And you thought this was over?


We haven’t even heard nor seen the worst of what happened to people imprisoned in AbuGhraib. Eric Fair, the author of the book, Consequence comes out four square against torture or enhanced interrogation saying they are one and the same.  You can find an interview with him here.  What he is saying is what you can find in the pages of Miscellany101 since day one of the war but in today’s political climate where presidential candidates are calling for torture in very explicit terms and not caring to even debate its illegality Fair’s book should be front and center in any public debate on foreign policy where the issue of torture is brought up.

However, there has always been a lingering suspicion that we what we were told only scratched the surface and this latest news piece confirms that.

According to a number of global mainstream media sources, the Pentagon is covering up a disturbing video that was never made public with the rest of the recent torture report.

… the appalling video was recorded at Abu Ghraib, the notorious US torture dungeon in Iraq that made headlines roughly a decade ago, when the inhumane tactics being used at the prison were exposed……While the video has remained under wraps thus far, Hersh says it is only a matter of time before it comes out.

Giving a speech at the ACLU last week after the senate torture report was initially released, Hersh gave some insight into what was on the Pentagon’s secret tape.

In the most revealing portion of his speech he said that:

“Debating about it, ummm … Some of the worst things that happened you don’t know about, okay? Videos, um, there are women there. Some of you may have read that they were passing letters out, communications out to their men. This is at Abu Ghraib … The women were passing messages out saying ‘Please come and kill me, because of what’s happened’ and basically what happened is that those women who were arrested with young boys, children in cases that have been recorded. The boys were sodomized with the cameras rolling. And the worst above all of that is the soundtrack of the boys shrieking that your government has. They are in total terror. It’s going to come out.”

An Open letter to America from James Baldwin


The day after Super Tuesday, 2016 when America is on the verge of seeing a known racist, xenophobic Islamophobe become the titular head of a major American political party James Baldwin‘s words ring clearer and truer today than they did over 45 years ago.

Angela Davis

Angela Davis

Initially he wrote this open letter to Angela Davis in response to her arrest stemming from a prison escape attempt made by Jonathan P Jackson.  In it he alludes to the handcuffs plainly visible in the photos of her arrest. The details regarding her arrest are still today shrouded in controversy but irrelevant to the contents of Baldwin’s letter. The letter written during the height of the civil rights struggle which included the murder of countless people dedicated to that struggle, those known and lesser know, uses symbolism that strikes a cord in today’s political climate.  It is an indictment of an atmosphere that cultivates fear and hatred, insecurity and desperation.

 

November 19, 1970

Dear Sister:

One might have hoped that, by this hour, the very sight of chains on black flesh, or the very sight of chains, would be so intolerable a sight for the American people, and so unbearable a memory, that they would themselves spontaneously rise up and strike off the manacles. But, no, they appear to glory in their chains; now, more than ever, they appear to measure their safety in chains and corpses. ………

You look exceedingly alone—as alone, say, as the Jewish housewife in the boxcar headed for Dachau, or as any one of our ancestors, chained together in the name of Jesus, headed for a Christian land………

I am trying to suggest that you—for example—do not appear to be your father’s daughter in the same way that I am my father’s son. At bottom, my father’s expectations and mine were the same, the expectations of his generation and mine were the same; and neither the immense difference in our ages nor the move from the South to the North could alter these expectations or make our lives more viable. For, in fact, to use the brutal parlance of that hour, the interior language of that despair, he was just a nigger—a nigger laborer preacher, and so was I. I jumped the track but that’s of no more importance here, in itself, than the fact that some poor Spaniards become rich bull fighters, or that some poor black boys become rich—boxers, for example. That’s rarely, if ever, afforded the people more than a great emotional catharsis, though I don’t mean to be condescending about that, either. But when Cassius Clay became Muhammed Ali and refused to put on that uniform (and sacrificed all that money!) a very different impact was made on the people and a very different kind of instruction had begun.

The American triumph—in which the American tragedy has always been implicit—was to make black people despise themselves. When I was little I despised myself, I did not know any better. And this meant, albeit unconsciously, or against my will, or in great pain, that I also despised my father. And my mother. And my brothers. And my sisters. Black people were killing each other every Saturday night out on Lenox Avenue, when I was growing up; and no one explained to them, or to me, that it wasintended that they should; that they were penned where they were, like animals, in order that they should consider themselves no better than animals. Everything supported this sense of reality, nothing denied it: and so one was ready, when it came time to go to work, to be treated as a slave. So one was ready, when human terrors came, to bow before a white God and beg Jesus for salvation—this same white God who was unable to raise a finger to do so little as to help you pay your rent, unable to be awakened in time to help you save your child!

There is always, of course, more to any picture than can speedily be perceived and in all of this—groaning and moaning, watching, calculating, clowning, surviving, and outwitting, some tremendous strength was nevertheless being forged, which is part of our legacy today. But that particular aspect of our journey now begins to be behind us. The secret is out: we are men!

But the blunt, open articulation of this secret has frightened the nation to death. I wish I could say, “to life,” but that is much to demand of a disparate collection of displaced people still cowering in their wagon trains and singing “Onward Christian Soldiers.” The nation, if America is a nation, is not in the least prepared for this day. It is a day which the Americans never expected or desired to see, however piously they may declare their belief in “progress and democracy.” These words, now, on American lips, have become a kind of universal obscenity: for this most unhappy people, strong believers in arithmetic, never expected to be confronted with the algebra of their history.

One way of gauging a nation’s health, or of discerning what it really considers to be its interests—or to what extent it can be considered as a nation as distinguished from a coalition of special interests—is to examine those people it elects to represent or protect it. One glance at the American leaders (or figure-heads) conveys that America is on the edge of absolute chaos, and also suggests the future to which American interests, if not the bulk of the American people, appear willing to consign the blacks. (Indeed, one look at our past conveys that.) It is clear that for the bulk of our (nominal) countrymen, we are all expendable. And Messrs. Nixon, Agnew, Mitchell, and Hoover, to say nothing, of course, of the Kings’ Row basket case, the winning Ronnie Reagan, will not hesitate for an instant to carry out what they insist is the will of the people.

But what, in America, is the will of the people? And who, for the above-named, are the people? The people, whoever they may be, know as much about the forces which have placed the above-named gentlemen in power as they do about the forces responsible for the slaughter in Vietnam (or Iraq, or Afghanistan or Syria or Kosovo). The will of the people, in America, has always been at the mercy of an ignorance not merely phenomenal, but sacred, and sacredly cultivated: the better to be used by a carnivorous economy which democratically slaughters and victimizes whites and blacks alike. But most white Americans do not dare admit this (though they suspect it) and this fact contains mortal danger for the blacks and tragedy for the nation.

Or, to put it another way, as long as white Americans take refuge in their whiteness—for so long as they are unable to walk out of this most monstrous of traps—they will allow millions of people to be slaughtered in their name, and will be manipulated into and surrender themselves to what they will think of—and justify—as a racial war. They will never, so long as their whiteness puts so sinister a distance between themselves and their own experience and the experience of others, feel themselves sufficiently human,sufficiently worthwhile, to become responsible for themselves, their leaders, their country, their children, or their fate. They will perish (as we once put it in our black church) in their sins—that is, in their delusions. And this is happening, needless to say, already, all around us.

……….White lives, for the forces which rule in this country, are no more sacred than black ones, as many and many a student is discovering, as the white American corpses in Vietnam prove. If the American people are unable to contend with their elected leaders for the redemption of their own honor and the lives of their own children, we, the blacks, the most rejected of the Western children, can expect very little help at their hands: which, after all, is nothing new. What the Americans do not realize is that a war between brothers, in the same cities, on the same soil, is not a racial war but a civil war. But the American delusion is not only that their brothers all are white but that the whites are all their brothers.

So be it. We cannot awaken this sleeper, and God knows we have tried. We must do what we can do, and fortify and save each other—we are not drowning in an apathetic self-contempt, we do feel ourselves sufficiently worthwhile to contend even with inexorable forces in order to change our fate and the fate of our children and the condition of the world! We know that a man is not a thing and is not to be placed at the mercy of things. We know that air and water belong to all mankind and not merely to industrialists. We know that a baby does not come into the world merely to be the instrument of someone else’s profit. We know that democracy does not mean the coercion of all into a deadly—and, finally, wicked—mediocrity but the liberty for all to aspire to the best that is in him, or that has ever been.

We know that we, the blacks, and not only we, the blacks, have been, and are, the victims of a system whose only fuel is greed, whose only god is profit. We know that the fruits of this system have been ignorance, despair, and death, and we know that the system is doomed because the world can no longer afford it—if, indeed, it ever could have. And we know that, for the perpetuation of this system, we have all been mercilessly brutalized, and have been told nothing but lies, lies about ourselves and our kinsmen and our past, and about love, life, and death, so that both soul and body have been bound in hell.

