By STANLEY HELLER
September 2 / 3, 2006
The Israeli paper Ha'aretz reports that the head of Germany's Jewish community accused a minister in Angela Merkel's German government of "anti-Semitism" because of the minister's statement on Israel's use of cluster bombs. Development Aid Minister Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul had asked for a United Nations probe into Israel's use of cluster bombs in civilian areas of Lebanon.
Charlotte Knobloch, president of the Central Council of German Jews, complained about what she terms a growing "anti-mood [sic] against Israel and the Jews" in Germany. [Ha,aretz August 30] Merkel, who made absolutely no criticism of Israel during the fighting, immediately met with Knobloch to "soothe Jewish ire" according to Deutche Welle [August 31]
The U.N. humanitarian chief Jan Egeland revealed this week that of the estimated 100,000 unexploded cluster bombs lying in Lebanon almost all of them were fired in the last few days of the fighting when the terms of the ceasefire had already been set. The Guardian (UK) reports Egleand said, "What's shocking--and I would say to me completely immoral is that ninety per cent of the cluster bomb strikes occurred in the last 72 hours of the conflict, when we knew there would be a resolution," he said.
It was known that in the last days of the war the Israeli army was engaged in a desperate attempt to have some "victory" and rushed troops here and there in an attempt to have a photo shoot near the Litani River. What was not known until now was the blind spite that sowed the ground of South Lebanon with a massive number of bomblets.
Cluster bombs are delivered by a large canister and disperse over a wide area, a sort of lethal piñata. The bomblets come in many sizes. Some are tiny, even smaller than 2 inches in diameter. Kids are constantly trying to kick them or pick them up with the result in the loss an arm or leg or even death. "Every day people are maimed, wounded and are killed by these ordnance," said Egeland. The UN official based his estimate on the reports of the UN Mine Action Coordination Centre which has traveled through 85% of Lebanon. The casualty figures as of 29 August from unexploded ordnance rose to 59 people, including 13 killed and 46 injured.
Responding to U.N. reports of cluster bombs being found in Lebanese civilian areas the U.S. government has begun an investigation to determine if cluster bombs have been responsible for civilian casualties. It seems far fetched that the Bush Administration would do anything other than shower Israel with more money, but the Reagan administration did ban export of cluster bombs to Israel for six years for its misuse during its 1982 Lebanese invasion.
The Zionist Ultras have been circling the wagons on this issue, not giving an inch. They hysterical statement by the German Jewish leader was typical of many.
Responding to a report by Human Rights Watch charging Israel with war crimes in its conduct of the war in Lebanon that was written by its director Kenneth Roth, Rabbi Avi Shafran of Agudath Israel has called Roth "loathsome." An editorial in the New York Sun accused Roth of "de-legitimization of Judaism" because his group condemned Israel's strategy as "an eye for an eye." Rabbi Aryeh Spero in Human Events Online referred to Roth as a "human rights impostor," and likened him to "Nazis and Communists." On Sunday, the Jerusalem Post published an op-ed by NGO Monitor's Gerald Steinberg titled "Ken Roth's Blood Libel." [quotes from Kathleen Peratis, Washington Post August 30] The fact that Kenneth Roth is Jewish and his father fled Nazi Germany makes no difference to the Ultras. If you are do not support Israel 110% you are a Jew-hater, a renegade, a self-hater, and a holocaust denier. Get it?
In a very competitive field Abe Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League took the prize for the comment showing the most utter stupidly. In attacking Human Rights Watch he said if Hezbollah was not made to pay an "overwhelming price" for rocket attacks "the Holocaust would be in the works". [Peratis, Washington Post]
Jewish Disgust with Israel
In a very encouraging development hundreds of U.S. Jews are calling for strong measures to be taken against the Israeli government including a cut off of U.S. aid and U.N. sanctions. Over 800 have signed the statement calling for "U.S. Jewish Solidarity with Muslim and Arab Peoples of the Middle East". It states "we are outraged by the violence being perpetrated in our name both as Jews and as U.S. citizens. We, the undersigned, represent Jews across the United States who are choosing to stand in solidarity with the peoples of Gaza and Lebanon". It includes the statement, "There is no Jewish safety in a country that rehearses the violence and persecution which Ashkenazi Jews experienced for centuries through the annihilation of the Palestinian people and their homeland." The signers are collecting money for a full page in the New York Times and are just $800 away from their goal. The petition can be found at http://www.jewishsolidarity.info/petition.php
It was after the 1982 invasion of Lebanon that U.S. Jews in significant numbers began open and trenchant criticisms of Israel. Chomsky's watershed "The Fateful Triangle" was published that year. Hopefully there will be even bigger shows of outrage this time around.
