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Mosaic News – 3/28/08: World News from the Middle East

Dandelion Salad

Warning

.

This video may contain images depicting the reality and horror of war/violence and should only be viewed by a mature audience.

linktv

For more: http://linktv.org/originalseries
“Charge of the Night” Operation Continues in Basra,” Al Arabiya TV, UAE
“Iran to Mediate between Sadr & Iraqi Government,” Al Arabiya TV, UAE
“Mass Demonstrations in Sadr City,” Al-Alam TV, Iran
“Al Sadr Blames Government for Violence,” Al-Iraqiya TV, Iraq
“British Apologize to an Iraqi Family,” Al Jazeera English, Qatar
“Israel Evicts Palestinian Families from Jerusalem,” Al Jazeera English, Qatar
“Several Arab Leaders Missed the Arab Summit in Damascus,” IBA TV, Israel
“Iraqi and Yemeni Governments Support Summit,” Syria TV, Syria
“March Coalition: Arab Summit Will Fail,” NBN TV, Lebanon
Produced for Link TV by Jamal Dajani.

from www.youtube.com posted with vodpod

.

Hope Abandoned: Obama Stands Up for Murder & Plunder by Chris Floyd

Dandelion Salad

by Chris Floyd
Empire Burlesque
Monday, 31 March 2008

Well, it doesn’t really get much plainer than this, does it? From AP:

Obama Aligns Foreign Policy with GOP
Sen. Barack Obama said Friday he would return the country to the more “traditional” foreign policy efforts of past presidents, such as George H.W. Bush, John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan.

At a town hall event at a local high school gymnasium, Obama praised George H.W. Bush — father of the president — for the way he handled the Persian Gulf War: with a large coalition and carefully defined objectives. Obama began a six-day bus tour through Pennsylvania, the largest remaining primary prize in the contest with Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton…

“The truth is that my foreign policy is actually a return to the traditional bipartisan realistic policy of George Bush’s father, of John F. Kennedy, of, in some ways, Ronald Reagan….”

Obama is doing two things here, reaching out to two very different audiences, on different wavelengths. First, for the hoi polloi, he is simply pandering in the most shameless way imaginable, throwing out talismans for his TV-addled audience to comfort themselves with: “You like JFK? I’ll be like him! You like Reagan? I’ll be like him too! You like the first George Bush? Hey, I’ll be just like him as well!” This is a PR tactic that goes all the way back to St. Paul the spinmeister, who boasted of his ability to massage his message and “become all things to all men.” Obama has long proven himself a master of this particular kind of political whoredom — much like Bill Clinton, in fact, another champion of “bipartisan foreign policy” who for some strange reason got left off Obama’s list of role models.

But beyond all the rubes out there, Obama is also signaling to the real masters of the United States, the military-corporate complex, that he is a “safe pair of hands” — a competent technocrat who won’t upset the imperial applecart but will faithfully follow the 60-year post-war paradigm of leaving “all options on the table” and doing “whatever it takes” to keep the great game of geopolitical dominance going strong.

What other conclusion can you draw from Obama’s reference to these avatars, and his very pointed identification with them? He is saying, quite clearly, that he will practice foreign policy just as they did. And what they do? Committed, instigated, abetted and countenanced a relentless flood of crimes, murders, atrocities, deceptions, corruptions, mass destruction and state terrorism.

Obama is telling us — and the war-profiteering powers-that-be — that he will give us “realistic policies” like those of John Kennedy. These include his steady march into the quagmire of Vietnam, and the backing of a deadly coup in Saigon to replace one brutal junta with another; greenlighting successful coups in Guyana, the Dominican Republic and Iraq, where the CIA helped the Baath Party come to power; greenlighting the spectacularly unsuccessful Bay of Pigs invasion in Cuba, not to mention the terrorist operations and assassination attempts there. As Edward Jay Epstein noted (in John Kennedy Jr.’s magazine George, of all places):

While the Mafia continued its unsuccessful machinations, John F. Kennedy became President and, in April 1961, launched the Bay of Pigs invasion, an attack on a swamp in Cuba by CIA-trained Cuban exiles that ended in disaster. Furious at this humiliating failure, Kennedy summoned Richard Bissell, the head of the CIA’s covert operations, to the Cabinet Room and chided him for “sitting on his ass and not doing anything about getting rid of Castro and the Castro regime” (as Bissell recalled). Richard Helms, who succeeded Bissell, also felt “white heat,” as he put it, from the Kennedys to get rid of Castro.

By then, the Kennedys had set up their own covert structure for dealing with the Castro problem the Special Group Augmented, which Attorney General Robert Kennedy and General Maxwell Taylor effectively ran and which, in November 1961, launched a secret war against the Castro regime, codenamed Operation Mongoose. Secretary of Defense Robert Strange McNamara, who was not a formal member of this group but attended meetings, later testified: “We were hysterical about Castro at about the time of the Bay of Pigs and thereafter. And there was pressure from JFK and RFK to do something about Castro.” It was a “no holds barred” enterprise, as Helms termed it, for which the Special Group Augmented assigned such “planning tasks” as using biological and chemical warfare against Cuban sugar workers; employing Cuban gangsters to kill Cuban police officials, Soviet bloc technicians, and other targeted people; using agents to sabotage mines; and, in what was called Operation Bounty, paying cash bonuses of up to $100,000 for the murder or abduction of government officials.

More of this kind of thing, then, from Obama when he reaches the White House?

As for his other two foreign policy mentors, Reagan and Bush I, the rap sheet is far too long for even a brief accounting here. (And indeed, I’ve spent much of the past seven years detailing many of these crimes in various venues — because they involved so many of the same players now spewing filth and blood from the current administration.) We could begin, I suppose, with Reagan and Bush’s act of treason in negotiating with Iranian hostage-takers in 1980 to ensure that Teheran would not release the American captives at the U.S. embassy before the November election; in return, Reagan and Bush pledged to provide cash and military hardware to the extremist mullahs, which they duly did. (See here, and here.)

Or we could cite Reagan’s ardent support for mass-murdering militarist regimes in Central and South America; the arming and funding of the Contra insurgent army in Nicaragua, which received CIA training in terrorist tactics. Or the Iran-Contra affair, which saw Reagan and Bush ship weapons to the extremist Iranian regime in return for cash which they then gave to their Contra terrorist militia, in flagrant violation of the law. Or Reagan’s stupid and pointless invasion of Grenada, which he undertook solely to cover up the embarrassment of his stupid and pointless intervention in Lebanon, where 241 American soldiers were killed after having been dropped into the middle of a multi-sided civil war. Or Reagan’s vast expansion of a policy begun under Jimmy Carter of arming, funding, training and organizing a global network of violent Islamic extremists — a “foreign policy” masterstroke that is still paying dividends today. (Quite literally paying dividends for investors in the defense, security and military servicing industries.)

But at least Obama did qualify his embrace of Reagan’s traditional and realistic bipartisan foreign policy, saying that he would emulate “some” of Reagan’s approaches. So maybe he will skip on the election-fixing treason and go for supporting mass-murdering militarist regimes instead? Or are we being too cynical? Perhaps Obama means he will follow in the footsteps of some of Reagan’s more merciful and reconciliatory policies — such as the time the Great Communicator laid a wreath at a cemetery where Nazi SS soldiers lie in honored burial: a clear signal from the U.S. president to these dead mass-murderers that “all is forgiven” at last.

Obama offers no qualification at all to his championing of George Herbert Walker Bush however. Indeed, his was the first name uttered in the paean to bipartisan foreign policy. But here too one quails (and Quayles) at the prospect of toting up the high crimes and monstrous follies of this “traditional realist” whom Obama promises to emulate. Should we start with Bush’s arming and funding of Saddam Hussein — long after the latter “gassed his own people” — and Bush’s later perversion of the legal process to cover up his largess to the dictator? Or Bush’s pointless and unnecessary invasion of Panama, which killed hundreds if not thousands of innocent people and drove at least 20,000 people from their homes, all to remove a long-time U.S. intelligence “asset,” Manuel Noriega, who in the 1970s received fat payments of bribes from the director of the CIA — one George Herbert Walker Bush?

Or perhaps we should follow Obama’s example and point to “the way [Bush] handled the Persian Gulf War.” Yes, let’s take a closer look at that, since Obama clearly sees it as a model for his own presidency. Here’s an excerpt from an earlier piece, Scar Tissue: How the Bushes Brought Bedlam to Iraq (where you will also find much more on Bush’s backroom tryst with Saddam):

Then came Bush’s “Gulf War,” when he turned on his protégé after Saddam made the foolish move of threatening the Kuwaiti royals – Bush’s long-time business partners [in the oil business], going back to the early 1960s. Saddam’s conflict with Kuwait centered on two main issues: first, his claim that the billions of dollars Kuwait had given Iraq during the war with Iran was simply straightforward aid to the nation that was defending the Sunni Arab world from the aggressive onslaught of the Shiite Persians. The Kuwaitis insisted the money had been a loan, and demanded that Saddam pay off. There was also Saddam’s claim that Kuwait was “slant-drilling” into Iraqi oilfields, siphoning off underground reserves from across the border. These disputes raged for months; a deal to resolve them was brokered by the Arab League, but fell apart at the last minute when Kuwait suddenly rejected the agreement, saying, “We will call in the Americans.”

How worried was Bush about the situation? Let’s look at the historical record. In the two weeks before the invasion of Kuwait, Bush approved the sale of an additional $4.8 million in “dual-use” technology to factories identified by the CIA as linchpins of Hussein’s illicit nuclear and biochemical programs, the Los Angeles Times reports. The day before Saddam sent his tanks across the border, Bush obligingly sold him more than $600 million worth of advanced communications technology. A week later, he was declaring that his long-time ally was “worse than Hitler.”

Yes, the Kuwaitis had called in their marker. Like a warlord of old, Bush used the US military as a private army to help his business partners. After an extensive bombing campaign that openly – even gleefully – mocked international law in its targeting of civilian infrastructure (a tactic repeated in Serbia by Bill Clinton – now regarded as an “adopted son” by Bush), the brief 100-hour ground war slaughtered fleeing Iraqi conscripts by the thousands – while, curiously, allowing Saddam’s crack troops, the aptly-named Republican Guard, to escape unharmed. Later, these troops were used to kill tens of thousands of Shiites who had risen in rebellion against Saddam – at the specific instigation of George Bush, who not only abandoned them to their fate, but specifically allowed Saddam to use his attack helicopters against the rebels, and also ordered US troops to block Shiites from gaining access to arms caches. It was one of the worst, most murderous betrayals in modern history – and has been almost entirely expunged from the American memory.

Then came the Carthaginian “peace” of the victors – Iraq sown with the salt of sanctions, which led to the unnecessary death of at least 500,000 children, according to UN’s conservative estimates. The sanction regime actually strengthened Saddam’s grip on Iraqi society, as the ravaged people were reduced to surviving on government handouts of food….


Yes, these are truly worthy examples of the kind of traditional, realistic, bipartisan foreign policy that we need more of. And my stars, isn’t that Obama a breath of fresh air, promising to take us back to that golden age of yore!

Next up: “Sen. Barack Obama said today that he would appoint Supreme Court Justices ‘like John Roberts, Samuel Alito and, in some ways, Antonin Scalia,’ in ‘a return to a more traditional, realistic, bipartisan judicial philosophy…..’”

P.S. We’ve said it before and no doubt we’ll say it again: an Obama presidency, like a H. Clinton presidency, will mean some measure of genuine mitigation of some of the worst depredations of the Bush Regime. There’s no question about that. But no one who openly embraces the foreign policy of Ronald Reagan and George Bush I, or John F. Kennedy for that matter, is going to change in any substantial way the militarist-corporate machine that has already destroyed our democracy, gutted our Constitution, corrupted our system beyond all measure (and probably beyond all repair), and killed – and keeps on killing – hundreds of thousands of innocent people, decade after decade. Given this fact, every American voter must decide, in his or her own conscience, this question: Should I act to mitigate some small measure of the mass suffering wrought by this machine; or does that action, that participation, merely legitimize the machine, and strengthen it?

That is the only question at issue in this election. For none of the prospective presidents offer any hope – audacious or otherwise – of any kind of root-and-branch reform of the imperial system, which will continue to grind on — in its traditional, realistic, bipartisan way.

FAIR USE NOTICE: This blog may contain copyrighted material. Such material is made available for educational purposes, to advance understanding of human rights, democracy, scientific, moral, ethical, and social justice issues, etc. This constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Title 17 U.S.C. section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use’, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

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Interview: Ralph Nader Says We’re Living Under Corporate Fascism (link)

The Decriminalization of Corporate Crime

Dandelion Salad

By Stanley Kutler
truthdig.com
Mar 29, 2008

With our economic and financial crises deepening, government insiders reportedly are debating whether we need to restore some regulation—or not. Given the state of things, we can expect further woes and no regulation.

Why have regulation when JPMorgan can gobble up Bear Stearns for peanuts, with the backstage encouragement and acquiescence of the Federal Reserve Board? The Fed’s concern for the big investors is no surprise, and it needed no cue from John McCain to reject any thoughts of helping the victims of the banks’ sting operations. Meanwhile, JPMorgan has offered bonuses to Bears Stearns’ top brokers to stay on, though many of them are probably responsible for the subprime loans Bear Stearns so aggressively pursued.

George W. Bush and his cohorts have quietly dismantled more than a century of regulatory history—and good history at that. If we truly are to have “change” in Washington, the “changers” must begin by restoring those proven, efficient and protective elements of the regulatory state.

…continued

FAIR USE NOTICE: This blog may contain copyrighted material. Such material is made available for educational purposes, to advance understanding of human rights, democracy, scientific, moral, ethical, and social justice issues, etc. This constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Title 17 U.S.C. section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use’, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

Iran Brokers Call for Ceasefire; Bush reduced to Irrelevancy in Iraq; Fighting Continues

Dandelion Salad

By Juan Cole
Informed Comment
31/03/.08 “ICH

McClatchy provides a lot of important detail about Sunday’s surprising developments regarding the fight between the Iraqi government and the Mahdi Army. A parliamentary delegation from Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki’s own coalition (mainly now the Da`wa Party and the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq) defied him by going off to the holy seminary city of Qom in Iran and negotiating directly with Sayyid Muqtada al-Sadr and with the leader of the Quds Brigades of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, Brig. Gen. Qasim Sulaymani.

As a result of those parleys, Muqtada al-Sadr called on his followers to stand down, though I read his statement as permitting continued armed self-defense, as at Basra where the Iraqi Army is attacking them and the US is bombing them. Significantly, he calls on the Mahdi Army to stop attacking the HQs of rival political parties. That language suggests that the parties are suffering from such attacks and are worried that party infrastructure is being degraded ahead of the October 1 provincial elections. The southern parties have essentially defied al-Maliki and Bush to make a separate peace.

