Muslims STOP apologizing for the sins of people who call themselves Muslim


muslim-americans-2Stop it now!!  No other group, nation, tribe, religion has borne the burden of the infamy of a small fraction of its associates like Muslims.  No group of people has had to explain the actions of people they don’t know except tangentially as Muslims have had to do and despite their explanations and protestations not have their exposition accepted.

Juan Cole asks, Must Muslim Americans condemn ISIL; see where he takes you to arrive at an answer

Asking people to take stances based on their ascribed identity (what they were born into most often) rather than on the basis of their individual choices in life goes against everything that modern human rights thinking stands for. It is like forcing all Russian-Americans to say publicly what they think about Vladimir Putin.

So if all this is correct, and it certainly is, why do right wing Americans continue to demand that Muslim-Americans condemn Muslim extremists in the Middle East? They have nothing to do with the latter and aren’t responsible for them. Some of the inhabitants of the American Southwest in the early modern period were secret Muslims from southern Spain who had been forcibly converted to Catholicism by the Inquisition. My birthplace, Albuquerque, is an Arabic word (al-Barquqi). Some 10% of the some 4 million Africans kidnapped and trafficked to Southern landowners as slaves in the US before the slave trade was abolished were Muslim. Hundreds of thousands of people practiced Islam in North America long before there was a United States. The White House was built with slave labor and likely some of that was Muslim labor. Some of the founding Fathers likely owned Muslim slaves. As late as the 1930s, elderly ex-slaves reported in interviews that they remembered their mothers bowing toward the east at dawn. Some Arab-American Muslims can trace their family roots in the US back to the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. The religion is an American religion, deeply interwoven with American history and Muslim-Americans are not responsible for developments in the contemporary Middle East.

So they shouldn’t have to, but they do.

When Turkey’s Jews were asked to condemn the atrocities of Israel in Gaza their response was

No citizen of this country is under any obligation to account for, interpret or comment on any event that takes place elsewhere in the world, and in which he/she has no involvement. There is no onus on the Jewish community of Turkey, therefore, to declare an opinion on any matter at all.

“It is anyway not possible for a community of 20,000 to declare a unified opinion. No human community can be monolithic and the Jewish community is not. Its members include people of all kinds, with a great variety of views.

“In the same way the people of Turkey cannot be held responsible for the barbarity of what the Islamic State [of Iraq and Levent, ISIL] does because a number of Turks are among its fighters, the Jewish community of Turkey cannot be held responsible for what the state of Israel does. It is racism to hold a whole people responsible for the actions of a state and we wish to declare that we are opposed to this.

American Muslims  should be equally assertive in saying they are not responsible for nor do they need to explain the actions of people who are in faraway places of the world.  Even though Muslims do try to explain an Islamic position it has never been good enough to get people to accept what are in some cases detailed and pointed explanations of their positions so STOP it!  Stop it now!

 

News and not news


It’s news because its revelatory but it’s not news because it happens time and time again between Israel and its interaction with its neighbors.  The latest Gaza incursion was a bloodfest which made it a war crime.  Max Blumenthal writes about that conclusively here.

Dan Cohen and I conducted an interview with two ICRC volunteers from Gaza, 25-year-old Ahmed Awad, and 24-year-old Ala’a Alkusofi, who worked with ambulance crews throughout the war, the video of which will be released in the near future. They recalled entering Khuza’a during the siege of the town to collect the body of Mohamed Abadla, a local man who had been tied to a tree by both arms and riddled with bullets. When they arrived at the execution site, a group of Israeli soldiers ordered one of the volunteers’ colleagues to exit the ambulance, walk five meters forward, then light a cigarette lighters. When he did so, they shot him in the heart and leg, killing him in front of his colleagues.

The ICRC volunteers told us they later found a man in Khuza’a with rigor mortis, holding both hands over his head in surrender, his body filled with bullets. They then discovered a family — men, women and children — so badly decomposed they had to bury them with a bulldozer in a mass grave. The vast majority of bullet wounds they found were to the head and chest.

In Beit Hanoun, a northern border city that had been comprehensively by Israeli shelling, I met Abdul Rahman, a 50-year-old farmer whose orange groves, bee farm, goat herd, wheat fields and four story home had all been destroyed prior to or during Operation Protective Edge. Rahman told me how his neighbors, the Wahadan family, had been prevented from evacuating by Israeli forces, who warned them they would be shot if they left. Remember that the Israeli military dropped leaflets on Beit Hanoun warning its residents to leave just prior to the ground invasion. A week after trapping seven members of the Wahadan family, the Israeli air force bombed their home, killing seven members, including two-year-old Ghena Wahadan. The survivors of the family were male relatives who had been abducted and interrogated for days in Israeli prisons.

shieldWere the Wahadans used as human shields? That’s an open and legitimate question. In other areas, I documented cases in which the use of human shields by Israeli soldiers was undeniable. On the outskirts of Rafah, for instance, soldiers stripped 19-year-old Mahmoud Abu Said of his clothes and stood him in front of windows in his home while they sniped at his neighbors. In Khuza’a, members of the Najjar family told me soldiers forced them to stand at opposite corners of their roof for a full day. And in the northern village of Oum Al Nasser, members of the Mismeh, Madhoun and Jarrad family told me they forced to sit in the center of town for three hours between 6:30am and 9:30am on July 18 — 100 meters in front of Israeli tanks.

 

You will not hear about this case of Israel using human shields as it kills Palestinians although the contrast is certainly the case.  Also you can be sure nothing will happen as a result of this exposure although plenty will be said about any cases where Palestinians did such a criminal act and some sort of punitive action will result this is why although it is newsworthy this happened repeatedly during the Gaza invasion last month, nothing will result from it.

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.

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)

Is the Quran more violent than the Bible?


Over the past decade the public has been regaled with the notion that Muslims are violent because their religious scripture incites them towards such violence.  Muslims on the other hand claim that their violence is in reaction to aggression or that acts of terrorism are misplaced by individuals who don’t understand their religion.

A Christian scholar asks and answers the question of which religious scripture is more violent and you can listen to his answer here.  Listen carefully for the Biblical equivalent of terrorism; the commentator uses the term “genocide” to describe the Bible’s answer, herem,  to violence and the course it has taken over the millennium as it has been interpreted and practiced by its followers. It is a methodology practiced by the Israelis against the Palestinians and resembles the catastrophes brought on by numerous American presidents against native Americans, Hitler’s genocide against the Jews and an even more modern day and relevant genocide against Iraqis.

Terrorism


The unlawful use of force or violence against persons or property in order to coerce or intimidate a government or the civilian population in furtherance of political or social objectives.

Since the September 11th Attacks on the United States in 2001, which resulted in the destruction of the World Trade Center in New York City and severe damage to the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., the United States has changed its priorities to focus upon eradicating terrorism in the world. Terrorism involves the systematic use of terror or violence to achieve political goals. The targets of terrorism include government officials, identified individuals or groups, and innocent bystanders. In most cases terrorists seek to overthrow or destabilize an existing political regime, but totalitarian and dictatorial governments also use terror to maintain their power.

 

As clear and distinct as this definition is, it cannot but include the Israeli government as a dictatorial government that uses terrorism to maintain power, as this article in RawStory suggests.  In spite of a newly signed peace agreement with Egypt, in 1979 Israel was intimating that it would use nuclear weapons against its neighbors because somehow it feared for its existence.  We know now that was a crock….Israel then as now, has no more to fear from its neighbors than the man in the moon.  In fact, since 1973 all of Israel’s wars have been wars of aggression and expansion, not self-defense.  One could argue they have been the precursor to America’s aggression in the Mid East…a kind of good cop, bad cop play on empire and subjugation of the Middle East.

