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Western Asia ("Middle East")
If the U.S. defense spending bubble were ever to deflate, domestic job losses would be catastrophic, a stunning fact that raises the question of whether we can ever afford peace.
No one in the Obama administration is going to acknowledge that our foreign policy in the Middle East has alienated many Arabs.
The U.S. pro-Israel policy and our shocking neglect of the beleaguered Palestinians underlie almost every initiative or tactical tilt that comes out of Washington.
President Obama and his predecessors in the White House have scored domestic political points by embracing this world view. This is one vantage point that is truly bipartisan, to the point where no one discusses it.
Michael Scheuer, a former CIA specialist on the al-Qaida terrorists, complained on C-SPAN recently that any debate about American support for Israel is "normally squelched."
"For anyone to say our support for Israel doesn't hurt us is to just defy reality," he added.
Another former CIA analyst, Ray McGovern, says the 9/11 Commission report noted that Khalid Sheikh -- the mastermind of the 9/11 terrorist attacks -- cited his violent disagreement with U.S. support for Israel as the motivating dynamic behind the attacks. Read more.
You'll remember that shortly after the Sept. 11 attacks, President George W. Bush said the motivation of the hijackers was that they hated freedom. Hating freedom seemed then and now to be a pretty weak reason to give up one's own life to inflict death and destruction on others. People who had been paying attention knew what the real reasons for the Islamist radicals' actions were -- Osama bin Laden himself had laid them out in detail. They included America's support of Israel in its subordination of the Palestinians and its attacks on Lebanon; the propping up of pro-American kleptocracies in Muslim lands; and the presence of U.S. forces on the "sacred soil" of Saudi Arabia after the first Gulf War.
In an audiotape released on Sept. 13, a voice attributed to bin Laden said President Obama is no different than his predecessor and warned that anti-American attacks will not cease unless the United States ends its wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. According to The New York Times of Sept. 15, the message, which appeared on an Arabic-language Web site, was reported and translated by two groups in the U.S. that monitor jihadist Web sites. The message offered reasons for al-Qaeda's attacks on New York and the Pentagon, and offered advice on how the conflict between it and the United States could come to a close: "The time has come for you," said the purported voice of Mr. bin Laden, "to liberate yourself from fear and the ideological terrorism of neoconservatives and the Israeli lobby; the reason for our dispute with you is your support for your ally, Israel, occupying our land in Palestine." Read more.
In 2001, George W. Bush declared the U.S. "at war" against al-Qaeda. Barack Obama also claims that we are "at war" and that al-Qaeda is our main enemy. In their latest collaboration, Nick Turse and Tom Engelhardt take this claim seriously by offering a comparison of the two militaries, the two enemies locked in mortal combat. The forces on both sides are assessed: al-Qaeda's shock troops in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Yemen, Somalia, and North Africa, based on the best intelligence estimates available, add up to about 2,100 fighters; the U.S. has approximately 1.4 million active duty men and women under arms. In other words, a ratio of forces that comes out to 666:1, which is either "the mark of the beast" or the mark of the single most futile military campaign in memory.
And that's only the beginning of the military comparisons in this piece, all of which point to a single conclusion: In the present War on Terror, called by whatever name (or, as at present, by no name at all), the two “sides” might as well be in different worlds. To call this "war" is like shooting a machine gun at a swarm of gnats. Some will be killed, but the process is visibly self-defeating.
Turse and Engelhardt conclude with a question: "Isn’t it time, then, to stop imagining al-Qaeda as a complex organization of terrorist supermen capable of committing super-deeds, or as an organization that bears any resemblance to a traditional enemy military force? With al-Qaeda, the path of war has undoubtedly been the road to perdition -- as we should have discovered by now, more than one trillion dollars later... It’s time to put al-Qaeda back in perspective -- a human perspective, which would include its stunning successes, its dismal failures, and its monumental goof-ups, as well as its unrealizable dreams. (No, Virginia, there will never be an al-Qaeda caliphate in or across the Greater Middle East.) The fact is: al-Qaeda is not an apocalyptic threat. Its partisans can cause damage, but only Americans can bring down this country."
