Saturday, January 17, 2009

Gaza Grotesquerie: Spoiling the Obama Ball

Israel Should Stop the War and Let US Enjoy the Inauguration;
Cease fire Mooted; 55 Palestinians Killed Friday, including Little Girls
by Juan Cole
Informed Comment
Saturday, January 17, 2009

[For complete article reference links, please see source here.]

There are rumors that the Israeli government may declare a unilateral cease fire Saturday. They had better. Because if they ruin the Obama inauguration by splashing the bloody bodies of dead Palestinian children all over the press during the next few days, no Americans, even the most pro-Israeli, are going to forgive them. The war has left 1,140 Palestinians dead, over 300 children, and over 5,000 wounded including many women and children, as well as 13 Israelis (4 of them civilians killed by rocket fire). We pay for these wars, we provide the fighter jets, bombs, and tanks. And we don't want our money used for this sanguinary purpose in the first place; we have enough to be guilty about all on our own. And we especially don't want to hear a peep from over there while we swear in our first African-American president.

On Friday, tens of thousands of Egyptians protested the continued war on Gaza. Crowds in Baghdad gathered to donate humanitarian aid to Gaza. There were demonstrations, as well, in a number of other countries.

Wholesale food distributors in Jordan, the UK and the Scandinavian countries are quietly imposing an informal boycott on Israeli fruit, according to Ynetnews, in response to the war on Gaza. My guess is that if the Apartheid situation in the Occupied Territories becomes formalized, such boycotts will spread.

Israel pursued its attacks on Friday and on Saturday morning, killing 55 Palestinians, including a houseful of girls, daughters and a niece of a physician working in Israel who was being interviewed on Israeli television when the news reached him. AFP writes:

' At least 55 Palestinians were killed on Friday, including at least 10 people who died when a tank shell slammed into their house in Gaza City during a funeral wake, according to Palestinian medics . . . In the Jabaliya refugee camp in the north of the territory, three daughters and a niece of a Palestinian doctor working in Israel were killed in an Israeli air strike. "They were girls, only girls. I want to know why they have they killed them. Who gave the order to fire?" the children's sobbing father Ezzedine Abu Eish said on Israeli television. Palestinian militants meanwhile fired over 20 rockets and mortar rounds into southern Israel on Friday, wounding five people, the Israeli military said. Over 700 such projectiles have been fired since the start of the war.'

The father of the dead little girls, Dr. Izz el-Deen Aboul Aish, appears to have been a sort of an Arab "Dr. Sanjay Gupta" who came on Israeli television frequently. He was about to do an interview on Israeli television when the word reached him of the atrocity against his family. His wife had earlier died of cancer, so his children were all he had left. He commuted to Tel Aviv from Gaza and told the girls to sleep near the stone walls to stay safe in his absence.

The Israeli anchors put his anguished lamentations on the air for over 3 minutes, which I take to be their own little protest against Olmert's Butcher Shop. The physician is heard repeatedly crying out, "Ya Rabb, ya Allah" (O Lord, O God!) as the image of the mangles small bodies invades his mind.

Hamas leaders left Gaza for Cairo to nail down an Egyptian peace proposal. Note that Israel is essentially negotiating with Hamas, if only via intermediaries.

Aljazeera English also reports on the aftermath of Israeli strikes on another civilian neighborhood.

UK Member of Parliament Gerald Kaufman's eloquent denunciation of the Olmert government for war crimes is now available at YouTube:

Proliferation, Terrorism and Deceit

Nuclear Proliferation, Terrorism and Deceit: America's Deadly Game
by Tom Burghardt

Antifascist Calling...

Call it a coincidence, but one headline you're not likely to have read just days after the Mumbai terrorist attacks concerned the quiet release by Swiss authorities of Urs Tinner. One of the key players in Pakistan's nuclear proliferation network run by "rogue" scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan and the military, Tinner had been held in administrative detention for nearly four years.

This is all the more ironic given that Dawood Ibrahim, the drugs kingpin, terrorist operative and underworld crime boss who allegedly helped infiltrate Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET) commandos into Mumbai, is long-suspected of providing similar "expertise" to A. Q. Khan's shadowy nuclear black market through a web of dodgy Dubai-based companies.

When the Khan scandal broke, some analysts wondered whether the United States "will at least conduct a thorough enquiry into the involvement of smugglers and black-marketers in the process of proliferation."

Asia Times claimed "that a Dubai company run by Ibrahim, which has suddenly disappeared, was involved in procuring nuclear-related material from Pakistan," and then shipping it to the highest bidder. To date, no such investigation has been publicly disclosed.

Just as pertinent however, is the security of the Pakistani people, not just its nuclear arsenal. With formidable internal threats from al-Qaeda and neo-Taliban elements linked to the Army and the shadowy Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) agency and external threats from both the United States and geopolitical rival India, Pakistani secular and civil society is under siege.

However, at the center of this spider's web of nuclear proliferation, terrorism and deceit sits the United States. After all, Khan's shady activities have been well-known for decades and yet, to secure advantage over their capitalist rivals, the U.S. has been content to exploit Pakistan as a cats' paw for destabilizing covert operations in dozens of global hot spots from Asia to the Balkans and beyond. But you wouldn't know this by even the most cursory perusal of The New York Times.

One (among many) examples of the Times' shoddy reporting and journalistic duplicity in the service of Pentagon war planners, was brought to light by Russ Wellen in Asia Times. Last Sunday's New York Times Magazine featured an alarmist screed by David Sanger, "The Worst Pakistan Nightmare for Obama."

Sanger claims that Pakistan's nuclear arsenal faces the threat of being hijacked by jihadi groups intent on provoking "a confrontation between Pakistan and India in the hope that the Pakistani military would transport tactical nuclear weapons closer to the front lines, where they would be more vulnerable to seizure. Indeed, when the deadly terror attacks occurred in Mumbai ... officials told me they feared that one of the attackers' motives might have been to trigger exactly that series of events."

Neoconservative hawks Frederic Kagan and Michael O'Hanlon, respective members of the "Attack Iran" lobby at the American Enterprise Institute and the Brookings Institution, told Sanger, the "best bet" would be for American forces and the Pakistanis "to secure critical sites and possibly to move the material to a safer place ... like New Mexico ... More Likely, we would have to settle for establishing a remote redoubt within Pakistan."

But as Brian Cloughley, a security analyst who writes for Jane's and has contributed to the University of Bradford's Pakistan Security Research Unit (PSRU) told Asia Times, moving nuclear warheads to remote locations is precisely the worst possible method of securing atomic arms, one that more likely would increase the chances of seizure by extremist elements.

Cloughley accuses Sanger of "cheap, nasty and silly journalese at its most risible depths." As in other reporting by Sanger on the Khan network, alarmist rhetoric, half-truths and outright mendacity is the preferred method, particularly when it comes to covering-up Washington's complicity.

While I necessarily focus here on Pakistan's corrupt nuclear proliferation regime, a state-sanctioned program from which key military and civilian leaders profited handsomely, the biggest proliferator of this deadly technology is Washington. As the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace reported earlier this month, "the United States spent over $52 billion on nuclear weapons and related programs in fiscal year 2008, but only 10 percent of that went toward preventing a nuclear attack through slowing and reversing the proliferation of nuclear weapons and technology."

Why? With profits for America's largest defense firms hanging in the balance, real peace and security are always trumped by the corporatist bottom line.

A Web of Shady Connections

While Washington claims that the 2004 exposure of some elements of Khan's network as a "victory" for its alleged antiproliferation efforts, key players including Khan and his top associates, remain out of reach.

By portraying itself as a "helpless giant" dependent on Pakistani "assistance" in its fraudulent "war on terror," the United States is covering-up its own complicity and silence. As in the run-up to the 2003 invasion and occupation of Iraq, or the current Israeli slaughter of Palestinians in Gaza, corporate media, primarily The New York Times, are key players obfuscating Washington's role.