In 1980, British officials were concerned that Israel could be heading for a new conflict, despite signing a peace treaty with Egypt the year before, according to official papers released from the National Archives after being kept secret for 30 years.

“The situation in the region is deteriorating and with it Israel’s dangerous mood of isolation and defiance will grow,” warned a cable from the British embassy in Tel Aviv, dated May 4.

What Israel served to do with this threat to use nuclear weapons was to get governments to support her in her continued suppression of Palestinian statehood, in other words to achieve the political objective of denial of human rights to her Palestinian neighbors as well as forge political hegemony in the area.  Let’s not forget existential threats to Israel are no more than  political dissent that are the basis for a mature political entity, not a threatening  bullying one like Israel, which usually contribute to the improvement of the social fabric, not its elimination.  Very few but the extreme of the extreme, (and who could that be?) would dare suggest Israel not exist, but what everyone of conscience and morality should insist upon is that Israel honor the territorial integrity of its neighbors, not interfere with Palestinian statehood, cease its racist policies towards non-Jews within its borders and honor international treaties against the proliferation of nuclear weapons.  That’s the kind of discourse that countries can conduct on the world’s stage in a mature, socially and internationally acceptable manner.  Not so with the Israeli interpretation of dissent.  In its case dissent is not tolerated except from within and only within limits defined by the government.  That is called fascism.

Obama’s Hit List


I read this very interesting article that asserts President Obama is going down the same onerous road as his predecessor in dispensing justice to perceived enemies of the state…..at the expense of breaking the law and further endangering the national security as well as the national psyche.  What is the matter with America that she has become afraid of people, not nations mind you, but individual people, that it makes her break her own laws as well as the laws she has agreed with the international community upon for decades?!?

The Obama administration now claims a right to kill American citizens without trial, without notice, and without any chance for the marked men or women to object legally. The Bush administration’s “targeted killing” program has been radically expanded to include Americans far from any war zone. Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair testified earlier this year that the targeting-to-kill decision depends only on “whether that American is involved in a group that is trying to attack us.”

The poster boy for the targeted killing program is Anwar al-Awlaki, an American-born Muslim cleric who is reportedly in Yemen. The Obama administration touts allegations that al-Awlaki helped spark the slaughter at Ford Hood, Texas, inspired the attempt to destroy a jetliner on Christmas Day 2009, and has done other dastardly things that the government has not yet disclosed (for our own good, of course). Al-Awlaki might well be a four-star bastard, but government press releases and background briefings have not previously been sufficient to justify capital punishment.

The American Civil Liberties Union is suing to compel Uncle Sam “to disclose the legal standard it uses to place U.S. citizens on government kill lists.” The Obama administration has responded by invoking the doctrine of state secrets, effectively claiming that national security demands that these policies be kept hidden. By hiding behind state secrets, the feds don’t even have to explain why the law doesn’t apply to their actions.

In oral arguments in federal court on Nov. 9, Justice Department attorney Douglas Letter asserted that no judge has authority to be “looking over the shoulder” of the Obama administration’s targeted-killing program. Letter declared that the program involves “the very core powers of the president as commander-in-chief.” When Obama campaigned for the presidency in 2008, entitling the president to kill Americans without trial was not one of the reforms he promised.

The Obama administration has decided to pursue a Bush administration policy of extra-judicial punishment for individuals anywhere in the world, even American citizens, and claim no one has the right to oversight.  It is an extraordinary position to take on the heels of an administration whose party was soundly defeated in the presidential elections in part one may argue for just such a disregard for law and the rights of US citizens.  There has been no hue and cry on the part of the people for their president to undertake this action, so why does he feel the need to do so?

The Obama administration’s position “would allow the executive unreviewable authority to target and kill any U.S. citizen it deems a suspect of terrorism anywhere,” according to Center for Constitutional Rights attorney Pardiss Kebriae. And the feds have a horrible batting average when it comes to accurately identifying terrorist suspects. In the six weeks after the 9/11 attacks, the U.S. government rounded up 1,200 people as suspected terrorists or terrorist supporters. None of the detainees proved to have links to the attacks. And as the ACLU noted earlier this year, “the government has failed to prove the lawfulness of imprisoning individual Guantanamo detainees in 34 of the 48 cases that have been reviewed by the federal courts thus far, even though the government had years to gather and analyze evidence for those cases and had itself determined that those prisoners were detainable.”

It’s clear to this viewer that the Obama approach to the war on terror, is  just as pernicious as Bush.  In fact it is a continuation of the former President’s policy at at time when the “threat” level is not as imminent as it was after 911 all the inaccurate and misleading press propaganda to the contrary.  What we are witnessing is the way in which government works; it’s march towards diminution of citizen rights is gradual, slow, deceptive and relentless.  New faces have little to do with changing the progress of government’s march toward this goal.  Obama isn’t ‘change we can believe in’, he’s more of the same.

 

The poster boy for the targeted killing program is Anwar al-Awlaki, an American-born Muslim cleric who is reportedly in Yemen. The Obama administration touts allegations that al-Awlaki helped spark the slaughter at Ford Hood, Texas, inspired the attempt to destroy a jetliner on Christmas Day 2009, and has done other dastardly things that the government has not yet disclosed (for our own good, of course). Al-Awlaki might well be a four-star bastard, but government press releases and background briefings have not previously been sufficient to justify capital punishment.

The American Civil Liberties Union is suing to compel Uncle Sam “to disclose the legal standard it uses to place U.S. citizens on government kill lists.” The Obama administration has responded by invoking the doctrine of state secrets, effectively claiming that national security demands that these policies be kept hidden. By hiding behind state secrets, the feds don’t even have to explain why the law doesn’t apply to their actions.

In oral arguments in federal court on Nov. 9, Justice Department attorney Douglas Letter asserted that no judge has authority to be “looking over the shoulder” of the Obama administration’s targeted-killing program. Letter declared that the program involves “the very core powers of the president as commander-in-chief.” When Obama campaigned for the presidency in 2008, entitling the president to kill Americans without trial was not one of the reforms he promised.

The main difference between the Bush administration and the Obama administration is that the Obama team publicly claims a right to do what Bush’s lawyers authorized behind closed doors. Steven Bradbury, head of the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, told the Senate Intelligence Committee in early 2006 that Bush could order killings of suspected terrorists within the United States. When Newsweek contacted the Justice Department to verify this novel legal doctrine, spokeswoman Tasia Scolinos stressed that Bradbury’s comments occurred during an “off-the-record briefing.” Newsweek’s report generated no media stir. Apparently, unless the government disclosed that it had actually begun assassinations within the United States, it was a non-story.

An article by Charlie Savage in the New York Times in mid-September noted that “There is widespread agreement among the administration’s legal team that it is lawful for President Obama to authorize the killing of someone like Mr. Awlaki.”

It is comforting to know that top political appointees concur that some “law” gives them the right to assassinate Americans. But this is the same “legal” standard the Bush team used to justify torture. Since Bush’s lawyers told him that waterboarding wasn’t torture—despite a hundred years of U.S. court decisions to the contrary—the president was blameless, or so he recently claimed to NBC’s Matt Lauer.

There are other ominous parallels with the worst abuses of the Bush administration. When Bush decreed in November 2001 that he had the authority perpetually to detain anyone as an enemy combatant, based solely on his own assertion, administration defenders rushed to assure the media that the new policy did not apply to Americans or inside the United States. Seven months later, after José Padilla was arrested in Chicago and labeled an enemy combatant, the administration acted as if only fools would believe the president would not use his boundless power any way he could.

Similarly, Obama’s power grab has not spurred much opposition, perhaps in part because it is assumed to apply only to killing Americans abroad. (Hopefully farther away than Niagara Falls, Canada.) But the basis of the policy is that the entire world is a battlefield, thus the president has unlimited “commander in chief” powers everywhere.