The entire episode underlines how powerful Iran has become in Iraq. The Iranian government had called on Saturday for the fighting to stop. And by Sunday evening it had negotiated at least a similar call from Sadr (whether the fighting actually stops remains to be seen and depends on local commanders and on whether al-Maliki meets Sadr’s conditions).

Al-Sadr’s statement is translated here. The main points:

We have decided the following:

1. Cancel the armed manifestation in Basra and all over the governorates.

2. Stopping the illegal and random raids and arrests.

3. Demanding the government to apply the General Amnesty law and release all the prisoners that was not proved to be guilty and especially the prisoners of Sadr movement.

4. We announce our innocence from any one who caries the weapon and target the government and services apparatuses and establishments and parties offices.

5. Cooperating with the government apparatuses in achieving security and condemn criminals according to the legal procedures.

6. We assure that the Sadr movement doesn’t have any heavy weapons.

7. Working on returning the displaced people that moved due to security events to their original places.

8. We are asking the government to take care of the Human rights on all of its procedures.

9. Working on achieving the constructional and services projects all over the governorates.

[Signed and stamped Muqtada Sadr 22/Rabi Awal/1429]

The NYT notes the irony here that the al-Maliki government is dependent on Muqtada al-Sadr to pull its fat from the fire:

‘Many Iraqi politicians say that Mr. Maliki’s political capital has been severely depleted by the campaign and that he is now in the curious position of having to turn to Mr. Sadr, a longtime rival and now his opponent in battle, for a solution to the crisis.’

McClatchy reports civil war violence on Sunday, suggesting that any cease fire has not yet taken hold:

‘ Baghdad

- Rockets hit the Green Zone (IZ) in Baghdad in different times in the morning and afternoon. No casualties reported.

- Around 5 pm, gunmen attacked New Baghdad police station (east Baghdad) .Three policemen were injured.

- Around 5 pm, mortars hit Dora police station .No casualties recorded.

- Around 5 pm, clashes took place in Ur between gunmen and Iraqi police . Six people were injured including two policemen.

- At 5:10 pm, two mortars hit Karrada neighborhood , one hit Al-Hussein intersection near Al-Hussein two floor bridge killing 3 and injuring 8 others while the second shell hit a barber shop few meters of the same intersection killing 3 and injuring 13 others.

- Police found five dead bodies in . . . neighborhoods in Baghdad . . .

Basra

- Around 7:30 pm, three people were killed due to a fighter plane bombing at Abu Sukheir neighborhood (north Basra).

Diyala

- Around 9:30 am, American planes bombed Jizan neighborhood of Wajihiyah (20 east Baquba).One civilian was killed and another was injured.

- In the morning, one civilian was killed during the clashes between the Iraqi army and gunmen at Kanaan (10 km south east Baquba)

- Around 10 am, a roadside bomb targeted the convoy of Ibrahim Hassan, the head of Diyala governorate council , while it was on its way at Saadiya (90 km east Baquba) between Baquba and Khanaqeen .Two of his guards were killed in that incident.

Karbala

- Around 9.30 pm of Saturday night, a roadside bomb targeted an Iraqi army patrol at Al-Haidriyah (Khan Al-Nus) in midway between Najaf and Karbala. One officer was killed with two other soldiers.

Salahuddin

- In the morning, gunmen attacked a police check point at Bishkan village (10 km east of Dhulwiyah near Balad) .Six policemen were killed including an officer with their vehicle damaged.

- Today, an American force arrested two members of Al-Alam supporting council near AlLaqlaq village (35 km north of Tikrit) one of them is an officer .

Mosul

- In the morning, clashes took place between gunmen and police at Sahachi (west Mosul).Colonel Qasim Ziad, the commander of the first police battalion in Mosul was killed with one of his guards.

Kirkuk

- In the morning, a roadside bomb targeted a rescue police patrol at Tiseen street in Kirkuk city. Three people were injured in that incident including two women. ‘

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Iraq In The Balance By Scott Horton (+ video)

Sadr orders fighters to stand down

Iraq In The Balance By Scott Horton (+ video)

Dandelion Salad

By Scott Horton
ICH
03/31/08 “Harpers

“The Iranians Are Killing Americans” Senator Lindsey Graham

I scanned the Sunday talk shows and was amazed, even by the normally lowbrow standards of these programs, at the infantile level of discussion about Iraq. In concept, the Sunday shows offer a chance to drill down a bit deeper into the facts behind the news—to reach a level of detail that cannot be reached in the daily news broadcasts. For many decades they served that purpose, more or less. Today they have degenerated into extended opportunities for political sound bites, in which even the most idiotic statements rarely go challenged, and in the worst of which (generally on Fox), the punditry whip themselves into a cappuccino froth of distortions and idiocies.

This Sunday, the real standout topic was Iraq. The major game played was explaining how the massive explosion of violence shows that the “surge is working.” It was a classic case of “hammer round peg into square hole, using maximum blunt force.” Senator Lindsey Graham led the way with his Iran-obsessed explanation. Here’s the video:

Graham Oversimplifies Iran’s Role In Iraq

bhglitter

But all of this was foolish, starting with the media’s own framing of the question: “Is the surge working?” The question should be different, namely, what are the U.S. objectives in Iraq and are they being met, or even served, by these developments?

Let’s start by zooming out still further. How have the Bush Administration’s policies affected the United States’ ability to influence conditions in the Middle East generally? Towards the end of the administration of Bush 41, a consensus emerged that the old bipolar world system had collapsed and a new system had emerged in which the United States stood alone as a superpower—the “hyperpower,” as some Europeans framed it—with a historically unprecedented ability to affect matters around the world unilaterally, that is, without consulting or involving allies. The two administrations that followed revealed sharply differing styles. Clinton proved far closer to traditional conservative attitudes. He was hesitant to “go it alone,” generally opting for soft power and the construction of elaborate alliances in which U.S. goals were modified somewhat to bring in a broader block. Bush 43 adopted an approach of historically unprecedented unilateral action in which the value of traditional alliances was played down—indeed, in which traditional allies were publicly ridiculed by his surrogates. He also pushed extremely aggressive use of military force in the Islamic world, first in Afghanistan, where he had broad support from the international community, and then in Iraq, where he did not. Bush’s rhetoric in this process has been inflammatory, and his objectives have been unclear from the start. He began promising nothing less than a transformation of the Arab world, which was to be democratized and Westernized (rhetoric which, of course, played directly into the hands of the Islamicist groups he was seeking to destroy).

Now in the last year of the Bush presidency, a consensus view is arriving around the world that the era of the unilateral world power is ending. Why? There’s a pretty broad consensus on that, too, though you’ll never hear it come across the stage on American television: Bush broke it. He wore down the American military by crafting a force that was (as indeed seniors in the Pentagon insisted from the start) far too small for the functions he envisioned. And by profligate spending on what may be in the end a largely unfunded three-trillion-dollar war, he has dramatically undermined America’s economic position, sending the U.S. economy into a tailspin.

America remains the first among the world’s powers, but Bush’s wrecking crew will shortly allow the emergence of important competitors on the world stage, including the reemergence of traditional rivals: Russia and China. China’s position as an economic force alone is daunting.

All of this means that the use of American power and prestige in Iraq is a vital test. Thus far the United States has achieved military tactical objectives, but its strategic objectives keep changing as the reality of conditions in Iraq sinks in. And whatever absurd blather may appear on American television screens, this constant changing of the goalposts is read by the balance of the world as something very close to defeat.

The Bush White House and its surrogates (sadly including a general in Baghdad who seems increasingly to act as a sock puppet) want to sell the current developments in Iraq as a logical next step, the elimination of Shi’a militia units to allow the Iraqi government to consolidate its control over the country. It then goes a further step in linking the militia units in the crosshairs to Iran, and even labels their attacks on the Green Zone as Iranian provocations. This is a serious distortion. There are ties between the Iranians and many different militia units in Iraq, but in fact the Iranian ties are strongest with the militia units that the U.S. is backing in this contest, not those under the hammer.

The best analysis to be offered up on this topic has consistently come from Anthony Cordesman. He hit the ball out of the park in his op-ed in yesterday’s New York Times, which was the day’s must-read.

Mr. Maliki’s gamble has already dragged American forces part-way into the fight, including airstrikes in Basra. Striking at violent, rogue elements in the Mahdi Army is one thing, but engaging the entire Sadr movement is quite another. The official cease-fire that has kept the mainstream Mahdi Army from engaging government and United States forces may well be rescinded if the government’s assault continues. . .

How will it affect America? If the fighting sets off a broad, lasting, violent power struggle between Shiite factions, most of the security gains of the last year could be lost and our military role broadened. There is also no guarantee that a victory by Dawa and the Islamic Supreme Council will serve the cause of political accommodation or lead to fair elections and the creation of legitimate local and provincial governments. Such an outcome, in fact, might favor a Dawa and Islamic Supreme Council “Iraqracy,” not democracy.

These are exactly the questions which should be asked, and are still largely being ignored in the U.S. media in its stilted and simplistic portrayal of complex and important facts.

Yesterday, Sadr offered another truce. It would be good news if it proved durable, but the fact is that Sadr exercises loose control over his organization, which makes it unlikely that the truce can be easily put into effect. The U.S. objective in Iraq must be the creation of a self-sustaining and friendly government, and that goal has not been advanced, indeed it most likely has faced further setbacks. The U.S.-supported venture has probably actually increased Iranian government influence in Iraq, including inside the government. Tehran sees al-Maliki as a transitional figure, not likely to last long. It is intent on building a solid and broad base of support within the Iraqi Shi’a community, and it seems to be achieving its objectives.

All of this underscores the dilemma facing U.S. policymakers. Not only are their long-term goals unclear, the tactical choices available to achieve them are increasingly questionable. And the long-term outcome looks bleak. At this point the U.S. still has many allies in the region, allies who adhere to America largely because of their very rational fear and distrust of Iran. But the smart money has long labeled Iraq a massive misadventure, wasting precious American resources and lives. Analysts increasingly see waning influence for the United States in the region. That will be Bush’s legacy.

See also: Unholy Wars – Gareth Porter on Antiwar Radio discussing developments in Iraq.

FAIR USE NOTICE: This blog may contain copyrighted material. Such material is made available for educational purposes, to advance understanding of human rights, democracy, scientific, moral, ethical, and social justice issues, etc. This constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Title 17 U.S.C. section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use’, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

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Sadr orders fighters to stand down

A Third American War Crime in the Making By Paul Craig Roberts

Dandelion Salad

By Paul Craig Roberts
03/31/08 “ICH

The US Congress, the US media, the American people, and the United Nations, are looking the other way as Cheney prepares his attack on Iran.

If only America had an independent media and an opposition party. If there were a shred of integrity left in American political life, perhaps a third act of naked aggression–a third war crime under the Nuremberg standard–by the Bush Regime could be prevented.

On March 30, the Russian News & Information Agency, Novosti, cited “a high-ranking security source: “The latest military intelligence data point to heightened US military preparations for both an air and ground operation against Iran.” Russian Intelligence Sees U.S. Military Buildup on Iran Border According to Novosti, Russian Colonel General Leonid Ivashov said “that the Pentagon is planning to deliver a massive air strike on Iran’s military infrastructure in the near future.”

The chief of Russia’s general staff, Yuri Baluyevsky, said last November that Russia was beefing up its military in response to US aggression, but that the Russian military is not “obliged to defend the world from the evil Americans.” http://www.mnweekly.ru/national/20071115/55289883.html

On March 29, OpEdNews cited a report by the Saudi Arabian newspaper Okaz, which was picked up by the German news service, DPA. The Saudi newspaper reported on March 22, the day following Cheney’s visit with the kingdom’s rulers, that the Saudi Shura Council is preparing “national plans to deal with any sudden nuclear and radioactive hazards that may affect the kingdom following experts’ warnings of possible attacks on Iran’s Bushehr nuclear reactors.” Worried Yet? Saudis Prepare for “Sudden Nuclear Hazards” After Cheney Visit by Chris Floyd

And Admiral William “there will be no attack on Iran on my watch” Fallon has been removed as US chief of Central Command, thus clearing the way for Cheney’s planned attack on Iran.The Iranians don’t seem to believe it, despite the dispatch of US nuclear submarines and another aircraft carrier attack group to the Persian Gulf. To counter any Iranian missiles launched in response to an attack, the US is deploying anti-missile defenses to protect US bases and Saudi oil fields.

Two massive failures by the American media, the Democratic Party, and the American people have paved the way for Cheney’s long planned attack on Iran. One failure is the lack of skepticism about the US government’s explanation of 9/11. The other failure is the Democrats’ refusal to begin impeachment proceedings against President Bush for lying to the Congress, the American people, and the world and launching an invasion of Iraq based on deception and fabricated evidence.

If an American president can start a war exactly as Adolf Hitler did with pure lies and not be held accountable, he can get away with anything. And Bush and his evil regime have.Hitler launched World War II with his invasion of Poland after staging a “Polish attack” on a German radio station. On the night of August 31, 1939, a group of Nazis disguised in Polish uniforms seized a radio station in Germany. Hitler announced that “last night Polish troops crossed the frontier and attacked Germany,” a claim no more true than the Bush Regime’s claim that “Saddam Hussein has weapons of mass destruction.” Hitler’s lie failed, because his invasion of Poland, which began the next day allegedly in reprisal for the Polish attack, had obviously been planned for many months.

Iran is a beautiful and developed country. It is an ancient civilization. It has attacked no one. Iran is a signatory to the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty. Iran is permitted by the treaty to have a nuclear energy program. The Bush Regime’s case against Iran is based on the Bush Regime’s desire to deny Iran its rights under the treaty.

The International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors have repeatedly reported that they have found no evidence of an Iranian nuclear weapons program. Despite all the disinformation from US Gen. Petraeus and other Bush Regime military lackeys, Iran is not arming the Iraqis who are resisting the American occupation.

If Iran were arming insurgents, the insurgents would have two weapons that would neutralize the US advantage in the Iraqi conflict: missiles to knock down US helicopter gunships and rocket-propelled grenades that knock out American tanks. The insurgents do not have these weapons and must construct clumsy anti-tank weapons out of artillery shells. The insurgents are helpless against US air power and cannot mass forces to take on the American troops.

Indiscriminate American violence has reduced Iraq to rubble. The civilian infrastructure is essentially destroyed–electricity, water and sewer systems, medical care and schools. Depleted uranium is everywhere poisoning everyone, including US troops. There is no economy, and half or more of Iraqis are unemployed. Literally no Iraqi family has escaped an injury or a death as a consequence of the US invasion. Millions of Iraqis have become displaced persons. A developed country with a professional middle class has been destroyed because of lies told by the President and Vice President of the US. The Bush Regime’s lies are echoed by a neoconservative media, and have gone unchallenged by the opposition party and an indifferent American public.

