Sunday, March 30, 2008
My thoughts on the video:
Well it's definitely not the first, nor the most gruesome footage beaming from Iraq.
I do believe the textual narration is a bit exaggerated by linking this behaviour to Nazi behaviour. As a single case, the video seems to portray a few bad cowboys breaking the rules and being idiots.
From a broader perspective, what it demonstrates is a more serious issue, which is a clear lack of discipline in the American army.
It is no Abu Ghreib nor Haditha, but is this a sign of a more widespread culture within the American military? Is there simply no discipline? Whether it's demeaning prisoners, massacring a village, or playing wild karts with incredibly expensive military vehicles while taunting residents (as we just saw), it all appears symptomatic of the same lack of discipline, respect and knowledge in their roles as supervisors and protectors of those they are occupying.
Of course hearts and minds are not going to be won with such behaviour, but who is accountable for this obvious lack in training? What this video clearly reveals, be it a mild transgression, is that neither Abu Ghreib nor Haditha were isolated incidents, but instead part of an endemic culture within the American military in Iraq.
The US will lose Iraq if these are the type of men that have been given the powers of reign in the country. Iraqi forces may be better equipped and more confident than several years ago, but it is still not capable of holding the country together on its own. The US is the essential key to the Iraqi government's survival, and the minute it disappears, the country will be swollen up in either further internal chaos, or relative stability brought by its intervening neighbours.
So if Washington hopes to have a say in Iraq in the future, it really needs to invest on bringing its current troops into line, as opposed to sending additional cowboys.
Thursday, March 27, 2008
I’ve spent the past few weeks pondering and reflecting on Lebanon, the human conscience, and where the directions of this blog should lead. Upon my reflections, I discovered that this blog was not fulfilling its desire as a source of a conscience on the struggles facing all of us in the world.
This blog fell into the trap of becoming a repetitive political gossip site on events that seem unchanging. Do I really want to become a political gossipiest debating the daily, trivial recurrences of mindless taunts and actions? No. What motivated me to launch this blog - and my desire to embark on a career in journalism – was to relay human thought on feelings that affect our trivial behaviours. Our conflicts, our struggles, our intentions are all rooted in the endless desire to attain the basic of human rights.
‘Human rights’ is a title usually slapped onto utopian idealists (and in the face of the current gloom, whoever said that being a utopian fool was such a bad thing?). But ‘human rights’ is a much broader concept that enlists a variety of tentacles that we take for granted.
They can range from tangible necessities such as the right to access sanitary water and sufficient food supplies, to enjoying the various freedoms within a system of governance, such as the freedom of speech, belief, expression and movement. It just seemed rather convenient that my country of origin, Lebanon, is one of those many countries where such struggles to enjoy those basic rights exist.
I was raised learning the stories and feeling the misery of those who were able to escape the war (1975-1990) that destroyed all respect in humanity. But like most Lebanese, I too had origins in a political, sectarian mindset. My view of Lebanon as a child was seen through the eyes of those who revealed it to me. My traditional parents, the elders of my family, fell prey to the Lebanese syndrome of adhering to a single view of how the country should function. It became a committed struggle from my part to be able to break the chains that attached me to that single thought, and learn to explore and appreciate other Lebanese ideas and sentiments. We may all share the same cuisine, language, and perhaps physical features, but Lebanese have been driven worlds apart through their self-inflicted misconceptions. The mountains that so many in the world relish are behave as divisive boundaries that separate villages, towns and, indeed, a people.
So there became my personal struggle, finding the ability and strength to cross the great divide my people have crafted. I wanted to stretch my hand out to the “alien” Lebanese across the mountain, to understand their ways, to learn how we can forge a path together. In order to do this, I felt the need to strip down all between us to the most basic level that binds us together … our sheer humanity. What were our needs and desires as human beings? What did we ask from life? My discovery revealed to me a common denominator amongst all Lebanese, which was the simple desire to lead a simple life, to enjoy the basic rights all humans’ merit.
It is on this basic human level that my eyes suddenly opened. It was the discovery that our problems are entwined with every human struggle on this planet. But it is the means in which we struggle for these rights where we generally tend to go astray. It is during our journey to win human liberty that we concoct labels, draft ideologies, create differences and enter a vicious cycle where the end is as miserable as our beginning.
We killed each other for 15 years, and spent the following 15 years festering the pain from the war. They swore that the future generations would not live to see the miseries of our civil war repeated, but did our miseries ever leave?
I can sit here, as many bloggers, activists, journalists, analysts, experts do, and analyse every detail and piece of information that passes each day. Indeed, I fell into the trap of doing so. But we must address ourselves eventually, and ask, has our contribution changed anything? There are infamous journalists that have spent their entire lives covering the Middle Eastern story, and to what end? They awake today and see the same misery they saw when they first arrived to this troubled region.
My desire to become a journalist doesn’t lie with my fondness to write, but on using it as a conduit to achieve my real goals … helping the ordinary people in their struggle to attain their basic human rights. We all need a core, a principle to begin from. What is our purpose? What are we doing here? What do we hope to achieve? I don’t want to make a career out of the misery of others, but instead want to establish a career out of turning that misery into prosperity.
I need to draw this blog back down to its original level as a reflection on the daily human struggles, such as is in Lebanon, Palestine, Iraq, and as far as Tibet. We need to surpass the superficial labels and political slogans we throw around. I, for one, am not going to sit and report on who threatened who with what on which day. My life will not be spent wasting on observing the same nauseating, repetitive, trivial political slurs that simply deflect attention from the true problems that we face. Instead, my focus will turn to the consequences of this trivial political wrangling on the people.
Do we ever ask ourselves what it must be like for an ordinary man or woman to live under constant war, oppression and fear? What it must feel like for a child to know he or she has no hope of being anything greater than a refugee? What it must be like for a person to be stripped of any ambitions or goals? I, sometimes, feel selfish when I see that I have the ability to sit here, writing on my blog, pondering what choices I wish to take in my life. Many on this planet have no choice at all, and it’s their voice that needs to be heard.
