Droning On

8 Feb

CIA man Brennan and President Obama claim these assassinations by drone are all necessary because these are terrorists about to wreak havoc on the U.S.  (though this week we learned from a memo that all you need to be is a “senior operational” figure in the terrorist group to be a drone target).  Supposedly careful care is given whether to try an arrest.

But when have they ever tried to arrest someone rather than use drones? Is any amount or risk to U.S. forces enough reason to kill a man rather than arrest him?

Anyway why haven’t they demanded local authorities take action?  Take Yemem, an AMERICAN ALLY.  We send millions to their military.  Why don’t we tell them where these terrorists are hiding and have one of their “elite” paratroopers, Seals, Eagles or whatever swoop down and capture them?  How about requesting the same from Pakistan, another AMERICAN ALLY?  Ever hear of extradition treaties? international law?

We know the rationale.  “To get the job done we can only trust our own forces, not troops from the colonial (strike that), not troops from the local country.”  But check out this link to an article in Esquire.  John Brennan won’t even answer whether he thought the president could order a drone strike within the U.S.  So we can’t even trust U.S. SWAT teams?

Give me a break about Ed Koch

3 Feb

I’ve been holding my tongue about Ed Koch, who died a few days ago, but when even Democracy Now! had a favorable piece about the late mayor of New York I had to speak up.

He was an unabashed and unapologetic supporter of Israeli aggression and apartheid.  In 1980 he declared Jabotinsky Day in honor of the revisionist Zionist (and pro-Mussolini) leader.  When Israel was blowing hell out of Lebanon in 1982 and carpet bombing Palestinian camps Koch went to Lebanon with the Israeli army.   His 100% support for the Israeli government continued long after he left office.  In 2010 he denounced President Obama for his (one and only?) criticism of Israeli settlement building.

According to Wikipedia Koch also appeared in the documentary “FahrenHYPE 9/11”  defending President Bush and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and blasting Michael Moore. Koch was quoted in the film saying of Moore’s film, “Farhrenheit 9/11“.  He says, “It’s not a documentary, it’s a lie.”

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The Humanity of Charles Durning

25 Dec

I’m grieved to hear that Charles Durning and Jack Klugman both died yesterday.  In reading Durning’s obituary in the New York Times you see the large scope of this actor’s work from the father who fell for Dustin Hoffman masquerading as a woman in “Tootsie” to the plantation owner in “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof”

Turns out Durning was a soldier in World War II and took part in the first wave at Omaha Beach on D-Day and won several medals.  The Times talked about a Parade magazine article where “he recalled the hand-to-hand combat. ‘I was crossing a field somewhere in Belgium,’ he said. ‘A German soldier ran toward me carrying a bayonet. He couldn’t have been more than 14 or 15. I didn’t see a soldier. I saw a boy. Even though he was coming at me, I couldn’t shoot.’

They grappled, he recounted later — he was stabbed seven or eight times — until finally he grasped a rock and made it a weapon. After killing the youth, he said, he held him in his arms and wept.’ ”

This was a man, not some blood dripping cartoon of a soldier by Tarantino.

Klugman made us laugh in “The Odd Couple”.  His version of a New York ’70’s “Christmas Carol” (with Tony Randall)  is a classic.  It’s up on you tube and you can see the first section here.

About the U.N. Decision to Declare Palestine a “state”

2 Dec

I’m of several minds about the decision of the U.N. as it

Decides to accord to Palestine non-member observer State status in the United Nations,”

A. Theoretically, as international lawyer and law school professor Francis A. Boyle notes,

    “This can be the start of a ‘Legal Intifadah’ by Palestine against Israel:

     1. “Palestine can join the Rome Statute for the International Criminal Court and file a Complaint with the ICC against the illegal settlements and settlers, who are committing war crimes;

    2. “Palestine can join the Statute for the International Court of Justice, sue Israel at the World Court, and break the illegal siege of Gaza;

    3. “Palestine can join the Law of the Sea Convention and get its fair share of the enormous gas fields lying off the coast of Gaza, thus becoming economically self-sufficient;

    4. “Palestine can become a High Contracting Party to the Four Geneva Conventions [this deals with the laws of war];

    5. “Palestine can join the International Civil Aviation Organization and gain sovereign, legal control over its own airspace;

    6. “Palestine can join the International Telecommunications Union and gain sovereign legal control over its own airwaves, phone lines, bandwidths

B.  On the other hand Lebanon is a state with full membership in the United Nations.  It’s repeatedly ravaged by Israel and can’t do a thing about it.  Even when the U.N.’s own base was bombed in 1996 Israel was not punished in any way.  So what’s the good of observer status or even full membership?  Has the PA done anything as member of UNESCO to protect Palestine cultural and historical landmarks? Would it dare to cross its U.S. paymaster and demand Israelis get put on trial for war crimes?