In Afghanistan, death and destruction rains on even the smallest village from the air. America’s wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are wars against the civilian populations.

Just as the world could not believe Hitler’s next horror and thus was always unprepared, the Iranians despite all the evidence cannot believe that even the Great Satan would gratuitously attack Iran based on nothing but lies about non-existent nuclear weapons.

Iran’s only chance would be to strike before the US delivers the first blow. Instead of using its missiles to take out the Saudi oil fields and to sink the US aircraft carriers, instead of closing the Strait of Hormuz, instead of arming the Iraqi Shi’ites and moving them to insurgency, Iran is perched like a sitting duck in denial even as the US and its Iraqi puppet Maliki move to eliminate Al Sadr’s Iraqi Shi’ite militia in order to avoid supply disruptions and a Shi’ite rebellion in Iraq when the US attack on Iran comes.

It is important to emphasize that Iran is making no moves toward war. Having tamed, blackmailed, and purchased Congress, the US media, and US allies and puppets, Cheney might delight in the arrogance with which he can now attack Iran free of any restraint or fabricated provocation. On the other hand, he might cover himself by orchestrating an “Iranian provocation” to justify his attack as a response. But like Hitler’s planned attack against Poland, Cheney’s attack on Iran has long been in the works.

On March 29 the Associated Press reported that Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi “poured contempt on fellow Arab leaders” at the Arab summit that day. Gadhafi told the Arab “leaders,” many of whom are on the American payroll, that their American masters would turn on them all, just as America turned on Saddam Hussein after using him to fight a proxy war against Iran.

Saddam had once been an ally of Washington, Gadhafi reminded the Arabs, “but they sold him out.” Gadhafi told the American puppets, “Your turn is next.”

Gadhafi asked, “Where is the Arabs’ dignity, their future, their very existence?” If Arabs remain disunited, he predicted, “they will turn themselves into protectorates. They will be marginalized and turn into garbage dumps.”

Indeed, it is this disunity that permits the US to bomb and murder at will in the Middle East.

Paul Craig Roberts a former Assistant Secretary of the US Treasury and former associate editor of the Wall Street Journal, has been reporting shocking cases of prosecutorial abuse for two decades. A new edition of his book, The Tyranny of Good Intentions, co-authored with Lawrence Stratton, a documented account of how Americans lost the protection of law, is forthcoming from Random House in March, 2008.

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Bush’s Legacy Leads to Iran By Heather Wokusch

Worried Yet? Saudis Prepare for “Sudden Nuclear Hazards” After Cheney Visit

Kadhafi warns US allies could suffer Saddam’s fate

April Fools: The Fox To Guard The Banking Henhouse

Dandelion Salad

by Dr. Ellen Brown
Global Research, March 31, 2008

[author's website at  www.webofdebt.com]

The Federal Reserve, which has been credited with creating the current housing bubble and bust just as it created the credit bubble of the Roaring Twenties and the bust of 1929, is now to be given vast new powers to oversee regulation of the banking industry and promote “financial market stability.” At least, that is the gist of a Treasury Department proposal to be presented to Congress on Monday, March 31, 2008. Adrian Douglas wrote on LeMetropoleCafe.com, “I would like to think that this is some sort of sick April Fools joke, but, alas, they are serious! What happened to free markets?”1

In fact, what happened to regulating the banks? The Treasury’s plan is not for the private Federal Reserve to increase regulation of the banking system it heads. Au contraire, regulation will actually be decreased. According to The Wall Street Journal:

“Many of the [Treasury's] proposals, like those that would consolidate regulatory agencies, have nothing to do with the turmoil in financial markets. And some of the proposals could actually reduce regulation. According to a summary provided by the administration, the plan would consolidate an alphabet soup of banking and securities regulators into a powerful trio of overseers responsible for everything from banks and brokerage firms to hedge funds and private equity firms. . . . Parts of the plan could reduce the power of the Securities and Exchange Commission, which is charged with maintaining orderly stock and bond markets and protecting investors. . . . The blueprint also suggests several areas where the S.E.C. should take a lighter approach to its oversight. Among them are allowing stock exchanges greater leeway to regulate themselves and streamlining the approval of new products, even allowing automatic approval of securities products that are being traded in foreign markets.”2

“securities products” include the mortgage-backed securities, collateralized debt obligations, credit default swaps, and other forms of the great Ponzi scheme known as “derivatives” that have been largely responsible for bringing the banking system to the brink of collapse. But these suspect products are not to be more heavily scrutinized; rather, their approval will actually be “streamlined” and may be automatic if they are being traded in “foreign markets.” The Journal observes that the Treasury’s proposal was initiated last year by Secretary Henry Paulson not to “regulate” the banks but “to make American financial markets more competitive against overseas markets by modernizing a creaky regulatory system. His goal was to streamline the different and sometimes clashing rules for commercial banks, savings and loans and nonbank mortgage lenders.” “streamlining” the rules evidently meant eliminating any that “clashed” with the Fed’s goal of allowing U.S. banks to be more “competitive” abroad. The Journal continues:

“While the plan could expose Wall Street investment banks and hedge funds to greater scrutiny, it carefully avoids a call for tighter regulation. The plan would not rein in practices that have been linked to the housing and mortgage crisis, like packaging risky subprime mortgages into securities carrying the highest ratings. . . . And the plan does not recommend tighter rules over the vast and largely unregulated markets for risk sharing and hedging, like credit default swaps, which are supposed to insure lenders against loss but became a speculative instrument themselves and gave many institutions a false sense of security.”

Regulating fraudulent, predatory and overly-speculative banking practices has been left to the States, not necessarily by law but by default. According to then-Governor Eliot Spitzer, writing in January of 2008, state regulators tried to regulate these shady practices but were hamstrung by federal authorities. In a February 14 Washington Post article titled “Predatory Lenders; Partner in Crime: How the Bush Administration Stopped the States from Stepping in to Help Consumers,” Spitzer complained:

“several years ago, state attorneys general and others involved in consumer protection began to notice a marked increase in a range of predatory lending practices by mortgage lenders. Some were misrepresenting the terms of loans, making loans without regard to consumers’ ability to repay, making loans with deceptive ‘teaser; rates that later ballooned astronomically, packing loans with undisclosed charges and fees, or even paying illegal kickbacks. These and other practices, we noticed, were having a devastating effect on home buyers. In addition, the widespread nature of these practices, if left unchecked, threatened our financial markets.

“Even though predatory lending was becoming a national problem, the Bush administration looked the other way and did nothing to protect American homeowners. In fact, the government chose instead to align itself with the banks that were victimizing consumers. . . . [A]s New York attorney general, I joined with colleagues in the other 49 states in attempting to fill the void left by the federal government. Individually, and together, state attorneys general of both parties brought litigation or entered into settlements with many subprime lenders that were engaged in predatory lending practices. Several state legislatures, including New York’s, enacted laws aimed at curbing such practices . . . .

“Not only did the Bush administration do nothing to protect consumers, it embarked on an aggressive and unprecedented campaign to prevent states from protecting their residents from the very problems to which the federal government was turning a blind eye. . . . The administration accomplished this feat through an obscure federal agency called the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC). . . . In 2003, during the height of the predatory lending crisis, the OCC invoked a clause from the 1863 National Bank Act to issue formal opinions preempting all state predatory lending laws, thereby rendering them inoperative. The OCC also promulgated new rules that prevented states from enforcing any of their own consumer protection laws against national banks. The federal government’s actions were so egregious and so unprecedented that all 50 state attorneys general, and all 50 state banking superintendents, actively fought the new rules. But the unanimous opposition of the 50 states did not deter, or even slow, the Bush administration in its goal of protecting the banks. In fact, when my office opened an investigation of possible discrimination in mortgage lending by a number of banks, the OCC filed a federal lawsuit to stop the investigation.”

Less than a month after publishing this editorial, Spitzer was out of office, following a surprise exposé of his personal indiscretions by the Justice Department. Greg Palast observed that Spitzer was the single politician standing between a $200 billion windfall from the Federal Reserve guaranteeing the mortgage-backed junk bonds of the same banking predators that were responsible for the subprime debacle. While the Federal Reserve was trying to bail them out, Spitzer had been trying to regulate them, bringing suit on behalf of consumers.3 But Spitzer has now been silenced, and any other state attorneys general who might get similar ideas will be deterred by the federal oversight under which banking regulators are to be “consolidated.”

The Federal Reserve under Alan Greenspan deliberately enabled and permitted the derivatives debacle to take down the dollar and America’s credibility. Greenspan is now lauded, feted and awarded at the White House and on network television, and takes a victory lap tour promoting and signing his book and celebrating his multimillion dollar book deal, enjoying his knighthood status in England and hero status on Wall Street. And as the falling debris of the American economy still piles up around us, the very agency that enabled disaster is now seeking to consolidate ultimate authority and accountability to itself, and through centralization and arrogation of power, eliminate all those pesky little Constitutional and State regulations and agencies, recalcitrant governors and the last few whistle blowers, so that the further abuse of power can be streamlined through one agency only. That agency is to consist of an alliance of the banking powers and the executive branch, a perfect formula for the institutionalization of continual abuse.

Perhaps Spitzer was lucky that he was the target only of a character assassination. When Louisiana Senator Huey Long challenged the Federal Reserve and fought for the State’s right to oversee its own financial affairs in the 1930s, he was assassinated with bullets. Long’s local assertion of decentralized State powers, as provided for in the Tenth Amendment to the Constitution, enabled the State of Louisiana to loosen the grip of the corporations on the State’s wealth and allowed the setting up of schools and public institutions that elevated the people of the State and placed its “common wealth” back into the hands of its citizens, while providing employment and education. The Constitution reserves to the States and the people all those powers not specifically delegated to the federal government, arguably including the creation of money itself, which is nowhere specifically mentioned in the Constitution beyond creating coins. (See E. Brown, “Another Way Around the Credit Crisis: Minnesota Bill Would Authorize State Banks to Monetize; Productivity,” http://www.webofdebt.com/articles, March 23, 2008.) But in this latest attempt at expanding the Federal Reserve’s already over-expansive powers, we see clear evidence that the Wall Street and global banking powers have no intention of allowing their plans to be reined in by the Constitutional powers of the States and the people. Instead, they intend to fill up the moat and pull up the draw bridge on their feudal powers, and let the serfs shiver outside the gates for as long as they will put up with it.

NOTES

1 Adrian Douglas, “PPT to Come Out of the Closet,” http://www.lemetropolecafe.com (March 29, 2008).
2 Edmund Andrews, “Treasury’s Plan Would Give Fed Wide new Power,” New York Times (March 29, 2008).
3 Greg Palast, “Eliot’s Mess” http://www.gregpalast.com (March 14, 2008).

Ellen Brown, J.D., developed her research skills as an attorney practicing civil litigation in Los Angeles. In Web of Debt, her latest book, she turns those skills to an analysis of the Federal Reserve and “the money trust.” She shows how this private cartel has usurped the power to create money from the people themselves, and how we the people can get it back. Her eleven books include the bestselling Nature’s Pharmacy, co-authored with Dr. Lynne Walker, which has sold 285,000 copies. Her websites are www.webofdebt.com and www.ellenbrown.com.

The CRG grants permission to cross-post original Global Research articles on community internet sites as long as the text & title are not modified. The source and the author’s copyright must be displayed. For publication of Global Research articles in print or other forms including commercial internet sites, contact: crgeditor@yahoo.com

www.globalresearch.ca contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available to our readers under the provisions of “fair use” in an effort to advance a better understanding of political, economic and social issues. The material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving it for research and educational purposes. If you wish to use copyrighted material for purposes other than “fair use” you must request permission from the copyright owner.

For media inquiries: crgeditor@yahoo.com
© Copyright Ellen Brown, Global Research, 2008
The url address of this article is: www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=8493

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The $200 billion bail-out for predator banks & Spitzer charges are intimately linked By Greg Palast

Human Rights Violations in Israel and Palestine by Stephen Lendman

Dandelion Salad

by Stephen Lendman
Global Research, March 31, 2008

The Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) publishes annual reports on the state of human rights in Israel and occupied Palestine. This article is based on its latest year end 2007 one.

ACRI is Israel’s leading human and civil rights organization and the only one addressing all rights and liberties issues. It was founded in 1972, is independent and nonpartisan, and leads the struggle for these issues in Israel and the Occupied Territories through litigation, legal advocacy, education, and public outreach. ACRI also believes that civil and human rights are universal. They must be “an integral part of democratic community building and….a unifying force in Israeli public life” for everyone, especially those most marginalized, disadvantaged and currently persecuted or neglected.

ACRI evaluates the state of human rights annually, and it’s latest report coincided with the December 10, 2007 International Human Rights Day. Its purpose is to cite flagrant violations; note positive trends and developments, if any; and “trace significant human rights-related processes (affecting) Israeli citizens and residents.” Reports rely on various information sources: government publications, NGO reports, newspaper and other published materials, parliamentary documents and court litigation.

Human rights violations directly result from government policies, actions and inactions, and ACRI’s report is gloomy. It found the Israeli government derelict for having allowed the “blanket” of rights it’s supposed to ensure for Arabs and Jews to erode. As a result, rights violations grow, more people are affected, and those harmed most are on society’s fringes. ACRI’s report is comprehensive and documents them in areas of:

– health;

– workers’ rights;

– the state of Arab Israelis;

– education in Sderot;

– migrant worker rights;

– citizenship and residency status;

– human rights in occupied Palestine, highlighting neglect and discrimination in Arab East Jerusalem, Hebron, and the “unrecognized” Negev Bedouins;

– freedom of expression;

– the right to privacy;

– criminal justice; and

– the overall destabilization and erosion of democracy in the country. Israel claims to be a democracy. Its record disproves it.

ACRI’s evidence is disturbing and compelling, yet it’s appalled by the Israeli public’s indifference. It aims to change this by publicizing its findings so those in government, the media and general population know them and will react to reverse an ugly and damaging trend. Growing numbers of people worldwide know how Israel harms Palestinians. ACRI’s report shows that Jews are also impacted.

Health Care in Israel

Israel’s 1994 National Health Insurance Law has noble guarantees – quality health services for every Israeli resident in accordance with justice, equality and mutual support principles. Ever since, however, Israeli governments violated their obligation, and unequal access has increased. It’s characterized by inadequate funding, privatized health services, a steady erosion in the extent and quality of services provided, and the crowding out of access for the poor and many in the middle class. Defunding public health means private insurance is as essential as it is in the US. The result is two health systems differing markedly in quality – one for the well-off and another for everyone else, including many in the middle class.

ACRI finds it disturbing. The trend undermines Israel’s social contract with its citizens, violates basic rights, and reneges on the state’s duty under the International Covenant of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. ACRI focuses on the problem with special emphasis on a growing hospital crisis, the need for expensive supplemental insurance, and how various population groups cope inadequately under very limited and expensive health service access.