666 to 1: The U.S. Military, al-Qaeda, and a War of Futility
By Nick Turse and Tom Engelhardt
In his book on World War II in the Pacific, War Without Mercy, John Dower tells an extraordinary tale about the changing American image of the Japanese fighting man. In the period before the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, it was well accepted in military and political circles that the Japanese were inferior fighters on the land, in the air, and at sea -- “little men,” in the phrase of the moment. It was a commonplace of “expert” opinion, for instance, that the Japanese had supposedly congenital nearsightedness and certain inner-ear defects, while lacking individualism, making it hard to show initiative. In battle, the result was poor pilots in Japanese-made (and so inferior) planes, who could not fly effectively at night or launch successful attacks.
In the wake of their precision assault on Pearl Harbor, their wiping out of U.S. air power in the Philippines in the first moments of the war, and a sweeping set of other victories, the Japanese suddenly went from “little men” to supermen in the American imagination (without ever passing through a human phase). They became “invincible” -- natural-born jungle- and night-fighters, as well as “utterly ruthless, utterly cruel and utterly blind to any of the values which make up our civilization.”
Sound familiar? It should. Following September 11, 2001, news headlines screamed “A NEW DAY OF INFAMY,” and the attacks were instantly labeled “the Pearl Harbor of the twenty-first century.” Soon enough, al-Qaeda, like the Japanese in 1941, went from a distant threat -- the Bush administration, on coming into office, paid next to no attention to al-Qaeda’s possible plans -- to a team of arch-villains with little short of superpowers. After all, they had already destroyed some of the mightiest buildings on the planet, were known to be on the verge of seizing weapons of mass destruction, and, if nothing was done, might soon enough turn the Muslim world into their “caliphate.” Read more.
In this video, Dr. Ebadi speaks about the effects of deep faith on human rights, and her dreams for peace.
European protesters took over our streets last week. In a show of solidarity with Gaza's inhabitants and to protest against all sorts of injustices and blockades, European demonstrators marched through our streets, picketed our public squares and told us what they thought of the wall we're building on Gaza's borders.
Several hundred protesters came from 42 European countries to take part in pro-Gaza protests. So what did we do? We sent our security forces to contain them. We also prevented them from going to Gaza. Interestingly, the protesters refused to be intimidated. Instead, they picketed the French Embassy, they marched around the Giza Zoo, and they even stood guard at the famous steps of the Press Syndicate.
Curiously enough, the police did not prevent them from demonstrating in front of the Israeli Embassy. But clashes took place, and in some instances the Europeans had a taste of what Egyptians regularly experience at the hands of the police and their karate-trained auxiliaries.
During the past few days, Egyptians had proof that our police can act humanely, but only with foreigners. In front of the French Embassy, I saw a foreign man standing alone, surrounded by three circles of policemen. He was carrying a picket sign, but the police refrained from harming him in any way.
The Europeans came all the way to express their views, peacefully and orderly. In doing so, they gave us a rare glimpse into the working of peaceful resistance. And they stood for what they believe in. They vented their anger at a policy of blockade into which some Arab countries have become actively involved, either out of fear or desire to placate the Israelis. Read more.
US forges alliance with Saddam Hussein officers to fight al-Qaeda
American counter-terrorism specialists and Saddam Hussein's former intelligence officers have forged an unlikely alliance in Yemen to tackle al-Qaeda.
By Adrian Blomfield | Telegraph.co.UK
The two sides were enemies on the battlefield just seven years ago but have been brought together by the failings of Yemen's security and intelligence apparatus, according to diplomatic and military sources in the country.
Although mutual suspicions linger, the collaboration is said to have achieved some intelligence breakthroughs and helped instil greater efficiency and professionalism within the most elite Yemeni counterterrorism outfit.
Co-operation with the former Baathist officers, who fled Iraq in the wake of the US-led invasion and the fall of Saddam, is expected to grow further in the wake of the failed terror attack in the skies above Detroit.
Both Britain and the United States have pledged to bolster Yemeni efforts to take on al-Qaeda's local affiliate, al-Qaeda in the Arab Peninsula (AQAP), since it claimed responsibility for a thwarted attempt to bring down an American airliner on Christmas Day.