Stanley Heller is chairperson of the Middle East Crisis Committee in Connecticut. It's website is www.TheStruggle.org and he can be reached at [email protected]
By DAVE LINDORFF
September 6, 2006
Here's a headline you won't see in your local paper:
"U.S. Accused of Using Cluster Weapons Against Civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan"
We all saw the headline about the State Department investigating Israel's use of US-made cluster weapons in Lebanon, because they had been dropping these deadly and indiscriminate munitions in civilian areas of southern Lebanon, with the prospect of killing large numbers of non-combatants including children. This allegedly violated restrictions placed by the U.S. on how the weapons could be used by the Israeli Defense Force.
It turns out, though, that there are no such restrictions on how these same munitions can be--and are being--used by U.S. forces in Afghanistan and Iraq.
According to a number of sources including military documents and reports from organizations like Human Rights Watch, the U.S., which has refused to sign an international treaty that outlaws cluster weapons, does not even restrict the use of cluster weapons in urban or populated areas. Army and Air force generals have blocked efforts to ban cluster weapons where there are large numbers of civilians present, claiming such a restriction would just lead enemy combatants to locate themselves among civilians.
Their argument could pretty much be used to oppose restrictions on any kind of weapon in civilian areas. And guess what? That pretty much is the way the U.S. wages war: The hell with civilians! If they happen to be in the way when we drop our bombs, so much the worse for them.
In fact, back in early 2003, when the Australian government agreed to send some troops to join Bush's "Coalition of the Willing" in Iraq, it first had first to assure the troops and the people of Australia that Australian soldiers would not participate in American actions that involved the laying of mines or the use of cluster weapons.
Shock and Awe, the initial aerial bombardment of Baghdad and other cities of Iraq at the start of the U.S. invasion, reportedly led to tens of thousands of civilian casualties, and one reason was the heavy and indiscriminate use of cluster weapons, which disperse hundreds of little fragmentation bombs over a wide area, many of which explode when a person disturbs them. The Christian Science Monitor, which investigated civilian deaths in the first year of the Iraq War, found that the U.S. was killing Iraqi civilians at the astonishing rate of 30 for every enemy fighter. That's a civilian slaughter that would have made even Hitler's SS envious. One reason for this high "collateral damage" kill rate was almost certainly the use of cluster weapons, some of which spread hundreds of their little bomblets over a 20-acre area, with between 5-30 percent of these secondary weapons failing to explode on impact.
There are a number of reports suggesting that the U.S. used cluster weapons extensively later on in carpet bombings that preceded assaults on Al-Qiam, Ramadi, Tal Afar and of course Fallujah, all cities where the civilian casualties were horrific.
So where is the outcry against this criminal U.S. use of cluster weapons? Most Americans don't even know about it. The media have largely blacked the story out. The Pentagon won't talk about it. When Agence France Presse back in April 2003 ran photos of US cluster weapons stockpiled for use in Iraq, no major media outlet in the US picked them up. The only report on cluster weapons at the time in Amnerica came from CNN reporter Peter Arnett. But of course, the Iraqis and the Afghanis know all about it.
It seems particularly inappropriate for the U.S. to be using such munitions in countries like Afghanistan and Iraq, where we are supposedly there to help the people of the country against alleged "terrorist" forces within their borders. Killing the people of the country you are "helping" would seem to be operating at cross-purposes. But it does explain why every time there is some "mistake" reported, where the U.S. bombs a wedding or an innocent town square, the death toll is so astoundingly high.
It also helps explain why the resistance forces in both countries seem to keep getting stronger, even as we keep killing them at a prodigious rate. Cluster weapons, besides killing lots of civilians, also inevitably make lots of enemies.
Dave Lindorff is the author of Killing Time: an Investigation into the Death Row Case of Mumia Abu-Jamal. His new book of CounterPunch columns titled "This Can't be Happening!" is published by Common Courage Press. Lindorff's new book is "The Case for Impeachment",
co-authored by Barbara Olshansky.
He can be reached at: [email protected]
Thursday September 07, 2006
Tony Blair is expected to outline his exit timetable this afternoon, after an eighth Labour MP quit in protest at his refusal to say when he will stand down as PM.
