News, politics, progressive culture, music, acoustic music

Archive for the ‘Middle East’ Category

US Guilty of ‘Basically Unconditional Support’ for Saudi War Crimes in Yemen | Common Dreams | Breaking News & Views for the Progressive Community

without comments

The United States and other governments that continue to sell weapons to Saudi Arabia are guilty of “the worst kind of hypocrisy,” an international watchdog charged on Monday, as the arms trade continues despite mounting evidence of civilian causalities, war crimes, and other atrocities being committed by the kingdom in Yemen.

Source: US Guilty of ‘Basically Unconditional Support’ for Saudi War Crimes in Yemen | Common Dreams | Breaking News & Views for the Progressive Community

Written by slothropia

August 22nd, 2016 at 7:21 pm

The Helen Thomas Distraction

without comments

Let’s see now. A little over a week ago, IDF commandos hijacked a Turkish flotilla carrying humanitarian aid to Gaza. In doing so,Israel violated international law and killed at least 9 unarmed civilians. For this, Israel earned the condemnation of most of the world but only vague and tepid expressions of regret from the Emmanuel – oops, I mean the Obama – administration.

Then, Zionist propagandists – oops again, I mean journalists in the corporate media – discovered a piece of video in which Helen Thomas, dean of the White House press corps, made remarks critical of Israel. Everybody knows that any remark that criticizes Israel or Israeli government policy is by definition anti-Semitic and must be condemned and the speaker shunned by all decent folk and driven from public life. Ideally, they would have all their property seized and be made homeless and indigent.

Perfect. Within the U.S. the focus is taken off of Israel’s crimes and put on the ill chosen remarks of an 89 year old woman who conveniently is of Lebanese (dirty Arab) descent. Mission accomplished.

OK, my turn to examine critically exactly what Thomas said and determine for myself whether she should be praised or condemned.

Here is how the BBC reports her actual comments and the dust up that followed:

Thomas’s remarks were made in a video interview with the website, when she was asked whether she had any “comments on Israel”.

“Tell them to get the hell out of Palestine,” she said.

“Remember these people are occupied and it’s their land, not Germany and not Poland.

“They can go home, Poland, Germany, and America and everywhere else,” she added.

Please note, the BBC reports she was responding to a question about whether she had any “comments on Israel”. Her reply seems to include a suggestion that Israel – the nation of Israel and its government – should “get the hell out of Palestine”. But where and what is Palestine?

If she meant that Israel should stop occupying the Palestinian territories, I have no problem with what she said. If she meant that Israeli settlers should leave their settlements in those occupied territories, again, I have no objection.

If, on the other, more sinister hand, Helen Thomas is advocating the evacuation or forced removal of Jewish residents of what is now the State of Israel, well that would just be completely nuts and I would join the chorus of condemnation.

I suspect Thomas meant the former and not the latter, but that having made the offending (not offensive) remarks she either jumped or was pushed into a retirement that cannot be truthfully described as early.

Congrats to all of Israel’s reflexive apologists in the corporate media. You have proved once again that the Government of The State of Israel is at least as infallible as former (conscripted) Hitler youth league member Joseph Alois Ratzinger.

All those anti-Semites at Haaretz must be wrong.

Written by slothropia

June 9th, 2010 at 11:16 am

The Legal Position on the Israeli Attack

without comments

I found Craig Murray’s blog through Rabble. Craig Murray is a human rights activist, writer, former British Ambassador, and an Honorary Research Fellow at the University of Lancaster School of Law. Here is part of what Murray has to say about the Israeli attack on a Turkish ship on a humanitarian mission:

But as I told this afternoon’s tremendous spontaneous demonstration on Whitehall, fine words are not enough and we must now see the kind of sanctions regime we saw against apartheid South Africa.

A word on the legal position, which is very plain. To attack a foreign flagged vessel in international waters is illegal. It is not piracy, as the Israeli vessels carried a military commission. It is rather an act of illegal warfare.

Because the incident took place on the high seas does not mean however that international law is the only applicable law. The Law of the Sea is quite plain that, when an incident takes place
on a ship on the high seas (outside anybody’s territorial waters) the applicable law is that of the flag state of the ship on which the incident occurred. In legal terms, the Turkish ship was Turkish territory.

There are therefore two clear legal possibilities.

Possibility one is that the Israeli commandos were acting on behalf of the government of Israel in killing the activists on the ships. In that case Israel is in a position of war with Turkey, and the act falls under international jurisdiction as a war crime.