I stated during the Lebanon War of 2006 that the humanitarian aspect was the least considered aspect of any area of conflict in the world. It is this angle that I intend to bring awareness to, moving the limelight away from political slogans and grand speeches, to the ordinary person who goes about his/her daily life.
How have we come to our divisions? Are our people so easily deceived, that they simply swing from one political alignment to another based upon what their local chieftain commands? What does it really mean to be LF, PSP, Hizballah or SSNP? Why is it so critical for the ordinary Lebanese to invest such great energy into political slogans they don’t comprehend? What would make the corrupted blindly follow the corruptor?
These are but a number of questions that only the experienced visitors and students of the region have dared ask. Yet these are the questions our own people tend to avoid, out of fear that the answers may render their convictions unfounded and illogical.
Indeed, the sad aspect, especially in the case of Lebanon, is that many ordinary lives are so deeply entrenched in politics that it seems an impossible feat to extract their daily motions from the country’s political fabric.
Despite all, I continue with my struggle to bridge my own divides with Lebanese across the mountain. It still seems hard for me to sit down and respect one from a political faction I was raised to despise, but it has to be achieved. I need to know that it can be achieved. I need to know that there is still hope. I must find a way to remove all the obstacles that stand between my opposite and I. It is time to begin focusing on not what divides us, but what brings us together. This starts at a human level, and it is on this new level that I will lead this blog.
Friday, March 7, 2008
Thursday, 06 March 2008
By Patrick Seale
ISRAEL killed 116 Palestinians in Gaza last week in an orgy of air strikes and ground incursions, turning the besieged and starved Strip into an unbearable inferno. Hundreds more Palestinians were wounded. At least half the dead and wounded were civilians, including many young children.
So great was the catastrophe that Egypt, under pressure from an enraged public opinion, opened the Rafah crossing into Sinai and sent 27 ambulances to shuttle scores of badly wounded Palestinians to hospital in Al Arish.
What is to be done? The international community has expressed its usual alarm and outrage at Israel's appalling behavior - with protests coming from the UN Secretary General and the Pope among many others, while Saudi Arabia has compared Israel's actions to Nazi war crimes. But Prime Minister Ehud Olmert remains defiant. No one, he declared, can teach Israel morality.
Israel's dilemma is acute. Its generals and civilian hawks huff and puff, threatening to destroy both Gaza and Hamas once and for all, yet they know full well that reoccupying the Strip would entrap the IDF in a costly and probably unwinnable guerrilla war - as in the 2006 war against Hizballah in Lebanon -- and might not even manage to put an end to the home-made Qassams.
The obvious alternative would be for Israel to sit down and talk. Hamas's oft-repeated offer of a long-term mutual ceasefire remains on the table. But Israel utterly rejects any such course. Olmert and his generals have evidently not yet learned the Churchillian adage that 'jaw jaw is better than war war.
'Israel's way out of its dilemma has been to carry out limited ground incursions , accompanied by heavy air strikes -- to surge into Gaza with tanks and planes, terrorize the population, smash major locations, kill as many people as possible, seize suspects and then withdraw. This was the pattern of last week's operation.
This latest attack was exceptional only in its unusual scope and ferocity. Air strikes against Gaza by F16 and Apache helicopters are a daily occurrence. Israeli drones are constantly in the air over the Strip.
Palestinians continue to be killed regularly, adding more victims to the nearly 900 Palestinians Israel has massacred since Hamas won the democratic elections for the Palestinian Legislative Council in January 2006.I
n contrast, only a dozen Israelis have died in the past six years - including one student last month -- as a result of Palestinian attacks from Gaza. The Qassam rockets have undoubtedly made life extremely disagreeable in Sderot, Ashkelon and other Israeli towns within range of Gaza's rockets, and many inhabitants have been treated for shock.But their suffering, regrettable as it is, bears no relation to the mass killings and huge destruction Israel has inflicted on Gaza -- and continues to inflict.
Even the United States has gone so far as to 'encourage Israel to exercise caution,' although it has, as usual, blocked a draft Security Council resolution condemning Israel for killing civilians,Britain's former Prime Minister, Tony Blair, now the chief representative of the Quartet (UN, US, EU and Russia), has always been careful not to ruffle feathers in either Israel or the United States. But last week's bloody events persuaded him to issue statement, which one might describe as almost balanced.
The death of the Israeli in Sderot, he said, was 'utterly to be condemned', but he also deplored as ' absolutely tragic' the death of Palestinian civilians, adding that everything possible should be done 'to avoid the loss of innocent Palestinian life.'In other words, Israel was free to continue its attacks 'in self defence', but should be careful about inflicting excessive collateral damage.
Understandably enough, Blair's attention is clearly more focused on his job as an advisor to J P Morgan, the US investment bank - which is reported to be paying him up to $5m a year -- and on his lectures at $150,000 a time, than on the festering problems of Gaza. As the Quartet's chief envoy, he has so far been less than useless.
But Blair may now have a chance to redeem himself. Reliable sources report that, encouraged by his statement, Hamas sent Blair a message last week urging him to press Israel to accept a mutual ceasefire. These sources report that this important message was cleared with Khaled Mishal, the Hamas political supremo in Damascus, before being conveyed to Blair's office by a high-level intermediary.
A novel feature of the offer is that this time Hamas is proposing a ceasefire between Israel and Gaza alone, with no mention of the West Bank.Previous Hamas offers always stated that attacks on Israel would cease if Israel, in turn, stopped all its raids, armed incursions, 'targeted assassinations' and so forth in both Gaza and the West Bank.Why is Israel so adamantly opposed to talking to Hamas?
The answers are numerous. First of all, talking to Hamas would confer recognition on the Islamic resistance movement, whereas Israel has moved heaven and earth to get the US and even the divided and timorous EU to declare Hamas a 'terrorist organization'.