Hartlepool MP Iain Wright, a Parliamentary Private Secretary in the Department of Health, resigned from his Government post, telling Mr Blair he "no longer believed that the party and the Government can renew itself in office without urgently renewing the leadership".
Earlier, sources within No 10 let it be known that Mr Blair will use a pre-planned photo opportunity with Education Secretary Alan Johnson on Thursday to make his intentions plain after 24 hours of turmoil at Westminster.
During the day another seven MPs quit, starting with junior defence minister Tom Watson.
He was followed by six Parliamentary Private Secretaries - Khalid Mahmood, Wayne David, Ian Lucas, Mark Tami, Chris Mole and David Wright.
They argued it was not "in the interest of either the party or the country" for Mr Blair to remain in office.
Mr Watson's resignation letter said: "I share the view of the overwhelming majority of the party and the country that the only way the party and the Government can renew itself in office is urgently to renew its leadership."
He was in a group of MPs who had earlier signed a confidential letter to Mr Blair urging him to name a date for his departure.
The PM retorted: "I had been intending to dismiss him but wanted to extend to him the courtesy of speaking to him first."
Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt warned Labour MPs it was "madness" to demand conditions from the Prime Minister and said the party was in "real danger" of forgetting the lessons it learned during the 1980s.
The Sun had reported that Mr Blair will step down as Labour leader on May 31 and resign as PM on July 26.
Sky News political editor Adam Boulton said: "Senior MPs and many commentators are saying the party may not stand for this (timetable) and will expect Mr Blair to be out by Christmas."
Thursday September 7, 2006
For the first time in 12 long years, the balance of power in the House of Representatives may tip back to Democrats, according to pollsters from both parties. Dissatisfaction with the Iraq war, which will soon have dragged on longer than US involvement in the second world war, is the main factor, along with unease about the economy.
After over a decade of powerlessness, congressional Democrats can smell victory but they dare not shout it from the rooftops, mindful of how skilled they've been at plucking defeat from the jaws of victory in recent history, most notably in 2000, when they lost the House and the presidency by the slimmest of margins.
The latest polling data reveals a stunning array of negatives for the incumbent party. According to the most recent New York Times poll, almost two thirds of the electorate believes the country is heading in the wrong direction, a keynote indicator that voters are ready for a change. A similar number of voters believe the president is doing a bad job, and traditionally voters punish the party of a president they hold in low esteem at mid-term elections. But the question giving Democrats most cheer, eight weeks out from polling day, is: Do you approve or disapprove of the way George Bush is handling the situation in Iraq?
At the time of the last election, the nation was evenly split on this question. Today, a solid majority of Americans have turned against the war, and this gives Democrats their first real opening in a political climate still dominated by national security. No longer must they thread the doublethink needle of being for the war, but against the prosecution of it. Now they can full-throatedly speak their mind on the topic, without fear of appearing unpatriotic.
For two years straight, from the invasion of Iraq to the ceremonial handover of power to the Iraqis, the Republican administration got away with linking the Iraq war with the wider war on terror. Anyone who questioned US involvement in Iraq could not be trusted to keep the country safe. But that argument has swayed fewer and fewer Americans, as they've seen Iraq fall into chaos and the civilian and military death toll climb.
The loss of Iraq as a political trump card for Republicans has left them grasping for rhetoric. Suddenly, according to George Bush, the outlaw cave dweller Osama bin Laden is Adolf Hitler, his musings as big a threat to the world as were the totalitarian visions of the Soviet Union and fascist Germany. The intention is to paint Democrats as the party of placation - their willingness to rethink the war in Iraq, a fatal weakness in the face of evil.
This heady hyperbole will convince some. It may convince many, but even some Republicans are no longer buying it. Representing a group of Republicans facing a tough re-election battle, Congressman Chris Shays of Connecticut - hitherto a staunch supporter of the war - recently broke from party doctrine to suggest there should be a timeline for US troop withdrawal from Iraq, and in an unusual display of candour, contradicted the White House by concluding: "I have not seen ... noticeable improvement in Iraq since the election in December 2005".
Republicans are in trouble in 22 states all over the electoral map. There are currently 36 competitive races in Republican held districts, up from 19 at the beginning of this year, according to the non-partisan Cook report. Democrats would have to win 15 of these to retake control of the House.
A 15 seat swing in the House would be modest compared to the 54-seat net gain by Republicans in their "revolution" of 1994, but a lot has to go right for Democrats to emerge as the majority in November. If the mood in the country stays the same, their chances are good, but they must resist the temptation to over-reach. For instance a Senate Democrat proposal to remove the Defence Secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, from office is an ill-advised protest vote that would not alter White House policy, and only plays into Republican charges that Democrats are the enemy within.
