Archive for the 'Iran' Category

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.

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Pakistan, at crossroads of rivalry between Russia, China, and the US, refuses to satisfy US demands on Taliban and Afghanistan

Pakistan, at crossroads of rivalry between  Russia, China, and the US, refuses to satisfy US demands on Taliban and Afghanistan.  US support for India also a factor.

The New York Times December 15 article, “Rebuffing U.S., Pakistan Balks at Crackdown” emphasizes a geo-political importance of Pakistan beyond its hosting pipelines bring Central Asia’s oil and gas to Western and/or Chinese capitalists:

Demands by the United States for Pakistan to crack down on the strongest Taliban warrior in Afghanistan, Siraj Haqqani, whose fighters pose the biggest threat to American forces, have been rebuffed by the Pakistani military, according to Pakistani military officials and diplomats.

The core reason for Pakistan’s imperviousness is its scant faith in the Obama troop surge, and what Pakistan sees as the need to position itself for a regional realignment in Afghanistan once American forces begin to leave.

It considers Mr. Haqqani and his control of large areas of Afghan territory vital to Pakistan in the jostling for influence that will pit Pakistan, India, Russia, China and Iran against one another in the post-American Afghan arena, the Pakistani officials said.

Pakistan is particularly eager to counter the growing influence of its archenemy, India, which is pouring $1.2 billion in aid into Afghanistan. “If America walks away, Pakistan is very worried that it will have India on its eastern border and India on its western border in Afghanistan,” said Tariq Fatemi, a former Pakistani ambassador to the United States who is pro-American in his views.

In the 1980s, Jalaluddin Haqqani (Siraj’s father) received money and arms from the C.I.A. routed through Pakistan’s spy agency, Inter-Services Intelligence, to fight the Soviets, according to Ahmed Rashid, an expert on the Afghan Taliban and the author of “Descent Into Chaos.” In the 1990s, when the Taliban ran Afghanistan, Jalaluddin Haqqani served as governor of Paktia Province. The relationship between the Haqqanis and Osama bin Laden dates back to the war against the Soviets in the 1980s, according to Kamran Bokhari, the South Asia director for Stratfor, a geopolitical risk analysis company.

When the Taliban government collapsed at the end of 2001 and Qaeda operatives fled from Tora Bora to Pakistan, the Haqqanis relocated their command structure to North Waziristan and welcomed Al Qaeda, Mr. Bokhari said.

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John Pilger: Empire, Obama and the Last Taboo

johnpilger.com July 9, 2009

Adapted from an address, Empire, Obama and the Last Taboo, given by John Pilger at Socialism 2009 in San Francisco on 4th July

Barack Obama is the embodiment of this “ism”. From his early political days, Obama’s unerring theme has been not “change”, the slogan of his presidential campaign, but America’s right to rule and order the world. Of the United States, he says, “we lead the world in battling immediate evils and promoting the ultimate good… We must lead by building a 21st-century military to ensure the security of our people and advance the security of all people.” And: “At moments of great peril in the past century our leaders ensured that America, by deed and by example, led and lifted the world, that we stood and fought for the freedoms sought by billions of people beyond their borders.”

Mourn on the fourth of July

In an essay for the New Statesman, John Pilger argues that while liberals now celebrate America’s return to its “moral ideals”, they are silent on a venerable taboo. This is the true role of Americanism: an ideology distinguished by its myths and the denial that it exists. President Obama is its embodiment.

The monsoon had woven thick skeins of mist over the central highlands of Vietnam. I was a young war correspondent, bivouacked in the village of Tuylon with a unit of US marines whose orders were to win hearts and minds. “We are here not to kill,” said the sergeant, “we are here to impart the American Way of Liberty as stated in the Pacification Handbook. This is designed to win the hearts and minds of folks, as stated on page 86.”

Page 86 was headed WHAM. The sergeant’s unit was called a combined action company, which meant, he explained, “we attack these folks on Mondays and we win their hearts and minds on Tuesdays”. He was joking, though not quite. Standing in a jeep on the edge of a paddy, he had announced through a loudhailer: “Come on out, everybody. We got rice and candy and toothbrushes to give you.”

Silence. Not a shadow moved.

“Now listen, either you gooks come on out from wherever you are, or we’re going to come right in there and get you!”

The people of Tuylon finally came out and stood in line to receive packets of Uncle Ben’s Long Grain Rice, Hershey bars, party balloons and several thousand toothbrushes. Three portable, battery-operated, yellow flush lavatories were kept for the colonel’s arrival. And when the colonel arrived that evening, the district chief was summoned and the yellow flush lavatories were unveiled.

“Mr District Chief and all you folks out there,” said the colonel, “what these gifts represent is more than the sum of their parts. They carry the spirit of America. Ladies and gentlemen, there’s no place on earth like America. It’s a guiding light for me, and for you. You see, back home, we count ourselves as real lucky having the greatest democracy the world has ever known, and we want you good folks to share in our good fortune.”

Thomas Jefferson, George Washington and Davy Crockett got a mention. “Beacon” was a favourite, and as he evoked John Winthrop’s “city upon a hill”, the marines clapped, and the children clapped, understanding not a word.

