Archive for the 'war' Category



Militarization of Haiti Aid: Humanitarian Operation or Invasion?

“The unspoken mission of US Southern Command (USSOUTHCOM) with headquarters in Miami and US military installations throughout Latin America is to ensure the maintenance of subservient national regimes, namely US proxy governments, committed to the Washington Consensus and the neoliberal policy agenda. While US military personnel will at the outset be actively involved in emergency and disaster relief, this renewed US military presence in Haiti will be used  to establish a foothold in the country as well pursue America’s strategic and geopolitical objectives in the Caribbean basin, which are largely directed against Cuba and Venezuela.”

Global Research, January 15, 2010
And thanks to Dandelion Salad for posting this earlier!

The Militarization of Emergency Aid to Haiti: Is it a Humanitarian Operation or is it an Invasion?

Haiti has a longstanding history of US military intervention and occupation going back to the beginning of the 20th Century. US interventionism has contributed to the destruction of Haiti’s national economy and the impoverishment of its population.

The devastating earthquake is presented to World public opinion as the sole cause of the country’s predicament.

A country has been destroyed, its infrastructure demolished. Its people precipitated into abysmal poverty and despair.

Haiti’s history, its colonial past have been erased.

The US military has come to the rescue of an impoverished Nation. What is its Mandate?

Is it Humanitarian Operation or an Invasion?

The main actors in America’s “humanitarian operation” are the Department of Defense, the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). (See USAID Speeches: On-The-Record Briefing on the Situation in Haiti, 01/13/10). USAID has also been entrusted in channelling food aid to Haiti, which is distributed by the World Food Program. (See USAID Press Release: USAID to Provide Emergency Food Aid for Haiti Earthquake Victims)

The military component of the US mission, however, tends to overshadow the civilian functions of rescuing a desperate and impoverished population. The overall humanitarian operation is not being led by civilian governmental agencies such as FEMA or USAID, but by the Pentagon.

The dominant decision making role has been entrusted to US Southern Command (SOUTHCOM).

A massive deployment of military hardware personnel is contemplated. The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen has confirmed that the US will be sending nine to ten thousand troops to Haiti, including 2000 marines. (American Forces Press Service, January 14, 2010)

Aircraft carrier, USS Carl Vinson and its complement of supporting ships has already arrived in Port au Prince. (January 15, 2010).  The  2,000-member Marine Amphibious Unit as well as and soldiers from the U.S. Army’s 82nd Airborne division “are trained in a wide variety of missions including security and riot-control in addition to humanitarian tasks.”

In contrast to rescue and relief teams dispatched by various civilian teams and organizations, the humanitarian mandate of the US military is not clearly defined:

“Marines are definitely warriors first, and that is what the world knows the Marines for,… [but] we’re equally as compassionate when we need to be, and this is a role that we’d like to show — that compassionate warrior, reaching out with a helping hand for those who need it. We are very excited about this.” (Marines’ Spokesman, Marines Embark on Haiti Response Mission, Army Forces Press Services, January 14, 2010)

While presidents Obama and Preval spoke on the phone, there was no discussions between the two governments, regarding the entry and deployment of  US troops on Haitian soil. The decision was taken and imposed unilaterally by Washington. The total lack of a functioning government in Haiti was used to legitimize, on humanitarian grounds, the sending in of a powerful military force, which has de facto taken over several governmental functions.


TABLE 1

Military assets  to be sent to Haiti. (according to official announcements)

The amphibious assault ship USS Bataan (LHD 5) and amphibious dock landing ships USS Fort McHenry (LSD 43) and USS Carter Hall (LSD 50).

A 2,000-member Marine Amphibious Unit from the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit and soldiers from the U.S. Army’s 82nd Airborne division. 900 soldiers are slated to arrive in Haiti by January 15th.

Aircraft carrier, USS Carl Vinson and its complement of supporting ships. (arrived in Port au Prince on January 15, 2010):  USS Carl Vinson CVN 70

The hospital ship USNS Comfort

Several U.S. Coast Guard vessels and helicopters

The three amphibious ships will join aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson, guided-missile cruiser USS Normandy and guided-missile frigate USS Underwood.


Leading Role of US Southern Command

US Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) with headquarters in Miami is the “lead agency” in Haiti. Its mandate as a regional military command is to carry out modern warfare. Its stated mission in Latin America and the Caribbean is  “to conduct military operations and promote security cooperation to achieve U.S. strategic objectives.” (Our Mission – U.S. Southern Command (USSOUTHCOM) The commanding officers  are trained to oversee theater operations, military policing as well “counterinsurgency” in Latin America and the Caribbean, including the recent establishment of new US military bases in Colombia, within proximity of the Venezuelan border.

General Douglas Fraser, commander of U.S. Southern Command has defined the Haiti emergency operation as a Command, Control, Communications operation (C3). US Southern Command is to oversee a massive deployment of military hardware, including several warships, an aircraft carrier, airborne combat divisions, etc:

So we’re focused on getting command and control and communications there so that we can really get a better understanding of what’s going on. MINUSTAH [United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti], as their headquarters partially collapsed, lost a lot of their communication, and so we’re looking to robust that communication, also.

We’re also sending in assessment teams in conjunction with USAID, supporting their efforts, as well as putting in some of our own to support their efforts.

We’re moving various ships that we had in the region — they’re small ships, Coast Guard cutters, destroyers — in that direction, to provide whatever immediate assistance that we can on the ground.

We also have a U.S. Navy aircraft carrier, the USS Carl Vinson, moving in that direction. It was at sea off of Norfolk, and so it’s going to take a couple of days for it to get there. We need to also just resupply it and give it the provisions it needs to support the effort as we look at Haiti. And then we’re looking across the international agencies to figure out how we support their efforts as well as our efforts.

We also are looking at a large-deck amphibious ship with an embarked Marine Expeditionary Unit on it that will be a couple of days behind the USS Vinson.

And that gives us a broader range of capability to move supplies around, to have lift capability to help support the effort there also.

So bottom line to it is, we don’t have a clear assessment right now of what the situation on the ground is, what the needs within Port-au-Prince are, how extensive the situation is.

We also, finally, have a team that’s headed in to the airport. From my understanding — because my deputy commander just happened to be in Haiti when this situation happened, on a previously scheduled visit. He has been to the airport. He says the runway is functional but the tower doesn’t have communications capability. The passenger terminal — has structural damage to it, so we don’t know what the status of it is.

So we have a group going in to make sure we can gain and secure the airfield and operate from it, because that’s one of those locations we think we’re going to have a lot of the immediate effort from an international basis going into.

And then we’re out conducting all the other assessments that you would consider appropriate as we go in and work this effort.

We’re also coordinating on the ground with MINUSTAH, with the folks who are there. The commander for MINUSTAH happened to be in Miami when this situation happened, so he’s right now traveling back through and should be arriving in Port-au-Prince any time now. So that will help us coordinate our efforts there also, because again, obviously the United Nations suffered a significant loss there with the collapse — at least partial collapse of their headquarters.

So that’s — those are the initial efforts that we have ongoing And as we get the assessments of what’s coming next, then we’ll adjust as required.

The secretary of Defense, the president, have all stipulated that this is a significant effort, and we’re corralling all the resources within the Department of Defense to support this effort. (Defense.gov News Transcript: DOD News Briefing with Gen. Fraser from the Pentagon, January 13, 2010)

A Heritage Foundation report summarizes the substance of America’s mission in Haiti: “The earthquake has both humanitarian and U.S. national security implications [requiring] a rapid response that is not only bold but decisive, mobilizing U.S. military, governmental, and civilian capabilities for both a short-term rescue and relief effort and a longer-term recovery and reform program in Haiti.” (James M. Roberts and Ray Walser, American Leadership Necessary to Assist Haiti After Devastating Earthquake, Heritage Foundation, January 14, 2010).

At the outset, the military mission will be involved in first aid and emergency.

The US Air Force has taken over air traffic control functions as well as the management of Port au Prince airport. In other words, the US military regulates the flow of emergency aid and relief supplies which are being brought into the country in civilian planes. The US Air Force is not working under the instructions of Haitian Airport officials. These officials have been displaced. The airport is run by the US Military (Interview with Haitian Ambassador to the US R. Joseph, PBS News, January 15, 2010)

The 1,000-bed U.S. Navy hospital ship, USNS Comfort, which includes more than 1,000 medical and support personnel has been sent to Haiti under the jurisdiction of Southern Command. (See  Navy hospital ship with 1,000 beds readies for Haiti quake relief, Digital Journal, January 14, 2010).