The BBC reported in June that Khan's chief associate, Buhary Syed Abu Tahir, a Sri Lankan "businessman," was quietly released from custody after four years detention by Malaysian authorities. While President Bush had described Tahir as A. Q. Khan's "chief financial officer and money launderer," the United States has "no plans" to seek Tahir's extradition.

This is all the more remarkable considering that the Malaysian Police investigation into the Khan network found that Tahir's family was closely connected with Dawood Ibrahim and that the D-Company's terrorist don had helped the Pakistani nuclear establishment in their clandestine procurement and smuggling activities. According to numerous reports, D-Company has long had a major base of operations in Malaysia.

For years Tinner, along with brother Marco and father, Friedrich, were active in the smuggling network run out of Kahuta, the site of Pakistan's Khan Research Laboratories (KRL). Located near Rawalpindi, KRL is the primary fissile-material production facility and long-range missile development site. For their enterprising efforts the Tinners' allegedly earned millions in commissions.

According to reports, they were instrumental in setting up and operating a machining facility in Malaysia that produced centrifuge components for the production of highly-enriched uranium (HRE). The key element in manufacturing a weapon, thousands of centrifuges were sold by the network to governments such as Libya, North Korea and allegedly Iran, that were seeking to skirt restrictions of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

That firm, Scope, was a subsidiary of the Scomi Engineering Group. Urs Tinner was hired by Tahir in 2002 as a full-time "consultant." According to the Malaysian Police investigation, Tinner routinely erased all technical drawings kept in his computer at the Scope plant. When his "term of service" ended in October 2003, Tinner retrieved the hard disc from the company's computer "designated for his use," and gave the impression that he "did not wish to leave any trace of his presence there."

Murkier still, are the relations between Tahir and the son of Malaysia's current Prime Minister, Abdullah Badawi. Kamaluddin Badawi sat on the board of a firm plugged into the proliferation network. In 2007, Asia Times reported, that Scomi built components for centrifuges that were destined for use in Libya's nuclear program. Scomi Group had since acknowledged that its subsidiary Scomi Precision filled a contract negotiated by Buhary to supply machine parts to Libya.

Documents obtained by the Associated Press reveal that Buhary was the chief financial officer of Pakistani nuclear scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan's underground nuclear-proliferation network. How he was able to forge such high-powered alliances with Malaysia's political elite is a question that remains unanswered. When the scandal broke, Abdullah said Tahir would remain free because there was no evidence of wrongdoing. (Ioannis Gatsiounis, "Malaysia's axis mysteriously shifting," Asia Times Online, August 28, 2007)

While Tahir will continue to be "under police watch," no charges have ever been brought against Kamaluddin. According to the BBC, his firm was investigated "but cleared of wrongdoing." How convenient!

Activities by Khan and the nuclear establishment were well-known to the CIA back in the 1970s. However, when Dutch authorities were alerted by Frits Veerman, a former colleague of Khan's at the Physical Dynamics Research Laboratory (FDO), the Dutch partner of the European consortium Urenco, long after Khan had stolen Urenco plans for constructing high-speed centrifuges, nothing was done. For his troubles, Veerman was threatened with prosecution by Dutch security officials who demanded his silence. According to investigative journalists David Armstrong and Joseph Trento,

The Dutch considered reopening the case [against Khan] in 1986 but backed off at the request of the CIA, according to then-Prime Minister Ruud Lubbers. Lubbers had suggested that the United States wanted Khan left alone in part because Pakistan had by then become a key U.S. ally in the battle against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. (America and the Islamic Bomb, Hanover, NH: Steerforth Press, 2008, p. 67)

Among the concessions made by the United States to Pakistan for their support of numerous anticommunist destabilization operations across the decades was a cynical and cultivated blindness when it came to Pakistan's development of atomic weapons and A. Q. Khan's nuclear supermarket.

BCCI, the CIA and Nuclear Proliferation

During the 1970s, the Safari Club, a secret cabal of intelligence agencies including France, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the Shah's Iran, Morocco and the United States, decided that it required a network of banks to help launder illicit funds and finance intelligence operations, according to investigative journalist John Cooley's account in Unholy Wars. With the blessings of George H. W. Bush, then Director of the CIA, the task fell to Saudi Intelligence Minister Kamal Adham.

Within the space of a few years, Adham helped transform Agha Hasan Abedi's small Pakistani merchant bank into the Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI). According to investigative journalist Joseph Trento's account in Prelude to Terror, under Adham's guidance Abedi created "a world-wide money-laundering machine, buying banks around the world to create the biggest clandestine money network in history." Indeed, BCCI was a major player in the Iran-Contra scandal of the 1980s, with powerful American intelligence officials deeply involved in the drugs-for-guns financing of the Nicaraguan Contras and Afghanistan's "holy warriors."

In 1991, Time Magazine described BCCI as not just a bank but also as "a global intelligence operation and a Mafia-like enforcement squad. Operating primarily out of the bank's offices in Karachi, Pakistan, the 1,500-employee black network has used sophisticated spy equipment and techniques, along with bribery, extortion, kidnapping and even, by some accounts, murder. The black network--so named by its own members--stops at almost nothing to further the bank's aims the world over."

While the United States was pouring billions of dollars in aid to finance drug- and organized crime-linked "holy warriors" in Afghanistan such as Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, much of the money was actually siphoned off by the ISI. Sarkis Soghanalian, a "middleman" profiting from American largess, told Trento that most of the money flowing into Pakistan was diverted into BCCI accounts controlled by the Army and ISI and then distributed to A. Q. Khan's weapons program and proliferation network.

According to Adrian Levy and Catherine Scott-Clark's account in Deception: Pakistan, the United States and the Secret Trade in Nuclear Weapons, Abedi created a "charity" called the BCCI Foundation. Pakistani Finance Minister Ghulam Ishaq Khan granted it tax-free status while simultaneously serving as the foundation's chairman and overseeing finances for Khan Research Laboratories in Kahuta.

Close to leading Islamists in the Army, Ishaq Khan served as Pakistan's President between 1988-1993 and acquiesced to the Army's "soft coup" against Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. As I reported in "Organized Crime, Intelligence and Terror: The D-Company's Role in the Mumbai Attacks," when Bhutto removed Islamist General Hamid Gul as ISI director, Army Chief Aslam Beg and Lt. General Asad Durrani created a BCCI-linked slush fund to finance Bhutto's removal from power.

According to Time Magazine investigative journalists Jonathan Beatty and S. C. Gwynne's 1993 book The Outlaw Bank, BCCI chairman Abedi announced that some 90% of the bank's profits would be donated to the BCCI Foundation. In reality, the Foundation was a tax-dodge and money-laundering instrument that will "donate" most of the money it raised to A. Q. Khan's illicit nuclear program. In 1987, according to Beatty and Gwynne, the Foundation gives a $10 million donation to an "institute headed by A. Q. Khan."

All of this is known at the time and covered-up by the United States. By 1984, BCCI's Black Network enforcement arm had effectively taken control of the port of Karachi ("management" subsequently transferred to Dawood Ibrahim's D-Company by his ISI masters), controlling the flow of arms to the Afghan mujaheddin, as well as overseeing drug flows, arms smuggling and the illicit trade in nuclear technology ebbing towards KRL in Kahuta.

The American response? A Senate investigation by John Kerry (D-MA) and New York City District Attorney Robert Morgenthau stumbled across BCCI's role as an international money-laundering machine for drug dealers and arms merchants. At every step of the way, the investigation was blocked by the United States Justice Department during Bush I's tenure as President. The cover-up accelerated when U.S. Assistant Attorney General Robert Mueller took over the BCCI investigation. Mueller subsequently became Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation in 2001 and oversaw the FBI's "investigation" of the 9/11 attacks.

During the course of the investigation the CIA stonewalled Kerry's probe, refusing to hand over documents it provided to a U.S. Customs Service inquiry into Khan's nuclear proliferation network, arms trafficking and BCCI drug money laundering through U.S. banks. While some information on the CIA's clandestine relationship to Abedi's criminal enterprise surfaced, the Agency refused to disclose any information on operations using the bank as an intelligence cut-out. Kerry's public report concluded, "Key questions about the relationship between U.S. intelligence and BCCI cannot be answered at this time, and may never be."

