Assault on Gaza: Day of grief and defiance

By Donald Macintyre in Jabalya, northern Gaza
Monday, 3 March 2008

Ehud Olmert, the Israeli Prime Minister, rejected international calls yesterday to end the “excessive” and “disproportionate” military operation in Gaza which has claimed the lives of 101 Palestinians – including many children and other civilians –since Wednesday.

The UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, called on Israel to halt the air and ground attacks which on Saturday alone claimed the lives of at least 54 Palestinians in the most lethal single day of violence since the beginning of the second intifada more than seven years ago. The Slovenian EU presidency – while condemning the rocket attacks from Gaza which Israel says it is trying to stop – condemned the “recent disproportionate use of force by the Israel Defence Forces against the Palestinian population of Gaza, noted the death of “innocent children” and said that such acts of “collective punishment” were against international law.

But as the Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas, announced that he was breaking off US-brokered negotiations with Israel as long as its “aggression” continued, Mr Olmert told the weekly meeting of the Israeli Cabinet: “Israel has no intention of stopping the fight against the terrorist organisations even for a minute.” He declared: “With all due respect … no one has the right to preach morality to Israel for employing its elementary right of self-defence.”

Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Prime Minister of Turkey, Israel’s most important ally in the Muslim world, also decried the “disproportionate force” used in attacks which were killing “children and civilians” and complained that Israel was rejecting a “diplomatic” solution to the conflict.

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Causes and Consequences of Our Foreign Policy in the Middle East

Causes and Consequences of Our Foreign Policy in the Middle East

What It Means for Americans

By Karen Kwiatkowski

The following is the text of a speech given at Virginia Tech on February 12, 2008.

02/28/08  — — -I want to thank the Libertarians at Virginia Tech, the Political Science Club and the Institute for Humane Studies for the kind invitation to speak to you tonight.

I want to talk about the “Causes and Consequences of our Foreign Policy in the Middle East and What it Means for Americans.” The original title of this speech was “Causes and Consequences of our Foreign Policy in the Middle East and What it Means for Libertarians.” But I interchanged Americans for Libertarians. To paraphrase John F. Kennedy in Berlin, 1963, in times like these, when the American dream seems overwhelmed by what has become known as the American empire, perhaps we are all libertarians.

Let me start first with the consequences of our foreign policy in the Middle East, circa 2008.

  • We are nearly five years past the moment where George W. Bush declared “Mission Accomplished.”
  • 400,000 to 1.2 million Iraqis are dead by our decisions and actions. Over two million are internally displaced, and over two million Iraqis have fled the country.
  • 5,000 Americans are dead (soldiers and contractors) as a result, 30–50,000 physically injured, and over 100,000 mentally disturbed, receiving or awaiting treatment.
  • Army and Marines are morally and physically bankrupt – and burdened by executive pressure for more forces in Afghanistan, Pakistan and trouble in Iran.
  • A trillion dollars has been spent, another trillion to be spent before we are finished – and if McCain has his way, we will never be finished, and we will bleed ourselves for the duration of the 21st century.
  • Beyond Iraq, we have Secretary of Defense Bob Gates alternately screaming in an empty room and crying in despair because NATO won’t pick up the slack of propping up our preferred government in Kabul.
  • The one republic with nuclear weapons and a means to deploy them is led by an unstable dictator, threatened by his own subordinates, at odds with his very powerful and well-funded intelligence arm, and disliked by the majority of his citizens. And in case you were wondering, I am talking about Perez Musharraf.
  • Jordan, once reliable and trustworthy, is feeling the heat of over two million unemployed and impoverished Iraqis swelling their refugee camps.
  • Syria – who helped us with torture and renditions after 9-11 – has been both accused and attacked by her neighbor, our other nuclear-armed friend in the region.
  • Lebanon suffered a silly war in the summer of 2006 – a war that was considered an embarrassing defeat for Israel, and a war that Washington, D.C. collaborated on and quietly cheered.
  • Our steadfast friends, the House of Saud, don’t understand us anymore.
  • We publicly threaten Iran for all kinds of reasons, even though Tehran is signatory to and compliant with the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, and even as we happily work with all kinds of Iranian-backed interests in southern Iraq.
  • Four key undersea communication cables get cut in a week, isolating and seriously degrading much of the banking and communication traffic for our friends in the region, including in Dubai, which just bailed out some of our banks and credit card companies. Instead of decrying bad cable construction, and offering to send our own teams to help repair these cables in the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf, our government has said nothing. The entire region thinks we did it, either to send a message, test a military strategy, or to funnel information into a channel our vast intelligence bureaucracy can monitor.
  • The price of oil, adjusted for inflation, is not yet at the level of the 1979 oil crisis. But it is within 10% of that. Given the drastic increase in global demand for oil today, relative to that in 1979, our foreign policy in the Middle East might be said to be harmful, but not disastrous. But you must consider two things – the amount of oil the United States imports from the Middle East is around 10–15% of all the oil we import – but interfering with the free market in this region costs the American taxpayer billions and billions every year in maintaining a large overseas military presence, military and economic aid to major and minor allies in the region, the costs of periodic off-the-book interventions, like Iraq, and the costs involved with protecting your countrymen from people who hate you enough to want to kill you and topple your tall buildings.