The enormous revolution in black consciousness which has occurred in your generation, my dear sister, means the beginning or the end of America. Some of us, white and black, know how great a price has already been paid to bring into existence a new consciousness, a new people, an unprecedented nation. If we know, and do nothing, we are worse than the murderers hired in our name.

If we know, then we must fight for your life as though it were our own—which it is—and render impassable with our bodies the corridor to the gas chamber. For, if they take you in the morning, they will be coming for us that night.

Therefore: peace.

Brother James

 

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The judicial system’s new “crack” cocaine fix


crack vs powderRemember how the punishment for possessing or dealing in crack was substantially higher than for cocaine, even though “crack” was nothing more than cocaine on steroids?  That disparity was eliminated when President Obama signed the Fair Sentencing Act in 2010 because quite frankly is disproportionately negatively impacted minorities.  The Act was unanimously approved by both Houses of Congress meaning it faced no serious opposition from Republicans.

As usual, the criminal justice system has found other ways to exacerbate racial divisions in enforcement and punishment and have filled the gap with “suspended license” offenses.  Like all bad policy it has not yielded the intended results of increased revenue for the “State” simply because it was not well thought out and unfair public policy.  Basically what happens is suspended licensestates “suspend” a person’s drivers license if they are unable to pay court costs for appearances before the judicial system for any offense meaning the only way a driver can retrieve or if they don’t have one get a license is by paying all past due court costs. Of course it doesn’t matter if you have to drive to get to work or not, and in the case of  places with large rural populations like Tennessee where public transportation is sparse in some areas, tough! Such poorly planned law means a person commits the other illegal act of driving with a suspended license and when caught only increases their debt and criminal record…..if they’re lucky enough to survive the encounter with police when ticketed for such an offense.   The NYT piece goes on to say

Going through the legal system, even for people charged with nonviolent misdemeanors, can be expensive, with fines, public defender fees, probation fees and other costs running into hundreds and sometimes thousands of dollars. Many people cannot pay.

As a result, some states have begun suspending driver’s licenses for unsatisfied debts stemming from any criminal case, from misdemeanors like marijuana possession to felonies in which court costs can reach into the tens of thousands of dollars……..Most states also suspend licenses for failure to pay traffic fines, another policy that critics say creates a quicksand of debt.

Though the law was projected to raise more than $20 million a year, it has not come close, according to state agencies. Revenue from litigation taxes, the primary court fee collected by the state, has remained flat and even declined a bit in 2014, and license reinstatement fees have increased far less than was anticipated.

But since suspensions under the law began in mid-2012, almost 90,000 licenses have been suspended. Over the same period, 170,000 Tennessee licenses were suspended for unpaid traffic tickets. In both categories, more than 40 percent of the suspended drivers were black, compared with 16 percent of state residents.

Bad policy often gives bad results that are of no benefit to the state or its citizens.  This trend in the justice system is another example of bad policy.  Fix this America!!

 

John Boehner’s outrageous plan to help a foreign leader undermine Obama


When I first saw this headline, I tweeted how some members of America’s body politic love all of these foreign leaders rather than their own President and as they stand compared to Obama, these leaders, Putin and Netanyahu  are losers in the arena of policy vis-a-vis American interests.  That hasn’t stopped Speaker of the House, Joh n Boehner from doing an end round and bringing Netanyahu to town to upstage the American President.  America, love it or move to Israel…

Vox

House Speaker John Boehner has invited Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to speak to a joint session of Congress in February, on the topic of Iran. On the surface, this might seem innocent enough. Israel is a close American ally. Surely he should be welcome in Congress, particularly to discuss an issue that concerns his country.

On the surface, Netanyahu’s speech will be about opposing Obama’s nuclear talks with Iran and supporting Republican-led sanctions meant to blow up those talks.

But there’s more than meets the eye here. Netanyahu is playing a game with US domestic politics to try to undermine and pressure Obama — and thus steer US foreign policy. Boehner wants to help him out. By reaching out to Netanyahu directly and setting up a visit without the knowledge of the White House, he is undermining not just Obama’s policies but his very leadership of US foreign policy. The fact that Netanyahu is once again meddling in American politics, and that a US political party is siding with a foreign country over their own president, is extremely unusual, and a major break with the way that foreign relations usually work.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with Obama in the White House in March 2014 (Andrew Harrer-Pool/Getty)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with Obama in the White House in March 2014 (Andrew Harrer-Pool/Getty)

Throughout Obama’s tenure, he has clashed with Netanyahu. That is no secret, and it’s nothing new for American and Israeli leaders to disagree, sometimes very publicly. But Netanyahu, beginning in May 2011, adopted a new strategy to try to deal with this: using domestic American politics as a way to try to push around Obama.

During a trip that month to Washington, Netanyahu publicly lectured Obama at a press conference and then gave a speech to Congress slamming the president. That speech, also hosted by Republicans, received many standing ovations for Netanyahu’s finger-wagging criticism of Obama.

At first it appeared that Netanyahu was merely trying to steer Obama’s foreign policy in a direction that he, Netanyahu, preferred. Obama wanted Netanyahu to freeze Israeli settlement growth in the West Bank, for example; Obama has also sought, in his second term, to reach a nuclear deal with Iran that Netanyahu earnestly believes is a bad idea.

Netanyahu’s first responsibility is to Israel’s national interests, not to Obama, so it makes sense that he would push for policies that he thinks are good for Israel.

But in 2011 Netanyahu started going a step further, and appeared to be working to actively remove Obama from power. During the 2012 election cycle, Netanyahu and his government were increasingly critical of Obama and supportive of Republicans, including presidential candidate Mitt Romney, for whom he at times appeared to be actively campaigning. Netanyahu’s criticisms of Obama were so pointed that some of Obama’s opponents cut a campaign ad out of them. It became a joke within Israel that Netanyahu saw himself not as the leader of a sovereign country, but as the Republican senator from Israel.

But trying to unseat a foreign leader is not a joke, especially when that foreign leader is funding your military and guaranteeing your nation’s security.

Netanyahu’s government ramped down this strategy after Obama won; he even gave Obama the world’s most awkward congratulations speech. But throughout Obama’s second term he has once again gradually escalated from trying to influence Obama to actively undermining both the president and his party. The new Israeli ambassador to the US for months would not even bother to meet with National Security Advisor Susan Rice, yet held many meetings with Republican fundraiser Sheldon Adelson. Israel’s foreign policy, in other words, was more focused on undermining the American leadership than working with it.

The Jerusalem skyline (MARCO LONGARI/AFP/Getty)

The Jerusalem skyline (MARCO LONGARI/AFP/Getty)

Republicans, aware that Americans are supportive of Israel, have urged on Netanyahu’s anti-Obama campaign since it began in 2011. Inviting him to speak to Congress that year was shrewd domestic politics, and it will be shrewd legislative politics next month when Netanyahu publicly supports the GOP’s sanctions efforts.

This makes sense within the narrow scope of domestic politics — if you can use something to convince voters your party and its policies are a better choice than your opponents, you use it, even if that something is a foreign head of state. But members of Congress are purportedly supposed to put their country before their party, and siding with a foreign leader over your own president doesn’t seem to do that. Neither does cheering a foreign leader when he lambasts the president of the United States.

More to the point, it was a really significant breach when some conservatives supported Netanyahu’s implicit lobbying on behalf of the Romney campaign. If a foreign country wants to unseat your president, that is generally considered an outrageous breach. But Netanyahu has been invited in, and with the 2016 presidential elections ramping up it appears likely he will be invited in once more to implicitly run against the Democrats.

This speaks, in a very real sense, to just how extreme political polarization has become in Washington.

This sort of practice is bad for America’s ability to conduct foreign policy

To be very clear, this is not just a breach of protocol: it’s a very real problem for American foreign policy. The Supreme Court has codified into law the idea that only the president is allowed to make foreign policy, and not Congress, because if there are two branches of government setting foreign policy then America effectively has two foreign policies.

The idea is that the US government needs to be a single unified entity on the world stage in order to conduct effective foreign policy. Letting the president and Congress independently set their own foreign policies would lead to chaos. It would be extremely confusing for foreign leaders, and foreign publics, who don’t always understand how domestic American politics work, and could very easily misread which of the two branches is actually setting the agenda. (This confusion, by the way, is exactly what some Republicans are hoping to create in Iran with new sanctions.)

This could also allow a foreign country to play those two branches off of each other. That’s in part what Netanyahu is attempting to do here, and it’s working. The Obama administration did not even find out about Netanyahu’s planned visit to Washington until Boehner announced it. The Republicans are attempting to run a foreign policy that’s separate from the actual, official US foreign policy.

One more anti-Obama speech from Netanyahu on the floor of Congress is not going to break US foreign policy, of course. But it’s troubling that Republicans are willing to breach such an important principle for some pretty modest short-term gains.

Jihad in Islam


One always hears how there are no voices opposing Islamic terrorism, or so the saying goes, although the two term “Islamic terrorism” is an oxymoron, and it’s really a false argument.  If you want to know what Muslims say about terrorism there are plenty of places where you can find the voice that expressly unequivocally denounces terrorism.  One can find a very good source here if you care to look.  jihad

However, as for the issue of “jihad”, there’s lots written about it but it all boils down to this.