When Kerry's report is issued in 1992, it states that the Justice Department went to extraordinary lengths to block the investigation "through a variety of mechanisms, ranging from not making witnesses available, to not returning phone calls, to claiming that every aspect of the case was under investigation in a period when little, if anything was being done." Once the report is published, official interest in BCCI is allowed to die. For his efforts and those of his staff, Kerry is labeled "a randy conspiracy buff" by Newsweek's Michael Isikoff.

Meanwhile, Khan's illicit nuclear proliferation ring is profiting handsomely.

The CIA and the Tinner Family: Best Friends Forever!

Back in June, The New York Times reported that "American and international investigators" had found the electronic blueprints for an advanced nuclear weapon on computers that belonged to associates of Khan's network, the Tinners.

According to the report, the designs are for a nuclear device that is half the size of weapons previously believed to be in Pakistan's arsenal and packed with advanced electronics. When IAEA investigators confronted Pakistani officials with the evidence, they insisted that Khan "did not have access to Pakistan's weapons designs." Though less than truthful, Pakistan was again let off the hook by American officials intent on securing Pakistan's "cooperation" in the oxymoronic "war on terror."

But perhaps it helped the Tinners' case when it was revealed by The New York Times last August that the "Swiss Family Proliferation" (my phrase) worked closely with the CIA while simultaneously making millions of dollars illegally selling deadly nuclear technology to any and all comers.

Swiss President Pascal Couchepin announced May 23, that his government destroyed files, including digital copies of advanced nuclear weapons designs in the Tinners' possession. According to Couchepin, the files were destroyed "so that they would never fall into terrorists hands." The Times averred,

Behind that official explanation, though, is a far more intriguing tale of spies, moles and the compromises that governments make in the name of national security.

The United States had urged that the files be destroyed, according to interviews with five current and former Bush administration officials. The purpose, the officials said, was less to thwart terrorists than to hide evidence of a clandestine relationship between the Tinners and the C.I.A.

Over four years, several of these officials said, operatives of the C.I.A. paid the Tinners as much as $10 million, some of it delivered in a suitcase stuffed with cash. In return, the Tinners delivered a flow of secret information that helped end Libya's bomb program, reveal Iran's atomic labors and, ultimately, undo Dr. Khan's nuclear black market. (William J. Broad and David E. Sanger, "In Nuclear Net's Undoing, a Web of Shadowy Deals," The New York Times, August 25, 2008)

Mendaciously however, the Times fails to reveal just what "compromises" that successive U.S. "governments make" in the interest of "national security." Perhaps a 30-year history of close collaboration with organized crime, terrorists and nuclear proliferators? While the CIA and Bush administration are keen to claim the Khan network has been rolled-up, the U.S State Department said January 12 that it had "slapped sanctions on 13 individuals and three private companies" because of their involvement in the network, according to Reuters.

The Guardian reported that "two British businessmen," Peter and Paul Griffin, "a father and a son," were added to the blacklist and any assets the pair have in the U.S. are now frozen. While denying the charges, The Guardian reports that

Peter Griffin has been named in court cases in South Africa and Germany as being a member of the Khan network. He has repeatedly confirmed he knew Khan, but has denied knowingly being involved in illicit nuclear bomb programmes. A German judge in 2006 named the elder Griffin as one of Khan's four main associates. (Ian Traynor, "U.S. blacklists father and son over alleged nuclear racket," The Guardian, January 13, 2008)

Several of the individuals named by the State Department are either behind bars such as Gotthard Lerch, currently serving a 5 1/2 year sentence in Germany, have had charges dropped or like Tahir and A. Q. Khan, remain out of reach. The Tinners do not appear on the State Department's list of "sanctioned" individuals and firms. No doubt, their well-paid service as CIA assets has much to do with their escaping sanctions.

Although a "senior intelligence official in Washington," may have been "very happy they were destroyed," European antiproliferation investigators believe that the Swiss government's destruction of evidence "obscured the investigative trail."

According to the Times, the destroyed evidence contained more than frightening electronic blueprints for constructing a compact nuclear weapon, but "decades of records" of the Tinners' involvement in the Khan network, including bomb and centrifuge designs as well as documents linking the family to the CIA. Broad and Sanger write,

One contract, a European intelligence official said, described a C.I.A. front company's agreement to pay the smugglers $1 million for black-market secrets. The front company listed an address three blocks from the White House. (New York Times, op. cit. August 25, 2008)

An unnamed "European official" told the Times, "Maybe that labyrinth held clues to another client or another rogue state," perhaps a new--or old--"best friend forever" of the CIA's such as Turkey or Saudi Arabia. Indeed, one can plausibly argue this was precisely Washington's--and the New York Times' intent: muddy the waters while covering-up participation by U.S. corporate grifters and high government officials.

Sibel Edmonds' Revelations

While keen to attack official enemies, Washington has aided and abetted nuclear proliferation through key "allies" such as Israel, Pakistan and Turkey as revealed by gagged FBI translator and whistleblower Sibel Edmonds in a series of eye-opening reports last January by The Sunday Times.

Edmonds described how foreign intelligence agents had enlisted the support of US officials to acquire a network of moles in sensitive military and nuclear institutions.

Among the hours of covert tape recordings, she says she heard evidence that one well-known senior official in the US State Department was being paid by Turkish agents in Washington who were selling the information on to black market buyers, including Pakistan. (Chris Gourlay, Jonathan Calvert, Joe Lauria, "For Sale: West's Deadly Nuclear Secrets," The Sunday Times, January 6, 2008)

According to Edmonds and subsequent reporting by The Sunday Times, that investigation "was compromised" by a senior State Department official and eventually led to the roll-up of the CIA corporate cut-out, Brewster Jennings, by Washington neoconservatives embedded in the Pentagon and the Vice President's office.

While The Sunday Times did not name that official, former CIA officer Philip Giraldi wrote last January that Edmonds told investigators that Marc Grossman, Ambassador to Turkey during the mid-1990s and Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs from 2001-2005, was a "person of interest" and had his phone tapped by the FBI during a two year period. Grossman is currently vice chairman of The Cohen Group, a high-powered lobby shop founded by Clinton Defense Secretary William Cohen. According to Giraldi,

After 9/11, Grossman reportedly intervened with the FBI to halt the interrogation of four Turkish and Pakistani operatives. According to Edmonds, Grossman was called by a Turkish contact who told him that the men had to be released before they told what they knew. Grossman said that he would take care of it and, per Edmonds, the men were released and allowed to leave the country.

Edmonds states that FBI phone taps from late 2001 reveal that Grossman tipped off his Turkish contact regarding the CIA weapons proliferation cover unit Brewster Jennings, which was being used by Valerie Plame, and that the Turk then informed the Pakistani intelligence service representative in Washington. It is to be assumed that the information was then passed on to the A. Q. Khan nuclear proliferation network. (Philip Giraldi, "Found in Translation: FBI whistleblower Sibel Edmonds spills her secrets," The American Conservative, January 28, 2008)

This tracks closely with information revealed by The History Commons that former con man and U.S. government informant Randy Glass told investigators. Glass told MSNBC in 2003 that as part of a sting operation, ISI operative Rajaa Gulum Abbas and arms dealer Diaa Mohsen sought to purchase nuclear material for Osama bin Laden. During a 1999 meeting at a posh New York City restaurant in sight of the Twin Towers, ISI operative Abbas pointed to the Towers and told Glass, "Those towers are coming down." According to the report,

A group of illegal arms merchants, including an ISI agent with foreknowledge of 9/11, had met in a New York restaurant the month before. This same group meets at this time in a West Palm Beach, Florida, warehouse, and it is shown Stinger missiles as part of a sting operation, according to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. US intelligence soon discovers connections between two in the group, Rajaa Gulum Abbas and Mohammed Malik, Islamic militant groups in Kashmir (where the ISI assists them in fighting against India), and the Taliban. Mohamed Malik suggests in this meeting that the Stingers will be used in Kashmir or Afghanistan. His colleague Diaa Mohsen also says Abbas has direct connections to "dignitaries" and bin Laden. Abbas also wants heavy water for a "dirty bomb" or other material to make a nuclear weapon. He says he will bring a Pakistani nuclear scientist to the US to inspect the material, MSNBC reported in 2002.