It was a lesson in what historians call “exceptionalism”, the notion that the United States has the divine right to bring what it describes as liberty and democracy to the rest of humanity. That this merely disguised a system of domination, which Martin Luther King described, shortly before his assassination, as “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world”, was unspeakable.

As the great people’s historian Howard Zinn has pointed out, Winthrop’s much-quoted description of the 17th-century Massachusetts Bay Colony as a “city upon a hill”, a place of unlimited goodness and nobility, was rarely set against the violence of the first settlers, for whom burning alive some 400 Pequot Indians was a “triumphant joy”. The countless massacres that followed, wrote Zinn, were justified by “the idea that American expansion is divinely ordained”.

Not long ago, I visited the American Museum of History, part of the celebrated Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC. One of the popular exhibitions was “The Price of Freedom: Americans at War”. It was holiday time and lines of people, including many children, shuffled reverentially through a Santa’s grotto of war and conquest where messages about their nation’s “great mission” were dispensed. These ­included tributes to the “exceptional Americans [who] saved a million lives” in Vietnam, where they were “determined to stop communist expansion”. In Iraq, other true hearts ­“employed air strikes of unprecedented precision”. What was shocking was not so much the revisionist description of two of the epic crimes of modern times as the sheer scale of omission.

“History without memory,” declared Time magazine at the end of the 20th century, “confines Americans to a sort of eternal present.. They are especially weak in remembering what they did to other people, as opposed to what they did for them.” Ironically, it was Henry Luce, founder of Time, who in 1941 divined the “American century” as an American social, political and cultural “victory” over humanity and the right “to exert upon the world the full impact of our influence, for such purposes as we see fit and by such means as we see fit”.

None of this is to suggest that vainglory is exclusive to the United States. The British presented their often violent domination of much of the world as the natural progress of Christian gentlemen selflessly civilising the natives, and present-day TV historians perpetuate the myths. The French still celebrate their bloody “civilising mission”. Prior to the Second World War, “imperialist” was an honoured political badge in Europe, while in the US an “age of innocence” was preferred. America was different from the Old World, said its mythologists. America was the Land of Liberty, uninterested in conquest. But what of George Washington’s call for a “rising empire” and James Madison’s “laying the foundation of a great empire”? What of slavery, the theft of Texas from Mexico, the bloody subjugation of central America, Cuba and the Philippines?

An ordained national memory consigned these to the historical margins and “imperialism” was all but discredited in the United States, especially after Adolf Hitler and the fascists, with their ideas of racial and cultural superiority, had left a legacy of guilt by association. The Nazis, after all, had been proud imperialists, too, and Germany was also “exceptional”. The idea of imperialism, the word itself, was all but expunged from the American lexicon, “on the grounds that it falsely attributed immoral motives to western foreign policy”, argued one historian. Those who persisted in using it were “disreputable purveyors of agitprop” and were “inspired by the communist doctrine”, or they were “Negro intellectuals who had grievances of their own against white capitalism”.

Meanwhile, the “city on the hill” remained a beacon of rapaciousness as US capital set about realising Luce’s dream and recolonising the European empires in the postwar years. This was “the march of free enterprise”. In truth, it was driven by a subsidised production boom in a country unravaged by war: a sort of socialism for the great corporations, or state capitalism, which left half the world’s wealth in American hands. The cornerstone of this new imperialism was laid in 1944 at a conference of the western allies at Bretton Woods in New Hampshire. Described as “negotiations about economic stability”, the conference marked America’s conquest of most of the world.

What the American elite demanded, wrote Frederic F Clairmont in The Rise and Fall of Economic Liberalism, “was not allies but unctuous client states. What Bretton Woods bequeathed to the world was a lethal totalitarian blueprint for the carve-up of world markets.” The World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the Asian Development Bank, the Inter-American Development Bank and the African Development Bank were established in effect as arms of the US Treasury and would design and police the new order. The US military and its clients would guard the doors of these “international” institutions, and an “invisible government” of media would secure the myths, said Edward Bernays.

Bernays, described as the father of the media age, was the nephew of Sigmund Freud. “Propaganda,” he wrote, “got to be a bad word because of the Germans… so what I did was to try and find other words [such as] Public Relations.” Bernays used Freud’s theories about control of the subconscious to promote a “mass culture” designed to promote fear of official enemies and servility to consumerism. It was Bernays who, on behalf of the tobacco industry, campaigned for American women to take up smoking as an act of feminist liberation, calling cigarettes “torches of freedom”; and it was his notion of disinformation that was deployed in overthrowing governments, such as Guatemala’s democracy in 1954.

Above all, the goal was to distract and deter the social democratic impulses of working people. Big business was elevated from its public reputation as a kind of mafia to that of a patriotic force. “Free enterprise” became a divinity. “By the early 1950s,” wrote Noam Chomsky, “20 million people a week were watching business-sponsored films. The entertainment industry was enlisted to the cause, portraying unions as the enemy, the outsider disrupting the ‘harmony’ of the ‘American way of life’… Every aspect of social life was targeted and permeated schools and universities, churches, even recreational programmes. By 1954, business propaganda in public schools reached half the amount spent on textbooks.”