Republicans are pinning their hopes on the one bright spot in the polls for them that gives the president high marks for handling the war on terrorism. Voters credit the President for the absence of a terrorist attack on US soil, since September 11 2001. But even this "natural" advantage could be turned against Republicans. In the words of the White House's latest strategy issued this month for combating terrorism, "terrorist networks today are more dispersed and less centralised. They are more reliant on smaller cells inspired by a common ideology and less directed by a central command structure."
In other words, instead of a small concentrated number of miscreants, our enemies have multiplied, become more radicalised and splintered, so that they are harder to track down. The question Democrats should frame is: Are we really safer with Republicans in charge?
By MICHAEL GRACZYK
September 6, 2006
HOUSTON - Kinky Friedman, the proudly politically incorrect entertainer running for governor, said Wednesday he wouldn't put just 1,500 National Guard troops on the Texas-Mexico border, he'd send 10,000.
"We've waited 153 years for the feds to help us," Friedman said. "They haven't yet. We have our own army. I want 10,000 Texas National Guard troops on the border and I want them now."
It was one of four broad policy issues Friedman outlined Wednesday along with crime in Houston, state spending and taxes.
On Houston's crime problem, Friedman said Hurricane Katrina evacuees who relocated to the city and break the law or refuse to find jobs should be sent back to Louisiana.
"I'm just kind of stunned other politicians are not talking about this stuff and are not doing anything," Friedman said.
With campaign slogans like "He's Not Kinky, He's My Governor" and "Kinky for Governor - Why the Hell Not?" Friedman is running a rebel campaign as an independent against Republican Gov. Rick Perry. Also in the race are Democrat Chris Bell, Libertarian James Werner and another independent, Carole Strayhorn, the state comptroller who won that office as a Republican.
On the issue of crime, Friedman said he would give $100 million in state money to Houston to address a spike in violence since Hurricane Katrina.
Friedman also said he would cap state spending at current levels, with any increases adjusted for inflation, population increases and unforeseen disasters.
He said he would abolish the state business tax, which taxes gross business income and was a key element of the school finance reform passed by the legislature in a special session earlier this year. The existing state budget surplus of at least $11 billion could make up any shortfall, he said.
As for the border, Texas has about 1,500 National Guard troops there already.
President Bush earlier this year said he wanted 6,000 along the entire U.S.-Mexico border to assist with administrative and construction tasks that could free up Border Patrol officers.
Perry campaign spokesman Robert Black dismissed Friedman's proposals. He said it wasn't clear whether the 10,000 troops Friedman wanted even were available for deployment and that using surplus money "would be fine for about a year, then what do you do?"
A Bell spokeswoman, Heather Guntert, said, "I'd be very interested in someone figuring out the implications of freezing all the spending. It's not a serious response to a serious problem."
Strayhorn spokesman Mark Sanders described Friedman as "a lot of fun" but said the comptroller's campaign is focused on Perry. He said, "It's a two-person race."
By MIKE ROBINSON
Wed Sep 6, 2006
CHICAGO - Former Gov. George Ryan, who was acclaimed by capital punishment foes for suspending executions in Illinois and emptying out death row, was sentenced Wednesday to 6 1/2 years behind bars in the corruption scandal that ruined his political career.
"When they elected me as the governor of this state, they expected better, and I let 'em down and for that I apologize," the 72-year-old Republican said in court before hearing his sentence.
Federal prosecutors had asked for eight to 10 years in prison. Defense attorneys argued that even 2 1/2 years would deprive Ryan of the last healthy years of his life.
"Government leaders have an obligation to stand as the example. Mr. Ryan failed to meet that standard," U.S. District Judge Rebecca R. Pallmeyer said.
Ryan and about a dozen members of his family stood stoically as Pallmeyer imposed the sentence. He said "involuntary separation" from his wife of 50 years, Lura Lynn, would be "excruciating."
"The jury's verdict speaks for itself in showing that I simply didn't do enough - should have been more vigilant, should have been more watchful, should have been a lot of things, I guess," Ryan said.
The former governor was ordered to report to prison Jan. 4, but his attorneys are trying to keep him free on bond pending appeal - a matter that Pallmeyer will decide on later.
