Israel honours its victims of “terror attacks”

Despite completely obliterating a defenceless population in the Gaza strip earlier this year, Israel today honoured fallen IDF soldiers and “victims of terror attacks”. Speaking to mark Memorial Day, President Shimon Peres said: “This year as well, we lost the best of our boys and girls, some of whom during Operation Cast Lead.”

The Haaretz article goes to explain how the widow of the last Israeli soldier to die in combat lit a memorial flame at the ceremony. However Capt. Yehonatan Netanel did not fall at the hands of Palestinians, it is explained, but was in fact killed when Israeli forces mistakenly opened fire on his unit.

It is comforting to discover that at least someone’s death is attributed to the morally reprehensible IDF, who whitewashed their own wave of terror in the recent inquiry into soldiers’ conduct during the invasion of Gaza. Reflective of Noam Chomsky’s ‘Worthy and Unworthy Victims’, we see that Israel only recognizes one type of victim, its own; and one type of perpetrator, the Palestinian, so this admission comes as something of a milestone.

Some Might Call It Treason

Former CIA officer Philip Giraldi doesn’t mince words, he calls Rep. Jane Harman’s actions for what they are: treason.

One dictionary defines treason as “disloyalty or treachery to one’s country or its government,” but Article III of the U.S. Constitution takes a narrower view, specifically limiting charges of treason to time of war “in adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort.” The Federalist Papers reveal that this definition of treason was crafted deliberately to avoid politically motivated ex post facto exploitation of the only crime named as a capital offense in the Constitution. The Founding Fathers knew full well from their own personal experience that English kings had played fast and loose with the concept of treason, frequently trying and executing opponents without any actual evidence that a crime had been committed. Charges of treason intended to destroy political rivals would not be permitted in the new republic.

Treason trials have been rare in the United States. Elected officials and government employees with access to classified information are bound by statutes authorizing severe penalties lest they betray that confidence. Congressmen are elected to represent the best interests of the voters in their districts and, in a broader sense, the citizens of the United States, a trust that they frequently betray when they give in to the importunities of lobbyists and vote for pork or laws that help only special interest groups. That is generally referred to as corruption. But what does one call it when a senior elected official tells a citizen of a foreign country that he or she is willing to interfere in a judicial process in exchange for that country’s support to obtain a more senior position in the government? A single word appears to be lacking, though “betrayal” and “treachery” seem to come close. Some have resorted to “obstruction of justice” or “influence peddling,” both of which are actually crimes when committed by a government official. If the U.S. Constitution had not limited treasonous activity to wartime, the word “treason” might well be considered.

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The fog of media misinformation

The superb Nick Davies questions why the British press swallowed whole the police line that Ian Tomlinson died of a heart attack while their courageous officers attempted to revive him in the face of violent attacks by G20 protesters, only for citizen journalism to expose this falsehood a week later. In turn Davies examines the damning evidence that officers and the Metropolitan Police’s PR machine attempted to mislead the press and cover their own backs. One of the best voices around on the current state of the UK media.

The family of Ian Tomlinson, who died at the G20 protest this month, are planning to file a new complaint to the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC). This will deal not with the events that led to his death but with the fog of media misinformation that followed it. It is a complaint that will go to the heart of the way in which the news media operate – to the frequently undeclared relationship between reporters and the press officers on whom they rely and, in turn, the officials on whom these spokesmen rely on for much of their raw material. And it will pose a question that both sides often prefer to ignore: can they trust each other?

The superb Nick Davies questions why the British press swallowed whole the police line that Ian Tomlinson died of a heart attack while their courageous officers attempted to revive him in the face of violent attacks by G20 protesters, only for citizen journalism to expose this falsehood a week later. In turn Davies examines the damning evidence that officers and the Metropolitan Police’s PR machine attempted to mislead the press and cover their own backs. One of the best voices around on the current state of the UK media.

The family of Ian Tomlinson, who died at the G20 protest this month, are planning to file a new complaint to the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC). This will deal not with the events that led to his death but with the fog of media misinformation that followed it. It is a complaint that will go to the heart of the way in which the news media operate – to the frequently undeclared relationship between reporters and the press officers on whom they rely and, in turn, the officials on whom these spokesmen rely on for much of their raw material. And it will pose a question that both sides often prefer to ignore: can they trust each other?