C. The resolution does a lot more than just declare Palestine a state.  Read the whole thing here.

It is totally a two-state recognition.  Palestinians have the right only to land taken by Israel in 1967 including East Jerusalem.

It basically establishes a 22% Palestine, not on the original 48% recommended on Nov. 29 1947.

It includes the words “a just resolution of the problem of the Palestine refugees in conformity with resolution 194 (III) of 11 December 1948” which I think is the sneaky Saudi language of ten years ago that means abandonment of actual right to return and instead would lead to talks where Palestinians could get some money and some token number returning behind the Green Line.  That’s totally unacceptable.

D.  On the other hand the recognition has caused several fairly non-political average people to start conversations about Palestine with me.  They didn’t do this after the recent bloodbath in Gaza, only after this U.N. vote which they see as a big deal.  I take it to mean this vote grants a new respectability for the idea of a Palestine.

E. Yet, there are half a million Jewish settlers inside the U.N.’s “Palestine”  totally backed by the Israeli government.  They are totally linked by roads, water and infrastructure to Israel.  It’s so total that Israelis never even know when they are in the West Bank.  That term and geographic area has disappeared from Israeli maps and books.  How are they ever to go away?  Would it really be easier to move them out than to transform the whole present state (between the Mediterranean and the Jordan)  into one with equal rights for all?

F.  It was so very nice to see the U.S. and Israel isolated for the vote supported only by South Pacific colonies and the surprisingly reactionary Canada and Czech Republic.  I’m sure average Americans noticed this for the first time (though we know this kind of vote happens every year on issues concerning Palestine).

I’ve seen this all before.  Palestine declared “independence” in 1988, lots of jubilation and then….nothing.  Palestine gets a road map…and then nothing.

I say stick with the basics, BDS, Right to Return, and equality for all from the River to the Sea.

Other comments:

Ali Abunimah, a Palestinian-American activist and the founder of Electronic Intifada, told Al Jazeera that the celebrations were uncalled for and that the UN was a “giant distraction”.

“I wish that all this hype and dancing in the streets of Ramallah and self-delusion among the people were for a real achievement that actually returned rights to the Palestinian people.

“There is something incongruous and tasteless about the Palestinian Authority sponsoring a dance festival on the streets of Ramallah while families in Gaza are still mourning their children.

“This [vote] is a giant distraction; a cheap gesture, which allows people to celebrate as if they were in a football match.”

These are the thoughts of Noura Erakat

Professor of international law at the University of Illinois College of Law and author of Palestine, Palestinians, and International Law,

Disgusted with Richard Engel

19 Nov

November 19.  I admired NBC TV’s Richard Engel’s coverage of Egypt during the revolt against Mubarak, less so his coverage of Libya.  Yet his comments about Gaza, as reported by As’ad AbuKhalil, are downright repulsive.

On Nov. 18 AbuKhalil wrote, “… Take, for example, Richard Engel, the award-winning NBC News Chief Foreign Correspondent. In his report aired 16 November, he assured viewers that ‘so far Israel has been using surgical strikes.’  Never mind that news reports had already revealed the heavy toll in Gaza among civilians and especially children (including the eleven-month-old baby of a Palestinian who works with BBC Arabic). We were told that ‘civilians are dying too,’ but we are shown ample footage of Palestinian rockets being fired from Gaza.”

AbuKhalil continues “In its 2009 assault against Gaza alone, Israel killed 960 Palestinian civilians, including 288 children and 121 women. None of these figures are worthy of inclusion. The main thrust of the report focused instead on the ties between Hamas and the ruling Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and how the former is emboldened because the Arab revolts brought the latter to rule Egypt. The icing comes at the end when Engels tells Brian Williams: ‘An Israeli incursion [read: invasion] could be very bloody and could risk inflaming the entire region, but that, Brian, could be just what Hamas is hoping to do.'”

“Surgical Strikes”.   That is linguistic vomit.  Take a look at the baby burned to a crisp and talk about “surgical strikes”.  Look at the faces of the survivors of the al-Dalou family who lost four children in one bombing.  Hamas is hoping for an invasion?  Hoping?  Sure, just like Poland wanted to be invaded by Nazi Germany.

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Another Genocide Denial

24 Sep

I stopped writing for Counterpunch several years ago when I realized it would not stop publishing articles by Israel Shamir and Gilad Atzmon.  I had written to its main editor Alexander Cockburn about Shamir’s anti-Jewish and Holocaust denial writings, but Cockburn answered flippantly.

Alexander Cockburn died a few months ago, but the articles by Shamir keep on coming.  The latest was complete genocide denial, not about Jews, but Cambodians.  It is a glorification of Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge “experiment”!

It has to be read to be believed.  A few quotes and my comments in bold.