Declare your Jihad on thirteen enemies you cannot see – egoism, arrogance, conceit, selfishness, greed, lust, intolerance, anger, lying, cheating, gossiping, and slandering. If you can master and destroy them, then you are ready to fight the enemy you can see.

Ok…do you know anyone who has fought jihad in the way described above?

 

Dueling tweets


These two tweets ran across one another in the net-o-sphere

Right

 

Left

…and here’s the skinny

The number of Americans who have been killed by Islamic extremists in the United States since September 2001 is just 21 — less than two per year — and none of them on airplanes. Statistically speaking, you’re several times more likely to be fatally attacked on an American schoolyard: in just the year and a half since the December 2012 Sandy Hook attack, 28 people have been killed in US school shootings. And meanwhile, right-wing extremists — virtually all of them white — have killed 37 people since 2001.

The truth about Gaza’s tunnels


A thing or two about “terror tunnels”

SAMI KISHAWI

When I visited family in Gaza City in 2011, they reluctantly agreed to take me to see some of the tunnels that had been constructed in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip.

At the time, there were an estimated 1,200 to 1,500 tunnels criss-crossing their ways underneath Gaza’s border with Egypt. Designed to outsmart the blockade that had essentially cut the coastal territory off from the world since 2006, the tunnels instantly grew in popularity. They were seen as a source of relief. The food, construction materials, and even animals that Israel had banned from entering the Strip was finding another way in.

As Israel and the Egyptian government cooperated to keep even the most basic necessities out of the Gaza Strip, smugglers went to work. In just three to ten minutes, a runner could smuggle anything he wanted from one of the tunnel to the other. Many requests were bold — new cars, tunnel-kfc deliveryhealthy sheep, a family who had waited too long at the border — and some were ridiculous — a family meal from KFC, and why not a wife — but they all got through. So is the quick-witted brilliance of the Palestinian under occupation.

With the popularity grew attention, and the Israeli and Egyptian governments agreed to handle the threatening illusion of freedom with force. Egyptian armed forces demolished any tunnel they uncovered. The Israeli military launched air strikes even during periods of rest with the same purpose in mind.

Since then, the number of tunnels in Gaza has certainly grown. It is a bafflingly elaborate system, and although few people will ever be able to conceptually grasp the full extensiveness of the tunnel network, a quick look at the tunnels themselves reveal just how much time and effort goes into them.tunnel-bride

As I stood at the mouth of a tunnel used primarily to shuttle fish from an Egyptian port, one smuggler gave me a brief rundown of how the tunnels are built and, in some cases, destroyed. Curiously, he had no qualms about me taking photographs. Israel knew everything there was to know about his tunnels, he informed me. The one that smuggled fish and other small food goods had been hit six times already, prompting him to reinforce the interior of his tunnel with steel plates. Three years later, I am unsure if his tunnels still exist.

This is what the tunnels were built for in the first place, and for the most part, this is what they continue to be used for. Israel knowingly targets them, claiming them to be security concerns when all the tunnels really do is relieve a bit of the pressure that people in Gaza have had to face for almost a decade now.

There are other tunnels that are used to connect opposite ends of the Gaza Strip without exposure to Israeli weaponry. These tunnels are used by Palestinian government leaders who constantly have to duck Israeli assassination attempts as well as resistance fighters who are legally entitled to resist their occupier. Never forget this last part, I am always told.

These very same tunnels were the ones used to keep Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit alive when he was captured and taken as a prisoner of war on June 25, 2006. Shalit would later be swapped in a prisoner exchange with the Israeli government.

Lately, however, new tunnels have been uncovered in the northern Gaza Strip that are being used in the defense of Palestine. As part of the Israeli military’s egregious public relations campaign, Israel has officially dubbed them “terror tunnels,” carrying absolutely no context whatsoever.

tunnel-sheepTo Israel, every tunnel — be it one that brings food into an impoverished Gaza Strip where over half of the population depends on food aid or one that delivers sheep to a Khan Younis farmer who lost his other farm animals to a prior Israeli incursion — is a “terror tunnel”. The phrase alone has given Israel the impunity it feels it needs to enact vengeance against the Gaza’s population. After all, “terror tunnels” was the pretext for Israel’s repeated bombardment of the Shuja’iyya neighborhood or the Jabalya Refugee Camp, where hundreds including many children were massacred and thousands displaced.

“Terror tunnels” is also why entire city blocks were wiped off the map, or why every single building in Beit Hanoun is either damaged or demolished, or why Eid Al-Fitr wasn’t celebrated in Gaza. “Terror tunnels” is Israel’s attempt at justifying war crimes and human rights abuses in the Strip, which are increasingly being investigated by the United Nations and other international observers.

Israel’s media strategists and spokespeople have been trained to bring up the “terror tunnels” as often as possible. In some cases, they even present the tunnels with unsubstantiated claims that they were built to ‘massacre’ Israelis.

The message they give is that Palestinians are popping out of the ground like groundhogs, and that Israel is simply hammering them back into the ground. Israel is, in essence, basing its invasion of the Gaza Strip on a hypothetical. But Gaza is all too familiar with this. Each Israeli major military offensive on the Gaza Strip has been announced as a necessary defensive maneuver to keep Israel from being wiped off of the map. Meanwhile, Israel wipes Gaza off the map.

Incidentally, one such “terror tunnel” made its way onto cameras yesterday when Hamas fighters filmed their infiltration of the Nahal Oz military base in southern Israel. Five Israeli soldiers were reported killed.

In another “terror tunnel” story that happened today, three Israeli soldiers fell into a booby-trapped tunnel entrance in the southern Gaza Strip.

While the Israeli government continues to purport the idea that the tunnels are meant to target thousands of Israelis, we are left with the very obvious: every single military assault carried out by Palestinian fighters that has used an infiltrating tunnel has only ever targeted Israeli soldiers. In other words, armed tunnel activity is targeting armed and active combatants, not civilians or noncombatants. Maybe Israel can learn a thing or two.

Meanwhile, the death toll in Gaza has just exceeded 1,300. Most of the dead, according to the United Nations, are civilians, with over 250 children.

Israel, who says that it acts solely in self-defense, is enacting on Gaza the kind of destruction and misery that it projects to the world as its greatest fear.

Israel, whose spokespeople say it acts “as surgically as is humanly possible,” has no regard for civilians in the Gaza Strip.

Israel, with its seemingly endless supply of advanced and pinpoint-accurate weaponry, has demolished entire neighborhoods and taken so many lives in search of tunnel entrances no larger than two meters in width.

Who Broke the Ceasefire?


By Max Blumenthal, Allison Deger

A beleaguered looking President Barack Obama appeared before the Washington press corps Friday to lash into Hamas for supposedly violating the 72-hour humanitarian cease-fire that his Secretary of State John Kerry and the United Nations had labored so tirelessly to secure.

“I have unequivocally condemned Hamas and the Palestinian factions that were responsible for killing two Israeli soldiers and abducting a third minutes after a cease-fire was announced,” Obama said.

But evidence supporting Obama’s claim of Hamas responsibility has been difficult to come by. Indeed, even the Israeli Army news desk was unable to provide AlterNet with a clear narrative or substantial evidence regarding the incident in question. Moreover, accounts published in Arabic by Hamas’s military wing along with details provided by the PLO indicate that the killing of two soldiers and disappearance of another actually occurred before the cease-fire went into effect — when Israel was assaulting Rafah.

“Today at 9:30, terrorists executed an attack from which two soldiers were killed and an additional is now missing and therefore he is suspected to have been abducted,” an Israeli army spokesperson told AlterNet. The army spokesperson went on to state that Hamas and the army “exchanged shelling,” yet they were unable to provide details on the source of the Palestinian fire. “They used several forms of fire simultaneously,” was all the spokesperson could divulge.

“I cannot confirm at the moment as we are still looking into it, but it may have been live bullets and a suicide belt,” which killed the soldiers, the army spokesperson said.

When asked why the army did not have a solid account of the events that broke the promised 72-hour cease-fire, the army spokesperson maintained, “There were terrorists and they attacked the soldiers, two soldiers didn’t just drop dead.”

Tweets from Gaza contradict official US-Israeli claims

The PLO and Palestinian Authority both insisted to AlterNet that Hamas fighters engaged Israeli soldiers inside Gaza well before the cease-fire took effect – and during an Israeli assault on Rafah leading up to the 8am cease-fire.

“They aborted the cease-fire from the beginning,” said Nabil Shaath from the PLO’s Central Committee.

A veteran negotiator, Shaath has become the de facto liaison between the PLO and Hamas. He confirmed to AlterNet that PA President Mahmoud Abbas received a briefing from Hamas this morning on the incident near Rafah. Shaath’s account reflects details provided directly by Hamas officials in the Gaza Strip.