Possibility two is that, if the killings were not authorised Israeli military action, they were acts of murder under Turkish jurisdiction. If Israel does not consider itself in a position of war with Turkey, then it must hand over the commandos involved for trial in Turkey under Turkish law.

In brief, if Israel and Turkey are not at war, then it is Turkish law which is applicable to what happened on the ship. It is for Turkey, not Israel, to carry out any inquiry or investigation into events and to initiate any prosecutions. Israel is obliged to hand over indicted personnel for prosecution.

I would add that Israel, by attacking a NATO member state, has apparently declared war on NATO, which obviously includes the U.S.
Does President Obama have what it takes to do the right thing and hold Israel accountable?

Written by slothropia

May 31st, 2010 at 7:55 pm

Irael Massacres Humanitarian Activists in International Waters

without comments

Glenn Greenwald reports on the Israeli high seas massacre of humanitarian activists:

Late last night, Israel attacked a flotilla of ships in international waters carrying food, medicine and other aid to Gaza, killing at least 10 civilians on board and injuring at least 30 more (many reports now put the numbers at 19 dead and 60 injured). The Israeli Defense Forces is claiming that its soldiers were attacked with clubs, knives and “handguns” when they boarded the ship without permission, but none of the Israeli soldiers were killed while two are reported injured. Those on the ships emphatically state that the IDF came on board shooting. An IDF spokesman said: “Our initial findings show that at least 10 convoy participants were killed.”

The six-ship flotilla was carrying 10,000 tons of humanitarian aid along with 600 people, all civilians, which included 1976 Nobel Peace Prize laureate Mairead Corrigan Maguire of Northern Ireland, European legislators and an elderly Holocaust survivor, Hedy Epstein, 85. In December, 2008, Israel, citing rocket attacks from Hamas, launched a 22-day, barbaric attack on Gaza, bombarding a trapped population, killing hundreds of innocent civilians (1,400 Palestinians and 13 Israelis were killed), and devastating Gazan society. A U.N. report released earlier this month documented that, as a result of the blockade imposed on Gaza by Israel and Egypt (the two largest recipients of U.S. aid), “[m]ost of the property and infrastructure damaged . . . was still unrepaired 12 months later.”
The flotilla attacked by Israel last night was carrying materials such as cement, water purifiers, and other building materials, much of which Israel refuses to let pass into Gaza. At the end of 2009, a U.N. report found that “insufficient food and medicine is reaching Gazans, producing a further deterioration of the mental and physical health of the entire civilian population since Israel launched Operation Cast Lead against the territory,” and also “blamed the blockade for continued breakdowns of the electricity and sanitation systems due to the Israeli refusal to let spare parts needed for repair get through the crossings.”

There’s more, with links to other coverage and comment.

I don’t understand why Israel seems intent on making an enemy of the entire world (except for the United States of course). Even the U.S. will not be able to protect Israel for much longer because the U.S. economy is losing the ability to pay for the bloated “defense” department with which we are, for the time being, cursed.

One of Greenwald’s links takes readers to an IBN post that contains this:

Turkey has threatened Israel with unprecedented action after Israeli forces attacked an aid vessel, killing 10 peace activists headed to Gaza.

A shocked world has responded with outrage. Turkey recalled its ambassador to Israel and warned of unprecedented and incalculable reprisals.

Two Turkish activists were reported to be among those killed in the flotilla. Ankara warned that further supply vessels will be sent to Gaza, escorted by the Turkish Navy, a development with unpredictable consequences.

Will Israel respond by nuking Ankara or Istanbul? Or Tehran? How far will the Israeli fascist right (the faction in power there) go in its own paranoid defense? If Israel responds with force to a future Turkish mission to Gaza, how will Ankara respond?

Written by slothropia

May 31st, 2010 at 1:53 pm

Billy Bragg: Lonesome Death of Rachel Corrie (from Dylan)

without comments

Don’t know why I thought of this. Something going on in the Middle East?

Written by slothropia

January 7th, 2009 at 4:45 pm

Seven Days inMarch?

without comments

I just found this from the Times Online (UK not NY) on Raw Story:

SOME of America’s most senior military commanders are prepared to resign if the White House orders a military strike against Iran, according to highly placed defence and intelligence sources.

