Saturday, July 08, 2006  

Where did you say you were going?

Stephen Green has some excellent advice for Dubya- after his term is finished, he should stay home. My sentiments, exactly. Except don't darken any of the states I like.

Green makes the same observation that I and others have already made- that Bush and co (which should include Cheney, Rice, Rove. maybe Powell- he still has time for some more mea culpas)- would and should be accused of war crimes and crimes against humanity. The charges would be legion and might actually outstrip those levied against Kissinger: extraodinary rendition, invasion under false pretenses, torture, flagrant disregard for the Geneva Conventions and protction of civilian populations in the White House and on the ground in Iraq, death squad goons operating out of the Minstry of the Interior, the looting, the destruction, the use of white phosphorus in Fallujah, the use of depleted uranium weaponry everywhere...

More people have probably died as a direct result of US actions in Iraq than disappeared in Argentina during the Dirty War (officially 30,000).

In 1998, Chilean general and former president Augusto Pinochet, who was in London seeking medical treatment, was indicted for his involvement in torture and extra-judicial killings in Latin America in the 1970's. In June of 2001, former Secretary of State Kissinger was forced to flee his hotel in Paris, and take a hasty flight back to America, to avoid a court summons to answer questions on his involvement with Pinochet's reign of terror. The following month, a Belgian court ordered Prime Minister Sharon of Israel to appear before a Brussels court to answer charges stemming from the massacre of some 2000 Palestinian refugees in 1982 during Lebanon War.
The rest of this timely essay here


Little update...

Personal rants and raves have moved to confessions of a mouse. Film reviews will be cross-posted to Movies that Matter and basic political, etc. goes here. I'll probably cross-post events info as well.

The World Cup Finals are tomorrow. I want Italy to win (of course :>) but with Zinedine, I think France will win. OK by me, as well, since I strongly support Black Blanc Beur, and at least in theory, France is that way when the team plays, although in reality, there are intense integration and socialization problems for Beurs, even into the 3rd generation.(a lot having to do with how the French see "French") And maybe with a World Cup win, things might get slightly better...

Some blogger friends I would like to introduce:
Faiza Al Araji from A Family in Baghdad- Faiza recently toured the US as part of a group sponsored by Code Pink and Global Exchange.

Raed Jarrar (Faiza's son) from Raed in the Middle who is currently blogging from California

Khalid Jarrar(Raed's brother) from Tell me a Secret who says he's too busy to blog at the moment (ya Khalid, ma'leysch?)

There are a whole host of Iraqi bloggers now, but these are some of the pioneers! Check them out when you get a chance.

Friday, July 07, 2006  

Worth a read

This essay by Karen Armstrong from The Guardian on a)Muslim Fundamentalism and b) fundamentalism in general. I put it in full because I think the whole text is worth a read.

Violent Islamic radicals know they are heretical

Extremists are proud of their deviance, and moderate Muslims can't be held responsible

Karen Armstrong
Saturday July 8, 2006
The Guardian

A few years ago at a conference in the US, a Christian fundamentalist erupted into the hall and launched a vitriolic attack on me and my fellow panellists. His words were tumbling over one another incoherently, but the note of pain was clear. We had obviously assaulted him at some profound level. For three days my colleagues and I had discussed complex and radical issues in theology, not once at a loss for words; but stunned by the impact of this attack, we could find nothing to say. Dumbfounded, we gazed bleakly at our assailant across an abyss of incomprehension, until he was hustled out.

This type of incident is now common. Increasingly, people find it difficult to communicate with their co-religionists. The divide is as great as that between religious and secular people. Many of the faithful feel threatened by those who interpret their tradition differently; it seems their sacred values are in jeopardy. An apparently impassable gulf yawns between liberal and fundamentalist Christians, reform and orthodox Jews, traditional and extremist Muslims. Because of our preoccupation with the so-called clash of civilisations, this internal tension is often overlooked.

It is a year since the London bombings, an act committed in the name of Islam by a viciously disaffected minority, but which violated the essential principles of any religion. Doubtless with this anniversary in mind, the prime minister has complained that British Muslims are not doing enough to deal with the extremists. The "moderate" Muslims, he said testily, must confront the Islamists; they cannot condemn their methods while tacitly condoning their anger. The extremists' anti-western views are wrong, and mainstream Muslims must tell them that violent jihad "is not the religion of Islam".