The new “ism” was Americanism, an ideology whose distinction is its denial that it is an ideology. Recently, I saw the 1957 musical Silk Stockings, starring Fred Astaire and Cyd Charisse. Between the scenes of wonderful dancing to a score by Cole Porter was a series of loyalty statements that the colonel in Vietnam might well have written. I had forgotten how crude and pervasive the propaganda was; the Soviets could never compete. An oath of loyalty to all things American became an ideological commitment to the leviathan of business: from the business of armaments and war (which consumes 42 cents in every tax dollar today) to the business of food, known as “agripower” (which receives $157bn a year in government subsidies).

Barack Obama is the embodiment of this “ism”. From his early political days, Obama’s unerring theme has been not “change”, the slogan of his presidential campaign, but America’s right to rule and order the world. Of the United States, he says, “we lead the world in battling immediate evils and promoting the ultimate good… We must lead by building a 21st-century military to ensure the security of our people and advance the security of all people.” And: “At moments of great peril in the past century our leaders ensured that America, by deed and by example, led and lifted the world, that we stood and fought for the freedoms sought by billions of people beyond their borders.”

Since 1945, by deed and by example, the US has overthrown 50 governments, including democracies, crushed some 30 liberation movements and supported tyrannies from Egypt to Guatemala (see William Blum’s histories). Bombing is apple pie. Having stacked his government with warmongers, Wall Street cronies and polluters from the Bush and Clinton eras, the 45th president is merely upholding tradition. The hearts and minds farce I witnessed in Vietnam is today repeated in villages in Afghanistan and, by proxy, Pakistan, which are Obama’s wars.

In his acceptance speech for the 2005 Nobel Prize for Literature, Harold Pinter noted that “everyone knew that terrible crimes had been committed by the Soviet Union in the postwar period, but “US crimes in the same period have been only superficially recorded, let alone documented, let alone acknowledged, let alone recognised as crimes at all”. It is as if “It never happened. Nothing ever happened. Even while it was happening, it wasn’t happening… You have to hand it to America… masquerading as a force for universal good. It’s a brilliant, even witty, highly successful act of hypnosis.”

As Obama has sent drones to kill (since January) some 700 civilians, distinguished liberals have rejoiced that America is once again a “nation of moral ideals”, as Paul Krugman wrote in the New York Times. In Britain, the elite has long seen in exceptional America an enduring place for British “influence”, albeit as servitor or puppet. The pop historian Tristram Hunt says America under Obama is a land “where miracles happen”. Justin Webb, until recently the BBC’s man in Washington, refers adoringly, rather like the colonel in Vietnam, to the “city on the hill”.

Behind this façade of “intensification of feeling and degradation of significance” (Walter Lippmann), ordinary Americans are stirring perhaps as never before, as if abandoning the deity of the “American Dream” that prosperity is a guarantee with hard work and thrift.. Millions of angry emails from ordinary people have flooded Washington, expressing an outrage that the novelty of Obama has not calmed. On the contrary, those whose jobs have vanished and whose homes are repossessed see the new president rewarding crooked banks and an obese military, essentially protecting George W Bush’s turf.

My guess is that a populism will emerge in the next few years, igniting a powerful force that lies beneath America’s surface and which has a proud past. It cannot be predicted which way it will go. However, from such an authentic grass-roots Americanism came women’s suffrage, the eight-hour day, graduated income tax and public ownership. In the late 19th century, the populists were betrayed by leaders who urged them to compromise and merge with the Democratic Party. In the Obama era, the familiarity of this resonates.

What is most extraordinary about the United States today is the rejection and defiance, in so many attitudes, of the all-pervasive historical and contemporary propaganda of the “invisible government”. Credible polls have long confirmed that more than two-thirds of Americans hold progressive views. A majority want the government to care for those who cannot care for themselves. They would pay higher taxes to guarantee health care for everyone. They want complete nuclear disarmament; 72 per cent want the US to end its colonial wars; and so on. They are informed, subversive, even “anti-American”.

I once asked a friend, the great American war correspondent and humanitarian Martha Gellhorn, to explain the term to me. “I’ll tell you what ‘anti-American’ is,” she said. “It’s what governments and their vested interests call those who honour America by objecting to war and the theft of resources and believing in all of humanity. There are millions of these anti-Americans in the United States. They are ordinary people who belong to no elite and who judge their government in moral terms, though they would call it common decency. They are not vain. They are the people with a wakeful conscience, the best of America’s citizens. They can be counted on. They were in the South with the civil rights movement, ending slavery. They were in the streets, demanding an end to the wars in Asia. Sure, they disappear from view now and then, but they are like seeds beneath the snow. I would say they are truly exceptional.”


The People in Gaza Challenge Sham Peace Process

Monthly Review

January 24, 2008

The People in Gaza Challenge Sham Peace Process

by Joel Beinin

About 3:00 am on Wednesday morning Jan. 23, well-coordinated explosions demolished the iron wall built by Israel to seal the southern border between the Gaza Strip and Egypt (the Philadelphi axis). Tens of thousands of Palestinians streamed across the border and entered the Egyptian side of the town of Rafah, which had been bisected by the wall, in search of food, gasoline, and other basic commodities which have been in short supply for many months in Gaza. The first wave of Palestinians to cross consisted of hundreds of women who were met with water cannons and beatings by Egyptian security forces.