According to Shaath, at 6am Hamas fighters engaged Israeli forces in Rafah. He maintained that it was then — almost two hours before the cease-fire went into effect — that the two Israeli soldiers were killed and the other went missing.

Shaath’s account was supported by dispatches published before the cease-fire went into effect by the official Twitter account of Hamas’s Qassam Brigades military wing. In a tweet published at 7:34 a.m. on August 1, the Qassam Brigades stated, “At 7 a.m. a group [of Hamas fighters] clashed with [Israeli] forces east of Rafah and caused many injuries and death to them.”

In a separate tweet published at 6:22 a.m. on the say day, the Qassam Brigades declared, “At 6:30 a.m., a group of the Qassam infiltrated behind enemy lines at east Rafah and bombed a house that the enemy had taken as a stronghold with a Tandem missile after the enemies bombed the whole area.”

The following day, Qassam Brigades reiterated its description of the incident in an official statement: “The clashes began at 7.00am, before the proposed truce was in effect, while the enemy launched its attack on civilians at 10 a.m, blatantly violating the truce in aims of finding a missing soldier.”

Qassam Brigades added that it had “no knowledge regarding the soldier missing in action [Lt. Hadar Goldin] or his location or the circumstances of his disappearance” — a departure from previous instances when it trumpeted claims that it had captured Israeli troops. Despite the denial, Obama vehemently demanded that Hamas unconditionally release Goldin.

The cease-fire was first violated at 8:30 a.m., according to Shaath, when the Israeli army destroyed 19 buildings in an operation to demolish tunnels. “Destroying tunnels is destroying houses,” Shaath said, noting that the cease-fire allowed hostile Israeli forces to continue to operate inside the Gaza Strip, making violence almost inevitable. “We do not accept a cease-fire that allows the invader to attack and murder,” he declared.

Conflicting claims and evidence ignored

In announcing the brief cease-fire, Kerry said its terms authorized Israeli forces to carry out“defensive” operations against tunnels. He seemed unaware of the ramifications of such an agreement, or what Israel’s attacks on tunnels actually entailed. A glimpse at Human Rights Watch’s bracing report on the Israeli army’s brutal assault on Rafah in 2004, “Razing Rafah,” which it conducted under the auspices of anti-tunnel operations, would have offered a glimpse of what was to come. (American activist Rachel Corrie was killed by an Israeli bulldozer during the 2003 attack on Rafah).

Following the incident in Rafah that left two Israeli soldiers dead and one presumed missing, Kerry immediately declared that Hamas had committed an “outrageous violation of the cease-fire.” White House Press Secretary Joshua Earnest echoed Kerry by accusing Hamas of “a barbaric violation of the cease-fire agreement.”

But sources offer starkly conflicting accounts of the incident in question. The Israeli army claimed to AlterNet that Lt. Hadar Goldin went missing at 9:30 a.m., an hour and a half after the cease-fire was declared. Yet Obama claimed that the attack occurred “minutes after the cease-fire began.” For their part, Qassam reported engaging and killing Israeli soldiers well before 8 a.m.

So when did the incident actually occur? And why was Obama’s information so dramatically different from details the Israeli army was furnishing journalists with?

More importantly, why was the Obama administration so quick to jump to conclusions?

Framing Hamas, driving the death toll

Perhaps the answer was credulousness or sheer laziness, with its diplomatic corps and intelligence services neglecting to examine sensitive details from sources on the ground. But the more likely explanation is that Washington has sought to frame Hamas as the aggressor to enable Israel to intensify military operations disproportionately directed against a besieged civilian population.

Since violence escalated in mid-July, the Obama administration has demonstrated a disturbing pattern of legitimizing suspect Israeli claims about Hamas’s malevolence and bad faith. In each case, the administration provided political cover for disproportionate Israeli violence, deepening the damage to civilian life in the West Bank and Gaza. And in each case, Washington’s claims were ultimately discredited — but only after Israel had ratcheted the violence up to a frightening new stage.

The first case of irresponsible enabling by the Obama administration occurred in the immediate wake of the kidnapping of three Israeli teens in the occupied West Bank on June 12. It was on June 15, before evidence was made public about the kidnapping suspects’ identities, that Kerry pointed the finger at Hamas, suggesting that the organization’s leadership had authorized the crime. His words helped justify Operation Brother’s Keeper, an army rampage through the West Bank in which thousands of Palestinian homes were raided, over 500 were arrested without charges, and 6 civilians were killed.

A month later, Israeli Police Spokesman Mickey Rosenfeld finally admitted what was widely known and had been extensively documented: Hamas leadership had no role in or advance knowledge of the kidnappings. But by then, the damage to the West Bank had already been done. Kerry has yet to retract his demonstrably false and damaging claim.

The next case of Obama administration enabling came on July 15 as the military regime of Egypt – a ferocious antagonist of the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas – introduced a cease-fire proposal developed in intimate collaboration with Israel that would not have lifted the 8-year-long siege of Gaza. Hamas had not been consulted on the proposal or even briefed on its details, exposing it as a hollow document conceived as a ruse to frame the Palestinian faction as rejectionists. Kerry brought the Israeli-Egyptian scheme to its fulfillment when he launched into an indignant condemnation of Hamas for rejecting the Egyptian proposal, accusing the group of “purposely playing politics.”

Kerry’s statement was a political boon to Netanyahu, providing the Prime Minister with all the cover he sought to initiate and expand ground invasion of Gaza. Hamas’s refusal to accept the proposal “gives Israel full legitimacy to expand the operation to protect our people,” Netanyahu declared on July 15.

Human catastrophe with no end in sight

Some thousand civilian deaths later, with morgues filled with the bodies of children and the UN no longer able to care for the 25% of the Gaza Strip forced to flee from sectors of the Gaza Strip that resemble post-apocalyptic moonscapes, the Obama administration was at it again. As before, they blamed Hamas without the benefit of anything remotely resembling substantial evidence.

In turn, Washington provided political legitimacy to military operations aimed at an occupied and vulnerable civilian population with nowhere to flee, allowing the killing to continue unabated. Following the collapse of the cease-fire, Israel bombarded Rafah with US-supplied F-16’s and tank artillery, decimating the center of the city and killing over 70. At the time of publication, the death toll is rapidly rising.

Meanwhile, the talks scheduled to take place in Egypt over the next 72 hours seem to have fallen into shambles.

Obama has described the scenes of human misery pouring out of the Gaza Strip as “heartbreaking.” If only he and his administration had demanded evidence before enabling Israeli aggression, he might have been able to forgo the empty displays of hand-wringing. More importantly, hundreds of innocent lives might have been spared from a marauding army operating behind a shroud of impunity.

Why Israel Lies


Chris Hedges

All governments lie, as I.F. Stone pointed out, including Israel and Hamas. But Israel engages in the kinds of jaw-dropping lies that characterize despotic and totalitarian regimes. It does not deform the truth; it inverts it. It routinely paints a picture for the outside world that is diametrically opposed to reality. And all of us reporters who have covered the occupied territories have run into Israel’s Alice-in-Wonderland narratives, which we dutifully insert into our stories—required under the rules of American journalism—although we know they are untrue.

I saw small boys baited and killed by Israeli soldiers in the Gaza refugee camp of Khan Younis. The soldiers swore at the boys in Arabic over the loudspeakers of their armored jeep. The boys, about 10 years old, then threw stones at an Israeli vehicle and the soldiers opened fire, killing some, wounding others. I was present more than once as Israeli troops drew out and then shot Palestinian children in this way. Such incidents, in the Israeli lexicon, become children caught in crossfire. I was in Gaza when F-16 attack jets dropped 1,000-pound iron fragmentation bombs on overcrowded hovels in Gaza City. I saw the corpses of the victims, including children. This became a surgical strike on a bomb-making factory. I have watched Israel demolish homes and entire apartment blocks to create wide buffer zones between the Palestinians and the Israeli troops that ring Gaza. I have interviewed the destitute and homeless families, some camped out in crude shelters erected in the rubble. The destruction becomes the demolition of the homes of terrorists. I have stood in the remains of schools—Israel struck two United Nations schools this past week, causing at least 10 fatalities at one in Rafah on Sunday and at least 19 at one in the Jebaliya refugee camp Wednesday—as well as medical clinics and mosques. I have heard Israel claim that errant rockets or mortar fire from the Palestinians caused these and other deaths, or that the bombed spots were being used as arms depots or launching sites. I, along with every other reporter I know who has worked in Gaza, have never seen any evidence that Hamas uses civilians as “human shields.”

There is a perverted logic to Israel’s repeated use of the Big Lie—Große Lüge—the lie favored by tyrants from Adolf Hitler and Josef Stalin to Saddam Hussein. The Big Lie feeds the two reactions Israel seeks to elicit—racism among its supporters and terror among its victims.

By painting a picture of an army that never attacks civilians, that indeed goes out of its way to protect them, the Big Lie says Israelis are civilized and humane, and their Palestinian opponents are inhuman monsters. The Big Lie serves the idea that the slaughter in Gaza is a clash of civilizations, a war between democracy, decency and honor on one side and Islamic barbarism on the other. And in the uncommon cases when news of atrocities penetrates to the wider public, Israel blames the destruction and casualties on Hamas.