Secondly, if Israel were to accept a ceasefire, this would amount to creating a situation of mutual deterrence with Hamas, which Israel adamantly refuses. It wants its enemies to surrender, while it retains the freedom to kill at will. 'We will be the ones who create the equations, and not Hamas,' Olmert declares.Thirdly, Israel knows that, looking beyond the ceasefire, Hamas would insist on far stiffer peace terms than those of the very weak Palestinian Authority and its hapless president, Mahmud Abbas. Abbas has renounced all forms of resistance. He has embraced George W Bush's hollow Annapolis 'peace process' and has put himself entirely in Israel's hands.
But he has failed to persuade Olmert to dismantle a single illegal outpost, or a single West Bank checkpoint, let alone halt the steadily expanding settlements in Arab East Jerusalem and in the large Israeli blocks, intended to sever the city from its Arab hinterland.
Fourthly, the Sephardic movement Shas has already put Olmert on notice that it will quit the coalition and bring down his government if he so much as discusses with the Palestinians core issues such as Jerusalem, borders and refugees. In Israel's present climate of hysteria, Olmert would probably not survive any sort of deal with Hamas.Finally, even though bashing Gaza alarms the world and risks triggering suicide bombings and other revenge attacks -- and even the possibility of a third intifada - aborting the peace process suits Israel well enough.
Far from considering any withdrawal to the 1967 borders - which is the main Arab condition for peace - Israel seems determined on the contrary to consolidate its control over the whole of historic Palestine, by means of increased settlement activity, military closed zones and the sheer coercion of a captive population.
The question is whether such a cruel policy is sustainable in the long term. How much better would it be for Israel to have a peaceful and prosperous Palestine on its borders, serving as its key to peace with the entire Arab world?In the meantime, Hamas is still waiting for an answer to its message from Tony Blair.
The waves of condemnation came flooding from world capitals, leading of course from Washington, to Paris, Brussels, London, and the UN HQ in Geneva.
News of the attack swept to world headlines, the global media rushing to the scene.
I never condone violence, and the deaths of innocent life, be it Jew or Arab, is an abomination.
Too bad the world's leaders and media don't feel the same way. For when Jews perish (which isn't as common as the deaths of Palestinians), the world swiftly responds to its obligations to sympathise Israel, but when 120 Palestinians are slaughtered within a single weekend, or 1200 Lebanese in a month, the world falls silent, bar a few comments that rarely catch the limelight from the UN head or the EU.
As Israel often uses the excuse of "retaliation" to wipe out innocent life, today's attack in Jerusalem can be and should be linked to the brutal events that passed over the weekend.
The gunman's attack was in response to the Israeli assault on Gaza, denoting the notion of cause and consequence. Israel is kidding itself if it believes it can slaughter people without a response, as minimal as 8 compared to 120 is.
The cycle of violence begins with the actions of Tel Aviv, and carries on non-stop. The Arab leaders, pro-US states such as Saudi Arabia and Egypt and anti-US states such as Syria alike, have been pushing for Israel to engage in peace negotiations, all of which have been bluffed by the Israelis.
The Jewish state has opted instead for the violent option, engaging first in a deadly conflict with Hizballah and now with Hamas in Gaza. Israel's actions have only fuelled support for both entities throughout the populous of the Arab world, which have in turn applied greater pressure on their pro-American leaders to distance themselves from the Jewish state. Israel is increasingly isolating itself amongst the Arab world, and damaging its chances at real peace as Arab capitals harden their attitude.
Observing Israel's violent path, the Arabs are becoming more and more cynical of Israel's desire for peace. It appears the Jewish state isn't interested in peace, but rather continue to show signs of a Zionist, Apartheid style regime that is bent on Arab destruction and Middle Eastern hegemony.
The responsibility for the Jerusalem school attack was apparently claimed by a group calling itself "The Free Galil Brigades and Group of Imad Mughniyeh and Martyrs of Gaza'', suspecting involvement from Hizballah.
Israel has only fuelled the anger and determination of both Hizballah - following the assassination of its prime commander Imad Mughniyeh - and Hamas, with both groups vowing to respond.
What should be of greater concern to Israel is that Syria and Iran have backed both groups in their quest for revenge. There's no reason why Hamas and Hizballah would not co-operate or co-ordinate attacks within Israel proper, with the intelligence backing of Iran and Syria.
In addition, the pro-US Arab states are threatening to freeze its peace initiative, which might be read as a green light for groups like Hamas and Islamic Jihad to relaunch more deadly attacks on Israel.
If Israel was hoping for a peaceful solution with its recent killings, it's in for a real surprise. Violence brews more violence. Hamas has refrained from suicide attacks on Israel for several years.
However, I would expect severe attacks within Israel will resume after last weekend's Gaza massacre. Today's attack on the Jerusalem religious school is a sign that there's more bloodshed to come.
WASHINGTON (AFP) — Two US warships have taken up position in the eastern Mediterranean off Lebanon, replacing the USS Cole, a US Navy official said Wednesday.
The Cole, an Aegis destroyer that was attacked and nearly sunk by suicide bombers in Yemen in 2000, was headed to the Gulf after transiting the Suez Canal, canal authority officials said.
"The USS Cole was relieved by the USS Ross and the USS Philippine Sea in the eastern Mediterranean," the navy official said.
The Ross is an Aegis-guided missile destroyer and the Philippine Sea is a cruiser.
"It's a sign of our commitment to stability in the region," said Bryan Whitman, a Pentagon spokesman.
The Cole was deployed to waters off Lebanon to signal US concern over a protracted political crisis in Lebanon.
Feuding between a western-backed parliamentary majority and the Syrian and Iranian-backed opposition has left the country leaderless since November.
Iranian and Saudi foreigners meet in Cairo
CAIRO (Reuters) - The foreign ministers of Iran and Saudi Arabia held talks at Cairo airport on Wednesday, Egyptian officials said, in a possible attempt to resolve a political crisis in Lebanon.
The Saudi minister, Prince Saud al-Faisal, later had talks in the same VIP lounge at the airport with U.S. Assistant Secretary of State David Welch, who flew in from Amman.
Lebanon has not had a head of state since November due to a power struggle.
Saudi Arabia and the United States back the government of Prime Minister Fouad Siniora while Iran and Syria are allies of the Shi'ite Muslim opposition group Hezbollah. Arab diplomats say an Iranian-Saudi agreement could break the deadlock.