The US-Iraqi alliance was born out of frustration over the incompetence and suspected al-Qaeda sympathies of many within Yemen's domestic intelligence body, the Political Security Organisation, or PSO.
"We do not know where the allegiance of many in the intelligence apparatus lies," said a western diplomat. Read more.
An engrossing struggle is breaking out. The US is unhappy with China's efforts to reach the warm waters of the Persian Gulf through the Central Asian region and Pakistan. Slowly but steadily, Washington is tightening the noose around the neck of the Pakistani elites - civilian and military - and forcing them to make a strategic choice between the US and China. This will put those elites in an unenviable dilemma. Like their Indian counterparts, they are inherently "pro-Western" (even when they are "anti-American") and if the Chinese connection is important for Islamabad, that is primarily because it balances perceived Indian hegemony.
The existential questions with which the Pakistani elites are grappling are apparent. They are seeking answers from Obama. Can Obama maintain a balanced relationship vis-a-vis Pakistan and India? Or, will Obama lapse back to the George W Bush era strategy of building up India as the pre-eminent power in the Indian Ocean under whose shadow Pakistan will have to learn to live?
A year ago, Yemeni President Ali Abdallah Saleh made the startling revelation that his country's security forces apprehended a group of Islamists linked to the Israeli intelligence forces. "A terrorist cell was apprehended and will be referred to the courts for its links with the Israeli intelligence services," he promised.
Saleh added, "You will hear about the trial proceedings." Nothing was ever heard and the trail went cold. Welcome to the magical land of Yemen, where in the womb of time the Arabian Nights were played out.
Combine Yemen with the mystique of Islam, Osama bin Laden, al-Qaeda and the Israeli intelligence and you get a heady mix. Read more.
by Linda Milazzo
At the behest of his congressional ally, Jane Harman (CA-36), Democratic Congressman Henry Waxman (CA-30) has launched a mean-spirited ideological assault on Harman's Democratic primary challenger, Marcy Winograd, that is garnering disfavor for Waxman and Harman amongst Democratic voters.
In a move characterized by one Harman constituent as desperate, Waxman sent the following letter to Harman's Jewish supporters, attacking and misquoting Winograd's position on the issue of Israel/Palestine. Here is the text of Waxman's letter, distributed on his letterhead:
Answering Helen Thomas on Why They Want to Harm Us
By Ray McGovern
Thank God for Helen Thomas, the only person to show any courage at the White House press briefing after President Barack Obama gave a flaccid account of the intelligence screw-up that almost downed an airliner on Christmas Day.
After Obama briefly addressed L’Affaire Abdulmutallab and wrote “must do better” on the report cards of the national security schoolboys responsible for the near catastrophe, the President turned the stage over to counter-terrorism guru John Brennan and Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano.
It took 89-year old veteran correspondent Helen Thomas to break through the vapid remarks about channeling “intelligence streams,” fixing “no-fly” lists, deploying “behavior detection officers,” and buying more body-imaging scanners.
Obama: 'No Intention' to Send Troops to Yemen | Associated Press
Obama Tells People Magazine He Has 'No Intention' to Send Troops to Yemen or Somalia
President Barack Obama says he has no intention of sending American troops to Yemen or Somalia.
Obama told People magazine in an interview to be published Friday that he still believes the center of al-Qaida activity is along the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan.
"I never rule out any possibility in a world that is this complex," Obama said. However, he said, "in countries like Yemen, in countries like Somalia, I think working with international partners is most effective at this point." Read more.
British MP George Galloway has been deported from Egypt, say activists working with him to take an aid convoy into Gaza.
The Bow and Bethnal Green MP had been with international activists trying to take 200 aid trucks into the blockaded Gaza Strip.
Egypt had refused some of the vehicles access and there have been protests and clashes on the Egypt-Gaza border.
The state news agency says Mr Galloway has left Egypt and returned home.
There have also been reports the Respect MP has been declared "persona non grata" and will not be allowed to enter Egypt again, following his criticism of Cairo over delays to the aid convoy.