The wall was the starkest expression of the international boycott of Hamas imposed by the United States, Israel, and the European Union after Hamas won a majority of the seats in the Palestinian Legislative Council elections of January 2006 and formed a government the following March. Hamas has been in sole control of the Gaza Strip after it executed a coup d’état against Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in June 2007. Since then, Israel has tightened the siege of Gaza which had been in effect since June 2006.

In response, Hamas and Palestinian Jihad militants have fired thousands of Qassam missiles on the town of Sderot and other Israeli population centers near the Gaza Strip. According to the 2007 annual report of B’Tselem, the Israeli human rights organization, Hamas and Jihad killed twenty-four Israeli civilians in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip during 2006 and 2007 and thirteen Israeli military personnel.

In retaliation, Israel escalated the pace of its targeted assassinations of Hamas and Jihad militants, killing hundreds of civilians in the process. Based on B’Tselem’s 2007 annual report, a Ha-Aretz investigation (Jan. 14, 2008) concluded that Israeli forces killed 816 Palestinians in the Gaza Strip during 2006 and 2007; at least 360 of them were civilians not affiliated with any armed organizations; 152 of the casualties were under age 18, and 48 were under the age of 14.

Despite the siege, Israel continued to provide electricity and water to the Gaza Strip, allowing people to live on the edge of survival, hoping that the economic pressure would bring down the Hamas government. Half the population now depends on charity handouts from the UN refugee relief organization and other humanitarian NGOs. Four days before the wall came crashing down, Israel sharply cut back fuel and water supplies, imposing a harsh collective punishment on the entire population of 1.5 million.

According to Ha-Aretz columnist Amira Hass (Jan. 24, 2008), for several months Hamas leaders had been discussing measures to end Gaza’s torment, described by Rela Mazali, an Israeli feminist peace activist with the New Profile organization and an editor of Jewish Peace News, as “an abomination.” Apparently, Hamas decided that four days of hermetic closure, following months of siege, created conditions in which Egypt and the international community would be willing to accept bringing down the wall. Hamas did not take official responsibility for blowing up the wall, but praised the action.

The Egyptian press reported that, several days before the wall was blown up, the General Guide of the Muslim Brothers, the largest opposition force in Egypt, spoke by telephone to Khaled Mash’al, the head of the Political Bureau of Hamas who resides in Damascus. Hamas emerged from the Palestinian branch of the Muslim Brothers; and there is a high likelihood that the actions of the two organizations were coordinated. Following this consultation, the Brothers began to organize demonstrations throughout Egypt beginning on Friday, Jan. 18. The number of its supporters in the street gradually increased, culminating on Wednesday. Jan. 23. That morning, thousands of Egyptian security forces surrounded Tahrir Square in downtown Cairo and arrested hundreds (according to some reports thousands) of people who were attempting to demonstrate in solidarity with the people of Gaza. The demonstration was supported by both the Muslim Brothers and secular nationalists.

Meanwhile, at Rafah, Egyptian security forces initially tried to stop the Palestinians from streaming across the border. But as the numbers swelled to tens of thousands, the government had no choice but to acquiesce. President Hosni Mubarak told journalists that he had instructed the security forces to: “Let them come in to eat and buy food” and return “as long as they are not carrying weapons.”

What are the implications of these developments?

It appears that the Annapolis summit and the sham “peace process” it was supposed to have reinvigorated are dead — killed by tens of thousands of unarmed Palestinians crossing the border into Egypt to meet their basic human needs. Shortly before President George W. Bush’s visit to the Middle East, Israel began an expanded campaign of pressure on the Gaza Strip, including an escalation in targeted assassinations. Hamas has sent several signals that it was prepared for an informal ceasefire with Israel. But the political perspective articulated at Annapolis and its aftermath requires that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas cooperate with Israel in crushing Hamas rather than try to restore Palestinian national unity. Egypt’s task in this drama is to stand silently by.

This is an impossible task and cannot in any way contribute to peace. Even if Mahmud Abbas were to come to terms and sign an agreement with Israel, it would have no credibility and would be very short lived without some degree of approval and participation from Hamas. A government of national unity that represents all the factions of the Palestinian people is the only entity capable of signing a viable peace agreement with Israel.

The Israeli government led by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert opposes the kind of agreement that a Palestinian national unity government would demand, as has every previous government of Israel. Such an agreement would require recognition of Palestinian national rights rather than paternalistic “concessions” granted by a magnanimous but ultimately all-powerful Israel.

The limited capacity of the Egyptian government to acquiesce to this program has been exposed. The Mubarak regime would like very much to see Hamas crushed, since it is an ally of the Muslim Brothers, its most substantial domestic opposition force. But the Palestinian cause is too popular and emotional an issue in Egypt for Mubarak to appear to be assisting Israel in starving the people of Gaza. Moreover, some of the demonstrations in solidarity with Gaza also raised slogans against the drastic rise in the price of food in recent months and against Husni Mubarak himself. Opposition demonstrations linking the Palestine cause with domestic economic issues and autocracy have the potential to threaten a regime whose legitimacy is already minimal.

