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Western Asia ("Middle East")
by Dave Lindorff
In reversing himself and declaring that the US government will not release further photos in its possession of torture being practiced on captives held by the US military and the CIA, President Obama is sounding increasingly like the Bush/Cheney administration before him.
It may well be that, as Obama says, release of those photos could lead to anger in the Islamic world and perhaps to recruitment gains among groups like Al Qaeda that are attacking American troops in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere, but this is only true because at the same time, the Obama administration is opposing taking any legal action against the people who authorized and promoted that torture.
Sometimes an opportunity for reform comes along that is "strategic" in that it changes the playing field for efforts to win other reforms in the future. The passage of the National Labor Relations Act - establishing the right of American workers to organize unions and bargain collectively - was a strategic reform. It increased the power of people previously excluded from power, and thereby reduced the power of corporate interests. But the right of workers in America to organize has been steadily eroded by unpunished abuses by anti-union employers. Passage of the Employee Free Choice Act is easy to justify on the basis of guaranteeing the basic human rights of working Americans. When the Employee Free Choice Act is signed into law, millions of private sector workers will have greater protection from having their rights violated. What difference would that make? Ask Steve Arney.
Peace Action Executive Director Kevin Martin writes:
If the U.S. wants to have a productive relationship for peace in the Middle East our President and the Congress must act comprehensively to engage countries like Iran in diplomacy. President Obama has made productive political overtures toward Iran. His historic Norooz message laid the ground work for real diplomacy to move our two countries forward in peace.
By Dave Lindorff
When I was a 17-year-old kid in my senior year of high school, I didn’t think much about Vietnam. It was 1967, the war was raging, but I didn’t personally know anyone who was over there, Tet hadn’t happened yet. If anything, the excitement of jungle warfare attracted my interest more than anything (I had a .22 cal rifle, and liked to go off in the woods and shoot at things, often, I’ll admit, imagining it was an armed enemy.)
But then I had to do a major project in my humanities program and I chose the Vietnam War. As I started researching this paper, which was supposed to be a multi-media presentation, I ran across a series of photos of civilian victims of American napalm bombing. These victims, often, were women and children—even babies.
By Dave Lindorff
We are witnessing one of the fastest betrayals of the Democratic Party base in modern memory, as President Barack Obama and the Democratic Party leadership in the Senate slither away from a crucial constituency, the labor movement, and from support of labor’s key legislative agenda item: passage of a bill, “The Employee Free Choice Act,” which would restore a measure of fairness to labor relations.
It's 1 PM in Washington. Do you know where your foreign policy is?
President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton are getting big praise around the world for their new Charm Offensive. As far as I'm concerned, the praise is justified. I heard our Secretary of State interviewed on the BBC a few weeks ago about our diplomatic outreach to Iran on Afghanistan. And the BBC was all, what makes you think Iran is going to help you on Afghanistan? And Hillary was all, you know, actually Iran helped us tremendously in Afghanistan after 2001. Our Ambassador in Afghanistan and the Iranian Ambassador were meeting practically every day. I just about fell off my chair. You'd have thought Hillary was applying for a job at the National Iranian American Council.
By Dave Lindorff
The actions of Obama's Chief Financial Adviser Larry Summers and his Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner in permitting the payment of $165 million in bonuses to AIG executives (Summers, according to the Wall Street Journal, actually pressed Sen. Chris Dodd, D-CT, to secretly remove a bar to the payment of such bonuses from the bailout bill) and storm of public outrage that has followed public disclosure of those payments, provides President Obama, whose administration is stumbling badly on many fronts, to turn things around and avoid political disaster.
He should promptly demand Geithner's and Summers' resignations, and should also fire the CEO of AIG, Edward Liddy (as 80% owner of AIG, the US has the power to do that anytime). It would also be a good idea at the same time to fire the CEOs of all the leading banks that are at this point surviving on government bailouts.
A British convoy carrying medical relief for the impoverished residents of the Gaza Strip has crossed into the territory from Egypt.
Gazans cheered and waved Palestinian flags as the convoy finally entered the territory through the Rafah border crossing on Monday, after being stranded on the Egyptian side of the border for two days.
"The group was stopped at the border for various reasons, there were various negotiations going on over what would be let through the border; how many people, how much humanitarian aid," Al Jazeera's Todd Baer, reporting from the Rafah crossing, said.
"After an 8,000km journey, nearly one month on the road and a day and a half on the Egyptitan side of the Rafah border, the Lifeline for Gaza convoy finally made it into the Gaza Strip. It was a remarkable scene."
Retired Amb. Chas Freeman, who said today that he no longer accepts an offer to chair the National Intelligence Council, has just sent this message:
You will by now have seen the statement by Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair reporting that I have withdrawn my previous acceptance of his invitation to chair the National Intelligence Council.