The activists have accused the Egyptians of heavy-handed policing. Egyptian officials counter that Mr Galloway has tried to embarrass the government.
In a speech last year Mr Galloway described Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak as a "criminal" and "outlaw of the Arab world" and called for his overthrow. Read more.
Yemen says there are limits to its military cooperation with United States
By Sudarsan Raghavan | Washington Post
In its strongest language yet, Yemen's government declared Thursday that there are limits to its military cooperation with the United States, warning that any direct U.S. action in this impoverished Middle Eastern nation could bolster the popularity of Islamist militants.
"If there is direct intervention by the United States, it will strengthen al-Qaeda," warned Rashad al-Alimi, Yemen's deputy prime minister for security and defense. "We cannot accept any foreign troops on Yemeni territory."
The statement underscored the rising concern among Yemen's leadership about a domestic backlash that could politically weaken the government and foment more instability. In recent days, top Yemeni officials have publicly played down their growing ties to Washington, fearing that they will be perceived by their opponents as weak and beholden to the United States. Read more.
You may recall that on this site, I posted a piece nine months ago castigating New York Times reporter Elizabeth "you can't say the President is lying" Bumiller for writing an absurd story claiming that 1 in 7 Guantanamo detainees had "returned" to terrorism. Put to one side that none of the released detainees had been convicted of terrorism prior to their release--Bumiller was basing her story entirely on a "secret" Pentagon report which the Times had a copy of but refused to release. I posted this blog piece, prompting Bumiller to call me (!) and suggest that I take my complaints and put them in a letter to Clark Hoyt, the Public Editor of the Times. I did. Two weeks later, the Times retracted the story.
In parallel with the escalation of the war in South Asia - counterinsurgency operations in Afghanistan and drone missile attacks in Pakistan - the United States and its NATO allies have laid the groundwork for increased naval, air and ground operations in the Horn of Africa and the Gulf of Aden.
During the past month the U.S. has carried out deadly military strikes in Yemen: Bombing raids in the north and cruise missile attacks in the south of the nation. Washington has been accused of killing scores of civilians in the attacks in both parts of the country, executed before the December 25 Northwest Airlines incident that has been used to justify the earlier U.S. actions ex post facto. And, ominously, that has been exploited to pound a steady drumbeat of demands for expanded and even more direct military intervention.
The Pentagon's publicly disclosed military and security program for Yemen grew from $4.6 million in 2006 to $67 million last year. "That figure does not include covert, classified assistance that the United States has provided." 
In addition, "Under a new classified cooperation agreement, the U.S. would be able to fly cruise missiles, fighter jets or unmanned armed drones against targets in the country, but would remain publicly silent on its role in the airstrikes." 
Blackwater and the Khost Bombing: Is the CIA Deceiving Congress?
By Jeremy Scahill | The Nation
"It's just astonishing that given the track record of Blackwater, which is a repeat offender endangering our mission repeatedly, endangering the lives of our military and costing the lives of innocent civilians, that there would be any relationship," Schakowsky said. "That we would continue to contract with them or any of Blackwater's subsidiaries is completely unacceptable."
A leading member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence has told The Nation that she will launch an investigation into why two Blackwater contractors were among the dead in the December 30 suicide bombing at the CIA station at Forward Operating Base Chapman in Khost, Afghanistan. "The Intelligence Committees and the public were led to believe that the CIA was phasing out its contracts with Blackwater and now we find out that there is this ongoing presence," said Illinois Democrat Jan Schakowsky, chair of the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, in an interview. "Is the CIA once again deceiving us about the relationship with Blackwater?"
In December, the CIA announced that the agency had canceled its contract with Blackwater to work on the agency's drone bombing campaign in Afghanistan and Pakistan and said Director Leon Panetta ordered a review of all existing CIA contracts with Blackwater. "At this time, Blackwater is not involved in any CIA operations other than in a security or support role," CIA spokesman George Little said December 11.