Once the principle is accepted that the U.S. government can label Americans as enemies of the state and kill them without judicial nicety, the bureaucratic wish list of targets will continually expand. A similar metamorphosis occurred when the FBI decided to use illegal powers to target people who garnered official displeasure. Nixon White House aide Tom Charles Huston explained that the FBI’s COINTELPRO program continually stretched its target list “from the kid with a bomb to the kid with a picket sign, and from the kid with the picket sign to the kid with the bumper sticker of the opposing candidate. And you just keep going down the line.”

Blank checks for killing enemies of the state is the recipe for domestic tranquility that most dictatorships have used throughout history. And apparently this is a standard that many Americans might embrace. Some movement conservatives—such as columnist Jonah Goldberg—are already whooping for the U.S. government to assassinate people such as Wikileaks founder Julian Assange. Should the government be entitled to kill anyone who exposes its lies? Or should the standard be broader, permitting governments to kill anyone who is inconvenient?

The Obama administration’s position “would allow the executive unreviewable authority to target and kill any U.S. citizen it deems a suspect of terrorism anywhere,” according to Center for Constitutional Rights attorney Pardiss Kebriae. And the feds have a horrible batting average when it comes to accurately identifying terrorist suspects. In the six weeks after the 9/11 attacks, the U.S. government rounded up 1,200 people as suspected terrorists or terrorist supporters. None of the detainees proved to have links to the attacks. And as the ACLU noted earlier this year, “the government has failed to prove the lawfulness of imprisoning individual Guantanamo detainees in 34 of the 48 cases that have been reviewed by the federal courts thus far, even though the government had years to gather and analyze evidence for those cases and had itself determined that those prisoners were detainable.”

In fact, debacles over false charges against Gitmo detainees may have spurred the expansion of the targeted-killing program. Dead men file no appeals. Assassinations could be less embarrassing than trials because most of the American media will roll over and permit the government to blacken its victims however it pleases. As long as officials, speaking anonymously, assure reporters that the deceased were bad people, the story is closed.

The Food and Drug Administration recently proposed far more graphic warning labels for cigarette packages. But while the feds are demanding extraordinary measures to inform people about private risks, nothing is being done to warn people of the health risks of an unleashed Leviathan.

What sort of warning labels would be appropriate for Obama’s killing program? A picture of a sniper’s crosshairs on a mother holding a baby in her cabin door, à la Vicki Weaver? A picture of young demonstrators lying dead on the ground after a National Guard volley, à la Kent State? A picture of children lolling in the streets moments before they are obliterated, courtesy of the helicopter gun-sight video from the Wiki-Leaked “Collateral Murder” recording made by the U.S. military in Iraq?

If Obama gets away with this power-grab, the rhetoric for the 2012 race for the White House should be retuned. Instead of listening to candidates compete based on the number of new benefits they promise to lavish upon voters, prudent citizens will focus on which presidential candidate seems least likely to kill them or members or their family. We might hear campaign slogans like “Vote for Smith: he won’t have you killed unless all of his top advisers agree you deserve to die.” Unfortunately, as with other campaign promises, there will be no way for voters to compel politicians to honor their pledges.

Obama’s doctrine enabling the targeted killing of American citizens is at least as much an assassination of the Constitution as anything George W. Bush perpetrated. Yet most of the media has ignored the issue or treated it like an arcane legal dispute of interest only to people in desert hideaways 6,000 miles away. The more power the government has seized, the more craven the media has become.

Thanks to sovereign immunity and cowardly judges, it is unlikely that any Obama administration official will be held liable, regardless of whom the U.S. government slays. Americans have had plenty of warnings that the federal government is destroying the leashes the Founding Fathers created. Once it is accepted that the executive branch is entitled to kill Americans without a trial, only damn fools should expect Leviathan to limit its ravages here and abroad.

James Bovard is the author of Attention Deficit Democracy.

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15 Responses to “Assassin Nation”

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by AmericanConservative, Roy F. Moore. Roy F. Moore said: RT @amconmag: James Bovard | Assassin Nation | http://bit.ly/gz0Wqu […]

  2. hahahahaha….this is your tide American Conservative, Obama’s just riding it. Where were you when Bush & Co. created this mess? Cheerleading. This is not Obama’s policy, it’s Bush’s and years ago when this was first raised as an issue you folks were calling such critics traitors.

    If Obama tried to loosen the efforts against Terrorism(TM) you would be calling him traitor. This article is rich with hypocrisy.

  3. The American Conservative was an early critic of the Bush administration and the war. Don’t confuse these folks with the National Review.

  4. […] today from the January issue of American Conservative […]

  5. river c. should read The Bush Betrayal written by the author of this article.

  6. good to see once again the Kenyan King walking in the very same foot steps of his predecessors, bashing Bush then doing likewise and more

  7. […] of Attention Deficit Democracy, discusses the Obama administration’s claim that they have the right to kill American citizens without a trial, without notice, and without any chance for targets to legally object; the […]

  8. @River C… Why don’t you ask TAC why they came out against invading Iraq while the NYTs was publishing neo-con propaganda day after day? Maybe you should ask why the refused to endorse Bush in 2004 while the NYTs was sitting on the story of Bush spying on US citizens as to not hur his chances of re-election?

    Oh, I know why you don’t ask because you’re an idiot (as your comment demonstrated). In fact, you Obama supporters are exactly the same as Bush supporters. It’s uncanny how similar the Obama apologists are to the Bush apologists. Go worship the state so more.

  9. “No person shall . . . be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law. . .” US Constitiution, 5th amendment.

    What part of that don’t people understand?

    If someone is actually in the act of perpetrating violence against American citizens, then the police or military have an exemption, but that’s all.

    You would think that a guy who has taught constitutional law might have known about this. . .

  10. Hasn’t anyone here seen a ‘Wanted: Dead or Alive’ poster?

    American governments have been paying for the killing of Americans without a trial well before Obama was born (wherever that was)

    Just ask John Dillinger.

  11. Whatever the TAC has been doing all these years, Bovard has been a tireless critic of empire and chronicler of its consequences, through several administrations, and all the more energetically in recent times with Presidents GW Bush and Obama.

    The “where were you when Bush was doing it” whine is getting very tiresome. It identifies clueless partisans, making it all the easier to dismiss their boiler-plate bleating. We should instead ask the kool-aid drinking duckspeakers, “where were you when courageous people like Bovard were speaking out and being called ‘unpatriotic’ and even ‘treasonous’?” The river c’s of the world come very late to the party, then criticize the host for the crowding.

  12. Stefan, don’t be fooled. No person allowed to run for office gives a damn about the Constitution anymore. We don’t have a Constitutional Republic anymore; we have a dictatorship masquerading as a democracy. No candidate who believes that they should be governed by the Constitution will be allowed to run. They will be weeded out long before we even hear of them. Both parties are in on this. We will not see a patriot run for high office in this country again.

  13. OK, Stefan Stackhouse knows her constitution, ‘..“No person shall . . . be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law. . .” US Constitiution, 5th amendment.

    If they can authorize the killing of each of us then they can authorize the killing of our family members as other dictators have done.

    Need to read this new book just out about Americans who actually take a stand against tyranny (based in part on real people & events). It’s a thriller so I recommend it.

    http://www.booksbyoliver.com

    This is tyranny & way beyond what the TSA is doing at airports. No one would have ever thought this could happen in America. Great article, James

  14. Frank,

    Although your other points are well taken, you are guilty of the same type of thoughtless jumping to conclusions as river c. who is obviously ignorant of what TAC is. What part of his comment led you to conclude that he is an “Obama supporter”? He may or may not be. Why is it necessary to hurl insults? River c.’s ignorance will be obvious to the vast majority who read this. Correction and guidance without insult as per Anonymous and Tom Blanton is much more helpful.