Tension in the Gulf region has raised fears that an attack on Iran is becoming increasingly likely before President George Bush leaves office. The Sunday Times has learnt that up to five generals and admirals are willing to resign rather than approve what they consider would be a reckless attack.

“There are four or five generals and admirals we know of who would resign if Bush ordered an attack on Iran,” a source with close ties to British intelligence said. “There is simply no stomach for it in the Pentagon, and a lot of people question whether such an attack would be effective or even possible.”


A generals’ revolt on such a scale would be unprecedented. “American generals usually stay and fight until they get fired,” said a Pentagon source. Robert Gates, the defence secretary, has repeatedly warned against striking Iran and is believed to represent the view of his senior commanders. The threat of a wave of resignations coincided with a warning by Vice-President Dick Cheney that all options, including military action, remained on the table. He was responding to a comment by Tony Blair that it would not “be right to take military action against Iran”


A second US navy aircraft carrier strike group led by the USS John C Stennis arrived in the Gulf last week, doubling the US presence there. Vice Admiral Patrick Walsh, the commander of the US Fifth Fleet, warned: “The US will take military action if ships are attacked or if countries in the region are targeted or US troops come under direct attack.”

But General Peter Pace, chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, said recently there was “zero chance” of a war with Iran. He played down claims by US intelligence that the Iranian government was responsible for supplying insurgents in Iraq, forcing Bush on the defensive.


Hillary Mann, the National Security Council’s main Iran expert until 2004, said Pace’s repudiation of the administration’s claims was a sign of grave discontent at the top.

…(A)rmy chiefs fear an attack on Iran would backfire on American troops in Iraq and lead to more terrorist attacks, a rise in oil prices and the threat of a regional war.

One retired general who participated in the “generals’ revolt” against Donald Rumsfeld’s handling of the Iraq war said he hoped his former colleagues would resign in the event of an order to attack. “We don’t want to take another initiative unless we’ve really thought through the consequences of our strategy,” he warned.

If this is what it takes to slow down the mendacious incompetents who run the Executive Branch, I am all for it. Strategically timed resignations from the military might begin the final decoupling of the U.S. from self defeating wars in the Middle East. And they would fall well short of an actual military coup.
I wonder if Petraeus is in on this.

If this is what it takes to slow down the mendacious incompetents who run the Executive Branch, I am all for it. Strategically timed resignations from the military might begin the final decoupling of the U.S. from self defeating wars in the Middle East. And they would fall well short of an actual military coup.

I wonder if Petraeus is in on this.

Written by slothropia

February 24th, 2007 at 9:54 pm

U.S. Foreign Policy: Another Heckuva Job

without comments

A few days ago, Trudy Rubin had a good column about Secretary of State Rice and U.S. Mideast Policy. This was not a rave review:

Rarely has an American secretary of state looked so hapless.

At a time when American policy is failing in Iraq and flailing toward Iran, Rice’s trip shows why a shift of U.S. strategy is badly needed, soon.

The only way to break out of the present cycle of failure in the Middle East is to put the Israel-Palestinian issue back on the front burner.

When the United States invaded Iraq, many on the Bush team believed the road to Jerusalem (meaning resolution of the Palestinian issue) ran through Baghdad. They believed Iraq would morph into a pro-American democracy, which in turn would undercut the regimes in Syria and Iran. The Palestinians would have to accept whatever deal Israel offered, and the Bush team wouldn’t have to push the peace process forward.

Unfortunately, White House expectations proved to be 180 degrees wrong.

The chaos in Iraq strengthened Iran’s hand. Meantime, U.S. passivity on the peace process has boomeranged. President Bush’s endorsement of Israel’s unilateral withdrawal from the Gaza Strip was bound to strengthen Hamas, which could claim it had pushed Israel out by force. Had the White House wanted to strengthen Abbas, it would have urged Israel to negotiate a withdrawal with him.

The downward spiral that followed in Gaza and the West Bank has endangered Israel and U.S. policy as well.

Well, the Mideast is a tough nut to crack. Clinton couldn’t solve it either (It’s Clinton’s fault. Yeah, that’s the ticket.) But the Bushites aren’t doing better with North Korea, according to Josh Marshall:

Here’s the CNN brief on their article about Rice blaming Bill Clinton for the president’s latest failure.

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Tuesday defended the Bush administration’s refusal to hold bilateral talks with North Korea in the face of Pyongyang’s claim of a successful nuclear test. She told CNN the Clinton administration tried that approach in the 1990s and it had failed.