But Schakowsky said the fact that two Blackwater personnel were in such close proximity to the December 30 suicide bomber--an alleged double agent, who was reportedly meeting with CIA agents including the agency's second-ranking officer in Afghanistan when he blew himself up--shows how "deeply enmeshed" Blackwater remains in sensitive CIA operations, including those CIA officials claim it no longer participates in, such as intelligence gathering and briefings with valuable agency assets. The two Blackwater men were reportedly in the room for the expected briefing by the double agent, Humam Khalil Muhammed Abu Mulal al-Balawi, who claimed to have recently met with Al Qaeda leader Ayman al Zawahiri. Read more.
A Santa Cruz teacher returned to her home in Watsonville Sunday after she and her husband were detained in the middle east.
Kathleen Crocetti and Bill Lucas left before Christmas on a journey to participate in the Gaza Freedom March in support of Palestinians when they were arrested. Crocetti is part of the anti-war group "Code Pink."
In addition, Crocetti said she wanted to deliver a peace mural to a women's center in Gaza. Crocetti is an art teacher at Mission Hill Middle School in Santa Cruz and passionate about expressing peace through art. The glass mural Crocetti designed was put together by at least 50 women in Santa Cruz and Watsonville.
"We always knew that the worst thing that could happen would be arrest and deportation," said Crocetti. During the couple's trip, the worst fear became a reality. The couple was placed under house arrest at their hotel after the Egyptian government revoked a permit for the group of 1,400 peace activists. Read more.
U.S. Shuts Embassy in Yemen, Battles to Beat Back Al Qaeda Surge
Deputy National Security Adviser John Brennan on 'This Week': 'Al Qaeda Has Several Hundred Members in Yemen, and They've Grown in Strength'
By Terry Moran and Jennifer Parker | ABC News
President Barack Obama's top counterterrorism official confirmed Sunday that the U.S. shut its embassy in Yemen based on intelligence that al Qaeda was planning an attack.
"I think it underscores the threat that al Qaeda in the Arab Peninsula poses to U.S. interests," President Obama's top counterterrorism adviser John Brennan told ABC's "This Week."
"We looked at the intelligence that is available as far as the plans for al Qaeda to carry out attacks in Sanaa possibly against our embassy, possibly against U.S. personnel, and decided it was the prudent thing to do to shut the embassy," Brennan said.
The British government joined the United States in closing its embassy in Yemen on Sunday, highlighting the Arab nation's emergence as one of the world's premier terrorist havens. Read more.
Approximately 500 marchers for the end of Israel's and Egypt's deadly inhumane blockade against Gaza were confronted by Egyptian riot police today. The Gaza Freedom Marchers come from 43 separate nations. A key goal for them is to end the brutal blockade Israel initiated which created near starvation conditions. We are told Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East and that's why the U.S. politicians give them billions of tax-payers' dollars every year. However, it is the result of democracy that has Israel so upset it is virtually starving the 1.5 million people in Gaza. When the organization Hamas won an internationally supervised election Israel started the blockade. It seems the Palestinian people voted for the wrong party by Israeli standards! Israel should heed the advice of Albert Einstein who said, "Should we be unable to find a way to honest cooperation and honest pacts with the Arabs, then we have learned absolutely nothing during our 2,000 years of suffering and deserve all that will come to us."
In addition to wanting to stop the barbaric blockade, the Gaza Freedom March has the goal of stopping Egypt from building a wall on their border with Gaza that would make it impossible for the besieged Palestinians in Gaza from getting any food, medicine or weapons. The little bit of necessities that are making it in are being smuggled in through tunnels under the border. This is reminiscent of when the British blockaded the American colonies and smugglers like John Hancock would smuggle in supplies and weapons in spite of the blockade.
The wall Egypt is building is being built with U.S. taxpayer dollars, approval from U.S. politicians and help from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. It goes against everything decent to help bullies, Israel and Egypt, beat-up on an underdog, the Palestinians. This is yet another sign that Obama's speech to the Muslim world was nothing but empty promises and completely meaningless and an insult to thinking and caring people everywhere. Read more.
By Dave Lindorff
You know, the year 2009 started out kind of nicely. We watched Barack Obama take the oath of office, serenaded by the awesome Aretha Franklin (wearing her awesome hat), after first hearing Pete Seeger sing the real Woody Guthrie verses to "This Land Is Your Land" on the steps of the Lincoln Monument.