George Orwell in his novel “Nineteen Eighty-Four” called this form of propaganda doublethink. Doublethink uses “logic against logic” and “repudiate[s] morality while laying claim to it.” The Big Lie does not allow for the nuances and contradictions that can plague conscience. It is a state-orchestrated response to the dilemma of cognitive dissonance. The Big Lie permits no gray zones. The world is black and white, good and evil, righteous and unrighteous. The Big Lie allows believers to take comfort—a comfort they are desperately seeking—in their own moral superiority at the very moment they have abrogated all morality.

The Big Lie, as the father of American public relations, Edward Bernays, wrote, is limited only by the propagandist’s capacity to fathom and harness the undercurrents of individual and mass psychology. And since most supporters of Israel do not have a desire to know the truth, a truth that would force them to examine their own racism and self-delusions about Zionist and Western moral superiority, like packs of famished dogs they lap up the lies fed to them by the Israeli government. The Big Lie always finds fertile soil in what Bernays called the “logic-proof compartment of dogmatic adherence.” All effective propaganda, Bernays wrote, targets and builds upon these irrational “psychological habits.”

This is the world Franz Kafka envisioned, a world where the irrational becomes rational. It is one where, as Gustave Le Bon noted in “The Crowd: A Study of the Public Mind,” those who supply the masses with the illusions they crave become their master, and “whoever attempts to destroy their illusions is always their victim.” This irrationality explains why the reaction of Israeli supporters to those who have the courage to speak the truth—Uri Avnery, Max Blumenthal, Noam Chomsky, Jonathan Cook, Norman Finkelstein, Amira Hass, Gideon Levy, Ilan Pappé, Henry Siegman and Philip Weiss—is so rabid. That so many of these voices are Jewish, and therefore have more credibility than non-Jews who are among Israel’s cheerleaders, only ratchets up the level of hate.

But the Big Lie is also consciously designed to send a chilling message to Gaza’s Palestinians, who have lost large numbers of their dwellings, clinics, mosques, and power, water and sewage facilities, along with schools and hospitals, who have suffered some 1,650 deaths since this assault began—most of the victims women and children—and who have seen 400,000 people displaced from their homes. The Big Lie makes it clear to the Palestinians that Israel will continue to wage a campaign of state terror and will never admit its atrocities or its intentions. The vast disparity between what Israel says and what Israel does tells the Palestinians that there is no hope. Israel will do and say whatever it wants. International law, like the truth, will always be irrelevant. There will never, the Palestinians understand from the Big Lie, be an acknowledgement of reality by the Israeli leadership.

The Israel Defense Forces website is replete with this black propaganda. “Hamas exploits the IDF’s sensitivity towards protecting civilian structures, particularly holy sites, by hiding command centers, weapons caches and tunnel entrances in mosques,” the IDF site reads. “In Hamas’ world, hospitals are command centers, ambulances are transport vehicles, and medics are human shields,” the site insists.

“… [Israeli] officers are tasked with an enormous responsibility: to protect Palestinian civilians on the ground, no matter how difficult that may be,” the site assures its viewers. And the IDF site provides this quote from a drone operator identified as Lt. Or. “I have personally seen rockets fired at Israel from hospitals and schools, but we couldn’t strike back because of civilians nearby. In one instance, we acquired a target but we saw that there were children in the area. We waited around, and when they didn’t leave we were forced to abort a strike on an important target.”

Israel’s ambassador to the United States, Ron Dermer, in a Big Lie of his own, said last month at a conference of Christians United for Israel that the Israeli army should be given the “Nobel Peace Prize …  a Nobel Peace Prize for fighting with unimaginable restraint.”

The Big Lie destroys any possibility of history and therefore any hope for a dialogue between antagonistic parties that can be grounded in truth and reality. While, as Hannah Arendt pointed out, the ancient and modern sophists sought to win an argument at the expense of the truth, those who wield the Big Lie “want a more lasting victory at the expense of reality.” The old sophists, she said, “destroyed the dignity of human thought.” Those who resort to the Big Lie “destroy the dignity of human action.” The result, Arendt warned, is that “history itself is destroyed, and its comprehensibility.” And when facts no longer matter, when there is no shared history grounded in the truth, when people foolishly believe their own lies, there can be no useful exchange of information. The Big Lie, used like a bludgeon by Israel, as perhaps it is designed to be, ultimately reduces all problems in the world to the brutish language of violence. And when oppressed people are addressed only through violence they will answer only through violence.

The evil of Zionism


conflateNow that Gaza is being totally decimated one can see the evil of Zionism.  There is no equivalence between Hamas rockets and Israeli destruction of the Gaza strip.  We’ve seen the two are not even similar; but what has happened is Israel has used the illusion of the destructive nature of Hamas’ rockets to wage war on Palestinians, openly declaring it to all the world.  What they don’t say is “war” in Zionism’s world view  means , genocide is completely acceptable and a moral imperative.

Such talk of extermination, elimination was preceded by the complete and utter demonization of Palestinians by Israeli politicians and her supporters.  bloodiedAyelet Shaked a member of the Israeli parliament  in public remarks refers to Palestinians as “snakes” whose mothers should be killed their homes demolished and destroyed and Palestinian blood on the hands of Jews . It’s clear such a directive is being dutifully carried out by the IDF.

Israeli supporters have carried the baton of Zionist racism and Palestinian genocide to the pages of western media. The Wall Street Journal unabashedly published an editorial which conflates Palestinian civilians with Hamas thereby making it possible to kill them all. An Israeli “academic” called for the wholesale rape of Palestinian women as a way of deterring suicide  and presumably rocket attacks by Hamas against Israel, this despite the fact rape is a war crime. The Times of Israel published an op-ed piece that suggest the ‘goal of sustaining quiet is through genocide’……further expounding on the theme that mass murder is acceptable on the world stage.  The fact that such a hideous and reprehensible idea finds its way into the public discourse shows how much has been done to demonize Palestinian Arab Muslims to make their murder palatable. Were the object of such vilification Jews there would be world wide denouncement and a declaration of war, yet more and more the idea that Palestinians can be ravaged and murdered against all conventions of international civility except where zionism is concerned is finding traction among all segments of society here and abroad.  Frankly it’s ok for Israel to descend into this abyss; they can’t help it…it’s embedded in their ideology of race, superiority and power but to see it supported by the world’s exceptional democracy  is a travesty.

Another perspective of from the tragedy of last year’s Boston Marathon


RUNNING THE BOSTON MARATHON IN A HIJAB

Leanne-290Like many participants in the Boston Marathon on Monday, Leanne Scorzoni will be running to honor the victims of last year’s bombing. But Scorzoni will also be running in a hijab: she converted to Islam after the attack, and wants her participation to emphasize that Boston’s Muslim community was also hurt by the bombings.

Scorzoni has never run the race before, but the thirty-two-year-old Boston native has watched from the sidelines for decades. Scorzoni was raised in nearby Danvers, and every year her family would arrive at a spot near the corner of Clarendon and Boylston Streets at about 8:30 a.m. sometimes bringing pots and pans to help cheer on marathoners.

Last year, Scorzoni staked out the same spot near the finish line and waited to be joined by a friend of hers named Sam. Unfamiliar with Marathon Monday tradition, he arrived late and, at about 2:30 P.M., he asked where the nearest bathroom was. Scorzoni was reluctant to give up her view of the race, but eventually agreed to guide her friend through the crowds. When the bombs exploded at 2:50, the two were browsing at a nearby Banana Republic on Newbury Street, approximately four blocks away from the finish line. The store’s loud music muffled the blasts, but when Scorzoni turned on her cell phone, she found dozens of texts from friends and family, asking where she was and if she was O.K.—she had been standing less than two blocks away from the initial explosion. Scorzoni doesn’t believe a divine power carried her away from the attack that killed three people and injured more than two hundred and sixty: “It was because my friend had to pee,” she said.

The next day, Scorzoni says, local F.B.I. agents visited her at her job at Massachusetts General Hospital, where they asked about a photo she had uploaded to Facebook of Sam, who is Muslim and from the Middle East. Shaken by the bombing and the encounter with the F.B.I., Scorzoni regularly checked in on her Muslim friends in the days after the bombing. As the media began to sort out the background of the Tsarnaev brothers, local reports also began to surface of sporadic verbal and physical attacks on Muslims, and of hate mail being sent to mosques, including the Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center, in Roxbury, which the Los Angeles Times originally reported that Tamerlan Tsarnaev had attended, confusing it with the Islamic Society of Boston, located in Cambridge. Scorzoni read about the letters on the center’s Facebook page, but she also saw the many comments of support that came from across the country.

Leanne ScorzoniScorzoni was raised Catholic, but she abandoned the Church in 1999, shortly after family members publicly announced that local priests had sexually abused them. “I was eighteen; I was angry. I was just like, I’m not doing this anymore,” she said, adding that she would often belittle friends and family members over their religious beliefs.