This regrettable step will put yet more pressure on a community already under strain. It ignores the fact that the chief problem for most Muslims is not "the west" per se, but the suffering of Muslims in Guantánamo, Abu Ghraib, Iraq and Palestine. Many Britons share this dismay, but the strong emphasis placed by Islam upon justice and community solidarity makes this a religious issue for Muslims. When they see their brothers and sisters systematically oppressed and humiliated, some feel as wounded as a Christian who sees the Bible spat upon or the eucharistic host violated.

It is disingenuous of Tony Blair to separate the rising tide of "Islamism" from his unpopular foreign policy, particularly when Palestinians are being subjected to new dangers in Gaza. He is also mistaken to imagine that law-abiding Muslims could bring the extremists to heel in the same way that he disciplines recalcitrant members of his cabinet. This is just not how religious groups operate.

During the 20th century, a militant piety erupted in almost every major world faith: in Buddhism, Sikhism, Hinduism and Confucianism, as well as in Judaism, Christianity and Islam. It is often called "fundamentalism". Its aim is to bring God and/or religion from the sidelines back to centre stage, though very few fundamentalists commit acts of violence. Coined by American Protestants who wanted a return to Christian "fundamentals", the term is unsatisfactory, not least because it suggests a conservative and backward-looking religiosity. In fact, fundamentalists are rebels who have separated themselves irrevocably and on principle from the main body of the faithful. Fundamentalist movements are nearly always the result of an internal dispute with traditional or liberal co-religionists; fundamentalists regard them as traitors who have made too many concessions to modernity. They withdraw from mainstream religious life to create separatist churches, colleges, study groups, madrasas, yeshivas and training camps. Only later, if at all, do fundamentalists turn their wrath against a foreign foe.

Thus Sayyid Qutb (1906-66), whose ideology is followed by most Sunni fundamentalists, had no love for the west, but his jihad was primarily directed against such Muslim rulers as Jamal Abdul Nasser. In order to replace secularist Fatah, Hamas began by attacking the PLO, and was initially funded by Israel in order to undermine Arafat. Osama bin Laden began by campaigning against the Saudi royal family and secularist rulers such as Saddam Hussein; later, when he discovered the extent of their support for these regimes, he declared war against the US. Even when fundamentalists are engaged in a struggle with an external enemy, this internal hostility remains a potent force.

It is unrealistic to hope that radical Islamists will be chastened by a rebuke from "moderate" imams; they have nothing but contempt for traditional Muslims, who they see as part of the problem. Nor are extremists likely to be dismayed when told that terrorism violates the religion of Islam. We often use the word "fundamentalist" wrongly, as a synonym for "orthodox". In fact, fundamentalists are unorthodox - even anti-orthodox. They may invoke the past, but these are innovative movements that promote entirely new doctrines.

Fundamentalist Christians who claim that every word of the Bible is literally true are reading in an essentially modern way; before the advent of our scientifically oriented culture, Jews, Christians and Muslims all relished highly allegorical interpretations of their holy texts. Religious Zionists who regard Israel as sacred also fly in the face of tradition. A hundred years ago, most orthodox rabbis condemned the idea of a Jewish secular state in the Holy Land. In making the assertion that a cleric should be head of state, Ayatollah Khomeini flouted centuries of Shia orthodoxy, which separated religion and politics as a matter of sacred principle.

The same is true of the new emphasis on violent jihad. Until recently, no Muslim thinker had ever claimed it was the central tenet of Islam. The first to make this controversial, even heretical, claim was the Pakistani ideologue Abu Ala Mawdudi in 1939. Like Qutb, he was well aware that this innovation could only be justified by the godless cruelty of modernity. Informed extremists today do not need to be told that their holy war is unorthodox; they already know.

The extremists believe that mainstream Muslims have failed to respond to the current crisis and are proud of their own deviance. Attempting to shift the blame to the already beleaguered Muslim community could further alienate the disaffected. It will certainly not prevent another London bombing.

· Karen Armstrong is the author of The Battle for God, A History of Fundamentalism


Just what we need...