The officials said Prince Saud and Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki talked about Lebanon, Iraq and the Palestinian territories, but gave no further details.
The prince was preparing to leave Egypt after an Arab League ministerial meeting which reaffirmed an Arab plan to resolve Lebanon's constitutional crisis.
Mottaki had come from a U.N. meeting in Geneva. Senior Iranian officials rarely visit Egypt, which has not had diplomatic relations with Tehran since soon after the Iranian revolution of 1979.
Egyptian officials said Welch had come on a two-day visit to talk about the recent violence between Israel and the Islamist movement Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
(Writing by Jonathan Wright; editing by Robert Woodward)
Arabs threaten to freeze peace offer
By Abeer Allam
March 6 (Bloomberg) -- Arab foreign ministers threatened to freeze their peace initiative during an Arab summit in Syria this month, unless Israel acts ``positively'' toward the offer and ends an offensive on the Gaza Strip.
The initiative, proposed by Saudi Arabia at the Arab League summit in Beirut in 2002, calls for full Arab recognition of Israel, in return for Israeli withdrawal from the Arab land occupied in 1967 and establishing a Palestinian state on the West Bank and Gaza, with east Jerusalem as the capital.
The decision comes in response to growing popular pressure in Arab countries, especially those with full diplomatic ties with Israel, to act against the Israeli operations in Gaza. Egypt became the first Arab nation to sign a peace accord with Israel in 1979 and Jordan followed suit in 1994.
``We will not give any more concessions to Israel; we will not keep begging for peace,'' Amr Moussa, secretary general of the 22-member state Arab League, told reporters after a meeting of Arab foreign ministers in Cairo yesterday to set the agenda for the March 29-30 summit in Damascus. The initiative will be reactivated when Israel ``shows commitment to establishing a Palestinian state,'' he said.
At least 120 Palestinians were killed and dozens wounded in air attacks and a ground offensive started by Israel on Feb. 29 after an Israeli was killed by a rocket launched from the Gaza Strip. Hamas took over Gaza in June after nine days of fighting in which it ousted the Fatah movement. Fatah controls the West Bank.
``This is a negative step,'' said Emad Gad, editor-in-chief of Israeli Digest, a publication of Al Ahram Center of Strategic Studies, a Cairo-based think tank. ``It reflects the Arab leaders' embarrassment because they can't stop Israel. The Arabs should have offered a more detailed initiative with clear steps to pressure Israel to react positively.''
Shani Cooper-Zubida, spokeswoman for the Israeli embassy in Cairo, said that Israel has responded positively to the Arab peace initiative and the decision does not help peace in the region.
``Arab countries will benefit economically from having full relations with Israel,'' she said in an interview yesterday. ``We'd better focus on building ties.''
Jordan and Egypt receive aid of about $2.3 billion a year from the U.S. and have won tariff-free access to its markets.
The Arab League also said yesterday that Syria will invite Lebanon to the Arab summit whether Lebanon has elected a president or not. Lebanon has been without a president since pro-Syrian President Emile Lahoud's term ended Nov. 23, a crisis that was originally high on the agenda for the Damascus summit.
Struggle to Influence
The standoff reflects the struggle to influence politics in Lebanon between the government of Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, backed by the West, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, and the opposition, backed by Syria and Iran.
``Syria will invite Lebanon and Lebanon will choose who will represent it,'' Syria's Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem told reporters yesterday. ``We will also invite Saudi Arabia, eventually.''
Syria has invited most Arab League members except Saudi Arabia and Lebanon. Countries like Egypt did not confirm the level of their representation in the summit.
Israel penetrates 1km into Lebanon
BEIRUT, March 6 (Xinhua) -- Israeli forces on Thursday penetrated the border line in south Lebanon towards the Ghajar area overseeing Wazani river, but did not cross the "Blue Line," Future TV reported.
Previous report said that Israeli troops crossed the border line towards Wazani River and inched six km, but did not cross the "Blue Line," but Future TV said later that it advanced only one km.
Meanwhile, New TV reported an incursion by Israeli infantry patrol into southern Lebanese territories in the Wazani region.
According to local Naharnet news website, the United Nations Interim Forces in Lebanon (UNIFIL) denied that Israeli troops crossed the "Blue Line' into Lebanese territories on Thursday.
The border line consists of an electrical wire set by Israel to separating Israeli borders from Lebanese ones.
Following the Israeli withdrawal from south Lebanon in 2000, the United Nations drew a border line called the "Blue Line," but this line did not cover the disputed Shebaa farms.
Former Lebanese President Emile Lahoud rejected the "Blue Line," considering the step violates Lebanon's territories.
The disputed Shebaa farms, which lies in the mountainous border region between Lebanon, Syria and Israel, was captured by Israel when it seized the Golan Heights in the 1967 Arab-Israeli war.
When the Israeli army pulled out of south Lebanon in 2000, ending a 22-year occupation, UN cartographers determined that Shebaa was part of Syria.
The UN, therefore, declared that Israel had fully withdrawn from Lebanon and it drew a border demarcation line known as the Blue Line. The Shebaa farms are now claimed by Lebanon with the approval of Syria.
Mar 6th 2008 CAIRO From The Economist print edition
America's Arab and Israeli friends in the Middle East are finding diplomatic solutions hard to find or sell
NO STRANGER to crises, the Middle East is having to cope with several at once, ranging from bloodshed in Gaza and the stalling of Palestinian-Israeli peace talks to the struggle over Lebanon, Iraq's war and Iran's nuclear ambitions. But the puzzle's pieces are interlocked. Troubles in one place affect those in others, as local tussles increasingly reflect a wider regional contest that pits a fading American administration and its anxious allies against a robust “resistance” front aligned with Iran.
Last week's bloody flare-up in Gaza, which left more than 110 Palestinians and two Israelis dead, was a case in point. The high Palestinian death toll and a widely aired threat by an Israeli minister to unleash a shoah—a Hebrew biblical term meaning holocaust—on the Palestinians in Gaza, had repercussions far beyond the Qassam rockets' range. America's secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, had been expected to come to the region to nudge forward the talks between Israel and the rump Palestinian government in the West Bank. Instead, she arrived to find them suspended, though they will now resume.