Bill Perry has a good rejoinder to this nonsense on the Post oped page.

But let’s review the salient facts one more time.

“Failure” =1994-2002 — Era of Clinton ‘Agreed Framework’: No plutonium production. All existing plutonium under international inspection. No bomb.

“Success” = 2002-2006 — Bush Policy Era: Active plutonium production. No international inspections of plutonium stocks. Nuclear warhead detonated.

Face it. They ditched an imperfect but working policy. They replaced it with nothing. Now North Korea is a nuclear state.

Facts hurt. So do nukes.

That’s it from me. What an easy post to write.

Written by slothropia

October 11th, 2006 at 2:32 pm

What Does AQ Want?

without comments

The great Billmon has another insightful post about the wars we are fighting (or are being fought in out name). Here are some higlights. My comments folllow.

The real irony, though, is that the administration is talking up its ability to play defense even though it has insisted, over and over again, that the key to victory is a good offense — i.e. taking the fight to the enemy, a forward strategy for freedom, etc. But by that measure, the war is on its way to being lost — in Iraq, in Afghanistan, in Pakistan and not least in the hearts and minds of the Islamic world, which is the war’s true center of gravity. (Even the Cheneyites acknowledge this, if only with boilerplate lip service.)…

To me, it looks like the jihadist movement is using the Maoist instruction manual for prolonged struggle, albeit at a kind of macro, worldwide (or at least Islamic world) level…

…by effectively shutting down (or at least crippling) the old Al Qaeda, the US has indeed made Iraq (and southern Afghanistan and the Pakistani border regions) the “central fronts” in the war. But this may have been precisely the evolutionary direction the jihadist movement needed to go in order to become a serious revolutionary threat in the Middle East…

If Al Qaeda were to root itself into Anbar and develop widespread popular support, it could take years, if not decades, to uproot it again. You only have to look at a map to see what a nightmare that could be for every regime in the neighborhood…

Like most extreme reactionary movements, Al Qaeda has no meaningful economic or political program (Land to the Tillers, All Power to the Soviets) to offer the Islamic masses. It’s call for the strictest possible interpretation of Shari’a law is divisive and repels rather than attracts international sympathy. But what it does have going for it are wide and deep fears of cultural penetration and Western domination, and the ancient religious duty of all Muslims to defend Islam and the community of believers…

The administration has made it into a mantra: Better to fight them over there than over here. As I’ve pointed out before, it’s hardly an either/or proposition. But to the extent that America does have a choice between fighting terrorists “here” (in the Islamic ghettos of London or New York or Hamburg) or “there” (the deserts of Anbar, the Hindu Kush) maybe it should choose here — our turf instead of theirs, the near enemy rather than the far. Because at this point, it’s not clear our far enemy can be defeated on its own home ground.

In the kind of war we are now engaged in, it is hard to imagine a home team losing. Isn’t that a big part of the story of the last century? Conquest is fleeting. The British, French, Dutch, German and Soviet empires are gone for good. The American empire is on its way out. But will America let go willingly or will it take a catastrophic defeat to destroy the empire along with a fair sized chunk of influence and affluence alike.

While I have never understood the ultimate goal of the jihadists,  I have also never taken seriously the right wing caricature of this enemy as wanting to conquer the world and forcibly convert all to Islam. It seems to me that they would like to drive the U.S. or at least American influence from the Middle East. It also seems to me that they might be able to make temporary alliances with less other elements in Middle Eastern countries and societies to achieve this goal.  Some nationalist forces, for example, might also be eager to act against American influence and interests.

But if and when the jihadists and others succeed in this project, how will they govern their societies? The Afghani Taliban model might frighten a lot of Muslims the way it does ”enlightened” westerners like you and me. Te repeat from Billmon’s peost quoted above, “Like most extreme reactionary movements, Al Qaeda has no meaningful economic or political program (Land to the Tillers, All Power to the Soviets) to offer the Islamic masses.” If Al Qaeda were to take over a country like Jordan, for example,  I can easily imagine a resistance quickly forming and sectarian warfare to break out a la Iraq.

In short, depending how things play out, we could be looking at another generation of acute and chronic instability in the Middle East and South Asia.

Written by slothropia

September 14th, 2006 at 9:46 pm

Peace in the Middle East for a Few Weeks

with one comment

How ironic it is that Ariel Sharon drifts closer to death as a ceasefire suspends (not ends) the war between Hezbollah and Israel. It was Sharon after all who was largely responsible for the birth of Hezbollah.

