Bush administration refused further engagement, Khalilzad wrote, “Under the right conditions, which must include a hard-headed approach and tough actions to check Iran’s ambitions, Washington can benefit from bringing Iran into multilateral forums where the United States and its partners have the opportunity to narrow differences, create rules of the road and solve problems. Moreover, today we have little choice but to engage Iran on these broader issues, because no factor is shaping the order of the Middle East as much as the rivalry between Iran and its Sunni Arab neighbors.”
“If we do not undertake this work,” he warned, “the problems of the region — extremism, terrorism and regional conflict — will continue to bleed over into our part of the world, particularly if the Westphalian state system disintegrates even further into sectarian morass.”
Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer
After US President Donald Trump ordered strikes in Syria and Afghanistan, he is receiving stronger support from a Washington establishment that sided with Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton during the 2016 election campaign.
Last week, under Trump’s orders, the US military fired 59 Tomahawk missiles at al-Shayrat airbase in Homs province in western Syria. This week, the Republican leader ordered the use of the largest non-nuclear bomb in the US arsenal on an area of eastern Afghanistan.
Trump’s these two moves, along with his war threats against North Korea, have endeared him to the people who support the agenda of the military-industrial complex and bankers, who profit from war.
MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough and Washington Post columnists David Ignatius and Charles Krauthammer, Trump’s former critics, are particularly appreciating Trump’s war efforts.
“Donald Trump is finally doing what we’ve been hoping and America has been hoping he would do,” Scarborough said on his Thursday broadcast. “You can tell, the National Security Council is not Steve Bannon’s play yard.”
Analysts are also praising Trump’s national security adviser, H.R. McMaster, and Defense Secretary James Mattis. Both officials were involved in the decisionmaking over the strike in Syria, another departure for a Republican president who previously opposed any such attack.
Krauthammer declared on Thursday that “the traditionalists are in the saddle. U.S. policy has been normalized. The world is on notice: Eight years of sleepwalking is over. America is back.”
In addition, CNN, which had viciously opposed Trump, has become a close supporter of Trump’s policies.
Following the April 7 attack on Syria, CNN host Fareed Zakaria said, “Donald Trump became president of the United States last night. I think this was actually a big moment.”
“For the first time really as president, he talked about international norms, international rules, about America’s role in enforcing justice in the world,” Zakaria said of Trump’s remarks explaining the military action.
Trump said he had ordered the strike in response to the April 4 chemical attack in the Arab country that he blamed on the Syrian government. The Syrian government has strongly denied any responsibility for the alleged gas attack.
On Thursday, a GBU-43/B Massive Ordnance Air Blast Bomb (MOAB), also known as the “mother of all bombs,” was dropped on a tunnel complex allegedly used by Daesh (ISIL) militants in Nangarhar province by an MC-130 aircraft, operated by US Air Force Special Operations Command, according to the Pentagon.
Trump praised America’s “incredible military” for dropping the bomb in Afghanistan.
“We have [an] incredible military. We are very proud of them and this was another very, very successful mission,” Trump told reporters at the White House on Thursday.
American political analyst Myles Hoenig told Press TV on Friday that with the MOAB strike in Afghanistan, President Trump has taken war to the next level.
“Hillary Clinton lost the White House but her mania for death and destruction lives on in Trump,” said Hoenig, a former Green Party candidate for Congress.
Last week The Duran reported on the many “deplorables” turned off by Trump’s new found fancy for a US interventionist foreign policy.
Last week Trump also backtracked on much of his NATO pre-presidential stance.
He signed off on Montenegro’s membership to the alliance…which now means Serbia is completely surrounded by an aggressive military alliance, that has bombed it mercilessly in the past under false flag pretenses.
Trump also met with NATO head warmonger Stoltenberg, and reversed his NATO position from “obsolete” to, “it is not longer obsolete”.
French presidential candidate Marine Le Pen is not amused with Trump’s swiveling foreign policy.
Le Pen said in an interview with France Info radio on Friday…
“Undeniably he [Trump] is in contradiction with the commitments he had made.”