  15. This is only possible thanks to George W Bush who rescinded habeus corpus. My pointing this out is in no way an endorsement of Obama. I am merely pointing out the historical facts. Without the Bush Junta’s idiotic reign, the excesses of the Obama plague would not have been possible, or even really imaginable.

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Netanyahu Speaks with Forked Tongue


It won’t make that much difference in people’s attitudes about Israel, although it should be extremely embarrasing to official Washington, the admission or rather revelation that Benjamin Netanyahu lied in order to sabotage the Oslow Accords back during the Clinton Administration.  It’s no small foot note that Netanyahu is now the Prime Minister of Israel and  no doubt still lies; it’s hard to teach an old dog new tricks, dontcha’ know.

What’s also interesting to this observer is the revelation comes from a news outlet other than the US main stream media, that darling of Israel and any US administration that is in power.  I don’t entirely agree with the reporter’s assertion in the piece that the video which contains the damning details was shot unbeknownst to Netanyahu; I think Netanyahu and most other Israeli officials don’t give a damn whether Americans or anyone else knows what they really think or believe, because they know it will be smoothed over for them by corporate media.  Witness the rather arrogant behavior of the Israelis during Joe Biden’s recent stop in Israel where they announced new settlements at a time it was hoped they would freeze settlements.  What Netanyahu admits to is

he deceived the US president of the time, Bill Clinton, into believing he was helping implement the Oslo accords, the US-sponsored peace process between Israel and the Palestinians, by making minor withdrawals from the West Bank while actually entrenching the occupation. He boasts that he thereby destroyed the Oslo process. He dismisses the US as “easily moved to the right direction” and calls high levels of popular American support for Israel “absurd”.

He also suggests that, far from being defensive, Israel’s harsh military repression of the Palestinian uprising was designed chiefly to crush the Palestinian Authority led by Yasser Arafat so that it could be made more pliable for Israeli diktats.

Many within the Israeli leadership as well as the apparatchiks here in America were opposed to the Oslow Accords because they claimed, as usual, Israel was being asked to give up too much.  Netanyahu’s conniving position was no doubt taken so he could appear to be the more moderate and acceptable leader for Israel….a diplomatic version of good cop, bad cop, the bad cop being the bloodthirsty Ariel Sharon.  In reality Netanyahu is much worse.  The video which contains these statements by Netanyahu, which also appears below, has been circulating around in Israel for a period of time yet no one of the so called liberal Israeli public opinion, which we are told is far more open to criticism of  Israeli leadership because they get better media coverage and a more critical viewpoint  of Israeli government shenanigans; no one from this elite society of free thinkers has uttered a call for Netanyahu to resign.  No one seems the least bit concerned about the effect this news will have on Israel’s international relations.  One wouldn’t really expect them to be concerned at all; the Israelis have positioned themselves so far to an extreme nothing short of a war in which they are alone on one side facing everybody else would make them rethink positions they have come to hold so dearly today.   But it is interesting to this observer that the video appears after Netanyahu’s visit to the US just a few short days ago and is just one more ‘in your face’ statement made to belittle and demean the ‘world’s only superpower’.  Somehow, that expression- world’s only superpower,  just doesn’t have the ring to it it once did.

Perhaps this also gives people in the west, if they care to stop and reflect just once, an idea of the frustration the Palestinians have felt toward the Israeli government and people.  The leaders of Israel openly admit their signature on treaties, commitments, agreements aren’t worth the paper they are written on, and this deceit is carried out with the full knowledge and approval of Israeli citizenry.

No Such thing as Israeli transparency


Israel being transparent would result in the Goldstone report all over again, or worse something like  this

In a 116-page document, entitled I Lost Everything: Israel’s Unlawful Destruction of Property in the Gaza Conflict , the report documents the complete destruction of orchards and farms as well as 189 buildings. These included 11 factories, eight warehouses and 170 residential buildings, rendering 971 people homeless during Operation Cast Lead which began on December 27th, 2008 and ended on January 18th, 2009.

The report said that a dozen specific targetings documented in the report account for only 5 per cent of the homes, warehouses and factories destroyed during the conflict. The report stated: “These cases describe instances in which Israeli forces caused extensive destruction of homes, factories, farms and greenhouses in areas under [Israeli] control without any evident military purpose”.

The human rights group said there had been no evidence of fighting in the vicinity of these facilities at the time of the attacks and Israeli bulldozers demolished the property after fighting had ceased and Israel had taken full control.

In “many cases, the destruction was carried out during the final days of the campaign when an Israeli withdrawal was imminent”, HRW said. “Individuals responsible for committing or ordering such destruction should be prosecuted for war crimes.”

What Israel has agreed to do, in investigating itself is so weak and designed to paint the perpetrator as the victim is this

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spent the last two weeks searching for a process that would win the endorsement of the U.S. and appear credible to the international community, but not spiral out of the government’s control.

To that end, the five-member panel will have a narrow mandate. It is chiefly tasked with evaluating the legality of Israel’s naval blockade of Gaza, imposed three years ago when the Islamic militant group Hamas established full control over the coastal strip, and whether the use of force during the raid was consistent with international practices. The commission also will look into the identity and motivations of activists aboard the ship, some of whom Israel has accused of having links to terrorist groups.

So what we will see emanate from the Israeli report will be ‘the devil made me do it’ excuses for their infringement on international law. Meanwhile as if to underscore the point that the blockade is not about stemming the flow of weapons into Gaza, nor of securing the state of Israel from any threat posed by Hamas comes  this

..

in response to a lawsuit by Gisha, an Israeli human rights group, the Israeli government explained the blockade as an exercise of the right of economic warfare.”A country has the right to decide that it chooses not to engage in economic relations or to give economic assistance to the other party to the conflict, or that it wishes to operate using ‘economic warfare,'” the government said.

Sari Bashi, the director of Gisha, said the documents prove that Israel isn’t imposing its blockade for its stated reasons, but rather as collective punishment for the Palestinian population of Gaza. Gisha focuses on Palestinian rights.
Whatever findings come from the Israeli report will be purely about state interests for Israel, and that’s to be expected and even welcomed.  There is enough evidence to indict Israel for illegal activity and it’s only natural for the state of Israel to do what it can to countermand that body of evidence.  What is shameful is that they will get away with it while everything else will be ignored, forgotten, or flushed down the memory hole. The victims of Israeli rage on that morning as well as the people of Gaza deserve better than that from a 21st century world citizenry.

Obama’s Image with the International Community


GW Bush was such a bad president that anyone elected after him would be warmly received on the world’s stage and the new office holder would barely have to do anything to get such  adulation.  The fact that an African-America with a very exotic past and name would be the next president guaranteed him success even if his policies were/are as disastrous as those of Bush.

In his first year, Obama received the Nobel Peace Prize when all he did was make a speech in Cairo reiterating basic precepts that this country was founded on or has built up for the past 200 years, but such ideas were so denigrated or ignored by the Bush administration  that to hear them come from Obama after years of neglect and abuse sounded like a new country had been born on the North American continent.  Sure, there is no doubt that many people hoped the election of Obama would signal a change in the approach America would take towards the rest of the world but sadly such a change has yet to come to pass.

America is still stuck in two wars with no sign of either abating and there is a growing likelihood of a third front looming on the horizon with Iran . Regrettably, after a rather pitiful response to Israel’s massacre of aid activist, Obama doesn’t appear to be able to stave off such a possibility.

The Obama administration is celebrating its victory in getting the UN Security Council on Wednesday to approve a fourth round of economic sanctions against Iran. Obama also is expected to sign on to even more draconian penalties that should soon sail through Congress.