It was Sharon who as Israeli Defense Minister oversaw the invasion of Lebanon in 1982. The war in Lebanon was supposed to wipe out the PLO who had been shelling northern Israel from there.

During that war, Christian militias entered the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps and slaughtered hundreds of civilians. Sharon was cleared of direct responsibility but temporarily left government over the scandal. The occupation of Lebanon followed and in 1985 Hezbollah was created to oppose the occupation.

Now, following the latest round of fighting between Hezbollah and the IDF, Hezbollah stands as the victor. Israel’s objective in the war was to eliminate the threat from Hezbollah, but they only succeeded in making that group stronger, largely by increasing Hezbollah’s support within Lebanon and throughout the Muslim world. By the way, Neocons also believe that Israel has lost this round, although they see things from a different angle than I do.

It is regrettable that Ariel Sharon is not awake to see his very own chickens coming home to roost.

I remember when the Sabra and Shatila massacres went down thinking that surely the world would now demand that the Palestinians be given their own state and that the Arab/Israeli conflict would be resolved. Boy was I naive. Instead, those atrocities have simply been thrown on the wood pile of grievances maintained by all sides in this conflict, used to fuel never ending bloodshed. The stalemate continues and will do so into the foreseeable future.

There will be no military solution. The only hope for real peace is to resolve the underlying political and territorial grievances that drive the conflict. I do not know if that is possible. If it is not and if Israel is to survive, it will need more backers than just the United States. We are growing broke and won’t be able to afford Israel for more than another generation.

And if the Bush Neocons have their way, we could very well be kicked out of the Middle East long before that. Seymour Hersh tells us, amng many other things, that Iran and the U.S. used this latest war to test weapons and tactics to be used in a possible upcoming Middle East championship bout, kind of like the way the Germans and Russians used the Spanish Civil War as spring training for WWII.

Written by slothropia

August 15th, 2006 at 10:44 am

Democrats: Can’t live With ‘Em, Can’t Live Without ‘Em

without comments

Once again, Billmon gets to the root of it. Go Ned, but no one should look to the Democratic Party for ultimate solutions to the foreign and domestic ills that plague us. It is still historically compromised.
“What’s become clear to me is that the Democratic Party (even it’s allegedly anti-war wing) will not try to stop this insanity, and in fact will probably be led as meekly to the slaughter as it was during the runup to the Iraq invasion. Watching the Dems line up to salute the Israeli war machine, hearing the uncomfortable and awkward silence descend on most of Left Blogistan once the bombs started falling in Lebanon, seeing how easily the same Orwellian propaganda tricks worked their magic on the pseudoliberals — all this doesn’t leave too much room for doubt. As long as World War III can be sold as protecting the security and survival of the Jewish state, I suspect the overwhelming majority of Democrats, or at least the overwhelming majority of Democratic politicians, will support it.”

Pretty scary kids, isn’t it? But wait, it gets better:

“While the party nomenklatura is finally, after three bloody years, making dovish noises about the Iraq fiasco, I think their loyalty to Israel, or their fear of the Israel lobby, almost certainly will snap them back into line during the coming ‘debate’ over war with Iran.”

I share Billmon’s understanding of the Democratic Party’s orientation, but none of us should be surprised if it shakes out as he predicts. The prophet Gore Vidal has suggested that there “[t]here is only one party in the United States, the Property party. . .and it has two right wings: Republican and Democrat. Republicans are a bit stupider, more rigid, more doctrinaire in their laissez-faire capitalism than the Democrats, who are cuter, prettier, a bit more corrupt—until recently. . .and more willing than the Republicans to make small adjustments when the poor, the black, the anti-imperialists get out of hand. But, essentially, there is no difference between the two parties.”

There is a genuinely progressive wing in the Democratic Party, as exemplified by the late Paul Wellstone, Dennis Kucinich, and Maxine Waters, but it is very limited in its aspirations. If the Dems capture the congressional bus this fall, the progressives won’t be driving.

Don’t get me wrong; I really hope this country and the Democrats kick some elephant butt in November. I might make a donation to a worthy Democratic candidate. I might even do some voluinteer campaign work. But if there is a change of parties in power, that will only be the begining of the effort needed to keep the bus from driving over a cliff. If it’s not – as Billmon seems to think it is – too late.

Written by slothropia

August 5th, 2006 at 9:34 am