“I am coherent, I don’t change my mind in a few days. He had said he would not be the policeman of the world, that he would be the president of the United States and would not be the policeman of the world, but it seems today that he has changed his mind.”
“Will he persist, or is it a political coup which facilitates his domestic policy, I have absolutely no idea. But I am coherent in my analyses. When something favors France I say so, when it doesn’t I say so too.”
And just so there is no confusion as to where Le Pen stands on France’s NATO position should she win the election…
“I consider that France does not have to submit to the calendar of the United States, so I want France to leave the integrated command of NATO.”
Le Pen, leader of The National Front, went on to say that while she does not know if Trump would continue to abandon his “America First” approach, she herself would stick to a France first approach if elected president.
Trump and Le Pen were seen as allies during the 2016 US presidential campaign. The two shared many nationalist policy stances on immigration and globalization. The French politician had said that Trump’s presidential win “shows that people are taking their future back.”
Le Pen’s criticism comes as other nationalist politicians around the world have taken issue with Trump’s recent policy changes. Trump ally and pro-Brexit leader Nigel Farage said he was “very surprised” at Trump’s decision to strike a Syrian airbase in retaliation for the regime’s alleged chemical weapons attack against civilians.
Le Pen has been a strong critic of NATO during the French presidential campaign and has included pulling France back from NATO in her campaign platform. The leader of the National Front party, on track to make it through to the run-off election on May 7, has recently seen her momentum slowed.
Photo via Badee Dwaik
Palestinian organizer Badee Dwaik, co-founder of the Human Rights Defenders group that has been coordinating actions and popular organizing to confront settlements and occupation in al-Khalil, was recently seized by Israeli occupation forces with three of his colleagues in the #DismantleTheGhetto movement, Anan Odeh, Ishaq al-Khateeb and Younis Arar.
The four organizers, swiftly known as the #alKhalil4, were participating in a Land Day protest on Thursday 30 March when they were attacked by occupation forces. Following his release, Dwaik spoke with Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network about his experience under arrest and interrogation. He noted that he had previously been arrested, interrogated and jailed on multiple occasions, but that this experience highlighted intensified repression. In fact, only one month prior, on 24 February 2017, Israeli occupation forces had invaded Dwaik’s home and threatened him with arrest.
The four organizers were part of an action that involved planting olive trees, where they were attacked by settlers. Despite the attack, they continued marching to the center of their city of al-Khalil, which has been subject to forcible closure by the Israeli occupation and its settlers. As the demonstration continued, occupation forces declared the area a closed military zone and picked Dwaik, Dana, Arar and Khateeb out of the crowd of about 50, accusing them of participating in an “illegal demonstration.”
Dwaik noted the presence among the harassing settlers of the notorious Ofer Ohana, who was also present for the extrajudicial execution of Abdel-Fattah Al-Sharif by Israeli occupation soldier Elor Azariya. The murder of al-Sharif came to light as it was videotaped by Imad Abu Shamsiya, co-founder of Human Rights Defenders. Ohana was videotaped kicking a knife near the body of Sharif and referring to Sharif and his fellow slain Palestinian, Ramzi al-Qasrawi, as “the trash.” Dwaik noted that Ohana has threatened Abu Shamsiya and Dwaik and repeatedly harasses them as they carry out tours of al-Khalil with internationals.
The four were arrested under false pretenses, Dwaik said. They were accused of being in the street, said Dwaik, even though three of the four were standing on a grassy hill and one of the four, Anan Odeh, was off to the side of the road. At the present time, while the four were released on bail, they continue to face allegations in Israeli military court – where Palestinians are convicted at a rate of over 99 percent – of “disturbing the public peace of the area,” organizing an “illegal action,” attempting to escape from the army, and “blocking the street.”
Dwaik noted that he denied all allegations under interrogation and refused to sign any paperwork or confessions. He and his fellow organizers were taken by occupation forces to the Kharsina military camp near Kiryat Arba settlement. Dwaik, who has diabetes, was sent to a medical worker; he stated that he needed medicine for his diabetes, but that the medical worker gave him two cold tablets but nothing to address his actual medical condition.