Shamir -” The Pol Pot the Cambodians remember was not a tyrant, but a great patriot and nationalist, a lover of native culture and native way of life.”

Throughout the article he doesn’t mention a single Cambodian by name or quote any Cambodian book or article.

Shamir -” The Cambodians I spoke to pooh-poohed the dreadful stories of Communist Holocaust as a western invention”

He could read the accounts of the survivors of the massacres and private Khmer Rouge records if he cared to after his Cambodian vacation .  The Yale Genocide Project has many.

Shamir -” Noam Chomsky assessed that the death toll in Cambodia may have been inflated ‘by a factor of a thousand.’ ”

As far as I know this is a complete distortion.  Chomsky was talking about an article in the New York Review of Books by  Jean Lacatoure who reported that the Khrmer Rouge had killed two million and then when questioned by Chomsky said it might have been a few thousands.  Lacatoure asked why was the figure so important.  Chomsky said, “Ed Herman and I responded to his challenge to me by saying that we thought that a factor of 1000 did matter…”

Shamir -” The people now in charge of the US, Europe and Russia want to present every alternative to their rule as inept or bloody or both. They especially hate incorruptible leaders, be it Robespierre or Lenin, Stalin or Mao – and Pol Pot.”

The “incorruptible Stalin and Mao”!   Enough said.

I think this article from a year ago in the liberal-leftists Guardian (UK) fairly sums up what happened in Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge.  It was a mad bloodbath.  Counterpunch which I still read selectively should be ashamed for publishing Shamir’s trash.

Chomsky and Cambodia

A little more about Chomsky whom the Right slanders as variously supporting the Khmer Rouge, or minimizing or denying the massacres.  Rightists, of course, hate him for mentioning the massive numbers of Cambodian killed by U.S. bombing in the ’70’s and for pointing out how this helped Khmer Rouge recruitment and led to their eventual conquest of the country.

Here he’s interviewed in the Phnom Penh Post (Cambodia) in 2010 by Stuart Alan Becker who talks about the genocide and questions Chomsky on why some believe he was “soft on the Khmer Rouge atrocities”.

Here’s an article about the charges written  in 1985 by Christopher Hitchens, then a liberal, and in his last decade a raging neo-conservative.  It’s called “The Chorus and Cassandra”.   Here’s a quote,  “Chomsky and Herman wrote that ‘the record of atrocities in Cambodia is substantial and often gruesome.’ They even said, ‘When the facts are in, it may turn out that the more extreme condemnations were in fact correct.'”

and here’s more about the controversy from Australia

The Boring Truth: Chomsky Does Not Support Pol Pot

 In short the writings of Noam Chomsky give no support to Shamir’s ravings.

Twisted Story on Iran

30 Aug

In a New York Times article today (August 30) claiming that President Morsi of Egypt is joining the consensus on bringing down the Syrian government “Egypt’s Morsi Pushes for End of Syrian Regime”  the writers Thomas Erdbring and Rick Gladstone take jabs at Iran.

They write “on Thursday Ayatollah Khamenei made clear that Iran would never compromise on the nuclear issue.”   Then in the very next sentence they quote the Ayatollah, “The Islamic Republic is not after nuclear weapons,” Ayatollah Khamenei said, “But we will never give up on our right to nuclear energy.”

Huh?  Isn’t that a very big compromise?  Maybe the IR is lying but it’s far different from acts carried out by Israeli regime which has in fact made hundreds of nuclear weapons.

Now, the NYT writers were calling for “compromise” (really submission) to five demands on Iran from the Security Council of the United Nations about nuclear issues.  Would it be cheeky to mention that this is the same body that committed genocide in Iraq over charges that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction and was a “danger to the world”.  The sanctions were levied in 1990 and weren’t officially lifted until 2010.  As the Los Angeles Times noted that year Iraq is now allowed to develop weapons of mass destruction and create nuclear power.

Needless to say the U.N. Security Council never apologized for the million or so Iraqi deaths.  Kofi Anan who administered the genocide still is used by the Council most recently in Syria.  In a better world he would have been brought to the Hague to answer for his actions.

And while I ruminate I wonder whether the Iranian government ever regrets its silence about the sanctions on Iraq.  Certainly they had good reason to hate Saddam, but couldn’t they see where these U.N. sanctions were going.  As Pastor Niemoller said, “First they came after the communists, etc. etc”

And why do they pursue dangerous nuclear power?  Have they come up with the magic formula to handle nuclear waste?  If the Israelis bomb Bushehr and kill thousands  is the regime blameless for using such dangerous technology?  Iran as we know has enormous amounts of oil.  The usual excuse for developing nuclear power is that it doesn’t have enough refineries.  So?  Build refineries, or join the 21st century and build solar and wind.