There were six days of substantially false coverage about a man who apparently died of a heart attack as he walked home while a screaming mob of anarchists hurled missiles at the police officers who tried to help him. Any inquiry into this media misinformation will want to find out whether that was simply the hyperbole of ignorant reporters or the product of bad practice at the Metropolitan police, the City of London police or the IPCC.

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Israel’s garrison-like hilltop settlements

It is a mark of how the US media’s uncritical coverage of Israel is eroding when you see Roger Cohen in the New York Times consistently being allowed the space to describe the desolate scenes in the West Bank which are punctuated by “garrison-like settlements on hilltops”. In his latest article he writes of US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s visit there, in which he states: “If you’re looking for a primer of colonialism, this is not a bad place to start.” This type of language represents a promising shift in the Times’ op-ed pages.

The sparring between the United States and Israel has begun, and that’s a good thing. Israel’s interests are not served by an uncritical American administration. The Jewish state emerged less secure and less loved from Washington’s post-9/11 Israel-can-do-no-wrong policy.

The criticism of the center-right government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has come from an unlikely source: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. She’s transitioned with aplomb from the calculation of her interests that she made as a senator from New York to a cool assessment of U.S. interests. These do not always coincide with Israel’s.

I hear that Clinton was shocked by what she saw on her visit last month to the West Bank. This is not surprising. The transition from Israel’s first-world hustle-bustle to the donkeys, carts and idle people beyond the separation wall is brutal. If Clinton cares about one thing, it’s human suffering.

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Printing Police Lies

An excellent article by George Monbiot, setting the abominable policing of the G20 protests into context. Monbiot explains that we are not merely dealing with “a few rogue officers [who] got out of control”, as much of media commentary in the UK would have it, but state-sanctioned violence that is “organised and systematic”.

If a conservative is a liberal who has been mugged, a liberal is a conservative who has been twatted by the police. As the tabloids turn their fire onto an unfamiliar target – the unprovoked aggression of Her Majesty’s constabulary – the love affair between the cops and the rightwing press has never been more fragile.

The policing of the G20 protests at the beginning of this month was routine. Policemen hiding their identification numbers and beating up peaceful protesters is as much a part of British life as grey skies and red buses. Across 20 years of protests, I have seen policemen swapping their jackets to avoid identification, hurling people against vans and into walls and whomping old ladies over the head with batons. A friend had his head repeatedly bashed against the bonnet of a police van; he was then charged with criminal damage to the van. I have seen an entire line of police turn round to face the other way when private security guards have started beating people up. I have seen them refuse – until Amnesty International got involved – to investigate my own case when I was hospitalised by these licensed thugs (the guards had impaled my foot on a metal spike, smashing the middle bone).

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The kind of things he writes…

Michael Tomasky isn’t the sharpest tool in the box. Sources tell me that the Guardian hired him because they were looking for a US commentator on the cheap, and he was all they could afford. The analysis as you can see is mediocre, and frankly quite worthless. You never get anything better than a diluted summary of the conventional wisdom in Washington, i.e., the accumulated inanity of the windbags that constitute the US punditocracy. See for example this piece on Paul Krugman’s critique of Obama’s economic policy. Strike that. The piece doesn’t say anything about Paul Krugman’s critique; this glorified gossip columnist reduces it to a personal feud. But more egregiously, see this report on Obama’s handshake with Chavez. The liberal realist that he is, he ridicules the tantrums of the extremists on Fox News etc to defend Obama. He does so however on the grounds that past presidents have shaken hands with bad people too! Not content with taking cheap swipes at Hugo Chavez, he then goes on to disparage his choice of a gift for the US president. He divines Obama’s inner feelings about the gift, telling us he was ‘not too happy’, because ‘We all know who Eduardo Galeano is, and what kind of books he writes’. As a matter of fact we do: he writes Great Books. Books of the kind that the Tomasky’s of the world will probably never read because they will remind them of their own inadequacies. Or perhaps simply because they are just too illiterate. That’s why the Guardian got him for a discount.

Here are ‘the kinds of things [Galeano] writes‘.

Salgado, 17 Times

Full view of the Serra Pelada gold mine Brazil, 1986 (Sebastião Salgado)

This is Eduardo Galeano’s essay introducing An Uncertain Grace, a collection of Sebastião Salgado’s photography:

1. Are these photographs, these figures of tragic grandeur, carvings in stone or wood by a sculptor in despair? Was the sculptor the photographer? Or God? Or the Devil? Or earthly reality?This much is certain: it would be difficult to look at these figures and remain unaffected. I cannot imagine anyone shrugging his shoulder, turning away unseeing, and sauntering off, whistling.