Later, Dwaik reported, he was taken to Shaare Tzedek hospital from 11:00 pm to 3:30 am, during which he received medical tests. He was told that he would receive insulin, but when Dwaik explained that his diabetes is treated with medication, they told him they would sell him a tablet. However, they still did not provide his medication and he was instead told that he would receive medication in jail.
Dwaik was then sent to the Etzion detention center (jail), where he reported that he was subject to an experience seemingly designed for humiliation and subjugation. The jail officers demanded Dwaik strip down, including removing his underwear. As he refused to remove his underwear, the jail officers demanded him to repeatedly move about and stand up and sit down in an attempt to humiliate him. He was then told that he would be left there until the morning without clothes. However, when he still refused to remove his underwear, he was finally given his clothes and put in the room with his fellow detainees.
The conditions at Etzion and other detention centers, where Palestinians are often held under interrogation and prior to being transferred to the major prisons, have been repeatedly highlighted by former prisoners for their unsuitability for human life. Palestinian prisoners have even launched hunger strikes to demand to be moved to regular prisons and have repeatedly reported beatings and assaults in the Etzion jail.
When he arrived in Etzion, he was told that his belongings would be registered; however, the jailers refused to register his belt and instead confiscated it; Dwaik noted, “I have been arrested many times before, but was never ordered to remove underwear or had my belt confiscated.” Among his belongings was also 42 NIS ($11.50 USD), which was registered at the time. Dwaik noted that he was denied cigarettes despite being registered as a smoker; when he questioned this, he was told that he was “being punished” because he refused to remove his underwear the night before.
Dwaik particularly highlighted the unlivable conditions in Etzion. The room where he was sent contained five or six bunk beds, but the beds were blank and had no mattresses; instead, Dwaik said, prisoners are forced to fold blankets beneath them to serve as makeshift mattresses. These blankets, Dwaik noted, are unclean and pose a danger to health; they are used by many prisoners and are rarely washed. The Palestinians detained in Etzion are served leftover food from the army’s meals, often significantly later when the food is sparse and cold. The cells themselves are in a very poor condition and insects are visible inside the room, as well as mice and other vermin. “Some people get stuck in the detention centers for long periods of time, even 2 months, and it is a form of daily torture,” Dwaik said.
Photo via Badee Dwaik
Dwaik noted that there are no books or recreation time for detainees held in Etzion, and that some other prisoners had reported the shower areas being closed for four or five days at a time. Despite the earlier interactions with medical staff, he still did not receive diabetes medication. Instead, he was told that he would be sent to Ofer prison in the afternoon.
He noted that Palestinian prisoners are often left without food because they are transported to the military court or from jail to jail during mealtimes; no replacement meals are provided. This is such a common problem that it is even included among the demands of Palestinian prisoners in the large hunger strike planned to begin on 17 April, Palestinian Prisoners’ Day.
Ofer is a large Israeli prison and the only major Israeli occupation prison (rather than detention centers and interrogation centers) inside the West Bank. The prison has 10 sections of about 120 people each, for a total of approximately 1,200 prisoners, Dwaik reported. Most are political prisoners, but Palestinians arrested for “non-political” charges by the Israeli occupation – such as, for example, Palestinian workers seized for working inside Palestine ’48 without a permit – are also held in the prison. During his short time in Ofer, he was repeatedly transferred from one section to another. While in the prison, he saw a number of fellow Palestinian prisoners, including imprisoned BDS campaigner Salah Khawaja and youth organizer Hassan Karajah, both of whom greeted the international activists working for their freedom and that of their fellow prisoners.
The case of the four was brought before the military court in Ofer on Sunday, 2 April. While Dwaik and Dana were brought to the military court, he noted that their fellow #alKhalil4 detainees, al-Khateeb and Arar, weren’t even brought before the military court. During the hearing, the military prosecutor urged that the four be held for five additional days for further interrogation, stating that there is a “secret file against” Dwaik, the framework that is used to order Palestinians to imprisonment without charge or trial under administrative detention. Dwaik noted that this was also the first time that a “secret file” had been raised against him despite numerous arrests. While the military court judge refused to release the four – as demanded by their lawyer – he ordered them held only one more day and a new military court hearing the following day, Monday, 3 April.