Palestine, Israel, and Egypt after the fall of the Gaza wall are more unstable than before. It is desirable, but alas unlikely, that this instability will bring the leaderships to their senses and impel them to negotiate a just peace for the benefit of all. But it is more likely that Olmert, Abbas, and Mubarak — all weak and discredited leaders — will seek to hold onto power by clinging to the United States, which has a long record of opposing Palestinian-Israeli peace. The people of the Gaza Strip have taken their survival into their own hands and have shown that the power of ordinary people is more likely to shape the future than polished diplomatic formulas.

Joel Beinin

Cairo, Jan. 24, 2008

New Orleans Police Attack Protesters Against Housing Demolitions With Mace, Tazers, to Keep Them Out of City Hall

New Orleans City Council votes to demolish over 4,000 units of public housing, in a city desperate for affordable places to live. See:

New Orleans public housing supporters demonstrate in City Council against demolitions” and
New Orleans: Bulldozers for the poor, tax credits for the rich, and
HUD Demolitions Draw Noose Tighter Around New Orleans, and
Washington OKs demolishing 4,500 units of New Orleans public housing. Residents are organizing.

Affordable Housing advocates vow to keep fighting.

Actions to support New Orleans public housing. 

New Orleans Indy Media, December 20

Police Attack Protesters With Mace, Tazers to Keep Them Out of City Hall

Videos: -1- -2- -3- -4-

by Darwin BondGraham Thursday, Dec. 20, 2007 at 4:16 PM
darwin@riseup.net (email address validated)

First locked out of their homes for more than 2 years, and now locked out of the very City Council meeting in which the city’s politicians are set to vote for tearing down their homes, residents and activist today were attacked by police to keep them from entering the City Council chambers.

Police Attack Protes...
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Police Attack Protesters With Mace, Tazers to Keep Them Out of City Hall:
Council to vote on demolishing 5000 affordable homes

The scene was described by many as a microcosm of everything that’s wrong in the city and America. The whole situation has been referred to as “high noon,” and “do or die time.” It’s decision day for public housing in New Orleans.

Underneath New Orleans City Hall, a huge office building topped with a neon casino-style sign, milled a growing group of public housing residents and supporters. They had arrived for the 10am Council meeting to speak against the demoltion of affordable homes. They were locked out and told to “go home.” The City Council is expected to vote in approval of demolishing more than 5000 public housing units in 4 developments across the city today. The majority of the council has already pledged publicly to rubber stamp HUD’s highly controversial plans.

Locked out of the council chambers the protestors were quickly surrounded with dozens of police. Behind them stood eight horse-mounted police, and behind the gate keeping them out of the hall were many more heavily armed officers. Right in front of City Hall, behind the protesters is Duncan Plaza, which has been turned into an enormous homeless camp. Many Duncan Plaza residents came over to show their support for the cause. There are more than 12,000 homeless in the city today. Inside the chambers, the City Council proceeded.

First locked out of their homes for more than 2 years, and now locked out of the very City Council meeting in which the city’s politicians are set to vote for tearing down their homes, many of the residents began pleading with the officers to be allowed in. Pleading turned quickly to outrage as it was clear that the process would move forward without their voices or even witness. Receiving phone calls from their allies inside the chambers, the protesters were told that the Council meeting was being held up by chants and clapping until everyone was allowed inside. The Council members refused and called on their security forces to clear out the chambers.

In the desperation the group outside began shaking the large metal gates locking them out. The gate was easily broken open. Police moved in with pepper spray and batons, quickly beating back anyone near the entrance. Chants of “housing is a human right,” and “justice!” filled the air along with the putrid smell of the chemical weapons used by the NOPD. The gate was re-secured with handcuffs this time. Again the protesters chanted and demanded entrance. Some called into question the legitimacy of a “public” meeting in which the public was excluded.

As they pushed against the gates it suddenly became clear that something was happening inside the chambers. Dozens of police quickly sprinted into the building with their hands on their weapons. Outside this sparked concern among those gathered who began to slam against the gate once more. An ambulance arrived in the compound and a stretcher was taken into the building. Police would not communicate with those outside as to what was happening in the chambers. Protesters in the building began calling their allies and reporting that the police were forcefully clearing the room. It is confirmed by housing advocate Jay Arena that he, Malcolm Suber, Sess 4-5, and Endesha Jukali were arrested along with others. It is reported but not yet confirmed that Sess was tazered.

Outside the protesters again managed to break through the gates and pulled one side of it away from the officers. The police moved in and attempted to pull the gate back. Then came the pepper spray and tazers, this time much more forceful. At least two women were struck with tazers. On of them was simultaneously hit with spray and tazer and then smashed between the pavement and metal gate. She was rushed away from the scene by friends who treated her nearby until an ambulance could be found. Here medical condition is unknown at this time. Another woman, Bork, the same activists who yesterday chained herself to a building at BW Cooper was tazered and taken away in an ambulance. The police fanned chemical weapons out over the entire crowd hitting dozens in the face and eyes.

Activists from the Coalition to Stop Demolition have put out a national call to allies: come to New Orleans, help stop demolition, take nonviolent direct action. The struggle, after today continues, but it has become glaringly apparent the lengths to which the City Council and their allies will go to tear down homes.