In recent years, budgets have been cut, and the trend continued in 2007. The Ministry of Health’s per capita allocation is 14% lower than in 2001, and the Ministry’s development budget is 43% lower. Public hospitals have been hardest hit, patient access to quality health care has eroded, and medical personnel are understaffed and aren’t able to provide the best care possible.

The Israel Medical Association January 2007 data highlight the crisis:

– the hospital beds/population ratio has declined; it was 3.27 per 1000 persons in 1970; a year ago it touched 1.94, the lowest figure among western countries;

– the approved number of beds hasn’t increased, the need for them has, and it’s been met by adding “non-approved” beds that comprise up to 30% of the total in hospital internal medicine units (IMUs); the result is growing overcrowding and medical staff unable to cope;

– on routine days, average hospital occupancy is 100% compared to 85% in the West; in IMUs it reached 130% and in pediatric units 112%; and

– overcrowding and underfunding force early patient releases before they’re ready to go; they also contribute to the spread of infections, viruses and diseases and require doctors and medical staff to be responsible for a growing number of patients, more than they can adequately handle.

Ever since the 1994 National Health Insurance Law passed, health services have eroded in violation of its guarantee. The Adva Center advocates for policy changes favoring disadvantaged Israelis. It tallied the damage through last year and found a 44% decline in health service funding with gaps made up for by supplemental insurance. Over 70% of the public have it while the rest rely solely on dwindling national health services that often fail to deliver.

Most disadvantaged Israelis lack supplemental insurance: one-third are age 65 or older; 53% are Israeli Arabs; 42% are Jews of Russian origin; while 11% are from the Hebrew-speaking community. A 2007 Physicians for Human Rights report describes how various population groups are disadvantaged. Those furthest removed from Israel’s social center got poorest access. They include: low wage earners; “unrecognized” Negev Bedouins; East Jerusalem Palestinians; Israelis married to Occupied Territory Palestinians; prisoners; Palestinian spouses of Israeli Arabs; migrant workers; refugees and asylum-seekers; and victims of human trafficking. In total, these groups comprise about 1.25 million men and women.

Income alone is a hugely limiting factor, and two studies document it. A 2005 Brookdale Institute one showed that 15% of Israelis forego some medications. Among low wage earners, the figure was 23%. A 2006 Israel Medical Association survey of Israeli Jews found 23% of them abstain from some form of treatment or essential medication with income and family size the main limiting factors. The same survey reported that 56% of Israeli Jews fear they’ll be unable to afford needed medication because of cost, and it estimated that the situation for Israeli Arabs is far worse.

The situation is most acute in peripheral areas, especially in southern Israel that’s populated by Bedouin Arabs and new immigrants. Here, socioeconomic status is lowest and so is access to health services that are far below what’s available in Central Israeli cities like Tel Aviv and Haifa: fewer hospital beds, inadequate specialized equipment, fewer specialists, and waiting periods for appointments can take weeks. In addition, for more complicated cases, patients are at risk. Hospitals can only provide preliminary exams, patients must incur time and expense to get to where proper treatment is available, and it can be touch and go in life-threatening cases.

ACRI believes that distributive justice demands that the state provide local health services where they’re lacking so all Israelis get equal access to it. That will require funding boosts not now available or planned.

Worker Rights and the Unemployed

Subcontracted employment is a growing trend in Israel, the practice exploits workers, labor laws are violated, and human rights organizations are taking note. On average, subcontract wages are 60% of standard, few or no benefits are gotten, and worker rights are routinely violated. Most common abuses include: wages below minimum, illegal overtime without pay, firings without severance, social benefits withheld, leave time disallowed or no pay while on leave, lower pay because of illegal deductions and fines, and organizing efforts crushed.

The situation is deplorable, organizations like ACRI are addressing it, and the government tops their target list. It’s the country’s largest subcontract employer and the body responsible for making and enforcing the law. Progress for reforms show promise:

– in March 2007, the Ministry of Finance’s General Accountant, Yaron Zelekha, directed government ministries to assure that subcontract bidding includes all social benefits workers are entitled to under protective labor laws. ACRI called it a “significant breakthrough” provided they’re enforced; earlier efforts failed because they weren’t;

– the same Ministry now requires subcontract companies to present confirmation they’re complying with employment laws;

– in June 2007, the Knesset produced a draft bill requiring organizations using subcontract labor to assure worker rights aren’t violated; and

– the General Accountant also established a minimum price for employing subcontract workers.

Earlier in 2005, the government established the “Mehalev” program that was known as the “Wisconsin Plan” where the idea originated. In principle, it was sound, but in practice it failed. The idea was this – reduce the number of guaranteed income recipients by integrating them into the job market and thus provide better opportunities for more pay and benefits. In fact, the format was unsuitable for many required to enroll, too little investment went into the program, and bureaucratic obstacles overwhelmed its administration.

A June 2007 inter-ministerial report assessed the plan, concluded it failed, and recommended a new one be established with a menu of proposed changes. As a result, revisions were made, and a new program called “Employment Lights” began in August 2007 with performance under it yet to be assessed.

The Rights of Israeli Arab Citizens

The Palestinian population (excluding refugees) is around 5.3 million. About 3.9 million live in occupied Gaza and the West Bank, and another 1.4 million are Israeli citizens comprising 20% of the population of 7,150,000. They live mainly in three heartlands – the Galillee in the north, along the “Little Triangle” in the center, and the Negev in the south. They get no rights afforded Jews even though Israeli Arabs are citizens, have passports and IDs and can vote in Knesset elections. Even so, they’re nonpersons, are systematically abused, neglected, and are confined to 2% of the land plus another 1% for agricultural use.

ACRI assesses the damage that shows up in reports and surveys it reviews. They reveal a disturbing trend – increasing racism toward and discrimination against Israel’s Arab citizens. For example:

– the June 2007 Israel Democracy Institute’s “Democracy Index” reported disturbing results explained below, and the data are the highest seen since pre-Oslo;

– a March 2007 Center Against Racism report showed a 26% rise in racist incidents against Israeli Arabs in 2006. In addition, an overall negative trend toward Arabs is growing, including feelings of discomfort, fear and hatred. Most disturbing is the government’s attitude and how the media portrays its Arab citizens – stereotypically negative, threatening and as state enemies. Fear and loathing is then sown that, in turn, is translated into actions – threats, assaults, forced separation of Jewish and Arab communities and racist Knesset legislation;

– Knesset members (MKs) and public figures want to strengthen the Jewish character of the state and do it legislatively. For example:

(1) to make military or national service a prerequisite to vote and get National insurance benefits; Arabs aren’t required to serve in the military, they’re not encouraged to do it, few of them do, and Israel’s Ministry of Defence has discretion under Article 36 of the 1986 National Defence Service Law to exempt all non-Jews;

(2) to require MKs and ministers to declare their allegiance to the State of Israel as a “Jewish and Democratic State;” and

(3) a 2007 draft bill declaring that Jewish National Fund (JNF) land (about 13% of state lands) should only be for Jews; the bill passed its “preliminary reading” by 64 to 16. In actuality, the government owns about 80% of Israeli land, the JNF another 13%, and Jews and Arabs the rest. The Israel Land Administration (ILA) administers all government and JNF land, controls who gets access to it, and pretty much assures that Arabs can’t buy Israeli land.

These and other measures reveal a disturbing pattern – state-sponsored racism against Israeli Palestinians. They’re routinely victimized, punished for being Arabs, and denied equality, dignity, privacy, freedom of movement and everything afforded Jews. Their freedom of expression was also challenged after four Arab documents were published with clearly stated aims – to legislatively mandate equal citizenship rights for all Israelis (Jews, Muslims, Christians and others). Outrage was the response because Jews believe these demands threaten state sovereignty. So do officials like head of General Security Service (GSS), Yuval Diskin. He called Israeli Arabs a “strategic threat,” and got Attorney General Menachem Mazuz to agree.

Palestinian citizens have no say and are disadvantaged in many ways. They’re routinely denied equal access to public resources in all areas of life, and ACRI highlights the northern rehabilitation program budget as an example. Arab villages there are sorely lacking because of government neglect. Budgeted funds are inadequate, they’re improperly used, Arabs in the north are marginalized, their needs go unaddressed, and 2008 promises to be worse with planned budget cuts.

It’s worse still in the south for the Negev Bedouins who comprise half the area’s 160,000 population. They live in villages called “unrecognized” because their inhabitants had to flee their homes during Israel’s War of Independence, couldn’t return when it ended, and are considered internal refugees and “trespassers” on Jewish land.

These villages were delegitimized by Israel’s 1965 Planning and Construction Law that established a regulatory framework and national future development plan. It zoned land for residential, agriculture and industrial use, forbade unlicensed construction, banned it on agricultural land, and stipulated where Israeli Jews and Palestinians could live.

Existing communities are circumscribed on a map with blue lines around them. Areas inside can be developed. Those outside cannot. Great latitude is shown Jewish communities, so new ones are added. In contrast, Palestinian areas are severely constricted with no allowed room for expansion. Their land was reclassified as agricultural meaning no new construction is allowed. It means entire communities are “unrecognized” and all homes and buildings there are illegal, even the 95% of them built before the 1965 law passed. They’re subject to demolition and their inhabitants displaced at Israel’s discretion. It’s so new land for Jews can be provided with Arab owners helpless to stop it.

As a result, no new Palestinian communities are allowed, and existing “unrecognized villages” are denied essential services like clean drinking water, electricity, roads, transport, sanitation, education, healthcare, postal service, telephone connections, refuse removal and more because under the Planning and Construction Law they’re illegal. The toll on people is devastating:

– clean water is unavailable almost everywhere unless people have access to well water;

– the few available health services are inadequate;

– many homes have no bathrooms, and no permits are allowed to build them;

– only villages with private generators have electricity that’s barely enough for lighting;

– no village is connected to the main road network,

– some villages are fenced in prohibiting their residents from access to their traditional lands; and

– education is limited, achievement levels are low, and dropout rates high.

It’s worse still when home demolitions are ordered. It may stipulate Palestinians must do it themselves or be fined for contempt of court and face up to a year in prison. They may also have to cover the cost when Israelis do it under a system of convoluted justice penalizing Palestinians twice over for being an Arab in a Jewish state.

In 2007, around 200 Bedouin homes were demolished, compared to much lower numbers in previous years: 23 in 2002, 63 in 2003, 15 in 2005 and 96 in 2006. Most of the homeless are “invisible,” the media hardly covers them, Jews are largely uninformed, and planned Negev Judaization assures things will get worse. It’s to be a “A Miracle in the Desert” with a clearly defined aim – to populate the area with a half million Jews in the next decade. Plans are for 25 new communities and 100,000 homes on cleared Bedouin land. Unless efforts coalesce to stop them, the human toll will be horrific.

Various advocacy organizations are trying, and one is the UN Committee on the Elimination of all forms of Racial Discrimination. It published its recommendations in March 2007 that called on Israel to reconsider its development plans and recognize “the rights of the Bedouins to own, develop, control and use their communal lands, territories, and resources….” ACRI calls them a “national, religious, and cultural(ly) indigenous minority.” Under international law, Israel is obligated to respect their right to preserve their culture and provide them adequate housing, education, livelihood and dignity. Israel, on the other hand, disdains international law, so hoping authorities will respect it looks impossible.

Education in Sderot, Israel

Sderot borders Gaza and has been struck by Palestinian Qassam rockets. ACRI’s study focuses on protecting schools from them, rather than on the education they provide. It reported that despite the state’s obligation to defend its citizens, it’s done it poorly in Sderot, including for its schools. They were built in the 1970s, have shingled roofs and lack security rooms. In July 2006, the government adopted the Home Front Command’s protection plan that called for reinforcing 24 of the city’s schools. Then after a Parents Committee of Sderot petition to the High Court of Justice in October, it was announced that protected space construction would be provided for all preschools and first through third grade classrooms in the Gaza-border region.

In May 2007, the Court ruled that the government must provide “full protection” for all classrooms by the start of the 2007-2008 school year. By mid-October, the Sderot Municipality reported work was proceeding satisfactorily on seven schools with plans to build 13 news ones by 2010.

ACRI also reported on a shortage of educational psychologists to provide counseling services to students, parents and educators because of the trauma caused by rocket landings in residential areas. A better strategy would be for Israel to stop attacking Gazans, they wouldn’t respond in self-defense, and that would ensure safety on both sides. Israel ignores that option, however, chooses conflict instead, so the Ministry of Education and Sderot Municipality need bigger counseling budgets for what they should never have to deal with in the first place.

Migrant Worker Rights

In October 2006, Israel enacted legislation prohibiting trafficking in persons for slavery, forced labor, prostitution, human organ sales, human reproduction, or immoral publications. Ignored were other types of trafficking, such as “binding” workers to employers and requiring onerous fees to brokers that are still common. More on that below. A victory was achieved in part, however, for 63% of those requesting it in 2007 – granting legal status to migrant workers’ children who were born in Israel or have lived there since very young, use Hebrew as their primary language, and have adopted Israel as their culture.

The High Court granted another one as well on the way agricultural firms, nursing care services and other industries “bind” migrant workers to a single employer. It ruled this infringes on workers rights, must be discontinued, and gave the government six months to draft new a employment arrangement for its migrant workers. As of last October, nothing was implemented, 18 months after the Court ruling. Abuses still occur, and ACRI concludes that evidence about them paints a “bleak picture for future employment conditions for Israeli migrant workers.”

Then there’s the matter of brokers’ fees that can be “astronomical” and a way to earn profits at workers’ expense. Israel allows them even though the law forbids it. They’re an oppressive burden, can cost several months wages, and they may require high interest rate loans to be able to pay them. A solution may be near, however, under an agreement between Thailand and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) regarding agricultural worker recruitment. Beginning this year, only migrant workers from countries with which Israel has bilateral brokerage fee agreements will be allowed into the country. It remains to be seen if this will work.

Citizenship and Residency Status

Sovereign states are entitled to decide who can immigrate and get permanent status. But they must consider human rights, issues of family, and not exclude refugees, asylum-seekers, stateless persons or those coming under duress. Israel fails on all counts and makes things worse. It has no immigration policy for non-Jews who aren’t welcome, and family member status rules are changing and becoming hardened.

In 2005, the government appointed Professor Amnon Rubinstein to head a committee to assess the immigration issue, examine relevant legislation and regulations, and propose new policies and laws. In February 2006 a report was issued, but the committee wasn’t reappointed, and bureaucratic guidelines replaced policy with Population Registry civil servants in charge. An administrative black hole is the result with policies governing non-Jews stiffened.