He noted the degrading experience of waiting for a military court hearing to begin. “You are moving from room to room all the time and you are shackled hand and foot all the time. We had to wait on Monday from 8 am to 3 pm as we are handcuffed. They only take off the handcuffs when you’re in the military court, then they handcuff you again and shackle your feet. It is a system that is meant to humiliate,” Dwaik said.
Dwaik noted that on Monday, as he entered the military court in Ofer, he saw Palestinian student Kifah Quzmar, who was exiting the military court, having been ordered to six months in administrative detention. Quzmar told Dwaik of his sentence and expressed his greetings to the organizations and people around the world engaged in the campaign for his release.
In addition, Dwaik noted, some international observers in Palestine attempted to attend the military court hearing for the four, but were barred from entering. Journalist Amira Hass attended the hearing along with the representative of Defence for Children International in al-Khalil. In the military court hearing on Monday, the alleged “secret file” went unmentioned; instead, the military prosecutor now demanded 7,000 NIS ($1912 USD) from each of the four as bail. Dwaik stated that he does not have the money for such a high bail and that he would stay in jail instead; negotiations then ensued and a bail of 3,500 NIS ($956 USD) was set for each of the four. He noted that #DismantleTheGhetto campaigners and supporters donated to cover the bail, which was paid around 3:00 pm; however, the four were not released until 10:30 pm.
During their release, Dwaik noted, “they push you with their guns and don’t let you check that you even have your belongings.” He lost his belt, and the 42 NIS ($11.50) he had when entering prison was stolen. Throughout his time in Israeli jail, he never received any medicine for his diabetes.
Dwaik noted that “all of the Palestinian political organizations support the #DismantleTheGhetto campaign, and all of the NGOs that support human rights. This is why we were targeted, because this is a unified Palestinian campaign with many actions.”
“We need more work for the Palestinian cause and people to keep building support for Palestine. The #DismantleTheGhetto campaign in al-Khalil is part of these efforts,” Dwaik said. He stated that Palestinian prisoners need international support and that many will be launching a strike on 17 April, noting that Samidoun and other groups have an important role to play in building solidarity with the prisoners. “Palestinian prisoners are struggling for their dignity and freedom every day,” Dwaik said, “from the 13-year-old children like Shadi Farrah to the veterans who have spent 30 years behind bars.”
Sean Spicer apologizes for “Hitler” remark during interview with Wolf Blitzer on CNN
It has been reported that after the flap erupted over his offhand reference to Hitler, White House spokesman Sean Spicer made a personal phone call to Sheldon Adelson to apologize.
Adelson is the staunch Zionist and casino billionaire who has provided extensive funding to Republican candidates for office. Back in 2014, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie groveled out an apology to him after using the term “occupied territories” in reference to the West Bank, so it probably should come as no surprise that Spicer felt compelled to apologize as well.
But of course the apology comes at a time when the Trump administration has already prostrated itself to neocon wishes by launching a missile attack against Syria–an act which has heightened tensions with Russia and represents a dramatic departure from Trump’s previous campaign positions. Moreover, Adelson isn’t the only person Spicer has apologized to.
“You had someone as despicable as Hitler who didn’t even sink to using chemical weapons,” Spicer said in an effort to justify the US missile strike. The remark was made at a press briefing on April 11. Later that day Spicer issued a public apology during an interview with Wolf Blitzer over CNN.
“As you know, six million Jews were killed in the holocaust, many of them with poison gas…” Blitzer prefaced the interview.
Spicer’s replies throughout the seven and a half minute segment (see video here ) were almost cringing.
“Frankly, I mistakenly used an inappropriate and insensitive reference to the holocaust, for which there is no comparison, and for that I apologize. It was a mistake to do that… I was trying to draw a comparison for which there shouldn’t have been one. It was insensitive and inappropriate… I should have stayed focused on the Assad regime and the dangers they have brought to their own people… it was a mistake, I shouldn’t have done it. I won’t do it again… it was inappropriate and insensitive…”
But despite the on-air contrition, Blitzer seemed reluctant to let the matter drop.