Sam Jackson and NAACP member at the gate, refused entry
by Darwin BondGraham Thursday, Dec. 20, 2007 at 4:16 PM
darwin@riseup.net

Sam Jackson and NAAC...
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Several pub. housing residents and Bill Quigley outside
by Darwin BondGraham Thursday, Dec. 20, 2007 at 4:16 PM
darwin@riseup.net

Several pub. housing...
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Washing out eyes after being maced
by Darwin BondGraham Thursday, Dec. 20, 2007 at 4:16 PM
darwin@riseup.net

Washing out eyes aft...
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At the gate
by Darwin BondGraham Thursday, Dec. 20, 2007 at 4:16 PM
darwin@riseup.net

QuickTime movie at 23.5 mebibytes

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Police open up with spray
by Darwin BondGraham Thursday, Dec. 20, 2007 at 4:16 PM
darwin@riseup.net

QuickTime movie at 15.9 mebibytes

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Why demolition = crime
by Darwin BondGraham Thursday, Dec. 20, 2007 at 4:16 PM
darwin@riseup.net

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It ain’t right
by Darwin BondGraham Thursday, Dec. 20, 2007 at 4:16 PM
darwin@riseup.net

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Israeli officials reject U.S. findings on Iran

For a truly bizarre take on Iran and the Mideast, check out the December 5 Wall Street Journal opinion piece below suggesting that that perhaps the Gulf States should carry out the air strikes against Iran.McClatchy Newspapers, December 4, 2007

Israeli officials reject U.S. findings on Iran

By Dion Nissenbaum |

JERUSALEM — Israeli officials, who’ve been warning that Iran would soon pose a nuclear threat to the world, reacted angrily Tuesday to a new U.S. intelligence finding that Iran stopped its nuclear weapons development program in 2003 and to date hasn’t resumed trying to produce nuclear weapons.

Defense Minister Ehud Barak directly challenged the new assessment in an interview with Israel’s Army Radio, and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said the new finding wouldn’t deter Israel or the United States from pressing its campaign to stop Iran from developing a nuclear weapons capability.

“It seems Iran in 2003 halted for a certain period of time its military nuclear program, but as far as we know, it has probably since revived it,” Barak said.

“Even after this report, the American stance will still focus on preventing Iran from attaining nuclear capability,” Olmert said. “We will expend every effort along with our friends in the U.S. to prevent the Iranians from developing nuclear weapons.”

Probably no country felt more blindsided than Israel by the announcement Monday that 16 U.S. intelligence agencies, in a stunning reassessment, had concluded with “high confidence” that Iran had halted its nuclear program in 2003 and with “moderate confidence” that it hadn’t restarted that program as of mid-2007.

For years, Israel has been at the forefront of international efforts to isolate Iran, with Israeli intelligence estimates warning that Iran was on the brink of a nuclear “point of no return,” an ominous assessment that often fueled calls for a military strike.

Israeli officials also have sought to isolate Iran’s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, citing his calls for Israel’s destruction and his skepticism that the Holocaust took place.

The U.S. intelligence finding said that evidence “suggests” that Iran isn’t as determined as U.S. officials thought to develop a nuclear weapon and that a diplomatic approach that included economic pressure and some nod to Iranian goals for regional influence might persuade Iran to continue to suspend weapons development.

On Tuesday morning, Israel’s Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper called the U.S. findings “a blow below the belt.” An analysis in the competing Haaretz newspaper suggested that Israel might come to be viewed as a “panic-stricken rabbit” and said that the U.S. intelligence estimate established “a new, dramatic reality: The military option, American or Israeli, is off the table, indefinitely.”

“This is definitely a blow to attempts to stop Iran from becoming nuclear because now everybody will be relaxed and those that were reluctant to go ahead with harsher sanctions will now have a good excuse,” said Efraim Inbar, the director of the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies at Israel’s Bar-Ilan University.

The estimate created an awkward situation for Israeli leaders, who mostly tried to sidestep direct criticism of the Bush administration.

Olmert sought to focus on the report’s finding that Iran had been deterred in 2003 from pursuing its nuclear weapons program by international pressure. That, said Olmert, made continued sanctions essential.

Barak was tougher and promised that the report wouldn’t influence Israeli policy.

“We cannot allow ourselves to rest just because of an intelligence report from the other side of the earth, even if it is from our greatest friend,” he said.

Israeli officials also highlighted where the U.S. and Israeli assessments agree.

They noted that while the latest U.S. assessment said that the earliest Iran was likely to develop enough weapons-grade material for a nuclear bomb was 2010, Israeli assessments weren’t dramatically different, finding that Iran could develop the workings for a nuclear bomb by 2009.

Gerald Steinberg, the chairman of the political science department at Bar-Ilan University, suggested that the findings might increase the chances that Israel will attack Iran because they reduce the chances that the United States will act.

“I think it may introduce a lot of stress in the Israeli-American relationship,” he said.

But Emily Landau, the director of the Arms Control and Regional Security Program at Tel Aviv University’s Institute for National Security Studies, said it would be very difficult for Israel to launch an attack without explicit support from the United States.