Since 2003, the Citizenship and Entry into Israel Law (Temporary Order) denies legal status to Palestinian spouses of Israeli citizens. Israeli Arabs suffer the most as they maintain marriage and family ties with their relatives in the Territories. In May 2006, the High Court rejected petitions opposing the law and determined that it serves an essential security purpose. As a result, although the law is temporary, it’s been extended several times, most recently through July 2008.

In addition, the law’s scope has been expanded and now prevents family member spouses from Iran, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, and other government-designated “enemy states” from getting status. Tougher immigration rules for non-Jews were also in a government-proposed draft bill stipulating that illegal Israeli residents must leave for a multi-year “cooling off” period before being eligible to return. The law is far-reaching on issues of family life; equality for spouses of Israeli citizens and residents; parents of Israeli minors; elderly parents; minor children of Israeli citizens and residents; indigenous Negev Bedouins with no formalized status; asylum-seekers; women victimized by trafficking; and many others.

According to the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), the number of asylum-seekers in Israel rose sharply over the past year. Most arrive through Egypt under trying conditions, bear scars of physical and mental abuse, are impoverished and desperate, have no relatives or friends in the country, and are totally dependent on aid from their host.

For its part, Israel lacks clear policy directives for dealing with the situation. Mechanisms in place are based on Ministry of Interior unpublished procedures, and inter-ministerial committee asylum determinations are made on a case-by-case basis with all deliberations kept secret. The result is the lowest percent of requests granted in the West, just 1% in 2005. It was even lower in 2006 at under 0.5%. In 2007, 350 refugees got temporary protection, 805 others were denied, and 863 are under review.

Even persons recognized as refugees aren’t granted permanent Israeli status. At best, they get temporary permits for limited stays. Provisions allow bi-annual renewals if hardship conditions remain in countries of origin, but at times refugees are summarily turned away and others (including women and children) imprisoned for extended periods under very difficult conditions and without having committed an offense.

Israel is morally and legally bound to assist asylum-seekers. And it has every right to establish laws and procedures for their admittance. Yet its record is shameless as the West’s least hospitable country to individuals in greatest need.

Human Rights Violations in Occupied Palestine

June 2007 was a milestone for Palestinians. It marked 40 years under Israeli occupation, during which time their democratic rights have been denied and they’ve endured appalling human rights abuses – to life, liberty, security, privacy and personal safety, in or outside their homes. In addition, they have no property rights or freedom of movement, employment, or for health care and education. They’re collectively punished and economically strangled. Their borders are blocked and routinely violated as are their waters and air space. They’re also constricted by oppressive curfews, roadblocks, checkpoints, electric fences and separation walls, and their homes are being bulldozed and land taken for illegal settlement expansions. It gets worse.

Israeli security forces brutally harass, arrest, imprison, torture and extra-judicially assassinate anyone with impunity. Palestinians are helpless, redress is denied them, and when they resist, they’re called terrorists. The toll has been horrific, it’s too detailed to recount, so ACRI focused on three prominent issues: movement restrictions, conditions in Hebron that symbolize the overall situation, and life in occupied Gaza that’s more repressive than ever. It then addressed conditions in Arab East Jerusalem.

Free movement is a basic human right that affects other rights: to employment, to live in dignity, to education, health, and the right to family life. Since the second Intifada began in September 2000, these freedoms have been constricted, and it’s made life in the Territories impossible. They mainly affect the West Bank that’s restricted by hundreds of checkpoints, roadblocks, barriers and the Separation Wall that’s taken 10% of Palestinian territory through a shameless land grab on the pretext of security.

Movement restrictions have split the West Bank into six geographic units – North, Center, South, the Jordan Valley, the northern Dead Sea, and East Jerusalem. Movement is severely restricted within and between them, it’s had a grave impact on normal economic life, and Palestinians are effectively prisoners in their own land.

Consider the checkpoints. They restrict movement and subject Palestinians to inordinate delays and abusive searches. They’re supplemented by countless obstacles further impinging movement: concrete blocks, earth mounds, and trenches that deny direct vehicular or pedestrian passage and allow Israelis exclusive access to 311 kilometers of main West Bank roads connecting all of Israel and the Territories. Those most harmed are the elderly, sick, pregnant women and small children. So are selected population groups according to gender, age or place of residence. Males aged 16 to 30 or 35 are targeted as well as populations in cities under assault.

Then there’s the “black lists” called “Police Refused” or “GSS Refused.” Tens of thousands of Palestinians are on them for groundless and arbitrary reasons with no right of appeal. Their lives are disrupted, freedom denied and movements restricted inside the Territory or when attempting to leave. The Separation Wall makes things worse. It’s 80% on Palestinian land, has nothing to do with security, separates Palestinians from each other, and violates their fundamental human rights:

– it separates Palestinian cities, villages, communities and families from each other;

– cuts off Palestinian farmers from their lands;

– impedes access to health facilities, educational institutions and other essential services; and it

– obstructs access to clean water sources and effectively steals them.

The planned route when completed will be immense – 780 kilometers. By October last year, 409 kilometers were completed and another 72 km were being built. As of last May, there are 65 gates but Palestinians can only pass through 38 of them and only for selected hours of the day and not at all on some days. Around Jerusalem, the planned route is 171 km; half was completed by last June and another 32 km were under construction. The Wall cuts off Palestinians in East Jerusalem neighborhoods from the remaining West Bank as well as villages around Jerusalem and some Palestinian East Jerusalemites from the center of their lives and livelihoods in the city.

When completed, the Wall will create two types of Palestinian enclaves:

– villages and agricultural land on the Israeli side in what’s called the “seam zone;” and

– villages and land on the Palestinian side that are blocked on three or more sides by twists in the route or the intersection of the Wall with physical roadblocks or roads forbidden to Palestinians.

The UN Committee on the Elimination of all forms of Racial Discrimination published recommendations concerning Israel in March 2007. It expressed concern that Occupied Territory movement restrictions have been “highly detrimental” and have impacted essential elements of Palestinians’ lives that “gravely infringe (their) human rights….” They have no justification for security or “military exigencies.” Yet they’re maintained, and who’ll challenge Israel to change things.

The same situation exists in Hebron, ACRI and B’Tselem jointly documented it, and last year prepared a report called: “Ghost Town.” It’s a disturbing story of separation, forced displacement and terror. Israel is the oppressor, Palestinians the victims, and no one seems to care. The human toll is horrific – “protracted and severe harm to Palestinians (from) some of the gravest human rights violations” against them that go unaddressed, continue unabated, and worsen.

Hebron’s City Center was once a thriving commercial and residential area. Today it’s a “Ghost Town” because Israel destroyed its fabric of life through a state-imposed policy of land seizures, extended curfews, harsh free movement restrictions and unaddressed violence. Combined, they terrorize Palestinians and prohibit them from driving or even walking on the area’s main streets. That, in turn, makes life impossible. The consequences have been devastating with peoples’ lives uprooted.

Since Gaza and the West Bank were occupied in 1967, Israel expelled tens of thousands of Palestinians overall. In Hebron alone, thousands of residents and merchants were removed or had no option but to leave the City Center because of Israel’s “principle of separation” policy.

Hebron is important as the West Bank’s second largest city, the largest in the territory’s south, and the only Palestinian city with an Israeli settlement in its center. It’s concentrated in and around the Old City that once was the entire southern West Bank’s commercial center. No longer.

For many years, Israel severely oppressed Palestinians in Hebron’s center. It partitioned the city into northern and southern parts and created a long strip of land for Jewish vehicles only. In addition, in areas open to Palestinians, they’re subjected to “repeated detention and humiliating inspections” any time, for any reason, and it worsened after the 1994 Baruch Goldstein massacre of Muslim worshipers in the Tomb of the Patriarchs. Israel’s military commander ordered many Palestinian-owned shops closed that were the livelihoods for thousands of people. In addition, he condoned frequent settler violence as a way to remove Palestinians from their own land. It worked.

A combination of restrictions, prohibitions and deliberate harassment devastated Hebron’s residents. They lost their homes, land, businesses and freedom. ACRI and B’Tselem documented it in the Old City and Casbah areas where most Israeli settlements are located and Palestinians face the harshest conditions and restrictions on their movements. As a result, they were removed or had to leave, and what was once “the vibrant heart of Hebron (is now) a ghost town.”

A senior Israeli defense official explained the scheme that’s pretty common knowledge today. He called it “a permanent process of dispossessing Arabs to increase Jewish territory.” Distinguished Israeli historian, Ilan Pappe, calls it state-sponsored ethnic cleansing that’s been ongoing since Israel became a state in 1948. B’Tselem-ACRI document the practice in Hebron’s once viable City Center.

At least 1014 Palestinian housing units (41.9% of the total in the area) were vacated by their occupants. Another 659 apartments (65% of the total) were as well during the second Intifada. In addition, 1829 Palestinian businesses (76.6% of them all) were lost. Of the total, 1141 (62.4% of the total) closed after the year 2000, 440 or more by military order. ACRI and B’Tselem believe Palestinian apartment abandonments were even higher than reported because neighborhoods near settlements collapsed and housing and living costs declined dramatically there. Poor families took advantage. Unable to afford more costly housing, they left distant parts of Hebron for Old City neighborhoods where they occupied vacated houses.

Overall, the affects were devastating – job loss, poor nutrition, rising poverty, growing family tensions from prolonged confinement, severe harm to education, welfare and health systems, and a mass exodus away from areas near settlements resulting in lost homes and businesses. To this day, nothing has changed, there’s no sign it will any time soon, and things, in fact, got worse.

Israeli security forces protect settlers who freely attack Palestinians with impunity. Offenses include physical assaults and beatings (at times with clubs), stone throwing, and hurling refuse, sand, water, chlorine, and empty bottles. Settlers freely loot Palestinian shops and commit acts of vandalism against them and other owner property. Killings also occur as well as attempts to run over people with vehicles, chop down fruit trees, poison water wells, break into homes, and pour hot liquids on Palestinian faces. IDF forces are positioned everywhere in the area. They witness everything and ignore it.

Soldiers also commit violence and use excessive force as do police. In addition, they engage in arbitrary house searches at all hours of the day and night, seize houses, harass, detain randomly and conduct humiliating searches and harsh treatment overall. These actions violate international and Israeli administrative and constitutional law. They persist nonetheless.

In Gaza it’s even worse. Life there was never easy under occupation, but conditions worsened markedly after Hamas’ surprise January 2006 electoral victory. Israel refused to recognize it. So did the US and the West. All outside aid was cut off, an economic embargo and sanctions were imposed, and the legitimate government was isolated. Stepped up repression followed along with repeated IDF incursions, attacks and arrests. Gazans have been imprisoned in their own land and traumatized for months. No one outside Palestine cares or offers much aid, and things continue to deteriorate.

Hamas is isolated, assaulted and called a “hostile entity.” Then on September 19, 2007 sanctions were tightened, electricity and fuel was reduced and so were supplies of food, medicines and other essential items. Tighter border crossing restrictions were also imposed on an area already devastated by years of repression.

Its industrial production is down 90%, and its agricultural output is half its pre-2007 level. In addition, nearly all construction stopped, and unemployment and poverty exceed 80%. Shops then ran out of everything because Israel allows in only nine basic materials, their availability is spotty, and some essentials are banned, like certain medicines, and others restricted like fruit, milk and other dairy products. Before June 2007, 9000 commodities could be imported. Today, it’s only 20, people don’t get enough food, and the situation is desperate.

Then there’s the matter of power without which Gaza shuts down. The Strip needs 230 – 250 daily megawatts of electricity. Its only power plant supplies around 30% of it, but people in central Gaza and Gaza city are totally dependent on what can’t be supplied if industrial diesel fuel the plant depends on is cut off. The result is critically ill people are endangered, hospitals can’t function, bread and other baked goods can’t be produced without electricity to power ovens, food is already in short supply, so is fresh water, and sanitation conditions are disastrous.

The situation may now worsen following Israel’s High Court January 30, 2008 decision in which it upheld government sanctions on Gaza and its right to restrict fuel and electricity. Here’s what’s planned on top of already imposed cuts. Starting February 7, further reductions will be made incrementally according to a plan submitted to the Court – 5% on three of ten lines supplying electricity to Gaza for a total of 1.5 megawatts through around February 21. An additional 25 megawatts have already been cut because of diesel fuel reductions to Gaza’s sole power plant. The result is rolling blackouts, hospitals in crisis, and sewage treatment plants, water pumps and other vital services can’t operate. Transportation is also disrupted. The situation is critical, Israel won’t address it, these punitive measures violate international law, and the world community is dismissive.

Egypt, however, may provide belated relief. On March 21, the pro-government Al-Ahram newspaper reported that Cairo is expected to build a power line to supply about 150 megawatts of electricity to the Strip and become its main supplier. A senior Egyptian electricity ministry official apparently confirmed it by indicating the Islamic Development Bank agreed to finance the project that will link El-Arish in Sinai with Gaza.

In addition, an Egyptian oil minister issued “urgent” directives for his country to provide natural gas to the Territory and help develop offshore Palestinian gas fields that British Gas Group (BG) estimate hold 1.3 trillion cubic meters in proved reserves worth nearly $4 billion. For its part, Israel wants to cut all ties with Gaza and apparently finds the new arrangement acceptable or at least won’t prevent it. However, it remains for it to be implemented, Gaza remains under siege, and conditions on the ground are at crisis levels.

East Jerusalem is also victimized by neglect and discrimination even though Israel granted its Palestinian population “permanent resident” status after its 1967 occupation. International law is clear, and Israeli law as well obligates the government to treat the population equitably and afford them all services and rights Israelis get, aside from the right to vote in national elections.

Israel refuses and for the past four decades has systematically neglected Palestinian Arabs as part of a discriminatory policy to drive them from the city and secure a Jewish majority in it. As a result, East Jerusalem residents suffer severe distress, conditions continue worsening, and life for them is an unending cycle of poverty, neglect, shortages and repression. In 2003, Central Bureau of Statistics data showed 64% of Palestinians in the city lived in poverty compared to 24% of Jewish families. It was even worse for children – 76% of Palestinians compared to 38% of Jews.

Other examples of abuse and neglect are also common:

– Palestinians aren’t allowed building permits for new construction; in rare instances when they’re allowed, permit fees are too high to be affordable for nearly everyone;

– their lands continue to be expropriated for new Jewish neighborhoods and settlements;

– in contrast, Jewish areas get generous construction and infrastructure investment;

– desperate Palestinians resort to their own devices, erect homes on their own land, yet live in fear of frequent demolitions that are patently illegal;

– East Jerusalem sanitation facilities are sorely lacking; sewage and drainage infrastructure is grossly inadequate, antiquated and poorly maintained; the result is frequent sewer flooding and harmful sanitary conditions that are exacerbated during bad weather; in addition, trash goes uncollected and piles up in streets;

– infrastructure is in disrepair, public parks and recreational facilities don’t exist, the postal service barely functions, and most Arab neighborhoods get no fresh water;

– educational facilities are lacking; a severe classroom shortage exists, and only half of the city’s children are enrolled in municipal schools that are overcrowded, poorly equipped and unsafe;

– the toll on Palestinians is horrific in many ways: family relationships are damaged; violence in them is common; school dropouts are high; jobs are scarce; crime and drug use rises; and health and nutritional problems are severe; in spite of overwhelming needs, welfare services are inadequate, near collapse and one consequence is thousands of children and youths are in acute distress and at high risk;

– police and security force brutality exacerbates the hardships; harassment is common and so is unrestrained violence; Palestinians are terrorized, harmed, frequently killed, and no one outside the Territories seems to notice or care.