And we saw Congress pass the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, to correct a scum-sucking decision by the US Supreme Court's conservative woman-hating, corporation-loving majority that said women (and minorities and the elderly) couldn't sue for pay discrimination unless they acted within six months of the initiation of the violation, even if they didn't learn about it until years later.
by Linda Milazzo
Monday night, in remembrance of the one-year anniversary of Israel's Operation Cast Lead that killed 1,400 Gazans, and in solidarity with the 1,400 international peace pilgrims converging in Egypt from 42 countries for the planned Gaza Freedom March, Los Angelenos gathered in front of the Israeli Consulate for a solemn candlelight vigil.
Photo by Mike Chickey
By Elisabeth Geshiere
All we wanted to do was speak to a representative at the consulate in Cairo to ask for assistance in getting across the border to Gaza. When we got to the security gate a couple of blocks before the US embassy in Cairo, and showed our US passports and said that we wanted to go to the embassy, we were first asked to wait a while.
As we waited the group grew in size, eventually a banner for the Gaza Freedom March was unfurled and the police got nervous. We repeatedly asked to be allowed to go to the embassy, or to has a representative from the embassy come and talk to us.
Myself, David Tilsen, my nephew Mark Tilsen, Sylvial Schartz and the Chalbis were with a group of about 20 people. Eventually riot police with helmets, batons etc, appeared and locked arms. They brought in metal gates and corralled us in the middle of the street. For five hours people were not allowed to leave, use a bathroom, or have any food or water brought in.
By Cindy Sheehan
One of my friends, Joshua Smith, just texted me from Cairo and said that some U.S. citizens of the Gaza Freedom March went to the U.S. Embassy today there to try and implore the staff there to intercede on behalf of the March to help get them into Gaza--they were not so warmly welcomed.
Recently, almost 1400 people from around the globe met in Cairo to march into Gaza to join Gazans in solidarity and to help expose their plight after years of blockade and exactly a year after the violent attack in what Israel called "Operation Cast Lead" that killed hundreds of innocent Gazan civilians. So far the Marchers have been denied access (Egypt closed the Rafah crossing) and their gatherings have become increasingly and more violently suppressed.
In my understanding of world affairs, embassies are stationed in various countries so citizens who are traveling can seek help in times of trouble, but this doesn’t appear to be so right at this moment in Cairo.
By Medea Benjamim
One year ago, the brutal Israeli 22-day invasion of the Gaza Strip shocked the world, leaving some 1,400 people dead, thousands more wounded, as well as hospitals, schools, prisons, UN facilities, factories, agricultural processing plants and some 20,000 homes damaged or destroyed.
As we mark the one-year anniversary of the invasion, the plight of the people of Gaza continues unabated:
- Despite pledges of money for reconstruction, Israel refuses to allow in the machinery necessary to clear the rubble or the materials needed to rebuild--banning cement, gravel, wood, pipes, glass, steel bars, aluminum and tar. Many who were made homeless during the bombing are still living in tents amidst the onset of another cold winter. Desperate, some are reverting to the ancient techniques of building homes made of mud.
by Jodie Evans
The Egyptian government announced Monday that the border between Gaza and Egypt will be closed, just in time for 1,346 men, women, and children from 42 countries -- the Gaza Freedom March -- to arrive in Cairo. It's too late to turn back now. We will proceed, and are asking Egypt to permit the march to go on.
This has happened with each delegation we have taken but with the right pressure we have succeeded in crossing the border each time. Our first attempt was made possible thanks to First Lady Suzanne Mubarak. For International Women's Day we were taking in thousands of pink baskets of aid for the women in Gaza. As we made our way to the border we passed truck after truck brimming with rotting material aid that the Egyptians had not allowed into Gaza. But our outreach to Madame Mubarak proved fruitful: we were met by the Egyptian Red Crescent (which she chairs) and we proceeded into Gaza with no problems.