Gaza's agony cast a dark shadow in neighbouring Arab capitals too. In the lead-up to an annual summit of Arab leaders, scheduled for the end of this month in the Syrian capital, Damascus, America's allies had been manoeuvring to squeeze Syria, which they blame for meddling in Lebanon, for undermining Mr Abbas's peace efforts and for supporting non-Arab Iran. Egypt and Saudi Arabia had been corralling support from like-minded governments to boycott the meeting, unless Syria prompted its protégés in Lebanon to accept an Arab League plan to resolve the long-festering constitutional crisis over the choice of a Lebanese president.
But the gory images from Gaza may have trumped such plans. With an internet poll on the popular al-Jazeera channel's website showing that 87% of Arabs back more rocket attacks on Israel, pro-Western Arab leaders sought to fend off charges that their hostility to Hamas made them partners in Israeli crimes, as an Egyptian MP claimed in a passionate speech. America's friends were further embarrassed by an investigative report in Vanity Fair magazine suggesting that America had plotted, following Hamas's victory in Palestinian elections in January 2006, to use security forces under Mr Abbas's control to oust the Islamists from power by force. Jordan and Egypt, both at America's behest, apparently armed and trained them.
Instead of focusing on Lebanon, the summit may now provide a grandstand for Syria, which backs Hamas, to berate fellow Arabs for failing to aid their stranded brethren in Gaza. There had been talk that the summit would see an Arab peace offer to Israel, broader than the one first made at a previous summit in Beirut, in 2002, which was scotched by Hamas's suicide-bombing of an Israeli restaurant soon after, provoking massive Israeli incursions into Palestinian towns. The Arab talk now is of conditioning any such move on Israel making unequivocal concessions, such as a freeze on building Jewish settlements—or new houses in them—on the West Bank, or a release of Palestinian prisoners.
In Lebanon, meanwhile, the beleaguered pro-Western parliamentary majority, which has faced a long insurrection by the Syrian-backed opposition led by the political-cum-military Islamist Shia group, Hizbullah, was further undermined by the arrival off the Lebanese coast of American warships. Intended to signal support for the majority, the show of force instead revived unhappy memories of previous American interventions in Lebanon, seeming to strengthen Hizbullah's contention that its critics are American puppets. Fearing similar shame by association, Egypt's government-controlled press played down Ms Rice's decision, announced during a stopover in Cairo, to release $100m in aid suspended by Congress due to Egypt's poor human-rights record.
The alliance of Iran, Syria, Hizbullah and Hamas also scored with the arrival of Iran's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, in Baghdad for what was billed as the first peaceful visit by an Iranian head of state in four centuries. Yet the tally in the proxy struggle between America and Iran has not all been in the latter's favour. The UN Security Council, including Russia and China, on which Iran often relies to block American proposals, has just passed a third, more punishing, range of sanctions against Iran for failing to stop enriching uranium.
Arab nervousness about Iran's rise as a regional power has been increasing. But whenever American unpopularity in the region goes up due to its support for Israeli actions such as those against the Palestinians in Gaza, the task of pro-Western Arabs in facing down assorted rejectionists becomes harder. Hence their gloom.
Wednesday, March 5, 2008
The article apparently alleges that Egypt leaked information to Syria of a possible US military assault on the country if it did not comply with American demands in Lebanon, hence the deployment of the USS Cole to Lebanon's waters.
Syria's Foreign Minister, Al Muallem, bluffed the American move as fruitless muscle-flexing that will not deter Syria. Joshua Landis of SyriaComment wrote that the move will only strengthen Syria's resolve to oppose the US.
Will America really strike Syria?
It begs to wonder. However, if a military strike were to occur, would the US not use its already massive force stationed in neighbouring Iraq? Why would it require the deployment of a naval force? Either the US is brewing more than a strike with the deployment of this ship, as the Jordanian publication alludes, or it is simply posturing, as Hizballah and Syrian officials have dismissed.
The implications are too severe for a full-scale American military confrontation with Syria, particularly with a presidential election around the corner. With all candidates, including Republican John McCain, distancing themselves from Bush's unilateralist, belligerent approach to world affairs, Bush would be leaving a deeply sour legacy on American politics if he were to engage them in another conflict.
A military strike perhaps, a full-scale assault? Highly unlikely.
In the world of analysts and regular followers of international and Middle Eastern news, this revelation probably comes as no surprise. It was quite prevalent that the Bush administration firmly backed Fatah and fervently sought ways to undermine Hamas following its democratic victory, much as it has done with Hizballah in Lebanon. And in both situations, it can be fairly stated that the actions of the White House have only boosted the power of the very nemeses it's trying to destroy.
But very rarely do we get an in-depth insight into every detail of American decisions, how they were applied, and how they have lead to the current consequences. The article below is rendered exceptional because of its detailed insight, and is a highly recommended read.
Many thoughts can be extracted from such a long piece, but one of the most clear demonstrations I found was the constant lack of strategic research into the actions of the White House by the White House. A lot of their choices seem to have been based on a sudden urge or reaction to a situation that has fallen out of their control. This sudden panic has often lead to sudden, irrational decisions that have caught the ire on numerous occasions (again demonstrated in the article) of the Israelis.
Indeed, we've seen that concurrently in Lebanon and Iraq. Are all of these quagmires a result of simple American mismanagement? Is it to say that if the Democrats win power and hire more rational personnel to their administration, relative calm will prevail in the Middle East? It is quite shocking when one views it from this angle, that the lives of thousands of people could have been avoided if the American administration simply paid more attention to the realities around it.
Now that there is substantial information pointing to direct interference by the US to spark strife amongst the Palestinians, their northern brethren in Lebanon must also be ringing similar alarm bells. Like Fatah, America's allies in Lebanon - the March 14 alliance - are struggling to hold their grip on power in the face of a widely popular Hizballah-led Opposition. Will the US resort to internal strife in an attempt to bring down Hizballah, or have they learnt their lesson from Gaza?