Years later, one of her relatives who had been abused told Scorzoni that he had gotten over his anger toward religion and that she needed to do the same. When she moved back to Boston, in 2011, she remembered seeing many ads for the I.S.B.C.C. on public transportation around the city, and later found out that the center was two blocks from where she lived. She first visited the I.S.B.C.C. in the summer of 2012; on her way to the grocery store, she asked a woman who was leaving the mosque if anybody could visit. “I was thinking it was like Mormonism, where only Mormons can go in,” she said.

Scorzoni went into the center’s bookstore, where she met Sam for the first time and engaged in a three-hour discussion about religion with the shop’s owner. As she began to make new friends at the mosque, she would observe prayer services and occasionally sit on prayer rugs and meditate. The I.S.B.C.C. thus became a special place for her: it was she where she began to feel comfortable again with being in religious surroundings. In Islam, Scorzoni found “more of a sense of ritual and meditation and contemplation I wanted in my life.”

Five weeks after the bombing, she called Suhaib Webb, the imam of the I.S.B.C.C., and told him that she was ready to convert. She walked to the mosque in jeans, a shirt, and flip-flops; after the ceremony, she and Sam celebrated just as casually, eating watermelon and chicken fingers on the mosque’s steps.

The I.S.B.C.C. has been a visible force in the local Muslim community’s efforts to support victims of the bombing. Last Friday, the I.S.B.C.C. organized a khutbah, or sermon, in remembrance of victims, and, on Tuesday, Webb spoke at a night of “Remembrance and Hope” at the Old South Church. Scorzoni was also in attendance and, at one point during the evening, runners were asked to stand. “Everyone started clapping, and all the runners just started crying, and soon everyone was crying,” she said. “Everyone in the church prayed for all of us, not even just the runners—prayed for the city.”

While she regularly attends services and will wear a hijab on Monday, Scorzoni also carries what she describes as “white privilege,” which many other Muslims do not have. She works part-time teaching English as a second language; many of her students are young Muslims living alone in the United States or working seventy-hour weeks to support their families here. She knows that the Tsarnaev brothers, who lived in the United States for almost a decade, also had better upbringings than many other Muslims in the area, and thinks that their actions left lingering scars for those who dissociate from their radicalism.

“I just see it as the same way there’s good Catholics and you have the Westboro Baptist Church,” she said, referring to the extremist group that often stages protests against the gay community. “It’s just such a helpless anger, when you curl your hands into fists and you just want to say, ‘You’re forcing everyone else to go five steps back from where they’ve come from.’ These two kids just cheated other people out of their livelihood, their spots—people who could’ve made their own lives better.”

Two other I.S.B.C.C. members will join Scorzoni on Monday to run in the marathon. Officially, Scorzoni is running to raise money for Massachusetts General Hospital’s Center for Pediatric Hematology and Oncology. But, when people ask Scorzoni what they can do to help, she tells them to go to the marathon and show that the tradition will continue, uninterrupted.

On Monday, when Scorzoni crosses the finish line, her family will be there to cheer her on, as will Sam and other friends from the I.S.B.C.C. “I believe we are moving away from, ‘Hey, look, a Muslim doing something normal,’ ” Scorzoni said. “Now we see a myriad of cultures and religions here, as it should be.”

 

 

Chaos in Egypt


Some people seem to think this is what is necessary to restore democracy in Egypt after a coup replaced a democratically elected Egyptian president.  If this is what’s necessary to reinstitute democracy in Egypt then Egypt is doomed. No matter what one may think of the Muslim Brotherhood, if their distaste allows them to accept this level of violence against citizens of a country they suffer from a pathology akin to murder or genocide.  This is not how government should change hands and this level of violence should be condemned.  Any and all aide should be stopped and economic sanctions began immediately for as long as any Egyptian government condones and enacts this level of violence against its own.

A protester comforts a wounded colleague after Egyptian security forces began to clear a sit-in by supporters of ousted Islamist President Mohammed Morsi in the eastern Nasr City district of Cairo, Egypt,

A protester comforts a wounded colleague after Egyptian security forces began to clear a sit-in by supporters of ousted Islamist President Mohammed Morsi in the eastern Nasr City district of Cairo, Egypt,

A bullet hole is seen in the front of a gas mask belonging to a supporter of ousted Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi in Cairo's Nasr City district, Egypt, Wednesday, Aug. 14, 2013. Egyptian police in riot gear swept in with armored vehicles and bulldozers Wednesday to clear two sprawling encampments of supporters of the country's ousted Islamist president in Cairo, showering protesters with tear gas as the sound of gunfire rang out. (AP Photo/Manu Brabo)

A bullet hole is seen in the front of a gas mask belonging to a supporter of ousted Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi in Cairo’s Nasr City district, Egypt, Wednesday, Aug. 14, 2013. Egyptian police in riot gear swept in with armored vehicles and bulldozers Wednesday to clear two sprawling encampments of supporters of the country’s ousted Islamist president in Cairo, showering protesters with tear gas as the sound of gunfire rang out. (AP Photo/Manu Brabo)

Keith Olbermann’s Demise and Main Stream Media


Keith Olbermann has been fired by Current Tv and I am for one and very sad about this fact.  However, it now appears after some consideration, Olbermann, as brilliant as he is, is as much a symptom of the disease main stream media, MSM, has inflicted on society as he is a victim of the disease.

I have linked to his comments several times on this blog and think he was a passionate and capable voice for American progressives.  His firing comes very quickly after being dismissed from MSNBC and I’m  wondering is there any place left for Olbermann on American airwaves.  Olbermann is a by product of MSM and feeds on it as much as excoriating  it.

MSM in an effort to blunt the real impact of critical journalism makes its journalist like Olbermann, media stars for whom adulation is indispensable.  Stars in MSM are like movie stars and professional athletes where marketing is just as important as the product they give to the people.  In the case of journalists, the product, news, views, opinions based on facts often gets compromised as news “stars” find themselves slanting the news they give in order to insure their continued marketability.  I believe this is a cold, calculated intent of MSM management who thrust upon journalists immense salaries, high profile public exposure and all the perks of being stars in exchange for giving the public the type or slant of news management says is needed to make news companies profitable.  The other side of that equation is those in the limelight, the stars, take on sinister personalities, inflating their importance in sometimes very destructive ways.  That was the turn I believe Olbermann took.  His career in MSM is no doubt over.  There will be no major news outlet that will hire him and the passion he brought to the issues of the day is gone.

Instead of being despondent about that however, I’m optimistic.  For too long, people have pinned the hopes that their viewpoint will find a voice in this or that person, without giving any thought to empowering their voice themselves.  Perhaps people will take action  individually as well as collectively to pick up the mantle of progressiveness  that Olbermann so foolishly brandished and dropped.  I wish him well and hope he can resuscitate his career but I’m not counting on it and whether he will or not won’t deter what is written here, and hopefully elsewhere.

Iran and corporate media’s jaundice eye/ An UPDATE


There are forces at work that really want to see a war with Iran and  many of those forces are being encouraged by the duplicitous way main stream media has reported on the story of Iran and its perceived nuclear program. Dave Lindorff talked about that in his most recent pieceGoebbels Would Stand in Awe: The US Corporate News Media are Rank Propagandists on Iran.  Media never tires from war even though the rest of the country most likely has, so it appears they want to wake us from our war stupor to fight another

The sorry state of American journalism is on full display in the coverage by the corporate media of the ongoing crisis surrounding Iran’s nuclear fuel program.

The leaders of both Israel and the U.S. have publicly threatened to attack Iran — Israel saying it could do so within weeks, President Obama warning that he would consider attacking Iran militarily if he were convinced that that nation was building an atomic bomb.

Not once, in reporting on these threats of aggressive war by Israel and/or the United States, has any major U.S. news organization, in print or on the air, included any reference to the U.N. Charter or to the fact that what is being contemplated is an invasion by Israel or the United States of a country that has not even been shown to be producing or planning to produce a nuclear weapon, much less to be in possession of one. Not once, in any of these daily reports on the Iran “crisis,” has any report by these news organizations — including National Public Radio — interviewed a source who could point out that what is being discussed is the most serious of all war crimes: the crime against peace (the same crime that led to the hanging, after World War II, of several military leaders in Japan and Germany).

The law itself is crystal clear. Under the UN Charter it is the ultimate war crime for a nation to initiate an aggressive war against another country that has not attacked it or that does not pose an “imminent threat” of attack. And given that even Israeli and US intelligence officials concede that Iran is not at this time making a bomb, and thus cannot hope to have a working one even a year from now were they to begin a crash program, there is simply no imminent threat.

Even when a perfect opportunity arrived for making this point — a public statement Feb. 27 by Brazil’s Foreign Minister Antonio Patriota, at the United Nations, reminding UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon that an attack by Israel or the US on Iran would be “contrary to international law,” and urging Ban to address the issue — this trenchant and news-worthy warning was totally blacked out by the U.S. corporate news media.