2. Hunger looks like the man that hunger is killing. The man looks like the tree the man is killing. The trees have arms, the people, branches. Wizened bodies, gnarled: trees made of bones, the people of knots and roots that writhe under the sun. The trees and the people, ageless. All born thousands of years ago – who knows how many? – and still they are standing, inexplicably standing, beneath a heaven that forsakes them.

3. This world is so sad that the rainbows come out in black and white and so ugly that the vultures fly upside down after the dying. A song is sung in Mexico:

Se va la vida por el agujero Como la mugre por el lavadero. [Life goes down the drain Like dirt in the sink.]

And in Colombia they say:

El costo de la vida sube y sube y el valor de la vida baja y baja. [The more the cost of living goes up the less life is worth.]

But light is a secret buried under the garbage and Salgado’s photographs tell us that secret.

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Torture? It probably killed more Americans than 9/11

A US major reveals the inside story of military interrogation in Iraq in this report by Patrick Cockburn, winner of the 2009 Orwell Prize for journalism

The use of torture by the US has proved so counter-productive that it may have led to the death of as many US soldiers as civilians killed in 9/11, says the leader of a crack US interrogation team in Iraq.

“The reason why foreign fighters joined al-Qa’ida in Iraq was overwhelmingly because of abuses at Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib and not Islamic ideology,” says Major Matthew Alexander, who personally conducted 300 interrogations of prisoners in Iraq. It was the team led by Major Alexander [a named assumed for security reasons] that obtained the information that led to the US military being able to locate Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the head of al-Qa’ida in Iraq. Zarqawi was then killed by bombs dropped by two US aircraft on the farm where he was hiding outside Baghdad on 7 June 2006. Major Alexander said that he learnt where Zarqawi was during a six-hour interrogation of a prisoner with whom he established relations of trust.

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The liberal supremacists

‘Whether they like it or not, Dawkins, Amis, Hitchens and company have become weapons in the war on terror,’ writes Terry Eagleton, bane of the New Atheists. Don’t miss his delightfully scathing debunking of Dawkins here.

One side-effect of the so-called war on terror has been a crisis of liberalism. This is not only a question of alarmingly illiberal legislation, but a more general problem of how the liberal state deals with its anti-liberal enemies. This, surely, is the acid test of any liberal creed. Anyone can be tolerant of those who are tolerant. A community of the broad-minded is a pleasant place, but requires no great moral effort. The key issue is how the liberal state copes with those who reject its ideological framework. It is fashionable today to speak of being open to the “Other”. But what if the Other detests your openness as much as it does your lapdancing clubs?

There is no quarrel about how to treat those whose scorn for liberal values takes the form of blowing the legs off small children. They need to be locked up. But socialists as well as Islamists reject the liberal state, so what is to be done about them? Are they to be indulged only until they successfully challenge the state, at which point they too will find themselves behind bars with the zealots of al-Qaida?

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Caught on tape

‘An extraordinary scoop exposes Democrat Jane Harman and the murky inner workings of Washington politics,’ Richard Silverstein reports. Democracy Now is AWOL once again, by the way. It is too busy covering grizzly bears and some such struff.

Jeff Stein, a reporter for Congressional Quarterly, has broken an amazing scooprevealing that Democratic member of congress Jane Harman was caught red-handed on a National Security Agency wiretap colluding with an Israeli “agent” to get a reprieve for two alleged spies working for Aipac, the American-Israel public affairs committee. The quid pro quo for Harman – according to the CQ revelations – was that the agent would arrange for wealthy Democratic party donor Haim Saban to threaten the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, with withdrawing funding unless Pelosi made Harman the chair of the House’s powerful intelligence committee.

Harman vehemently denies the story – telling CQ that its claims “have no basis in fact” – and says she never contacted the Justice Department on the Aipac Two’s behalf. (There are other agencies within the executive branch, I note.) But she does not deny the conversation took place with the Israeli “agent,” who she has inferred was affiliated with Aipac. In 2006, I reported that Saban did threaten Pelosi, precisely as Harman had requested. No wonder Pelosi didn’t take kindly to being swatted around. She was so ticked off by the assault that it backfired, and she put Harman in a deep freeze. The latter never got the gold ring she’d sought.

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