There were, at the time of the Earthquake, some 7100 military personnel and over 2000 police, namely a foreign force of over 9000. In contrast, the international civilian personnel of MINUSTAH is less than 500. MINUSTAH Facts and Figures – United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti

TABLE 2 United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH)

Current strength (30 November 2009)9,065 total uniformed personnel

Estimated combined SOUTHCOM and MINUSTAH forces; 19,095*

*Excluding commitments by France (unconfirmed) and Canada (confirmed 800 troops), France and Canada were partners in the 2004 Coup d`État,


The contingent of US forces under SOUTHCOM combined with those of MINUSTAH brings foreign military presence in Haiti to close to 20,000 in a country of 9 million people. In  comparison to Afghanistan, prior to Obama’s military surge, combined US and NATO forces were of the order of  70,000 for a population of 28 million. In other words, on a per capita basis there will be more troops in Haiti than in Afghanistan.

Recent US Military Interventions in Haiti

There have been several US sponsored military interventions in recent history. In 1994, following three years of military rule, a force of  20,000 occupation troops and “peace-keepers” was sent to Haiti. The 1994 US military intervention “was not intended to restore democracy. Quite the contrary: it was carried out to prevent a popular insurrection against the military Junta and its neoliberal cohorts.” (Michel Chossudovsky, The Destabilization of Haiti, Global Research, February 29, 2004)

US and allied troops remained in the country until 1999. The Haitian armed forces were disbanded and the US State Department hired a mercenary company DynCorp to provide “technical advice” in restructuring the Haitian National Police (HNP). (Ibid).

The February 2004 Coup d’Etat

In the months leading up to the 2004 Coup d’Etat, US special forces and the CIA were training death squadrons composed of the former tonton macoute of the Duvalier era. The Rebel paramilitary army crossed the border from the Dominican Republic in early February 2004. “It was a well armed, trained and equipped paramilitary unit integrated by former members of Le Front pour l’avancement et le progrès d’Haiti (FRAPH), the “plain clothes” death squadrons, involved in mass killings of civilians and political assassinations during the CIA sponsored 1991 military coup, which led to the overthrow of the democratically elected government of President Jean Bertrand Aristide.” (see Michel Chossudovsky,  The Destabilization of Haiti: Global Research. February 29, 2004)

Foreign troops were sent into Haiti. MINUSTAH was set up in the wake of the US sponsored coup d’Etat in February 2004 and the kidnapping and deportation of the democratically elected president Jean Bertrand Aristide. The coup was insitigated by the US with the support of  France and Canada.

The FRAPH units subsequently integrated the country’s police force, which was under the supervision of MINUSTAH. In the political and social disarray triggered of the earthquake, the former armed militia and  Ton Ton macoute will be playing a new role.

Hidden Agenda

The unspoken mission of US Southern Command (USSOUTHCOM) with headquarters in Miami and US military installations throughout Latin America is to ensure the maintenance of subservient national regimes, namely US proxy governments, committed to the Washington Consensus and the neoliberal policy agenda. While US military personnel will at the outset be actively involved in emergency and disaster relief, this renewed US military presence in Haiti will be used  to establish a foothold in the country as well pursue America’s strategic and geopolitical objectives in the Caribbean basin, which are largely directed against Cuba and Venezuela.

The objective is not to work towards the rehabilitation of the national government, the presidency, the parliament, all of which has been decimated by the earthquake. Since the fall of the Duvalier dictatorship, America’s design has been to gradually dismantle the Haitian State, restore colonial patterns and obstruct the functioning of a democratic government. In the present context, the objective is not only to do away with the government but also to revamp the mandate of the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH), of which the headquarters have been destroyed.

“The role of heading the relief effort and managing the crisis quickly fell to the United States, for lack — in the short term, at least — of any other capable entity.” ( US Takes Charge in Haiti _ With Troops, Rescue Aid – NYTimes.com, January 14, 2009)

Prior to the earthquake, there were, according to US military sources, some 60 US military personnel in Haiti. From one day to the next, an outright military surge has occurred: 10000 troops, marines, special forces, intelligence operatives, etc, not to mention private mercenary forces on contract to the Pentagon.

In all likelihood the humanitarian operation will be used as a pretext and justification to establish a more permanent US military presence in Haiti.

We are dealing with a massive deployment, a “surge” of military personnel assigned to emergency relief.

The first mission of SOUTHCOM will be to take control of what remains of the country’s communications, transport and energy infrastructure. Already, the airport is under de facto US control. In all likelihood, the activities of MINUSTAH which from the outset in 2004 have served US foreign policy interests, will be coordinated with those of SOUTHCOM, namely the UN mission will be put under de facto control of the US military .

The Militarization of “Civil Society” Relief Organizations

The US military in Haiti seeks to oversee the activities of approved humanitarian organizations. It also purports to encroach upon the humanitarian activities of  Venezuela and Cuba:

“The government under President René Préval is weak and literally now in shambles. Cuba and Venezuela, already intent on minimizing U.S. influence in the region, are likely to seize this opportunity to raise their profile and influence…” ( James M. Roberts and Ray Walser, American Leadership Necessary to Assist Haiti After Devastating Earthquake, Heritage Foundation, January 14, 2010).

In the US, The militarization of emergency relief operations was established during the Katrina crisis, when the US military was called in to play a lead role.

The model of emergency intervention for SOUTHCOM is patterned on the role of  NORTHCOM, which was granted a mandate as “the lead agency” in US domestic emergency procedures. During Hurricane Rita in 2005, the groundwork for the “militarization of emergency relief” involving a leading role for the US military was established. In this regard, Bush had hinted to the central role of the military in emergency relief: “Is there a natural disaster–of a certain size–that would then enable the Defense Department to become the lead agency in coordinating and leading the response effort? That’s going to be a very important consideration for Congress to think about.” (Statement of President Bush at a press conference, Bush Urges Shift in Relief Responsibilities – washingtonpost.com, September 26, 2005).

“The response to the national disaster is not being coordinated by the civilian government out of Texas, but from a remote location and in accordance with military criteria. US Northern Command Headquarters will directly control the movement of military personnel and hardware in the Gulf of Mexico. As in the case of Katrina, it will override the actions of civilian bodies. Yet in this case, the entire operation is under the jurisdiction of the military rather than under that of FEMA.” (Michel Chossudovsky, US Northern Command and Hurricane Rita, Global Research, September 24, 2005)

Concluding Remarks

The entry of ten thousand heavily armed US troops, coupled with the activities of local militia could potentially precipitate the country into social chaos.

Twenty thousand foreign troops under SOUTHCOM and MINUSTAH commands will be present in the country.

The Haitian people have exhibited a high degree of solidarity, resilience and social commitment.

Helping one another and acting with consciousness: under very difficult conditions, citizens rescue teams were set up spontaneously.

The militarization of relief operations will break the organizational capabilities of Haitians to rebuild and reinstate the institutions of civilian government which have been destroyed. It will also encroach upon the efforts of  the international medical teams and civilian relief organisations.

It is absolutely essential that the Haitian people forcefully oppose the presence of foreign troops, particularly in public security operations.

It is essential that Americans forcefully oppose the sending of US combat troops to Haiti.

There can be no real reconstruction or development under foreign military occupation.

© Copyright Michel Chossudovsky, Global Research, 2010

The url address of this article is: www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=17000

see

The West’s role in Haiti’s plight By Peter Hallward

Naomi Klein Issues Haiti Disaster Capitalism Alert + “The Sound of Screaming Is Constant”

from the archives:

A Man-Made Famine + Stuffed & Starved: Interview with Raj Patel

The Destabilization of Haiti: February 29, 2004, by Michel Chossudovsky


Yemen: The Latest US Battleground, Be Very Very Careful

“Yemen has almost as large a population as Saudi Arabia, but differently lacks much in the way of natural resources. What little oil the country has is rapidly being depleted. Indeed, Yemen is one of the poorest countries in the world, with a per-capita income of less than $600 per year. More than 40 percent of the population is unemployed and the economic situation is increasingly deteriorating for most Yemenis as a result of a U.S.-backed structural adjustment program imposed by the International Monetary Fund.  The county is desperate for assistance in sustainable economic development. The vast majority of U.S. aid delivered to the country, however, has been in the form of military assets. The limited economic assistance made available has been of dubious effectiveness and has largely gone through corrupt government channels. In the long term, the United States should significantly increase desperately needed development aid for the poorest rural communities that have served as havens for radical Islamists. Such a strategy would be far more effective than drone attacks, arms transfers, and counterinsurgency.”

Huffington Post, January 8, 2010

Yemen: The Latest U.S. Battleground

The United States may be on the verge of involvement in yet another counterinsurgency war which, as is the case in Iraq and Afghanistan, may make a bad situation even worse. The attempted Christmas Day bombing of a Northwest Airlines flight by a Nigerian man was apparently planned in Yemen. There were alleged ties between the perpetrator of the Ft. Hood massacre and a radical Yemeni cleric, and an ongoing U.S.-backed Yemeni military offensive against al-Qaeda have all focused U.S. attention on that country.