According to Dick Stoltz, a federal undercover agent posing as a black market arms dealer, one of the Pakistanis at the warehouse claims he is working for A. Q. Khan. A Pakistani nuclear scientist, Khan is considered the father of Pakistan's nuclear weapons program and also the head of an illegal network exporting nuclear technology to rogue nations, MSNBC revealed in 2005.

Government informant Randy Glass passes these warnings on before 9/11, but he claims, "The complaints were ordered sanitized by the highest levels of government." ("ISI Tried to Buy Nuclear Material for Bin Laden," The History Commons, no date)

When the Khan network was allegedly run to ground, it exposed a long collaboration amongst nuclear proliferators and terrorists, many of whom were subsequently revealed to have worked closely with the CIA, Britain's MI6 and Pakistan's ISI in global destabilization operations across Asia, Europe and the Middle East. While the Cold War Safari Club may have passed into history, the global network linking organized crime, intelligence operations and the capitalist deep state continue to flourish.

That the United States continues to utilize the services of extreme right-wing assets that morphed from BCCI's Black Network for "unconventional war" against official enemies was reported in 2007 by investigative journalist Seymour Hersh.

Writing in The New Yorker, Hersh revealed that as part of Washington's covert program to overthrow Iran's theocratic regime the Bush administration "has also taken part in clandestine operations aimed at Iran and its ally Syria. A by-product of these activities has been the bolstering of Sunni extremist groups that espouse a militant vision of Islam and are hostile to America and sympathetic to Al Qaeda."

Talk about inconvenient truths!

A Nuke for Osama? Better Bomb Iran!

Before the 9/11 attacks, Sultan Bashiruddin Mahmood and Abdul Majid were taken into custody for interrorgation by Pakistani police. Mahmood, a nuclear scientist who designed and ran the gas centrifuges at the Khushab reactor, had met with Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri in Afghanistan to discuss "scientific matters" with the former CIA-MI6 mujahideen allies.

The founder of a bizarre fundamentalist group, Ummah Tameer-e-Nau (Reconstruction of the Muslim Ummah, or UTN), Mahmood and his associates were not illiterate cannon fodder "trained up fierce" by ISI-linked madrassas, but the crème de' le' crème of Pakistan's military and scientific establishment.

Former ISI Director Hamid Gul, another UTN founder, is reportedly scheduled to be added to a list of names by the UN Security Council as a sponsor of international terrorism, according to a December 2008 report in the Pakistani newspaper The News. Gul, a darling in some circles for claiming "9/11 was an inside job," continues to play a cynical game and, as alleged by The News, is still linked to the Taliban and al-Qaeda.

When informed of the charges, Gul told The Washington Post, "There seems to be an orchestrated campaign to somehow get me," dismissing them as an effort to "malign" him. While Gul and other former members claimed UTN was a "charity" formed to provide "humanitarian relief" to Afghanistan, The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists reported in 2003,

A few weeks after September 11, however, Pakistani authorities detained Mahmood, Majeed, and other UTN board members amid charges that their activities in Afghanistan had involved helping Al Qaeda in its quest to acquire nuclear and biological weapons as well. The U.S. government, which pressed for Mahmood's and Majeed's arrest, later placed them and their organization on its list of individuals and organizations supporting terrorism. ...

Suspicion about Mahmood and others at UTN increased in November 2001. After the fall of the Taliban, coalition forces and the media began to search UTN facilities in Kabul. Some of the records found there revealed that the charity did indeed help Afghanistan with educational material, road building, and flour mills. But other records demonstrated that UTN was very interested in weapons of mass destruction. (David Albright and Holly Higgins, "A Bomb for the Ummah," The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, March 3, 2003)

But even after these revelations, Khan's illicit smuggling network continued to operate with impunity. In order to secure Pakistani "cooperation" in Washington's "war on terror" senior Bush administration officials and U.S. intelligence agencies turned a blind eye to Khan's global operations and sabotaged efforts to bring the network down.

As in the run-up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq, evidence of America's deadly complicity with Sunni-based fundamentalist outfits such as al-Qaeda, organized crime- and intelligence-linked mafia groups such as D-Company or with nuclear proliferators such as the Pakistani Army, one discovers reality turned on its head. When it comes to Iran, American mendacity is boundless!

Despite an embarrassing National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) that disclosed in December 2007 that "in fall 2003, Tehran halted its nuclear weapons program," covert action against Iran by the Pentagon and CIA continues while Pakistan and other known and unknown proliferators are given a free pass.

Leading Washington neoconservatives linked to Israel's far-right Likud party are encouraging Israel--with an assist from the Pentagon--to bomb Tehran's nuclear research facilities. Chief among them are usual suspects John Bolton, Paul Wolfowitz and Douglas Feith. But the incoming Obama administration is replete with its own stable of neocon hawks who have made common cause with the Likudniks. These include Tony Lake, UN Ambassador-designate Susan Rice, Tom Daschle and Dennis Ross.

Indeed, according to Middle East analyst Robert Dreyfuss, Democrats Lake and Rice joined their Republican counterparts last June at The Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP), founded in coordination with the Israel lobby-shop AIPAC, during the group's "2008 Presidential Task Force" meet-up that vigorously supported "a confrontation with Iran."

On and on, Washington's deadly and duplicitous game continues...

Tom Burghardt
is a researcher and activist based in the San Francisco Bay Area. In addition to publishing in Covert Action Quarterly and Global Research, an independent research and media group of writers, scholars, journalists and activists based in Montreal, his articles can be read on Dissident Voice, The Intelligence Daily, Pacific Free Press and the whistleblowing website Wikileaks. He is the editor of Police State America: U.S. Military "Civil Disturbance" Planning, distributed by AK Press.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Galloway in the House on Gaza

Israel and Canada's Tar Sands

Israel and the Tar Sands
January 17, 2009
By Macdonald Stainsby

That's right, Israel is a player in the Tar Sands of northern Alberta in a multitude of ways and with a variety of impacts. While whole neighborhoods of a small Palestinian city are currently under one of the most one-sided bombardments imaginable, Cree, Dene and Metis populations-- as well as the biosphere itself-- are also getting their Zionist due in northern Alberta and elsewhere. People taking to the streets across what is commonly called "Canada" are rightly denouncing the total complicity of the Harper government (and the Ignatieff opposition) in Israeli crimes. Yet the other side of the operation is also in practice: The settler state of Israel is contributing to the decimation of indigenous territories in the tar sands regions through technology, investment and more. There is an interplay here as yet barely explored.

Many Palestinian solidarity activists within Canada have decried the Canadian government becoming, along with the USA, in total lock step with the Israelis on most votes, issues and declarations (even boycotting anti-racism conferences that dare to call Zionism racism). The reasons are usually understood as being ideological: Canada is an imperialist country, supports the US-led war on terror, and is also founded upon the same colonial settler process. Yet, there may be an
even deeper connection between Canada, Israel and global battles for dwindling supplies of fossil fuel energy.

Unlike most of the region, Historical Palestine is not equipped with massive fossil fuel deposits, whether speaking of oil or gas. Much like how white-ruled South Africa developed technology to turn coal into oil during the time that their state was under sanctions or how the German Nazi regime turned to Estonian shale to produce oil during WWII, the Zionist state is surrounded by states they do not have trade relations with and has opted to produce very dirty forms of energy in a vain attempt to achieve energy self-sufficiency. They have large oil shale deposits. There are two parts to the Zionist energy strategy of note currently.

One of the attempts at this energy strategy traces back to the start up of the corporation Ormat Industries in 19651, oddly (given the lack of geology in historical Palestine for this plan) known primarily as a geothermal energy pioneer. This is not the only form of energy that is produced by Ormat, however. They are also heavily involved in what they call "Recovered Energy Generation," a process that involves capturing waste energy forms from industrial development. One of these
is a very insidious technology, designed to burn off literally the bottom of the barrel of the dirtiest of all "oils", oil shale. This has been dubbed "cogeneration". It can produce over 8 times more greenhouse gas emissions than "sweet, conventional" crude.