Government of Egypt changes policy to allow humanitarian group Viva Palestina to enter Gaza December 27, 2009
Gaza Freedom March congratulates the Government of Egypt on its change of policy to allow international missions into Gaza during December with the decision to allow the Viva Palestina convoy to go into Gaza on December 27, 2009.
Organizers of Gaza Freedom March were told on December 20, 2009 by Ministry of Foreign Affairs officials that no international missions would be allowed to enter Gaza during December, including the Gaza Freedom March, because of serious security conditions at the border.
Today, December 23, Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson told Gaza Freedom March organizers said that the decision had been made to alter its policy because of the “humanitarian assistance” nature of Viva Palestina.
Since the Gaza Freedom March is also bringing in humanitarian assistance items valued at tens of thousands of dollars and the border is now considered safe, Gaza Freedom March will make a formal request to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on December 24, that that Government of Egypt reconsider the request of the Gaza Freedom March for entry of its 1360 delegates from 42 countries into Gaza through the Rafah crossing on December 27.
Marchers and their friends have been flooding Egyptian embassies throughout the world with calls and emails. Embassies throughout Europe, the United States and Canada have told callers that they have been flooded with telephone calls from persons asking that the Gaza Freedom March be allowed into Gaza. Read more.
Gaza Freedom March URGENT UPDATE
December 21, 2009
We are determined to break the siege.
We all will continue to do whatever we can to make it happen.
Using the pretext of escalating tensions on the Gaza-Egypt border, the Egyptian Foreign Ministry informed us yesterday that the Rafah border will be closed over the coming weeks, into January. We responded that there is always tension at the border because of the siege, that we do not feel threatened, and that if there are any risks, they are risks we are willing to take. We also said that it was too late for over 1,300 delegates coming from over 42 countries to change their plans now. We both agreed to continue our exchanges.
Although we consider this as a setback, it is something we've encountered-and overcome--before. No delegation, large or small, that entered Gaza over the past 12 months has ever received a final OK before arriving at the Rafah border. Most delegations were discouraged from even heading out of Cairo to Rafah. Some had their buses stopped on the way. Some have been told outright that they could not go into Gaza. But after public and political pressure, the Egyptian government changed its position and let them pass.
Our efforts and plans will not be altered at this point. We have set out to break the siege of Gaza and march on December 31 against the Israeli blockade. We are continuing in the same direction.
Egyptian embassies and missions all over the world must hear from our supporters (by phone, fax and email)** over the coming crucial days, with a clear message: Let the international delegation enter Gaza and let the Gaza Freedom March proceed.
Contact your local consulate here:
Contact the Palestine Division in Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Cairo
Ahmed Azzam, tel +202-25749682 Email: email@example.com
If you are in the U.S., contact the Egyptian Embassy, 202-895-5400 and ask for Omar Youssef or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
You signed on to support the the Gaza Freedom March, that was the first step. Now call the Egyptian embassy and ask your elected official to call on your behalf. Then, hit the streets and join a solidarity action in your community: www.gazafreedommarch.org/solidarity
Yemen will become a battleground for a proxy war between the United States and Saudi Arabia - whose state-to-state relations are among the strongest and most durable of the entire post-World War II era - on one hand and Iran on the other.
It is perhaps impossible to determine the exact moment at which a U.S.- supported self-professed holy warrior - trained to perpetrate acts of urban terrorism and to shoot down civilian airliners - ceases to be a freedom fighter and becomes a terrorist. But a safe assumption is that it occurs when he is no longer of use to Washington. A terrorist who serves American interests is a freedom fighter; a freedom fighter who doesn't is a terrorist.
Yemenis are the latest to learn the Pentagon's and the White House's law of the jungle. Along with Iraq and Afghanistan which counterinsurgency specialist Stanley McChrystal used to perfect his techniques, Yemen is joining the ranks of other nations where the Pentagon is engaged in that variety of warfare, fraught with civilian massacres and other forms of so-called collateral damage: Colombia, Mali, Pakistan, the Philippines, Somalia and Uganda.
BBC News reported on December 14 that 70 civilians were killed when aircraft bombed a market in the village of Bani Maan in northern Yemen.