Yemen has almost as large a population as Saudi Arabia, but differently lacks much in the way of natural resources. What little oil the country has is rapidly being depleted. Indeed, Yemen is one of the poorest countries in the world, with a per-capita income of less than $600 per year. More than 40 percent of the population is unemployed and the economic situation is increasingly deteriorating for most Yemenis as a result of a U.S.-backed structural adjustment program imposed by the International Monetary Fund.

The county is desperate for assistance in sustainable economic development. The vast majority of U.S. aid delivered to the country, however, has been in the form of military assets. The limited economic assistance made available has been of dubious effectiveness and has largely gone through corrupt government channels.

Al-Qaeda’s Rise

The United States has long been concerned about the presence of al-Qaeda operatives within Yemen’s porous borders, particularly since the recent unification of the Yemeni and Saudi branches of the terrorist network. Thousands of Yemenis participated in the U.S.-supported anti-Soviet resistance in Afghanistan during the 1980s, becoming radicalized by the experience and developing links with Osama bin Laden, a Saudi whose father comes from a Yemeni family. Various tribal loyalties to bin Laden’s family have led to some support within Yemen for the exiled al-Qaeda leader, even among those who do not necessarily support his reactionary interpretation of Islam or his terrorist tactics. Hundreds of thousands of Yemenis have served as migrant laborers in neighboring Saudi Arabia. There, exposure to the hardline Wahhabi interpretation of Islam dominant in that country combined with widespread repression and discrimination has led to further radicalization.

In October 2000, al-Qaeda terrorists attacked the U.S. Navy ship Cole in the Yemeni port of Aden, killing 17 American sailors. This led to increased cooperation between U.S. and Yemeni military and intelligence, including a series of U.S. missile attacks against suspected al-Qaeda operatives.

Currently, hardcore al-Qaeda terrorists in Yemen — many of whom are foreigners — probably number no more than 200. But they are joined by roughly 2,000 battle-hardened Yemeni militants who have served time in Iraq fighting U.S. occupation forces. The swelling of al-Qaeda’s ranks by veterans of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi’s Iraqi insurgency has led to the rise of a substantially larger and more extreme generation of fighters, who have ended the uneasy truce between Islamic militants and the Yemeni government.

Opponents of the 2003 U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq correctly predicted that the inevitable insurgency would create a new generation of radical jihadists, comparable to the one that emerged following the Soviet invasion and occupation of Afghanistan. Unfortunately, the Bush administration and its congressional supporters — including then-senators Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton — believed that a U.S. takeover of Iraq was more important than avoiding the risk of creating of a hotbed of anti-American terrorism. Ironically, President Obama is relying on Biden and Clinton — as well as Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, another supporter of the U.S. invasion and occupation — to help us get out of this mess they helped create.

Not a Failed State

Yemen is one of the most complex societies in the world, and any kind of overreaction by the United States — particularly one that includes a strong military component — could be disastrous. Bringing in U.S. forces or increasing the number of U.S. missile strikes would likely strengthen the size and radicalization of extremist elements. Instead of recognizing the strong and longstanding Yemeni tradition of respecting tribal autonomy, U.S. officials appear to be misinterpreting this lack of central government control as evidence of a “failed state.” The U.S. approach has been to impose central control by force, through a large-scale counterinsurgency strategy.

Such a military response could result in an ever-wider insurgency, however. Indeed, such overreach by the government is what largely prompted the Houthi rebellion in the northern part of the country, led by adherents of the Zaydi branch of Shia Islam. The United States has backed a brutal crackdown by Yemeni and Saudi forces in the Houthi region, largely accepting exaggerated claims of Iranian support for the rebellion. There is also a renewal of secessionist activity in the formerly independent south. These twin threats are largely responsible for the delay in the Yemeni government’s response to the growing al-Qaeda presence in their country.

With the United States threatening more direct military intervention in Yemen to root out al-Qaeda, the Yemeni government’s crackdown may be less a matter of hoping for something in return for its cooperation than a fear of what may happen if it does not. The Yemeni government is in a difficult bind, however. If it doesn’t break up the terrorist cells, the likely U.S. military intervention would probably result in a greatly expanded armed resistance. If the government casts too wide a net, however, it risks tribal rebellion and other civil unrest for what will be seen as unjustifiable repression at the behest of a Western power. Either way, it would likely increase support for extremist elements, which both the U.S. and Yemeni governments want destroyed.

For this reason, most Western experts on Yemen agree that increased U.S. intervention carries serious risks. This would not only result in a widespread armed backlash within Yemen. Such military intervention by the United States in yet another Islamic country in the name of “anti-terrorism” would likely strengthen Islamist militants elsewhere as well.

Cold War Pawn

As with previous U.S. military interventions, most Americans have little understanding of the targeted country or its history.

Yemen was divided for most of the 20th century. South Yemen, which received its independence from Great Britain in 1967 after years of armed anti-colonial resistance, resulted from a merger between the British colony of Aden and the British protectorate of South Arabia. Declaring itself the People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen, it became the Arab world’s only Marxist-Leninist state and developed close ties with the Soviet Union. As many as 300,000 South Yemenis fled to the north in the years following independence.

North Yemen, independent since the collapse of the Ottoman Empire in 1918, became embroiled in a bloody civil war during the 1960s between Saudi-backed royalist forces and Egyptian-backed republican forces. The republican forces eventually triumphed, though political instability, military coups, assassinations, and periodic armed uprisings continued.

In both countries, ancient tribal and modern ideological divisions have made control of these disparate armed forces virtually impossible. Major segments of the national armies would periodically disintegrate, with soldiers bringing their weapons home with them. Lawlessness and chaos have been common for decades, with tribes regularly shifting loyalties in both their internal feuds and their alliances with their governments. Many tribes have been in a permanent state of war for years, and almost every male adolescent and adult routinely carries a rifle.

In 1979, in one of the more absurd episodes of the Cold War, a minor upsurge in fighting along the former border led to a major U.S. military mobilization in response to what the Carter administration called a Soviet-sponsored act of international aggression. In March of that year, South Yemeni forces, in support of some North Yemeni guerrillas, shelled some North Yemeni government positions. In response, Carter ordered the aircraft carrier Constellation and a flotilla of warships to the Arabian Sea as a show of force. Bypassing congressional approval, the administration rushed nearly $499 million worth of modern weaponry to North Yemen, including 64 M-60 tanks, 70 armored personnel carriers, and 12 F-5E aircraft. Included were an estimated 400 American advisers and 80 Taiwanese pilots for the sophisticated warplanes that no Yemeni knew how to fly.

This gross overreaction to a local conflict led to widespread international criticism. Indeed, the Soviets were apparently unaware of the border clashes and the fighting died down within a couple of weeks. Development groups were particularly critical of this U.S. attempt to send such expensive high-tech weaponry to a country with some of the highest rates of infant mortality, chronic disease, and illiteracy in the world.

The communist regime in South Yemen collapsed in the 1980s, when rival factions of the Politburo and Central Committee killed each other and their supporters by the thousands. With the southern leadership decimated, the two countries merged in May 1990. The newly united country’s democratic constitution gave Yemen one of the most genuinely representative governments in the region.

Later in 1990, when serving as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council, Yemen voted against the U.S.-led effort to authorize the use of force against Iraq to drive its occupation forces from Kuwait. A U.S. representative was overheard declaring to the Yemeni ambassador, “That was the most expensive ‘no’ vote you ever cast.” The United States immediately withdrew $70 million in foreign aid to Yemen while dramatically increasing aid to neighboring dictatorships that supported the U.S.-led war effort. Over the next several years, apparently upset with the dangerous precedent of a democratic Arab neighbor, the U.S.-backed regime in Saudi Arabia engaged in a series of attacks against Yemen along its disputed border.

Renewed Violence and Repression

In 1994, ideological and regional clan-based rivalries led to a brief civil war, with the south temporarily seceding and the government mobilizing some of the jihadist veterans of the Afghan war to fight the leftist rebellion.

After crushing the southern secessionists, the government of President Ali Abdullah Saleh became increasingly authoritarian. U.S. support resumed and aid increased. Unlike most U.S. allies in the region, direct elections for the president and parliament have continued, but they have hardly been free or fair. Saleh officially received an unlikely 94 percent of the vote in the 1999 election. And in the most recently election, in 2006, government and police were openly pushing for Saleh’s re-election amid widespread allegations of voter intimidation, ballot-rigging, vote-buying, and registration fraud. Just two days before the vote, Saleh announced the arrest on “terrorism” charges a campaign official of his leading opponent. Since that time, human rights abuses and political repression — including unprecedented attacks on independent media — have increased dramatically.

Obama was elected president as the candidate who promised change, including a shift away from the foreign policy that had led to such disastrous policies in Iraq and elsewhere. In Yemen, his administration appears to be pursuing the same short-sighted tactics as its predecessors: support of a repressive and autocratic regime, pursuit of military solutions to complex social and political conflicts, and reliance on failed counterinsurgency doctrines.