Unlike tar sands production, not even last years all time record highs for oil prices have yet made oil shale production viable or attractive, when one factors in the energy return on energy invested (EROEI). Virtually none of the worlds oil shale deposits have yet to reach a level of technological innovation to produce commercially (Estonia, with among the highest quality shales, being the only exception). But in what Zionists call Israel, "some 15% of the country is underlain by Oil Shale beds2," according to an Israeli government website. And to get this "oil" (it would need a massive upgrading, conversion and refining process to turn the shales into a synthetic oil) at an energy dividend will require a lot of practice. Alberta has lots of bitumen that can be extracted in a very similar manner.

Ormat has figured out how to make EROEI come on the plus side a lot easier. Oil Shale will produce, aside from massive water waste and tremendous scars on the earth, a lot of left-over gunk. The gunk cannot be processed into anything resembling known fuels, but this waste will indeed burn. Ormat has found a way to partially power the very project that is carrying out the shale production with gunk left over from the extraction process. They have even patented the procedure, "OrCrude"3.

Most importantly, Ormat is the parent corporation for the Canada based energy company, Opti4. Why did they do this? In their own words:

"In the early 1990s, Ormat developed a technology for producing oil from shale. But with oil prices low at the time, the Israeli government was unwilling to back an ambitious project to develop the country's huge shale reserves.

Now, Ormat has adapted the technology for use in the tar sands of Canada's Alberta province, where it's being used in a project run by Opti Canada set to begin production this year."5

Opti, in partnership with Nexen, runs by far the largest of all the Steam assisted gravity Drainage [SagD] tar sands projects. South of Fort McMurray, it is the closest of all major projects to a community. Anzac, a Metis and first nations settlement, is only 7km's away from where this massive undertaking takes place. Having publicly celebrated their opening in October, 2008 this plant would eventually reach 140 000 barrels of mock oil every day, and produces many times the climate changing gasses as regular oil, more than three times the greenhouse gasses of a major strip mine (such as Syncrude or Suncor's projects) or double what is produced by other In-situ ("in place") operations that currently exist. There are already tailings ponds that are growing rapidly near this project, and the air pollution near Anzac will soon be off the graph. They also plan a twin project, Long Lake South, adjacent to the current plants.

These technologies, even with the use of "cogeneration", still consume vast levels of energy and in Alberta this is usually natural gas. While OrCrude has reduced the reliance on natural gas, it is a long way from eliminated. With oil shale development will come higher natural gas requirements.

Off the coast of the Palestinian populated Gaza Strip is a massive natural gas field, only discovered in the year 2000. In 1999, exploration agreements (that eventually yielded the large discoveries) were established with the energy corporation British Gas(BG Group) and Greece based, Lebanese owned Consolidated Contractors International Company (CCC) and the Palestinian Authority. This was a 25 year agreement. After the next years discovery and the following years election of Ariel Sharon as Prime Minister of Israel, Sharon stated quite bluntly:

"Israel would never buy gas from Palestine.6" This declaration was followed by a Supreme Court of Israel challenge to Palestinian sovereignty over this natural gas, and his office vetoed the rights of BG to develop the field and sell Palestinian gas to Israeli buyers. After Hamas became the power in Gaza, even Britain's PM Tony Blair moved to block a deal between BG Group and Egyptian interests to develop and
market this gas. As retired Lt. Gen. Moshe Yaalon wrote in October 2007:

"It is possible that the prospect of a major natural gas transaction with the Palestinians has been a factor in the Israeli cabinet's refusal to launch a Defensive Shield II operation in Gaza."7

So, in terms of making oil shale viable, in terms of further strangling Palestine, in terms of controlling some level of fossil fuels in the region and in terms of gaining all revenues from the gas fields, it makes the most rational sense for the Zionist state to directly challenge the Palestinian sovereignty over the territory. BG Group canceled their plans to sell the gas to Israel and closed their offices
two months after the Yaalon article went public.

It gets much worse. June 2008 was when the Olmert government began military preparations to assault Gaza, code-named "Operation Cast Lead"8 but it was months later that BG Group was re-approached by Israel to start negotiations on having BG Group develop the gas. While building military preparedness for the assault on the open air prison of the Gaza Strip, the same Israeli government changed the field of negotiations and began anew. Old contracts carried by BG Group for the region are
announced as canceled by BG Group itself on their website, while 'reassuring' investors that they are "...evaluating options for commercialising the gas9" that legally belongs to the Palestinian Authority.

Of course, just as the state of Israel was founded on the myth that there were no Palestinians in the territory, the absence of government in Gaza-- an intended consequence of the massive bombardment of the imprisoned territory-- will be used as an excuse to simply take control of the gas, develop it and burn it to produce oil shale at the cost of the lands where shale is extracted and the very biosphere itself-- not to mention the funds for crucially needed infrastructure within Gaza
itself, after Israel has decimated schools, homes, hospitals, mosques and more. The Gaza Strip is to be left with destroyed infrastructure in order to prevent Gazan control over the development prospects and capital needed to rebuild.

Dene, Metis and Cree communities throughout the multiple areas in Alberta where tar sands are produced are already seeing the worst aspects of colonialism: in exchange for the destruction of their lands, languages, culture and history, the full value of the resources are being taken for mere pennies and what is left is a legacy of diseases, respiratory problems, alienation and ultimately cultural genocide. Yet
the whole purpose for learning how to develop the oil shale in Palestinian lands is hardly less sinister: Israel, founded upon the expulsion of the indigenous Palestinian population, cannot exist peacefully with its neighbours for mainly that reason. So, Israel has an energy problem as it currently exists. Alberta is providing an outdoor laboratory to practice what will eventually be the decimation of Palestinian traditional territory on the altar of the worst forms of oil and gas development.

Rather than honoring international human rights law and admitting every single Palestinian refugee back to live in their homelands and thereby likely receive energy supplies from neighbouring countries, Israel protects the apartheid conditions of its current state with the most destructive of energy strategy possible-- in terms of human rights and in terms of the very climate itself. One, the above listed Israeli corporations helping Canadian settler colonialism in order to promote their own settler colonialism. Of course, of all tar sands mock oil over
70% already is directly shipped to the United States.

Canada has lurched headlong into quiet, no questions asked support for Israeli attacks on anything Palestinian (or Lebanese, Syrian and Iranian). There is little doubt as to the affection for US imperial policy that has been enunciated by the Harper government and the Ignatieff opposition. But the actual energy plays under way in a world of peak oil and increasingly desperate and destructive options that
remain is an aspect of Canada that needs to be understood. Now, in more ways than ever, struggles for self-determination against Canadian colonialism and Israeli colonialism are interlinked-- from one end of production through to the other, anywhere in the world that oil-based hydrocarbons lie-- no matter what the cost, whether to the environment or directly to people themselves. This is the true meaning of Dick Cheney's comments after 9-11 that "The American way of life is

Macdonald Stainsby
is a freelance writer, professional hitchhiker and social justice activist who has been involved in several Palestinian solidarity organizations, including The International Solidarity Movement (Vancouver & Montreal) and Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights (SPHR). He currently resides in Edmonton, Canada where he is the coordinator of OST is dedicated to the full shut down of the tar sands and all related industrial projects across
North America. He can be reached at

Thursday, January 15, 2009

No More Mr. Nice Guy

Free download of film on US media & the Israeli-Palestinian conflict
No More Mr. Nice Guy

The Media Education Foundation (MEF) announced yesterday that in response to the incredibly uncritical response by Western media to Israel’s massacre of Gaza, they would release one of their feature documentaries on line for free. Peace, Propaganda and the Promised Land is a detailed interrogation of the lens through which western cultures view conflict in the middle east.