The Right to Privacy

Israel has no formal constitution. It relies instead on 11 Basic Laws. Section 7 (D) states that “there shall be no violation of the confidentiality of conversation.” Authorities ignore it, and data show police wiretapping abuses are common, thus violating the right to privacy.

By law, police must formally request a court order to wiretap. Rarely are they refused, and in 2007 a Knesset committee investigated the issue. In November 2007, a new bill was drafted concerning the transfer of data from communications companies to the police for use in criminal investigations. It provides wide latitude, and ACRI calls the potential for privacy violations enormous and possibly unprecedented. Protests were lodged against the original bill, and they led to important changes toning down the initial language.

Privacy issues also affect job applicants and employees, can be abusive, and individuals get no choice – accept them, or else. They:

– demand job applicants sign a complete waiver of medical confidentiality;

– allow employer surveillance of telephone conversations and e-mail correspondence;

– mandate compulsory polygraphs for applicants and employees; and

– use video cameras for workplace monitoring.

Criminal Justice

The right to counsel is essential for anyone charged with a crime. Israel’s Public Defender’s Law (1995) stipulates that detainees and defendants unable to afford help are entitled to state-funded representation, but only for crimes with prison terms of five or more years. This was amended in December 2006 to prohibit prison sentences for unrepresented defendants.

Israel’s legal system also establishes the right to a fair trial and other safeguards. Yet, erosion began in 2007 under a temporary Knesset January 2007 law infringing on detainees rights: they can be denied face-to-face contact with an attorney; prevented from meeting with family members; denied the right to be present at hearings on their charges; interrogated without counsel; and unreasonably cut off from the outside world that creates a feeling of isolation.

In June 2007, the Office of the Public Defender published a report on detention and incarceration conditions in Israeli police internment facilities. As in previous years, it was alarming and indicated basic human rights violations, some extreme. An Israeli Bar Association March 2007 report reached the same conclusions:

– severe overcrowding and highly restrictive living space in two-thirds of detention facilities examined; some cells were only two square meters or less;

– larger cells held up to 10 prisoners;

– sanitary and hygiene conditions were poor as well as ventilation; some cells lacked windows;

– wall peeling and crumbling from dampness and mold were common;

– prisons had filthy and foul-smelling toilets and showers as well as infestations of cockroaches, rats and other vermin;

– lighting was poor and prisoners often sat in dark, suffocating, fetid cells; the wings of one prison were described as unsuitable for human habitation; and

– complaints were common about violence at the hands of guards and wardens; collective punishment was also inflicted and overall treatment was degrading, humiliating and invasive.

Police brutality is a major issue, just as it is in the US. The authorities have great power and too often abuse it with impunity. Complaints often are unaddressed. The problem is systemic, it’s within the Police Service, and specifically in the Police Investigations Department of the Ministry of Justice (PID).

PID was established in 1992 and mandated to investigate complaints against police in cases of excessive force. However, investigations are rare, and seldom ever are there prosecutions, regardless of the complaint’s severity and almost never against senior officers with authority. The lack of effort assures continued brutality because officers know they can get away with it.

The Destabilization of Democracy

The Israeli Democracy Institute (IDI) surveyed Israeli citizens, published its “Democracy Index” in June 2007, and included some disturbing findings in it. Its survey showed:

– less than half of respondents believe public speakers have the right to criticize the government;

– only 54% favor freedom of religion and a bare 50% feel Arabs and Jews should have equal rights;

– 87% rate Jewish-Arab relations poor or very poor;

– 78% oppose having Arab parties or ministers join Israel’s government;

– 43% believe Arabs aren’t intelligent;

– 55% feel the government should encourage Arab emigration; and

– 75% think Arabs favor violence.

Overall, the results showed democratic values eroding since the IDI 2003 survey. It doesn’t happen in a vacuum. It’s part of the cultural environment: from the home, within families, at school, through the media and other social contexts from which attitudes develop. It’s also gotten from the law, the way Israeli courts interpret it, particularly the High Court of Justice, and subsequent legislative efforts to bypass Court rulings and trample on human rights. The problem is pervasive and worsening as Israel becomes a very hostile place, much like America. And it doesn’t just affect Israeli Arabs who get no justice.

ACRI cites the role of Daniel Friedman since he became Israel’s Justice Minister in February 2007. He’s since proposed a number of initiatives and “reforms” that threaten to undermine the legal system and High Court in particular. One proposal was to change how justices are chosen in a way that would curtail their independence and politicize the entire process. In August, he then prepared a draft bill to limit public petitioner rights to the High Court, especially for human rights organizations.

ACRI ends its lengthy and disturbing report as follows: History shows that “parliaments tend to violate human rights in times of crisis. It is precisely at these moments, however, that (it’s vital) to preserve the judiciary’s role in the system of checks and balances.” Israel claims to be a democracy. It has an odd way of showing it, and when it comes to its Arab citizens, it’s nowhere in sight.

Global Research Associate Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net.

Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to The Global Research News Hour on RepublicBroadcasting.org Mondays from 11AM to 1PM US Central time for cutting-edge discussions on world and national topics with distinguished guests.

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U.S. Treasury Regulatory Reform Proposals: Hapless, Helpless, Hopeless

Dandelion Salad

by Richard C. Cook
Global Research, March 31, 2008

The U.S. Department of the Treasury was the big loser in 2003 when the Bush Administration sped legislation through Congress to enact the Department of Homeland Security after 9/11. Stripped of its law enforcement components—the Secret Service; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms; and the Customs Service—Treasury became what my colleagues at work began to call “IRS and the Seven Dwarves.”

The Dwarves were of two categories: a) Operational—the Bureau of Engraving and Printing which prints Federal Reserve Notes; the U.S. Mint which stamps out coins; the Financial Management Service, in charge of payments, collections, and accounting; and the Bureau of the Public Debt which markets Treasury bills, notes, and other debt instruments; and b) Regulatory—the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency which regulates national banks; the Office of Thrift Supervision, left over from the Reagan-era S&L fiasco; and the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, the remnants of BATF.

In the five years since the Department was gutted, there have been two Secretaries of the Treasury to succeed Paul O’Neill, President George W. Bush’s first appointee who was fired for being insufficiently gung-ho about the Iraq War and for having reservations about the skyrocketing federal deficits after Congress approved Bush’s tax cuts for the rich.

These two Secretaries have been: a) John W. Snow, former CEO of the CSX railroad, who served for three years during which Treasury was flailing about to find an identity after being stripped of much of its budget and personnel, including large numbers of senior employees in the Office of the Secretary; and b) Henry M. Paulson, Jr., CEO of Goldman Sachs, evidently named by Bush to ensure that Treasury was and would remain hapless, helpless, and hopeless in dealing with the predatory Wall Street financial magnates who were bringing on the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.

What have been Treasury’s priorities during this time? One thing is that under both Snow and Paulson, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency has been blocking attempts by state governments to prevent the scandalous abuses by the mortgage lenders who helped cause the subprime debacle and the bursting of the housing bubble.

A month before he resigned after being outed by leaks from an FBI investigation of his use of prostitutes, New York governor Eliot Spitzer wrote: “In 2003, during the height of the predatory lending crisis, the OCC invoked a clause from the 1863 National Bank Act to issue formal opinions preempting all state predatory lending laws, thereby rendering them inoperative. The OCC also promulgated new rules that prevented states from enforcing any of their own consumer protection laws against national banks.” (“Predatory Lenders’ Partner in Crime: How the Bush Administration Stopped the States from Stepping in to Help Consumers,” by Eliot Spitzer, Washington Post, February 18, 2008.)

More recently, Treasury under Paulson has been in the forefront of the Bush Administration’s economic warfare against Iran. (“Day of Infamy: The March 20, 2008 U.S. Declaration of War on Iran” by John McGlynn, Global Research, March 24, 2008.)

Then last week on Saturday, March 29, 2008, the New York Times printed the executive summary of a Treasury report that has been in the works for a couple of years with the title: “A Blueprint for Regulatory Reform: A Report from the Treasury Department on Ways to Improve Oversight of the Financial Services Sector.”

Already Congress is balking at the report, as well they should. In fact implementation of this report would ensure that the federal government’s executive branch will continue to do nothing to stand in the way of the conspiracy of the international financiers to complete their takeover of the world economy. For this conspiracy to succeed, passivity on the part of the U.S. government’s financial watchdogs is essential. The Treasury plan would assure that these watchdogs remain fast asleep. (“Is an International Financial Conspiracy Driving World Events?” by Richard C. Cook, Global Research, March 27, 2008.)

In typical mind-numbing but pretentious bureaucratic prose, the report starts by stating: “The mission of the Department of the Treasury focuses on promoting economic growth and stability in the United States. Critical to this mission is a sound and competitive financial services industry grounded in robust consumer protection and stable and innovative markets.”

Obviously, if this is Treasury’s mission, it has failed miserably. Economic growth in the U.S. has been confined mainly to the gargantuan deregulated financial industry, the huge supranational corporate cartels such as Walmart and Exxon-Mobil, and the military-industrial-police-security complex which increasingly dominates national life and the economy in the post-9/11 world. While Paulson, Bush, and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke fiddle, Rome burns—according to one poll, 89 percent of Americans say we are now in a recession.

Meanwhile, the real incomes of workers in the physical economy continue to decline. Economic stability in the U.S. is ancient history, at least for people who need to work for a living—income security hasn’t been this bad since the 1930s. The financial industry itself is neither sound nor competitive, with a handful of giants—including Goldman Sachs, Paulson’s former employer—having gone berserk in their haste to leverage the never-ending housing, commercial real estate, equity, hedge fund, and derivative bubbles upon which they themselves have grown fat through interest, commissions, fees, defaults, and foreclosures. Meanwhile, the consumers who should be protected by the government, not set up as victims of highway robbery, have been crushed by the worst burden of individual and household debt in history.

But before you get too indignant at the people at Treasury who wrote the nonsense in their report, reflect on the fact that these GS-14s and 15s who live in and around Washington, D.C., can themselves barely make ends meet, even with spouses who are working full-time, in the face of incredibly overpriced housing and skyrocketing inflation in every sector except those reported in the official government cost-of-living indexes.

Also reflect on the fact that while the Treasury Department was once the bastion of Roosevelt’s New Deal economic miracle, today it is little more than a tax collector in the government’s fruitless pursuit of the out-of-control national debt. In the 1930s Treasury and the Federal Reserve worked closely together under a regime of low interest rates and steady infrastructure spending to help create the strongest economy in the world. But starting in the early 1950s the Federal Reserve—i.e., the bankers—broke ranks and began raising interest rates as a prelude to today’s monetarist disaster where the financiers rule all. Now, Treasury’s new regulatory proposals are designed to continue the bankers’ reign of error behind a smokescreen of bureaucratic jargon and organizational box-shuffling that the Bush administration obviously hopes will portray an illusion of control.

Turning now to the regulatory proposals themselves, one thing the plan proposes is to realign and rename a handful of regulatory agencies, including consolidating the Securities Exchange Commission and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission. This would be done on the time-honored government principle of when you don’t know what to do, reorganize. As reported by the New York Times, the plan would actually weaken the SEC and replace some of its functions with industry self-regulation.

Under the heading of locking-the-barn-door-after-the-horse-has-escaped, the plan would create a new Mortgage Origination Commission (MOC) which would, among other brilliant innovations, set “minimum educational requirements” for mortgage lenders.

The plan would also implement a federal takeover of insurance regulation now carried out by the states through creation of an Office of Insurance Oversight (OIO). This would allow the Wall Street financiers to complete their control over the vast amount of funds available for investment from the insurance industry and ensure them one-stop-shopping at Treasury in their lobbying endeavors. The plan’s one concession to consumers and ordinary investors would be to create a new agency to regulate “business conduct,” the CBRA (get it?—Cobra!).

You can be sure that in order to justify their existence, the reorganized agencies, as well as such new ones as the MOC and OIO, will issue a plethora of new regulations that will have the net effect of constricting credit for the average person, because the underlying judgment of frowning officialdom is that the cause of the current housing crisis is how easy financiers made it for ordinary people who had the audacity to want to purchase homes. By contrast, the plan would assure that such “innovations” as those by which the lenders themselves have been famously packaging and re-selling mortgages and other debt instruments as investment securities will continue unimpeded.

The new regulatory requirements that will further suffocate the consumer at the tail end of the lending process will also add to home closing costs which will be defrayed, including interest, through higher mortgage payments. The additional government bureaucrats hired to carry out these plans will be compensated through more taxes and increased government borrowing. Note too that interest on mortgage loans is on the rise, even with the Federal Reserve lowering the prime rate, because mortgages are tied to the 10-year Treasury bond whose value is slipping with the erosion of the dollar against foreign currencies. Translated, all this means that fewer people will be able to borrow and only then at higher costs.

And since nothing is being done by the government to help ordinary people get better jobs, theirs having been shipped overseas by the corporate cartels set loose to come and go as they please by both the Clinton and Bush administrations, the Treasury plan and its costs will take us even further than we are now from real “economic growth and stability.” If you add all this to the fact that the Democratic Congress, even under recession conditions, is proposing new across-the-board taxes even for middle class earners, you realize that government economic policy today is in the hands of either lunatics or crooks.

But the real meat of the Treasury plan involves the Federal Reserve, with the report calling for new “a market stability regulator” and the Federal Reserve being designated to play the part. The report states that, “The Federal Reserve should assume this role in the optimal framework given its traditional central bank role of promoting overall macroeconomic stability.” The report, which consists almost entirely of assertions rather than facts, doesn’t mention the dismal history in recent decades of the creating and bursting of financial bubbles, where the Federal Reserve has not brought about macroeconomic stability at all. In fact it’s done the opposite.

The report continues: “As is the case today, important elements of the Federal Reserve’s market stability role would be conducted through the implementation of monetary policy and the provision of liquidity to the financial system. In addition, the Federal Reserve should be provided with a different, yet critically important regulatory role and broad powers focusing on the overall financial system…In terms of its recast regulatory role focusing on systemic risk, the Federal Reserve should have the responsibility and authority to gather appropriate information, disclose information, collaborate with the other regulators on rule writing, and take corrective actions when necessary in the interest of overall financial market stability.”