Obama may be thinking that his UN diplomatic achievement will buy him some credibility – and some time – with American neocons and Israel’s Likud government, which favor a showdown with Iran over its nuclear program……

Just as the neocons and Israel wanted “regime change” in Iraq, they have long hungered for “regime change” in Iran, too. A favorite neocon joke at the time of the Iraq War was to speculate on which direction to go next, to Syria or Iran, with the punch-line, “Real men to go (sic) Tehran!”

But the world has such high expectations of an Obama presidency that despite these shortcomings and many others people are still willing to place their hope in the American president’s ability to change the world for the better. Unfortunately these attempts are sorely misguided and very premature.

For example, why would the International Criminal Court  want the US, which is not a signatory or member, and thus not bound by the rules of the Court,  be the enforcer of the Court’s decisions while being out of reach of the purview of the Court?  Such an idead definitely sends the wrong signal to law abiding nations.  Over one hundred countries are members of the ICC, and while there is no lack of  international lawlessness and atrocities the world over for the Court to investigate and adjudicate, it has only managed to  work on cases from the African continent, something which no doubt offers the newly formed unified combat command  of the Defense Deparetment, AFRICOM,  a lot of encouragement and raison d’etre for years to come.

The United States has only recently ended eight years of a complete disregard for international bodies and their decision making processes, yet it is now being enlisted to enforce at the point of military action, internationally arrived at edicts?  Such is the proposal being considered by the ICC.  Perhaps in another time and another place something like this could be contemplated, but now it is too early to tell whether America is ready to assume the role of world leader or remain the world’s number one aggressor.  Judging by the her reaction to the Israeli pummeling of ally Turkey and the sabotaging of diplomacy as well as the reaction to raw power and murder occuring at the time of the ICC convention in Uganda ,of all places, now is not the time for America to enforce any law when it demonstrates abject violations of the law at every turn.  The ICC would be better off rethinking this idea and the sooner they dispel themselves of it, the better and safer we might all be.

The Free Gaza Movement crosses all ethnicities


It must be strange for some zionists to see former allies, lesbians and African-Americans embrace the cause of the enemies of Zionism; not that it will change the irrevocable conclusion to which zionism is headed, but it’s refreshing to see people shake the shackles of blindness and call for change and an end of oppression no matter the target.  It must be scary to see some equate the liberation of Gaza to the Civil Rights struggle that took place in America, not that it will deter the zionists.  Only a full economic embargo will do that and for now America is years away from that.  The reflections of people like Alice Walker to the struggle for the liberation of Gaza make for  stirring and inspirational  reading.

You will have no protection

— Medgar Evers to Civil Rights Activists in Mississippi, shortly before he was assassinated, 12 June, 1963

My heart is breaking; but I do not mind.

For one thing, as soon as I wrote those words I was able to weep. Which I had not been able to do since learning of the attack by armed Israeli commandos on defenseless peace activists carrying aid to Gaza who tried to fend them off using chairs and sticks. I am thankful to know what it means to be good; I know that the people of the Freedom Flotilla are/were in some cases, some of the best people on earth. They have not stood silently by and watched the destruction of others, brutally, sustained, without offering themselves, weaponless except for their bodies, to the situation. I am thankful to have a long history of knowing people like this from my earliest years, beginning in my student days of marches and demonstrations: for peace, for non-separation among peoples, for justice for Women, for People of Color, for Cubans, for Animals, for Indians, and for Her, the planet.

I am weeping for the truth of Medgar’s statement; so brave and so true. I weep for him gunned down in his carport, not far from where I would eventually live in Mississippi, with a box of t-shirts in his arms that said: “Jim Crow Must Go.” Though trained in the United States Military under racist treatment one cringes to imagine, he remained a peaceful soldier in the army of liberation to the end. I weep and will always weep, even through the widest smiles, for the beautiful young wife, Myrlie Evers, he left behind, herself still strong and focused on the truth of struggle; and for their children, who lost their father to a fate they could not possibly, at the time, understand. I don’t think any of us could imagine during that particular phase of the struggle for justice, that we risked losing not just our lives, which we were prepared to give, but also our children, who we were not.

Nothing protected Medgar, nor will anything protect any of us; nothing but our love for ourselves and for others whom we recognize unfailingly as also ourselves. Nothing can protect us but our lives. How we have lived them; what battles, with love and compassion our only shield, we have engaged. And yet, the moment of realizing we are truly alone, that in the ultimate crisis of our existence our government is not there for us, is one of shock. Especially if we have had the illusion of a system behind us to which we truly belong. Thankfully I have never had opportunity to have this illusion. And so, every peaceful witnessing, every non-violent confrontation has been a pure offering. I do not regret this at all.

When I was in Cairo last December to support CODEPINK’s efforts to carry aid into Gaza I was unfortunately ill with the flu and could not offer very much. I lay in bed in the hotel room and listened to other activists report on what was happening around the city as Egypt refused entry to Gaza to the 1,400 people who had come for the accompanying Freedom march. I heard many distressing things, but only one made me feel, not exactly envy, but something close; it was that the French activists had shown up, en masse, in front of their embassy and that their ambassador had come out to talk to them and to try to make them comfortable as they set up camp outside the building. This small gesture of compassion for his country’s activists in a strange land touched me profoundly, as I was touched decades ago when someone in John Kennedy’s White House (maybe the cook) sent out cups of hot coffee to our line of freezing student and teacher demonstrators as we tried, with our signs and slogans and songs, to protect a vulnerable neighbor, Cuba.

Where have the Israelis put our friends? I thought about this all night. Those whom they assassinated on the ship and those they injured? Is “my” government capable of insisting on respect for their dead bodies? Can it demand that those who are injured but alive be treated with care? Not only with care, but the tenderness and honor they deserve? If it cannot do this, such a simple, decent thing, of what use is it to the protection and healing of the planet? I heard a spokesman for the United States opine at the United Nations (not an exact quote) that the Freedom Flotilla activists should have gone through other, more proper, channels, not been confrontational with their attempt to bring aid to the distressed. This is almost exactly what college administrators advised half a century ago when students were trying to bring down apartheid in the South and getting bullets, nooses, bombings and burnings for our efforts. I felt embarrassed (to the degree one can permit embarrassment by another) to be even vaguely represented by this man: a useless voice from the far past. One had hoped.

The Israeli spin on the massacre: that the commandos were under attack by the peace activists and that the whole thing was like “a lynching” of the armed attackers, reminds me of a Redd Foxx joke. I loved Redd Foxx, for all his vulgarity. A wife caught her husband in bed with another woman, flagrant, in the act, skin to skin. The husband said, probably through pants of aroused sexual exertion: All right, go ahead and believe your lying eyes! It would be fun, were it not tragic, to compare the various ways the Israeli government and our media will attempt to blame the victims of this unconscionable attack for their own imprisonment, wounds and deaths.

So what to do? Rosa Parks sat down in the front of the bus. Martin Luther King followed her act of courage with many of his own, and using his ringing, compassionate voice he aroused the people of Montgomery, Alabama to commit to a sustained boycott of the bus company; a company that refused to allow people of color to sit in the front of the bus, even if it was empty. It is time for us, en masse, to show up in front of our conscience, and sit down in the front of the only bus we have: our very lives.

What would that look like, be like, today, in this situation between Palestine and Israel? This “impasse” that has dragged on for decades. This “conflict” that would have ended in a week if humanity as a whole had acted in defense of justice everywhere on the globe. Which maybe we are learning! It would look like the granddaughter of Rosa Parks, the grandson of Martin Luther King. It would look like spending our money only where we can spend our lives in peace and happiness; freely sharing whatever we have with our friends.

It would be to support boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel to End the Occupation of Gaza and the West Bank and by this effort begin to soothe the pain and attend the sorrows of a people wrongly treated for generations. This action would also remind Israel that we have seen it lose its way and have called to it, often with love, and we have not been heard. In fact, we have reached out to it only to encounter slander, insult and, too frequently, bodily harm.