"We've got Aryan Nations graffiti in Baghdad," the report quoted a Defense Department investigator as saying.

As if we needed more proof about the caliber of people in the army, now comes a report indicating neo-Nazis and other extremists are getting recruited into the army because the army isn't making its quota, especially for combat units.

Perhaps one could add Racist to the motivations behind some of the recent incidences of violence against Iraqi civilians. Racism has been presumed by some to be an underlyig cause of much of the policy towards civilians in Iraq, but Racism of this kind needs to be looked at as an underlying individual factor.

We're not going to win this "war." We've already lost it at the recruiting office, if that is the kind of people being inducted.
(the rest of the story)


The annals of tastlesness have now expanded...

to include the Mike Church Show:
A radio talk-show host is to record and release a song written by a US Marine corporal about killing members of an Iraqi family.

The author, Cpl Joshua Belile, will not sing "Hadji Girl" but he may receive royalties if The Mike Church Show charges for downloads, a spokesman for the show said. The right-wing presenter will sing and release the song on air next week.

The producer, James Parker, said: "We originally wanted Josh to sing the song, but the Marines are kind of gagging him on it."
(the rest)

In light of the recent allegations coming out of Iraq and the arraignment of Steve Green for doing pretty much the same thing, except he raped the girl, torched her and torched the house, I'd say Church shows some really bad judgement.

Hey Mike, what if I wrote a song called "Honkey Dj's" and suggested that a molotov cocktail was a love letter to you and that shooting your staff with an AK47 was my way of showing I cared?
What, not happy? But, Mikie, it's a joke! A bit of harmless fun! Take a chill pill, red-neck dude!


Toward a new "we"

On the anniversary of the London bombings, Tariq Ramadan puts out the call for a new "we," a concept of active cultural engagement on the part of Muslims, multi-culturalists, and others, to create society that engages the questions of cultural responsibility, cross-contact and accountability. This is very similar to the call that was heard (rather faintly, I admit) after 9/11. Ramandan offers the following:
We have ample reason to be concerned. The repeated terrorist attacks throughout the world, along with the "war on terror" and the increased tensions arising from social problems, have combined to portray Islam as a threat to the western societies.

Fear and its accompanying emotional reactions have become part of the public mindset. Such reactions, while often legitimate, are also being exploited with increasing frequency for political ends.

Hardly a western society has been spared its own searing questions of "identity" or its "integration"-related tensions. Muslims find themselves faced with clear-cut alternatives: they can adopt the attitude of the "victim" or they can face up to their difficulties, becoming fully fledged subjects of their own history.

In the final analysis, their fate is in their hands. Nothing will change until they accept full responsibility for themselves, become constructively critical and self critical, and respond to the creeping "evolution of fear" with a firmly grounded "revolution of trust", handling fears and facing legitimate questions.
(the rest)

Wednesday, July 05, 2006  

Conscience and the Constitution

The US has seldom engaged in as blatently illegal a war as the invasion and occupation of Iraq. It is illegal on so many levels: the invasion over non-existent weapons of mass destruction, the disregard for the safeguards of the Geneva Conventions, the preying on the Iraqi civilian population by members of the military (Green is not the exception that they would have you believe), the death squads set up throught the Ministry of the Interior, the rape and pilaging of Iraq's cultural treasure, the illegal (as determined by the US Supreme Court) militray show trials of detainees in Gitmo- the list is long.

Small wonder, then, that First Lt. Ehren Watada has taken a stand, declaring the "war" illegal and refusing to be deployed to Iraq.
Watada called the war and U.S. occupation of Iraq "illegal" and said participation would make him a party to war crimes.

In a statement, the Army said it had charged Watada, 28, with missing movement, contempt toward officials and conduct unbecoming an officer.

"Officers are held to a high moral and legal standard. Acts contrary to this standard may be tried by court-martial," said the Army statement.

If found guilty of all charges, Watada could face several years in confinement, dishonorable discharge and forfeiture of pay, according to the Army. The missing movement charge carries the heaviest punishment of confinement of up to two years.