Israel's failed war in 2006 certainly sent shock waves in Washington, and as in Palestine, the US is simply bankrupt in policies. War, civil strife, rebellions, economic blackmail, sanctions, UN forces, everything has been tried, and nothing has been accomplished. Everything, but dialogue.
Analysts and academics within the US and abroad have been urging Washington to engage with the groups its trying to disband, or at least the countries that are their patrons. All antagonistic methods have failed. Perhaps a more saintly, "Christian" approach by "Christian" ideologues might bear more fruitful outcomes.
Unlike the unfortunate Gaza, Lebanon might just escape dirty American tricks to instigate a civil war as the turbulent era of the incumbent Bush administration winds down to a close. Surely, one would think, Bush would not attempt to spark a fire he will not see burn. Judging from his seven year tenure of blunders and bloodshed, I wouldn't put anything passed George W. Bush.
The Gaza Bombshell
After failing to anticipate Hamas’s victory over Fatah in the 2006 Palestinian election, the White House cooked up yet another scandalously covert and self-defeating Middle East debacle: part Iran-contra, part Bay of Pigs. With confidential documents, corroborated by outraged former and current U.S. officials, David Rose reveals how President Bush, Condoleezza Rice, and Deputy National-Security Adviser Elliott Abrams backed an armed force under Fatah strongman Muhammad Dahlan, touching off a bloody civil war in Gaza and leaving Hamas stronger than ever.
by David Rose April 2008Please continue reading the article here.
Monday, March 3, 2008
Israel's indiscriminate attacks on civilians in both Palestine and Lebanon are not second news to anyone.
In fact, deliberate killings occur quite frequently in Palestine, they just rarely make the headlines. It's only when Israel decides to wipe out over 100 in a weekend does the world take notice, which quite incidentally is overshadowed by the constant reminder that 1 Israeli civilian has died in the clashes.
We're quite aware that Israel is a racist, Apartheid state functioning on extreme right-wing principles that considers its people as the chosen ones. We have the infamous ultra-Orthodox quote of "1 million Arabs do not equate a Jewish fingernail" to remind us of our little worth. But to have this mirrored in the Western corners of the world, the countries that claim to uphold human rights and equality, is a constant disgrace.
I did say in a previous post that we ought to stop looking to the West for answers, but respect for humanity is not too much to ask.
The world stood by as I saw Lebanon burn and 1200 civilians buried with it in 2006. Israel deliberately targeted civilians, and I have my two eyes as my witness. Israelis bombed every truck and ute they saw on the road. They claimed that they were targeting weapons being transferred in the truck lorry. However, what I saw were not burnt out lorries, but burnt out cabins. In fact, whatever was stored in the lorries (which weren't weapons) was left virtually untouched, but the cabin was burnt with a deadly fire along with any humans within it.
Let's not forget the bombing of buses carrying civilians fleeing the warzones, the bombing of UN camps. We are dealing with a barbaric, inhumane regime. It has been witnessed, it has been documented. Europe swore it would never allow the atrocities that they partook in their two World Wars to occur again. Not only do they ignore the pleas of our people, they applaud on the sidelines!
I wish I could say I know how it would end, but frankly I don't. All the screams, all the cries, all the blood isn't enough to persuade even the highest of kings to drop a tear, let alone raise his voice.
All we could do was simply wait for the day Israel called it an end. There was no pressure to stop, nor to continue. It was up to their discretion whether we were to live or not. Fate isn't in the hands of the Palestinians. 1.5million are trapped in a prison without escape. An entire population serving life sentences without parole. It's a long wait until the gates above open, but several times a year, the Israelis offer a short cut to heaven through their mass brutality.
The Palestinians are condemned for launching home-made rockets that at best make a hole in the wall, whilst the "conventional" American crafted weapons readily deployed by the Israelis that destroy entire cities are entirely within international law.
As always, I view every incident in the Middle East as intertwined. The following Al Jazeera article points to renewed pressure by the US and Saudi on Lebanon, with the Israeli massacre of Gazans mingled into the equation.
Amal leader Nabih Berri believes the US sent its ship to Lebanon to prevent Hezballah from reacting to Israel's brutal attack on Gaza that have already left over 100 people dead.
Meanwhile Saudi Arabia has urged its citizens to pull out of Lebanon. The move is quite odd considering Riyadh has poured billions of dollars into reconstructing and purchasing Lebanese property in order to indulge in the tempting urges they are denied in their own homeland. Are they anticipating something? Are they planning something?
The move ought to be viewed with great caution and skepticism. It isn't a coincidence that the US sends a ship to Lebanon, Israel launches an inhumane assault on Gaza, Saudi Arabia withdraws its ambassador from Damascus and calls for its citizens to leave Lebanon all in the same week.
Richard Murphy, former US ambassador to Syria, to the contrary throws the skepticism in the bin and states that the arrival of the USS Cole to Lebanon demonstrates that Washington doesn't know what to do about the country.
I'm not going to deny that Washington has made several blunders, but I am not going to be as quick to dismiss the decision to send the ship as merely a result of indecisiveness. Something is being brewed, and it appears that it's only a matter of when it will arrive to Lebanon. Is a possible assault on Lebanon in the pipeline? Will an attack come from within?
The Saudi Arabian embassy in Beirut has called on its nationals to leave Lebanon a day after a US warship was positioned off the country's coast.
Saudi Arabia issued an advisory last month urging its citizens not to travel to Lebanon because of deteriorating political and security conditions.
He also stressed the importance of Lebanon's independence and sovereignty "so that it will not become an arena for the conflicts of regional and international powers".
"There's constant communications at various levels," he said.
The US declined to say whether the decision to deploy the USS Cole was a show of force aimed at Syria, which it has accused of interfering in Lebanon.
Lebanon's governing coalition and the Hezbollah-led opposition have failed to reach a deal over the election of a new president.
Nabih Berri, the parliament speaker, who is aligned with the opposition, has linked the deployment of the warships to Israel's raids in the Gaza Strip.