Disengage, avoid, and withhold support from whatever abuses, degrades and humiliates humanity.

This we can do. We the people; who ultimately hold all the power. We the people, who must never forget to believe we can win.

We the people.

It has always been about us; as we watch governments come and go. It always will be.

What he said…


There’s no ambiguity here…the Israeli blockade and occupation of Gaza is illegal!

Israel’s deadly attack on the Gaza “Freedom Flotilla” was flagrantly illegal. The flotilla, carefully searched for arms before disembarkation, enjoyed the right of free navigation in international waters, and Israel had no legal justification to interrupt its peaceful mission.

Flotilla passengers were entitled to defend themselves against Israel’s forcible boarding of the Mavi Marmara, whether or not Israeli commandos fired immediately on landing on the ship’s deck, as the passengers maintain. Dropping 100 armed soldiers on a ship from the sky is not a peaceful maneuver. Nor can Israeli armed commandos claim self-defense, any more than a purse snatcher facing a victim who elects to fight back. Hence, Israel is culpable for the killings that followed.

Israel has claimed that it is in “armed conflict” with the Hamas government in the Gaza Strip and that its actions on the high seas to enforce the blockade of the Gaza Strip are therefore permissible. That claim is wrong.

In fact, under customary international law that Israel accepts as binding, Israel continues to occupy the Gaza Strip, despite the withdrawal of its ground troops and settlers from that region in 2005. A territory is “occupied” when foreign forces exercise “effective control” over it, whether accomplished through the continuous presence of ground troops or not.

Israel patrols the territorial waters and airspace of the Gaza Strip, regulates Gaza’s land borders, restricts internal movements by excluding Gazans from a “buffer zone” that includes 46 percent of the strip’s agricultural land, and controls the Gaza Strip’s supplies of electricity, heating oil, and petrol. Together these factors amount to remote but “effective control.” Thus, the Gaza Strip remains occupied, as the United Nations, the U.S. government and the International Committee of the Red Cross have all recognized.

Israel has authority to halt arms imports into the Gaza Strip. But it also owes a general duty of protection to civilians under its control, and has specific duties to allow them access to adequate food and medical supplies, and to maintain public health standards – duties it has deliberately violated in imposing the siege on Gaza. Currently 77.2 percent of Gaza Palestinians either face or are vulnerable to hunger; of these, 65 percent are children younger than 18. According to UNICEF, 10 percent of Gaza children show signs of stunting, while the World Health Organization maintains that another 10 percent face chronic malnutrition.

Moreover, collective punishment is specifically barred under Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention. Israeli officials have repeatedly stated that the objective of the blockade is to weaken the Gaza economy and undermine support for Hamas. That is a political, not a military, objective, and it is impermissible under international law to target innocent civilians to achieve nonmilitary goals.

Actions taken to enforce an illegal siege cannot themselves be legal. Israel’s blockade violates the human rights of Gaza Palestinians and must be brought to an end.

Israel’s attack on the “Freedom Flotilla” is the logical consequence of years of Israeli impunity from international law – abetted by the diplomatic cover provided it by our government. At some point, genuine friends of both Israeli Jews and Palestinian Arabs must impress on Israel that its serial lawlessness is good for no one, multiplying resentment and pain, and pushing the prospects of regional peace into a more distant future.

The Ever Changing Bar of Civility


When it comes to Israel that bar keeps getting lower and lower.  I just finished reading a NYT article, In Bid to Quell Anger Over Raid, Israel Frees Detainees which proclaimed

Israel worked Wednesday to defuse rising international anger by agreeing to a rapid release of all detainees — including those suspected of attacking its soldiers — taken after the deadly nighttime raid of six ships seeking to break its blockade of the Gaza Strip.

The release seemed most immediately aimed at repairing dangerously eroding ties with Turkey, Israel’s main ally in the Muslim world, as demands continued to intensify around the world to end a blockade that critics say has kept Gazans isolated and impoverished.

which seems to imply Israel was doing the activists a favor by releasing them even though they “attacked” IDF soldiers.  This is the same theme repeated in defense of Israeli action that fateful morning; the Israelis inflicted casualties on people only after they were attacked, which begs the questions why were they attacked?  The fight didn’t happen in a vacuum; indeed it occurred only after Israeli soldiers first fired on and then assaulted the flotilla that was at the time in international waters, far from the coast of Gaza, its intended target or better yet, Israel its final destination.  However, Israelis would have you believe the people on board those vessels were the worst of the worst terrorists and of course have even thrown in the word al-Qaida to frighten people even more.  It doesn’t matter that the al-Qaida label applied to the organizers of the flotilla is as false and non-existent as the one many tried to affix to Saddam Hussein; the mere mention of the word generates the “shock” value that legitimizes any reaction even illegal ones.

The Israelis who probably just a few short weeks ago were leading the calls for freedom of the press in response to the Draw Muhammad day fiasco dreamed up by people who want to antagonize members of the Islamic faith, went on to perform the best press censorship of the modern era, by taking all the recording devices from any and everyone on any ships and not releasing them while spinning their (Israeli) yarns about what went on during that dreaded encounter.  The IDF even went so far as to release their video version of events and the aftermath, which was as sloppy as the tale they tried to spin.  For example, it was discovered that pictures of some of the “weapons” they claimed to have confiscated and displayed were taken several years ago and other photographs showed instruments, rather tools, one would expect to see on a boat that handled several hundred passengers and cargo not the weapons Israelis hoped one would dream up when it was said they were fired on or assaulted.  Those pictures immediately discredited the scenario the Israelis painted of having been fired on by passengers during their own assault on the ship; there were no firearms on any of the vessels except the firearms the Israelis brought when they pirated the ships.

We still don’t have a casualty count from the Israelis, not that anyone is asking any more, but it would certainly tell us the extent of the killing that went on that night.  There is at least one account that says the Israelis threw some bodies overboard into the water. Nor do we know just how badly wounded and how many there are of the other people involved in the flotilla.  Main stream media has settled on the number 9 but other accounts have said as many as 20 were killed and so what will happen is people will begin to quibble about numbers and forget about the fact that those numbers represent people who were murdered for there is absolutely no justification for the Israeli boarding of those boats in international waters or anywhere near the coast of Gaza.  The blockade of Gaza is not meant to secure Israeli borders……it is an act of war and intimidation used to impoverish an entire group of people and frighten others from coming to their aid in order for the Israelis to seize the land they want those people to abandon and grab the natural resources contained therein.  We’ve already posted stories here on Miscellany101 of Palestinian farmers and fisherman who have been killed or wounded while going about their daily business of subsistence living in plain view, during daylight hours when there was no ambiguity about their actions or intentions, by IDF. What was the security risk they posed, other than their living, as they went about the daily chores associated with gathering food and providing for their families?  What group did they represent to the Israelis as they toiled on their boats, in an area off the coast of GAZA, not Israel, that was an existential threat? We have grown used  to this war of attrition the Israelis are waging against unarmed civilians to the extent we don’t even ask those kinds of questions anymore.  Instead we are fed the diet of the importance of Israel maintaining its security and the rights of victims of Israeli aggression are never considered and their deaths continue.  Israel has no right to murder farmers and fishermen, but that axiom of law  is lost in the clamor about Israel’s right to  self defense.