Of course “financial market stability” would mean anything the Federal Reserve says it means. “Stability” in this context means to protect the status and wealth of the ones who already have it; i.e., the financiers. And because of the priority the financial system has gained over the producing economy, the Federal Reserve would become the de facto overseer of the entire economic life of the nation.

Finally, the plan specifically authorizes the Federal Reserve to continue as it has been doing in recent months in bailing out failing high risk investment lenders like Bear Stearns. The Treasury report calls this “market stability discount window lending.” The only criterion the Federal Reserve would have to apply to exercise this power would be if it detected an “overall threat to financial system stability.”

And to whom would the Federal Reserve be accountable for its awesome new powers? Well, the Treasury report does not mention accountability for what is already the most secretive of institutions. The Federal Reserve, which describes itself as “independent within the government,” is really accountable to no one, though its chairman pays a visit to Congress once a quarter to utter some generalities.

And I can say personally that while I was working for Treasury, relations with the Federal Reserve were a constant source of frustration due to its arrogance and its unchallenged attitude that federal laws and regulations requiring transparency and fair dealing simply did not apply to it.

In reality, the Federal Reserve, which legally is owned by its member banks, is accountable only to the international financial elite that is engaged in trying to take over the world by every overt and covert means possible.

Let’s be blunt. Under a just and rational system, the Federal Reserve would be abolished—at least as a bank-of-issue, where virtually the entire money supply of the nation consists of bank-created debt. The interest from this debt is really what drives price inflation which has been made much worse under the monetarist philosophy. The Federal Reserve should not be in the business of “making money.” Let it continue to do what it does best—process financial exchanges and paperwork. But that’s all.

What the Treasury Department really should be authorized by the president and Congress to do is take over the U.S. monetary system and create a new one based on the real productive values of the nation. Credit should be treated as a public utility, not the plaything of financial plutocrats. Much existing debt should simply be canceled through a new, humane bankruptcy law, and a system involving payments to individuals through a basic income guarantee and a national dividend should be implemented. (“An Emergency Program of Monetary Reform for the United States by Richard C. Cook, Global Research, April 26, 2007.)

In other words, economic healing should start at the grassroots level and be built from the ground up through individual and family income security, along with new investment in public and private infrastructure as well as in small business and family farming. The system presided over by the Federal Reserve and its bosses in the financial oligarchy, is, by contrast, engaged in the deliberate top-down enslavement of most of the population to ever-increasing financial exploitation and debt. The ultimate goal of the oligarchy may even be to conquer the entire planet through war, expropriation of resources, and contrived famine. (“Is an International Financial Conspiracy Driving World Events?” op.cit.)

It is time for the Treasury Department to regain its sea legs and begin to recall its proper role as the national anchor of growth and stability which its mission statement says it should have but which it gave up on decades ago. It is not too early for Henry Paulson to start packing his bags, because after November, if there is any justice left in the world, we will have a new Democratic president to appoint Paulson’s successor. If the American republic is to survive, this person must be in the front lines of a war against the organized power of the international financial elite which the current leadership of the Treasury Department has not just run away from but which it has enabled and abetted every step of the way.

Richard C. Cook is a former U.S. federal government analyst, whose career included service with the U.S. Civil Service Commission, the Food and Drug Administration, the Carter White House, NASA, and the U.S. Treasury Department. His articles on economics, politics, and space policy have appeared on numerous websites. His book on monetary reform entitled We Hold These Truths: The Promise of Monetary Reform is in preparation. He is also the author of Challenger Revealed: An Insider’s Account of How the Reagan Administration Caused the Greatest Tragedy of the Space Age, called by one reviewer, “the most important spaceflight book of the last 20 years.” His website is at www.richardccook.com.

© Copyright Richard C. Cook, Global Research, 2008
The url address of this article is: www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=8491

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The Economy Sucks and or Collapse

Why the Paulson Plan is DOA + US proposes broad reform of market oversight

Dandelion Salad

By Michael Mandel
spiegel.de
March 31, 2008

BusinessWeek chief economist Mike Mandel argues that Secretary Paulson’s plan only works in a fictional world where investment banks properly regulate themselves.

Let’s see. In the middle of perhaps the greatest financial upheaval since the Great Depression, Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson is proposing a change in financial regulations which basically amounts to a big wink to Wall Street. His plan will go nowhere, both for political and practical reasons. In fact, it does not even meet the minimum standard of improving transparency, which would reduce the possibility of a similar crisis in the future.

The main point of the Paulson plan is to make regulation more efficient. It notes that changes in the capital markets are:

“… pressuring the US regulatory structure, exposing regulatory gaps as well as redundancies, and compelling market participants to do business in other jurisdictions with more efficient regulation.”

So what does the plan actually propose?

…continued

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US proposes broad reform of market oversight

AFP
31/03/2008 15h59

WASHINGTON (AFP) – US officials Monday proposed a broad overhaul of financial market regulation in an effort to restore confidence in a system reeling from the subprime mortgage mayhem.

The announcement comes as the US regulatory system is blamed for failing to recognize rampant excesses in mortgage lending until after they set off what is now seen as the worst financial crisis in decades.

“Government has a responsibility to make sure our financial system is regulated effectively. And in this area, we can do a better job,” Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson said in unveiling the plan.

Although the plan was announced amid a crisis of confidence in financial markets, Paulson said it has been in the works for months and is not “a response to the circumstances of the day,” but aimed at addressing “complex, long-term issues” to help make markets more efficient and competitive.

…continued

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US plans finance system overhaul

BBC
31 March 2008 16:38 UK

The US Treasury has revealed its blueprint for the biggest overhaul of regulation of the financial sector since the 1930s.

Critics have said that the credit crunch and resultant market turmoil made a strong case for change.

But Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson rejected claims that existing regulations have led to the turmoil.

And he said the plan should not be implemented until current difficulties roiling financial markets are resolved.

New powers

The plan would beef up the powers of the Federal Reserve, which earlier this month engineered the purchase of troubled investment bank Bear Stearns by JP Morgan.

It would give it greater oversight of all kinds of financial institutions from hedge funds to insurance companies.

…continued

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US announces financial overhaul

Al Jazeera English

MONDAY, MARCH 31, 2008
18:23 MECCA TIME, 15:23 GMT

The US government has proposed a comprehensive overhaul of the financial regulatory system, giving the Federal Reserve greater oversight over Wall Street.

The plan, described as the most sweeping change to the US financial system since the 1930′s, would also create new bodies to supervise banks, businesses, consumer protection and mortgages.

The plan will give the Federal Reserve, the US central bank, more power to protect the stability of the entire financial system while merging day-to-day bank supervision into one agency, down from five at present.

It also would create one large agency in charge of business conduct and consumer protection, performing many of the functions of the current Securities and Exchange Commission.

The plan also asks Congress to establish a federal Mortgage Origination Commission to set recommended federal standards for mortgage brokers.

…continued

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Bush’s Legacy Leads to Iran By Heather Wokusch

Heather Wokusch

By Heather Wokusch
featured writer
Dandelion Salad
HeatherWokusch
March 31, 2008

from www.youtube.com posted with vodpod

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Bush’s Legacy Leads to Iran: Will Clinton or Obama Make Any Difference? Will You?

By Heather Wokusch
March 31, 2008

The lack of oversight characterizing both the Bush administration and crony capitalism have bankrupted the U.S. and created the need for perpetual war. It’s unclear if November 2008 will change anything or if we can even wait that long.

Toxic economy

Take the Fed’s recent $30 billion bailout of Bear Sterns. Why throw taxpayer dollars at a company with massive amounts of “toxic waste” on its books, created largely through reckless behavior chasing short-term profits?

Reigning in Wall Street would make more sense. Force investment banks to disclose off-balance-sheet risks and put aside substantial reserves – at minimum.

But no, the Fed instead hands Wall Street taxpayer dollars. Moral hazard be damned.

Bear Sterns won’t be the only bailout – the precedent has been set. We are looking at the start of a wealth transfer from normal Americans to large and unaccountable financial institutions.

And the cancer is spreading. In the same way that subprime mortgages have become toxic for major investment banks, the U.S. dollar has become toxic for overseas creditors.

The greenback has been falling against the euro and other currencies since 2002 and is widely expected to plummet further this year. Doesn’t help that the Fed stopped releasing M3 money supply data in March 2006, making it impossible to tell how many dollars are being dumped on the global market.

The Bush administration’s irresponsible fiscal policies have led central banks abroad to see “coupling” with the US as a moral hazard. It’s no surprise that, for example, Japan’s war chest of treasury securities fell $40 billion from January 2007 to January 2008.

Bottom line, the U.S. public’s lack of trust in Bush’s economic policy (if he even has one) is shared by global creditors.

And that leaves just one area of influence for this administration: war, war and more war.

All roads lead to Tehran

In the past two weeks, the White House approach to Iran has become increasingly schizophrenic. While Bush gave two radio interviews emphasizing the possibility for a US-Iran reconciliation, Cheney crisscrossed the Middle East pushing for war.

Maybe they’re playing good cop/bad cop. Or else Cheney’s taking matters into his own hands.

As The Global News Service of the Jewish People (JTA) observed, a U.S. strike on Iran is unlikely unless, “the Democratic presidential candidates appear to be far ahead of their Republican rival and Bush senses a ‘now or never’ strike option.” Since even that scenario may be doubtful, “ the Israelis are hoping that the hard-line Cheney will push the envelope - a role he reportedly played vis-a-vis the U.S. invasion of Iraq. One official said Cheney is seen as ‘a significant player’ who could influence ‘serious issues that cannot wait.’”

Meanwhile, the Jerusalem-based site DEBKA reported that “at the last minute” before Cheney’s recent visit, the White House asked Israel to prepare for “exhaustive and lengthy discussions on Iran.” As a result, “ministers were convened to decide which of Israel’s military plans of action were to be presented to Cheney.”

DEBKA also noted: “The vice president’s choice of capitals for his tour is a pointer to the fact that the military option, off since December, may be on again. America will need the cooperation of all four – Oman, Saudi Arabia, Israel and Turkey – to mount a military attack on Iran.”

Intriguingly, Cheney’s visit to the Middle East coincided with a U.S. nuclear submarine crossing the Suez Canal to join the massive Navy fleet already stationed in the Persian Gulf.

As the Russian news service RIA Novosti reported this weekend, “the U.S. Naval presence in the Persian Gulf has for the first time in the past four years reached the level that existed shortly before the invasion of Iraq in March 2003.” RIA quoted a high-ranking official as saying, “The latest military intelligence data point to heightened U.S. military preparations for both an air and ground operation against Iran.”

Here we go again…

True to form, Cheney made numerous unfounded allegations against Iran during his Middle East trip. Contrary to U.S. intelligence reports, for example, he declared that Tehran is “heavily involved in trying to develop nuclear weapons enrichment, the enrichment of uranium to weapons-grade levels.”

Interesting coincidence that the Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni just wrapped up a U.S. speaking tour beating the same war drum.

In a phone call to Barack Obama, for example, Livni stressed that “there is a direct connection between terror and Iran” which requires the “firm steadfastness of the international community against terror and against Iran.” Obama reportedly reassured her that Iran will not have nuclear weapons.

Just last week General David Petraeus claimed that Iran was behind a rocket attack against the US-controlled Green Zone in Iraq. Petraeus insisted that the rockets “were Iranian-provided, Iranian-made” and that Iran’s actions were “in complete violation of promises made by President (Mahmoud) Ahmadinejad and the other most senior Iranian leaders to their Iraqi counterparts.”

We’ve been down this road of trumped up allegations before.

So what happens after November 2008?

It’s obvious that McCain would be a foreign policy disaster. His “Bomb Bomb Bomb, Bomb Bomb Iran” performance speaks for itself, as does his claim that it “is fine with me” if the US stays in Iraq for 100 more years.

He’s also dangerously uninformed. Just weeks ago, McCain told reporters that Iranian operatives were “taking al-Qaeda into Iran, training them and sending them back.” He said it was “common knowledge and has been reported in the media that al-Qaeda is going back into Iran and receiving training and are coming back into Iraq from Iran, that’s well known. And it’s unfortunate.” Small problem: Shia Iran does not support Sunni al-Qaeda. You’d think that after five years of war in Iraq McCain would have figured that out. Only when Sen. Joseph Lieberman quietly corrected him did McCain say: “I’m sorry, the Iranians are training extremists, not al-Qaeda.” Whatever. McCain will keep the US at war indefinitely…

So why, for the first time in 14 years, are defense contractors throwing their money behind the Democrats? Since 2000, for example, they’ve given roughly 63% of their election contributions to Republicans, but in the 2008 election cycle, a full 52% of defense industry funding has gone to the Dems.

Maybe it’s because Clinton and Obama can also be expected to keep defense contractors happy. Both speak of peace but have repeatedly voted to fund war. Both have plans for limited troop withdrawal once in office but neither has strongly argued against keeping tens of thousands of US troops in Iraq for years to come. Neither has fought to stop construction of the gigantic US embassy in Baghdad or to scale back the heavily-fortified Green Zone.

Perhaps more importantly, both Clinton and Obama have said that all options – code language for nuclear weapons – must be on the table for dealing with Iran.

Shadow economy, and shadow government

So who would profit from broader-based war? Weapons manufacturers for one. In fiscal 2006 alone the Pentagon was involved in arms sales agreements of $21 billion. And from 2001 to 2005, the US provided developing nations with 2,099 surface-to-air missiles plus ten “major surface combatants,” including aircraft carriers and destroyers.

Of course, taxpayers fund the bulk of many of these weapons agreements, through direct corporate subsidies or foreign military aid linked to weapons purchases. Yet defense industry profits remain private. Another wealth transfer.

Big Oil could also profit from further unrest. By interesting coincidence, the Iraqi government is soon expected to sign “technical support” contracts with five major oil companies (BP, Shell, Exxon Mobil, Total and Chevron). Iraq will not only pay the five up to $2.5 billion to increase oil production but also fast-track them for bidding on future oil contracts. The oil majors might be hoping to pull off a similar coup when the smoke eventually clears in Iran, or at minimum, to scuttle the proposed Iran-Russia gas cartel.

The Republicans would clearly benefit from a wider war come November. McCain could flash his military credentials and emphasis would be taken off issues most likely to garner Democrats votes, such as the economy.

While the American people have no stomach for further conflict, it’s debatable if their opinion even matters any more. In the same way that Wall Street’s shadow economy is now sticking US taxpayers for billions in bailouts, the shadow government is setting us up for war.

No one really knows, for example, what Cheney is cooking up or what new justification for an attack on Iran will be thrown at us next. False flag perhaps?