Ryan was convicted in April of racketeering conspiracy, fraud and other offenses for taking payoffs from political insiders in exchange for state business while he was Illinois secretary of state from 1991 to 1999 and governor for four years after that. The verdict capped Illinois' biggest political corruption trial in decades.
Prosecutors said Ryan doled out big-money contracts and leases to his longtime friend, businessman-lobbyist Larry Warner, and other insiders and received such things as Caribbean vacations and a golf bag in return. Ryan also used state money and state workers for his campaigns, the government alleged.
Ryan and Warner, 67, have maintained that nothing they did in connection with leases and contracts was illegal. During the trial, Ryan's attorneys asserted that no one ever testified to seeing their client take a payoff.
Defense attorneys pleaded for mercy, citing Ryan's advanced age, his health problems - he is plagued by high cholesterol and the intestinal illnesses Crohn's disease, diverticulitis - and the humiliation he has already suffered.
"The public shaming that Ryan has endured combined with the impending loss of his pension greatly lessens the need for the court to punish through the sentencing process," Ryan's lawyers said in court papers. They said Ryan "has been publicly and universally humiliated."
The scandal that led to Ryan's downfall began over a decade ago with a fiery van crash in Wisconsin that killed six children. The 1994 wreck exposed a scheme inside the Illinois secretary of state's office in which truck drivers obtained licenses for bribes.
The probe expanded to other corruption under Ryan. Seventy-nine former state officials, lobbyists, truck drivers and others have been charged. Seventy-five have been convicted, including Ryan's longtime top aide, Scott Fawell, a star witness at Ryan's trial.
Prosecutor Patrick Collins referenced Fawell in arguing for a tough sentence for Ryan.
"Mr. Ryan's conduct is more egregious. Mr. Ryan took the oath of office. Scott Fawell did not," Collins said. "Mr. Fawell ... did the dirty work, but Mr. Ryan was in charge."
In 2000, Ryan, as governor, declared a moratorium on executions in Illinois after 13 death row inmates were found to have been wrongly convicted. Then, days before he left office in 2003, he emptied out death row, commuting the sentences of all 167 inmates to life in prison. He declared that the state's criminal justice system was "haunted by the demon of error."
Even as he faced scandal back home, Ryan accepted speaking invitations across the country and was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for his criticism of the death penalty.
With prosecutors closing in on him, Ryan decided not to run for re-election in 2002. He was indicted after leaving office.
Pallmeyer also ordered Ryan to pay $603,348 in restitution for money the state lost through overpriced leases. But it's unclear that he will be able to pay any of it. His attorneys say that he is broke.
Warner was convicted of charges including racketeering, fraud and attempted extortion and was sentenced Wednesday to just under 3 1/2 years.
Anderson Cooper has long traded on his biography, carving a niche for himself as the most human of news anchors. But there's one aspect of his past that the silver-haired CNN star has never made public: the months he spent training for a career with the Central Intelligence Agency.
Following his sophomore and junior years at Yale-a well-known recruiting ground for the CIA-Cooper spent his summers interning at the agency's monolithic headquarters in Langley, Virginia, in a program for students interested in intelligence work. His involvement with the agency ended there, and he chose not to pursue a job with the agency after graduation, according to a CNN spokeswoman, who confirmed details of Cooper's CIA involvement to Radar.
"Whatever summer jobs or internships our anchors had in college couldn't be less consequential," she added. He has kept the experience a secret, sources say, out of concern that, if widely known, it might compromise his ability to travel in foreign countries and even possibly put him at greater risk from terrorists.
"He doesn't want to be any more of a target than he already is," says one Anderson confidante. On the other hand, as Bob Woodruff and others have learned, American journalists are already prime targets in the world's conflict zones, and are typically accused of having CIA ties even where none exist. And by not disclosing his training before now, Cooper has arguably made it into a potential issue. "It creates the appearance of something smelly there," says a former CNN official who knows Cooper. (Particularly in light of the period Anderson spent studying Vietnamese at the University of Hanoi after college. Soon after, Cooper apparently gave up his Bond fantasy to pursue a career in journalism-except for a brief period when he starred as host of ABC's reality show, The Mole.)
According to the spokeswoman, Cooper told his bosses at CNN about his time with the agency. But even if he hadn't, says Walter Isaacson, who headed the network from 2001 to 2003 and is now president of the Aspen Institute, it's not the sort of thing that would automatically require disclosure, since the stint was brief and far in the past. "I think what he did was probably fine and cool, and I've got no problems with it," he added.
Comment: If Cooper is CIA, he is one of many in the mainstream media.
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