By Gareth Porter, IPS
WASHINGTON, Mar 5 (IPS) - The arguments for maintaining a major U.S. combat force in Iraq at least through 2011, escalating U.S. military involvement in Afghanistan and assuming a confrontational stance toward Iran appear to assume that the United States remains the dominant military power in the region.
But the pattern of recent history and current developments in the region has not supported that assumption. Not only has the United States been unable to prevail over stubborn nationalist and sectarian forces determined to resist U.S. influence, but it has not been able to use its military supremacy to wage successful coercive diplomacy against Iran.
Furthermore, even the ability of the United States to maintain troops in Iraq and Afghanistan turns out to be dependent on regimes which are by no means aligned with the United States.
By Dave Lindorff
Barack Obama’s first address to Congress provided Americans with yet another example of competent speechmaking, and I suppose, given that we’ve just endured eight painful years of oratorical farce, being able to listen to your president without wincing is something.
The problem is that the way forward proposed by the president as laid out in this address was almost always half-hearted, wrong-headed or doomed.
Obama declared at the outset of his address that the economic crisis was the major issue confronting the country, and while one could argue that this crisis is merely a symptom of much bigger issues, like the nearly completed deindustrialization of the nation, the death grip of militarism, and the growing political power of corporations, one could also concede that there is an urgent need to deal with the deepening recession.
by Linda Milazzo
CODEPINK Women For Peace will be traveling to Gaza on March 6th. The purpose of their mission is to provide "humanitarian and emotional support to women and women's organizations and exert pressure on US, Egyptian and Israeli governments to lift the blockade and promote peace and human rights in the region."
In advance of their trip, CODEPINK has created a petition that asks signers to write President Obama's special envoy to the Middle East, George Mitchell, to request that he meet with the women of Gaza. As an American Jew who opposes Israel's inhumane treatment of Palestinians, I answered CODEPINK's call, signed the petition, and wrote a letter to Mr. Mitchell. The letter that follows is my personal statement to Mr. Mitchell and not the statement of CODEPINK.
By Dave Lindorff
If the disaster of the so-called "stimulus" bill just passed by the Senate doesn't convince President Obama and his advisers that the strategy of "bipartisanship" that he has been espousing is a political suicide, nothing will.
The Republican Party, with the willing help of conservative Democrats like Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE) and Democratic turncoats like Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT), has forced Obama to agree to a joke of a stimulus package that is nearly half composed of tax breaks which will do nothing to bolster the economy (since most of the money will end up either paying down credit card debt or buying Chinese and Sri Lankan imports) and that is stripped of $40 billion to help struggling state and local governments.
Fresh from its rout in November, the GOP is, in fact, openly trying to sabotage Obama's economic stimulus plan, because the last thing Republicans want to see is an economy on the upturn in 2010 or 2012.
By Dave Lindorff
Just two weeks after his historic inauguration ceremony, Obama’s presidency is lurching towards failure, and not because three of his administration picks have been found to be tax cheats, but because nearly all of his administration picks are corporate whores and shills.
The problem with the new Obama administration is that it is turning out to be not about change at all, as he claimed during the campaign, but rather about more of the same—and these are not times that call for more of the same. Nor is more of the same the reason Obama won the election.
The economic team President Obama has put in place is composed of the same Wall Street hacks and conservative economic theologians who helped produce the current crisis, many of them as part of the Clinton administration, and some, like Timothy Geithner, actually as appointees of the thoroughly discredited Bush administration.
By Dave Lindorff
If an article by Gareth Porter in run by InterPress is correct that CentCom Commander Gen. David Petraeus and Iraq Commander Gen. Ray Odierno, backed by a group of lower-ranking generals, are planning to mount a public campaign to try and undermine President Obama’s plan for a withdrawal from Iraq in 16 months, Obama needs to act fast and nip this dangerous act of insubordination in the bud.
NBC's Andrea Mitchell is reporting that Dennis Ross "will be coming back to the State Department as a "strategic advisor" on the near east and gulf region":
He will not be described as an envoy negotiating agreements and will not be involved in Middle East talks. That job will be up to former Sen. George Mitchell, who returns tonight from his first "listening tour" of the region.
But before the papers are signed for Ross' new employment with the US government, he should be asked a few questions about his relationship with the "Jewish People Policy Planning Institute," that group's relationship to the Government of Israel, and whether he has had any relationships which he should have disclosed under the Foreign Agents Registration Act.
President Obama gives interview to Al-Arabiya
By Dave Lindorff
American foreign policy is moving from the absurd to the ludicrous.
Back in 2002, President George Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney managed to snooker the people of the United States, or at least a large number of us, into believing that Iraq, a pathetic Third World country ruled by a corrupt tin-pot dictator, was a grave danger to America, akin to Hitler and Nazi Germany in 1940. We learned how absurd that claim was when two hundred thousand American troops backed by the mightiest air force the world has ever seen, slammed into the country in March, 2003, and the Iraqi military simply folded up, and the Saddam regime along with it.