“Did you not know, Sean, there were gas chambers where the Nazis brought Jews in…” he demanded.
“Yes, clearly I’m aware of that… it was a mistake to do that…”
“Have you spoken to President Trump about your blunder today?”
“Obviously it was my blunder, as you put it correctly…”
So busy was Spicer apologizing that at one point in the interview he even committed a Freudian slip:
“I came out (to apologize) to make sure that we stay focused on what the president’s doing and his decisive action. I needed to make sure that I clarified, and not in any way shape or form any more of a distraction from the president’s decisive action in Syria and the attempts he’s making to destabilize the region and root ISIS out of Syria.”
Spicer obviously meant to refer to Trump’s attempts to “stabilize” rather than “destabilize” the region, but Blitzer, having witnessed the presidential spokesman supplicate himself, allowed the slip to pass without comment.
In its article on Spicer’s phone call to Adelson, The Forward notes that Spicer’s Hitler analogy was “made on the Jewish holiday of Passover.” The article also comments that the Jewish billionaire has a “special relationship” with Trump and was given “prime seats at Trump’s inauguration after pouring massive amounts of cash into the campaign.”
Despite all the apologies, the Anne Frank Center in New York has called for Spicer to be fired.
“On Passover no less, Sean Spicer has engaged in Holocaust denial, the most offensive form of fake news imaginable, by denying Hitler gassed millions of Jews to death,” said Steven Goldstein, the center’s executive director.
Spicer’s sin was nothing more than expressing himself in a clumsy manner; clearly he had no intentions of casting aspersions or doubt upon the holocaust religion. But such considerations apparently have little bearing. A punishment of some sort must be exacted.
“Spicer’s statement is the most evil slur upon a group of people we have ever heard from a White House press secretary,” Goldstein said. “President Trump must fire him at once.”
Trump has not responded, and in fact seems to be laying low on the controversy surrounding his press secretary. This is likely due to the fact that the president clearly has problems of his own.
In the past week or two his behavior has become strangely erratic. The man who once accused the mainstream media of spreading fake news suddenly latched onto a very suspicious and dubious report about a chemical weapons attack in Syria. On April 6, he ordered a missile attack against a Syrian airbase; at a press conference on April 12 he praised NATO (after having called it “obsolete” during his campaign); and on April 13, the US dropped a “mega bomb” in Afghanistan. Now Trump is engaged in a massive military buildup in the Korean peninsula, and just today the foreign minister of China warned that a war could break out “at any moment.”
All of this represents a startling and dramatic departure from Trump’s campaign promises of wanting better relations with Russia and keeping the US from becoming embroiled in useless wars–and as a result, support for Trump is in fact plummeting sharply among his political base.
One of his most prominent and vocal supporters during his campaign was Ann Coulter. So avid a fan was she that she even published a book entitled In Trump We Trust: E Pluribus Awesome! But you can listen to the interview below from April 7–one day after the attack on Syria–and hear for yourself how dismayed Coulter now is.
Losing the support of people like Coulter has to be a serious blow for Trump. Why would he risk it? One conclusion we might draw from all this is that it makes no difference who gets elected president–and that the policies and agenda of the deep state will remain in effect regardless. In other words, the president is really nothing but a puppet. But perhaps there’s more to it than that.
If you watch the video of his press conference of this past Wednesday–a joint press conference he gave with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg–clearly Trump is not enjoying himself. Maybe he simply has a personal dislike for Stoltenberg. It would be impossible, however, that he could be unaware of the fact that he is alienating people like Coulter. In any event, his behavior during the press conference is quite strange.
In fact, over the past two weeks or so Trump’s behavior has become so curious–on some levels almost bizarre–it is practically as if he has undergone some sort of demonic possession, although a perhaps a much more “earthly” explanation is the far-greater likelihood. My own guess: that someone has gotten to Trump, set him down, and “laid down the law” to him. That would be Jewish law, of course.