“If Israel were to carry out a military action, it would have to be in coordination with the United States, so if the United States is moving away from that option, it would have implications for Israel as well,” she said.

(McClatchy special correspondent Cliff Churgin contributed to this report from Jerusalem.)

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Wall Street Journal Commentary, December 5, 2007

The Gulf States and Iran

By MAX BOOT
December 5, 2007; Page A25

The release of the new National Intelligence Estimate will provide more fodder for those who claim that “neoconservative ideologues” and the “Israel lobby” are overly alarmed about the rise of Iran. In reality, some of those most worried about the mullahs wear flowing headdresses, not yarmulkes, and they have good cause for concern, notwithstanding the sanguine tilt many news accounts put on the NIE.

I recently visited the Persian Gulf region as part of a delegation of American policy wonks organized by the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Throughout our meetings in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Saudi Arabia, the top issue was Iran’s ambitions to dominate the region.

Evidence of those imperial designs is not hard to find. The Iranians are aiding extremists who are undermining nascent democracies in Afghanistan, Iraq and Lebanon. The beneficiaries of Tehran’s largess include Hamas, Hezbollah and even, the evidence indicates, al Qaeda. (Saudi officials are quietly furious that Tehran has given refuge to some suspects in the 2003 Riyadh attacks.) Iran is building up its military arsenal, and has threatened to shut down the Persian Gulf (or, as Arabs call it, the Arabian Gulf).

What particularly concerns Gulf Arabs is the possibility that Iran could go nuclear — a concern unlikely to be erased by the ambiguous findings of the new NIE. While this NIE claims that Iran stopped its nuclear-weapons program in 2003 (in direct contradiction to an NIE finding issued just two years ago that “Iran currently is determined to develop nuclear weapons”), it concedes that “Iran’s civilian uranium enrichment program is continuing.” Such a “civilian” program could be converted speedily and stealthily to military use. As the new NIE notes, “Iran has the scientific, technical, and industrial capacity to produce nuclear weapons if it decides to do so.”

That thought fills Sunni Arabs with dread. “If we accept Iran as a nuclear power that is like accepting Hitler in 1933-34,” warned one senior Arab official, using the kind of analogy that back in Washington would get him dismissed as a neocon warmonger.

On our recent trip to the Persian Gulf, we found no unanimity about how to respond to this threat, but many officials and private citizens alike called for a pre-emptive military strike. King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia reportedly came away from his March summit in Riyadh with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad convinced that the Iranian president is dangerous and unstable. We also learned that many in the governments of Saudi Arabia and UAE privately favor military action to stop Iran’s nuclear program. We were assured by numerous interlocutors in both countries that the consequences of such raids, which would probably include Iranian-backed terrorism, would be “manageable.”

The key word here is “privately.” Those states are afraid to get into a public spat with the Shiite fundamentalists across the Straits of Hormuz. They are even unwilling to impose unilateral economic sanctions that could head off a military confrontation. That’s particularly significant in the case of the UAE, which is the leading offshore commercial center for Iran.

The Iranian Business Council estimates that Iranians hold $300 billion in assets in the UAE, that 10,000 Iranian companies have offices in the UAE, and that trade between the two countries was over $11 billion last year. If the UAE were to freeze these operations, it would impose real pain on Tehran. But, unlike the U.S., it refuses to go beyond the weak sanctions approved by the U.N. Security Council, where Russia and China block more significant steps.

As for the possibility of air strikes on Iran, much as the Arabs may applaud such a move by the U.S., they do not contemplate doing so on their own. Yet they easily could. According to the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London, the air forces of the Gulf Cooperation Council (Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE) match up quite favorably with those of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

The GCC states boast 627 combat-capable aircraft vs. only 286 for Iran, and most of the GCC aircraft are much more advanced. The GCC is well-supplied with modern American fighter-bombers — F-15s, F-16s, F-18s — and they are buying more top-of-the-line hardware all the time. Iran, by contrast, is still reliant on F-4s and F-5s acquired by the shah three decades ago, supplemented by a few more modern Russian and Chinese fighters.

Even though Iran has also been acquiring surface-to-air missiles from Russia, either the UAE or Saudi Arabia has, at least on paper, an air force capable of dealing the Iranian nuclear program a devastating blow. Of course a Gulf air armada would take heavier casualties than an American one. Gulf pilots do not have the full panoply of surveillance and electronic warfare systems needed to totally suppress air defenses. Nor do they have the “bunker buster” munitions needed to take out deep-buried facilities.

But the Gulf air forces have had years of training, and their pilots do practice alongside those from the U.S., Britain, France and other nations in the kinds of elaborate air-warfare scenarios pioneered in the “red flag” exercises at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada. Some of the weaknesses of the Gulf air forces, such as lack of bunker busters, could easily be remedied by purchases from the American arsenal.

The U.S. is making those very kinds of transfers to help the Israeli Air Force develop its long-range strike capacity. We take for granted that Israel, a state of 6.4 million people with a GDP of $140 billion, could successfully attack nuclear sites located 1,200 miles away. Yet we ignore the possibility that the GCC states, with a combined population of 39 million and a GDP of $522 billion, could do at least as good of a job, operating from bases located in some cases less than 100 miles from Iran. (Iran’s population is 65 million; its GDP $193 billion.)