"The target [of US warships] is Gaza. It is aimed to allow what must happen in Gaza to happen without anyone moving to support [the Palestinians]," he said.
"This is a real threat, not merely a muscle-flexing."
Berri also said that the US military move was designed to focus attention on Lebanon "in order to cover up the massacres being committed in Gaza".
"This [US] fleet comes to back Israel so that it can complete its plan," he said.
'Gun boat diplomacy'
Earlier, Richard Murphy, a former US ambassador to Syria, told Al Jazeera that the move was a sign that the US did not know what to do about Lebanon.
Seventeen US sailors were killed in October 2000 when the USS Cole was attacked off the coast of Yemen by al-Qaeda fighters.
I was touched with a rare luck this afternoon, however, as I found an empty seat urging me to keep it warm. Staring into space, catching and avoiding wondering eyes, iPod blaring in my ear to distract me from my routine reality, a man sits opposite me. My eyes became fixated upon him. His features were resoundingly familiar. It was clear and obvious to me that he was of Lebanese origin, and not simply Australian born, but an extract from the nation my parents once called home.
In a transparently multi-cultural society such as Melbourne's, it is quite easy to mistaken a Lebanese for one of our fellow Mediterranean skins of Turkish or Greek. I, myself, receive the "Italian or Greek" on the odd occasion. But there are certain aspects of a Lebanese I could pick out from a mile away.
The man had generic features, attributable to most Lebanese men. He kept himself occupied with the daily train paper, with a dedicated, serious frown so common to Lebanese men. The eyebrows joining to become one, he was quite fervent in his muscular expressions. I could probably pick that he originated from a rural village in Lebanon, as most Beirutis attempt to drive a wedge between the traditional mannerisms of their rural brethren with Western glamour. This man appeared traditional in every sense. Simply from reading his frown, the way he crossed his hands, he was no different to the strong patriarchal personalities that I regularly encounter within my own family. I scrolled across when my eyes became distracted by something I saw roughly mid-way down to his chest.
It was a symbol that was to guarantee that my assumptions of him being Lebanese were deadly accurate. In the midst of our caddle crammed train of working class men and women heading back to their working class suburbs was this man, of obvious working class distinctions himself, flashing a t-shirt with "Hugo Boss" neatly written in the right corner.
Indeed, it typifies the story of Lebanon and of my people at this current moment. A people that strive to colour their surfaces with luxuries either in order to cover the shame they hide behind, or to give the misleading impression of difference when really the core reveals nothing of the kind, or perhaps both. Have we become a soulless people?
To be continued...
Saturday, March 1, 2008
The USS Cole is on its way to the Lebanese coast.
The move is being read as a military threat to Hezballah, Syria and Iran, signaling Washington's intent to fight for the control of Lebanon to the end.
"The presence is important. It isn't meant to send any stronger signals than that but in fact it does signal that we're engaged, we're going to be in the vicinity," Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters at the Pentagon.
Hezballah slammed the move as a "failing attempt by the U.S. administration to support its [Lebanese] allies with its military apparel."
The military maneuver comes in addition to an expansion of US sanctions against Syria, the withdrawal of the Saudi ambassador from Damascus, and the assassination of Hezballah's Mughniyeh. The US is obviously trying to tighten the screws on Syria, but to what end?
Is this all a bluff? Syria analyst Joshua Landis seems to think so:
"Washington is in no position to pluck even the "low hanging fruit" of Damascus. It has had its one chance at regime change. There is no well thought out endgame to these threats. Bush is bluffing; the administration is full of sound a furry. It will do what additional harm it can to Damascus through further sanctions and perhaps even by launching a further military strike or two, aimed at a mujahidiin safe-house or some other target of opportunity, but it will be bluster," Landis wrote on his blog, SyriaComment.
I concur with Landis that Bush wouldn't be willing to go any further, or engage in any real military confrontation with Syria over Lebanon, but let's not discount Israel's involvement. The US coerced Israel into a war with Hezballah in 2006, who is to say the US won't use this arm in the near future?
The Daily Star from Lebanon, through the AFP, has reported increased Israeli military training on Lebanon's border.
It's wise to count that it was the Israeli air force that carried out strikes against an unknown military site in Syria in September 2007, and not the US air force. Washington is comfortable in using Israel as its military conduit in the region, particularly where it concerns Lebanon and Syria.
Arabs helped Mossad in Mughniyeh murder
As I suspected, and stated, the pro-American Arab nations are alleged to have assisted the Mossad in its assassination of Hezballah's Mughniyeh in Damascus in February.
Syrian investigators in the assassination claim to have made progress in the inquiry, and will present its findings at the Arab summit due to be held in Damascus in March.
The summit is heating up as an 'angry Arab summit', with the Lebanon row, Iraq and Iran entrenching a deep wedge between Syria and the American proxy states of Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan.
Hezballah and Syria's President Bashar al Assad openly accused the pro-American trio of assisting Israel in its war against Lebanon in 2006. The discovery of Mossad-Arab co-operation in the Mughniyeh assassination is the latest major accusation surely to inflame already tense inter-Arab relations.
The US and Israel may have not succeeded in weakening either Hezballah, Syria or Iran, but they have been greatly successful in dividing the Arab camp to the extent where certain Arab states are willing to work with Israel to undermine its rivals.
Whilst the current tension is focused on Lebanon, the real balance of power in the Arab world will be decided in Iraq, where Iran and the US are entrenched in a similar impasse. The weakening of Lebanon is required to secure Israel's borders from an Iranian-backed menace and strangle Syria. The road to Damascus has always been through Beirut. However, not much greater can be guaranteed beyond that.
The real battle lies in Iraq. Iraq, when on its feet, has always been the nation to take charge in the Arab world. Its oil leverage gives it enough power to force other Arab powers such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia to yield. Winning Lebanon is vital to the battle for Iraq.
Lebanon is a precedent to the struggle in Iraq. If the West and its proxy Arab states can't fend off Syria in Lebanon, it will have little hope against an Iraqi Shia majority backed by Iran, and an Iraqi Sunni minority backed by Syria, particularly now that Turkey has demonstrated its will to prevent the only American ally in Iraq - the Kurds - from breathing.