Watada's lawyer said he expected the missing movement charge, but was somewhat surprised by the decision to charge the officer with contempt toward officials and conduct unbecoming an officer, because it raises free speech issues.
(the rest)
Lest he be dismissed as some sort of a leftist wuss, pay heed to what Watada has said he is willing to do and his background.
First, Watada has said he would not appy for conscientious objector status because he is not against war itself.
Second, he said he would be willing to deploy to Afghanistan
Third, Watada comes from a family that willingly engaged in the US army in WWII, despite what was happening to Japanese-Americans throughout the contiguous states:
Bob Watada told how of the 10 brothers in his family, seven served in the military, with an elder brother working as a Japanese interpreter at the end of World War II in the Military Intelligence Service.

Ehren Watada "knew that I had a brother who had died in Korea, and I was concerned about him going to Iraq. I didn't want him to come home in a box," his father said. "He told me that he was very proud of his uncle. He was willing to die for his
(the rest)

Watada comes from an ideological line of those willing not to serve on the basis of illegality, among them the "no no boys" of WWII, and the Israeli officers and soldiers who refuse to serve in the Occupied Territories of Palestine.

Like Watada, the Heart Mountain relocation camp resisters were willing to serve but only after the internment order, which had interned American citizens and loyal residents alike, was rescinded. Their story is told in the excellent documentary, Conscience and the Constitution, by Frank Abe.
'We Hereby Refuse...'

"I could not believe that the government could actually put us in camp, strip us of everything . . . and then order us into the military as if nothing had happened."
-- Frank Emi
info on film

In Israel, currently engaging in an illegal pounding of the Gaza, numerous officers and soldiers are also refusing to deploy to what they consider an illegal theater of operation. Six hundred and thirty reservists and others have refused to go.
Why don’t you serve in the Territories, and simply refuse to carry out illegal orders, should you be given any?
Youval Andorn replies:
Because the illegality is built into the situation. From the moment that we, as soldiers and commanders cross the ’67 borders, we have no choice but to treat every human being as an enemy. We have no choice but to discriminate between Jews and Arabs. We have no choice but to take part in the occupation, which is immoral by definition.
Many have served jail time for their beliefs.
For more about the "Courage to Refuse" movement, see Jesse Atlas' documentary At the Green Line

This will be a vey interesting case to follow.


In memoriam...

This is is memory of Alaa Hassan, a journalist whom I have never met, but nonetheless a colleagure through Alaa was a valued Iraqi journalist who worked with Aaron Glantz in providing thoughtful insightful coverage of daily events in Iraq. Alaa was 35 years old and leaves behind a pregnant wife and greatly saddened colleagues. I will leave the details of the story to Aaron, who knew Alaa best.
IPS contributor Alaa Hassan was killed on his way to work last Wednesday. He was 35 years old. He is survived by his mother, five brothers, five sisters and his wife who is pregnant with their first child.
IRAQ:A Story IPS Never Wanted to Tell
IPS Reporter Shot and Killed in Baghdad
articles by Alaa Hassan and Aaron Glantz


Death and Consequences II

This today from the LA Times:
The U.S. military is investigating whether the kidnapping, killing and mutilation of two American soldiers was carried out in retaliation for an alleged rape and murder of an Iraqi woman by another member of the same unit three months earlier, a military official said Tuesday.

The incidents occurred in nearby towns and the soldiers involved were in the same unit. The bodies of the two American soldiers and at least one Iraqi were mutilated. A third U.S. soldier was killed during the kidnapping of his comrades.

Ya think?
I would be soooooo surprised if this wasn't the case. Interesting addition to the story, if true, an Iraqi, I assume a translator or Iraqi soldier, was also multilated and slain- so Greene now has four more deaths he is responsible for.

I've said it before in private posts and conversations and I will say it now: it has been clear, since allegations of the rape came out, that these killings were in response. And I also think the multilations probably include having their privates handed to them.

It is a tragedy that these four had to die for Greene's actions. It should have been Greene and the soldiers who helped him in that position because nothing the military can do to the others or civilian court can do to him will assuage the grief and horror te families of the victims have had to experience.

Monday, July 03, 2006  

Happy 4th

to all my friends and family out there as well as the country in general.