Al-Qaeda in Yemen represents a genuine threat. However, any military action should be Yemeni-led and targeted only at the most dangerous terrorist cells. We must also press the Yemeni government to become more democratic and less corrupt, in order to gain the support needed to suppress dangerous armed elements. In the long term, the United States should significantly increase desperately needed development aid for the poorest rural communities that have served as havens for radical Islamists. Such a strategy would be far more effective than drone attacks, arms transfers, and counterinsurgency.

Israel: No turning back from the apartheid state

“(By)  preclud(ing) the possibility of a two-state solution,   Israel has crossed the threshold from “the only democracy in the Middle East” to the only apartheid regime in the Western world.  …  It is now widely recognized in most Israeli circles — that the settlements have become so widespread and so deeply implanted in the West Bank as to rule out the possibility of their removal.  Olmert  said Israel would turn into an apartheid state when the Arab population in Greater Israel outnumbers the Jewish population. But the relative size of the populations is not the decisive factor in such a transition. Rather, the turning point comes when a state denies national self-determination to a part of its population–even one that is in the minority–to which it has also denied the rights of citizenship.

The Nation, January 25,  2010

Imposing Middle East Peace

Israel’s relentless drive to establish “facts on the ground” in the occupied West Bank, a drive that continues in violation of even the limited settlement freeze to which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu committed himself, seems finally to have succeeded in locking in the irreversibility of its colonial project. As a result of that “achievement,” one that successive Israeli governments have long sought in order to preclude the possibility of a two-state solution, Israel has crossed the threshold from “the only democracy in the Middle East” to the only apartheid regime in the Western world.

The inevitability of such a transformation has been held out not by “Israel bashers” but by the country’s own leaders. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon referred to that danger, as did Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who warned that Israel could not escape turning into an apartheid state if it did not relinquish “almost all the territories, if not all,” including the Arab parts of East Jerusalem.

Olmert ridiculed Israeli defense strategists who, he said, had learned nothing from past experiences and were stuck in the mindset of the 1948 war of independence. “With them, it is all about tanks and land and controlling territories and controlled territories and this hilltop and that hilltop,” he said. “All these things are worthless. Who thinks seriously that if we sit on another hilltop, on another hundred meters, that this is what will make the difference for the State of Israel’s basic security?”

It is now widely recognized in most Israeli circles–although denied by Israel’s government–that the settlements have become so widespread and so deeply implanted in the West Bank as to rule out the possibility of their removal (except for a few isolated and sparsely populated ones) by this or any future Israeli government unless compelled to do so by international intervention, an eventuality until now considered entirely unlikely.

It is not only the settlements’ proliferation and size that have made their dismantlement impossible. Equally decisive have been the influence of Israel’s settler-security-industrial complex, which conceived and implemented this policy; the recent disappearance of a viable pro-peace political party in Israel; and the infiltration by settlers and their supporters in the religious-national camp into key leadership positions in Israel’s security and military establishments.

Olmert was mistaken in one respect, for he said Israel would turn into an apartheid state when the Arab population in Greater Israel outnumbers the Jewish population. But the relative size of the populations is not the decisive factor in such a transition. Rather, the turning point comes when a state denies national self-determination to a part of its population–even one that is in the minority–to which it has also denied the rights of citizenship.

When a state’s denial of the individual and national rights of a large part of its population becomes permanent, it ceases to be a democracy. When the reason for that double disenfranchisement is that population’s ethnic and religious identity, the state is practicing a form of apartheid, or racism, not much different from the one that characterized South Africa from 1948 to 1994. The democratic dispensation that Israel provides for its mostly Jewish citizens cannot hide its changed character. By definition, democracy reserved for privileged citizens–while all others are kept behind checkpoints, barbed-wire fences and separation walls commanded by the Israeli army–is not democracy but its opposite.

The Jewish settlements and their supporting infrastructure, which span the West Bank from east to west and north to south, are not a wild growth, like weeds in a garden. They have been carefully planned, financed and protected by successive Israeli governments and Israel’s military. Their purpose has been to deny the Palestinian people independence and statehood–or to put it more precisely, to retain Israeli control of Palestine “from the river to the sea,” an objective that precludes the existence of a viable and sovereign Palestinian state east of Israel’s pre-1967 border.

A vivid recollection from the time I headed the American Jewish Congress is a helicopter trip over the West Bank on which I was taken by Ariel Sharon. With large, worn maps in hand, he pointed out to me strategic locations of present and future settlements on east-west and north-south axes that, Sharon assured me, would rule out a future Palestinian state.

Just one year after the 1967 war, Moshe Dayan, then defense minister, described Israel’s plan for the future of the territories as “the current reality.” “The plan is being implemented in actual fact,” he said. “What exists today must remain as a permanent arrangement in the West Bank.” Ten years later, at a conference in Tel Aviv whose theme was finding a solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict, Dayan said: “The question is not, What is the solution? but, How do we live without a solution?”

Prime Minister Netanyahu’s conditions for Palestinian statehood would leave under Israel’s control Palestine’s international borders and airspace, as well as the entire Jordan Valley; would leave most of the settlers in place; and would fragment the contiguity of the territory remaining for such a state. His conditions would also deny Palestinians even those parts of East Jerusalem that Israel unilaterally annexed to the city immediately following the 1967 war–land that had never been part of Jerusalem before the war. In other words, Netanyahu’s conditions for Palestinian statehood would meet Dayan’s goal of leaving Israel’s de facto occupation in place.

From Dayan’s prescription for the permanence of the status quo to Netanyahu’s prescription for a two-state solution, Israel has lived “without a solution,” not because of uncertainty or neglect but as a matter of deliberate policy, clandestinely driving settlement expansion to the point of irreversibility while pretending to search for “a Palestinian partner for peace.”

Sooner or later the White House, Congress and the American public–not to speak of a Jewish establishment that is largely out of touch with the younger Jewish generation’s changing perceptions of Israel’s behavior–will have to face the fact that America’s “special relationship” with Israel is sustaining a colonial enterprise.

President Barack Obama’s capitulation to Netanyahu on the settlement freeze was widely seen as the collapse of the latest hope for achievement of a two-state agreement. It thoroughly discredited the notion that Palestinian moderation is the path to statehood, and therefore also discredited Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, moderation’s leading Palestinian advocate, who announced his intention not to run in the coming presidential elections.

Netanyahu’s “limited” freeze was described by the Obama administration as “unprecedented,” even though the exceptions to it–3,000 housing units whose foundations had supposedly already been laid, public buildings and unlimited construction in East Jerusalem–brought total construction to where it would have been without a freeze. Indeed, Netanyahu assured the settler leadership and his cabinet that construction will resume after the ten-month freeze–according to minister Benny Begin, at a rate “faster and more than before”–even if Abbas agrees to return to talks. In fact, the Israeli press has reported that the freeze notwithstanding, new construction in the settlements is “booming.” None of this has elicited the Obama administration’s public rebuke, much less the kinds of sanctions imposed on Palestinians when they violate agreements.

But what is widely believed to have been the final blow to a two-state solution may in fact turn out to be the necessary condition for its eventual achievement. That condition is abandonment of the utterly wrongheaded idea that a Palestinian state can arise without forceful outside intervention. The international community has shown signs of exasperation with Israel’s deceptions and stonewalling, and also with Washington’s failure to demonstrate that there are consequences not only for Palestinian violations of agreements but for Israeli ones as well. The last thing many in the international community want is a resumption of predictably meaningless negotiations between Netanyahu and Abbas. Instead, they are focusing on forceful third-party intervention, a concept that is no longer taboo.

Ironically, it is Netanyahu who now insists on the resumption of peace talks. For him, a prolonged breakdown of talks risks exposing the irreversibility of the settlements, and therefore the loss of Israel’s democratic character, and legitimizing outside intervention as the only alternative to an unstable and dangerous status quo. While the Obama administration may be reluctant to support such initiatives, it may no longer wish to block them.

These are not fanciful fears. Israeli chiefs of military intelligence, the Shin Bet and other defense officials told Netanyahu’s security cabinet on December 9 that the stalled peace process has led to a dangerous vacuum “into which a number of different states are putting their own initiatives, none of which are in Israel’s favor.” They stressed that “the fact that the US has also reached a dead-end in its efforts only worsens the problem.”

If these fears are realized and the international community abandons a moribund peace process in favor of determined third-party initiatives, a two-state outcome may yet be possible. A recent proposal by the Swedish presidency of the European Union is perhaps the first indication of the international community’s determination to react more meaningfully to Netanyahu’s intransigence. The proposal, adopted by the EU’s foreign ministers on December 8, reaffirmed an earlier declaration of the European Council that the EU would not recognize unilateral Israeli changes in the pre-1967 borders. The resolution also opposes Israeli measures to deny a prospective Palestinian state any presence in Jerusalem. The statement’s endorsement of PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad’s two-year institution-building initiative suggests a future willingness to act favorably on a Palestinian declaration of statehood following the initiative’s projected completion. In her first pronouncement on the Israel-Palestine conflict as the EU’s new high representative for foreign affairs and security policy, Baroness Catherine Ashton declared, “We cannot and nor, I doubt, can the region tolerate another round of fruitless negotiations.”