Tens of thousands marched the streets of Gaza to protest Israel's repeated brutality and indiscriminate bombing, but again their voices were shouted in vain. Regardless of the banners and emotional chanting, not much will change in the international community. Support - or a deliberate blind eye - for Israel will remain constant, but should that irritate us? Are we surprised when Condoleezza Rice calls on the Palestinians to stop firing their ineffective, backyard-made rockets instead of calling on Israel from halting its state-of-the-art air force strikes? No, and we shouldn't be aggravated by it.
The West threw their lot with Israel in 1948 and haven't changed their stance since. It isn't the West we ought to vent our frustration, but to our inept Arab leaders who watch on the sidelines as Israel continues to violate every human right convention on this planet in its treatment of the Palestinians and Lebanon.
The conventions of global geo-politics should be well understood by all in the Middle East, for it is our region where the global chess game is often played. Israel is a member of the Western alliance. It just so happens that this menace is placed on our doorsteps. Our expatriots have tried tirelessly for 60 years to alert the Western public of the real scenario in the Middle East. Let's not kid ourselves, nor waste our time. If we want to see an end to atrocities in Palestine and Lebanon, we have to turn the heat on our own leaders, sitting in their high golden chairs, while the masses scrounge for their daily bread. We have to decide where we stand in the world.
We have lost our self-respect.
Gaza is truly a sad story, a story we can only lament on the sidelines as 1.5million struggle to meet the daily ends, and where scores of civilians lose their life. Is there a solution for Gaza and the Palestinians? There's none in sight. There is nothing to keep Israel in check. We can only lament.
From the US campaign to End the Israeli Occupation:
Since Wednesday, Israel has killed at least 30 Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, including five children under the age of 16 playing soccer and a six month-old child (Ha'aretz).
Israel's Deputy Defense Minister threatened Palestinians with genocide, calling for an even "bigger holocaust" against residents of the Gaza Strip (Telegraph).
Israel killed almost all of these Palestinians in air strikes most likely with its arsenal of fighter jets-Boeing F-15's and Lockheed F-16's-and attack helicopters-Boeing Apaches and Cobra Bells-paid for by U.S. taxpayers through annual military aid to Israel. Almost all of Israel's air-to-surface missiles, which would have been used in these attacks, are produced by U.S. corporations such as Hughes, Raytheon, General Dynamics, and Lockheed Martin and paid for by U.S. tax dollars. The US Campaign opposes all attacks on civilians.
Is this how you want your tax dollars spent-to kill children playing soccer and to carry out threats of genocide?
President Bush has requested $2.55 billion in military aid for Israel in his proposed FY2009 budget. That's a 9% increase in military aid to Israel above and beyond actual spending in 2007. The budget request is the first installment of a ten-year Memorandum of Understanding signed between the United States and Israel in August 2007 to increase military aid by 25% over the next decade, totaling $30 billion.
The United States should be cutting off military aid to Israel for its human rights abuses and violations of the U.S. Arms Export Control and Foreign Assistance Acts, not increasing it.
According to the lobbyists, Motorola is violating international human rights conventions by profiteering from Israeli military campaigns against the Palestinians and Lebanese.
Their campaign is explained in further detail below:
Demand Corporate Accountability from Motorola
The US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation is excited to announce the launch of our newest corporate accountability campaign-"Hang Up on Motorola". Under international law, all corporations have obligations to uphold, respect and protect fundamental human rights. Motorola Incorporated and its fully-owned subsidiary Motorola Israel profiteer from Israel's illegal military occupation and human rights violations, as we document below.
1. Fuses for aerial devices and munitionsMotorola Israel-a fully-owned subsidiary of Motorola Incorporated-produces the 980 Low Altitude Proximity Fuse for the MK-80 series of high explosive bombs. On July 30, 2006, during its war on Lebanon, the Israeli Air Force dropped an MK-84 high-explosive bomb on an apartment building in Qana, Lebanon killing at least 28 civilians, many of whom were children.
2. Communication devices for military occupation
The $100 million contract used to develop and supply the 'Mountain Rose' secure cell phone communication system to the Israeli military directly enhances the coordination and monitoring capabilities of the occupying forces in their illegal military operations in the Palestinian territories. Israel routinely engages in gross patters of human rights violations in its military occupation of the Palestinian West Bank, East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip, including but not limited to the killing and injuring of civilians, torture, extra-judicial assassinations, the deliberate destruction of civilian infrastructure, acts of collective punishment and economic warfare are but a few examples of Israel's human rights violations.
3. Radar detection devices for Israel's illegal Wall
Motorola Israel supplies Israel with the Wide Area Surveillance System (WAAS) to monitor and maintain the illegal wall/fence barrier it has constructed in violation of the July 2004 International Court of Justice (ICJ) advisory opinion.
4. Radar Detection devices for Israel's Illegal Settlements
Motorola Incorporated set up advanced radar detection devices and thermal cameras in 47 Israeli settlements. According to the Fourth Geneva Conventions, Article 49, it is considered a war crime for an Occupying Power to transfer its civilian population into an Occupied Territories. Motorola Incorporated provisions of these systems helps to entrench them on expropriated Palestinian territory, in direct violation of international law.
All of these concerns previously were brought to Motorola, yet they have failed to respond to our concerns as well as sufficiently address the concerns by the New England United Methodist Church's divestment task force.
Join us to demand that Motorola and its fully-owned subsidiary Motorola Israel:
- end its production and sales of fuses for all weapons to Israel
- end its production and sales of all communication devices to the Israeli military including all radar detection devices
- end its production and sales of all products that aid and support Israel's illegal settlements
- Send a letter to Motorola CEO Greg Brown calling on Motorola to stop profiteering from Israel's illegal military occupation and human rights abuses by clicking here.
- Read the US Campaign's letter to Motorola by clicking here.
- Download a petition and postcards that you can circulate to educate and organize people on this issue
- Sign up to receive an organizing packet by clicking here.