As we stand on the threshold of this, our 230th year, we should pause to think of what made this country the great experiment that it has been. Among those qualities has been the ability to take in immigrants, legal and illegal and to imbue them with a greater sense of community that includes a commitment to the principles of the Bill of Rights and the Constitution.
And it is based on the ability of those immigrants to trust and believe that the things that plagued them and their predecessors - famine, progroms, government surveillance, religious bigotry, racial hatred, denial of education and employment opportunities, would not be visited upon their descendents. Many fought not in the army of the land of their birth but in the army of the land of their choosing to defend and preserve what they hoped would be their collective legacy to their children.
Native Americans suffered egregiously at the hands of Manifest Destiny, and yet the Navajo Code Talkers contributed to the victory of the Greatest Generation.
African Americans, the "unwilling" immigrants for whom "all men are equal" arrived almost too late, still look to the promise of what this country stands for and even in their darkest hour, held a secret hope that Martin Luther King's words would move the mainstream to honor their debt and commitment to their brethren.

Forty years later, we stand at almost the same place at which Martin Luther King addressed us. Many things have changed. Lunch counters are no longer segregated. Whites Only signs are not only unthinkable but incomprehensible.
Nonethless, we risk slipping back as the Congress drags its feet over the voting rights act, but as we have seen in Florida and in the armed forces, it is still needed.
Again we are involved in an immoral war which promises to make monsters of compromise and complicity of us all, the longer it drags on. A paranoid administration again occupies the White House, although its obsession with secrecy and data acquisition stems not from the bottomless personal paranoia of one man but from the carefully rationalized fear of the citizen democrat that naturally plagues an oligarchy.
Listen again as Martin Luther King, Jr. calls us back to our better selves:
Now, it should be incandescently clear that no one who has any concern for the integrity and life of America today can ignore the present war. If America's soul becomes totally poisoned, part of the autopsy must read Vietnam. It can never be saved so long as it destroys the deepest hopes of men the world over. So it is that those of us who are yet determined that America will be are led down the path of protest and dissent, working for the health of our land.(snip)
These are revolutionary times. All over the globe men are revolting against old systems of exploitation and oppression and out of the wombs of a frail world new systems of justice and equality are being born. The shirtless and barefoot people of the land are rising up as never before. "The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light." We in the West must support these revolutions. It is a sad fact that, because of comfort, complacency, a morbid fear of communism, and our proneness to adjust to injustice, the Western nations that initiated so much of the revolutionary spirit of the modern world have now become the arch anti-revolutionaries. This has driven many to feel that only Marxism has the revolutionary spirit. Therefore, communism is a judgement against our failure to make democracy real and follow through on the revolutions we initiated. Our only hope today lies in our ability to recapture the revolutionary spirit and go out into a sometimes hostile world declaring eternal hostility to poverty, racism, and militarism. With this powerful commitment we shall boldly challenge the status quo and unjust mores and thereby speed the day when "every valley shall be exalted, and every moutain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall be made straight and the rough places plain."(the rest)
These are words that ring down the years.
On July 4, take a few minutes to contemplate who "we" are, have we honored those who came before us, have we honored the sacrifice of the Native American, honored the "hope of the slave?"
Is this war within and without what the Constitution and the Bill of Rights promised us? What we will promise those who come after us?



to Spain. In Valencia
A subway train accelerated, shuddered and flipped off the tracks Monday in the Mediterranean port of Valencia, killing at least 41 passengers and injuring 47 in one of Spain's worst rail accidents, officials and witnesses said.

Regional authorities and a witness said the train was going too fast and one of its wheels broke into pieces, derailing the first car, which overturned. Victims were strewn in the tunnel. Officials did not say if the second car derailed.

Rescue workers hustled bloodied, sooty survivors from the tunnel. Anguished relatives cried out in grief and drew each other close as they waited outside the local morgue. The accident brought back memories of the 2004 terrorist attack on Madrid commuter trains that killed 191 people.
(read more)


Death and Consequences in Mahmudiya...

More on the death of Abeer...
The charges allege that "Green and three other individuals went to a house in the vicinity of Traffic Control Point 1, near Mahmudiyah, to rape one of the adult females living there.

"Green allegedly shot and killed an adult male, an adult female and a female child who were present in the house.