This excellent, award-winning documentary reveals the ways in which western corporate media are complicit with American/Canadian government’s unyielding support for Israel and its illegal occupation and expansion of Palestinian land. Despite the international community’s condemnation of Israel’s current murderous hubris, and despite the world’s top law body, the International Court of Justice, ruling Israel’s post-1967 occupation and settlement expansion’s as being illegagl, western media continue to paint an uncritical view of Israel (again, with the exception of The Guardian).

Thankfully, media makers and artists have produced works that educate, inform and inspire on the topic. The MEF has taken this unprecedented move and released one of their features in full because, as they say:

While the film was made in 2003, its analysis of U.S. news coverage of the Middle East has never been more relevant or more urgent. The film traces a longstanding pattern of media bias in the U.S., providing much needed context for understanding American news coverage of events in Gaza now. The film has elicited widespread praise for its clear-eyed analysis of both the conflict and the often one-sided way it has been presented to Americans over the years.

As a result of the horrific events unfolding in Gaza, the Media Education Foundation is making its 2003 film Peace, Propaganda & the Promised Land: U.S. Media and the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict available online FOR FREE. We are taking this unprecedented step to offer critical perspective on how the U.S. news media are covering this crisis.

So go to the site and watch the film. While we know from history that education isn’t enough to stop wars, lies and propaganda help prop them up and keep populations from demanding their governments put a stop to bloodshed.


Similar Posts:
The PR war that Gaza is losing
Zionists Censor Rachel Corrie Play in Toronto but Political Art Prevails in Seattle
Pangea Day: connecting the world through film
Israel’s Nazi porn perversion
Islam Revisited, Reinvented, and Remarketed

Sliding Tilma In

A TILMA for all provinces

January 15, 2009

Ed Stelmach, the Premier of Alberta, made a provocative proposal yesterday, ahead of the first ministers' conference tomorrow, to initiate a constitutional amendment to remove interprovincial trade barriers, if that is not done within a year.

While Mr. Stelmach is right that the creation of a single Canadian market would be a major economic stimulus, he would be more consistent if he were not at the same time opposing a single securities commission for Canadian capital markets.

Going beyond the labour-mobility agreement that was reached in early December, Mr. Stelmach is calling for the Trade, Investment and Labour Mobility Agreement between British Columbia and Alberta to be extended to all of Canada in the next 12 months.

He has not elaborated on what an anti-trade-barrier clause in the Constitution would say; TILMA itself is too long to serve the purpose.

A year's deadline would help focus minds, but the constitutional proposal is neither practically feasible nor theoretically necessary. If the 10 provincial governments do not manage to negotiate to bring down these barriers, the provincial legislatures would be most unlikely to do so. It is true that attention to the question would be heightened by debates on the floor of Parliament and of legislatures across the country.

In principle, the federal legislative power to regulate trade and commerce is enough to enact a TILMA equivalent in Parliament, perhaps after posing a reference question to the Supreme Court on the issue. In practice, that would be as controversial as attempting a constitutional amendment.

On investment mobility in particular, Mr. Stelmach holds back, maintaining that the "passport" system for interprovincially transferable prospectus filings has proved to be enough for a national system of capital-market regulation.

But the Hockin report released on Monday concluded that, even if fully implemented, these passports would only partly cure the regulatory fragmentation that the recent turmoil in world financial markets have revealed. Similarly, Ontario, still the leading financial centre, is of the view that a completed passport system could not provide satisfactory procedural discipline.

Even so, Mr. Stelmach, hitherto not known as a daring, visionary politician, has surpassed expectations. Ever since 1992, with the defeat of the Charlottetown accord, any thought of reopening the Constitution has aroused fear and trembling.


Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Shame! Canada's Singular Support of Israel

Shame! Canada's Singular Support of Israel's Crimes at the United Nations Human Rights Commission
by C. L. Cook
It begins with the lies told a supine and disinterested populace; big lies are best, history advises if you are to commit big crimes. From the lie come the policies, rationalized by the lie, and codified by the lie's repetition. Tell a lie often enough and it becomes truth we're informed.

But there comes a point where the lies cannot bear the light of truth, and Canada is coming to just such an unearthing of the ugly truth behind its present masters' ethical bankruptcy.

Monday January 12, 2009 saw Canada's government, as represented by Stephen Harper's minority Tories, stand in defense of the mighty in the form of Israel's military machine, currently chewing up the near defenseless Palestinians trapped in Gaza.

True to form, Canada's monopolist media uttered hardly a word about this disgraceful abrogation of the precepts of human rights, often espoused as the founding principles of Canada. For millions of Canadians, the news of what "their" country has come to represent is yet not known.

The truth of its cowardly refusal to condemn, as did 33 other members of the U.N. Human Rights Commission, Israel's grotesque and wanton slaughter of the innocents of Gaza and the rest of remnant Palestine in their hundreds, maiming thousands more, and rendering tens of thousands shelterless in the teeth of winter brings an end to the comfortable lie: Canada cares about human dignity and the rights accorded to humans as basic principles, as so ceremoniously signed by it in declaration after declaration at the United Nations.

On January 12, 2009, Canada stood alone among the 47 nations of the U.N.H.R.C., 33 of those desperate to see an end to Israel's bombardment of the trapped population of the Gaza Strip, in opposition to that body's resolution of condemnation of Israel's actions these last terrible weeks.

Surrounded by eight meter high walls on three sides, and the deep blue sea on the fourth, Palestinians, civilians and officials of the hated Hamas government alike, have no place of refuge to run to within the oldest refugee camp in the world. Overhead, helicopter gunships, aerial drones, and F-16 fighter jets wheel and turn, spitting fire and steel into the single-most densely peopled area on the planet.

Watching the horror recorded through telephoto lenses from the safety of the Israeli-claimed territory beyond the concrete and razor wire girding Gaza, the Canadian government still assumes the Israeli Defense Force line, which states: Those being slaughtered pose an existential threat to the survival of Israel.

And so, the slaughter must not be halted, nor even criticized for the abomination it clearly is. Is there a single word in the entirety of the english lexicon to describe this craven disregard of humanity and abandonment of morality?

Obscenity hardly describes it fully, but obscene it certainly is.

Standing in for Israel and the United States, neither of which having a seat on the human rights commission, Canada did its yeoman service to the two most profligate abusers of human rights and dignity, as it did during the equally criminal destruction of southern Lebanon in 2006. Like that not prosecuted war crime, Israel is deploying both banned and experimental weapons against the civilians in Gaza. Today, (Jan. 14, 2009) reports coming from the region estimate more than 1,000 dead, with fully a third of those being children.

This despicable and savage campaign, unabashedly supported by Canada's quisling Harper minority government, (as was the outrage in Lebanon in 2006) is a stain on Canada's hard won respect on the world stage as a champion for human rights and justice. It brings this nation down to the sub-moral level of "great friends" Israel, and its primary sponsor and weapons supplier the United States of America; both criminals whose depravity is without historical precedent.

For Canadians, the cowardly and grim distinction Monday's vote represents should serve as a moment of national reflection, a time for we as a people comprised of peoples from the world over to consider what kind of country we wish to create in this already too bloody young 21st Century. It is, as Barak Obama might say, a much needed "teaching moment" for a country that has lost its way, mired in one war of aggression and occupation, and supporting two others.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Getting away with it

Getting away with murder
Julia Irwin
January 11, 2009

YOU'VE got to hand it to the Israeli public relations flacks: only they could convince you that killing children was an act of self-defence.

As the recent bombing of Gaza began, Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni gave instructions for the Foreign Ministry to take "emergency measures to adapt Israel's public relations to the ongoing escalation in the Gaza Strip". Livni went on to call for foreign language speakers to put Israel's case to the world.

In Australia, the ABC relies for "independent" comment on the smooth Mark Regev, an official spokesman for the Israeli Government, and Martin Indyk, a former official of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.

It's the oldest trick in the book: if they look and sound like us, we are more likely to be sympathetic towards them. Anyone putting an alternative view is immediately cast as anti-Semitic. Our media glibly accept the excuses of the Israeli public relations machine and ignore the horrific realities of Israel's barbaric behaviour in Gaza.