An imposed solution has risks, but these do not begin to compare with the risks of the conflict’s unchecked continuation. Furthermore, since the adversaries are not being asked to accept anything they have not already committed themselves to in formal accords, the international community is not imposing its own ideas but insisting the parties live up to existing obligations. That kind of intervention, or “imposition,” is hardly unprecedented; it is the daily fare of international diplomacy. It defines America’s relations with allies and unfriendly countries alike.

It would not take extraordinary audacity for Obama to reaffirm the official position of every previous US administration–including that of George W. Bush–that no matter how desirable or necessary certain changes in the pre-1967 status may seem, they cannot be made unilaterally. Even Bush, celebrated in Israel as “the best American president Israel ever had,” stated categorically that this inviolable principle applies even to the settlement blocs that Israel insists it will annex. Speaking of these blocs at a May 2005 press conference, Bush affirmed that “changes to the 1949 armistice lines must be mutually agreed to,” a qualification largely ignored by Israeli governments (and by Bush himself). The next year Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was even more explicit. She stated that “the president did say that at the time of final status, it will be necessary to take into account new realities on the ground that have changed since 1967, but under no circumstances…should anyone try and do that in a pre-emptive or predetermined way, because these are issues for negotiation at final status.”

Of course, Obama should leave no doubt that it is inconceivable for the United States not to be fully responsive to Israel’s genuine security needs, no matter how displeased it may be with a particular Israeli government’s policies. But he must also leave no doubt that it is equally inconceivable he would abandon America’s core values or compromise its strategic interests to keep Netanyahu’s government in power, particularly when support for this government means supporting a regime that would permanently disenfranchise and dispossess the Palestinian people.

In short, Middle East peacemaking efforts will continue to fail, and the possibility of a two-state solution will disappear, if US policy continues to ignore developments on the ground in the occupied territories and within Israel, which now can be reversed only through outside intervention. President Obama is uniquely positioned to help Israel reclaim Jewish and democratic ideals on which the state was founded–if he does not continue “politics as usual.” But was it not his promise to reject just such a politics that swept Obama into the presidency and captured the amazement and respect of the entire world?

About Henry Siegman

Henry Siegman, director of the U.S./Middle East Project in New York, is a visiting research professor at the Sir Joseph Hotung Middle East Program, School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. He is a former national director of the American Jewish Congress and of the Synagogue Council of America.

shortlink to posting: http://wp.me/p3xLR-lq

Israel’s relentless drive to establish “facts on the ground” in the occupied West Bank, a drive that continues in violation of even the limited settlement freeze to which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu committed himself, seems finally to have succeeded in locking in the irreversibility of its colonial project. As a result of that “achievement,” one that successive Israeli governments have long sought in order to preclude the possibility of a two-state solution, Israel has crossed the threshold from “the only democracy in the Middle East” to the only apartheid regime in the Western world.

» More

The inevitability of such a transformation has been held out not by “Israel bashers” but by the country’s own leaders. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon referred to that danger, as did Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who warned that Israel could not escape turning into an apartheid state if it did not relinquish “almost all the territories, if not all,” including the Arab parts of East Jerusalem.Olmert ridiculed Israeli defense strategists who, he said, had learned nothing from past experiences and were stuck in the mindset of the 1948 war of independence. “With them, it is all about tanks and land and controlling territories and controlled territories and this hilltop and that hilltop,” he said. “All these things are worthless. Who thinks seriously that if we sit on another hilltop, on another hundred meters, that this is what will make the difference for the State of Israel’s basic security?”

It is now widely recognized in most Israeli circles–although denied by Israel’s government–that the settlements have become so widespread and so deeply implanted in the West Bank as to rule out the possibility of their removal (except for a few isolated and sparsely populated ones) by this or any future Israeli government unless compelled to do so by international intervention, an eventuality until now considered entirely unlikely.

It is not only the settlements’ proliferation and size that have made their dismantlement impossible. Equally decisive have been the influence of Israel’s settler-security-industrial complex, which conceived and implemented this policy; the recent disappearance of a viable pro-peace political party in Israel; and the infiltration by settlers and their supporters in the religious-national camp into key leadership positions in Israel’s security and military establishments.

Olmert was mistaken in one respect, for he said Israel would turn into an apartheid state when the Arab population in Greater Israel outnumbers the Jewish population. But the relative size of the populations is not the decisive factor in such a transition. Rather, the turning point comes when a state denies national self-determination to a part of its population–even one that is in the minority–to which it has also denied the rights of citizenship.

When a state’s denial of the individual and national rights of a large part of its population becomes permanent, it ceases to be a democracy. When the reason for that double disenfranchisement is that population’s ethnic and religious identity, the state is practicing a form of apartheid, or racism, not much different from the one that characterized South Africa from 1948 to 1994. The democratic dispensation that Israel provides for its mostly Jewish citizens cannot hide its changed character. By definition, democracy reserved for privileged citizens–while all others are kept behind checkpoints, barbed-wire fences and separation walls commanded by the Israeli army–is not democracy but its opposite.

The Jewish settlements and their supporting infrastructure, which span the West Bank from east to west and north to south, are not a wild growth, like weeds in a garden. They have been carefully planned, financed and protected by successive Israeli governments and Israel’s military. Their purpose has been to deny the Palestinian people independence and statehood–or to put it more precisely, to retain Israeli control of Palestine “from the river to the sea,” an objective that precludes the existence of a viable and sovereign Palestinian state east of Israel’s pre-1967 border.

A vivid recollection from the time I headed the American Jewish Congress is a helicopter trip over the West Bank on which I was taken by Ariel Sharon. With large, worn maps in hand, he pointed out to me strategic locations of present and future settlements on east-west and north-south axes that, Sharon assured me, would rule out a future Palestinian state.

Just one year after the 1967 war, Moshe Dayan, then defense minister, described Israel’s plan for the future of the territories as “the current reality.” “The plan is being implemented in actual fact,” he said. “What exists today must remain as a permanent arrangement in the West Bank.” Ten years later, at a conference in Tel Aviv whose theme was finding a solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict, Dayan said: “The question is not, What is the solution? but, How do we live without a solution?”

Prime Minister Netanyahu’s conditions for Palestinian statehood would leave under Israel’s control Palestine’s international borders and airspace, as well as the entire Jordan Valley; would leave most of the settlers in place; and would fragment the contiguity of the territory remaining for such a state. His conditions would also deny Palestinians even those parts of East Jerusalem that Israel unilaterally annexed to the city immediately following the 1967 war–land that had never been part of Jerusalem before the war. In other words, Netanyahu’s conditions for Palestinian statehood would meet Dayan’s goal of leaving Israel’s de facto occupation in place.

From Dayan’s prescription for the permanence of the status quo to Netanyahu’s prescription for a two-state solution, Israel has lived “without a solution,” not because of uncertainty or neglect but as a matter of deliberate policy, clandestinely driving settlement expansion to the point of irreversibility while pretending to search for “a Palestinian partner for peace.”

Sooner or later the White House, Congress and the American public–not to speak of a Jewish establishment that is largely out of touch with the younger Jewish generation’s changing perceptions of Israel’s behavior–will have to face the fact that America’s “special relationship” with Israel is sustaining a colonial enterprise.

President Barack Obama’s capitulation to Netanyahu on the settlement freeze was widely seen as the collapse of the latest hope for achievement of a two-state agreement. It thoroughly discredited the notion that Palestinian moderation is the path to statehood, and therefore also discredited Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, moderation’s leading Palestinian advocate, who announced his intention not to run in the coming presidential elections.

Netanyahu’s “limited” freeze was described by the Obama administration as “unprecedented,” even though the exceptions to it–3,000 housing units whose foundations had supposedly already been laid, public buildings and unlimited construction in East Jerusalem–brought total construction to where it would have been without a freeze. Indeed, Netanyahu assured the settler leadership and his cabinet that construction will resume after the ten-month freeze–according to minister Benny Begin, at a rate “faster and more than before”–even if Abbas agrees to return to talks. In fact, the Israeli press has reported that the freeze notwithstanding, new construction in the settlements is “booming.” None of this has elicited the Obama administration’s public rebuke, much less the kinds of sanctions imposed on Palestinians when they violate agreements.

But what is widely believed to have been the final blow to a two-state solution may in fact turn out to be the necessary condition for its eventual achievement. That condition is abandonment of the utterly wrongheaded idea that a Palestinian state can arise without forceful outside intervention. The international community has shown signs of exasperation with Israel’s deceptions and stonewalling, and also with Washington’s failure to demonstrate that there are consequences not only for Palestinian violations of agreements but for Israeli ones as well. The last thing many in the international community want is a resumption of predictably meaningless negotiations between Netanyahu and Abbas. Instead, they are focusing on forceful third-party intervention, a concept that is no longer taboo.