"The charges also allege that after participating in the rape of the second adult female, Green shot and killed her," the Justice Department statement said.

According to court documents, Green and three fellow soldiers conspired to rape the woman, and changed into dark clothes before going to the house. Several of them drank alcohol before leaving, the papers alleged.

When they returned after the incident, they had blood on their clothes, which they immediately burned, the affidavit alleged.

A soldier not identified by the affidavit testified that he saw Green rape a woman then shoot her in the head "two-to-three times."

Another unidentified soldier alleged that Green and another soldier raped the woman, before Green shot her several times with an AK-47, which was apparently found in the house.

The first soldier also alleged in the affidavit that Green had previously gone into a bedroom with other members of the family before gunshots were heard, then came out saying : "I just killed them, all are dead."
Steven Green, 21, a former private with the US Army's 101st Airborne Division 101st Airborne Division, may face the death penalty or life in prison if he is convicted of the crimes.

Personally, I think he also needs to be tried for contributing to the deaths of the two other soldiers from his company. The Military insists their kidnapping and subsequent torture, multilation, and, in one case, beheading, are not related. How is that possible?
When is the Military going to stop trying to fool themselves and us? There are some hugely serious problems that have gotten out of the closet here. Reports of US military personnel assaulting people, killing civilians, raping women, stealing and basically pillaging have been trickling out for several years now, but the mainstream has refused to take them seriously, suggesting that somehow brave American boys are more trustworthy witnesses than those wilely Iraqis. Well, this is what happens when you don't seriously entertain the notion that your army has got a thug element which thrives on cowboy mentality, racism and some misplaced sense of Western superiority.
And while one cannot lay this crime at Gonzales' feet, I do think his Texas shitkickers need to be dipped in the pool of complicity for declaring the Geneva Conventions to be some sort of antiquated pact. The Geneva Conventions clearly state the following:
Article 3

In the case of armed conflict not of an international character occurring in the territory of one of the High Contracting Parties, each Party to the conflict shall be bound to apply, as a minimum, the following provisions:

1. Persons taking no active part in the hostilities, including members of armed forces who have laid down their arms and those placed hors de combat by sickness, wounds, detention, or any other cause, shall in all circumstances be treated humanely, without any adverse distinction founded on race, colour, religion or faith, sex, birth or wealth, or any other similar criteria.

To this end, the following acts are and shall remain prohibited at any time and in any place whatsoever with respect to the above-mentioned persons:

(a) Violence to life and person, in particular murder of all kinds, mutilation, cruel treatment and torture;

(b) Taking of hostages;

(c) Outrages upon personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment;

(d) The passing of sentences and the carrying out of executions without previous judgment pronounced by a regularly constituted court, affording all the judicial guarantees which are recognized as indispensable by civilized peoples.

2. The wounded and sick shall be collected and cared for.

An impartial humanitarian body, such as the International Committee of the Red Cross, may offer its services to the Parties to the conflict.

The Parties to the conflict should further endeavour to bring into force, by means of special agreements, all or part of the other provisions of the present Convention.

The application of the preceding provisions shall not affect the legal status of the Parties to the conflict.

I am not sure how clearly it must be stated.
And for those who want to comment on how 'barbaric" the Iraqi muslems have been, well, here's a little thought for you:
“ Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.” (Matthew 25: 40)


Another team to root for!

A rose grows in Gaza...
The Bethlehem players, who range in age from 11 to 22, train twice a week with additional fitness sessions run by Mousa at the university.

"We have nowhere else to go and nowhere to put our energies," says Thaljieh. "In Bethlehem we are in a prison that is only open from above."

"We have nowhere else to go and nowhere to put our energies"
Honey Thaljieh

The city is surrounded by Israeli checkpoints and roadblocks, with the separation barrier running along its northern side.

The players also believe the game provides them with an opportunity to challenge traditional female roles.

Jazrawi, a biology student at Bethlehem University, says: "The Arab world is very strict compared with other cultures.

"We have to change it, and the change will start with the women. Through football we can make our minds more open, and our society too."