It's the same in most Western countries - the groundwork has been laid and the responses of world leaders are predictable. When the Israeli attacks began, right on cue Western leaders regretted the killing of children but in the same breath condemned Palestinians for firing rockets from their walled ghetto into Israel.

While French President Nicolas Sarkozy called for an immediate ceasefire by both sides, US President George Bush and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown called only for Hamas to halt rockets fired from Gaza. They did not call for Israel to halt its bombing.

There was a lot of handwringing by world leaders but no tough talk when it came to the bombing of the Islamic University of Gaza or the killing of 40 civilians in a United Nations school. We saw the same during the 2006 Israeli war against Lebanon.

It all reminds me of an old story from the days of the Roman Empire. The Emperor Nero was upset that his prized lions were being distressed by Christians who ran away from them in the Colosseum. Nero ordered that at the next circus a Christian was to be buried up to his neck in the sand to make things easier for the lions. When the lions entered the ring, the biggest and meanest saw the hapless condemned, swaggered over and stood astride the Christian's head, roaring for approval from the crowd. At that moment, the Christian craned his neck and bit off the lion's testicles. The crowd was shocked. "Fight fair! Fight fair!" they yelled.

It seems that no matter what injustice Palestinians have suffered in the past 60 years, they should be grateful for the privilege of being able to live under the jackboot of Israeli occupation.

For three years since daring to democratically elect a government not favoured by Israel or the US, the people of Gaza have been subjected to a starvation blockade. Yet the civilised world has barely raised a note of concern. Is this the standard by which we judge the behaviour of nations? We talk about Darfur and Zimbabwe but say little of the gross abuse of human rights that occurs daily in the illegally occupied territories of the West Bank and Gaza. Our double standards have made a mockery of the doctrine of humanitarian intervention.

Our failure to condemn the totally disproportionate, not to say illegal, attacks by the Israeli Defence Force has changed the way conflict is regarded around the world. Last August, Russia employed the same tactics in its attack on Georgia as Israel did against Lebanon.

Neither Russia nor China sought UN Security Council emergency meetings in response to the Israeli attacks on Gaza. What happens in the Middle East today sets the standard for the world. And that applies to weapons as well as tactics.

Using cluster bombs or phosphorus bombs against civilian targets is perfectly legal if you can believe the Israeli Defence Force.

Assassinating Hamas leaders during a ceasefire does not constitute a breach. Collective punishments against communities, obstructing medical and humanitarian relief - all part of Israel's tactics - could now be considered acceptable behaviour in national and international conflict.

How can we criticise brutal regimes elsewhere in the world when we condone worse atrocities when they are committed by Israel? The Security Council has become a laughing stock. The Secretary-General is a pathetic figure reduced to faint pleas for a ceasefire while UN personnel are murdered on the ground in Gaza. And who will pick up the pieces when the bloodshed has finally stopped? The rest of the world will, of course. Through the world's contributions to the UN, its largest budget item is the UN Relief and Works Agency. With an annual $700 million budget going to support Palestinian refugees, the biggest component is being spent on Gaza.

Even before the Israeli bombing and invasion of Gaza, the UN Human Rights Council Special Rapporteur responsible for reporting on conditions in the occupied territories, Richard Falk, was denied entry to Gaza.

Last month, Falk called for an International Criminal Court investigation to determine whether the Israeli civilian leaders and military commanders responsible for the Gaza siege should be indicted and prosecuted for violations of international criminal law.

To that long list of war crimes and crimes against humanity we can now add the atrocities committed in this recent invasion. But, with its superior public relations forces, Israel can easily deflect concern about its barbaric assault.

And will the world call Israel's leaders to account for their crimes? Not likely. Western leaders - including Australia's - will merely call on Palestinians to fight fair.

Julia Irwin is Federal MP for the NSW seat of Fowler and a member of the Parliament's Palestinian Friendship Group.

 By Invitation Only is a space for people of influence to have their say. Edited by Kerry-Anne Walsh.

Source: The Sun-Herald

This story was found at:

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Why the Massacre

Why the Massacre in Gaza Continues
by Patrick Seale

As Israel’s barbaric war in Gaza enters its third week, there are four main reasons why its wholesale slaughter of Palestinian civilians continues unchecked.

The first is the terrible weakness of the UN Security Council in carrying out its declared task of maintaining international peace and security. Its inability to halt Israel’s aggression is largely due to the overly-intimate -- some would say unhealthy -- U.S.-Israeli relationship.

The second reason is that, as Hamas is the only Palestinian movement putting up armed resistance to Israel, it is the only remaining obstacle to Israel’s mastery of the whole of historic Palestine. Israel knows that if it fails to secure Hamas’ unconditional surrender, it will in due course have to enter into peace talks, and cede territory to an eventual Palestinian state -- something it has long sought to avoid. At this decisive moment in the 100-year old Israeli-Palestinian struggle, there is, therefore, much at stake for both sides.

The third reason is the debilitating divisions in the Arab and Muslim world, which have robbed it of any effective leverage on events. These divisions are myriad -- between so-called ‘moderate’ Arab states and their ‘radical’ rivals; between those who have made peace with Israel and those who have not; between those who rely on American aid and protection and those who do not; between those who loathe and fear Iran and those who rely on it for support; between Sunni and Shi‘a Muslims. This is by no means an exhaustive list.

In the Palestinian camp, there is nothing more tragic than the vicious war between Fatah and Hamas, which makes them both an easy prey for Israel.

The fourth reason why the carnage in Gaza continues unchecked is that neither Israel nor Hamas is ready for a ceasefire because neither has yet achieved its war aims.

Israel’s aims can be listed as follows, in reverse order of importance:
• stopping the rockets Hamas has been firing at the Negev;
• destroying the tunnels into Gaza from Egypt in order to prevent Hamas from rearming;
• restoring Israel’s ‘deterrence’ by means of an overwhelming display of force -- with the ‘lesson’ directed as much at Hizbullah, Syria and Iran, as at Hamas itself;
• crushing the Palestinians’ aspirations for independent statehood by inflicting a decisive defeat on them; and,
• pre-empting, by a hoped-for sweeping victory, any attempt by the incoming Obama administration to re-launch Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.

As might be expected, Hamas’s war aims are the exact opposite of Israel’s. They are:
• to survive the current battering and continue to govern Gaza;
• to continue armed resistance until Israel lifts its crippling siege of Gaza, reopens the crossing points and withdraws its troops;
• to overshadow and eventually displace Fatah and the ineffective Palestinian Authority as the main representative of the Palestinian people;
• to win recognition of its own legitimacy from the international community; and,
• to force the European Union, and eventually the United States and Israel, to end their boycott and engage in dialogue with it.

Hamas rejected last Thursday, a UN Security Council Resolution which appealed for a ceasefire because, although it is a party to the conflict, it was not consulted on the Resolution’s terms. In addition, the Resolution made no provision for the immediate lifting of Israel’s siege of Gaza and the withdrawal of its forces.

Hamas has, nevertheless, been making good headway in international public opinion, with demonstrations in its support in many parts of the globe. Israel’s image, on the contrary, has taken a hammering because of the terrible suffering it has inflicting on a defenceless population.

In Europe, there is much anger and shame that, under American and Israeli pressure, the EU demonized Hamas as a ‘terrorist organisation’, refused to recognize its victory in the 2006 democratic elections, and has been unable to protect the civilians of Gaza from an unimaginable fate. Across France alone, there were on 10 January no fewer than 80 demonstrations to protest Israel’s carnage.

Only the United States can restore some semblance of sanity to the troubled Middle East. Urgently required is a vigorous and sustained effort aimed at bringing about a comprehensive peace. Can President-elect Barack Obama deliver? Some of his recent appointments, and those of Hilary Clinton at the State Department, do not signal a radical change of policy.

Nevertheless, Obama knows that George W. Bush’s illegal war in Iraq was profoundly misconceived -- as was his ‘Global War on Terror’. Unduly influenced by pro-Israeli neo-conservatives, they were the wrong American response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks, and have done America an enormous amount of harm. The time has surely come to resolve the major conflicts of the Middle East, not to exacerbate them.