There was no news report on Patriota’s warning in the Washington Post, the New York Times or other major newspapers. There was no mention of it on CNN or other major news stations either.

As far as most Americans go, the statement by the foreign minister of one of the world’s biggest nations, and a leader among the developing nations of the world, never happened.

Instead, the American news media have been running article after article, often on page one above the fold, or as the lead item on the hour, debating when Israel might attack Iran, whether the U.S. would come to Israel’s aid if it did attack, or if after it attacked, Iran retaliated by firing missiles at Israel, the US would join Israel. Even worse, the media have been running and airing stories quoting Pentagon sources and retired military personnel (often still on the Pentagon payroll) describing how an Israeli or a US attack on Iran would likely be conducted. All this without mentioning the criminality of it all.

It’s as though we were siting in Germany in 1938, reading articles in the local newspapers speculating about how Germany’s future attack on Poland would be conducted, or when and how the Blitzkrieg against the Low Countries would play out.

What we are getting is not news. It is propaganda. The Nazi propaganda chief Joseph Goebbels, had he not killed himself to avoid capture and execution for war crimes by the Allies at the end of the war, would surely marvel at how his methods are being aped and refined by the media in one of his leading democratic enemies some seven decades after he put the German media in service to the Third Reich.

At least the Los Angeles Times belatedly, on March 5, ran an op-ed article by Yale Law professor Bruce Ackerman making the point that a US attack on Iran would be both a war crime and a violation of US law. As he explains, since the US is a signatory of the UN Charter–a treaty ratified by the Senate — its provisions banning aggressive wars have become, under Article II of the US Constitution, an integral part of US law.

Ackerman notes that in 1981, when Israel unilaterally bombed and destroyed the Osirik nuclear reactor in Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, the US voted for a unanimous UN Security Council Resolution condemning that attack, and he quoted then British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, whose country also voted for the resolution, as saying, “Armed attack in such circumstances cannot be justified. It represents a grave breach of international law.”

But why is such information as Ackerman’s only appearing on the L.A. Times opinion page?

Ackerman is an authority on international law at one of the pre-eminent law schools in the country. He should be getting quoted as an authority in news articles where attacking Iran is being discussed. What he says about the U.N. Charter and about a war of aggression being flat-out illegal is not an opinion. It is a fact. He and this important fact belong on the news pages.

Bad enough that he is being relegated by the editors of the Los Angeles Times to the opinion page ghetto, but he is being totally ignored by the editors of other major news organizations. He is too dangerous even for their opinion pages.

When this kind of thing happens, it is clear that what passes for mainstream journalism in the US is not really journalism at all. It is propaganda–in this case pro-Israel, pro-war propaganda. That’s why we see calls in the US media for Iran to submit to UN inspection of its entire nuclear program, while no similar demand is made of Israel, which has some 300 nuclear weapons, and which has never allowed in any inspectors.

There is no difference between the war-mongering coverage by the mainstream media with respect to Iran today and the war-mongering coverage we experienced in 1982-1983 in the run-up to another criminal war of aggression, the Bush/Cheney invasion of Iraq — another country that posed no imminent threat to the United States.

Fortunately Americans willing to make the effort do have other sources of news. They could read the alternative US media, like this publication or perhaps look abroad, say at the Irish News Beacon online, where Patriota’s statement was reported properly as significant news. Unfortunately, most Americans are content to passively receive their “news” as it is vetted, twisted and spoon-fed to them from the corporate propaganda machine, though. This may explain why polls show more than 50 percent of Americans to be in support of a campaign to bomb Iran, while only 19 percent of Israelis, who still have real newspapers and real journalists at least, want to do the same thing.

Here’s more reasoning that you won’t read in corporate media about Iran and the supposed nuclear threat

The assumption that a short war of limited strikes will keep Iran from getting a nuclear weapon is flawed. Damage to Iran’s nuclear program from such a strike would be modest, likely requiring more strikes in another few years or a longer-term presence on the ground.

James Clapper, U.S. director of national intelligence, said an attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities would set back its nuclear program by one to two years. U.S. military action every few years is an unmanageable strategy.

Worse, attempts to stop Iran’s program militarily will bolster its resolve to pursue a nuclear deterrent. Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates has said the military solution will make Iranians “absolutely committed to obtaining nuclear weapons.” He continued, “… they will just go deeper and more covert.”

but what such a strike WILL do is plunge the area into further turmoil for another decade while depleting US military manpower, America’s financial coffers and her reputation throughout the world because of our inability to say no to a recalcitrant ally bent on the destruction of all those who say “no” to her.

 

Rodney King, part deux, or this happens all the time


Fifteen year old Chad Holley was found guilty of burglary and sentenced to 2 1/5 years probation, until he reaches eighteen years.  Holley was a first time offender who was charged along with several other accomplices for a crime whose notoriety was not in what he did, but rather what was done to him, and which resulted in the termination of 4 Houston police officers.

Essentially what you see in the tape below is an assault carried out by the police against an unarmed man, who was lying prone, unresistant, in full compliance, and who was the target of police rage.  He had no weapon, nor had he assaulted a police officer, his only crime was running from the officers after being a suspect in a burglary.  Had such a beating been visited upon anyone else by anyone else it would have resulted in charges against the perpetrators.  Luckily the police chief of Houston saw it that way in this case and four officers, are being charged for what you see on the tape.   In that respect, kudos to police chief Charles McClelland for ridding his department of four very bad apples.  You can read about just how bad they were, here.

What this speaks to however, is a wider problem with American society and that is opposition no matter what form it takes is met with inappropriate force to serve as an example of what happens to people who some consider ‘out of line’.  Holley in the video below is purely compliant, assumes a non-aggressive stance, with no report of him being verbally abusive towards police, but that is not good enough.  He had to be, in the minds of these officers, humiliated, humbled, terrorized because of his act of defiance….an act that did not merit the physical punishment he had to endure.  That has become the way we operate in general in today’s America.  If you resist, you must pay for your “crime” in the worse possible way; if physical punishment is not appropriate, then verbal harangue or litigation (as in the recent case of Jimmy Carter, which you can read about here) will be brought to bear with every available means in order to make you feel subjected to the power which you rebelled against.  This is the language we speak to one another today, that of wholehearted subjugation.  No one does it better than government, and no one is a better enforcer of that than the media and the police.

Beware False Prophets


Julian Assange at New Media Days 09 in Copenhagen.

Image via Wikipedia

Wikileaks and Julian Assange have generated a media frenzy with its release of secret documents which detail the machinations of countries, diplomacy and war and in the process angered a lot of people, especially those here in the US.  What isn’t so well known is how easily Wikileaks and Assange himself have been co-opted by the government of Israel.  Take a look.

A number of commentators, particularly in Turkey and Russia, have been wondering why the hundreds of thousands of American classified documents leaked by the website last month did not contain anything that may embarrass the Israeli government, like just about every other state referred to in the documents. The answer appears to be a secret deal struck between the WikiLeaks “heart and soul”, as Assange humbly described himself once [1], with Israeli officials, which ensured that all such documents were ‘removed’ before the rest were made public.

According to an Arabic investigative journalism website [2], Assange had received money from semi-official Israeli sources and promised them, in a “secret, video-recorded agreement,” not to publish any document that may harm Israeli security or diplomatic interests.

The sources of the Al-Haqiqa report are said to be former WikiLeaks volunteers who have left the organisation in the last few months over Assange’s “autocratic leadership” and “lack of transparency.”

In a recent interview with the German daily Die Tageszeitung, former WikiLeaks spokesperson Daniel Domscheit-Berg said he and other WikiLeaks dissidents are planning to launch their own whistleblowers’ platform to fulfil WikiLeaks’s original aim of “limitless file sharing.” [3]

Mr Domscheit-Berg, who is about to publish a book about his days ‘Inside WikiLeaks’, accuses Assange of acting as a “king” against the will of others in the organisation by “making deals” with media organisations that are meant to create an explosive effect, which others in WikiLeaks either know little or nothing about. [4]

Furthermore, Assange’s eagerness for headline-grabbing scoops meant that WikiLeaks had not been able to ‘restructure’ itself to cope with this surge of interest, insiders add. This has meant that smaller leaks, which might be of interest to people at a local level, are now being overlooked for the sake of big stories. [5]

According to the Al-Haqiqa sources, Assange met with Israeli officials in Geneva earlier this year and struck the secret deal. The Israel government, it seems, had somehow found out or expected that the documents to be leaked contained a large number of documents about the Israeli attacks on Lebanon and Gaza in 2006 and 2008-9 respectively. These documents, which are said to have originated mainly from the Israeli embassies in Tel Aviv and Beirut, where removed and possibly destroyed by Assange, who is the only person who knows the password that can open these documents, the sources added.