What a great team! Even under occupation, there are small gestures towards re-constituting a productive society. (the rest)


Countries behaving really, really badly

The situation in Gaza has passed horrific and is rapidly heading towards cataclysmic for allinvolved, If ever there was a no-win situation, this would be it.
It seems to have started with the kidnapping of Israeli Cpl. Gilad Shalit by Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades (the military wing of Palestinian governing party Hamas), the Popular Resistance Committees (includes Palestinians from Fatah, Islamic Jihad and Hamas), and the Army of Islam and continues with Olmert's rejection of the group's demands to exchange Shalit for 1,000 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails. Originally the request was to exchange Shalit for women and minors in Israeli jails but was later raised to 1,000 prisoners.
In the meantime, Israel has lauched strikes into Gaza and staged raids that picked up at least dozens of Hamas officials and others. At least 1/3 of the Palestinian cabinet is in Israeli custody.

According to Al Jazeera, Israel staged a raid in Ramallah in response to the abduction and murder of 18 year old Eliahu Asheri, by the Popular Resistance Committee, who dumped his body in the West Bank on Thursday.

Israeli strikes have left parts of the Gaza without electricity or water, in this, the largest offensive against the Gaza since the Israelis recently pulled out after a 38 year long occupation.

Israel may have declared (like several American presidents before) that they will not negotiate with terrorists but they have a history of prisoner exchange which usually involved several Israeli soldiers for many times more Palestinians.
In 1985 Israel agreed to the release of more than 1,150 Palestinian prisoners in return for three soldiers taken captive in Lebanon.

(the rest)

The response of both sides to the situation is hardly unexpected, but Israel has nade it very clear that Shalit's life is worth more than that of all the Palestinians within Gaza, because that is what collective punishments declares- X is of higher value than you all...
But this collective punishment also has the curious effect of suggesting that Israel recognizes Hamas as the official government elected by a people who have some control over their government, else why cause an entire area to suffer more than they already do?

While Hamas is following a well-established pattern by kidnapping Shalit, it seems that they are holding the nail that Israel is now pounding into what Olmert and others seem to hope is the coffin of Gaza. The deadline for freeing the prisoners has passed and Shalit has not been release and Israel pounds Gaza every night. Hamas seems to have badly misjudged Israel's willingness to negotiate, while Israell seems to have badly misjudged its response raining down on a region already sorely taxed by lack of funds, lack of water, incursions of the wall into Palestinian territory and a number of other things others can explain better than I.

The exchange of women and minors seems so little compared to the disaster unfolding now. If Israel thinks the Gaza is resentful now, when this is over, I suspect any will towards peace on the Gaza side, Muslims and Christians alike, will be in shreds.

Shalit isn't really the issue here, as flattering as it may seem, this show of force is Olmert's subconscious speaking, and it says, the least among our soldiers is worth more than your whole population.

Difficult to negotiate anything in a situation like that.



Will write about Sanchez-Llamas v Oregon in the next few days. Promise. I'm slogging thourgh the opinions.


El presidente! dos

correction: there are three candidates who are looking to be declared president of Mexico.

Vicente Fox reportedly predicted each candidate would get about 33% of the vote, probably based on an Angus Reid Global Scan poll. In a June 27 poll, PRD candidate Lopez-Obrador has a very slight lead over the PAN candidate Calderon.
(read more)


El Presidente? presente!

But which one? Oh, whom to choose, whom to choose! Mexico currently has two self-declared victorious presidential candidates. Shades of 2000 in the US!

This should be very interesting!


The dead have names and faces II

The name of this victim is Abeer Qasim Hamza. Remember her. At fifteen, she died an awful death. She was repeatedly opportuned by US soldiers at a check point near her home in Mahmudiya, Iraq. And one day, in March 2006, they came to her house, raped her, killed her, tried to burn her body, and then killed her mother, Fakhriyah Taha Muhsin, 34, killed by gunshots to her head; her father, Qasim Hamza Raheem, 45, whose head was "smashed" by bullets; and Hadeel Qasim Hamza, 7, her little sister.

When her family took the bodies for a funeral, the soldiers came looking for the funeral observations, but there were none- because of the shame of rape.
"But they did not find it, simply because the relatives did not do it, because the death includes the rape of one of the family members, which is something shameful in our tradition," the hospital official said.

"The family kept the news a secret, fearing the disgrace," he said. "They thought it was done by militias, not U.S. forces."