If you want to be discouraged about the prospects for Israel/Palestine peace during the Obama Administration, you don't have any shortage of evidence you can cite; you never do. But if you want to look for openings, the situation already looks much better than it did just over a week ago. Is there a "window" for peace? If so, are Americans ready to push the Obama Administration for the changes needed in U.S. policy to bring peace about?
Israel had to end its bombardment of Gaza by the January 20 "hope and change deadline," as Jon Stewart had predicted.
President Obama appointed former Senator Mitchell as his envoy for Israel/Palestine diplomacy. It is widely perceived that Mitchell will be fair - you might think that this would be an obvious requirement, but in the recent history of U.S. policy, it would be an innovation.
By Dave Lindorff
If you want to really know what's going on in Gaza, you cannot rely on the US Media, which, along with the rest of the world's media, have been barred from the battle zone by the Israeli government.
The only international reporters in Gaza now who can show what is actually happening there are the ones from Al Jazeera.
Under pressure from the Bush administration, the major cable providers in the US have not offered Al Jazeera in the US. The number of communities that have it in their available cable offerings can be counted on one or at most two hands.
But you can watch Al Jazeera's English channel's live feed free by downloading Livestation, a program that also offers the BBC, Deutschewelle (Germany) and French TV.
A striking similarity between Israel’s strategy in Palestine and Nazi long-term policy of extermination and annexation in Poland during the Second World War is clearly demonstrated by the Nuremberg Tribunal Charges and the Nuremberg Tribunal Judgement against Hans Frank, the Nazi Governor-General of the non-annexed occupied Poland in 1939 - 1945. It is absolutely shocking to read the documents and to see how many objectives and tactics in these two occupation theatres can be seen as parallel.
By Kathy Kelly
The U.S. is seeking to hire a merchant ship to deliver hundreds of tons of arms to Israel from Greece later this month, tender documents seen by Reuters show.
The U.S. Navy's Military Sealift Command (MSC) said the ship was to carry 325 standard 20-foot containers of what is listed as "ammunition" on two separate journeys from the Greek port of Astakos to the Israeli port of Ashdod in mid-to-late January.
A "hazardous material" designation on the manifest mentions explosive substances and detonators, but no other details were given.
"Shipping 3,000-odd tons of ammunition in one go is a lot," one broker said, on condition of anonymity.
Obama picks Ross as Mideast envoy
By Daniel Dombey in Washington
Dennis Ross, a former top diplomat for the George H W Bush and Clinton administrations, will become the Obama administration’s top envoy on the Middle East, an internal email from Mr Ross’s current employer has revealed.
Mr Ross, who previously served as the US envoy for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, is set to take a wider role as Hillary Clinton’s top adviser for the Middle East as a whole. Ms Clinton herself is due to appear before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for her confirmation hearing for Secretary of State next Tuesday.READ REST.
by Linda Milazzo
I don't believe in god. I never have. I don't believe in religions. I study them, but I don't practice them. I try to understand them to be sensitive to the beliefs and traditions of others, and to attempt to appreciate the motivations behind religious thought and deed. But they are irrelevant to living my life.
Long ago as a freshman at CUNY's Queens College I was introduced to Taoism. Taoism began in ancient China as a religion, then morphed into a dogma free/deity free philosophy. Since my late teens I've tried hard to apply MY understanding of my Tao to my life. I have the freedom to choose my own path and not judge the paths of others. But since I have freedom of opinion, I fall prey to judge. I try not to. But I do.
Through the Tao, I'm both a peacemaker and a warrior since Taoism couples with the art of self-defense. I understand my right to protect myself when needed, and to protect the defenseless when they need me. Since I'm by nature protective, it suits my sensibilities to aid the weak, where I fancy myself absurdly as inordinately strong.
It may well be that in denouncing "Israel's" attack on Gaza one, in an important way, unwittingly does a disservice to the cause of holding the Bush Administration accountable for its crimes.
Is there any doubt that the Bush Administration approved this assault? Is there any doubt that it could not have taken place without the Bush Administration's approval?
Is there any doubt that it could not continue without the support of the Bush Administration and the protective umbrella of its veto at the UN Security Council? Is there any doubt that it will stop the very day that the Bush Administration says that it must?
If so, is it in the interest of humanity that we Americans engage in the charade that the Israeli government is an autonomous actor in this matter?
All these observations are true in general, but we have plenty of specific evidence in this case.
By Dave Lindorff
The deafening silence from American government officials and from the US media regarding the criminal Israeli assault against civilians in Israel’s ghetto of Gaza, where nearly 1.5 million Palestinians are trapped every bit as brutally as were the Jews of the Warsaw Ghetto, is beyond unconscionable.
` As Israeli shells and bombs and rockets rain down on university buildings, clearly marked ambulances, and homes, it has to be pointed out that much of the ammunition being used, as well as the planes that are delivering this death and mayhem, are provided by the United States and by American taxpayers—with no strings attached.