Ironically, it is Netanyahu who now insists on the resumption of peace talks. For him, a prolonged breakdown of talks risks exposing the irreversibility of the settlements, and therefore the loss of Israel’s democratic character, and legitimizing outside intervention as the only alternative to an unstable and dangerous status quo. While the Obama administration may be reluctant to support such initiatives, it may no longer wish to block them.

These are not fanciful fears. Israeli chiefs of military intelligence, the Shin Bet and other defense officials told Netanyahu’s security cabinet on December 9 that the stalled peace process has led to a dangerous vacuum “into which a number of different states are putting their own initiatives, none of which are in Israel’s favor.” They stressed that “the fact that the US has also reached a dead-end in its efforts only worsens the problem.”

If these fears are realized and the international community abandons a moribund peace process in favor of determined third-party initiatives, a two-state outcome may yet be possible. A recent proposal by the Swedish presidency of the European Union is perhaps the first indication of the international community’s determination to react more meaningfully to Netanyahu’s intransigence. The proposal, adopted by the EU’s foreign ministers on December 8, reaffirmed an earlier declaration of the European Council that the EU would not recognize unilateral Israeli changes in the pre-1967 borders. The resolution also opposes Israeli measures to deny a prospective Palestinian state any presence in Jerusalem. The statement’s endorsement of PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad’s two-year institution-building initiative suggests a future willingness to act favorably on a Palestinian declaration of statehood following the initiative’s projected completion. In her first pronouncement on the Israel-Palestine conflict as the EU’s new high representative for foreign affairs and security policy, Baroness Catherine Ashton declared, “We cannot and nor, I doubt, can the region tolerate another round of fruitless negotiations.”

An imposed solution has risks, but these do not begin to compare with the risks of the conflict’s unchecked continuation. Furthermore, since the adversaries are not being asked to accept anything they have not already committed themselves to in formal accords, the international community is not imposing its own ideas but insisting the parties live up to existing obligations. That kind of intervention, or “imposition,” is hardly unprecedented; it is the daily fare of international diplomacy. It defines America’s relations with allies and unfriendly countries alike.

It would not take extraordinary audacity for Obama to reaffirm the official position of every previous US administration–including that of George W. Bush–that no matter how desirable or necessary certain changes in the pre-1967 status may seem, they cannot be made unilaterally. Even Bush, celebrated in Israel as “the best American president Israel ever had,” stated categorically that this inviolable principle applies even to the settlement blocs that Israel insists it will annex. Speaking of these blocs at a May 2005 press conference, Bush affirmed that “changes to the 1949 armistice lines must be mutually agreed to,” a qualification largely ignored by Israeli governments (and by Bush himself). The next year Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was even more explicit. She stated that “the president did say that at the time of final status, it will be necessary to take into account new realities on the ground that have changed since 1967, but under no circumstances…should anyone try and do that in a pre-emptive or predetermined way, because these are issues for negotiation at final status.”

Of course, Obama should leave no doubt that it is inconceivable for the United States not to be fully responsive to Israel’s genuine security needs, no matter how displeased it may be with a particular Israeli government’s policies. But he must also leave no doubt that it is equally inconceivable he would abandon America’s core values or compromise its strategic interests to keep Netanyahu’s government in power, particularly when support for this government means supporting a regime that would permanently disenfranchise and dispossess the Palestinian people.

In short, Middle East peacemaking efforts will continue to fail, and the possibility of a two-state solution will disappear, if US policy continues to ignore developments on the ground in the occupied territories and within Israel, which now can be reversed only through outside intervention. President Obama is uniquely positioned to help Israel reclaim Jewish and democratic ideals on which the state was founded–if he does not continue “politics as usual.” But was it not his promise to reject just such a politics that swept Obama into the presidency and captured the amazement and respect of the entire world?

About Henry Siegman

Henry Siegman, director of the U.S./Middle East Project in New York, is a visiting research professor at the Sir Joseph Hotung Middle East Program, School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. He is a former national director of the American Jewish Congress and of the Synagogue Council of America.

Questions Mount Over Attempt to Bomb Detroit-Bound Jetliner

World Socialist Web Site, January 4, 2010

Questions mount over attempt to bomb Detroit-bound jetliner

By Patrick Martin

Ten days after the failed attempt to explode a bomb onboard Northwest Flight 253 as it approached Detroit—an action that, if successful, would have killed nearly 300 people—there are mounting questions about the actions of US government agencies.

According to the official story, propagated by the Obama administration and uncritically parroted by the US media, the various components of the US national security apparatus were incapable of bringing together the following known facts:

• In May, the British government withdrew its student visa for Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, a young Nigerian who had studied at University College, London, and placed him on a watch list, barring him from reentering the country.

• In August, US intelligence agencies learned of Al Qaeda discussions of an operation against a US target to be organized from Yemen, using a “Nigerian.”

• On November 19, the father of Abdulmutallab, a prominent Nigerian banker, visited the US embassy in Abuja and told State Department and CIA personnel that his son had fallen under the influence of radical Islamists, gone to join them in Yemen, and broken off contact with his family.

• Based on the father’s report, State Department and CIA officers at the embassy informed Washington on November 20 and a security file was opened on Abdulmutallab at the National Counterterrorism Center, the main Washington clearinghouse for terrorism information.

• On December 16, Abdulmutallab visited a ticket office in Ghana and paid $2,831 in cash for a ticket on a Northwest Airlines flight from Lagos through Amsterdam to Detroit, landing on Christmas Day.

• On December 25, Abdulmutallab boarded the flight in Amsterdam with only a carry-on bag for a trans-Atlantic journey. Following standard procedure, the US Department of Homeland Security was notified at least an hour before departure that he was a passenger on the flight.

No intelligent person can believe the official US government account of its failure to stop the attempted bombing of Northwest Airlines Flight 253. The claim that US intelligence agencies were unable to detect the bomb plot, despite so many warnings months in advance, is simply not credible.

The official discussion repeats the same rhetorical trope employed to cover up the role of US intelligence agencies before the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001—that they failed to “connect the dots.” This metaphor suggests a highly abstruse process in which many small details, each seemingly innocent in itself, are correlated through sophisticated analysis by experts familiar with the patterns of terrorist operations.

No such operation was required to detect the Northwest Airlines bomb plot. The facts listed above were a series of fire alarms, each sufficient in itself to give the alert. To stop Abdulmuttalab from boarding the US-bound jetliner was a routine police matter, one that would ordinarily be executed without difficulty by the government of any middle-sized country, let alone by the most powerful military/intelligence apparatus on the planet.

If the Nigerian was allowed to board the jet in Amsterdam, it was because at some level within the US military/intelligence apparatus, the decision was made to allow him to do so.

The real failure to “connect the dots” is the refusal to draw any conclusions from the inaction of the US intelligence apparatus. Who made the decision not to act? Why did they make this decision? Was the intention that the would-be bo mber succeed or fail? Was it a deliberate attempt to undermine the Obama administration? Was it a deliberate attempt to provide a pretext for further US military action in the Middle East?

In the world’s major intelligence agencies—the Russian FSB, the British MI-5, the Israeli Mossad, the French SGDN, China’s Second Intelligence Department—these are the questions that are being asked, along with a further question: Is the Obama administration in control of its own national security apparatus? These agencies undoubtedly dismiss the official US account of the abortive Christmas Day bombing for what it is: disinformation generated to delude American public opinion.

We do not claim to have the answers to all these questions. But they are the starting point of any serious investigation. If they are ruled out in advance, as is the case now in the American media, the result must inevitably be a whitewash, as with the myriad official “investigations” into the 9/11 attacks.

Typical in this respect is the editorial published Saturday in the New York Times, under the headline, “Why Didn’t They See It?” The editorial swallows whole the claim of a failure on the part of the intelligence and homeland security bureaucracy to put together the information about Abdulmutallab.

“No doubt sorting through heaps of information and determining what is urgent or even worthy of follow-up is daunting,” the Times commented. “Still, it is incredible, and frightening, that the government cannot do at least as good a job at swiftly updating and correlating information as Google.”

Actually, it is literally “incredible,” i.e., not credible. And it is doubtful that even the editors of the Times believe it, although they are constrained from saying so by the informal but virtually complete self-censorship of the American capitalist media.

In a series of appearances on the Sunday morning network television programs, Obama’s chief White House counterterrorism adviser, former top CIA official John Brennan, declared that the US government’s data-handling methods were at least as good as those of Google and Amazon.com. This only begs the question again: who made the decisions that allowed Abdulmutallab to board the Northwest jet?

Additional facts reported in the media this weekend make this decision still less susceptible to innocent explanation.

The Washington Post cited a “family cousin” quoting this warning from Abdulmuttalab’s father to the US government: “Look at the texts he’s sending. He’s a security threat.”