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Israeli missiles silence baby’s laughter in Gaza

Sami Abu Salem writing from the occupied Gaza Strip, Live from Palestine, 28 February 2008

Nasser al-Bor’i holds the body of his six-month-old son, Mohammed, outside the morgue at the Shifa Hospital in Gaza City. (Wissam Nassar/MaanImages)

The innocent laughter of six-month-old baby Mohammed al-Bor’i stopped forever on Wednesday night when shrapnel from an Israeli missile and rubble struck the infant in the head, minutes after he enjoyed his last meal.

“The baby sucked milk, he was playing with his mother; I was reading a book when a rocket hit the Ministry of Interior,” said Nasser al-Bor’i, the baby’s father.

With the first missile, the electricity was cut and darkness filled the ill-fated house. Stones and pieces of the asbestos ceiling fell onto the head of the laughing child. The explosions continued as two other missiles hit the building.

“I looked for my baby in the darkness between the rubble; I did not know where he was. When he cried once I followed the direction of his voice,” Nasser al-Bor’i said. “My hands touched my baby who was breathing hard; I felt warm liquid on my two hands and realized that he was wounded.”

Al-Bor’i carried his son to the nearby Shifa Hospital as the blood streamed from his tiny head. In the hospital, al-Bor’i became hysterical when he realized that his only child had been killed.

Tears poured from al-Bor’i’s eyes when he saw Mohammed’s shoes. “After five years of treatment for sterility, [my wife and] I had a baby. I can’t imagine that I lost him in a second.”

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Turkey Says It Has Sent Ground Troops Into Iraq

The US is not protecting their most reliable ally in Iraq. More quagmire and mayhem to come.

SAMSUN, Turkey – Turkey’s military said it had sent ground troops into northern Iraq Thursday night in an operation aimed at weakening Kurdish militants there, the first confirmed ground incursion since the United States invaded Iraq in 2003.

The Turkish General Staff announced the action on its website on Friday. It gave no details of how many troops went or how long they would stay, and said only that they would return once goals had been achieved. Private NTV television reported 10,000 troops were involved and said they had pushed about six miles into Iraqi territory.

A Turkish analyst, commenting on NTV, said the attack appeared aimed at dealing the Kurdish militants, the Kurdistan Worker’s Party, a surprise blow before the snow melts and the guerillas make their traditional spring advance into Turkey to attack Turkish troops. The analyst said the operation would likely last between three and four days.

It was not clear what, if any, role the United States played in the incursion, which set one of its closest allies in a troubled region, Turkey, a NATO member that shares borders with Iran, Iraq and Syria, against another, Iraqi Kurds, the most important American partners in the Iraq war.

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Taliban defeat will take years: US general

And here was me thinking we beat the buggers in the first month of occupation.

MAIDAN SHAHR, Afghanistan (AFP) – It will take “a few years” to defeat the Taliban-led insurgency in Afghanistan, the top US general in the country said Tuesday, reiterating US support for the fight.

Major General David Rodriguez, head of the US-led coalition force, said the US military would stay in the country “as long as they are needed.”

“We definitely think it will take a few years for the Afghan people and the Afghan leaders supported by the coalition forces to defeat them,” he said in a response to a question from a journalist.

An insurgency led by the Taliban, who were in government between 1996 and 2001, has been growing in the past two years with a spike in suicide attacks and roadside bombings.

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Ambulances in Gaza unable to run due to fuel shortage

Gaza – Ma’an – Ambulances in the Gaza Strip ran out of fuel on Monday due to the reduction of fuel shipment from Israel to Gaza. The ambulance and emergency service in the Palestinian Health Ministry organized a ‘sit-in’ for the ambulance drivers in protest against the Israeli decision to further reduce fuel deliveries.

Muawiya Hassanain, director of ambulance and emergency service, appealed to the international Quartet and the World Health organization (WHO), as well as the United States, the UN, UNICEF and the Red Cross – asking them to end the siege of the Gaza Strip and to secure resumption of fuel delivery.

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Rule by fear or rule by law?

“The power of the Executive to cast a man into prison without formulating any charge known to the law, and particularly to deny him the judgment of his peers, is in the highest degree odious and is the foundation of all totalitarian government whether Nazi or Communist.”

- Winston Churchill, Nov. 21, 1943

Since 9/11, and seemingly without the notice of most Americans, the federal government has assumed the authority to institute martial law, arrest a wide swath of dissidents (citizen and noncitizen alike), and detain people without legal or constitutional recourse in the event of “an emergency influx of immigrants in the U.S., or to support the rapid development of new programs.”

Beginning in 1999, the government has entered into a series of single-bid contracts with Halliburton subsidiary Kellogg, Brown and Root (KBR) to build detention camps at undisclosed locations within the United States. The government has also contracted with several companies to build thousands of railcars, some reportedly equipped with shackles, ostensibly to transport detainees.

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