In like fashion, the argument about Israel’s latest atrocity never addresses the illegal nature of the Israeli blockade of Gaza which has slowly been lost in the noise about international waters.   Instead we’re told indignantly how the flotilla was well away from the Israeli imposed blockade limit, miles away in fact, in international waters.  That too has become another encroachment that will fall to the Israeli march towards total abandonment of law and order as the Israelis claim they were fired upon by members of the flotilla who were out to lynch these heroes of Israel’s gestapo storm troopers when they descended onto the ships.  Israel didn’t consider for one moment international law and boundaries and it doesn’t want you to either when it comes to their illegal activity. And have you heard how tolerant the Israelis were by boarding ships with non lethal paint guns and how they only resorted to deadly force when they were attacked, as if they magically appeared on those ships or were passengers all along from the moment they set sail from ports in Cyprus who had to defend themselves suddenly and unexpectedly from bloodthirsty anti-semitic activists who turned on them, endangering their lives.

The very idea of Israel confronting the ships was illegal, and the actions which ensued during or after that confrontation were murderous at best, war crimes/atrocities at worse.  What’s sad is an American administration’s reaction to such criminal behavior, ostensibly done in its name; Joe Biden suggesting murder is no big deal, Obama being absolutely silent on the issue and America before the UN watering down any resolutions critical, not condemnatory mind you, of Israeli action. This all because the international community has continued to dismiss pass transgressions and only focus on current ones which are increasingly more narrowed and defined by Israel.  Israeli soldiers were attacked, even though they were engaged in internationally criminal activity, but that’s not a big deal, they were attacked and some were injured, even though they themselves murdered unarmed citizens, but that’s not important because they have a right to know what was contained on the boats, even though they sabotaged some of them while they were at port but that’s not a big deal, and so it goes.  And did you know an American was killed on one of the boats, shot four times in the head, but the US government is used to its citizens being killed by Israelis and so that’s not a big deal either.

A Must See


This five part series gives you just a short glimpse into the lives of those the Gaza flotilla tried to help.  The destruction and desolation highlighted is complete and devastating.

America and the community of illegal nations


It’s a sad sight, but not entirely unexpected; America has become along with Israel, an international pariah, a violator of international law.  Like many, we hoped that with the advent of the Obama administration the Nation would take a sharp turn away from this inevitable conclusion began with the illegal invasion of a hapless Iraq and Afghanistan, but it doesn’t seem as if policy makers will allow that.  Instead what we’ve been given is a notice that Guantanamo Bay will remain open, American troops will remain in war torn areas that have nothing to do with our security, and America will side with a country that’s hell bent on going to war with anyone who dissents with its pogroms of death and destruction against ancient rivalries and foes.

Not even bothering to go the way of disagreeing with the Israeli illegal actions, America has blamed everyone but the Zionist state for the deaths of a number of people we don’t even know.  The unequivocal statement made by a US representative in the UN…….politicians are even too scared to utter the mild statements of UN representatives, was that America will side with her mentor right or wrong…or in this case whenever she’s wrong, and everyone else be damned.  Such a position is sure to get America in another war because her client/mentor state has nothing to lose and everything to gain by engaging in belligerent activity with the knowledge she has the endless resources of America upon which to rely.  Not that she NEEDS them, it’s just that Israel is smart enough not to waste its human resources when it can find others more willing to die for her.

And let’s be clear about something….everything that happened vis-a-vis the murder of untold numbers of unarmed people at the hands of the IDF, and they’re threatening to do it again and in more deadly fashion, is absolutely illegal under all laws, even those that Israel applies to itself, but denies to others.  The Gaza blockade that Israel says it graciously supplies to only 15% of the population is illegal; the maritime blockade whereby Israel denies access to Gaza ports even to Gazans, is illegal, say nothing of the fact that Israel doesn’t recognize Gazan sovereignty or the right to self-determination.  Above all that, the extent to which Israel denies others the right to offer even the most basic subsistence to the people is itself illegal, yet anyone who approaches any of these boundaries Israel has laid out for a nation of people other than itself is in violation of what law? Make no mistake about it and before history is re-written, the actions of the Israeli government within the last several months are homicidal and illegal and only America has been convinced as of this writing, to support fully and unconditionally the Israelis.  It is not fun to see a once great Nation become so easily enslaved into following a course of action that is antithetical to its foundation of law and order but it is not uncommon to see there are some within the Israeli body politic who want to see it this way.  Their lust for power blinds them to all but the absolute quest for raw power above all else, even the fate of their allies or themselves.

Threat to peace


In the last month we have seen or read about Israel rejecting calls for a nuclear free Middle East; condemned  the NonProliferation Treaty; put out news stories that it has placed nuclear armed submarines off the coast of Iran; attacked a ship belonging to a country that signed an accord with Iran that a US administration had sought; attacked and killed unarmed civilians on  relief aid boats in international waters; continued the blockade and siege of a defenseless population and American troops are fighting wars in Iraq and Afghanistan for what?

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War-A Slaughter of Innocents


The person who took the photograph of the carnage to the left became its victim at the hands of American forces who went to Iraq to liberate Iraqis from their tyrannical ruler but who became tyrants and murderers themselves.  The death of Reuters photographer Namir Noor-Eldeen and his colleague Saeed Chmagh, a death vividly caught on tape is perhaps the most accurate depiction of what the Iraqi war brought to the shores of both Iraq and America.

To Iraqis such tragic events were normal occurrences in their interaction with American forces who all too often shot and killed first and rarely asked questions later if at all.  People on the ground in Iraq are too acquainted with the reality that the US military has very little regard for Iraqi lives where the total number of deaths number in the tens of thousands.  Having been besieged by all forces who claimed to act in their best interests, from the government of their own country, to their “liberators” who came to to offer them relief, Iraqis have been slaughtered over the past decade.  In many respects that slaughter has been analyzed and presented to the public to justify public policy in all instances, except those which applied to the US military, when Iraqi civilians ran up against US  forces at which point the public was met with a stone walling military complex and an indifferent media.

The very nature of war means the inevitability of what is presented on film linked above would occur on a basis as often as there is an occupying force in a foreign land interacting with the indigenous population.  The euphemisms employed by the Bush administration to make the invasion more palatable were just as meaningless as the excuses now being given for the action taken against unarmed civilians and children who in the course of their daily lives ran into a force far more willing to shoot them than to help them.  Shooting is the job of soldiers; liberation is the job of those who want to be liberated and sometimes they are convergent ideas and actions but in today’s meme of invasion and occupation they usually are not.  Therefore it is reasonable and necessary to say that what happened to the two Reuters employees is a normal everyday circumstance, no doubt one happening even today,  and if you find it so disturbing as I do, the only thing that will change that is the unconditional withdrawal of American forces from Iraq and nothing less.

This is not the time for back slapping and self-congratulations among those of us who opposed the war by saying this kind of incident was an inevitability of war.  Such arrogance doesn’t help the scores of families, almost every Iraqi one, who have been afflicted by this tragedy.  Nor will a revision of the rules of engagement offer any relief.  In fact as we have mentioned on the pages of Miscellany101 before, there are some who say that the rules of engagement should not spare civilians, and that military personnel should give no consideration to them at all.  Therefore, to abandon this massacre means by necessity abandoning the occupation of Iraq by the American military.  Does that mean murder and mayhem in Iraq will stop?  No it doesn’t, but its occurrence will diminish greatly and we will not be responsible for it, nor blamed for it when it does.  In order to be a society based on the rule of law, we must first apply that rule to ourselves before we try to make others accountable.  Illegal, discriminatory, unjust, murderous wars must be stopped at once before any other declarations of guilt can be raised.  If nothing else, let us hope that will be the outcome of a murder caught on tape.

UPDATE

“If you kill a civilian he becomes an insurgent because you retroactively make that person a threat.”

I mentioned above how the murder of the two Iraqi Reuters reporters was really a normal, everyday event that was brought on by the presence of an occupying force in Iraq.  To underscore that point comes this article where soldiers who served in Iraq make the same claim, matter of factly that ‘we were told to shoot people and the officers would take care of us’.  Military personnel were sent to Iraq to kill not to liberate or win the hearts of minds of the people there.  Listen to some of the testimonies:

Vincent Emanuele, a Marine rifleman who spent a year in the al-Qaim area of Iraq near the Syrian border, told of emptying magazines of bullets into the city without identifying targets, running over corpses with Humvees and stopping to take “trophy” photos of bodies….