The nation's armed forces claimed responsibility for the deadly attack, but a website of the Houthi rebels against whom the bombing was ostensibly directed stated "Saudi aircraft committed a massacre against the innocent residents of Bani Maan." 
The Saudi regime entered the armed conflict between the (eponymous) Houthis and the Yemeni government on behalf of the latter in early November and since has been accused of launching attacks inside Yemen with tanks and warplanes. Even before the latest bombing scores of Yemenis have been killed and thousands displaced by the fighting. Saudi Arabia has also been accused of using phosphorous bombs.
Moreover, the rebel group known as Young Believers, based in the Shi'ite Muslim community of Yemen which comprises 30 percent of the country's population of 23 million, claimed on December 14 that "US fighter jets have attacked Yemen's Sa'ada Province" and "US fighter jets have launched 28 attacks on the northwestern province of Sa'ada." 
'Professor Blair' -- Tony Blair's Second Act: Former British Prime Minister on Iraq, Faith, and His New Life at Yale
Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair is facing criticism back home for his decision to lead his nation into war in Iraq -- a decision Blair says he does not regret, even though weapons of mass destruction never were found after the 2003 invasion.
He sat down with "Good Morning America's" Ron Claiborne this week to talk about Iraq, as well as his second act as a Yale professor teaching a class on faith and globalization as part of his Tony Blair Faith Foundation.
Ron Claiborne: The U.S. and the U.K. went to war on the basis of the belief that there were weapons of mass destruction, that Saddam had them and could deploy them quickly, which turned out apparently not to be the case. Does that therefore invalidate having gone to war?
Tony Blair: For me, the question you're still left with is: Was Saddam a threat and was it right to remove him? When I look back on the years of the interaction between the international community and Saddam, the two wars that he began, the United Nations resolutions that were flouted ... when you look at that and you look at the destruction -- I mean the use, for example, of chemical weapons, whole villages wiped out in one day as a result of the use of chemical weapons against his own people -- my views, spending a lot of time out there in the region now, I think you can at least argue the case that the region is safer without him than with him.
Claiborne: But we went to war on the basis [of weapons of mass destruction].
Blair: And we've got to accept that that intelligence turned out to be wrong, and, that is obviously, a point that's not merely legitimate to make, it goes right to the heart of it. On the other hand, I think it's important then not to go to the other extreme and say, "Well this was someone who was basically not a danger and a source of instability in the region," because I believe that he was. And personally, I think there would always have been a time when you'd have to deal with him. Read more.
Mercenaries? CIA Says Expanded Role for Contractors Legitimate
Blackwater, Other Firms Said to Be "Hired Guns" in Iraq, Afghanistan -- Combat Role Would Be Against U.S. Law
By Matthew Cole, Richard Esposito and Brian Ross | ABC News
The CIA and the military special forces have quietly expanded the role of private contractors, including Blackwater, to include their involvement in raids and secret paramilitary operations in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq, four current and former U.S. military and intelligence officers tell ABC News.
American law specifically prohibits the use of private soldiers or mercenaries in combat, according to Jonathan Turley, a professor of public interest law at George Washington University.
"The United States Congress has never approved the use of private contractors for combat operations," Turley told ABC News in an interview...Read more.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights 10 December 2009, Observed
Iftikhar Chaudri, President of Journalists for International Peace, wrote:
Journalists for International Peace observed the 61st anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on 10 December 2009. In this context, a meeting was held in the head office of JIP, in which participants/ members of JIP presented their reports on various human rights issues the world is confronting.
The participants, members of JIP, deliberated on the objectives of Human Rights Day which was focused on non-discrimination. “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights”. These first few famous words of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights established 61 years ago, are the basic premise of international human rights law. Yet today, the fight against discrimination remains a daily struggle for millions around the globe.
Iftikhar Chaudri, President JIP, expressed grave concern over the situation of human rights all over the world, in general, which is further deteriorated. “The graph of the poverty-line personifies upward trend. People are devoid of clean drinking water and basic food items. Despite efforts to promote interfaith harmony through a dialogue, the religious and sectarian intolerance increased manifold. The ban on the construction of minarets in Switzerland is a glaring example that infuriates the Muslim minority,” he added.