This is largely because the GCC states, for all their economic might, have gotten used to thinking of themselves as political and military weaklings. As much as they may resent and criticize us, they feel utterly dependent on us for their defense.

The U.S. has a major stake in defending states with so much oil, and they do provide valuable cooperation in basing and logistics. But these states can and should do more. For a start, they should take steps to integrate their armed forces, so that they can turn the GCC into a NATO-like fighting force. And if President Bush or (more likely) his successor decides to pre-empt Iran, it will be important, as in the 1991 Gulf War, to have participation, if only symbolic, from Arab states, so that the conflict cannot be cast as one pitting “Zionists” and “crusaders” against innocent Muslims.

We need to tell the Gulf Arabs that if they expect the U.S. to stand with them in the future, they need to stand with us publicly, not just privately. At the very least they need to stop kicking us in the shins, as King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia did earlier this year by condemning as “illegitimate” the “foreign occupation” of Iraq (even though he doesn’t want us to leave).

The Saudi decision to attend the Annapolis meeting is a nice gesture in favor of the Bush administration’s newfound priorities, but it does little to address the most pressing issue confronting the Middle East. A Gulf-wide policy of getting tougher with Iran — diplomatically and economically and, if need be, militarily — would do a lot more good.

Mr. Boot is a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and the author of “War Made New: Weapons, Warriors, and the Making of the Modern World” (Gotham Books, 2006).

Intelligence Report Reveals Bush and Cheney’s Iran Warnings as Fraudulent

Consortium News, December 4, 2007

Intelligence Report Reveals Bush and Cheney’s Iran Warnings as Fraudulent

By Ray McGovern,

A new intelligence assessment that Iran’s nuclear weapons program halted in 2003 utterly contradicts the dire claims made by the war-mongering White House.

For those who have doubts about miracles, a double one occurred today. An honest National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Iran’s nuclear program has been issued and its Key Judgments were made public.

With redraft after redraft, it was what the Germans call “eine schwere Geburt” — a difficult birth, ten months in gestation.

I do not know how often Vice President Dick Cheney visited CIA Headquarters during the gestation period, but I am told he voiced his displeasure as soon as he saw the first sonogram/draft very early this year, and is so displeased with what issued that he has refused to be the godfather.

This time Cheney and his neo-con colleagues were unable to abort the process. And after delivery to the press, this child is going to be very hard to explain — the more so since it is legitimate.

The main points of the NIE:

“We judge that in fall 2003, Tehran halted its nuclear weapons program…

“We assess with moderate confidence Tehran has not restarted its nuclear weapons program as of mid-2007.

“We do not have sufficient intelligence to judge confidently whether Tehran is willing to maintain the halt of its nuclear weapons program indefinitely…

“We judge with moderate confidence Iran probably would be technically capable of producing enough highly enriched uranium sometime during the 2010-2015 time frame.

“We judge with high confidence that Iran will not be technically capable of producing and reprocessing enough plutonium for a weapon before about 2015.”

Having reached these conclusions, it is not surprising that the NIE’s authors make a point of saying up front (in bold type) “This NIE does not (italics in original) assume that Iran intends to acquire nuclear weapons.”

This, of course, pulls out the rug from under Cheney’s claim of a “fairly robust new nuclear program” in Iran, and President Bush’s inaccurate assertion that Iranian leaders have even admitted they are developing nuclear weapons.

Apparently, intelligence community analysts are no longer required to produce the faith-based intelligence that brought us the Oct. 1, 2002, NIE “Iraq’s Continuing Program for Weapons of Mass Destruction” — the worst in the history of U.S. intelligence.

Truth be told, one of the Iran NIE’s findings was written into its first draft, from which Director of National Intelligence Michael McConnell drew in telling the Senate Armed Services Committee on Feb. 27 that Iran could possibly develop a nuclear weapon by early-to-mid-next decade.

McConnell said not a word, though, about Iran’s having halted its nuclear weapons program in fall 2003. And in February, he was still adhering to the faith-based approach, saying, “We assess that Iran seeks to develop a nuclear weapon.”

At which point, Sen. Lindsay Graham, R-South Carolina, tried to sum up the proceedings with the disingenuous comment, “We all agree, then, that the Iranians are trying to get nuclear weapons.”

Curiously, McConnell indicated recently that the key findings of NIEs would no longer be made public.

My guess is that the Pentagon, and especially Adm. William Fallon, commander of our forces in the Middle East, succeeded in persuading McConnell to go public. Several months ago, Fallon was reliably reported to have said, “We are not going to do Iran on my watch.”

And it is an open secret that he and other senior military officers, except those of the Air Force, are strongly opposed to getting into a war with Iran for which the U.S. is so ill prepared.

Will President George W. Bush and our domesticated media succeed in dismissing this latest NIE as “guesswork,” as he has in the past? It is going to be highly interesting to see how the White House will try to spin this one.

See more stories tagged with: white house, cheney, bush, nuclear program, 2003, iran

Ray McGovern works with Tell the Word, the publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour. During his 27-year career as a CIA analyst, he chaired National Intelligence Estimates and produced/briefed the President’s Daily Brief. He is now on the Steering Group of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS).


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