Indeed, the published documents seem to have a ‘gap’ stretching over the period of July – September 2006, during which the 33-day Lebanon war took place. Is it possible that US diplomats and officials did not have any comments or information to exchange about this crucial event but spent their time ‘gossiping’ about every other ‘trivial’ Middle-Eastern matter?

Following the leak (and even before), Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a press conference that Israel had “worked in advance” to limit any damage from leaks, adding that “no classified Israeli material was exposed by WikiLeaks.” [6] In an interview with the Time magazine around the same time, Assange praised Netanyahu as a hero of transparency and openness! [7]

According to another report [8], a left-leaning Lebanese newspaper had met with Assange twice and tried to negotiate a deal with him, offering “a big amount of money”, in order to get hold of documents concerning the 2006 war, particularly the minutes of a meeting held at the American embassy in Beirut on 24th July 2006, which is widely considered as a ‘war council’ meeting between American, Israeli and Lebanese parties that played a role in the war again Hizbullah and its allies. The documents the Al-Akhbar editors received, however, all date to 2008 onwards and do not contain “anything of value,” the sources confirm. This only goes to support the Israel deal allegations.

Finally, it might be worth pointing out that Assange might have done what he is alleged to have done in order protect himself and ensure that the leaked documents are published so as to expose the American hypocrisy, which he is said to be obsessed with “at the expense of more fundamental aims.”

More Guantanamo Bay news


Proponents of Guantanamo Bay have always maintained it’s necessary to keep that base open to house the meanest of the mean; black/brown Muslim terrorists who have the ability to swim from Cuba to the mainland, fashion knives out of paper products and invade the homeland causing death and destruction.  To substantiate their claim to keep the facility eternally open, they have put forward some really astonishing claims about recidivism, which we have addressed on the pages of Miscellany101 here and here.

It appears Obama will not be able to close Guantanamo down anytime soon, nor does he appear to be up for the fight, having been effectively betrayed by members of his own party during a lame duck session after the congressional elections, and facing an ever more combative new Congress who no doubt will use this recidivism issue again to underscore their desire to keep Gitmo open.  So here’s another study which “refudiates” that claim making it the third different one to do so which really begs the question why do the supporters of the facility bother with erecting false claims and figures in the first place.

On the ninth anniversary of the first detainee’s arrival at the infamous prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, a Washington think tank challenged intelligence estimates suggesting that large numbers of former detainees have taken up arms against the United States.

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper claimed in December — without offering any evidence — that 13.5 percent of former Guantanamo detainees are confirmed, and an additional 11.5 percent are suspected of “reengaging” in terrorist or insurgent activities after their release.

The conservative media embraced the storyline that as many as one in four former detainees had returned to the battlefield, up sharply from the prior year.

But three scholars with the New America Foundation are out with a new report — this one backed up with data — concluding that only 6 percent of released detainees engaged or are suspected of having engaged with insurgents aimed at attacking U.S. interests. Another 2 percent engaged or are suspected of having engaged against non-U.S. targets.

It appears that America is perfectly willing to let bygones be bygones and keep the facility even though for now it serves no useful purpose.  Perhaps some hope it will house the millions of American Muslims who will be sent there after the King committee hearings?

 

Where’s the waterboard?


I’m against waterboarding because I believe it’s illegal, but many on the right clamored for it when we were fighting our war on terror against people with Arabic names who, it was said, posed a threat to our Republic.  The waterboard, that instrument of death, was pointed to as something needed to extract information from even the most diehard terrorist in order to save lives.  When it was presented in those stark terms even some “progressives” demurred in their protests afraid they would be seen as anti-American, traitors or worse, threats themselves and singled out for persecution.  (Regrettably, the latter  may have happened a time or two.)  It didn’t matter that America was a signatory to a law that said we were against torture and would prosecute anyone who committed it, we were told waterboarding was necessary.

After the latest assault on a sitting member of Congress and the murder of a federal judge at the hands of an assassin who resembles a skinhead in all appearances and who had made references to Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, there comes news that another congressman has received ominious  threats from places unknown, raising the specter that more death and destruction might be visited on members of Congress.  How can we stop what looks like certain carnage?  Waterboarding and profiling are two solutions offered up by those on the right when they spoke of Muslims and jihadists who were threats to the American way of life and yet not once, except on the pages of Miscellany101 have these tools not too long ago embraced by many Americans, been mention in the latest discourse.  Unfortunately, neither has the matter of whether what Loughner commited is terrorism been discussed much in the media and for obvious reasons.

Terrorists can’t be white, non-Muslims and waterboarding or profiling (racial profiling) can’t be applied to them because it obscures the debate about what’s good and what’s bad for America.  White crime is tolerated and ostensibly good for America…we can build case law around it, institutionalize it and put people to work combating it yet maintain a civil society, or so it seems.  Terrorism many on the right maintain is the purveyor of dark skinned or Muslim people who  threaten  our very civilization and we must fight them by any means necessary, even illegal means that we visit upon them and sometimes ourselves. We have bemoaned that double standard time and time again here on Miscellany101. The right seems to relish, embrace it and heap scorn on those who point it out.

The “wingnuts” on the right have for the past decade managed to escape responsibility for any miscalculations on the political stage.  The WMD fiasco was dismissed because Saddam was a bad guy and we needed to get rid of him anyway, the encroachment on our civil liberties was proposed because it’s government’s job to take care of us, during the administration of Bush, and during Obama because liberals elected him into office and he is a socialist and that’s what socialists do.  The spiteful and intemperate political rhetoric is necessary because it’s a “war” of ideas and too the hearts and minds of the people.  It seems every excuse is made that absolves the right from any responsibility for any misfortune that has occurred over the past decade even though they were the party in power for over half the time.

Now comes the political assassination in Tuscon, Arizona right after the virulent election campaigning of 2010 where the political opposition rode on the backs of people who believe in conspiracy theories that rival those concocted after 911.  This murder didn’t come in a vacuum; it was sparked by a constant barrage of speech that equated a democratically elected  political party  with the equally repugnant foe of terrorists, jihadists and Muslims; some even calling the President a secret Muslim, whose goal is to promote a socialist agenda.  It was against these policies that the right was shaped and the makers of these policies were the focal point of everyone’s  rage.  Loughner who it was claimed by neighbors/friends targeted Congresswoman Giffords wasn’t the only one.  Byron Williams who had a shootout with authorities after planning acts of violence against the ACLU, a favorite target of the right and the Tides Foundation, said he wanted to spark a civil war and he pointed to a radio head pundit as being a primary source of his information and motivation.   Yet the right, the more vocal among them, claim no responsibility for this violent swing in politics even while others among them are asking for de-escalation in the rhetoric. Fat chance.

This is the group that claims when it comes to their enemies that everyone of them is responsible for the crimes committed by one of them; that the idea of collective punishment, something practiced by the Israelis against Palestinians, is a legitimate way of dealing with a threat, not just the kind that a Loughner, or a Williams or the unknown assailant threatening Congressman Renny Davis pose.  So there will be no talk of waterboarding anyone to get information from them about the impending murder of another Congressman, now will there be calls for profiling white males who look like Loughner, or Williams and we won’t hear not one suggestion that the motivating factors behind their rage be investigated  or asked to condemn their murderous impulses because in almost every case they, these perpetrators of terrorism against the homeland are just like the pundits and politicians who use these acts of government coercion on others.  That is the story of America and her injustices and it will plague us for as long as we continue to ignore it.

 

Holiday Spirit


Fox News channel store in the airport

Image by ario_ via Flickr

Bill O’Reilly and his minions at FoxNews want Muslims to “refudiate” terrorism, and absent that they are to be suspect.  O’Reilly et.al also waged a very public campaign to out those who didn’t share the “Christmas” spirit in the same way as he did, saying absent their vociferous bellowing of “Merry Christmas” they were surreptitiously sabotaging Christmas.

Muslims on the other hand were taking a much more pro-active stance about the holidays….something you can read and see here.

Early Christmas morning, hundreds of Muslim-Americans turned out to help their Christian friends by doing the volunteer work that they would normally do. Muslims say this is a way to allow Christians to celebrate the Holiday by stepping in to provide meals to seniors and distributing toys to needy children……

Once again putting a lie to the myth generated by the pundits who are on the payroll of today’s racists/fascists media whores. Oh and speaking of myths, did you hear the one about the Justin Bieber endorsement of the Ground Zero/Park51 mosque that really wasn’t an endorsement at all??  The Islamophobes, who constantly prove themselves to be the worse America has to offer, were tricked again into showing their racist colors by falling for another satirical website that claimed Bieber said something about Park51 that he really didn’t say.  Why don’t these people just admit they have nothing but their own animus which drives them towards insanity and stop hanging excuses on things that really don’t exist?!?!

Mosque foes recently started a boycott of Bieber after he made comments in support of the mosque project in an interview with Tiger Beat, a teen fan magazine….

I was able to reach the proprietor of the site, who confirmed that the Bieber item is in fact a hoax. “[T]he fact that some people take it seriously is hilariously depressing,” he said in an e-mail.

 

Depressing indeed, and par for the course.  America, wake up.