Reached by telephone Saturday at his home in Iskandariyah, south of Mahmudiyah, a member of the extended family would not discuss the incident.

"What is the benefit of publishing this story?" said Abeer's uncle, Bassem. "People will read about this crime. And they will forget about it the next day."
(the rest)
Do not forget, for this was done in your name by the US military and brought to you by Bush and co. Abeer Qasim Hamza died for you.
And her "shame" is our collective sin.


The Supreme Court and the Geneva Conventions

David Lindorff, writing for Counterpunch, is quite correct when he says one of the most striking elements of the the Hamdan v Rumsfeld decision wasthe affirmation by the Supreme Court that the US has an obligation to uphold the Geneva Conventions. This means a number of things, chief among them, that under the Geneva Conventions the US has been engaging in war crimes.
What has been largely missed is the clear point that the Supreme Court has now declared that for the past five years, Bush and his gang of war-mongers, including Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, Secretary of State and former National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, former Attorney General Donald Rumsfeld and current Attorney General and former White House Chief Counsel Alberto Gonzales, and many others in the administration, have been guilty of violating the Third Convention on treatment of prisoners of war. They are also, therefore, in violation of federal law, which back in 1996 adopted that convention as part of the U.S. criminal code.

In other words, the whole top administration, from Commander in Chief George W. Bush on down, is guilty of war crimes. The punishment for committing war crimes ranges from a lengthy jail sentence to, in the event the crimes in question caused the death of any prisoners being held, to death. And there have been many deaths among those who have been held and tortured on orders of the administration-most recently the three suicides at Guantanamo, which included on man who had only three days earlier been targeted for release (but who never learned this because government's secrecy and tight security prevented his attorneys at the Center for Constitutional Rights from getting the news to him).

Interestingly, Gonzales actually warned Bush about this possibility. In a memo to the president, written on January 25, 2002 when he was still White House counsel, Gonzales warned prophetically that the U.S. adoption of the Third Geneva Convention as a part of the U.S. criminal code in 1996 made violation of the convention a "war crime," which he said was defined as "any grave breach" of the Third Convention such as "outrages against personal dignity." He noted that this law applied whether or not a detained person qualified for POW status, and added that punishment for violation of the law "include the death penalty." But then he went on to say Bush could "substantially reduce" his risk of domestic criminal prosecution under the War Crimes Act by making a presidential determination that the Third Geneva Convention "does not apply to al Qaeda and the Taliban."

Whatever one thinks of the Geneva Conventions- the US did sign and ratify and once our signature is on a treaty, article 6 of the Constitution makes it the law of the land. So all you people who are upset about the Geneva Conventions have a bone to pick with two entities: the Constitution and the Congress.

And, as I said before, it leaves you with two choices, change article 6 or pull out of the treaty.

The first would be very difficult and the second is not in our own best interests since the Geneva Conventions protect the US at every turn in conflicts abroad.

Now that the Supreme Court has re-affirmed the inportance of keeping the treaties we sign, Bush and co need to get right with the Geneva Conventions.

Luckily for them, they can't hauled in front of the International Court of Justice (ICOJ), part of another treaty we signed (Vienna Conventions) because we picked up our marbles in a snit fit and pulled out of the optional protocal of the Court (which we puched for, btw) because the court found that the US had violated the right to consular assistance under the VCCR in the case of 52 Mexican nationals on death row.

Well, there's always the "Kissinger Option" of being threatened with arrest from crimes against humanity if Bush and Co leave the US.


Al Jadid

I am shameless, simply shameless...

disclaimer: I am plugging the next edition of Al Jadid because I have the honor of writing for them once in awhile.

That said, I have also read through a number of back issues (one of the reasons I agreed to write for them) and found that there were always a number of articles I wanted to read and information on videos and cds/books that I either wanted to know more about or would not have heard about in another way. This is what is coming up:
Women as Scapegoats, Lebanon through the Photography of Doris Bittar, Hoda Barakat's 'Disciples of Passion,' Golden Age of Arab Science, and Much More in forthcoming Al Jadid no. 53
You can read more about the next issue here

And if you like the back issues, you might consider getting a subscription.
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