Once Barack Obama takes office on 20 January, the question the world will be asking is this: Weighed down as he will be by a thousand problems, and held in check by strong pro-Israeli forces both inside and outside his administration, will he be ready to use up some of his precious political capital to put things right? No one should expect miracles from him.

In the meantime, Gaza continues to bleed.

Patrick Seale is a leading British writer on the Middle East, and the author of The Struggle for Syria; also, Asad of Syria: The Struggle for the Middle East; and Abu Nidal: A Gun for Hire.

Copyright © 2009 Patrick Seale – distributed by Agence Global

Gaza: The Children's Trauma

'A boy next to me, he went crazy, he was overwhelmed, he saw the massacre, the street was full of blood, the nails from the shells were as long as your hand'
GAZA: The conflict is having terrible effects on Gaza's children. Ewa Jasiewicz reports

THE SHADOURA family live in the Moaskar Jabaliya area in the north of the Gaza Strip. They are originally from the town of Majdal in 1948 Palestine, now Ashkelon in present-day Israel. Their simple white, one-storey house is just yards away from the Fakhoura UN school where 42 people died, 20 of them children, when Israeli tanks opened fire on a busy intersection. Paramedics and eyewitnesses reported seeing nothing but "limbs and meat" in the street at the time. Witnesses report that four tank shells smashed into the ground releasing flying chunks of burning shrapnel.

Mohammad Shadoura, aged nine, had been playing marbles with friends in the street at the time. Mohammad's father, Bassem Ahmad Shadoura, was close by. He describes the scene: "I saw an explosion, after which there was black smoke everywhere - the area was pure black. They hit twice in the same area. I saw a boy with his finger in the air saying I am a witness to God' and I picked him up to take him out. Then I saw my son, he had been hit twice, in the legs and in the head. His brain was out'."

Mahmoud, 15, recalled what he saw, his eyes widening with trauma. "We saw legs everywhere, flesh, some people without heads, meat. A boy next to me, he went crazy, he was overwhelmed, he saw the massacre, the street was full of blood, the nails from the shells were as long as your hand."

I am sitting in the Shadoura house. The women of the house are in their second day of collective grieving. Mohammad's mother, stunned and silent, is flanked by her sisters, aunts, and daughters Najah, 17, Iman, 12, and Shahed, two, all remembering Mohammad. Their home is very basic, the living room area is partially open, with a grooved roof with white pigeons nesting within it. You can see Apache helicopters emitting bright dazzle-flares through the metre gap all around it.

Three cats, one, a tiny ginger kitten, stretches in the sunlight. The floor is covered with woven coloured mats, the walls lined with foam mattresses and there is a poster of a cousin, Nidal, 24, short-haired, clean-shaven, with serene eyes. He was an Islamic jihad fighter.

He was killed directly by an Israeli missile two months ago. As with all families here, there is little political homogeneity. Bassem was a first commander in the Fatah Authority and his brother a police intelligence officer.

Bassem isn't working but still gets paid a $700-a-month salary from the Fatah authority in Ramallah. But even this doesn't stretch far with his family of seven children. Rent for their one-bedroom house is $100 per month. Cooking gas - the price of which has more than doubled here since the siege - is around $120 for a 6kg canister. It lasts around two weeks, when they can get it. When they can't, they cook on a primitive mud clay stove, powered by wood and paper. All nine members of the family sleep in one bedroom.

There was no water in the house. The electricity lines had been smashed down by the tank shell attack on Tuesday and the family's water system is electrically powered. Even without the attack, power is only available some four hours a day.

Najah, 17, wants my phone number. She's a lively teenager in black mourning clothes and hijab. Of course, I give it to her. I ask her what her brother was like. "He was the best one of us all. He was very kind.

"When he would watch TV he would get very scared of all the killing - all the children being killed."

We eat our dinner by candlelight. A small plate of tinned tuna, two small bowls of "Gaza Salad" - chopped tomatoes with onion and chilli peppers - a kind of Palestinian salsa, olives from the family olive tree, cold mujaddara (no gas to heat it) a mix of rice and lentils, and bread. After tucking in, the whole family and I sit under one blanket, all focusing on their new house guest. Children make up 51% of the population of Gaza and witness everything.

"So many of our neighbours have died," explains Foad. Iman, 12, knew one of the daughters of Nizar Rayan, a senior Hamas leader who was killed along with his four wives and 11 children. Aya Rayan, 12, died when eight bombs fired by an F16 fighter jet slammed into the family home. A further 10 houses were also wrecked in the attack. I saw the site myself, giant slabs of concrete criss-crossed on top of one another, pulverised homes, a pile hundreds of metres wide, flanked by at least four wall-less apartments revealing living rooms, coloured walls with pictures of loved ones and sunsets, smashed kitchens, with families picking through their wreckage and, below it all, dusted white, a dead horse twisted on to one side.

"Look at this," says Mahmoud, 15. He hands me a lump of rock the size of a pineapple. "This came through the roof of my grandmother's house next door the day of the attack. It wrecked their roof. If we had been there it would have killed us," he says.

Mohammad's father drinks his sweet amber tea slowly. "You've made the children here very happy", he says.

He puffs on his cigarette. "I worked in Israel, I lived with Israelis, Jews from Europe, from Iraq, the Arab world and we all got along, we were friends. They're good people, 100%. Twelve years I spent working there, but nothing has changed."

Bassam was jailed in 1983, before the first intifada broke out. He was just 16 years old and spent three years in an Israeli prison. "Do you know why?", he asks me, his small, wizened, embattled features squinting in the darkness. "For throwing a stone."

"I couldn't complete my studies, I wasn't allowed to, and the Red Cross didn't do anything for us. They just gave us some clothes."

We look up at the poster of Nidal. "He was a fighter," says Bassem. "My son, he was nine years old, he wasn't doing anything. In our religion, our son is in heaven. He'll be drinking water in heaven. Our son is a martyr."

We get ready to go to bed. Its 8pm and everything is a gentle dim orange in the candlelight. The sound of falling bombs shakes the house, a swooping zip and slam-thud sound. "We hear it all night," say the children.

Reem, mother of Mohammad, is only 36 but looks 10 years older. She is taking Mohammad's clothes out, putting them up to her face and smelling them, then folding them.

She starts crying in the gentle orange light. "Where, where?", she says gently. Her sisters comfort her. Im Qusam is one of them. "You know we can't sleep, we can't live, no gas, no bread, no water."

Bassem recalls the funeral procession for the 42 dead. I attended, too.

"It was the first time in one-and-a-half years that we all marched together, we all prayed together, every faction, every flag was there. I wanted my son in the funeral, my son is the son of the people."

Usually each faction has their own funeral procession and burial. Mahmoud 15, recalls the burial. "We had gone to bury the dead and the Israelis shot at us, we were so afraid, we ran. We're afraid all the time, all the time that we'll be hit."

Sitting on a small sandy hill, listening to a beautiful, sorrowful, deep-voiced song, I saw the mass of mourners run, streaming over gravestones for the gate, as shot after shot rang out of the crowd. "Kannaas" snipers, my friend said to me grimly.

I ask Ahmad, 16, how he feels about the rockets from the Palestinian resistance. "They hit us with missiles and we shouldn't react? Ours are like games, they're like toys compared to theirs. But ours lift our spirits."

We go to sleep to the sound of thudding missiles, the ones close by shake the house. Terror leaps in our chests. "That one was a house! It was a house," breathes Reem in the middle of the night. The house of the Salha family in the Beit Lahiya projects area was bombed at 4.30am. Six family members, four of them under 15 years old, were killed. They had moved there for shelter, according to friends.

We wake up to the sound of bombing. I count 15 Israeli missile strikes between seven and 8.30am. Two crunky old Palestinian missiles make off in response. Ten of us share a plate of maybe five scrambled eggs dusted with pepper and four discs of white bread.

The family pause together. "Jabaliya used to be so beautiful," says Roweeya, 17, a visiting aunt, pouring tea for us. "There is a garden close by, full of orange trees. The Israelis keep blasting missiles into it."

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