Steve Casey served in Iraq for over a year starting in mid-2003.

“We were scheduled to go home in April 2004, but due to rising violence we stayed in with Operation Blackjack,” Casey said, “I watched soldiers firing into the radiators and windows of oncoming vehicles. Those who didn’t turn around were unfortunately neutralized one way or another – well over 20 times I personally witnessed this. There was a lot of collateral damage.”

Jason Hurd served in central Baghdad from November 2004 until November 2005. He told of how, after his unit took “stray rounds” from a nearby firefight, a machine gunner responded by firing over 200 rounds into a nearby building.

“We fired indiscriminately at this building,” he said. “Things like that happened every day in Iraq. We reacted out of fear for our lives, and we reacted with total destruction.

Such was the atmosphere created by the US military in Iraq which literally forced military personnel to take part in the types of atrocities evident in the video tape above.

The New Crusades-Christian Mercenaries’ war on Islam


crusaderBlackwater founder and Christian mercenary/missionary Erik Prince is in the news again for allegations he sent people to kill Muslim Iraqis under the sponsorship of the US State Department.  Inflammatory but you can read the story here.

A former Blackwater employee and an ex-US Marine who has worked as a security operative for the company have made a series of explosive allegations in sworn statements filed on August 3 in federal court in Virginia. The two men claim that the company’s owner, Erik Prince, may have murdered or facilitated the murder of individuals who were cooperating with federal authorities investigating the company. The former employee also alleges that Prince “views himself as a Christian crusader tasked with eliminating Muslims and the Islamic faith from the globe,” and that Prince’s companies “encouraged and rewarded the destruction of Iraqi life.”

Now even if you believe in the phony war on terror, you have been told several times it had nothing to do with Iraqis; rather we were going there for the purposes of removing a ruler we didn’t like but who we knew all along had nothing to do with 911.  Blackwater became Dick Cheney’s praetorian guard, initially to guard his interests, Halliburton, there in Iraq and ostensibly to do Cheney’s demented bidding which included political assassinations the world over.  As if the torture issue isn’t reason enough for federal authorities to look into prosecuting Cheney,  this latest revelation about Blackwater and the nefarious dealings of its president, Prince, should be the nail in the coffin for Cheney and many other former Bush officials’ incarceration.  However, because of Blackwaters’ close ties with federal government officials, many of them career employees who remain when administrations leave and who have a direct impact on policy no matter who’s in charge, don’t look for the investigation into Blackwater malfeasance to go too far, unless the public demands it.  Meanwhile, Blackwater and the US government will continue to get away with murder, and earn the scorn of the rest of the world.

The Iran Yo-Yo


yo-yoWith the Republican party all used up, battered and bruised, with dwindling Tea Party numbers, the titular head of the party’s constant insertion of his foot in his own mouth, the Sanford scandal,  the neocons have abandoned ship and returned to their home the Democratic party where they first found a footing during the days of Henry Scoop Jackson and they’re agitating for war with Iran.  The Republicans served their purpose at the beginning of this millenium but after being turned down by voters in 2006 and 2008, the GOP is not the power base the neocons need for their wars of aggression and racism.  Obama’s administration will suit their purposes just fine and they’re firmly ensconced with the party of asses and plotting their war with Iran.

It has been fun to watch the sudden and quick implosion of the GOP, first with the McCain campaign which resembled the Bob Dole campaign of ’96,  and the soap operaesque Sarah Palin and her drama, both personally and politically, but not even right wing nut job radio can revive the party with Obama acting on all four cylinders and practically mimicking the GOP as it expands wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan while allocating tons of money for defense that  not even a Republican secretary of defense requests.

What this means is neocons feel emboldened to continue their psy-ops assault on Iran with nothing less than regime change in mind.  Acting on behalf of the Israelis who are the ones calling for a military attack on Iran, neocons have used every excuse in the book to whip up attack Iran fervor both inside the Obama administration and with the general public which will have to supply the manpower, much like it did for the Iraq invasion, to administer the coup de grace on any attack initiated by Israel.  This past weekend, vice president Joe Biden gave the nod, as far as he and his boss Obama are concerned, for the Israelis to go ahead with the attack.  Of course the tacit meaning is that the US will do any and everything to help Israel when the Iranians respond by attacking Israel.

The Iranians elections were the 911 moment for the neocons whose crescendo-ing rhetoric began even before the elections.  There’s a very good piece, False Sorrow for the People of Iran, which talks about the different devices used by the neocons to demonize, denigrate and de-emphasize the importance of the elections when they thought the winner would try to make peaceful overtures to the US.  It states in part

So the possibility of Iran’s president being a rational, moderate man determined to make détente with the United States frightened the War Party and the Israel lobby. Thus, a week before the elections, Iran’s president was demoted to a powerless man again! The neoconservatives, the War Party, and the Israel lobby all began emphasizing how it does not matter who Iran’s president is, since all the important decisions regarding foreign policy are made by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

However, Iranian leaders have been making peace overtures to the US since almost the inception of their revolution, and certainly since the American hostages debacle when they colluded with the Reagan administration to release the hostages in exchange for weapons to fight the Iran-Iraq war.  Their last attempt was met with scorn and rejection by the Bush administration’s cabal of neocons who want only Israel as an ally among the nation states in the middle east. Maintaining this “special relationship” means Israel can help itself to American largess, building up and defending the country at the expense of US tax dollars, personnel and materiel.

Another attack point against Iran has been its nuclear energy program which some have said is a secret nuclear weapons program, without offering any proof of that assertion.  Of course the neocons are able to muddy the waters, confusing the public by putting the onus of Iran to prove a negative, i.e. prove they do not have a nuclear weapons program going on.  This so resembles the WMD nonsense of Iraq that it would be funny if it weren’t a matter of life and death for everyone.  All this talk of an Iranian  nuclear weapons program continues despite the National Intelligence Estimate of last year that said in effect the Iranians had halted their weapons program at about the same time they were making peaceful overtures to the US in 2003.  The rejection of those overtures was the neocons way of trying to back the Iranians into a corner to resume their program since they assumed, correctly, that any sovereign country would develop a means of defending itself decisively in the face of an hostile neighbor,  something which Iranians have certainly been accused of despite the absence of any evidence.  The kicker is however, that the Israelis don’t really consider the presence of Iranian nukes an existential threat as some in the neocon stable would have us believe.

Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni said a few months ago in a series of closed discussions that in her opinion that Iranian nuclear weapons do not pose an existential threat to Israel, Haaretz magazine reveals in an article on Livni to be published Friday.

Livni also criticized the exaggerated use that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is making of the issue of the Iranian bomb, claiming that he is attempting to rally the public around him by playing on its most basic fears. Last week, former Mossad chief Ephraim Halevy said similar things about Iran.

Such sentiment is not acceptable to neocons because it would make Israel an equal partner, vis-a-vis the nuclear weapons front  with its Iranian  neighbors and superiority not equality is the only state of affairs the Israelis are willing to  accept in its relations with other countries in the region.  Despite the fact Iran has not developed its nuclear weapons program, the fact that it is enriching uranium is considered a threat, by neocons in the American government, to the existence of Israel even though the Israelis themselves don’t think so.  This is the danger of neoconservatism, which inflates dangers to the point of conflagrations that envelope the world community when they are absolutely needless and pointless.  It also underscores the danger such philosophy has to the well being of nation states and indeed the US itself, which has already been devastated by one needless war and appears to be on the edge of entering another because of the lies of its policy makers, the neocons.