Given the vast powers of the US National Security Agency to pore through the world’s email traffic—amplified by the USA Patriot Act—there is little doubt that such a tip would have led quickly to the surveillance of all electronic communications by, with or about the young Nigerian.

There have also been reports that the father supplied US representatives with the number of his son’s Nigerian passport, which was communicated to the National Counterterrorism Center. However, neither the State Department nor the NCTC checked whether the younger Abdulmutallab had a valid US visa—a fact readily determined from internal US government databases—or made any effort to rescind it.

Time magazine, citing a “source close to the family” of the bomber, wrote that “it was an alleged threat to blow up an American plane that apparently alarmed his parents and supposedly resulted in his father going to warn the US embassy.” This suggests that US officials had warning a month ahead of time about the specific target of attack.

Newsweek magazine reported that the Saudi counterterrorism chief, Muhammad bin Nayaf, gave a briefing to Brennan in the White House sometime last fall about the specific technique used by the Northwest bomber, concealing PETN explosive in his undergarments, which was used in a failed Al Qaeda attempt to assassinate bin Nayaf himself.

Moreover, according to Newsweek, the NSA had intercepted telephone communications between Abdulmutallab and Mohammed al-Awlaki, the radical US-born Islamic cleric, now living in Yemen, who had been in communication with Major Nidal Malik Hasan in the months before his assault on military personnel at Ft. Hood, Texas, which took 13 lives. Al-Awlaki issued a statement in November predicting a Christmas “surprise” that would make Yemen a key arena of struggle against the United States.

As in the case of the 9/11 attacks, no confidence can be placed in any agency of the US government or in the American media to provide an honest or probing account of what has taken place. This fact testifies to the continued erosion of democratic rights in the United States, and the enormous danger this represents to the American people and the people of the world.

shortlink to this post: http://wp.me/p3xLR-l7

The Economic Crisis Ends; The Political Crisis Begins

In Ireland, “More than $4 billion in cuts…will slash salaries for 400,000 government workers while making painful reductions in benefits for such groups as widows and single mothers to the blind and disabled children.” Unemployment benefits were also slashed by as much as 30%.”

“The U.S. government, like the U.K. government, the Greeks and the Irish, is going to need to draw down fiscal stimulus, pare expenditures [make cuts], raise revenues [taxes] and probably take a look at [cuts] in their entitlement programs” — Social Security, Medicare, Education, etc.

Countercurrents, December 29, 2009

The Economic Crisis Ends; The Political Crisis Begins

By Shamus Cooke

First Iceland, then Ireland, now Greece. Much of Europe is mired in inescapable debt and bankrupt nations, the result of crashing banks, bank bailouts, and soaring unemployment. The U.S. and U.K. watch from a distance, knowing their turn is next.

The European corporate-elite — like their American counterparts — lavished non-stop praise on the “bold yet necessary” decision to bail out the banks; the economy was supposedly saved from “impending collapse.” But every action has an equal but opposite reaction. Bailing out the banks saved the butts of dozens of European bankers, but now millions of workers are about to experience a thundering kick in the ass.

Unbeknownst to most Europeans, the public money that financed the bank bailouts created a massive public debt problem, to be solved by massively slashing public programs that benefit workers and the poor. This amounts to a blatant transfer of billions — maybe trillions of dollars — in public wealth, away from the majority of citizens toward a parasitic crust of bankers.

These “tough decisions” should act as warnings to the American working class, since the U.S. corporate-elite, too, has clear-cut plans for who is to pay for their colossal spending spree on bank giveaways and foreign wars (hint: it’s not them).

The massive amounts of government bonds printed to pay for the global bank bailouts were purchased by global investors (capitalists). For these vultures, government bonds are an excellent investment when the economy crashes, and gambling on stocks turns sour. Now, these investors want to be sure that the heavily indebted governments are able to pay up. And they’re becoming impatient.

A good peek into the mind of the global investor can be seen in any of the three global “credit ratings agencies” — Moody’s, Standard and Poor’s, and Fitch. These corporations give “grades” to debtors — federal governments, corporations, state and city governments, etc. — based on their “credit worthiness.” To have one’s grade lowered means that investors should back off and demand higher interest rates on loans, if loans are made at all. Receiving a “B” instead of an “A” can make the difference between a poor nation being able to build a highway, hospital, or school.

Recently, Moody’s released their notorious “misery index” — the nations that are most sunken in debt and least able to pay it back, requiring that “special measures” be taken to prove to investors that these governments are able to repay their loans. The biggest losers of the misery index were not surprises and included the above-mentioned European countries. However, ranking right behind bankrupt Iceland was the United States: the once-proud super-power is now a debt-ridden carcass, with investor vultures circling overhead.

Moody’s is warning rich investors to be wary of formerly rich countries defaulting on their loans, i.e., going bankrupt. Moody’s chief of rating nations’ credit, Pierre Cailleteau, explains why:

“This is mainly because of the crisis of public finances [bank bailouts plus unemployment] that has beset many rich countries in what Moody’s believes will be the final — and disturbingly long-lasting — stage of the crisis.” This is what passes for optimism nowadays.

Moody’s is demanding that less-rich nations like Greece, Ireland, Spain, etc., take immediate actions to make their rich investors happy. The Washington Post explains Ireland’s situation:

“More than $4 billion in cuts…will slash salaries for 400,000 government workers while making painful reductions in benefits for such groups as widows and single mothers to the blind and disabled children.” Unemployment benefits were also slashed by as much as 30%.” (December 22, 2009).

The U.S. and the U.K. need not make immediate cuts, but they must make immediate plans to make major cuts, explains Moody’s spokesmen Cailleteau:

“…this will be the year [2010] where both the U.S. government and the U.K. government will have to articulate a credible plan to address their problems of large debt.”

John Chambers of Standard & Poor’s was more blunt:

“The U.S. government, like the U.K. government, the Greeks and the Irish, is going to need to draw down fiscal stimulus, pare expenditures [make cuts], raise revenues [taxes] and probably take a look at [cuts] in their entitlement programs” — Social Security, Medicare, Education, etc.

This is not news to President Obama. While he was extending the Bush bank bailouts, Obama took time to calm the nerves of investors, who saw an exploding debt that would soon need to be dealt with. That is why Obama pledged to the Washington Post that he would “reform entitlement programs.” (January 16, 2009). This was to be done after the economy had stabilized.

It’s almost time.

The mainstream media will surely go on the offensive to support our corporate-owned President in his assault on the social programs long cherished by the American working class. We will be told that there are “no other options,” when in fact there are.

Not only could military spending be reduced by hundreds of billions of dollars per year, but taxes should be raised significantly for the very wealthy. If the top 1 percent of the richest Americans were taxed at 90 percent, hundreds of millions of Americans would benefit, since public education would be saved, alongside Medicare and Social Security.

Barack Obama will soon be pursuing a policy that George Bush Jr. would never dare try. He must be resisted at every step. American unions should look to Europe for inspiration for how to deal with the coming onslaught: mass demonstrations and united strike action will be the only way to put sufficient pressure on a government enforcing a solidly right-wing corporate agenda. The political instability that is currently engulfing Europe is soon to be exported to the United States — we must not be caught off-guard.

The issue of the day is clear: somebody must be made to pay for the economic crisis. The corporate-elite is planning to push this burden on to the working class. The working class must push back. Unions and community organizations should begin organizing now in anticipation, with demands to tax the rich and corporations, and to save Social Security, Medicare, and public education.

Shamus Cooke is a social service worker, trade unionist, and writer for Workers Action (www.workerscompass.org). He can be reached at shamuscook@yahoo.com

Shortlink to this post:  http://wp.me/s3xLR-1285

Cuts to KPFA’s “Flashpoints” Spark Continuing Outrage

December 24th update from Chandra Hauptman,  a member of the KPFA Local Station Board

This time of year should be a happy time for some people but, at KPFA, some staff are being fired and others are having their hours reduced, in an indiscriminate way. The General Manager (GM) appears to be unfairly targeting programs that she does not support, such as Flashpoints. She states publicly that she is making 20% cuts across the board but this has not happened. And, at the same time, she is making new hires, such as the new development director, who is the former GM of KPFK, Sean Heitkemper. Below is an article that Henry Norr submitted to the Berkeley Daily Planet on behalf of Flashpoints and will probably be published in tomorrow’s edition of the paper.  (It wasn’t)  There is also a hit piece against Flashpoints, rife with many errors, in the East Bay Express.

The new Local Station Board (LSB)  chair and officers have repeatedly requested that Lemlem meet with us to discuss the cuts but she has not replied to our requests. Nor has she met with the staff to discuss the cuts or explain her rationale (if she has any) as to how she determined what cuts to make.

Further, the cuts made so far account for only 1/4 of the savings that need to be made at KPFA, as mandated by last year’s PNB, and to balance the KPFA budget.