In his 1961 farewell address, President Dwight D. Eisenhower warned Americans against “the potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power”from the military-industrial complex. Eisenhower said: “Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals so that security and liberty may prosper together.”

Now is the time for an alert and knowledgeable citizenry to take action.

Now is the time to dump the hero worship and ask very tough questions of our presidential candidates. Some basics include: – Will you commit to never using the so-called bunker-buster or any other kind of nuclear weapon against Iran? Will you take that option “off the table” right now? – Will you insist on a full briefing to the US public and congressional approval before any attack on Iran? – When will you stop funding the war in Iraq? In Afghanistan? – When will you bring all troops home? Will you commit to removing Blackwater and other private security companies too?

Now is also the time to ask a very tough question of ourselves. If there is some kind of attack on US interests and the administration insists Iran did it, yet supplies little in the way of viable proof, will we take action? If so, why wait?

Action Ideas

1. Have Fallon testify before Congress

Admiral William Fallon, head of the US Central Command, left his job recently over differences with the White House regarding an attack on Iran. As CODEPINK notes: “The Bush Administration will not let Admiral Fallon testify before Congress in April; it only wants Congress to hear the voice of General Petraeus – the ‘feel good’ military man who says the surge is working. This is a travesty. Congress needs the perspective that Fallon’s deep and reasoned knowledge of the situation in the Middle East brings. During a time when military endeavors in both Afghanistan and Iraq have failed miserably, we can’t afford to let our President start a third catastrophe in Iran.” Call Senator Biden (202-224-4651) or email the Foreign Relations Committee today to urge them to have Fallon testify.

2. Learn more about Iraq Town Halls and make your voice heard.

Democrats.com has an important initiative called Iraq Town Halls : “In April, Congress will vote to give George Bush another $102 billion blank check for Iraq – unless we finally persuade our Representatives to Just Say No. One of the best ways to persuade a Representative is to hold a Town Hall Meeting and fill the hall with people who care and are willing to speak passionately. That gets their attention!”

3. Impeach Cheney

Do you think Cheney should be impeached? The People’s Email Network has made it easy for you to take action. The one-click form on their site “will send your personal message to all your members of Congress, with your vote on the question ‘Should Vice President Cheney be impeached?’ At the same time it will send your personal comments only as a letter to the editor of your nearest local daily newspaper, if that option is selected below.”

While you’re at The People’s Email Network site, consider creating your own issue action petition. It costs nothing and enables you to start your own movement using their dedicated submission server.

4. Find out if there are WMD facilities in your area

Curious about where the nation’s nuclear weapons plants are located? Then check out the Federation of American Scientists’ at: “Where the Bombs Are”

Is a university or military facility in your area involved in biological weapons research? One resource to help you locate biodefense projects is Project Sunshine’s “Map of High Containment and Other Facilities of the US Biodefense Program,” under “Biodefense” on the Project Sunshine site.

If your group would like to conduct its own PR-generating “inspection” of a domestic WMD facility, check out the Citizen Weapons Inspection Teams site for materials, pointers and a 5-page Citizen Inspection Team Event Checklist, covering everything from budgeting resources to issuing a declaration.

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The Progressives’ Handbook: Get the Facts and Make a Difference Now

by Heather Wokusch

heather wokusch vol 1

Vol. 1: US Weapons of Mass Destruction, Women’s Issues, Education, Mainstream Media

Order the book

Vol. 2: Elections & Voting, Environment and Foreign Policy

Order the Book

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Breaking the Nuremberg Code: The US Military’s Human-Testing (videos)

A Third American War Crime in the Making By Paul Craig Roberts

Gravel on CNN: He’s Back! (video)

Dandelion Salad

gravel2008

Senator Mike Gravel discusses his switch to the Libertarian Party with CNN talking-head, Rick Sanchez.

from www.youtube.com posted with vodpod

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Mike Gravel’s response to Gotcha question + Full Interview on RNN TV (videos)

Mike Gravel: Libertarian (video)

Mike Gravel For President 2008

Bush message to Congress before leaving on European trip

Dandelion Salad

VOTERSTHINKdotORG

March 31, 2008 CNN

from www.youtube.com posted with vodpod

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Free Energy – Pentagon Conspiracy to Cover up (video; 2007)

Dandelion Salad

FreeGlobalEnergy

Stanley Meyer and many others. Always the same story. The Pentagon wants to see your idea and tell you how they would like to use your invention. You demonstrate your device proving to them that it works, then they block all of your efforts and end up killing you. The only way to get a free energy device out to the public is to forget about patents, distribute underground, sell it to EV enthusiasts with the plans and encourage them to travel around and do as you are, you then have created a non interlinked underground distribution system that will spread to the general populous and it will spread like wild fire, it will be un-stoppable.

Help Stop The Suppression Of Inventions
http://www.panacea-bocaf.org/newslett…

Added: August 06, 2007

from www.youtube.com posted with vodpod

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h/t: Global Research

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Free Energy Home Generator – Zero Point Energy – Off the Grid

Invent something good for the world…..and you will die! (Stan Meyers) (video and article)

Telecom Immunity: Playing the “9/11 Card” … Again

Dandelion Salad

by Tom Burghardt
Global Research, March 30, 2008
Antifascist Calling…

The Bush administration, never known for its veracity on any issue, once again is playing the “9/11 card” in an desperate attempt to continue violating the Fourth Amendment rights of the American people.

U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey, a darling of Senate Democrats prior to his confirmation as Bush’s top lawyer, said in speech on Thursday at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco, that the September 11, 2001 attacks could have been prevented “if the government had been able to monitor an overseas phone call to the United States,” according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

Mukasey went on to claim that “we knew that there had been a call from someplace that was known to be a safe house in Afghanistan and we knew that it came to the United States. We didn’t know precisely where it went. You’ve got 3,000 people who went to work that day, and didn’t come home, to show for that.”

Correctly calling Mukasey on his mendacious pronouncements, Chronicle reporter Bob Egelko writes,

Mukasey did not specify the call to which he referred. He also did not explain why the government, if it knew of telephone calls from suspected foreign terrorists, hadn’t sought a wiretapping warrant from a court established by Congress to authorize terrorist surveillance, or hadn’t monitored all such calls without a warrant for 72 hours as allowed by law. The Justice Department did not respond to a request for more information.

A congressional investigation found in 2003 that the National Security Agency had intercepted messages between one of the Sept. 11 hijackers and an al Qaeda safe house in the Middle East as early as 1999, but had not shared the information with other agencies. (Bob Egelko, “Mukasey Backs Bush Efforts on Wiretapping,” San Francisco Chronicle, Friday, March 28, 2008, Page B-1)

That we are supposedly to believe that the National Security Agency, the largest and most secretive outfit in the U.S. intelligence “toolbox,” was somehow “blinded” by “unreasonable” civil liberties concerns, and were “following the letter of the law” regarding warrantless wiretapping of foreign terrorist organizations, beggars belief.

In fact, prior to, and even after 9/11, the United States and their favorite clique of murderous intelligence assets, the Afghan-Arab database known as al-Qaeda, were preoccupied with a series of destabilization operations that stretched from Central Asia to the Balkans.

From Chechnya to Kosovo, al-Qaeda operatives and their BND-CIA-MI6 handlers were subverting Russian and Yugoslavian national sovereignty and fomenting rebellion alongside dodgy Saudi and Gulf “charities” that served as a cats-paw for Western imperialist interests.

As with all strategic intelligence operations undertaken by the United States and their “friends,” the Saudis were playing a double-game: seemingly advancing the regional interests of their U.S. partners in crime, al-Qaeda-linked Saudi “charities” were simultaneously wedded to a game plan they hoped would lead to the creation of a reactionary, far-right Islamist beachhead in the heart of Central Europe. That they did so with U.S.-NATO collusion is beyond question.

According to Balkan analyst, Christopher Deliso,

After 9/11, the Saudi charity organizations not only became more secretive: they became more hostile, at times showing classic signs of organized intelligence activity. …

However, despite these abundant reasons for concern, UNMIK signed a memorandum of understanding on February 5, 2002, with the Al Haramain Foundation, which was allegedly supporting refugees from Macedonia…

Less than a month after the agreement was signed, on March 11, 2002, the U.S. Treasury officially blocked the accounts of Al Haramain’s Somalia and Bosnia and Herzegovina branches. Yet the Kosovo branch was left untouched. Al Haramain, back in 1999, ran something called the Kosovo Relief Fund out of its Ashland, Oregon, headquarters, back in the days when NATO and the Islamists were fighting for the same goal–expulsion of the Serbs from Kosovo. At that time, the known terrorist and al-Qadi’s “business partner,” Abdul Latif Saleh, who was later mysteriously removed from Albania, questioned, and released by the CIA, was serving as charge de affaires at the Saudi embassy in Tirana. (The Coming Balkan Caliphate, Westport: Praeger Security International, 2007, p. 61)

That the United States and their NATO partners continued their brazen, if underhanded support of al-Qaeda after 9/11, had disastrous consequences that reverberated far-beyond Afghanistan and Iraq. On March 11, 2004 multiple train bombs ripped through Madrid’s public transportation system, killing 191 and wounding 1,755 mostly working-class Spaniards. The two chief organizers of the Madrid attacks, Saud al-Otaibi and Abdel Karim al Meyati, “had both fought for the Izetbegovic government in Bosnia during the 1990s,” according to Deliso.

Three years later, when suicide bombers struck the London public transportation system, killing 52 and wounding 700 individuals, an MI6/al-Qaeda operative, Haroon Rashid Aswat, was fingered as the mastermind of the attacks.

According to analyst Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed, during a 2001 interview with the London-based Arabic daily, al-Sharq al-Aswat, al-Qaeda/al-Muhajiroun leader Omar Bakri, described the relationship between British intelligence and the operations in Kosovo and al-Muhajiroun; Aswat had joined the operation in 1995:

Bakri boasted that al-Muhajiroun sent Muslim youths on jihad training courses in Virginia, Michigan and Missouri…where they learned various techniques for guerrilla warfare, for making explosives and using shoulder-mounted missiles. … The training was organised by a British security firm that is managed by a Muhajiroun member.

In other words, Bakri and his al-Muhajiroun organisation have not merely been tolerated by British authorities despite involvement in al-Qaeda recruitment, terrorist training, and incitement to violence, murder and terrorism; they were actively protected by British security services in the late 1990s, operating as recruiting agents for British covert operations in the Balkans, especially in Kosovo. (Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed, The London Bombings: An Independent Inquiry, London: Duckworth, 2006, p. 153)

Undeterred by seemingly insignificant things such as facts, The Wall Street Journal’s editorial page heartily endorsed the AG’s “reasoning” at the Commonwealth Club. Mukasey claimed that telecom liability from lawsuits for their “cooperation” with the Bush regime’s illegal surveillance of American citizens caught in NSA electronic driftnets was “vital,”

“Forget the liability” the phone companies face, Mr. Mukasey said. “We face the prospect of disclosure in open court of what they did, which is to say the means and the methods by which we collect foreign intelligence against foreign targets.” Al Qaeda would love that. The cynics will call this “fear-mongering,” but most Americans will want to make sure we don’t miss the next terror call. (“One Missed Call,” The Wall Street Journal, March 29, 2008, Page A8)

 

This finely crafted piece of dissimulation by Bush’s AG is a craven pack of lies worthy of Bill O’Reilly, Fox News or, indeed, the editorial page of The Wall Street Journal.

But what about those phone calls that NSA was presumably unable to monitor and that USAG Mukasey alleges “could have prevented” the September 11 attacks? Paul Thompson and the History Commons demolishes the claim and reports:

Early 2000-Summer 2001: NSA Intercepts Communications between Hijackers in US and Al-Qaeda Communications Hub

The NSA intercepts approximately 14 calls between the hijackers in the US and an al-Qaeda communications hub in Sana’a, Yemen, run by Ahmed al-Hada, who is hijacker Khalid Almihdhar’s father in law (see August 5-25, 1998).

The first calls are made by Almihdhar and are intercepted during the spring and summer of 2000 (see Spring-Summer 2000).

More calls are made by hijacker Nawaf Alhazmi after the bombing of the USS Cole in October 2000 (see Mid-October 2000-Summer 2001).

The final call from the US is intercepted just a few weeks before 9/11 (see (August 2001)). The NSA intercepted the hijackers’ calls outside the US before this (see Early 1999 and December 29, 1999) and continues to do so in 2000 (see Summer 2000) after Almihdhar returns to Yemen (see June 10, 2000 and (Mid-June-Mid-July 2000)). Some of the calls may only contain non-operational information, as they are between Almihdhar and his wife. [9/11 COMMISSION, 7/24/2004, PP. 17; SUSKIND, 2006, PP. 94; WRIGHT, 2006, PP. 343] However, the calls are also used to relay messages to the 9/11 hijackers. [EMBASSY OF YEMEN (WASHINGTON), 2/13/2002; MSNBC, 2/14/2002; MSNBC, 5/2005] The CIA is the lead agency monitoring the communications hub. It has planted bugs inside the house and is wiretapping all calls (see Late August 1998). Intercepts of calls to and from the hub are a major plank of the US intelligence community’s effort to fight al-Qaeda. Also involved is the FBI, which is using phone records to plot these calls on a map (see Late 1998-Early 2002). Some of the calls intercepted by US intelligence come from bin Laden’s satellite phone in Afghanistan (see August 5-25, 1998 and Late August 1998). After 9/11, counterterrorism officials will say that the number was one of the hottest targets being monitored by the NSA and was an “intelligence bonanza.” [LOS ANGELES TIMES, 12/21/2005; WRIGHT, 2006, PP. 343]

As I wrote earlier this month, the NSA–and other U.S. intelligence agencies–did “connect the dots” that may have prevented the 9/11 attacks. That they chose not to do so, reflected Bush administration desires to protect on-going U.S. intelligence operations elsewhere and “certain foreign interests” notably those of Saudi Arabia, the Gulf monarchies and Pakistan.

Mukasey’s posturing is a dodge on two fronts: it continues the 9/11 cover-up narrative first floated by U.S. National Security Advisor (now Secretary of State) Condoleezza Rice that “no one could have imagined” the 9/11 terrorist operation, that the hijackers “acted alone” without active support networks inside the U.S., and finally, Mukasey’s duplicities serve as a justification for on-going domestic intelligence operations that target the American people.

The retroactive immunity sought by the Bush administration for giant telecommunications corporations have little to do with “protecting the Homeland.” It is, however, a propitious mechanism for inoculating corporate executives and their shareholders for their criminal complicity with the Bush regime, as America is transformed into a “post-Constitutional” police state.

Tom Burghardt is a researcher and activist based in the San Francisco Bay Area. In addition to publishing in Covert Action Quarterly, Love & Rage and Antifa Forum, he is the editor of Police State America: U.S. Military “Civil Disturbance” Planning, distributed by AK Press.

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