————————————————————————

Cuts to KPFA’s Flashpoints Spark Outrage

By HENRY NORR

In the face of mounting deficits, KPFA this month began laying off staff. The cuts come as no surprise; in fact, they’re overdue, considering that the station has been running in the red for several years, in defiance of Local Station Board and Pacifica National Board mandates to bring expenses into line with income. Anger and protest were probably inevitable when the cuts finally came. But by implementing them in an abrupt and seemingly insensitive way, ignoring provisions of the paid staff’s union contract, and loading what looks like a disproportionate share of the pain on one program – Flashpoints – management has succeeded in turning a tough situation into yet another full-fledged crisis for the station.

The first victim of this new cutback campaign was Eric Klein, Flashpoints’ technical producer and engineer, whose half-time position was eliminated with no advance notice on December 7; Dennis Bernstein, the show’s host, wasn’t informed until he went looking for Klein an hour before airtime. After co-host Nora Barrows-Friedman e-mailed station manager Lemlem Rijio seeking an explanation and making the case that the show requires a technical producer, Rijio invited her to “share her concerns” in person. When they met on December 9, Barrows-Friedman argued (according to an account she posted on Facebook) that it was “unreasonable” to expect her to absorb Klein’s work on top of her other responsibilities, whereupon Rijio “casually” informed her that her hours were being cut in half, from 40 to 20 per week, effective immediately.

Then, a few days later, Robert Knight, a New York-based journalist who delivers a short news analysis (“The Knight Report”) at the top of the Flashpoints hour most days, received a letter by FedEx informing him that his contract would expire on December 28.

Knight is not a member of the union that represents KPFA’s paid staff, Communications Workers of America Local 9415, but Klein and Barrows-Friedman are. According to the union’s contract, should staff cuts become necessary, layoffs are generally supposed to be based on seniority. Klein didn’t rank high on the seniority list, but Barrows-Friedman has worked at the station considerably longer than other staffers whose hours have not been reduced. The contract also specifies that “Those who will be laid off shall be notified as soon as possible, normally thirty (30) working days, but in no case less that fifteen (15) working days before such layoff is to take place,” yet neither Klein nor Barrows-Friedman got so much as a day’s notice – even though management has had literally years of advance warning about its budget problems.

Treating employees this way may be par for the course in the corporate world nowadays (see the new George Clooney movie “Up in the Air”), but even aside from contractual requirements, I think most KPFA subscribers expect better of their station.

To Flashpoints’ staff and fans (including me), the recent moves raise a larger issue: has management singled the program out for particularly severe cutbacks? When, after six days of silence, Rijio finally offered an explanation of the cuts in an e-mail message to subscribers and a recorded message now played incessantly on the air, she claimed that “Each department at the station – Programming, Operations, Development, and Administration – is being cut by 20 percent” and “All public affairs programs are being cut across the board and reductions have been made to bring each show’s cost into line with its income.”

So far, Rijio has not responded to requests for details from listeners and members of the station board. But information gleaned from staffers and data provided to the board when it considered the station’s budget last summer cast serious doubt on her claim of even-handedness. Certainly other public-affairs shows have also suffered cuts, but typically in the range of 14-18 percent, measured in paid staff hours.

In the case of Flashpoints, however, with the elimination of Klein’s job, the reduction in Barrows-Friedman’s hours, and the cancellation of Knight’s contract, staffing has been slashed more than 40 percent, from approximately 135 hours a week to 80 per week. (Bernstein works full-time, while “roving producer” Miguel Gavilan Molina and now Barrows-Friedman are each paid for 20 hours per week. Another full-time position was eliminated two years ago.) To the surviving staff, the cuts amount to a deliberate attempt to destroy the show. “There is no way we can survive at this [reduced] level,” Barrows-Friedman wrote on her Facebook page.

That prospect has sparked deep concern among Flashpoint’s intensely loyal listeners, who value the show for its outspoken radicalism – so different from the NPR-like tone of pseudo-objectivity maintained on most of KPFA’s news and public-affairs programming – and its focus on reporting the grassroots realities in hard-pressed communities rarely heard from in most of our media – Palestine above all (including Barrows-Friedman’s moving reports from her frequent trips to Gaza and the West Bank), but also Haiti, New Orleans, immigrant and native American communities, and recently Honduras.

As word of the cutbacks spread, protest flared. Professors Peter Phillips and Mickey Huff of Project Censored and the Media Freedom Foundation (which just weeks ago gave the Flashpoints crew its lifetime achievement award) published a denunciation of the cuts, complete with supporting statements from such left luminaries as Barbara Lubin and Richard Becker. Arab-American community organizer Eyad Kishawi publicly threatened to organize a boycott of the station. Michael Parenti issued a call to a demonstration in front of the station last Thursday.

And other prominent radical intellectuals who have appeared on the show – including Howard Zinn, Dahr Jamail, Anthony Arnove, and Richard Falk – signed an open letter declaring that they will “refuse to be interviewed or to allow prior work to be aired, or to give permission for our books, CDs, DVDs and other work to be used as premiums during KPFA’s fund drives” until Barrows-Friedman is reinstated to a full-time position and Flashpoints provided with a technical producer.”

So far, there’s no indication that management will back down from its plans, but Flashpoints’ staff and supporters seem determined not to go without a fight.

To express support for Flashpoints, write to general manager Lemlem Rijio at gm@kpfa.org <mailto:gm@kpfa.org> and turn out for the first meeting of the new LSB, now set for 7 p.m. on Monday, Jan. 11, 2010 (disregard dates announced earlier) at the Humanist Hall, 390 27th St. (near Telegraph), Oakland.

Henry Norr was recently re-elected to KPFA’s Local Station Board

- – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – -

Michael Parenti writes:

Nora Barrows Friedman has seniority over at least a dozen more recent and less experienced staff people. She has done an outstanding job at Flashpoints, showing a special dedication and talent. She has top professional qualifications and standards, tested by time and performance. She and Dennis Bernstein raise more money for the station than just about any other program. Rather than being a drain on the KPFA budget, Nora is an asset.   Taking her talents and contributions into account, one is forced to conclude that Nora is being cut for reasons that can only be political. Once again the KPFA management, under the direction of Lemlem Rijio, a person of determinedly conventional proclivities, is making a decision that is politically inspired. I can  myself testify to Rijio’s ideologically motivated inclination to deny access to the airwaves to someone whose politics are to the left of her own or whose politics are just too controversial for her. She and her confederates are working hard to turn KPFA into NPR. In their attempt to assassinate Nora and finish off Flashpoints, they don’t know what they are getting themselves into.

- – – – – – – – – – – – – – – -

See earlier article “KPFA’s program “Flashpoints” is under attack by station management.”

See video of a December 17  rally for “Flashpoints” here and here.

Read a MWC News Open Letter to KPFA management on “Flashpoints.”

shortlink to this posting: http://wp.me/p3xLR-kq

Iraq vet: Our real enemy is not the ones living in a distant land, they are right here in front of us. Racism is their weapon

Our real enemy is not the ones living in a distant land,
they are right here in front of us.  Racism is their weapon

Iraq vet talks on class, race, and exploitation

Iraq vet talks on class, race, and exploitation

“Our real enemy is not the ones living in a distant land whose names or policies we don’t understand; The real enemy is a system that wages war when it’s profitable, the CEOs who lay us off our jobs when it’s profitable, the Insurance Companies who deny us Health care when it’s profitable, the Banks who take away our homes when it’s profitable. Our enemies are not several hundred thousands away. They are right here in front of us.”

How do the the rulers get away with it?  This soldier is clear:

“Racism is a vital weapon employed by this government. It is a more important weapon than a rifle, a tank, a bomber or a battleship.” “They  need a public who’s willing to send soldiers into harm’s way, they need soldiers willing to kill and be killed without question. They can spend millions on a single bomb, but that bomb only becomes a weapon when the ranks in the military are willing to follow orders to use it.”

“And the ruling class, the billionaires who profit from human suffering, who care only about expanding their wealth and controlling the world economy, understand that their power lies only in their ability to convince us that war, oppression, and exploitation are in our interest. They understand that their wealth is dependent on their ability to convince the working class to die to control the market of another country. And convincing us to kill and die is based on their ability to make us think that we are somehow superior.

“Poor and working people in this country are sent to kill poor and working people in another country, to make the rich richer. Without racism, soldiers would realize they have more in common with the Iraqi people than they do with the billionaires that send us to war. .. Our enemies are right here at home, and if we organize and fight with our sisters and brothers we can stop this war, we can stop this government, and we can create a better world. “

Mike Prysner is from IVAW, Iraq Veterans Against the War. This speech was from Winter Soldier in March 22, 2008. You can view his entire testimony here, which spells out the role of racism, and how, under a veneer of anti-racsm, the army and and civilian society are now pushing an onslaught of racism which is both homicidal and suicidal.

shortlink to this post: http://wp.me/p3xLR-k5


Archives

Categories

RSS Gray Panthers in the News

  • An error has occurred; the feed is probably down. Try again later.

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 382 other followers


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 382 other followers

%d bloggers like this: